Tuesday, March 20, 2007

NonFiction – Big-Box Swindle: The True Cost of Mega-Retailers and the Fight for America’s Independent Business by Stacy Mitchell

This is a very interesting in depth look at the impact of large chain stores with in the United States. Mitchell, head of the American Independent Business Alliance, is very convincing and illustrates many of the negatives that can come about when a large chain retail store opens in a community. Many of the arguments against the expansion of large chains are quite obvious while others are more subtle but still convincing. For example, she spends a good deal of time discussing job loss and creation. Often a community or local government will embrace a large chain by stating how many jobs it will bring to the community. However, as large chain stores open and grow local small businesses, lacking the resource to compete, close over time. Therefore, a community experiences more job loss than job gain over a period of a few years, but since this is subtle it goes unnoticed. One issue I did have with the book was that the author did not discuss any benefits a chain store brings to a community as I am sure there are some. Mitchell concludes with the argument that it is time for governments and communities to step in and level the playing field so that small business can compete against large retail chains. Only time will tell if this will happen.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn

I was completely misled in thinking this novel by Deanna Raybourn was a typical historical romance offering simply because I knew that the publisher, Mira, is an imprint of Harlequin. But I was completely enthralled in this mystery debut. At their own dinner party, Lady Julia Grey’s husband, Edward, dies a sudden and not so unexpected death. A weakening heart condition had Lady Grey prepared for the eventuality of his death but not for the doubts of a private inquiry agent, Nicholas Brisbane. It is only after a year’s worth of accumulating suspicion that Lady Grey engages the services of Mr. Brisbane into the possible murder of her husband. The year has given Julia time to emerge from her repressive marriage and slowly grow stronger in self sense of self and she is determined to assist Nicholas. They are at constant odds with each other leading to a tremendous amount of romantic tension. But, instead of romance being the focus of the story, the search for Edward’s killer takes center stage leading Julia into a sordid and dark world. The historical detail, strong characters and at times, the almost gothic overtones proved to make for a strong storyline. I shall definitely put Deanna Raybourn on my author watch list!