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, 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 clich├ęs 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.

"The Matchmaker of Kenmare", by Frank Delaney

Set during World War 11 “The Matchmaker of Kenmare” is a lush novel rich in myth, sometime hilarious and at times heartbreaking, a stirring story of loss, friendship, romance and sacrifice. The protagonist Ben MacCarthy, an Irish folklore aficionado, narrates a very touching segment in his life as he wanders the country in search of his missing wife Venetia Kelly (we first met her in “Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show”).

The story has a very slow start and opens with Ben meeting Kate Begley, known as the matchmaker of Kenmare. The two naively pride themselves of being neural during the start of the devastating war but as their relationship developed and the war dragged on they become more and more involved in aiding the Americans on the European front. Both Kate and Ben had an agenda: Kate was looking for her husband who went missing in action and Ben his wife who mysteriously disappeared. The story picks up and becomes far more interesting and evolves into a memorable war story as Kate and Ben are pinned down in Europe’s battlefields…..they find themselves way over their heads and must survive at all cost… 

The story is narrated in the first person by a senior Ben to his children in a rambling style that is quite entertaining at times. He relives and shares with them the many tales he collected in his travels during his younger and more challenging years. The prose successfully creates a vivid image of the time and especially the complexities of the Irish culture with great depth and skill. The novel started off in a tedious manner but I persisted and I am glad I did. The strong writing, the warm characters and the unexpected turn of events gradually hyped my interest to the end.

Looking back, I can honestly say I enjoyed this haunting tale