Tuesday, December 30, 2014
We all seem to be fascinated with the Bloomsbury Group, Virginia, Vanessa, Thoby, and Adrian Stephen and an assortment of Thoby's friends from Cambridge. Their story is told here by Priya Parmar in a series of vignettes, a bit like diary entries, from Vanessa's point of view.
Thus we see Virginia Woolf always in sympathy but frequently in exasperation by her sister "Nessa" who loved her dearly but always had to keep in mind the state of Virginia's mental health. Virginia was unstable all her life and her siblings grew all too familiar with the signs that a mad spell was about to come upon her.
Virginia not only loved Nessa but was almost totally dependent on her. Jealousy reared its ugly head whenever Vanessa was the object of someone's else attention or admiration, particularly when Clive Bell began to court her. After Vanessa married him, Virginia seduced him into a platonic relationship simply because she couldn't stand his being in love with Vanessa. She most likely would have made it a physical relationship as well except that she had no interest whatsoever in sex.
Vanessa was an artist and yet in the Bloomsbury crowd her artistic achievements and talent were pretty much overlooked because she didn't demand attention like Virginia did. Bell was a rare exception, realizing that she had a real gift.
Thoby died young of typhoid fever and since he had been the leader of the group and much of what they did together, they were all devastated. The house where the siblings lived together for so long became a place for them all to mourn together. Their butler, Sloper, didn't approve of their life because the young women would gather in the evenings with the men without a chaperone. Their half brother, George Duckworth, handled their money and highly disapproved of their bohemian lifestyle. He was particularly upset that the girls weren't looking for husbands.
The discussions in that house must have been wonderful. Parmar writes in a style I would imagine is how they spoke, i.e. Parmar writes of words sprinting through the room. She also shows a ferry ticket showing arrival in England from France rather than just writing that Vanessa had come home.
I came to have great admiration for Vanessa Bell. She was the soul of patience with Virginia, tried her best to control her sister's most destructive mad spells and to see that she ate. After her son Julian (Thoby's first name) was born, Clive was unfaithful and made no real effort to hide it. Vanessa in our time would probably have divorced him but in that age she remained faithful to him for many years, trying only subtly to stop his affairs. Her art was her life's consolation.
This is an easy reading, delightful book that gave me a better understanding of the Stephen siblings than an earlier biography of Virginia did.
Source: Ballantine/Random House via Netgalley
Sunday, December 28, 2014
Reading this book from my "book bucket list" was a Christmas treat for myself. I've had it on my EReader for a long time just waiting for a little spare time. It's one of those classics people like to claim they've read when they really haven't. I was interested because it begins at the time when Napoleon escaped from the Island of Elba and marched into France to regain control of the country, temporarily as it turned out.
You must accustom yourself to the flowery, yet formal prose and stilted dialogue which fits the time of the story and of fiction when it was written. Personally I didn't find those things any detriment because this is quite a good story with excellent characters. Of course there are coincidences that are a bit of a stretch, and plot devices that wouldn't fly in modern times, but I found them easy to overlook in my delight in the story.
The count himself is of course the best depicted character of all. He is initially a 19 year old sailor who has applied himself well to learning his trade and who is deeply in love with the girl he is about to marry. Edmond Dantes is on the brink of wonderful things, not least of which is his pending wedding to Mercedes. Such a promising young man generates jealousy though and he has innocently made two enemies. These two men forge a letter implicating him in the conspiracy to help Napoleon and he is sent to prison. Soon he is in a dungeon and all but forgotten except for Mercedes, his elderly father, and his former employer, Mr. Morrel.
His years of imprisonment and the intricate plot he follows to get revenge on the people who were responsible make up the bulk of the book, but the point of it all is the emotions that sustain him until he escapes and then how the years of obtaining revenge that he believes he is due affect him. His plans are fascinating, even cringe-worthy at times but always understandable because we know exactly what he endured in that dungeon.
I'm so happy that I finally can cross this book off that bucket list and have the memory of it for my life. I find myself thinking about it again and again as the days pass. It's one of those books that stay with you; there's just so much to think about.
Source: Free download
Thursday, December 18, 2014
This is my second Steven Gore novel but won't be my last. His hero, Harlan Donnally, is a cerebral former cop with a highly developed sense of right and wrong. Add in a pinch of action and danger and you have a satisfying read with a great story and characters who actually think about important issues.
Israel Dominguez is the subject of the plot in this one. He has spent 20 years on death row for the murder of a gang rival. Now he is nearing execution and the judge who presided at his original trial has admitted his doubts to his friend Donnally that Dominguez was actually guilty. Gang wars and the passing of time haven't cleared up anything of what happened, but Judge McMullin can't bear to just let it go.
An alternate plot line concerns dementia. Donnally's fater, a Hollywood producer familiar to anyone who has read earlier books, is showing signs of it and so is Judge McMullin. As each faces the inevitable in his own way, the emotional toll on Donnally gives this story depth that you normally don't find in a mystery novel. I like the relationship between Donnally and his girlfriend as well. This is an adult committed partnership not based on lust, but not lacking it either.
I really must read Gore's other novels. This is an author who provides thoughtful plots and characters to engage my mind.
Source: LibraryThing win
Friday, December 5, 2014
I've been reading Patricia Cornwell's Kay Scarpetta series for many years. I feel like I know Scarpetta and the other regular characters personally so I always look forward to their next adventure. One of the characters though has always stretched my powers of belief too far. Scarpetta's niece Lucy is just too brilliant, too rich, too strong, too everything. Everyone else has faults that make them believable.
In Flesh and Blood Lucy is acting strangely and suspiciously, and it begins to look like someone is trying to frame her for a series of murders. Of course Lucy isn't talking to anyone about her obvious problem so no one can help but Scarpetta is about the only person really confident that Lucy isn't involved in something illegal.
Scarpetta and her husband, FBI profiler Benton Wesley, are scheduled to leave for a Miami vacation when a man is killed in his driveway by a sniper far away. Investigating this and other murders leads the team to a real estate company run by a politician. One of the company's employees keeps tailing Kay and Benton and seems to know too much about them, even the condo Benton has rented for their vacation. No clues are left with the victims except fragments of copper and in one body a complete bullet. Oddly, someone has placed seven shiny pennies on the wall around Scarpetta's back yard, each dated 1981, the year Lucy was born, and each facing the same way. Other items at murder scenes also show compulsive behavior.
In the end I was dissatisfied with this novel. I'm not saying it's a bad book. I don't think Cornwell could write a bad novel if she worked at it. What I am saying is that this one is a disappointment. Scarpetta and Marino are caught in an enormous traffic jam for too long (although since they're in Boston I understand) and are simply getting messages from others about ongoing investigations. Throughout the story Scarpetta seems not to be part of the action and Benton is obviously keeping secrets from her.
It's an intricate puzzle that took some work on my part to keep up with and in the end I didn't feel like it was all wrapped up. I didn't feel like Cornwell played fair with the identity of the killer either although I can't say why for fear of a spoiler. My advice? If you are a die-hard fan, you'll probably read this one to keep up with the characters but if you aren't, read any other book in the series rather than this one.
Recommended only for Scarpetta fans
Tuesday, December 2, 2014
Match Play is a debut novel by an artist who is, I believe, a new talent to watch. Not for the faint-hearted, this novel features an obsessive/compulsive killer who chooses his victims at random, making him that much more difficult to catch.
The only thing tying his victims and their locations across the U.S. together is the LPGA Tour. The women he selects are golfers but not the recognizable professional golfers on the tour. Necessarily, they must live alone.
The killer has a well-thought-out plan which involves the golf game of match play. You don't need to know much about golf to understand what he's doing since you'll catch on as he goes along. It is however creepy enough to make you suspicious of strangers for quite some time.
I should warn you that mutilation of the victims is a vitally important part of this madman's m.o.
When he learns which FBI agent is leading the investigative team, he turns his activities personal, as in a match play game between the two of them. The agent, Lou Schein, is frustrated in his attempts to catch the villain before he can kill again. The reader is head of him all the way and the back story of who the killer is and why he became the man he is makes this an unusual and engrossing novel.
I do hope Poppe will continue to write fiction. He's trying this later in life than most writers but he has demonstrated an ability to write a compelling plot with well-drawn characters.
Source: Partners in Crime Book Tours
Saturday, November 29, 2014
Escape the Night was originally published in 1983 and is now available as an e-book. I suggest that you add it to your e-book collection but save it for when you have some time to devote to it. I promise you won't want to put it down for long. I just had to know what would happen.
The story is about obsession and involves three generations of a family who own a publishing company in Manhattan. John Peter "Black Jack" Carey is the force who brought control of the company solely into his own hands. He's ruthless and fiercely devoted to his company. His wife endures years of emotional abuse but produces two sons, Phillip and Charles. These sons are prodded into competing with each other for favored status in their father's mind and, most importantly his will. Phillip, however, is weak and Charles is the golden one. Also Charles marries a beautiful woman and they have a son, John Peter Carey II, who is practically a clone of his father. Charles adores him, and in old age so does his father. Phillip is left as a pathetic also-ran.
The obsession begins when Charles unfortunately comes under the notice of the HUAC because they believe he is publishing leftist writers, and actually he is prescient in recognizing new talented writers who may have ideas that don't exactly mesh with what the HUAC sees as proper. He doesn't back down but eventually the HUAC backs off, except for the investigator who was assigned to their case. He is later fired and moves to the CIA where he learns more effective spying techniques. Another man is obsessed with the company and particularly Black Jack because his father committed suicide due to Black Jack refusing to rehire him. He is yet another danger.
I may have told a little too much, but I won't tell more because the last thing I want to do is ruin your enjoyment of this intricately plotted, beautifully written novel. Patterson is best known perhaps for his courtroom dramas and I have loved the ones I've read, but this is totally different. It is, I think, the best of his work that I have thus far encountered.
The characters, not just the family but the others as well, are portrayed just stereotypically enough to fit the plot and add to the fear factor. The evil ones are truly evil and one positively insane, but sometimes you know you just have to go with the flow and enjoy the read for what it is. If you do that, you'll be on tenterhooks for sure.
I read this during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, and was prompted to be very thankful that I'm not a member of a powerful family, nor do I have wealth that anyone else would covet. I'm just a reader who can become involved with a good story and when I'm finished, go on to something else, but only after a little period of relishing what a good story it was.
Source: Open Road Media via Netgalley
Friday, November 21, 2014
This is a fun read with more than a little history in it. If the word history puts you off, I hasten to explain that this book is never ever boring. I'm bursting to tell you what makes it so much fun but that would spoil the read for you, so mum's the word.
The main character in the story is Giovanni Fabrizzi, expert restorer of old paintings. He learned the skill from his father and in turn passed it on to his son. The family is of course Italian, but Giovanni is based in London while his son runs the Italian studio. For decades Giovanni had a beloved studio in an old building in Soho Square but had been forced by his clients' insistence to move into a large, impersonal, secure building where he has to carry a paper that lists all the codes to gain access to his own studio. Even there, he has to use codes to open up the two storerooms, one housing his current work and the other for other paintings.
In search of a painting that would be an appropriate wedding gift for a client to give his son, Giovanni finds a portrait in a crate that his father had shipped to him some time ago. The subject turns out to be Count Marco Lorenzo Pietro de Medici. Yes, those Medici's. As you can see by the cover, the young man was handsome and proud, perhaps arrogant. There is a claim that this unsigned portrait was actually painted by Botticelli.
Giovanni's life has been in turmoil ever since his wife died. She was his true soul-mate and he mourns her every day although she has been gone for several years, and nearly a year ago he had married a much younger, beautiful woman. His marriage is suffering because of his sadness and he is unable to complete a restoration he has promised by a certain date.
He becomes obsessed with learning the true origin of the portrait. As he seeks out information we learn about the theft of European art by the Nazi's and how many of the paintings they seized were never returned to the Jewish families who owned them. We learn the strange story of this particular painting and of its various owners through the years. But since this is mostly told as stories in conversation, it's never dry reading. I felt like I was listening to a wonderful storyteller.
Source: IRead Tours
Monday, November 17, 2014
When I saw Sara Paretsky's name at a book sale, I automatically picked up the book. I had read all of her V. I. Warshawski series and loved every volume. This was a stand-alone: I put it in my bag, confident that it would be a great read. It turned out to have nothing to do with the bleeding Kansas of John Brown and the fight over whether Kansas would be a slave state or free. Okay, I thought, let's see what it is about and I'm glad I went ahead and read it.
The story concerns a farming community where three families have lived and worked the land for generations. The Grelliers, Jim, Susan, and their children Chip and Lara, love the land and try to be good neighbors. The Schapens, Myra the grandmother, Arnie the father whose wife left him, and sons Junior and Robbie are avid adherents of a church that makes fundamentalist churches look downright liberal. In between the Grelliers and the Schapens is the Fremantle house. Old Mrs. Fremantle has died and a relative, Gina Haring, moves in. Haring claims to be wiccan and she brings along her friend, a woman who runs a store in town that sells all kinds of suspicious things connected with wiccans.
Gina Haring's appearance sets off a kind of war. A lesbian who celebrates strange holiday rituals? Myra's blog (that everyone reads even if they won't admit it) is full of ridiculous claims. Then a Schapen cow gives birth to a red calf and city ultra-orthodox Jewish elders arrive and say it's the perfect calf for a ceremony to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem, the Schapen family has visions of wealth beyond belief.
All of this plus a teenage bully, a handicapped boy, young people in a forbidden love results in an explosive atmosphere that you know will have a bad ending. As much as I love the V.I. Warshawski series, this is my favorite Sara Paretsky novel.
Maybe it's because I'm from the Midwest (not Kansas), the characters are familiar ones to me. Well, except for the Schapens who are an exaggeration of midwestern types to make a point. Paretsky grew up in Kansas and she remembers those people clearly.
Source: book sale
Saturday, November 15, 2014
Tehran, a city that inspires many emotions in Americans, mostly a mixture of fear and curiosity. It was the latter that made me enter the LibraryThing contest to win a copy of this novel. It is written by a man who was born in Iran and currently splits his time between Tehran and New York City where he teaches creative writing.
His hero is Reza Malek, the year is 2008, and Malek's best friend has just asked him to return to Tehran. Malek is a teacher in NYC who also works in Iran as a translator for media. He and Sina Vafa went to college together in California where their fathers had taken them to escape the violence of Iran. From there the two men took opposite paths as Vafa became radicalized. Now Vafa is in over his head and needs Malek's help.
The story is about the love of friends, and of mothers and sons set against the reality that is Tehran and the streets of New York. Thanks to his friend, Malek is reunited with his mother who had supposedly run away with a lover when he was a boy. Also thanks to Vafa, Malek is caught up in the corrupt and frustrating system that passes for government, all the while in danger and trying to get his mother out of the country.
Friends in NYC and politics at the college where he teaches, illustrate that violence lives there too but life is so much better. Those friends prove to Malek that there is still an American dream to be had.
This is a rare occasion when I feel my words are inadequate to express what depths exist in Salar Abdoh's fiction. I felt as though I were with Malek in Tehran and for that matter in NYC as well. The characters drew me into this exotic story.
Source: LibraryThing win
Friday, November 14, 2014
I've been on quite a world tour recently, ancient Egypt, South Africa, London and Italy, but none of those excellent books have set me quite so firmly in their setting as this mystery which occurs in a village called Campiglio in the Italian Alps. It's based on a real village which fills with tourists in winter for the beautiful views and wonderful ski slopes. The author knows the place well. Although he now lives in New Mexico, he spent many years in Italy for the Foreign Service.
Rick Montoya is Wagner's hero for this story, a man who is half Italian, half American and has a translating business in Italy. His uncle is a high-ranking police officer in Rome who would like nothing more than to attract Montoya to law enforcement.
The story begins with Montoya in Campiglio with his old friend Flavio for a week of skiing and good food. His plans are almost immediately disrupted though by the appearance of a police inspector investigating the disappearance of an American who is a banker in Italy. The man's sister is also in town and she doesn't speak Italian so Inspector Albani needs a translator. He has been referred to Montoya by, who else, his uncle.
You'll not be surprised to find that the two will investigate the disappearance together as it turns into a homicide case. In between delicious-sounding snacks and meals and wine, they interview the townspeople, including the mayor who is running for re-election, his opposing candidate who runs a bakery, a realtor and a hotel owner who have a big stake in the outcome, and others. Montoya also gets in a lot of skiing and Wagner's description of the slopes and the views made me want to call an airline immediately. I also found myself craving Italian food.
The plot is interesting but the main appeal of Death in the Dolomites is the setting and the characters. I was charmed by both, enough so that I was unhappy when the book ended. It was altogether a very satisfying read, one that I hope will be followed soon by another episode in the series. I will also seek out Wagner's first Rick Montoya book, Cold Tuscan Stone.
Source: Partners in Crime Book Tours
Sunday, November 9, 2014
Two years ago I read the novel 7 Days by Deon Meyer in which I was introduced to South African Captain Benny Griessel of the Hawks, the police department's top homicide unit. I remember him well, along with all of his personal problems, alcoholism being the most threatening to his life and career. Now a member of AA, divorced and recently having moved in with his girlfriend (also an alcoholic in AA), he is faced with one of the toughest criminal cases of his career. At the same time he is struggling with an intimate issue that he is unable to discuss with anyone. It forces him to sleep in the office frequently. When he appears rumpled and bleary-eyed in the morning, his colleagues assume he has fallen off the wagon.
Poor Benny. I know it isn't professional to write of him by his first name but Benny got under my skin two years ago and is still there. I simply think of him as Benny, an indication of what a strong character Deon Meyer has created in this series. His other characters are just as real and well depicted.
In this book we also meet a young pickpocket, Tyrone Kleinbooi, who is putting his sister through university. She wants to become a doctor and he is determined to give her that opportunity. He has been picking pockets since he was 12. Actually stealing is so ingrained in him that at one point when he is in desperate need of a cell phone, he wastes quite a bit of time trying to steal one before the sudden realization that he could just buy one. What a concept! I liked this young man very much for his good heart, and I worried terribly about him as he was caught up in Benny's case.
The killer in this story is one of the most amoral men you'll find in fiction. He kills without hesitation, without pity, without any thought except that the victim is somehow in between him and his goal. He is a killer for hire so his goal is to do his job, escape from the scene, and get paid. As the police identify him and learn his background there is an explanation for how he became such a deadly person but no real understanding.
No wonder it creates an almost overwhelming thirst in Benny even after more than 400 days sober. Can he overcome the need? Can he solve his personal problems, save Tyrone and his sister, and put this killer away? The story captured my attention and never let go. Deon Meyer is a great mystery writer with a wonderful character in Benny Griessel. I look forward to Benny's next case.
Source: Amazon Vine
Tuesday, November 4, 2014
Prolific author Wilbur Smith has added to his Egyptian series with this adventure novel about a eunuch and his brilliant schemes to defeat the Hyksos people. They had taken over the northern section of the land along the Nile which forced the Egyptian pharoah and his people to the south. The Hyksos are a warlike people considered by the Egyptians to be below contempt in their crude way of life.
Taita is a eunuch who raised the young current pharoah and his sisters. He deeply loved their mother and promised to watch over them. He is shrewd, learned, knows many languages, is physically strong and accomplished at many things. He congratulates himself constantly, in fact, for his superiority. The young sisters adore him and one of his few failings is that they have him wrapped around their little fingers.
A mounting problem is that Egypt is in dire need of money. Taita learns that the Supreme Minos of Crete will be sending a vast treasure to his ally the Hyksos and he devises a plan to grab the money and fool everyone into thinking another country is responsible. Meanwhile, to his consternation the elder sister has fallen in love with one of his favored military men, but the girls must be offered as brides to the Supreme Minos as part of the plan.
The plan, of course, works brilliantly but there is much danger and need for Taita's clever inventions to overcome obstacles. Frankly I became weary of Taita and his bragging, but the story was engrossing. This is ancient Egypt after all so worship of various gods plays a large part in the plot; if you have forgotten, some of those gods are pretty frisky.
I wasn't wowed by Desert God but I must admit it's a good story which remains fully in that period of history with all its misconceptions. You are immersed in the life of the ruling families of the Middle East with a horrifying glance at the life of the slaves and the poor.
Wednesday, October 29, 2014
All Day and a Night is the latest Ellie Hatcher mystery novel and personally I think it's the best. Admittedly, I always think the last one I've read in a good series is the best and this is a good series. Burke creates great characters we can all relate to.
Ellie Hatcher is a cop who is living with a prosecutor and how she feels about it is sort of illustrated by the fact that she has yet to tell her mother. Her brother lives in her old apartment and covers for her. Prosecutor Max Donovan, her boyfriend, suddenly springs a new assignment on Hatcher and her partner J. J. Rogan. Hard to tell who is more unhappy about it.
The case involves correspondence insisting that Anthony Amaro who is serving life without possibility of parole (cop slang: all day and a night) is innocent. He had been convicted of one murder but assumed to have killed five women in Utica, NY. Now there has been another murder in New York City accomplished and staged identically. A highly publicity-conscious attorney has taken the case, and she has hired a lawyer to work the case with her. Carrie Blank also happens to be the sister of one of those victims. Why is she involved in trying to clear her sister's killer? In fact, she left a prestigious firm, a job most young lawyers would consider their ticket to a great future, to do this.
There are several characters in this book who fairly walk off the page and into your life. You can't help getting caught up in their struggles and feelings. That's a good thing for a reader but not if you want to solve the mystery before the reveal. I love Hatcher's relationship with her partner, and also the evolving relationship with Donovan. I laughed at the contrast between big city and small town as the city cops and lawyers converge on Utica investigating the old crimes.
This book will keep your interest up throughout. Don't miss it.
Source: Amazon Vine
Tuesday, October 28, 2014
Looking for a mystery novel with a charming hero and an intriguing plot, danger galore, and lots of motive for what happens? Add to the mix a beautiful private investigator, a billionaire, and the California coast and you have Detective Lessons.
Schmitty is the star of the story, a cop working harbor patrol which mostly means driving a boat 5 mph around the harbor intercepting drunk and/or stupid boaters to keep them from killing themselves. His partner is a woman on a career track, he is a guy whose future is iffy so he sort of drifts along, living in a loft over a collection of classic cars (not his), with a sort of pie in the sky dream of finding treasure. He's likable and honest, a good guy I cared about.
When he and his partner save the life of an older man, he recognizes him as Mac Whelan, father of a classmate in high school. The next day Whelan calls wanting to hire him to find his missing son. He's only been missing for 24 hours but that just doesn't happen and Whelan doesn't want to involve the police officially, for good reason as we soon discover. Schmitty takes a couple days off to find Jimmy Whelan, then discovers Whelan has also hired a P.I., Megan McCann, to partner with him. Hence, the detective lessons.
As you might imagine, the case turns out to involve more than just Jimmy disappearing, and it puts Schmitty and McCann into serious danger as well. As in all good stories, this one will change Schmitty's life. There are important consequences for everyone involved, so you finish it with satisfaction along with some sadness for the things people do to one another in life.
I hope you'll read Detective Lessons. Bill Larkin is a writer I'll continue to watch for and I kind of hope I'll encounter Schmitty again in a future book.
Source: Partners in Crime Book Tours
Monday, October 20, 2014
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.
Source: LibraryThing win
Saturday, October 18, 2014
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
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
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.
Source: Author via Netgalley
Tuesday, September 23, 2014
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.
Source: William Morrow/HarperCollins
Thursday, September 18, 2014
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.
Source: Book Sale
Thursday, September 11, 2014
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.
Source: Alibi (Random House) from Netgalley
Wednesday, September 10, 2014
This novel has received tons of publicity and praise, and rightly so. It attracted my interest because it is set in 1687 in Amsterdam. The history it tells was fascinating to me. For instance, I knew trade guilds originated in The Netherlands but was surprised to find that there was a stock exchange in Amsterdam as early as 1687.
The main character is Nella Oortman Brandt, bride of Johannes Brandt. He married her in her small town away from the city and promptly sailed away on business. She therefore arrives at her new home alone and is not very warmly welcomed by his stern sister and two servants. At merely 18 years old Nella feels lost and alone, and even when her husband finally comes home he pretty much ignores her. He makes no attempt to consummate their marriage. Meanwhile his sister rules the household with a strict Calvinist hand.
Society in Amsterdam is controlled by the church, but funded by trade. Johannes has a huge warehouse full of goods he brings from far away lands. As successful selling goods as he is in buying them, he is quite wealthy and his house illustrates this fact. As a wedding present he eventually brings Nella a sort of miniature house in a cabinet on a large base. It is a copy of their house. When she begins to order items to furnish it, the miniaturist seems to know everything that goes on in the house and also see into the future. It grows eerier and curiouser until Nella is freaked out. She tries unsuccessfully to meet the person. There is a woman who stares at her in public, but Nella can never catch up to her to find out why.
It turns out the Brandt house is full of secrets that Nella learns one by one and that require much of this young woman. I loved and admired Nella Brandt. You just can't help cheering for her as she stands up to adversity and as the people in her life grow to love her.
Source: Ecco Imprint, HarperCollins
Sunday, September 7, 2014
I'm a latecomer to the Harlan Coben bandwagon but here I am happily jumping on board. He's been on my radar for years but somehow I just never got around to trying one of his books until now. I had time to read something from my TBR uh pile (no mere shelf for this collection) and I grabbed this paperback from the top. So glad I did.
The story is about Acting Essex County (NJ) Prosecutor Paul Copeland and the tragedy of his life. He is raising his four-year-old daughter with the help of his late wife's sister and brother-in-law. He has political ambitions too, but overlying all of his life is the night 20 years earlier when his sister disappeared and although she was assumed dead, her body was never found. Four teenagers, two couples, had gone out into the woods from a summer camp, probably following that teenage malady, raging hormones. They didn't return. Two bodies were found, two of the four simply disappeared. Until now . . .
Copeland is taken by NY detectives to see if he can identify a body since the victim had information about Copeland in his pockets. He is astonished to see a resemblance to the young man who disappeared when his sister did. He remembers a scar, and sure enough there it is. That boy survived. Maybe Copeland's sister did too?
This leads him on a journey to the past. His parents broke up after that night and his mother left, never to return. His father mourned to his dying day. Copeland was inspired to become a lawyer, and treasured his wife and daughter. Going back those 20 years is heart-wrenching and someone else involved in the events of that night will return to his life. Meanwhile he is prosecuting two college students from wealthy families for the rape and beating of a young black stripper. As a result, someone is out to get him.
Fascinating characters, especially Copeland, and a fascinating story. I loved this book and the tangled family stories. Now to look in that pile for more Harlan Coben books.
Source: Book sale find
Tuesday, September 2, 2014
It takes only a few minutes with this wonderful book to realize a poet had a major part in the writing, so it was no surprise when I read about the authors and found that Fennelly is an award-winning poet. I started to mark passages that I would like to quote in my review but soon stopped. I would have had to quote nearly the entire book. I savored this one slowly because the writing was so beautiful even though I was anxious to find out how the story progressed.
The story is set in 1927 Mississippi in and near a little town called Hobnob. A young, naive woman, Dixie Clay, has come there to live with her new handsome husband in a lovely home. She looks forward to a happy life and many children, but such is not to be. Her husband, Jesse, is a phony, a liar, a bootlegger, and a womanizer. After Dixie Clay loses her first baby, she finds the still and takes over the moonshining despite the fact that she fears Jesse has murdered two revenuers and is practically living at whorehouses.
Dixie Clay is made of strong stuff so when investigating revenuers discover an orphaned baby boy, one of them takes the child to her. Ham and Ingersoll go on investigating and suspect Jesse but Ingersoll doesn't know that he has taken that precious baby to Jesse's wife nor that she is the actual moonshiner.
Complications multiply as the area is threatened with the greatest flood in that part of the Mississippi River. I've spent some time beside the Mississippi River so I recognized the feeling of the mud and the odor of that brown water that was so brilliantly described by these authors. Although I've never been there during flooding, I felt like I was wet and caught up in it as I read. The sensations are almost physical.
I missed Franklin's earlier hit book, Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter, but I'm determined to read it now. I've discovered a treasure in fiction.
Source: Amazon Vine
Monday, September 1, 2014
Bryan Stevenson is executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Alabama and teaches at NYU Law School as well. He was privileged to attend Harvard Law on scholarship as a young man but at first thought he hadn't chosen well. The courses he took just didn't seem meaningful to him. Then he did an internship in Georgia for a nonprofit working to free death row prisoners there who had been wrongfully convicted. He had a long conversation with one of those men that changed his life.
Suddenly the law meant something to him and he was committed to taking the right courses, working the right jobs, and following the right career path to devote his life to right injustices. It has been one of the most difficult careers he could have chosen but also immensely rewarding.
Stevenson tells this often heart-wrenching story through the stories of his clients, mainly that of Walter McMillian. Walter was a victim in every sense of the word. When a young woman was murdered in a dry cleaner's store, Walter was hosting a barbecue at his home with many guests and was seen by others as well who just happened to pass by. Yet he was arrested and put on death row prior to his trial. His story goes downhill from there if you can believe it. His family and his community supported him but they were black in the Deep South and the white establishment didn't intend to let the overwhelming evidence of his innocence prevail. It's quite a story.
You won't be surprised to learn that Stevenson is black too and his work has brought him into danger more than once, but he has persevered. He has many successes to his credit, returning not guilty death row prisoners to their loved ones and a free life. This book will upset your faith in the justice system but build hope that perhaps the Bryan Stevensons of this country will manage to change it. His clients don't always have the happiest of endings, Walter McMillian being an example, but they have a chance, which is a lot more than they ever had before.
An eminently readable book about a topic that should infuriate us all.
Source: LibraryThing win
Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Bloggers need to read this mystery novel ASAP. It's about a small group of bloggers who have had breast cancer. Each of them, after diagnosis, had felt terribly alone even though family and friends tried to help them. They turned to blogging and found friends who understood because it was their story too.
Then Meredith Heywood, the woman they all thought of as their sort of mother hen, dies suddenly. Everyone assumes it was cancer even though she hadn't yet confided in all of them that her cancer had returned and was terminal. Soon it is revealed that she was murdered. They all knew she would be alone that night because she blogged about it, along with possibly too many other details about her life. Could she have been killed by one of them?
We get to know each woman in the group, partly through excerpts from her blog. Most don't tell much about their real identity but now they worry about it even as they decide to attend her funeral. Only one, Jaycee, who hasn't really bonded that well anyway, declines to meet up with them. She does actually show up but they don't know what she looks like and she doesn't introduce herself. I kept suspecting one, then another, then another. Actually I didn't feel confident who the killer was until the end. Then of course it made perfect sense.
Anyone who blogs and has found a community of like-minded people who feel like close friends will understand the feelings of these women. And we all have those qualms occasionally about how much of ourselves we're revealing to the world. In my community of book bloggers most of us are quite open about our lives and I don't think that will change because of this book, but it does give me pause. Any intelligent person is aware that the internet can be a dangerous world. However, the friendships we have made within that community have been a blessing to us.
I also felt empathy and sometimes impatience with these characters because I too have cancer. I know how alone you can feel and that support groups are not the answer for everyone, so I was happy that blogging helped them as much as my online friends have helped me. Obviously, this story has more than one level as well as more than one suspect. I am so glad I read it and want all of my friends to read it too.
Tuesday, August 19, 2014
I have no idea what inspired me to order this ebook unless it was that I was thinking I should try different genres. It involves a heroine who slips through time. One second she's a graduate student at present day Exeter University in England, the next she's in the same place but inhabiting the person of a governess in 1846. The thing is - I really liked this story.
The characters won me over, especially the heroine, Meredith Blake. She's an American who comes to Exeter on a scholarship to study 18th century English fiction. She makes friends with another student from New Zealand and a young man from Australia, and meets her tutor, Peter Graham. Most of all she's enthralled with Edwards Hall which is a manor house that has been converted into a dorm. The food there is awful and thin walls make the noise bothersome, but the house itself fascinates her.
As she learns about the house and the people who lived in it as a family she has visions of a governess, a child, and the child's father. Then she goes back in time to when there will be a mysterious death. What if she interferes to try to stop that death? Will that change the present?
I liked the inclusion of the customs and ceremonies of student life and something about the architecture of the university buildings. At this time of year despite my advanced age I still wish I was heading back to school. I'm one of those people who could easily have been a professional student if the need to earn a living hadn't kept rearing its ugly head.
This is a good book for readers who love to read about time travel, and maybe not so much for those who don't, but I repeat: I liked it.
Source: Open Road Media via NetGalley
Monday, August 18, 2014
A few months ago I reviewed Christopher Meeks' earlier book called Blood Drama. It was a great little book about a guy who gets taken hostage by a group of bank robbers and then solves the case. It was funny and clever and I liked it a lot.
Now I've just finished another Meeks' book, A Death in Vegas, which again is a great little book about an innocent middle-aged guy who is unable to leave things to the police, only this time he is the prime suspect in a murder. I kept losing patience with Patton Burch (named after his mother's favorite general) but no way could I put the book down until I figured out who really killed Chatterly. She was living under an assumed name (no one could really be named Chatterly after all) and working as a trade show model for Burch's company booth. The company is BenBugs, provider of beneficial bugs for organic gardeners, and Chatterly was dressed as a ladybug as she attracted people to the booth.
Meanwhile, Burch's marriage seems to be falling apart and he is clueless as to why. He loves his wife dearly and doesn't want to lose her. That's one reason it is such a terrible dilemma when Chatterly dies in his hotel room. As the police close in on Burch, he runs and once again our hero attempts to solve the murder himself.
Will he figure out who murdered Chatterly, who she really was, and why she was hiding? Will Burch save his marriage? Or, will the FBI catch Patton Burch and lock him up? It's all great fun with lots of side issues to lead you down the garden path to an erroneous conclusion.
Source: Partners in Crime Book Tours
Saturday, August 16, 2014
If you have somehow never read one of Charles Todd's Bess Crawford series, you are missing out on a real treat. Bess is one of those heroines that I just immediately loved and rooted for even though occasionally wanting to scold her for taking risks.
She is a British nurse in World War I and she spends much of her time in France near the front lines. This is a military service in which the women are held to a higher standard of conduct than civilian women. They have a uniform and are subject to orders just like soldiers. Since it is early in the 20th century, women still lead restricted lives anyway, but the nurses represent England and as such need to remain above reproach. How Bess manages to solve murders in that sort of climate is largely due to her father's assistant Simon Brandon. Her father is apparently in military intelligence.
In this story Bess is assigned to accompany a wounded officer to Buckingham Palace where he is presented a medal by the king. She is responsible for him until an orderly picks him up at the hotel the next morning to return him to the rehabilitation hospital. She can't remain in his room overnight of course, but when she checks on him in the morning he has disappeared. Then she hears of a sighting of him at a bridge where a man is murdered. She is in big trouble; in fact she's in danger of being thrown out of the nursing service. Obviously this calls for an investigation and when Simon gets wind of it, he comes to help.
The story becomes more and more mysterious until it seems like they are following several soldiers on the run. I loved trying to work out the plot and wasn't disappointed at the end. Meanwhile, I learned about the care of wounded men in France and England, and how ordinary people lived in the countryside during that war.
One character in this book stands out. A man called Maddie cares for all the people in several villages in England. He seems a competent doctor but doesn't claim to be one and Bess is mystified by him. He lives alone very simply. What is his story?
I haven't read all the books in this series but I hope to eventually.
Monday, August 11, 2014
This is a fun little story about a young woman who owns a yoga studio, a homeless man, and a lovable but out of control German Shepherd. I even learned a bit about yoga along the way.
Kate Davidson is single, perhaps commitment-phobic, but concentrating on making a success of her business. Money is tight even though she has steady clients, good classes, and a team of part-time teachers. Then a problem shows up. George is a homeless man who sells a local paper called Dollars for Change and he's okay but his dog is a different matter. Bella goes ballistic at the sight of another dog, and she also hates men with beards. As Kate's yoga students are leaving class, Bella sees a tiny dog with one of them and the uproar brings Kate running out of the building to see what's wrong.
They find a solution for Bella and Kate actually makes friends with George, but then one day she finds him murdered in the parking lot. The police assume it was due to a drunken brawl but Kate knows better and sets out to find the murderer. Well, of course she gets herself in all kinds of trouble and misunderstandings. It's one of those stories where you are either laughing or saying, "Kate, you idiot. Don't do that!"
Her best friend, newly married, is determined to find a boyfriend for Kate which only adds to the fun. When you need a lighthearted quick read, and who doesn't occasionally, this is guaranteed to cheer you up. The characters are quirky, the plot is a good one, Kate is a heroine you'll love, and any dog lover will be captivated by Bella.
Source: Partners in Crime Book Tours
Saturday, August 9, 2014
Once again Marcia Clark has written a timely and worthwhile novel about ADA Rachel Knight and her friends. This one begins with a school shooting in which the body count outdoes Columbine or Sandy Hook, so be forewarned that this could be too hard for you personally to take. On the other hand, Knight and Bailey Keller, her investigator, consult frequently with psychiatrists as they try to stop the killers so there is much in this well worth your time to think about.
At first it seems the two shooters have committed suicide in the library trying to copy the Columbine shooters, but early on the police realize the bodies are not the shooters. They have somehow gotten away. They seem to be in competition with Columbine and Sandy Hook, possibly even the Aurora theater shooting. They obviously try to kill more people and escape to kill again. This unleashes a reign of terror with the media hot on the heels of the authorities who want to keep the most frightening facts quiet.
The plot is an exercise in frustration, particularly for Knight and Keller. They want desperately to stop the killers before they kill again, but not only do they not know where the shooters are, they aren't absolutely sure who they are.
I did appreciate the fact that Knight doesn't obsess so much about food and her privacy as she did in previous stories. She has enough to worry about with the case. Thankfully she also has her relationship with Graden on an even keel. Nice to have everyone happy in love while the plot takes center stage.
I have one little quibble about this series of four Rachel Knight books and that is the covers. Whoever chose the covers certainly didn't do Marcia Clark any favors. If I had been shopping in a book store, I wouldn't have selected these books simply because of the cover art which strikes me as cheapening the books. As it was, I took advantage of a deal on Netgalley and didn't even look at the covers until after I had received them.
Saturday, August 2, 2014
Before you ask, yes this author is from "that" Biddle family in Philadelphia. The family may be known mainly for finances and the Main Line, but Cordelia Biddle is an admirable historian and writer. Even if The Conjurer wasn't such a great story, it would be worth reading for its setting in Philadelphia in 1842.
From the very beginning the reader is in the middle of a mysterious disappearance. Two dogs wait faithfully beside the flooding Schuylkill River as it roars past carrying debris as large as trees. It is cold and the dogs shiver but refuse to leave the point where they last saw their master, Lemuel Beale. At the Beale mansion his 26 year old daughter Martha and his private secretary Owen Simms await his arrival for a meal.
The most interesting part of the book, and the most maddening to modern women, is the restricted life of the upper class woman contrasted with the hopeless life of the poor and/or black woman. You will be shocked at the fact of 11 year old prostitutes, many of whom had been sold by their fathers, and equally shocked at the way wealthy women lived, or rather existed. They had no say whatsoever in any aspect of their lives and had to obey strict rules of conduct and dress.
I was fascinated also by such historical tidbits as the story of Eastern State Penitentiary which is open to tourists now. Absolute silence was the rule. The men had an indoor cell and an outdoor one, but women only had indoor cells because they were thought to need protection from fresh air and weather. The stench in the place was terrible, partly due to sewage back-up during floods.
There is also the story of The Association for the Care of Colored Orphans created by some of the wealthy women of Philadelphia. They took in 60 orphans at a time and gave them clean quarters, basic education, and good food, but no toys.
The one objection I have to the book is that the solution to the several mysteries comes a little too abruptly as does transformation in major characters. This is a minor quibble though in an otherwise excellent novel.
Highly recommended ebook
Source: Open Road Media/Netgalley