DARKNESS ALL AROUND by Doug MAGEE (Review+Giveaway)

(TLC Book Tour)
Never Wave Goodbye, Doug Magee’s first novel, was highly praised. Magee was even compared to the likes of Harlan Coben and Linwood Barclay. With his new book, Darkness All Around, being published in paperback format, Magee proves that he’s not a flash-in-the-pan thriller writer and that he needs to be taken seriously.

The story centers on Sean Collins, a man mostly known as a drunk who showed signs of violence, has disappeared from the small town of Braden (Pennsylvania) leaving behind his wife Risa and young son Kevin. A few days later, the dead body of Carol Sleazak, a good friend of theirs, had been found in the woods, brutally murdered with a machete. A man named G.G. Trask was arrested and, after he confessed, was convicted for the murder and sent to prison.

Ten years after his disappearance, Sean has now been declared legally dead and Risa is married to Alan Benson, a politician in the middle of a campaign in which he’s running for Congress. When all of a sudden Sean shows up in Braden, claiming that he’s the one who has killed Carol and wants to be arrested for it, no one is interested in believing his story. He is even forcefully kicked out of town by hired thugs.

MARC STRANGE (1941-2012)

Marc Strange, writer and actor, has recently died after a battle with esophageal cancer. He was 70 years old. Strange was born on July 24, 1941 in Vankleek Hill (Ontario), a small town situated an hour between Ottawa and Montreal.

In the mid-’60s he started working in television, acting in programs like Rumble of Silence, Masters of our House, and Hatch’s Mill. He also appeared in a 1968 US TV-movie titled Shadow on the Land, adapted from the book It Can't Happen Here, the Sinclair Lewis bestseller from 1935. In the movie, Strange played the role of Major Shepherd McCloud opposite Jackie Cooper, Gene Hackman (in one of his last TV appearances) and John Forsythe.
Strange then obtained the leading role of the CBC show The Manipulators. And in the early ‘70s came his biggest break but it was not as an actor; he created and co-wrote The Beachcombers, with his first wife Lynn Susan. The show followed the life of a Greek-Canadian log salvager, in British Columbia. The show became the longest-running drama series of all-time at the CBC (from 1972 to 1990).

As a mystery writer, Marc Strange had success right from the start with Sucker Punch (Dundurn Press, 2007), which was nominated for the Arthur Ellis Award for best first mystery novel. His novel Body Blows (Dundurn Press) followed in 2009 and won the Edgar Allan Poe Award for best original paperback. His following books, with ECW Press, were Follow Me Down (2011) and Woman Chased By Crows (2012), and both received high praises.

Jack David, co-publisher at ECW Press, released a short statement: "ECW Press was saddened to hear of Marc’s passing. He was a fine writer of mysteries from the start, and only got better as he went along. I was very much looking forward to working with Marc on his series of books. Overall, he was a treat to work with—diligent, cooperative, receptive, and stubborn when he had to be. We will miss him, and we will miss all those books he will never get the chance to write."

Strange had also recently written a book about the 40th anniversary of The Beachcombers, which is scheduled for publication next fall.

We send our deepest condolences to Marc's family and friends.



UPDATE: I'm very excited to announce that John Connolly (Ireland) and Mons Kallentoft (Sweden) have confirmed their presence to the festival this year. We're still tweaking the schedule but John should be part of the Friday evening event and possibly the next morning panel, while Mons will be part of the closing evening event, on the Saturday, after having participated in a morning panel. See below for schedule. 

The second edition of our QuébeCrime Writers Festival will be held later this year (October 25-27) in beautiful Québec City, and we are enthusiastically presenting to you our world-class line-up:  Wayne Arthurson, Linwood Barclay, Mark BillinghamPeggy Blair, Giles Blunt, Chelsea Cain, John Connolly, Brian Freeman, Chris F. HolmPeter Kirby, Mons Kallentoft, Owen LaukkanenLaura Lippman, Archer Mayor, John McFetridge, Robert Pobi, Michael Robotham, Brad Smith, and also David Swinson. We're hoping to add maybe one or two writers. 

We'll also be holding two events in French with Québec writers Patrick de Friberg, Martin Michaud, Patrick Senécal, Johanne Seymour, and possibly one more.

Here is the tentative schedule (almost official) for the main events: (times may be slightly different; all events will be followed by a short period of questions from the public, and book signings).

Thursday, October 25:
7.30 pm - 9.30 pm: Reading/talk with Linwood Barclay, Mark Billingham, Giles Blunt, Laura Lippman, Archer Mayor, Michael Robotham

Friday, October 26:
6.00 pm - 8.00 pm: Panel "The Drama of Everyday Life: Small Lives, Bigger Fears?" with Linwood Barclay, Mark Billingham, Giles Blunt, Archer Mayor, John McFetridge

8.30 pm - 10.30 pm: Reading/talk with John Connolly, Brian Freeman, Chris F. HolmPeter Kirby, Robert Pobi, David Swinson

Saturday, October 27:
10.30 am - 12.30 pm: Panel "Books to Die For" with Chelsea Cain, John Connolly, Brian Freeman, Chris F. Holm, Mons Kallentoft, Owen Laukkanen

1.00 pm - 3.00 pm: (in French) Panel "Le polar Québécois : un monde à part?" avec Patrick DeFriberg, Martin Michaud, Patrick Senécal, et Johanne Seymour.

3.30 pm - 5.30 pm: Panel "Living the Double-Life: To Work and To Write" with Wayne Arthurson, Peggy Blair, Peter Kirby, Robert Pobi, Brad Smith, David Swinson.

6.30 pm - 8.30 pm: Discussion et lecture avec Patrick DeFriberg, Martin Michaud, Patrick Senécal, et Johanne Seymour.

9.00 pm - 11.00 pm: Reading/talk with Wayne Arthurson, Peggy Blair, Chelsea Cain, Mons Kallentoft, Owen Laukkanen, John McFetridge.

For full details on other events (like CSI activities) and to purchase tickets, go to our official website

Here's hoping we'll see you in Québec City next fall.
The Morrin Center in Old-Quebec City

June 2012
(updated July 25th, 2012)

GONE GIRL by Gillian FLYNN (Review) -Updated

(If you've read this post before, just scroll down where the UPDATE starts).

Today the House of Crime & Mystery is part of Gillian Flynn’s blog tour for the promotion of her new (and third) novel “GONE GIRL” (Crown Publishers/Random House). I had sent five questions for a Q&A with the author but I was told she was too busy promoting her book at the moment. I thought a Q&A along with a review was part of promotion but I also knew that I could/should have sent the questions sooner and it was part of the problem. So this post will be part review (of Gillian Flynn's book) and part true story (mine, about being busy). And there's also a giveaway for a free copy of GONE GIRL (if that's all you're interested in, just scroll down to the end of the post).

When I was approached to participate in this blog tour, I immediately said yes because, even though I had not read Flynn’s previous books “SHARP OBJECTS” and “DARK PLACES”, I was aware of the great reviews that she had received for both, and of endorsements and blurbs from writers like Stephen King, Val McDermid, and Laura Lippman, to name only a few. These writers are among my favourites so I had purchased “DARK PLACES” solely based on these recommendations. Problem is, I just never got to reading it because my Tower of Pisa--of books to read--keeps growing at an alarming rate. (Unlike the real Tower of Pisa, which is constantly monitored for potential risks, mine is dangerously defying gravity).

Two weeks ago, as I was just starting to read "GONE GIRL", torrential rains (3 inches fell in less than 20 minutes) caused the city's sewers to overflow and my house (garage and basement) were flooded. One moment I'm sitting down, reading a book, with thunder in the distance and dark clouds coming fast; 30 minutes later I'm standing in my basement with water almost to my knees, looking at books floating from one bookshelf to another, a Stephen King's paperback of IT ("we all float down here") bumped into my right shin while a signed copy of Ken Bruen's LONDON BOULEVARD gets stuck between my two typewriters (a grey Underwood and a black Remington). The divine intervention of two good neighbours with a pump and a super-vac helped us get the water out of the house (it took six hours). It could have been a lot worse and I know people who've had 4 feet of water in their house; compared to the six inches we got, I think we were lucky. Although I did lose over 300 books, a half-dozen of those were signed and limited editions (some pics further down). 

You can imagine how hectic it has been since; I haven’t had much time to read and now I’m only halfway through a book I’m supposed to review today. I didn’t want to cancel my review because “GONE GIRL” is a hell of a good story. So I decided to write a short review of the first half of the book, and in a few days I’ll update it and announce the winner of the giveaway.

When I started reading “GONE GIRL” I very quickly realized why Gillian Flynn receives so much attention and praises. Her writing is assured, her style flawless and sharp; her characters are so well defined and recognizable that you know they could be living right next door or somewhere down the street, either in a big city or a small town. They are real people and one of Flynn’s strength is to realistically get in the head of a male character. We often hear that male writers are not always getting it right when it comes to writing from a woman’s perspective; well here’s the truth: I find that many female writers also don’t “get us” right. But not Gillian Flynn. The world she creates is the real world; you’re pulled into the story from the start because every single detail feels taken from your everyday life or from someone you know.  

And that's all after reading only 40 pages or so. Then you get deeper into the plot and it feels even more real, as if it's happening close to you. The first-person narration is definitely used to get the reader more involved and there Flynn excels also.  

OK, so you wanna know what it’s about, I guess. It’s an intense and scary (in many ways) look inside a marriage. Guy named Nick Dunne is married to gal named Amy Elliott. On the day of their 5-year anniversary, Nick is at work and receives a call from one of his neighbours “Nicky, I just thought you should know…your door is wide open, and that cat of yours is outside. It isn’t supposed to be, right?

No it’s not, so Nick goes home; Amy is not there.

From being in Nick's head, the reader already knows that this marriage is not going well, mostly because Nick doesn’t sound happy --and maybe a bit weird too, especially when he says "There's something disturbing about recalling a warm memory and feeling utterly cold." Flynn switches her storytelling between both Nick in real time, and Amy from her diary entries; these entries start at the beginning of their relationship.

As you follow Nick's life while Amy has gone missing, you read excerpts from her diary; the contrast between his present unhappy marriage and her storytelling of falling in love and their perfect match gives a stronger sense that something is really awry now. Flynn exploits this brilliantly by throwing in unexpected sentences here and there that unbalances the reader, creating strong discomfort. While Nick is questioned by two detectives, he thinks "It was my fifth lie to the police. I was just starting." And of course, the reader immediately thinks "well, what were the first four?" Later during the questioning by the detectives, Nick says to himself "This was my eleventh lie."

Gillian Flynn expertly manipulates the reader (me) by having him constantly change his opinion about Nick depending on what he says, thinks, does, or how he acts, reacts, or stays passive. I've not often read a book where I've felt so absorbed and uncomfortable at the same time. The underlying creepiness and unsettling atmosphere coming off the page are as intense and as close as possible to experiencing it in real life.
Now I'll go finish reading it and will come back to tell you more about it. But I can definitely recommend it as it is one of the best books I've read in the past three years.
So here's my UPDATE after having finished reading the book: Wow! This is a story about a marriage gone insanely wrong. It is about two people who are either very wrong for each other, or perfectly matched; you'll have to decide. But I warn you, there are no wrong answers; I'm tempted to say no right ones either. Gillian Flynn unspools a clever and intricate plot that is both machiavellian and pure genius in its depiction of a modern-day relationship. Being careful not to spoil anything to those who haven't read the book yet, I'll say this: when you've finished reading GONE GIRL, Michael Douglas and Glenn Close's relationship in "Fatal Attraction" will seem like a great love story to you.

While all clues point towards Nick, and as his lies become apparent to the police, he becomes the main suspect in the disappearance of his wife. His nonchalant, almost bored attitude seem very suspicious to both the media and the public opinion, especially since "the husband is almost always guilty". To deflect some of that tension, Gillian Flynn takes us deep into the couple's married life to show Nick and Amy at their best and worst. We learn about the loss of their jobs, about Amy's unhappiness regarding their move from New York City to a rented McMansion on the Mississippi, about the money problems, the question of having kids, and of secrets from before they knew each other.

Gillian Flynn's sense of timing is as perfect as if she is building an enormous clock --or a time-machine-- that she uncovers one or two pieces at a time, while revealing Nick and Amy's day to day story. Flynn brings new developments exactly when you don't expect them, winding the story back in the opposite direction of where you thought it was heading, while the plot still keeps going forward. Flynn does that often but you follow willingly because it is always believable --you can still hear the tick-tock of the clock in the background, and the grinding of the time-machine-- and her moves are backed-up by elements she has spread throughout the pages (almost nonchalantly, you think) and everything clicks together until you finally see the whole work. Or maybe not.

Another aspect that proves Flynn's total control of the story is her ambidextrous talent for both male and female points of view, especially with the characters inner-dialogues which are a major part of the novel. She is as credible inside Nick's head as she is inside Amy's; not only that, but their changing moods and their actions are rendered as convincingly as any great actors could play them. Speaking of which, these two characters are dream roles for any talented actors who play within a wide range of emotions.

And of course, GONE GIRL would be a terrific movie in the right director's hands. But read the book first, it is much better than any movie adaptation could be.
Don't forget to visit Gillian Flynn's website or Facebook page.

July 2012
UPDATE: A copy of GONE GIRL will be shipped to Keith Rawson of Gilbert, AZ (US). Thank you to everyone who participated. This was a very popular giveaway. I guess Gillian Flynn has many fans.
GIVEAWAY:  If you want a chance to win a copy of Gillian FLYNN's GONE GIRL, you need to send me your name and address at housecrimyst@gmail.com but you also need to be 18 years or older. Deadline is Monday, June 18th at noon (Montreal Time). Open to residents of the US and Canada only. Bonne chance!
Thank you TLC Book Tours for providing this free book.

And now, some pics from the flood.
 The two typewriters previously mentioned, when water was almost all pumped out.

Signed copy of Ken Bruen's London Boulevard. 

Signed in Oxford, The Children of Men by P.D. James. 



UPDATE: June 14th

In a surprising move, probably after feeling much pressure or just realizing its mistake (which is commendable), the government has reversed its initial decision and decided to award the LPG its usual annual funding through the Department of Canadian Heritage. It doesn't mean that I will keep my job (funding could still be cut for good, next year) and the LPG might still need to make changes to its sales force team very soon, regardless of the new development. And I might just move on to other opportunities that have been offered to me in the past 10 days. 
I'll keep you posted.
June 14th, 2012

LPG Statement on End to Canada Book Fund Support 

In a body blow to Canada’s independent literary publishers, on Monday, June 4, 2012, the Literary Press Group (LPG) of Canada received word that the Department of Canadian Heritage (DCH) has ended its financial support of the LPG’s activities for the fiscal year that began on April 1, 2012. As a result, the LPG will be obliged to shut down its sales force, an essential operation that brings hundreds of new Canadian-authored books from 47 Canadian-owned publishers to bookstores and libraries every year. Without the LPG, authors and publishers lose their access to their readers, and Canadian readers lose easy and affordable access to Canada’s literary culture.
The DCH funding represented approximately one third of the LPG’s operating budget and was its single largest revenue source. While the LPG’s finances are otherwise strong, a loss of this size means that the LPG will not be able to continue operation in its current form. The LPG is committed to selling publishers’ fall 2012 titles, but it will have to lay off all field sales representatives as of August 31, 2012 and most head-office staff will be released on November 30, 2012.
Beyond November 2012, the LPG will look to establish an agenting relationship with another sales force for publishers who wish to be a part of a new collective.
LPG Chair Karen Green said "This sudden news has been devastating, for our staff, several of whom will lose their jobs; for our members especially those in the sales force – 47 publishers are faced with sudden instability, and for Canadian literary culture, readers and writers – a large branch has fallen in the path between them."
(For the full statement, click here)
(The Literary Press Group of Canada was founded in 1975 as a project of the Independent Publishers Association (which was later re-named the Association of Canadian Publishers). The goal of this affiliate was to further the promotion of Canadian publishers producing primarily literary works. Its sales force and distribution operations were initiated in earnest in 1987 and 1988. In 1995, the LPG was incorporated as its own organization, in recognition of its importance as a sales and distribution agency, and in 1998, it shifted from using part-time, commissioned sales representatives to full-time, salaried sales staff, with the support of the Department of Canadian Heritage. Since that time DCH has been consistent in its support of the LPG’s sales activities, recognizing their importance in being the bridge that brings Canadian-published literary books to their readers.)


(Actes Noirs/Actes Sud)

Titre original : La tristeza del Samurai
Traducteur : Claude Bleton

Espagne, hiver 1941. Une femme élégante attend le train pour Lisbonne avec son jeune fils Andrès, à la gare de Mérida. La fuite est son seul salut, car bien qu’elle soit en principe du côté des vainqueurs, le sombre complot visant à éliminer son mari, chef phalangiste, a échoué et elle n’attend aucune clémence de la part de ses poursuivants. Elle ne prendra jamais ce train et ne rentrera jamais à la maison. Son fils y retournera, seul, n’acceptant la séparation d’avec sa mère qu’avec la promesse d’un sabre japonais. Un véritable katana qui l’obsède depuis le récit des histoires de samouraïs qu’Isabel, sa mère, lui a racontées. Le précepteur de la famille sera accusé du meurtre d’Isabel, jugé et exécuté à la sauvette pour clore le dossier.

Quarante ans plus tard, Maria, une jeune avocate accepte la défense d’un homme sauvagement battu par un policier. Ramoneda, la victime, gît dans le coma à l’hôpital après que l’inspecteur Alcala l’ait séquestré et torturé pendant plusieurs jours pour lui faire avouer où il détient sa fille kidnappée. Maria réussit à le faire enfermer à perpuité. Cette affaire, qui a fait grand bruit, lance sa carrière et la décide à quitter son mari violent, pour Greta, sa collègue avocate.  Et si ce n’était de ses trop fréquentes migraines, tout serait parfait : reconnaissance professionnelle, belles autos, belle résidence, vacances de rêve.

Mais les parcours de Maria et de l’ex-inspecteur Alcala ont été tracés d’avance par des meneurs de jeu redoutables, venus d’un passé trouble et bien décidés à assouvir une vengeance longuement planifiée. Lorsqu’ils réaliseront qu’ils ont été manipulés, il sera peut-être trop tard pour stopper le déferlement de violence qui s’abat sur leurs familles respectives.

Un roman noir qui revisite les heures sombres du franquisme en décrivant ses dérives et les conséquences de ses pratiques haineuses. Le va-et-vient entre les deux périodes permet de lever progressivement le voile sur les rôles des différents protagonists, et la description de deux époques sonnent tout aussi juste l’une que l’autre.

Un premier roman d’un auteur qui a bien fait ses devoirs d’historien et a su rendre le passé douloureux d’une société espagnole encore habitée par des souvenirs peu glorieux.

Bio : Victor del Arbol est né à Barcelone, en 1968. Après avoir étudié l’Histoire, il travaille dans les services de police de la communauté autonome de Catalogne. Il est l’auteur de deux romans. Seul La tristesse du samouraï a été traduit en français pour le moment.

texte Grenouille Noire