Saturday, February 26, 2011


SAINTS OF NEW YORK a book club discussion.

On Tuesday February 22, the Bailieborough Library Book Club got together for its monthly book discussion. The book we discussed was SAINTS OF NEW YORK by R.J. Ellory of which we had received 10 copies from Bookdagger. It turned out to be a very interesting event.

Let me start by saying that this was probably the most lively and best book discussion my book club has had so far.
Let me also say that I now know why Holland has created a separate genre named “literary thriller”, and that I think we could do with such a category over here. It does give you a better idea of what to expect when it comes to some titles.
The members of my book club took me completely by surprise today. I thought I had a pretty good idea of who would enjoy this book and who would be less enthusiastic about it. I know which of my members read and like mysteries and thrillers and who usually stay away from that genre, and had based my assumptions on that knowledge.
You can therefore imagine my surprise when it turned out that the “thriller readers” were less enthusiastic than those who claim to not like that sort of story.
And that brings me back to my statement about literary thrillers. I guess that how much we enjoy a book has at least a little bit to do with the expectations we have before we start reading. And with a genre indication like “literary thriller” on the cover the reader would know to expect more than a standard mystery or thriller. It would make it clear that while the story contains a mystery, it is at least as much about character development, and the thoughts and feelings of the main character(s).
For the people who were expecting a straightforward thriller this book delivered too much background information, too much introspection and not enough action. They just wanted to solve the mystery and get on with it already. The sessions with the therapist and the background story regarding Frank Parrish’s father didn’t interest them a lot and they felt those parts got in the way of the “real” story.
And then there were those who really weren’t looking forward to having to read a mystery at all. It was them who came back gushing about the story, having thoroughly enjoyed the book because it was about so much more then "just" the murders and solving the mystery.
Another one of the members used to live in New York for years and was very impressed how Brooklyn just jumped off the pages for her. The description of the place took her back there, an experience she really enjoyed and a writing skill she admired. Her admiration was only increased by the knowledge that the author isn’t actually American.
I have already posted my thoughts about this book in an earlier blog and explained why I loved this book so much. And while I’m sorry that not everybody shared my admiration for this book, I’m not surprised by it. Reading is such a personable experience. It is so hard to predict what anybody might or might not enjoy at any given time that I find myself at times reluctant to recommend a book to anyone, which is probably not the right attitude for a librarian to have.
I really enjoyed this discussion though, especially because the reasons some people gave for loving the book were the exact same as the reason others gave for not enjoying it as much.
There were a few things the whole group did agreed on though; our gratitude towards the author for answering the questions we had at such short notice,  to Bookdagger's Real Readers for providing us with the copies of this book, and that this was probably the most inspired discussion we have had so far. Any book club looking for a good discussion could do a lot worse then picking this book as their next read.
The copies of the book we received will now be donated to County Cavan Libraries and will make a welcome addition in this time of budget cutbacks and dwindling resources for new books.


Pages: 482
Date: 26/02/2011
Grade: 4-
Details: A ghost story

When Elspeth Noblin dies she leaves her London apartment to her American twin nieces, Julia and Valentina Poole. It all comes as a bit of a shock to the two girls. Julia and Valentina didn't know they had an aunt in London, and are amazed by the condition in the will stating that their mother, Elspeth's twin, and father should never be allowed to set foot in the apartment. And neither of their parents is prepared to give an explanation for that condition.
Julia and Valentina are not so much identical twins, but rather exact copies of each other. For the 21 years of their lives so far they have done everything together, and never really considered the idea of having separate lives. With the robust and daring Julia taking charge of their lives, and the weaker Valentina apparently happy to follow along, their future appears as connected as their past.
But, going to London might just give them an opportunity to start having lives of their own, something Valentina is increasingly yearning for, but Julia resists with a vengence.
In London, in the apartment overlooking Highgate Cemetery, they find themselves in a strange new world.
In the apartment above them lives Martin, an obsessive-compulsive crossword setter who has recently been left by his wife, Marijke. The floor below the girls is occupied by Robert, the younger former lover of their aunt who works in the cemetery and can't seem to face a future without Elspeth.
And it soon emerges that Elspeth, dead as she may be, hasn't quite left her apartment and has ideas and plans of her own.
As slowly the secrets of Elspeth and her twin sister's past emerge, the future starts to look ever darker. While love might save the day, obsession is bound to destroy it.

This was a fascinating story. It is told very slowly and for a long time it seemed as if there wasn't a whole lot happening or going to happen. But almost without the reader noticing it the story gets darker, the surroundings more oppressive and the chances of a happy ending ever smaller.
A story about obsession, secrets, selfishness and their consequences. Definitely not a happy story, but one that screams the warning: be careful what you wish for.
Yes, it was an intriguing story, very well written and a book that was easy to read. But, it was not a nice story and I didn't enjoy the experience as much as I did when I read The Time Traveller's Wife. Whereas that last book was a love story with a twist, there really wasn't a lot of love in this book.
One thing I did really enjoy though, and it came as a unexpected surprise. Martin's absent wife, is Dutch, and some Dutch sentences, lullabies and references made it into the story. I always enjoy reconnecting with my mother tongue.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Pages: 414
Date: 23/02/2011
Grade: 4+
Details: no. 13 Wesley Peterson
            Large Print

The book starts with a woman meeting someone in Grandal Field in Devon, being knocked unconscious and burned to death.
For a long time the police have no idea about the woman's identity, but Wesley Peterson suspects she might be a woman called Nadia, who an old college friend who Wesley and Pam met in France was concerned about. But there are other possibilities.
And to make the matter more intriguing, the woman was burned in a spot where, according to legend another woman had been burned to death by her husband during the 13th century.
Wesley's friend Neil is conducting an archaeological dig on Grandal Field, and is trying to find the reports from an earlier dig in the 1980's which have disappeared. A dig that ended when the two female archaeologists in charge both mysteriously died, one of them in a fire.
Soon Wesley and his colleagues find themselves caught up in lots of incidents concerning fire and the threat of death by fire, with no idea if all the incidents, past and present, are connected or not. But, with the death-toll through fire increasing, it is vital that the team solve the mysteries quickly, before even more people die.
As always this was a good mystery, and it's always nice to get back to Wesley Peterson and his family, friends and colleagues.
The historical descriptions and archaeological details always add extra interest to the story. They give clues, but don't give the solution away, which is exactly as it should be.
I enjoy this series, although the personal issues between Pam and Wesley get on my nerves a bit at times. I'm glad to know that I have two more books in this series to go before I catch up.

Saturday, February 19, 2011


Pages: 452
Date: 19/02/2011
Grade: 5

Several copies of this book were send to me by Bookdagger's RealReader's programme for my book club to read and discuss. The book club meeting will take place in four days time and I will write another blog about that discussion and the (various) opinions voiced there. In the meantime, here are my thoughts.

R.J. Ellory writes good stories. They are realistic, with characters you can believe in, finding themselves in situations which seem all to possible. There are no saints in Ellory's book (despite the title) and although plenty, if not all, of the characters may be called sinners to some extend or another, most of them are people you might meet any day, anywhere.
Frank Parrish has been a cop for 18 years and finds himself on probation with the Police Department for challenging his superiors once too often. He's made to talk to a counsellor and advised to be on his best behaviour if he wants to keep his job.
When Frank's called out to the death of a young drugs dealer, Frank isn't too concerned about the murder. Death is the sort of thing that inevitably happens to those who are addicted to drugs or move in that environment. But when he also finds the young man's teenage sister dead, strangled, he can't help feeling that something more than a drugs deal gone wrong has to be at the root of it all.
When further investigation reveals that more young teenage girls have died under similar circumstances and that all of them were under the care of the child protection service, Frank knows that he's dealing with something potentially very nasty. Something he has to stop if he wants to protect other vulnerable young girls. But proof of anything is hard to find, and breaking the rules to stop those he suspects are guilty, might just cost Frank the job that is his life.
At the same time, Frank is struggling with his personal life. His biggest issue is the legacy of his father. A much decorated and admired cop, and member of the "Saints of New York", a group of police officers who supposedly rid New York of the influence of the mob, he is a hard man to live up to. But Frank knows things about his father that others don't. Things that make his father and his colleagues look less good, things that have left Frank bitter about his father's memory.
Over the course of his counselling sessions and the murder investigation Frank comes face to face with a lot of issues he has suppressed and finds himself having to face new truths, having to let go of old certainties, and having to make decisions that might change his life for ever.

I really enjoyed this book. Although it is a great mystery story it's not a traditional page-turner. The thoughts, feelings and development of the main character are at least as important as the question of who done it and how he might be stopped.
While reading this book I really felt that I got to know and understand Frank. I didn't agree with every decision he made and didn't always like what he did, but it all made sense and worked in the story.
Ellory strikes a very nice balance between the inner thoughts and feelings of his character and the action needed to drive the story onwards.
This is the second book I've read by this author and I have not been disappointed. I'm looking forward to discussing this book with my book club as well as reading the rest of Ellory's work.

Sunday, February 13, 2011


Pages: 409
Date: 13/02/2011
Grade: 4
Details: no. 1 Reilly Steel?

Melissa Hill is the very popular and successful author of several so called chick-lit titles. Feeling the need to explore the darker side of human nature she teamed up with her husband Kevin, adopted the name Casey Hill for the partnership and proceeded to bring us Taboo.
And boy did she succeed in delving into the dark-side.
Reilly Steel is a California born and Quantico trained forensic investigator who finds herself in Dublin, training Irish crime-scene investigators and keeping an eye on her alcoholic father.
Working in forensics in Ireland should be a nice, relatively quiet, job for someone who trained and worked in America, but Reilly soon finds herself investigating multiple scenes of horrible deaths.
But, what at first appear to be unrelated and not necessarily criminal deaths, soon turn out to be very disturbing and twisted murders, perpetrated by someone who doesn't leave any clues behind, unless that's their intention.
Working the case brings back memories of Reilly's troubled past especially when the clues left behind turn personal. The truth however, once it does emerge, is far more horrific than Reilly could ever have imagined.

This is, what I assume to be, the first book in a series and as such it was very promising.
The story is intriguing, horrific and thrilling. The murders are as depraved as you'd expect from a decent thriller, the characters as interesting and flawed as they should be and the conclusion suitably shocking.
However, there is some room for improvement in my personal opinion.
The story felt a little bit flat to me. I wasn't as shocked by the murders as I should have been given their descriptions and I never really got a good feel for the main characters. I also got to the solution before the main character Reilly did, but I've got a feeling that was supposed to happen, given the story.
Yes, the story may have had a few shortcomings, but in the end it was a good read with a fascinating story and a satisfying ending. An ending that appears to leave room for possible sequels. And I do hope that those sequels will come as I'm sure that it would turn out to be onwards and upwards all the way.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


Pages: 371
Date: 09/02/2011
Grade: 4.5
Details: no. 31 In Death

I love the way in which reading a book, going back to a much loved series and its characters can be like coming home, catching up with old friends. Picking up a new book in the In Death Series, dropping into the lives of Eve Dallas, Roarke and their friends and colleagues again, brings comfort, smiles, a few tears and plenty of thrills.

This book starts off with Roarke and Eve visiting his relatives in Ireland, which, for this reader is always an extra nice bonus. I love the way in which Roberts has rural Ireland mostly unchanged from what it is now, in her vision of the future, and I can't help hoping she is right.
Back in New York, Eve almost immediately catches the murder of a limo driver who was shot through the neck with a crossbow. A murder, apparently without a motive and most certainly not committed by the person who should have ordered the limo according to the records.
When shortly afterwards a young and very successful prostitute is stabbed through her heart with a bayonet in a house of horrors, again without any clear motive and an innocent person again having been used to hire the victim, it doesn't take long to link the two murders.
It also doesn't take Eve long to figure out where to look for her murderer(s), but proving guilt is a completely different issue. Eve finds herself caught up in a sick and murderous game, duelling with those who think they own the world and can do as they please. Up against those who would love to squash her if she isn't fast enough.
As always I enjoyed my visit with Eve Dallas and her Roarke. And, as I've come to expect from the author, I was treated to a thrilling and sexy story. The reason this book didn't quite live up to the dizzying heights some of its predecessors did, lies in the fact that it was clear from quite early on who was committing the murders. The process of trying to find a way to prove it just wasn't as exciting as figuring out who the guilty party actually is, can be. Still, I spend a few very nice hours reading this book and am already looking forward to getting my hands on the next one. I really hope this series continues for ever.

Monday, February 7, 2011


Pages: 372
Date: 07/02/2010
Grade: 4-
Details: no. 4 Pyke, historical mystery

I received this book from and reviewed it for BookDagger's RealReaders programme.

This is the fourth book in a series set in the 19th century, featuring Pyke.
Pyke is the head of the Metropolitan Police's recently established Detective Branch at Scotland Yard. He is a man with a violent and dubious past, which he tries to keep hidden from his colleagues and superiors. A man who has his own ways of investigating and who doesn't shy away from any means in order to get to the truth and what he considers to be justice.
The story starts with a robbery in a pawnbroker's shop leaving three men dead. Pyke recognises one of the victims as someone he had dealings with in the past and knows that once the man is identified, his own secrets may come to the surface, something he wishes to avoid at all cost. But, from the very first moment the investigation proves harder then it should be. And when the main suspect in the case commits suicide and the probable reason for the robbery, a valuable religious artifact, can't be found, the investigation grinds to a halt.
Soon after a rich clergy-man is found murdered and Pyke finds prove to connect the two cases. His superiors refuse to acknowledge the connection though and more or less order him to focus his investigation elsewhere. At the same time Pyke is aware that somebody on his team is leaking information about his investigations to those higher up.
When Pyke decides to conduct the investigation according to his own ideas he has no idea that before long he won't just be trying to close a case but will also find himself on the run from the law and fighting to safe not only his reputation and job, but also his life.

This was an interesting book. I loved the historical setting and reading about the start of the Detective Branch in Scotland Yard. But, I found Pyke a hard character to like at times, and had trouble trying to follow the interconnected story-lines and all the different people in the story. Part of the reason for my trouble understanding everything might be due to the fact that I haven't read the previous titles in this series though. And I have to say that by the end of the story all the different angles came together nicely and the story made complete sense.
Another thing I wasn't too impressed with was the rather detached approach the author seemed to take. Although he did describe feelings and thoughts, I could never really feel them, and didn't really connect with the characters in this story.
There is one thing I'm really curious about though. One of Pyke's colleagues is called Jack Whicher, and I couldn't stop wondering whether he might be the real historical figure who is the main subject of "The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher" by Kate Summerscale. In that book Summerscale relates the story of a real murder which was investigated by a Jack Whicher of Scotland Yard in 1860. I would have liked a historical note at the end of this book, solving this particular mystery for me.