Saturday, January 17, 2015


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Charles Todd's Ian Rutledge series is one I hope you have been reading.  Not only is Rutledge an excellent character, through his investigations we get a good look at England post World War I.  A Fine Summer's Day however is a prequel showing us the country on the verge of that terrible war and Rutledge's background.

He is an inspector with Scotland Yard before the war and newly engaged to the beautiful Jean Gordon.  His sister and an older family friend try to warn him that Jean is not the woman for him and on occasion he has doubts himself but he loves her and she is thrilled to be planning their wedding.  She is also determined, as the daughter of a military officer, that he should enlist and go off to war like seemingly every other young man in England.  In her mind he would look handsome in a uniform and after a short time as a hero in glorious battle (of which she has no real concept), he would return to her and her social schedule.  Rutledge is a realist, doesn't believe there is a good reason for them to go to war, and has no intention of enlisting.

Meanwhile he is thoroughly caught up in a case his superiors order him to leave alone.  Several men have died, murdered, Ian thinks, even though one death at first sight seems like suicide. There are similarities in that most have consumed a glass of milk shortly before dying.  All are reputable men with no apparent reason to commit suicide and don't seem to have any connection.  However, the connection must be there and Rutledge is determined to find it before any more men are killed.

I enjoyed this story but even more I liked seeing the patriotic fever overcoming England as war becomes more definite.  Even Rutledge's investigation is affected as young Scotland Yard and police department men rush to enlist and no matter what needs to be done there is a shortage of personnel to do it.  And of course the reader knows how many of those young men will never see England again and how many will return maimed.  

This is a wonderful addition to a superior series.

Highly recommended
Source:  HarperCollins 

Friday, January 9, 2015


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I've been having a hard time deciding how to review this book.  The author (writing under a pen name here) has been a foreign correspondent for a British newspaper and has written eight nonfiction books, but I believe this must be his first effort at fiction.  In my opinion, he would do much better concentrating on nonfiction.

The sad thing is that there is a good story in here.  Unfortunately, I was too distracted by all the mistakes in my print edition to concentrate.  For instance, the hero is sometimes called Wilkins and at others he's Wilkinson.  When the protagonist's name isn't consistent, you can imagine what other errors have made it into the final print version.  Some can be explained by the translation from one computer program to another, but most are grammar, spelling, leaving out words or alternately leaving in words that were obviously supposed to be deleted.  If you have an inner frustrated English teacher like I do, this isn't a book for you.

The hero is a flawed character but basically a good man and I liked him.  He has gone to Pakistan to escape almost certain imprisonment in England but the former girlfriend he goes to see is a courageous aid worker determined to open schools for girls and keep them open despite Taliban attacks.  Sally is his opposite, so selfless and generous that she influences Wilkins.  

Since we know this story is "ripped from the headlines" as they say on "Law and Order," there is real fear for all of the characters in the book and frankly I was disappointed that it wasn't written by someone who could make the story come alive.  MacLean is knowledgeable, obviously knows Pakistan and the perilous situation there, but couldn't do justice to his story.

Not recommended
Source:  Meryl L. Moss Media Relations, Inc.

Thursday, January 8, 2015


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I, Anna is a difficult book to read and to review.  Every character in it is sad or downright depressed, they all have problems in their lives that have them wondering about suicide, and not one of them seems to have any fight left to face those problems.  Many times as I read the book I just wanted to slap them and say, "You're not the only one with bad times in your life."  Or the Joan Rivers in me would shout, "Oh just grow up already!"

The Anna of the title is a 50 year old blonde divorcee whose ex-husband has married a 32 year old woman.  Anna  Welles  lives with her daughter Emily in a small apartment where she alternately drives her daughter crazy feeling sorry for herself or goes to singles parties where she meets the same group of losers over and over again.  

At one of those parties she meets a particularly creepy man named George and goes home with him.  He is divorced and living with his son, who knows the routine and promptly goes out to find a place to sleep.  Anna smokes pot for the first time in her life and they dance to loud music before having sex.  By the time she leaves, George is dead but she thinks he has just passed out.  She has no memory of the evening at all.

A cop whose wife has just thrown him out for daring to suggest their 12 year old son is mentally ill and vicious is drawn into the murder case.  Bernie Bernstein is just about as depressing to read about as Anna and George.  The only difference is that he's still able to function - barely.

All of these people plus the other characters were so unlikable that reading the book was like pounding my head against the wall.  I just wanted it to stop.  But I persevered and finished it so I can say with authority my opinion of this one is to skip it unless you are just unbearably cheerful and need something to bring you down off the high.

Not recommended
Source:  Open Road Media via Netgalley

Tuesday, January 6, 2015


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Leigh Russell's Geraldine Steel series is one I can always count on for reading pleasure.  Her life has changed now since she has moved to London.  Working with a new team, a new office mate, and getting used to a new lonely apartment is unsettling enough, but then she gets a case that defies logic.  Meanwhile her former partner, Ian, meets her a couple times and she can tell something is wrong but he isn't ready to talk yet.  On the other hand, her office mate keeps inviting her out for a drink and they extend the drink into dinner.  And to top it all, her sister is hounding her to have her niece down to London for a weekend.  When she has to cancel, they simply don't understand.  Life is awfully complicated.

The case is a real puzzler.  First a young actress is killed and the killer disappears.  Another murder and again the killer disappears.  Despite video coverage they cannot spot anyone. Many of the characters are students at a drama school and the top suspect is a casting director who is about 60 but his lovers are normally very young actresses using him to get parts.  The current ones are the age of his son who is also a drama student.  These characters are, uh, dramatic and young so everything is earth-shakingly important to them.

I spotted the clue that told me who the murderer was way before the end but I loved reading on to see when Steel would catch on.  Meanwhile it was interesting to see how her relationships with her colleagues developed, particularly her partner, Sam, who isn't afraid to let her know she isn't delegating enough work.  It makes the others think she doesn't trust them to do the job and they're offended.  I like series where the main character grows and changes.  That's certainly the case in this one.

Highly recommended
Source:  Witness Impulse/HarperCollins

Thursday, January 1, 2015


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Some Randy Wayne White fans haven't been impressed by his Hannah Smith series but personally I love it.  Hannah comes from a historic Florida family.  She's a fishing guide and a private investigator too, having inherited her uncle's boat and business after he taught her everything he knew.  Hannah is at ease out of doors but she's also feminine and even a sometime lover of White's Doc Ford character.

As usual in a Randy Wayne White novel there are funny and strange characters but also some very real danger.  Think venomous snakes and murderous chimps, alligators and vicious humans.  You may just cancel that planned trip to Florida.

Hannah's friend Birdie, a deputy sheriff, introduces her to Birdie's wealthy aunt who hires Hannah to investigate a supposedly haunted house that sits on land the aunt has invested in. When Hannah and Birdie try to spend the night there, they discover the place is full of scorpions and that someone is watching them.  They meet a strange archeologist who is conducting a dig on the property.  He introduces them to people in a campground nearby and they turn out to be carnival people.  There is also a rumor of attacks by chimp-like animals from a snake venom business at the edge of the campground.  

I liked this different location and plot for the series.  Also, Hannah is researching her family's history and one great-great-great-uncle seems to be involved in Civil War crimes in this area. This is my favorite book of the series so far; I look forward to the further adventures of Hannah Smith.

Highly recommended
Source:  Amazon Vine