Friday, 11 November 2016

Friends’ Week: Past Tense by Margot Kinberg

 
 
 
A number of my wonderful online friends have new books out around now, so I have decided to concentrate on them this week on the blog. The authors are all women (yay!) and happily I had no dilemmas, because they all wrote great books, which I can review honestly. On Monday we had Christine Poulson’s Deep Water. History Tuesday gave us Sarah Rayne’s Death Notes, and yesterday I looked at Sarah Ward's A Deadly Thaw.

Today it’s the turn of Margot Kinberg:
 




Past Tense cover


published 2016
 
Past Tense 1past Tense 2


He passed by Tanya James’ office and saw that her door was open and she was sitting at her desk talking on her phone. Her normally neat blonde hair was pulled into a messy ponytail and she was wearing a t-shirt and track pants. She saw him and waved. He waved back and went the rest of the way to his office. By the time he’d unlocked his door and gone into his office she’d joined him.


 
past tense 3



[Later] Williams dressed silently in grey track pants and a white t-shirt. He wanted to go for an early run before it got too hot. It had been three days since he’d gone running and he was starting to feel it.



commentary: Margot is the queen of the crime bloggers. She blogs every day over at Confessions of a Mystery Novelist, and she is also incredibly welcoming and generous to other bloggers. She was one of the first people to comment regularly on my blog, and I know I am far from the only person who remembers and appreciates her kindness.

The only thing is – we’re all wondering how she does it? She blogs, she comments on everyone else’s blogs, she reads tons of books, she writes quizzes to entertain us. But she also works as an academic, and she also writes crime novels and short stories. (And still finds time to be a Billy Joel fan – yes, I noticed the ringtone on p 277 of this book, Margot.)

Perhaps she has a Time Turner like Hermione Granger in Harry Potter, and perhaps she is the Hermione of the blogging world? (a huge compliment in my view)

This is her new book, out now: it features her series sleuth Joel Williams – who has appeared before on the blog, in an anthology of short stories. He’s a professor in the Criminal Justice Department of Tilton University in Pennsylvania, but was formerly a policeman – so naturally he gets involved when some old bones are found on campus during construction work. The search for an identity is quickly narrowed down to a young man who disappeared 40 years previously. He was a keen student journalist, working on a big story: did someone feel threatened by his researches?

We follow Joel and other police operatives, and we also see the story through some campus colleagues and others including a couple of women who knew the dead man all those years ago. A lot of people have memories and maybe something to hide…

The book is very entertaining, and I paged through it very fast – it’s a great combination of an academic mystery and a police procedural, two crime genres I like very much. The different points of view are very well done, and I wanted to know more about some of the characters, they were well-rounded. There are plenty of details of people’s lives – their food, their houses – again, something I really enjoy in a book: such descriptions help you to visualize the characters, and I think you get a glimpse of that in the extracts above.

Incidentally, it’s surprisingly hard to find a good picture of a casually-dressed man, so in the end I went for this wonderful picture of dancer and film star Gene Kelly – I don’t think the estimable Joel would mind being portrayed like this.

However, while looking for pictures of trackpants, I did comePast Tense 4 across these transparent ones: and I would like an assurance from Margot that Joel will never, never wear anything like this…

There are some big issues in the book. Brian, the dead man, was ambitious, and also had serious principles and a sense of right and wrong – but Margot is clear that this makes him difficult to deal with, that perhaps he didn’t consider other people enough. The book has a lot to say about the role of women, and the way the struggle for women’s rights has developed over the years (mostly for the good…). She doesn’t hold back on some aspect of academic politics. But she has time to look at everyone’s point of view.

Coincidentally, some of those issues are similar to those dealt with in Sarah Ward’s latest book – on the blog yesterday – Sarah is a great mutual friend of Margot’s and mine. They are dealt with in very different ways, the similarities are on the surface, but I for one am glad that the problems of the past, and the changes needed, and what we want for our daughters, are being dealt with in such a helpful way by these two fine writers.

This is also true of the other women writers I featured this week, and I’m glad they are all writing today. My friends write great, tense crime books, without feeling the need to show too much gruesome crime against women or sickening, unnecessary violence. As I keep saying, that’s exactly the kind of books a lot of us want to read… Great books, great crime stories, great entertainment, and some satisfying principles: excellent work.

It's been a pleasure to feature these wonderful authors and wonderful books on the blog this week.

My friend Tracy over at Bitter Tea and Mystery has also reviewed Past Tense this week.





















26 comments:

  1. Great post Moira - have this book on the bedside table. And great snap of Gene Kelly, perhaps my favourite Golden Age Hollywood liberal.

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    1. I love Gene Kelly for all kinds of reasons (remember that unlikely cameo in Inherit the Wind?), and I was enchanted by this photo.

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    2. He was wonderful in "Inherit the Wind!" He's always been a big fav of mine. Even though he was primarily a dancer, I loved his singing voice. There was a duet he did with Judy Garland of the title song in "For Me and My Gal" that gives me goosebumps ever time I hear it -- the harmony is so wonderful.

      And transparent sweat pants??? Look more like harem pants.

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    3. I'll have to look out that Judy Garland duet and listen.

      I expect the wearer would be welcome in a harem in those particular trousers.

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  2. Thank you so much, Moira. I'm glad you enjoyed the book. It means a lot to me that you featured it this week. And let me assure you that Joel will never where those transparent track pants. Never. And..you noticed that ringtone, eh? How could I not?? ;-)

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    1. I did very much enjoy the book Margot, more power to your elbow. And am grateful for the reassurance about Joel's fashion sense - I knew he was more in the Gene Kelly mould!

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    2. I meant 'wear,' of course -*embarrassed*

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    3. We knew that! And curses on blogger for not letting you edit...

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  3. Congratulations, Margot, on a new publication and all success to it! What a joyful week this must have been for you, Moira. It's good to read happy things this week. Sergio, we could have used about a million more Hollywood liberals voting in the U.S. this time around. Although we DID win the popular vote, so my own government system baffles me. Wish us luck!

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    1. Thanks Brad, and yes, a joyful week is a very good description - I'm lucky in my talented friends.
      And yes, good luck. What more can we say at this stage? Oh dear...

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    2. There are a million scary things hidden in that "Oh dear."

      My birthday was Wednesday. Worst birthday ever. I'm nearly in despair...

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    3. very unlucky, and not a birthday you're going to forget. OH dear oh dear.

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  4. I have Margot's novel lined up. My TBR list gets longer and longer!

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  5. Great post Moira and I echo your thoughts regarding Margot's generosity. Past Tense souns great, but alas the shutters are now down!

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    1. She's Wonder Woman isn't she? I think we'll have to get you to read it sooner or later...

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  6. Great review, Moira. And Margot is deserving of all the praise you gave her. I just posted my review -- I also found it entertaining and a fast read.

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    1. Thanks Tracy - I've just added a link to your review in the body of the post, and I agree with everything you say in it. And yes, I had the print copy, and it's lovely: great cover and nice big print!

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  7. Where to start...

    1) Those transparent track pants are an abomination. or WTF? as my younger friends would say. Joel seems far too sensible to even consider such clothing.

    2) I too noticed the nod to Billy Joel...I'm not a big reader of eBooks but as this one was only available from Amazon I did read it in that form and have highlighted that passage.

    3) I agree with your conclusion about the kinds of books a lot of us want to read. A lot of writers seem to think that in order to address any political or social themes they have to be unrelentingly grim. PAST TENSE is a great example of how you can explore such subjects without turning your readers (or your characters for that matter) into alcoholics.

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    1. Thanks Bernadette, and I think we're on the same page on all these issues. I actually read a lot of new books on my kindle, but this time thought it would be nice to see the paper copy - and indeed it was. Beautifully produced.

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  8. So glad to see this review and I agree that Margot is the Queen of Crime Fiction Writer/Bloggers. And in addition to everything else, she remembers the intricate plots and characters of so many books. It's mind-boggling!

    And about this week, I can't watch the news. I'm going to gain 25 pounds eating chocolate and bury myself in crime fiction to avoid the daily, worsening news. Except for the young folks out protesting all over the country! That's the hope in the midst of the horror.

    I could scream! But instead I'll open the chocolate frozen yogurt and start reading.

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    1. I know how you feel Kathy, what a week it has been. I don't want to watch the news, and I certainly don't want to see that face looking at me.

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  9. And now the faces and names of those appointed to high-up government positions. Immigrants, other people of color, Jewish people and many women have growing anxiety.

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  10. Moira, I'm waiting to read and review my signed copy of PAST TENSE that Margot so generously sent me last week. I know I won't be disappointed.

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    1. Happy reading Prashant. I look forward to hearing what you think about it - but I also know you will love it.

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