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review 2018-08-20 16:58
False Positive / Andrew Grant
False Positive - Andrew Grant

Alabama detective Cooper Devereaux makes no apologies for his luxe lifestyle or the way he does his job. Most cops haven’t lived the kind of life he has—starting out as an orphan, raised by a grizzled cop savior—and most don’t use his kind of high-risk tactics. But he may have met his match in fellow detective Jan Loflin, who’s fresh off a long undercover stint in Vice when they’re partnered on a case that will test them both beyond their direst nightmares.

A seven-year-old boy has disappeared from his home in the Birmingham suburbs. But the more Devereaux digs into the missing child’s background, the more he discovers about his own, eventually shaking loose a series of harrowing truths—about bloodlines, mass murder, obsession, and what two damaged detectives have in common with the innocent victim they’re so desperate to save.

 

Perhaps I have reached the point in my reading life where I have read too many thrillers. I found myself reading this book mostly to analyze the plot twists and the characters, but not really with enthusiasm. Perhaps I’ve become jaded.

I was halfway through this book when I went to a conference at which Andrew Grant was a guest of honor. I went to a session where each of the guests did a reading—and I found Mr. Grant to be a charming guy. All afternoon, it seemed that I kept accidentally catching his eye and he always smiled an amused smile. I became rather paranoid—“Does he know that I don’t love his work? Does he guess that I really prefer his wife’s novels?” Finally I calmed down and realized that he was just a friendly author mingling at a writers’ conference and I relaxed.

I returned to False Positive with greater sympathy and enjoyed the last half more than I had the first half. I was quite satisfied with the ending—until the last two pages. They made me want to pick up the next book in the series against my better judgement! Well played, Mr. Grant, well played.

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review 2018-08-20 16:47
Smiley's People / John le Carré
Smiley's People - John le Carré

In London at dead of night, George Smiley, sometime acting Chief of the Circus (aka the British Secret Service), is summoned from his lonely bed by news of the murder of an ex-agent. Lured back to active service, Smiley skillfully maneuvers his people -- the no-men of no-man's land -- into crisscrossing Paris, London, Germany, and Switzerland as he prepares for his own final, inevitable duel on the Berlin border with his Soviet counterpart and archenemy, Karla.

 

 

***2018 Summer of Spies***

In the spy genre, if James Bond is a boxing match, then George Smiley is a chess game. Lots of planning ahead, knowing your opponent, and biding your time to make the right move. Smiley and Karla match wits again, but George has a new advantage—Karla can no longer manipulate him via his wife.

Fans of fist fights and gun battles may find this boring. People like myself, who have spent many years researching and working within libraries and archives, will find ourselves mesmerized as Smiley reads files and interviews other ex-employees of the intelligence services in order to build the perfect mousetrap.

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review 2018-08-18 18:00
Weekend at Thrackley - Alan Melville

Six people,five of them lucky proprietors of some fabulous jewellery, and one out of job,out of luck outsider are invited for a weekend at a remote and rather gloomy country house by a mysterious, wealthy collector of jewels and precious stones. They are an Ill-assorted lot waited on by a very lugubrious butler. And then things start to happen,of course...one of the servants is not who he seems to be,a guest disappears,there is a very interesting and well appointed cellar...This is not so much a" who done it" but more of a "how is it going to end".

But notwithstanding  the great setting(an isolated country house always works for me) it did not impress me all that much. It feels like a not so successful imprint of P.G.Wodehouse. One expects to hear tally-ho any moment. No,not entirely my cup of tea...

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review 2018-08-15 04:17
The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
The Westing Game - Ellen Raskin

A bizarre chain of events begins when sixteen unlikely people gather for the reading of Samuel W. Westing’s will. And though no one knows why the eccentric, game-loving millionaire has chosen a virtual stranger—and a possible murderer—to inherit his vast fortune, on things for sure: Sam Westing may be dead…but that won’t stop him from playing one last game!

Amazon.com

 

 

 

Sixteen people are invited to the reading of the will of Samuel Westing. This will stipulates that all the potential beneficiaries must play a game. The victor wins Westing's fortune, an estimated 200 million dollars. This game, a gauntlet of sorts, will put the players through bombings, blizzards, burglaries and mental puzzles. 

 

I heard about this book through some of my Booktube acquaintances. Apparently this is a common one for kids to get assigned in school these days? It never came up on my school reading lists but I heard so many rave reviews for this story that I was curious to see what I was missing. 

 

Well, now that I've tried it for myself ... this one is going on my list of "Did everyone else read a different book than me?" because I honestly don't get the hype here. The plot had a few entertaining moments but largely felt like a mess and was often pretty slow to boot, and most of the characters were BORING. To make matters worse for this reader, the ending struck me as aggravatingly pointless.

 

This novel won the Newberry Medal in 1978... but WHY? In the book's intro, Ann Durrell (Raskin's friend and editor) writes that when Raskin was crafting the puzzles for this story, nothing was pre-plotted... she just made things up as she went along! Initially, that sounds impressive... but I don't know, man. Sometimes there's something to be said for taking the time to craft an outline!

 

Personally, I found my curiosity struck more by the person Ellen Raskin rather than her writings, learning the little bio tidbits about her: 

 

*The Westing Game was her last book before she succumbed to a connective tissue disease in 1984 at the age of 56

 

* In addition to being an author, she was also an accomplished graphic artist, designing over one thousand book covers over the course of her career, one notable one being the first edition cover of Madeline L'Engle's A Wrinkle In Time 

 

WrinkleInTimePBA1.jpg

 

 

* In 1960, she married Dennis Flannagan, founding editor of the modern day layout of Scientific American magazine. This was her 2nd marriage.

 

*Raskin was a diehard Schubert fan. "Death and the Maiden" was played at her funeral. 

 

 

What's your take on The Westing Game? Was it a favorite of yours as a child?

 

 

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review 2018-08-09 17:04
A Fatal Waltz / Tasha Alexander
A Fatal Waltz - Tasha Alexander

At her friend Ivy's behest, Emily reluctantly agrees to attend a party at the sprawling English country estate of Lord Fortescue, a man she finds as odious as he is powerful. But if Emily is expecting Lord Fortescue to be the greatest of her problems, she is wrong. Her host has also invited Kristiana von Lange, an Austrian countess who was once linked romantically with Emily's fiancé, the debonair Colin Hargreaves. What Emily believes will be a tedious evening turns deadly when Fortescue is found murdered, and his protégé, Robert Brandon—Ivy's husband—is arrested for the crime.

Determined to right this terrible wrong and clear Robert's name, Emily begins to dig for answers, a quest that will lead her from London's glittering ballrooms to Vienna's sordid backstreets. Not until she engages a notorious anarchist in a game of wits does the shocking truth begin to emerge: the price of exonerating Robert can be paid only by placing Colin in deadly peril. To save her fiancé, Emily must do the unthinkable: bargain with her nemesis, the Countess von Lange.

 

Lady Emily and Colin Hargreaves are attending a party together, now that they are affianced. And of course, since this is an historical mystery series, there is a murder. It reminds me of Agatha Christie in that way—wherever Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot happen to go, there will be a murder. Christie tended to set her mysteries in a small town, to ensure that everyone knew one another. In this series, Alexander had chosen a certain stratum of society, who all socialize with and gossip about one another.

It seems that this series will also be a bit like Christie’s Tommy & Tuppence series too. This couple will team up to solve murders and diplomatic incidents together, like Tommy & Tuppence and their espionage endeavours. I have no idea whether Tasha Alexander set out to model her characters after Christie spy duo, but I will soon have the chance to hear her talk about her writing experience—the conference that I’ve been waiting all summer for starts tomorrow!

This is an engaging series and I will look for an excuse to read the next book as soon as I can.

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