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 »

Thursday, November 25, 2010

"A Quiet Flame", by Philip Kerr

Book 5 in the Bernard Gunther series

This fiction examines Directive 11, a secret order issued in 1938 that bared Jews from entering Argentina and the consequences that derived from it. It also explored the rumour and the strong possibility that a concentration camp existed in a remote part of the country. At the time thousands of Argentina's Jewish citizens had simply disappeared, never to be seen again. Coincidently, in later years, Argentina became a safe haven for Nazis in hiding.

" A Quiet Flame ", opens in 1950 with private eye Bernie Gunther, now in fine form getting off the boat in Argentina. He is not alone; one of the other passengers is Adolf Eichmann. Both have changed their identities to avoid the consequences of their past and are trying to start a new life in a new country.

It didn't take long before Bernie was fingered by President Peron's secret police, it turns out they had a file on him and knew about his past activities. They felt he could assist them in the political investigation of a child abduction and murder. Knowing he had no choice but to accept, he used the opportunity to gain medical treatment for his thyroid cancer. After reviewing the case he notices many similarities with unsolved cases he worked on back in early 30's Berlin, once again he finds himself forced to tread a delicate path.

Gunther's work attracts the beautiful Anna Yagubshy who is desperately looking for help in finding her Jewish relatives who have disappeared; he is immediately drawn into a horror story that rivals everything from his past. The Peron period of Buenos Aires holds terrible secrets within its corrupt halls of power, one never knows whom to trust and danger is waiting at every corner.

The stories move back and forth in time from Bernie's past early 30's Berlin to the turbulent time of post war Buenos Aires 1950.

The depiction of the two eras is fascinating and captivating, it also gives a unique and intriguing view into the Nazi haven created during the time of President Peron. The characterization is superb and the players have depth. I like Gunther particularly; he is a compelling protagonist, an ex-SS "collaborator" with strong ethics. This novel never lags for thrilling and chilling suspense; it will grip you from the start. The sub-plots are as powerful as the main plot and contain many dead-ends and red herrings blended seamlessly creating a well-crafted work of fiction.

I started with this novel and find it could easily stand alone but was left so intrigued and entertained by the protagonist adventures I feel impelled to read the author's previous works.

"In the Presence of the Enemy", by Elizabeth George

Book 8 in the Inspector Lynley series

Ms George knows how to sustain her readers’ attention in tales that are not only suspenseful but finely crafted and delightfully intricate. With “In the Presence of the Enemy” she once more proves that she is one of the best classic British mystery novelist today.

The story opens with the kidnapping of young Charlotte Bowen. The kidnapper(s) demand her father, publisher Dennis Luxford to pay an unusual ransom, “ Divulge on the front page of his newspaper that he has fathered a child in a loveless tryst with Eve Bowen “. But Eve, a high ranking influential member of parliament hesitates and refuses to go along with the demand. She believes that Dennis has engineered everything to discredit her and is so convinced it is a hoax she steadfastly refuses to involve the authorities.

The story advances at a rapid pace and the plot thickens when another child disappears. After realizing the determination of the kidnapper(s), Inspector Lynley and Detective Havers from Scotland Yard are called upon and brought up to speed. Following this duo as they piece clue after clue is a riveting experience, the writer plunges us into an adrenaline filled game of cat and mouse.

Ms George spoon feeds her readers tit-bits of information seemingly leading them down the garden path and at just the right time she jumps track and throws her readers completely off balance. Being unpredictable helps pique the readers interest even more.

Along with the main plot, interlaced are sub-plots involving Lynley’s financé Helen who is wrestling with her own demons and making a small but important appearance is forensic scientist Simon and his wife Deborah. All the characters are believable although not all likeable but definitely all expertly drawn to keep us captivated. This is a suspense filled mystery from start to finish, one of Ms George’s best

Friday, November 12, 2010

"Bangkok Tattoo", by John Burdett

Book 2 in the Detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep mystery series

This sequel to "Bangkok 8" has all the elements necessary to take the readers on a precarious ride through the sweltering hot and sticky streets that form the flamboyant underbelly of one of Asia's most lively cities.... Bangkok.

The mystery is told in the riveting voice of detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep, a product of mixed parentage with Buddhist beliefs, a good cop by day and a papasan in the family brothel by night. The story opens with Chanya, a working girl at "The Old Man`s Club" (owned by Colonel Vikorn and Sonchai`s mother), returning from a trick, dazed and covered in blood, coincidently rumour has it CIA agent Mitch Turner has been found near by murdered and his genitals brutally mutilated. Chanya a popular and important asset to the club quickly becomes the prime suspect. Colonel Vikorn decides with the help of Sonchai to construct a cover-up to portray Chanya as a victim acting in self- defence....a statement is created and Chanya goes into hiding. Sonchai always the professional at heart, feels something is not right and the suspense escalates.

Sonchai's investigation introduces us to prostitutes, katoyes( Lady Boys) sex tourists and very murky characters that roam the streets of Bangkok's notorious District 8. The action eventually takes us even deeper into the heart of Thailand, revealing a possible connection to Al-Qaeda, added to the saga is a mix of rogue CIA agents and drug dealers. A tattoo artist fleeing the Japanese mafia and a turf war between Vikorn and an army general heightens the intensity even further.

The author has created one sophisticated novel full of marvellous characters, set in an intoxicating décor and told in a gripping manner. Definitely not a novel for the faint at heart, there is brutality and sexuality throughout and Bangkok's sleazy side is rather exploited to its maximum. Unfortunately being a sequel, the plotting seemed familiar and thus rather predictable in many ways, maybe if the prequel wasn`t still fresh in my mind, I would have a different opinion.

I am looking forward to its sequel " Bangkok Haunts", but this time I will wait awhile before reading it

" The Jewel of St-Peterburg ", by Kate Furnivall

The novel transports us back to a time preceding the Russian Revolution of 1917. Set against a background of elegance and opulence this dramatic story is of love, courage, revenge and heartache.

The heroine is Valentina Ivanova, daughter of a minister under Tsar Nicholas also a young pianist and the darling of St. Petersburg's wealthy aristocracy. Valentina's only dream is to become a nurse and take care of her sister, who was maimed for life during a Bolshevik attack on the family estate. Her father has other expectations, marrying a Russian count would solidify their place amongst the country's elite. But strong headed Valentina, determine in her own way, graduates from nursing and eventually falls in love with Jens Friss, a Danish engineer.....A life changing decision with many consequences.

This is a harsh and scary time, the Tsar, the Duma and the Bolsheviks are at each other's throats.....A revolution is in the making, the days of the ruling aristocracy are numbered and no one is safe.

Following Valentina we are plunged into two contrasting worlds, one of the miserably poor and the other of the extreme rich. This sweeping story highlights to what means desperate people pushed to the limit will go to obtain recognition and the basics of life they need to survive. The characterization is well done, realistic and very gripping. This compelling tale draws its readers into a fast-paced and captivating historical-fiction with graphic details of the period.

I enjoyed previous novels of Ms Furnivall and this one did not disappoint. I can say I am a fan

Saturday, November 6, 2010

"Mercy Street", by Mariah Stewart

Book 1 in the Mercy Street Foundation series

This romantic suspense novel is a refreshing interlude, a relief for those who have been reading more adrenaline based mysteries, Mariah Stewart style is lower keyed . This mystery is basic and not complicated to follow, it focuses mainly on homicides and missing person investigations and provides interesting moments that will grab you immediately, unfortunately it is somewhat predictable.

The novel juggles three threads at the same time and intertwines smoothly:

1) The center of the mystery is Robert Magellan's missing family and the fact that he is haunted by the memory and relives the terrible day when Beth his wife and their baby son simply disappeared, never to be found.

2) On another tangent, investigators are left baffled when a simple outing to a local park turns tragic, two children are missing and two have had their young lives cut short. After weeks into the investigation, the only theory they have is, one of the missing kids is the possible shooter. The child's grandmother unable to accept what is happening turns to Father Kevin Burch. With the help and sympathy of philanthropist Robert Magellan they hire P.I. Mallory Russo to look into the matter.

3) It turns out the Conroy police force is already busy, they have a sniper on the hunt. The events present an seemingly insurmountable challenge to a small police force.

P.I. Mallory Russo has a stroke of luck when she meets Charlie Wanamaker, a man with a dysfunctional family, who happens to be in transition from one police force to the Conroy force. They quickly bound and with their passion for justice they race to solve the mysteries. The chemistry they develop between themselves eventually reaches beyond their professionalism...

The characters are quite likeable and easy to root for, a blooming romance between Mallory and Charlie is surely to be followed up in the next instalment, at least I expect it to be with the conclusion to what happened to Robert Magellan's family. The story was captivating but in time will not be one of my most memorable novels