Thursday, May 29, 2014

Reckless by Andrew Gross

Ty Hauck gave up his right to investigate local crimes when he retired from the police force and joined a private security firm.  But when he hears about the family that is murdered, and realizes that the wife is a former friend, he can't help but shadow the investigation.  The husband was a big-shot on Wall Street, a trader who bought and sold stocks with values in the billions.  After his death, the discovery is made that he has been dealing outside the rules and his exposure brings down the firm.  Then another trader at another firm also is killed and his firm faces extinction.

About the same time, Hauck is asked to look into the background of the new boyfriend of a local wealthy woman.  The more he looks into the man's background, the shadier he seems and it seems that he is connected somehow to the murders that have been occurring.  Hauck teams up with Treasury Agent Naomi Blum to figure out what is going on and how the murders are involved.  Before they know it, they uncover a vast conspiracy that could wreck the financial markets of the world.  Can they find those responsible before everything crashes down?

Andrew Gross has written a fast-paced thriller that ties into the financial instability that occurred in 2008, and had investors and everyone else fearful.  This is the third Ty Hauck mystery and Ty's background is filled in for the reader.  Even those who don't follow the markets will be compelled to follow the story and see what happens.  This book is recommended for mystery lovers.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Booksie's Shelves, May 28, 2014

Summer is here and I'm enjoying being off the clock and daily schedules of taking a kid to and from school every day.  Lots more time for reading and that's a lucky thing as tons of new books have appeared.  Here's the newest titles:

1.  The Keeper, Luke Delaney, mysery, Vine review book
2.  The Qualities Of Wood, Mary Vensel White, mystery, sent by publisher
3.  Phantom Instinct, Meg Gardiner, mystery, sent by publisher
4.  Legend Of A Suicide, David Vann, anthology, Paperbackswap book
5.  The Fortune Hunter, Daisy Goodwin, historical fiction, won in contest
6.  The Quick, Lauren Owen, historical suspense, gift
7.  What Strange Creatures, Emily Arsenault, suspense, sent for book tour
8.  Faceoff, edited by David Baldacci, mystery anthology, sent by publisher
9.  Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, literary fiction, purchased
10.  The Merchant Emperor, Elizabeth Haydon, fantasy, sent by publisher
11.  The Narrow Road To The Deep North, Richard Flanagan, literary fiction, Vine review book
12.  Fourth Of July Creek, Smith Henderson, literary fiction, Vine review book
13.  The Pleasure Seekers, Tishani Doshi, literary fiction, Paperbackswap book
14.  City Of Whores, Mark Perry, literary fiction, sent by publisher
15.  A Colder War, Charles Cumming, thriller, won in contest
16.  Long Man, Amy Greene, literary fiction, gift
17.  Think Like A Freak, Steven Levitt, nonfiction, sent by publisher

Here's what I'm reading at the moment:

1.  The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton, reading on Kindle
2.  The Flamethrowers, Rachel Kushner, reading on Kindle Fire
3.  The Orphan Master's Son, Adam Johnson, hardback
4.  Field Notes From A Hidden City, Esther Woolfson, hardback
5.  A March Of Folly, Barbara Tuchman, hardback
6.  A Necessary End, Peter Robinson, paperback
7.  The Silent Wife, A.S.A. Harrison, paperback
8.  Here Is Where, Andrew Carroll, paperback
9.  The Leopard, Jo Nesbo, hardback
10.  The Invisible Ones, Steph Penney, hardback
11.  Dying Light, Stuart MacBride, reading on Kindle Fire

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Bobcat And Other Stories by Rebecca Lee

In Bobcat And Other Stories, Rebecca Lee takes the reader on a tour of individuals who attempt to find love and happiness in a variety of way.  Although they may not get the result they want, there is value in the striving for a better life.

There are seven stories.  The title story, 'Bobcat', takes the reader to a dinner party of upward mobility couples and individuals.  The favored guest is a woman who supposedly has lost her arm while on an expedition to a bobcat attack.  The hostess wonders if her story is true, while also worrying about how her dinner is going and the state of her marriage.  In 'Min' a man and woman are students together.  The man is the son of a wealthy Hong Kong family and plans to go home for the summer to work with his father.  He invites the woman to accompany him and offers her summer employment.  She accepts, only to find that her job is to find the perfect wife for her friend, the only man she has ever met she could imagine marrying herself.

'Fialta' follows a group of architectural interns who are working with an acknowledged master in the field.  The price is adulation and the concession of free will as they allow their mentor to order and decide their lives for them.  'The Banks Of Vistala' shows a different mentor/protege relationship, where a student plagiarizes a paper, only to realize as the term goes on that her professor realizes what she has done but does not turn her in as it validates certain tenets that he lives by.  'Settlers' follows a group of friends over the year, showing how each gets what they desire but not in a perfect manner, instead settling for a facade of what they truly wanted.

Rebecca Lee has written an engaging anthology of stories, one that short story readers will eagerly anticipate.  Her ability to break through the veneer of what one wants to portray to the reality underneath is breathtaking and will illuminate life in a way that will leave the reader reassessing their own desires.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Monday, May 26, 2014

The Book Of You by Claire Kendal

What did she do to cause this?  Clarissa Bourne, in the throes of the breakup of a long-term relationship, goes to the book reading of a professor at the college where she works.  Somehow, she wakes up the next morning in her bed with Rafe Solmes, the professor next to her.  She has no memory of the night.

Rafe, however, has memorized every second and thinks it is the start of a serious relationship.  No matter how Clarissa tries to dissuade him, he sends her notes, calls her, is everywhere she goes.  As her refusals of his attentions mount, so does his obsession with her.  Soon the calls become nonstop and he insists on acting as if she is with him, his fiancĂ© as he calls her to others who see them.

Clarissa feels increasingly trapped, and not sure of what happened that one night, unsure how her story will be perceived by the authorities.  When she finally calls, she is told that the police can do nothing without evidence.  She starts to collect evidence and follows the advice of the pamphlets that she collects about how stalking victims should act.  Soon her only relief from Rafe is her daily journey to a court where she has been chosen as a juror in a long trial.  Unfortunately, the trial is about a woman who was also victimized, and Clarissa is faced daily with what can happen to her if she can't dislodge Rafe from her life.  She meets a widower on the jury panel who makes her feel that she could have a new relationship if she can only dislodge Rafe, but even that hope is squashed as she is ashamed of what her life has become and fearful of what Rafe might do to any other man she shows interest in.

Claire Kendal has written a mesmerizing thriller that will strike a chord of recognition and fear in every female reader.  The way Rafe worms himself into Clarissa's life and her growing disquiet that morphs into self-imprisonment shows how easily almost any woman can be caught up in a stalker's self-delusions, and the difficulty of dislodging attentions and getting back one's life can be.  The author uses classical and fairy tale allusions to deepen the unease the reader feels as they empathize with Clarissa.  This book is recommended for thriller readers and those interested in the psychology of stalkers.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Dirty Book Murder by Thomas Shawver

Michael Bevan is a bookseller.  He fell into selling books after his legal career and his time as a professional rugby player.  When checking out an auction one day, he spots some rare erotica books, as well as one famous book by Colette, inscribed to Ernest Hemingway.  He realizes that he is looking at a goldmine.  However, he quickly spots a rival, Gareth Hughes, who also knows what a treasure is about to be auctioned.

Michael and Gareth agree to partner on the deal, but both are outbid by a mystery bidder.  Resigned, Michael leaves, but notices Gareth slipping the Colette volume under his coat.  That night, he sees him in a bar and confronts him about the theft.  They have words that lead to a physical confrontation.  Thrown out, they agree outside that they are too old for such nonsense and part on good terms.

However, someone isn't ready to let things go.  Gareth's body is found in the river the next morning, and there is evidence that ties Michael to the murder.  He goes undercover to try to discover why anyone would murder Gareth and set him up.  His investigation leads to the top society of the town and the dirty secrets they want to ignore.

Thomas Shawver has written an entertaining mystery about book-selling and the issues found in the book world.  The protagonist, Michael, is an interesting man; one you'd like to have a beer with and discuss books.  The reader is caught up in the mystery and the scandals Michael uncovers.  This book is recommended for mystery fans.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Plover by Brian Doyle

Declan O'Donnell has set sail for nowhere in his book, the Plover.  After growing up on a landlocked farm, he has come to roam the oceans.  He sets sail on the Pacific with no more plan than going west, then west some more.  He is self-sufficient and needs and wants no one.

But something funny happens.  Declan starts to accumulate passengers.  First he happens upon his best friend, Piko and his daughter, Pipa when he puts into port on an island and before he knows it agrees to take them along.  Pipa is trapped in a paralyzed body, the result of being run over by a bus four years before and Piko has devoted his life to taking care of her.  Next comes Taromauri, a huge woman so big and powerful that she has been taken for a man for the last year as she worked on another ship.  She decides she needs to be on the Plover and shows up.  They happen upon a castaway, a former minister of affairs who has been marooned by his constituents when he dared to dream of a new nation unlike any other.  Danilo is a young man who escaped a mid-eastern European country many years ago and ended up in the islands and he becomes another crew member.  Finally, there is Enrique, who is a bitter, controlling man who has spent months searching for the Plover to destroy it.

Then there are the other inhabitants of the ship.  Pipa cannot speak, but her inner voice projects out to the animal kingdom and the birds of the sea are her special friends.  A gull rides with the ship, following it for hundreds of mile, and the terns flock anywhere Pipa is.  The watery inhabitants of the ocean, the fish, the turtles, the whales and porpoises, all hear the siren call of Pipa and interact with the inhabitants of the boat.  As the journey continues, it turns out the destination was a place where many disparate individuals come together to form a family, strong and able to face anything the world can throw at it.

Brian Doyle has written a beautiful, lyrical novel that sings to the soul.  The imagery is magnificent and the unfolding of the family ties tug at the reader's heart.  He speaks of how every denizen of the world is connected and how we can choose to surround ourselves with love and beauty.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Syndrome E by Franck Thilliez

A man in France watches an old film he purchased from an estate and goes blind.  Hospitalized, he contacts a former girlfriend who is a police inspector, Lucie Henebelle.  Lucie is on leave at the moment so takes on an investigation of the film.  It's an older film from 1955, and it is disquieting with shocking images.  However, she doesn't see what could have caused her friend's blindness until she has the film analyzed and finds it contains subliminal images that are so horrific that anyone viewing them retains the images forever.

At the same time, a mass grave with five male victims is discovered.  Each of the victims has had their brain removed as well as their eyes.  Steps have been taken to insure the victims can't be identified.  Inspector Franck Sharko is given the case and he learns that his case and Lucie's seem to be connected.

Working together, the pair soon learn that they are involved with a vast conspiracy.  They discover another mass killing in Egypt, of girls that were treated the same as the French male victims.  There is a connection to Canada, and from there to the United States.  As they investigate further, the conspiracy is so overwhelming that it would be unbelievable if they didn't have the evidence to prove its existence.  They must move quickly to expose it before they are also targeted and killed.

Franck Thilliez has written a thriller that will keep the reader turning pages.  The detectives are interesting, especially Sharko, and the plot is one that shows a world the reader suspects could be real even though it is horrible to contemplate.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Blood Line by Lynda La Plante

DCI Anna Travis is not pleased when her supervisor asks her to take on a missing person's case.  Travis is a homicide detective and she isn't interested in this kind of routine task.  Still, the missing man is the son of one of the boss's friends who also is an employee at the local court so she doesn't have much room to complain.

The man, Alan Rawkins, is twenty-six years old.  He lives a quiet life, working as a skilled mechanic and living with his fiancĂ©, Tina.  They are saving for the wedding and their first house.  Everyone Anna talks to reports Alan as being a quiet man, non-confrontational with hobbies like renovating classic cars and surfing. 

But as Anna looks into the case more, things start to seem strange.  It has been six weeks since anyone has seen Alan.  His credit cards and bank accounts are untouched and his cell phone isn't getting or making any calls.  His car is in the garage where he works and if he has packed and gone somewhere, it isn't evident from looking in his closet.

Beneath the surface that Alan showed to the world, there are dark secrets.  The more Anna investigates the more likely it is that something has happened to Alan, and that he was not the bland, quiet man he showed the world.  It soon seems that everyone Anna encounters has secrets they are desperately attempting to hide.  Can she break through the layers of deceit to find Alan?

This is the seventh novel in the Anna Travis mystery series, but readers who haven't yet read La Plante will find it works as a standalone also.  The police procedures ring true and show the real work of detectives which is not the flashes of intuition that are common on TV detective shows but the result of painstaking research, forensic results and the slow peeling away of layers of lies.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Lovers At The Chameleon Club by Francine Prose

The place is Paris, the time those years leading up to World War II and the occupation of the city by the Germans.  Yvonne is the owner and queen of The Chameleon Club, a place where gender is fluid and those outside society's strictures can count on finding acceptance.  It is the fun place to be and everyone who is anyone is there.

There is the Baroness Lily de Rossignal, whose husband's family owns and manufactures luxury automobiles.  Gabor Tsenyl is the Hungarian photographer who has the Baroness as his patroness.  Lou Villars is a lesbian who is known for her strength; she has an act with her lover, Arlette.  Suzanne Dunois is Gabor's girlfriend.  Lionel Maine is an American who makes his mark by writing about the sin and sex of Paris and its inhabitants.

As years go by, roles change.  Lou transforms herself into a race car driver who drives cars for the de Rossignal family.  When the French government takes her permit due to her lifestyle, she grieves for her life and then falls in with a German lover.  Soon she is spying for the Germans and as the years go by, even becomes one of their torturers.  Suzanne and the Baroness, enemies as each is jealous of Gabor's place in the other's life, become friends as they both join the Resistance. 

Francine Prose has written a fascinating look at the place and time between the World Wars in Paris.  The truth she writes about is slippery, changing as each individual gives their version of various events.  There are love affairs and betrayals, collusion and sacrifices, and the truth is finally that which is told by the survivors.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction and will keep them turning pages far into the night.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Booksie's Shelves, May 13, 2014

The second part of May is stressful!  With the finish of school come tons of papers and projects and tests.  With a teenager in the house, it is stress city.  Add in the end of the year in dance with the recital coming up this weekend, and we're all ready for summer.  Since we can't get enough drama, we're also initiating several house renovation projects that have been on hold for a while.  There are season finales on TV shows and of course, always a ton of great books to read! 

I went to a wonderful book sale last week and was able to restrain myself and only buy six.  That's good since here's what's come in the door lately:

1.  Dept. Of Speculation, Jenny Offill, literary fiction, gift from friend
2.  The Woman Upstairs, Claire Messud, literary fiction, purchased
3.  The Curiorisity, Stephen Kiernan, literary fiction, sent for book tour
4.  Stateline, Dave Stanton, mystery, sent by author
5.  Natchez Burning, Greg Iles, mystery, sent by publisher
6.  Sweet Tooth, Tim Anderson, memoir, sent for book tour
7.  Heart Of Hannen, Fawn Bonning, fantasy, sent by author
8.  The Leader Of Lors, Fawn Bonning, fantasy, sent by author
9.  Identity, Ingrid Thoft, mystery, gift from friend
10.  Compulsion, Jonathan Kellerman, mystery, purchased
11.  Adam, Ted Dekker, mystery, purchased
12.  Here Is Where, Andrew Carroll, travel/history, sent by publisher
13.  The Potato Factory, Bryce Courtenay, literary fiction, purchased
14.  The Devil's Punchbowl, Greg Iles, mystery, purchased
15.  The Kindly Ones, Jonathan Littell, literary fiction, purchased
16.  The Leopard, Jo Nesbo, mystery, purchased

Here's what I'm currently reading:

1.  The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton, reading on Kindle
2.  The Flamethrowers, Rachel Kushner, reading on Kindle Fire
3.  The Orphan Master's Son, Adam Johnson, hardback
4.  Bloodline, Lynda La Plante, paperback
5.  A March Of Folly, Barbara Tuchman, hardback
6.  A Necessary End, Peter Robinson, paperback
7.  The Silent Wife, A.S.A. Harrison, paperback
8.  The Plover, Brian Doyle, paperback

Have a great reading week!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

A Tale For The Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

Ruth, an author living with her husband on a remote Canadian island, finds a treasure while beachcombing one day.  It is a package caught up in some flotsam on the beach and when she opens it, she finds that it contains a diary, some letters, a man's watch and a journal written in French.  Excited, she takes her find home and beings to read the diary.

It is the story of a teenager in Japan.  Nao is currently living in Tokyo, but was raised in Sunnyvale, California.  When her father is downsized from his computer programming job, the family has to return to Japan.  Unable to find a job, the father is ashamed of the crowded apartment they are forced to live in.  Nao is not accepted at her new school, but instead is ostracized and bullied by her schoolmates.

As Ruth reads further, she becomes involved in this other family's life.  Ruth is at loose ends herself, not having written a book lately and unsure if she wants to remain on the island.  She begins to dream about the people in this Japanese family and wonder how the package ended up so many miles from their home.  Were they caught up in the earthquake and subsequent tsunami?  Are they even still alive?

Nao writes of her life.  One of the most influential people in her life is her great-grandmother, who is a Buddhist nun.  She helps Nao accept her new life, and shares with her the story of her son, who is Nao's great-uncle.  He had been a suicide bomber in World War II, a gentle philosophy student who is forced into this role by an uncaring government determined on winning the war.  Ruth realizes that the watch and letters belong to this man.

Ruth Ozeki has written a magical book, one that gives hope to the reader as the family's life is read.  There are autobiographical features, as Ozaki is herself a Zen Buddhist priest who lives on an island in British Columbia.  The book explores themes such as self acceptance, duty, strength in adversity and love of family.  It slowly unfurls the lives of others and explores how we can live in an imperfect world.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction and was shortlisted for both the Booker Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Cold Granite by Stuart MacBride

The worst kind of murderer is loose in Aberdeen.  Several small children have been snatched off the streets and found murdered.  There is no case the police want to solve more, and no case that brings more publicity.

DS Logan McRae has just come back to work from an extended time off due to an injury on the job when a killer he caught managed to stab him repeatedly during the arrest.  He is assigned to a new station where he meets the people who will be his workmates.  There is an interesting woman uniformed policeman assigned to help him; an irascible boss who is demanding yet respected and another boss who is female and seems to have her job down to the point where she rarely has to leave her office. 

As the murders start to pile up, all evidence points to the local mental patient who is feared.  Formerly a brilliant student, the man lost his promising future to mental illness and is now employed as the man who removes dead animals from the roadways.  His illness makes him treasure these dead things and he sees his role in life as transformation of living things.  Did his illness make him take and kill small children?

This is the debut novel in Stuart MacBride's sterling series about DS McRae.  Mystery readers who like police procedurals will love this one as it gives the inside story of how a crime is solved.  But anyone who picks this up will love it as MacBride has the gift of telling a story in such an intriguing way with so much humor that it is an enjoyable read even with such a gruesome topic.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Monday, May 5, 2014

The Devil's Workshop by Alex Grecian

A prison break has occurred at the beginning of this third entry into the Scotland Yard Murder Squad series.  Four or five prisoners have escaped and it is all hands on deck.  Even Inspector Walter Day is expected to help, although his wife Claire is about to have their first child.  He and Sargent Hammersmith go on the chase and soon uncover more than they thought of.  There is betrayal afoot in the force, and the hunt for the escaped prisoners sets loose one of London's nightmares; Jack The Ripper who has been secretly imprisoned for more than a year.  Can the Squad find the prisoners before more murder and havoc is unleashed on London?

Alex Grecian has written a series that will appear to fans of TV shows such as Copper and Ripper Street.  The mix of historical police procedural with crime, which never really changes much, is an intriguing one.  The heroes are fleshed out just enough to be interesting and make the reader want to follow them from case to case.  The suspense is chilling and the climax is a page-turner that will have the reader anxious to find out what happens.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Booksie's Shelf, May 4, 2014

This was a week of bad weather around the country.  Luckily, my part of NC was spared.  I made it back to the pool this week after six weeks away after some surgery.  I swam a mile two different days so I'm happy!  Outside of my current gym obsession, I've been reading a lot.  Here's what's come through the door lately:

1.  Critical Damage, Robert Lewis, mystery, sent by author
2.  Progeny, Anita Bihovsky, suspense, sent by publisher
3.  The Forgotten Seamstress, Liz Trenow, historical fiction, sent by publisher
4.  Syndrome E, Franck Thilliez, thriller, sent by publisher
5.  The Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair, Joel Dicker, mystery, sent by publisher
6.  Two Headed Snake Of Key West, Marilyn Dalla Valle, mystery, sent by author
7.  The Book Of You, Claire Kendal, Suspense, sent for a book tour
8.  The Boy Kings Of Texas, Domingo Martinez, nonfiction, Paperbackswap
9.  The Bird Skinner, Alice Greenway, historical fiction, Paperbackswap
10.  Beauty, Frederick Dillen, literary fiction, sent by publisher
11.  Shaking Out The Dead, K.M. Cholewa, literary fiction, sent by publisher
12.  All Day And A Night, Alafair Burke, mystery, sent for book tour
13.  Lovers At The Chameleon Club, Francine Prose, historical fiction, sent for a book tour
14.  The Transcriptionist, Amy Rowland, literary fiction, sent by publisher
15.  Save The Date, Mary Kay Andrews, women's fiction, sent by publisher
16.  Don't Try To Find Me, Holly Brown, suspense, sent by publisher
17.  Stone Arabia, Dana Spiotta, literary fiction, purchased
18.  The Woman Upstairs, Claire Messud, literary fiction, purchased.

Here's a list of what I'm currently reading:

1.  The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton, reading on Kindle
2.  The Flamethrowers, Rachel Kushner, reading on Kindle Fire
3.  The Orphan Master's Son, Adam Johnson, hardback
4.  The Devil's Workshop, Alex Grecian, paperback
5.  A March Of Folly, Barbara Tuchman, hardback
6.  A Necessary End, Peter Robinson, paperback
7.  A Tale For The Time Being, Ruth Ozeki, paperback
8.  Cold Granite, Stuart MacBride, reading on Kindle Fire
9.  The Silent Wife, A.S.A. Harrison, paperback

Go forth and read!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Savage Harvest by Carl Hoffman

Imagine being one of the wealthiest, most influential families in the world.  Then imagine your child being caught up in a life or death situation that you have no control over; where your money and influence have no effect.  That was the case in 1961 when the twenty three year old son of Nelson Rockerfeller, Michael Rockerfeller, was reported missing in the remote island of New Guinea.

Nelson had recently been elected governor of New York, and would later serve as Vice President of the United States.  Michael had been raised in luxury and with parents who believed in giving back to the world and the arts.  The family was opening a museum of native art in New York, and Michael was fascinated with the area and the native carvings found there.  He had gone to the area to locate and purchase art for the museum and to document the life of the tribes who still lived almost as those in the Stone Age had.

On November 21, 1961, Michael and an acquaintance took off in a small boat.  The boat floundered and stalled out after a day, and the men didn't know what to do.  The acquaintance insisted they should stay with the boat as that was their best chance.  But Michael felt he could swim to shore, which was probably three or four miles distant and took off.  He was never seen again.

Rockerfeller's body was never found.  Some felt that he drowned on his attempt, but there was a darker rumor.  That rumor had Michael encountering a group of tribesmen who killed him, then ate the body and kept parts for various ceremonies.  The tribesmen at that time had very limited exposure to the modern world and were still involved in intricate ceremonies that made sense of the world to them.  These ceremonies involved ritual cannibalism, vengeance killings and strength gained through the consumption of humans. 

The author, Carl Hoffman, went to New Guinea to see if he could track down the truth decades later.  He found that much of the investigation by the government was kept secret for political reasons, not wanting to be the focus of the death of such a powerful man as the country was attempting to forge their independence.  Hoffman was able to find witnesses that had been involved in the investigation all those years ago and who were willing to tell him what they had discovered.

This book is a fascinating look at another world that is far removed, both geographically and culturally from the world the reader is familiar with.   Was Michael Rockerfeller's last sight hunters dressed as those in the picture seen here?  Readers who are parents can relate to the horror of having a beloved son's death be such a mystery and the horror of what may have happened.  This book is recommended for readers of history and anthropology. 

Friday, May 2, 2014

Bunker Hill by Nathaniel Philbrick

Bunker Hill A City, A Siege, A Revolution is the story of the events leading up to the Revolutionary War and the people who influenced those events.  Philbrick focuses on three sets of individuals; those who supported independence, those who were loyalists to the English Crown, and the huge group in the middle who had to make up their minds which of the more extreme groups on the edges they would support.

This is an evenhanded retelling of the events; the mistakes made by each side that racketed up the tension, the personalities that were making the decisions, and the slowness of communications that added to the issues.  There were misconceptions on both sides.  The patriots, for the most part, supported King George, believing that he loved his colonies, and that he was misadvised by his advisers.  The Crown believed that the issues in the colonies were just minor problems and that there was little support for those who would make changes.  They believed it was unlikely that the average American would actually fight.  They chose to crack down rather than work with those who felt that too many taxes and money were being taken from the colonies.

Each of the battles and events are meticulously researched and reported.  The Boston Massacre, the fight along the Lexington/Concord roads, the battles at Bunker Hill, and the siege of Boston afterwards by the patriots is covered in great detail.  It may be surprising to many readers how violent the fighting was.  In an hour and a half at Bunker Hill, the British sustained injuries or death to half their fighting forces; over a thousand.  The patriots had 115 killed and over 300 injured.

In addition to the battles and military strategy, Philbrick spends time covering the personalities that led the fight for independence.  Many of these names are familiar; Samuel Adams, Paul Revere, Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock, John Adams.  But many influential figures are less well-known.  Philbrick covers the various military leaders with their fighting backgrounds.  He also spends time covering the story of a thirty-three year old physician named Joseph Warren.  Killed at Bunker Hill, he was instrumental in the months leading up to the fight and many believe would have been the military leader instead of Washington had he survived.

This book is recommended for readers of history, and those who are interested in how our nation was created.  Both strengths and weaknesses of the Founding Fathers are covered.  The scope of the tension and the incredible decision by farmers and woodsmen that they would rather fight than submit to overseas dominion was almost unbelievable.  Readers will find the book lively and entertaining while incredibly detailed; it is not a dry history at all.  This is another stellar effort by Philbrick whose name has come to mean well-researched and written historical accounts.

Update:  This wonderful historical fiction has just been released in paperback.  I highly recommend you give it a try.