Monday, March 30, 2020
As soon as Lucas Davenport got the call, he knew this case was going to be trouble. Alie'e Maison is one of the top ten models in the world. When she is killed at a party after a photographic shoot the media went wild. When another woman's body is discovered at the same crime scene stuffed in a closet, the tension and expectations on the police racket up even more. As with all top crimes, Lucas and his team are called to head up the investigation.
None of the things they discover cool down the media storm. There's the fact that Alie'e's body is full of drugs. There is evidence that she has had sex shortly before her murder. The fact that the party was full of rich, connected people just makes things even more difficult.
But the killings don't stop there. As the days go by, others around Alie'e or connected to her are also killed. The main suspect is an evangelical preacher who was in Alie'e's world but Lucas isn't convinced. In fact, he isn't even convinced that Alie'e was the real target that started off the murders that keep spiraling outward.
In his personal life, Lucas is busy balancing women. His college girlfriend has shown up after all these years, in a midlife crisis and wondering if she is still attractive to men. Another model connected to the investigation has her sights on Lucas and he can't help looking back. Then there is Weather. He also married her but that blew up when she got in the sightline of one of his cases and was almost killed. Now she seems to be recovered a bit and perhaps interested in seeing Lucas again.
This is the eleventh book in the Prey series centered around Lucas Davenport. Fans know what they are getting when they open the book. They will be reading a solid mystery with twists and turns, told from the viewpoint of a unique investigator. Lucas has the ability to step back from the chaos of a murder investigation and see through all the extraneous material to the heart of the motive. This book is recommended for mystery readers.
Friday, March 27, 2020
When word gets back that Dr. Marina Singh's office mate has died in the jungles of the Amazon, everyone is shocked. Anders Eckman had gone to make contact with Dr. Swenson who had been investigating a drug for over a decade. Anders and Marina's company was sponsoring her but reports from the field had been almost nonexistent and the head of the company wonders what he is doing paying her with no idea if she is making any progress.
Dr. Swenson gave almost no details, just a note that said Anders had died from a fever and she had buried him there. Anders wife is left with three small sons and she wants someone from the company to go find out what has happened and perhaps to bring him home. Marina knew him best and his wife thinks Marina should be the one to go. The CIO, who Marina is secretly in a relationship with, also wants Marina to be the one as he trusts her to find out about the drug and if it is a reality. Marina reluctantly agrees. She was a former student of Dr. Swenson and does not have positive memories of the experience.
When Marina gets to the Amazon, she spends days trying to find someone who can take her to Dr. Swenson's camp. When she finally gets there, she is shocked by many things. The reason for the potential drug is that the local tribe, buried deep in the jungle, has an astonishing characteristic. The women remain fertile most of their lives, having babies in their sixties and seventies. If the company can develop a drug that will extend fertility for older women, it will be a breakthrough drug financially.
But Dr. Swenson hasn't changed. She is still the remote, take no nonsense, never listen to an excuse woman Marina knew decades before. Swenson is now in her own seventies but hasn't slowed down and feels no compulsion to share her results or even progress with the company funding her. Marina is lost at first but as the days and weeks go by, adjusts to the very different life she finds. She still doesn't know much about Ander's end, but makes discoveries about the drug and another hidden secret. Can Marina successfully complete her mission?
This book feels like a departure for Patchett. It does have the relationship component most of her novels do, but it is set in a very different landscape and raises several moral questions the reader will ponder. What do we owe our friends? What do we owe the companies that employ us? If a scientific discovery will change the world, is it always right to pursue it in the name of knowledge? Readers will come to different conclusions but all will find much to like in this novel. This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.
Wednesday, March 25, 2020
Mike Engleby is a lucky man. He grew up in a working class family in England, his father dying young and leaving his mother to scratch out a living and support two children. Engleby is smart and is able to do so well in school that he wins a place at an exclusive boarding school and then at one of the top English universities. All is not lucky though. The boarding school is a prime example of the routinized brutality that boys can adopt toward those that do not seem the same or who do not fall into line. Engleby's time there is miserable, his nickname Toilet.
When he gets to university, things are better. He is admired for his intelligence and since the social setup is new, he is able to join clubs and go to pubs with his peers. As he tells his story, we hear that he is fairly happy, the work easy for him and he feels accepted. Yet he tells of petty thefts he does without conscience and he is fairly dismissive of many of his fellow students.
There is one student he is never dismissive of. Jennifer Arkland is a young woman, vibrant in her youth and friendly to all those around her. She has a boyfriend but Engleby is not put off by that. He is fiercely attracted to Jennifer and manages to work his way into her social circle by joining the same clubs she does and always being around to help the group in any way possible. When Jennifer disappears his senior year, Engleby, as her other friends, is dismayed and realizes this event is what tears away the last of the student veneer and makes him an adult.
But what is Engleby to do in life? He drifts into being a journalist and is as surprised as anyone to find that he is good at it and that it pays well. He acquires some of the things he never had in his early life such as a flat and a nice car. He meets influential people as he interviews them for feature pieces and starts a relationship with a woman he meets at work. He realizes that he is happy but that happiness is shattered when after eight years, Jennifer's body is found.
This book is a departure for Faulks, who is known more for his historical novels. The novel is written in first person narrative and the reader is introduced to Engleby and sees the world through his eyes. A slow realization becomes certainty that he is an unreliable narrator and that the world that Engleby sees is not a true representation of reality. The true Engleby that is slowly revealed is miles from his own perception and the reader ends up horrified at how different reality is when seen from outside Engleby's world. This book is recommended for literary fiction readers.
Sunday, March 22, 2020
Cassie Hanwell is doing just fine, thank you very much. She is a rising star in the Austin, Texas, fire department. She is tough and creative and energetic. Quite a turnaround for someone who had a horrific teenage life. On her sixteenth birthday, her mother left Cassie and her father to start life with another man. She wasn't around when the worst thing in Cassie's life occurred and she had no one to talk to about it. Cassie has no love life but she thinks love is highly overrated and doesn't care.
So when her mother asks her to give up her job and move in with her for a year in Massachusetts, Cassie's first instinct is to say no. But when she punches out a councilman at a big citywide event, it's take a transfer or give up firefighting. Firefighting is in Cassie's blood and it's the foundation of her life. She can't give it up so she takes the transfer.
Her immediate impression is that it won't work. She moves from an enlightened fire department with many female employees to a small, out of date firehouse that has never had a woman on board. She comes in the same day as a rookie, and he is everything she is not. He looks like a firefighter; plenty of muscles and a clean cut appearance. He is the son of a lifetime fire fighter and he knows everyone in the house already. Cassie has one advantage over him; she is experienced and much better at everything. Her new chief assigns her to train him and that is a problem. For some reason, Cassie finds herself attracted to the rookie even though she would never admit it to him or anyone else. She doesn't want an attraction, she just wants to do her job, put in her time and move back to Austin.
When the city decides it needs to cut back personnel, the rivalry between Cassie and the rookie becomes more heated. One of them will be cut as they are the newest and started on the same day. Will the department go for the picture perfect firefighter or for Cassie with her clear advantage in knowledge and skillsets? Will the sexism that is rampant in the firehouse ruin her career path?
Katherine Center has written an engaging love story that fits in perfectly in the modern workplace where women now are represented in every occupation. It highlights sexism, the need for inclusion and attachment to others, sexual harassment and the freedom that forgiveness gives one to pursue a healthier life. The characters are realistic as are the situations Cassie faces. Her life isn't perfect but maybe she can learn to make it better. This book is recommended for readers of women's fiction.
Saturday, March 21, 2020
Hackberry Holland had his entire life set out as soon as he was born. Youngest son of a state Senator and esteemed lawyer, Holland was to follow in his footsteps, be a partner in the family law firm along with his brother and when the time is right, run for the Senate himself. He lives on the family ranch, a pristine estate with rolling lawns and a gorgeous mansion. He is married to the prestigious and elegant Verisa, the epitome of a prized Southern belle.
But somewhere along the way, Hackberry realized he didn't want any of it. He served as a corpsman in the Korean War and was captured and imprisoned as a POW for three years. That experience and the torture and inhumanity he experienced there changed him forever and made the riches and prestige seem like nothing more than a thin paper veneer. He spends his time drinking, cruising in his Cadillac, spending time with other women and looking for something that seems to make a damn.
Holland gets a call from one of his old war buddies who has been imprisoned. Ramos has been imprisoned due to his activities attempting to organize the migrant workers who harvest all the Texas crops. When Ramos is railroaded and sent for five years to the worst penitentiary in the state, Holland finds his new mission. Working with the migrants, he falls in love with Rie, who has come from the North to help with their fight. Now he has a mission and a fight he can believe in. But can Hackberry escape his past and its obligations?
James Lee Burke is a legend in the mystery genre. He has won two Edgar Awards and was named a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America. This is an early work of Burke's and he goes on later to write other novels about Hackberry. It may be difficult for readers to get past the initial impression of Hackberry, when he is flailing about in a drunken state, hurting those around him as he tries desperately to find something he can believe in and build his life around. Yet ultimately, Holland's determination to help those who society has ignored makes him an admirable figure. This book is recommended for mystery readers.
Friday, March 20, 2020
When an injury ended Clay Edison's dream of a career in the NBA, he had to find another path for his life. He ends up as a deputy coroner, his job to attend suspicious deaths and then pronounce the cause of death, accident, suicide, murder. When he gets the call to a death of an elderly man at the bottom of a staircase, he assumes it will be an accident call. Walter Rennert, the victim, lived alone and had little human contact. A stair fall is a common home accident and it is easy for it to end in a death depending on how the victim falls and whether there is help available.
But the victim's daughter, Tatiana, is there, and she insists it is no accident. She says her father was a psychologist but was forced out of his profession after a study he was working on ended up with bad publicity after a subject in the study was accused and jailed for killing a young woman. The implication was that the study was in some way responsible for her death and Rennert was left unemployed and bitter. Edison thinks that is unusual but when Tatiana tells him that another person associated with the study died some years before in the exact same way he starts to wonder.
Edison leaves the case open, even though his supervisor is unhappy about it. He starts to investigate the case more deeply and he gets drawn into the lives of Walter, the other death victim, and the man who went to prison for the murder associated with the study. Although most of what Clay uncovers is in line with an accidental death, some of it keeps him searching deeper and deeper. Can he uncover the truth?
This book is a collaboration between Jonathan Kellerman and his son, Jesse. The book works well with no disjointed narrative as can sometimes happen in a collaboration. The main character, Edison, is likable and I'd be interested to read another novel about his work. This book is recommended for mystery readers.
Wednesday, March 18, 2020
New York DA Butch Karp is recovering from his last case where he ended up taking an assassin's bullet. He is still determined to find out and put behind bars the terrorists who targeted him, killed several schoolchildren and are determined to cause the downfall of the American government. Butch is out of work while recuperating but he's far from not being busy.
An old friend comes to him with a legal case based in Idaho. The man was a college baseball coach. He lost his job and his reputation when he dismissed a rich man's son from the team after hearing about sexual predatory moves by the son at a party for recruits that should never have happened. In retaliation, those outraged by the dismissal start rumors that the coach set up the party in the first place and that everything that happened there is his fault. The college, under pressure from the father, use the rumors to dismiss the coach and get him banned from coaching for ten years. He needs Butch's help to fight the case and get his job and reputation back.
The rest of the family aren't idle either. Karp's wife befriends a man in Idaho whose daughter has been missing. It's been long enough that he feels she is dead but he needs to find her so he can get closure and bury her with his wife. Marlene gets involved in the case, hoping to help him find what peace he can. In the meantime, Marlene and Butch's daughter is caught up in New York with the terrorist investigation; her ability to see things in the future giving insights into what needs to be done. Can all these cases be resolved?
This is a long-standing series by Tanenbaum. This particular novel is the nineteenth in the series and long time fans will find much to love here. Those who haven't read the series will find that it can be read successfully as a stand alone. Butch is always at the forefront of any fight he gets involved in and the reader will get insight into legal procedures and court cases as well as the machinations that go on behind the scene. This book is recommended for legal thriller readers.
Monday, March 16, 2020
They were the perfect couple. Lotto (short for Lancelot) was the light in every room, the person everyone turned toward. He was an actor and then later a playwright. Mathilde was his queen; a tall pretty girl who never interacted with anyone until the night he saw her across a crowded room at a party and said 'Marry me'. Two weeks later they did.
From the start, they were everything to each other. Lotto came from money but his mother disowned him when she heard he had married without her permission. Mathilde had nothing, no family, no money. Yet they knew their lives were going to be golden and jumped into the future. For years, they were poor. Lotto didn't make it in the acting world; getting just enough roles to keep his dreams alive but not to support them. Mathilde was the one who went out to work and kept them going. Then one night, drunken, Lotto sat down at the computer and poured out his soul. The resulting play was a resounding success, as was the ones that followed every year. Soon the two were rich in their own right.
Then we read the other side of the fairy tale. This was the story from Mathilde's perspective. We saw how she spent her life living the dream Lotto wanted to see and that she was very different from how he saw her. She spent her life behind the scenes, altering and manipulating life so that it fit the dreams Lotto had. The reality he perceived was totally false and he was instead a player in the spider webs Mathilde wove.
This book was a tour de force for Groff. It was a finalist for the National Book Award and an Amazon Best Book of the Year. It was a NPR Morning Edition Book Club Pick and a best book by various newspapers, Kirkus, Library Journal and many more. The first half of the book from Lotto's perspective is amazing; then the second half leaves the reader stunned as they realize that they had also bought into the manipulated reality that Mathilde created. This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.
Friday, March 13, 2020
Along with everyone else, our routines are being affected by the covid-19 virus. We're probably less affected than others as being retired, it's easier to self-quarantine which we are doing. For me, it means giving up going to the gym, book club meetings and lunch with friends but since I'm in a group higher in risk, it's what is needed. My son got tickets to the first round of March Madness for me and him for a Christmas present but that isn't happening. I went yesterday and stocked up at the grocery so that we don't need to eat out for several weeks. Of course, staying home equals more reading time. Here's what has come through the door lately:
1. Tombstone, Tom Clavin, nonfiction, won in contest
2. The Sisters Grim, Meena van Praag, fantasy, sent by publisher
3. The Hidden Things, Jamie Mason, mystery, won in contest
4. Hello, Summer, Mary Kay Andrews, women's lit, sent by publisher
5. Deep As Death, Katja Ivar, mystery, sent by publisher
6. The Knockout Queen, Rufi Thorpe, literary fiction, sent by publisher
7. Grown Ups, Emma Jane Unsworth, literary fiction, won in contest
8. Crush The King, Jennifer Estep, fantasy, sent by publisher
9. The Last Day, Andrew Murray, science fiction, sent by publisher
10. In A Strange Room, Damon Galgut, literary fiction, purchased
11. Blame The Dead, Ed Ruggero, mystery, sent by publisher
12. 13 Billion To One, Randy Rush, memoir, sent by publisher
13. A Registry Of My Passage Upon The Earth, Daniel Mason, anthology, won in contest
14. Victim 2117, Jussi Adler Olsen, mystery, sent by publisher
Here's what I'm reading:
1. Rattle, Fiona Cummins, Kindle Fire
2. What You Save From The Fire, Katherine Center, Kindle Fire
3. Crime Scene, Jonathan and Jesse Kellerman, hardback
4. Underland, Robert McFarland, audio
5. The Cold, Cold Ground, Adrian McKinty, audio
6. Lay Down My Sword And Shield, James Lee Burke, paperback
7. Frankisstein, Jeanette Winterson, Kindle Fire
Dr. Edward Jenner is a pathologist. He worked for the city of New York until after 9-11, which left him emotionally scarred. Now he makes his living consulting and occasionally lecturing. His latest case is that of a young girl who has been horrifically murdered; tortured and her body nailed to the wall. Her parents have hired him to use his expertise in addition to that of the forensic office to find out what happened.
When the killer left, he didn't realize that the girl's roommate was also in the apartment. Ana De Jong, managed to flee by the fire escape; the killer saw her too late once she was on the ground. She saw him and is able to give the police a description, although she is traumatized and feels that he will come after her as well.
Jenner has problems from the start. Although he still has many friends in the medical examiner's office from his time there, the head of the office dislikes him intensely and fired him a year ago. Any help given him has to be done under the radar. The policeman in charge of the case, Roggetti, is willing to work with him. Soon, it is apparent that this is not a singular murder but one in a series. Each features a young woman brutally tortured before her death.
Jenner has the insight that the killer is following the deaths of various saints and kills on that saint's day. Ana has come to him for help and he is protecting her, although there seems to be a romantic relationship starting there as well. That fact gives Jenner a personal stake in finding the killer before he can strike again.
This is the debut novel of an author who is a pathologist himself. His expertise with the procedures gives the book more authority but there are issues as well. It is fairly unbelievable that the police would decide to work hand in hand with an man who is not associated with either the police or the medical examiner's office. It is also unlikely that the experience of being a pathologist would make one able to carry out a high stakes murder investigation. That was the biggest problem I found with the book. Otherwise, it was an impressive debut. The ending is particularly suspenseful and the reader will be affected by this killer. This book is recommended for mystery readers.
Tuesday, March 10, 2020
When Dr. Alex Delaware gets a call from help from his friend, LAPD detective Milo Sturgis, he isn't surprised. The LAPD has used him before to provide psychological input into the criminals that commit murder. But this case will be different. One of the suspects has a connection to Delaware.
The victim is famous for what he does. Dr. Eldon Mate is a proponent of helping terminal patients die when they want to and he has had lots of publicity for his cases. That's where the connection comes in. One of Mate's clients left behind a husband and children. The husband had come to Alex to provide help to his daughter in the aftermath of losing her mother. Patient confidentiality means that Alex can't tell Milo things he knows from that case.
The police are busy investigating the families of Mate's clients. They begin to investigate the family that Alex counseled. At the same time, Milo is contacted by an FBI agent that believes there is a connection to a serial killer that he has been tracking for years. Which is more likely, that there is a connection to this killer or that Mate has been killed by a survivor? Can Alex and Milo's friendship survive a strain caused by the rules of each individual's job?
This is the sixteenth Alex Delaware novel. Fans will be familiar with Alex and Milo's friendship and their lives. The new twists in this book add something more to the partnership. An exploration of doctors who use their medical training to kill patients is also found in the novel. This book is recommended for mystery readers.
Saturday, March 7, 2020
Jack Till after his retirement as a LAPD moved on to become a private investigator. Most of his cases are routine and don't need his homicide investigation skills. But now parents of a murdered young woman have come to him to try to find out more about her death. The LAPD has written it off as a home robbery gone wrong as she was found shot in her home.
Till reluctantly takes the case. He soon discovers that the woman was a high priced call girl, something her parents never knew. There aren't many clues about the case but something tells Till there is more to the story than the police found. He continues to work the case and finds other women who fit the same pattern, call girls, shot at home, with strawberry blonde hair, and most tellingly, all wearing the same necklace. He realizes there is a serial killer at work.
But this isn't a typical serial killer at work. Instead, Till has uncovered the pattern of a man who uses escorts as his hiding place while he sets up high price assassinations in different cities. The women all think that he is in love with them but his main interest is having a place to live during his weeks of investigation of his targets, a place the police won't uncover when he kills his high publicity targets. The women are killed as an afterthought to keep from leaving witnesses.
Now Till and the killer are in a cat and mouse game as Till looks for new escorts that the killer might use in different cities. His former work as an LAPD buys him some cooperation from the various police forces as he moves from city to city following the killer. Can he find the man and stop him before more women and targets are killed?
Perry is always a satisfying read for mystery lovers. His plots aren't so fantastic that the reader can easily see where things just wouldn't work that way which is a common failing in mysteries. His knowledge of police procedure rings true and his plots have enough twists and turns to keep the reader involved. This book is recommended for mystery readers.
Thursday, March 5, 2020
Tara Westover grew up in Idaho in a fundamentalist religious family. She was one of seven children, the second from the last. They lived in a rural area and as much off the grid as her father could make them. They didn't register the children at birth, her father made his living in a marginal cash business and the family had no use for doctors and modern medicine. The mother was a midwife and an herbalist and she had her babies at home and when someone was hurt or ill, she used her herbal knowledge to care for them.
The children were schooled at home. Or what passed for education as little formal effort was made. Tara tells of one incident where she flipped through 50 pages in her math book and told her mother she had done 50 pages. Rather than quizzing her to see if she had understanding, her mother just praised her telling her that's why they home schooled because Tara could never work at her fast pace in the public schools. Her father ruled the household and was a survivalist; he took stories such as Ruby Ridge and the Weaver family to heart as it fed into his paranoid tendencies.
Tara not only wasn't supported in getting an education but there were other consequences. She was raised doing dangerous work, stripping parts in a junkyard or driving large pieces of equipment as her father and brothers worked on building things. When one of her brothers started acting out his anger on Tara, she tried to hide it. She got no protection or acknowledgement of what was happening from her family.
But something in Tara wanted more. When one of her elder brothers rebelled and went off to college, it stirred that impulse in Tara. She studied and studied until she could pass the ACT test and even made a high enough score to obtain a scholarship. She moved off to college and found a society there that was different from her home and its beliefs in every manner possible. As she studied and discovered the truths about the world that she had no idea of, she determined that she would live in the educated world. She went on to get a degree, a master's and even a doctorate from Cambridge in England.
This is a memoir and as such, is written by Westover from her memories. Her family disputes her version of events and she is estranged from most of them at this point. Her feeling that they did not support her or help her can not be reconciled in their view of this period. Westover documents her events with diary entries and letters from her siblings as best she can, but there is always a difference in how different family members remember events. Regardless of the truth, it is a remarkable achievement to have three children from such a background go on to get doctorates as the Westover family did. This book is recommended for nonfiction readers.
Tuesday, March 3, 2020
They've all come home to support their mother through an illness and because each is at a juncture in their lives where they are struggling. The father of the family is a Shakespeare professor at the local university and the girls were brought up in a house without tv, everyone reading instead. Each sister left and struck out on their own but now are back, to help their mother and to try to patch their own lives together.
Rose is the eldest. She had been a professor herself but has been informed that she wasn't on the tenure track and wouldn't have a job the next year. Rose has always felt like she was the second mother, trying her best to keep everyone in line and on the straight and narrow. She is engaged but her fiance is overseas for a year. He wants Rose to join him but she quails at the thought. Bianca or Bean as everyone calls her is the sister who men are attracted to. She couldn't wait to get out of town and went to New York where she landed a high-paying job. Now, after a scandal, she has come home crestfallen, without either a man or a career. Cordy is the youngest and everyone knows she was spoiled. When she left, it was to roam the country, never staying anywhere long and depending on the generosity of others to make her way. Now she is back and is pregnant.
Each of the sisters use this time to try to put their lives together. Will Cordy keep the baby? Can Bean find happiness in the small town she couldn't wait to leave? Should Rose take a professorship at her hometown university or leave everything familiar behind and join her fiance overseas? Eleanor Brown has written a novel that touches on the uncertainty most people face in their own lives and that illustrates the relationship between parents and their grown children and the sibling relationships that are forever in place. This novel is recommended for readers of women's fiction.
Sunday, March 1, 2020
The time is 1939 and the location is London, England. Vivian Smith is one of the many children who are being moved out of London into the countryside in order to escape the nightly bombings that are occurring. In Vivian's case, she is on the train along with lots of other children, her destination a cousin of her mother's who has grudgingly agreed to take her in for a while.
But Vivian doesn't get there. She is time traveled to a location far in the future by two boys around her age, Jonathan and Sam. They live in Time City and there is trouble there as well. The area is about to become unstable with consequences for all eras going back into the past. The boys believe that Vivian holds the keys to fixing the future so that Time City will be saved and the past will remain as it is commonly accepted to be.
Vivian isn't sure that she is up to the task but realizes that it is the only method she can use in order to get back to her own time and back to her parents. She agrees to help. The three children start to travel to various time periods, hoping to capture all the caskets that are necessary to save Time City. They aren't very successful since there are powerful forces working against them. All appears lost but is it?
This is a young adult book and the story is much simpler than the intertwined texts and plot lines that most science fiction/fantasy readers are used to. The characters are fairly flat and the explanation of how things work is simple. This novel is recommended for young adults interested in fantasy reading.
Saturday, February 29, 2020
Flora Mackie grew up as the daughter of a whaling captain. As a single parent, he made the decision to take his daughter with him on his yearly expeditions to the North to hunt whales so Flora grew up familiar with the environment, her friends Eskimo children. When she was an adult, her only dream was to return and do scientific work in the area as it was still mainly unexplored and not much was known about the weather and other features.
Other individuals had this same yearning. In particular, there was a race to be the first to get to the North Pole and many expeditions were mounted to do so. One was led by Lester Armitage, an explorer who was willing to bend any rules in order to get results. His crew was evenly divided between those who wanted to explore uncharted territory and those interested in scientific work in the area. Jakob de Beyn was one of the scientists, interested in the geographic information that could be gained.
On expeditions to the North, Flora and Jakob meet. There is an instant connection and when they both returned home, they met again and a love affair started. Flora was married but to a man who was disabled from an accident and the affair broke off when he had a health crisis. The two met again in later years on expeditions and the affair was reignited. They had in common their love for the land and their dislike of Armitage who Jakob held responsible for his best friend's death.
This novel allows the reader to go to these frigid lands without leaving the comfort of their home. The story line goes back and forth in time, between the expeditions the two main characters went on and the final expedition in 1948 where the North Pole was finally reached. The two main characters are interesting, especially Flora who had to fight the mores of her time and the strictures against women having control of their own lives. This book is recommended for readers of historical fiction.
Friday, February 28, 2020
Billy Jensen grew up on Long Island, the only son in a family of girls. His hero was his father who ran a painting company. He and his father were inseparable, and what his father loved was true crime. He liked to read crime stories in the paper and talk about them with anyone around. Billy grew up to be a news reporter, partly due to this early exposure to his father's fascination.
Billy started as a stringer for papers, just happy to get any jobs. But he soon turned to focusing on crimes and had an early success when a body was found under a house. He tracked down the former owner and it turned out that man was the murderer; the body his former mistress. After that, Billy was hooked. But as newspaper after newspaper went under, he needed another medium to focus his work on. That medium is the Internet.
Jensen is in the forefront of using the Internet to crowdsource information to solve murders. He explains how he uses Facebook, for example, to get information, pictures and clues focused specifically on the audience that may have answers. An early success was the murder of a man in the street by another man in a hoodie that concealed his features. But Billy was able to uncover valuable information by posting a video of the crime, narrowing down on the man's hairline and distinctive gait. He gave the information he received to the police and the man was eventually arrested.
The book focuses on several cases that Jensen was involved with. One was a crime where four barrels were discovered in a forest, a woman and three little girls within. Despite the best efforts of all, these women are not identified nor their killer found even as years go by. Another was a case where a woman with a dragon tattoo on her shoulder is a suspect. The most chilling case is that of a serial killer who Jensen helped identify. This man's pattern was that he would target a woman with young children, kill the woman then use the child in his search for another woman, his story how lost he was to raise a child alone. After securing the next woman and child, he would kill the child he had and start the pattern again.
Fans of true crime will find this an invaluable book. It talks about the DNA controversy of using familial matches to identify killers. It gives practical advise to those interested in working on cases from their homes and how to work with the police. It details Jansen's friendship with Michelle McNamara whose work was pivotal in catching the Golden State Killer who is yet to go on trial. Readers will enjoy Jensen's retelling of crimes and the men and women who commit them. This book is recommended for true crime readers.
Thursday, February 27, 2020
It was to be a relaxing time of travel and fun memories for Daniel and Laura. Daniel had just sold his Internet app to a large company and is taking a break. He and Laura decide to tour Europe before their marriage and the first few weeks are everything they had anticipated. But trouble found them. A foolish mistake led them to be summarily set off the train they were traveling on when they couldn't produce their tickets or passports. They are stranded in a small rural station along with another passenger who argued on their behalf. The station is closed so they start walking to find the nearest settlement to try to straighten out their situation. Before they can get there, one of the most horrible events one can imagine takes place and they end up running to civilization, determined to put it out of their minds and lives.
But tragedy is not so easily avoided. With the help of the embassy, they get back to their home in London but they are both affected by what happened. Although they promise never to tell anyone, the stress tears them apart and soon Laura has moved out, leaving Daniel to try to pick up the pieces by himself. Events begin to happen that show him that the trouble has followed him home and soon everyone associated with him starts to have tragedies in their own lives. Who or what is behind the issues Daniel must face and work through?
Mark Edwards has written a traveler's tale that will strike fear into the reader. The scariest part of Daniel's ordeal is that he doesn't know where the calamities are coming from but he realizes that every person he tries to talk to about his troubles is being put in danger themselves. That leaves him alone and trying to solve mysteries on his own. He is determined to find out what is going on and get back with Laura but will he be able to do so without even worse events happening? This book is recommended for mystery readers.
Monday, February 24, 2020
They met on what was the worst days for each of them. Their first meeting was on a beach in Nigeria and ended with Little Bee's sister being killed by mercenaries. Their second meeting was two years later when Little Bee was released from a British Immigration Detention center and arrived at Sarah's house on the day her husband, Andrew, was to be buried.
Both women are reeling from the fates life has handed them. Little Bee just wants a place where she can feel safe and her dream had been to find Sarah and Andrew. Sarah is trying to understand the loss of her husband and find a way to move forward raising her young son, Charlie. She finds it difficult to grieve as her marriage had been falling apart since that day in Nigeria and she is involved with another man, Lawrence.
Both women are looking for a way to move forward. Will that way be together or will each of them move on separately?
Chris Cleve has written a novel with characters that won't be easily forgotten. He explores the themes of what we might owe to strangers in difficult situations and that of family, either blood related or chosen. The two women must make choices that are not readily apparent in order to have lives that work for them as they move on from the horrors of their pasts. While there are horrors to be escaped, there is also hope for what a future might be if they can figure out their next steps. This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.
Monday, February 17, 2020
The year is 1840 and the location is Springfield, Illinois. Mary Todd is the belle of the town, a debutante who is considered the most prestigious catch in the city. Abraham Lincoln is a poor man who rides the circuit as a lawyer, away for weeks at a time and deficient in social skills. His best friend is Joshua Speed, the owner of the local mercantile store and his roommate. Joshua is everything Lincoln is not; handsome, witty and skilled in all the social graces. Yet the two men form a friendship that makes the hostesses of the town never invite one without the other, the two complementing each other so well that they almost seem to have an act.
No one would expect Lincoln and Mary to become a pair, least of all Mary. She is initially put off by him as are many by his lack of conventional looks and awkwardness but she discovers that under his exterior lies an interesting man who she just can't seem to forget. Her sister, with whom she is living while she finds a husband, is appalled that Mary might consider Lincoln to be a suitor even though he is a law partner of her own husband. Yet there is something about Lincoln that makes Mary unable to forget him and look at more socially suitable men.
As time goes on, tension springs up between Joshua and Abraham as Abraham becomes more involved with Mary. There is almost a jealousy that Joshua has for anyone else in Lincoln's life. Although it is never spoken, it becomes clear that the friendship may mean more to Joshua than it considered acceptable. What will become of this trio of individuals?
Louis Bayard has written a tale of the early years of Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd that will keep the reader compulsively turning the pages. We know of Mary Todd Lincoln only in her latter years, when she is half mad with grief for her children. Almost no one knows anything about Joshua Speed and his pivotal role in Lincoln's evolution from a backwoods lawyer to a man who can lead a nation in its most perilous times. The writing is delicious and this reader finished the book only to vow to read all of Bayard's titles that I haven't yet read. He has always been one of my favorite authors and this book is proof of why. This book is recommended for readers of historical and literary fiction.
Sunday, February 16, 2020
Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers has very little in her life. She has her job at Scotland Yard and she has a few friends. One is Inspector Thomas Lynley and then there are her neighbors. Taymullah Azhar is a research scientist, a Muslim working and living in London. His ten year old daughter, Hadiyyah, is someone Barbara cherishes and she has become friends with the father as well.
Now Hadiyyah is gone. Azhar had a relationship with an English woman named Angelina who is Hadiyyah's mother although the two never married. Now Angelina has taken Hadiyyah and disappeared. Azhar is desolate and begs Barbara to help him find his daughter. Barbara is only too glad to help although it puts her tenuous job at Scotland Yard in more danger as she spends time on the search instead of putting her nose to the grindstone on her assignments. With the help of a private detective, they discover Angelina has a new man and he has taken her and Hadiyyah to Italy. Then the worst happens.
Angelina shows up in London, shouting at Azhar to give her their daughter. Since Azhar doesn't have her, it is plain that something has happened and someone else has Hadiyyah. Although Barbara wants to go to Italy to help find the girl, her superior at the Yard absolutely refuses although Lynley is sent as the British representative to help the Italian police as he can. Can the girl be found?
This is the eighteenth Inspector Lynley novel and is a bit of a departure as it focuses more on Detective Havers than on Lynley. Havers's tendency to cut corners and do what she thinks is best instead of strictly following orders has her job on the line with a new Chief Inspector and this disruption couldn't have come at a worse time for her professionally. She tries everything she can to find the little girl she has come to love even if it means sacrificing her own career and friendships. This book is recommended to readers of mystery fiction.
Wednesday, February 12, 2020
He wakes up in the forest, disoriented. But he doesn't have time to figure things out as he sees a fleeing figure and someone chasing the woman who is running for her life. As he stumbles away, he realizes he doesn't even know who he is. After running for help, he comes upon a huge country house and bursts in only to find that no one really believes him. But he does get a name for who he is although it doesn't seem right.
As the day progresses, he finds out the rules. This is the Hardcastle ancestral home and the daughter of the house will be murdered that night at a dinner and dance. He needs to find out who will do the murder. To do so, he will go from host to host, waking up as each of them until he manages to put the clues together. He finally finds his name, Adrian Bishop, but Adrian's essence is not available as takes on the thoughts and emotions of each of his hosts.
What a collection of hosts they are. There is the coward, the blackmailer, the rapist, the massively obese businessman, the lawyer, the policeman. Each has a piece of the puzzle but can Adrian extract what each man knows and put it together? Just to make things more difficult, there are those fighting him to be the first to uncover the mystery and there are those who would kill him to prevent him winning. There are the Hardcastles, whose plan of a dinner and dance is less to celebrate their daughter than to remind her of the day her brother was killed years before, a death they blame on her. There are those who profess to be his allies, but can he trust them?
Turton has written a debut mystery that is full of twists and turns. The reader starts out as confused as Adrian and only slowly starts to understand what is going on as the clues he gets are given to them as well. This serves to underscore the confusion Adrian experiences and the various explanations come to the reader as much as a surprise as they do to Adrian. Underneath the surface, the tension steadily mounts and the ending is climatic and unexpected. This book is recommended for mystery readers.
Monday, February 10, 2020
They find each other in hardship and begin a relationship that lasts the rest of their days. Thomas McNulty has come to America as his family flees the famine in Ireland. The journey is horrendous and Thomas is the only survivor in his family. John Cole has a similar story, fleeing an unhappy family that is destroyed by poverty. The two swear loyalty to each other and set out to find a way to survive.
Their first job is out West where they dress as women to provide some solace to the rough life that miners endure. The men know the boys are not women but the chance to hold someone dressed in lovely clothes and dance for a while provides an escape from their brutal existence. Thomas finds he enjoys dressing as a woman and the finery and comfort of being seen as a woman.
Their next job is as soldiers and their assignment is fighting the Indians still in the territory. John Cole, in particular, is a sharpshooter and the two men spend several years fighting for their major for whom they would do anything. After this assignment, they drift north and become players in a troupe in a bar where again Thomas recreates his role as a woman.
But history waits on no man and the two are swept up in the Civil War and then, when captured, in Andersonsville Prison. Released, they end up going to Tennessee to help out a former friend from their regiment on his farm. With them is the daughter they have adopted, an Indian girl who was the sole survivor of a massacre of her tribe by the Army. When her life is threatened, a situation is put into motion that will threaten everything the two have managed to create.
Sebastian Barry has written a history of the American West that shows how difficult the life was and what men would do in order to survive. The two men's relationship is the only stable thing in a life that could change overnight and where violence could arise quickly out of nowhere. They fight not only on the field but to carve out a place where they can feel safe and have a family and the love every human needs. This novel was nominated for the Booker Prize and is recommended for readers of historical fiction.
Saturday, February 8, 2020
They should never have been friends. Connell is popular at school, a jock, smart and in the top circle socially. Marianne is totally unpopular, the girl everyone talks about and makes fun of. She can be found by herself reading a book and ignoring everyone who makes her life uncomfortable. She is acknowledged as the smartest person in the class and wealthy but that doesn't give her any status. The two develop a relationship outside of school and even there it shouldn't have happened. Connell's mother cleans house for Marianne's family. The two ignore each other at school but soon they develop a sexual relationship outside the prying eyes of their classmates. It continues until close to the end of high school when Connell does an unforgivable thing to Marianne.
Cut to college. Both end up at Trinity College in Dublin. There the roles are reversed. Marianne has an active social life and is doing great in school. Her life is the one she has dreamed of living as she always knew better things were waiting once she got away from the small town she grew up in. Connell is not as lucky. The traits that made him popular in high school don't seem to count for much at Trinity and he finds it difficult to make connections. He ends up at a party and finds his host is dating Marianne. They reconnect and end up living together but at the end of the year a conversation that is misconstrued by each leads to the end of their time together.
As the months and then years go by, Marianne and Connell's relationship endures although in various forms. They see each other through other relationships but there is a draw to each other that pulls them together time after time. Will this be an enduring relationship and are they even right for each other?
Sally Rooney has written a very readable novel about modern romance. There are lots of other people at the periphery of Connell and Marianne's relationship and sometimes they seem to be more important to the two than their love for each other. There is a casualness to love in this novel that is probably more realistic than the mantra of the one true love many readers were brought up to believe but it is a bleaker life than a relationship that puts the other first forever. This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction and also for parents that need to understand what love is like for their children in today's world.
Wednesday, February 5, 2020
They should never even have met, let alone become friends. Poppy Hooper has been an outcast her entire life. She is shunned at school and her academic life has consisted of being cast out of one school after another. Her mother is in a psychiatric hospital lost in delusions while her father insists everything is fine. She and her father have just moved to another new town and the pattern is playing itself out again. She has no friends at school where everyone thinks she is weird.
Ember Hawkweed would have done great at the school. She is the blonde hair, blue eyed girl everyone wants to be friends with. But she doesn't go to school. Instead she lives in a witches' coven deep in the woods and meeting or talking to 'chaff' as normal people are called is forbidden. Ember is the worst witch in the coven, barely able to do anything magical. It's a strange situation for a Hawksweed when prophecy insists one of her name will be the next witch queen.
When the two girls meet, they are drawn to each other and soon a strong friendship is formed. Ember wants to hear all about chaff life with boys and pretty clothes and rock music. Poppy is fascinated with anything magic and lives for the ancient books Ember sneaks out for her to study. Soon Poppy is consumed by the magic and finds a talent and strength in herself she never suspected.
Leo lives on the streets. He ran away from home and the hulking stepfather and stepbrothers who delighted in making his life a misery. He meets Poppy and is instantly attracted to her and she to him. But when he meets Ember, she is also attracted to Leo and now he must decide which girl to pursue, knowing that he will probably end their friendship.
This is the first in the Hawksweek series. The secret of these girls is slowly revealed but the reader will suspect the truth before the reveal. It is a story of teenage alienation and the strong instant friendships that are formed during the young adult years along with the thrill of first loves. This book is recommended for young adult readers.
Tuesday, February 4, 2020
A supplementary edition of Booksie's Shelves. Yesterday was our local library book sale. That's always a dilemma for me. Looking anywhere in my house, the stacks and stacks of books and overflowing bookshelves make it clear I definitely don't need any more books. But, books on sale are hard to resist and I didn't. Here's what I bought:
1. Dismantled, Jennifer McMahon, suspense
2. Merivel, Rose Tremain, historical fiction
3. San Miguel, T. C. Boyle, literary fiction
4. Damnation Street, Andrew Klaven, suspense
5. Hostage, Robert Crais, suspense
6. Even Dogs In The Wild, Ian Rankin, police procedural
7. Bone Rattler, Eliot Pattison, historical mystery
8. The Last Child, John Hart, suspense
9. The Royal Family, William Vollmann, literary fiction
10. Fredrik Backman, My Grandmother Said To Tell You She's Sorry, literary fiction
11. Alan Bradley, The Dead In Their Vaulted Arches, mystery
12. Alan Bradley, I Am Half-Sick Of Shadows, mystery
13. Foul Matter, Martha Grimes, mystery
14. Unaccustomed Earth, Jhumpa Lahiri, anthology
15. No Mark Upon Her, Deborah Crombie, mystery
16. Room, Emma Donoghue, literary fiction
17. Blue Labyrinth, Preston & Child, mystery
18. Blue Shoe, Anne Lamott, literary fiction
19. Nothing But The Truth, John Lescroart, mystery
20. Hard Evidence, John Lescroart, mystery
21. Dr. Death, Jonathan Kellerman, mystery
22. Feast Day Of Fools, James Lee Burke, mystery
Saturday, February 1, 2020
Aaron is still figuring out this whole adult life thing. He works at his family's vanity publishing house where they specialize in a series called The Beginner's Guide to various things like parenting, job performance, buying a house, making a will, etc. Aaron has a limp and an arm that doesn't work as well as the other and has spent his life fending off well wishers who want to mother him. He knows he can take care of himself and is not interested in being treated like a child. When he falls in love, it's with Dorothy who is a no nonsense doctor a few years older than him who never tries to manage him unlike his older sister.
But things aren't going well. Dorothy was killed a year ago in a freak house accident when a tree falls on the house and the roof collapses. Aaron has had to move back in with his sister while his house is being renovated by a team of workers. Oh, and he has started seeing Dorothy occasionally and hears her talking to him in his mind. It's not constant but it happens frequently enough that he's pretty sure it's the real deal. Can Aaron move forward to a new life after his rough start?
Anne Tyler is one of my favorite authors and reading a book by her is like coming home and settling into your favorite chair with a box of candy and a good read. She gently leads the reader to life lessons that you realize you always knew but maybe had forgotten in the rush of daily life. Aaron is another likeable character who just needs some time to figure things out and the reader will be cheering for him to do so. This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.
Friday, January 31, 2020
From the outside, Adrian Wolfe has carved out a successful life. Now middle aged, he has built a successful architectural firm. He has five wonderful children. He has two ex-wives and married a third time. Susie was his first wife, right out of college. They had Luke and Kat but then Adrian met and married Claire, leaving Susie and the children behind. Claire and he had three children, but once again Adrian left wife and children behind when he met and married Maya. They are all one big happy family, taking vacations together and socializing.
As the novel opens, Adrian is grieving. Maya has been dead for a year after stepping in front of a bus late one night while intoxicated. There's no reason she should have done so and her death is a bit of a mystery. Even more mysterious is the woman who comes into Adrian's life in answer to an ad he places to give away his cat. She comes to his apartment then disappears but is seen more than coincidentally later around his children. It turns out she has given him a false name and story so who is she and what does she want?
It becomes clear that Adrian's life is a fairy tale existence only for him. The children, far from being well-adjusted and okay with his desertion are foundering. Luke is doing nothing with his life despite his early promise. Kat is overweight and can't stop eating. Otis is missing school and the younger children just want Adrian to move back home. Things take a sinister turn when Luke finds a folder on the computer full of emails meant to drive Maya away. Was she hounded to death and who was responsible for the campaign of hate?
Lisa Jewell has written a suspense novel that slowly unfolds the story of a self-involved man who blindly follows his desires through life and doesn't understand the consequences of his decisions. It is a treatise on broken families and having experienced this heartbreak in my own family, it hits home about the inevitable hit on a child's self-esteem to have a parent leave for someone else. Readers will be furious with Adrian and wonder how it takes him so long to see the damage he trails behind him. This book is recommended for mystery readers.
Wednesday, January 29, 2020
The first month of January in this new decade is about over. We haven't really had much winter this year and no snow. My daffodils are up and think it is spring so I hope we don't get a blast of artic air. I've been doing the round of doctors for annual visits and have seen so many that I think I might be keeping the medical profession going on my own. January has been a stellar reading month for me this year and I've finished fourteen books and probably will finish one more. I decided I wanted to read more Australian fiction so bought an order of Aussie books that are now here. Here's what's come through the door:
1. Unbreakable, Melissa Seal, mystery, sent by publisher
2. The Winters, Lisa Gabriele, thriller, sent by publisher
3. Alligator Candy, David Kushnor, true crime, purchased
4. Courting Mr. Lincoln, Louis Bayard, literary fiction, sent by publisher
5. Riders In The Chariot, Patrick White, literary fiction, purchased
6. Jack Maggs, Peter Carey, literary fiction, purchased
7. The Swan Book, Alexis Wright, literary fiction, purchased
8. More Than Words, Jill Santopolo, literary fiction, sent by publisher
9. Dust And Shadows, Lyndsay Faye, mystery, purchased
10. Midnight, Kevin Egan, thriller, purchased
11. The Good People, Hannah Kent, literary fiction, purchased
12. The Lewis And Clark Expedition, Gary Moulton, nonfiction, purchased
13. The Girl With The Louding Voice, Abi Dare, literary fiction, sent by publisher
Here's what I'm reading:
1. The Hawksweed Prophecy, Irena Brignull, fantasy, hardback
2. Just One Evil Act, Elizabeth George, mystery, hardback
3. The Beginner's Goodbye, Anne Tyler, literary fiction, hardback
4. In The Cold Cold Ground, Adrian McKinty, mystery, audio
5. Chase Darkness With Me, Billy Jensen, true crime, audio
6. Rattle, Fiona Cummings, mystery, Kindle Fire
7. The 71/2 Deaths Of Evelyn Hardcastle, Stuart Turton, mystery, Kindle Fire
Monday, January 27, 2020
When Mae's friend helps her get a job at the Circle, she can't believe her luck. She was working in a dead end job at a utility where she was bored to tears. The Circle is everyone's dream job. The best and brightest work there and the pay and benefits show that. The campus has everything anyone could want, with exercise facilities, world class restaurants, dormitories for those who need to stay over and lectures and demonstrations of all that is new and noteworthy in the world.
The Circle uses data to solve problems and it seems there are no problems it cannot solve. Need to cut crime? Saturate the area with tons of cameras. Need to cure an intractable disease? Network all those who suffer from it and the data collected can fuel cures.
Of course, in order to collect the enormous amount of data needed for breakthroughs, some things have to be sacrificed. Things like privacy. Things like ever being disconnected from social media. Things like having anything secret or doing anything that isn't open to public view and comment. Things like working crushing amount of hours and having to meet performance goals that are in the 98th percentile with constant feedback and the pressure of doing whatever it takes to push the rate upward, always upward.
As Mae gets more entrenched in the culture, she faces issues she didn't expect. She has to decide whether to retain friendships and family outside the Circle. She has to determine if love can be a part of her life. She has to decide what is more important, the goals of the Circle or her former life. Which will she choose?
Eggers has written a novel that asks important questions about the data driven environment we seem to be moving toward. There are benefits to be derived from the collection and analysis of massive amounts of data but what about personal privacy? Unfortunately, the book often makes these points in a heavy handed manner but they are ideas that are important to consider. This book is recommended for readers of science fiction.
Sunday, January 26, 2020
Inspector Walter Day and his Murder Squad are called to a small mining community. A man, his wife and their smallest child have disappeared, leaving behind the three older children. The three left behind are the children of a first marriage while the disappeared child is the child of the second. Where have these people gone? The innkeeper's daughter has made a horrifying discovery; a human eyeball plucked from its socket. Is it related?
Day isn't keen on being out of town. His wife is about to have their first child and he is consumed with worry about becoming a father and whether she will survive childbirth with a healthy child. Survival isn't a given in 1890's England and there is cause to worry.
The town itself is another cause for worry. Day and his Sergeant Nevil Hammersmith have arrived in a setting rife with superstitions and rumors. There seem to be few people around and little evidence that anyone is worried about the missing inhabitants. The local policeman has called in Scotland Yard but he has few ideas about how to help. There is a schoolteacher who is helping with the children of the missing family but outside of her, no one seems concerned or that interested in finding what has happened.
This is the second mystery in the Murder Squad series. For readers who enjoy the Victorian time period, this mystery is full of the flavor of Dickens with some murder and mayhem thrown in. Day and Hammersmith are interesting characters; their loyalty to each other and to pursuing justice is evident. This book is recommended for mystery readers.