Happy Reading

Toni's bookshelf: read

The Godfather of Kathmandu (Sonchai Jitpleecheep, #4)
Ape House
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest
Operation Napoleon
Walking Dead
The Sentimentalists
The Heretic Queen
The Midnight House
Cross Fire
Peony in Love
Finding Nouf: A Novel
City of Veils: A Novel
First Daughter
A Place of Hiding
Peter Pan

Toni Osborne's favorite books »

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

"The 8th Confession", by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro

Book 8 in the "Women's Murder Club" series

Like the previous novel in this series, this is fast read, one to buzz through in no time. If you are a suspense and heavy plot addict, this is a light version and fans will find it quite enjoyable.

"The 8th Confession" is an another glorified police procedural novel based around three cases: one includes streetwise con artists who recruit girls and turn them into crack dealers, another is an ex-beauty queen on trial for bludgeoning her father to death and the third is a psychopath who targets San Francisco's elite, murdering them with a krait, a type of snake. Detective Lindsay Boxer is called to investigate and the hunt to solve the mysteries requires the collective skills of the entire "Women's Murder Club".

This is another novel depending on writer James Patterson's reputation and his list of familiar characters.

"No Such Creature", by Giles Blunt

I have read and enjoyed immensely the entire Giles Blunt collection of novels. "No Such Creature", is a stand alone that is totally different from the John Cardinal series. This novel has a humorous side to it, has a much lighter concept which is mixed with serious and sad moments.

This is a tale of two unconventional thieves, one an old English actor and the other his great nephew. It is a story of sightseeing and larceny while travelling across the American southwest in a Winnebago.

Problems arise during their last summer's adventure, Max and Owen encounter more than they expect when they discover they are pursued by a mysterious group known as the Subtractors, and also Max's old friend who wants part of the take....This is a multitude of crime capers with drama and violence. The lack of honour amongst thieves adds to the excitement. This was not enough for Mr Blunt he also adds romance and romantic competition with the introduction of Sabrina, all this creates interesting predicaments.

I found this novel quite captivating and comical. Max's theatrical approach to his profession and his Shakespearean language add humour to the suspense. The dialogue is highly entertaining and the characters quite likable, Max and Owen bicker throughout the novel but it is obvious that they are family. Sabrina's description of her life with a criminal father is very moving.

This is a fun and enjoyable read.

"The Elegance of the Hedgehog", by Muriel Barbery

This is one clever novel written in a simple formula that draws the reader gradually into a philosophical fable.

Narrated alternately at each chapter, the story is dominated by Renée Michel, an unassuming concierge in her 50s who happens to be an autodidact who believes life is less complicated and more enjoyable by not displaying outwardly the depth of her knowledge. Paloma Josse is a precocious 12 year old daughter of a diplomat and socialite who lives in the same ritzy building as Renée, she believes adulthood is meaningless and plans to commit suicide on her 13th birthday and burn down the building she lives in.

The author tells Renée story in the first person and Paloma's is quoted from a dairy type notebook labelled "Profound Thoughts". They both share a friend in Monsieur Ozu, a mysterious, wealthy Japanese man who also resides in the building.

This story creeps up subtlety and takes hold of your attention without notice. It may seem slow at first but the author has written an exceptional tale about how one is perceived based on class, beauty and their position in life.
The described adventures of the characters show that even people from different backgrounds are not all that different and have a lot in common.

Although rich in texture and philosophy I found the story quite entertaining. It is a character study of three individuals and their inner thoughts towards life in general. This novel is not all substance it has a humorous side to it, one that made me smile and laugh at times.

"The Elegance of the Hedgehog" is a poignant and delightful read.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

"Wolf Hall", by Hilary Mantel

To enjoy this novel it may be preferable in my view to have a good knowledge of the 16th century Europe and be a literary aficionado.

The story attempts to capture the political and social turmoil during the period of Henry V111, when his desire to divorce challenged the church's power. The story is told from the perspective of Thomas Cromwell.

The novel is large (650 pages) and is densely populated with characters, requiring a list in order to keep track of them. It is one of those novels hard to get into. I found reading it was an arduous task, Ms Mantel's style of writing is lofty and subtle, the presentation quite confusing and extremely hard to follow without a good foundation of this historical period.

I would agree with those saying the story weaves like a drunken sailor (my apologies to sailors). I suspect the author has made a straight forward story way too complicated to be credible and interesting to the average individual. I have rarely put a book aside before the ending, it was definitely not meant for me and I am happy I borrowed it from my local library.

"Dead Men's Dust", by Matt Hilton

Book 1 in the Joe Hunter series

Take a deep breath before starting; you are in for an exciting ride. From the start you will be plunged into an intense thriller that will grab you attention and hold it till the very end.

In this first instalment we follow Joe Hunter on a journey across the USA in search of his missing brother John. John is deep in trouble, he owes money to very dangerous people and has several enemies in hot pursue of his hide... Joe is a former military man, a tough and skilled scrapper, volatile and unpredictable, and his friends are as mean as they come.

In a parallel story we learn of a twisted psycho serial killer Tubal Cain trying to beat Ted Bundy's killing record. Slowly with sharp and smooth writing the author impressively merges the two stories. From start to finish it is a culmination of violent events.

In my view, the pacing and fast action throughout made this novel quite captivating and hard to put aside. The storyline of a killer planning his next killing was riddled with old clichés and predictability but the plot never bogged down and remained exciting. I particularly loved the cat and mouse chase that took place across the States and the climactic showdown in the Mojave Desert. On the other hand I found the main character missing development; Hunter was rather bland and lacked personality compared to the highly eccentric serial killer.

In all, it is a good first novel well worth reading. I am looking forward to its sequel....

"The Brutal Telling", by Louise Penny

Book 5 in the Inspector Armand Gamache series

In her latest novel, Louise Penny brings her readers back to the village of Three Pines where we will find Inspector Gamache facing another murder scene.

When a body has been found in Olivier Brulé's Bistro, Inspector Gamache is summoned to Three Pines with his investigative team from the Sûreté du Québec. It is soon discovered that the victim an elderly gentleman was murdered elsewhere and strategically relocated to the bistro. Why was the body left at the only café in town and why is the owner Olivier Brulé appearing to be so evasive when questioned, does he have something to hide?

With old fashioned leg work and teamwork we are lead into a suspenseful tale of whodunit in a tiny rural community that has a colourful history of its own and a seemingly dream lifestyle and location to many a city dweller.

The story has several clues and possible culprits creating an intrigue that keeps the reader guessing till the very end. With the discovery of priceless art treasures and the name Charlotte, Inspector Gamache is lured to Queen Charlotte Islands in search of further clues. Skilful writing paints a dazzling and vivid picture of both communities and their surroundings capturing the unique culture of its people. The mysterious community of Three Pines is richly characterized as an idyllic village, a place to linger and wander about, a modern day Shangri-La.

"The Brutal Telling" is more than your typical mystery; it is a trip into the inner soul. In her writing, Miss Penny manages to reach her readers' emotions by highlighting what is often taken for granted: our interaction with each other, gruesome details are left to the imagination making it a light mystery.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

"Pandemic", by Daniel Kalla

This novel is a compelling and over the edge thriller, Daniel Kalla has written a real page turner one hard to put down.

The story opens in a remote corner of China; where a new and deadly flu is spreading amongst the population of Gansu Province. WHO immediately sends a team headed by Dr Noah Haldane to investigate. They soon discover that this new virus is far deadlier than SARS and is being spread intentionally with devastating effects...WHO struggles to contain the outbreak but the virus has already spread to Hong Kong, London and America....

The author has injected a frightening dose of reality into this tale of biological terrorism; it is scary to think, could this really happen, how safe are we? Kalla has skilfully interwoven tidbits about epidemiology and viruses into the dialog of a large cast of characters, heightening the tension to this fast paced thriller.

This is one book that will make you think twice about the stranger coughing beside you....

'Resistance", by Daniel Kalla

If you enjoy scary medical thrillers, this one will take you on an unforgettable roller coaster ride. Daniel Kalla has given us a shockingly realistic novel that explores what could happen if an ultra resistant bacterium immune to all known antibiotics was released into the general population.

When an ultra resistant form of group "A" strep is spreading like wildfire throughout hospitals in Seattle, Vancouver and the Pacific Northwest, doctors are seemingly helpless and can only watch as their patients die one after the other. Dr Catalina Lopez and Dr Graham Kilburn join forces trying in some way to halt the growing epidemic. Unknown to them, there is a conspiracy to spread the disease and an overwhelming desire to stop at nothing....

Kalla has created many strong characters and a large cast of interesting secondary ones. The scenario is action packed full of surprising twits and the writing shines with medical and scientific expertise.

On the other hand....If you have the sniffles, this story could leave you suffering from hypochondria

"In the Woods", by Tana French

The story is narrated in the first person by Adam"Rob" alternates back and forth in time between 1984 and the present day.

One day in Knocknaree (near Dublin), twelve year old Adam Ryan and his close friends Peter and Jamie were playing in the woods when an unexplained event happened, his friends disappeared without a trace to never be found. Adam was discovered pressed against a tree, his shoes filled with blood and no recollection of what had transpired.

Twenty years later, Adam now "Rob" a detective in the Dublin police force is drawn back into the mystery when the body of a little girl is found at the site of the old tragedy. With the help of his partner "Cassie", Rob hopes not only to solve the present case but also the twenty year old mystery of the woods.

I enjoyed this novel even with all its predictability, redundancy and its slow moving plot. It is a long book; the author had a tendency to be a little long-winded. A lot of time was spent identifying the relationship between Cassie and Rob and left us with the old cliché of male/female partnership. The characters are multi-dimensional and dynamic some may love Rob and some may not, Cassie on the other hand is a spunky, smart, witty and likable character. The character driven plot wavers between domestic issues and political issues; it never really finds its footing and ends on a very disappointing note.

"A Thousand Spendid Suns", by Khaled Hosseini

Hosseini gave us in his second novel a heartbreaking story of two girls who grew close, women bonding in the chaos of war. The rich and violent history of Afghanistan provides a backdrop that informs and saturates the story for a span of over 40 years. This is one unforgettable and provocative epic tale, one novel everyone should read.

Right from the start you are pulled into a world of cruelty and despair with Hosseini's rich narrative capturing the intimate details of the lives of his two heroines: Mariam and Laila. Both born into different families and during a period suffer under the same circumstances. Mariam, an illegitimate child born in 1959 is forced into marriage by her father at the age of 15 to an abusive and cruel man. Laila was born into a loving family before the Russian invasion, she was educated and had dreamed of travel. The emergence of the Taliban changed everything; a bomb killed Laila's family, Mariam's husband took her in and she soon became his favourite...this is their story....

All the praise this novel received is well deserved; the story is straightforward and beautifully written. Hosseini eloquently depicts the years of Afghanistan's unimaginable tragedy from 1964-2003.

"Exit Music", by Ian Rankin

Inspector Rebus, book17

With this installment Mr Rankin has written a great send off, a suitable finale for his protagonist Inspector Rebus. Each chapter is a count down to his last days before retirement. True to the author's style, suspense builds till the end making this story not only entertaining but also intriguing.

Under pressure to solve the murder of a Russian poet and a local sound recordist, Rebus and Siobhan quickly find out this case is connected to the underworld led by Big Ger Cafferty, Rebus's nemesis. We follow them trying to solve the mystery and as we turn pages frantically trying to guess who committed the crime; we are plunged into a plot that is rich and complex with subtle twists. Rebus is in prime form, still argumentative, opinionated and getting in trouble with his superiors. All the characters are masterfully crafted as usual, Siobhan is as gutsy as ever and we route for her success, will she be able to replace her mentor, I am sure we will be treated to more thrilling adventures in the future

Thursday, December 3, 2009

"Cold Plague", by Daniel Kalla

This is Daniel Kalla at his best. I am a big fan of thrillers and of this author; none of his books have disappointed me. Cold Blood is fast paced, smartly written to capture ones interest and is extremely suspenseful, a real page turner.

The story starts when a group of scientists discovers a way to tap the water from pristine Lake Vostok located beneath the ice of Antarctica. We follow their research and exploit at the South Pole. Clever marketing has people worldwide lining up for a taste of the therapeutic water and its healing powers.

Meanwhile we have an outbreak of a new type of Mad Cow being discovered in France killing humans within a few days. Summoned to investigate is Dr Noah Haldane and his team from WHO. Racing against time, their mission is to find and eradicate the cause promptly before more people die....

As these intricate plots move along at a fast pace we are given enough clues to make the connection between them. Returning to the stage in strong force are those lovable characters we met in Pandemic....maybe we have a new series being born here.....

Cold Blood is an exciting medical thriller that brings to light not only the delicate balance between economic interest and health interest it also highlights the questionable morals of marketing and the dedication in the health care profession.

After reading this story, I think I will stick to drinking tap water.....

"The Boleyn Inheritance", by Philippa Gregory

In this marvellous novel, Ms Gregory brings out from the depth of history Jane Boleyn, Anne of Cleves and Katherine Howard she also adds all sorts of wild cards making this a poignant historical thriller. The story is told in the first person with the three alternating voices of this trio. Each is replaying their brief, vulnerable and sad life while trying to make their way through the years of the most volatile court under Henry V111's tyranny.

The novel picks up with Henry's third wife, an arranged marriage to Anne of Cleves; this created an alliance between England and Cleves thus avoiding a war. He soon realises the futility of it and turns his attention to the Queen's maid-in-waiting Katherine Howard. Life with the King thirty years her senior is not what Little Kitty (14) had expected, after a year together, her childish behaviour and flirting aggravates Henry's bad temper. She soon finds herself in the shadow of the axe that had claimed so many before her.

Jane Boleyn who was a trusted friend of many Queens turns out to be the perfect spy for her uncle, the Duke of Norfolk. She stops at nothing to promote the ambitions of her family ...no one is safe .... With the constant betrayals not even her....

This is an enjoyable read one that captures the imagination by creating a strong atmosphere, its details emphasising the sheer horror suffered during the years under the rule of Henry V111. An entertaining work of historical fiction, I am looking forward to reading Ms Gregory's other work.

"Passchendaele", by Paul Gross

Passchendaele is a romanticized story around the extraordinary achievements by soldiers fighting a battle on blood-soaked grounds for almost four months, one that would become synonymous with the horrors of the First World War. Paul Gross highlights the determination, commitment and triumph of Canadians during this troubled time.

The book has a bit of everything: interesting characters, some temptation (drugs and sex), a passionate love story and in the background WW1 and its graphic battle scenes.

Sergeant Michael Dunne, a soldier who is brutally wounded in France returns to a Calgary military hospital where he meets and falls in love with Sarah an attractive nurse. When Sarah's brother David signs up to fight in Europe, Michael feels compelled to return to Europe with the hope of keeping David safe.

I was somewhat disappointed, I expected Gross would have elaborated more about the Canadian involvement in the battle it doesn't kick in till two-third into the book. Much of the story was dedicated to time in Calgary following the adventures of Sergeant Dunne and his girlfriend a drug addicted nurse. Sarah's brother comes in and out with his own problems and story.

As for the battle, it was muddy, bloody and pretty descriptive; it also had a sense of déjà vu. The novel literary wise has its ups and downs, it emphasizes life and sacrifice during the time of war.

Is this a love story or a war story, the decision is up to the individual reader.

"Dear John", by Nicholas Sparks

This is a light and enjoyable novel, one that will give you a few hours escaping reality and plunging into a sappy and romantic fantasy.

This is about army sergeant John Tyree narrating his love for Savannah Curtis, the girl of his dreams, and their relationship. It is the typical boy meet girl love story in the post 9/11 world. Boy goes to war and girl waits for him to finish his tour of duty. Here the specific war is not important, the author doesn't delve into the effects it had on his characters. When John re-enlists it weighs heavily on their relationship. Will their love survive.....

This novel is a quick read; the characters are realistic enough and likable, the plot is very predictable and not complex. The story hovers around the ideals of love and how fragile it can be. Added are some unrealistic twists leading to appropriate sadness and some heart wrenching moments, bringing tears to your eyes. If you are a fan of soap opera, this book is for you.

"Death du Jour", by Kathy Reichs

Temperance Brenna, book 2

This talented author offers a great plot and a rich cast of characters. Her entertaining and fascinating writing is peppered with enough clinical expertise to pique ones interest without overstocking the imagination. The kind of forensic detail that only Kathy Reichs can provide...

Once again, we are taken into intriguing murder investigations by Tempe, a guru, in anthropological forensics

"Death du Jour", involves multiple cases weaving from Montreal to North Carolina. It opens as Tempe Brennan is trying to locate the remains of a long-deceased nun, a challenge on its own. Sister Elizabeth Nicolet is up for sainthood and her bones are needed, the body is not where records show it.

Simultaneously, Tempe is called to assist Homicide Detective Andrew Ryan in an arson investigation North of Montreal. Leads bring them to the nucleus of a strange commune in the Carolinas. Unclear at first, a connection is uncovered between the cases. Tempe and Ryan find themselves in a struggle to save more lives...

This is a multi-faceted plot, written in a thrilling manner, enjoyable and easy to follow.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

" The Venetian Betrayal", by Steve Berry

Book 3 in the Cotton Malone series

This is another historical thriller in the Cotton Malone saga. Mr Berry’s protagonist simply can’t stay retired. His colorful past as a clandestine agent for the U.S. government will once again drag him back into action.

“The Venetian Betrayal” has Malone on his toes. The action starts with Cotton narrowly escaping the inferno that consumed a well known Danish museum. Cassiopeia Vitt informs him that this catastrophe is no accident but is part of a massive campaign to destroy historic buildings across Europe.

This novel is composed mainly of two stories that are nicely intertwined. In the first: we learn about the cunning and ruthless Irina Zovastina who is obsessed in finding Alexander the Great’s lost tomb and obtaining all eight of the legendary medallions commemorating his conquests.

In the second, as Supreme Minister of the Central Asian Federation Irina goes to all means to reach her objectives. With the help of a shadowy organization “The Council of Ten” and its leader Enrico Vincenti, a pharmaceutical magnate, she plots to release a deadly virus that only she will have the antidote to. Enrico, nearing the end of his tenure develops his own agenda and becomes determined to profit from this alliance.

The best laid plan of the two conspirators is put in jeopardy with the botched assassination of Cotton. When Cotton and his two colleagues Cassiopia and Henrik Thorvaldsen team up to get to the root of the mysterious events, they realize they are up against two evil minds. The importance of outwitting them and ultimately saving millions of people are in their hands…..will they succeed…..

This is another exciting adventure around action packed scenarios with nail biting twists and turns throughout. The characters are globe trotters that hold secrets or have the key to decipher them. Like in his previous novels, the author has masterfully created a suspenseful tale around tit-bits of history. This is once again a very ambitious novel that pushes the boundaries and provides us with pure entertainment.

"Divine Justice", by David Baldacci

4th novel in the Camel Club series

The author’s has come up with another thrilling story. It opens where “Cold Stone” ended right after the assassinations of Carter Gray and Roger Simpson by Oliver Stone. Both men had conspired to ruin Stone’s life ultimately forcing him underground.

As the story unfolds, Stone now on the run hops a train to New Orleans. During the course of the train ride, Stone comes to the aid of Danny Riker who is targeted by a group of goons. They strike up a friendship and end up in Divine Virginia, Riker’s hometown, with a façade of a quiet mining town in the middle of nowhere.

The plot is gripping and exciting, it moves along at a fast pace, not a dull moment. Stone now considered the most wanted man in the USA finds himself in the middle of a sinister town where townsfolk have witnessed murders, accidental hunting deaths, apparent suicides, narcotic smuggling and to top it all off the town has a super maximum prison.

The object of a massive manhunt, Stone realizes he is being tracked by Macklin Hayes’ best tracker CIA Joe Knox. Following Stone and Knox in the cat and mouse situation are Stone’s allies from the Camel Club ready to help at any cost……

Baldacci has masterfully created two parallel plots “Knox’s pursuit of Stone and Stone’s bizarre journey”, both are filled with twists and surprises and a cast of well-developed characters.

Once again, Baldacci takes his readers on a rollercoaster ride of intrigue and suspense.

"The Brass Verdict", by Michael Connelly

Harry Bosch Series #14 & Mickey Haller Series #2

Bestseller Michael Connelly expertly brought his two best characters together in one of his most intricate and exciting plots to date.

L.A. lawyer Mickey Haller who we last seen in “The Lincoln Lawyer”, is now out of rehab, with his addiction behind him he is eager and ready to practice law again. When Jerry Vincent is murdered, he inherits his practice and heavy case load, a load that includes a high-profile double murder. The suspect is the famous studio executive Walter Elliot accused of murdering his wife and her lover. While preparing the mogul’s defense, Haller discovers that knowing the case sensitive information paints a target on his back and this was most likely the motive behind Vincent’s murder.

Detective Harry Bosch heightens intrigue into the scenario when he enters as lead investigator. Working on opposite sides of the law both Haller and Bosch join forces in order to uncover the truth…..but everybody lies. Cops lie. Lawyers lie. Witnesses lie. The victims lie and the judge can see right through them….will justice prevail….. The answer is expertly revealed between the pages….

This is one fast paced and engaging crime/courtroom mystery that is difficult to set aside. The plot is cleverly written, with enough twists and surprises to keep ones interest alert. The level of details described as Haller builds his case in search of the “magic bullet” is truly amazing; it adds context and depth to his character. The novel consists mostly of courtroom scenes with dialogue that zips along quite fast and text that masterfully paints a clear picture.

Michael Connelly’s has created another winner. I thoroughly enjoyed “The Brass Verdict”

"Triptych", by Karin Slaughter

Book 1 in the Will Trent series

This is a fine crime fiction that doesn’t miss a beat and where every detail has been scrutinized and utilized to its maximum to provide one fascinating and captivating tale. The story has a touch of violence, it focuses on: Homicide Detective Michael Ormewood, John Shelley a recent parolee, Special Agent Will Trent of the Criminal Apprehension Team and Vice Cop Angie Polanski. They are all brought together in a series of brutal murders.

Skilfully plotted the story unfolds at a rapid pace. It starts when Michael Ormewood is summoned to a brutal murder, the horribly mutilated body of Aleesha Monroe. It is evident that this murder is the latest in a series of similar attacks and could be of interest to the Criminal Apprehension team, so Special Agent Will Trent quickly becomes a vital player in solving the case. Tension takes a complex turn with John Shelley entering the scene. Being an ex-con, he becomes of special interest to Angie after meeting her in her undercover role as a prostitute. Unknowingly, he has stumbled upon the killer’s trail and holds the key to bringing the murderer to justice.

If you are a crime fiction addict, this novel won’t disappoint you. It has everything one can wish for in a page turner: an intricate mystery, great plot development, several threads expertly interweaved, many twists and turns to give it suspense and excellent character development. This is one riveting and compelling mystery that I highly recommend.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

"The Likeness",by Tana French

Book 2 in the Cassie Maddox series

How long can someone assume different identities and keep it up? Seems Ms French protagonist is being given nine lives sending Cassie once more undercover. Like her first novel, the story is set in Dublin and the mystery entails an investigation into a homicide.

After being stabbed during her last undercover assignment Cassie had been assigned to the Domestic Violence (DV) division. The suspense starts when Cassie is summoned to the scene of a homicide. There, she and others are startled by the fact that the victim is the mirror image of Cassie; also the victim’s ID is Lexie Madison, one of Cassie’s previous undercover names.

The suspense grows when it is decided to hide the events from the media and have Cassie once again go undercover and infiltrate the dead girl’s world. Unfortunately the plot drags when much of the novel is centered on the day to day lifestyle of victim’s strange roommates. Even with some twists and turns the main problem is extreme slowness (boredom), it gets bogged down with too many descriptions of domestic life, leaving us with a mystery that is straightforward with few surprises. I found the plot bland and the characters missing development.

After reading the first novel “In the Woods” which I enjoyed, this was a disappointment

"The Constant Princess", by Philippa Gregory

In this historically based fiction, Ms Gregory introduces us to one of her most unforgettable heroines and vividly reconstructs for our enjoyment the life of Katherine of Aragon, daughter of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand of Spain.

The story is told from Katherine’s point of view, relating her feelings at each milestone in her life, from her childhood in Spain, her marriage to Prince Arthur of England up to the time of her disgrace from court. She recalls when the young couple who were betrothed, finally meet and married, a politically arrange marriage that soon developed into a hidden passion and devotion for each other. Sadly, at age fifteen Arthur falls ill and on his death bed he has Katherine promise to marry his brother Henry and further the hope of becoming Queen and fulfilling their dreams for the country.

It is easy to forget that Katherine’s life is the author’s version of events. The story details Katherine’s insistence that her first marriage was never consummated; this facilitated her marriage to Henry but always remained a point of contestation.

The author portrays Katherine as a very courageous and strong woman who faced many struggles, some joyous some sad. We are left with Henry V111 depicted as a spoiled and selfish man who would put aside wife after wife at a whim.

For those fascinated by historical fiction, this will transport you into the tumultuous life at the Tudor Court, at a time when no one was safe. It was a time when battles to conquer territories were forcefully fought and ones religious beliefs ruled the world.

The story is quite captivating although I did find it meander and dragged a bit and it ended rather abruptly.

"In Cold Pursuit', by Sarah Andrews

Book 11 in the Em Hansen mystery series

After reading this novel, I was surprised to discover it is part of a series, I found it could be enjoyed on its own. The author's long time protagonist Em Hansen has a very limited role, a token appearance, in fact, she introduces a new character: Valena Walker, a geology student. In this story we are plunged into a world that most of us only dream of visiting... Antarctica...

Upon arriving in Mc Murdo to study glaciology with the famous Dr. Emmett Vanderzee, Valena soon discovers that her mentor has been arrested for murdering a newspaper reporter who was critical of his research. The previous year, under the supervision of Vanderzee, he went missing and was later found dead of exposure.

With her sponsor under arrest, Valena's studies are in peril. Determine not to let this happen she turns into an amateur sleuth investigator to clear her mentor's name and find out what really happened... The story is told through her eyes.

Ms Andrews rewards us with a wonderful descriptive imagery of Antarctica, a carefully plotted murder mystery, plenty of technological and geographical details and an intrepid new heroine. Unfortunately, I found the story tended to ramble a lot and there were too many characters that were hard to tell apart, confusing at times.

I enjoyed this story but tend to believe it is not the author's best.

"Prisoner of Birth", by Jeffrey Archer

This work of fiction is undeniably one of the most engrossing, powerful and head-spinning I have read in a long time. The story flows well even though it is predictable at times. I had to ignore the improbabilities to focus on the protagonist exploits. This novel caught me from the first pages with its numerous spins and turns and its great characterization. I quickly became hooked and had trouble putting it down.

Danny Cartwright, who was about to marry his childhood sweetheart, suddenly finds himself accused, convicted and incarcerated for a crime he did not commit. After being mentored by a cell mate, Danny puts his new found knowledge to work. He cleverly escapes under the radar, amasses a huge fortune, a title and plots revenge against those who framed him.

Some reviewers refer to this as a modern version of Alexander Dumas' "The Count of Monte Cristo". I do not know if this was Mr Archer's intention but he surely delivered a fascinating, edge of your seat thriller. This fiction is written with revenge and justice as its major themes, it is easy to sympathize with Danny.

This novel is a blast, an experience I recommend.

"Mistress of the Art of Death", Ariana Franklin

With this story we are hurtled back in time to Medieval England. This is a morbidly entertaining novel that depicts human cruelty with details of sexual torture and the sacrificing of innocent children. Employing modern narration to weave historical figures and events into the plot, Ms Franklin provides us with a view of how things were in the 12th century during the reign of Henry11.

Set against a rich background the story begins when four children are found dead and mutilated casting suspicion on the local Jewish population. King Henry 11 implores the King of Sicily (his cousin) to dispatch one of his most trusted and experienced to solve the crime. Sent to England are Adelia Aguila, a doctor specializing in death, Simon her protector and Mansur her Arab servant, their mission is to find the guilty before they kill again. From the start, the trio struggles to understand the horrors and furies that lie behind the gruesome murders.

The author exploits brilliantly the contrast between the 12th century barbaric England and the more modernistic way of thinking Adelia represents. Emotions are vividly portrayed with well-drawn characters.

This is a well crafted novel with numerous twists and continuous surprises throughout

"One Good Turn", by Kate Atkinson

Book 2 in the Jackson Brodie series

This multi layered plot full of intriguing twists, graphic violence and a bit of sexual tension kept me fascinated and maintained my interested till the last page. In the past I found it hard adapting to her style, has she mellowed or have I? This author is growing on me. Ms Atkinson’s writing is gripping, full of satire and wickedly funny. Her strength is in her development of strong characters and masterfully orchestrated sagas.

The story opens with a car accident on a busy street in Edinburgh, triggering a case of road rage followed by strange events. When witnesses turn out to be connected to each other and more and more weird incidents come to light, we… the readers are slowly drawn into a multitude of exciting and complicated dramas.

This multi faceted story is told by the characters, recounting their experiences, the narration alternates between them as the story progresses back and forth in time. Ms Atkinson has masterfully tied all this information into a suspense filled novel.

Returning to the front scenes are: Jackson Brodie, the intrepid ex-private detective and Julia, the actress. We are also endowed with a rich cast of fascinating secondary characters. I am looking forward to reading the sequel

"Wildfire Season", by Andrew Pyper

This novel takes you on an unusual adventure right into the heart of God’s country, the ultimate wilderness… Some would consider the secluded village “Ross River” to be at the end of the loneliest road in the Yukon. It is the story of Miles Mc Ewan, a man scarred and troubled by his past who has found refuge in this remote region as a fire fighter.

All of the author’s characters recount in their own words this tragic, endearing and heartbreaking tale. Even the grizzle bear is given human characteristics. I found the first part to be a bit slow and obscure, the multi- faceted narration distracted me, but as the story progressed, the writing flowed beautifully. The suspense and intrigue intensified when Mr Pyper’s characters described the chaos of fighting forest fires and how they affect the people and the surrounding environment. Through his words, the author successfully painted an outstanding vision of the landscape, giving us an insight into the dangers and perils, as well as the benefits of living in the wilderness. He has softened the tone by injecting some tender moments.

The Wildfire Season is a very complex psychological thriller, one with a touch of mystic and one with a lasting impression.

Friday, November 6, 2009

"Fatal Voyage", by Kathy Reichs

Temperance Brennan, book4

This novel follows Ms Reichs other bestsellers by providing the reader with engaging characters, a good sense of humour, facts that give it a plausible and realistic dimension. This author is remarkably talented in describing forensic details for the layman bringing a morbid topic to light with numerous intrigues that include lots of twists and turns.

“Fatal Voyage” opens with an air disaster, a horrific plane crash in the mountains of North Carolina, illustrating clearly the drama that can result in the death of so many people. The questions of safety and cover up quickly surface in this chilling tale.

Called to help identify the victims and assist with establishing the cause of the disaster is Tempe Brennan, a forensic anthropologist and a member of DMORT (Disaster Mortuary Operational Response). Detective Andrew Ryan, Tempe’s friend, is also on the scene investigating the death of his partner and prisoner who were on the domed flight. The investigation is barely underway, when Tempe discovers a severed foot that doesn’t match anyone on the airline manifest…As Tempe probes for information, she encounters more and more road blocks …Is someone trying to sabotage the investigation?….

Ms Reichs interweaves the ongoing relationship Tempe has with her ex-husband and Andrew Ryan giving a dab of suspense and sexual tension to pique the readers’ interest without removing anything from the core of the story. She also introduces a large cast of colourful secondary characters; making it a challenge to keep track of them. The light hearted and simple narration moves at a fast pace making a very entertaining and satisfying mystery highlighting the incredible strength needed to face adversity.

"The Girl of his Dreams", by Donna Leon

17th novel in the Commissario Guido Brunetti series

True to her self, Donna Leon covers the location and characters and highlights the characteristics we have come to love in this series: the portrayal of the city of Venice in all its beauty and problems, the warmth of Brunetti’s family life and the social conscience he illustrates, also his personal war against corruption.

The story opens with the funeral of Guido’s mother in San Michele. A few days later, the priest who had performed the ceremony approaches Brunetti and accuses another cleric of a criminal act. While looking into this matter, another case is brought to his attention, the body of a Romany child; a 10 year old girl is discovered in the water. The investigations revolve around Brunetti’s home life in San Polo and the diverse locations surrounding the cases. By the end of the book, I found myself a little confused, too many loose ends…

The themes of this book: anti-cleric, Romany crime, political correctness and the vulnerability of children are integrated into the plot in an allusive and subtle manner. The usual figures are present: Paola and the kids, Signorina Electra and Patta being their same old selves….things are getting boring…. Although I was fully absorbed at the beginning I was disappointed by the end. I found the initial case petered out and the second case lacked a satisfying conclusion.

I find this series although enjoyable up till now has run its course, too predictable. I wonder if Ms Leon is running out of ideas, maybe it is time for Commissario Brunetti to retire.

"The Mistress of the Sun", by Sandra Gulland

This is the compelling love story of Louise de la Vallière (known as Petite) mistress of King Louis X1V of France and the struggles she faces while living in a court where gossip is prolific, privacy is rare and fidelity is nonexistent

Living in the royal court in her late teens, Petite falls under the king’s magical charm becoming his hidden mistress. After becoming pregnant, the reality is shocking, she is sent into seclusion in order to protect her reputation. Their children are removed at birth and raised by hired help for their safety.

This epic is more than a profoundly romantic one during the time of magnificent castles, dangerous dwarves, masked balls, black magic, lovely costumes, but also a time of conniving intrigues and treacheries…. a little of everything. The author has masterfully portrayed the life under the rule of the Sun King. Her prose is witty and engaging and her characters are simply fascinating.

One tends to forget this is mainly fiction based on history; Ms Gulland delivers a stunning novel, highly entertaining and hard to put down.

"The Serpent's Tale", by Ariana Franklin

Also under the title” The Death Maze”

Book 2 in the series “The Art of Death”

This is an interesting and compelling story that follows “Mistress of the Art of Death”.

In this sequel, almost two years have passed since Adelia moved to England, now a single mother and currently living contentedly with her friend, Gyltha. When the King’s favourite Rosamund Clifford dies an agonizing death by poison, Henry11 points his finger at his estranged wife Eleanor of Acquitaine. Suspecting that she is hatching a plot to overthrow him, Henry summons Adelia to uncover the truth. She has to move with urgency to identify and expose the culprit and avoid any ramification that may lead to a civil war.

We find a never ending intrigue, tricky subplots and colourful characters as the story reunites Adelia with Rowley Picot eventually bringing them to Oxford. During this dangerous journey, the party falls into the hands of Eleanor’s band of mercenaries, who subsequently imprison them in the Abbey. At this point, the author brings medieval England to life with amazing descriptions of the travels through the maze surrounding the towers. To add dynamics to this unusual relationship, a bit of sexual tension comes to light between Adelia and Rowley who is the Bishop of St-Alban and father of her child.

The author offers a rich mix of murder, medical science and evil plots in a modern day language and terminology. I enjoyed my time spend reading this novel.

Friday, October 30, 2009

"Taking Stock', by C.J. West

This suspenseful fiction plunges the reader into the greedy financial world where people in power have no shame and no remorse embezzling money. If you are attracted by stories in today’s press of high-stakes thievery, fraud and corruption you will enjoy reading “Taking Stock”.

I was hooked right from the start, glued to every word and totally captivated by the development. This page turner was very hard to put aside. In a few words this is the tale of Erica Fletcher, a computer whiz whose job is to set up and develop a new program to facilitate transactions in the world of money management. Unknowingly she is being setup by her boss Brad to be the prime suspect in a scheme defrauding the investors of the “Boston Management Firm” of an estimated 200 million dollars. When she discovers the vulnerable position Brad and his powerful allies have placed her in, she must use her expertise to outwit and outsmart and expose the real Teflon criminals.

We have brilliant characterization; Mr West has developed his players with pizazz making each one easily identifiable and mostly believable. Other than the main characters, some important ones are: Sarah, an auditor, who unwittingly assists Brad and sets her venomous sights on Erica, Stan, a man of ethics, an assistant and trusted ally of Erika, needs to prove her innocence, Gregg, the customer services manager, has a hopeless crush on Erica and will do anything for her, and finally Herman…I will let the reader discover him... This is only a sample of the very engaging cast of characters.

Out of all this author’s novels to date, I favor this one by far. The action and suspense keep the story in steady motion; there is not a dull moment. This is as good as it can be. Well done Mr West, I am looking forward to reading your next novel

" The Alexandria Link', by Steve Berry

Book2 in the Cotton Malone series

This daring and thrilling novel opens with a confrontation between Malone and his ex-wife Pam over the handling of their teenage son's kidnapping and their narrow escape from the fire bombing of his bookstore. This has all the appearances of an attempt to blackmail Cotton into revealing a secret he sworn to never disclose...the existence of the Library of Alexandria.

This sudden turn of events has Cotton returning to his roots as a secret agent and teaming up with wife Pam. They are lead from Amsterdam, on to Lisbon, England and to the Sinai desert as they follow a series of clues that will hopefully lead them to the Library and the safe release of their son.

This is one fast paced and intriguing tale that intertwines facts with fiction beautifully. Pros and cons of different religious believes of the world are questioned and of course, like the last novel another secret society comes to light with its members of influence and power both political and financial. As usual some may find this controversial.

Mr. Berry has resurrected his full cast from "The Templar Legacy" and provided another wild adventure full of double crossing to leave the reader breathless and quite entertained. I enjoyed the author's take on what I consider a James Bond -Indiana Jones type of thriller.

" The Princess of Burundi", by Kjell Eriksson

Book1 in English translated from book4 in the Ann Lindell series

This crime story spins a tight and mysterious plot. The main thread begins with a jogger on his morning run finding the mutilated body of John Jonsson, whose hobby is tropical fish and is famous for his aquarium.

The readers are introduced to this story without the background of the previous novels. With a cold start we find out that the main character Ann Lindell is now on maternity leave but unable to distance herself from work, she is always in touch with her partner Detective Ola Havre. He and a tight knit group of officers are the prime investigators in the Jonsson's case, a case Ann cannot resist getting involved.

The story evolves around John's older brother Lennart the main suspect and well known criminal, other members of John's family and a nutcase that John had a previous altercation with.

I found it rather hard to get into at first and contemplated many times abandoning it. The story is quite complicated and progresses somewhat sluggish at times. It has many threads to follow with characters which I presume where developed previously. The lack of background left something missing it was like coming half way into a story. However by the end, when Detective Ola Haver and Ann Lindell begin to feature more prominently both professionally and personally the mystery becomes more absorbing and interesting and the roles the characters are better appreciated.

The novel is highly recommended and won best in its class by the Swedish Crime Academy. However, I found it missing in imagination and lackluster. It was a disappointing read but nonetheless I am curious to see if I will change my opinion reading the sequel.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

"Bad Luck and Trouble", by Lee Child

Jack Reacher book 11

This series is totally addictive; hard not to love Jack Reacher a loner with few ties, tough ex-military, and one that is fanatically interested in codes, numbers and probabilities.

The story starts high above the California desert, when a man is sent free-falling into the night. Frances Neagley, a woman from Reacher's old military unit manages to find him using a code that only members of their unit would recognize. Decoding her message, Reacher reunites with the remaining survivors of his team and plunges into the heart of the conspiracy that is killing old friends. They soon find themselves embroiled in government operations and international terrorism.

This action packed novel is as good as it can get, Mr Child has created well drawn heroes and a solid story with elaborate schemes. Its tale is gripping from the start and you find enough twists and turns and double crossing along the way to keep you entertained to the last page. This is an unbelievable nevertheless enjoyable read full of excitement from start to finish.

"Missing Joseph", by Elizabeth George

Inspector Lynley, book 6

This is one captivating and intricate mystery, with it, Ms George has given us a brilliantly plotted story that reaches emotional levels deeper than most can offer. We find strong character development involving the relationships between Simon and Deborah St James, Thomas and Lady Helen Clyde, Barbara Havers and her mother. We also find a large cast of new characters adding complexity to this murderess tale. The characterization in this novel is one of her best.

This fine piece of fiction starts when Deborah and Simon St James with the hope of healing the rift in their marriage embark on a holiday to see the vicar of Winslough. When they find he has fallen victim of a suspected accidental poisoning, Simon calls in his old friend Detective Inspector Thomas Lynley to help them in solving the mystery...

One may think the story simplistic at first but with time we are drawn into a hypnotic and unforgettable experience. True to her form, we are skilfully led between plots and sub-plots to come to an unexpected conclusion.

The author is more descriptive in her sex scenes than usual, some may not like this but I found it gave a tab of realism.

Those who have followed this series will most likely enjoy this one as well

"Cross Country", by James Patterson

Alex Cross, book 14

This is another novel true to the author's style, short chapters, a story tense in development and an over the edge ending. This time, Alex is taken onto the heart of Africa where there are little or no rules.

The story starts when Alex Cross and Brianna (fellow detective) are called to a disturbing scene in Georgetown. A family has been brutally murdered it hits close to home when Alex discovers that the wife was once his college sweetheart. Leads into the investigation uncover ties to a group of Nigerians operating around DC. When another family is slain, Alex pursuits his instincts and travels to Africa searching for the killers on their own turf...

This novel highlights the atrocities we hear about in places like Darfur and Sierra Leone at times in a graphic manner, describing the rampant corruption of some government officials and the use of orphaned children in murderess gangs to terrorize the population. It also describes the other side: the loving and caring people that suffer the consequences.

This is an enjoyable mystery and a real page turner, one that gives us an insight into the history of a troubled part of the world in a way only Mr Patterson can.

"The Templar Legacy", by Steve Berry

Book1 in the Cotton Malone series

This novel can join the many growing stories surrounding the legendary Knights and the secrets they withhold and have guarded with their lives for so many years.

It opens with Cotton Malone a former covert agent for the department of U.S. Justice visiting his former boss, Stephanie Nelle. He learns that she has been on a quest to find the Templar's "Great Devise", intrigued, Cotton decides to join her.

Action starts when Stephanie is accosted by a purse snatcher and a subsequent wild foot chase causes the perpetrator when cornered to commit suicide. Action increases even more when Stephanie realizes the notebook she received under mysterious circumstances is the real target of the thieves and possibly holds the key to the Templar's fortune. Tensions are raised another notch when a modern day Templar and his followers make Cotton and Stephanie their prime targets, each have their own objectives. Danger lurks at everyone corner as their paths cross...The suspense prevails till the end...

M. Berry created a likable modern day sleuth in Malone but unfortunately Stephanie is a bit too naive to be credible considering the job she has, the characterization could have been better developed. I liked the plot, it is fast-paced, exciting and has its fair share of twists and turns. The narration is great and the addition of humor to the dialogue is a plus.

This is a gripping tale that could be quite controversial for some. It gives a modern day twist to a clandestine society, The Templar's, a group that controlled kings and popes and possessed a staggering amount of power and wealth. The writer comments on the historical accuracy in his notes at the end.

Friday, October 23, 2009

"A Demon Awaits", by C.J. West

Book 2 in the Randy Black series

The novel picks up where "Sin & Vengeance" ended with a recap of Randy's brutal arrest.

Beaten to within an inch of is life by officers left unconscious and heavily sedated in ICU, Randy's mind goes into overdrive with barbaric visions that he will endure for the rest of his life. While recovering, these grueling visions never leave Randy and he decides to make amendments and searches for forgiveness. But the author has other intentions...

The thriller becomes exciting and the pace picks up when Randy trying to reform only manages to slip deeper into a world of crime. With his creative writing Mr West cleverly takes his readers on a wild journey where Randy and trouble are synonymous. Haunted by his past he is manipulated by his attorney, the cops and the judge, who have their own agenda. Randy is trapped with not one to trust but Cassie, a reporter.

This novel has a strong and intriguing cast of characters most have an evil side; it is wonderfully narrated to provide a tone that gives a fair share of mystery. The main plot sets a fast pace, sub-plots add intrigues that cover many issues: such as opinions on how to deal with violent criminals and the conflicts created by the different beliefs of Islam and Western religions. The ending has a tender side and opens the door to a future drama with a romantic overtone.

The author will surely throw us a different spin in the next saga. What else will happen to Randy!!!! Seems nothing is predictable.

"False Impression", by Jeffrey Archer

In this thriller, the author brings his readers along with his protagonist Anna Petrescu on a chase around the world from New York during the tragic events of 9/11, to England, Romania, Hong Kong and Japan. The novel combines criminal conspiracy, a Van Gogh, a ruthless assassin, a Romanian art expert and Bryce Fenston an opportunistic and ruthless banker.

The story is quite exciting, slow at start but maintains a steady pace throughout. It opens with the prospective sale of an original Van Gogh and the timely murder of its owner, one of England's aristocrats Victoria Wentworth. At the same time, in New York, Bryce Fanston calmly awaits confirmation from his accomplice so he can foreclose on the assets of Victoria.

Missing and presume dead after 9/11 Anna an art expert and former employee with damaging information on Bryce uses the event to escape America and avenge Victoria's death. The mystery unfolds when Anna's suspicions attract the FBI and Interpol. Working together they discover the links and motives between the Van Gogh and Victoria's murder.

The novel gives us a bit of art history, also all kinds of twists and turns and heart stopping intrigues. Anna's ultimate determination had me riveted as I followed her to exotic locals around the world. Maybe the plot becomes implausible towards the end; Anna is way too clever and cool to be real, but she is smart and loveable. We have all the elements needed to make this a pager turner: vicious murders, a tab of romance, clever double crossing and a shocking ending.

Mr Archer is a great storyteller; I find it surprising to see so many reviewers disappointed with this novel.

"Turtle Valley", by Gail Anderson-Dargatz

Set in the heart of Shuswap Lake B.C. during a raging forest fire, this fiction spins a magical tale of mystery and romance, one whose characters are haunted by ghostly memories.

The story starts slowly with Kat returning to her family's home to help her aging parents prepare in case of an evacuation order. To add to the stress she is accompanied by her young child Jeremy and her husband Ezra who is recovering from a stroke and can be very irritable at times. An added problem is the fact that her former lover Jude who she still has feelings for lives across the road from her mom and dad.

Tensions build when the out of control flames rush down the hillside posing an eminent threat to the valley and its inhabitants. Kat hurries to put the family's heirlooms in order and with the heighten adrenaline and stress everyone's mind starts to play tricks on them. The family house's haunted past comes to life, some see a creepy old man and the shadow of an old lady appear and disappear into thin air and no one can explain why the burners of the stove are on.

The eerie plot and the revelation of the family secrets are somewhat predictable. I found the torment between Kat and Ezra drawn out and that some of the scenes are hard to grasp no matter what dark secrets they may reveal. The writing gets magical when Turtle Valley catches fire and all hell breaks loose. The author's descriptive scenes of falling ash and trees turning into roman candles as the fire rages through are guarantied to leave a strong image in ones mind. In whole, the author's writing is quite engaging, the plot is unique and captivating, and the cast of characters is diversified and well developed.

With "Turtle Valley", I felt slowly plunged into the world of fantasy with a touch of realism. Well done Ms Anderson- Dargatz

Saturday, October 10, 2009

" Arctic Chill" by Arnaldur Indridason

5th book in the series starring detective Erlendur

This crime novel is another winner and surely will become a world wide hit. As usual Indridason writes about controversial topics that are relevant in today's society. This one raised issues of immigration, multiculturalism, racism and poverty.

The story starts when a ten-year-old boy of Thai origin is found dead, frozen to the sidewalk in a Reykjavík suburb in mid-January.
Taking on the challenge are our recurring heroes: Detective Erlendur and his racy colleagues Sigurdur Oli and Elinborg. While unraveling the mystery, the writer overlaps the storyline with a second plot concerning a woman who has disappeared. This triggers a flash back for Erlendur, memories of his brother who was lost in a storm when they were young.

To make the storyline exciting the author uses powerful images and a tight prose to weave his sub- plots. To appreciate this writer, his work should be read in chronological order in order to fully understand the relationships between his characters and the ongoing life of detective Erlendur.

Arctic Chill is very involving and effective crime fiction. This is another novel in what has become an addictive series for me

"Rules of Deception",by Christopher Reich

Jonathan Ransom, book1

This is an exciting thriller, it has everything: a likable hero facing enormous amounts of danger and scuttling out of it, exotic locals with amazing settings, an over the edge story that will keep you turning page after page.

The prologue is slow to start, then, what appears to be a butterfly flying around a high-security compound is discovered to be a mechanical device…the alarm is sounded…..

Next we meet Jonathan Ransom and his wife Emma both serving with Doctors Without Borders on a ski trip in the Alps. Both risk takers, they encounter severe weather and an avalanche sweeps Emma to her death. Jonathan has to face insurmountable odds to determine what happened, only to find out that his wife has been leading a double life as a spy.

In this first rate fiction, we follow our hero in his quest to dig out the truth about his wife. The numerous characters we encounter along the way are colourful and engaging. The story is sharply written, sophisticated and suspenseful giving us a few surprises on the way. The plot unfolds skilfully, with never ending chases and many miraculous escapes, various murders, double-crosses and lots of deceptions.

Things were a little dramatic at times, implausible but it made for an exciting fantasy, James Bond’s style.

'Nothing to Lose", by Lee Child

12th book in the Jack Reacher series

After reading many of his previous novels, I found this one a disappointment.

The story started promising enough with Reacher walking into the town of Despair Colorado. The town people are not keen to see strangers in this area and they show it. What are they hiding? As time passes, Reacher becomes more and more determined to find out.

Reader boredom sets in with an endless description of bar brawls fights with police and generally everyone insight. We would imagine the action to be full of twists and turns but it is so repetitive the plot becomes tedious, convoluted and implausible, wandering all over the place.

A major problem is with the protagonist; he is becoming a one dimensional character that never really develops. His antics have become way too predictable.

I hope Mr Child can rekindle his sense of creativity, the one I have enjoyed in the past.

"Chicago Way" by Michael Harvey

This novel holds all the old clichés you can attribute to a PI story. With a witty and basic prose (sparse and snappy), the author gives us a story that has lots of twists and turns and great effects.

The story begins when Michael Kelly (an ex-cop, now a PI) is approached by a long time buddy from the police force to look into a cold case of a young woman brutally assaulted, stabbed and left for dead. Kelly is drawn into a mind bending investigation that will have him face the mob, a serial killer and a double crossing friend...

This debut novel of Mr Harvey has put his expertise as a journalist and his experience on the television documentary (Cold Case Files) to the forefront. This provides us with an engaging story that captures the gritty part of Chicago's atmosphere, a memorable cast of tough characters right out of "The Untouchables", it also spins a murder mystery provocatively and gives us an out of the left field ending.

If you were attracted to a 60's style detective hero that had the stylish patter of Jack Web's protagonist, Joe Friday, were a fan of the TV Show "The Untouchables", or loved Raymond Chandlers' character Philip Marlowe, you will enjoy reading this one

"The Russian Concubine" by Kate Furnivall

This gripping tale brings us to war torn China circa 1920. After loosing her husband in a Bolshevik round up of Russian elites, Valentina and her daughter manage to escape, eventually locating to Junchow, China, in a Whites-only settlement where survival is harsh.

The author masterfully describes the struggle to survive in a dangerous location where there is a clash between cultures, abuse is prolific and life has little meaning. Don't let the title fool you, the story revolves mainly around Lydia, and she is not a concubine but a teenager living with an alcoholic mother. Lydia is forced to steal in order to eat and pay the rent. We follow her adventures through the streets of Junchow on an endless battle against poverty.

Some may find this novel long and tedious but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Not only was it entertaining but it was also an enchanting and gripping love story that captured eloquently the hopes and dreams of the people of Russia as well as those of pre-revolutionary China.

We are introduced to a cast of memorable characters and the fast moving story line will keep most on edge. It is an amazing book, a real page turner that provides us with a bit of everything: history, romance, espionage, action and deceit. Rarely have I read a novel that covers so many topics in such a gripping manner.

"Paths of Glory", by Jeffrey Archer

This tale supports the theory that mountain climber George Leigh Mallory may have been the first man to reach the summit of Mount Everest during his second expedition in 1924.

Written with vivid imagination, Mr Archer relates the life and some of the events surrounding this historical man. From Mallory’s infancy, up to his dark experiences in the trenches of the First World War and on to those two famous expeditions which ultimately brought him to the Himalayas.

The story is very dramatic but we won’t find any twists of faith as the outcome has left many unanswered questions from the start. When Mr Mallory’s body was found in 1999 some facts where discovered that opened many new scenarios. The whereabouts of his climbing partner Mr Alexander Irvine is still an unsolved mystery.

This is not a conventional biography; it reads more like a movie script, broadly covering the facts, simplifying and embroidering events. It ends with a moving memorial service and a post 1924 update of family and followers.

I enjoyed “Paths of Glory” for its simplicity and its entertainment. It is a great story one hard to put down. For those wanting a more precise account of these two heroes, there are many other resources.

"Murder Stone", by Louise Penny

Published in the USA under the title “A Rule against Murder”

This is an intricate mystery that gives us a new spin in the life and character of Inspector Gamache. Here we see a more personal side of him and his relationship with his wife Reine-Marie.

This old fashion story opens at the Manoir Bellechase, an isolated lodge by Lake Massawippi where the Inspector and Reine-Marie have enjoyed celebrating their wedding anniversary in the past. This year, they find themselves sharing this luxurious inn with a highly dysfunctional wealthy English family, who have come to pay tribute to their deceased father. Murder is suspected when a member of the family is found dead, a victim of unusual circumstances. Naturally, the charming Inspector Gamache gets involved, digging beneath the family bitterness to solve the devious crime.

Ms Penny is meticulous in her description of this very unpleasant family, all have secrets to hide and the narrative superbly captures the resulting emotions and tension. Humour is successfully added to portray this greedy, selfish family. True to her tradition she also gives us what we come expect: the usual attention to the domestic details, such as menu and gardening and other day to day activities of the Inn.

Although I enjoyed this novel, I admit it is not my favourite. I found it is slow in action, too centered on the family and a murder lacking plausibility.

"7th Heaven", by James Petterson, Maxine Paetro

Women’s Murder Club series, book7

This novel is captivating, full tension and violence right from the start. It opens with a couple of serial killer arsonists invading homes of wealthy individuals restraining them and setting them on fire. Action doesn’t stop there it goes on none stop, Patterson and Paetro truly know how to deliver a thriller and provide the challenges it takes to keep the readers glued to the edge of their seat. To add further mystery, the authors intertwine the case of a rich chronically-ill young adult missing after visiting the home of a known prostitute, Junie Moon.

The investigations are spear headed by Investigator Lindsay Boxer and Yuki Castellano looks after the district attorney side. Yuki’s direct involvement puts her in the limelight and harms way. The authors add interesting twists and turns during one of the trials when Junie Moon’s conflicting testimonies are aggressively cross-examined.

Is there a link between the two cases and what can it be? We find the answers when Claire Washburn (chief medical examiner and Cindy Thomas (star crime reporter) join their partners.

Another classic James Patterson novel: quick brisk chapters, a sharp story line, an emotionally charged and shocking ending. If you like Patterson’s style, this one will capture your attention from the beginning.

Is it evident that I am a fan…..:)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

" The Fifth Floor", by Michael Harvey

This is the second novel featuring the wise-cracking Private Investigator Michael Kelly who returns in full force. The heart of the story is based around the mayor's office on the fifth floor of Chicago City Hall.

It starts when Michael is contacted by Janet, an ex-girlfriend and is asked to use his P.I. expertise to protect her from her abusive husband, Johnny Woods who happens to be one of the mayor's fixers. While on his trail he discovers a link to a recent murder. During his research he stumbles across a credible theory of the Chicago fire with a connection between the mayor's family and a land grab that set up a political dynasty. Of course revealing this would be scandalous, especially in an election year. The historical angle along with several plot twists made for a very interesting story.

Michael a man of action and very meticulous at his profession soon finds himself in the middle of political corruption and targeted by powerful men. He is framed for murder and embroiled in scams he had nothing to do with, plunged into an unfamiliar world where nothing is quite what it seems.

I share my thoughts with those saying this is a sizzling follow-up to "The Chicago Way". It is suspenseful and atmospheric, has intricate woven narrative and snappy dialogue and the characters are loveable and gritty. Mr Harvey has written an entertaining thriller with an historical twist. . This is a real page-turner that masterfully delves into the myth behind Mrs O'Leary's cow, the suspected cause of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.

Michael is one hero worth rooting for in this fast paced drama.