Thursday, March 29, 2012


              MAXIME PAETRO
Pages: 391
Date: 29/03/2012
Grade: 3.5
Details: no. 11 Women’s Murder Club

Lindsay Boxer is pregnant and working two cases.
When millionaire drug-dealer Chaz Smith is shot down during a children’s concert the murder weapon is one that was stolen from the San Francisco Police Department evidence locker.  The weapon has also been used to kill four other drug dealers. It looks like there might be somebody, connected to the SFPD, out to kill those who can’t be touched by justice. And as Lindsay and her partner soon discover, he’s not done yet.
Lindsay has only started on this case when she called to the house of a famous movie star where two heads have been discovered displayed on the patio. There is no sign of any bodies, but the police do find five more heads buried in the garden.
These are two cases with little or no real evidence and even fewer clues and the pressure to solve them is high.
With the media hot on the police’s tail with their reports on both cases, Lindsay finds herself in the spotlight and very soon in personal turmoil. Even closing the cases might not lead to a happy ending in her personal life.

As always, this is a fast paced, thrill a minute mystery/thriller; just what you would expect from a James Patterson book.
However, this book, like several of its predecessors, also reads as if it has been created by write by number. The ingredients as well as their development are predictable. Take two strange investigations, throw in some personal dilemma’s for the main characters, maybe a twist and turn or two and voila, you’ve got yourself a best-seller. Provided of course that Patterson is one of the author names on the cover. I’m not sure a rookie author would get themselves published if they presented a rather flimsy book like this.
Having said all that, the also standard, short chapters, each of them with a sort of cliff-hanger ending, do draw the reader in and keep them turning the pages. And, I do enjoy getting back to characters I’ve come to know and love even if there is little or no character development.
Whenever I’m in need of an undemanding, quick read, James Patterson is one of the authors I can safely turn to and as such I will probably continue to read them. I can’t however see myself paying money for one of his titles. But then again, that’s what libraries are for.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


Pages: 222
Date: 27/03/2012
Grade: 5
Details: Read for Dialogue Through Literature

Wladyslaw Szpilman was a 28 year old Jewish man when Germany invaded Poland and subsequently turned part of Warsaw into a Jewish ghetto. 
Szpilman was a concert pianist and composer and for a long time his work as a pianist in café’s in Warsaw was the only income his family had.
Until the summer of 1942, Szpilman and his parents and three siblings lived together. By the end of that summer the German occupiers decided to clear the ghetto. In a short time and with the use of lots of horrific violence the fast majority of Jews were deported to places and fates unknown at the time.
While Szpilman was able to postpone the inevitable for a little while for his family, it was only a matter of time before they too found themselves in the “Umschlagplatz”, waiting to be forced onto cattle trucks. Szpilman is separated from his family at the crucial moment and able to flee the deportation area while his family disappears from his life, never to be seen again.
For Szpilman this heralds the start of three years of fleeing, hiding and fear. Dependent on friends from his pre-war life, his instincts and pure luck he manages to keep himself alive and undetected until the very last days of the occupation of Warsaw.
When he at last does run into a German officer during those last days he once again is very lucky. Captain Wilm Hosenfeld has had his doubts about the war, the German cause and the prosecution of Jews and others for years. Hosenfeld puts Szpilman in a more or less secure hiding place and provides him with the food he needs to survive a bit longer. In doing so, he provides Szpilman with what he needs in order to survive until the end of the occupation, giving him a chance to create a life for himself once again.

This is a heartbreaking story, filled with horrific images told in a detached way, more as if written by an uninvolved outsider than by someone who lived through it.
The tone of the book is such that I found myself almost accepting the brutalities, prosecutions and devastation as a normal occurrence. It was only when I put the book down and allowed my mind to wander that the true horror of everything I’d just read really hit home.
It is telling that normal life seems to continue despite the horror and the madness of the Warsaw ghetto. In the midst of persecution by the Germans, Wladyslaw and his brother Henryk have “normal” sibling fights. In the same way the excitement Wladyslaw feels about holding an anniversary concert in the ghetto seems out of place yet indicates how the human mind will cling to normality in order to be able to survive the unimaginable.
And the will and ability of the human body and spirit to survive almost anything is astounding. How Szpilman didn’t just give up and lay himself down to die is completely beyond me. I guess though that no one can know what they would be capable of until they find themselves in circumstances making it necessary to discover the limits of their ability to endure. I can only hope and pray that I will never find myself in such circumstances.

I’m glad that Szpilman’s last life-line was provided by a German officer. It is so easy to think about that period of human history and just assume that all Germans were despicable creatures. But even during the nightmare that was Nazi Germany things were never that black and white, and it is good to see that message in writing. It is telling though that in the first edition of this book, Hosenfeld was identified as Austrian rather than German. I guess people in Poland weren’t ready to think of any German as being essentially human in the days immediately after the war.

Sunday, March 25, 2012


Pages: 184
Date: 25/03/2012
Grade: 4
Details: no. 1 Inspector Constable
            Received from BookGeeks

It is time for the annual fête at Dammett Hall and a few people are gathering together for a pre-opening drink. Present are Sandra lady Lawdown, her daughter Laura Biding, family friend Seymour Cummings, famous author Helen Highwater, local lawyer Robin Allday, clairvoyant Horace Cope and his cousin Albert Ross.
When Horace Cope is found murdered in the closed in garden where he was to entertain people with his predictions, those present for the drinks are the only real suspects.
Detective Inspector Andy Constable and Sergeant Dave Copper are called in to investigate the murder and soon discover that although all the suspects initially claim to have liked the clairvoyant, a bit of digging soon exposes a less pleasant truth.
Horace Cope was a rather horrible man who took great pleasure in uncovering any secrets those around him might be keeping. Secrets he would hold over those concerned. Secrets that might give him power over the people around him. And all 6 suspects had secrets they would rather not share with the world, secrets that Cope had uncovered and had been hinting about in the recent past.
Interviewing the suspects seems to only make the case less clear for the two policemen. With Dammett Worthy being a small community and a hotbed for gossip the two investigators soon pick up hints as to what their suspects are trying to hide. Still it takes some time as well as a second murder before both the motive and the murderer are revealed.

At first glance this is a traditional murder mystery. We have a closed-off crime scene and a limited amount of suspects who each have a motive to want to see the victim dead. However, it is clear from almost the first page that this story should not be taken too seriously.
The names of our two investigators, Constable and Copper are the first and most obvious clue that the author is taking a very light and not altogether serious approach to his mystery. There are more indications though, such as the name of the place where the murder is committed, Dammett Hall, and the books our famous author has written under the pseudonym Jake A. Rawlings, books about a magician called Carrie Otter, books with titles such as Carrie Otter and the half-boiled pants.
The author also has his fun with the interviews as conducted by Constable and Copper. None of the interviewees seem to be able to stay on topic when answering questions and all go off on tangents to which there appears to be no logic. In fact, Keevil takes this to such a height that it feels like he’s making fun of the traditional cosy mysteries, although I guess you could also call it an homage.

All these elements succeed in giving the book a light-hearted feel and in making it an easy to read story although they didn’t actually lead to laugh-out-loud moments for me.
The mystery itself is reasonably well plotted and the cast of suspects all have good enough motives for having wanted the victim dead to keep the reader guessing. The solution itself though does seem to make fun of the mystery in this book, mysteries in general as well as the things people will do to keep their secrets.
Overall I would call this a pleasant cosy mystery, an ideal book to spend a lazy afternoon in the sunshine with.

Thursday, March 22, 2012


Pages: 750
Date: 21/03/2012
Grade: 5
Details: Received from BookGeeks

It is April 1912 and Jonathan Wells is travelling on the Titanic towards New York. Armed with knowledge that he shouldn’t be able to have he is on a mission to save the ship from the iceberg that would make the ship's maiden-voyage also her last. His action will have shocking results for the world, results Wells couldn’t have foreseen and doesn’t live to experience.
In April 2012 a newly build copy of the Titanic is finishing its anniversary voyage to New York under captain Lightholler, a descendant of two passengers on the original ship. His ship is sailing through a world in which America never entered World War I and is split along a newly established Mason-Dickson line and the whole world is divided up between two empires ruled by Japan from the east and Germany from the west.
In this version of America Joseph Kennedy, grand-nephew to John F. Kennedy is on a mission to restore history to what it should have been. Armed with Wells’ journal and the same means of travelling through time, Kennedy is determined to save the world from the faith that awaits it as a result of Wells’ well meant but disastrous intervention.
While Kennedy is assembling the team he needs to accomplish his goal he is being pursuit by his military superiors, represented by Agent Patricia Malcolm, a woman he has a history with.
With the world on the brink of a massive conflict and nuclear weapons being available to the armies for the first time, Kennedy and his team have to stay alive and ahead of their pursuers for long enough to be able to get back to the Titanic and save the world from certain destruction in a quest that may well end up killing Kennedy, if not all of them.

This is an ambitious and fascinating book. David Kowalski has gone all out in creating an alternative world for us and created a place that we can still recognise yet different enough from our reality to make you wonder what if. What if America really hadn’t entered World War I, what if Hitler had never come to power, what if America had not remained the United States, what if…. There are too many what-ifs to list them all here, and all of them are plausible enough to make you shudder.
It takes a while before the reader has a real idea of what is going on in the story. Kowalski takes his time introducing the characters and even longer revealing their motivation and with a few characters I still wasn’t sure exactly what they were up to by the time the book had ended.
This is a book that is hard to categorize. A lot of different genres are integrated into one narrative whole. This is an alternative history story with elements that are pure science-fiction. We find ourselves in the middle of a strategic war story, as well as a fast paced thriller with conspiracies thrown in and some romance for good measure.
The reader is taken from the Titanic to Roswell and back to the Titanic in a story that opens their eyes to the fragility of history. The big question in this book is whether history develops according to a certain path or whether it is all a matter of chance, a question I will be pondering for a while yet.

For me there were one or two downsides to this novel. The military strategizing was way over my head and I found I couldn’t quite visualise the battle scenes. I’m convinced though that this is probably a result of my mind-set rather than any failing on the author’s part.
There was one story-line that I still couldn’t make complete sense of even after I finished the book, one character whose motivation and ultimate goal never became completely clear to me.
I also feel that Kowalski’s emphasis on action came at the cost of good characterisation. Although I did get some feeling for the various personalities in this book there wasn’t a whole lot of depth to them.

Overall, I have to conclude that this is an original, fascinating and almost impossible to put down book. While I thoroughly enjoyed this reading experience I think anybody who loves science fiction and/or time-travel and/or alternative histories will adore this book.

While I initially rated this book 4.5, I have today upped that rating to a solid 5. A book that still occupies my thoughts over a week after finishing it, deserves a top rating.

Sunday, March 18, 2012


Pages: 216
Date: 18/03/2012
Grade: 4+
Details: no. 2 The Harry Houdini Mysteries
            Received from BookGeeks

This is the second book in the Harry Houdini Mysteries and events in this book take place not too long after those in “The Dime Museum Murders”.
Although Harry Houdini enjoyed a short period of notoriety after his adventures in that earlier story, his fame didn’t last and he is back to struggling to make a living, never mind his name as an escapologist. Although it isn’t quite the break-through he’s hoping for, an opportunity for steady and interesting work for Houdini, his wife and his brother appears when Harry Kellar, a world-famous magician, is looking for people to work on his show.
Kellar is working on a new illusion in which he wishes to make a lady float in the air high into the dome of the theatre, and it is thanks to a clever plan by Houdini that a way of achieving this seemingly impossible feat is discovered.
On the first night the act is performed things go horribly wrong though and the beautiful young woman floating more than 70 feet up in the air plummets down to the floor and her death.
What at first appears to be a horrible accident is soon revealed to be a case of murder when it is discovered that the floating lady had water in her lungs; it appears that she managed to drown during her decent.
When one of Kellar’s assistants is arrested on suspicion of murdering the woman, Houdini and his brother Dash are convinced that he is innocent and decide, once again, to investigate the case themselves.
The unveiling of the solution to the mystery takes place during a dramatic performance which puts both Houdini and his wife Bess in grave danger.

The story in this book, like its prequel, is narrated by Houdini’s brother Dash years after the 1898 setting of the book. And, again like it was in The Dime Museum Murders, this provides the reader with a wonderful point of view. The brothers are very close yet very different. Harry is still very full of himself and convinced that he is on the verge of breaking into fame and fortune while Dash is far more modest, reluctant to throw himself into dangerous pursuits but always close at hand to keep an eye on his two year older yet in many ways more innocent and impulsive, brother. The differences between the two brothers and the ways in which they interact with each other make them believable and fun characters to read about, while Houdini’s fascination with Sherlock Holmes provides a more than a few smiles.

The story is filled with fascinating insights into the world of magicians and theatre during the 1890’s and it was very interesting to read about the creation of magical tricks we now take for granted.
The theatrical and magical world in which the stories are set also enhances the sense of mystery in the books in this series. Not only are we dealing with murder, we are dealing with seemingly impossible crimes that turn out to have credible yet anything but obvious solutions.
It is clear that the author of these books is himself a magician. He shares enough details and knowledge with the reader to make the setting, the crimes as well as the solutions plausible.
This is also a well written and easy to read book with characters that are interesting and very likeable.
In short, the Harry Houdini Mysteries are wonderful books to spend a relaxing Sunday with.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

RISE, A Novel of Contemporary Israel

Pages: 385
Date: 17/03/2012
Grade: 4
Details: Received from author

After having lived abroad for thirty years Lilah Kedem, an important and celebrated photographer, returns to Israel the country of her birth and youth which she left after her brother was killed while in the Israeli Army. Seeking to reconnect with both her estranged husband, an opposition politician, and her son who is in an elite unit of the Israel defence Forces, Lilah slowly tries to find her footing in her homeland.
Not long after Lilah’s return a new wave of sectarian violence erupts in Israel when a new organisation calling itself The Sons of Gideon conducts brutal attacks on Palestinians and Israeli’s who refuse to condemn non-Jews, which of course leads to violent counter attacks by Palestinians.
With violence getting very close to Lilah and the rekindling of her friendship with Michal who is married to an Israeli of Arab descent Lilah soon finds herself involved in the birth of a new organisation. An organisation named Na’aleh, Rise, for which she quickly becomes a figurehead. And with the attacks by The Sons of Gideon becoming ever more violent, Lilah decides to use her photography to unmask the people involved. If she can capture them on film, they may well be arrested and stopped.
Eli Zedek is an Israeli security operative put in charge of tracing and stopping The Sons of Gideon. Soon Lilah and Eli’s paths start crossing and although they are going about it in different ways and from different motivations their objectives are the same, to put an end to the senseless violence and give Israel a chance to flourish in peace.

This was a fascinating read. While parts of the story and events in it could have come straight from the headlines that make the news all too often, other parts painted a different, much less widely known, picture. Together those parts provided a much more balanced and probably honest picture of life in Israel.
While everything I read in this book was very interesting and the book was easy to read I’m not sure I can call it a great novel. There is no doubt that this is a good book, with a worthy message and deserving a very wide readership. However as a work of fiction it fails in some respects.
It seems to me that the author wanted to get his message of tolerance, hope and peace across to his readers so badly that it went at the expense of character description and development.
This book appears to be more about the politics than the characters. As a consequence I have a very good idea about what the various characters think about the world they live in but not a lot about their emotions as a result of living there. I also felt that the book went on a bit too long and instead of ending on a high, with a resolution to all that had gone before, it ended on a question mark that had been newly introduced.
Having said all that, I am very glad I read this book and would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the problems Israel, like so many other countries, faces. Sometimes getting the message across is more important than writing beautiful prose and if there is one thing Yosef Gotlieb succeeded in with this book it is getting that message across to me.

On a side-note, it is amazing how books sometimes find you at just the right time.
It feels very right that in a month in which Cavan Libraries starts its participation in Dialogue Through Literature, a project aimed at bringing readers from the border counties in Ireland closer together, and my book club will be discussing Bear in Mind These Dead for this project, I should be reading a book about Israel and the sectarian violence in that country. Like I said in my review, Bear in Mind These Dead may be a book about the victims of violence in Northern Ireland, it is also the story of lots of other peoples trying to live their lives in the middle of a war between neighbours. And maybe, if it is possible for the violence to recede in Ireland, the same could also happen in other parts of the world. As long as there is hope there is life.


Audio: 9 CD’s / 9 hours, 15 minutes
           Narrated by Stanley Townsend
Date: 17/03/2012
Grade: 4
Details: no. 4 Ed Loy

Ed Loy is a busy man. He finds himself keeping an eye on Patrick, the younger brother of a friend of his. The young man is a talented footballer with a promising future who seems to be falling under the influence of a very violent drug-dealer. It is up to Ed to try and find out what the footballer is up to and report on his findings. This should be straightforward enough but soon after starting his inquiries Ed finds himself violently attacked by two men. And when those two men turn up dead the next morning Ed knows that, although he didn’t kill them, this could be the start of big trouble for him. And that is only the start of it. Next thing he hears is that Patrick has been violently killed by persons unknown.
In a separate case, Ed is hired by a woman who asks him to re-investigate the murder of her father 15 years ago. Her mother’s lover was arrested and convicted for the murder at the time but subsequently acquitted when it turned out that there were three other suspects who had never been investigated.
With Dublin about the celebrate the official opening of a new bridge to celebrate the peace in Ireland, Loy finds himself up to his neck in violence, investigating two cases that have their origins in the heights of the troubles.

This is a very violent yet well plotted and uncomfortably realistic mystery. In Ed Loy we meet an investigator prepared to do almost anything to solve his case. He has a cynical view of both himself and the society he is operating in as well as a softer side he doesn’t like to show.
These Ed Loy mysteries don’t really come with good guys. Everybody in the story is in one way or another involved in acts that can’t quite meet the light of day. Nobody is blameless and some have no redeeming qualities what-so-ever.
The story is very well plotted. Story-lines that appear to be completely unconnected to each other eventually come together to make a coherent whole. And while in some books that coming together of story-lines infuriates me, it makes sense in this book set in Ireland which after all is a small country with only a few million people living in it. A country where connections run deep and are cultivated both in fiction and in real life.
The narrator of this book did a great job giving all the various characters in the story their own voice. At all times it was perfectly clear whose point of view I was listening to and how that character was feeling.
I will have to see if I can get my hands on more audio books in this series. Despite all the violence, this was one fascinating, thrilling and compulsive listening experience.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


Pages: 217
Date: 13/03/2012
Grade: 4+
Details: no. 1 The Harry Houdini Mysteries
            Copy received from BookGeeks

The year is 1897 and Harry Houdini is still a struggling magician in New York. While he is determined to become a world-famous escapologist, New York and the world are not yet ready to accept him as such or give him a chance to prove himself.
With the help of his brother, Dash, and his wife Bess, Harry is just about making a living in a Dime Museum, performing a three minute trick several times per day as part of a human curiosities show, when he is summoned to the house of toy tycoon Branford Wintour by New York detectives.
It appears that Wintour has been killed by a toy automaton while alone in a room with the door locked from the inside.
Although the police have already apprehended the man who provided Wintour with the toy for questioning, Harry is convinced that the automaton was not the murder weapon and determined to prove that the toy-seller, who is an old friend, did not kill anyone. As a big fan of the adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Harry is sure that he can use the famous detective’s reasoning methods and discover who did kill the tycoon and how. And like his fictional hero, Harry has no faith in the investigative powers of the local police.
Dash on the other hand would prefer to leave the matter to those whose job it is to solve crimes but indulges his brother while he starts making inquiries.
When both the old toy-seller and his wife end up dead too, both Harry and Dash want to get to the bottom of what exactly is going on, putting themselves into grave danger while delving into the darker sides of New York.

Harry and his brother Dash make a fun partnership to read about. They bounce of each other well, exasperating each other yet very close, as only brothers can be. While Dash is a rather sensible and down-to-earth character, Harry doesn’t suffer from modesty, false or otherwise. He is convinced of his greatness, both as an escapologist and as an investigator, and not shy about sharing that conviction with others. He is also rather innocent and naïve though, which makes for a charming combination and gets the two brothers both in and out of some tricky situations.

On the surface there are strong parallels with the Sherlock Holmes stories here. Not only is Harry Houdini a huge fan of Sherlock Holmes, he also shares the famous detective’s arrogance and doesn’t think twice about casting his brother Dash in the role of Dr. Watson. In this respect though, the book holds one or two surprises for the reader which made the story far less predictable than it might have been.

This is an easy to read story. The narrative flows and the action comes at such a pace that the pages almost turn themselves.  On the other hand, there are enough observations and descriptions in the story to give the reader a good picture of the sights, sounds and smells of New York just before the start of the 20th century.
Although the solution to the who-dunnit part of the mystery did not come as a huge surprise to me, the manner in which the crime was accomplished and the reason why both did, which was very gratifying.

Overall I would call this an entertaining, light and rather traditional mystery which was a delight to read.

Monday, March 12, 2012


Pages: 400
Date: 12/03/2012
Grade: 5-
Details: Proof copy received from BookGeeks
            Historical Mystery

It is the summer of 1845 and in New York City the NYPD is born.
On the other side of the Atlantic, in Ireland, the potato blight brings the prospect of starvation to thousands and those who can, flee their home country for the land of opportunity, landing in New York where they’re anything but universally welcomed.

After a fire that destroys his home, his place of work and his savings Timothy Wilde is reluctantly recruited into the newly established copper stars by his brother Valentine.
Tim has had an ambivalent relationship with his older brother ever since their parents died in a fire when Tim was eleven and has no interest in the Democratic politics his brother is involved in or his life-style centered around drink, drugs and women.
On one of his first nights on parole, a young girl wearing only a nightdress covered in blood runs into Tim. He brings the girl with him to the place where he’s renting a room only to discover that none of the blood on her dress is hers. Before the girls feints she murmurs the words “They’ll tear him to pieces” leaving both Tim and his landlady bewildered.
When Tim questions the girl the next morning he initially gets nothing but lies from her but eventually she leads him to the mutilated body of a young boy and subsequently to a field in which the bodies of nearly 20 other children with similar mutilations are found.
The newly formed police force finds itself with a horrific case on its hands and unrest erupting in the City when word about the dead children spreads.
In a town already worried about the mass influx of Roman Catholics it doesn’t take a lot for people to start believing that those depraved followers of the Pope are killing their own children in demonic ways and even less for unrest to erupt.
With the copper stars still new and unproven, not solving a case of this magnitude would be disastrous and thus those in charge decide to deny the case exists at all while at the same time instructing Timothy to singlehandedly investigate the murders.
Timothy soon finds himself up to his neck in an investigation that appears to be going nowhere, unable to trust almost everybody around him and in danger of losing his brother, the girl he loves as well as his life.

This is a fascinating story not in the least because a lot of the events described in it are based on historical fact.
Lyndsay Faye paints a very realistic and life-like picture of New York in 1845. Not only could I see the place, I could almost smell the stink and hear the noise. No romanticised portrait of New York in this book. Instead the reader is given a raw and at times heart-breaking description of what life was like for those who had little or nothing and did whatever needed to be done in order to stay alive.
In Timothy the author has created a credible main character. Here we have someone who wants to be and do good, but also someone who is filled with anger, doubt and suspicion. Tim is a man in his twenties who is in many ways still an innocent about to have his eyes cruelly opened for him.
My only reservation about this book concerns the language used by Faye. The whole story is told as if written down by Timothy and therefore in the language as it was spoken at the time. And not just that, she also includes a lot of contemporary street talk or “Flash”.
While I admire the author for the consistent way in which she uses this language I did find that it interrupted the flow of reading for me. There were too many times when I had to stop reading and translate what I’d just read before I could continue. It is for that reason and for that reason only that I rate this book 5- rather than 5 out of 5 while fully aware that this may be a shortcoming on my part and not the author’s.

Sunday, March 11, 2012


Pages: 607
Date: 10/03/2012
Grade: 5

What a strange, wonderful and fascinating story.

It all starts when the cats disappears. Or does it start with the strange and very intimate phone-calls from a woman who claims familiarity without revealing who she is?
Toru Okada has recently resigned his job and takes care of the household chores while his wife, Kumiko goes to work every day.
Okada is quite content spending his time at home while he tries to figure out what he wants to do with the rest of his life. Although his wife is getting more and more distant and is coming home from work ever later, Okada doesn’t worry or even think about it too much.
And then one day Kumiko disappears. She leaves for work in the morning, wearing a perfume Okada doesn’t recognize and doesn’t come back. She vanishes without a word or trace leaving Okada confused and eager to find her.
In the time after his wife’s disappearance Okada meets a host of strange and fascinating people who all share stories with him. Both the people and their stories are somehow important for and connected to Okada’s life and quest although neither Okada nor the reader can be sure how or why.
From a sixteen year old school girl to a World War Two veteran, an evil brother and the woman he violated, to people with deeper insights all sorts of characters have their role to play and histories to share before this story comes to its conclusion.

This is indeed a fascinating book. It is also a very well written and perfectly plotted story.
For about 550 out of 607 pages this story made little or no sense. This book appeared to be a collection of narratives with very little connection between them. And then in those final pages it all starts to make some kind of fantastical sense. All the various stories come together, and not a single detail in any of those disparate stories is without relevance. I have absolutely no idea how Murakami managed to make the nonsensical make sense, but he did.

I usually don’t have time for books that don’t make sense. If I can’t lose myself in a story that I can somehow visualise, I tend to lose interest in it.
This book hardly ever made any sense, and I could never really distinguish between fantasy and reality in this story. Yet the writing took me along. The words were well placed, the humour made me smile and the sentences flowed beautifully along. While I found myself wondering what on earth I was reading I never once felt tempted to put the book aside unfinished. What I read might not have been making a lot of sense to me, but all the apparently separate stories were interesting enough in and off themselves for me to keep on turning the pages. The fact that it all appeared to make some sort of weird sense in the end after all was a bonus, but I would have enjoyed this book if that had not been the case.

No matter how much I write, I can’t seem to do this book and the hold it had over me any justice, so I’ll give up.
Read the book and be ready to be amazed, bewildered and fascinated!

Thursday, March 8, 2012


Date: 08/03/2012
Grade: 4
Details: no. 1 Mickey Bolitar
            Audio / 7 CD’s / 7.73 Hours /
            Narrated by Eric Meyers

Mickey Bolitar is going through a horrible time in is young life. He witnessed his father’s death in a car crash, saw how his mother, unable to cope with the grieve became a junkie and now finds himself living with his estranged uncle, Myron.
Joining a new high school should be the least of Mickey’s worries but it is still a scary occasion, made easier by Ashley. She is a beautiful girl, also new to the school and before long Mickey and Ashley are close.
And then, after just a few weeks in school, Ashley disappears without a word and without a trace.
Devastated to have lost yet another person he felt close to, Mickey decides to try and find Ashley unaware that she was not the squeaky clean girl she appeared to be and that following her trail will lead him into dangerous territory.
Of course, there is also Bat-lady, the old woman living a secluded life in the neighbourhood who shouts out at Mickey one morning that his father is still alive. Although he knows better, Mickey can’t help hoping and has to know what the woman meant.
Two investigations for Mickey both involving people close to his heart. 
Two cases that may well be connected.
Several shocking revelations to follow.

The character Mickey Bolitar was introduced in Live Wire, a book in the Myron Bolitar series. At the time I wrote that the book felt a bit like a vehicle to introduce Mickey and that I wasn’t sure how I felt about that.
When I started this book I was a bit afraid that the opposite might happen here. Was this really going to be a book and series about a new character, Mickey, or would it in reality turn out to be more Myron but this time with a much younger side-kick.
I’m very glad to have discovered that this is very much a Mickey Bolitar story. Myron features of course, he has to since Mickey is living in his house, but he is very much in the background. In fact he was so much in the background that I couldn’t help wishing for a little bit more of him.
Having said that, there are very obvious similarities between nephew and uncle and at times they even sound exactly the same but that didn’t bother me. In fact, on several occasions those similarities made me smile.
This was an interesting mystery and thrilling story. Yes, I could see some things coming a long time before they were revealed in the book, but this is a book for teenagers, and besides, there were quite a few things I could never have predicted.
I liked the way the friendships Mickey makes were described and I love the idea of the group of friends he ends up with, even if I’m not sure how realistic that grouping actually is.
Overall I enjoyed listening to this story, liked the characters in it and found myself caught up in the story. And I know I will read or listen to the sequel as soon as it comes out because to say that this book ended on a bombshell and cliff-hanger would be the understatement of the year.

Monday, March 5, 2012


Pages: 308
Date: 05/05/2012
Grade: 5
Details: no. 2 Alexei Korolev
            Received from Mantle

After having survived the dangerous investigation in The Holy Thief, Captain Alexei Korolev is relieved to be investigating straight forward crimes again. He knows that if those in power ever find out the exact nature of his activities during the politically very sensitive earlier investigation, he will be deported at best. At the moment he finds himself decorated and hailed as a perfect Soviet citizen, but he knows that this perception can change at any moment and anybody’s whim.
When he hears a knock on his door in the middle of the night he is therefore prepared for the worst. It turns out though that he is not facing deportation but is needed for another very sensitive and politically dangerous investigation.
Maria Alexandovna Lenskaya, a young production assistant on a film set in the Ukraine, has been found dead in what may turn out to be a case of suicide. Since she was very close to a very important party member the exact cause of and reason for her death has to be determined in a very discreet investigation and with Korolev’s earlier success in mind the security service has decided that he is the man to execute this investigation.
Almost as soon as Korolev arrives on the scene he determines that the young woman’s death was unfortunately not a case of suicide and reluctantly and with fear in his heart he starts his murder investigation. It isn’t long before he finds himself facing multiple suspects, people with questionable pasts and lots of opposition.
Partnered with a young local police sergeant, Korolev has to dig his way through lies, secret identities and intrigue before he gets to the answers, always aware that solving the crime might just mean the end for him.

These are very good mysteries as well as historical novels.
William Ryan strikes just the right balance between a police procedural and the historical reality of oppression and political manipulations. The investigation and resolution of the crimes would have made this book a page-turner in and off themselves. It’s the added undercurrent of political menace resulting in a situation where nobody can be sure that their actions and words won’t be interpreted the wrong way, that raises this book to the level of full-blown thriller.
In Korolev the author has created a believable and likeable yet very human main character. The way in which he is constantly trying to balance the successful conclusion to his current investigation with the need to be discreet if he wants to stay alive and not put others connected to him into danger as well as the frustration this leads to at times, are very convincing.
I like the way in which certain other characters appear to be regulars in these stories. The uneasy relationship and collaboration between Korolev and Count Kolya, the leader of the Moscow Thieves, is inspired and I am delighted that it seems as if Slivka, the young police sergeant, will be returning in future books.
I hope this will be a long running series and that Mr. Ryan won’t keep me waiting too long before I can read the next Korolev mystery.

Saturday, March 3, 2012


Pages: 356
Date: 03/03/2012
Grade: 5
Details: no. 5 D.D. Warren

Detective D.D. Warren isn’t feeling very well and looking forward to a few days off work when she gets called out to a messy crime scene.
What D.D. Warren finds on a Boston kitchen floor is the body of Brian Darby who was shot by his wife, state police trooper Tessa Leoni who claims she shot him in self-defence. Since Leoni has all the injuries and bruises to indicate a severe case of abuse, it would seem that this is an open-and-shut case except, Leoni’s six year old daughter is missing.
D.D. Warren finds herself working with Bobby Dodge, her former lover and still good friend. Together they try to make sense of the case they’re facing. Is this a case of self-defence? Would a trained trooper use her gun when she has so many other weapons at her disposal? Did Leoni kill both her husband and her daughter? Or is something else, something bigger going on.
Tessa Leoni meanwhile has her own, very urgent, agenda and will do anything it takes to find and save that which is most precious in her life regardless of the cost to herself and to others.

This is a very well plotted and fast-paced thriller/mystery. Told in alternating chapters from both Tessa Leoni’s and the investigator’s perspective the reader has a little bit more information about what is going on than D.D. and Bobby do. Even so, the story is filled with shocks and surprises as Leoni manipulates those around her.
I found myself changing my opinion about Leoni every few pages, never quite sure what she was up to and what had really happened in that kitchen until near the end of the book.
Gardner keeps the tension high at all times while still inserting a personal story-line for D.D. that makes the case she’s dealing with even more harrowing than it already was.
This story made me wonder how far I would be willing to go to protect those I love. What would I be capable of if it came down to the safety of my child? I don’t think I can answer that question and I sincerely hope that I will never find myself in a situation where I will be forced to find out.
These books by Lisa Gardner are a perfect example of what a page-turner actually is and I enjoyed this one so much that I ordered the next one in the series, Catch me, when I was about halfway through this story. I do hope I will have my hands on it soon.