Friday, 28 July 2017

Book Review: THE TRICKSTER'S LULLABY by Barbara Fradkin

Author: Barbara Fradkin
July 2017
Expected publication: 26 September 2017
My Rating:๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ1/2

Book Description (Goodreads):

Amanda Doucette’s cross-Canada charity tour is in for a cold snap when she organizes a winter camping trip for inner-city young people in the stunning setting of the Laurentian Mountains. With a view to bridging cultural divides, she brings along a mixture of Canadian-born and immigrant youth.

Trouble begins when two of the teenagers disappear into the wilderness during the night: Luc, a French/English-Canadian with a history of drug use, and Yasmina, an adventurous young woman from Iraq who dreams of becoming a human rights lawyer. Although frantic, their parents are strangely secretive amid suspicions of drug use and forbidden romance. But when a local farmer turns up dead and terrorist material is found on Luc’s computer, the dangers turn deadly. Now in a battle against both the elements and police, Amanda and Corporal Chris Tymko discover a far greater web of secrets and deception.

As Amanda races to save the young people from danger, she finds herself fighting for stakes far higher than their own lives.

My musings:

Firstly, can I just say that this was cover love at first sight – what an absolutely gorgeous cover! I couldn't resist it! Plus, I have discovered a lot of fantastic reads published by Dundurn in the past, so picking this book up was a double temptation for me.

The Trickster’s Lullaby was my first introduction to the Amanda Doucette mystery series, and I really enjoyed discovering a new engaging, multi-layered female protagonist who stands out from other fictional amateur sleuths by offering an interesting past that drives a lot of her actions. Plus, she has an adorable canine sidekick, who is the perfect companion to a woman who spends a lot of time in the mountains.  In this latest instalment, Amanda is trying to enrich the lives of immigrant youths by exposing them to the Canadian wilderness, hoping that they will form some friendships in the process. Having experienced trauma in her own life, Amanda feels passionate about the youngsters, who each come from war torn countries and have lived through some hellish experiences. Even Luc, the only Canadian youth in the program, is battling with his own demons and substance abuse issues. It soon becomes obvious that things will not work out as Amanda has planned, and what better place for things to go awry than a wintry wilderness camp in a remote place!

I loved the scenes of slight discord as a diverse group of people are thrown together in a wild place, and the escalating tension as things spin out of control. To be honest, The Trickster’s Lullaby was not at all what I had expected, since I thought that the winter camp would feature for most of the story and focus on the group’s interpersonal relationships. It became very obvious in the first few pages that group dynamics would be an issue, and I loved how the author built the tension and the reader’s anticipation of conflict soon to come. However, the events in the camp only formed the first part of the story, and the scene soon shifted to a more political and current affairs arena, with other protagonists also featuring in the mystery and displaying a different angle to the story. Whilst I really enjoyed Amanda’s friends’ sleuthing and their various different characters, I admit that I would have preferred savouring the slow unravelling of the group and the escalating tension for a bit longer rather than the unexpected direction the novel was taking. Whilst the story was extremely well written and researched, and was certainly a topical issue, I admit I am not a great fan of politically based mysteries, and therefore perhaps not the perfect audience for this book.  

That said, there is action, adventure, armchair-travel, some very interesting characters and a great surprise in store for the reader, so this is certainly an author who knows how to deliver a multi-layered, well-plotted mystery that keeps readers frantically turning the pages. I would love to see Amanda and her friends back in future novels – the more remote the setting the better. In the meantime, I must read the first in the series to discover a bit more about this remarkable former aid worker, who makes for such a refreshingly different protagonist.

Thank you to Netgalley and Dundurn for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.