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.