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 »

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.