#FridayReads 2020-08-14

This week, I’m hitting three flavours of mystery/thriller.

‘On The Head Of A Pin’ is an historical murder mystery set in Upper Canada in the wake of the Mackenzie Rebellion in 1837.

‘The Child Finder’ is a contempoary American Literary Thriller about a Private Investigator’s search for a missing girl in the forests of the Pacific North West in winter.

‘The Doubt Factory’ is a contemporary American thriller, aimed at teens, about the how public information is distorted for profit.

‘On The Head Of A Pin’ – Thaddeus Lewis #1
by Janet Kellough (2009)

Janet Kellough is a Canadian writer best known for her Thaddeus Lewis mysteries, detective stories set in early nineteenth-century Canada.

The first book of hers that I read was ‘The Bathwater Conspiracy’ a quietly subversive speculative fiction novel about a near future in which everyone is born femal.

I was so impressed that I bought a bundle containing the first four of the six Thaddeus Lewis novels. ‘On The Head Of A Pin’ is the first. Set in 1837, it introduces us to Thaddeus Lewis, an itinerant “saddlebag” preacher. Still mourning the death of his daughter when he arrives at his new posting, he finds that another girl has died the same way and begins a hunt for a murderer.

I was educated in England and so am completly ignorant of Canadian history. I’ve had to look up terms like ‘Upper Canada’, ‘The Mackenzie Rebellion’ and ‘Pre-Confederation’. This means that the setting is as new and as full of possiblities to me as any new world built in a Science Fiction novel (with the possible exception that I have a prediliction to believe that the English will the untrustworthy ones). I’m hoping to be entertained and to learn something.

The Child Finderby Rene Denfeld (2017)

Rene Denfeld is an American writer with three literary thrillers to her name, ‘The Enchanted’‘, ‘The Child Finder’ and ‘The Butterfly Girl’. She’s a former Chief Investigator for a Public Defender’s office and has a lot of experience with death row cases and human trafficking cases.

The things that appeal to me most in what I’ve read of ‘The Child Finder’ are that the focus is on the missing child not on the abductor (assuming there is one), that the PI seems to have a personal stake in the outcome and that the writing style seems to be engaging and thoughtful.

‘The Doubt Factory by Paolo Bacigalupi (2014)

Photo by JT Thomas Photography.

Paolo Bacigalupi in an American science fiction writer who has a very distinctive voice. He’s a master of gritty, credible visions of the near future which are not dark in a see-how-far-we’ve-fallen dystopian-thought-experiment way but rather show what happens when large scale changes beyond our control force us into poverty and the desperation that comes with it.

When I read ‘The Windup Girl’, I’d never seen anything like it. It’s still one of my favourite Science Fiction books, but his latest book, ‘The Water Knife’ set in a near future America where States are competing to control scarce water supplies, is even better.

Paolo Bacigalupi has also written four novels for Young Adults, ‘The ShipBreaker Triology’ and ‘The Doubt Factory’, a standalone thriller. I’m starting with ‘The Doubt Factory’ because it couldn’t be more timely. It’s a story about how the powerful distort public information for monetary gain. It follows a group of young people who are trying to expose a big corporation that is supressing science in order to continue to sell a product (am I the only one thinking Baby Powder now?) I’m interested both in the content and how Bacigalupi’s writing, which often contains graphic scenes of violence and sexual abuse, changes for a Young Adult audience.

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