Review: Kalorama Shakedown (The Harry Reese Mysteries #3) ~ Robert Bruce Stewart

Kalorama Shakedown

Boodlers, and pikers, and slyboots… oh my! It’s December 1901, when the paths of three of the era’s notable characters cross in the nation’s capital: the Wizard of Oz, the Countess von Schnurrenberger und Kesselheim, and Harry Reese, insurance investigator. Harry has come to Washington in order to solve a string of jewelry thefts. But first he must match wits with a throng of thirsty newspapermen, a pack of rapacious lobbyists, and a young devotee of the Wizard’s. And as is usual, his dear wife Emmie has her own agenda.

5 Thumbs-UpWritten with more than a discrete nod at Hammett and a dash of P.G. Wodehouse this novel, the third in a series, is a great and engrossing little read.  It is a mystery, with more than a little satire and three murders thrown in for good measure.  Also, like its two predecessors it is completely able to stand firmly on its own merits.

Our main protagonist is the man the series is named after, and with his wife, he adds body and humour to this absorbing novel.  He is dry, precise and engaging and is the perfect foil to his wife who is wilful, secretive and independent, worryingly so for the era in which the novel is set.  The Author does an outstanding job of making his main character not only the perfect gentleman for his time, but one who is well aware of the ‘flaws’ others may like to point out his wife possesses, and he deals with them all in a gracious manner.  He is very likeable and this makes the reader want to know more about him and his world as the novel progresses.  His wife is also well written, to such a degree that she could almost be billed up there with her Husband, and the novel could be said to have dual main protagonists.  I thoroughly enjoyed this strong Lady, and actually felt myself warming more to her than I did her Husband; maybe it is because I could visualize myself in her role if I were transplanted back to that time period.

The book is written in the first person narrative, with Mr. Reese being our narrator and, in this manner the story is told through his experiences, emotions and reactions to everything and everyone he meets, including some very humourous asides about his wife and her friends.  However, rather than being a dry read as is sometimes can be the case with novels written in this manner, it just makes the storyline seem more realistic and interesting.  I did wonder from the title of the book if the Author was giving a small nod to the Kalorama Guest House in Woodley Park D.C, as a lot of the action and events in the book do take place in Washington D.C.  It is apparent when reading this mystery that extensive research was done to ensure the descriptive portions of the book concerning the nation’s capital, were correct for the time and a great deal of care was taken to ensure no buildings appeared where there were none.  Through a deft use of words and writing style, the Author transports the reader back to a time when there were still vast expanses of greenery to be seen around Washington, and society was governed by strict rules and layers; he also fleshed out the storyline with wonderfully witty dialogue, a slew of literary references and some very engaging and entertaining relationships, a couple of whom I hope will make further appearances.

I would strongly recommend this novel and others in the series to lovers of the mystery genre and those who like a side order of humour and satire with their murders.

divider

Review: Blackout (All Clear #1) ~ Connie Willis

BlackoutOxford in 2060 is a chaotic place. Scores of time-traveling historians are being sent into the past, to destinations including the American Civil War and the attack on the World Trade Center. Michael Davies is prepping to go to Pearl Harbor. Merope Ward is coping with a bunch of bratty 1940 evacuees and trying to talk her thesis adviser, Mr. Dunworthy, into letting her go to VE Day. Polly Churchill’s next assignment will be as a shop girl in the middle of London’s Blitz. And seventeen-year-old Colin Templer, who has a major crush on Polly, is determined to go to the Crusades so that he can “catch up” to her in age.

But now the time-travel lab is suddenly canceling assignments for no apparent reason and switching around everyone’s schedules. And when Michael, Merope, and Polly finally get to World War II, things just get worse. For there they face air raids, blackouts, unexploded bombs, dive-bombing Stukas, rationing, shrapnel, V-1s, and two of the most incorrigible children in all of history—to say nothing of a growing feeling that not only their assignments but the war and history itself are spiraling out of control. Because suddenly the once-reliable mechanisms of time travel are showing significant glitches, and our heroes are beginning to question their most firmly held belief: that no historian can possibly change the past.

From the people sheltering in the tube stations of London to the retired sailors who set off across the Channel to rescue the stranded British Army from Dunkirk, from shopgirls to ambulance drivers, from spies to hospital nurses to Shakespearean actors, Blackout reveals a side of World War II seldom seen before: a dangerous, desperate world in which there are no civilians and in which everybody—from the Queen down to the lowliest barmaid—is determined to do their bit to help a beleaguered nation survive

4 Thumbs-Up

This book is actually the first half of the All Clear duo.  Together they come to some 1168 pages and, personally, I feel that they could have been published as one novel rather than splitting them in two.  Both books centre on time travel from Oxford 2060 back into the past to recover historical items, in this case for the rebuilding of a certain Cathedral.

The book is broken down into three episodic narratives, each from the point of one of the historians covered in the book, and it tends to jump from one narrative to another as it progresses.  This can become a little confusing at times if, as a reader you are not used to either this Authors writing style, or the jumping around from one scenario to the next.  However, I didn’t feel that this style of writing hurt the book in any way; after all it is a novel about time travel, which in its nature jumps around from one place to the next.

The three main protagonists are likeable enough characters, and they are instilled with humour, compassion and worry.  They worry if they will get home, they worry if their being in a particular timeline will alter their future, and most of all they care about and worry for those they come into contact with in World War II London.  This brings us to the remainder of the cast of characters, of which there seems to be thousands; there are Soldiers at Dunkirk, civilians in the Blitz and many, many more; but for however briefly they appear in the storyline, this Author manages to write into each one their own personality and traits.  It is a credit to the writing style of this Author that she is able to make these people from the past, not just some image in our mind, but actually come to life as living, breathing people that we care for and cheer on.

The story is long and at times slow-moving, it also has plenty of things that don’t make sense if you really stop to think about it; but the time the Author takes to describe the effect of the bombing of London, the way the population rallies round each family hit and their stoical remarks as one night of air raids runs into another, and another, make the slow-moving pages feel rather like a break from the horror of the bombings.  Regardless of the slower moving sections, the storyline was engaging and gripping enough to keep me reading on to the cliffhanger ending, and then make sure I read the second part of the story.

Despite the topic of the Blitz, the Author manages to capture the dark the wit and humour of that era, and add to it a little piece of mystery and a touch of romance.  The plot is extremely complex and the way in which the Author is able to take a multitude of disjointed plots and subplots and weave them into the cliffhanger ending of this book, makes this a very enjoyable read. The Author succeeds in taking the reader out of their own world for a while and into the Blitz of World War II; it is done in such a way that the serious and tragic nature of the subject matter is served up with enough humour to make it bearable – even uplifting.

I would recommend this book to readers who enjoy time travel genre, but are also open to satire and humour in their chosen reading material.  As there is nothing offensive in this book, I would also have no problem in recommending it as a YA read.

001

Review: The Quirky, Nerdy, and Entirely Original Elementary School Adventures of Derpy Dirk: Derpy Dirk and the Fight With the School Bully By the Flagpole At Lunch — a Derp Sandwich chapter book ~ Derp Sandwich

Derpy Dirk

Okay, two things I want to say right up front is this little short had me laughing out loud as I read it in bed, much to the chagrin of Hubby who was trying to sleep, and secondly I want to repeat what the author has tried to drill in to the unsuspecting readers head:

THIS BOOK IS NOT FOR CHILDREN!

 

4 Thumbs-Up

If you are looking for a book that is ‘politically correct; give this one a miss.  If you are looking for a book that has all its grammatical and spelling ducks in a row; give it a miss.  This book is pure unadulterated satire, full of ‘offensive’ comments made by our nerdy ‘hero’, and his faithful sidekick.  The book is, and I’ll say this again, satire; satire is meant to be offensive and so far away from politically correct it would take light years to get there.  This little book is also absolutely, hilariously stupid.

The Author uses a pen name, and maybe that’s wise after reading this; it would save him having to move multiple times, and keep his insurance premiums down on house and car.  Maybe I should consider doing the same after writing this review.

I am going to highly recommend this book to those people out there that are still unafraid to laugh, even if it is in the privacy of your own homes, at the inappropriate jokes, racial slurs and just plain stupidity that passes for common sense nowadays.  I truly think you would get a kick out of this book… or is it a ‘journal’, maybe a diary!.  To find out what I mean by this last sentence, pick it up and give it a read.

001