Monday, March 30, 2015

Refugees in Israel

The goals we set for ourselves are sometimes met in unusual ways.

Michal Poleg is a young social activist in Tel Aviv. She believes in helping the downtrodden with her whole being. She's active in an organization that helps refugees and asylum seekers in Israel.

Michal has pursued a number of people who were taking advantage of the refugees so passionately that someone struck back and she was found dead in her Tel Aviv apartment.

Officer Anat Nachmias is given the lead in the investigation. It's her first murder case and she's trying to become a success in a man's world of police activity. She looks into Michal's past for answers.

She's clever and compassionate and looking into Michal's relationship with some of the refugees to see if there could be a connection to her murder.Then, a young African man confesses. Is this the end of the investigation?

Michal's boss, Itari Fisher begins the story agreeing to go on a date. His Jewish mother and good friend arrange it. Then he hears of Michal's murder and of the confession by the young African man both he and Michal were trying to help and he thinks there must be more to it. As his investigation soon he begins to work with Anal.

Liad Shoham is Israel's leading crime writer and is a practicing attorney. He paints a picture of a criminal world making money from the refugees - many of whom are from Eritrea where they left their country due to fear of mandatory conscription and for the women, forcible rape.

It is easy for the reader to compare the plight of the emigrants to the United States and to view those fleeing Africa daily.

The novel reads as fiction but is so real that it could be taken from behind the headlines. There are a number of red herrings and eventually a confrontation that would have satisfied Michal if she wasn't killed.

The story is magnetic and recommended for mystery fans and those believing in justice.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Early John Rebus novel

In a run down area of Edinburgh, a junkie is found dead in a building used by squatters.

On a wall near the body of the deceased, officials notice a drawing. It's a five star image with two concentric circles.

Detective Inspector John Rebus is at the scene. His first thought is that it might be some sort of astrology or witchcraft symbol. Perhaps the deceased was killed as part of a satanic ritual or sacrifice?

Rebus's supervisor, Superintendent Watson invites Rebus to an exclusive restaurant to meet some influential men in Edinburgh. The Superintendent and the other men at the table are interested in the drug trade in the area where the body was found. They have a desire to revitalize the area.

When Rebus speaks to the M.E. he finds that the man's death  was from impure heroin laced with rat poison. If there is going to be a use of this, a killer might be active and want to kill more people so Rebus makes the case a priority.

Later, a young squatter named Tracey contacts Rebus. She is about the same age as Rebus's daughter, Sammie. Tracey tells Rebus that the deceased was a friend, The man had been beaten and was afraid someone was coming after him.

The story moves nicely and we get a good picture of Rebus with the usual desires of a man, a good drink and the company of women.

The plot develops in an unexpected but nicely described manner. With good pacing and interesting characters who are well described. the story has all of the elements of an engrossing read.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Take this one to the dance

All seems quiet in the Texas town of Brenham until construction workers unearth the body of missing town resident, Sissy Fletcher. She's the preacher's daughter who disappeared ten years ago. She hated Brenham and the brief description of her life stirs the curiosity of the reader in wanting to know more.

The Sheriff knows that his own investigatory skills are lacking so he asks retired Texas Ranger, Captain Jeremiah Spur to help.  Even though Jeremiah's daughter is in critical condition in the hospital, he agrees to assist the sheriff.(Think of him as Clint Eastwood.)

The descriptions of Jeremiah and his wife at their daughter's bedside are spot on and we feel empathy for their situation. His reasons for wanting to help in the investigation make sense once we learn the reason why.

Martin Fletcher is the preacher's son. He's an angry redneck and military enthusiast. He hatches a plot against the town and thinks he can do better than McVeigh at Oklahoma City.

The town's best cop is Clyde Thomas, a black deputy and former Dallas policeman. He's also well described and through him, we see the racial feeling toward African Americans that exists in many Texas towns.

Hime writes the story with such intelligence and skill that the reader finds themselves on the edge of their seats waiting for more of the story to unfold.

Among the characters, Jeremiah Spur is well depicted as the strong, silent Texan type and Clyde Thomas working on the investigation in the midst of the racial hatred, made me think of Sidney Poitier in the 1967 movie, In the Heat of the Night with his prideful but professional manner.

The novel was nominated for an Edgar Award for the Best First Mystery for 2003.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Rosemary's baby comes to England

David and Harriet Lovatt fall in love and marry when they are young. They enjoy life and family so much that they begin to have children immediately. 

During that time, their home becomes a center of family activity. David's parents are divorced and remarried so both couples attend the various celebrations as does Harriet's mother and other family members.

Then, Harriet becomes pregnant for the fifth time. This baby was difficult even during Harriet's pregnancy. They decide to name him Ben.  Even when he was first born, he never cried and he ate vociferously. In addition, he had a frightful look that even his own siblings didn't want to be near him.

Doris Lessing admitted in an interview in the "New York Times" that she had written a "horror story." She wrote it once, she stated,  and felt that the original story was too soft so she rewrote it.

There may be symbolism in the story about the pain a woman might go through in the birth process and in raising a large family but given that, I found the second part of the story, once Ben was born, to be distasteful.

Other readers have commented
the book and Lessing is a great writer but this one just wasn't for me.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Mysteries of the deep

Sara Gruen's new novel mixes history with a moving love story.

Ellis and Maddie Hyde are at Ellis's parents house and we see the aftermath of a New Year's Eve party where Ellis and Maddie embarrassed everyone there.

When Ellis's parents call him out on this the discussion gets very personal and something is said that causes Ellia's father to demand that he and Maddie leave their home.

In response, they travel to Scotland with Ellis's side kick, Hank. They are resolved to find the Loch  Ness Monster and prove that an endeavor in which Ellis's father, Col Whitney Hyde, was involved in, was worthwhile.  
The setting is in 1942 and the trip to Scotland is harrowing as German U Boats sink a ship their liberty ship was traveling with. When Maddie and Ellis see the injured seamen who are rescued, instead of compassion, they are horrified.

Ellis is a spoiled son of a wealthy family.   He cares for little other than his own enjoyment and he's hooked on alcohol and pills. He got out of serving in the War due to being color blind. Through much of the story, Maddie wonders if he was faking it.

In Scotland, the party stays at The Fraser Arms where they meet Angus Grant. From this moment on, the story takes on a romantic quality. It's almost out of old English literature where Maddie falls in love with a real man, Angus. He's suffered a double tragedy and the romance builds slowly but beautifully. However, can they make their romance work? Will Ellis stand in their way?

When he sees things aren't going his way, he takes steps to make Maddie suffer.

I enjoyed the story and the manner in which, Maddie, like Scarlett O'Hara became a force of her own, just when the odds were the greatest.

The historical element was also nicely done as the characters at The Fraser Arms gather around the radio and listen to the progress of the war, or they hurry to the air raid shelter along with their gas masks.

Sara Gruen takes her readers on a enjoyable ride as we observe the moral growth of Maddie Hyde.  Not up to the excellence of "Water for Elephants," but still and enjoyable book that Gruen's fans will enjoy.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Old MacDonald had a farm

Daniel tells the story in "The Farm."

Daniel was living with his life partner. Daniel was barely eeking out a living but thought that his parents were having a comfortable retirement in Sweden.

He receives an urgent call from his father telling him that his mother, Tilde, has had a nervous breakdown and Daniel needs to come to Sweden to help.

Wondering if he could ask his partner for money for the airfare, he gets another call. This time it's from his mother. She tells him that she's on her way to Heathrow. She also tells him that everything he's heard has been a lie and that she needs the police. She also feels that she's in danger.

From then on, the plot moves slowly to the details of his parent's lives since they moved to Sweden. For one thing, they are broke, they squandered their retirement money in a failed property investment. Also, Tilde suspects things about one of her neighbors and feels there is a conspiracy against her.

One of the biggest problems with the story is the slowness of the plot. The other difficulty I had is that none of the characters is really likable and I never felt compelled to learn more about them.

I enjoyed Smith's "The Child 44" which had excellent suspense and a feeling of dread as the story progresses. In "The Farm" I felt the story was overly long and with most of the story coming from Daniel based on what he learned from his parents, who are mundane. I also didn't care for the conclusion of the story which left me flat.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

According to the book jacket, Chris Kyle recorded the most career kills in the United States military history from 1999 to 2009.

The autobiography tells of Chris growing up in mid Texas and his love of excitement and physical activity.  Among his activities in his younger days was busting broncos.

Early on, Chris admits that he likes to have fun. He was brought up in the Christian faith and if he had to prioritise his beliefs they would be God,  Country and Family.

Chris's story is told in brief episodes of his life and experiences. He tells how, when he decided to join the military, he went to the Marines first but they were out to lunch, then he considered the Army and thought of being in the Army Special Forces but it was when he was leaving that recruiter's office that a Naval recruiter spoke to him and asked if had ever heard of the NAVY SEALS.

Chris had four deployments to Iraq and describes his training to become a SEAL and some of the physical activity he had, from training, to getting into trouble in bar fights.

He finally met Taya, his future wife and we learn about their courtship and marriage.

As a SEAL, Chris doesn't disclose the names of his fellow SEAL's for fear that someone might want to cause them harm. We do learn of a number of his friends in the SEALS who were killed in action or died from their wounds at a later time.  In these moments Chris's love for his fellow SEALS is easily seen and his description of a seal from his sister platoon, Mike Monsoon's death in battle and the manner in which he saved the lives of others resulting in him being awarded the Medal of Honor was touching.

Another aspect of the autobiography that added to our understanding of this American Hero was reading about how events affected Taya. There is a very high divorce rate in the SEALS and it is easy to understand why.  Even when Chris was back in the States, he was often going for more training and carousing. He tells of a time that he was supposed to be home for his daughter's birthday and couldn't make it because he was in jail from a fight.

To understand the mind of a hero, this book was helpful. At times, I felt he could have been more personal. In his actions with his family, he never mentions his children's first names, even when worried that his little daughter might have had leukemia, she is always referred to as 'my daughter.'

There were excellent action descriptions of Chris in action in Iraq and the reader is given a glimpse of the difficulties that Chris and other Americans faced. For many of the Iraqis and members of terror groups like al-Qaeda, their goal was to kill Americans. We might never realize how lucky we were to have heroes like Chris taking the attitude to prevent the killing of Americans and to kill the enemy first.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

I have often walked on this street before

I'm sure I won't be the only one who picks "Second Street Station," as one of the best mystery novels of the early part of this year. It really was a special story and I was sorry to see it end.

Mary Handley was only twelve-years-old when she comes upon a man who is murdered in his compartment of a railroad train as it headed from Greenpoint to New York City.

The official report was suicide but Mary attempts to tell the police about a man in a Bowler Hat took something from the man's compartment so she thinks the man was murdered. But who listens to a twelve-year-old girl who might have a vivid imagination?

The story takes place in the late 19th century when women's rights were just getting recognized and sweatshop conditions were abundant..

Mary had been employed in the Lowry Hat Factory under an overbearing propritoress. When Mary asserted herself and complained about work conditions, she was fired.

This was a time that many people felt that a woman's place was in the home. That's the position Mary's mother takes, even dismissing Mary's talents and praising Mary's brother Sean in his career as a police officer.

Mary shows her intellect one day at Sean's police station. She observes something and saves another officer from a possible serious injury. This was when there were no women police personnel and the department had to get a civilian woman who worked next door to the station to search a female prisoner.

With the women's movement at full stride and with the death of a prominent man, Mary is given the job of finding the killer who was the former bookkeeper for Thomas Edison. She's hired by two police commissioners who believe she will fail and they can use her failure to their advantage.

The setting jumps from the pages of history and draws a picture of the times. Mary had taken martial arts training and surprises more than one man with her skill.

What also interested me was the depiction of Thomas Edison and J.P. Morgan. While not wanting to disclose plot, the legend of these two men might have to be revised due to this book.

There is also romance in the story and Mary's romance with the son of the man who invented coco cola was vastly entertaining.

With the story, the new look at certain historical personages and with the look at Brooklyn and Manhattan at the time, I would certainly rate this book as one not to be missed.

I received this book in return for my honest review.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The older I get the more I distrust the theory that with age comes wisdom

This suspenseful thriller was recommended to me by my reviewer friend, Tom McGee. Tom's literary tastes are usually on the money and with his review, he hit the nail on the head.

Livy Jackson has dealt with her sister's death for almost twenty years.

Currently, she comes to her best friend, Julia's, flat for lunch and finds her dead which is ruled a suicide.

Livy doesn't believe it but her husband isn't being supportive. He thinks she's being paranoid.

In the midst of dealing with her friend's death, Livy's husband is given an assignment in Paris. Not only must she bear her grief alone but she learns that a colleague of her husband with whom he had an affair with in the past, is accompanying him on the Paris assignment.

Livy feels an added burden of guilt because Julia had left a number of urgent messages on Livy's phone, asking Livy to call her.

In the hands of a lesser writer, the story might have been a typical melodrama but Sophie McKenzie draws Livy out so that the reader feels her pain. When she learns something new about her husband, she faces everything by herself.

The drama increases as she meets Julia's mysterious boyfriend and seems drawn to him. However, the reader isn't sure of his intentions.

The story is done with panache and McKenzie's characters come to life before our eyes.

I can't wait to read the next novel by this exciting author.

I received a free book in return for my honest review.

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