When No One is Watching: Gentrification is BAD

Alyssa Cole’s When No One is Watching is good. But it’s also annoyingly insistent on its message: gentrification is bad.

It’s good for its play with genre – it’s something of a mystery, something of suspense, something of a straight realist character novel. Good, too, for not being fussy with its racial politics – in the sense it isn’t trying to be comforting to a white reader, instead just explaining clearly how the arrival of white people in historically black neighbourhoods causes direct and indirect harm.

I guess the ways it is annoying extend beyond that repeated hammering on the effects of gentrification. It’s also bad for the romance plot – like there’s this sex scene that I was just like: where did this come from and it was so sexy. Not that I can’t read a sex scene! Just that it felt out of place in the tone and pacing of the rest of the book.

So I’m not convinced this is a story that needed to be a novel. A rewrite as a short story would be interesting? Maybe.

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Filed under American literature, Fiction

40 Words for Sorrow: 🙁

After enjoying No Such Creature so much I got the first in the Cardinal detective series by Canadian crime writer (as the internet calls him) Giles Blunt. Four or five pages in I got worried: the murder victim is a young indigenous woman in a remote northern community. Okay, I think, so much crime fiction is about murdering young women and splashing their bodies about, let’s see where this goes. No where good. The detectives talk about how the “Indian” community is “different” and “not like us” and drops in Windigo stories and haunting spirits. Granted the novel pivots to killing other non-indigenous characters (men, too!), but the initial dive into the detective and the community is one of stereotypes and racist tropes. And then also that ugly women are destined to be unloved, unloveable and consequently MURDERERS. Sooooo… pass.

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Filed under Canadian Literature, Fiction, Mystery

No Such Creature: Win #Win Win

Guys. Folks. Folx. PEOPLE. Giles Blunt’s No Such Creature is so good!

[What if I stopped writing in sentences and paragraphs and just did the whole post in hashtags because no one reads anymore (which I get is an ironic complaint when you’re reading a blog post about reading a book and so clearly you are someone who reads and I’d argue reads too much if you’re reading This? I DIGRESS). So here’s my attempt: #suspense #mystery #literary #fiction #men #actors]

Oh I already want to weep. Like how do the people tolerate themselves with all the ###.

Right, so here we go in round two:

I came to Giles Blunt by accident. Camping with all the family mum realized she’d already read her book and so we swapped. She ended up with something too on the nose about the 1918 pandemic (#why) and I found myself with Giles Blunt’s No Such Creature. And I thought, okay, camping book, fine fine. And then! What fun! What a romp! What great writing! More exclamations!

Following Max and his great-nephew Owen as they traipse around the country pulling off elaborate heists, the novel is as much about familial belonging and love as it is about the tense moments of robbery. No, it’s more about that. It’s about what we do out of guilt, out of commitment and out of love. It asks readers to imagine new constellations of family all while packing a steady pace of drama and intrigue. There are scenes of toes being cut off layered next to poignant scenes of childhood loss and grief. It’s a marvel!

There’s nothing provocative or political about the book – except maybe some out-of-wedlock-sex? #hahaha – and depending on where you’re at right now that may be a #win or a #loss. It’s really just two white men getting away with crimes so #theworld #shrug

Honestly. Closing weeks of summer this one is just #fun. We’re headed to the cottage next week and I just ordered the first in Blunt’s more popular and well feted Cardinal series. So stay tuned for more #enthusiasm from me if the series proves as delightful as this standalone contribution.

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Filed under Fiction, Mystery

Bath Haus: Maybe-Murder, Definitely Mystery, but Easy to Solve, so Maybe-Mystery

I was recently getting my haircut and reading P.J. Vernon’s Bath Haus (I’m terrible at chatting with hair stylists and so I read a book). I’m not usually concerned about being seen reading whatever I’m reading, but in this self-described ‘thriller’ (I should amend my title) there are many, many scenes describing sexy things and murderous things and I kept imagining the stylist reading over my shoulder and judging me OR being so engaged that she’d cut off my ear, which is to say, the book had me on edge.

By the mid point of the book it’s not particularly challenging to sort out the whodunit behind the thriller bits, but there is sufficient tension and slow drip of information to make you want to keep reading. Plus it was – for me at least – a novel plot to have a gay couple maybe murdering and being thriller like. Plus a very mean mom character, which, as I understand it, always does turn the children into criminals.

It’s a good book for vacation, and with a few weeks left of summer, you could do worse. But also better. So… maybe? I don’t know. Like if the library has it on the shelf: get it. If you have to put it on hold and wait a week maybe don’t. And so ended the least helpful review of all time. Ever. The end.

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Filed under Book I'll Forget I Read, Fiction, Mystery