Review: Search The Dark (Inspector Ian Rutledge #3) ~ Charles Todd

Search the darkA mind-damaged veteran comes home from the Great War to be told his wife and two children were killed in the bombing of London. Refusing to believe the news, or unable to, the man thinks he spots them on the platform of the station of a small town in Dorset. Then a woman’s body is found there, and Rutledge is sent by his jealous rival at the Yard to locate the children.

 

4 Thumbs-UpI came across this book by accident, hiding on my shelf and opened it to scan the first page; later that day I closed the cover and sat back feeling I have used my time wisely.

The main protagonist in this book and all the other in this series is a Scotland Yard policeman.  Newly returned from the Great War, he has his own personal demons to deal with as well as helping those who are also dealing with their demons from fighting in this war.  Add to that the stress of trying to find the criminals, and it could make for a very unstable and highly strung character but the Author manages to avoid this wonderfully.  Instead he uses this character as a vehicle to bring the reader’s attention to the unseen horrors that many carried with them when they returned home.  This character is vulnerable, unsure whilst at the same time being very capable of doing his job and bringing the wrongdoer to justice.  I felt for this character as I don’t usually do in a cozy mystery, and wished there was some way I could help him find peace in his life.  In this one character the Author managed not only to show the inner turmoil of those who returned from the fighting, but he also shows in the other people he encounters in his enquiries the change in society that had taken place while he was away.  These range from total indifference to the way these returnees were feeling and going through, to those who wanted to cosset them and keep them wrapped up from the hurts that may come their way in everyday and finally to the group of people who refused to believe that, mentally, their loved ones would never return to normal.  This book is not loaded down with a bunch of secondary characters which helps the book move along at a steady clip and keeps the reader on track to the end.

What an end it was.  This is the kind of book I love.  I thought I had spotted the bad guy, then no it took a twist, and another, then another until the end I had no idea who the real criminal was, and when the reveal came I was blown away as I never thought it was this person.  Add to this the feeling of flying down country roads in a little old car when horses and carriages were still in good use, and it all combines to the kind of book that I just couldn’t put down.

I highly recommend this book to lovers of cozy mysteries, and those who enjoy a great read that will keep you guessing until the end.  I will definitely be reading more in this series.

divider

Advertisements

Review: Black Cross (World War Two #1) ~ Greg Iles

black cross

The New York Times bestselling author of Spandau Phoenix offers another riveting novel–a blockbuster that sets forth an intriguing premise and answers a bewildering question. Fact: In 1945, Allied scientists combing the secret laboratories of the ruined Third Reich discovered a weapon that could have completely wiped out D-Day invasion forces. Why didn’t Hitler use it?  It is January 1944 — and as Allied troops prepare for D-day, Nazi scientists develop a toxic nerve gas that will repel and wipe out any invasion force. To salvage the planned assault, two vastly different but equally determined men are sent to infiltrate the secret concentration camp where the poison gas is being perfected on human subjects. Their only objective: destroy all traces of the gas and the men who created it — no matter how many lives may be lost…including their own.

5 Thumbs-Up

If you have a weak stomach, this is not the novel for you.  However, if you do decide to pass it over, you will be missing an incredible read.

What characters there are in this book, from real life to fictional, and all are woven together to create people who the reader will either be 100% with throughout, or really want to see them come to a grizzly end.  Despite them all been based in the WWII era, and everyone knows the outcome of this war, it doesn’t stop the reader from immediately connecting with anyone of a number of the principal players in this plot.  It does take some time to get to know the characters but the wait is well worth it and the journey to the reader learning about them and their motivations adds a great deal to the plot.  There really isn’t a great deal more I can say about the characters in this book without beginning to include spoilers in this review; one thing I will say though is that it was very refreshing to read some very strong female characters and to travel their path with them to its conclusion, and many times the ‘who will you choose?’ question raises its ugly head, and they have to make that choice.

This novel is a very solid and well researched piece of historical fiction with, as I mentioned earlier, fact woven seamlessly into the fiction.  Some of the facts included actually had me doing research myself into them once I had finished the book and this is always a good thing.  Although this could be listed as a holocaust book, the action does not take place entirely in a camp and when it does it is not the usual kind of camp we read about.  The descriptions of the horrific things that took place in this camp to not just Jews actually made my stomach turn at some points and I am far from being squeamish.  It is not a fast paced book by any stretch of the imagination, but this is good as when the action takes place it leaves the reader breathless and wanting to read on.  I loved the ending to this book, in fact I think it was my favourite part; there were no neat ribbon tied packages that gave closure, but an image of hope for the future which epitomised everything those who had participated in this war fought for.

I would highly recommend this book to any and all readers.

divider

Review: The Dragon and the Needle ~ Hugh Franks

dragon and needleThe clash between the Orient and the West is put under the spotlight in this far-reaching novel of medical and political intrigue. A mysterious syndrome is striking down political leaders across the Western world. Named Extraordinary Natural Death Syndrome, or ENDS, it has baffled medical experts. The Western prejudice against the mysteries of Oriental medicine, and the growing acceptance of acupuncture as an effective method of treatment, are just two of the contrasting approaches explored in the story. Then a brilliant young British doctor, Mike, and a glamorous American acupuncturist, Eleanor, become involved in finding the cause of ENDS. They think they are on the right track, but the implications are shocking. Could this be an audacious ideological plan for world domination? And how does Eleanor’s dead husband Chen fit in? When the secrets of Carry Tiger to Mountain are revealed, where will Eleanor’s loyalties ultimately lie?

3 Thumbs-UpIf this book doesn’t pull you in within the first few pages, you might as well lay it to one side and move onto something else; I was pulled in and sped through it in a day.

The male and female protagonists are scratchy, that is to say they have moments in the book where they really did grate on my nerves and, if it had not been for the fast paced plot I would probably have consigned this book to my not finished pile.  There were so many things about these characters I found a little hard to wrap my head round, and this really relegated them to being of a secondary nature to the storyline.  The female lead I found to be somewhat stereotypical, as she falls into the arms of the male lead without the reader really being able to understand what the attraction is between them.  I put this down to it being a matter of convenience, and the possibility they were attracted to each other’s minds; there was really no depth of emotion shown by either of them and this led to my not finding them plausible at all and the reason for my 3 thumbs review.

As to the storyline, what a great idea; holistic medicine vs. modern medicine, a debate that is constantly going the rounds but it really could have been handled a little differently, perhaps without making the usual East is evil West is wonderful statement.  With a little more expansion on the plot and some very firm dialogue editing this could have been an exceptional book, rather than just a good one.

I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a fast paced medical/political thriller, but don’t expect anything too in depth.  Would I read anything else by this Author?  Probably.

divider

Review: Corvette Nightfire ~ Daniel Wetta with Robert Selfe

corvetteCan Just One Dance Change Destiny? As Corvette Nightfire approaches the casino in Las Vegas, the doors burst open to the sound of gunfire. A beautiful woman rushes to him and thrusts a heavy bag into his arms. Instructing him in Spanish, which he doesn’t understand, she runs past him to a waiting car. A professional poker player in town to play in the Final Nine in the World Series of Poker, Corvette soon discovers that he is inexorably connected to Valentina, this exotic woman who has just put his life into a tailspin. He disappears into an international vortex of intrigues, a complex world or ordinary heroes and heinous cartel thugs, in a desperate race to find and save her. They cannot speak each other’s languages, but on the romantic evening on which they meet, Valentina tells her story through dance images. She becomes an animal spirit, an amber-eyed black jaguar that Corvette must ride to find the woman he inexplicably loves. His heart reveals that the millions of dollars in prize money in the tournament mean nothing compared to Valentina’s life. Not understanding what is guiding him through the vortex, Corvette comes to an unexpected destiny, one of reconciliation to generations of family sins. A suspense-thriller, Corvette Nightfire takes up where The Z Redemption leaves off and straps the reader into another bumpy, exhilarating ride!

3 Thumbs-UpI’m going to get this out there before I do my review, the reason I gave this book only 3 thumbs was the font used in the paperback copy I have.  I know this sounds petty but, for me, the font really interfered with my whole enjoyment of this novel; I’m not sure how the font came into being but it was certainly not a good fit for the book, sorry.

Now onto the book itself; this is the second instalment in ‘The Z Redemption’ trilogy, the first of which I reviewed some time ago, which was also a debut novel for this Author.  Unlike the first instalment this time around the Author has chosen to write in conjunction with someone else and, to be honest, they produced a very worthy sequel.

The book centres on the character of the title, not a car as I first thought when I saw this, and what a character he is.  The guy is a man’s man; he plays fast, loves fast and lives fast.  This could quite easily have made him a character that women readers would dislike, but the Authors gave him a soft and vulnerable side too that women could relate to and, in doing this made his a character for all genders.  As the storyline progress we see the struggles that this character has to go through to reconcile the two sides of his personality, and join him on a journey to discover himself.  The book is full of characters that are equally well written, some old from the previous book, and some new, but all of them play a part in the plot.  There are no characters that appear and leave the reader wondering what their purpose was, if you find one you may want to check that you’ve not skipped a few pages.

To say this is a fast-paced thriller would be an understatement, it’s a book that grabs you from the very first paragraph buckles you into the passenger seat and doesn’t let you out until the ride is over.  Not only is this a great story it is full of interesting details surrounding the Mexican culture, which the Authors manage to integrate into the plot seamlessly.  Tightly written and right on track every step of the way, this is a book that will leave you breathless to the very end.  Something I did really like about this book was the way in which all the details came together, there wasn’t a rush of tying off the loose ends at the end, as can been seen in other books of this genre but rather they came together like the ingredients in a delicate soufflé, which gave the story a great deal of depth and flavour.

Despite my total dislike of the font, and my apologies here to the Authors, I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a fast paced thriller and I will definitely be reading the final instalment of this trilogy.

divider

Make the Ordinary Come Alive ~ William Martin

boykite1

Make the Ordinary Come Alive

Do not ask your children
to strive for extraordinary lives.
Such striving may seem admirable,
but it is a way of foolishness.
Help them instead to find the wonder
and the marvel of an ordinary life.
Show them the joy of tasting
tomatoes, apples, and pears.
Show them how to cry
when pets and people die.
Show them the infinite pleasure
in the touch of a hand.
And make the ordinary come alive for them.
The extraordinary will take care of itself.

William Martin

divider

Review: Doomsday Book (Oxford Time Travel #1) ~ Connie Willis

DoomsdayIn the year 2054, students research the past by living in it. So when Kivrin Engle, a history student at Oxford, enters Brasenose College’s time machine for transport back to 1320s England, no one anticipates any problems.

But her two-week project takes a frightening turn. A mutant virus has been spreading through Oxford, and Kivrin arrives in the past delirious with fever. She is found and taken to a manor house, and when she recovers, she can no longer locate the time machine rendezvous point.

As Kivrin struggles to adjust to a past that’s not quite what she expected, a past where the Black Death is beginning to ravage a mystified, terrified population. With the only people who know where she’s gone seriously ill themselves, will Kivrin ever find her way back to the future? Or has she become a permanent exile in a deadly time?

4 Thumbs-UpWhat can I say about this book apart from the fact that it has something in it that almost every reader will enjoy, and that this is the book that started my love of this particular Author.  I had a copy of this lent to me whilst I was laid up with pneumonia, and a friend asked me if I had ever read anything written by the Author; little did they know then that by introducing me to them they would be creating a monster.

There are many characters in this novel, both futuristic and from the past, and the main protagonist is a gripping female student who time travels back to the 1300’s.  The way in which this character copes with a time so at odds to her own, with so many restrictions when it comes to women is what makes her a person I immediately could connect with.  Throw into the mix the issue of the Black Death and this makes her even more compelling.  Throughout the novel the reader can follow her progress as she comes to terms with the times she now finds herself in and can root for her every step of the way.  Her determination and courage shines through as the times degenerate into one of sickness and death.  The Author is equally generous when introducing their other characters in this book, although there were a few that I thought were rather superfluous to the plot itself; there is the concerned and overworked professor who I felt was the very picture of the stereotypical academic, and also the ‘mother hen’ type character who fussed over everyone and anyone.  I didn’t find any of the characters unlikable, and this rather surprised me as there is usually one that I would like to meet a miserable demise.

When it comes to location descriptions and really setting the mood for the 1300’s it is apparent that the Author did a great deal of research into the time period, and the effects the Black Death had on families and attitudes of that time.  Unfortunately the editing was not as tight as I would have expected in a novel as gripping and fast paced as this one, and this is the reason for the four thumbs rating.  Overall though this is a well written and entertaining book, that keeps the reader turning the pages to the very end.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone that loves a great story and/or is interested in historical fiction, sci-fi and fantasy.

divider

Review: The Sunne in Splendour ~ Sharon Kay Penman

SunneA glorious novel of the controversial Richard III—a monarch betrayed in life by his allies and betrayed in death by history

In this beautifully rendered modern classic, Sharon Kay Penman redeems Richard III—vilified as the bitter, twisted, scheming hunchback who murdered his nephews, the princes in the Tower—from his maligned place in history with a dazzling combination of research and storytelling.

Born into the treacherous courts of fifteenth-century England, in the midst of what history has called The War of the Roses, Richard was raised in the shadow of his charismatic brother, King Edward IV. Loyal to his friends and passionately in love with the one woman who was denied him, Richard emerges as a gifted man far more sinned against than sinning.

This magnificent retelling of his life is filled with all of the sights and sounds of battle, the customs and lore of the fifteenth century, the rigors of court politics, and the passions and prejudices of royalty.

5 Thumbs-UpI’ve either mentioned this book or the Author several times during the life of my reviews so I have decided it was about time I actually wrote a review on the book itself.  This was the debut novel for this Author.

I was first introduced to both the book and the Author by my History Professor whilst taking my Masters in History many years ago.  She recommended it to me on the basis of it being the most accurate account of the times she had read in fiction form.  Being a Yorkshire woman by birth and therefore, a staunch Yorkist, I was slightly apprehensive when I picked this up as most accounts of Richard III and the House of York are based on Tudor propaganda from the times, and are slewed very much in their favour.  I found none of this when I read this long 936 page book.

The book itself could be broken down into thirds; the first brings into the light that confusing history of the Wars of the Roses, and for readers who are not up to speed with the ins and outs of this time it is a great way not only to get to know the key players, but where they fit together in the whole sorry mess.  Yes it does sound a little like a history lesson, but it is given in such a manner that it skilfully and neatly pulls the reader so far into the novel that they have no choice but to read to the end. Just by reading the first part of the novel it can be clearly seen that this Author has done extensive research into the period, and this comes through in way in which locations are described and characters react to their environment.  The remaining two-thirds catalogue the reign of Edward IV and also the life of Richard.

Character development is stunningly done within the pages of this book.  The reader is not thrown huge chunks of back-story and motivational traits, but slowly includes them as the plot progresses.  Their fears are revealed, sometimes surprising the reader, and the political machinations that ruled their everyday lives are uncovered slowly, rather like peeling the layers from an onion.  Obviously the main focus of the book is Richard, and it follows him from a very young age when he is very much in the shadow of his brothers through to his death on the battlefield.  The Author does not portray him the same light as Shakespeare, but rather gives him a more human face than the one constantly given to him of that of monster.  A compelling and believable case is presented regarding his nephews in the Tower of London, which rather makes the reader consider that this could be a case of the wrong people mishearing words said at the wrong time and in frustration, as in the case of Thomas Becket when King Henry II uttered ‘who will rid me of this meddlesome priest’; we will never know.

I could write for hours on this book, but to do so would have me revealing spoilers and getting into the whole White Rose versus red rose debate (yes the capitalization error was deliberate *smile), so I’m going to leave this review short, and I hope tantalising enough to make someone want to actually pick this up and read it.

I would highly recommend this novel to anyone looking for a good read.  I have read it several times and yes, my History Professor was right it is the most accurate account of the times in fiction form.

divider