Friday, June 14, 2024

Monday Night Book Club Review – Hungry Ghosts By Peggy Blair

Elaine Burns

Okay, let’s begin by understanding what a Hungry Ghost is. This is actually quite difficult to do. One faction thinks these are people who have died a violent death, mostly women, and due to that are unable to partake of nourishment in the afterlife. Another faction believe that Hungry Ghosts are those that enact these gruesome crimes, most notably on women, but also on their ancestors by not venerating them.

Some parts of China have a Hungry Ghost festival. Tales are told to frighten children into staying home after dark during this time.

I am not sure which ghosts are hungry in this latest of Peggy Blair’s Detective Ramirez novels. There are ghosts aplenty, that is for sure. But I digress.

This is the third in the series of Inspector Ramirez novels. The first two are Midnight in Havana and The Poisoned Pawn.

Inspector Ramirez lives in modern Cuba since the Soviets pulled out in 1991. He has a reputation for solving crimes, even in the deplorable social and economic conditions in Cuba. Oh yes, he sees ghosts. They actually help him solve their own deaths but they cannot speak so he needs to interpret their signals. Apparently he received this gift from his grandmother. Not always a welcomed gift. Ghosts are decidedly self-centred and can pop into your life at inopportune moments. I need say no more.

In Hungry Ghosts, Ramirez is investigating the death of prostitutes. It is a crime riddled with confusing clues.

Don’t make up your mind just yet.

Meanwhile up in Canada, in winter, Charlie Pike, who works for the Ottawa police force and is a Native Canadian, is asked to come to a Northern Ontario reservation currently at odds with the governments and has barricaded itself. Charlie grew up on this reserve but has been cast out. Oh yes, he sees the ghosts of his ancestors.

Why, you may ask, are these two stories in the same book? The simple answer is that in a previous novel Ramirez and Pike consulted with each other in another case. Also, the murders on the reservation bear a striking similarity to the Cuba ones. But mostly I suspect is that the author is one of Canada’s leading experts in Native culture and heritage. Her list of contributions is immense.

Blair received her PhD in Law from Ottawa University. She has been a member of the Law Society of Upper Canada since 1990 and is considered an expert in Native Affairs. She was the Senior Adjudicator for Indian Residential School claims, and is asked constantly to sit or speak to expert panels on Indian Affairs. She was selected for her Dispute Resolution skill to oversee the first Ukrainian elections.

Most of us are a little in love (I really want to use the word ‘lust’ here but don’t feel it is seemly) with Charlie Pike.

The twists and turns of the stories are entertaining, and her writing style is comfortably paced. Her knowledge of Native Affairs is unparalleled. We would all like to see her write on this alone.

This is an enjoyable read. Great for summer. I know I want to read the two previous novels in this series. Her fourth, Umbrella Man, just came out at the beginning of June.

7/9 of us recommend it.

The next installment will be our list of books for next year, which we will decide in July.

Stay tuned!

FOML update:

Lots happening this summer.

Come out to the Net Shed weekends, Friday afternoons and holidays.

Come out to our Summer Concert Series every Sunday night at the Harbour Pavilion.

Look in Memorial Park for our ‘Wee Library’. This is a ‘take and leave’ book depot mostly aimed at the children who come to the beach. This is a new project for the Friends. We think you will enjoy it.

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