Monday, March 30, 2009
TITLE: THE LEMUR
AUTHOR: BENJAMIN BLACK
Details: Stand-alone / Large Print
John Glass used to be a well known journalist, who has now been hired by his father-in-law, William Mulholland, to write his biography.
Big Bill Mulholland is a former CIA operative and now runs a Trust worth billions with his daughter Louise, who is Glass's wife.
Glass decides to hire a researcher to find out facts about Mulholland that the man himself might not want to provide. When he's contacted by the researcher in what appears to be a blackmail attempt, Glass is shocked. But not as shocked as he will be when he's contacted by the police because his researcher has been murdered.
I can't say this was a badly written book, or that the story didn't hold together. The problem with this book for me was that everything about it, the story, the characters and even it's lack of real resolution left me indifferent. Never for one moment did the story grip me or excite me. The writing was good enough to keep me going, and the book was short enough for me to finish it, but at no point during the reading was I excited about the story.
TITLE: RUN FOR YOUR LIFE
AUTHOR: JAMES PATTERSON & MICHAEL LEDWIDGE
Details: no. 2 Michael Bennett Mystery
Michael Bennett is a detective with the New York police department. He is also a widower with ten children at home.
When an apparent mad man starts shooting and killing people in the richer parts of New York, Bennett is put on the case. But finding an unidentified killer whose motive for killing is a mystery in a city the size of New York is never easy.
And just when motive and next victim appear to be clear, the killer makes a surprise move and with it makes the danger very personal to Bennett and his family.
This was a typical, thrill a minute, Patterson thriller. I enjoyed having a new main character because I find myself a bit burned out where Alex Cross is concerned.
I did, sort of, figure out the twist concerning the villain early on, but that didn't spoil the fun.
I'm not sure if I'll go back to read the first book staring Michael Bennett, but if there is going to be a third one, I will pick it up from the library.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
TITLE: THE TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE
AUTHOR: AUDREY NIFFENEGGER
Details: Re-read for my library book club
I'm always a bit apprehensive when I re-read a book, especially one I loved as much as this one the first time around. There is always the risk of the book not living up to my, fond, memories of it. However, this time at least, my fears were ungrounded. This book hasn't lost any of its enchanting beauty over the five years since I first read it. It is still the most original love story I've ever read. And although this time around I knew the story, I was still driven to keep on turning the pages in order to find out what happened next.
Of course, what happens next is a bit of a confusing concept in this book because Henry travels through time. This is a process that he doesn't have any control over and he only moves to places, times and people in his own life.
This time travelling also makes this a rather complicated story to summarize, but I'll give it a go.
When Clare is six years old she meets a naked, grown up man in the meadow behind her house. The man is Henry, who explains to her that he's a time traveller. Over the next twelve years he pops in and out of Clare's life, and Clare discovers that in her future, they are married.
When Clare is twenty, she meets Henry in real time. But while she knows who he is, he doesn't know her because Clare's past meetings with him take place in his future.
However, the future is already determined and Clare and Henry face their strange and at times heartbreaking future together.
The whole time paradox boggles the mind at times, but really only enhances the story for me. Mainly because it made this the most unpredictable love story ever. And because I love the idea that those you love were there before you knew them and will be there after they have gone.
I can see myself happily reading this book for a third time in years to come.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
TITLE: BLUE HEAVEN
AUTHOR: C.J. BOX
I'm really disappointed now that I've finished this book. I had heard great things about C.J. Box's "Joe Pickett" series and had high expectations of this work. But, either this stand-alone doesn't live up to the strenght of the series, or Box just isn't the writer for me.
I want my thrillers to grip me, hold me in suspense and ideally have a surprising twist in the tail. This story doesn't deliver on any of those points. From the very start it was clear who were the bad guys and why, and who were the innocents and/or heroes of the story. And there was no twist to change any of that. It would take a lot of convincing to make me pick up a book by this author again.
The story, in short, is as follows.
A twelve year old girl and her younger brother witness four men shoot somebody. The men spot the kids before they can get away and set out to find and silence them forcing the kids to flee. The four are retired cops and when the children's mother reports them missing, the men volunteer to be part of the search. And with the local sheriff being inexperienced, they are soon in charge of the investigation.
Only one old and reclusive rancher stands between the kids and certain dead.
Even now, the summary sounds better than the book actually is.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
TITLE: TWO DOORS DOWN
AUTHOR: ANNIE MC CARTHY
This is what I would call a comfort read, a story about women and their families and the ups and donws they go through over a period of a few months.
The story is set in Belfast, where Sally O'Neill has been cleaning in three houses on Marlborough Street for ten years. And although she at times feels like she's part of the families she cleans for, she can't get over what she sees as the class difference between her and her employers.
Sally knows a lot, if not all, of what's going on in the houses she cleans, but is at pains to not diverge details about her own life and past. And when her past catches up with her, it doesn't only threaten her own livelihood and happiness, but also touches the families she has been looking after for so long.
Nothing in this story stood out as being original or new, and I feel there was room for fleshing the story out more. However, it was an easy and comfortable read. Perfect for a quiet mother's day.
Saturday, March 21, 2009
TITLE: DEFINITELY DEAD
AUTHOR: CHARLAINE HARRIS
Details: no. 6 Sookie Stackhouse
This is a fun series. I'm a bit sorry that I'm reading it out of order, but the books aren't easy to find. So, I'll just go on as I've been going and hopefully I'll eventually get to read all of them.
An awful lot is happening in this book, and Sookie is in danger from at least two different sources. But all the dangers seem to come together when Sookie travels to New Orleans to sort out her cousin Hadley's estate. Hadley was the lover of the Queen of vampires before she got killed, just before the Queens marriage, which was not a love match. Now the queens future depends on Sookie digging deep enough into Hadley's stuff.
With a new love interest in the form of Quinn, a were-tiger and a devastating revelation about an old lover, Sookie's emotional life is in turmoil. but then, so is the world around her.
This description doesn't really do the book justice because I'm caught between a book overflowing with action and not wanting to spoil the story. But I would recommend this book to anyone who likes the super-natural as well as tons of action.
Friday, March 20, 2009
TITLE: THE BRUTAL ART
AUTHOR: JESSE KELLERMAN
You would expect the person who writes the blurb on the back of the book to have read the story, wouldn't you? Or, at the very least, you would think that the author would make sure that the blurb covers the contents of the book, but obviously not.
From what I read, I expected more threats against Ethan Muller, the main character. After all, the blurb states "... and leave him fearing for his own life." However, that particular danger never materialized.
Having said all that, this is not a bad book at all, and the mystery is a good and intriguing one, just not a deeply thrilling one.
Ethan Muller finds boxes filled with intricate and obscure but very good drawings. When he displays some of them in his art gallery they're a huge success. However, success turns to horror and mystery when it turns out that five of the figures in the drawings are young boys who were brutally assaulted and murdered 40 years ago.
Were they murdered by the artist? Where is the artists? Nobody has seen him for over a year. And why is Ethan's father, from whom he has been estranged for years, so interested in getting his hands on all the drawings?
As I said, there's no lack of mystery here, I just wouldn't call it a thriller.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
TITLE: THE DARK EYE
AUTHOR: INGRID BLACK
Details: no. 2 Saxon Mystery
One night, Saxon gets a call from a man named Felix Berg. He thinks someone wants to murder him and wants Saxon to meet him at a lighthouse just outside Dublin. Against her better judgment Saxon goes, only to discover the body of Felix, who has been shot.
The death of Felix appears to be connected to a string of apparently random murders that have been plaguing Dublin, but how is a complete mystery. And as the random murders continue, the mystery only deepens and Saxon is in danger of becoming obsessed.
This mystery was even darker than the first one in the series, especially because more of Saxon's own dark-side surfaces. The ending though, like in the first book, was a complete surprise. While reading a few possible solutions occurred to me, but the right one never crossed my mind. And I really like that in a mystery.
Monday, March 16, 2009
TITLE: LUCIA LUCIA
AUTHOR: ADRIANA TRIGIANI
Details: no. 1 New York Trilogy
It is 1950 and Lucia Sartori is 25 years old. She's beautiful and ambitious and very happy in her job, working in a chic Fifth Avenue department store in New York for a successful fashion designer, who is also her friend.
Although in 1950's New York women are encouraged to make careers for themselves, the underlying belief is still that as women they should put marriage and children first. Lucia, who loves her job, is not sure she's prepared to give it up for a life of domesticity. And when she does agree to marry a man she adores but knows very little about it leads to heartbreak and scandal.
Adriana Trigiani is a fabulous storyteller. I was pulled in to Lucia's story from the very first paragraph and didn't resurface until I'd finished the last page.
It was fascinating to read about New York in the 1950's. On the one hand it was a world far removed from the one I grew up in, with formal dress codes and clear social distinctions. A world where men still expected to be in control and any independence women had vanished if not on the wedding day, then with the birth of a first child.
On the other hand though, there are glimpses of what the future would bring for women.
As far as Lucia was concerned in this story it appears that it was a case of "be careful what you wish for, because you might just get it". And by the end of the story I wasn't sure whether I should feel sorry for her or celebrate her.
Saturday, March 14, 2009
TITLE: SOUL MURDER
AUTHOR: ANDREW NUGENT
Details: no. 3 Dennis Lennon & Molly Power Mystery
There is an awful lot going on in this book. It all starts with the murder of Maurice Tyson, housemaster in St. Isidore's boarding school in county Kerry. Superintendent Denis Lennon and Sergeant Molly Power travel from Dublin to Kerry to investigate but fail to come up with a plausible motive for this murder. Has it been an attempt to kidnap a French pupil, who does subsequently disappear? Or could it be connected to the horrific suicide of a former pupil? Then again, it may have been a different motive all together.
Then, Sir Neville Randler, who used to own the building the school now occupies, is murdered in a similar way. But rather than simplifying things, this murder only provides more questions.
When at last both motive and murder are uncovered, it leads to a dramatic finale and the insight that murder isn't the only horrific crime.
These books are not exactly police procedurals, even if the investigators are members of the Gardai. The author is more interested in human relationships than investigative procedures, and for me, this really works.
Two things make these books extra attractive to me: the Irish setting and Molly's husband, Jan-Hein, who is Dutch.
It is a shame Nugent takes his time writing these books because I'm already looking forward to the next one.
AUTHOR: C.J. SANSOM
Details: no. 1 Shardlake Mystery
The year is 1537 and in England the reformation is in full swing. Under the leadership of Thomas Cromwell commissioners are send out to investigate the countries monasteries. The ultimate aim is dissolution; to close the monasteries down.
One of Cromwell's commissionaries, Matthew Shardlake, is send to the monastery of Scarnsea. And earlier commissioner has been murdered there, and it's up to Matthew to find out who decapitated Robin Singleton, as well as find a reason to close the place down.
Matthew soon finds that there are lots of mysteries about the place, and before long more murders follow the first one. As disturbing as this is, Matthew is far more disturbed when he finds that his investigation leads him to question everything he believed in about religion, the reformation and those in charge of it.
The reformation makes for an interesting if bleak back drop for a murder investigation, and I enjoyed the historical setting and descriptions a lot. The author obviously knows a lot about this period and shares that knowledge in such a way that it enhances the story.
There is so much happening in this mystery that I kept turning the pages, and I would never have guessed the identity of the murderer.
The only minor down point about this novel was that I couldn't quite get to like Matthew Shardlake, and since he is the main character and the one through who's eyes we see events developing, that fact jarred the reading experience a bit. However, the ending of the book seems to suggest that this may improve in subsequent books, and I will definitely read more.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
TITLE: MURDER IN AMSTERDAM; The Death of Theo van Gogh and the Limits of Tolerance
AUTHOR: IAN BURUMA
Details: Non Fiction / Large Print
On the front cover of this book is a quote from a review in the Daily Telegraph; "A bleakly brilliant book" it reads, and that's exactly what "Murder in Amsterdam" is for me.
Being Dutch, but not having lived in Holland for twelve years it is also a frightening book. I don't recognize this place that is described in this book, and I don't feel any relationship with the people as the appear, regardless of their background, or the views they hold.
During visits to Holland over the years I had of course noticed that things were changing, you'd have to be blind and deaf not to. People now feel free to say things out loud that 15 years ago they would have been ashamed to think. The Dutch, who used to pride themselves on their liberalism and tolerance have ceased to exist as far as I can tell. Rather than growing closer together, the various groups in Dutch society seem to be drifting apart at an alarming rate, with violence, both verbal and actual, becoming more common. I'm sad to find that I can no longer imagine myself ever living in Holland again, but I can't.
The murder referred to in the title is one that was committed in Amsterdam in November of 2004, when a young Muslim of Moroccan descend killed Theo van Gogh, who was a very controversial and outspoken journalist and film-maker.The reason for the young man's murderous rage was an eleven minute long movie Van Gogh had made with Ayaan Hirsi Ali (an equally controversial woman of Somali background). A movie which was seen as being blashpemous towards Islam, which had been Hirsi Ali's objective in order to trigger a discussion in Holland about the place of Islam and it's followers in Dutch society.
On the back of the movie and the murder, positions in Holland become more entrenched and polarisation grew at an alarming rate. Buruma, born in Holland but living and working in New York, travelled back to Holland to investigate what was going on.
In this book he investigates the present polarisation while providing links to the past in order to find an explanation for the present situation.
What scares me most about the book or rather about the situation in Holland as described in this book, is that there doesn't appear to be a solution or compromise available. The various sides appear to be so entrenched that middle ground seems to be no-existent and on the face of it the situation appears more likely to get worse than better.
And there is one more conclusion I have to draw after reading this book; I don't know this country, that was home to me for over 30 years. In fact, I'm no longer sure if I have the right to join in the discussion because it appears that I know little or nothing about what is really going on in Holland.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
TITLE: JUMPING THE CRACKS
AUTHOR: VICTORIA BLAKE
Details: no. 4 Sam Falconer Mystery
Despite her feelings about the place, Sam and her business partner Alan have opened an office for their P.I. business in Oxford. When they're hired to guard the rather spooky artifacts in a local museum it turns out not to be the easy job it appeared to be. Soon, one of the museum employees has been murdered and Sam finds herself minding the dog of a man she hardly knows.
More violence erupts around Sam, putting not just herself at risk, but for a long time she has no idea why. And while she finds herself trying to deal with the spooks and demons attached to her case, she also has to come to terms with those that spring from her own past.
These are interesting mysteries and well plotted. They also have a heroine with issues that are important, but never take away from the main story.
My only issue with this book was that one or two questions remained unanswered. Other than that it was a quick and thrilling read.
Monday, March 9, 2009
TITLE: WATER FOR ELEPHANTS
AUTHOR: SARA GRUEN
Jacob Jankowski is only a few days away from qualifying as a vet when his parents die in a car crash. The time is the 1930's and America is in the middle of the great depression. Jacob soon discovered that his parents haven't just left him an orphan, but also without any money or a home to return to. Unable to sit his final exam he walks away and finds himself ending up on a circus train, and being taken on as the circus vet.
Jacob discovers he's joined a community unlike anything he knows, with rules and customs very different from those in the rest of the world. He meets Marlene, a young and beautiful performer with whom he falls in love, and her disturbed and violent husband, August. He also meets and falls for Rosie, an elephant nobody can work with until Jacob discovers her secret.
In a dangerous and violent time, Jacob, Marlene and Rosie seem destined for hurt and heartbreak, unless a miracle occurs.
This story is told through flashbacks. Jacob, now a 90 (or 93) year old is living in a care home where he's waiting for one of his family to come and visit him and take him to a visiting circus. But the future looks as bleak for the old Jacob as it once did for the young one. Both of them are in need of a miracle.
This was a wonderful book. It took me into a world I knew nothing about, during a time I knew very little about and charmed me with it's message that love and decency will shine through despite the odds, and that it's never too late for dreams to come true.
Saturday, March 7, 2009
TITLE: ANGEL'S TIP
AUTHOR: ALAFAIR BURKE
Details: no. 2 Ellie Hatcher Mystery
Ellie Hatcher has only just been promoted to the homicide squat in New York when she finds the body of a murdered and mutilated girl while jogging in a park with her brother.
Within 24 hours the last movements of the victim have been traced and a very likely suspect is in custody.
However, Ellie is not convinced that the solution to the case is this easy and sees connections with three old and unsolved cases.
When a second girl is found, Ellie's doubts are confirmed, and what's more troubling is that the killer, whoever he is, seems to be focusing on Ellie.
This was a good thriller with lots of twists and turns. The only minor fault as far as I'm concerned is that it is clear from the very start that the original suspect can't possibly be the murderer. On the upside though, my suspicions ran in completely the wrong direction.
Friday, March 6, 2009
TITLE: OSCAR WILDE AND THE RING OF DEATH
AUTHOR: GYLES BRANDRETH
Details: no. 2 Oscar Wilde mystery
Gyles Brandreth is obviously a huge fan of Oscar Wilde's as well as very knowledgeable about his subject. And he honours this subject by writing an intelligent mystery that is also filled with lots of historical detail and and wit. Reading this book makes for a very satisfying experience.
In a way you could blame Oscar Wilde for the murders in this story, although it starts innocently enough. During a dinner party attended by Oscar, Robert Sherard (the narrator of the story), Arthur Conan Doyle and 11 other male guests, Oscar suggests a game during which each of them has to write down the name of the person they would like to see murdered.
Innocent as the game appears, it soon turns serious as one by one the mentioned victims indeed start dying. And this time Oscar has a more serious reason than just curiosity to solve the mystery, as his name is on the list and not getting to the bottom of the case will turn him into the next victim.
My only regret when I'm reading these books is that I don't know quite enough about the period to recognize all of the real historical figures, although I do get most of them. Then again, maybe it's just as well, since the real characters couldn't be the murderer, now could they?
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
TITLE: THE NIGHT VILLA
AUTHOR: CAROL GOODMAN
This book combined two loves of mine: a good, well plotted thriller and Greek mythology.
Carol Goodman always succeeds in sucking me into a story and capturing my interest to such an extend that I have to restrain myself. By the time I was half way through the book, I had to stop myself from racing along, reading so fast that I would have missed words, sentences or even whole paragraphs. And while she maintains and increases the tension in the story, Goodman never stops using beautiful language for her description or giving the readers all the detail they need to fully appreciate exactly what's going on.
This story starts with a devastating act of violence in a Texas university. To get away from brooding over it too much, classicist Sophie Chase decides to join an archaeological search for ancient scrolls in Italy, near Pompeii.
Sophie hopes to find information on a subject close to her heart, but others are looking for a different scroll, and are prepared to do anything in order to secure it.
Facing an obsessive religious cult, her own past and recent events, Sophie has no idea who to trust, and soon finds that her chances of survival may well be as slim as were the chances of those who lived in the area when Vesuvius erupted.
The only problem with this (edition of the) book is that who ever wrote the blurb on the back cover got the name of the main character wrong.
Monday, March 2, 2009
TITLE: PELAGIA AND THE BLACK MONK
AUTHOR: BORIS AKUNIN
Details: no. 2 Sister Pelagia Mystery
This series is definitely growing on me. Boris Akunin writes mysteries in a style that doesn't compare to any other mystery writer I have read. In fact, these books remind me of the classical Russian novels I read years ago. The writing is expansive, the characters larger than life and emotions appear too big to be contained within one human being. It makes these stories somewhat theatrical, but no less enjoyable for that.
However, the book is also old fashioned in the sense that the writer doesn't share or explain all the clues the investigator finds. This keeps the ending a surprise but also means that the reader doesn't really have a chance to come up with the solution independently.
In this book, Bishop Mitrofanii is asked for help because visions of an, obviously angry, black monk are being seen near a successful and popular monastery. The Bishop sends three successive investigators, all of whom suffer unexpected and in one case fatal, fates.
When at last sister Pelagia goes to investigate, incognito and without permission, she finds herself in a deeply puzzling situation where the black monk may well prove to be the least of her worries.