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Sunday, June 14, 2015

MURDER at the MENDEL(Joanne Kilbourn #2) (audiobook) by Gail Bowen

Published in 2012 by Post Hypnotic Press
Originally published in 1991
Read by Lisa Bunting
Duration: 6 hours, 33 minutes

Gail Bowen's Joanne Kilbourn character carries on into her second book. Life has changed for her - she has moved her family to Saskatoon in Saskatchewan to be close to her daughter in college and to teach at the same university. 

The local art center was called the Mendel (I say was because it has since been slated to close and move to a new location with a new name) and a childhood friend of Joanne Kilbourne who has since become a controversial artist has an exhibit at the Mendel. The artist, named Sally Love, and Kilbourn used to be very close but after the suicide of Love's father when they were 13 years old Sally Love moved away.

Kilbourn and Love renew their friendship. Sally Love's exhibition has brought a number of protesters out because of her art. She has a lot of art with overt sexual themes, including a 200 square foot fresco on the wall over 100 penises (and a few vaginas) - paintings of the genitalia of all of her lovers over her lifetime permanently painted to the wall.

As a Kilbourn and Love navigate the protesters and her fans, Love decides to sell a private all-women's art gallery that an emotionally ultra-needy friend has managed for her for years. This unhinges the friend.

Suddenly everything starts to unravel as arson, multiple murders and more ruin Saskatoon's Christmas and New Years...

The Saskatoon skyline. Photo by Thomas Kelley
I did not enjoy this audiobook. It was not the fault of the reader, Lisa Bunting, who did a fantastic job with a variety of people's voices. She exhibited tremendous emotional range with her reading.

The text itself is the problem. Sally Love came off as an arrogant self-absorbed character and Kilbourn seems the same as she accepts Love without criticism, even as she makes cruel comments about other characters, makes plans to remove her daughter from her ex-husband (the only home she's ever known) and even sits and talks about masturbation at the breakfast table in front of Kilbourn's school-aged son before he heads off to school. In fact, Kilbourn's own internal compass is so messed up that I despaired of using her opinions as any kind of barometer to judge any other character and try to figure out who did what to whom.

To make matters worse, the pacing in this book is terrible. The "murder an the Mendel" that the title proclaims does not happen until halfway through the book. Bowen excels at long, rich descriptions of scenes but not at moving a plot along.

This is my third review of a Gail Bowen book or short story and this is my last. In the end, I was just glad to be done with it and I was sort of hoping that more of them had died along the way.

I rate this audiobook 2 stars out of 5.

This audiobook can be found on Amazon here: Murder at the Mendel: A Joanne Kilbourne Mystery, Book 2.

Note:  I received a copy of this audiobook free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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