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, September 24, 2011

"Supreme Justice", by Phillip Margolin

This novel is an exciting thriller, a puzzling murder mystery involving a ghost ship and the President’s nominee to the U.S Supreme Court. The story leads us in a twisted tale that opens more questions than answers involving a real soup mix of law enforcement officers: local police, state police, CIA, FBI, Homeland security and the U.S. Supreme court… (Hahaha it seems the only group missing is the keystone cops :) )

This is quite an involved story with numerous characters, plots and sub-plots weaving in and out.

The main plot involves an attack on Felicia Moss, a Supreme Court Justice, who has the swing vote concerning a death penalty case reviewing the fate of Sara Wooddruff, a police officer, convicted of murdering her boyfriend, John Finley. When the officer’s appeal reaches the top court, shadowy links begin to surface to a mysterious ghost ship and several cold case murders. Reopening the case threatens to uncork a bubbling mess hidden within the justice system.

Private investigator Dana Cutler, FBI Agent Keith Evans and attorney Brad Miller are brought in to determine why the murder case is causing shockwaves in Washington. As they search for answers, they are forced to pull out every trick in the book, jump many hoops and cross many avenues. The result will inevitably leave a warm spot in the heart of any demanding mystery reader.

This book is sharply written with an interesting and charming cast. Although some recurring characters from “Executive Privilege” have the lead roles, not knowing their past history did not deter my interest, the non-stop action kept me on the edge of my seat and entertained for hours.

With No One as Witness", by Elizabeth George

Book 13, in the Inspector Lynley series

I am happy to see with this instalment my beloved protagonists Thomas Lynley and his partner Barbara Havers back to the forefront and plunged into a suspenseful case complete with red herrings and gritty crime scenes. The book provides an intellectual challenge, its 600 pages or more is a kaleidoscope of complicated themes and sub-themes crisscrossed with a rich narrative that keeps us on the edge of our seat while tracking the numerous players that pop in an out of the storyline.

In this novel we follow the procedures that Scotland Yard Detectives employ on the trail of a serial killer who targets young boys in London and displays their bodies in a gruesome manner. Commissioner Hillier realises he has a serial killer when a fourth victim, a white teen, surfaces with similar wounds to three other non- white victims, he also realises he has to stay ahead of media hype and diffuse any accusations of racial preference by promoting officer Nkate ( a black man) to Detective Sergeant. The commissioner wants full control, puppets on a string style, Nkate handling the general public side and he is pressuring Lynley to work closely with a respected profiler and a in your face reporter. Thomas Lynley is at odds with these orders and the friction between them quickly builds… Where there is friction Barbara Havers’ name always surfaces. She is still under scrutiny since her demotion but once more her style of working against the grain will bring success to the case.

Meanwhile on another thread, on Lynley’s home front a tragedy awaits that will alter his life for ever…..

Although overall the storyline moves at a slow pace I was immediately engaged in this drama that is far darker, more sombre and definitely more tragic than any of the previous endeavours in Lynley’s career. I can’t wait to see what happens next, my library is a little behind in this series

"The Godfather of Kathmandu", by John Burdett

Book 4 in the Sonchai Jitpleecheep series

The writer’s speciality is to take his readers on an exotic and mysterious jaunt exploring the back streets of Bangkok where sex is a marketable commodity. He drags us into a culture unknown to many with his observations of the drug trade and official corruption. He also touches through his protagonist the religious customs of Tibetan Buddhism.

As the book opens, Sonchai is struggling with the loss of his son and is depending more and more on a mixture of drugs and Buddhism to carry on his day to day life. Nevertheless he takes on the case of Frank Charles, a famous film director, murdered in a gruesome manner at a local flophouse.

Meanwhile, Sonchai’s boss, Colonel Vikorn, is drawn into an alliance with his arch rival officer Zinna in one of the biggest drug deals to date. He appoints Sonchai as his trusted “Consigliere” to assist him in his dealings and on various errands. The word on the street between drug mules leads Sonchai to Kathmandu where he falls under the influence of his mantra and is smitten by Tara, a beautiful Tibetan Buddhist refugee. Eventually he returns to Bangkok and retargets his efforts to the Frank Charles investigation, finding the cause of death and the true culprit becomes a priority.

Sonchai narrates many of his thoughts in the first person and shares them with his “farang” (western reader) as though the reader was his guardian angel. He also purveys a rather cynical tone and switches between the present and the past tense. His character is well-crafted, a rather unique, unusual and bizarre detective. The story is written with the intricacies of crime and the culture and seasoned with a vivid description of food, sights and the sounds of a vibrant city. The plot is meaty although I found the style to be challenging with its many surprises that continually jockey for the readers’ attention.

To enjoy this series depends strongly on personal taste; I find I am slowly losing interest.

"Ape House", by Sara Gruen

“Ape House” is a light read that attempts to open the animal world to us by bringing the Bonobos Apes to life in an original way.

This is a story about a family of Bonobos, their caretaker scientist Isabel Duncan and a down to earth reporter John Thigpen. I will cover the plotting in a few words, it begins with the primate language laboratory being bombed and Isabel left badly injured, severe enough to end up in the trauma ward of the closest hospital. The Bonobos fall into the hands of a porn producer and are locked up in a house with cameras broadcasting their every move on cable television. Reporter John Thigpen covers the story while his personal life is on a down turn, his home life it is about to take a drastic change. The plotting gets meatier when Isabel is released from hospital and teams up with John to find out who targeted the laboratory, for what reason and what has happened to her family of apes.

The story explores in a far-fetched semi captivating manner, the issue of animal rights from the point of view of activists, scientists and the public. The plot takes a meandering course with a bit of action here and there mostly done by the humans, there are also subtle references to sexual activities amongst the apes and their unique methods of communication. I found this part satire and part morality driven tale was presented to us by a cast of lackluster and easily forgotten characters, maybe if the Bonobos had been given a greater role it would have left a more lasting impression. Unfortunately the book started strong just to peter out by the end, I was disappointed when the tale did not capture the apes’ behaviour, gestures and emotions in a more detailed fashion.

Although the story was not what I had anticipated, I nevertheless enjoyed the change.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

"The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest", by Stieg Larsson

Book 3, in the Millennium trilogy

This series has captivated me from the start, not only that each instalment is a superior pager-turner that manages to draw you into the world of interesting characters it also delivers a story that is riveting and wholly engrossing. "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest" is complex, satisfying and clever.

The final instalment picks up where the second left off. Lisbeth is in hospital under arrest and fighting for her life in intensive care, while her father, two rooms from her, is being treated for his axe wound to the face. From the start, the story is so crammed with characters, plots and sub-plots it will take a book itself to summarize the main points only.

The author loves to takes us on many side trips such as exposing the dirty secrets of the Swedish Secret Service while Lisbeth recuperates from her injuries and contemplates her revenge while waiting for her day in court. The plotting can be convoluted and challenging at times and the wild ride continues with Blomqvist exposing Zalachenco and his contacts with the Swedish government. True to the author's style, he has our heads spinning one curve after another, an endless supply of highs and lows. The many minor characters can give the reader a case of information overload, however, the storyline neatly wraps up the fate of each major player including the fascinating heroine, Lisbeth Salander.

Regrettably this seems to be the end of the series. I will miss Mr. Larsson's contributions to the world of suspense novels.

"Operation Napoleon", by Arnaldur Indridason

Written over a decade ago but only recently translated into English "Operation Napoleon" is quite different from what we have become accustomed to. Arnaldur Indridason has deviated from his usual sleuth detective hero mystery to write an imaginative standalone thriller telling a story that reaches back to World War 11.

It begins in 1945 during the last months of the war when a German bomber on a clandestine mission is forced to crash- land on one of Iceland's largest glaciers. The plane and its passengers, senior American officers travelling with their German counterparts on a joint mission were quickly swallowed up by nature's harshest elements. They were missing but never really forgotten for many years.

The action swiftly shifts to the United States in the year 1999. The military always kept vigilance on the location and in later years through high-tech satellite imagery. When changing ice conditions revealed traces of the plane, a covert team was immediate dispatched to the site to recover the plane and its hidden secrets.

It so happens at the same time, groups of mountain rescuers are on a training mission and one of the teams, Elias and his friend, stumble across the wreckage guarded by armed US soldiers pointing guns at them. Suspicious of what they see, Elias immediately contacts his sister Kristin, a lawyer at the Icelandic foreign ministry, and manages to brief her before they are overwhelmed by the soldiers. The soldiers mandate under 'Operation Napoleon' is to maintain total secrecy at all cost. With the elimination of Elias and his friend they realise Kristin must also be silenced and the sooner the better .... The chase is on.

The story continues at a fast pace, Kristin realises American operatives are after her and fears for her life, her only solution is to outsmart and outwit them. She feels if the crash site and those dedicated to keep it a secret are made public knowledge, the world will question what they are hiding at all cost.

This thriller is highly captivating and exciting throughout; the action is a little farfetched at times but is nevertheless very well done. The theme is sharply written with depth rarely found in today's thrillers. I like the characterisation; the players are well-penned and have sufficient depth to be memorable, Kristin is especially well developed as a very resourceful heroine. Some may find the story portrays the Americans in a negative light but any thriller is based on two or more opposing sides and as we all know controversy can really stimulate one's mind and the sale of books, so I take it for what it is: an entertaining fiction that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Monday, September 5, 2011

"Walking Dead", by Greg Rucka

Book 7, featuring Atticus Kodiak

This series and author is new to me, I realize starting with the 7th instalment is not ideal but with "Walking Dead" I was quickly hooked. Although it may have been most helpful to have read the previous books, I immediately felt comfortable in the story and found it could easily stand by its own.

Written in the first person in a clear and concise prose the story grabs the attention from the start with its action, timely plot and stone cold protagonists that have been tested over and over and pushed to the edge seemingly right into the abyss at times. Do not fear as in all great thrillers the characters are like the energiser bunny...they just keep on going...

This riveting storyline opens with Atticus and his lover Alena living in Kobuleti, Georgia, a place where they felt they could start a new life and distance themselves from the past. Their neighbours, the Lagidze family appear to have done the same. One day suddenly everything changes when the Lagidze family is slaughtered and Tiasa, the 14 year old daughter, is abducted. At this point Atticus swears to move heaven and hell to find Tiasa and give her a chance to live a life without fear. When Atticus discovers that Tiasa has been sold to sex traffickers to pay her father's debt, he becomes even more determined to find her; the trail takes him to Dubai, Amsterdam and Las Vegas.

While on the home front we see a second thread quickly developing one as important as the first: Alena narrowly escapes an attack and a terrible fire'..at this point I wondered if there was a possible link to the kidnapping or something from their past coming to back to haunt them? The suspense just kept on growing.

This thriller is very captivating and one of the best I have read in a long time. The storyline is well-crafted with plenty of brutal and never ending action that exploits the dark side of human trafficking and the political shenanigans that it often attracts. The scenes are crawling with details that are sure to raise goose bumps. I was emotionally invested in Atticus; I wanted him to succeed regardless. This cleverly written thriller will leave you on a reader's high.