History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund

history-of-wolves

Title:   History of Wolves

Author: Emily Fridlund

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Hachette Australia

Published: 10th January 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 280

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: Already being acclaimed as one of the most exciting new voices of 2017, Emily Fridlund’s HISTORY OF WOLVES is a brilliant coming-of-age novel that will appeal to fans of THE GIRLS and THE VIRGIN SUICIDES

Even a lone wolf wants to belong…

Fourteen-year-old Linda lives with her parents in an ex-commune beside a lake in the beautiful, austere backwoods of northern Minnesota. The other girls at school call Linda ‘Freak’, or ‘Commie’. Her parents mostly leave her to her own devices, whilst the other inhabitants have grown up and moved on.

So when the perfect family – mother, father and their little boy, Paul – move into the cabin across the lake, Linda insinuates her way into the family’s orbit. She begins to babysit Paul and feels welcome – that she finally has a place to belong.

Yet something isn’t right. Drawn into secrets she doesn’t understand, Linda must make a choice. But how can a girl with no real knowledge of the world understand what the consequences will be?

~*~

Isolated her whole life with her parents, living in a forest, near a lake in northern Minnesota, an ex-commune, Linda’s only contact with the rest of the world is school, and a new teacher, Mr. Grierson, and classmate, Lily Holburn. That is, until a family moves across the lake from Linda and her parents – Paul, Patra and Leo. Leo’s absence at first is suspicious, but he soon turns up, and Linda finds herself in a world of conflicting beliefs. Underlying the novel is the idea of religious beliefs, such as Christian Science, which influences the events of the novel, and young Paul in ways that Linda, and the reader, will not expect. It is a story that gives details in dribs and drabs, a technique that has the potential to work or not – and in this case, I think it has been successful.

The novel is written from the point of view of an older Linda, one who has left the confines of the forest, lake and isolation for a chance at a life beyond, a job and possibly, to escape the memories of the summer she was fifteen years old. She relives that year through flashbacks, interspersed with later events. Emily Fridlund doesn’t spell everything out to the reader – she drops hints, and clues, and then flashes to another event that seems unrelated and ordinary. Eventually, all these hints, clues and possible red herrings become connected. In revealing these events slowly, Fridlund’s novel has a slow start, a mysterious start that can either compel the reader to continue and find out what happened to Paul, his parents, Linda, Lily and Mr. Grierson. At first, I wasn’t sure whether I would continue – yet Linda’s yearning to belong somewhere other than the life she is in, and her decisions that lead her to that point were a little too compelling and I felt I had to read on to the end.

Linda’s history project on wolves turns up early in the novel – and acts as a metaphor for her life, it seems. The people in her life are a pack of wolves – Leo, Patra and Paul. Leo is an alpha, and Linda, a lone wolf, is searching for a pack to belong to. That is, her place in the world.

Linda’s world is one of secrets – especially when it comes to Paul and his parents. When babysitting Paul, Linda begins to notice odd behaviour from him now and then – but without real world experiences, she questions how she could have foreseen the consequences of the actions of various people that summer – and in turn, her own sense of belonging in the world.

An intriguing, mysterious novel that people will either want to devour or set aside, I have found it difficult to decide whom to recommend this book to. Perhaps readers who enjoy a good mystery, especially one that is observed by someone who feels powerless to act, and powerless to help, yet in the end, must find the courage to stand up and find her place in the world.

Booktopia – Back To School

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The Ice Cage by Joshua Cejka

The Ice Cage by Joshua Cejka

When the Twin Cities do winter festivals, they spare no expense – outside taverns with gas heating, photo Santa in a sleigh, room made of polished ice with a dead body inside… wait a minute. When such a very public affront to the festival spirit comes up, Homicide Detective Meg Brown must move as quickly as a reindeer to get the whole thing solved before the vaunted and famous Papa Brown Christmas dinner. Thankfully, a ‘usual suspect’ makes herself clear straight away, but of course nothing is quite so simple.

Can Meg clear the case before one of her suspects ends up dead at the hands of someone else? Can she gather the witnesses and evidence before the Christmas Ham gets cold? Can she ever get enough coffee? And just what does a mysterious nightclub owner have to do with all of it?

This is the fifth of the Meg Brown Mysteries and the first one of any length. If you haven’t read the others, please do. They’re fun. You’ll probably like them.

~*~

This was a first for me in my love of crime fiction and crime television shows, even considering I watch Castle, and they’ve investigated some fairly strange murders in the seven seasons the show has been going: death by candy cane to the eye. And at Christmas! With the case not so cut and dried as Meg hoped so she would be able to make it home for Christmas with her loved ones, Meg and Riggins are working against the clock to solve the case.
The pace of the writing and story was set out in a lovely fashion, and I found myself reading for over an hour one day, just to get to the end and find out what was going to happen and who had killed the victim with a candy cane. It is the mystery of the candy cane death and the looming spectre of Christmas, and family Christmas traditions. I enjoyed this just as much as the previous four, and am looking forward to reading book six, and any subsequent books in the series.
One thing I love about the Meg Brown books is their continuity with each other. In book four, we were introduced to Kenzie, Meg’s former enemy and now friend, and her daughter. The inclusion of them, and Spike, Meg’s best friend, connected the books in a seamless way. Also, the deliberate slow reveal of character’s lives and what they are like works well – I think it fits the way Cejka has chosen to tell these stories of Meg and her friends.
The climax of the story reveals an outcome that I never saw coming, and it worked. When everything seemed to wrap up tidily in a Christmas bow, so to speak, so easily, I did wonder if there was much more to the case than I had been presented with. And behold, there was! Wonderfully executed, and I hope to revisit these books one day.

obtained from Amazon