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, January 28, 2012

"Hell's Corner", by David Baldacci

Book 5, in the Camel Club series

At first glance the sheer size of this book could be quite intimidating, its paperback version holds over 650 pages, enough to scare away some but definitely not the die-hard fans like myself. 

The story opens with Stone contemplating his next covert assignment while walking through Lafayette Park near the White House, suddenly machine gun fire fills the air and a bomb detonates narrowly missing the motorcade of the U.S. president and Britain's prime minister. Fearing the attack may be a botched assassination attempt, the authorities in charge quickly reassess Stone’s mission, the overwhelming importance of what has just transpired has him assigned to assist British agent Mary Chapman of MI-6 to flush out the terrorists and their motives. You can always be sure that whatever Stone is involved his buddies at the Camel Club are never far behind…..

The mystery moves through Washington's halls of power and eventually to the Bronx and on to Murder Mountain, West Virginia. Stone and his cohorts are faced with “nanobot” technology and the unknown magnitude biological weapons can have on a populated area. A Turkish professor supposedly on the trail of Osama bin Laden and a beautiful lobbyist who uses her assets to the max adds flair and intrigue to mystery, danger and excitement lurks at every corner…..

Baldacci’s forte is his skill at tight plotting, it rattles along at a great pace with many twists and red-herrings, the short chapters act like a pace maker in overdrive. The action is quite intense from the start. The story line is a blast from start to finish it is not a fluffy read or a mystery that we can predict each move in advance. Mr. Baldacci continues to develop the well-known members of The Camel Club and has provided new characters which enhance tenfold the read, we will no doubt see them return in the future. This fifth installment provides enough background information to be read and enjoyed on its own.

“Hell’s Corner” is highly entertaining and one of my favourites, a definite plus to the series.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

"Field Gray", by Philip Kerr

Also published under the title “Field Grey”

Book 7 in the Bernie Gunther mystery series

In this story Bernie Gunther reflects on his past, the good the bad and the ugly. Trying to outrun his shadows has resulted in a lonely life; his personal and political associations have left him a man with a trouble conscience. This is one of Mr. Kerr’s darkest and most complex novels I have read so far.

In the prologue, set in 1950s Cuba, Bernie is living the good life under an assumed name when his life is chattered once again by a local policeman who questions his true identity. In haste, Bernie attempts to leave Cuba by boat however he is intercepted by an American patrol and is taken to Guantanamo Bay for interrogation by the CIA. The intense questioning forces Bernie to eventually reveal his past, his war time activities under Heydrich as an SS field officer and his pre-war association with Eric Mielke prove to be a gold mine of information for his interrogators. He is eventually flown to Berlin to face the music and is given a simple choice: work for the French intelligence or hang for murder. His task is to meet POW’s returning to Germany and finger one particular French war criminal he is familiar with. With this we learn of another period in Bernie’s past as a German POW in Russia and how it comes back to haunt him. 

This seventh novel is set in Cuba, a Soviet POW camp, Paris and Berlin, it is a fast-paced and quick-action thriller. Bernie is portrayed as a pawn in a deadly game of espionage by various spy agencies of the Cold War era. The chapters are peppered with strategically placed flashbacks from 1931 to 1946, including events that occurred during the actual war years (all the other books took place before or after the war). Mr. Kerr paints a powerful picture of the struggles of the 1930s, the war and divided post-war Berlin.

“Field Gray” is a brilliantly written novel full of details, a mix of fast-talking, hardboiled crime and historical events delivered in Gunther’s ironically humorous monologue. I am a huge fan of Mr. Kerr’s ability to stir one’s emotions page after page and can only imagine what it must have been like to have lived during such a troubled time.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

"Never End", by Ake Edwardson

Book2 in the Erik Winter series (English version)

We were initially introduced to Chief Inspector Erik Winter in “SUN AND SHADOW” a turn of the century mystery. Those who have an affinity toward police procedurals and soft suspense should enjoy this one.

This sequel brings us a few years later in Erik’s life; he is now a father to a daughter and living with his partner in a cramped apartment and is desperately looking for better accommodations to ease the growing family tension. The temperature is not helping; Gothenburg Sweden is sweltering under an unusually hot summer.

On his professional side, Erik never loses focus on his responsibilities; fighting crime is his passion and he has developed a reputation to go with it. When an unusual number of rapes and murders cast a disturbing shadow on the city, Erik teams up with his investigators to gather the scant and the grisly details. Immediately he sees some similarities to a five year old cold case that is continually burning in the back of his mind. Up until now Erik’s instincts have lead him to a multitude of dead ends to a point he started to doubt himself…..New events trigger a whole new approach to the ongoing mysteries….. 

As the investigators aggressively hunt for new leads and rehash the old information the plotting has a tendency to bog down a little, I am sure this is reality for every good investigator but if overdone in print it can be a deterrent to the readers’ enthusiasm. Buried in the chapters are clues to who has actually committed the crimes but at one point with all the red herrings confusion set in and I am still wondering whether I arrived at the right conclusion or am I being set up for a sequel? The lethargic sensation one suffers during a heat wave was expertly conveyed through the slow pacing and the characterization, no wonder Erik traded in his donuts for ice cream all the time, I felt the same way…:)

“Never End” is a gritty and stylish crime novel I enjoyed, I have the sequel on my list to read, however it is not one of my all-time favourites.

"What Came Before He Shot Her", by Elizabeth George

Book 14, in the Inspector Lynley series

Ms. George has given her beloved protagonists a long and deserved rest and moved forward to explore in depth and meticulous detail the darkness of violence, the unfortunate choice of very troubled individuals. This novel delves into events leading to the brutal death of Helen Lynley who met a tragic end in the last pages of “With No one as Witness “. The method used is different from her other novels, this one ties up loose ends, a story stemming from another story.

I must admit I had a hard time getting into this mystery, it never gelled from the get-go however it may have been an off day for me. The story follows the path of three mixed-raced children from the Campbell family and how each one of them deals with the feeling of rejection after learning their grandmother abandoned them on their aunt’s doorstep and left for Jamaica. As a reader we see how each character addresses the constant struggle to survive and the individual choices they made as they spiral down the road of no return.

This is a drawn out story with page after page of uneventful details, it reminded me of a 900 page essay I had for a school project. The black argot of London dialogue was hard to follow and required more concentration than I was willing to give, I found myself skipping paragraphs and feeling I had not missed a thing. I enjoy Ms. George’s insight and her ability to draw verbal pictures of people caught on the edge creating an entertaining psychological drama but this time I was rather disappointed and I also miss the atmosphere the characters Lynley and Havers normally bring to the table. I like this series but from time to time it seems the ball is dropped and I am left with an OK… what is next feeling.