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, December 13, 2012

"The Masuda Affair", by Ingrid J. Parker

Book 7, in the Sugawara Akitada Mystery series

This 7th novel follows the script of most of Ms. Parker's novels: set in the 11th century Japan and features a government official, Sugawara Akitada, as its main protagonist. With all the culture and ambiance of the times Ms. Parker has Akitada facing a personal crisis that is haunting him. He is having trouble moving on after the unfortunate death of his son, Yori.

This installment brings Akitada a bureaucratic misfit home to the capital of Heian-Kyo, on his way he meets an emaciated abandoned child who reminds him of Yori. His efforts to rescue the boy from the clenches of abusive parents land him in hot water with the law. Being accused of improper behavior towards the child puts his career and reputation at risk and Akitada must redirect his efforts to clear his name. While doing so he becomes entangled in the secrets of the powerful Masuda family. His research draws attention to the drowning of Peony, a courtesan known to the Masuda family. Her mysterious death was originally ruled a suicide but now many unanswered questions need answers.

Meanwhile in an unrelated plot Tora, Akitada's faithful servant is looking for his wife who has been kidnapped by a powerful man obsessed with beautiful women. The trail leads Tora and Akitada to the amusement quarter, the shadier side of a vibrant city.

The depth of the relationship between characters is what really makes this novel. The multiple threads create a moving tale about family life and how it can drastically change with the loss of a love one. Although the storyline is set in the 11th century it is narrated with a modern point of view and unravels at a steady pace. It is engaging and is very easy to relate to.

Elegantly written "The Masuda Affair" is an excellent addition to a wonderful series.

"Pelham Fell Here", by Ed Lynskey

Book 1, in P.I Frank Johnson mystery series

Although this book was written after “The Dirt-Brown Derby” and “The Blue Cheer” it is actually the first in the series. I normally prefer starting with #1 in a series however when researching this author I found different opinions on where to start, very confusing. I solved the problem by contacting the author who graciously suggested I start with “Pelham Fell Here”, the real prequel to the other two books.

The story is actually an introduction to the main character Frank Johnson and his life after leaving the Army as a MP and how he was eventually lured into the crazy trade of private detectives. The peaceful town he knew and grew up in is no longer the way he remembers it and marital issues and life in general has left Frank with a major chip on his shoulders. On another note, excessive drinking and an obsession to get even with his ex-wife for leaving him leads to a growing urge to do something he will regret for the rest of his life.

The simple storyline takes place with Frank finding his cousin Cody, once his business partner shot dead in his gun shop in Western Virginia. Frank’s troubles take another turn for the worse when he learns his name is at the top of the list of prime suspects. In order to prove his innocence Frank goes on the lam and stays one step ahead of the law trying desperately to flush out the real killer before the authorities railroad him for a murder he did not commit. Matters take a turn for the worse when he learns a group of neo-Nazis might be behind everything. What the h… did his cousin get involved in?

At first I was totally disappointed with the choppy writing, the extremely slow pace and lackluster story. Luckily I persisted, things picked up and the story transformed itself into a rich, colourful, suspenseful narrative with many layers. The new found captivating pace held my attention to the very last page.

"The Far Side of the Sky", by Daniel Kalla

Mr. Daniel Kalla is best known for his medical thrillers, having read and enjoyed every one of his previous novels I can honestly say this latest addition has to be one of his best and is definitely a page-turner.

“The Far Side of the Sky” is more a love story than a suspense novel, it recounts the period of war torn Shanghai as seen through the eyes of two main characters- Dr. Franz Adler, a secular Austrian Jew and Soon Yi Mah, a native Eurasian nurse. Their lives are caught up in a whirlwind of events in a unique time and place. Although the protagonists are fictional, Mr. Kalla’s notes at the end of the novel indicate he wanted to stay as faithful as possible to the history, culture and geography of Second World War Shanghai. Some of the minor characters including the Nazis and Japanese officials are true historical figures. Mr. Kalla has chosen a very challenging period and engaged his imagination to highlight some events that are recorded in history. By doing so, he has painted a dramatic tale that transports the reader from Austria in the late 30’s to Shanghai early 40’s.

The fast moving plot is narrated in a clear and simple form and opens in Vienna, on Nov.9. 1938- Kristallnacht. Franz Adler, a once prominent surgeon, realizes life as he knew it is degrading fast, his brother has paid the price with his life and danger lurks at every corner. When a window to escape to Shanghai with his daughter and sister in law opens, he seizes the opportunity it may be their only hope for survival.

Once in Shanghai, we follow the lives of the two main characters: Franz and his struggle to get back into the medical field and a young half Chinese nurse, Soon Yi “Sunny” who is a brilliant young woman and a competent surgical nurse. Their working lives eventually cross at a refugee hospital and the chemistry between them blossoms.

I was totally captivated by this surreal tale and once again one of my favourite author’s has produced an outstanding novel.

"Kill Shot", by Vince Flynn

Book 12, in the Mitch Rapp series

This is yet another thriller that is very exciting and captivating in which the pages seem to turn themselves. This is the second novel “The American Assassin” was the first to revisit Mitch Rapp’s time in the CIA and his early years when he branched out on his own and became a drifter enforcing his own code of justice helping others who have been shorthanded by the legal system.

For months, Mitch has been avenging the death of his girlfriend in the Pan Am Lockerbie bombing. He has been steadily working his way through a list of people eliminating one by one those responsible for the slaughter of 270 innocent civilians. Mitch’s latest target is a Libyan diplomat currently staying in a posh hotel room in Paris. His plan is simple eliminate the man while he is asleep but all hell breaks loose when others kick open the door and catch him red handed and the hunter becomes the hunted fighting for his own survival.

French authorities are quickly put on high alert when they discover innocent people and a high ranking Oil Minister have been killed on their soil with the world watching.

With this unexpected nasty turn of events and fingers pointing at Mitch, he soon discovers there is a traitor behind the lines and the CIA quickly cuts any ties with him in an attempt to distance themselves from the botch mission. Out in the cold and not knowing who he can trust Mitch’s training goes into high gear. Alert and staying one step ahead becomes his only means of survival.

If you like thrillers that are fast moving with crisp writing and decent prose and plenty of intriguing characters, “Kill Shot” has it all. It is filled with captivating espionage and the best double dealing a spy world novel can deliver. Mr. Flynn has a knack of setting a scene and immersing his readers in the middle of the action while he expertly explains and dissects all the fast moving events around them.

I like this series, every one of the tales has given me many hours of reading pleasure.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

"Kaleidoscope", by Gail Bowen

Book 13, in the Joanne Kilbourn mystery series

From time to time I like to pick up one of the books in this series. I admit I have not been reading them in order, however I feel each one can be equally enjoyed on its own. With great skill of the pen, Ms. Bowen brings us up to date and gives another thread of Joanne’ life, her family and friends.

In this latest installment, the political science professor Joanne Kilbourn is looking forward to retirement and spending the summer with her husband Zack and young daughter at their cottage on Lawyer’s Bay. While at the cottage and just starting to sample retirement life she receives a call from a city detective to warn them they may be a target, someone has detonated a bomb in their garage destroying part of their city home.

They fear there may be a coincidence, the night before they had dinner with a very controversial individual Leland Hunter, a land developer and one of Jack’s biggest clients. Hunter’s model project to rejuvenate a slum area in the downtown core is creating many enemies. Blowing up the home of one of the prominent players in the project is just a taste of the tension that is building and a sample of how far the opponents will go.

The story keeps a leisurely tempo all through the drama and focusses mainly on community activism and family ties. I found the plot rather predictable and frustrating at times, we were sidetracked to often by Jo and Zack’s drinking and sex activities to a point where it became a boring sub-plot. I found the characters to be a bit bland and Joanne’s new role to be ho-hum in comparison to the role she played in the other mysteries and made for TV movies. Hopefully she will soon tire of her new life and get back to her old self…..the vibrant sleuth she has played in the past.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

"Black Skies", by Arnaldur Indridason

Book 8, in the Reykjavik Murder Mysteries

As in the previous installment “Outrage” we have detective Erlendur still missing in action and out of reach on an extended absence leaving all investigations in the expert hands of his trusted colleagues. In this drama, at the helm and taking center stage is Sigurdur Oli, a well-known figure that appeared numerous times in previous novels.

The story is set in 2005 when Iceland was in the middle of an economic boom and opens with Sigurdur attending a high school reunion. During the evening one of his old classmates approaches him with a problem that maybe he could discreetly help with: an influential friend is being blackmailed after he and his wife were unknowingly photographed at a swinger’s party. They desperately need help and don’t know who to turn to. Sigurdur agrees to look into the matter and after a preliminary investigation decides to pay the blackmailer a visit. To his surprise he finds the woman beaten to death in her apartment and wondering how he is going to explain to his superiors why he is on a murder site that doesn’t pertain to an open case. Fortunately he is assigned the case and his strongest lead takes him to the banking world that is now being fuelled by greed during the economic boom. Sigurdur quickly finds himself up to his neck in a world of high finances, money laundering and market manipulation where knowing too much can sometimes get you killed.

In a spin off plot Sigurdur is saddled with another case. A middle- aged alcoholic finally cracks under the burden of childhood memories and decides to take revenge against his step father who made growing up hell on earth.

The story is written with some witty humour and keen comments and has a cast of great characters each with their own personality. It gets off to a slow beginning while it skillfully and diplomatically creates the atmosphere of the different threads building into a suspenseful and satisfying mystery. The story also has an interesting view into how the force handles greed, depravity and murder.

“Black Skies” is a great addition to a terrific series.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

"Crystal White", by David DeLee

Reading “Crystal White” was a pleasant introduction to this author’s repertoire. I accidently stumbled on a promotion some time ago and I thank the author for providing a highly captivating story that entertained me for hours. Needless to say Mr. DeLee has won my heart and I will definitely read more of his work in future.

The reader is thrust into the plot right from the start as we shadow Special Agent Nick Lafferty leading a task force on a dangerous drug raid. With a mix of technical jargon in the narrative we follow his team as they try to bring down the notorious drug lord kingpin, Ruben Nazario. 

During the final stage of the raid Nick gets a call from his wife, he agrees to call her back when he has a free moment. Nick’s wife and daughter are waiting for him on his boat in San Diego harbor and when he calls back he unknowingly triggers a device instantly killing his wife and child. 

It doesn't take long for Nick to realise it was a set up and his emotions take control of him leaving the force with no alternative but to give Nick time to grief and get his life back on track. However while on compassion leave his only focus is on avenging his loss at any cost. 

To compound his grief, Nick is called back to his roots in New York to settle his father’s estate. There he reconnects with a former partner Del Harley and learns Ruben Nazario’s drug “Crystal White” has spread to the east coast. They agree to pool their efforts and we are reeled back into another exciting hunt with no shortage of action and excitement. 

“Crystal White” is a well-written novel that provides a captivating adventure into the crime detective world. The characters are down to earth and quite credible. The plotting is well paced with enough down time to savour the intimate moments and get ready for the next element of surprise. The suspense was quite satisfying and kept me guessing till the very last page.

"Triple Crossing", by Sebastian Rotella

This novel tells the story about the pursuit of justice by law enforcement on both sides of the U.S. and the Mexican border. It explores and dramatizes the violence and corruption in the drug trade and the human smuggling while at the same time honoring the honest Border Patrol agents on both sides who resist the cartels and often pay a heavy price. 

This fast paced thriller has two heroes: working the trenches between San Diego and Tijuana is Valentine Pascatore, a no-nonsense Border Patrol agent of Mexican and Argentine descent. On the side is Leo Mendez, a reformist chief of an elite Mexican police unit known as the Diogenes Group. Most of the narrative alternates between these two protagonists, sometimes it is very tedious and a challenge to follow, some knowledge of Spanish would definitely have been an asset.

Pascatore takes great pride in his position as a border agent, a real pit-bull on the job with of soft side slipping at times as few dollars to illegals to tie them over till they are returned home. His aggressiveness attracts the attention of Isabel Puente, an agent with the U.S. Inspector General’s Office who wants to utilize him as an undercover agent to infiltrate the most powerful Mexican crime syndicate. Pascatore accepts the challenge and things goes well at first till one day a disastrous incident puts him on the run. Wrongly accused of murdering a police officer and not wanting to blow his cover he carries on with his assignment in the Triple Border area of South America, a no man’s land where any wrong move could be fatal.

The plot is intense with plenty of suspense and action while it follows the hair-raising life of a double agent trying to walk the fine line between good and evil. The emotions expressed by the main characters and the secondary ones are quite credible. Although the narrative passages are highly dynamic the fine details I was missing became overwhelming at times and maintaining focus was a challenge

"The Drop", by Michael Connelly

Book 15, in the Harry Bosch series

The novel opens with the aging Harry Bosch three years away from mandatory retirement working full time in the cold case squad with a new partner David Chu. In this latest installment Mr. Connelly has his protagonist eventually working two simultaneous investigations. The first, a cold case sex murder that lead to the discovery of a killer who operated in the city for three decades. The second is a politically charged investigation into the death of city councilman Irvin Irving’s son. Harry’s inquiries bring him back to a darker side of the police department when he and the councilman did not always see eye to eye. 

Mr. Connelly’s prolific mind provides each novel with fresh and entertaining plots, a feat he has managed for decades. His characters have aged with the times and taken on all of the appropriate age related attributes. As Harry nears sixty and fears retirement, we see how he handles cases with more determination and stubbornness… it must be the hormones….Mr. Connelly’s approach to a good mystery is to develop the first plot, gradually introduce the characters and just when things are about to explode he brings in a second plot to magnify and prologue the suspense. Even with the many twists and surprises that are somewhat predictable the drama is engaging and captivating till the very end. 

This series is one of my favourites and I often wonder what Mr. Connelly has up his sleeve for the future.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

"Highball Exit", by Phyllis Smallman

Book 5, in the Sherri Travis mystery series

Ms. Smallman definitely has oodles of ideas to keep her series vibrant and entertaining. You would think that after 5 novels her bartender protagonist, Sherri Travis, would learn she has enough trouble of her own and not get involved in the madness around her, but some people are just not cut out that way…..

The inspiration behind this wonderful series is taken from the numerous headlines we witness in the news, in my opinion, the author is not about to run out of ideas. Local wildlife and weather conditions such as alligators and hurricanes always play an important part in spicing up the action and of course there is always a light touch of romance to titillate the reader’s imagination.

In this saga Sherri is behind on her mortgage and about to lose the Sunset Bar & Grill, her home and source of revenue. To the rescue comes Aunt Kay with a proposition: she is willing to compensate Sherri for help in an investigation as to what really happened to Holly Mitchell and her daughter Angel. Aunt Kay was very fond of Holly and played an important part in her upbringing. They always kept in touch and when Holly was found dead and her baby girl missing, Aunt Kay was devastated. To Sherri this seems like easy money till one day she finds herself over her head in a world of drugs and hard core prostitution.

I have always been partial to the style of writing in this series: it is sharp, funny and the plot keeps a steady pace with plenty of suspenseful moments throughout. “Highball Exit” is a bit more violent than the previous novels however the gruesome details have not been sensationalised.  I love the new addition to the cast. Aunt Kay is a bubbly old lady with a colourful side (shocking pink outfit and all) but don’t let that fool you. In my view she really was the star in this novel and I hope to see her back someday.  Sherri’s beau is still making promises and we are left wondering if he is going to finally settle down and make Sherri’s life a little bit easier. 

"The Jefferson Key", by Steve Berry

Book 7, in the Cotton Malone series

Fans of this series will notice that this latest installment is a departure from the six previous Cotton Malone adventures. In this novel the author brings the action to the North American eastern coast all the way up to Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia Canada. As always he has written an entertaining action –packed fiction that incorporates some historical facts along the way.

“The Jefferson Key” is developed around a connection between pirates and privateers and the main thread has an exciting opening with the bold assassination attempt made against U.S. President Danny Daniels in the heart of Manhattan.

Now with a grave threat against the very foundation of the country, Malone risks his life only to find himself at odds with the Commonwealth, a centuries-old society of privateers, who have operated with impunity since the Revolutionary War. Thrust into the middle of their operations, Malone and his sometime love interest, Cassiopea need to unearth a centuries-old document (The Letter of Marque) and terminate the Commonwealth’s privileges at any cost.

Meanwhile during a subsequent investigation, Stephanie Nelle, Malone’s boss at the “The Magillan Billet” disappears while exploring a link tying Andrea Corbonell, the head of the Intelligence Agency to the recent events. Malone and Cassiopea suddenly find themselves tasked with another important mission: find Stephanie and track down the person who betrayed the president.

This story has a convoluted plot with many characters to keep track of. It is filled with mystery, intrigue and plenty of action throughout. I have always had a soft spot for mystery novels based on some historical content and Mr. Berry blends the two admirably.    

Saturday, November 3, 2012

"Signs of War", by Gerard de Marigny

Book 2 in the Cris de Niro series

Cris de Niro, the protagonist, realises his greatest challenge after a tragic incident is to find the will to go on and to make the decisions that will not only change the course of his life but also those around him. After years protecting Americans from enemies at home and abroad, Cris is starting to have second thoughts about his mandate to do so at any cost. At the end of “The Watchman of Ephraim” (book 1) we witnessed some of Cris’s close colleagues sacrificing their lives in order to save the city of Las Vegas, a price that has taken a heavy toll on Cris’s conscience. “Signs of War” picks up at the funeral of one of these men and this political thriller follows in the same tradition as the 1st with nonstop action cover to cover.

This time we follow Cris and his team from the “Watchman Agency” on three fronts:

1st dealing with Somali pirates
2nd addressing an imminent threat from an Iranian/Venezuelan alliance
3rd attacking head on the infiltration of a Mexican drug cartel into a border Native reservation.

Mr. de Marigny definitely knows how to put together an action packed thriller. This time he has outdone himself with complex multiple plotting that comes to life and incorporates all the technical jargon you can imagine, to some this may be a plus to others an overload of info. I was completely caught up in the web of suspense as I eagerly flipped through the pages, at times my attention span was put to the test with the abundance of the fast moving details. It is easy to relate to each character, they are patriotic and very devoted to their cause. Being a woman I was a little disappointed that Cris’s romantic side was not exploited further. Oh well maybe the sequel will address that side of him.

To sum things up, this is an interesting story that is quite captivating and very exciting. On the negative side, I found the repetitiveness of the reports passed between levels of management and the in-depth description of weapons somewhat overdone

"The Affair", by Lee Child

Book 16, in the Jack Reacher series

“The Affair” is effectively a step back in time to 1997, the single most crucial point in Reacher’s life, when he gave up his structured career as a military cop and decided to become a drifter with skills to offer. In this undercover adventure, he lets his hair grown long, lets his beard grow and adopts a minimalist way to travel. This eventually sets the stage for his new life.

The plot is uncomplicated and exciting, it sends Reacher to Mississippi, where he will impersonate a care free traveller in order to ferret out those responsible for a secret American military mission in Kosovo that was totally botched and covered up by those involved.

While in Carter Crossing, a small town near the military base, Reacher makes friends with the local sheriff, Elizabeth Deveraux and subsequently gets drawn into another mystery hence a sub-plot comes to life. Elizabeth’s concern about the killings of several beautiful young women and the gruesome manner in which they were left to die piqued Reacher’s interest, he felt he could be of assistance and could not resist getting involved even though he had a full plate with his primary mission.

The author skillfully sets the atmosphere with strategically placed crisp strokes of the pen and the dialogue contains just enough slang to fit the scenes. There is no shortage of action, some very gruesome but each case is handled with tack without slowing the momentum. Our intrepid protagonist is definitely in full, over-the-top form, I like the testosterone driven anatomy comments that add a touch of humour while Reacher faces down two red neck tough guys in a pickup truck. The description of Reacher’s amorous side is also a hoot…. I couldn’t help but laugh at times …..

I am a fan of this series and can’t wait to see what will come next.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

"The Informant", by Thomas Perry

Book 3, in the Butcher’s Boy series

Although I haven’t read the first 2 novels it didn't take me long to catch up and be captivated and totally absorbed in the excitement of this fast paced thriller. This series was first conceived in 1982 and has taking until now for the 3rd installment. One would think with such a large time span it would be hard to get into the swing of things, however, the author has added just enough details to bring us up to speed and set the stage for his protagonist, retired Michael Schaeffer. When he was younger Michael was employed by the Mafia and was eventually known in many circles as the Butcher’s Boy, an inner circle hit man. Inevitably, knowing too much he became a liability, realising his days were numbered he assumed a new identity and escaped the clutches of the Underworld just in time.

The story opens with Michael in his 50’s and 20 years into his new identity, living a quiet life with his wife in the U.K. One day his life takes a drastic change when he learns Frank Tosca, a ruthless underworld boss, has discovered his whereabouts and sent two of his assassins to fulfill a long standing contract on his life. With his new life as a family man threatened, Michael’s instincts for survival that were highly tuned while he was part of the underworld quickly kick in. He decides to confront his situation by attacking the man at the head, first he has to get up to speed on the current hierarchy and to do this he contacts Elizabeth Waring of the Justice Dep’t organized crime section. Elizabeth has known of his existence for over 20 years and realises helping him could be the catalyst to a new assault on organized crime….. The hunt is on in both the U.S. and Canada with Michael often barely escaping with his life.

This thriller is absolutely riveting from start to finish. The gamesmanship is breathless and the nonstop suspense starts the moment Michael becomes both prey and predator. The plotting is well-paced, complex and always exciting with a multitude of fascinating characters.

To sum things up, it is obvious I enjoyed this story immensely.

"Killed at the Whim of a Hat", by Colin Cotterill

Book 1 in the Jimm Juree series

This delightful first entry into a new series is set in southern Thailand and focuses on Jimm Juree, an eccentric 34 year old woman, who desperately wants to become a senior crime reporter. In a public oration course in college, Jimm has studied the speaking style of President George W. Bush and all through the mystery the author strategically quotes some of the President’s slips and gaffes to add a touch of humour to the story.

Jimms first big break comes at the start of the story when a van containing the skeletal remains of two hippies, one wearing a hat, is discovered buried in a local farmer’s field. While on the scene recording the events, a second scoop comes her way. She learns an abbot at a local monastery looking into the sexual activities of monks and nuns has been found stabbed to death. Jimm is an aggressive but careful investigative reporter driven by passion for her profession and eager to prove herself by taking on both cases. She realises this could make or break her career and if all goes well could thrust her into the limelight of national papers.

The highlight of the story is the playful narrative that explores the Thai sexual openness, the ethnic tensions and the devious politics. This novel is compassionate, funny and dark. What I liked the best is the author’s humour and his wacky characters. On a minor note, I found the strong characterisation had the tendency to override the plotting at times and the pacing bogged down and wandered a little too much for my liking. "Killed at the Whim of a Hat" is essentially an introduction to a new protagonist, her family and friends.

From what I see so far I can honestly say I am looking forward to the future development of this series. Things are definitely off to a good start for Jimm Juree.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

"A Good Day to Die", by Simon Kernick

This captivating and complex suspense story brings us back to the ongoing saga of disgraced ex-police inspector Dennis Milne. We were first introduced to Dennis in “The Business of Dying” and I suggest reading this novel first in order to understand why this intrepid protagonist ended up on the run as much from the police as from criminals. In this second installment, Dennis is now surrounded by low-life hoodlums, underworld overlords and corrupt upper figures of society.

Since our last encounter with Dennis he has had plastic surgery and moved to the Philippines and is known by locals as Mick Kane. He is now earning a living in the diving-supply trade with a former informant Tomboy Drake and moonlights for extra cash by working part-time as a hit man for London criminal Les Pope, an underworld contact of Drake’s.

With Dennis’s need to survive he has crossed over to the other side where morality is left behind and the use and abuse of power has become his new M.O. In this story Dennis reluctantly agrees to carry out a local hit on a major criminal and, in doing so, he stumbles upon a clue that could help solve the recent murder of his old friend and colleague, Asif Malik, back in London. As a wanted man Dennis is put in a very tough predicament however he still decides to risk everything by returning home to find out who ordered Malik’s death and why.

I like the way M. Kernick had developed his protagonist Dennis. All through the story I found myself sympathizing and wondering whether he is good guy at heart who has been dealt a bad hand and will his luck change. The plot is action packed, fast-paced with plenty of hair raising twists. At times the action is a little far-fetched with the characters surviving impossible situations however it spices up an immensely entertaining read.

"Beastly Things", by Donna Leon

Book 21 in the Commissario Brunetti series

The appeal in this series has been the leisurely approach Commissiario Brunnetti has in solving crimes, it was refreshing to see him pick up the pace and exert himself with a lot more hands on action this time. The structure has not change a whole lot, we still experience Venice through the eyes of Brunetti and of course his wonderful family and their customs always play an important part in the staging of the mystery. This novel explores the dark side of Italy’s meat industry and covers the widespread corruption that drives it.

The mystery opens when a body of a man is discovered in a canal without any usual source of identification on him. It is his distinct medical condition that enables Brunetti and his team to eventually identify him. He is a veterinarian, separated from his wife and known to moonlight at times at a slaughterhouse. With the help of the devious Signorina Elettra, a hardened hacker, the team finds themselves slowly infiltrating the world of veterinarians and abattoirs. They soon realize there is an organised criminal side driven by human greed that may have something to do with the murder.

After reading this novel you may think twice about the food you eat and may even turn you into a vegetarian. As a counterbalance, the author adds her usual colour to the story by describing Brunetti’s leisurely lunches prepared for him by his lovely wife, pastries and pasta seems to be an Italian favourite. Ms. Leon’s characters are well developed and very believable and her plot doesn't shy away from dealing with social issues. The story is atmospheric and develops into a complex intertwining of relationships, betrayal and corrupt practices. I enjoyed the guesswork including the gruesome descriptions that came across in some of the chapters.

This is another captivating tale with Italy as a backdrop, the author’s speciality.

"Kingdom of Strangers" by Zoë Ferraris

Book 3, in the Katya Hijazi series

This is another unusual and intricate mystery giving us an insider’s view into the customs of Saudi inhabitants. It delves into the heart and lives of women in one of the most mysterious and closed societies of the world. Ms. Ferraris has created a winning combination and has given us a nail- biting and straightforward criminal investigation saga. Book 3 is part of a series featuring Saudi forensic technician Katya Hijazi, however, it can be equally enjoyed as a standalone fiction.

“Kingdom of Strangers” revolves around human trafficking and the brutal treatment of some migrant workers who are brought in from the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Indonesia to perform tasks the Saudis are reluctant to do.

It opens with the discovery of 19 female bodies in the desert outside Jeddah their hands have all been severed to make a strong point and make them even harder to identify. Lt. Col. Insp. Ibrahim Zahrani is assigned as the lead investigator to unravel this mystery. This is a case with such a magnitude it can make or break a person’s career.

In a sub-plot, Ibrahim is distracted by a mystery close to home, his mistress Sabria, also a former undercover operative has suddenly disappeared. As a respected Saudi resident he cannot show his feelings or his concerns without attracting attention to their relationship. His only hope is to enlist the help of Katya Hijazi, a trusted colleague, who thrives on dealing in the shadows of the Saudi justice system. She is not afraid to extend her boundaries of responsibility and risk sanctions in order to get answers. All through the story she navigates the fine line of disobedience and compliance while working on both of Ibrahim’s investigations.

The strong characterisation is the driving force behind this well written and entertaining plot. I always had a sweet spot for mysteries that are set in different parts of the world and created around customs that I am not familiar with. Ms. Ferraris is a remarkable storyteller and one of my favourite authors. This is an exotic mystery well worth reading.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

"Faithful Place", by Tana French

Book 3, in the Dublin Murder Squad series

This third installment is an elaborately twisted saga of class resentments, family burdens, regret and passion. The story alternates between 1980’s Ireland and the present day and is told in the wry, bitter and plain voice of Dublin police detective Frank Mackey as he describes the people and the depressed neighborhood he was raised in. “Faithful Place” is a journey, a psychological escape into the intense feelings of the protagonist’s youth and the constant undermining of his self-esteem by his family.

At an early age Frank planned to flee his small Irish hometown with his sweetheart Rosie, however she never turned up at the agreed rendezvous point. With his mind made up he left without her, he assumed she had cold feet or her parents had gotten wind and prevented her from following him. We fast-forward twenty years to when Frank learns Rosie’s decayed body has been discovered under mysterious conditions. Determined to get to the root the situation, Frank heads home and quickly becomes involved in the case. The bulk of the novel, beyond the question of who killed Rosie, revolves around the Mackey family and their complex relationships.

This novel is a long 400 pages, the melodramatic story of the families is over worked and blends poorly with the plotting of the mystery. “Faithful Place” is one of those books you love or hate, I am leaning towards the latter. Looking back I found the drama uneventful and unconvincing and this overshadowed all of the good points the novel possessed.

I enjoyed the first installment of this series; however I have been somewhat disappointed ever since.

Monday, September 24, 2012

"Siege", by Simon Kernick

This is not my first novel by this author and once again I was not disappointed. The fast paced, action packed, tight plotting provided a high-speed thrill ride with all its ups and downs, engaging to the very last page. The storyline played my mind like a white-knuckled action film with ruthless violence executed by rogue ex-military specialists. The scenario in “Siege” was inspired by the brutal Mumbai attacks in 2008 when terrorists stormed predetermined strategic locations, indiscriminately slaughtering anyone in their path leaving behind a trail of destruction in order to shock the world.

The author leads by introducing a fascinating list of characters and their credentials before getting to the meat of the action, a 24 hour period when all hell erupts into a day to remember. The intense drama starts with the brutal killing of a young maid who innocently opens the door to her master’s domain. Simultaneous attacks are launched at railway stations and shopping centers in an effort to divert attention from the main target the prestigious fictional Stanhope Hotel in central London. The terrorists’ goal is to shock and intimidate the rest of the world by holding hotel guests and staff as hostages and threaten to murder them one by one if their demands are not met. The captors strongly underestimate their victims will to live and the ensuing mayhem is a real adrenalin rush. The author adds colour to the drama by entering into the psyche and the past history of each character involved. As time progresses and darkness falls, the gunmen become increasingly violent and the captors more and more determined to increase their chance of survival.

In one of the sub-plots, we see how Arley Dale multi tasks as head detective overseeing the police operation at the hotel and how she handles a personal crisis that arises when she learns her family is one of the terrorists’ distractive measures.

This is another exciting thriller that gave me many hours of reading pleasure.

"The Calling", by Inger Ash Wolfe

Book 1 in the Hazel Micallef Mystery

This debut crime-fiction novel released in 2008 is a dark and haunting mystery heavy with suspense, a terrific cat and mouse game following officials hot on the trail of a serial killer.

The story has a clever and devious plot that delivers both psychological depth and emotional heights. It has a gruesome beginning, the body of an elderly woman stricken with cancer is found brutally murdered and drained of all her blood. When the detectives arrive they witness a scene that would be a great opening for any horror movie. Their preliminary instincts are: could this be a desperate assisted suicide or an outright sadistic slaughter?

The 61 year old Hazel Micallef, the protagonist, is the Acting Chief inspector of Dundans, Ontario. Viewing this macabre murder scene is a first for Hazel, since her early days as a police officer she has dealt with drunks, trespassers and occasional domestic disturbances, typical small town issues. The investigation takes another spin when a few days later a man is killed in Chamberlain, a small town some kilometers east. The two cases raise alarm bells for Hazel and her team when they find strong similarities with murders in other jurisdictions. One theory quickly comes to the forefront Canada has a serial killer for hire specializing in the terminally ill and preying on people desperate to end their suffering. As they unravel the mystery the pace accelerates to a wrenching powerful conclusion.

This novel is a great addition to the serial killer genre, a thought provoking and well-written mystery with unique and compelling characters surrounded by a believable and well-drawn supporting cast. Some may find the police tactics somewhat over the top and full of technical errors however this fictional story skilfully brings to life the contrasts between rural and urban policing. The author’s imagination and originality go a long way in making the suspense a captivating time between the pages.

This is another series that has piqued my interest and is on my TBR list.

Friday, September 7, 2012

"This Body of Death", by Elizabeth George

Book 16, in the Inspector Lynley series

This is another long-winded story, a multilayered puzzle that is skillfully structured to include many engaging details. This book is a marvellous read and once started very difficult to put down. The hard cover edition is just shy of 700 pages and is typed in a small font, daunting at first glance but never overpowering. I always enjoyed the way Ms. George’s puts her thoughts in writing, they go a long way in creating the atmosphere needed in a good mystery.

This is another police story with terrific plotting. The suspense gradually builds and shifts into high gear with the discovery of Jemima Hasting’s brutal murder in a London Cemetery. Acting Superintendent Isabelle Ardery summons Detective Inspector Lynley back to London to help her spearhead the investigation. New to the team she quickly learns this is no ordinary group, they are faithful to Lynley, have developed their own style over the years and have a hard time readjusting to a new leader…..

In a parallel thread in a form of a social worker’s report we learn the story of a former child killer. It has many similarities with the kidnapping and murder of a young boy in England many years ago. At first I wondered where all this was leading but eventually everything tied in to the main threat at the end.

The usual characters reappear: Havers and Nkata, the unflappable Dorothy and the Assistant Commissioner, more or less the whole team even Havers lovely neighbors have a role in this mystery. Many pages are added to the suspense by Ms. George’s detailed coverage of the day to day life of her cast. Adding a new player to her roster was a sly move by Ms. George the not so likable Isabelle Ardery enters like a pit-bull changing the dynamics and the direction of everything in this series. The move was a refreshing game changer and it will be interesting to see how this will play out in the future.

This novel is vintage George at her best.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

"Arranged", by Catherine McKenzie

“Arranged” is a romantic and delightful story crafted with subtle humour, a fairy tale whose premise explores the process involved if a third party could help find the perfect match. We follow the experiences and results of one such person as she sets the stage for the rest of her life.

After a string of failed relationships, Anne Blythe is slowly giving up hope in finding a person she can comfortably share the rest of her life with. One day she finds a business card advertising what seems to be a dating service however she soon discovers the company’s expertise is geared towards providing arranged marriages. Discouraged with the results of dating up till now she gives the company a call, it is a pricey service but they have an impressive success rate. Wanting what others seem to have and with her biologic clock ticking she takes a chance and gives it a try. A few months after signing the contract she meets and marries Jack Hammer, a fellow writer and the perfect match…….but will he turn out to be her soul mate?.....

I am not a great fan of this type of novel I find them too mushy but I will make an exception with this one. Curiosity got the best of me, I was hooked when Anne made contact with the agency and was highly captivated by her journey to obtain love and marriage. The plot is sweet, has good dialogue, excellent characterisation and page-turning scenes. The author has made this far-fetched idea plausible and entertaining and has delivered it in a fun and at times in a hilarious fashion.

If you are into women’s fiction and partial to love stories, be warned you will most likely have a hard time putting this one down.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

"Lady of the English", by Elizabeth Chadwick

Set in medieval England, Normandy and Anjou, the novel tells the story of Empress Maltida, daughter of King Henry 1, who married at the age of 12 Henry V, Emperor of Germany. She left the German court after his death and at age 23 returned home only to be forced to marry young Geoffrey, Count of Anjou. Her father had hoped the couple would produce a male heir to continue his dynasty. When her father died Matilda claimed the throne but his barons elected her male cousin Stephen to take the crown instead. Their rivalry led to years of unrest and civil war.

A good part of the story is dedicated to Maltilda’s stepmother, Adeliza of Louvain, who was the same age, a good friend and ally. She was an important asset in the struggle Matilda had to attain her goals.

The author’s imaginative and colourful writing brings to life the medieval period and it is evident she has meticulously researched and done her best to accurately portray the major events. The interpretation of the characters and their relationships is not only both captivating and fascinating but also refreshing. She includes sufficient details of the daily life and the hardships of war to give the story texture and complexity. The narration is modern and down to earth and I was from the start deeply immersed into the lives and politics of the times. At the end of the novel the author’s notes differentiate the facts from speculation.

This is another part of history made interesting by a talented author.

Friday, August 17, 2012

"10th Anniversary", by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro

Book 10, in the Women’s Murder Club series

This is the typical James Patterson style: short chapters, fast-paced and an uncomplicated storyline with loveable and well-known characters. Everyone must be familiar with the Women’s Murder Club by now and thank goodness Mr. Patterson spares us the details in each member’s past just to make up pages.

As always in this series the unrelenting friendship of the four women and the support they offer each other through thick and thin plays a very important part in creating the atmosphere. This latest installment has three overlaying themes entertaining us with a combination of mystery, romance and suspense.

In the opening chapters Detective Lindsay finally ties the knot with her long time love, freelancer Joe Molinari, but the honeymoon is short lived. A work assignment involving a missing baby who seems to be part of a child trafficking scheme soon occupies her full attention. To complicate matters, the teen mother continually tries to derail the investigation by lying and concealing the truth.

Assistant District Attorney, Yuki, also has her hands full with a high profile case with many levels of intrigue, a case she must win at any cost.  The romantic side of her life adds a little spice to the story she is now dating Lindsay’s boss, I wonder how this is going to fly, will there be friction…..

Reporter Cindy while on assignment for her newspaper investigating a series of assaults also finds herself in hot water. While digging up the details she gets too close to the heart of the matter and also becomes a target of the serial rapist. Her relationship with Lindsay’s partner is still as strong as ever and sure to be milked in further installments.

Medical Examiner, Claire, has her hands full with her newborn and in this mystery she plays a very small part but I am sure she will be back in tip top shape soon.

If you follow the exploits of the girls I think you will enjoy this one. I consider Mr. Patterson’s style as mystery light, a soft read and a change in pace from hard core mysteries. 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

"Grave Secrets", by Kathy Reichs

Book #5 in the Temperance Brenna series

I have been following this series for a very long time and for one reason or another I missed “Grave Secrets” the library had it so I seized the opportunity.

This story takes us from the familiar American and Canadian locations to a village in Guatemala. Between 1962 and 1996 during the country’s civil war, a bloody massacre occurred and thousands of souls lost their lives. The story echoes Ms. Reichs’ real life experience when she was asked to be part of an international team of forensic experts to excavate a mass grave site, identify the victims and determine how they died. Temperance Brennan plays the fictional role and will soon learn first-hand what a depressing assignment it will turn out to be, politics sometimes trumps justice.

We get to the heart of the story and the action picks up momentum when Tempe is pulled from the mass burial site to investigate other remains. The gravity of the situation is amplified when it is learned that many young girls are missing and Tempe quickly suspects there could be a serial killer on the loose and may even have ties to a respected Canadian ambassador. Tempe under pressure from Canadian authorities is encouraged to treat the disappearance of the young girls from Guatemala City as her new priority.

Teaming up with Special Crimes Investigator Bartolomé Galiano and Montreal detective Andrew Ryan, the trio find themselves in the hot seat facing a deadly adversary where power, money, and greed are pitted against the best in police technology.

After reading many novels I have come to expect lots of technical details about forensics and its related fields, this time I found myself saturated to a point I needed to skim through some. Nevertheless the plotting is quite crafty and the story very interesting although I did find the narration to have a backroom style peppered with many old clichés. The main characters are well rounded, likeable and realistic and as a diversion, Ms. Reichs added a juicy and funny love triangle and a series of red herrings to entertain us.

All this said and done, this chilling mystery may not have been my favourite, however I did enjoy it.

"Prague Fatale", by Philip Kerr

8th book in the Bernie Gunther series

“Prague Fatale” is as absorbing as its other companions in the series. The previous novels covered a varied time period right up to the 1950’s and were staged in many countries including South America, Cuba and the US. This time we start off in 1941 deep into WW11 action with Bernie now under the command of Reinhard Heydrich, Reichsprotector of Bohemia.

After leaving the horrors of the Eastern Front the smart-mouthed, cynical and stubborn Bernie Gunther returns to Berlin to regain his old position at Kripo. The RAF is targeting his beloved city nightly: the blackouts, the destruction and food rationing are playing havoc with day to day life. Bernie’s first case is to investigate the suspicious violent death of a Dutch railway worker. There is always an intriguing sub-plot Bernie is a master at multitasking hence he also finds himself in the middle of a rape attempt. Wouldn’t you know it! The victim Arianne is a real beauty and she soon has Bernie under her spell. She turns out to be more trouble than our protagonist suspects…..

When Reinhard Heydrich orders him to spend the weekend at his country house with senor SS and SD figures Bernie puts everything on hold and goes with Arianne to Prague. Things get hectic when one of Heydrich’s aides-de-camp is found murdered in his locked room. Bernie is ordered to investigate and his no nonsense, no bull style quickly raises the ire of the Nazi brass. Trouble should have been Bernie’s middle name. Most of the action takes place at Heydrich’s estate, in Arianne’s hotel room and in the terrifying police HQ in Prague.

Prague Fatale” is a fast paced tale with an endlessly explosive atmosphere, an excellent and captivating novel. Like the others it is written in a sarcastic style with a twist of dark humour, Bernie is always portrayed as a deeply flawed but sympathetic protagonist. His first person narration goes a long way in creating the ambience of the time. All the supporting characters are equally well developed and play an intricate part in the story.

This novel is a wonderful blend of fact and fiction that can be enjoyed as a standalone or in sequel to the others.

"The Lock Artist", by Steve Hamilton

This interesting and intriguing story won the Edgar Award for best Novel in 2011. Michael, the protagonist, who has been incarcerated for nine years ever since the age of 18, recounts his unique life experience from his prison cell.

In the very beginning we learn Michael suffered a tragic event in his childhood the loss of both his parents in a horrific car accident. Ever since that day, his bachelor uncle who runs a liquor store took on the responsibility to raise him. From a very early age, he was fascinated with locks and how they were engineered. With this knowledge he eventually developed a rare skill and was on his way to being a safe cracking whiz. This talent soon attracted the attention of the wrong people who were more than willing to take advantage of him.

During Michael’s criminal endeavours we follow an intriguing relationship with Amelia and her family. After a break-in at their house, ensuing consequences eventually developed into a fling between two adolescents.

The story is well paced it switches back and forth between Michael’s life of crime as a young adult and his adolescence, every once and awhile we are even taken back to his early childhood. The language is extremely simple with short sentences very age appropriate for the period covered. Although the structure seems complicated at first with all the flashbacks I quickly got into the rhythm as the suspense built. This novel is full of surprises and quite entertaining however my interest did wane when things became too technical and somewhat repetitive. The main character is original, charismatic and deeply layered the rest run the gamut of personalities some are even quite memorable.

Many will find this novel somewhat original and a refreshing change as I did.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

"Spies of the Balkans", by Alan Furst

This historical espionage novel takes us to Salonika in 1940 just as Mussolini decided to invade Greece. It tells the story of Constantine Zannis, a Greek police officer known as Costa who joined the anti-Nazi underground movement during the winter of 1940-41 and became the tail end of an operation to ship Jews out of central Europe into Turkey where they would hopefully be safe from the Nazi regime.

Written in tightly packed sentences , the story focuses on how Costa whose desire to do the right thing takes him into unorthodox corners and how he uses clever methods to get out of one harrowing situation after another. It opens with Costa organizing and running a refugee network, one that starts in Berlin and funnels German Jews through the port of Salonika to safer havens. When the British Secret Intelligence Service gets wind of this, they want to use his network to smuggle a downed British airman, who also happens to be an important scientist, out of occupied France. The action then moves from Salonika to Paris and then to Belgrade.

The author has created a very credible wartime atmosphere and has treated us to a wealth of details into the hardship and despair suffered by the Jewish population and how the Nazi regime decimated them. There is much going on in this complex and intriguing story about a group who tried to save as many lives as possible. The suspense is palatable when we read how Costa and his organisers planned one particular escape route. We live the horrors the Jewish couple went through crossing many European borders with the hope of reaching a safer country. The characters are compelling and deeply caring individuals. Through all this hardship there is even a touch of romance giving us some sultry and amusing moments.

This novel is a fine mix of war time espionage, historical fiction, local colour and sexual mischief.

"Seal Team Six", by Howard E. Wasdin and Stephen Templin

Memoirs of an Elite Navy Seal Sniper

This book gives us a sense of the dedication, the work ethic and the extraordinary skills required to become a Seal Team member, it also highlights the constant struggle to remain an intricate part of an Elite group.

It starts with Mr. Wasdin story on how he grew up to become the top sniper in the military's most elite and respected group. His father was a disciplinarian who was especially hard on him and demanded perfection. This tough sometime cruel upbringing laid the ground work for the extreme tests the rest of his life had in store for him.

In his military training he describes the grueling selection process, Hell Week, boot camp and later on Sniper School where he was thought that the more you train, the less chance you will bleed in war. All through the pages he often describes his childhood memories and the lessons he has learned. In retrospect he has become a well discipline perfectionist who embraces his vocation extremely seriously.

As a Team Six member he took part in Operation Desert Strom and on another mission the team took on a rebellious and out of control village, their objective was to capture or kill Somalia warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid. It is during this mission we learn how important intense training can affect results. When taken by surprise they still preformed a heroic rescue of downed pilots even though some including Mr. Wasdin received life threatening wounds. He was later awarded the Silver Star for his actions.

Skilled surgeons saved his leg and with extensive rehabilitation he returned to active duty but it soon became clear to him his performance was compromised so he eventually took medical retirement and went back to school to become a Chiropractic Doctor. 

This is an excit­ing book that kept my attention to the last page. Mr. Wasdin tells his memoirs with a deeply poignant perspective and an honest point of view from his painful troubled childhood, his demanding career in the navy right up to his present day life as a Doctor. I read this book after watching TV programs relating to Seal Team training and exploits, the background helped me visualise and understand the black and white text in a more intense manner.

I was pumped reading the words of Mr. Wasdin and I can only imagine what it is like for these Elite Groups: endless training and living life on the edge….

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

"Alpha", by Greg Rucka

This novel is a fantastic start to a new series, a lean and mean thriller featuring protagonist Jonathan “Jad” Bel, a former master sergeant in the U.S. Army’s Delta Force counterterrorism unit and now employed as a lead undercover security officer at an amusement park. Rumour has it terrorists with nuclear capability are plotting to target Wilsonville, a theme park in Southern California similar to Disneyland. 

The story is tight, the action is well written, fast paced and it all takes place in a single day. The author has created another impressing line of riveting and sympathetic action heroes and villains and in the first chapters he brings us up to speed on each one of their personalities, their skills and their objectives in life. 

The action kicks into high gear when a group of well-trained, highly motivated terrorists infiltrate the park and take as many hostages as possible including Jad’s family who happen to be in attendance. After sealing off all escape routes, they demand all terrorists be released from custody and if their objectives are not met they want the world to witness the power and hatred they have against fellow man. A bloodbath on global TV is sure to follow…..

When the fireworks start we see how Jad, with his military wits and intense training, plays with the minds of the terrorists and how he processes threat by threat. On the other side, the terrorists have a seemingly endless list of gruesome counter tactics; they are so well prepared they even have a sleeper agent, Gabriel feeding them with information. 

Mr. Rucka’s attention to details is as well developed as his imagination. The story is a little farfetched but cram packed with a lot of action that will please some but not all. The novel ends with Jad a hero on his way to recovery, ready to kick ass wherever he is needed.

"HHhH", by Laurent Binet

The title, an acronym, stands for the German phrase Himmlers Hirn heisst Heydrich (“Himmler’s brain is called Heydrich”) The book focuses on Operation Anthropoid, a mission run by Czech partisan fighters Jozef Gabcik and Jan Kubis in collaboration with the British to assassinate Heydrich. 

This highly original piece of work blurs the line between countless genres: historical fiction, thriller, biography, psychological and philosophical drama and memoir. The subject presents an emotional insight and an interesting view into events that actually took place. This is a very powerful story and all through the novel we live the author’s anguish and inner struggle he has presenting this gruesome period without dwelling on the gore of it all. France awarded him the prestigious prix Goncout du premier roman in 2010 for this masterpiece. 

Mr. Binet tells us the story of Reinhard Heydrich, "the butcher of Prague," the Nazi official who first devised the road map leading to the extermination of millions of Jewish citizens and anyone who got in the way of the Third Reich. There are many pages dedicated to Heydrich’s carefully planned career and his rise through the Nazi ranks. Then the novel goes on to tell us about two assassins who were sent on a mission to eliminate Heydrich by the head of the Czechoslovakian government who was in exile in London at the time. The author takes us through the planning and the execution of the mission in which the assassins where parachuted at night into the hot zone where they were aided by the local resistance networks. 

Mr. Binet carefully lays out the events, slowly builds up the tension and paints a vivid picture of what the characters see and how they handle the assassination attempt. The heat of the moment is turned up a notch when bullets and grenades start to fly and the two assassins eventually find themselves trapped in the basement crypt of a church with the Nazis swarming around trying to flush them out. 

This novel has an original style, composed of 257 very short chapters in which the author details his thoughts and his research into the events. The narrative is melancholic, engaging and the technique in which it is transmitted is simple, clever and thought provoking. The story is steady paced with plenty of peak moments that held my interest from cover to cover.

"Careless in Red", by Elizabeth George

Book 15, in Inspector Lynley series

After a disappointing read in “What came before He Shot Her” which centered around the life of Helen’s killer and left out our beloved protagonist , I was pleased to see his return in “Careless in Red”. 

The story picks up several weeks after Helen’s death. Lynley overwhelmed by the death of his wife and his unborn child begins a solo walking tour of the Cornish coast. After several weeks wondering and looking like a homeless bum he stumbles across a dead body who appears to have fallen off a cliff while rock-climbing. With no one else in sight he seeks help from Daidre Trahir, a solitary woman who owns a cottage nearby. 

As the story goes on, Lynley and Daidre develop a friendship, one born of mutual pain, tragedies they are both trying to put behind them. The pacing is very leisurely, with oodles of colourful pages describing the upcoming tourist season and the activities of a resort area including the personal side of a large cast of characters.

The story does pick up when we get into the nitty-gritty details of the rock-climber’s fate and Lynley’s involvement, his questions and theories raise alarm bells. Although Bea Hannaford is in charge of the investigation, she realises Scotland Yard has to be notified, guess who shows up, Barbara Havers, Lynley’s long-time colleague. The plotting does eventually burst to life with Lynley digging up old history and conducting interviews. All along Lynley struggles with his personal loss but he eventually realises Scotland Yard is his second love.

If you don’t mind Ms. George long winded style of writing you will probably enjoy this one. The plotting has many red herrings to stretch the suspense and keep you captivated from front to back. The cast of characters is very large, each one has their own peculiarity and I found it a mental challenge keeping track of them all. The core of the plot is love and revenge and great detail goes into describing how cunning and manipulative the perpetrator was. 

"The Redeemer", by Jo Nesbo

The 6th book in the Harry Hole original series 

“The Redeemer” is the 4th book I have read and one of the most captivating so far. Some may shy away from this book because of its size but I personally enjoyed every moment spent reading it. It features Inspector Harry Hole, an alcoholic maverick Oslo detective who has been our compelling protagonist throughout the series so far. This installment is written in a particularly vivid manner with revenge as the major theme. 

This brilliantly woven and constructed plot opens with a 12 year flashback to the rape of a 14-year-old girl during a Salvation Army summer training camp. It soon brings us back to the present day murder of a Salvation Army officer in which Inspector Harry Hole and his team have been assigned. The first indications have everybody wondering why the officer was targeted, could this be a case of mistaken identity and is the killer still out there determined to fulfill his contract. The chase proves to be long and arduous and an intricate and detailed web of mystery in which Harry uses every trick in the book to flush out the suspected killer. Time is crucial when they discover a Croatian refugee, hired as a professional assassin is still hell bent on completing his mission at any cost. 

As the investigation advanced and the plot thickens my interest was continuously stimulated by the unsuspected twists and turns. Renegade Harry and his freewheeling approach prove to be a hand full for his new boss. Their continuous confrontations create a boss/employee from hell scenario that is quite entertaining at times, however, Harry proves once more that he is nothing but a good detective by unearthing facts that his slicker colleagues have overlooked. 

This story has a complex narrative packed with intricate psychological features concerning sexual perversion, child abuse, and the desire for revenge. I found the characters with similar personalities and Scandinavian names are a bit of a challenge to keep track of at first a real stimulus for the brain however I soon overcame this hurdle and enjoy the ride from then on. This exciting mystery is a big puzzle and the author feeds us one spicy piece at the time to keep us on our toes and captivated till the end. 

The guessing game, the chilly manhunt, the cliff-hangers and the many crime clichés that pepper the chapters are just some of the factors that drive me to pursuit this series.

"The Long Stretch", by Linden MacIntyre

Mr. MacIntyre is a Canadian journalist, broadcaster and novelist who has won numerous awards for his writing and journalistic excellence. “The Long Stretch”, a fiction, written in 1999 is the first in his Cape Breton Trilogy.

The tale is a fine and haunting story told by an alcoholic who is occupying his time by digging into closely kept family secrets that have created many unsubstantiated rumours. The story centers on John and his first cousin, Sextus Gillis, who share the same family history and bear the burden of the same family secrets. 13 years after an estrangement they come together and in a drunken state they reminisce the past. Analysing flashback after flashback they gradually reveal the ghosts of the past to make sense of all the information and arrive at a conclusion they can live with. The encounter eventually clears the air between the two of them. 

“The Long Stretch” brings everything alive in a story with a dialogue driven encounter. The prose conveys beautifully the language and landscape of Cape Breton, an island rich in history and mired with tradition where the Gaelic language and customs are kept alive in fawn respect of their heritage.

In Mr. Macintyre words it is evident he has a deep and loving passion for the people and the area.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

"Vulture Peak", by John Burdett

Book 5 in the Sonchai Jitpleeecheep series

I have read all the novels in this series and this one has to be one of the best so far. Just like the previous novels this one takes you through the seedier side of Bangkok, the streets where you meet fascinating people who compete aggressively to run and to work their trade and please the demands of foreigners.

Burdett’s fifth Bangkok novel opens with a very descriptive setting, the bizarre triple murder at a pleasure palace where Sonchai and his detective partner Lek happen to be knee deep in the gruesome details and scratching their head looking for answers. The three victims are found in a bed with their vital organs and all traces of identification removed, including face and fingers. Sonchai and Lek quickly come to the conclusion that this case may have links to their superior, the very corrupt Police Colonel Vikhorn, a powerful man with a long reach and a dark cloud hanging over him.

The trail leads them to an international organ trafficking business run by the ruthless identical twins, Lilly and Polly Yip. Sonchai’s only hope of catching them is to set in motion a massive sting operation that involves players that work out of Phuket, Hong Kong, Dubai, Shanghai, and Monte Carlo. He soon discovers the criminal ring’s main source of organs is from executed Chinese prisoners however the demand of wealthy Westerners whose organs have worn out exceeds that supply, forcing the gang to expand into new territories.

On the home front all work and no play for Sonchai creates another crisis. He suspects his long absence has left an opening for his wife to fall back on her previous life as an active prostitute.

The plot comes across as being believable, is tense, engaging and fast-paced, although its main theme may be the trafficking of human organs the story often veers into other territories, drugs, prostitution and gender reassignment create interesting sub-plots. The first person narrative is fresh and has a humorous touch to it. Mr. Burdett often addresses his audience as DFR (dear farang reader) and loves to stimulate their thoughts about the shenanigans the western tourists get involved in when visiting a country with an open, in your face way of life. The strong characterisation depicts the good, the bad and the ugly sides of a country that is also known for its beauty and its deep spiritual beliefs.

This is another gripping tale with a style of its own that I enjoyed reading.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

"The White Pearl", by Kate Furnivall

This romantic suspense filled fiction transports the reader back in time to WW11 when the Japanese invaded Malaya shortly after their attack on Pearl Harbour. The British forces were soon overpowered, panic and chaos amongst the people erupted everywhere. One of Malaya’s wealthiest rubber plantation owners, the Hadley’s, with some of their closest friends decide there only chances of survival is to escape to Singapore on their private yacht the “White Pearl”. The epic highlights their struggle on the open sea and their fear when they learn their original destination has also become a target and has lost its status as a safe haven. Their only option is to seek refuge on a small island and hope the terrors of war will not reach them.

The author’s great imagination is her strong suit. A lot of attention has been put in detailing the scene, conveying the culture, the political diversities and the language. Her writing portrays the time, the place and the mood exceptionally well. The story is mainly told in the third person and the plotting is quite diversified. It is a war time tale of betrayal, survival, the quest for love and freedom, also the price paid to enjoy some of the perks we take for granted today. As a side bar in the form of flashbacks the author covers Connie Hadley’s affair with a Japanese businessman before the war. The pacing is slow and steady, the characterization although diverse lacks in realism at times, some of the players were under developed and others dragged on a little too much.

This is a fairly light and entertaining novel, however having read others from this writer I would not consider it one of her best, all that said and done I did enjoy it for what it is.