M. K. Theodoratus, Fantasy Writer, blogs about the books she reads--mostly fantasy and mystery authors whose books catch her eye and keep her interest. Nothing so formal as a book review, just chats about what she liked. Theodoratus also mutters about her own writing progress or ... lack of it.


Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Conflict Among Allies, When do the Ends Justify the Means

Louise Penny's recent Superintendent Gamache novel, Glass Houses, is a tale ripped from the opiod headlines. More important, Penny gives writers a wonderful example of how to mine the backstory of an enduring series to create depth in her latest book.

Penny has already characterized the small hamlet of Three Pines as an idyllic hideaway from the bustle of the wider world, in this case Montreal, Quebec, Canada. I even think I remembered that bootleggers in the 1920s used Three Pines to smuggle booze into the Prohibition US. Or, maybe I'm just reading info into a previous crime. The deep woods on both sides of the Vermont/Quebec border are the perfect place to hide all sorts of nefarious activities.

In Glass Houses, opiods are the cargo most terrible, and the hidie-hole in the church has been resurected. But illegal drugs aren't the only problem the book contends with. Penny is an adept at spinning several plotlines at once and makes head-hopping among various characters seem the best way to share plot points and feelings. No movie/tv paradigms here. Just a thick juicy mystery novel set inside a courtroom procedural--with a touch of creepiesness.

Penny is a masterful weaver of plot points and emotions. More intriguing for a writer, she works with several communities who touch each other much like a Venn diagram--the Surety, the villagers, and occassional outsiders. Penny creates characters with so many dimensions, readers seem to return to Three Pines to find out what the secondary characters are doing as well as trying to solve the crime before the big reaveal. Am thinking that many readers wonder why more communities aren't as caring as Three Pines.

If you like to read a sample and/or other reviews, you can check
Amazon       B&N/Nook       kobo/Rakuten

Other Interesting Reading

The Passive Guy published an interesting take on why Barnes & Noble and other brick & mortar book stores are losing out to Amazon, the main reason. 

I slowly duck my head. We go to Barnes and Noble for coffee about once a month. They really have some good desserts even if they serve Starbucks coffee....But, we usually spend between $50 and $100 between the two of us. [Yes, it's nice to be truely middle class.]

My Writing Rut

I really admire mystery/suspense writers who manage to write an enthralling book like Glass Houses. I feel envious. I have some short stories that I once hoped would be the start of mystery short story series, sort of like Isaac Asimov's sleuth club where the waiter mostly solved the puzzle: 

      --- Dumdie Swartz [The Ghostcrow and The Ghost in the Closet]

     --- the Highgrim/Allsdipp duo [Doom Comes for a Sold Soul] whose meeting with Britt's [There Be Demons] Granny Nan has grown mold in my computer. 

     --- I could also include Trapper Tremaine who's stuck after getting captured because I couldn't figure out how he could prove his worth and be accepted by the village. Nothing published here yet... or, maybe, ever.

That's not all. I think if I double checked, I'd find starts of Half-Elven stories that lack an executed mystery. Yeah, I think books should not only solve a characters' problems but provide a puzzle too.

Rendezvous continues to progress, though slowly. My outline's first skirmish is turning out to be the turning point battle with Britt feeling terribly alone and isolated, similar feelings but very different. But...I'm sort of a third of the way through [pushing halfway through, depending on how useful my notes are], and the first big battle is coming up, and Cahal hasn't even joined Britt yet...

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