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Book Review: A Borrowed Man by Gene Wolfe

As perhaps is appropriate, I came to read A Borrowed Man by Gene Wolf in a very roundabout way.  I decided to buy Interlibrary Loan after seeing it in the bargain area at Barnes and Noble.  I was in a bit of reading funk as far as fiction so was looking for something different to shake things up. I then found out that it was the second book in a series.  So checked out A Borrowed Man from the library.

It is perhaps a hundred years in the future, our civilization is gone, and another is in place in North America, but it retains many familiar things and structures. Although the population is now small, there is advanced technology, there are robots, and there are clones.

E. A. Smithe is a borrowed person. He is a clone who lives on a third-tier shelf in a public library, and his personality is an uploaded recording of a deceased mystery writer. Smithe is a piece of property, not a legal human.

A wealthy patron, Colette Coldbrook, takes him from the library because he is the surviving personality of the author of Murder on Mars. A physical copy of that book was in the possession of her murdered father, and it contains an important secret, the key to immense family wealth. It is lost, and Colette is afraid of the police. She borrows Smithe to help her find the book and to find out what the secret is. And then the plot gets complicated.

I found it to be an odd book. I don’t have an history of reading Wolfe, however, so have nothing to judge it against or to give the style some context.

At some level it is just a mystery but there is the fact that the narrator is a re-clone of a murder mystery author from 100 years ago who can be checked out from the library. It has been a while since a mystery, let alone one with such a unique plot device. I think the main character’s style/voice threw me off. Perhaps I missed some symbolism and depth, but even though I felt like I found a rhythm in the second half of the story, it just didn’t really click for me.

Those Who Disappeared by Kevin Wignall

Having read all of the awesomely named Kevin Wignall‘s books, when given the opportunity to grab Those Who Disappeared on NetGalley I jumped at the chance. And like most Wignall books, I can say that I enjoyed this one and read it pretty quickly.

When a man’s body is discovered in a Swiss glacier thirty years after he went missing, his son, Foster Treherne, hopes he’ll finally have closure on what happened to the father he never met. But then the autopsy reveals signs of a struggle, and what was assumed to be a tragic accident suddenly looks more sinister.

Foster tracks down his father’s old friends, but when he starts to ask questions it becomes clear that there’s something they don’t want to tell him. While some are evasive, others seem to wish the body had never been found. What exactly is their connection to each other, and why are they so reluctant to discuss the day his father disappeared? Who are they trying to protect?

If he wants to uncover what really happened, Foster must follow the trail of secrets and lies—no matter how devastating the consequences, and what they might reveal about his father. Because the truth can only stay buried for so long…

It was a thought provoking and engaging read. Wignall’s characters are always interesting and unique and Faster is no exception

A Man by Keiichirō Hirano

An interesting but disjointed and convoluted Japanese mystery in translation


As is all too typical these days, I can’t recall why I had A Man on my To Be Read list. Perhaps it was because the author is Japan’s award-winning literary sensation” and this is first novel to be translated into English. But for whatever reason the $1.99 Kindle price was right and I added the Audible version for a few dollars more.

Akira Kido is a divorce attorney whose own marriage is in danger of being destroyed by emotional disconnect. With a midlife crisis looming, Kido’s life is upended by the reemergence of a former client, Rié Takemoto. She wants Kido to investigate a dead man—her recently deceased husband, Daisuké. Upon his death she discovered that he’d been living a lie. His name, his past, his entire identity belonged to someone else, a total stranger. The investigation draws Kido into two intriguing mysteries: finding out who Rié’s husband really was and discovering more about the man he pretended to be. Soon, with each new revelation, Kido will come to share the obsession with—and the lure of—erasing one life to create a new one.

Because I purchased both the ebook and audiobook, this was another book that I both read and listened to at different times. I do this sometimes when I am juggling multiple books and employing strategies to maximise the books I finish (I was trying to read 100 in a year in 2020).

And that may have played a role in why I found it interesting but rather disjointed and/or convoluted. It seemed to meander and jump around and as a result left me rather confused as to what it was all about.

The Gatekeeper (Inspector Ian Rutledge Mysteries) by Charles Todd

A good mystery is a page turner that can’t be put down and that has many plot twists. Charles Todd’s The Gate Keeper meets those qualifications.

The book is the 20th in the Ian Rutledge series written by mother and son duo Caroline and Charles Todd.  As those who have read the series know, Inspector Ian Rutledge is the protagonist. However, several characters (suspects?) are introduced and the authors keep you guessing on who the murderer could be. They introduce doubt into your mind about almost all of the suspects.

Hamish – the voice of a corporal that Rutledge shot during World War I because he refused a direct order – haunts Rutledge’s mind throughout the books, including this one. Hamish focuses Rutledge on the questions to ask and the leads to follow.

Although it may seem odd to have Hamish’s voice in Rutledge’s head, it highlights the struggles of men in previous wars. Rutledge is suffering from shell shock (now called PTSD) from the horrendous things he saw when he was in France. Not only did he have to shoot a man in cold blood, but he also saw his men slaughtered by the bunches. I think it is fascinating how the authors incorporate the shell shock into the story and how it influences Rutledge and some of the other characters that survived the war.

The authors highlight the dogged nature that detectives need in order to solve a case. Rutledge is no different. He ceaselessly looks at all angles until he solves the case.

An excellent mystery that piques my curiosity on the other books in the series.

The Sphinx’s Secret by Gwenda Bond & Christopher Rowe

Continuing our summer trend of reading books by “friends of the blog” (i.e. authors I have been reading for some time and who I have interacted with as a result of this website), we turn to Gwenda Bond & Christopher Rowe’s middle grade series The Supernormal Sleuthing Service.

I enjoyed The Lost Legacy enough to look forward to reading book #2 and The Sphinx’s Secret did not disappoint.  The focus remains on Stephan and his friends, and how they work together to face the challenge, but this book had a little more tension and action than the first.  Both the introduction of the mysterious wizard and Sphinx kind added another element to the already fun cast of characters.  There was a real sense that something was at risk; which is not something you always get with books in this category.

This is a fun, creative middle grade series with a focus on friendship and solving mysteries.

 

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