You might consider this unforgivable: This column features two books you can’t read. Or at least, you can’t read them yet. Because they’re part of the Lennoxville Library’s upcoming Adopt-A-Book campaign, launching Oct. 2.
American author Judy Dailey grew up on an organic farm and now lives in the city, her backyard filled with veggies and chickens. In her book Animal, Vegetable, Murder: An Urban Farm Mystery, she’s writing about what she knows (2013, Large Print).
Our slightly lost heroine, Sunny Day Burnett, is a recent widow, and unemployed — too poor to live in the upscale gated community house willed to her by a relative, but too stubborn to move. Plus, her smart-ass and at-times whiny eco-warrior side has helped build up an impressive organic garden in back.
Sunny begins her day by eyeing Henrietta, who is now too old to lay eggs. And as Sunny attempts to kill her lunch, she discovers a human body in the Swiss chard.
The police are less than impressed with her protestations of innocence. Perhaps that’s because she’s lying about something, they just don’t know what. In the meantime, Sunny has a whole five bucks to give to the hotshot lawyer living across the street, as a retainer.
He, too, is hiding secrets.
And as Sunny and her lawyer bud start nosing around a bit more, with the help of an ex cop from the UK (a neighbour who, like Sunny, has some class cash problems), the chicken manure gets spread ever more thickly. Animal, Vegetable, Murder is a solid little cozy.
Another American author, the best-selling Gillian Flynn, has penned a much more fast-moving tale, a bloody thriller titled Dark Places (2013, Adult Fiction). It stars another Day, Libby Day.
At seven, a cowering Libby survived the mass murder of her family – mother and two older sisters. Her teenaged brother Ben (a Satanist, according to his peers), is sent to jail for life, largely based on her testimony. The trauma has left Libby broken: “I have a meanness inside me, real as an organ. Slit me at my belly and it might slide out… I was not a lovable child and I’d grown into a deeply unlovable adult. Draw a picture of my soul, and it’d be a scribble with fangs.”
Libby is now an adult, hasn’t worked a day in her life, and has run out of cash. She resents any other victim whose claim on charitable donations from kind strangers outdraws her own need.
And so, offered $500 for an unnamed job, she wants in. Maybe it’s a porn shoot?
No, but it is a creepy guy and his creepy friends, all of whom believe Libby perjured herself and now needs to ‘fess up and set her unjustly imprisoned brother free.
In exchange for trickles of cash, Libby sets out to rediscover her childhood, the family secrets she’s purposely forgotten, and the identity of the killer.
Dark Places alternates between past and present, and is filled with telling detail and tiny perfect portraits of drunks, society matrons, and other lost souls. Libby’s anger allows her to zero in on the hurts of everyday life that have worn down the people she meets.
Want to read these books? The Lennoxville Library is a non-profit, and membership is free for residents of Sherbrooke. Patrons who adopt a book get to read it first, and then have the satisfaction of knowing they’ve given the gift of reading to an entire community of friends and neighbours. Put Oct. 3 in your agenda!
– Eleanor Brown, Sept. 13, 2013