Monday, October 20, 2014

BLOOD ON THE WATER by ANNE PERRY

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This is the latest volume in the William Monk series, a series that never disappoints.  He is commander of the River Police and happens to be out on the Thames with one of his detectives when a party boat ahead of them suddenly explodes.  It is a night of horror as the pleasure boat was crowded and the only people with any hope of survival are out on the deck. Even if they manage to escape, the water is enough to kill them.  In Victorian England the Thames was a swill of sewage, bodies both human and animal, and God knows what else. Most people who had the misfortune of being dunked in the river died of disease or infection very soon.  The wealthy party goers below had no chance whatsoever.

He and his detective do their best to rescue people.  In the morning after cleaning up, they begin to work on the case.  This was no accident.  However, that very morning the case is taken away from them and given to a sort of special prosecutor who, how ever well meaning, knows nothing of the river.  Monk, his men, and his wife Heather keep trying to solve the case, and it becomes obvious to them that corruption in high places, perhaps involving the newly opened Suez Canal, is behind this awful crime.

Meanwhile, an Egyptian man is tried and convicted, sentenced to be executed, but then that is changed to life.  Since he is dying of disease anyway, why bother?  Monk is certain that this is the wrong man.  When he uncovers evidence of his claim, the case is reassigned to him.  What in the world is going on with the powers that be?  The answer is quite interesting.

Monk is in danger, both physical and professional, throughout.  That kept me turning pages, although I was sorry when I finished the book.  I like Anne Perry's England, a time of hints of change shining through Victorian mores.  Hester Monk is a brave, intelligent woman, generous to the teenage orphan they've taken in and a loving wife to Monk.

If you like historical mysteries, you would do well to try this series.  You'll be so glad you did.

Highly recommended
Source:  LibraryThing win

Saturday, October 18, 2014

GOEBBELS: A BIOGRAPHY by PETER LONGERICH

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Originally I was told this biography was to be published October 14th but now I see it won't be out until May 2015.  Since the print edition will be 992 pages long and this book is dense with facts of history, I can see why it might take longer to publish.  Still, it is available to pre-order now.  If you are at all interested in the Third Reich, this is well worth the time to read.  

Author Peter Longerich is a professor at Royal Holloway College of the University of London. He was aided by a group of psychoanalysts in Hamburg, Germany since his major source was Joseph Goebbels' own diaries written for publication.  Therefore, how to tell the truth from the man's delusions of glory.  I can't imagine the difficulties Longerich faced in trying to sort out other accounts and documents to get at the true story.  Where he can't do that, he reminds readers that the information is based only on the diaries.

Goebbels began keeping a diary in 1923 and stayed with it until his death in 1945.  There are 32 volumes of them.  He was born in 1897 and by the time he began his first diary he was poor, unemployed, an unsuccessful writer, and in a failing relationship with a woman.  He was lame from being born with a clubfoot and needed an orthopedic device to walk.  Yet he saw himself as a bit of a Don Juan.  There would be a series of affairs with women the rest of his life, even during his marriage.  After he became director of propaganda for the Nazi Party and close to Hitler, he doesn't seem to have realized that a big part of his attraction to women was the power they assumed he had.

He went to college to avoid military service and his studies led to a crisis of his Roman Catholic faith.  He finally discovered the Nationalist Socialist movement and writing for its publications began to build a reputation among its members.  It was only in 1924 that he found Hitler, and if that sounds like "he found God," that's because it was that kind of an experience for him.  He idolized Hitler for the rest of his life. Although they didn't always agree, Hitler always had the last word.  Goebbels never understood Hitler's political maneuvering.  

Meanwhile, his anti-Semitism had taken over his life.  Such a man who fails at everything he tries but has an ego as big as all Germany must find a scapegoat to blame.  In Goebbels' case it was the Jews and it became a consuming belief.  Anti-Semitism wasn't uncommon in Europe at the time but few people were radically against the Jews.  Goebbels took his bigotry to the height of truly believing the future of Europe depended upon ridding the continent of Jews.  He even called President Franklin Delano Roosevelt a Jew and head of a Jewish conspiracy.  We can see the fallacy in his thinking but he absolutely believed his own propaganda.

That is one thing I came to understand as I read this biography.  Goebbels was taken in by his own lies.  When Hitler came into power in Germany, one of the first things they did was take control of the press and radio.  Goebbels told the newspaper editors what they could and could not publish, and then basked in the effusive reporting of his own speeches and rallies.  

One other item of interest to mention since I can't possibly include everything fascinating about this man is that Hitler also fell in love with Magda, Goebbels' wife, and spent much time alone with her.  The Goebbels had six children together, all given names that begin with H, and all of whom were taught to adore Hitler.  Longerich seems convinced that somehow Magda was a wife to both men and I had the impression that at least some of the children might have been Hitler's.  Meanwhile, Magda was a very unhappy woman who wanted to have a position in government, but was forced by both men to remain wife and mother. They told her it would be highly inappropriate for her to have any other job.  She was never reconciled to this, but her poor health would probably have prevented her from fulfilling her wishes anyway.  At the end, she and her husband killed all six children before taking their own lives after Hitler and Eva Braun had committed suicide.  They believed life after Hitler wouldn't be worth living, even though Hitler had named Goebbels as his successor.

I wish I could go on and on with revelations from this wonderful biography.  I began reading it in hopes of understanding why Goebbels became such a monster.  At this point I do have more of an understanding than I did previously, but realize that there is just no way I would ever be able to fully understand the path his life took.  I also learned quite a bit about Hitler despite the fact that I've been reading about him and his Nazi Party for years.  This was another side of him that I hadn't seen before.

Highly recommended for history buffs
Source:  Random House/Netgalley

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

PREY OF DESIRE by J. C. GATLIN

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In the Prologue of this scary novel we are witness to an accidental death and a horrific murder that gives me the creeps just to remember it.  Obviously the murderer in this story is obsessed with something and not real attached to reality.

The tale continues more than 20 years later with another killing that seems totally unrelated except for the way it's done.  A young man is the victim, killed while using a pay phone to talk to the girlfriend he regrets breaking up with.  He of course doesn't show up to see her but she refuses to believe he has run off.  Her best friend, a beautiful neighbor who cares more about sexy clothes and expensive gifts than her friend's missing boyfriend, tries to talk her into dating a shrink but he keeps standing her up.  She isn't interested anyway.  

Throughout the book I was relieved that the main character has a Doberman named Zeus who is of course protective of her.  Most of the time she doesn't believe she's in danger and I kept talking to her (out loud) about her lack of brains.  She's a college student and yet she acts too bubble-headed to be real to me.  

There are several candidates for the title of creepy bad guy here and actually I dismissed him as fairly harmless but the big clue was staring me right in the face.  Maybe I shouldn't be so quick to call someone else bubble-headed, eh?

I have a hard time coming to a decision about Prey of Desire.  I suppose the modus operandi here is clever for a mystery writer but I struggled with it, still do actually.  I've already mentioned my difficulty with the main character too but on the other hand if she hadn't acted as she did, there wouldn't be much of a story to tell.

Recommended with caveat about method of murders
Source:  Partners in Crime Book Tours  

Friday, October 10, 2014

AN INTIMATE MURDER by STACY VERDICK CASE



Catherine O'Brien and her partner Louise Montgomery are the bickering, immensely funny feature characters in this series.  They are police department detectives in St. Paul, MN but this reminds me of cozy set in London with the odd characters and the plot.  Catherine is married and thankfully has a patient and loving husband who only gets upset at her long hours on the job when she's in danger.  Louise is beautiful, enough so to distract both other cops and witnesses, but she's the one who is calm and tactful.

In this story a couple have been murdered in their own home and their college age son came home to find them dead.  A neighbor is looking after him until relatives can take him away from the scene.  The wife was stabbed in the living room but strangely enough the husband was shot in the attic where he kept his prized train sets.  No defensive wounds on either.  Then there is a crazy niece and a suspicious looking sister and brother-in-law.  Inherited money is an issue and there is the matter of the death of a wealthy grandmother in upstate Minnesota several years earlier.  

Neighbors they question are hilarious, for instance the one who thinks she's cracked the case but gives them such a vague description of the car she saw that it could be any car in town. She claims not to be nosy but has binoculars on the windowsill and knows everything about everyone on the block.  We all know the type and that's what makes it so funny.  They have the usual problems with the media too which is a hindrance. 

Reading any book in this series is like settling down with old friends who tell great stories.  I know I'll have a good time when the author is Stacy Verdick Case.  If you aren't already a fan, you will be if you read An Intimate Murder.

Highly recommended
Source:  Author via Netgalley 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

TO DWELL IN DARKNESS by DEBORAH CROMBIE

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Deborah Crombie fans won't need me to tell them that a new Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James mystery novel is out today.  I've grown very fond of the regular cast of characters in this series and the plot is always a great one.  No question then.  Go out and buy it; you won't be disappointed.

As usual Duncan and Gemma's combined family has a large part in the story.  The children find a moma cat and four kittens locked in a shed.  They bring them home where the animals thrive and work their way into everyone's hearts, except of course for the cat whose home they've taken over.  

Meanwhile, Gemma is searching for definitive evidence against a young man who she is sure has sexually assaulted and killed a 12 year old girl.  Duncan has been transferred to Holborn Station and worries that Gemma's recent promotion and his transfer are very suspicious.  He has problems adjusting to a new team, but then someone burns to death at St. Pancras Station and he is in charge of the investigation.  There's no time to be worrying about personalities for the duration.

We meet a group of protesters who were on scene, expecting one of their members to set off a smoke bomb.  Melody's boyfriend Andy and his musical partner Poppy were performing there at the time as well.  Unfortunately their manager is seriously injured by what is not a smoke bomb but rather a white phosphorous grenade.  Melody is slightly injured.  The scene is chaotic.

As usual, Crombie has written a terrific page-turner that leaves you feeling a little breathless, and certainly expecting a sequel.  The next one promises to be extremely intriguing.  Can't wait.

Highly recommended
Source: William Morrow/HarperCollins

Thursday, September 18, 2014

FINAL JEOPARDY by LINDA FAIRSTEIN

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Talk about a weird day.  ADA Alexandra Cooper awakens one morning to a headline which announces her death.  There is an explanation for the mistake.  She had allowed a sort of friend, gorgeous movie star Isabella Lascar, to use her Martha's Vineyard home for a getaway. Under the impression Lascar wanted to be alone, Cooper is surprised to learn that a man had been there with her.  No one knows who he was.

This is an old volume in the series, a lucky find at a book sale.  I like Fairstein so it was a no-brainer to pick up one I hadn't read.

Fairstein knows exactly what Cooper's job is since she herself worked for years as the head of Manhattan's Sex Crimes Unit.  Of course this isn't a normal case for her as it involves her current boyfriend, her friend, and her home.  No one knows if perhaps Cooper was the intended target, although Lascar had many enemies, so Homicide Detective Mike Chapman is assigned to protect her.  They have worked together many times and have a great relationship, along with daily challenges on the final question of television program "Jeopardy."  They bet $10, $20 and they are pretty evenly matched in their knowledge of trivia.

The media hounds Cooper relentlessly.  She must go to Martha's Vineyard to aid in the investigation while trying to keep up with her work and yet be protected from possible killers. So, the restrictions force her to assign another lawyer to review new cases and assign them to others in the office.  She makes unusual requests of her secretary to avoid being inundated by phone calls she can't or won't take.  The media is foisted off on the public relations department. 

One person she does keep in touch with besides her close friends is a neighbor down the hall from her apartment, Dr. David Mitchell.  (That amuses me since it is my husband's name but he isn't a doctor.)  He is a psychiatrist with a Weimaraner and I was highly suspicious of him, along with several other possible suspects.  I did figure out some of the plot, but for the most part I read fast while I worried about Cooper.

This is a good read, but lock the doors and windows before you read it.

Highly recommended
Source:  Book Sale

Thursday, September 11, 2014

THE RED BOOK OF PRIMROSE HOUSE by MARTY WINGATE

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I shall have to go back and read earlier books in this series.  Texan Pru Parke is the head gardener of Primrose House in England, just about an hour out of London.  She has been hired to restore the gardens there to their original glory as designed by the famous Humphry Repton. It is a job she has dreamed of all her life, but there are problems of course.  For one thing, Davina Templeton the owner keeps leaving little notes for Pru, conveniently when she's on her way out of town, making suggestions for the garden which are alternately absurd and absolutely impossible.  She has also set the date for an open garden day of July 30 and Pru is not at all certain the work can be finished by that time.

The red book is something Repton did for each garden he designed.  His text and watercolors become Pru's entertainment and guide both.

Meanwhile, Pru has fallen in love with Detective Chief Inspector Christopher Pearse who lives and works in London and they are becoming increasingly dissatisfied with mere weekends together.  When one of her gardeners is murdered at Primrose House, Pearse is terribly worried about Pru, especially since he knows she won't be content with letting the police handle the investigation.  Sure enough, she has her nose in every aspect of it and makes herself a target for the murderer.

The characters in this cozy mystery novel are great fun.  I think that's my favorite thing about reading a cozy, something I don't do nearly often enough.  One side story has Pru looking for relatives of her British mother and introducing characters I'm sure will be regulars in the series. Want to learn something about those wonderful gardens at manor houses in England?  This is your book.

Recommended
Source:  Alibi (Random House) from Netgalley