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 »

Friday, August 30, 2013

"The Power of the Dog", by Don Winslow

"The Power of the Dog" starts in 1975 and follows the DEA's involvement with the War on Drugs and various aspects of Operation Condor. It took the author over 6 years of writing and research before its publication. In every aspects it is evident the tremendous effort he has invested into his version of events and has provided us with a fast paced page turner that is impossible to put down.

Set on the US/Mexican border, we witness mainly through the eyes of Art Keller the beginning of his operative work with the CIA on Operation Condor and through the next 29 years as he attempts to do his job while not becoming a victim.

I was easily sucked into the whirlpool of characters in all shades of black and grey, into the corrupt agencies and the government underhand encouragement, actively financing the development of the drug cartel. This story is a tapestry of violence and depicts actual events some may remember, we are not spared the true ugliness of war, the word excruciating may be apropos during some sections. This is a dense novel, rather pessimistic but in no way does it drag. The prose is energetic, intelligent and has the right rhythm for the subject as the sprawling saga shifts points of view.

This story may not be for everyone it is nevertheless a captivating read I would recommend

Thursday, August 22, 2013

"Dead Simple", by Peter James

Book 1 in the Roy Grace series

My first experience reading this author was a most exciting one, a fascinating rollercoaster ride that kept me riveted through the pages from the very first line. The book is a page turner in the best sense of the word, a kind of cat and mouse game from beginning to end. This is a well-crafted and structured story, essentially a police procedural featuring Detective Superintendent Roy Grace, a faintly flawed hero who has a penchant for the supernatural. With a heavy dash of suspense and just a soupcon of psychics this fast paced and good plot is full of unexpected twists and turns and is refreshingly free of swearing and bad language. This book is definitely plot driven.

Told in the third person with short and catchy chapters, it opens giving you a chill down your back. Michael Harrison, in an outlandish bachelor party prank, is buried in a coffin on his stag night by his closest friends. On their way home, a horrific car crash kills the group that entombed him.

Detective Roy Grace is called to investigate the bizarre circumstances of this disappearance. While following the most rigorously police procedures he also seeks assistance of mediums to help him find Michael before it is too late. Then the chase is on and as reader we are plunged into one of those cliff-hangers we rarely see. Roy is a great character, sympathetic and intuitive and it is easy to warn to, the rest of the cast are as varied as can be. Close to the end, there is a car chase that is inventive and so entertaining that I was disappointed reaching the final moment of this most gripping story. I am looking forward the next installment.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

"The Bat", by Jo Nesbo

Book 1, in the Harry Hole mystery series

It is grand time, for the publisher to give Mr. Nesbo’s admirers a chance to see where the series all began. Going into the back catalogue they finally provided us with “The Bat” his debut novel. Most fans have meet Inspector Harry Hole in the previous novels so it will not be a surprise to see that Harry, the best known characters in contemporary crime fiction has stayed to same old self.

This is a fascinating book, filling the gaps in the protagonist biography. It all started in Sydney where he has come to observe and lend assistance on a high profile case, the murder of a young Norwegian woman. It wouldn't have made sense not to get involved in fact it would have made a very boring story. And so the plot has Harry delve into Sydney underbelly working alongside Aboriginal Detective Andrew Kensington. The indigenous culture features prominently and provides an interesting glimpse in the past wrongs committed against the people, at times the narrative sounds a bit too preachy for my taste but nonetheless is quite informative.

The pacing started slowly, more a feeling of a travelogue at first but it moved to a brisk stroke mid-way the investigation while Harry must not only fight his own demons but also outwit a sadistic serial killer before he makes a mistake, a fatal error which will come to hunt him forever. Mr. Nesbo introduces an array of red-herrings, twists and violence, enough blood and thunder to have kept me turning pages although I admit wondering where the plot was leading. I needed to pay close attention for this moody and quite fragmented story that kept going back and forth between the murder investigation and Harry’s personal side and his past experiences. But everything is kept together by the many interesting characters and by their interactions. Harry has been well developed from the start, a realist that never forgets that his dark shadow is close by…..This is a great series not to miss. 

“The Bat” was awarded with the most prestigious crime writing award in Norway in 1997 as well as the premier crime writing award in Scandinavia in 1998.

"Crippen", by John Boyne

This is a slightly gothic and a very captivating historical fiction based on real-life events that happened over 100 years ago. It brings a fresh perspective while it recounts the life of the rather infamous and charismatic murderer Dr. Hawley Harvey Crippen.

When I started the book I had no idea who Crippen was so my mind was not tainted by the actual facts, I was then able to enjoy this superb mystery in which the author has put his own spin on a heinous crime that took place in Camden, England in 1910. Dr. Crippen was not a real doctor although he never was reluctant in passing himself off as one in order to embellish is living style. His second marriage was to Cora, a vicious hag who made his life miserable and a nightmare. She abused him both verbally and physically and cheated on him on many occasions. He became the prime suspect in her death after her body was found hacked to death in the cellar of his home. No one would have the unassuming Doctor capable of murder. But yet, the doctor and his mistress Ethel LeNeve had disappeared from London and a full scale hunt for them had begun.

Mr. Boyne constructs his story meticulously his style is both easy to follow and very engaging. The story goes back and forth in time and while the focus switches between characters in many scenes I never felt at a lost.

Across the Channel in Antwerp, the S.S. Montrose has just set for Canada aboard slipping amongst the passengers are a Mr. Robinson, accompanied by his teenage son, Edmund. The pair was hoping for an escape from their past but they will need more than luck to survive the voyage unnoticed…..and this is just part of an exciting story…

Mr. Boyne is a wonderful story teller, just when you think you have everything figured out he throws a few twists your way and adroitly reels you in a different direction. This is a riveting read, an intricately plotted novel with a well-crafted narrative that teases you with bits of information and is populated with engaging and memorable characters. Mr. Boyne has found the recipe to please those with a thirst for dramatized true-crime stories and he does that admirably..

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

"Another Life", by John J. Gaynard

“Another Life” is a murder intrigue telling the story of a family returning to rural Ireland to find a better life. But it doesn't work that way, their dream soon is destroyed by the religiosity of the mother, by a son involved with a radical religious group and by the raging feud between the two brothers. The story takes place against the backdrop of the rural landscape of Erris in West Mayo, in the small towns of Bangor Erris, Ballina and Castlebar.

This overview was copied from bookadda.com:

“When Peter returns home to his farm house in Mayo he is surprised to see two policemen sitting at the front door. They accuse him of attacking his mother and brother and leaving them for dead. He visits them in Castlebar hospital, under police guard, and one of them dies. Peter is accused of the killing. He protests his innocence, but there is evidence that he cannot explain away. Peter has to defend not only himself from a charge of murder. He also has to protect the woman his brother deceived. Three people alternately accuse him and try to help him: Charlie Dempsey, a former IRA man who travels around Ireland to help former prisoners Sergeant Patrick O'Mahony, who is dealing with his own fall from grace, Father Patrick Keane, who cannot forgive the sins of the Catholic Church, three men who participate in the quest to find the killer. “

My thoughts:

This was a hard novel to rate, hovering between being very captivated in the intrigue and skimming over paragraphs during the long myriad of religious overtones and of the numerous sidebars that kept interrupting the flow. Leaving me with mixed feelings and wondering what could have been the real essence behind the words other than to highlight how zealous religious beliefs could destroy a person and affect family and community. On one hand I loved the way the author has creatively shaped the murder investigation by gradually inserting a variation of twists to derail us from guessing the outcome, IMO he did this expertly. Another high point is the memorable characterization, long after reading the story I still see Brian, Peter and the terrible mother. On the other hand too much focus was put on the effect of radical ideas and the repetitiveness became an annoyance thus I felt many times dropping the book. Although in retrospect this wasn't a bad book by any means, it surely will not make it to the top of my best read for this year..


Friday, August 2, 2013

"The Black Box", by Michael Connelly

Book 18, in the Harry Bosch series

After 18 novels over a 20 years span one would think Mr. Connelly would ran out of ideas for this series, but it seems this challenge is a no-brainer for a prolific author. “The Black Box” it is both a story of police procedural and one that continues the saga of the protagonist personal life. Harry has aged well through times, now in his 60s he has been working cold cases for years and has become a man sworn to speak for the dead.

This latest opens with a chilling portrait of the war zone that L.A.’s South Central neighborhood became during the riots in the spring of 1992. When the body of Anneke Jespersen, a Danish journalist, is found in an alley, shot to death, Harry investigates, but amid the turmoil the case is not solved.

Fast-forward to 2012, the 20th anniversary of the riots is coming up and there will be a great media attention to unsolved murders. Marty Maycock, the current chief of police assigns Harry to the daunting challenge of closing the Jespersen case.

Of course there are few pieces to go by and Harry never failing zeal and his strong sense of guilt for not having solved the case in the first place provides the spark to get him started. He retrieves the archived boxes of Anneke’s belongings and the investigative file. There's not much to go on, but some tantalizing leads develop before the nitwit lieutenant in charge of the cold-case unit tells him to drop it and work another case. It doesn't take long before the tenacious detective finds himself caught in a maelstrom of departmental politics and personal danger as he searches for the “black box” (piece of evidence, fact, etc.) But Harry never fails to amaze us and will eventually discover the truth…..

Mr. Connelly excelled as always in building added tension into virtually all of Harry’s decisions. He also pays attention to police procedural details while giving his protagonists lots of leeway. There are moments in the novel when the action goes into high gear and Harry transforms himself into a warrior, even in his 60s he still kick butts…all this for our enjoyment, of course I could not stop turning the pages to see what came next. The dialogue and narration are quite lively and fast moving exactly what we expect from the author. The result is a complex tapestry of plots, deftly crafted suspense and well-rounded characters.

Even after all this time Mr. Connelly still manages to keep me a loyal fan…

"The Wild Beasts of Wuhan", by Ian Hamilton

Book 3, in the Ava Lee Mystery

“The Wild Beasts of Wuhan” brings Ava, a forensic accountant and martial expert to the glamorous underworld of art forgery. This quick-witted, pure class and sexy Chinese Canadian sweetheart is savouring in the opening of this installment the good weather with her family on a Caribbean cruise near Curacao. When Uncle called in an urgent favour, Wong Changxing, one of the most powerful men in China, is livid after discovering his collection of Fauvist painting are forgeries. He has mandated them to get his money back.

With the help of her mentor, Ava traces the provenance of the meticulously forged paintings to Denmark, the Faroe Islands, Dublin, New York and London. She infiltrates prestigious auction houses and uncovers a massive web of corruption. As in the previous books, Ava and her client see things in a total different scope, this time she faces the meddling May Ling, Wong’s manipulative wife, who threatens to interfere in the investigation…

This is another great caper although not as exciting as the two previous. It has far less action and by far more hopping around: lot of plane flights, hotels stays, restaurants meals, and clothes shopping…etc. This aside, the plot is nevertheless, an entertaining dip into the worlds of artistic trickery and as Ava worked through all the clues, we have a tad of suspense for our entertainment. This time around, Ava never seems to be in great danger, no mucking about, no risking life and limb and no kick ass…..all missing incentives to make it a pulse racer. Having said this, I still was hooked from the start and simply zipped through it in no time. Mr. Hamilton has won my heart with this series and looking forward to any of Ava Lee’s escapades.