Not to Touch the Earth

Massacre Pond (nook book)

Massacre Pond: A Novel (Mike Bowditch Series #4) by Paul Doiron (St. Martin’s Press, $15.99, 336 pages)

Paul Doiron’s fourth novel Massacre Pond continues the Mike Bowditch saga. Bowditch is a game warden in Maine who struggles with his internal demons mostly attributed to his rebel father, a poacher and key figure in the introduction to the series in Doiron’s debut novel, The Poacher’s Son.

This reviewer had not read any of the author’s previous books. Upon researching his preceding works, it became clear that readers’ thoughts on them are decidedly mixed. This book is of fine quality, meaning that either earlier commentaries are off base or Doiron has matured into being a solid storyteller.

In Massacre Pond, Bowditch is called to investigate the slaughter of seven moose on private property, which is intended to become a wildlife sanctuary in the midst of a logging community. The idea of a sanctuary angers many natives, as outsider and conservationist Elizabeth Moore is perceived as an arrogant do-gooder throwing her money around at the expense of jobs for the locals. Owners of the local mill are less than thrilled with Moore’s presence.

A dull but good-hearted caretaker of the Morse property, Billy Cronk, is central to the initial events and eventual climax of the story – entangled in a web of power and money, although his motives are as pure as any of the book’s myriad of characters.

Bowditch is somewhat self-absorbed but is genuine enough to be likable. And this is part of the attraction of the story. The characters are all just complicated enough to provide a touch of reality to the tale; part of a genre in which plot is typically everything and depth and complexity of characters is provided short shrift.

Bowditch appears to be more of a cop than a game warden. If there are lines of division in real life, they are not evident in the telling of this story. The ending is an obvious – bordering on cheesy, lead-in to the next book in the series. However, overall, this novel, in and of itself, is a solid one. Doiron’s writing and storytelling surpass many similar attempts at crime/suspense/mystery/intrigue. So, without respect to what may have led up to this novel or what may come next, Massacre Pond is worth the read.

Well recommended.

Dave Moyer

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

Mr. Moyer is an educator and the author of Life and Life Only: A Novel.

You can read a review of Trespasser: A Novel by Paul Doiron here:

http://josephsreviews.wordpress.com/2013/05/04/shes-gone/

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A review of Massacre Pond: A Novel by Paul Doiron.

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A Deadly Game

A Deadly Measure of Brimstone

A Deadly Measure of Brimstone: A Dandy Gilver Mystery by Catriona McPherson (Minotaur, $26.99, 304 pages)

A Scottish health spa is just the destination for Dandy Gilver’s husband and two sons, all of whom have been suffering from one illness or another. Never mind that Dandy has an ulterior motive for bustling her family off to the coastal retreat.

Dandy and her partner Alec Osborne are on a sleuthing case and they shamelessly use the outing to cover up their assignment. A guest at the spa has died and the bereaved family needs to know the truth of her demise; accident or murder?

The time is post World War I and the Gilver family is rather well off. Dandy’s husband, Hugh, is reasonably tolerant of his wife’s need to pursue her detective career although sometimes his patience is stretched to its limits.

The spa, Laidlaw’s Hyrdropathic Establishment, is quite the place for encountering all manner of folks. There are the usual staid and and proper ladies and gents taking in the cures along with a rather odd mix of spiritualists, a partying crowd and the family that runs the spa.

Dandy, her family and Alec encounter more than a few bizarre happenings before the mystery death is solved.

Well recommended.

Ruta Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher. The author, Catriona McPherson, lives in Davis, California.

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The Amazing Amy Tan

The Valley of Amazement

The Valley of Amazement: A Novel by Amy Tan (HarperCollins, $16.99, 608 pages)

“…the night is always brighter than the day.” Bob Dylan (“Seven Days”)

Amy Tan’s seventh adult novel, The Valley of Amazement, is a triumph. In Valley, Tan, most noted for her debut novel, The Joy Luck Club, comes back with a vengeance after an eight-year hiatus.

As the story opens in 1905, main character Violet Minturn is a petulant child living with her mother, Lulu Mimi, who runs the courtesan house Hidden Jade Path. The title is rife with meaning and comes from a mysterious painting, the origins of which are revealed at the end of the story. It is Violet’s prized memory of her mother, who is coerced into abandoning Violet for her home country of America by corrupt Chinese gangsters.

As a result, Violet is forced into the courtesan lifestyle, losing her freedom and dignity. She becomes hardened
when her first love does not work out. She goes on to experience love again, only to endure more unthinkable tragedy. Only the most optimistic of sorts could hope for a happy ending after this, through there is closure.

In the bizarre reality of the courtesan culture, at least according to this novel, these women consider themselves noble with a higher status than ordinary prostitutes. Perhaps this is because they sign long-term contracts with one man, who, of course, possesses other courtesans in addition to his wife. Perhaps it is because they live a relatively comfortable lifestyle or can aspire to become a second or third wife. Most of them eventually do end up as prostitutes in their early 20s, at which point they are considered to be “old.” It’s not too difficult to make sense of it when one considers that Chinese women had to train their feet – through binding – to be not too big; something that was thought to be unattractive. Obviously, the culture was highly oppressive to women.

Chapter Four, in which Violet is trained in the nuances of her profession, is entitled “Etiquette for Beauties of Boudoir.” It reads like “Proverb for Courtesans,” which would have been highly interesting if it wasn’t seemingly so demented.

There are many examples of outstanding writing throughout the book. One example: “Those were the reasons we both know how deep love was, the shared pain that would outlast any pain we caused each other.” Tan is a master storyteller who, in this unique, troubling and amazing novel, lives up to her billing.

Highly recommended.

Dave Moyer

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

Dave Moyer is an educator, a sometime musician, and the author of Life and Life Only: A Novel.

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A review of The Valley of Amazement: A Novel by Amy Tan, author of The Joy Luck Club.

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Man on the Moon

Beer Review: Moon Man No Coast Pale Ale from New Glarus Brewing

Moon Man

While I was spending my summer in Bloomington, Indiana, a good friend of mine, Eric, visited for the Fourth of July weekend. He and I are what some may call beer snobs. We prefer the term beer geeks, however, because at the end of the day, we really don’t care what people are drinking so long as they are enjoying what they’re drinking. We both wish we could expose others to craft beers, help guide them through what they’re tasting, and see their reaction to major hop bombs or big roasty stouts. But that’s not what some people are into. Again, what separates us from the snobs out there is that we really don’t care what people are drinking so long as they are enjoying themselves.

Eric was visiting from Gurnee, Illinois, located near the border of Illinois and Wisconsin. He knows how much I enjoy New Glarus beer, and seeing as it has very limited distribution, he picked up some six packs and headed down. When he arrived, he showed me his mini haul; a six pack of Spotted Cow, a New Glarus classic, and a mixed six pack consisting of Moon Man and a few others.

Being an American Pale Ale (APA) lover, the first beer I wanted to try was Moon Man, and I was not disappointed in the least bit.

moon-man

The appearance of this beer threw me off. It poured rich gold in color, which is a little light in color for the style and there wasn’t much head and the little there was dissipated rather quickly. What saved its appearance rating was the great lacing it left in the glass. Although it may not look exactly like what I think an APA should look like, its appearance is the least important quality of the beer. I rate its appearance as a 3.75/5.

As far as aroma is concerned, this one packs a very fruitful, floral aroma. Some citrus notes – grapefruit, I believe. Very bold. Not very piney, which is a characteristic common in APAs, but I was completely OK with that. This beer gets a 4.5/5 for its fresh floral and citrus aroma.

Regarding taste, balance is the name of the game with this brew. It has a very sweet malt profile that contradicts the hops. It’s definitely not the hoppiest pale ale out there by any stretch of the imagination. You get the sweetness up front that is finished off with an acute burst of hops on the way down. Not too sweet, not too bitter – BALANCED. This one easily earns a 4.5/5 for taste.

When drinking, this is a very smooth beer. It leaves a hint of dryness on the back half, but overall it’s very crisp and nicely carbonated. For the mouth feel I’d say it deserves a 4.25/5.

MoonMan-cropped

Overall: I was incredibly surprised by this brew. Moon Man is fully unassuming and a phenomenal representation of the style. APAs are my favorite, and this one is at the top of my list. Moon Man has a nice malty presence that works well with the hops providing perhaps one of the most balanced beers I’ve ever had. This is a great beer and one that I feel may be under-appreciated due to its limited distribution. If I lived in Wisconsin, I’d be drinking this every day. As an overall grade, I rate this beer a 4.5/5.

Update: Although I had this beer a couple of months ago, I went recently to Wisconsin and stocked up on it. It’s a beer I will buy whenever I can get my hands on it, and I highly recommend that you do the same. Although it may not be a total hop bomb, it’s a cool, relaxed beer that plays to the characteristics of its style. I am very grateful that Eric shared this beer with me, and I hope my recommendation will influence anyone reading this to give it a try.

Eric and I are in the process of creating a blog dedicated to our love of craft beer and we have an Instagram exclusively for our journey through the world of craft beer. If you want to check us out, you can find us on Instagram @maltedhopballs.

Ryan Moyer

Ryan is a graduate of the University of Indiana.

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