Frances Fyfield
Penguin Books

An ex-policewoman in London disfigured by acid living in a bell tower, a sister’s violent murder witnessed by her son, and two mother’s who have no idea how poorly they have influenced their children. All of this centered around a London dating service that may be the key to everything. In BLIND DATE, Frances Fyfield has created some fabulous characters who keep you flipping pages to find out what’s next.
The story centers around the life of Elizabeth Kennedy. When we meet her she is recovering from an acid attack at her mother’s B&B; on the English coast. Also present is her dead sister’s young son who witnessed his mother’s murder. Elizabeth is determined to catch her sisters killer, not only because of family vengeance, but because while a policewoman, she may have driven the wrong suspect to take his own life. She is driven to know the truth as much as she is driven to carry out justice. There are family tensions and hidden family jewels to deal with by the seaside, so she flees back to London and her home atop a bell tower. Enter Joe, a mysterious handyman hired in her absence. He has an agenda, but what is it? Is he the killer? A journalist? A pervert? Elizabeth trusts him, but she’s not sure why, and the reader just wants these two to get together and solve the crime.
Amid all this, Joe and Elizabeth’s friends are visiting a dating service that may hold all the answers. The dancing around the fire by all the characters makes for interesting reading. And while Fyfield has that annoying English writer habit of making you guess which characters are talking in the beginning of the novel, and overall the killer’s motivation is a stretch, I really enjoyed reading this mystery on the basis of the strong character portrayals. The bell tower thing kept me going to. I would love to see Joe and Elizabeth team up for a sequel.

Jane Hinde

Spine Tingling Tales to Tell in the Dark
Eric B. Martin, Editor
Chronicle Books

Campfire CollectionÊÊÊ While the title seems to suggest a collection of urban legends, these stories are not the tales of escaped lunatics with hooks for hands. They are tales of the human heart gone bad, or the beast who is true to his heart’s desire.
Broken into four sections, each delving into everything that can go wrong in the woods, The Elements, Beasts, The Unknown and Ourselves, the editor, Eric B. Martin has culled stories from fiction writers and diaries of the doomed. In The Elements there is “The Snow-Shoers” excerpted from George R. Stewart’s 1936 ORDEAL BY HUNGER and the failed attempt to reach the North Pole by Captain Robert Scott as well as fiction by Edgar Allen Poe and Jack London. The next section has a marvelous, Aesop style story by Paul Bowles entitled, “The Hyena.” The Unknown collection of stories is by far the creepiest with “They Bite” by Anthony Boucher being my favorite. “Hunters in the Snow”, in the Ourselves section is also a pretty creepy telling of male bonding gone bad during a hunting trip into the woods.
The book is sized and bound for backpack carrying and the stories are just right in length to read before bedtime. Good old fashioned fun.

Carlye Archibeque

Stories by Jewish Women
Writers of Latin America
Marjorie Agosin, editor
The Feminist Press

This is a collection of short stories written by Jewish Latin American women writers, a marginal group at best. Marjorie Agosin, the editor of the collection and an amazing writer in her own right, does not stand by the idea of marginalization though. Her belief is that there is a universality to the joy and suffering of people that goes beyond race, gender and nationality. Reading this collection, it is easy to side with her views. In each of the stories told here it seems only the ceremonial specifics of the relationships and the exact nature of the suffering has anything to do with race, gender or nationality, the basics are all about being human.
The book is divided into three sections. The first section “Ancestors and Traditions” is full of stories told by the children of immigrants. The first story, “The Family Tree” is a funny tale of a Grandmother and her daughters whom her granddaughter refers to as “the beasts” throughout the story. In the second section, “Immigrants and Strangers”, one of the stories, “May You Make a Good Bride”, is told in the voice of a second grade Jewish girl attending a Catholic school. She longs to be a good Catholic, but it seems more for the childhood reasons of acceptance by your peers rather than any religious motivation. When she is transferred to a Jewish school for third grade, she is amazed at how normal the other Jewish people seem. And the last, “Forging Identities”, is full of stories of acceptance, of oneself, of ones origins, and of the “other.”
This is a monumental book in literature. No collection like it exists and some of the writers have never been translated into English before. The amazing thing is that there is a universality to the stories even though they take place in a strange land and are live by people far removed from the reader (in most cases) by religion and gender. It makes perfect sense that a lot of these tales are told by children. Children are na•ve, but they also learn to accept change more readily than adults do, and they have a way of observing dichotomies as a natural way of life. Agosin has chosen stories that encourage us to see differences from a child’s point of view and then leads us to more adult stories about acceptance. In this way the collection is beautiful on an organizational level as well as an artistic level. Of note also is the introduction by Agosin. She does a fabulous job of putting the importance of the telling of any groups stories into perspective while explaining the reason for this particular grouping. This book is a testament to the power of literature to educate without alienating.

Carlye Archibeque