Monday, April 30, 2012

Mondays on the Margins: Coincidence Detection by Selaine Henriksen-Willis

Selaine Henriksen, an Ottawa writer, contacted me after reading one of my year-end book review posts (which I posted at the next year's beginning - doesn't everyone?). She asked if I would review her self-published book if she sent it to me. I said sure, and then afterwards I thought oh crap - this could be really awkward if I hate it. Fortunately, I quite liked it.


From Goodreads: Jane is a private investigator specializing in missing persons, but considers reading her true passion. She reads at every opportunity and her choice of books is eclectic. Over the course of time she has noticed that whatever she happens to be reading parallels her life. Her husband says this is just coincidence, to which Jane responds that keeping an open mind in order to detect and use these coincidences helps her solve cases. Jane is just starting to read a new book, Doris Lessing's "The Golden Notebook," when she is hired to find a missing girl. In this, Jane's first recorded case, she decides to conduct an experiment to demonstrate to herself, and to her doubting husband, that her coincidence detection theory is valid.

Jane Wilkinson is quite a likable character (does likable really not have an e? My computer spellcheck doesn't think it has an e. Makes me feel like I'm calling her 'lickable'.) I like her relationship with her equally book-addled mother and her handy builder of a husband; the anecdote about how their relationship was sparked by their shared love of the Montreal Canadiens is charming and adds a nice Canadian flavour (oh screw you, spellcheck, flavour DOES SO have a u.) The way she interviews people and conducts research is plausible. As for her belief that "whatever she's reading parallels her life" and investigations, although I loved it as a concept, I was a bit worried that it would come off hokey, but it's actually done quite well. 


The mystery is well plotted and engaging, and the weaving of the themes of the Golden Notebook with present-day feminism and university politics is clever and felicitous. A few of the characters just barely skiirt being types, but it's true that this issue does tend to attract and shape extreme personalities. I liked the way Jane discussed the issue with her friend Rachel - troubling matters were address without everything being wrapped up in a neat little paragraph or two.


One thing that did bother me, similarly to my other friend on Goodreads who reviewed this, was the fact that Jane didn't seem at all conversant with the internet - she doesn't even have a cell phone until her husband gives her one and shows her how to use it for her trip to Toronto. I understand that she loves books and may be a Luddite, but this wasn't really explained well enough for me, and I don't see how anyone could run a P.I. business without using the internet extensively at this point in time.


Overall this was an enjoyable read, easily as good or better than many non-self-published mysteries I've read. The character and setting reminded me of Amanda Cross's Kate Fansler mysteries (the character is actually mentioned at one point). I think the concept of Jungian synchronicity applied to books and investigations could make for a very satisfying series, and I would definitely read further additions.

Memorable Quotes:

-"I set it aside, too, along with 'Anne of Green Gables' and the follow-up stories, of which I remember nothing except Diana, Anna's friend, had violet eyes that looked even more striking when she was tired. For the longest time I was under the impression that I would look better when fatigued. That would be an example of why you shouldn't trust everything you read."


-"George and I have had an ongoing argument about this for the better part of our five-year marriage. For example, I'll be thinking about wasps and then, purely by chance, open a magazine and there will be an article on wasps. He says it's just a coincidence. I answer that it's too coincidental to be just a coincidence. He laughs and wonders how I ever manage to solve a case."


-"Despite my love of reading it still never fails to astonish me that the written word can arouse such strong emotions, strong enough to lead to threats. I was reminded of Anna, in the 'Golden Notebook,' and her her attempts to rectify social injustice by joining the communist party. Karl Marx wrote a book and changed the world. I shouldn't have been surprised that the escalation of anger, even through a small student paper, had lead to violence."


-"I was sitting, leaning against the wall of the living room. Any attempt to look around made me dizzy and I began to tip sideways. Inane thoughts like 'I can't possibly puke on this lovely carpet' and 'why can't I move?' were running through my head as I tried to catach myself. It turned out there was a good reason I couldn't move: my hands were tied behind my back. I fell onto my face and, yes, the carpet was just as lovely up close."


Coincidence Detection is available on Kindle, Goodreads and Smashwords

4 comments:

Nicole said...

I look better fatigued too. Oh wait. No, I look like I'm 80.

harriet glynn said...

Sounds great! I love nerdy intellectual bookish heroines.

I'm Nic. said...

Fun to read review! Kudos to you for taking on the landmine of reviewing the work of someone who asks you to do so.

Mom of the Perpetually Grounded said...

"I fell onto my face and, yes, the carpet was just as lovely up close."-Very nice!

I like the idea of a PI story that uses humor- I mean humour-that's for you Allison.