Swan Song – A Book Review

This is the first in a series of book reviews I’d like to do as part of my blog.  I’m only going to review books I have enjoyed but I am an avid reader.

The cover of Swan Song by Jo Hiestand

Murders, kidnappings, motives, clues, suspects, and detectives.  Throw in a castle or two, the charming English countryside and quaint villages, and you have yourself a Jo A. Hiestand “McLaren” Mystery.

Swan Song is the second in a series featuring Detective Michael McLaren and is set in Derbyshire in England.  The series is written by Jo A. Hiestand who, funnily enough, is an American.  Her novels are set in Britain but her command of the colloquialisms and her feel for the place is exceptional.  Jo Hiestand is fast becoming a favourite mystery writer in the same class as Deborah Crombie and Peter Robinson.

Michael McLaren is a former police detective who is now making a living at building and repairing drystone walls.  He does not intend to get involved in another “cold case” mystery but is drawn in with the help and a not-too-gentle nudge from his girlfriend, Dena.  It seems a music teacher and performer was murdered the previous year and his case was never solved.  Dena thinks that the case is just what McLaren needs to pull him out of the depression he has been suffering from since his abrupt retirement from the police department the year before.

This book was one I literally couldn’t put down.  The plot revealed itself little by little and I found myself turning the pages with eagerness to find out what was going to happen next.  Never was it predictable, but neither was it unbelievable.  Throughout the book, McLaren uses music to soothe his soul as he deals with the cast of characters he has to interview.  The ex-wife, the next-door neighbour, the teaching colleague, the students, and his singing partners are all well drawn.  Who dunnit???

My eldest daughter who is also a lover of mysteries, says that if a book has a map in it, you know it’s going to be good.

Here is the map that came with Swan Song.

I kept referring back to the map as I got deeper into the story.  I wanted to know where the pub was that he was in or where the festival was being held.  It helped bring the mystery to life.

I have a few questions about McLaren and why he resigned from the police.  Questions about his “enemy” in the police ranks and how he is going to be dealt with in future novels.

I believe there are two more McLaren novels, to join Siren Song, Hiestand’s first and Swan Song.  And someone told me today that the fifth novel has just been started.

Hiestand has another series which I am eager to try – The Taylor & Graham Mysteries.  I can hardly wait.




Do You Remember?

A few days ago I was thinking about some of the things from my childhood that are now gone.  At least I thought they were gone.

One of them was a pneumatic tube messaging system, which was in place in a department store in my little town.  The cashier had a little cylindrical device where she would put your money.  She would insert the tube into a chamber and then it would pneumatically be sent upstairs to the office and it would be sent back down to the cashier with your change.

Apparently this system was invented in England in the 1800s and was used to send messages from say a bank to the stock exchange.  It was used over greater and greater distances, some several miles and was used in many cities in Europe.

My daughter told me that there was one in use in Ste. Anne de Bellevue, Quebec, about 15 years ago.  I don’t know if it is still in use.

I read that many hospitals use them, especially for test samples, because the number of people who would be needed to “message” all these lab samples would be large and the possibility of the samples being lost or damaged is decreased with the pneumatic system.  Stanford University Hospital and the Ottawa Heart Institute use the system and I am sure there are many other hospitals that use this quaint way of messaging.  Now the systems are computer-controlled.

Recently, I emailed my brothers and sisters about this old memory and I’ve had 40 responses filled with memories from the 40s and on.  It is fun thinking of the way things used to be and the way they are now.

(Had a little computer problem which has been fixed. Only part of this post got published, but that’s another story.)

Do you have any memories of the “old days” to share?  I’d like to hear them.

Have a great day. – Maureen

A Trip to the Hairdresser

Since our move to Ottawa, I have been looking for a hairdresser.  It recently became necessary to just find one and GO.  My hair was getting just too long.

On Friday afternoon, I was out and about by myself and found myself at a mall with a couple of hairdressers.  I picked one and got in right away.  There were no other customers and just one other hairdresser seated in another little room.

I hadn’t been seated for more than a minute when “Wendy” my hairdresser asked me if my hair was natural.

Me:  Uh, no, I colour it.

Wendy:  But you’re a natural blond, aren’t you?

Me:  No, my natural colour is dark brown.

Wendy:  Well, it looks good.  Where do you get it done?

Me:  I do it myself.

Wendy:  (to the other hairdresser)  Justine, did you hear that?  She does it herself!

(to me)  What do you use?

Me:  Colour Expert.

Wendy:  Well, you do a good job.

Wendy:  We have a special on Monday.  Colour – half-price.

Me:  Do you have any Senior specials?

Wendy:  Yes, but you aren’t a senior, are you?

Me:  Yes, I’m 67.

Wendy:  Justine, did you hear that?  She’s 67.  Come and have a look.

Justine comes and has a look and smiles at me in the mirror and mumbles something.

Wendy:  Do you have any sisters?

Me:  Yes, I have three sisters and seven brothers.

Wendy:  Do they look good?

Me:  Pretty much.

Wendy:  Do you have your own teeth?

Me:  Uh, yes.

Wendy:  Did you hear that Justine?  She has her own teeth.

Wendy:  Well, they look good too.

Meanwhile, the hair was getting shorter and when I looked in the mirror, one side was definitely shorter than the other.  She fixed it, but instead of cutting it to my shoulders, she cut it to a little above my chin.  Not exactly what I wanted but it’ll grow, won’t it.

My daughter Michelle had told me not to go to that particular salon and now I know why!  I don’t think I’ll be back there anytime soon!


Trigger Finger

If you’ve read my blog posts at all, you will know that I am a bit of a gadget person.  My daughters would state in no uncertain terms that I am absolutely insane about it and that I feel I always have to have the latest thing out there.  I have a regular computer, a laptop, a netbook, an iPod Touch, an iPhone, a Kobo Touch eReader, a Kobo Vox eReader, several computer-aided design devices, a digital camera, and many others.

I use these devices to write, phone, text, draw, take and edit photos, and play games.  This last has caused a heap of trouble for me.  In my blog post Unscramble Me, I wrote about having to delete the game, Scramble from my iPhone as it was literally causing me sleepless nights and a very bizarre dream-life.  Now I’ve had to delete Solitaire since I have developedTrigger Finger. Cue the ominous music.

I have been meeting once a week with my cousin, a retired nurse, and when I described what had been happening to me, she quickly said that it was probably what is called Trigger Finger.  But of course it has a long medical name that I can’t pronounce let alone spell.  I mean really, why would a senior citizen like me who has never gone near a gun suddenly have a condition called Trigger Finger?

When I wake up in the mornings, I can’t bend my finger.  It doesn’t really hurt much, but it can be very bothersome.  After running it under warm water for a while, I can bend it but it “pops”.  Research on the Internet uncovered the fact that we have no muscles in our fingers.  We use the muscles in our forearms to perform tasks like opening jars, etc.  Apparently the “popping” is caused because the tendons in the fingers move through a sort of sheath in the finger which can get swollen, resulting in the POP, as it has to squeeze through the narrowed opening.

I just want to warn you.  Don’t overdo it on all your toys and devices!  These arthritic-type things can hit like a ton of PCs and they can stay around forever.

Getting to sleep at night without my “games” is not really difficult as it is starting to get bright around 4:30 a.m. and I am pretty sleepy by 9 p.m., but what about when autumn rolls around again?  I shudder at the thought, but maybe I’ll think of something else to get me to sleep.  I wonder if my Hubby could help me with that.  You think?