Eventually, as you know, the Ann Cleeves mystery moved away from ground-cover plants and birds, into politics and environmental conservation efforts.

I’m still not entirely sure about the title, but the mere idea of The Crow Trap reminds me of Minette Walters’ The Scold’s Bridle (I understand she’s still writing, but historical fiction now?) and I loved that one.

Never mind, with the weather so hot, I was quite content to wallow in a mystery (over 500 pages!) for a spell.

Anyhow, maybe that kind of title was considered eye-catching back then, circling the millennium.

Or maybe I should have been less concerned about semantics, more concerned about the remaining characters staying in the same building after the first death, serving as bait in that trap, while Vera worked her way towards a conclusion.

And there is what I did enjoy, and you knew that I would: Vera, herself.

I imagine it must have been considered somewhat unusual to have had readers move halfway into the story before getting to know her at all, to say nothing of the fact that it was likely also unusual to have had three separate segments for each of the three women who were responsible for narrating their part of the story.

Of course none of that seems very unusual now, but Vera, as the unassuming and troubled but independent investigator (I view her as Wallander-ish, but a woman, of course, and heavier-set, but just as rumpled and grumpy), I wholly enjoyed.

The writing wasn’t very tight, but I appreciated the different perspectives and I loved the setting, so I didn’t mind spending longer there, whether or not someone needed to sharpen their line-editing skills.

In the evenings, reluctant to see another body discovered, even if only on the page, I would return to the David Guterson. I wonder how Snow Falling on Cedars would do if it was published today.

I think readers would have higher expectations of the courtroom drama (post-Scott Turow, post-John Grisham). But the themes of injustice are still exceptionally relevant. I couldn’t help but sigh at this simple statement: “People don’t have to be unfair, do they? That isn’t just part of things, when people are unfair to somebody?”

What I loved most about it was the love story, which I hadn’t been expecting. And I appreciated the steady and deliberate exploration and resolution of the plot, how it wasn’t really so much about the conclusion, as it was about the process of various individuals finding their way towards closure. Did I love it enough to read another of his books? Maybe. But, for now, I’m glad to have read this one.

Beyond these two, which you recommended to me, I have one to recommend to you: Maggie Shipstead’s Astonish Me. As soon as you fetch a copy of the hardcover from the stacks, you’ll see the ribbons and pointe shoe: yes, a new ballet story for us. *rubs palms*

And how much it reminds me of our old favourite, Edward Stewart’s Ballerina. I’ve just pulled my copy of that one off the shelf to give it a good sniff. Oh, it’s in such horrible shape: this 1982 paperback, yellow inside and out, the bottom corner peeled off, an inner page missing (but fortunately none of the story), it seeming to have been caught in the damp at some point (though not actually water-damaged): but it smells so good. Like old favourite books should.

I don’t think we’ve talked about a dance book since last summer. And, honestly, I’m not convinced that this one is all that amazing. But neither was Ballerina and how we loved it! And the rehearsals and practices, the quotidian details of a young dancer’s life, the “good” behaviour and the misbehavior, even a Russian defector: I know this will be right up your proverbial street. Stage?!

Until next time…


My friend, Barbara – librarian and booklover – died shortly after Christmas. We met via a listserv dedicated to Canadian literature, a serious venture that inspired us to take our enthusiasm offline, where we exchanged proper letters – mostly about books and cats – for about 19 years. In my mind, our bookish conversation is ongoing. (Letter One and Two.)