I cut my teeth on mystery novels when I was about eight. Every gift-giving occasion, my uncle would give me two brand new Bobbsey Twin books- hard covers. I loved following Bert and Nan, Flossie and Freddie as they solved mysteries in and around their home town, Lakeport. My daughter has those books I managed to save through numerous moves.
Anyway- I still love a good mystery and I finished a new one this morning. Peter Abraham’s new book End of Story. I added this book to my ‘must read’ list when it appeared on Entertainment Weekly’s list of Best Books for 2006. End of Story is a great book…but not just because EW said so. (Or any of the other media outlets which have called it everything from “cunning…suspenseful…very scary” (New York Times Book Review) to “almost physically impossible to put down.” (Booklist) I’d have to agree with that last one; I read last night until my eyes were burning. This is a great book because it pays attention to details, transcends crime-story cliches and delivers characters that are cunning, charismatic, naive.
End of Story tells the compelling tale of Ivy Siedel, an aspiring writer, who takes a job teaching writing to a small group of inmates at Dannemora Prison, in Upstate New York. When one of her students, Vance Harrow, turns out to be a talented writer, Ivy decides to take a closer look at his history and discovers something about him that both shocks and excites her…and changes her life forever. Abrahams doesn’t waste any time – dumping the reader right into the middle of Ivy’s story- which barrels along as fast as you can turn the pages (and I was turning pretty fast. I read the book over the course of two days.) Obviously, since this is a mystery novel I can’t give you too much info. But I can say that the novel’s natural climax offers a surprising twist as Ivy works and reworks the details of Vance’s story. Along the way Abrahams makes some interesting observations about writing and the process of doing it.
Read a review
There is no reading book guide for this book and I’m not sure you could conduct an entire book club discussion around the book except…
1. In what ways is ‘End of Story’ a crime novel cliche?
2. Are you sympathetic towards Ivy? At what point, if ever, do you stop feeling sorry for her?
3. Explain her attraction to Vance Harrow.
4. What are some of the most surprising moments in the book?
Coconut Creme Caramel
400ml can coconut milk
6 eggs, lightly whisked
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
1 cup white sugar
1 1/2 cups of milk
1/3 cup water
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
grated lime zest to serve
Preheat oven to 160c. Combine the white sugar and water in a medium saucepan over low heat. Cook, stirring until sugar dissolves (about 2 minutes). Increase heat to high and bring to the boil. Boil without stirring until the sugar turns to a golden color. Pour the caramel mixture evenly among 6 (2/3 cup) oven proof ramekins. Set aside until set.
Whisk until well combined the coconut milk, milk, egg, brown sugar and vanilla paste in a large bowl. Pour this mixture over the caramel mixture in the ramekins. Place ramekins in a pan and pour enough boiling water to reach halfway up the side of the ramekins. Bake 34-40 minutes or until the custards are just set. Remove from pan and let cool on a rack. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 6 hours. To serve, run a knife around the edge of the ramekins and carefully turn onto serving plates. Sprinkle with grated lime zest.
For added flavor, toast some shredded coconut and sprinkle on top of the creme caramel.