Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Disturbing the Dark by Wendy Hornsby

First Sentence:  For the fourth night in a row, Élodie watched Allied bombers stitch through the clouds, far out above the Channel as they headed home to their bases in England after blasting targets in Germany.
Film journalist Maggie MacGowen has returned to her relatives, particularly her grandmother’s, home in France with her long-time film partner, Guido, to film the four agricultural seasons of the family’s farm.  An unearthed skull takes them down an unexpected path of German Occupation, the survivors of a Nazi soldier, and Nazi war memorabilia.  Events from the past become overshadowed by a present-day murder, and Maggie must also worry about getting Guido out of jail.
One cannot set a book in France and without mouthwatering descriptions of food and meals.  How wonderful to enjoy a lunch such as this—“Large platters of chilled rice and seafood salad, roast chicken with green beans and fried potatoes and of course baskets of bread, were placed on the table, along with carafes of water, cold apple cider and red vin ordinaire.”  These descriptions are not just there for their appeal, but because they represent the life of Maggie’s family who are farmers, makers of cheese, and Calvados, the local apple brandy. 
The property of Maggie's family is as integral to the story as are the characters.  Hornsby provides a concise, yet well-done explanation of Maggie’s family and past.  This allows new readers, in particular, to understand the interrelationships. 
Told in first person by Maggie, you have a sense of her film-maker’s sensibility in viewing the other characters, but not at all making you feel separate from them.  One can’t help loving her grandmother Élodie, as well as the other two grand-mères: just don’t mistake them for soft, gentle souls.  These are women of strength and courage who have survived. 

The characters can become a bit confusing at times, so it is lovely that Hornsby included a list of the extended family members at the beginning.  Maggie’s lover, Jean-Paul is not only well-connected, but resourceful, thanks to his professional connections—“When did you find that out?” I wanted to know.  “During mass,” Jean-Paul said.  “A text came through during the Our Father.  I bowed my head and sneaked a look.”  And who doesn’t appreciate a good literary reference--"It's Miss Havisham's dining room," I said.  "All we need is the wedding cake."  "someone you know, dear?"  "From Dickens.  Great Expectations."  "Whoever she was," Antoine said..."If her dining room reminds you of this place, she needed a housekeeper..."  
Hornsby not only captures the power and speed by which news travels via the internet, but also the resulting ramifications about which we never stop to consider.
As difficult as it is, Hornsby presents a painful look at the “truth” taught to the child of an enemy from the war.  It is something we almost never consider, because of our own views of that time.  Yet it does bear considering. 
Disturbing the Dark” is very much a character-driven story about people with whom you become involved and care.  It’s a story of the sins of the past, and the ambitions of the present, and causes you to stop and consider both.

DISTURBING THE DARK (Trad Mys-Maggie MacGowen-France-Contemp) – Good
      Hornsby, Wendy – 10th in series
      Perseverance Press, 2016


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