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, October 25, 2013

"The Racketeer", by John Grisham

The author admits in his notes that this new novel is a work of pure fiction more than usual and nothing said is based on actual events. With this in mind this unique and tightly drawn thriller features an African American as its main protagonist. “The Racketeer” is definitely a departure from Mr. Grisham normal legal novels. The story is more about reformation and revenge with insightful description of the legal and penal system. 

Malcolm Bannister, a dubiously lawyer convicted of money laundering and serving a 10 years sentence in a federal prison. Malcolm continually proclaims his innocence and blames the FBI for his wrong incarceration. When Judge Raymond Fawcett is murdered along with his secretary he sees the ideal opportunity to use Rule 35 to have his sentence overturned. This scheme is the starting point for a long chase that keeps Mal’s trickery a few steps ahead of the game……what follow is a cleverly orchestrated series of twists and reversals. 

The plotting is a complex scenario and every piece of the puzzle is held together with a strong narrative that never wavers. We have a satisfying and engrossing thriller with many enjoyable aspects: my preferred is how Mal’s masquerading as an independent documentary filmmaker was able to circumvent the FBI.

This is another page turner with excellent characterization delivered by an expert hand….

" A Man Without Breath" by Philip Kerr

Book 9, in the Bernard Gunther Mystery

It can get enough of this author’s wonderful imagination. His novels although in good part fiction have a chilling authenticity to them. Each story is based on actual events that happened during the horrible years of the Nazi Germany. Through his words he brings back to life the monsters who committed evil acts against humanity.

The year is 1943, Bernie working for the German War Crimes Bureau is sent to Smolensk to bring light on the unsettling reports of a mass grave found in Katyn Forest, a wolf has unearth human remains validating the claim. Finding the truth is not always what the “High Muck-a- Mucks” want to hear….and Bernie will soon be caught in very difficult situations and scarcely escaping the noose……(Short and sweet summary to pique your interest, a most captivating read)

With skills this novel set the scene of the Russian massacre of Polish officers and resuscitates German leaders to make a very grimly and realistic plot. This layered historical novel and murder mystery starts as dramatically as it ends and offers startling revelations about the life under the Third Reich. This is an engrossing story that examines the brutality at its most horrific and smoothly portrays the despicable inner circle of a regime. It further explores what Mr. Kerr’s expertly excels in: portraying the complex moral dilemmas of an immoral society and this from Bernie’s point of views. This installment is a page turner and a great addition to a very interesting series.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

"The Sword Master", by I. J. Parker

I am without any doubts a fan of this author. I love her style and I could only repeat myself when saying she is in a class of her own. A master in writing vivid tales of Ancient Japan and to magically transport us back in time into the perilous world of the Heike Wars.

It is not easy to live in the twelfth century Kyoto survival is a challenge especially if you are a homeless child. This savage and moving tale recounts his life story from the point he was adopted by a selfless physician who could not soften his hardened spirit, to the master swordsman who taught him the fine art of swordsmanship, to the beautiful women who desperately wanted his attention and baited into a war between two opposing clans. Only with his smarts and skills was he able to survive and avenge his parents’ deaths and eventually find true peace…..

The plot is captivating with lots of action, blood and guts galore. The characterization is very interesting and quite remarkable especially Hachiro, the protagonist, his depiction definitely grows on you. The hardest part was keeping track of all the unfamiliar sounding names without mixing any of the characters. Although this story spans almost a life time, the drama is not rushed and I was immediately drawn in and my attention never wavered. This is an excellent standalone, a spin-off of the Hollow Reed series, dedicated to Hachiro, a minor character first met in book one.

Another great story I enjoyed immensely.

"The Rhetoric of Death", by Judith Rock

Book 1, in the Charles Du Luc series

This debut novel is a patchwork of known events and a lot of imagination by a very active mind. This historical fiction spins a tale of interesting and rich details set in the sumptuous Paris of the 17th century France.

The opening act is staged at the college of Louis le Grand, where the Jesuits produced drama, lavish ballets and opera as part of their teaching rhetoric. The main player is the delightful fictional character Charles du Luc, a good looking Jesuit priest who is employed as a teacher of rhetoric and dance director at the college. All goes well till one day a student star dancer disappears to later be found murdered in a very unusual place and an attempt made on his younger soon after. Charles curiosity and skills lead him to explore the connections between the two incidents. As he gets more and more involved, he faces up all sorts of hazards…..cassocks flies in the chases and a lot of hanky panky go on behind the scenes…….We reach the closing act …..a play and a ballet for the final moments….

For the first 100 pages or so the author sets the stage and provides overwhelming details on the politics and religious conflicts of the time and introduces at a monastic rhythm her characters. Most interesting but this introduction lingered and became a laborious experience, too much information dumping. I persisted in my mental effort and was rewarded as soon as the mystery kicked in and Charles’ investigation began. The plot may have been rather slow in pace it nonetheless was quite compelling. Charles is a wonderful protagonist a Jesuit torn between is vows and his manly needs… The rich prose with the engaging and intriguing dialogue save the day along with the wonderful trip through the Paris of 17th century…..Slow start for this series but not a bad one, will see what “The Eloquence of Blood” has in store for me.

Monday, October 14, 2013

"Cliff Diver", by Carmen Amato

The Emilia Cruz Mystery Series

This edgy police procedural mystery takes us into the heart of Mexico’s drug war. It features Emilia Cruz the first and only female detective in the Acapulco. She is a strong Latina woman, although she has been a cop for over 12 years and 2 years as a detective she has to fight for every inch to stay on top in a squad room full of men that didn't want her and are trying by any means to break her but Emilia is a tough cookie and very good at what she does. 

The main plot is quite captivating, an adrenaline charge page turner at its best. Emilia is in charge of the murder investigation into the death of her shady lieutenant. This case is high profile and much pressure comes from politicians, other cops and the powerful union. Things are not easy: police files go missing and trails lead in multiple directions… there is even a kidnapping and connection to the cartel and some counterfeit money ….Emilia finds herself a pawn in an ugly game of corruption…… and feels like the famous cliff divers of Acapulco. 

As in all good mystery Emilia meets hotel manager Kurt Rucker and over the course of the story attraction between them quickly complicates matters…

This is excellent multi-layered story with various engaging twists and turns, vividly told through the eyes of a tough and vulnerable protagonist. This is a great and fantastic mystery filled with suspenseful and intriguing moments, all this against the beautiful backdrop of Acapulco. This story wouldn't be this good without great characterization and snappy dialogue. Emilia is the perfect sleuth at the top of the list and this would mean little if it wasn't for the excellent supporting cast, in which there are many. There is an extra bite, a sub-plot keeping Emilia looking for las perdidas, in “Hat Dance”, the continuing thread we will see how successful she will be… can’t wait…

Friday, October 11, 2013

"Conversations with Joan of Arc", by Tony Sullivan

This is a very interesting and especially moving account of the last days of “La Pucelle d`orlĂ©ans”, France’s folk heroine and Roman Catholic saint who was tried for heresy by the tribunal led by Bishop Pierre Cauchon and subsequently burned at the stake at the age of 19. 

This fiction concentrates on her imprisonment in Rouen where she was visited in numerous occasions by Nicolas Loiseleur, chanoine de Chartres and of Rouen. This story is as much about him as it is about the heroine. The legend says that he was so upset after her execution that his actions brought him unwanted attention from the English. 

The story is very passionate and is written in a resonant tone from a 3rd person perspective. I could clearly imagine that behind all this scorn was a woman who stubbornly refused to tell the people what they wanted to hear. It must have been a nightmare and the author has expertly described how this poor woman was tormented, taunted and condemned. I will not expand on her exploits in the midst of the conversations some are highlighted. IMO this fiction is a fascinating way to relate a vision of what could have transpired between a prisoner and her confidant……Even with the knowledge of its ending, this story is nevertheless captivating and revisiting this trouble part of history in this manner was particularly refreshing. Well-done Mr. Sullivan I will definitely read more of your work.

Friday, October 4, 2013

"The Intercept", by Dick Wolf

Book 1, in the Jeremy Fisk series

Right from the opening pages it is evident that this well-known producer specializes in crime dramas. His debut novel is part police procedural and part a ticking bomb thriller and it is of no surprise that this whole experience felt like reading a screenplay with all the bells and whistles, a very visual encounter one with all the hallmark of the TV program “Law & Order”.

Here are the highlights:

Jeremy Fisk is an NYPD officer who works in the Intelligence Division to combat terrorism. When a terror attempt on a commercial flight is disrupted days before July 4, when One World Trade Center is set to be dedicated, Fisk and partner Krina Gersten work to figure out who was behind the attack and what they might be planning next.

Further thoughts:

Although the theme may be far from being original, it provides nevertheless an entertaining story. I presume this confidant novel will surely make it to the top of the best seller list. Mr. Wolf prose is tight and we are given short and sharp chapters with plenty of action and few red herrings. The characters are as varied as they come and should appeal to most. This well-crafted, multi layered plot is heavily depending on its dialogue for impact and it excels in doing so. This book held me captive on roller-coaster ride of suspense, intrigue and action till its last page. I am looking forward to the next installment.

"Walking into the Ocean", by David Whellams

Book 1, in Chief Inspector Peter Cammon trilogy mysteries

In his first novel, Mr. Whellams introduces his protagonist, a semi-retired Chief Inspector from Scotland Yard, a formidable investigator due to his age and experience and places him in unusual situations where his professionalism and personality are explored, we see a bit of the old Sherlock Holmes coming out of him.

The story starts on the cliffs of Dorset on an apparent murder-suicide. Peter is being deployed there to help the local force solve the especially sensitive case while they put all their attention in apprehending a serial killer. At first glance, it seems like an ordinary domestic crime, the perpetrator appears to have murdered his wife before drowning in the English Channel but Peter soon learns that this is merely a sideshow to a series of murders. Peter relentless follows the overlapping trails taking him from London to the island of Malta and this cliff hanger reaches its climatic confrontation back in England overlooking the cliffs of the Channel.

This story was way more complicated than it needed to be and took its merry time shifting gears and get going. I did like it at first but soon had trouble keeping my mind on track and I struggled through the remainder. I needed tolerance to reach the end, one of those books that took me for ever to read. The main plot was really bogged down with numerous explanations and side trips that I found my reading experience to be an arduous one. IMO, Mr. Whellams style of writing is too verbose and makes it difficult to stay engaged. The many characters come and go throughout the book and keeping track is a challenge, especially if your mind wanders. This said, the story isn't bad at all it just didn't capture my interest, it may yours.

This first experience may not have been the best I will nevertheless give the sequel a chance. Will see then……