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Book reviews A to G

A

Joe Abercrombie
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Before They Are Hanged
paperback
448 pages
The second book in The First Law Trilogy and the sequel to The Blade Itself. In this middle volume of the sequence, Before They Are Hanged picks up the storylines left dangling from the first novel and develops them further. As with the first book, this volume often feels like a 'standard' fantasy novel with lots of standard tropes in use, but Abercrombie successfully continues to put a subversive spin on events which keeps things fresh and interesting.

There are three main plot threads in the book. In the Northlands, the Union Army prepares to face the forces under Beothed. They have enlisted the aid of Threetrees and his band of cutthroats and warriors, but Marshal Burr and Colonel West find their hands full with just keeping their feuding generals from each others throats and babysitting the preening, useless Prince Ladisla.

Meanwhile, in the South, the city of Dagoska falls under siege from the army of the Gurkhal Empire. Inquisitor Glokta, in the city to investigate the disappearance of his predecessor, finds himself orchestrating the defence of the city against a vast and powerful foe, but is also forced into making alliances with suspect agents in order to ensure the city's survival.

In the West, Bayaz and his band of unlikely companions continue their journey to the edge of the Circle of the World, to recover a weapon of tremendous power. Their journey will take them through the fallen remnants of the Old Empire, an ancient city and a towering mountain range before their goal can be achieved.

Abercrombie's story rattles along at a fair old pace. With the characters introduced, there is no more need for scene-setting and the plot explodes with vigour. More happens in this 450-page novel than some writers struggle to squeeze into an 800-page tome, and it's all invigorating, page-turning stuff. There's a lightness of touch and plenty of humour in the writing which makes reading the book all the more pleasurable. The characters become more interesting, with Glokta particularly becoming a morally ambiguous person whom the author gives real character to, his decisive ruthlessness coming as quite a shock in some parts of the book. Meanwhile, in other parts of the story other characters undertake unexpected transformations. Meeting other people who know Bayaz from earlier in the world's history forces the reader to reconsider their opinion of him, whilst another character undergoes a startling personality transformation which is kept quietly in the background, hinting at some darker force moving in the storyline which will be explored further in the final book of the series, which I read first..

I think this is the weakest one in the series, as it's somewhat goalless and meandering, although you'd probably get that with the second book in a trilogy. But on a whole it's still a great read, especially when it will lead to reading the third, and best, episode..

Recommended.

7/10
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Joe Abercrombie
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Last Argument Of Kings
paperback
704 pages
Having not actually read the first 2 parts of the trilogy, I was expecting pages of epic landscapes alive with giants, goblins, dragons and bestrode by shining heroes in silver armour wielding magic swords dealing out death and destruction...

In face, Abercrombie's world is a world made of men. Their actions, emotions desires, words, triumphs, failings, smells and innards. The author takes you through the story from the various points of view of the main charactors, and what a collection of charactors they are, beautifully fleshed out, 3D and brought to life so that I almost expected to meet them whilst out walking the dog in the woods. The major benefit of this style is that you never tire of one charactor and you ride along behind their eyes so you know and understand their motives and grow to love and sympathise with them even though they are cabable of the dreadful.

Don't get me wrong, there is much here the hackneyed fantasy reader will recognise. A grizzled campaigner, a young handsome swordsman, an ancient arch magi, a torturer, a beautiful girl and a host of barbarian tribesman. However all given a refreshing twist. The swordsman is a cowardly, self obsessed snob. The grizzled campaigner is oft possessed by a 'beserker' alter ego who is as likey to kill his best friend as his worst enemy and the beautiful girl is a slightly tarty 'low-born' with an inclination to hit the bottle.

Potential buyers of a sensitive nature be warned the writing style is more Guy Ritchie than Tolkien. Expect profanities, sex, gore and plenty of black humour.

The joys of this book are the authors ability to create 'real' people, he has a gift for dialogue and moves the action along at a satisfying pace and puts you in the heart of it. The story avoids being cliched and predictable for the most part. The charactors are all shades of grey rather than being definatively evil or good.

Would have scored higher if it wasn't for the rather "sudden" appearance of "magic" at the end, but I guess that was somewhat to be expected. Still would have been nice to have a fantasy story without it for once..

Still, the writing is so involving that I'll overlook this minor issue, can't wait to read the other books in this trilogy

Recommended
9/10
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Joe Abercrombie
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The Blade Itself
paperback
536 pages
Inquisitor Glokta, a crippled and increasingly bitter relic of the last war, former fencing champion turned torturer extraordinaire, is trapped in a twisted and broken body... Not that he allows it to distract him from his daily routine of torturing smugglers.

Nobleman, dashing officer and would-be fencing champion Captain Jezal dan Luthar is living a life of ease by cheating his friends at cards. Vain, shallow, selfish and self-obsessed, the biggest blot on his horizon is having to get out of bed in the morning to train with obsessive and boring old men.

And Logen Ninefingers, an infamous warrior with a bloody past, is about to wake up in a hole in the snow with plans to settle a blood feud with Bethod, the new King of the Northmen, once and for all - ideally by running away from it. But as he's discovering, old habits die really, really hard indeed.. especially when Bayaz gets involved.

A bald old man with a terrible temper and a pathetic assistant, he could be the First of the Magi, he could be a spectacular fraud, but whatever he is, he's about to make the lives of Glotka, Jezal and Logen a whole lot more difficult...

One you won't want to put down, a thrilling ride through the eyes of each of the protagonists as their lives slowly converge towards each other.

Recommended!
9/10
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Rebecca Abrams
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Touching Distance
hardcover
311 pages
Medical research novel based on a true story. The novel explores a real-life epidemic in the 1790s of puerperal or "childbed" fever, now known as post-partum sepsis. Though now curable with antibiotics, the disease is not unknown in modern times; 200 years ago it raged in Aberdeen, unchecked and hardly understood, for several years and claimed the lives of scores of women who, having given birth to healthy children, inexplicably died in terrible pain and with grotesquely swollen abdomens in the days following delivery.

Despite the extraordinary scientific advances of the Enlightenment years, the 18th century saw remarkably little concrete progress in medical terms, and by the close of the century physicians were still heavily reliant upon traditional cures that had not changed much since medieval times. The emergence of man-midwives was considered by many an outrage, an unwelcome interference in areas rightfully the preserve of women. Touching Distance fictionalises the story of one of these man-midwives, Dr Alec Gordon, a Scottish physician trained in the great medical schools of Europe whose skill as a doctor was matched only by his failure to master the darker arts of diplomacy. When he returned to Aberdeen he was determined to overhaul the outmoded practices he saw there and, when the epidemic struck, found himself at odds with the entire community, including his own wife.

Although Abrams compresses the period of the epidemic from three years to a more manageable one, the novel sticks closely to the facts of Gordon's story. It is, by any standards, an extraordinary one. Though he was to correctly identify that it was not poisonous miasma but midwives that carried the disease and infected mothers, Gordon was persecuted for his discovery. When at last he left Aberdeen, penniless and disgraced, his marriage was over and his reputation lay in tatters.

In recent years the line between popular history and historical fiction has become increasingly blurred, but profound differences remain; the historical novelist must, in the end, let go of her meticulously garnered research so that the story can fly. Abrams does not quite manage this. She writes evocatively about Aberdeen, but Gordon remains a shadowy figure, motivated exclusively by his preoccupations with medicine. Ironically his wife Elizabeth, on whom Abrams had presumably considerably less information to draw, is a more rounded character, the demons of her childhood in Antigua providing an effective counterpoint to her isolated existence in the freezing Scottish city, and her story is the most fully realised part of the novela, altough it feels rather stuck on as though someone told her she needed to add something to the mix to liven things up a bit...

Nevertheless, recommended!

Starting of rather well,
7/10
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Jussi Adler-Olsen
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The Hanging Girl
hardcover
520 pages
In the middle of his usual hard-won morning nap in the basement of police headquarters, Carl Mørck, head of Department Q, receives a call from a colleague working on the Danish island of Bornholm. Carl is dismissive when he realizes that a new case is being foisted on him, but a few hours later, he receives some shocking news that leaves his headstrong assistant Rose more furious than usual. Carl has no choice but to lead Department Q into the tragic cold case of a vivacious seventeen-year-old girl who vanished from school, only to be found dead hanging high up in a tree. The investigation will take them from the remote island of Bornholm to a strange sun worshipping cult, where Carl, Assad, Rose, and newcomer Gordon attempt to stop a string of new murders and a skilled manipulator who refuses to let anything—or anyone—get in the way.

Bit over the top and implausible towards the end, but fun
7/10
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Mike Ashley
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The Mammoth Book of Roman Whodunnits
paperback
512 pages
Mystery and murder from the greatest civilisation in history. The greatest characters from the Roman era march through these pages: Hannibal, Scipio Africanus, Spartacus, Julius Caesar, Cicero, Nero, Vespasian, Cleopatra, Pliny the Younger...So from the famed Julius Caesar to the Fall of Rome, here are 20 stories, firmly founded in fiction, to enthral and enchant. The anthology boasts a collection of new stories and rare reprints, including contributions from Steven Saylor, featuring Gordianus the Finder, Simon Scarrow and a mystery set during the siege of Jerusalem. Plus stories from Tom Holt, Michael Jecks, John Maddox Roberts, Marilyn Todd, Philip Boast, Michael Kurland, Peter Tremayne, Caroline Lawrence and many more.

Some good, some not so, overall it's got a nice mix of tales

Recommended!
7/10
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The Mammoth Book Of The End Of The World
paperback
500 pages
Pre- and post-apocalyptic science fiction is on the rise, and some of the genre’s best new stories are collected here, with contributions by Stephen Baxter, Alistair Reynolds, Robert Reed, Robert Silverberg, and Damien Broderick

Most are rather mediocre, some just plain crap, and only a few are good enough to not want to put down.

Not really worth it
4/10
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Isaac Asimov
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Foundation
paperback
240 pages
First book in the Foundation trilogy, which is actually part of a greater series of books all linked and taking place in a distant future where people have lived on other planets for so long they've complately forgotten that all of mankind used to live on a single planet called earth..

For aeons the Empire has ruled over it's trillions of citizens living on billions of planets. But all that is to come to an abrupt end. Atleast that's what Harry Seldon claims...

Seldon is a psychologist who has developed a scientific theory called psychohistory, based on the hypothesis that gigantic populations of humans will react and behave in a predictable fashion. Based on this he has conluded that the empire will end and that chaos will rule the galaxy.

As it is statistically impossible to stop the decline his aim is to shorten the Dark Ages to a mere 1000 years by setting up a society that will evolve into a new galactic empire.

This first book tells the tale of how the first Foundation is set up and how the first few generations evolve and influence their surroundings to become more powerfull

This story isn't just about SF and galactic empires but it deals also with humans, they societies they live in and how humans interact as individuals and as society. The style of writing means you never get bored, and you never know what's going to happen next. Although you're of course aware that the whole thing will work out due to plenty of suprises in the plot you're never quite sure how they're going to get there... Obligatory reading!!!
9/10
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Jane Austen
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Pride and Prejudice
hardcover
400 pages
Despite the fact that hardly anything actually happens in this book it still managed to make for very pleasant reading, because of the brilliant writing.
I must admit i was a little skeptical at reading a romantic novel like this is because it's not really my cup of tea but I'm glad i did and i intend to read some more of her books now.

Anyway, the story is about a women in the late 18th/early 19th century who is at the right age to marry as are her sisters but contrary to most of the women around her she does not believe in solely marrying a man because of how much he makes per annum (although she does manages to fall for a guy who makes big bucks, but let's just call that coincidental..

The strict rules of Victorian society, as represented by her mother, who's only goal it seems to be to have as many daughter married to husbands as wealthy as possible.

Her mother and her clash over a marriage proposal she declines whilst her mother insists she accepts, after which her best friend marries the gentleman in question despite no loving him at all, which disappoints her rather a lot.

Anyway, to cut things short, with a lot of luck and coincidences she finally gets the man we all knew she would get despite them hating each other at first and all sorts of trouble like that.
8/10
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B

David Baldacci
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End Game
paperback
416 pages
Action/crime drama meets super agent novel. Jessica Reel, a brave, capable, and independent sniper/assassin and Will Robie, a disciplined, focused and loyal FBI super agent, get pulled together when their superior disappears..

Whilst the action mves along nice, sounds like this last book in the series was one too many. Weird plot twists like the idea that in the middle of what is supposed to be an urgent search for a man he likes and admires, Will leaves the he woman he says he loves to go and have sex with a woman he hardly knows, and then walks out when he's done, not exactly gentleman like behaviour

The plot of this book is hence completely flawed. Too many bad guys popping up all over the place, too many conveniently staged rescues, too much sloppy characterisation and too little adequate motivation for what's happening.

Messy, find something else
5/10
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David Baldacci
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King And Maxwell
paperback
432 pages
It seems at first like a simple, tragic story. Tyler Wingo, a teenage boy, learns the awful news that his father, a soldier, was killed in action in Afghanistan. Then the extraordinary happens: Tyler receives a communication from his father . . . after his supposed death.

Tyler hires Sean and Michelle, heroes of our tale, to solve the mystery surrounding his father. But their investigation quickly leads to deeper, more troubling questions. Could Tyler’s father really still be alive? What was his true mission? Could Tyler be the next target?

Sean and Michelle soon realize that they’ve stumbled on to something bigger and more treacherous than anyone could have imagined. And as their hunt for the truth leads them relentlessly to the highest levels of power and to uncovering the most clandestine of secrets, Sean and Michelle are determined to help and protect Tyler–though they may pay for it with their lives.

If this sounds like a paint by the numbers tale, then that's because it certainly is, effortlessly gliding from one cliche to the next, from the two main character who play will they/won't they, to the super-dad coming back to save his son at all cost and the unassuming megalomaniac out to destroy the world.. as you near the end things get more desperate and the plot complete goes off the rails into the realms of farce.

Don't bother unless you have no choice..
3/10
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Maria Barrett
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Intimate Lies
paperback
410 pages
Jill Turner is devastated when her husband Alex is reported missing, a suspected suicide. Holly Grigson's response to her husband's death is less conventional. She reacts with shameful relief. Both women are strangers until now, when they are greeted with the news that they were married to the same man.

The blurb on the back cover of this book would have you believe you're in for a riveting and intriguing thriller. But no. I'm afraid you're probably not. Clumsily written and full of stock characters and unrealistic dialogue, no tension building whatsoever, an unwieldy, plodding plot and the dullest ending ever. With a trillion books to buy on Amazon, I suggest you spend your money on something else.

Crap
3/10
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Harry and Kate Benson
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What Mums Want And Dads Need To Know
paperback
224 pages
Self-help book to basically tell men that its the husband's primary job is to take responsibility for a marriage, based on a complementarian theology. Not exactly an idea I'm comfortable with. Both parties in a marriage make vows to the other, and both are responsible for making it work.

Sweeping statements such as 'men can't cope with hints' and 'women are better with children because they have pregnancies' don't do any justice to the diversity of personalities and abilities people possess and the relationships they have.

The title should have given this attitude away, I suppose, but I'm afraid I found this book frustrating primarily, rather then helpfull
5/10
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Scott Bergstrom
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The Cruelty
hardcover
363 pages
When Gwendolyn Bloom's father vanishes, she sets off on a journey she never bargained for. Traveling under a new identity in a world of assassins, spies, and criminal masterminds, she uncovers a disturbing truth. To bring her father back alive, she must become every bit as cruel as the men holding him captive.

Kids book that tries to do things a little different, with a female lead who kicks en murders her way to liberating her daddy from bad eastern european (cause that's where all the really bad criminals live..) crime boss.

Starts of pretty promising, but quickly turns Taken done badly..

Don't bother
6/10
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Alfred Bester
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The Stars My Destination
paperback
272 pages
Intense revenge Sci-Fi based on the Count of Monte Christo. It is set in a time where teleportation is commonplace. Known as "jaunting" it's a mental skill that everyone has.

The book's "hero" is Gully Foyle, a lethargic and dull-witted Merchant Marine. At the start of the book he's not having the best of times as he's stranded in the void of space inside a very small stranded spaceship.

Just when Gully is on the verge of suicide he sights a spaceship, the S.S. Vorga. He desperately signals it, but the ship ignores his signals. Enraged Foyle swears revenge!

Driving by his intense hatred Gully manages to find a way out of his space coffin and goes after the crew of the Vorga. He lets nothing get in his way, and the road to revenge isn't pretty..
but it is definitely frantic and mind-blowing!

With some very strong characters, intense storyline and simple but effective plot this is one of the greatest revenge stories ever written, and a definete must-read!
9/10
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Peter Blauner
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The Intruder
hardcover
396 pages
Jacob Schiff is a successful Manhattan attorney. His wife, Dana, a psychiatric social worker, offers help and hope to a mentally disturbed homeless man named John Gates. When his feelings for Dana turn obsessional, Gates begins to stalk the family, generating violent confrontations and threats. The police offer no real solutions and so Schiff makes the mistake of his life: he recruits a day-laborer/street enforcer, Philip Cardi, to warn the homeless man off. But Cardi, in pursuit of Gates, brutalizes and kills another homeless man. In response, Gates, who witnesses the crime, runs away, leaving Schiff to face a murder charge on his own. The scenes of violence are horrifyingly real, rendered in stark imagery that marks Blauner as a genuine stylist. Adept characterization makes the violence even more effective, as Blauner constructs Schiff as a decent, intelligent, caring man who learns that his friends aren't friends, his associates don't care and that he and his family must slay dragons alone. The final scene, in which the Schiffs face off against an infuriated killer, is a tour de force of savagery. There is a lot of button-pushing going on here: a crazed homeless man and a bully from Bensonhurst make easy targets; the Schiffs make obvous victims/heroes.

Despite all that it speaks volumes about the author's skills that it is still an engaging novel, and one book you're actually find hard to put down. Albeit it with a somewhat somber mood, as it's hardly a cheerfull tale..

Recommended!
8/10
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Rodney Bolt
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Xenophobes Guide to the Dutch
paperback
92 pages
This guide to the Dutch is the best book I've read about us (yes, I'm Dutch) in many years. None of your clogs and windmills fairy tales, no boring statistics either, but a pretty accurate insight into the Dutch society and the Dutch ways. It's a funny and tongue-in-cheek book, that very often had me laughing out loud and saying things like "Come on, we don't do things like that!", only to realise a few seconds later that we do.

Recommended
9/10
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Larry Bond
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Vortex
hardcover
592 pages
Exhilarating tale of fiction. Set during the reforms of South Africa and the final stages of the Cold War this techo-fiction thriller sees commando troops finding ANC plans for a coup. Through various intrigues the plans end up with one of the ministers of the government, Vorster, who does nothing to prevent the attack... After the attack all the government ministers have been killed, apart from Vorster.. He immediately sets up a new, extremely right-wing, government and turns the country back into a "apartheid" State.

He also invades Namibia in order to expand South African territory. Namibia asks for International aid, to which the communist states respond by sending troops.

High Tech triller, well written even though the story seems a bit unlikely. That's never prevented any book from turning out to be an excellent read however, as is the case with this one..
7/10
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Charley Boorman
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Long Way Round
hardcover
320 pages
Travel novel about Ewan McGregor and his friend Charley Boorman going to New York the long way around.. Excellent real-life adventure story about two friends and their efforts to make it around the world on motorbike. Starting from the very beginning, the first time they met we hear about the difficulties they encountered arranging the whole thing and of course the highs and lows of the trip itself..

Thanks to the very personal and intimate style of writing one really feels like almost being on the trip yourself, and what it must be like to do something so momentous like a trip around the world.. Charley and Ewan in turm tell their own tale about all the ups and downs on the trip, from the glorious and impressive landscapes and sometimes emotional encounters with the locals to having a guns pointed at their heads and spending hours and hours stuck in rain, mud and rivers..

The only fly in the ointment is the frequent moaning of Ewan about the media and locals harrasing him. I can understand it is rather annoying, but seeing as they financed the trip from a publishing deal for this book and a tv-series, and they were basically able to do the trip due to the fact that he is so world-famous, I feel it a little hypocritical to then go and complain about people recognizing him everywhere..

Nevertheless, for anyone with even the slightest inclationation to travelling the world this is a definite must-read. It really makes one want to quit everything, gather some friends and go out there to experience some real adventure...
8/10
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Sam Bourne
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The Righteous Men
softback
556 pages
Da Vinci Code style thriller, starring Will, a crack journalist raised in England but now the coming man at the New York Times. He can, therefore, track down his wife's abductors pretty easily to a tiny and extremely Hassidic quarter of Brooklyn when he finds she's been kidnapped. Here he is peremptorily, although briefly, snatched and roughed up. First person he goes to for help after trying his dad is an ex-girlfriend, who rather too readily forgives his jilting ways, and drops everything in order to help him decode the mysterious text messages that have started to come in a steady stream from some unknown benefactor..

At the same time, all sorts of oddballs are turning up dead, their only connection a propensity to commit random acts of kindness. Death comes to do-gooders including a pimp with a heart of gold, a techno-geek who has worked out with extraordinary ease how to destroy the world's child pornography websites and a crazed American survivalist keen to give away his extraneous organs.

In truth, despite the welter of Jewish arcana, mysterious bumpings-off and the introduction of a brilliantly sinister newspaper editor called Townsend McDougal, it isn't much of a book, either. It feels too much like it's written with fat movie contract with Hollywood in mind, and not like an honest attempt and improving on the mediocre example that the Da Vinci Code was to start of with.

Only read if you haven't got anything better to do..
3/10
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Joseph Boyden
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Three Day Road
paperback
432 pages
Three Day Road tells the story of a pair of James Bay Cree, Xavier and Elijah, who become famous snipers in the Canadian Army during the First World War. And telling stories is also a large part of what it's all about. The narrative is a tag-team performance. When Xavier returns home, missing a leg, addicted to morphine and obviously dying, his Auntie Niska picks him up at the train station and together they begin a three-day canoe journey home (meant to suggest the "three day road" of the title, which refers to death). Niska hopes to sustain Xavier on the journey with stories of her own and Xavier's childhood. In turn, Xavier tells the story of what happened on the Front and Elijah's descent into madness.

In other words it's imagined as an oral narrative. And this despite the fact that Niska doesn't always tell her story out loud to Xavier, who is partly deaf and only occasionally conscious anyway, and Xavier doesn't talk much to anyone. It is more like a pair of interior monologues presented as an act of story-telling. This is reflected in the style, which is consistently flat and understated, a no-man's land of prose that shows and doesn't tell while avoiding the use of words that are more than two syllables. At times this voice has a direct, primitive sort of strength, especially when it's used to describe battlefield horrors. Burned "bodies melted and black" give off a "smell sweet enough to make the stomach feel bad." At other times, however, Boyden falls back on the repetitive verbal formulas and clichés that characterize oral story-telling. The writing becomes too simple for its own good, sometimes seeming clumsy and affected. "That winter and the following summer and the winter and summer after that were plentiful and very happy," Niska says. "But as always happens, the good times bled into harder times and our third winter together proved long and difficult and very cold." Prose like this, and there is a lot of it, is as numbing as Xavier's morphine. It also makes the slightest variation in language stand out. When Niska says "I was appalled and mesmerized by what I was becoming" and Xavier "My body radiates pain" you get the feeling the editors missed something. "Appalled," "mesmerized," and "radiates" are words we can't imagine these characters using.

Three Day Road is a book destined for a spot in the CanLit canon. You feel it in the powerful historical narrative, the strong yet taciturn central characters who have a special spiritual connection with nature, the emphasis on close family relationships and the importance of home, and the curious objectivity and lack of verbal flair it is all presented with. There's no denying its epic quality. Xavier and Elijah are less characters than giant archetypes, the good and evil brothers or the children of nature destroyed by the sickness of civilization. Elijah's savagery is a both a psychological fact and a case of demonic possession, the spirit of windigo set loose on the battlefield.

The inspiration for the story was the Ojibwa First World War hero Francis Pegahmagabow (who appears - or fails to appear - as "Peggy" in this book). And yet Niska and Xavier remain distant, not fully realized figures. They frequently travel outside their own point of view, either telling stories about events they don't participate in or floating above it all in a transcendent visionary state. We have the sense that the story is telling them as much as they are telling the story. Their lack of sophistication (we know the girl Xavier falls in love with is a prostitute before he meets her), the foreknowledge we have of how things will turn out (because the novel is told in flashbacks), the familiar historical background (Xavier and Elijah fight at Vimy and Passchendaele), and the brutal predictability of most of the plot, adds up to a book with few surprises. But this also contributes to the elemental power the book has. It's a war novel, but also a story about the workings of fate and the soul's struggle with corruption.

Three Day Road is Joseph Boyden's first novel and at times the writing shows it. The strength of the story makes up for any lack of polish though, and the result is a dramatic debut.

Recommended!
8/10
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Ray Bradbury
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Death Is A Lonely Business
hardcover
270 pages
Hard boiled detective story of sorts, this book primarily is a thriller with a starring role for a writer living in Venice, California, where the local carnival pier is being demolished. Whilst wandering around the demolition site he discovers the body of Willie Smith, underwater and trapped in a disused lion cage. If that isn't mysterious enough already strange shadowy figure then begin appearing in hallways and outside windows at night and the number of murders in the neighbourhood suddenly increases.

Our hero teams with local police detective Elmo Crumley -- reluctantly, at first, on Crumley's part -- to solve the case. Unfortunately the primary witness is a blind man, so they only lead they have are the writer's intuition and some articles that went missing from the deceased's residences.

The book is written in a unique style, very atmospheric, mysterious and alluring, but quite dark. The plot's a bit strange but the ending is frankly a little light and brings the whole thing down a bit. Still, thanks to the featured characters, who really get to you, and the story overall, it does make for an enjoyable read!
8/10
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Dan Brown
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Angels and Demons
paperback
624 pages
Thriller about an ancient society, some high tech and the pope, all combined in one..

A scientist in CERN gets killed rather brutally. An american professor is called to decypher the ancient symbol that's been burned onto his chest. After that's it's off with the scientist's daughter to the Vatican to try and defuse an anti-matter bomb.. of course the pope's just died as well so there's all kinds of ritual things happened whilst the cardinals are meeting up to chose a new pope from their midst. Then the most likely candidates all get kidnapped..

Although it's off to a good start the finish is just terrible, and the whole book has a bit of a messy feel about it, giving the impression mr Brown was trying to think of as many plots as possible just to keep things moving, and to keep the reader from thinking about the whole think for too long..

Not his best effort by far...
5/10
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Deception Point
paperback
592 pages
Techno-thriller. NASA is in big trouble as there's doubts about the justification of their budget. The President is facing re-election against a tough opponent bound to cut NASA's budget and privatise the space exploration programme.. Perfect timing for NASA to find a meteor from out of space with signs of life!

To make sure this discovery is not perceived as just a publicity stunt the president gathers a group of highly respected scientists together to publicly confirm the discovery as genuine. He also asks the top scientist of the National Reconnaissance Office to aid in condensing the scientific information into something even Americans will understand. She also happens to be his opponents daughter...

Best novel of mr. Brown thus far, not too over the tope like the others, good plot, nice flow in the story and reasonably defined characters.. recommendable!
7/10
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Dan Brown
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Digital Fortress
paperback
512 pages
Another Dan Brown Techno thriller. This time it's about encryption.. The NSA's new super high-tech unbeatable encryption cracking computer finds a code it can't break. panic breaks out and the director and his best code-cracker get on the case to find out what happened.

Appears a former employee with a grudge has managed to do the unthinkable and developed an unbreakable encryption. He put forwards ransom demands and insists he will release the code world wide if his demands or not met or he dies.
And then he gets murdered...

Good novel, some intriguing thoughts with regards to how things work in the upper echelons of the government and perhaps even a hint of an ethical dilemma with regards to the whole encryption issue.. Plot itself looses it a bit at the end however. Entertaining read..
6/10
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Dan Brown
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The Da Vinci Code
paperback
560 pages
Best-selling thriller, based on theories surrounding the true nature of the "Holy Grail". A curator is brutally murdered in the Louvre, and all he leaves behind are some cryptic clues.. only his grand daughter, who happens to work in the code-breakers department of the French Police Dept., and an American professor who specialises in cryptology are able to decypher them.

They then go off on a crazy trip around Europe trying to find the secret that a secret society has been hiding for 2000 years, whilst being chased around by an albino monk and a rival secret society who are also trying to get their hands on it..

Much has been writing about this novel, and the hype surrounding it was immense. It seems that this was mostly a result of some pretty sleek marketing and pushing the right buttons. One should take all the "this story is telling the truth and you'd better believe it" pr with a pinch of salt and just consider it as the thriller it is.

As such it's not a bad effort. There are some slightly far-fetched turns and twists in the plot and it has a slight feeling of cliche about it but atleast it's entertaining and the story flows well..

Not worth the hype though
6/10
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Dee Brown
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Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee
paperback
512 pages
Novel attempting to paint a picture of the horrific treatment of the Native Americans. Beginning with the Long Walk of the Navajos in 1860 and ending 30 years later with the massacre of Sioux men, women, and children at Wounded Knee in South Dakota. It tells how the American Indians lost their land, and lives, to a dynamically expanding white society. Over and over again treaties were signed and treaties were broken as the Tribes fell victim to the ruthlessness and greed of settlers pushing westward to make new lives. The Tribes were herded off their ancestral lands into ever-shrinking reservations, and were starved and killed if they resisted.

Having had a life long interest in the other side of the cowboy vs. Indian saga I\'ve always been drawn to finding out more about the native american. This book, even if covers only a 30 year period of the history of the white mans treatment of the native population they found in what they described as \"The New Land\", gives a very emotional and disturbing, but unfortunately accurate image of all the horrific events that occured.

Once again it makes me almost feel ashamed of being of european descent, reading all these description of how the native americans were cheated and bullied of their land, and pushed further and further back till there was nowhere left to go. Just like the buffalo.

Makes for some excellent, if harrowing reading. Highly Recommended!
9/10
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Nick Brown
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The Siege
paperback
390 pages
Cassius Corbulo is young and inexperienced. As an imperial security service agent, he expected to spend his service years behind a desk organising supplies. To the surprise of him, and the reader, he is thrust into the prestigious role of Centurion.

His task is to organise the defence of Alauran, a stronghold in the Syrian dessert, and rein in its wayward defenders who have been leaderless for too long. The problem is he’s straight out of officer training and has never fought in real combat, nor has he expected ever to do so. Consequently, he has to act the part of an experienced warrior or the men would never follow him.

Whilst an interesting premise, the whole thing does not only feel a bit slow but also rather predictable, once you hear about the huge experienced soldier that no-one wants to talk to with the mysterious illness, you know he's going to be the hero that'll save the day at the end..

An OK read but I was catching myself skimming through it at the end just to get to the good bit.
5/10
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Sandra Brown
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Outfox
hardcover
416 pages
FBI agent Drex Easton is relentlessly driven by a single goal: to outmaneuver the conman once known as Weston Graham. Over the past thirty years, Weston has assumed many names and countless disguises, enabling him to lure eight wealthy women out of their fortunes before they disappeared without a trace. The only common trait among the victims: a new man in their life who also vanished, leaving behind no evidence of his existence.

Drex is convinced that these women have been murdered, and that the man he knows as Weston Graham is the sociopath responsible. But each time Drex gets close to catching him, Weston trades one persona for another and disappears again. Now, for the first time in their long game of cat and mouse, Drex has a suspect in sight.

Attractive and charming, Jasper Ford is recently married to a successful businesswoman many years his junior, Talia Shafer. Drex insinuates himself into their lives, posing as a new neighbor and setting up surveillance on their house. The closer he gets to the couple, the more convinced he becomes that Jasper is the clever, merciless predator he’s sought-and that his own attraction to Talia threatens to compromise his purpose and integrity.

This is Drex’s one chance to outfox his cunning nemisis before he murders again and eludes justice forever. But first he must determine if the desirable Talia is a heartless accomplice . . . or the next victim
8/10
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Bill Bryson
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A Short History of Nearly Everything
paperback
686 pages
Bestseller about science. If that doesnt sound odd to you you must have read this book. Bill Bryson, renowed travel writer, decided that he wanted to know more about the world and about how all those fabulous places he spends his life traveling to got created. So he went out to buy some books and locked himself away for 3 years..

From geology to quarks to zoology, all the mayor subjects of modern science pas through the limelight in this highly amusing book. Bill Bryson not only informs us about the history of each field but also about the life's of the people behind it. And all of this written in a clear and funny style of writing which kept me entertained and eager to turn the next page throughout the whole book..

Throughout the book there's a real sense of awe, amazement and admiration for the unpredictability of nature and the world around us and the determinion of the people who dedicated their life to studying it...
Superb!
8/10
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Down Under
hardcover
319 pages
Bill Bryson is best known for writing very humorous travel books, and "In a Sunburned Country" is indeed a funny account of his travels in Australia. Those who love Bill Bryson's books for their humor won't be disappointed.

But unlike most people, I like Bill Bryson best when he's NOT trying to be funny, and my appreciation of this book is mostly due to the great amount of very interesting information presented.

Bill Bryson amazes you with loads of information about the geology, the animal life, the plants and insects, the history, the statistics, the folklore, etc., etc. The many dangers: poisonous snakes, poisonous insects, poisonous jellyfish, crocodiles, sharks, and rip currents - they're all out to get you. The inhospitable deserts, the beautiful beaches, the huge distances; Bill Bryson gives you a feeling of what it's all like.

The book goes into detail about many aspects of Australian life that are fairly unknown, including the discovery (and re-discovery) of Australia, the settlement by British prisoners, the early expeditions to explore the interior, the gold rushes, the outlaws, and the devastation caused by rabbits and other imported animals and plants. Bill Bryson talks about the many unusual animal species found only in Australia, including giant earthworms that grow up to 1 meter (and can be stretched to 4 meters) and the platypus, a cross between a reptile and a mammal. He talks about Australians and the Australian society, and the situation regarding the native people, the aboriginals.

Bill Bryson doesn't cover all of Australia from the geographical point of view, and the parts he does cover are somewhat random. But that doesn't matter because he captures the spirit of the whole country based on the parts he does visit and the general information he includes.

A very positive aspect is that Bill Bryson makes it clear that he loves Australia. The feeling is infectious, and it makes you want to pack your bags and head "down under" for a long leisurely trip so you can do your own exploring.

If I were to mention two things I was less happy about, it would be the occasional excessive attempts to be funny and the lack of contact with Australians. One of the best parts of the book is about his traveling together with an Australian couple for 3-4 days, but other than this passage Bill Bryson is mostly playing the typical tourist, with little or no contact with Australians. And despite a fairly long discussion about the aboriginal situation he does not ever get into contact with any aboriginals. Why not?

Still, it's funny, and ultimately made me want to go to Australia!

Recommended
7/10
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Bill Bryson
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Mother Tongue
paperback
272 pages
Explaining the origins and concepts of English with humour is hard, but Bryan has a good go at it.
7/10
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The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid
paperback
378 pages
Bill relives his childhood, with humorous insights into 1950s America, telling of his youth growing up in Des Moines, Iowa, during the 1950s and early 1960s. It also reveals the backstory between himself and Stephen Katz, who appeared in A Walk in the Woods and "Neither Here Nor There: Travels in Europe." Bryson also describes and comments on American life in the 1950s. The title of the book comes from an imaginary alter-ego Bryson invented for himself in his childhood, who has the ability to "vaporise people.

Some very funny moments, made me laugh out loud.. recommended!
8/10
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The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town America
paperback
384 pages
Bill goes on a tour of his home country to reconnect with childhood memories. Whilst I'm a big fan of Bill, this does feel a bit like Uncle Bill whining about how boring small towns are for 300 pages. That is why small towns are small towns. Each time he had to spend a few dollars he complained about the cost. He has enough money not to worry I would think.. still, I'm old enough now to appreciate a good whine, and it's entertaining enough, so recommended
7/10
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Bill Bryson
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The Road To Little Dribbling
paperback
477 pages
Bill revisits his journey around the little island 20 years ago. Unfortunately, this book was ultimately a disappointment for me. There was a real "angry old guy" vibe about this book that is missing in the rest of his work, from the profanity scattered throughout, the constant complaints about how things aren't as good as they used to be to the politicized attempts at comedy that I'm sure plays well with those who share his political preferences. Where Mary Ellen was portrayed as annoying because of her obnoxious behavior (ear honking, food stealing, non stop talking, giving unsolicited advice and being all around socially inept), Sean Hannity is a punch line just because he exists. Bryson could most often be charitably described as "curmudgeonly" in his other books, but here displays real rage in his internal monologue when dealing with sales people, government officials and others who disappoint. It's not as funny as his earlier work, and feels a bit contrived rather than spontaneous.
6/10
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Tim Butcher
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Blood River: A Journey to Africa's Broken Heart
paperback
363 pages
A fascinating insight into a forgotten country strangling itself, moving backwards away from the modern world, instead of taking hold of its colonial heritage and bringing the country into the 21st century, as corruption greed and fear are forcing the Kongo to go back to the jungle where everybody hides in troubled times.

Gripping adventure providing some interesting insights into the underlying factors of the decline of the Kongo

Recommended
8/10
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C

Ian Caldwell
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The Rule of Four
hardcover
384 pages
Excellent sort-of thriller about two college students who are both intrigued by an ancient mysterious book, the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili. One because he is doing a thesis about the book and is fascinated by it, the other because he dislikes the effect the book had on his father, who spend his whole life trying to work out the hidden meaning behind the obscure Renaissance book.

Together they manage to get closer and closer to cracking the secret.. But then people start to die around them, and all the evidence points to them...

Excellent story with a fascinating subject. Considering the time it took to write it it must be a labour of love. The attention for detail is examplary, and the way the various secrets in the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili are uncovered is ingenious. It does feel a but like the whole murder plot is a bit of an add-on to make the whose story more of a popular read however, but it's well done atleast. Recommended!
7/10
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Orson Scot Card
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Ender's Game
paperback
384 pages
Intruiging Sci-Fi novel about a boy who's trained to be a soldier in a war between the human race and an alien race.

Andrew Wiggin, nickname Ender, is a genius. Just what the high command of the fleet are looking for. Even though he's only six he get's send to Battle School to get trained to command his fellow troops in the field. But for some reason the usual procedures are completely ignored and Ender is pushed to the limits as his superiors throw everything they can think of at him. Together with the loyal troop of soldiers he manages to survive it all only to be transfered to the final stage of training, Command School, years before his time.. where his training becomes even more frantic and intense.

The main attraction of this novel isn't so much the story which is incredible enough as it is but the way it is written and the way the characters are so believable. The despair and insecurity almost drips of the pages as you follow Ender through the story, never knowing why he's being trained so intensively and who he's fighting, or even knowing who he is actually fighting for..

The tale of a little boy facing situations were even adults would struggle to cope is certainly engaging, and the ending is so surprising and almost shocking that it makes this book a definite must-read!
10/10
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Orson Scott Card
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Lost Boys
hardcover
512 pages
Supernatural thriller about Step Fletcher, his wife DeAnne, and their children. After having moved to Steuben, North Carolina, for Step's new job the family is haunted by various problems whilst they slowly adjust to their new community. Eight-year-old son Stevie however is haunted by something else it seems, as he starts acting strnagely and spends all his spare time with his imaginary friends. Preoccupied with settling into their new home, Step and DeAnne fail to understand the connection between Stevie's new "friends", the large amounts of insects wandering through their houser from time to time and the disappearance of several young boys in the area over the past few years.

Things don't start picking up until the very end of the novel, but the read until the point is quite good.
This powerfull horror story is not concerned with the usual gore and slaughter but with slowly unravelling of the everyday horrors - alienation by peers, bad bosses, anxiety over finances - into supernatural horrors. Very dark and haunting this is definitely one recommended read!
9/10
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Nick Carter
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Operation McMurdo Sound
harcover
160 pages
Cold war thriller about a secret agent dispatched investigate a disaster at a antartic base.

Usual fare, decent read.
7/10
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Stephen L. Carter
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The Emperor of Ocean Park
paperback
886 pages
An exceptional and rather lengthy legal thriller. When law professor Talcott Garland's father dies
mysteriously he inherits "the arrangements." He doesn't know what these are but it seems that someone wants them badly enough to commit murder for them. Talcott is thrust into a dangerous game that eerily echoes the chess problems his father loved to resolve.

When the brilliant and controversial black judge, Oliver Garland, is found dead in his study, not everyone believes it was a heart attack. Mystery, secrecy, and misfortune seemed to surround the judge during his life. His daughter was killed in a hit-and-run car accident and his nomination to the Supreme Court was rejected in a scandalous public hearing and now that's he's dead the mysteries only deepen.

He has left his son Talcott, professor of law at a prestigious New England University, a set of cryptic instructions regarding his "arrangements.". It seems his father was certain Talcott would be the only one able to resolve his clues and therefore find them. Unfortunately Talcott doesnt have a clue as to what the instructions mean, and at first he decides just to ignore them. His sister Mariah however is certain that their father was murdered and produces one conspiracy theory after another to prove it, whilst his wife, the beautiful, ambitious Kimmer, who is up for her own Appeals Court nomination, just wants Judge Garland and all his undying controversy to go away. Jack Ziegler, friend of the judge and rather shady underworld figure whose friendship with the Judge was the main reason the Judge lost his election for the highes post, demands that Talcott deliver the "arrangements" to him, or else...

Caught in the middle, Talcott sees his a marriage unravel and his career in the University go down the drain, whilst he desperately tries to cling on to his sanity, trying to figure out his father's sins and secrets.

But The Emperor of Ocean Park is more than a thriller, thrilling as it undoubtedly is. It is also an insightfull story of American culture, the complex interactions between law, religion, politics, wealth, race, and family in modern society. The result is a smart, fast-paced novel that not only probes the mystery surrounding a father's death but also the larger puzzle of how to live a meaningful life.

Captivating read!
9/10
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Lee Child
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The Hard Way
paperback
515 pages
Jack Reacher witnesses an incident in a NYC street that gets him involved with a group of mercenaries lead by wealthy man called Lane. Lane's wife has been kidnapped and Reacher, quite by chance, saw the pick-up of the ransom payment, while having coffee in a diner. But the wife was not released. Reacher is hired by Lane to help recover her, but a little digging soon shows that this has happened before - Lane's first wife was kidnapped and killed several years before. Not all is as it seems, and Jack teams up with an ex-FBI private detective on the side to try and find out what is really going on. It all seems to be linked to an incident in Africa that left two of the mercenaries wounded and abandoned to die.

Now, by all rights, I should really hate this book; it's violent, involves lots of guns, Jack Reacher never puts a foot wrong and can kill without compunction. It's pretty much everything I hate about thrillers. So it's a testament to the clarity and pace of Child's plotting that I actually like this.

Jack Reacher, with his strange personal morality and ability to know the time without the aid of a watch, is quite a compelling character. It's formulaic, of course; you probably wouldn't want to read one too often. The structure of all the ones I've read has been all but identical - Jack wanders onto the first page, bearing just his toothbrush, saves the planet, gets the girl and wanders out again on the last page. But for all that they are well-written, fast-paced thrillers, with an interesting if not always loveable main character.

As I said, with its military leaning, gratuitous violence and formulaic style, I really shouldn't like this.

But despite all it's bad points, it's still keeps you wanting to read o
Give it a try!
6/10
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Tom Clancy
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The Cardinal of the Kremlin
paperback
624 pages
Another Jack Ryan book from the acclaimed "Cold War" author. This one plays during the later stages of the era, when the USSR and USA are finally coming round to the idea that having enough nuclear weapons to blow up the whole planet 50 times might just be a little overkill..

The story consists of 2 main stories and 2 subplots. In Afghanistan a freedom fighter known as "The Archer" is firing of missiles provided by the CIA at Russians like there's no tomorrow. In the Kremlin there's something brooding in the shape of a new top-secret project.

Then there's Jack Ryan of course, who's part of a negotiation team concerned with trying to sort out and agreement to bring down the number of nuclear missiles in both the USSR and the US. And during all this he's also being suspected of some dodgy dealings..

It is definitely a very entertaining book, it's the sort of book you're constantly wondering what will happen next. The main plot is very entertaining and worked out, it's the sub-plots that let it down a bit. The whole thing with "The Archer" seems a little forced and gives the impression of a sort of " add-on". I don't know why Tom thought this was needed as the basic story on it's own would be more than enough to entertain anyone with a taste for action and spies..

Still recommendable though.
7/10
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Tom Clancy
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Without Remorse
hardcover
583 pages
Bit lengthy revenge thriller set in 1970, which tells the tale of John Kelly, ex-Navy SEAL Vietnam veteran. He also features in some of Clancy's other books as CIA agent John Clark.

A few months after his wife dies our hero meets a young woman whom he falls in love with. It turns out however that she's got a bit of a shady past, having been a prostitute working for a drugs ring where she didn't leaeve on the best of terms...

One night, she is spotted along with Kelly by her ex employers and after a chase, Kelly is shot and left for dead, while she is taken away to be gang-raped and tortured to death. Kelly recovers and vows revenge and goes of on a killing spree. Meanwhile the CIA and Pentagon are planning a major rescue operation in North Vietnam for which the call upon Kelly's help..

When the rescue mission goes a tad wrong, he returns to the States only to find that the police are now looking for him in connection with the slaugthering of Baltimore's not-so finest.

Kelly decides to tell his CIA superiors what he's been up to, and they agree to help him if he comes to work for them by faking his death and turning him into John Clark.

Although it's basically a run of the mill guy gets hurd - guy gets angry - guy kills everyone story it's actually quite entertaining. Thanks to some good tension and plot twists it stays a real page turner, despite perhaps being a little too long..
Recommended!
7/10
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Ben Coates
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Why The Dutch Are Different: A Journey Into the Hi
paperback
304 pages
Ben Coates investigates what make the Dutch, Dutch, why the Netherlands is much more than Holland, and why the color orange is so important. Along the way he reveals why they are the world's tallest people, and manage to be richer than almost everyone else despite working far less.

He also discovers a country which is changing fast, with the Dutch now questioning many of the liberal policies which made their nation famous.

A personal portrait of a fascinating people, a sideways history and an entertaining travelogue, Why The Dutch are Different is the story of an Englishman who went Dutch, and loved it.
8/10
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Michael Connelly
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Dark Sacred Night
paperback
496 pages
Detective Renée Ballard is working the night beat -- known in LAPD slang as "the late show" -- and returns to Hollywood Station in the early hours to find a stranger rifling through old file cabinets. The intruder is retired detective Harry Bosch, working a cold case that has gotten under his skin.

Ballard can't let him go through department records, but when he leaves, she looks into the case herself and feels a deep tug of empathy and anger. She has never been the kind of cop who leaves the job behind at the end of her shift -- and she wants in.

The murder, unsolved, was of fifteen-year-old Daisy Clayton, a runaway on the streets of Hollywood who was brutally killed, her body left in a dumpster like so much trash. Now Ballard joins forces with Bosch to find out what happened to Daisy, and to finally bring her killer to justice. Along the way, the two detectives forge a fragile trust, but this new partnership is put to the test when the case takes an unexpected and dangerous turn.

Another solid novel in the series, readying us to move on to reading Ballard novels going forward no doubt, but it's fun anyway..
8/10
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The Burning Room
hardcover
400 pages
In the LAPD's Open-Unsolved Unit, not many murder victims die almost a decade after the crime. So when a man succumbs to complications from being shot by a stray bullet nine years earlier, Bosch catches a case in which the body is still fresh, but all other evidence is virtually nonexistent.

Now Bosch and rookie Detective Lucia Soto are tasked with solving what turns out to be a highly charged, politically sensitive case. Beginning with the bullet that's been lodged for years in the victim's spine, they must pull new leads from years-old information, which soon reveal that this shooting may have been anything but random.

Edge of your seat crime novel, showcasing the finely honed skills of Michael Connolly. Plot twists are a little ott occasionally, but hey, it's just fun to read!

Recommended!
9/10
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The Drop
hardcover
333 pages
Harry Bosch has been given three years before he must retire from the LAPD, and he wants cases more fiercely than ever. In one morning, he gets two.

DNA from a 1989 rape and murder matches a 29-year-old convicted rapist. Was he an eight-year-old killer or has something gone terribly wrong in the new Regional Crime Lab? The latter possibility could compromise all of the lab's DNA cases currently in court.

Then Bosch and his partner are called to a death scene fraught with internal politics. Councilman Irvin Irving's son jumped or was pushed from a window at the Chateau Marmont. Irving, Bosch's longtime nemesis, has demanded that Harry handle the investigation.

Relentlessly pursuing both cases, Bosch makes two chilling discoveries: a killer operating unknown in the city for as many as three decades, and a political conspiracy that goes back into the dark history of the police department

Another good read in the Harry Bosch series

Recommended!
8/10
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The Night Fire
hardcover
405 pages
Harry Bosch and LAPD Detective Renee Ballard come together again on the murder case that obsessed Bosch's mentor, the man who trained him -- new from #1 New York Times bestselling author Michael Connelly

Back when Harry Bosch was just a rookie homicide detective, he had an inspiring mentor who taught him to take the work personally and light the fire of relentlessness for every case. Now that mentor, John Jack Thompson, is dead, but after his funeral his widow hands Bosch a murder book that Thompson took with him when he left the LAPD 20 years before -- the unsolved killing of a troubled young man in an alley used for drug deals.

Bosch brings the murder book to Renée Ballard and asks her to help him find what about the case lit Thompson's fire all those years ago. That will be their starting point.

The bond between Bosch and Ballard tightens as they become a formidable investigation team. And they soon arrive at a worrying question: Did Thompson steal the murder book to work the case in retirement, or to make sure it never got solved?

Another classic Bosch with unexpired turns and just solid writing that keeps you wanted to keep reading

Recommended
8/10
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Two Kinds Of Truth
hardcover
417 pages
Harry Bosch is back as a volunteer working cold cases for the San Fernando Police Department and is called out to a local drug store where a young pharmacist has been murdered. Bosch and the town's 3-person detective squad sift through the clues, which lead into the dangerous, big business world of pill mills and prescription drug abuse.

Meanwhile, an old case from Bosch's LAPD days comes back to haunt him when a long-imprisoned killer claims Harry framed him, and seems to have new evidence to prove it. Bosch left the LAPD on bad terms, so his former colleagues aren't keen to protect his reputation. He must fend for himself in clearing his name and keeping a clever killer in prison.

The two unrelated cases wind around each other like strands of barbed wire. Along the way Bosch discovers that there are two kinds of truth: the kind that sets you free and the kind that leaves you buried in darkness.

Marvelous addition to the Bosch Universe, keeps you on your toes all the time, and makes you want just keep going whilst wanting it to never end..

Must read!
9/10
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Bernard Cornwell
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Enemy of God
paperback
496 pages
The continuing story of Arthur, the second in a trilogy which began with THE WINTER KING. The novels bring Arthur and his world to vivid life. A man battling for his vision of the future in a brutal age, dragged down by suspicions and magics of the past, surrounded by intrigue, dependent on his skill at war and genius for leadership.

As absorbing as the first one, and most definitely recommended!
10/10
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Excalibur
paperback
496 pages
A story of love, war, loyalty and betrayal, EXCALIBUR begins with the failure of Lancelot's rebellion and the ruin of Arthur's marriage to Guinevere. The Saxons, sensing the disunity of the Britons, seize the chance to destroy Arthur. The climax of the war comes with the legendary triumph at Mount Badon, and Arthur`s great victory. But the promises he made then come back to haunt him after the years of peace and glory.

Superb, ending a bit forced perhaps, not quite as riveting as the first 2, but nevertheless a must-read
9/10
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Bernard Cornwell
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The Last Kingdom
paperback
333 pages
The first book in a brand new series, The Last Kingdom is set in England during the reign of King Alfred. Uhtred is an English boy, born into the aristocracy of ninth-century Northumbria.

Orphaned at ten, he is captured and adopted by a Dane and taught the Viking ways. Yet Uhtred's fate is indissolubly bound up with Alfred, King of Wessex, who rules over the only English kingdom to survive the Danish assault. The struggle between the English and the Danes and the strife between christianity and paganism is the background to Uhtred's growing up.

He is left uncertain of his loyalties but a slaughter in a winter dawn propels him to the English side and he will become a man just as the Danes launch their fiercest attack yet on Alfred's kingdom. Marriage ties him further still to the West Saxon cause but when his wife and child vanish in the chaos of the Danish invasion, Uhtred is driven to face the greatest of the Viking chieftains in a battle beside the sea.

There, in the horror of the shield-wall, he discovers his true allegiance. The Last Kingdom, like most of Bernard Cornwell's books, is firmly based on true history. It is the first novel of a series that will tell the tale of Alfred the Great and his descendants and of the enemies they faced, Viking warriors like Ivar the Boneless and his feared brother, Ubba.

Against their lives Bernard Cornwell has woven a story of divided loyalties, reluctant love and desperate heroism. In Uhtred, he has created one of his most interesting and heroic characters and in The Last Kingdom one of his most powerful and passionate novels.

Must read!
10/10
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Bernard Cornwell
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The Pale Horseman
paperback
416 pages
The Pale Horseman tells the historical story of the 9th-century Danish (Norse or 'Viking') invasion and Alfred's struggle for the survival of Wessex and his idea of a united England. The Danes have already defeated Northumbria, East Anglia, and Mercia. Then the Danes broke the truce and Alfred's kingdom shrunk to an area of vast swamps and tidal flats known as the Somerset Levels.

With the help of our fictional warrior, Uhtred, a man caught between loyalty and desire, Alfred rallies the fyrd - a people's army of sorts - to the great battle of Ethandun in 878 CE.

Alfred's victory saved Wessex and indeed the possibility of "England" - a Danish victory and perhaps that island would be called Daneland (although had the Danes never invaded Alfred would never have had the opportunity to unite the disparate Saxon kingdoms). In any event, much remains to be done. Alas, we must await Cornwell's third installment, The Lords of the North due out in the US in January 2007.

Highly recommended for fans of Cornwell or anyone who enjoys historical adventure stories. The battle descriptions put the reader right in the clash of steel, the chanting, the roaring insults, banging of shields, blood, earthy human odors, the bloodlust, the horrible injuries and brutal deaths.
8/10
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Bernard Cornwell
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The Warlords chronicles part 1; The Winterking
paperback
512 pages
Fantastic book because it provides a somewhat different look at the King Arthur story. It is a book I felt sorry it had an end, I wanted to keep reading it forever.
It tells the story of an old monk, Derfel, telling the tale of his friendship with Arthur, and the struggles they had to fight...

It portraits a wholly different view of Arthur then the legend might suggest, as an honest man who tries all he can to protect his people but isn't without fault. Despite all his hard work everyone seems to be trying to ruin all his efforts, but with the help of a few friends he does manage to achieve his goal in the end.. But then the Saxon's return...

Filled with brilliant descriptions of gritty warfare and the horrors of medieval battles, politics, an historic moments it's a story not just about the truth behind the legend but about love, friendship and life..
10/10
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Bernhard Cornwell
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The Empty Throne
paperback
320 pages
The eighth novel in Bernard Cornwell’s number one bestselling series on the making of England and the fate of his great hero, Uhtred of Bebbanburg.

In the battle for power, there can be only one ruler.

England is fractured, torn apart more by internal fighting than the threat of Viking invasion. The ruler of Mercia is dying, leaving no legitimate heir. His wife is a formidable fighter and great leader, but no woman has ever ruled over an English kingdom. And she is without her strongest warrior and champion, Uhtred of Bebbanburg. So the scene is set for an explosive battle between elders and warriors for an empty throne.

The vacant throne leaves a dangerous opportunity for the rival West Saxons to seize Mercia. But Edward of Wessex is distracted by the succession of his own throne, with two heirs claiming the right to be West Saxon king. And while the kingdoms are in disarray, the Vikings, this time coming from the west, will go on the rampage once more.

Engaging addition to the series, makes the time of the Vikings come to life. Recommended!
9/10
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The Flame Bearer
paperback
304 pages
From the day it was stolen from me I had dreamed of recapturing Bebbanburg. The great fort was built on a rock that was almost an island, it was massive, it could only be approached on land by a single narrow track – and it was mine.

Britain is in a state of uneasy peace. Northumbria’s Viking ruler, Sigtryggr, and Mercia’s Saxon Queen Aethelflaed have agreed a truce. And so England’s greatest warrior, Uhtred of Bebbanburg, at last has the chance to take back the home his traitorous uncle stole from him so many years ago – and which his scheming cousin still occupies.

But fate is inexorable and the enemies Uhtred has made and the oaths he has sworn combine to distract him from his dream of recapturing Bebbanburg. New enemies enter into the fight for England’s kingdoms: the redoubtable Constantin of Scotland seizes an opportunity for conquest and leads his armies south. Britain’s precarious peace threatens to turn into a war of annihilation.

But Uhtred is determined that nothing, neither the new enemies nor the old foes who combine against him, will keep him from his birth right. He is the Lord of Bebbanburg, but he will need all the skills he has learned in a lifetime of war to make his dream come true.
9/10
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Jack Coughlin
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Dead Shot
paperback
400 pages
In Baghdad's Green Zone, an Iraqi scientist is murdered just before he is to reveal the monstrous secret weapon that Saddam Hussein took to his grave. The assassination is the work of a mysterious sniper called Juba. Originally trained by the British, he now works with a twisted mastermind determined to wrest leadership of the Islamic terrorist world from Al Qaeda. Kyle Swanson, once the top sniper in the US Marine Corps, has become the key member in a secret operations team known as Task Force Trident. When Juba tests the new weapon by killing hundreds of people at a Britsh royal wedding in London, Swanson is assigned to hunt down his old special ops rival. Fast-paced and gripping, Dead Shot has all the hallmarks of a new military thriller blockbuster!!

TEchnically good, but the plot is rather over-the-top and far-fetched, especially the whole sniper rivalry feels a little forced.

Decent effort
6/10
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Jack Coughlin
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Kill Zone
paperback
394 pages
An American general is captured in the Middle East by terrorists who threaten to behead him. But moments before he is rendered unconscious, the general notices that his captors speak American English. What’s going on? Gunnery-Sergeant Kyle Swanson is vacationing in the Mediterranean when he receives orders to mount a top-secret mission to rescue the general. But as the Marines prepare to land in the desert, they fall victim to a terrible accident. Swanson, the only survivor, then discovers they were flying into a deliberate ambush. But how could the enemy have details of a mission known only to a few top US government officials? Swanson takes off alone to locate the captured general and realizes he is fighting a particularly ruthless enemy: American mercenaries working for a very high-level group within the White House, whose hidden goal is total control of the US military. The fate of the captured general and that of the nation now rest solely in Swanson’s hands.

Decent sniper story, in-the-field action is pretty captivating, but the story is a bit too much look-at-me-Hollywood!

Decent
6/10
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Michael Crichton
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Micro
hardcover
429 pages
A group of graduate students is lured to Hawaii to work with a tech company, with a natural purpose. Nanigen is looking for the next big find in pharmaceuticals in plants, insects, etc, at the molecular level. The easiest way to find that is to shrink people to 1/2" in size, by means of a large magnetic field. Really?

I have been a fan of Crichton's work since The Andromeda Strain, but this was a difficult book to get through. The action was there, but putting reality on hold for 400 pages is a little difficult, based on his previous solid performances. The characters are very stereotypical, and they bored me to tears. If you want a futuristic sci-fi book to read, this one isn't too bad
8/10
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Dan Cruickshank
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Around the World in 80 Treasures
hard cover
256 pages
Dan Cruickshank's book, accompanying the TV series and the DVD. It's quite a worthy effort - he's an intelligent, articulate bloke who can justify his choices to the extent that he's been able to go gallivanting around the world with a film crew. He's restricted his choices to eighty, not a hundred, tell-tale pieces which evidence civilisation and the ability of human beings to leave their mark upon the world.

You wonder if this is some marketing device ... Michael Palin went around the world in eighty days, therefore eighty treasures? But Cruickshank wasn't chasing any deadlines. He could as easily have made it a hundred places and artefacts to see. You get the impression that Cruickshank, or his producer, or his agent, sat bemoaning the fact that Palin has exhausted all the good ideas and searched for some other adventure to pursue, something exotic, something worthy.

And that's where it loses its excitement, its ability to seize your imagination. Given a decent atlas and encyclopaedia, I could come up with 100 places and objects I'd like to see before I pop me clogs. I could come up with thousands! So could you. So could David Beckham! The excitement, the interest in such an exercise is in sitting around arguing the relative merits of an Orkney broch over a French brioche. The interest is in the arguments you can have with your partner or friends. Watching some bloke getting a crack at a world tour ... and knowing he gets payment and celebrity status into the bargain ... well, it doesn't so much inspire wonder as envy.

Oh, you can argue about Cruickshank's choices. Great Wall of China, fine, Pyramids, fine ... but the Colt Navy revolver? You can argue about Cruickskank's choices, but I doubt they're going to fire much passion in your household, and it's too late to change them now, too late to win him over to the merits of the Horseshoe Bar in Glasgow, or a Welsh rugby crowd singing at the Millenium Stadium.

It's an interesting concept, but it wasn't riveting television, and it's not a 'must-have' book. It's well enough written, quite nicely illustrated ... but it doesn't set my imagination or my heart racing. That decent atlas and encyclopaedia look better value ... you can spend months thumbing through them, looking for your own top hundred treasures and creating your own route. That sounds like fun, that sounds like much more fun.
6/10
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Clive Cussler
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Blue gold
paperback
378 pages
Written in collaboration with Paul Kemprecos, as part of the NUMA series, this is a Kurt Austin story. I am not as fond of Austin as I am of Dirk Pitt, but there you go, perhaps he is in semi-retirement by now, he's had a bit of a hard life, has Dirk, you know.

Once again, a megalomaniac is trying to do grievous harm to the world in some strange and convoluted way, that no one has yet figured out.

This story starts out with a powerboat race which goes a bit pear shaped, Austin, all blond hair and flashing eyes gets all bent out of shape when he loses the race because of a pod of dead whales. (i.e. someone has killed the whales, and they need to be punished...)

The investigation into the deaths of the whales takes Kurt south of the border and into warm water, while his friends are up the Amazon investigating something completely unrelated and then find themselves held captive on behalf of the white goddess, a rather unpleasant tribe of natives who worship a woman and the wreckage of a jet powered aeroplane.

With the usual high powered stunts and electrical trickery that we expect from a Clive Cussler novel, this one does not disappoint, but how many more heroes can we have with strange coloured eyes and dramatic lines in dire situations?

And one more thing - there is not a single woman in any of Clive Cussler's books who is normal, they are all supermodels with exotic hair, (whatever happened to "brown" as a hair colour - or is it an advertisement for L'Oreal?), genius IQ's, and a swift line in weaponry and karate kicks, or is this just an American thing?

Just a little too far over the top, and predictable, to be recommended
5/10
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Clive Cussler
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Deep Six
softback
480 pages
Having never read a Clive Cussler novel I thought I'd give Dirk Pitt a go. Deep Six is one of the older novels, written in the 1980s. The novel concerns itself with the machinations of the Bougainville Shipping corporation. This Korean based company has used hijacking, bribery and murder to grow to its influential status and has become involved in a plot, with the Soviet Union, to kidnap and brainwash the President of the United States.

Into this steps our hero, Dirk Pitt, of the National Underwater Marine Agency (NUMA) who loses a friend to one of Bougainville's old crimes. While investigating this crime, he stumbles across the Presidential kidnapping plot.

Like most of the Pitt novels, this one motors along at breakneck speed as we are introduced to a surprisingly large cast of characters and spend our time moving between US government figures trying to hide knowledge of the kidnapping plot, Soviet agents aiding and trying to block the success of the kidnapping/brainwashing scheme, a private investigator seeking revenge, and a host of myriad characters. The novel nevers spends long at any one location and there is a refreshing lack of multi-dimensionality. The good guys are always good. They are willing to risk their lives for the cause of truth and justice. The bad guys are uniformly bad with no redeeming qualities.

There are, admittedly, gaps in some of the logic and you have to decide to go along for the ride at the beginning of the novel if you hope to enjoy it. However, the novel never strays into fantasy and though it may seem improbable, it never seems unbelieveable.

There are no extraneous scenes here, everything happens for a purpose. Simply put, it is a fun adventure. Great for those times when you just want to turn your brain off and live in the moment.

Recommended
7/10
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D

Marcel D'Agneau
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Eeny Meeny Miny Mole
paperback
289 pages
Rather amusing pastiche on the spy novel made famous by Len Deighton, following a bunch of Bristish Intelligence staff as they wrestle with a Russion plot. Featuring some absurd subplots and twist that make no sense, it's plot is total bizarre, but fun.

It's the height of the Cold War, and Russia suddenly decides to drop the Berlin Wall overnight. The Secret Service is left in total chaos when the Stationmaster dissapaers in the same night to run off with his East block girlfriend. Suspicions of double agents abound are raised and an old agent is brought back into play to save the situation.

Easy read, quite short but entertaining, although a bit overly silly really.

Recommended nevertheless!
7/10
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Stephen Dando-Collins
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Legions Of Rome
hardcover
578 pages
There are so many books about the Roman Army and Roman Legions that when something like this one comes along it needs to stand out. It does stand out in terms of thickness ( it's literally a heavyweight) it stands out from the author who has written about Roman Legions in his well known novels and it does stand out in providing a comprehensive analysis of all the legions but and there is but..it could and should have been much better. If you thunk of some of the ground breaking work by Peter Connolly or the Osprey series, this was an opportunity to produce something quite literally monumental. What lets the book down is that the illustrations are not very helpful, the histories seem dry and there isnt a sense of overall coherence as to where the history of the legions fit together. It's OK but it could have been amazing.

As it stands it's just to boring and dry, only at the end does some sense of feeling come into
5/10
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Luca Dandrea
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Beneath The Mountain
hardcover
416 pages
New York City native Jeremiah Salinger is one half of a hot-shot documentary-making team. He and his partner, Mike, made a reality show about roadies that skyrocketed them to fame. But now Salinger’s left that all behind, to move with his wife, Annelise, and young daughter, Clara, to the remote part of Italy where Annelise grew up—the Alto Adige.

Nestled in the Dolomites, this breathtaking, rural region that was once part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire remains more Austro than Italian. Locals speak a strange, ancient dialect—Ladino—and root for Germany (against Italy) in the world cup. Annelise’s small town—Siebenhoch—is close-knit to say the least and does not take kindly to out-of-towners. When Salinger decides to make a documentary about the mountain rescue group, the mission goes horribly awry, leaving him the only survivor. He blames himself, and so—it seems—does everyone else in Siebenhoch. Spiraling into a deep depression, he begins having terrible, recurrent nightmares. Only his little girl Clara can put a smile on his face.

But when he takes Clara to the Bletterbach Gorge—a canyon rich in fossil remains—he accidentally overhears a conversation that gives his life renewed focus. In 1985, three students were murdered there, their bodies savaged, limbs severed and strewn by a killer who was never found. Although Salinger knows this is a tightlipped community, one where he is definitely persona non grata, he becomes obsessed with solving this mystery and is convinced it is all that can keep him sane. And as Salinger unearths the long kept secrets of this small town, one by one, the terrifying truth is eventually revealed about the horrifying crime that marked an entire village.

Starts off well, but quickly tails off into a messy mash of one weird subplot after another till it descends into complete nonsense
3/10
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Jeffery Deaver
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Bloody River Blues
paperback
340 pages
Location scout John Pellam gets more than he bargained for when he witnessed a murder whilst out on location in Maddox, Missouri. Whilst he claims to have not seen anything, noone seems to want to believe him.

Interesting tale of a out of luck film director turned scout with a slightly dark past, plot gets a bit strange for the sake of it at the end, but enjoyable nevertheless. Recommended
7/10
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Angie Debo
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A History of the Indians of the United States
hardcover
550 pages
Overview of the history of the Native American Indians contact with the Western Europeans. From their point of view for a change...

It isolates and analyzes the problems that have beset these peoples since their first contacts with Europeans. Only in the light of this knowledge, the author states, can an intelligent Indian policy be formulated.

The Apaches, Arapahos, Blackfeet, Cherokees, Cheyennes, Choctaws, Comanches and Crows... the Shawnees, Shoshonis, Sioux, Wichitas and Zunis. This comprehensive, compassionate and vivid study provides an unrivalled history of American Indians from the dawn of their first contact with Europeans to the late twentieth century. It is a remarkable record of Survival against the odds - the preservation of distinctive cultural identities through centuries of encroachment by a more numerous and aggressive race.

Although a bit dated and a somewhat too detailed to be accused of being really entertaining, it nevertheless makes for intriguing reading.. recommended!
7/10
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Len Deighton
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Berlin Game
hardcover
287 pages
First book in the Game, Set and Match Triolgy starring MI-5 spy Bernard Samson...

Cynical old hand Samson is send to his place of birth Berlin to collect a high-ranking defector, even though his wife's not too keen on it. As the defector saved Bernard's live years ago he feels obliged to aid him in defecting to the west. There's also reports about a mole in the MI-5 ranks, which makes things a bit tense at the homefront...

Of course things don't go quite according to plan, no matter how meticulous Bernard goes about his business..

This must be one of the best thrillers ever, full of tension, double, triple and quadruple crosses, and not to mention plenty of humor. The characters are beautifully described and build up.
Excellent!
8/10
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Mexico Set
hardcover
380 pages
Second book in the Game, Set, Match series starring Bernard Samson. After his wife's defects to the other side Bernard is left to take care of business at home, whilst trying to get to grips wit the fact his wife's a traitor. Not knowing whom to trust he's left wondering what's true and what isn't about his life.

No longer trusted by his fellow MI5 agents and superiors he's send to convince a KGB-agent to defect to the West. Matters aren't made any easier when it looks like his wife's not giving up on trying to get Bernard to change sides as well..

Excellent thriller, not just focussing on the high tech his adrenaline world of spies but also on building up the main characters. The style of writing really instills a sense of connection with them, and makes the tension in the story just that little bit more exquisite.
Brilliant!
8/10
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SS-GB
hardcover
390 pages
SS-GB is both a a murder mystery and two different espionage plots. It's most intriguing asset is it's setting, the UK in 1941, just after the Nazi's have won the war.

Douglas Archer is a brilliant, German-speaking Detective Superintendent in Scotland Yard. Celebrated in the press as "Archer of the Yard", he thinks of himself as an apolitical, dedicated professional. However, a bizarre murder in an antiques shop quickly escalates into a wide-ranging conspiracy which involves the SS, the Abwehr, a circle of scientists, the weak British Resistance movement, American military intelligence, and King George VI. All these intrigues and plot twists are set within a society full of ambiguities of loyalty in an occupied nation.

Archer is not to keen on his SS superiors but he's too professional to let that get in between him and the job, although he's constantly tempted to join the resistance. Every character is acting from mixed motives that make it difficult to separate the bad guys from the heroes.

The book's a well written thriller with a nice sense of tension and the setting really makes it a worthwile read, giving us some funny situations with Nazi uses for London landmarks.
8/10
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Barbara Demick
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Nothing To Envy
paperback
316 pages
Narrative which describes life in North Korea from the perspective of those who fled the regime. Rather chilling tale of what life is like in the most extremele communist country on the planet.

If Stalin's Russia was, in Churchill's words, "a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma", North Korea is an impenetrable black hole. The government's main mouthpiece, the Korean Central News Agency, has a firm policy of reporting almost no news. True, tourists can visit the showcase capital, Pyongyang, for a few days and enjoy some pleasant chat with their affable but carefully selected minders, but they will gain few insights into what makes the country tick and they will have no opportunity to speak to anyone who could be remotely regarded as an ordinary North Korean. As the British ambassador put it with devastating frankness last year, "We get no information from the government whatsoever", and there are few sources of information in Pyongyang to turn to who are not government officials.

So to find out what North Koreans think about their government and society, one has no choice but to talk to defectors who have managed to escape to South Korea. Los Angeles Times journalist Barbara Demick interviewed about 100 defectors, but in this highly readable book she focuses on half a dozen, all from the north-eastern city of Chongjin , which is closed to foreigners. She decided to concentrate on Chongjin because it is likely to be more representative than Pyongyang, where, for all its drabness and endless power shortages, nobody is starving. The overwhelming impression one gains from the book is of a country mired in poverty and repression, but also of resilience and a will to survive.

North Korean children are taught to sing that "We have nothing to envy in the world", and until recently people seem to have believed this as they had so little access to information about life outside their own country. But the famine of the 1990s, in which more than a million people might have died, inevitably resulted in a deep questioning and cynicism. "Your general [the demigod Kim Jong-il] has turned you all into idiots," Oak-hee tells her mother after being released from jail for crossing the border into China.

Oak-hee had watched South Korean television, which made it clear that what they were told back home about exploitation and poverty in the capitalist south was all lies. By now, many officials no longer believe in the government propaganda either, and a prison director tells the women held for escaping to China, "Well, if you go to China again, next time don't get caught."

But despite such comments, the book does not argue that the regime is about to collapse, as many defectors and western commentators in the 1990s expected that it would.

One of the most poignant stories in the book is that of two young lovers who dare not tell each other that they are thinking of defecting. Mi-ran is from near the bottom of the North Korean social heap, while Jun-sang comes from a comparatively privileged family, with relatives in Japan. Eventually they meet up again in South Korea, but their relationship is over. Mi-ran is happily married to a southerner but is haunted by the fate of her sisters, who are either in a labour camp or dead, while Jun-sang, who attended an elite Pyongyang university, is facing an uncertain future and worries that he will never see his parents again.

Demick says defectors find it hard to settle in South Korea and are overwhelmed by the myriad choices facing them there, which "can be utterly paralysing for people who've had decisions made for them by the state their entire lives". Surprisingly perhaps, "Many if not most, want to return to North Korea," Demick claims, and are wracked by guilt over leaving family members there.

But defectors are, by definition, not typical: they are likely to be more disaffected, more resourceful and richer than the average citizen, so this book is hardly the definitive account of everyday life in North Korea. Yet the stories it recounts are moving and disturbing, and it surely tells us far more about real North Korean lives than a fleeting tourist visit to the Stalinist-kitsch theme park that is Pyongyang.

Disturbing, but highly recommended!
8/10
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Colin Dexter
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Last Bus To Woodstock
papaerback
320 pages
Beautiful Sylvia Kaye and another young woman had been seen hitching a ride not long before Sylvia's bludgeoned body is found outside a pub in Woodstock, near Oxford. Morse is sure the other hitchhiker can tell him much of what he needs to know. But his confidence is shaken by the cool inscrutability of the girl he's certain was Sylvia's companion on that ill-fated September evening.

Shrewd as Morse is, he's also distracted by the complex scenarios that the murder set in motion among Sylvia's girlfriends and their Oxford playmates. To grasp the painful truth, and act upon it, requires from Morse the last atom of his professional discipline.

Bit strange to read this after having grown up on watching the TV series, as the Morse in Colin Dexter's novels isn't quite like the one played so excellently by John Thaw. Described as being much younger, and quite a ladiesman, it takes some getting used to. The story is pretty convincing however, and reasonably gripping. Some nice plot twists and nothing too predictable, so quite a good effort for a first try!

Recommended!
8/10
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Colin Dexter
bookicon
Last Seen Wearing
paperback
224 pages
"Last Seen Wearing" sees Morse and his sidekick, Lewis, assigned to a missing persons case. Just over two years previously, Valerie Taylor - a seventeen year old pupil at a local comprehensive school, had disappeared. The case had been investigated by one of Morse's colleagues, Chief Inspector Ainley, but was never closed. Morse has now inherited the case following Ainley's death in a car accident. Although technically a "cold case", it was one that Ainley had never stopped investigating - albeit unofficially and in his own time, in the latter stages. Ainley was returning from London when he had his car accident - Morse believes he discovered something important there.

The day she disappeared, Valerie had come home for her lunch - although she left to return to school for her afternoon lessons, it seems she never arrived there. However, a letter has now arrived home - apparently from Valerie, saying she's fine but doesn't want to be found. According to the postmark, it was posted in London the day after Ainley's death. Morse, for no clear reason, decides that Valerie is actually dead and the letter is a forgery.

Since Valerie disappeared on the way back to school, Morse and Lewis naturally look into her school-life. Three staff-members, as it turns out, crop up regularly in the investigation. One is the school's headmaster - who had only been appointed to the position three years previously. (From the book's prologue, there's a suspicion he may have had a quick roll in the hay with Valerie on the day of his interview. Naturally, he wouldn't have known she was one of his prospective pupils at the time). Phillipson is still relatively young - he's only in his mid-thirties and is married with two young children. The school's vice-principal, on the other hand, is a single man in his fifties called Baines. He'd been passed over by the school's Board of Governors for the headmaster's position, and it's clear that he and Phillipson don't get on well together. The final staff member is David Acum, who had only taught in the school for one year - leaving shortly after Valerie had disappeared to take up a teaching position in Wales. Acum had taken Valerie's last class before she went missing.

While it's a better book that "Last Bus to Woodstock" - the first in the Morse series - there are still plenty of flaws in "Last Seen Wearing".

Not a bad effort though
7/10
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Paul Doherty
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The Magicians Death
hardcover
280 pages
The Magicians Death is the fourteenth of Paul Dohertys Hugh Corbett medieval mysteries. Playing on the rivalry between Edward I and Philip IV, Doherty draws the reader into multilayered political conspiracies that would make any spys heart flutter with envy.

The top layer of the intrigue surrounds Roger Bacons impenetrable text, the Secret of Secrets, in which both sovereigns have developed an inexplicable interest. A collaboration is arranged to attempt translation of the mysterious tome. The symposium of scholars will meet through the bitter cold winter of 1304 at remote Corfe Castle, near the coast of Devonshire.

While Franco’s top schoolmen puzzle over the arcane text, young women—six is the final tally—have their throats slashed, Flemish pirates are sighted too near the coast, and local bandits find a corpse hanging in the forest. Then, one after the other, France’s three scholars suffer unfortunate deaths. Add to the mix the mysterious Father Matthew, the castle's chaplain, who is not what he purports to be. Corfe's winter blizzards are a fitting metaphor for the swirl of puzzle pieces and hidden motives that confound Sir Hugh until at dawn's first light (another apt metaphor) the pieces fall into place just in time…for an excellent climax.

The Magician's Death is a rollicking good story, but what gives special pleasure is the gracefulness of the story's development. It is like a finely executed dance—one scene flowing into the next, in a measured, accelerating pace to a beautifully crafted climax. It's the work of a writer at the height of his skill.

Most highly recommended!
8/10
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Fjodor.M. Dostojevski
bookicon
White Nights
paperback
160 pages
This is a tragic love story about a man who has never achieved anything in his live because he spends his days walking through life dreaming and fantasizing about the people he encounters. He therefore has no actual friends, just people he walks past every day and who are to him his friends..

One evening in winter however he comes into contact with a girl who was crying salty tears whilst gazing across the towns river. The two talk for the rest of the evening, and they agree to meet again the next day. But she makes him promise he will not fall in love with her. Obviously he has fallen for her already, but he pretends to only be a good friend just to be near her. It appears that she already has a fiancee, who has left her almost a year ago to make money elsewhere. He has granted her permission to find another man, since he wanted the freedom to do the same, but she has promised him to wait for him for one year, on which he promised to return to her within that period of time if, he still had the same feelings.

Together they sit and wait every evening until the last day has come. Once again the fiancee does not show up and heavily disappointed the girl breaks out in tears, on which the man forgets his promise and admits his love to her. She admits to having similar feelings toward him and together they make plans for her to move in with him. Then suddenly they see a man wondering around aimlessly . As soon as she sees him she lets go of our main character and hurdles towards what turns out to be the lost lover. Disillusioned he turns away and walks home. Whilst he walks away she calls for him and tells him she would very much like them to stay friends. He nods his head and walks away.
9/10
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Arthur Conan Doyle
bookicon
The Further Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes
hardcover
220 pages
Eleven stories from the Sherlock Holmes collection bound by Readers Digest. These include some known stories, and some unusual derivative tales. Most of them are of a pretty good standard, and thouroughly enjoyable, although some are a bit on the short side.

Recommended nevertheless!
8/10
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E

Umberto Eco
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The Island Of The Day Before
hard cover
489 pages
One of Umberto Eco's masterpieces, this novel at first glance deals with the story of a narrator who has come into possession of a manuscript written in the 1640s by Roberto della Griva, a man shipwrecked on an island slowly going mental.

Roberto is basically an everyman, but one who's reasonably educated and privileged, used to weave an entertaining story of how such a 17th century man would understand and explore the world. As ever with Umberto Eco's books there's much more to this tale than meets the eye. The novel is a wealth of marvelous writing and thinking, beautifully constructed and intellectually challenging and a vehicle of Eco's stunning writing, insights and scholarship.

Roberto's letters to his lady love, Lilia and other notes and entries are the base on which the story is build. His obsession with his imaginary evil brother and the woman he loves, Lady Lilia in Paris, who doesn't take him seriously in the slightest are the main subjects of his letters. Of course she never receives these letters, but somehow Roberto's opus survives and ends up in the hands of our narrator some 450 years later.

It turns out Robert mission was to discover the secret on how to calculate and measure longitudes. His ship and all aboard save himself were destroyed by a storm. He survived by strapping himself to a door, and bumped into a mysteriously abandoned Dutch ship, anchored between an island and a continent and a mere swim to either. Unfortunately Roberto can't swim...

When he starts exploring the ship he's stranded on he stumbles accros a Jesuit priest, Father Caspar Wanderdrossel. Together they muse about how to resolve the longitude issue and on how to get of their ship and escape. During on of their attempts the priest dissapears never to be seen again..

Roberto continues to try and escape by teaching himself how to swim, whilst inventing ever more elaborate stories about his evil imaginary brother..

Very elaborate novel with many layers and hidden meaning, written with a certain amount of cheeck. Not exactly an easy read but certainly rewarding if one's persistant..
8/10
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Stanley Ellin
bookicon
The Luxembourg Run
hardcover
272 pages
A rather badly executed novel following the "revenge is best served cold" theme. A rich heir gives up his life to join the masses, and gets caught up on the wrong side of the law.. The first half of the book sets up the hero's betrayal by his fellow criminals; when he miraculously comes into a large fortune, we are prepared for a "Count of Monte Cristo" style masquerade and ingenious trap-the-trappers finale.

Alas, as soon as our hero shows up (disguised) in his old haunts, inquiring about his previous persona, the villains panic and kill each other off without even a last word or a shock-recognition-regret scene. A lot of careful scene setting and plotting goes totally to waste by the end.

Entertaining but not as good as it could have been were some of the plot lines following more in depth. Worth reading nevertheless!
7/10
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Nicholas Evans
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The Loop
paperback
560 pages
The first book after the global success story that is " The Horsewhisperer". Part romantic grovelnovel, part history, part fact, part fiction, and not enough parts wolf.

The main premise of The Loop revolves around the reintroduction of wolves to the Yellowstone area, and the effect on the farming community as such. Having hunted wolves to extinction last century the locals are obviously no big wolf fans, so when a wolf is caught killing big local farmers Buck Calder's daughter's dog all hell breaks loose in Hope, a little Wisconsin village.

Dan Prior, local agent for the US Fish 'n Wildlife Service desperately needs help to contain the situation, so he enlistst the help of Helen Ross, former one-time lover and unemployed biologist, in order to track the wolves.

Of course there's the usual tension between them once she gets there, not helped by her falling in love with Luke, son of big bad Buck Calder. Who aren't on the best terms anyway as Buck doesn't just hate wolves but also cheats on his wife, Luke's mom..

Predicatebly, all the expected confrontations occur, with the expected outcome, and it all ends with a nice Hollywood style finish.

As you might have deduced by now I'm no big fan, it all just feels a little to predictable and easy. As someone with a bit of knowledge on wolves there was dissapointingly little part for them to play, bar a few pages here and there. Most of the characters are well defined, but stereotypical, and although there's some well written insights into people's reasoning overall it feels rather gutless and uninspired.

No page turner!
5/10
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F

Robert Fabbri
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False God Of Rome
hardcover
416 pages
Vespasian is serving as a military officer on the outskirts of the Roman Empire, suppressing local troubles and defending the Roman way. But political events in Rome—Tiberius's increasingly insane debauchery, the escalating grain crisis—draw him back to the city. When Caligula becomes Emperor, Vespasian believes that things will improve. Instead, he watches the young emperor deteriorate from Rome's shining star to a blood-crazed, incestuous, all-powerful, profligate madman. Lavish building projects, endless games, public displays of his relationship with his sister, Drusilla, and a terrified senate are nothing to Caligula's most ambitious plan: to bridge the bay of Neapolis and ride over it wearing Alexander's breastplate. And it falls to Vespasian to travel to Alexandria and fetch it from Alexander's mausoleum. Vespasian's mission will lead to violence, mayhem and theft—and in the end, to an act of ultimate betrayal.
7/10
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Tribune Of Rome
hardcover
399 pages
26 AD: Sixteen-year-old Vespasian leaves his family farm for Rome, his sights set on finding a patron and following his brother into the army. But he discovers a city in turmoil and an Empire on the brink. The aging emperor Tiberius is in seclusion on Capri, leaving Rome in the iron grip of Sejanus, commander of the Praetorian Guard.

Sejanus is ruler of the Empire in all but name, but many fear that isn't enough for him. Sejanus' spies are everywhere—careless words at a dinner party can be as dangerous as a barbarian arrow. Vespasian is totally out of his depth, making dangerous enemies (and even more dangerous friends—like the young Caligula), and soon finds himself ensnared in a conspiracy against Tiberius.

With the situation in Rome deteriorating, Vespasian flees the city to take up his position as tribune in an unfashionable legion on the Balkan frontier. But even here there is no escaping the politics of Rome. Unblooded and inexperienced, he must lead his men in savage battle with hostile mountain tribes—dangerous enough without renegade Praetorians and Imperial agents trying to kill him too. Somehow, he must survive long enough to uncover the identity of the traitors behind the growing revolt.

Interesting take on the Vespasianus story that makes for a good read, even if the basics of the story are pretty well known..

Recommended!
8/10
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Michel Faber
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The Crimson Petal And The White
paperback
850 pages
Intriguing historic Victorian era novel in the vain of Dickens but with some rather modern twists. And written by a Dutchman, which is inspiring in itself!

The novel tells the tale of Sugar, a prositute in Victorian London. Also featured are William Rackham, heir to a perfume empire, and Agnes his wife, as well as their family, and various other prostitutes and characters from all ranks of Victorian Society. When the two meet William finds the inspiration to take over his father's empire and change his life, all in an effort to gather enough money to purchase her exclusive services..

Heralded as a bit of a "naughty" novel, it's streams of Victorian english are intermittently interupted by some harsh sexual references and other "naughty" subjects. It sort of brings a nice contrast between the idolized world of Victorian high society normally portrayed in such novels and the bodily functions even Victorians no doubt were subjected to or suffering from..

These reference do feel somewhat artifical at certain points however, as if there's a rule that every 500 words or so something "naughty" has to be interjected.. Also the storyline starts of rather fluently the first 200 pages or so and then somewhat stalls, where nothing much happens even though you can sense what's about to happen, which makes it a rather frustrating read at times..

The open ending seems strangely appropriate for such an unusual novel. As the novel is styled as being a window in time in the life of the characters involved it makes sense not all issues have been resolved when the window closes..

Despite being a rather hefty 850 pages it's a page turner most of the time atleast, so it still comes as recommended!
8/10
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Duncan Falconer
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The Hijack
paperback
360 pages
Palestinian freedom fighter Abed Abu Omar and 20 men are preparing for their most daring mission yet: the hijack of a five-story supertanker laden with oil. Meanwhile, SBS operative Stratton has been assigned to bodyguard work and is bored by the lack of challenge.

When Omar’s plot is revealed, Stratton is quickly whisked away by helicopter to assist in a daring rescue. It then turns out the the brother of a ex Spetnaz was on board, and he wasn't happy that his brother got killed

It's a race accross Europe to stop him for Stratton..

Not only is the plot totally over-the-top, but there's so many "happens to" coincidences that it's ridiculous. It's just a by the numbers book, checking of the boxes as we go along.

Dissapointing
1/10
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The Hostage
paperback
480 pages
The Hostage is Duncan Falconer's first novel and it shows... The hero of "The Hostage" is Stratton, a member of the British SBS.

Stratton, whose first name is not mentioned in this book, an indicator as to what kind of book this is, is the toughest of the tough guys, but still comes across as a real person. He's very focused and experienced and doesn't hold back from having to kill when killing is necessary.

In fact, the subject of Special Forces soldiers having to kill when necessary is one that is explored several times in the book. The message here is that, unlike ordinary soldiers, Special Forces soldiers need to feel a desire to get a hit on their experience sheet in order to be a success.

So does this imply that Special Forces soldiers are psychopaths? Or just very motivated to do a good job and become a success? Or perhaps a bit of both, along with a craving for excitement?

As mentioned above, the story in The Hostage is very, very exciting. In fact, this is one of the most exciting books I've read in a long time, and I'm a fan of military thrillers. Duncan Falconer is very good at creating suspense and building up to a climax, with lots of action along the way.

The bad guys are various members of the Real IRA of Northern Ireland. First they try to kidnap a member of the detachment that Stratton is working with in Northern Ireland, and come very close to succeeding. Then, in Paris, they do succeed in kidnapping an American sailor, a U.S. Navy SEAL working together with the SBS as part of an exchange program.

Finding and freeing the American sailor is a top priority for Stratton and his team until the Real IRA spring an even nastier surprise on the British government: They are in possession of a biological weapon that can kill millions of people and they intend to unleash it in London!

Duncan Falconer's own experiences as a former member of the SBS provides credibility to the descriptions of the action. The characters in The Hostage are reasonably well developed and well presented, and even the bad guys are shown to have understandable motives. For example, there is a love story between one of the bad guys and one of the women working with Stratton, and we understand the bad guy's feelings and the tragedy for both of them when their relationship comes to an end.

The realism of the plot is were the problem lies. For example, the biological weapon is so potent that it would presumably wipe out the entire civilized world if unleashed. It would certainly spread from London to Ireland, and that makes it crazy for the Real IRA to consider using such a weapon.

And why did the Real IRA decide to use the American SEAL's wife as a courier for the package? And why did Stratton make a two-hour drive to London when he could have gotten himself transported by a helicopter? And why didn't Stratton shoot the bad guy just before the final showdown?

Also, the whole thing becomes a little, dare I say, tedious. Everything comes down to the same couple of people, and it seems that the RIRA, SEALs and SBS don't have any other personel..

Below par, must try harder


5/10
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Sebastian Faulks
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Human Traces
paperback
615 pages
Thomas Midwinter and Jacques Rebiere meet on holiday through Thomas' sister, Sonia, and form a lifelong attachment. In their common desire to ease the suffering of the mad they decide to become doctors and learn as much as they can about the workings of the human brain. As they work, they also strive to understand man and the mystery of self-awareness.

When Thomas and Jacques run a clinic in Austria they begin to diverge on their approach to psychiatry, one tending towards the physiological and the other towards the analytical aspects of the profession. This dichotomy is dramatised when Jacques misdiagnoses a patient as a sexual hysteric; Thomas, however, discovers that her symptoms are simply related to ovarian cysts. Thomas goes on to marry the patient, Kitty, and they have twin daughters. Jacques marries Thomas' sister, Sonia, and they have a son, Daniel, who is killed in the First World War.

Faulks has a great ability to create scenes you know will stay with you forever, such as Thomas entering a Victorian lunatic asylum where he has his first appointment as an assistant medical officer.

"From the inner vestibule, Faverill unlocked a double, iron-barred door which gave into a low-roofed corridor, whose walls and ceilings were tiled in white and whose floor was made of some kind of asphalt — spongy, uneven and disintegrating. There were dim gaslights at intervals of 50 feet or so, though not all were working; a sort of low mist seemed to have gathered from the damp floor, obscuring the way ahead, so that, as far as Thomas could see, the passageway was never-ending."

It is the disintegrating floor, I think, that makes this passage so terrifying. And to be honest, it is scenes such as this that reward us for paying attention during the scientific digressions that permeate this book.

By the end of the novel, Jacques and Thomas feel their lives have been wasted (they have failed to cure madness), but they are reassured by those who love them that they have moved mankind along on the path of human knowledge. At one point, Thomas' supervisor, Faverill, tells him how sometimes he feels like the captain of a stricken vessel. "I have the stars by which to navigate," he says. "Your task — perhaps the most important single one — is to help me never to take my eyes from the stars in the sky."

At 600 pages, Human Traces is a sprawling novel that in parts reminded me of D.H. Lawrence. Faulks, like Lawrence, loves women. Both men revel in romantic and sexual love but they also swoon over mother love: the family hearth, the food and drink and kisses that are bestowed by women on men and children alike.

Another affinity between the two writers is that they are inclined to write immense drifts of prose, exploring and pushing forward, forever trying to capture what cannot be captured, but often achieving, nevertheless, moments of great human tenderness.

Highly Recommended!
9/10
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Robert Finn
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Adept
paperback
416 pages
Insurance Agent David Braun, single, martial arts expert and bored with life, gets called out to assist a valued customer with a violent break in at their offices. Two men have apparently violently murdered each other whilst breaking in to an office building. When he arrives he finds the police out of their depth and he decides to have a go at pointing them in the right direction.

He discovers traces of a third man who seems to have mysteriously dissapeared without a trace. The owner of the company, a Mr Dass, is so impressed with David's work that he calls him over to his office to request he stay on the case, not just to solve the crime but also, mainly, to recover something that was stolen..

David sets out to find the whereabouts of the stolen item, a mysterious ancient artifact. He calls in the help of an expert in the field, who of course turns out to be female, attractive, single and strong willed..

Together they set out to crack the case, only to find out they might be fighting more then they had bargained for...

Well written tale, bit predictable of course, and getting a little far fetched at the end.. Character aren't bad, stories flows quite well and there's never a dull moment. Despite appearances, perhaps not just another Da Vinci Code ripoff..
Good Read!
7/10
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Gillian Flynn
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Gone Girl
paperback
432 pages
In reading Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn, I was struck by several things. This book began clearly, as a whodunit, and ended as a descent into madness, for virtually all of the characters. It was uneven for this reason and didn't appear to ever get into a smooth rhythm. It was also a book of pure hate, not the least of which is a long series of characters (not all of them men) who are both obvious and subtle misogynists.
The two main characters, Nick and Amy, married five years, are about to celebrate their fifth anniversary when Amy disappears. It seems, for this first part of the book, that Nick may have had something to do with it.
However, at about 1/3 of the way through, we begin to see who Amy really is, and who Nick really is as well. These two are the most self-aggrandizing, vitriolic, hate-spewing people on the planet. Amy is ridiculous. Nobody, including her child-psychologist parents, seems to have any idea that she displays clear signs of sociopathy. People seem to "hurt themselves" around her all the time, but they just want to be her or be loved by her, or so Amy says, and her parents buy it every time. They are the few characters who aren't painted as hating women, but they certainly seem to care less for their child than the books they write about her life and make a living from.
Aside from this, both Amy and Nick seem to think all women are either smart, but nasty bitches or just flat-out dumb. There was some clear indication that the author, a Midwesterner, seems to find the stereotype about New Yorkers thinking Midwesterners are dumb rubes to be true.
I didn't care much for this story. It was too frustrating to read about innocent characters getting framed or hurt over and over, and the ending was absurd.
I did think the concept was interesting, but the execution was unpleasant and not at all fun to read. I would not recommend this book.
7/10
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Giles Foden
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Zanzibar
hard cover
390 pages
Insightfull Thriller on the very topical issue of terrorism. An author's note prefacing Giles Foden's third novel avers that it was largely written before the attacks on America of 11 September last year.

Based around the bombing of US embassies in Africa in August 1998, specifically that in Dar-es-Salaam, Zanzibar offers not only an excellent thriller but also some though provoking insights into the minds and reasonings of people on both sides of the war against terrorism.

With a great sense for place and history this thriller lends depth and perspective to a well balanced take on the darker doings of the modern mind.

It does take some persistence on the part of the reader to get into it however, as it starts of rather lacklustre. The first hundered pages or so are spent (waste..?) getting to know an embittered ex-CIA maverick with one arm, a young US marine biologist searching for some purpose to his life, a young Arab driven to extremism by the discovery of his parents' mysteriously butchered bodies, and a young graduate on her first assigment abroad as a US State Department ingenue.

There's surprisingly little connecting the whole tale to the island the book gets it's title from, Zanzibar. Apart from some atmospheric descriptions it could really have taken place anywhere. Perhaps the mythical connatations linked to the island are enough of an excuse to use it's name as the title for this book.. Either way the way it's portrayed in this novel certain don't do any harm to it's magical aura..

As per usual there's the obligatory Boy meets girl bussines, but it's not a mayor part of the story as such, and perhaps not necessarily with the expected results.

Foden does not shrink from pathological violence, nor from the anguished workings of the human heart. His female character is particularly well desribed, as are the insights into why a religious fundamentalist might be turned into an insensate killer.

Foden surely knows how to use individual lives to dramatise and explain external events that impact on us all. Which is one way of defining the purpose of high-minded but very compelling fiction. Although somewhat slow to start the rest more than makes up for it. There's a good balance between writing a good thriller and providing some intelligent insights into how people's lives are occuring around them. Certainly Recommended!
8/10
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Ken Follett
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The Pillars Of The Earth
paperback
1089 pages
The Pillars of the Earth is the story of the people who built cathedrals in twelfth-century Europe. Flanked by divine inspiration and greed, the forces for and against the building of a cathedral at Knightsbridge are the buttresses of this book.

Follett’s use of plain language is refreshing. By not distracting his readers with unfamiliar medieval English dialogue, he allows the reader to be fully carried along by the characters and their daily challenges. The use of plain language fully engages the reader in the machinations - financial, architectural, and spiritual - of building a medieval cathedral.

Each character is well-defined and distinguishable from the next. This is a true feat for Follett as the novel covers over 50 years and represents every class of citizenry in twelfth-century England. The mysterious outlaw Ellen whose gift of knowing is sometimes clouded by her pride. The Prior Phillip who eventually turns his perceived weakness into his greatest strength. And the sadistic William Hamleigh, the young upstart who tries to rape and pillage his way to power and respect. Linking all of these disparate characters is the building of the most spectacular cathedral of its time at Knightsbridge priory.

From the lowest monk and servant right up to the highest members of the British aristocracy and monarchy, Follett provides a unique physical description for each character. Names are specific to characters, as are their specific mannerisms and character traits. This is a true example of master novel writing, as Follett had to place his main characters among at least four distinct family lines that exist along side a plethora of conforming and non-conforming monks and priests, all living under the instable rule of competing lines for the British Throne at the time.

The actual design and construction of the cathedral also has a story line of its own. Politics and greed intervene. Over the time of its construction the cathedral falls victim to the ravages of jealousy, the waste of haste, and the pride of inexperienced builders.

Young Jack Jackson's search for his father leads him to Europe where he is exposed to architectural wonders never before seen in England. Jack brings his new found architectural skills back to England where he applies them to the cathedral in progress. Follett describes the art and skill of masonry in the same accurate plain language that he uses to tell us how people of the various classes earned their livelihoods during medieval times.

Well written, goes on a bit too long though, and gets a bit repetitive in the end..

Recommended nevertheless!
7/10
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bookicon
World Without End
paperback
1110 pages
World Without End is Ken Follett's "sequel" to his similarly colossal novel, The Pillars Of The Earth, which was set in the 12th-century. It appeared two decades ago, and has become his bestseller. Like its predecessor, World Without End is set in a fictional Wiltshire cathedral city, "Kingsbridge".

Now, 200 years have passed, and the cathedral's structure is collapsing. The novel's central figures are Merthin, a soldier's son but a mason and architect, and Caris, an independent young woman who loves Merthin but is none too keen on marrying him, chary of a wife's expected obedience. Much of their on-off romance revolves around the rebuilding of the cathedral and, with it, the city – unsurprisingly, since Follett is a self-confessed cathedral buff. Set at intervals between 1327 and 1361, the novel has four main characters, but perhaps 20 important ones.

Follett plainly has several aims. One is to recreate, in plain English and contemporary dialogue, what local life was like – politics, agriculture, theology, law, medicine, food, sex, trade, property. Sometimes the language is so plain it's stilted.

This is also true, particularly at the outset, of Follett's attempts to smuggle research into the narrative. When the two central female characters, Gwenda and Caris, visit a herbalist, they are shown behind a curtain. "Why do you need to hide all this behind a curtain?" asks Gwenda. She is told that "A man who makes ointments and medicines is called an apothecary, but a woman who does the same runs the risk of being called a witch." Explanations like this always seem ponderous.

If this sometimes feels like being stuck in a history lesson, it's always an interesting one. Follett is keen to bring out the inherent conservatism of the squirearchy and church, and their overbearing maleness. He's also keen to emphasise the superstitions which govern local lives, and the climate of casual terror: murder and rape are commonplace, judgments are often rigged, and punishments brutal. The account of one miscreant being flayed alive is disturbingly precise.

Follett also (as in Pillars...) sketches the wider political world, most notably, if improbably, when Caris witnesses the victory at Crécy – from the French lines! – and meets Edward III. Here too, he is determined to make a point: great battles are really tyrannous, booty-driven slaughter-fests. But not such virulent killers as the Black Death, which overshadows the central chapters, and which pits religious superstition against medical intelligence. The plague scenes are expertly handled.

Where Follett excels is in telling a yarn. There is sufficient intrigue here, enough turns within double-twists, to hold readers through all the 91 chapters. Style takes second place to structure and plot. World Without End is exciting, full of sudden reverses of fortune – all the fun of the unfair. The story does become somewhat repetetive, could have done with a few hundred less pages. Recommended nevertheless!
7/10
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Elena Forbes
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Our Lady Of Pain
paperback
357 pages
On a snowy February morning, London art dealer Rachel Tenison goes for a jog through a dark and deserted Holland Park. Still giddy from the previous evening, her legs wobbly from too much drink and too little sleep, she trips and falls at the bottom of an icy hill. Lying on her back, enjoying the sensation of snowflakes melting on her skin, she savors the unexpected stillness of the moment. But then there’s a sharp crack of a tree branch close behind her, followed by a voice, softly calling her name.

Two days later, when Rachel’s naked, frozen body is discovered in the park, bound and arranged in a strangely symbolic manner, Detectives Mark Tartaglia and Sam Donovan are assigned the case. Still haunted by the Bridegroom, a chillingly seductive serial killer with a penchant for lonely girls and deadly heights, Tartaglia and Donovan are forced to put the past behind them as they try to uncover the identity of Rachel’s murderer. As they begin their investigation, however, they find that as much mystery surrounds Rachel’s life as it does her death. And when a tip from a journalist draws their attention to similarities between this murder and an unsolved crime committed the year before, the web becomes more tangled than ever.

While starting of rather promising, somewhere near the end of a slowly building up crime novel someone seems to have suddenly got close to a deadline, and the story suddenly rapidly gets predictable in order to round things of it seems..

Still a good read..
6/10
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Frederick Forsyth
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The Kill List
paperback
397 pages
US marine, now one of America’s most effective terrorist hunters, with an impossible job. Aided only by a brilliant teenaged hacker, he must throw out the bait and see whether his deadly target can be drawn from his lair
8/10
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Clare Francis
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A Dark Devotion
hardback
410 pages
Surprisingly enough, "A Dark Devotion" turned out to be a very fast and suspenseful read. This, in spite of the fact that you can almost see certain plot twists and turns coming a mile off! Claire Francis is definitely a mistress at spinning a suspenseful yarn.

The plot for "A Dark Devotion" is a fairly simple and much used one: Alex O' Neill receives a frantic 'phone call from an old childhood friend, Will Dearden, one day, asking for her help -- Will's beautiful wife, Grace, has suddenly gone missing; the police investigation into her disappearance seems to have come to a standstill; and Will is slowly going to pieces not knowing what to do or whom to turn to. Of course Alex drops everything in order to return to her childhood haunt at Deepwell (in Norfolk) in order to give Will whatever moral support and professional help he may need (Alex is also a lawyer). What Alex finds at Deepwell is a nightmare scenario where the police seem to suspect Will of having done away with his beautiful and popular wife, in spite of Will's obvious overwrought state. Could the police be right? Could her childhood friend be capable of murder? The more Alex discovers about Grace and the Dearden's marriage, the more Alex begins to reconsider her idea of who and what Grace; but it also makes her take a closer look at her friend, and to wonder if Will had a hand at Grace's disappearance after all...

Told against the backdrop of the Norfolk dunes and it's bad weather, "A Dark Devotion" proved to be a tale that was full of swirling emotions and atmosphere. Claire Francis did a fantastic job of weaving in the weather, landscape, the darker (and weaker) of the human frailties into the story of Grace Dearden's disappearance and the repercussions her disappearance had on those around her. Also wonderfully done was how she juterposed Alex's failing marriage, the ethical problems she was facing at work and at home, and her relationship with her brother (who still lives at Deepwell and who seems to have a bee in his bonnet where the Deardens are concerned), with the story of Grace's disappearance. And this is why "A Dark Devotion" turned out to be such a wonderful and rewarding read. As I noted before, if you're a mystery buff, you'll probably see some of the plot twists and resolutions coming a mile off, but the manner in which the authour tells her story, the manner in which she fleshes out her chief protagonist -- the plucky and extremely likable Alex O' Neill, the excellent pacing and the clever juxtaposition of subplots, is what makes "A Dark Devotion" an excellent read, and well worth the high hardcover purchase price.
9/10
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Dick Francis
bookicon
To The Hilt
hardcover
282 pages
Alexander Kinloch, the hero-narrator of Francis' 1996 thriller, is not a horseman. A painter, he enjoys a solitary life in a windswept hut on his aristocractic uncle's Scottish estate. But his solitude is disrupted first by news of his stepfather's heart attack and then by four thugs who attack him and ransack his hut.

Kinloch has never been close to his stepfather, Ivan, but quickly finds himself embroiled in his plight, up to his neck in bank officers and lawyers and entrusted with hiding a race horse and a jewel-encrusted trophy. All of which he accepts with stoic aplomb, despite the increasing risk to his own neck and the disruption of his life.

There's not much racing in this one, but Francis' hero does plenty of quick thinking and maneuvering and takes plenty of knocks as he defends the family's honor "to the hilt," ferreting out a murderer in the process.

Francis keeps things moving and invests his characters with complex and very British codes of honor. His fans will not be disappointed.
8/10
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T.M. Frazier
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Tyrant
hardcover
279 pages
Rich girl finds herself without her memory of her past live and son, and in love with a abusive criminal.

Then spends the rest of the book trying to remember.

Silly girl loves bad guys tale, where it turns out the good guy is even worse so that makes it all ok in the end..

Guess the moral here is that there are no good guys..

Second book in a series apparently, didn't read the first one and definitely won't be..

Don't bother..
5/10
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Brian Freemantle
bookicon
Charlie Muffin USA
paperback
256 pages
Crime novel telling the tale of Charlie Muffin, former agent for British Intelligence and now a freelance spy for hire. He finds himself a pawn in an FBI plot to flush out a Mafia overlord, dangling a dead Czar's precious stamp collection for bait.

Sent as representative for Lloyds Insurance to monitor the exhibition of the stamp collection he discovers there's something fishy going on with the security, and starts to do some digging. He digs up a whole load more than even he can chew, and has to call in the aid of the KGB, all of which result in one big showdown..

Not a whole lot of substance, but entertaining nonetheless. Recommended!
7/10
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G

Leighton Gage
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Blood Of The Wicked
hardcover
320 pages

Chief Inspector Mario Silva of Brazil’s Federal Police is a good cop in a bad system—Brazil's justice system is rife with corruption, and constantly a beat behind criminal elements. But Silva and his team of colorful sidekicks—baby-faced Gonçalves, who is irresistible to lady witnesses; chubby, crass Nuñes; Mara Carta, the chief of intelligence with a soft spot for Mario—crack their difficult and sometimes ugly cases with pizazz.

In the interior of Brazil, landless workers battle the owners of vast fazendas. When a visiting archbishop is assassinated, Mario Silva is called upon to investigate. Then a newspaper owner, a TV journalist, a landowner's son, and a priest are brutally killed. In a country where dead street kids are known as "hams," justice is scarce.

Superbly written police novel with a sense of reality

Recommended
9/10
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bookicon
Buried Strangers
hardcover
312 pages
playful dog finds a bone at the outset of this mystery set in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Chief Inspector Mario Silva of the federal police based in Brasilia and his team of investigators, Hector Costa and Arnaldo Nunes, are called in. The bone is human and the investigators soon unearth a clandestine cemetery. Someone has secretly disposed of the bodies of unknown human beings, often interred in family groups. And in Sao Paulo, it turns out, many patrons of a local travel agency have never reached their North American destinations. The motive for these mass murders is completely contemporary and completely appalling.

Another gripping thriller in the series, can't wait to read the next one!
9/10
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Meg Gardiner
bookicon
The nightmare thief
hardcover
351 pages
Autumn Reiniger expects something special for her twenty-first birthday. Daddy's already bought her the sports car, the apartment, and admission to the private college where she parties away her weekends. Now she wants excitement, and she's going to get it.

Her father signs up Autumn and five friends for an "ultimate urban reality" game: a simulated drug deal, manhunt, and jailbreak. It's a high-priced version of cops and robbers, played with fake guns and fast cars on the streets of San Francisco. Edge Adventures alerts the SFPD ahead of time that a "crime situation" is underway, so the authorities can ignore the squealing tires and desperate cries for help.

Which is convenient for the gang of real kidnappers zeroing in on their target and a mammoth payday. Because what Daddy doesn't know is that someone has spotted his hedge fund's bulging profits, and the path to those riches runs right through Daddy's Little Girl.

Working on a case nearby is forensic psychiatrist Jo Beckett and her partner Gabe Quintana. When the pair encounters a suspicious group of men carting six sullen college kids to the woods for a supposed wilderness adventure, alarm bells ring. Jo takes a closer look, and winds up with an invite to Autumn Reiniger's twenty-first birthday party-a party they may never leave.

Starts of bad and doesn't really get much better, paint by the numbers book clearly aimed at becoming a film, this one following the rich girl forced to fight her deamons and becomes a hero plot, cause in the end even spoiled rich brats love their friends.

Dont bother..
4/10
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Alex Garland
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The Tesseract
paperback
352 pages
Second book from the author of "The Beach". Basically the book tells the story of several scenarios which, are ultimately brought together through a series of events and circumstances. Firstly we have Sean, waiting for mob gangster Don Pepe in the most run down forgotten hotel in Manila fighting with his thoughts and emotions. Next we have a Filipino family living out in the suburbs in Manila, some street kids trying to stay alive on the mean streets of manila, and a wealthy student researching their lives.

Garland manages to provide sound descriptions of all the characters personalities and backgrounds through a series of flashbacks, memories and thoughts, and his style is concise and very readable. The problems arise from what appers to be an urge to make this a really clever book, and it's really too clever for it own good.

Changing not only timelines but even persona mid chapter feel more like an effort to intentionally confuse the reader rather then a clever method to write a book, and the only reason to finish the book is because you know all the storylines are going to merge eventually but you just want to confirm that what you suspect might happen is correct.

It feels like after his great success with "The Beach", which I must admit I haven't yet read, Alex Garland is trying a bit too hard to trump his first attempt by artifically making this book difficult to follow, which is I feel rather lazy and disrespectfull of us, his readers

Basically, don't bother..
5/10
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Faletti Giorgio
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I Kill
paperback
624 pages
Frank Ottobre is a FBI agent currently on voluntary leave and living in Monte Carlo since the tragic death of his wife. He's formed a friendship with local police inspector Nicolas Hulot, who's coping with his own tragedy after the death of his only son in a car crash and his wife's refusal to accept it.

When a famous racing driver and his fiancée are found brutally murdered on their yacht, Hulot asks Frank for his help because the murderer apparently phoned a popular radio show hosted by Jean-Loup Verdier the night before to announce his intentions. Hulot and Frank team up with Jean-Loup to catch the killer before he strikes again. However the killer is always one step ahead of them and the body count begins to rise, each murder as brutal as the last and each one announced before hand on the radio. A twisted psychosis is at work, one that won't stop unless and until Hulot and Frank stop him or her.

First published in 2002 in Italian, Faletti's novel is intended to be a nail-biting thriller with a unique selling point of horrible murders in a glamorous location. The problem is that it's a dull and clichéd read with leaden dialogue and a turgid plot that drags on for too long. Some of this can be explained by the time lag between first publication and the English translation as some of the twists in the novel, while fresh 8 years ago, have been done to death in the interim. Some of it can also be explained by the translation carried out by the publisher's in-house team, which certainly does not bring the story to life.

The identity of the murderer is easy to guess early on while the killer's rationale is eye-rollingly cliche.

Frank's guilt over his wife's death is self-indulgent and it's difficult to see what particular detective skills he has, given that he's constantly reacting rather than being proactive in the investigation. Hulot is more sympathetic although he too seems wilfully thick at times.

Dialogue is at best functional and at worst leaden. The pace of the story never really builds speed and while the murders are bloody, none of the victims are people you can relate to, let alone sympathise with.

Keeps you going if you're deperate, but hardly recommended..
6/10
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E.H. Gombrich
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A Little History of the World
hardcover
284 pages
A children`s book about history, written by art historian EH Gombrich.
Gombrich wrote A Little History of the World in 1935, when he was 26 years old and unemployed, like many at that time.. He jumped at a publisher`s offer to write this history for a younger audience, finishing it within the six-week deadline.

A Little History of the World was a great success and was translated into 18 languages--except English. That was a task Gombrich wanted to take on himself, having transplanted himself in England before World War II started. However, it wasn`t until over 40 years later that Gombrich began the task of updating and translating the book into English, when he was well into his 80s, and he died at the age of 92 before the task was complete. Luckily, his assistant and co-translator Caroline Mustill could finish the job and present this splendid treasure of a book. In the Preface written by Gombrich`s granddaughter, Leonie, we learn that he intended to include more chapters on English history including Shakespeare and the birth of parliamentary democracy. While it is sad not to see how Gombrich would have explained these bits of history in his own entertaining way, it is more interesting to see history through the eyes of a young Austrian in the `30s. What will be left in and what left out? How will history be skewed or does it really matter?

While I am not a historian and cannot attest to the accuracy of Gombrich?s history, the sheer beauty of the language and charm in the writing is enough to recommend it to readers of all ages, and begs to be read out loud. The chapters revolve around the more popular stories of history--the artistic Greeks, the birth of major religions, and the unending wars fought back and forth throughout the Middle Ages. The history is Eurasia-centric, so not much is said about Africa or the Americas for that matter, but if you put all umbrage aside and just enjoy the storytelling, it?s quite wonderful. Gombrich begins at the beginning, with the innate problems of "once upon a time":

And what do we learn, once Gombrich has set the tone? We learn about the dawn of prehistoric man and the beginnings of civilization along the Nile. "Here--as I promised--History begins. With a when and a where." We learn that the Egyptians worshipped cats as sacred animals, "and if you ask me, I think that in this, at least, the ancient Egyptians were right." We learn about the wonderful gifts of the Greeks. And moving on to the Romans we learn that if you weren?t a Christian, a Jew or a close relative of the emperor, life in the Roman empire could be peaceful and pleasant. Gombrich makes history accessible to children, putting it in terms they can understand, but he in no way condescends. He likens the approach of a storm that sweeps through the mountains to the Asiatic and Germanic tribes that swept in from all sides to destroy the Roman empire. Gombrich?s wit and artistic eye makes history entertaining and tantalizing and scary, battle after battle, empire after empire.

The final chapter, "The Small Part of the History of the World Which I Have Lived Through Myself: Looking Back," was added to bring the book somewhat up to the present, and in it Gombrich confesses to a slight one-sidedness in his chapter "Men and Machines," in which industrialization upturned the economic status-quo leaving millions of people destitute. Growing up during that time made Gombrich especially sensitive to the suffering poor, and in his last chapter he still points to the suffering that exists now, even with all of our progress. "We have no easy remedies, not least because there too, as ever, intolerance and misery go hand in hand."

Marvelous book ,not just for kids but also for anyone who?s into their history and wants to just read a story about what has happened so far..
9/10
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Sue Grafton
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A Is for Alibi
paperback
224 pages
First in Sue Grafton's "Alphabet Series". When divorc lawyer Laurence Fife got murdered, plenty of people had reason to want him dead. Soon a suspect was found in the shape of his wife Nikki who found out about his affairs and checked all the boxes, motive, access and opportunity. She was convicted and sentenced.

Eight years later and out on parole, Nikki hires Kinsey Millhone, P.I., to find the real killer. Even though the trail is cold after 8 years Kinsey starts to dig around and find out what happened to all those people that might have wanted Laurence dead all those years ago.. With better result than is healthy!

Quite tense thriller with a good plot, a good dose of humour, some nice plot-layers and an excellent lead figure in P.I. Kinsey Millhone..
Excellent!
7/10
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B is for Burglar
paperback
384 pages
The second installment in the popular Alphabet series. Once again we meet Kinsey Millhone, a quirky no-nonsense gal who lives in a converted garage apartment and drives a VW bug. Though she may sound boring, you'll soon see that the life of this private investigator is anything but ordinary.

When Kinsey arrives at her office one morning, a woman is waiting out front. Turns out she's Beverly Danziger and that she wants to hire Kinsey to locate her sister Elaine Boldt, who's dissapeared without a trace. It seems like a simple case, so Kinsey's off to do a little legwork. When she arrives at Elaine's Santa Teresa appartment she finds out she's probably left to stay in her summer residence in Florida.

However, once Kinsey gets down to Florida it turns out nobody there has seen her either, and someone else is staying in Elaind's place, claiming to be subletting it and having spoken to Pat before..

Then she finds out there's been a suspicious death only a few doors down from Elaine's place, and she starts suspecting foul play. Then however she gets pulled of the case by Beverly Danziger, which of course only adds to Kinsey's suspicion..

Again the story is made by the details and depth given to portraying Kinsey's struggle with life as an independent woman. Although the plot is good enough to keep the suspense it's not one of the best of the series

At the end things improve and get exciting again, so overall we can give it a recommended!
8/10
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D is for Deadbeat
paperback
352 pages
PI novel from Sue Graftons Alphabet Series. Private investigator Kinsey Millhone gets hired by a mysterious stranger calling himself Alvin Limbardo. Despite the fact she has a strange feeling about him from the start she accepts the job because it should be fairly easy money. He wants to hire Kinsey to deliver a $25000 check to someone named Tony Gahan. She sets of the trace down the guy but before she gets a chance she finds her suspicions confirmed when the check he gave her as advance bounces.

She tries to track down Limbardo but soon finds out he was using a fake name. His real name is John Daggett, and he turns out to be an ex con with five counts of vehicular manslaughter under his belt. And he's just been found dead on a beach..

As she's still holding the check for $25000 she feels obliged to stick to it and find the mysterious Tony Gahan. She soon finds out he's the son of one of the victims of John Daggett. Although the police are treating John Daggett's death as accidental, Kinsey's convinced there's more to it. Then John's daughter contacts her to hire her to investigate her Dad's death, and she sets out to find out the truth about who killed John Daggett.

It doesn't take her long to figure out there's plenty of people who rejoiced to hear John Daggett had died, including his 2 wives and those left behind due to John's crimes. Not to mention those whose money John stole to pay for the $25000 check...

D is for Deadbeat chronicles Kinsey's hunt for answers. The investigation has her going to Los Angeles and back, dealing with people from all walks of life. Not the most cheerful of the Alphabet Series it starts depressing and doesn't get much better further down the line. The way Kinsey's portrayed makes for an entertaining read and there's enough suspense and suspects to maintain a reader's interest.
Recommended!
7/10
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E is for Evidence
paperback
240 pages
Fifth novel in Sue Grafton's Aphabet Series. It's Christmas and things aren't looking too great for Kinsey Millhone. She discovers someone's deposited $5,000 in her account, and she has no idea who it was. To top it all off all her friends have left and she's looking forward to celebrating the holidays on her own. Lukcily she gets a job from her ex-employer, landlord and neighbours, California Fidelity Insurance to investigate a suspicious warehouse fire.

Kinsey examines the evidence at Wood/Warren, a family-owned manufacturer of hydrogen furnaces. She's been giving the fire officer's report and has been asked to verify it's findings that there's nothing suspicious to be found. She can indeed not find anything out of the ordinary so she ok's the claim and heads back to her office at California Fidelity Insurance to record her findings and then go home to enjoy her lack of holiday celebration.

Christmas hasn't passed yet or Kinsey is summoned to the office to be interrogated about her report. When she gets to the office she's presented with a completely different version of the fire officers report, stating that it appears that someone tried to burn the Wood/Warren warehouse down in an attempt to collect insurance money. As Kinsey has $5000 in her account and is used to be friends with one of the daughters of the Wood family suspicion has fallen on her.

California Fidelity prohibits Kinsey from accessing her office and with nothing to do and no office in which to do it, Kinsey heads home to investigate her own case. To top it all of she finds her 2nd ex-husband Daniel there on the doorstep, which is the last thing she needs! When she gets rid of him she goes off to talk to the Woods family to find out their side of the story and promplty gets invited to a evening party by one of the daughters..

And then things start getting really explosive!

Excellent addition to the series and the best one I've read so far, magnificent characters, great plot and plenty of speed and tension make this a definite must-read. Superb!

7/10
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F is for Fugitive
paperback
352 pages
Yet another one of Sue Grafton's Alphabet series. Kinsey's taken up a case in a little town down the coast. Royce Foyler, local hotel owner, has hired her to investigate the case of High school senior Jean Timberlake, who was strangled at the Floral Beach seawall. Problem is of course this happened seventeen years ago... Her one-time boyfriend Bailey Fowler, Royce's son, confessed at the time and was charged with the crime and sent to prison. He eventually escaped while on work detail 1 year after..

Sixteen years later he was nabbed in a case of mistaken identity, whilst living a lowabiding, straight life, holding down a successful job. This time around her withdraws his confession and it's up to Kinsey to find out who did kill Jean all those years ago..

Under the idylic front of a nite little seaside resort unexpected things are brewing, as can be expected.. Kinsey needs all her wits about her to unravel all the threads..

Bit slow to start but things get exciting at the end. Not the best in the series but good enough to be worth reading!
7/10
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G is for Gumshoe
paperback
304 pages
This is the seventh adventure for Kinsey Milhone and in this one who needs the help of a bodyguard. Receiving a call on her 33rd birthday from a fellow private investigator, she learns that she is the target of Tyrone Patty, a killer she helped track down. He suggests she might think about getting a body guard. But Kinsey feels she has better things to do with her money and decides to tackle her next case.

This case is one of tracking down her client's mother who lives on the edge of the Mojave Desert and is rather eccentric. But before she can even start the case, she is run off the road by a red pick up truck, wrecking her 1968 VW and landing her in the local hospital.
Maybe a body guard is a good idea after all. Enter Robert Dietz, a burnt out detective in his late 40's, with bad knees. Not only is he her body guard but he becomes her lover and this is something that Kinsey was not planning on at all.

One of the better books in the series!
8/10
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H is for Homicide
paperback
288 pages
One morning, Kinsey Millhone arrives at work to find the building surrounded by police cars and yellow crime tape. The body on the street is that of Parnell Perkins, her co-worker at California Fidelity.


The murder is quite a shock to Kinsey. She copes by burying herself in private investigation work. Her current case involves Bibianna Diaz, suspected of making a faulty worker's compensation claim.

Kinsey dons a fake name and disguise and befriends Bibianna in an attempt to expose her as a fraud. The trusty p.i. gets more then she bargains for and winds up criminally linked to Bibianna.

In order to save her own hide and hopefully solve her case, Kinsey cooperates with her colleague, Lieutenant Dolan of the Santa Teresa Police Department. He tells her that Bibianna's small comp case is actually linked to a massive fraud ring out of Los Angeles. Since Kinsey has made so much headway with Bibianna, Dolan wants her to continue her disguise and infiltrate the ring.

Kinsey reluctantly agrees and finds herself in a world of danger. Raymond, the head of the crime ring, is a very dangerous man. Kinsey tries to stay close to Bibianna. The result is both women virtually being held prisoner by Raymond's gang.

Millhone gets the answers she's looking for, but can she get out alive with the story? Until then, can she play her role safely without the crooks finding out her true identity?

Car insurance scams, medical fraud, and murder: these are the subjects in the eighth installment of the Kinsey Millhone series titled "H" is for Homicide.

For readers who are not familiar with the series or title character, here's a quick description. Kinsey Millhone, a quirky no-nonsense gal who lives in a converted garage apartment and drives a VW bug. Though she may sound boring, readers soon see that the life of this private investigator is anything but ordinary.

I've read most of the books in this popular Sue Grafton series and enjoy them all. Unfortunately, "H" is for Homicide is not one of my favorites. I had a hard time accepting Kinsey in her role as prisoner in disguise. My favorite scenes in these books are of Kinsey hightailing it up and down the state in her trusty VW Bug, gradually gathering clues until the mystery is solved.

In this story, the poor girl is trapped in a filthy apartment with dangerous gang members throughout most of the plot. Granted, she stays in character. All the famous wise cracks are present, but the depressing setting made me feel closed in as a reader as well.

I don't criticize Grafton's choice of story line. Car insurance scams are a popular career option in California. Perhaps the path the plot took is what bothers me. The epilogue is rather short. For such a wild case, I need a little more debriefing.

Of course, this is just a matter of reader preference. I still love Kinsey as a character and the way she lives through Grafton's words.

The one legitimate criticism I have pertains to background information. Since this is a series, its necessary to fill readers in on past events. If a reader begins the series in the middle, he or she can't get a picture of the character is question. Grafton is usually pretty good at providing this information, but there was less of it in this book. I doubt new readers would be lost, but they wouldn't know the real Kinsey.

Just because "H" is for Homicide isn't my highest-rated book doesn't mean it should be skipped. There's nothing wrong with this story; it's simply one of my least favorites.

I still recommend that you pick up a copy of "H" is for Homicide. Fans of the series must read them all. Most of my complaints about this book are a matter of personal preference. Who knows? You may think this Sue Grafton work is an excellent installment in the series
6/10
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I is for Innocence
paperback
304 pages
California's formidable PI Kinsey Millhone finds herself fired from her comfortable arrangement with Fidelity Insurance. Now she is forced to rent office space from busy Santa Teresa lawyer Lonnie Kingman. His usual outside investigator Morley Shine has died of a heart attack, and he asks Kinsey to take over the case that Morley was working on.

It involves the upcoming trial of David Barney, acquitted of the six-year-old murder of his wife, Isabelle, but now being sued for wrongful death in civil court by Isabelle's first husband, Ken Voigt. Voigt, represented by Lonnie Kingman, is sure that Barney killed Isabelle and wants to keep her considerable fortune out of his hands. Lonnie thinks he has a strong case, buoyed by damning new evidence from ex-convict Curtis McIntyre.

But when Kinsey starts her investigation she she finds a surprising number of people with reasons to hate Isabelle, such as Voigt's second wife, Francesca, and Isabelle's business mentor Peter Weidmann and his overprotective wife, Yolanda. She also uncovers curious gaps in Morley's files and begins to question his "heart attack", as Lonnie's seemingly solid case collapses bit by bit, with her own life on the line in the gritty finale.

One of the better in the Alphabet series, with a sober, resolute Kinsey, and a clever, well devised mystery. Yet another recommended for Sue Grafton!
7/10
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R Is for Ricochet
hardcover
300 pages
Kinsey Millhone's on the job again. As times are a little slow she decides to take on a what appears an easy money assignment escorting a released convict back to her home, on behalf of her rather wealthy father.

All she has to do is to make sure she registers with the parole board and stays away from booze, drugs and bad company for a few days until she gets back on her feet.

Of course this would be a rather boring book if all went according to plan. Turns out Reba and Kinsey get along quite well, and soon she finds out that Reba commited her crime for a man, who also happened to be her boss. Then Reba finds out he's not quite so innocent himself and he's not only cheating on her with her best friend, but also trying to fool her into believing he's going to leave his wife for her. Before Kinsey realises it she's deeply involved in Reba's crusade to get back at the man who put her in jail.

Whilst all this is going Kinsey also runs in to an old love interest, police officer Cheney. It doesnt take long before they're mixing pleasure and business..

Reba really comes to life in this novel, as one of Grafton's more endearing creations. It almost seems like Grafton's spend more time creating a character out of Reba and that Kinsey's playing second fiddle..
Let's hope this isn't a sign of fatique and that in the next outing it'll be Kinsey once more who's the star of the book..

Not a bad attempt but by far not the best in the series, story is quite captivating but things seem a little slow at times, although the end makes up for that somewhat..
Good read!
8/10
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Winston Graham
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The Tumbled House
hardcover
335 pages
At the heart of the novel is a libel case: however, despite the potential dullness of such a subject, the author weaves a suspenseful plot with many strands that drives the reader on in excited anticipation.

Roger Shorn is a successful journalist. Elegant and clever, he has a way with the ladies. He introduces an old flame, Joanna, to his friend, Don Marlowe, and the two subsequently marry.

One evening two years later Roger drives Joanna to the cottage of her deceased father-in-law, Sir John Marlowe. They are en route to London after visiting mutual friends, and they re-kindle their affair. However, they are seen by a woman who is viewed fleetingly by Joanna through the window.

Don returns from a trip abroad, and before long his father's reputation is being attacked in a Sunday newspaper. The author goes by the name "Moonraker" and his identity is unknown. Don is unable to sue, as the attack is on a dead man.

Don has a younger sister, Bennie, an air hostess. She meets Michael, Roger's only son, and he falls in love with her. Over the course of a few rather hectic dates, (in which it is evident Michael is mixing with the "wrong" crowd), Bennie discovers by chance that Roger Shorn is "Moonraker."

This discovery allows Don to start libelling Roger, in the hope that he sues him. In that way, Don is able to at least attempt to clear his father's name. Roger will be forced to prove what he wrote was true.

Unfortunately, Joanna realises that this could be the end of her marriage, especially when the fleetingly glanced woman proves to be a key witness. She also now understands why Roger wanted to go to the cottage, to obtain important papers that would help him write his article.

Michael, meanwhile, is frustrated at his lack of money, and wants the best for Bennie. This leads him into crime, and a tragic outcome for both of them.

Subsequently the case ends badly for both men, but they both lose far more than they could have imagined at the outset.
7/10
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Toby Green
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Thomas More's Magician
paperback
404 pages
It first appears to be an academic history of the activities of Vasco de Quiroga, the influential colonial official and bishop in 16th C Mexico; it has the requisite footnotes, documentation, etc. But perhaps this reader should have heeded the subtitle: "A Novel Account of Utopia in Mexico." Silly me, I took the word 'novel' in its root meaning of 'new' or 'unusual.' I was halfway through the first chapter before I divined that author Toby Green had 'fiction' in mind for me. In fact, the book is about half-and-half -- half a highly conjectural history of Quiroga's activities, and half a series of surreal dialogues between the author/researcher and personages that range from a cranky New England codger, to a sainted Mexico City cabdriver, to a shamanesque market vender. The interfoliation of these two formats is imaginative but ultimately frustrating. About 200 pages into the book, I gave up

The book in hand is hard to read, confusing, and not for any good reasons of a highly layered plot, but just because it is so boring one loses the will to keep up.

Don't bother, stay away!
1/10
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Michael Gregorio
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A Visible Darkness
paperback
480 pages
Prussian Magistrate Hanno Stiffeniis is called to the Baltic coast, where the naked, mutilated body of a young woman has been found by the shore. This is an area rich in amber, harvested - mainly by women - to be transformed into priceless jewellery. The occupying French army has taken over this lucrative trade to finance the battle against the Russian invasion, but as more women are killed, they suspect the Prussian resistance movement. Hanno's fears meanwhile point towards a psychotic serial killer, and no woman here is safe..

Set in the late 19th century when Prussia has been occupied by the French, this novel not oly provides us with an intriguing insight into how life might have been like at that time, but also with a rather exquisite thriller, which keeps you turning over the pages to see what's happens next, without feeling too convoluted..

Recommended!
8/10
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Critique Of Criminal Reason
paperback
416 pages
Michael Gregorio's first novel is set in the Baltic port city of Konigsberg, Prussia in 1804. What we think of today as a serial killer is on the loose. The city is in a state of panic and conspiracy theories ranging from a Napoleonic plot against Prussia to the work of the devil only add to the panic. A young, inexperienced Procurator (the Prussian equivalent of a magistrate) by the name of Hanno Stiffeniis, is summoned by Kaiser Frederick Wilhelm from his small town to assist in the investigation.

As the name of the book suggests, Konigsberg's most famous citizen, the philosopher Immanuel Kant is behind Hanno's appointment. Hanno was once a star pupil of Kant and Kant believes that Hanno's reasoning abilities are critical to solving the crimes. What then follows is the literary birth of the science of forensic criminal investigation.

Kant, aged 80 and in rapidly failing health, believes that crimes should be analyzed using what may be called a `critique of reason'. Hanno is a reluctant pupil who's instincts and sense of tradition cause him to think that time honored methods such as torture are the most expedient means to solve a crime. Yet, the bodies keep popping up and Hanno gradually learns to adopt Kant's methodology to the art of criminal investigation. Immanuel Kant once said that the use of reason is driven by three questions: "What can I know? What ought I to do? What can I hope?" We see that process at work as the plot plays out.

This is Gregorio's first novel and some of the prose (far from all) seems a bit leaden. But ultimately, Critique of Criminal Reason was a very enjoyable book that kept my attention throughout. Gregorio's bleak portrayal of the dank, winter-storm wracked city of Konigsberg was powerful as was his merging of the last year of Kant's life into a piece of fiction. There are some similarities here to Umberto Eco's "Name of the Rose".

Luckily for me I read the 3rd Hanno Stiffeniis novel first, which was definitely a step up from this one. Still an entertaining read, so..

Recommended
7/10
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Michael Gregorio
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Days Of Atonement
paperback
444 pages
One year after the Prussian defeat at Jena-Auerstadt, the town of Lotingen is under occupation by the French Army. Hanno Stiffeniis, the narrator, is summoned to investigate the murder of the three Gottewald children in a lonely cottage in the forest. Serge Lavedrine, a French officer, who has both an interest in the fledging science of criminology, and Hanno's meetings with the now deceased Kant, will coordinate their investigation and smooth any conflicts with the French authorities. Of the victims the two male children have been sexually mutilated and the children's mother is missing, believed killed.

Hanno has to leave his wife Helena and his own children to travel to the remote fortress of Kamenetz on the Russian border, where the father Bruno Gottewald, a Prussian officer, is stationed. But when Hanno reaches the fortress, which is commanded by the fanatical nationalist General Katowice, he finds that Gottewald has been mysteriously killed on a training exercise.

On his return to Lotingen he discovers that the crushed corpse of a woman has been found in a warehouse. The whole Gottewald family has been wiped out in just a few weeks. Is this an act of the French to increase their power or is it a tragic coincidence?

Local opinion suspects it is the Jews seeking the blood of Christian children for their rituals? Gregorio immerses us so deeply in the ambience and mood of the time that the reader does not find this ludicrous 'medieval blood libel' to be out of keeping with the story. It is ironic that the Jews are emancipated by the advance of the Napoleonic armies, and yet in about a century France itself will be torn apart by the turmoil associated with that notorious miscarriage of justice, the Dreyfus Case.

Hanno and the charming schemer Lavendrine expand their investigations using the feminine intuition of Hanno's wife, Helena, and the very primitive sciences of cranial phrenology, crime scene analysis, skull reconstruction and forensic psychiatry. We are introduced to the strange theories of mesmerism or "animal magnetism", and the Jewish ghetto mysticism that predicts a great disaster to come from "here in Prussia". Hanno and Lavendrine travel to Konisberg and search Immanuel Kant's papers in order to find a motive for the killings, but the answers lie both closer to home and in the dark fortress of Kamenetz.
8/10
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Philippa Gregory
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Wideacre
paperback
656 pages
Beatrice Lacey, the strong willed, gorgeous red-headed daughter of the Squire of Wideacre, refuses to conform to the customs of her time. Realizing that upon her marriage, she is destined to lose not only her family name, but the only thing she has ever loved (Wideacre Esate). As well, our (anti) heroine, she will stop at nothing protect her what she considers "hers". Seduction, lies and murder -- Beatrice's desire to own her own land is without apology or conscience. "She is a Lacey of Wideacre," her father onced warned, "and whatever she does, however she behaves, will always be fitting." Yet no one could have expected the depths Beatrice's scheming could have produced.

From the begining, Beatrice is described as someone who is very spoiled (although I think it would be safe to say she has several "father issues" going on). Given the times she was born to, it is obvious Beatrice was raised as a Squire, not as a young lady, which only goes to hurt her later on.

On the postivie side: Beatrice's determination to stay on the land in which wshe was raised, and change it for the better, is admirable considering the times. So much so, that you actually feel sorry for her at the callous way she is pushed to the side upon her brother Harry's return.

This feeling continues on for the first part of the book, it seems unfair the way Beatrice is treated after all she has done for the esate to help it prosper over the years , given the fact that to them she is "only a woman" and therefore "does not exist".

As the story progresses however, anything admirable about Beatrice is lost as it becomes clear that there is absolutely nothing she won't do to keep herself on the Estate, and to put her son in the Squire's chair. She truly thinks of nothing but herself and her precious land. Even when a man comes into her life that truly loves her and would give her anything (even staying with her on the Estate instead of forcing her to move), she cannot see past the tangled web of lies she has carefully constructed. Its obvious she cares for this man, she perhaps even loves him in her own way, but she is still unfaithful, and her deceit brings nothing but more pain, and she carelessly throws away her husband's reputation, as well as their marriage, to keep her secrets buried.

Her son Richard, becomes the most important thing to her. When she thought she was going to lose him, you do get a glimpse of the human woman inside of her. Her fear is palpable, and you can't help but hope her son makes it. Until it becomes clear that while she is worried about her son's life, she is also fearful that should he die all of her schemeing and hard work will have been for nothing.

She destroys the land, selling off crops out of state, mortagaing land, and turning her people against her and her family with the goal of leaving Wideacre to her son. In the end, she manages it, but due to her plotting, she leaves him little more than a worthless estate, and a ruined name.

Intriguing book for it's horribleness, you just want someone to take her down, which is why you continue reading in the end, even when things start getting a litte repetitive.. Worth reading nevertheless
6/10
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Martha Grimes
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The Five Bells And Bladebones
paperback
299 pages
Antique dealer Marshall Trueblood is delighted when he coaxes Lady Sommerston into selling her secretaire a abattant--at least until it arrives at his shop and vents forth the severed head of a man with more enemies than even Superintendant Jury of Scotland Yard can count. And the ensuing investigation proves problematic in more ways than one.

As usual, Martha Grimes writes beautifully, presenting us with a host of likely and unlikely suspects ranging from an eccentric romance novelist to a near-hysterical book dealer to a woman who greatly enjoys her dubious reputation--and considerable humor in the form of Aunt Agatha, a plaster pig, a bicycle, and chamber pots. But fascinating as her prose is, the sheer complexity of her story seems to run away with her in this particular novel, which piles character upon character and event upon event in a truly dizzying sort way.

Perhaps more to the point, this particular work deals with the thematic thread of to what degree we actually know people as individuals, the plot relies heavily upon coincidence, and Grimes juggles a great many balls to conceal the killer's hand. Whether or not readers feel these balls all fetch up together in logical order is a matter of opinion; clearly some consider this one of her most spectacular finishes while others find it frustratingly vague. For myself, I found the novel requires more concentration than one expects of a murder mystery, and while I thought the device was very clever I felt the conclusion lacked drama and consequently doesn't entirely come off. While I do recommend the novel to long-time Martha Grimes fans, I would hesitate to recommend it to newcomers, who might find BLADEBONE's deliberate ambiguity a bit off-putting.
6/10
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The Winds Of Change
hardcover
407 pages
Having enjoyed several of Martha Grimes novels before, I was keen to ready the latest Richard Jury episode. How dissapointed I was, only half way through.

Rather than an engaging mystery, this was a almost random series of chapter, incoherently put together it would appear, no doubt to keep the series afloat and make some easy money.

The premises are quite intriguing, dealing with child-abduction and abuse, but the plot spirals out of control rather quickly when Melrose Plant, close friend of Jury, is roped in to help out as ort of undercover agent (in an official police investigation, really?) Then there's chapters filled with drap conversations with boring friends, and the occassional excursion into family related matters which add nothing to the story.

It then fizzles out in a totally unlikely climax, which makes no sense whatsoever. Very dissapointing, so don't bother
2/10
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Bear Grylls
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Ghost Flight
paperback
435 pages
Former SAS man Will Jaeger finds himself in the notorious Black Beach prison in the African island nation of Bioko. An island he's been on teaching the local village children English for the last three years - basically ever since his wife and son were abducted from a hiking holiday without a trace. After being wrongly accused of being involved in a failed coup to overthrow the dictatorship on the island, Jaeger's friend and former SAS colleague comes to rescue him and they effectively bust out. Back in London, Jaeger is informed of an expedition to the Amazon Rainforest to locate and recover a downed WWII aeroplane, an expedition he's asked to lead. During the briefing Jaeger is informed that the previous expedition leader and freind was killed whilst training the team that are heading to South America. Finally accepting the challenge, Jaeger and his team are off on what could either be the expedition of their lives.....or the expedition to die for.


This is easy enough to read but I doubt it would be published if the author wasn't famous for other reasons.
One star goes because of clichéd writing, continuous adjective/noun combinations and repetitive use of "appeared to be"/"apparently".
E.g. ...were standing in a darkened room, before what appeared to be a long glass wall . On the far side was a group of individuals enjoying a cold lunch buffet, apparently oblivious to the fact that they were being watched.
That may not seem bad but it grates after a while and stops the reader becoming engaged.
The second star goes because the story is far-fetched, inconsistent* and leaves you hanging at the end so you buy the next book. Unfortunately I don't care what happens next so won't be buying it.
* inconsistent because (for example) "the dark force" seems to have limitless power but the story is inconsistent in the way they use it - the hero thinks they've stopped chasing him when it's plain they wouldn't stop. They can unleash missile-packing drones, unmarked helicopters and 60 heavily armed mercenaries in the amazon and hack his email, but they don't search his apartment or his boat and don't just kidnap him, his friends and his parents when it would be easy to do so.
7/10
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Running Apache