"As my husband, Zack, slipped into the roomy yellow silk pyjamas that would transform him from a Saskatchewan trial lawyer into Rex Stout’s brilliant, food-loving, orchid-growing detective hero, Nero Wolfe, he was one happy guy."
Joanne accompanies him to a Halloween birthday party dressed as Archie Goodwin.
The party is to celebrate the reluctant 45th birthday of Lauren Treadgold. The former model remains gorgeous but can only see she is not as beautiful as she was at 16 on the cover of Vogue.
The guests have been requested to come as famous couples. The hosts, Lauren and Vince, are outfitted as Anthony and Cleopatra.
The fissures in the Treadgold marriage are made publicly clear at the party. Lauren is resentful when Vince, a surgeon, receives an emergency call and must leave for the hospital.
After his departure Lauren wraps herself around Julian Zentner, “tall and delicately boned, with blue-black ringlets worn long enough to curl on his graceful neck” and costumed us Narcissus. The 19 year old former art student is looking for a patron to help him establish an art gallery.
In her studio Joanne and Zack’s 14, almost 15, year old daughter, Taylor, has been painting a portrait of Julian called BlueBoy21, her take on the famed Gainsborough painting. Julian has made regular visits to the condo to pose for the painting which, together with another painting Two Artists, will be auctioned for charity. Taylor has refused to let Zack and Joanne see BlueBoy21.
At the auction Joanne and Zack are stunned when they see BlueBoy21 is a full frontal painting of a nude Julian. The painting instantly brings back memories to Joanne of the mural Taylor’s mother, Sally Love, had painted 11 years earlier that was filled with images of the penises and vaginas of men and women who had been Sally’s lovers. (More details of Sally’s life and art are in my review of Murderin the Mendel, the second book in the series.) BlueBoy21 creates a sensation which is heightened by the identity of the purchaser.
It is clear to all that Taylor and Julian are developing a romantic relationship. While never the parent of a daughter I can empathsize with the dread within Joanne and Zack as they contemplate their 14 year old daughter with a 19 year old boyfriend.
Julian presses that Taylor needs their relationship to produce great art. It is too close for Joanne to Sally Love who, when she was a 14 year old, had a 45 year old lover and proclaimed sex had inspired her art.
Family issues are occupying Joanne’s daughter, Mieka, who has been living with Riel Delorme. There are major tensions in their relationship as Riel deals with personal demons.
Outside the family Joanne is keeping busy in retirement helping her husband, Zack, who has taken leave from his law firm to be the CEO of the Racette-Hunter Centre, a large community building, that is to be the focal point of a huge redevelopment project in the North Central district of Regina, best known in Canada as the most dangerous neighbourhood in the country. Construction of the Centre is progressing well under Zack’s guidance.
Meetings involving the Centre are begun with a prayer from an Indian elder:
Great Spirit – Grant us strength and dignity to walk a
The book portrays a vivid picture of life in Regina. Our province has yet to handle well the relationships between a large urban, disproportionately poor, indigeneous population and the majority white residents.
Frustrations with municipal politicians have Zack considering a candidacy for mayor of Regina. Knowing his wilder younger days will become public fodder Joanne cautions Zack about running for office. He replies “I have committed many sins but no crimes” to which Joanne responds “There’s a campaign slogan with traction”.
As friends and family move on and the R-H Centre rises from the muck a murder occurs and Zack is back to being a defence lawyer as much as the Centre CEO.
The book flows beautifully as Joanne deals with family and murder while sharing joyful times with her granddaughters, Lena and Madeline.
It is a book to be savoured. Set yourself time for reading. I read it in just over a day eager to know what would happen in the book. My next post will be Q & A with Gail. The Gifted will be the 4th book of 13 I plan to read for the 7th Canadian Book Challenge. (Oct. 2/13)
****Bowen, Gail – 2011 Questions and Answers with Gail; 2011 Suggestions for Gail on losing court cases; The author's website is http://www.gailbowen.com/ - (2011) Deadly Appearances; (2013) Murder at the Mendel; The Wandering Soul Murders (Not reviewed); A Colder Kind of Death (Not reviewed); A Killing Spring (Not reviewed); Verdict in Blood (Not reviewed); (2000) - Burying Ariel (Second best fiction of 2000); (2002) - The Glass Coffin; (2004) - The Last Good Day; (2007) – The Endless Knot (Second Best Fiction of 2007); (2008) - The Brutal Heart; (2010) - The Nesting Dolls; (2012) - "B" is for Gail Bowen; (2012) - Kaleidoscope and Q & A on Kaleidoscope;
Bill - Oh, no need to sell me on any Gail Bowen mystery. The ones I've not yet had the chance to read are on my TBR list, and this one is one of them.ReplyDelete
Margot: Thanks for the comment. I look forward to reading in your posts references to books of the Joanne Kilbourn Shreeve series.ReplyDelete
Bill - I love Gail Bowen, and reading your great review reminds me that I must catch up on her series so I can get to this one. Costume parties are something I really like in a book, and I also like the way Bowen often writes about art, in such an interesting and accessible way. So this one will be perfect for me...ReplyDelete
Moira: Thanks for the kind words. Gail is an excellent writer. I look forward to your thoughts on the book.ReplyDelete
Bill, as mentioned earlier, I haven't read any of Gail Bowen's novels, though I do hope to read some of them soon. Joanne Kilbourn's personal life seems to be entwined with her professional duties. Is it always so? I look forward to reading your third interview with the author.ReplyDelete
Bill, I am very far behind you in the series but that means I have a lot of good books ahead of me. I look forward to the Q&A with Gail.ReplyDelete
While I have read all the books in the series other than this one, every time I finish one, I always say it's my last. I find it hard to accept that Joanne can be connected so cloesly to so many murders even in a city the size of Regina. Based on your comments, this one clearly builds on the previous book so I will no doubt read it.ReplyDelete
Prashant: Joanne is not a conventional sleuth. The books are about the lives of herself and her family in which a murder takes place and Joanne helps find the solution.ReplyDelete
TracyK: Thanks for the comment. I look forward to reviews from you on Gail's books.ReplyDelete
Kent: I do not worry about the number of murders or every series would have to be set in a major city. I treat each book as a stand alone murder coming into the lives of the characters. Gail's books build the lives of her family from book to book. The sequence of murders does not develop the series.ReplyDelete
Sounds like a book for December, around the holiday season. Hopefully, I'll have long days in which to read.ReplyDelete