Monday, June 9, 2014

Sleep While I Sing: L. R. Wright

This book is set in an unusual part of Canada, or so it seems to me. RCMP Staff Sergeant Karl Alberg works in Sechelt, a small town on the Sunshine Coast in British Columbia, Canada. As described in the book:
This part of British Columbia was famous for sun, and for a balmy climate in which roses and eucalyptus trees thrived alongside giant Douglas firs and wild rhododendrum. The richness of the land was equaled only by the richness of the coastal waters...
But in winter the sun often disappeared for days or weeks at a time. And then Alberg couldn't easily recall how brilliantly blue the sea could be, how bright and hot were the days of spring and summer and fall.
Sleep While I Sing is the second book in the Karl Alberg series by L. R. Wright. The first book, The Suspect, won the Edgar for Best Mystery Novel. Both books feature good storytelling, excellent characterization, and loads of atmosphere.

At the end of The Suspect, Karl Alberg and Cassandra the librarian seem to be getting seriously interested in each other. My thought was... another series with a developing love interest. Sometimes those are fine, sometimes I find them tiresome. But no. In this second book in the series, Cassandra has a thing going with an actor from Los Angeles who has been visiting his mother and sister in Sechelt. The relationship between Karl and Cassanda is awkward. I liked this unexpected element.

This second entry in the series starts with the discovery of a dead woman in a secluded area. A big problem is that there is nothing to identify the woman, and she is not from the area. This severely limits the investigation. An artist's sketch is made and distributed, but does not generate the identification they were hoping for.

I enjoyed this  mystery immensely. I liked the characterizations. Karl is a loner and divorcee who misses his family. He has his problems, but he is happy in his work and good at it. The secondary characters and side plots are interesting. The writing is understated. I also liked how various elements of the story tied together at the end.

I did guess who the culprit was, although certainly not the motivation. But I never consider that a negative. I recommend this author, and I recommend starting with the first book in the series. This one can certainly stand alone, but the first one is well worth reading and you get a fuller picture of Karl.

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Publisher: Reprint ed., Penguin Books, 1987. Orig. pub. 1986.
Length:  212 pages
Format:  paperback
Series:   Karl Alberg
Setting:  Sunshine Coast in British Columbia, Canada
Genre:    Mystery, Police Procedural

20 comments:

  1. Tracy, thanks for this review. I assume it won't be a 1 star on Goodreads! I think I have either the 1st or this or possibly both Wright books lurking somewhere. When I have time I will try and check and bump them closer to the top of the pile. What more could you want than......"good storytelling, excellent characterization, and loads of atmosphere"?

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    1. Definitely not one star, Col. I do hate to rate books though. There is so little difference between a 4 and a 5 sometimes. I would rather use 4.1 - 5.0, etc. but then I would just agonize over the rating. The L. R. Wright books are definitely worth reading. Not at all cozy, but not very gritty either.

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  2. I loved The Suspect! Did I find it thru you? I have several more in the series on my shelf now thanks to Paperbackswap!

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    1. Good question, Peggy. I think we started the Canadian Book Challenge a couple of years ago at about the same time. I have the third book in the series but have to work on getting some more.

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  3. I read THE SUSPECT a few months ago. I liked it because it dared to cast a senior citizen in the role of a murderer. For a long time it seemed to be as taboo as having a child as a murderer. And frankly you rarely come across elderly killers in books...unless they are out and out nut cases. THE SUSPECT is a good example of a mainstream novel using crime as a means to explore character. It was more about the people than the crime. Kind of a groundbreaker for the genre.

    I wondered if the rest of the books would be done in the same inverted detective narrative style. Nice to see you tried her hand at a whodunit in her second outing with Karl Alberg. Alberg seems too flippant to hold onto a woman. IMO she was kind of drippy in the first book, too. I'm not surprised he and Cassandra aren't a couple in the second book.

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    1. You make some good points, John. It unusual to have a senior citizen as the murderer. Also, I agree about Alberg and Cassandra and their sort of relationship.

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  4. Tracy - You've absolutely convinced me that I must try this series. Thanks for bringing it to my attention. I've been wanting to try it, but haven't yet. I appreciate the nudge.

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    1. Margot, You definitely should try this author. Her writing has so many good qualities.

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  5. I loved The Suspect and raved about it on a lot of blogs. And I thought to myself that if I had been on the jury trying the perpetrator, I would have had a hard time deciding his fate -- but I was quite sympathetic to him. The motive is compelling.

    I've read one or two other Alberg books and liked them, but not as much as The Suspect.

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    1. It is true, Kathy, that this book does not rise to the level of The Suspect. But I like the author's development of the characters and story. I am eager to try the next one.

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  6. TracyK: I have read the book but have not put up a review. I should get one prepared. I liked the book but did not find it the equal of The Suspect. However, The Suspect was exceptional and it would be hard to be as good in the next book.

    If I might add a personal note on the author. She was born in Saskatchewan and spent her ealry years in Saskatoon. She was known as Bunny.

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    1. You should do a review on this one, Bill. The Suspect is a special book. I have read a lot of good comments on the author (as a person).

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  7. Tracy, your review as well as the "reviews" by fellow commentators is definitely nudging me toward reading L.R. Wright's books, especially "The Suspect."

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    1. You won't be sorry, Prashant. L.R. Wright's books are worth seeking out.

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  8. I'm always on the lookout for new to me mystery writers, I may have to look into this one.

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    1. I hope you do try her mysteries, Ryan. Very good reading, at least the ones I have read so far.

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  9. I read 3 books by LR Wright in quick succession a few years ago, and this was one of them. I think The Suspect was my favourite (like everyone apparently), but I liked this one too. I should catch up on this author, I think she has written quite a few more since.

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    1. Moira, she did write about eight more books, I think, and the last was published in 2001. She died in early 2001. I think the last two books are still about the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Sechelt, but a woman takes over the department after Alberg retires. It will take me awhile to get to those.

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  10. Laurali Rose Wright died in 2001 at 61 due to breast cancer.

    Here is a very nice interview with her by Linda Richards of January Magazine, dated
    May 2000. http://www.januarymagazine.com/profiles/lrwright.html

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    1. That is a very good interview, Kathy. Thanks for the link. And it has a nice list of the books in the series also.

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