Happy Reading

Toni's bookshelf: read

The Godfather of Kathmandu (Sonchai Jitpleecheep, #4)
Ape House
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest
Operation Napoleon
Walking Dead
The Sentimentalists
The Heretic Queen
The Midnight House
Cross Fire
Peony in Love
Finding Nouf: A Novel
City of Veils: A Novel
First Daughter
A Place of Hiding
Peter Pan

Toni Osborne's favorite books »

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

"Crime Machine", by Giles Blunt

Book 5, in the John Cardinal crime series

After two standalone novels I was pleased to see Mr. Blunt returning to familiar territory and his true protagonists, Police Detective John Cardinal and his partner Constable Lise Delorme. In this recent installment John and Lise investigate the beheading of two Russian business people who came to Algonquin Bay to participate in the yearly fur auction.

Since his wife’s death in the previous novel ”By The Time You Read This” John has become ever more obsessed with working his case files even his down time is spent with his partner, they both enjoy watching movies together in his new apartment which is conveniently situated a stone’s throw from hers.

The mystery opens on a snowy night at a cottage on Trout Lake, where a married realtor and a young native woman have decided to meet for a romantic fling. He left early and during the night other people arrived. In a strange house and not wanting to be discovered, the young woman hid and witnessed one of the most gruesome moments of her life. After escaping she makes an anonymous tip to the police and when they come upon the scene, they discover two bodies, a man and a woman wearing expensive fur coats, decapitated and their heads missing. The investigation triggers many questions and scenarios for John and Lise. First: who is the tipster and what is her involvement, another thing to consider is can this be linked to a recent crime spree by a cult-like group or maybe the Russian mafia expanding into the fur trade and the list goes on. John and Lise soon discover this is not a slam dunk case; it is a complex puzzle, an endless supply of information that gradually leads them on a hunt for Papa, a ruthless survivalist gang leader.

The author has painted nature at a time when it tests a person’s will and ability to survive under hard conditions and created an outstanding atmospheric setting. The storyline is captivating, as I kept turning pages I was pulled into a mystery full of intrigue and terror and into a myriad of sub-plots peppered with red- herrings. The twisted evil “family” and the dynamics between its members are particularly well-drawn and are the driving force that overshadows the protagonists in many ways. Although John and Lise take a back seat at times and Lise comes across as the dominate one it does not affect their growing relationship, who knows what Mr. Blunt has in store for the future, we can only imagine that one day there will be some spicy moments….

I am a faithful fan of this author and I am always looking forward to see what Mr. Blunt will pull out of his key board next.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

" Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show", by Frank Delaney

The story is set in 1932 Ireland, a time when tensions are high due to the upcoming elections and the endless rhetoric by those vying for power. Ben McCarthy narrates this story as a man in his 50's reflecting on events that took place when he was an 18 year old on the verge of manhood.

The first 100 pages take us back and forth between NYC and Ireland and between members of the Kelly and McCarthy families. Mr. Delaney carefully weaves a tapestry of characters that surround and are connected with Venetia in some way. He has a wonderful way with words and a unique style of putting history into perspective, he slowly introduces his characters and takes us on little side journeys to help us remember each ones name and personality before eventually developing the in depth part of the story, at that point the suspense kicks into high gear and you’re hooked. 

Ben in his innocence and naivety recounts in a rambling and colourful voice how his father while attending the “Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show “delivered a shocking revelation. His father has decided to abandon the family for Venetia, the skilled ventriloquist and beautiful performer who has won his heart. Ben is sent back home by himself to deliver the devastating news to his mother. Overcome with emotion and not thinking clearly she repeatedly sends young Ben back to find his father and try to convince him he is needed at home. The young man’s path will not only cross with a flamboyant theatrical family but also with the ambitious and unscrupulous politician Thomas “King” Kelly. Ben eventually falls under the same spell as his father, Venetia and her charms has a far greater effect on the vulnerable young man drawing him even deeper into her lair.

Mr. Delaney’s lyrical prose brims with intrigue and humour, spinning a tale that is more than a family suspense story, it is also one of love, ambition, friendship, deception and murder, a well-crafted Irish drama filled with many vibrant characters.

"The Devil's Star", by Jo Nesbo

Book 3, in the Harry Hole series

This captivating Scandinavian crime fiction is an excellent police procedural with a great plot that deals with a Norwegian serial killer and a tormented alcoholic protagonist who is about to lose his job and along with it, his relationship and his sanity. 

It opens with a serial killer on the loose in Oslo. The killer cuts off his victims’ fingers and leaves a tiny five corner red diamond shaped star as his signature.

This very sophisticated plot with many interesting minor characters to keep track of, takes us into the dark corners of Oslo with Harry Hole as prime investigator. He once again proves that his escalating bad habits cannot take away his ability to be a great investigator with an outstanding record at solving crimes. There is good depth in the characterization and a lot of vignettes and back-stories to add colour to the mystery.

In a sub-plot Harry battles with his own demons and corruption in the Oslo police force. He has always made it his mission to flush out criminals even if they are corrupt individual amongst his own ranks. Although, the beginning may seem slow and overly detailed the interplay between the two threads and the clever number of twits and turns successfully kept me on my toes. I found myself dragged into a black hole of mystery, a vortex of intrigue that escalated as I fingered through the pages. Needless to say, I was captivated till the end.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

"Frozen Tracks", by Ake Edwardson

Book3, in the Erik Winter series

This author is slowly growing on me or is it that I am now becoming more accustomed to his style, a style that is haunting and psychologically shrewd. “Frozen Tracks” is a superbly crafted crime novel, a compelling and dark thriller, definitely the best I have read from this author so far. 

A glimpse into the story: 

DCI Erik Winter and his team are baffled by a rash of beatings in Gothenburg that have nearly killed several young men, a distinctive mark left by the attacker's mysterious weapon leads them to believe they have a serial offender on their hands. The mystery is: why is someone doing this and how far will he go…

At the same time, the police force is faced with another high priority that is also escalating. At first, police treat reports of nursery school children being lured to a car of a strange “mister” offering candy with importance but when a boy is found badly beaten in the woods and another is kidnapped from a school yard the s..t hits the fan … One of the children at the school is Winter’s daughter, without question he wants in on the investigation and his first instinct tells him there might be a connection between these two major cases. Gradually the plot lines converge and the suspense and intrigue rapidly intensifies when the monster the police are hunting for targets Winter’s family in order to fulfill his sadistic needs. 

The story highlights the importance of team work and good leadership, the dialogue is heavy in nature and many facts are revealed through a free flow of vital and trivial information among team members. Once I became tuned in to the names and the culture differences I didn’t mind the slow pacing of the plot’s rhythm, it created the perfect tempo to divulge all the sordid secrets behind the crimes. Although the author stays away from graphically detailing violence he never shies from describing its effects or the emotions it leaves behind. The plotting is well-constructed and carefully developed from start to finish resulting in a gripping police procedural saga populated with a very engaging and well-drawn cast. Although the ending is rather gloomy there are no loose ends and the mystery is played out full circle.

"The Last 10 Seconds', by Simon Kernick

I have been a fan of mysteries and of exciting thrillers for ever and I am always looking for an author that can top all that I have read in the past. Mr. Kernick has definitely caught my attention and his novels will command a prominent position on my TBR list. “The Last 10 Seconds”, is just what the title suggests, a fast paced action- packed thriller filled with lots of graphic crime scenes and murders, a captivating story that leaves plenty for the imagination and little time to speculate, it is like a kayaker’s white water ride of a life time, you hang on and go with the flow. 

It didn't take me long to get drawn in by the writer’s style, the story grabbed my attention from the beginning and never wavered one minute. The plotting has all the right ingredients needed: plenty of twist and turns, a well-paced momentum and a drama that unfolds smoothly. The hand to hand fighting is particularly well done, very descriptive and easy to visualize. The story is narrated in the first person by the two well- developed protagonists, Sean and Tina, their point of views alternate in punchy chapters that are just the right length.

In this thriller there are two threads that eventually converge. We start with Sean Egan an undercover cop who poses as a gang member looking for a new challenge. He is snapped up by another far more dangerous criminal gang and his test of allegiance is to free the “The Night Creeper” from the hands of the authorities so the gang can deal with him in their own sadistic manner, he has become a loose cannon to all gangs and gang members, he has to be silence. Sean is faced with difficult decisions that break all protocol and his actions can jeopardise his career and even his life.

On the other hand, D.I. Tina Boyd, has worked hard to track down and apprehend the sadistic killer Andrew Kent known as “The Night Creeper”, he is suspected of torturing five women to death but claims he has an alibi for one of the murders and important information that would incriminate an important gang member. He is a hot target for the underworld so when Kent is snatched right from under Boyd’s nose,  her career is on the line, it quickly becomes a chaotic chase, a race against time to find him and extract the invaluable information the police force now needs in order to save face. 

The two threads run parallel and eventually collide in an explosion of violence and it becomes touch and go whether our two protagonists will survive the clash between good and evil.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

"Anne of Green Gables", by L.M. Montgomery

Book 1, in the Anne Shirley series

Originally written in 1908 this heartwarming story set in Prince Edward Island recounts a part of Anne Shirley's life (age 11 to 16) when she came to live with Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert of Green Gables, siblings in their fifties. They were looking to adopt a male orphan in order to help them with their Avonlea heritage farm in the late 1800's but fate and circumstances blessed them with Anne. They immediately fell in love with this bright, quick, eager to please, talkative and extremely imaginative red-headed little girl and they never looked back.

Ms. Montgomery has drawn her inspiration from her own childhood experiences, memories and people of the period thus creating one of the most loved stories of all times. In later years, the little red-headed girl and her pig tails has become an icon not only on paper but also in theater and made for TV movies.

The writing style has an impressive sense of humour and the third person narrative helps to unfold the plot. The vivid description of nature and the beautiful portrayal of the places are so detailed that I am not surprised this wonderful classic has delighted many readers throughout the years and made numerous fans around the world. It is an enchanting and captivating tale that has to this day enticed many to visit the magical setting of Green Gables to explore and let their imagination travel back in time. Prince Edward Island is very proud of their little Anne and has developed many tourist attractions to satisfy the interest of its visitors.

The story of Anne Shirley has a number of sequels taking us further into Anne's adventures and mishaps. "Anne of Avonlea " is the next one and I am looking forward to reading it.

"Nemesis", by Jo Nesbo

Book 2 in the Harry Hole series (English version according to Fantasticfiction.uk)

This is the second book in the Oslo trilogy although one wonders if it is the 3rd or 4th book written in the series, actually it all depends where you source your information. The order in which you read them is somewhat irrelevant, they have not been translated in the same order they were originally written. "Nemesis" is a thrilling, gripping and brilliant thriller, a bit lengthy but well worth the time.

The main plot is fortified with a multitude of sub-plots creating plenty of mystery and intrigue, this one opens with a bank robbery creating instant tension. Cloaked in a balaclava, the armed suspect grabs a teller and demands the bank manager open the safe within 25 seconds or else.... All hell breaks loose and in all the confusion the suspect escapes from under the nose of the police, leaving them red faced and empty handed.

Investigator Harry Hole of Crime Squad is known for his drinking problem and his knack of rubbing his superiors the wrong way, however it is decided he work the case in collaboration with Robberies Unit. Harry's strong character takes him on a tangent that leaves the other department out in left field. Harry convinces his boss to give him more rope, so he and his partner Beate Lonn, a promising young video analyst, can work their own theory. Beate discovers discrepancies in CCTV footage, this leads to clues that up until now had been overlooked, and this eventually proves to be the game changer.

This clever book has so much going on it would take a book in itself to summarise. There are many twists and turns, dozens of red herrings and a pile of dead bodies. At one point the investigation brings Harry to Brazil, in another instance he looks into a gang of gypsies and still another he delves into the lives of cheating spouses and jealous brothers, this just covers only a few leads he had to follow. There are so many layers, it is a mind game to piece everything together and make sense of it all. I took it as a challenge and went with the flow and enjoyed every tense moment. It all becomes clear at the end.

This book is complicated, immensely rewarding and an enjoyable suspense filled mystery