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 22, 2010

"Breaking Lorca", by Giles Blunt

This story is a taunting and disturbing account of how far people in a position of authority will go in order to obtain what they want and remain in power. Through a compelling and provoking narrative the readers are taken on a harrowing journey where there is no mercy. This vivid and emotionally charged account relates how countrymen are subjected to physical, mental and emotional destruction in order to keep them submissive.

Giles Blunt is known for his "John Cardinal" series but this suspenseful tale is a standalone novel. The first part immerses the reader into a troubled time in the early 80's when El Salvador was in a vicious civil war and the average citizen's life meant nothing to those in power. The second part focuses on two of the citizens who made it to the U.S...

The protagonist is Victor Pena, a former officer, rescued form a firing squad to be a key player in a secret unit dedicated to acquiring intelligence. Victor finds himself out of his depth in this unit, violence and savagery are not part of his makeup, but right now it is his only option to stay alive. Victor soon finds himself up against a mysterious female detainee named Lorca who he cannot help but admire; he finds her strength and determination under prolonged torture to be impressive.

In the last part of the novel, Victor is sent to Fort Bening in the U.S. to hone his training. Once there, he sees an opportunity to escape the position he is in and find freedom. Driven by his conscience, his aim is to locate Lorca who has miraculously survived and is believed to be hiding in New York. He is constantly haunted by past memories and feels he could lessen the pain by redeeming himself in her eyes...

Mr. Blunt's background in TV is evident, the writing is very crisp, the characters are so real and the dialogue creates a virtual picture, the graphic details of torture are horrific and gut wrenching. It is hard to believe people can contemplate doing this to others and carry on life as if nothing happened. This dark novel is not for everyone, it brings to life what is believed to have transpired during a time of political turmoil in El Salvador. Although the ending left me a little disappointed, it had a bit too much flash and bang for a novel, it seems the concluding chapter was meant more for the big screen, nevertheless I enjoyed every page

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

"Heart Sick", by Chelsea Cain

Book 1 in the Archie and Gretchen series

The story explores what make up a psychopath and the relationship between a serial killer and his/her victims. "Heart Sick" is a gruesome tale of torture and manipulation, a fiction depicting a twisted and creepy serial killer.

Detective Archie Sheridan (main character) has spent ten years on a task force hunting a beautiful serial killer named Gretchen Lowell. Gretchen eventually turned the table and the hunter became the hunted. She lured him into a trap, tortured him for several days and contrary to her M.O. she mysteriously sets him free, leaving him haunted in many ways by the experience for the rest of his life.

The story picks up two years later with Gretchen in prison and Archie recently off medical leave and returned to duty. Still on strong medication he quickly finds himself deeply involved in another case of multiple abductions and murders. Many teenage girls have mysteriously gone missing in the Oregon area.

During this period, Detective Archie Sheridan's experiences attract the attention of the press and Susan Ward, a young eccentric journalist, is assigned the task of writing his story. In her research, she tags along and records every move he makes but unknown to her, this action leads her straight into the serial killer's web...

The gruesome torture Archie endured at the hands of Gretchen is rehashed in flashback sequences and the gory details create a graphic and violent atmosphere at times. Archie, one of the main characters, is overshadowed by the strong characterisation of Gretchen, a beautiful serial killer. The story only comes alive when she appears and dims when she is off stage. It leaves the reader wondering if this is a suspense thriller or a twisted love story between a cop and a serial killer. Susan Ward the pink hair journalist is thrown into the mix to add a touch of colour and help tell the story. This novel is riddled with old clich├ęs, very basic suspense and is rather unrealistic at times. This does not measure up to other thrillers I read this year

Sunday, December 12, 2010

"Berlin Noir", a trilogy, by Philip Kerr

This is a collection of the first three novels in the Bernhard Gunther series that were written between 1989 and 1991 and were published together in 1993 under the title “Berlin Noir”. Detailed in it are the earlier adventures of Bernhard Gunther, a private detective who specialized in missing person cases. The scenes reflect the climate of pre and post-World War 11 Berlin. As for the stories, they highlight some of the horrors that began with the birth of National Socialism and end with the allied occupation and reconstruction.

Book 1 “March Violets”, Berlin 1936

When Gunther is retained by wealthy German industrialist Hermann Six to investigate the arson murder of his daughter and son in law and the theft of some priceless jewellery he finds himself in the middle of a major conspiracy involving highly placed Nazis. His investigation plunges him into Berlin’s dark side with its noisy cabarets, its easy women and tough men, and eventually to Dachau concentration camp. There he finds himself both on the receiving and giving end of violence, violence the world has yet to learn of. He has become a pawn in a game where corruption and decadent behaviour are practiced at its highest level.

Book 2 “The Pale Criminal”, Berlin 1938

This is a time when the situation in Germany is escalating from bad to worse and P.I. Gunther is investigating a case of blackmail on behalf of his client Frau Lange. Part of his investigation has him undercover in a clinic where psychotherapy is practiced but things turn ugly when his partner is murdered and the alleged blackmailer commits suicide. To complicate things even further, Gunther is given an order he can’t refuse, he is ordered back to Kripo by the SS general Heydrich to work on a serial murder case in which two SS officers are being fingered by public opinion. This is a highly explosive period in Berlin just prior to Kristallnacht.

Book 3 “A German Requiem”, Berlin 1947

This is a time when Germany is divided and Berlin is in a state of devastation, its people are doing their best to find food and shelter and rebuild their lives. Gunther recently released from a Russian prison is asked to investigate the murder of Edward Linden, an American Counterintelligence captain. An old acquaintance of his, Emil Becker has been arrested for the murder and may soon be convicted and put to death. Gunther strongly suspects Becker is being framed and with the clock ticking he must follow his strongest leads. The Russian Colonel Palkovich Poroshin, now in Vienna may have some important pieces to the puzzle but can Gunther really trust him. Deep into the investigation he draws the attention of a group of men who have their own secret agenda. An agenda that subsequently uncovers a nightmare landscape containing more death than he could ever have imagined….

The three novels are very interesting and captivating. What I found most fascinating is the historical setting; it brings us deep into the dark and chaotic period of Nazi-era Germany. Through the protagonist, we feel the hype and frenzy created by Hitler and the subsequent behaviour of the Nazi followers, we also experience the emotional letdown the German people felt post-war. Bernhard Gunther is portrayed as a person with an attitude who walked a fine line to stay alive. He was once an SS officer under the command of Heydrich, Himmler and Goering but transferred to the Russian front in order to distance himself from the path the SS was taking. In his writing Mr. Kerr uses a tone that is brutal and dry, fitting for the subject. “Berlin Noir” is a page turner, a vortex of plots and subplots that are easy to follow although hard to swallow.

I have found this series highly entertaining and addictive

Saturday, December 11, 2010

"Deception on his Mind", by Elizabeth George

Book 9 in the Inspector Lynley series

Elizabeth George plunges us once again into a gripping and twisted "Whodunit" plot based in Balford-le-Nez, a dying fictional sea town on the coast of Essex. True to her style, this book in the series is beautifully written, the plot well-crafted and the characterization excellent. This is a complicated mystery which may be a tad too long and a bit slow-moving at times but one that will not fail to draw you into the story immediate. You will be caught up in the web of suspense and deception till the end.

Finally Inspector Lynley and Helen have tied the knot and are on their honeymoon and Barbara Havers has been granted an extension on her convalescence, her plans where to spend a little time in Balford-le-Nez.

Balford-le-Nez has a growing Asian community and when a member is found dead near its beach, his neck broken...The normally sleepy town ignites...Hearing of this Barbara can't help but get involved and quickly becomes a prominent figure in the murder investigation of this recent immigrant from Pakistan. The case has a personal side; her landlord Taymullah Azhar and his daughter Hadiyyah have connections to the dead man.

In typical fashion the writer has the murder investigation as the focal point while exploring the hardships new immigrants face in a country foreign to them. With Lynley out of the picture, Barbara must use her own sound investigative skills and leave no stones unturned. People are quick to tag this murder as a racially motivated crime. What really happened and for what reason?

This book is an absorbing read, however, some important threads are left dangling leaving questions as to the outcome of some events and the fate of some characters....maybe the answers are in a future sequel....