Monday, February 23, 2015

Bury Your Dead

I love Louise Penny's detective series about Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, set in the quaint and charming village of Three Pines in the Eastern Townships of Quebec. In Bury Your Dead, the action shifts to Quebec City. Gamache, guilt-ridden after a misjudgement that led to death of an officer, is visiting his old mentor, retired and living in Quebec.

A murder takes place in the basement of the Literary and Historical Society of Quebec, a venerable institution  founded in 1824, and now the last refuge of Quebec's diminished Anglophone community, and Gamache gets involved in the case. In fact, three cases unfold over the course of the book.

There's something particularly fascinating about reading a book set in a locale you're visiting. It seemed that every time we ate in a restaurant in Quebec, just a few pages later, we'd read about it in the pages of this book. We ate across the street from the murdered man's home, and sought out the Lit and His, as it's called, down a narrow lane, just a couple of blocks from where my father used to work. The Lit and His is a beautiful old building, as you can see in this picture.


Literary and Historical Society

Add this to my list of Louise Penny favourities.

Links to past book reviews, with some of my favourites at the top:
Non Fiction:
The Innovator's Dilemma
The Wave: In Search of the Rogues, Freaks and Giants of the Ocean (my most viewed book review)
Curiosity (my second most viewed book review)
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks 
The Checklist Manifesto
Uncharted
The Lean Start-up
The Upside of Irrationality
Thinking, Fast and Slow
Steve Jobs
Global Warring
Nudge

Fiction:
Americanah
Life After Life
A Possible Life (I love anything by Sebastien Faulks)
Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand
Rules of Civility
The Taliban Cricket Club
The Vault
Before I Go To Sleep
A Son of the Circus
Still Alice
Faithful Place
Defending Jacob
The Strangler
The Help
The Housekeeper and the Professor


Some series I've liked:
Donna Leon's series about the Venetian detective Guido Brunelli: A Question of Belief
Canadian Peter Robinson's series about British detective Alan Banks: Before the Poison, Bad Boy
James Church books about a North Korean detective: A Corpse in the Koryo, Hidden Moon, Bamboo and Blood, The Man with the Baltic Stare
Gianrico Carofiglio's series about an Italian policeman: Involuntary Witness
Jo Nesbo's series about Norwegian detective Harry Hole: The Redeemer, The Redbreast, Nemesis
Alexander McCall Smith's series about the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency
Andrea Cammillieri's books about Sicilian Inspector Montalbano: The Shape of Water
Martin Walker's series about French local policeman Bruno, Chief of Police
Louise Penny's detective series set in the Eastern Townships of Quebec: Still Life
Jussi Adler-Olsen's series about Danish detective Carl Morck: The Keeper of Lost Causes
Ruth Rendell's books about Chief Inspector Reg Wexford
Arnald Indridsadon's books about Finnish detective Erlendur: Arctic Chill, Hypothermia and Outrage

Other books I've also liked:
The Spoiler
The Secret Race
The Blondes
San Miguel
The Better Angels of our Nature
Radioactive
The Believing Brain
Hellstrom's Hive
22 Britannia Road
The Imposter Bride
Murder as a Fine Art
Adapt
The Invisible Bridge
This Body of Death
Sustainable Energy - Without the Hot Air
Berlin Crossing
Gold
The Marriage Plot
The Paris Wife
The Forgotten Affairs of Youth
Turn of Mind
The Secret Speech
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet
The Makioka Sisters
Russka
Suite Francaise
The Man from Beijing
Innocent
At Bertram's Hotel
Red April
You Are Not a Gadget
Five Smooth Stones
River of Gods
Nasty, Brutish and Short: The Quirks and Quarks guide to Animal Sex and Other Weird Behaviour
The Ghost
The Council of Dads
The Elements
Tribes
The Elephant, The Tiger and the Cellphone
McMafia
The Janissary Tree


Some books I didn't like very much:
A Perfect Heaven
Potsdam Station
The End of the Wasp Season
The Dark Room
Dead or Alive
A Vintage Affair
The Finkler Question
When the Devil Holds the Candle


Friday, February 20, 2015

Caribou


So what do people do to keep warm during Carnaval in Quebec? What are they drinking at all those outdoor fires? Caribou, the official drink of Quebec's Winter Carnaval, that's what.

And why do you think Bonhomme, the official mascot of the Carnaval, has that big smile on his face? Caribou, that's what.


If you want to try this at home, here's the recipe. Serve it warm or cold.

  • 3 oz. vodka
  • 3 oz. brandy
  • 12 ½ oz. Canadian sherry
  • 12 ½ oz. Canadian port

It sounds pretty gross - until you're sitting in some bleachers waiting for a parade to start in the icebox of a Quebec winter, and a friendly volunteer offers you a glass. It sort of grows on you. :-)

You can also buy this concoction in a bottle.

Udaipur


The Lake Palace Hotel, Udaipur
Udaipur - a dream city built around a number of artificial lakes, with a dream hotel, the Lake Palace seemingly 'floating' in the middle of Lake Pichola (it's actually built on an island.) We were greeted (and security checked) on shore and handed to a canopied craft to take us to the hotel. There we were greeted by a distinguished man with a luxurious moustache to escort us to the hotel under a highly decorated Indian umbrella.
As we walked to the front door, I was showered with sweetly-swelling rose petals. This happened at the Rambaugh Palace in Jaipur, another Taj hotel, so perhaps this is standard for their properties. Despite its staginess, I loved it; I laughingly protested once when leaving that I hadn't got the full treatment on the way out, and the imposing gentlemen rushed to my side with the umbrella ever afterward.

Lake Pichola was full, due to this year's spectacularly good monsoon. As little as two years ago, due to several years of bad monsoons, the lake was completely empty. It would have been a crashing disappointment to arrive at this fabled locale to find the lake not there. Our room had a lovely oriel window, with comfortable cushions - I called it 'my' window although we did fit in two people at times - which overhung the lake and was a beguiling place to loll in comfort gazing over the lake at the main palace.

Udaipur Palace
The Maharanas of Udaipur built several beautiful palaces here. Their main palace is the second biggest palace in India. Part of it is now a museum, part a hotel and the newest part is the residence of the current Maharana. Its massive presence dominated the shoreline view from the hotel. I have included some pictures of pretty parts of the palace.

The Lake Palace was once the Summer Palace. Though just a couple of minutes boat ride from the shore, it picked up cooler winds in the summer heat. And at the crest of a nearby hill, we could see the Monsoon Palace, more comfortable during the rainy season, pictured at left.

On our boat trip around the lake, we made a stop to tour the so-called Party Palace, the scene of special receptions and parties in the old days. The current Maharana is a consummate businessman and now runs this as a hotel, and also rents it out for parties and weddings. Apparently Bollywood stars like to fly in for special occasions here.

As the room key is put in the slot on arrival (like European hotels, indian hotels sensibly turn off the power when you're out of the room and putting the key into the slot signifies you're 'home'), the TV automatically starts running a video and the sonorous voice of a stately man with a full beard and mustache greets you. It is the current Maharana welcoming you and describing his hotels under Taj management along with a bit about their history and background.
In the previous post I described the wonderful service we've received from our tour company and the hotels. Granted, this is an impression formed about people who are being paid to serve us. But people everywhere have been unfailingly pleasant.

I accidentally intruded on a photo a man was taking of his wife. I apologized but was invited to become officially part of the photo.

We took a fascinating walk through the Jaipur market yesterday, but not the part catering to tourists, but rather the part where residents shop, with plastic chairs, rope, mattresses, kids clothes, all sorts of shampoo in single serving envelopes, lots of spices, and wonderful fruit and vegetable stands. Everyone smiled at us a lot, well knowing we were not potential customers. My husband struck up several conversations with shopkeepers and everyone was delighted to have a chat with these foreigners.

People just seem to be pleasant here.

I've included some photos here of the market. Note the colourful vegetable stands and the bright drums and the hanging rows of 'single serving' shampoo and other products. (I remember reading in business publications what a breakthrough it was when western companies finally 'got it' that these sizes were the only ones affordable to Indian masses). Doesn't that computer shop do just everything? One thing that really got me was the advertisement for electronic stock trading in the ATM kiosk tucked into the traditional marketplace.