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Friday, February 27, 2015

Wounded Prey by Sean Lynch

Wounded Prey

Vicious crimes.  Too blood-thirsty for my taste.  

You know how books seem to come in various cycles?  Sometimes you will read three or more books in a short span of time that have a similar theme or plot?  I've read three books lately with vigilantes.  

This one has a retired detective and a rookie cop teamed up to put an end to the crimes of an psychopathic killer.  And "by put an end to," I mean they intend to kill him, not capture him.  Not that you feel any sympathy for the killer--his crimes are horrendous.

OK, I did like Farrell and Kearns, the protagonists, but I think this one is a little too dark for me.  This is the first in a series featuring the two protagonists, but in spite of liking them, I don't know that I'll continue the series.


Crime.  2013; March 24, 2015.  Print version:  384 pages.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Asylum by Jeannette de Beauvoir


How does a PR director for the Mayor of Montreal become involved in the investigation of four murdered women? The police believe the murders to be the work of a sexually motivated serial killer, but the women vary in age and in appearance and there is no way to predict how the killer is choosing his victims.

The mayor, afraid that the murders will affect the tourist industry, assigns Martine leDuc, his PR director, as a liaison with the police department.  Martine is paired with Julian Fletcher, who has serious doubts about the direction of the investigation.  Without intending to do so, Martine joins Julian in investigating whether the murders are a result of more than sexual psychopath.  What if there is another reason for targeting these specific women, and if so, what could be the connection that ties these women, so different in age, appearance, and lifestyle, together?

What the two eventually unearth is a secret that lies in the past.  Martine, the protagonist, has depth and complexity:  happily married, but occasionally frustrated by her stepchildren; good at her job, but without much respect for her boss; initially reluctant to involve herself in Julian's digressive investigation, but compelled to see it through as they begin to uncover the connections among the victims.

It is the connection to the past and the dark secrets about the Duplessis orphans that proves most frightening and most fascinating.  Of course, as soon as the orphans were mentioned, I began researching online.  I knew I'd read or seen something about this horrific injustice somewhere before, but couldn't remember if it was fact or fiction.  You can Google Duplessis Orphans and find a wealth of material. When I finished the book, I found that the author had also included much information and source material.

Here is the weird part: the murder mystery may seem fantastic, but the truth behind what went on in Canadian orphanages is more unbelievable, more tragic, and more dreadful.
"Truth is stranger than fiction" applies in this appalling historic episode.  How the Church, the Government, and the Medical Profession could ever excuse or justify what happened is beyond understanding.  Although this happened in Canada, there is a disturbing U.S. connection, as well.

Fiction often highlights events that many would prefer to forget, makes human what is often served up as dry statistics.  

I found myself quickly engrossed in Asylum, and I am so pleased to have received it from NetGalley.  The only complaint I have is that the portion that resolves the contemporary murders doesn't work as well as the rest of the book.  Yet as bizarre as this resolution to the mystery might seem, what actually occurred with these orphans almost beggars belief.

NetGalley/St. Martin's Press/Minotaur Books

Crime/Mystery.  March 10, 2015.  320 pages.

march 10

Monday, February 23, 2015

Doll God - poems by Luanne Castle

I love poetry and always have.  I have slim volumes and huge anthologies on my shelves.  When asked to be a part of this blog tour, I was reminded that for some time, I've been neglecting my poetry reading.  And I rarely read anything new; returning time and time again to my favorite poems and favorite poets (John Donne, Dylan Thomas, T.S. Eliot, Marge Piercy, Gerard Manly Hopkins).  Poems about fairy tales are an exception--I love reading a re-interpretation of a fairy tale in poetic language. My favorites "fairy tale poets" are Anne Sexton and Jane Yolen.

Doll God

Book Description:
Consistently on Amazon's Hot New Releases in Poetry
Luanne Castle's debut poetry collection, Doll God, studies traces of the spirit world in human-made and natural objects--a Japanese doll, a Palo Verde tree, a hummingbird. Her exploration leads the reader between the twin poles of nature and creations of the imagination in dolls, myth, and art.

Although most reviewers have been pleased with this little volume, I only found a few poems that spoke to me. Again, it is a matter of taste, just like in novels.  Or perhaps, I just wasn't in the right mood.

Since all the reviews I read were 4-5 stars, I recommend that you read the poems yourself.  The fact that they did not resonate with me is of little importance--they may speak to you.

The Doll God Book Tour

Tour Stops:
Feb. 9: Patricia’s Wisdom (review)
Feb. 10: Everything Distills Into Reading (review)
Feb. 13: Bell, Book & Candle (review)
Feb. 14: Book Dilettante (review)
Feb. 19: Peeking Between the Pages (Author Guest Post)
Feb. 20: Peeking Between the Pages (review)
Feb. 22: Regular Rumination (review)
Feb. 23:  A Garden Carried in the Pocket (review)
Feb. 24: Bookgirl’s Nightstand (review)
March 1: Tea Leaves (review)
March 4: Diary of an Eccentric (review)
March 6: Savvy Verse & Wit (review)

Poetry.  2015.  86 pages.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Fire Sermon by Francesca Haig

The Fire Sermon  

Book Description (partial):  Four hundred years in the future, the Earth has turned primitive following a nuclear fire that has laid waste to civilization and nature. Though the radiation fallout has ended, for some unknowable reason every person is born with a twin. Of each pair, one is an Alpha—physically perfect in every way; and the other an Omega—burdened with deformity, small or large.

The Fire Sermon features a set of twins:  Cass, the Omega twin,who appears to be perfect, all limbs and features intact, but with the invisible mutation of psychic foresight, and Zach, the Alpha twin, who is physically perfect, but with a dangerous ambition.  

Zach also harbors a deep resentment because it isn't obvious which twin is the Omega and must be sent away to an Omega settlement.  All Omegas are branded and ostracized, usually when infants, but because Cass' "deformity" isn't obvious, the exile doesn't happen for years, during which time Zach's frustration and anger grows.  The Omegas are kept poor and isolated in settlements, but not killed--because when one twin dies, the other dies as well. As long as Cass is present in the Alpha society, Zach is in a kind of purgatory, as both twins are under suspicion.

When Cass is finally determined to be an Omega and sent away, Zach begins his journey to power.  He eventually rises to rank and privilege in the Alpha community.   

After several years in the Omega settlement, Cass is captured, taken from the Omega settlement, and imprisoned by the Alphas at Zach's direction.  What is his eventual plan for Cass?  Nothing good--he wants her alive, because his own life depends on it (and his enemies would love to see Cass, and by extension Zach, dead).  What Zach has in mind, however, would be a kind of living death for Cass.

She escapes, and along with the young man she rescues, joins the resistance--the rebels that long for equality. 

Most of the book moves quickly and is filled with adventure, but unfortunately, there is a slow section near the beginning dealing with Cass' imprisonment that almost caused me to lose interest and abandon the book.  I'm glad I didn't because when Cass finally escapes, the book gained interest again, and I plunged wholeheartedly back into the story.

An interesting dystopian concept and an exciting plot make this an engrossing read after the one slow section that should be shortened a bit so that it doesn't interrupt the novel's pace.

The Fire Sermon is the first in a new trilogy, and Dreamworks has optioned the book for a film version.

 read  in Nov.;  blog post scheduled for Feb.  22, 2015

NetGalley/Gallery Books

Dystopian.  March 10, 2015.  Print length:  384 pages.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Book Lover Emojis

These are just spot on!  Book Lover Emojis--I want them all.

The "I stayed up all night reading!" emoji.

And you need to check the
"No Spoilers" and "Cliffhanger" versions!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Three Police Procedurals

To Dwell in Darkness    (Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James)

While Crombie's novels can be read as stand alones, there is a great deal of back story and many familiar characters who make their appearances.  I've read many, but not all of this series (whatever the library has to offer), and it remains a favorite.  

There are several threads to this story, but the main one features an event at St. Pancras Station.  A protester sets off what he believes to be a smoke bomb, but is actually an incendiary device that sets him aflame and injures several bystanders.  Duncan Kincaid is on the case, but not from his former position at Scotland Yard.  When Kincaid returned from his paternity leave, he found he had been transferred to Holborn and his former superior is unavailable.  He feels isolated and has no knowledge of what led to his sudden transfer.

Gemma is busy with her own investigation into the death of a young girl, but her story in this novel gets less play.  Kincaid's investigation into the St. Pancras Station death takes the lead, but he does get help from his former sergeant Doug Cullen and from DS Melody Talbot, Gemma's colleague.

Although the plot involving the incendiary device and the protesters is resolved, there are some dangling threads.  What was behind Kincaid's unexplained and unwelcome transfer? We should hear more about that in the next book--which I eagerly await.

Library copy.

Crime/Police Procedural.  2014.  324 pages.

What the Fly Saw (Detective Hannah McCabe)

This is another of those unexpected arrivals in the mail.  It is one of the novels that kept me interested, but also created some of those nit-picky elements that are distracting.

In Albany, New York, a blizzard has disrupted all city services, and Kevin Novak, a funeral home director is found murdered in the basement of his funeral home with an arrow embedded in his chest.  Hannah McCabe and her partner Mike Baxter are on the case.  The motive is obscure, but as Hannah and Mike investigate their leads develop in different directions.  A medium, a psychiatrist, and the minister of a mega-church are among those interviewed, but with no discernible reason for the murder, the investigation is difficult.

There are also several sub-plots involved, one of which seems tied in a vague way to some of the events in the previous book.  

I read Bailey's  The Red Queen Dies a couple of years ago and feel much the same way about this one.  The series is set in the near future, but with few explanations about the new technologies available.  Although advances in technology have increased exponentially in a relatively short period of time and 2020 is just around the corner, the novel would read much more smoothly with a bit more explanation of the futuristic elements, especially since there really aren't that many.

Also similar to the first novel is the amount of time devoted to Hannah's brother...that doesn't serve much purpose.  He simply isn't necessary.  I admit that he's interesting, as he was in the first novel, yet his presence doesn't add enough to Hannah's background information or to the current plot to justify the number of paragraphs he receives.  I'd almost rather see him get a book of his own--his circumstances are certainly intriguing.

Even Hannah is a sort of place-holder, more a means of telling the story than a fully developed character.  Mike Baxter generally seems like a great partner, but there are some curious questions about the way he steers the investigation away from certain individuals.

ARC from Minotaur Books.

Crime/Police Procedural.  March 3, 2015.  327 pages.

The Hidden Child   (Fjallbacka #5)

I'm happy to see the title no longer designates the series as the Patrick Hedstrom series.  The Ice Princess was essentially Erika's story, but the The Stonecutter and The Stranger (The Gallows Bird) cast Patrick in the lead role.

The 7 Lackberg novels that have been translated to English:

The Ice Princess (2002)
The Preacher (2004)
The Stonecutter (2005)
The Stranger (The Gallows Bird) (2006)

The Hidden Child (2007)
The Drowning (2008)
The Lost Boy (2013)

I've read 4 of these, but have several more to catch up on.  I like the series, and I thoroughly enjoyed this one in which a murder in the present has roots in WWII.  

I appreciate seeing Anna's story kept up to date; finding that Martin's confidence is growing; that Bertil Mellberg has an interesting human side; that Gosta, too, can make an effort; that Paula, the new hire, is an interesting character, etc.  Oh, and there is a dog. :)

Many readers prefer a tauter story line with fewer characters and less development of minor characters and subplots.  I love the addition of secondary characters and the feeling that the world in which the story is set is a real one with complications other than the main plot.  I love becoming familiar with these characters, watching them develop, getting to know them from book to book. A matter of taste.

Anyway, Erika has spent a year at home caring for Maja, the couple's young daughter, and now it is Patrick's turn.  He has taken paternity leave in order for Erika to be able to get back to her writing.  When the murder of Erik Frankel, an elderly man occurs, it is difficult for Patrick to accept that he isn't part of the investigation.  

A retired history teacher with an interest in WWII and Nazi artifacts, Erik Frankel and his older brother Axel, who is connected to the Simon Wiesenthal Center, have lived in Fjallbacka all their lives.  Axel was out of the country at the time of Erik's death, and no one can think of a motive for Erik's murder.  In a twist of fate, however, Erika had asked for Erik Frankel's help in finding more about the Nazi medal she'd found among her mother's things.

The plot moves back and forth between the present and the war years, and Erika, having located some of her mother's diaries, continues to dig into the secrets of the past.  Lackberg has produced another richly textured and compelling mystery, keeping the reader guessing about who murdered Erik Frankel and why.

Library copy.

Mystery/Crime.  2007; 2014.  526 pages.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

A Mix of Genres and Sub-genres

Grave Matters:  A Night Owls Novel

Night Owls bookstore always keeps a light on and evil creatures out. But, as Lauren M. Roy's thrilling sequel continues, even its supernatural staff isn’t prepared for the dead to come back to life.

Ok, I admit that that I am always susceptible to books about bookstores.  And a supernatural staff doesn't hurt.  That's just me, I'm a little superficial like that.

The fact that it was the second in a series did make me pause, but I needed something to read right then and decided to go ahead.  I liked it.  Vampires, Jackals, Necromancers, Renfields, and Succubi.  Grave Matters is an urban fantasy that provided interesting characters, suspense, and a fast-paced  and entertaining read.  If you like that kind of thing, that is.  I do.  

It would have been better perhaps, if I had read Night Owls: Bk. 1 first, but I can always remedy that.  Here is the book description for the first book:

Night Owls book store is the one spot on campus open late enough to help out even the most practiced slacker. The employees’ penchant for fighting the evil creatures of the night is just a perk…

There is just this tongue-in-cheek attitude about these descriptions that appeals to me, and this is just the kind of urban fantasy that I enjoy.  Is it great literature?  No.  Is it entertaining?  It was for me.

NetGalley/Penguin Group

Urban Fantasy.  Feb. 24, 2015.  Print length: 304 pages.

Mist of Midnight by Sandra Byrd

"A captivating Gothic love story set against a backdrop of intrigue and danger, Mist of Midnight will leave you breathless."

The cover pulled me in, but no, it really didn't leave me breathless...or particularly satisfied.  I looked at the Goodreads reviews, and the reviews are all 4/5 stars, so it is just another example of how we all find sub-genres that we prefer. Maybe this falls in the Gothic Romance category.

Read in late Dec.; blog post scheduled for Feb. 18

NetGalley/Howard Books

Gothic Mystery.  March 10, 2015.  Print length:  384 pages

A Man's Word  (The King's Hounds Series)

Last year when I was on my medieval mysteries kick, I read The King's Hounds and The Oathbreaker by Martin Jensen and enjoyed both of them.

I purchased the first two and was pleased to find the third as a NetGalley offering.  Love me some free books!

Although I liked the characters of Halfdan and Winston the Illuminator in the first two novels, I wanted to see more of Alfilda, Winton's paramour.  I was happy to see that Alfilda's role grows in this latest novel.

These medieval mysteries are set in the time of King Cnut during the early part of the 11th century.  The king has ordered his "hounds" to keep their eyes and ears open as Cnut must return to Denmark.

As it turns out, Halfdan, Winston, and Alfilda end up trying to solve a series of murders that have nothing to do with the king.  The translation uses some terms that are too modern for the time and that jar a bit, but overall the translation by Tara Chace works well.  Halfdan has been a womanizer in the two previous novels, but I was put off by his womanizing in this one.  Nevertheless, I enjoyed this third installment in the series.

NetGalley/Amazon Publishing

Medieval Mystery.  First published in 2010; March 1, 2015.  272 pages.

The Alphabet House by Jussi Adler-Olsen

The Alphabet House

So very different from the Department Q series (which I love), The Alphabet House was originally published in 1997 and is a stand alone novel that begins when two British pilots on a mission to photograph areas near Dresden, Germany during WWII.  It is suspected that the Germans are building new factories that might be devastating to the British war effort.

James Teasdale and Bryan Young, the young pilots, are shot down during the mission; they manage to escape capture and board a hospital train, which ends up at a mental hospital deep inside Germany.  Although Germany has previously made eliminating the mentally ill a matter of course, these wounded soldiers are all of high rank, and it would not serve Germany well to dispose of them. 

 Experimental meds and frequent shock treatments are utilized to cure these shell-shocked or mentally ill officers.  As soon as possible, they are returned to the front lines.  Anyone suspected of malingering is summarily executed.

As it turns out,  James and Bryan are not the only ones pretending mental/emotional damage, so are a number of others in their ward.  Fear of returning to the fighting, especially on the Eastern Front, keeps many from wanting to be "cured."  Among the malingerers are three particularly nasty individuals who discuss their war crimes gleefully at night.  When these three suspect that James has overheard their discussions of hidden war profit, they begin waging a terrible campaign against him.  Both Bryan and James are unable to do much about it without revealing that they, too, are feigning insanity.  Eventually, Bryan is able to escape.

The story is divided into two parts; the first part deals with the WWII portion of the story and the asylum in which the two young men find themselves, and the second portion occurs thirty years later when Bryan makes a final attempt to locate James.

The novel is long, but fascinating and horrific (the asylum). 

NetGalley/Penguin Group

WWII/Suspense.  1997; Feb. 24, 2015.  Print version:  480 pages.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Dear Daughter by Elizabeth Little

Dear Daughter

After being convicted of killing her mother and spending ten years in prison, Janie is now being released because some of the forensic evidence was mishandled.  A technicality that gets her out of prison, but that in no way exonerates her of the crime.  

Unsure of exactly what happened when her mother was murdered, Janie is determined to see if she can uncover the specifics.  She doesn't have much to go on, but with the help of her lawyer, she plans to evade the press after her release and do some investigating on her own.

Now don't go thinking Janie is a sweet thing or that she is totally convinced of her own innocence.   Janie and her mother definitely did not get along, and at seventeen, Janie excelled in the shallow, superficial, and spiteful.  

Many readers have found her character unlikable, but I felt like Janie cultivated her image with precision--until the persona she created became an essential part of her.  The events preceding her mother's murder reveal that her taunting words and behavior are not directed at everyone, and that she is aware of the triviality of the exclusive society in which she lived.

In some ways, the ten years Janie spent in prison have frozen her personality; however, removed from the influences of the outside word, Janie has pondered the events that resulted in her conviction and has done some research in the prison library.  When she is finally released on the technicality, Janie is prepared to carry on her investigation in the real world. Still unsure about whether or not she is guilty, Janie and Noah, her lawyer, do everything possible to throw the media off the scent.  But Janie plans to evade Noah as well.

The thing is...I like Janie.  Maybe I wouldn't if I actually knew her, but I find her feisty and funny.  She is stunted in some ways, but intelligent, and her sarcastic remarks are often both insightful and revealing.

I don't think I'll discuss any more about the plot, but Janie's personal search for the truth leads into the past.  What I will say is that this book surprised me.  Not just, "well, I wasn't thinking that could happen," more "that isn't what I was expecting AT ALL!"  But I don't want to give anything away!

Elizabeth Little has written two nonfiction books about linguistics, but this is her debut in the field of fiction.  I really liked it and hope for more.  Maybe even more about Janie.

Library copy.

Mystery/Suspense.  July, 2014.  364 pages.

Monday, February 16, 2015

A Murder of Magpies by Judith Flanders

A Murder of Magpies  

I love the cover, and although it may look like a typical cozy mystery, it is much more. A Murder of Magpies turned out to be an entertaining read with a delightful style. Samantha Clair is now one of my favorite characters, and I'm sincerely hoping that Judith Flanders will continue to write fiction!

Sam Clair is an editor of women's fiction, not the most prestigious position at her publishing firm, but one that reliably makes money.  

The new book by her friend Kit Lowell, however, is causing some concern, and Sam is going to have it checked thoroughly for anything that might be considered libelous.  Kit's book is a nonfiction account of a scandal in the fashion industry (complete with murder and money laundering), and although Sam knows that Kit will have evidence for his claims, the manuscript still needs serious vetting by lawyers. 

Kit's troublesome expose isn't the only manuscript providing problems, Sam's best-selling author's new book is a complete departure from the kind of book she normally writes, and Sam worries that it will be a complete dud.

When Detective Fielding shows up at her office asking if any parcels she was expecting had failed to appear, Sam is bewildered; she receives contracts and manuscripts aplenty from some 150 authors she looks after, but the authors are not exactly prompt with their deliveries.  It isn't as if she "expects" a particular parcel on a particular day.  She is unable to provide any help, but she later gives the the idea more thought.

 Later Kit calls to tell her his flat has been burgled, and when Kit fails to appear for a lunch meeting, Sam is concerned.  Unable to get in touch with him for several days, Sam's anxiety has grown into a terrible fear.  If the police aren't especially interested in Kit's absence, Sam will do some investigating on her own.
Judith Flanders provides an interesting peek into the world of editing and publishing, an entertaining cast of characters and dialogue, and a crime novel that offers both suspense and humor.

Flanders was an editor in London for seventeen years.  She has also authored several nonfiction books about the Victorian Age.  I've added The Invention of Murder:  How the Victorians Revelled in Death and Detection and Created Modern Crime to my Wish List.

Thanks to Minotaur Books for this fun and compelling novel.   I love getting a surprise in the mail--especially one as entertaining as this one turned out to be.

Mystery/Crime.  2014.  277 pages.

The Winter Foundlings by Kate Rhodes

The Winter Foundlings

This is the third book in the series, and I have not read the previous books.  

Alice Quentin is a psychologist who decides to study treatment methods at a high-security prison.  Taking a break from her hectic London life and from the police work that has left her emotionally exhausted, Alice looks forward to her work at Northwood.

Her attempt to avoid police work comes to an end almost immediately when she is asked to interview Louis Kinsella, the notorious former headmaster who was convicted of killing young girls.  Now, someone is imitating Kinsella's methods, and three young girls have been abducted and later found dead.  A fourth is missing, but is hopefully still alive.  

The killer has not only copied Kinsella's signature, but has sent tokens to Kinsella.  Alice is desperate to save ten-year-old Ella Williams, but Kinsella is playing with her.  The author plants suspicion about various characters who might be communicating with Kinsella, because when he does deign to help, his predictions about what will happen next actually occur.

Kate Rhodes has some staunch fans, and the book was interesting enough to hold my attention, but I wasn't that taken with Alice, the secondary characters never came off the page, and the plot didn't feel credible.   

NetGalley/Minotaur Books

Mystery/Crime.  Feb. 24, 2015.  Print version:  352 pages

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Murder in the Queen's Wardrobe by Kathy Lynn Emerson

Murder in the Queen's Wardrobe     

Years ago, I read several of Kathy Lynn Emerson's Susanna Appleton series which were also set during the Elizabethan period.  

Here is a little bookish biographical info on Emerson:

 Kathy Lynn Emerson is the author of over fifty works of fiction and nonfiction written under the names Kathy Lynn Emerson, Kaitlyn Dunnett, Kate Emerson, and Kaitlyn Gorton. Many of them reflect her interest in life in sixteenth-century England and she maintains a series of mini-biographies online as "A Who's Who of Tudor Women." She won the Agatha award for mystery nonfiction for How to Write Killer Historical Mysteries: The Art and Adventure of Sleuthing Through the Past. Currently she writes the Liss MacCrimmon Scottish-American Heritage Mystery series (Ho-Ho-Homicide, 2014) as Kaitlyn Dunnett and as Kathy Lynn Emerson writes the Mistress Jaffrey Mysteries (Murder in the Queen's Wardrobe, 2015), featuring Elizabethan gentlewoman, sleuth, and spy Rosamond Jaffrey. For more information, visit Kathy's webpages at

Wow, I had no idea she wrote so prolifically or under so many names!  

At any rate, Mistress Rosamund Jaffrey, who made an appearance in the "Face Down" mystery series featuring Susannah Appleton, now has a series of her own.  Recruited by Queen Elizabeth's spymaster Sir Francis Walsingham (any mention of Walsingham always interests me as Christopher Marlowe may have been one of his spies or intelligencers), Mistress Jaffrey has been tasked to spy on and protect Lady Mary, one of the queen's cousins who is being courted by Tsar Ivan (the Terrible) of Russia.

Rosamund needs to protect Mary, gather intelligence, and hopefully, protect her estranged husband.

Read Oct., 2014; review scheduled for Feb. 15, 2015

NetGalley/Severn House

Historic Mystery.  March 1, 2015.  Print length:  256 pages.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot by David Shafer

Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot 

First, I must make clear that my first impression was not my last.  I picked the book up, read a little, put it down, read something else--several times.  The beginning was a slow bit of background about each of the three main characters, and I was almost ready to give up and call it a DNF.

Second, I'm so glad I didn't give up because about 100 pages in, I was hooked.  It is an imaginative and far-fetched tale that sounds very futuristic, yet...despite the fictional aspects, there is always our knowledge of how vulnerable institutions and individuals are in this cyber age. We all have questions about how much power we accede to the digital world even as we have learned to rely on all the benefits that same world offers us.

I know the lengthy character exposition at the beginning plays a role, but I do wish it had been a little less lengthy.  Yet, as the plot began to take off, I became attached to Leila, Leo, and Mark (OK, not so much to Mark).  

The book has a great conspiracy angle and provides a cautionary tale concerning how much information we reveal personally, as well as what our purchases, health providers, banks and other institutions reveal about our lives.

One of those unusual books that people love or hate (note the 5 star vs 1 star reviews with little in between).  I ended up being on more middle ground, but toward the higher end.  It was a near miss, because I truly considered abandoning the book before the story took off for me.  Glad I saw it through.

The conclusion isn't conclusive, so I expect there will be a follow-up to this one.  I will greedily consume the next one.

One of Time Magazine's Ten Best Books of 2014

Selected by NPR, Slate, and Kirkus as one of the Best Books of 2014

Shortlisted for the Pacific Northwest Book Award

Library copy.

Techno-thriller (?).  Aug., 2014.  432 pages.

Monday, February 09, 2015

Children of the Tide by Jon Redfern

Children of the Tide 

Book description:  London: the early 1840s. The birth of the young Queen Victoria's first child is taken as an auspicious sign for all. But on a cold March night, a spree of dark crimes in shadowy workhouses shocks the city.

When Inspector Owen Endersby, of the recently formed London Detective Police, learns that the string of identical murders and abductions have all taken place under similar circumstances, he fears a monster is prowling the city. How long until the murderer strikes again? Is this the work of a diabolical killer, or a madman with confused motives? Facts are scarce. Endersby and his sergeant, Thomas Caldwell, must start an investigation based on the fitful testimonies of terrified girls and one peculiar clue: a piece of curtain lace found in the throats of the victims.

Inspector Endersby is middle-aged and happily married.  No tortured inspector with tragic past or angst in Endersby.  It is an interesting departure from the common detective trope to have a rotund protagonist (with gout, no less) who simply attempts to do his job to the best of his ability, to be conscientious, to use logic, and to try to withhold judgement until the facts are in.  

There have, of course, been other fat, middle-aged detectives including Nero Wolfe and Andy Dalziel (Reginald Hill's Dalziel and Pascoe police procedurals are my all-time favorites), but you have to admit that they are rather a rare breed.

At any rate, Inspector Endersby and Sergeant Caldwell are likable, if thin, characters, and they do their best to employ the new methods of policing endorsed by the founder of the Metropolitan Police, Sir Robert Peel.

I found two things annoying:  1) the overabundance and artificial feel of the quotes (and you know how much I love finding Shakespeare quotes).  The use of the quotes just didn't fit naturally for some reason; they felt forced.  2) The use of the term "demon familiar" to describe Endersby's tendency to anger and violence that he had to struggle to control.  The term was used so frequently that I gritted my teeth each time I read it.

The mystery itself was a bit convoluted and had a few red herrings.  

Read in September; blog post scheduled for Feb. 9, 2015.


Historical Mystery/Police Procedural.  Feb. 28, 2015.  Print length:  296 pages.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

A Fine Summer's Day by Charles Todd

A Fine Summer's Day     

I've been reading the Ian Rutledge series for years, but this one is very different because this one functions as a prequel. A Fine Summer's Day takes place before WWI.

On a lovely summer's day, Ian Rutledge is attending a house party at the home of Melissa Crawford (Bess Crawford's aunt) with plans to ask the young woman he loves to marry him.  Elsewhere on the same day a man is preparing to bury his mother, a young man in Scotland is proposing to his sweetheart, and in Sarajevo, an anarchist murders the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife.

The seeds of WWI are sown.

On that summer day in June, no one suspected that their lives were about to change.  Certainly not Ian Rutledge, engaged and looking forward to marriage.  Divided between his social obligations to his fiancee and his job at Scotland Yard, Rutledge spends the summer working on a series of murders that initially appear unrelated.  

On the continent, one declaration of war after another increases the fear and suspense, and by August 4, 1914, England had joined the fray.  Even after England declares war on Germany, and scores of young men rush to enlist, most feel that all will be settled by Christmas.  

Throughout the summer, Rutledge travels from one village to another trying to find a connection between the murdered men, and even after he discovers the connection, he must find evidence to convince his superior.  

It is strange to read an Ian Rutledge novel that takes place before the war and before he meets Hamish, but the Todd's have given us an interesting glimpse an England before the upheaval of war, before the loss of a generation of young men.   

Library copy.

Historic Mystery.  Jan. 2015.  371 pages.

Friday, February 06, 2015

What Jennifer Saw by Hal Schweig

What Jennifer Saw 

Could also have been titled Facade or What Lies Beneath--the plot involves so many characters with veneers of respectability.

The perfect Harris family is shattered by the death of "Big Jim" Harris.  When the beloved pillar of the community is murdered, the entire town is in shock.  "Big Jim" was admired and respected by everyone for his generosity of time and money; the reader, however, gets a creepy vibe from the first page.

As it turns out, the personas adopted by many of the characters are only skin deep.  The novel spends a great deal of time introducing characters that we are instinctively leery of even before we get the less attractive details. 

Anyway, Jennifer Harris may have seen the intruder, but she is so traumatized that she can't recall any helpful details.  Her older brother becomes more and more concerned about her, insisting that she receive counseling before her depression and apathy lead to self-harm.

Who could have wanted Jim Harris dead and why?  In spite of the way the man has been idolized by his family and community, as information about various characters comes to light, the reader realizes that there may have been more than one person who would have liked to see Jim Harris dead.  

The DSM might be handy for all of the psychiatric diagnoses covered in this book.


Mystery.  2013.  278 pages.  

Thursday, February 05, 2015

The Secret Lives of Codebreakers (with update)

I read and reviewed this in the summer of 2012.  Since then the film The Imitation Game has been released, so I'm re-posting and adding an update and some links.
------------ This is, perhaps, my favorite book this year.  The Secret Lives of Codebreakers: The Men and Women Who Cracked the Enigma Code at Bletchley Park allows us a uniquely fascinating glimpse into the lives of those who worked at Bletchley Park during WWII, breaking the Enigma codes that the Germans and others considered unbreakable.

The author brings life to this secret world with interviews from many of the individuals who worked there during the war, keeping their activities secret from each other and from their families for decades.  A remarkable and strangely lively look at the men and women whose secret work had everything to do with the success of the Allies in ending the war.  

There were so many bookmarks on my Kindle that when I went over them, I found I'd bookmarked and highlighted way, way too much.  However, the reason was simply that almost everything I found was fascinating--from the ordinary men and women involved to the genius of Alan Turing.

The book was exceptionally readable for a work of nonfiction; informative and entertaining at the same time.  I really loved this book!

From Net Galley.

More About Bletchley Park:

Film:  Enigma
(interesting blog review of Enigma)

Televison series:  Danger UXB
Television documentary:  Station X


fiction:  Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson and All Clear by Connie Willis

  Colossus:  The Secrets of Bletchley Park's Codebreaking Computers by B. Jack Copeland
  Alan Turing:  The Enigma by Andrew Hodges
  Seizing the Enigma:  The Race to Break the German U-Boats Codes, 1939-1943 by David Kahn

Update:  February 5, 2015.

A couple of weeks ago, Fee and I went to see The Imitation Game, and I was disappointed in the film and the portrayal of Alan Turing (not in Benedict Cumberbatch's performance, which was excellent).   The film simply didn't reflect what I had previously read about Turing and Bletchley Park.

I loved The Secret Lives of Codebreakers, a riveting nonfiction look at Bletchley Park and the work that went on there.  I also loved Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon, which was fiction, but the kind that makes you want to more about the real history.

Another good nonfiction book about the period and codebreaking, although not at Bletchely Park, is Leo Marks Between Silk and Cyanide.  Sounds kind of sexy, doesn't it, but actually codes were transferred to silk that could easily be concealed in the lining of clothing.  And the cyanide--sadly, something spies carried as a matter of course.

Anyway, after seeing The Imitation Game, I finally ordered Alan Turing: The Enigma Man by Nigel Cawthorne  and read it.  This biography reveals some of the flaws in the film's presentation.  I will review this one soon.

The Guardian has some articles that refute areas of the film as well:

revealing some of fictional elements concerning Turing and the Engima

the inaccurate presentation of Alistair Dennison

Perhaps the real benefit of seeing The Imitation Game will be curiosity about the real history behind Alan Turing, the cracking of the Enigma code, and the work done at Bletchley Park that helped win the war and began the journey  that has led to the computer world we know today.