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Book reviews H to N

H

Dashiell Hammett
bookicon
The Dain Curse
hardback
208 pages
Hard Boiled thriller of the one of the best writers in the genre.
Actually a combination of three earlier short novels it's a tale of 3 episodes.

The Continental Op is a elderly PI cynically working his way through life from case to case. In this novel he is called to investigate the theft of some diamonds. As soon as he arrives on site the whole story is given to him has a the "wrong" vibes. First he find out that the diamonds aren't really very valuable, and then he finds there's rumours of a family curse and murder...

After resolving the missing diamonds case, he is called back to protect Gabrielle, the daughter of the house, who has got herself involved with a religious cult.
From there, the action moves to the beachfront town of Quesada for some final twists and turns, and the climax, which are satisfying.

Although a good suspense thriller the characters are a bit one dimensional. Not that this seems to hinder the enjoyment in anyway, it's still a mighty good page-turner!
7/10
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Ray Hammond
bookicon
Extinction
hardcover
380 pages
As a disaster movie fan I really enjoyed this book and think it would make a cracking movie up there beside Armageddon and The Day After Tomorrow.

Set in the not-too-distant future mankind has found a way to manage the worlds climate. And of course, rather then investigating possible long term side effects, the Americans went straight for the cash, using it for the benefit of those who can afford it. The highest bidder gets to buy rain or shine depending on its countries needs. Storms are diverted and all seems right with the world.

Meanwhile, lawyer Michael Fairfax gets set to sue the worlds climate management companies in aid of those forced to live in exile because global warming flooded their country. However, soon Michaels witnesses start disappearing and it seems the US is doing everything it can to gag their testimony that climate management is in fact wrecking the planet. Then Mother Nature decides to prove his point for him. Volcanoes across the globe start coming back to life and before you know it the apocalypse is upon us.

Extinction is a really gripping read to start of with, because its one of those books that you just can’t put down. The ending is rather dissapointing however, predictable and just too 'feel-good' to fit in with the armaggadon-is-coming message of the rest of the book, and it kind of ruins the sense of doom and gloom that hangs over the rest of the story

Still Recommended though!
7/10
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Ule Hansen
bookicon
Neuntoter
hardcover
430 pages
Emma Carow, profiler for the Berlin Police, finds herself caught trying to catch a killer who doesnt seem out to kill his victims.

Not only that but she's got plenty of personal issues to deal with whilst doing so..

So many in fact it gets a bit OTT, the plot whilst starting off quite well quickly decends into absurdity, but it's pretty entertainingly written.

Recommended
7/10
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Robert Harris
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Imperium
hardcover
403 pages
Imperium is the first of two volumes of a fictional biography about the Roman orator, lawyer, statesman. And a successful attempt it's proven to be thus far...

Robert Harris uses the often successful formula of relating the life story of a historical figure through the eyes of a confidante, and he does not disappoint us. The author’s research tells us that the real Tiro indeed wrote a life of Cicero, though no longer extant.

The narrator, here a somewhat priggish and bland character, concentrates on the major events in Cicero’s life, beginning – after a brief excursion to the East to read philosophy in Athens and learning oratory from the famous Apollonius Molon in Rhodes – with Cicero’s prosecution of Verres, the corrupt former governor of Sicily. The next event is Pompey’s war against the Pirates, and the book concludes with Cicero’s successful campaign for consul. (One wonders whether a single sequel will be sufficient to do justice to the remaining major events in Cicero’s life.) For some reason, the pivotal defense of Roscius early in Cicero’s career has been left out. But this may be because the novel largely concerns itself with Cicero’s struggle with his real or perceived adversaries, the aristocrats who disdain the New Man, and the favorite villains for most novelists writing about the late Roman republic, the first “triumvirate”, Pompey, Crassus, and Caesar.

Tiro does his best to show his master warts and all, while still maintaining his loyalty to him, thus creating a fairly complex character of Cicero, and to this reviewer at least, a reasonably approximation of the real man himself as we know him from his extensive writings, especially the letters.

That does not mean that Mr. Harris does not create his very own universe of the era and the man. The villains, mainly the triumvirate, try their outmost to wreck the republic. It is by now fairly well known that he likes to draw the analogy of the Pirates’ War and the events on and after 9/11. That is his novelist’s privilege, of course. Unfortunately, the three men, and especially Crassus and Caesar, often are drawn close to caricature, as are the younger Cato and Catilina. (Plutarch is a convenient source here.) This of course, is one of the dangers when the narrator is largely an outside figure as here, where he is a slave – albeit an exalted one – in the world of high society. So he can only observe from a distance. On occasion, this borders on the bizarre, such as when he happens upon Caesar “bonking,” as another reviewer phrases it, Pompey’s pregnant wife Mucia, in close proximity of her husband. Naturally, to some extent, Tiro cannot but echo his master and the latter’s close associates.

Characters more sympathetic in the narrator’s – and presumably the author’s – eyes, such as wife Terentia, brother Quintus, and the idealistic cousin Lucius, fare better, as does the potential villain Caelius.

That said, the novel is a good read, bringing Rome and the late republic vividly to life. The uncovering of Verres’ horrendous excesses in Sicily is masterful. The reader gets a good introduction to Roman politics, and Cicero’s work habits and his love/hate relationship with Terentia indeed do not strain one’s imagination. Tiro’s well known invention and use of stenography is being put to good use and on occasion does make for a nice suspense. As in the only other book by the author which I have read so far, Pompeii, the prose is excellent.
9/10
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Harry Harrison
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Return to Eden
hard cover
398 pages
Third part of the epic Eden-Trilogy. Our hero Kerrick has rescued his people from the Yilane and they have settled down on an island. Their peace does not last long however as his arch-enemy Vainte hasn't forgotten him....

In West of Eden and Winter in Eden, master novelist Harry Harrison broke new ground with his most ambitious project ever. He brought to vivid life the world as it might have been, where dinosaurs survived, where their intelligent descendants, the Yilane, challenged humans for mastery of the Earth, and where the human Kerrick, a young hunter of the Tanu tribe, grew among the dinosaurs and rose to become their most feared enemy.

Now, in Return to Eden, Harrison brings the epic trilogy to a stunning conclusion. After Kerrick rescues his people from the warlike Yilane, they find a safe haven on an island and there begin to rebuild their shattered lives. But with fierce predators stalking the forests, how long can these unarmed human outcasts hope to survive?

And, of course, Kerrick cannot forget Vainte, his implacable Yilane enemy. She's been cast out from her kind, under sentence of death, but how long will her banishment last? For her strange attraction to Kerrick has turned into a hatred even more powerful than her instincts -- an obsession that compels her to hunt down Kerrick and kill him....

Great story, excellent climax to the Eden series. Whilst the whole idea of dinosaurs ruling the planet takes some getting used to it's an intriguing idea and it works well. Makes one think about how different the worl would have looked if only...

Very entertaining!
9/10
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John Hart
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Down River
paperback
342 pages
The words "Rowan County, North Carolina," evoke many memories for Danny Chase, the hero of John Hart's second literary thriller, Down River. Many of them are pleasant--for instance, the time he spent with childhood friend Danny Faith. But even the happy memories are colored by the events that drove him from Rowan five years before the events depicted in this novel, when he was almost convicted of a murder he didn't commit. Thus, his reluctance to return to his home town at the urgent behest of his friend Danny is understandable; but, his loyalty to his friend eventually outweighing his misgivings, he decides to honor his pal's request.

His mere appearance in Rowan stirs up old emotions and grudges as he encounters allies and enemies from the past, and things get even more complicated when he discovers that Danny has mysteriously vanished. After a member of his own family is attacked, Danny becomes a person of interest in the investigation. When townspeople start dying all around him, he's forced to unravel an intricate web of secrets to clear his name.

One of those rare writers who actually live up to the expectations created by the hyperbole of his jacket copy and publicity materials, Hart delivers a book that should satisfy thriller fans as well as those who appreciate a well written novel (not that the two are mutually exclusive, mind you). Through his carefully fashioned prose and sheer storytelling ability, Hart successfully updates the southern gothic, artfully trodding some of the same territory as notables such as Grisham, Berendt, and (dare I say?), Wolfe and Faulkner.
9/10
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Samantha Hayes
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Untill You're Mine
paperback
369 pages
Social worker Claudia Morgan Brown has just surrendered to necessity and hired Zoe Harper to care for her stepsons and help her slog through her pregnancy while her husband is away on British naval maneuvers...

Although Zoe’s references are excellent, Claudia has a disturbing feeling that Zoe’s hiding something dangerous. Can she trust her instincts, or are pregnancy hormones making her paranoid? When Claudia is visited by Birmingham detectives investigating two brutal attacks on pregnant women, the doubts about Zoe turn to fear.

One of the victims is on Claudia’s child-welfare unit’s caseload, and the detectives clearly believe that Claudia’s pregnancy could make her the killer’s next target. After the visit, DI Lorraine Fisher becomes convinced the attacks are linked to Claudia and Zoe, and she circles them both, determined to expose the connection. Hayes manipulates the contradictions in Claudia’s, Zoe’s, and Lorraine’s narratives to thrilling effect while weaving in a creepy-to-beautiful spectrum of maternal love.

Starts of interesting, but bit too contrived.. Decent read
7/10
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David Hewson
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The Blue Demon
paperback
448 pages
It’s the height of the tourist season in Rome, and security is tight as world leaders gather for a G8 summit. While politicians bicker behind the walls of the illustrious Palazzo del Quirinale, a terrible threat is lurking outside — a threat that’s been dormant for a long time but is now very much awake. In David Hewson’s powerful new thriller, Detective Nic Costa and the men and women of the Questura must work in secret to thwart a conspiracy that reaches higher than any of them could have imagined.

In the early hours of a sultry summer evening, a government car comes under fire along the narrow Via delle Quattro Fontane. When the shots die away, one person lies dead and another — Ministry of Interior official Giovanni Batisti — has been abducted.

The terrible fate of the missing bureaucrat is soon revealed — leaving all of Italy in shock. Who would do such a thing? And why? All signs point to a mysterious terrorist group that calls itself the Blue Demon, an organization whose last campaign of violence ended two decades ago.

For Detective Nic Costa, solving this case is an all-consuming obsession. But as he and his team begin their investigation, they find themselves reduced to expensive bodyguards — and their hands tied with red tape — until tragedy strikes and claims one of their own.

Hampered at every turn by the Ministry of Interior’s meddling security chief and a cagey and powerful prime minister, Costa and the members of his team are determined to pursue their quest for justice. As one terror attack after another sends the Eternal City spiraling into panic, Nic Costa vows that nothing will stop him from catching a vengeful madman bent on tearing apart his city, its people, and its very history.

Having read the eighth book first, I’m sure that I will not bother to go back and read the first seven. The plot made no sense at all, especially as the backstory at the end made a lot more sense and has more suspense than the book itself.

Don't bother
5/10
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Yokoyama Hideo
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Seventeen
hardcover
381 pages
gauntlet of the power struggles and office politics that plague its newsroom. But when an air disaster of unprecedented scale occurs on the paper’s doorstep, its staff is united by an unimaginable horror and a once-in-a-lifetime scoop.

2003. Seventeen years later, Yuuki remembers the adrenaline-fueled, emotionally charged seven days that changed his and his colleagues’ lives. He does so while making good on a promise he made that fateful week—one that holds the key to its last solved mystery and represents Yuuki’s final, unconquered fear.

Definitely not a crime novel, but a insight into Japanese culture and newsroom journalism. Whilst interesting, it's rather long-winded, and one might say a little boring..

Don't bother
5/10
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Naoki Higashida
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The Reason I Jump
hardcover
180 pages
Composed by a writer still with one foot in childhood, and whose autism was at least as challenging and life-defining as our son's, THE REASON I JUMP was a revelatory godsend. Reading it felt as if, for the first time, our own son was talking to us about what was happening inside his head.'

Written by Naoki Higashida when he was only thirteen, this remarkable book explains the often baffling behaviour of autistic children and shows the way they think and feel - such as about the people around them, time and beauty, noise, and themselves. Naoki abundantly proves that autistic people do possess imagination, humour and empathy, but also makes clear, with great poignancy, how badly they need our compassion, patience and understanding.

David Mitchell and his wife have translated Naoki's book so that it might help others dealing with autism, and generally illuminate a little-understood condition. Like The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, it gives us an exceptional chance to enter the mind of another and see the world from a strange and fascinating perspective.
8/10
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Jack Higgins
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Dark Justice
paperback
288 pages
It is night in Manhattan. The President of the United States is scheduled to have dinner with an old friend, but in the building across the street, a man has disabled the security and stands at a window, a rifle in his hand.

Fortunately, his attempt is not successful-but this is only the beginning. Someone is recruiting a shadowy network of agents with the intention of creating terror. Their range is broad, their identities masked, their methods subtle. White House operative Blake Johnson and his counterpart in British intelligence, Sean Dillon, set out to trace the source of the havoc, but behind the first man they find another, and behind the second another still. And that last man is not pleased by the interference. Soon he will target them all: Johnson, Dillon, Dillon's colleagues. And one of them will fall.

Filled with all the dark suspense and sudden action for which Higgins has become famous, and driven by characters of complexity and passion, Dark Justice shows the master at the peak of his powers.

The plot is basic, involving trips to Iraq, London and Ireland.

The book is full of 2-dimensional characters that you don't care for. The dialog is lacklustre; the "action" is simplistic and by-the-numbers. Even the grand finale is over in a few pages.

Dillon runs around the world saving everybody except the US president. There's nothing "thrilling" about this story at all.

Don't bother
3/10
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Victoria Hislop
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The Thread
paperback
480 pages
Thessaloniki, 1917. As Dimitri Komninos is born, a devastating fire sweeps through the thriving Greek city where Christians, Jews and Muslims live side by side. Five years later, Katerina Sarafoglou's home in Asia Minor is destroyed by the Turkish army. Losing her mother in the chaos, she flees across the sea to an unknown destination in Greece. Soon her life will become entwined with Dimitri's, and with the story of the city itself, as war, fear and persecution begin to divide its people.

Thessaloniki, 2007. A young Anglo-Greek hears his grandparents' life story for the first time and realises he has a decision to make. For many decades, they have looked after the memories and treasures of the people who were forced to leave.

Rather hyped novel, which didn't live up to the anticapation. For one, the characters never come alive. For example, what do we learn about Katarina? She's beautiful, she is obsessed with sewing (so much so, it's her hobby after a 10 hours work day doing sewing), she cries for her mother. But what does she think, what does she feel, what are her opinions, her values? And she is the main character! Why does she never visit her mother? The same for the other protagonists, we never learn much about them as persons. The only one who comes a bit alive is Komninos, but he is such a black character it is hard to believe that anybody has such a personality void of nuances. There is much suffering, but it never comes across so one could identify - what a difference to the opening scene of The Island, where the reader feels the need to cry after two pages, completely empathising with a person one does not even know yet! Here we know them for nearly 400 pages, but most of the time, their destiny does not touch us. And then the assumption that the reader is an idiot. A woman talking about synagogues. Next paragraph it is explained to us that she comes from a Jewish family. What a surprise! A girl who lost her mother praying in church, her lips forming the word mamma, and then the explanation: She is praying for her mother! Or the political teaching. We are told numerous times that it was a right-wing government, as if that was not obvious to even those who know nothing of Greece's history. We are told fifty times, that once Jews, Muslims and Christians lived in harmony, as if the fact a Christian woman takes on a Muslim wet nurse would not explain that much better. The plot is contrived - the way how Olga's letters are found, the sudden conversion of a war criminal, and the whole story around Mitsos: completely unconvincing. It's a pity.

Disappointing!
6/10
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Jilliane Hoffman
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Retribution
paperback
490 pages
Blond, beautiful law student Chloe Larson is looking forward to a great future with successful New York businessman Michael Decker. Her expectations are shattered forever after a madman in a clown mask rapes and tortures her until she is near death. She survives physically, but psychologically slips into an extended mental breakdown. Twelve years later she has dyed her hair mousy brown and become unassuming, hardworking C.J. Townsend, assistant chief of the Miami Dade State Attorneys office. A suspiciously lucky break nets serial killer suspect William Bantling, and C.J. takes over the prosecution as part of her normal workload. When Bantling stands up in court and speaks, C.J. realizes he is the man who raped her years ago. C.J. learns that the statute of limitations has run out on her rape and that her involvement in that case might very well cause Bantling to be freed on a technicality. Love interest Special Agent Dominick Falconetti knows there is something seriously wrong as her mental state begins to deteriorate, but she brushes off his concern and immerses herself in her work on the case.

Good legal thriler, kept me on the edge of my seat!

Recommended!
8/10
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Craig Holden
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The Jazz Bird
paperback
1314 pages
On October 6, 1927, while on the way to the divorce court, the one time wealthiest bootlegger in the country, lawyer George Remus, has his chauffeur follow and harass the taxi in which his wife is riding. When the cars finally stop, he goes to the door of the cab, Imogene flees, and George follows and shoots her dead right there in Cincinnati's Eden Park. Remus, apparently aware enough of what he has done, turns himself into the police.

It is up to Charlie Taft, the youngest son of William Howard Taft, former president and the then Chief Justice, to try this shocking case as Chief Prosecutor. At first it seems that he's handed an easy win, a political benefit to his new position. During the arraignment proceedings, George Remus declares he is not guilty and can prove it was a morally justifiable homicide. Furthermore, George Remus will represent George Remus. Naturally, the state has no objection to this since they think they are being handed a gift.

It's not hard to imagine that Remus had true and deserving motivation to kill Imogene. While in prison for the previous three years, the "untouchable" Agent Frank Dodge turned Imogene into the government's star witness. Furthermore, she was said to have stolen and hid most of his money as well as selling off all his possessions and his businesses. By the time he was released from a series of incarcerations, he has nothing left, including his wife. But Charlie Taft believes that Remus is a smart man, a controlled man, and that if he can find evidence of how Remus would benefit from the murder, then he can prove it was premeditated. His team turns to Agent Dodge for help and he leads them to a clear motivation. He believes that Imogene was going to spill something big on the day of the divorce.

Meanwhile, Taft delves into a diary in which Imogene tells about her first year with George Remus. Taft is fascinated because Imogene is from his same privileged society. He is compelled to understand how this well-bred, fortunate daughter from the top of the Cincinnati society ends up the "moll" of a bootlegger.

Although this novel is based on a historical point in time and on real people, this is a true work of fiction. Out of a sensational trial with many of its own surprises, Craig Holden has rooted out the deepest, if not the most bizarre, love story, creating the strangest twist for what might normally be considered a simple crime of passion. In truth, not much is really known about Imogene Remus, but of what is known, Holden takes many liberties. In the process he creates an intriguing and memorable image of the enigmatic "Jazz Bird," as she is so nicknamed by Remus' men. He portrays Imogene Remus as a smart, restless woman, defiant against her own society and who at once defies and redefines the cold image created by the press during the real trial.

Added into this mix are the courtroom maneuverings and the whole notion of whether or not Remus is sane or insane. After the indictment is handed down, Remus throws the State off by taking on a co-counsel and then enters a plea of not guilty by means of insanity. So the lawyer George Remus declares he is sane enough to try himself yet the plea is that he was insane just before and leading up to the moment of the killing. So when the defense has their turn, guided by Elston, the co-counsel, witness after witness make statements reporting on his "insane" behavior. In courtroom outbursts George publicly tries to defend his sanity but privately feels himself slipping away.

Holden's approach to telling this story is to skillfully weave trial dialogue (although he says that he didn't use any from the transcripts - so this is all fiction as well) with flashback style scenarios of the actual event to help fill in the details and emotions. This clearly works better than a straight courtroom transcript because it allows him to jump perspective between characters and to jump time showing us the earlier years mixed with the current events of the trial. It also allows him to build the courtroom battle between the prosecution and defense, all the time manipulating us so that we come to see the final closing arguments in much the same way as the jury of that time.

The Jazz Bird succeeds in taking a step back in history during the fascinating Prohibition years, a time when the public is more sympathetic to the gangster than to the government. In the end, not even Charlie Taft is completely untouched.

Highly Recommended
9/10
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Jim Hougan
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The Magdalene Cipher
paper back
423 pages
Another Dan Brown clone, quite intriguing at first but with a rather dissapointing end. This book is a well written international thriller of psychology and conspiracy, espionage and prophecy, history and suspense.

After someone he has under surveillance is slaughtered, literally, CIA agent Jack Dunphy is ordered to leave London immediately and return to the US, where he is dumped into a tedious desk job that seems calculated to make him quit. Determined to learn why, Dunphy uses all his CIA tradecraft on the agency that has turned against him and discovers the fragments of a story that seems too wild to be true, providing him with evidence of a conspiracy that goes back to the time of Christ, a conspiracy so vast and deep and old that the CIA itself is but a cover for it.

Embroiled in a plot far more elaborate than he ever could have imagined, with players too powerful and consequences too deadly, Dunphy must uncover the shocking truth or die trying...
6/10
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Roy Hounsell
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The Papas and the Englishman: From Corfu to Zagori
paperback
224 pages
Tale of now only a move from the UK to Greece, but fom the touristic side to the totally rural part of the country.

The story kicks off with Hounsell realising - after having been made `redundant' - that as a 38-year old he will not find another job in marketing. With his wife he emigrates to Corfu hoping to find better soil for living. Looking after pools, gardens and homes on the island they manage to get by very well. During a holidaytrip to the mainland of Northwest Greece however the Hounsells become enchanted by a region known as Zagoria. So, six years after having landed on Corfu, Hounsell and his wife move to one of Zagorias small villages, Koukouli, to start a bed
7/10
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I

Rankin Ian
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The Naming Of The Dead
hardcover
420 pages
Modern detective novel of one of Britain's most famous modern novelists, and first ever Ian Rankin book I've read. It takes place against the backdrop of July 2005's G8 meeting of world leaders in Scotland. A politician falls from the ramparts of Edinburgh Castle, while a serial killer seems to be targeting the area around Gleneagles Hotel, where the G8 leaders are staying. Inspector John Rebus must solve both cases while dealing with anarchist riots, demonstrations, and the disruptions that come when a city is in a state of siege.
7/10
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Conn Iggulden
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Lord Of The Bow
softback
450 pages
Having united the tribes into the unified nation of Mongols, Genghis Khan and his brothers lead their great army into the land of the Chin. They encounter a new type of warfare, besieging great cities with high, strong walls and massive defensive weapons.

Keeping the tribes united is a difficult task and relies upon the brains of the great khan combined with his, sometimes shocking, ruthlessness. It works.

There are many sub-adventures, and there are new surprises for the reader around every corner. The only constant is the cunning plotting of the shaman, Kokchu, who is feared by all, even Genghis.

Once again, Conn Iggulden sweeps the reader along with his wonderful descriptive story-telling. The only disappointment for me is that, having finished this book, I am going to have to wait for the third and final instalment.
8/10
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Greg Iles
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Dark Matter
paperback
519 pages
Techno thriller about a supercomputer with divine tendencies. Starts of quite promising but the fast paced plot gets stretched a bit too far when things almost grind to a halt later on..

David Tennant is a physician who's been assigned by the President himself to supervise the ethical side of things at a new top-secret government project run by Peter Godard, a legend in the super computer building scene. Whilst gathering data for the project David and a few of the other heads of the project get their brains scanned with a very advanced MRI scanner, with unexpected results..

Haunted by dreams and sudden outbursts of narcolepsy David tries to find answers with psychologist Rachel Weiss, who's of course beautiful and available.. As things spiral out of control they find themselves hunted not only by the project's security but also by the NSA. David decides they need to hide somewhere where noone will be able to find them so they return to his hometown to hide, only to find the enemy seems to know more about him then should be humanly possible..

Apart from the usual cliche's it's quite an entertaining read, if you manage to get through the increasing amount of endless discussion about God and the meaning of life towards the end of it.. The action is well written, good dialogue and although the technological ideas seem somewhat far fetched they don't get in the way of making this a recommended read. Wouldn't be surprised to see this turned into a Hollywood Blockbuster at some point..
Recommended!
8/10
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Arnaldur Indriðason
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Silence Of The Grave
hardcover
299 pages
nspector Erlendur returns in this gripping Icelandic thriller When a skeleton is discovered half-buried in a construction site outside of Reykjavík, Inspector Erlendur finds himself knee-deep in both a crime scene and an archeological dig. Bone by bone, the body is unearthed, and the brutalizing history of a family who lived near the building site comes to light along with it.

Was the skeleton a man or a woman, a victim or a killer, and is this a simple case of murder or a long-concealed act of justice? As Erlendur tries to crack this cold case, he must also save his drug-addicted daughter from self destruction and somehow glue his hopelessly fractured family back together.

Great Nordic crime novel, slowly but steadily building up to ending that keeps you guessing.

Recommended!
8/10
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Eowyn Ivey
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To The Bright Edge Of The World
paperback
476 pages
Adventure novel, set for the most part in 1885. Written in the style of the journals of Lieutenant Colonel Allen Forrester, and his journey from Perkins Island up the Wolverine River, as part of an opening up of Alaska. Not only for the sourcing of gold and copper, but for transport, settlements and trade.

Forrester`s quite terrifying and challenging journey through an isolated, beautiful and dangerous landscape is intersperced with the diary written by his young wife, Sophie, left behind in Vancouver Barracks, Washington Territory, to wait for her husband`s return, which is likely to take a year. There are also other journals from Lieutenant Pruitt, one of Forrester`s party, whose role is to manage various scientific instruments to record the weather, and also, with photography as a fairly new medium, to curate a visual record of the ground-breaking journey. As the vast territory is also home to Native Americans who have inhabited the land, a trapper who is familiar with some of the languages spoken by the different tribes, is also part of Forrester`s party.

Although it`s a bit annoying that there`s actually not that much adventure or exploring, and it`s actually more about Sophie, it`s really a entertaining read.

Recommended
8/10
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J

Cummins Joseph
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History's Great Untold Stories
hardcover
360 pages
A rather interesting collection of historical events you've probably never heard of, or never knew much about.

Readers encounter William the Silent, a Dutch monarch whose assassination may have triggered the 1588 launch of the Spanish Armada and led Queen Elizabeth I to create the first known attempt at gun control. Another chapter introduces Rabban Sauma, a thirteenth-century Christian monk sent by Kublai Khan to seek a Christian-Mongol alliance against Muslims. There is also the remarkable story of twelve anti-slavery activists who fought the prevailing business and political establishment of their day to outlaw slavery in England, using tactics that have become tools of the trade for every grassroots movement that has followed.

Filled with fascinating sidebars, narratives, maps, illustrations, and concise biographies, this new volume gathers up the rich details that Western history left on the cutting room floor and turns them into stories that shed light on both vanquished and victor over the ages.

Well written, and insightfull, this is a book for those who need a break from western history, as this is where most of the events occur. Most of the facts you could probably get from Wikipedia, but there's some valuable insights thrown in.

Recommended
8/10
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Morag Joss
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Puccini`s Ghost
hardcover
390 pages
Awfull tale of a girl whining about her life from the perspective of herself as an even more whiny old woman. It is a somewhat gothic coming-of-age novel centering on the young protagonist and her wildly dysfunctional family. The narration shifts from chapter to chapter between the memories of the late middle-aged Lila home to bury her father, and the 15 y/o Lila living out the events at the heart of the novel. After her labile and indifferent mother has a "breakdown", the mother's brother, Uncle George, comes from London to stay, to settle her down. He impulsively decides to organize an amateur production of the opera "Turandot" to showcase her operatic skills, and those of Lila. He invites his 20 y/o friend Joe up from London to sing the male lead. Lila, desparate to escape her dreary life in a small Scottish town, immediately falls for Joe and spends the bulk of the novel fantasizing about their future life together. (SPOILER ALERT) It's immediately obvious that there's more going on between George and Joe than a mutual love of music, and we know early on where this will lead for poor Lila. When the inevitable finally occurs, Lila ends up destroying the lives of all concerned in a dramatic outburst. The only real suspense in this novel is how long it will take Lila to figure things out. Regrettably for the reader, this takes several hundred pages. Buried in this novel is an excellent short story, or a good novella.

Don't bother
1/10
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K

Ben Kane
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The Forgotten Legion
hardcover
432 pages
An epic Roman novel which follows three men and one woman bound in servitude to the Republic.

Romulus and Fabiola are twins, born into slavery after their mother is raped by a drunken nobleman. At thirteen-years-old, they are sold — Romulus to gladiator school, Fabiola into prostitution where she will catch the eye of one of the most powerful men in Rome.

Tarquinius is an Etruscan warrior and soothsayer, and an enemy of Rome, but doomed to fight for the Republic in the Forgotten Legion. Brennus is a Gaul; the Romans killed his entire family. He rises to become one of the most famous and feared gladiators of his day — and mentor to the boy slave, Romulus, who dreams night and day of escape and revenge.

The lives of the four are bound together into a marvellous story which begins in a Rome riven by corruption, violence and politics, and ends far away at the very border of the known world.

Must read!
9/10
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Ben Kane
bookicon
The Road To Rome
hardcover
416 pages
Roman adventure novel, third in the series. Having survived the perils of a journey across half the world, Romulus and Tarquinius are press-ganged into the legions, which are under imminent threat of annihilation by the Egyptians.

Meanwhile in Rome, Romulus's twin sister Fabiola lives in fear for her life, loved by Brutus, but wooed by Marcus Antonius, his deadly enemy. Soon after, Romulus fights at Zela, the vicious battle where Caesar famously said, 'Veni, vidi, vici'.

Tarquinius, separated from Romulus in the chaos of war, hides in Alexandria, searching for guidance. But mortal danger awaits them both. From the battlefields of Asia Minor and North Africa, to the lawless streets of Rome and the gladiator arena, they face death daily, until on the Ides of March, the twins are reunited and must decide either to back or to betray Caesar on his day of destiny.

Definitely the weakest of the series as things are starting to feel a little forced when it comes to the plot, but still has some interesting plot twists and continues it excellent depiction of live as it might have been in Rome.

Recommended
7/10
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Ben Kane
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The Silver Eagle
hardcover
416 pages
The second novel in the Forgotten Legion Chronicles takes Romulus, Brennus, Tarquinius and Fabiola, and places them in ever greater danger.

The Forgotten Legion — ten thousand legionaries made captive by the Parthians — has marched to Margiana on the edge of the known world. In its midst are Romulus, Brennus and Tarquinius, all men with good reason to hate Rome. Together the trio must face the savage tribes which constantly threaten the area. But other, more treacherous enemies lurk within the ranks of the Forgotten Legion itself. When all hope is lost, the three friends’ characters will be tested to the utter limit.

Meanwhile in Rome, Fabiola, Romulus’s twin sister, also fights to survive. Beset by enemies on all sides, she must travel to Gaul to find her lover, Caesar’s right-hand man. There, tribal rebellion under the charismatic chieftain, Vercingetorix, threatens not just Caesar’s route to power, but his life and the lives of all who support him.

Exceedingly exciting, depicting a truthy-ish tale of what may have happened to a number of legionaires from a doomed excursion to the east. With some interesting plot twists thrown in, it's got a little of everything.

Recommended
8/10
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Thomas Kanger
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Sing Like A Bird
hardcover
319 pages
Police Inspector Elina Wiik goes to solve the murder of a wellknown local politician on the day of his retirement, then finds out her father may have had something to do with it..

Run of the mill Scandi-thriller, but still enjoyable. All a bit predictable but that pace is good en the plot makes sense, so quit a nice read.

Enjoyable
8/10
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Philip Kerr
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Esau
hardcover
472 pages
Excellent high-tech thriller. The world is on the verge of a nuclear war as India and Pakistan arm their nuclear missiles. Just at this moment, during a climb in the Himalayas a world-renowed climber falls down a mountain and ends up in a hidden valley, where he finds a human-like skull..

He goes to consult his ex, who also happens to be a prominent anthropologist. She discovers that the skull is not actually as old as they first thought. She rapidly leads a team of scientist into the Himalayas in an effort to recover any remaining evidence or even find a live specimen before the war breaks out. When they arrive they discover a tribe of man-like, ape-like beings, who, despite their placid nature, appear to have inspired the legends of the Abominable Snowman.

Almost as soon as they are discovered, man's gentle cousins are of course in mortal danger of exploitation and perhaps extinction. The race is on to see sho will triumph in this tale of international politics, technology, and most of all, humanity...
Great!
9/10
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J. Gregory Keyes
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The Waterborn
hard cover
370 pages
Two mortals, a boy and a girl, take on the gods in a struggle to rid her of the curse of her blood. He looses everything he loves on his way to saving her, but he gains a valuable friend, whilst she also looses everything but her best friend during her struggle to find the way to solve her problem.

This story is rather complex, but very enjoyable to read, cause it is a real fairytale, with knights in not-so-shining- armor and little princesses with a nasty twist...
8/10
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Yasmina Khadra
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The Sirens of Baghdad
paperback
307 pages
Tale about a young man of about 20 who comes from a small, sheltered Iraqi village. He left this place, Kafr Karam, to begin his university education in Baghdad, but then was sent back home because of the American invasion.

As the novel begins he is in Beirut, for reasons that will take a while to explain. First, this book must flash back to describe the wartime deterioration of life in Kafr Karam, step by step and outrage by outrage. Though the narrator is a trusting, open-minded soul, he absorbs the village venting, which is bitter but not unexpected. “He was a monster, yes, but he was our monster,” one speaker says of Saddam Hussein. “Look what they’ve made of our country: hell on earth,” he adds.

A philosophy professor, also party to this discussion at the local barbershop, adds that “the world is run by the forces of international finance, for which peace is equivalent to layoffs,” and that “bringing Iraq to its knees would make it possible for Israel to dominate the Middle East.” As for hope in this bleak region, “dreams serve no purpose when all horizons are bare.”

“The Sirens of Baghdad,” with its double-edged title referring to both Baghdad’s allure and its state of crisis, then provides stark illustrations of its ideological arguments. The village’s simple-minded boy, “a pure and innocent creature closer to the Lord than the saints,” is mowed down by goonlike American soldiers, one of them literally foaming at the mouth. A joyous local wedding (“at last we could look forward to a happy event that would compensate for the chronic emptiness of our daily lives!”) becomes a bloodbath when it is hit by a missile.

“And then one night, the sky fell in on me again,” the young man tells the reader. In the most monstrous outrage of all, he is forced to see his father left helpless and half-naked after a raid by “those bleating, dim-witted cowboys,” a group of thuggish G.I.’s. “That sight was the edge of an abyss,” he writes of being forced to gaze upon his father’s genitals. “And beyond it, there was nothing but the infinite void, an interminable fall, nothingness.” As a result, “I was swept up in a tornado and tossed from one tumult to another, caught in a waking nightmare like a sleepwalker assailed by poltergeists.” And: “I opened my mouth, but all that came out was something that sounded like a wild beast’s death rattle.”

The cumulative effect of these events turns the narrator into a numb yet still melodramatic automaton, ready to be used by the forces of terrorism and vengeance. “Such a smooth transition!” he says. “I had gone to bed a docile, courteous boy, and I’d awakened with an inextinguishable rage lodged in my very flesh.” That anger becomes “all that remained to me in this false, unjust, arid and cruel life.” He come to think that “men are pathetic, narrow creatures, blood brothers of Sisyphus, built for suffering; their vocation is to undergo life until death ensues.” That last outburst offers at least some idea of why this author is sometimes compared to Camus.

As the rest of the novel propels its protagonist toward becoming a “Manchurian Candidate”-style pawn in the terrorists’ game, it remains heavy-handed. “Goodbye, Maarwan! We’ll meet again in heaven” is not considered a self-explanatory farewell. The narrator must spell out the fact that Maarwan is a suicide bomber.

It's also rather predictable, and I found it rather stereotypical in it's portrayal of characters where it suited, Americans as mindless brutes, hotheaded youth as terrorists, older professor as thoughtfull intermediate, etc..

I wouldn't bother therefor..
5/10
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Stephen King
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The Green Mile-feuilleton
paperback
600 pages
Wonderfull tale, real tearjerker. A man who works in the "death row", the prison where people wait for their "opportunity" to take a seat on the electric chair. Then a prisoner arrives who has been found guilty of murdering two young girls.

The Green Mile was first written as six episodes, each being published in 1996. The story takes place in 1935 in the penitentiary of Cold Mountain in the south of the United States. The story focuses on the every day job of the guards of the Green Miles, the death row of Cold Mountain, and the arrival of John Coffey, an impressively tall, illiterate Black male, charged with the rape and murder of two little girls. The events are told from the point of view of the chief guard, Paul Edgecomb, a cynical but fair man who shows more humanity and understanding than the average prison guard, and who will eventually doubt the culpability of John Coffey.

Throughout the story, Stephen King introduces us to a complete gallery of characters who build the everyday life of the block and create a cloistered atmosphere between the prisoners and the guards. The most outstanding characters are, without a doubt, the loathsome Percy Wetmore (a young guard who abuses his power over the prisoners and benefits from the support of the governor), the amiable Eduard Delacroix (a Cajun prisoner convicted with rape and murder) and the evil William "Wild Bill" Wharton (a young and extremely violent prisoner). The other central character is a mouse named Mister Jingles who is "adopted" by prisoner Eduard Delacroix and who shows vivid intelligence as well as acrobatic skills. He soon becomes the main curiosity in E block, impressing both prisoners and guards.

Last, of course, is John Coffey, the most important character along with guard Paul Edgecomb, with whom he builds a complex, ambiguous relationship. Astonished by the miraculous healing powers and candid personality of the prisoner, Paul Edgecomb starts doubting his guilt and soon convinces the other guards (except for Percy Wetmore) of his innocence as well. Unfortunately, and as you would expect, John Coffey will eventually be executed.

It's a really excellent story, with depth and emotion like no other. It's just magical, and a definite recommended!
9/10
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Stephen King
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The Outsider
paperback
456 pages
An eleven-year-old boy’s violated corpse is found in a town park. Eyewitnesses and fingerprints point unmistakably to one of Flint City’s most popular citizens. He is Terry Maitland, Little League coach, English teacher, husband, and father of two girls. Detective Ralph Anderson, whose son Maitland once coached, orders a quick and very public arrest. Maitland has an alibi, but Anderson and the district attorney soon add DNA evidence to go with the fingerprints and witnesses. Their case seems ironclad.

As the investigation expands and horrifying answers begin to emerge, King’s propulsive story kicks into high gear, generating strong tension and almost unbearable suspense. Terry Maitland seems like a nice guy, but is he wearing another face?
9/10
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Stephen Knight
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Alphabet City
hard back
253 pages
A writer publishes a book about a guy who lived in the worst neighbourhood of NY and mingled with the local criminals.

Even though the book is completely fictional someone ends up murdered in exactly the way described in the book. The police asks our hero to testify, which brings the criminals to suspect there might be more to the book than meets the eye.

They don't hang around and go straight for his grandmother, who ends up dead.. Unfortunately she's also the only person who knows that the book is completely fictional...

Well written thriller with a surprising, if somewhat far fetched plot. Overlooking the unlikeliness of the whole thing it is actually quite entertaining..
Good Read!
7/10
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Elizabeth Kostova
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The Historian
softback
704 pages
A contemporary look at the classic vampire story. Feeling distinctly "Da Vinci Code" inspired, it eschews the extravagant gore and even more extravagant pose-striking of traditional vampire stories.. It's a multigenerational mystery about the search for the tomb of the medieval tyrant Vlad Tepes (the real-life Dracula), conducted by a handful of historians who become convinced he is still alive -- or, rather, undead. The main narrator is an unnamed 16-year-old girl, whose father initiates her into the cause when she discovers a mysterious book -- blank save for a woodcut of a rampant dragon, hidden in their library.

"The Historian" isn't especially scary (though Kostova can work up a respectable miasma of dread when needed), and it lacks the inane but breathless chase scenes of "The Da Vinci Code," but for the sophisticated reader it's a fine Bordeaux to Dan Brown's overcaffeinated Diet Coke. Essentially a languorous gothic travelogue, the novel whisks its readers to a series of off-the-package-tour European locales (Ljubljana, anyone?) during the 1930s, '50s and '70s, when the Carpathian Mountains -- Dracula's home turf -- seemed as wild and remote as the Andes.

Kostova has a genius for evoking places without making you wade through paragraphs of description. The "fluttering hush" of the Carpathian forests, the chaotic streets of Istanbul, a cryptic ritual dance in a Bulgarian village unchanged in hundreds of years -- all impress themselves on the reader almost as vividly as actual memories. Perhaps the most uncanny sensation the book gave me came when I looked up pictures of Poenari, the ruins of Dracula's mountaintop fortress, where one character spends a very unsettled night, and realized it seemed as familiar as a place I'd visited myself, due to the power of Kostova's evocation.

"The Historian" also imparts a sense of how real historians work (sifting through archives of ancient ledgers to find that crucial and revealing letter, etc.) and of a sizable chunk of Central Europe's ravaged past as a borderland between Christendom and the encroaching Ottoman Empire. (Dracula was a famous Turk-killer, as well as the slaughterer, through various ghastly, sadistic means, of some 20,000 of his own people.) Kostova even adds a few nice little multicultural addenda to vampire lore, like reporting that Muslim prayer beads work as effectively as a crucifix in fending off the fiends.

The creepiest secret unearthed by the girl narrator of "The Historian" does bear a certain resemblance to the shocking revelation in "The Da Vinci Code." The big difference is that, unlike Brown's nattering cardboard people, by the end of Kostova's novel, the girl and the mother she lost as an infant have also become people worth caring about, tragic figures enmeshed with a treacherous past. That makes "The Historian" a thriller in more ways than one.
8/10
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L

Camilla Lackberg
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The Hidden Child
paperback
504 pages
What do entries in a diary, a Nazi Iron Cross medal, and a retired history professor found murdered in his chair by teens who broke into his house have in common? Secrets. A dreadful secret held by a scared young man who escaped into Sweden, fleeing the Germans. Secret payments to a man by the murdered victim. A horrific secret held by a group of young friends in the 1940s. Someone is out to protect those secrets at all costs.

Patrik Hedstrom has to only participate in this murder investigation on the fringe because he's supposed to be on paternity leave. His wife, Erica, starts to read some of her mother's old diaries and is inadvertently drawn into this investigation.

This psychological thriller takes us into the world of resistance fighters during WWII and the risks taken by them, including that of being captured by the Nazis and placed in concentration camps, the strength of friendship and family bonds.

After a bit of a slow start, it's a page turner that holds you in its tight grip and you can't put it down until after all secrets are laid bare.
7/10
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John Le Carre
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Our Kind Of Traitor
hardcover
478 pages
Perry and Gail, a 20-something professional couple, are vacationing in Antigua when they are forcefully befriended by a money-laundering Russian mobster, Dima, and his extended entourage. Dima wants asylum in Britain for himself and his family in exchange for evidence incriminating his co-conspirators in European high society and the British parliament. Perry and Gail take their story to the British Secret Service, who improbably put them to work getting the issue resolved.

The problem with the novel isn't spy clichés. (If you read genre fiction, you are well acquainted with the clichés and have made your peace with them. They do not hamper your reading, most of the time.) The problem isn't staleness. The problem is badness. This just isn't a well-written novel. It is profoundly boring. There is very little actual action; much of it is taken up with Perry and Gail recounting to the Brits what Dima has told them, and then the Brits listening to Dima's audiotapes and watching secret videotapes. This is followed by a long section involving internecine power struggles in the spy management apparatus over how to deal with Dima. Everything seems to be at a remove from any action, until a scene at Roland Garros Stadium in Paris, where Gail, Perry, Dima, and Dima's criminal posse and associates all watch Roger Federer duke it out with Robin Soderling for the 2009 French Open championship. Even this scene is quite boring. What tension there is is limited to about the last 10 pages, and a dramatic ending.
7/10
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Claire Letemendia
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The Best Of Men
hardcover
680 pages
Historic novel set in England, 1642. The Country is on the brink of Civil War as the Royalist and Parliamentarians seem unable to move from their respective positions. Negotiations for a peaceful outcome do not look hopeful and the English gentry have to decide who they will side with in an argument that is about not only the power of the Crown but also with a strong undercurrent of religion.

Returning from various adventures in Europe is Laurence Beaumont, son of a Lord. Beaumont is a rebel, trying to find himself but also intelligent, fast thinking and with an eye for the ladies.
England is awash with plots, duplicity and intrigue as Beaumont finds himself helping Secretary of State Lord Falkland uncover a plot to kill the King. In the mix we have ciphers, politics, attractive women and eventually battle starts to rage between the opposing sides.

Now, my taste in historical fiction normally sits with the likes of Bernard Cornwall, Simon Scarrow and James McGee so this is hard for me to compare, but I think the author has done a fantastic job with a fast moving, gripping and involving tale. Much of the action takes place near places like Oxford and Farringdon, and Ms Letemendia very much brought that to life for me.

Although with a strong and accurate historical base, the author wisely resists the temptation to cram in lots of historical figures, but sticks with a few and does them well. It is the perfect blend of history, action, intrigue, bed hopping and a very light touch of the mystic.

I'm thinking a Hollywood version can't be far off, but till then I wouldn't put off reading it.
Highly Recommended!
9/10
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Pittacus Lore
bookicon
I Am Number 4
paperback
440 pages
Alien who happens to look, a handsome teenager ends up in smallvile USA. Whilst trying to save his entire race, deals with teen angst of bullies, getting the pretty girl who loves hom for his braveness and not his powers.

Goes through the list of by-the-numbers events, end up on the run. Please buy the next book..

In short, worst book I've read for years, cliche to theax, plot makes no sense whatsoever, borrowed random bits from everywhere.

Avoid
1/10
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Sarah Lotz
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The Three
paperback
467 pages
The Three is a massively frustrating read. Frustrating because the writer clearly knows about creating well fleshed out and interesting characters, knows how to turn in a gripping scene and play with intriguing concepts and world-building. But what happens here is that “World War Z” style multi-point narrative (different characters tell different angles of the story through as diverse a range of short pieces as interviews with journalists and writers; police, medical and other official reports; Amazon reviews; tweets and internet threads, and so on. This kaleidoscope story-telling fatally slows and confuses an already slow burn tale. It’s not helped by some strong and disturbing final scenes that are followed by long expository scenes and conversations that dwindle to an unsatisfactory, vague and I’ll use that word again, frustrating resolution and pay off for the considerable investment the reader will have had to make to keep up with this tale.
On a day that comes to be known as “Black Thursday” 4 airliner planes crash almost simultaneously in Japan, the US, Africa and Canada. There are three verified human child survivors (and a rumoured fourth) of whom it can be said that there is “something not quite right” other than the fact that their survival is miraculous. There is a recorded phone message from a survivor Pam that appears to be a warning that sets of a terrible catalyst of events that could eventually lead to global conflict and catastrophe. Because the warning is interpreted by the End-time Christian movement to mean a harbinger of Armageddon, and the children are interpreted as the Four Horsemen of Revelations. Said End-timers set about doing everything they can to make their Armageddon a self fulfilling prophecy. In the meantime the children are placed with family. The main meat of the book is the family members’ relation of events to interviewers etc. after the events have played out, as they puzzle over the changed nature of the children and strange and seeming miraculous events. Sometimes the children seem benign and healing, other times sinister and detached. This after the fact narration allow for teasing and ominous glimpses of how things will play out. We know disaster is on its way.
So what works? Vivid and interesting characters and set pieces, including the opening chapter detailing Pam’s experience of a plane crash, the descent of a Bible belt preacher into Waco style paranoia and madness, and recovering alcoholic and actor Paul Craddock being tormented to insanity by his sinister changeling of a niece Jess. But the there is a lot of teeth grindingly tedious padding and exposition. A recurring internet thread between Japanese internet geeks is interminable. A lot of the final exposition reminds me of the final segments of various mini -series franchises that don’t quite know how to resolve story arcs because of too many writers being involved, and so leave things stupidly open and unresolved leading to a poor return on the viewers investment, of babbly exposition that mixes science and the supernatural and just doesn’t make sense.
There is no real closure or resolution to the novel, Are the children possessed by aliens? Demons? Ghosts of the dead? Just as we feel we are getting to a resolution someone will pop up with another “Ah but are they” kind of curve-ball. One of the characters screams at another in a final scene to stop talking in riddles and give a straight answer. We know how they feel.

It seemed to turn from horror to a social critique with a promising premise about religious nutters,the power of the media, and how the truth is something different for everyone, but then seemingly turns back to horror again, without ever commiting.

This is the major issue with this novel, it tries to appeal to every genre but never commits to one, and hence I'd say, only ready it if you have nothing better..
6/10
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Jack Ludlow
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Prince of Legend
paperback
410 pages
Thanks to the stratagems of Bohemund de Hauteville, leader of the Apulian Normans, the Crusade has taken the city of Antioch, and just in time. Once the besiegers, Bohemund and his men are about to become the besieged - a huge Turkish-led army, commanded by the fearsome General Kerbogha, is fast approaching. Provisions are needed to support not only the army, but also thousands of camp followers and pilgrims. But the surrounding countryside is near barren and the storerooms of Antioch much depleted. It soon becomes obvious that the Crusaders cannot hold out for long without falling prey to starvation. And for Bohemund and his nephew Tancred there is another difficulty: the dissent between the Crusade leaders has broken out into the open, with the wealthy Provencal magnate Raymond of Toulouse stirring up conflict. If the Christian host is fighting on two fronts, so is Bohemund himself. With the enemy Turks at his front and his warring peers at his back, can he gain the might city of Antioch once and for all?

Bit hard to get going but worth it in the end, good historic relevance.

Worth a read

8/10
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Robert Ludlum
bookicon
The Gemini Contenders
hardcover
384 pages
Great thriller about a family who's haunted by a safe full of ancient documents and the people who want to get their hands on it..

Vittorio Fontini-Cristi, the eldest son of a wealthy Italian industrialist learns about his father's involvement in the hiding of a vault containing powerful religious documents when he becomes involved in events he doesn't fully understand. During World War II he finds himself hunted by many who want the vault's contents and protected by some who believe he will lead them to the vault as his life is transformed.

After the war he passes on the mystery it on to his twin sons--the Geminis who have both become involved in wars of their own. One son is career army with a Vietnam background, the other a peace loving war protester. In order to rid the family of the curse of the ancient documents they have to find a way to cast aside their mutual dislike to once and for all solve the mystery that has always been part of their heritage.

The threating atmosphere adds to making this one of the best thrillers ever. Without wasting time on useless dialogue Ludlum still manages to create characters that are believable and a story that keeps you hooked through all it's twists and turns..

Highly recommended!
8/10
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M

Stuart MacBride
bookicon
Broken Skin
paperback
576 pages
Realistic crime novel meets humour, book 3 in the series, so I'll be reading the first two next.
8/10
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bookicon
Cold Granite
paperback
452 pages
First one in the DS Logan McRae series, but read it second, and it wasn't quite as good as the first one, which was actually the second one.. quite graphical en sickening tale of child abuse in darkest Aberdeen. Good read nevertheless
8/10
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Paul L. Maier
bookicon
The Constantine Codex
hardcover
349 pages
Harvard Professor Jonathan Weber is finally enjoying a season of peace when a shocking discovery thrusts him into the national spotlight once again. While touring monasteries in Greece, Jon and his wife Shannon―a seasoned archaeologist―uncover an ancient biblical manuscript containing the lost ending of Mark and an additional book of the Bible. If proven authentic, the codex could forever change the way the world views the holy Word of God. As Jon and Shannon work to validate their find, it soon becomes clear that there are powerful forces who don’t want the codex to go public. When it’s stolen en route to America, Jon and Shannon are swept into a deadly race to find the manuscript and confirm its authenticity before it’s lost forever.

Whilst it sounded a bit like Dan Brown, it's lacking all the good stuff. Rather than exciting fictitious chases digging up clues to save the world, you get some biblebashers waffling on about pages in a lost chapter of the Bible, and discovering the remains of one of the disciples whilst they're at it.

All written in a unnaturally scripted style, like most of is computer generated.

Boring!
2/10
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Ed McBain
bookicon
Kings Ransom
paperback
176 pages
I know of no one else who can pack so much action into such a short period of time. This is book ten and I am trying to read them in order. The story in nearly all the books take place in a day or two. The books are short and make for a quick read. They are very enjoyable. A boy is kidnapped, but it is the wrong boy. They were supposed to get the son of Douglas King, a very wealth man, but they got the son of his chauffeur instead. King has all his money tied up in buying controling interest in a shoe company and if he pays the ransom he loses the shoe company. The men from the 87th are trying to find who took the boy but if King does not pay they think the boy will be killed. Every thing moves at a very fast pace, will King do what is right and pay up? Will Carella and company find the boy? Makes for a good read.
8/10
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Ed McBain
bookicon
Money Money Money
paperback
352 pages
Cass Ridley flew in Iraq in the first Gulf War. Now she is out of the military and flying drugs out of Mexico for a quick $200,000. She ends up naked in the lion exhibit at the zoo as breakfast for the lions on December 22nd. Half of the lion exhibit is in the 87th precinct and half of it is in the 88th precinct and since one of the lions drug one of Cass's legs into the 88th precinct side of the compound, Steve Carella and Fat Ollie end up with responsibility for the murder. Along the way a burglar, counterfiet money, Secret Service men, murdred book sellers, Iranian terrorist, drug sellers and blonde prostitutes that end up being hit persons have to be accounted for before Carella and Fat Ollie can enjoy their holidays.

Carella is still struggling with his fathers recent murder and Fat Ollie is still misanthropic. Fat Ollie also saves Carella's life twice and is learning to play the piano, well he is "kind of" learning to play the piano. And then he and Carella have to go to a publishing house to investigate the death of one of the sales representatives that worked there and Fat Ollie pitches a book he is wanting to write and........

Ed McBain juggles a lot of story elements expertly and never drops one of the balls he is juggling. In the end, the conclusion stretches credibility some but is still in keeping with the 87th series that Money, Money, Money is the 51st entry in. Ed McBain is not only able to write 51 books about these guys without sounding bored and tired of the chore of writing about them, he is able to write one in Money, Money, Money that is funny, human, and exciting.
8/10
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bookicon
The Pusher
paperback
180 pages
The Pusher by Ed McBain (who also wrote as Evan Hunter) is the third book in the 87th Precinct series. The series is told in third per­son and has a large cast and diverse set of char­ac­ters. In the after­word, the author sums up the premise of the series say­ing it is about the “con­glom­er­ate hero in a myth­i­cal city.”

******

“There are, to be truth­ful, a lot of trou­bles with murder–but there’s one in par­tic­u­lar.
It gets to be a habit.”

“The Pusher” like the oth­ers in this series, is set in the fic­tional city of Isola. A high rank­ing cop learns an ugly truth about his son and finds him­self com­pro­mis­ing his job and his prin­ci­ples to pro­tect him.

Detec­tive Lieu­tenant Peter Byrnes gets a phone call from an anony­mous stranger who tells him that his son is a junkie. Like most hard­work­ing cops, Byrnes hasn’t been around his fam­ily much. His wife Har­riet has always under­stood the demands of his job and knows that she is a cop’s wife.

So this awful news about his only son, Larry, throws him for a loop. The scene where Byrnes con­fronts his son about his heroin addic­tion was emo­tion­ally tense and elec­tri­fy­ing because Byrnes goes from a con­cerned father to a cop who inter­ro­gates his son. That scene between father and son was fully charged to say the least.

To com­pli­cate mat­ters even more, a pusher by the name of Ani­bal Her­nan­dez is found dead from an appar­ent suicide/overdose with a syringe that might have Larry’s fin­ger­prints on it sug­gest­ing that he was the last per­son to see Ani­bal alive. Byrnes is com­mit­ted to find­ing this “stranger” who seems to know more about his fam­ily than he does and threat­ens to expose his son.

Detec­tive Steve Carella and another offi­cer are inves­ti­gat­ing the Her­nan­dez death and find that things just don’t add up. To Carella, Hernandez’s death doesn’t look like a sui­cide so he digs deeper, search­ing for a pusher with the street name of “Gonzo” and gets three bul­lets to the chest from a .32 cal­i­bre gun for his efforts. His wife Teddy, who is mute and can’t speak, stands vigil by his side.

I’m hooked. This series and McBain’s writ­ing is time­less as another reader has stated. I can’t do this book jus­tice in how good it was to read. The writ­ing is sim­ply flaw­less but still it is not a per­fect read. What fas­ci­nates me about this series is the writ­ing and the characters.

Despite the fact that cops come and go in this series, they each make their own mark. But the cen­tral recur­ring char­ac­ter in the 87th and who we have been mainly fol­low­ing is Steve Carella. I love this guy. The fact that he mar­ried a woman who can’t hear or speak says a lot about his character.

Steve and his wife, Teddy make a really nice cou­ple and the author goes a lit­tle bit into how they first met. Their scenes together, the few times we get to see them together, are mem­o­rable. Here is a brief snip­pet of Teddy’s thoughts about how they first met:

He had entered the office, and he was tall, and he walked erect, and he wore his clothes as if he were a high-priced men’s fash­ion model rather than a cop. He had showed her his shield and intro­duced him­self, and she had scrib­bled on a sheet of paper, explain­ing that she could nei­ther hear nor speak, explain­ing that the recep­tion­ist was out, that she was hired as a typ­ist, but that her employer would see him in a moment, as soon as she went to tell him the police were there. His face had reg­is­tered mild sur­prise. When she rose from her desk and went to the boss’s office, she could feel his eyes on her all the way.

McBain seems to not end his books in any big way. The cases get solved by good detec­tive work, sweat­ing sus­pects in the inter­ro­ga­tion room and then haul­ing the bad guy away in cuffs. No big bang or shoot outs here. In the end, this was a well writ­ten story about the seed­ier side of the street. We see that junkies come from all dif­fer­ent social and eco­nom­i­cal back­grounds. The end­ing was a bit ide­al­is­tic but this is fic­tion after all.

I also enjoyed read­ing the after­word where the author admits that Carella was orig­i­nally meant to die in this entry but that his edi­tors at Pocket wouldn’t let him kill “the hero.” Oh, noooo. Thank good­ness his edi­tors guided him down the right path in keep­ing Carella alive because he is truly a great guy and hero.
8/10
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Val McDermid
bookicon
Star Struck
paperback
234 pages
In Star Struck, having bought out her partner in the detective agency, Kate Brannigan has gone solo. Against her better judgement Kate agrees to become the bodyguard to Gloria Kendal, star of a television drama that has disturbing similarities to Coronation Street. Once on board, the Manchester PI gets to experience the day-to-day goings on of a television star, and also manages to clear up a spot of blackmail as well as apprehend a murderer.

Having been a fan of Kate Brannigan series for some years, I've not read any in quite a few as well, so this was my first endevaour back into it. And I hate to say that it didn't quite have that sparkle that I recall from earlier encounters..

It's entertaining, but I've read better.
6/10
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bookicon
The Skeleton Road
paperback
454 pages
When a skeleton is discovered hidden at the top of a crumbling, gothic building in Edinburgh, DCI Karen Pirie is faced with the unenviable task of identifying the bones. As Karen's investigation gathers momentum, she is drawn deeper into a dark world of intrigue and betrayal. Meanwhile, someone is taking the law into their own hands in the name of justice and revenge - but when present resentment collides with secrets of the past, the truth is more shocking than anyone could have imagined.

Starts off really well, interesting tie-in to the Balkan war, but the conclusion is a little too obvious, and the ending's a bit "for when they make the film"

Still a good read, recommended
8/10
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Ewan McGregor
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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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John McLaren
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Running Rings
paperback
360 pages
When big firms hit the skids they call in management consultants. But when the business is crime, both consultants and criminals are in for a shock...

The Hills have hit hard times. Their latest drugs operation has, literally, been beached on the south coast of England, and the restaurants and clubs they own as fronts are haemorrhaging cash.

As head of the villainous dynasty, it falls to Ronnie to work on their profitability. Meanwhile, Ronnie's daughter Primrose has hitched up with Rupert, a hotshot management consultant. She wants nothing to do with the seedy world of organised crime and Rupert seems as straight as the razor edges of his credit card. But secretly Ronnie sets up in partnership with Rupert and their business starts to boom. With Rupert's brilliant business brain and the Hills' criminal muscle, the ingenious crimes they conspire to commit look set to make their fortune. But when Rupert falls for an aristocratic femme fatale he needs to ditch Primrose in a hurry and find a way to dodge Ronnie's wrath so they can continue unimpeded with one last, incredibly lucrative crime. But Rupert reckons without the cunning of a woman scorned and a villain's very personal style of justice.

Little too ready for hollywood, with some pow wow, kaboom thrown in for special effects it's clear that literary prose is nowhere to be found in this sad excuse for a novel. The idea itself is already far fetched enough, but all the stereotypical crap and the hollywood feelgood fact ending certainly make sure you're not going to get even one minute of enjoyment out of this pile of rubbish.

Don't bother!
3/10
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Andy McNab
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Bravo Two Zero
hardcover
432 pages
This book is the true story of operation gone horribly wrong during the Gulf War. An eight-man team of the elite British Special Air Service were dropped by helicopter into the desert of western Iraq, each carrying well over 200 lbs. of equipment. Their mission was to watch a road for military traffic and hunt for mobile Iraqi SCUD missile launchers. They were soon discovered by a local shepherd boy. The local Iraqi militia were called out, and the poop hit the fan.

Their radios didn't work, and so they had no way to call for an extraction. They decided to trek 100 miles west to the Syrian border. But one man had injured his leg during the evasion of the Iraqi forces. Another had been wearing his thermal underwear since the compromise, and so had sweating profusely the entire time and was now dangerously dehydrated. How any managed to survive is a true testament to the power of the human will, and to the rigorous standards to which the SAS trains its men.

The overall book is excellent. McNab has put together one of the most readable military stories I've ever come across. It's a cliche, but this book is a real page-turner. There's military jargon galore, but he usually explains it for the layman reader. A glossary at the back helps with that, and with some of the British army slang, but the regular British stuff you have to figure out by context.

It's the little things McNab adds that make this book so readable and "enjoyable," (if you can use that word about a book in which a man describes himself and his friends being tortured, and some dying gruesome deaths.) To a military professional, the tactics and gear of the SAS are an interesting part of the book. But even the average person can find things to identify with in the book: The joking between the members of the patrol, even after they've been discovered; The story about the old Iraqi farmer who they run into while escaping. There are others, but I won't spoil the entire book for you.

This is one of the most no-holds-barred looks at warfare I've ever read. The only book I can compare it to, for realism and readability purposes, is "Nam" by Mark Baker. If you enjoy military books, or true stories of adventure and survival against all odds, you'll like this book.
8/10
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Gavin Menzies
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1421: The Year China Discovered the World
paperback
656 pages
Intriguing tale of a chinese expedition around the world 70 years before Columbus "discovered" America.
Did the Chinese really discover America in 1421...? This is the controversial theory of Gavin Menzies, author of "1421: The Year China Discovered the World", who apparently devoted his free time after retirement wisely and spend a decade to gathering evidence to prove his theory.

The story starts with Admiral Zheng He setting sail with the largest fleet the world had ever seen on March 8, 1421, from its base in China. The ships, huge junks nearly five hundred feet long and built from the finest teak, were under the command of Ming Dynasty Emperor Yong Le's loyal eunuch admirals. Their mission was to "proceed all the way to the end of the earth to collect tribute from the barbarians beyond the seas" and unite the whole world in Confucian harmony.

Unfortunately upon their return, Emperor Yong Le has lost control and China was beginning its long, self-imposed isolation from the world. The great ships rotted at their moorings and the records of their journeys were destroyed. More importantly, lost was the knowledge that Chinese ships had reached America 71 years before Columbus and circumnavigated the globe a century before Ferdinand Magellan. They had also discovered Antarctica, reached Australia three hundred and fifty years before Captain James Cook, and solved the problem of longitude three hundred years before the Europeans....

Even if the theory the book is based on is controversial Gavin makes a seemingly convincing case for believing his idea might be true. The story is told with real passion, and is clearly writting by someone who's dedicated the past decade determined to find the prove to justify his theory.

Although the story starts of well and conveys real passion towards the half way point the overload of information on minute details and the constant hammering home of just how great the chinese fleet was does get a little tiresome.. Some of the "proof" presented also seems a little far-fetched, and gives the impression of desperation more than conviction..

Fascinating subject, but just a tad too long and too detailed perhaps to make a recommended read...
7/10
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Patrick Mercer
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To Do And Die
hardcover
376 pages
Historic war novel which deals with the Crimean war. Written by TV journalist/MP and ex-military Mercer, it's rather dreadfull...

I have to first of all admit I failed to finish this book, only the 3rd time in my entire book reading life, which should say enough. Having wrestled myself through 67 pages of it I could no longer bare to waste precious minutes of my life on this waste of paper.

Under the tagline of "The closest most of us will ever get to military action" hides a novel so repetitive and predictable that you'd never ever think of joining the army it it were true.

Starting of it a description of battle during the Crimean war which basically consists of one actor after another getting shot in various gruesome ways, we suddenly find ourselves back in the past in the prelude to war of main character Lieutenant Anthony Morgan, with the customary dealings regarding Eligable Ladies and some dull dialogue with retirees discussing regiments and reminiscing about their old battles.

All so predictable and written in such a dull and repetitive style I decided to give up and move on to the next book..

I'm certain Mr Mercer is a great subject matter expert and perhaps for his peers this is a worthwhile read, but despite being a istory afficionado myself I failed to see the appeal..

Definetely not recommended!
1/10
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Anne Michaels
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Fugitive Pieces
paperback
294 pages
Poetic novel which deals with the eternal themes of live, death and loss. Jacob Beer is a child of the Holocaust, having to witnes yet escaping the brutal murder of his family.
He runs off and is ultimately found by Anthos Roussos, a Greek archeologist digging in an area nearby Joacob's home. Realizing that the boy is in grave danger, Anthos abandons his dig and smuggles the boy out to Greece. Within hours of leaving, the Nazis overrun the area of the dig and kill everyone associated with it. Thus, in the first of many wonderfully crafted observations, Michaels notes that, "in effect, they saved each other."

This is the sort of lyrical construction that fills a brillant book that works much better as a lyrical prose poem than it does as a novel, as structurally the book is seriously flawed. The characters remain elusively imcomplete due to haphazard breaks in the story line. For example, though Jacob's second wife obviously is the true love of his life, she has no significant role in the narrative other than that of a shadow as, shortly after she's introduced, the novel changes direction entirely, adopting a new protagonist, Ben, who is trying to recover Jacobs papers after his death. All rather awkward.

As a result, too many significant characters are insubstaintial shadows, not the substantive elements of the story they obviously shape but, in the structure of the book, don't really participate in.

The novel reads more like a rather lengthy poem, with each sentence a poem in itself, which considering Anne Michaels primary occupation as a poet make sense. As a poem it may be very lyrical and touching at times, but as a novel it gets rather boring after a while, and one finds oneself trying to get the finish line as soon as possible. Only to find that suddenly the characters change, with no introduction... Although the general theme remains, and we're off once more enduring lyrically described contemplations regarding life and death.

It's all threatening to turn rather depressing, and it's not really helping that the main characters seem to be wasting most of their time dwelling in the past and ignoring their loved once, which just makes the reader want to strangle them. Surely it can't really take 50 years of misery and depressing for a person to work out that happiness comes from the people you surround yourself with and not from dwelling on the past, trying to find explanations for events that are beyond change..

Recommended if you're in a comptemplative mood, otherwise try
something more uplifting..
6/10
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Anne Michaels
bookicon
Fugitive Pieces
paperback
294 pages
Rather sombre and poetic tale of a man's journey to overcome the terrors of the Holocaust.

It begins in Poland as a boy emerges from a bog. It is 1941, and the Nazis are rounding up the Jews. Jakob Beer, 17, escapes the slaughter of his family by running into a swamp and submerging himself. After several days, cold, dirty, and starving, he walks out of the bog and is rescued by Athos, a Greek scholar of history and paleontology, who was working at a nearby archeological site.

Athos smuggles Jakob back to Greece. For four years he hides the boy in his attic on the island of Zakynthos, protecting him from the occupying Germans who, after confiscating most of the local food, scour the Greek islands for Jews. The islanders have a history of protecting their own, and despite having little food for themselves, they shelter their Jews.

In first person narrative, Jakob tells us how, while hiding, he taught Athos Hebrew while Athos taught him everything else. Athos is a true academic, a student of knowledge. As Jakob’s teacher, he instructs the boy in a wide range of subjects, from ancient history to Antarctic exploration, from mythology to environmental studies. Athos’s love of learning is wonderfully portrayed by Michaels, who obviously shares the same sentiment. Using her ability to paint pictures with poetic imagery, Michaels lets the reader learn from Athos, too.

It's is obvious from the start that Anne Michaels is a poet, as every line is a poem in itself almost. Every word has to be considered, and everything has more than one meaning, making this not the easiest book to read.

It's biggest flaw however is the final third, which suddenly deals with another protagonist, and just feels like a completely different book.

Still, a remarkable novel, and certain worth reading

Recommended.
8/10
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Mark Mills
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The Savage Garden
hardback
355 pages
A remarkable novel set in the Tuscan hills; the story of two murders, four hundred years apart-and the ties that bind them together..

Adam Banting, a somewhat aimless young scholar at Cambridge University, is called to his professor's office one afternoon and assigned a special summer project: to write a scholarly monograph about a famous garden built in the 1500s. Dedicated to the memory of Signor Docci's dead wife, the garden is a mysterious world of statues, grottoes, meandering rills, and classical inscriptions. But during his three-week sojourn at the villa, Adam comes to suspect that clues to a murder are buried in the strange iconography of the garden: the long-dead Signor Docci most likely killed his wife and filled her memorial garden with pointers as to both the method and the motive of his crime.

As the mystery of the garden unfolds, Adam finds himself drawn into a parallel intrigue. Through his evolving relationship with the lady of the house - the ailing, seventy-something Signora Docci - he finds clues to yet another possible murder, this one much more recent. The signora's eldest son was shot by Nazi officers on the third floor of the villa, and her husband, now dead, insisted that the area be sealed and preserved forever. Like the garden, the third-floor rooms are frozen in time. Delving into his subject, Adam begins to suspect that his summer project might be a setup. Is he really just the naive student, stumbling upon clues, or is Signora Docci using him to discover for herself the true meaning of the villa's murderous past?

Very nicely written thriller which will certainly keep you turning over those pages, this is definetely one worth reading

Recommended!
9/10
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David Morell
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Assumed Identity
hardcover
462 pages
Brendan Buchanan is a deepcover agent who hasn't been himself for years. If an old friend asks him for help and he finds himself having to be himself again he discovers how difficult that can be..

this is the story of Brendan Buchanan, undercover intelligence operative and master of over two hundred false identities: a man forced to assume the most elusive and treacherous identity of all'his own. Tracking the most devastating conspiracy he has ever encountered, trapped by his love for two enigmatic beautiful women, he will race through a sinister labyrinth of intrigue to a shattering rendezvous with fate, in a novel that not only offers a brilliant, action-packed plot and fascinating characters, but asks daring, provocative questions about our own identities as well. The beginning of his nightmare occurs in Cancun, Mexico, where Buchanan's lastest alias is brutally unmasked. Racing through a torturous escape route, he is shocked to discover that his controllers will no longer give him a hew identity. For the first time in eight years, he will have to be himself. But after spending so much time assuming different identities, he no longer knows who he is.

Suddenly, he receives a mysterious postcard, a coded, unmistakable plea for help. Its source is Juana Mendez, a former partner who had posed as his wife six years earlier, countless missions ago. In his quest for Juana, Buchanan is thrust into a stark wilderness of mirrors and faced with a harrowing conspiracy. Yet he finds the unreadable maze of his own mind as dangerous as the harsh, chilling world that assails him from without. His partner in the search is Holly McCoy, a reporter whose beauty is matched only by her determination to penetrate Buchanan's multilayered psychological armor and write her subject's true story.

Seeking one woman, while inexorably drawn to another, Buchanan relentlessly follows a seductive but deadly trail from Key West to New Orleans, from San Antonio to Mexico City. Ultimately he will find the truth about Juana, and even the truth about himself if he can survive. The ranks of expertise on Mayan hieroglyphs are reduced by two, as both an American and a Russian professor enlisted to decipher the runic pictographs on a temple wall die suddenly...

Great story which is not just filled with action and non stop adrenaline but also with question regarding one's identity. It gives a chilling insight to what it would feel like to really being nobody...
Recommended!
8/10
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Liane Moriarty
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The Husbands Secret
paperback
448 pages
Mother of three and wife of John-Paul, Cecilia discovers an old envelope in the attic. Written in her husband's hand, it says: to be opened only in the event of my death.

Curious, she opens it - and time stops.

John-Paul's letter confesses to a terrible mistake which, if revealed, would wreck their family as well as the lives of others.

Cecilia - betrayed, angry and distraught - wants to do the right thing, but right for who? If she protects her family by staying silent, the truth will worm through her heart. But if she reveals her husband's secret, she will hurt those she loves most...

Riveting read, ending a bit forced and predictable, but thought-provoking and hence, recommended
8/10
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Kate Mosse
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Labyrinth
hard cover
544 pages
Kate Mosse's jigsaw puzzle of a novel is a history lesson, a theological thriller, a fantasy adventure involving a trilogy of stories within one book. Each of them could have been a novel in it's own right. Part Da Vinci Code, part Tolkien without hobbits, Labyrinth is the British author's fact-based speculation on nothing less than what makes the world go round. (And I've just given you your first clue.)

Starring in this tale spanning centuries are two main characters: Dr. Alice Tanner, an academic who, while on a 2005 archaeology dig near Carcassonne, in southern France, stumbles upon two skeletons and a ring; and Alais, a young 13th-century woman who stumbles upon the secrets of the Holy Grail. Alternating between the two women, it becomes clear rather quickly there's something connecting them.

Alais belongs to the Christian sect now known as the Cathars, victims of a bloody crusade by the Roman Catholic Church the church said they were heretics; history says it was a northern-French land grab. Alais' father, embroiled in the struggle, entrusts his daughter with a Book of Words whose value she doesn't fully comprehend. Similarly, the ring Alice discovers is emblazoned with a circular labyrinth whose lines do not lead to the center, as they should.

Alais soon learns she holds one of three books that, together, will either become or lead to the Holy Grail (to clarify that point would spoil the ending), and Alice must figure out why so many others around her, including the mysterious sage Audric Baillard, want the ring. And who are those two skeletons?

Although well written and entertaining at first the back-and-forth between centuries, the double and triple crosses, become rather annoying after some time, and you just wish you could stick with one of the stories instead of having to flip over every few pages, especially considering someone's decided that, in order to artificially keep the tension, it might be a good idea to make the chapters shorter and shorter the nearer one gets to the end...

It's like watching something engrossing on the tele with someone else in charge of the remote flipping between channels!

No doubt however Miss Mosse has done her research and the historic idea of it is very impressive. Her style of writing keeps one entertained and the story line is good, although at times it feels a bit too familiar perhaps..
Still, consider this recommended bed time reading!
7/10
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N

Bill Napier
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Shattered Icon
paperback
416 pages
Historic thriller about an antique map dealer in a sleepy english village who gets asked to investigate a mysterious 400 year old journal recovered in Jamaica. As soon as he gets a hold of the journal strange things start to happen, he's being followed and people are trying to talk him into handing over the journal for ridiculous sums of money.. When he then tries to contact the owner he finds he was murdered in his own home..

Together with the owner's daughter and a fellow antiques expert he tries to unravel the mysteries that lie within the dusty old sheets of paper hidden away for so long.. They end up going to Jamaice to trace it's origin, and go back further in history then they could have ever dreamt..

Excellently written thriller, a definite page turner with a good plot, although perhaps a little light on the actual historics, and a little too hollywood with all the pretty and handsome antiques experts around..
The ending feels a little like an afterthought for a hollywood happy ending, but it's definetely worth considering if you're in need something easy and entertaining!
7/10
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Larry Niven
bookicon
Inferno
hardcover
215 pages
Humoristic little interpretation of the classic Dante novel. Alan Carpentier, a self-acclaimed, world famous Sci-Fi writer drinks too much at a convention whilst showing off for fans, and promptly falls out an eighth-floor window. He wakes up in a brass bottle in the vestibule of Hell, and Inferno details his adventures trying to work his way out.

A lot of Dante is recalled, but the authors have more a lot more fun with the damned, making up a few newer sins to bring the tale up-to-date, things such as a book collector who kept hoarding beyond the capabilities of his storage, and lost priceless books to mildew, rats, and insects, a hoarder and a waster at the same time. The writer is released from his bottle by a big guy named Benito, who assumes a role as guide and helper to move Carpentier through the depths of Hell, and promptly gets the shaft from Carpentier when the writer figures out who he really is.

Their journey through Hell is difficult, to say the least, but the authors hold out hope for the final salvation of the books characters. Not an easy road, but possible anyway. They encounter many a tortured soul and the ending is rather surprising..

Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle made a faster-moving version of the original with many cheecky additions which makes one wonder whether a trip to Hell could actually be fun? Definitely Recommendable!

8/10
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Claire North
bookicon
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August
paperback
448 pages
Harry lives his life. Born to a raped mother in a 1920s railway station, raised not knowing his father, his life is fairly unremarkable despite enlisting in World War Two, his eventual demise from bone marrow cancer does not end his story. He is born again.... at the railway station in the 1920s... With all the knowledge of his previous life floating back to him as a toddler. And so it continues. While the first couple of pages are confusing, once this pattern and idea is set up within a half dozen pages, you're hooked. It's almost wish fulfilment - what would YOU do, living your life again with the chance to make different choices?

It's not a book about 'whys', how this might happen. It's about what we would do with eternity, what we would see and do, what we would change - and not only about ourselves. The book does veer from one life to another, though roughly in sequential order with segues to add context.

Absolutely fascinating stuff. Simply the regeneration alone would be novel-worthy, but more than one adversary pops up for Harry to deal with. Of course, other people's reactions to Harry's uniqueness are mixed - from the wife who commits him to the spies who want a scoop on future twentieth century history. Torture scenes are uncomfortable but not long or graphic (and Harry narrates them with little emotion, from a future incarnation).

The thought that's gone into this is stunning - the idea of passing messages backwards and forwards from young people to old and visa versa as they meet in their timelines. The knock-on effect of changing world history early. The 'club' of ouroborans/kalachakra (those who loop perpetually through their lives) who aid each other at important times in their lives. It's just so well described, it could be real. I loved Harry's changing relationship with his adopted parents and those he finds he is biologically related to, how he can't escape his eventual cancerous fate, how he can become a spy, a professor, a scientist with so many years to play with.

The villain of the piece is scary - a calm madman, insidious and frightening in his genius and reach. You ache for Harry to find a way to win, to stop the madness and save the world, as it seems to come down to.

It's such a good read, so cinematic inside my head, I wanted to read about Harry's next lives. I would in fact, if there were a sequel.

Recommended
9/10
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Running Apache