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Blue in Washington "Barry Ballow" (Washington, DC United States)
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The Aftermath
The Aftermath
by Rhidian Brook
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.74

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Reparations, 6 Sept. 2014
This review is from: The Aftermath (Paperback)
First rate historic fiction with a rare perspective. Compared to action war histories, little is written about the period immediately after the cessation of hostilities when the victors arrive to administer the vanquished country. This is certainly true for years that followed the 1945 surrender of Germany and its division into four occupation zones by the victorious allies. Britain, France and the Soviet Union took up administration of the largely shattered former foe with different political agendas, but all to some degree with economic and political situations in their own damaged homelands setting the priorities.

In "The Aftermath", a high level British military officer with an unusually humane and prescient vision for Germany's future, takes over as the military governor of Hamburg. He brings his wife and son to the city, where they share the upscale residence of German architect with the latter and his daughter. There is considerable common psychic damage present in the household--the governor and his wife lost their older son in a German bombing of their Welsh home and the German architect and his daughter experienced the carpet bombing of Hamburg, losing their wife and mother in the firestorm that resulted.

The book becomes an intelligent account of how two families succeed (or fail) at overcoming officially sponsored hatreds and war-related psychic damage and deal which each other as human beings. It is also an insightful look at the shifting politics of the period as the war alliance disintegrates and evolves into the beginnings of the Cold War. This well written story is happily free of stereotypes and formulaic events and conclusions. It's a fine war cum mystery yarn with great characters and credible outcomes.

A good read.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 20, 2014 4:42 PM GMT

Mr Lynch's Holiday
Mr Lynch's Holiday
by Catherine O'Flynn
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

4.0 out of 5 stars Father and son reunion - 4+, 6 Sept. 2014
This review is from: Mr Lynch's Holiday (Paperback)
A beautifully told story of a father and son who reconnect in another country (Spain), after both have lost their spouses. Author Catherine O'Flynn has created some wonderful characters and authentic-sounding dialogue. I especially liked the subtle development of the father's rebuilding of a relationship with his confused and suffering son. In reclaiming his fatherhood, he redeems his son's floundering life and puts himself on a new life path that holds the promise of something better than his pre-widowerhood years.

Woven throughout the story of father and son is a sophisticated observation on the Spanish economic crisis, the related building crash and the complexities of expat living. Altogether, a well-informed and knowing context stitched together as a setting for the core telling of the father and son story. Very nicely done and recommended.

Lumen (Captain Martin Bora Mysteries)
Lumen (Captain Martin Bora Mysteries)
by Ben Pastor
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

4.0 out of 5 stars "Your mistake is that you have committed to a man and not to your country", 5 Sept. 2014
Highly original plot, time frame and characters. Captain Martin Bora is a Wehrmacht officer with a hyper sense of honor and patriotism who finds himself in the early stages of WWII (Poland 1939) fighting for an amoral regime already up to its ears in genocide and atrocities against noncombatant civilians. Bora is part of the German occupying forces in Krakow, Poland's cultural capital, directing mop-up operations against remnants of the Polish Army and evolving elements of a local resistance. His immediate superior has become attached to a Catholic mystique--the Mother Superior of a famous abbey. The nun is murdered in the cloister of the abbey and Captain Bora is ordered to investigate by his superior.

The procedural that develops is unique in its inclusion of a running discussion of theology, honor and Catholic church doctrine. Bora's investigation is complicated by a second murder and by the ongoing interference of his new superior (a Nazi eugenics fanatic) and by German security forces (SS and SD) who have embarked on a terror campaign against Polish Jews and other minorities. Bora's faith in his commitment to his country, profession and faith is under constant attack, and a betrayal by his wife is an almost fatal blow.

Of the three Martin Bora books in print, this one (the first) is probably the most challenging to the reader, but is quite fine in its own way. The two books that follow continue Bora's progress through the gradually ebbing fortunes of the German forces and moral dilemmas evolve in those circumstances. A thoughtful and entertaining series by an excellent writer.

Tabula Rasa (Roman Empire Novels)
Tabula Rasa (Roman Empire Novels)
by Ruth Downie
Edition: MP3 CD
Price: £22.74

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hadrian's construction project brings trouble to the hood, 5 Sept. 2014
Roman military doctor Gaius Ruso and British wife Tilla are assigned to the northern frontier of Roman Britain as Emperor Hadrian's directive to build a defensive wall across the northern neck of the territory is being carried out. Building exclusionary barriers always has its downsides and the Roman project causes plenty of unquiet among the local British tribes. In this context, Medicus Gaius Ruso finds himself trying to ingratiate himself with his wife's suspicious relatives while a neighbor's child goes missing. The young boy had passed a rumor that a murder had been committed near the wall construction site and the victim was subsequently buried in the wall. This is bad news for everyone as nobody wants to halt the building to retrieve a body.

This episode of the well-written historic mystery series has thoughtful storyline, fine characters and the usual detailed explanation of how people of the period lived and interacted socially and politically. Everything about the context feels authentic, and the action line that takes place within is intelligent and satisfying. For readers following the series, there will be some interesting developments for the principal characters that will definitely carry over to the next book. Look forward to it.

An Event in Autumn (Kurt Wallander 11)
An Event in Autumn (Kurt Wallander 11)
by Henning Mankell
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £7.49

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This house lacks curb appeal - 4+, 4 Sept. 2014
Nearing retirement, Chief Inspector Kurt Wallander is looking for a quiet place in the Swedish countryside. A colleague sends him off to look at a small farm house that seems ideal, but on close inspection turns out be a burial ground of sorts. And so begins an interesting police procedural looking into a 50-year old crime with few clues or living witnesses.

"An Event in Autumn", one of the last of the Wallander books (written on commission for a Dutch publisher some years ago), is instantly recognizable for its witty, slightly sardonic and grumpy style in the handling of the characters and for its perfect description of the physical context. The reader is in direct contact with the principals and the landscape from page one.

This is also another book that pushes Kurt Wallander's daughter, Linda, to the forefront. Here, she has been on the Ystad police force for a while and is a full member of the task force looking into the farm house killing. She is also her father's confidant, roommate and frequent verbal opponent.

Finally, "An Event..." comes with a bonus. There is a kind of pithy epilogue by the author that discusses the "birth" of the Wallander character and the much loved series as well as a brief history of Hankell's writing career. It's an interesting look at the thinking of one of the best writers still at work today and a good reason to read this particular story in and of itself.

Everyone in Their Place
Everyone in Their Place
by Maurizio de Giovanni
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.68

5.0 out of 5 stars Love kills, 4 Sept. 2014
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There is so much that is great about this book that I'm not sure what to praise first. Certainly the characters are wonderful, beginning with protagonist Commissario Ricciardi, but including virtually every principal and secondary character in the book. The story is intelligent and certainly goes way beyond the boundaries of the crime genre, with some echoes of Tolstoy by the conclusion (in my opinion, at least). More than anything else though, author Maurizio de Giovanni makes the reader a believer in the feelings, passions, etc. of the characters without exaggerating a single emotion or making the slightest judgement.

The book's core is the investigation of the murder of a titled Neapolitan socialite who had cut a wide adulterous swath through local society, before being brought to judgement by a sharp knife in her own sitting room. The estimable Commissario Ricciardi is on the case, and as usual, is able to hear the last thoughts of the deceased--and, as is also always the case, the final utterance is like something out of The Guardian's daily crostic puzzle is its obliqueness, giving the reader something intriguing to suss out as the story progresses.

This was my second Maurizio de Giovanni book and I am now a complete convert to the guy. He is certainly one of the most interesting and intelligent writers of any genre or nationality active at the moment.

Lonely Planet Sicily (Travel Guide)
Lonely Planet Sicily (Travel Guide)
by Lonely Planet
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.59

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent basic guide for Sicily, 4 Sept. 2014
Lonely Planet has upped their game since I last used one of their guides. This one for Sicily is crammed full of info about history, culture, food and festivals as well as the usual recommended itineraries, hotels and transportation. It has a good selection of maps--some of them of principal cities, but LP still does not include a lot of glossy photos. I don't mind the latter absence--my first choice for guides is still the Michelin greens, and they are also stingy with illustrations.
At $20.00 LP Sicily is neither cheap nor expensive, but a pretty good value for a lot of useful information.

The Reckoning (Inspector Madden Series)
The Reckoning (Inspector Madden Series)
by Rennie Airth
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £15.90

4.0 out of 5 stars The war that keeps on taking - 4+, 4 Sept. 2014
Fine new novel in the John Madden series--this one set in 1947 England, but in the shadow of an earlier war. The plot runs on parallel tracks: a serial killer is at work throughout the book on track one while a wide-ranging procedural is put in place to track the killer down. Former Chief Inspector John Madden, long since retired to a farm in the country, is brought onto the case when an early victim in the case is discovered to have written him a letter before his death. The investigation will eventually lead back to events of an earlier wartime period even as England struggles to get back to normal after the recent ending of WWII.

Rennie Airth is a very talented writer who spins a smoothly unwinding story that is a complete pleasure to read. His characters are multi-dimensional and interesting. Very good read and recommended.

Harbour Street (Vera Stanhope)
Harbour Street (Vera Stanhope)
by Ann Cleeves
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.39

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars For auld lang syne, Pet - 4+, 4 Sept. 2014
Another fine, atmospheric Vera Stanhope crime thriller by Ann Cleeves. Murder of a saintly older woman in a small English fishing port, which steadily turns into a complete airing of the victim's less than saintly past. Another woman--the town barfly--is killed, and the trail for Inspector Stanhope becomes much more complicated.

As always in this series, the characters and their interactions are the heart of the book, and all of this very finely drawn in "Harbour Street." Cleeves' hallmark red herrings and numerous twists toward the ending are part and parcel of this one also. She fooled me with her sleight of hand here, but she delivers a very satisfying conclusion. Good read.

By Its Cover: (Brunetti 23)
By Its Cover: (Brunetti 23)
by Donna Leon
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.39

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fine addition to the series, 8 April 2014
In this latest episode of Commissario Guido Brunneti series, the plot and characters are well-honed--sharper and more concise than in the previous books--and the conclusion is agreeably unambiguous. There is a bit less of the familiar and entertaining Brunneti family interaction, though the aristocratic in-laws are a bigger part of the story.

The storyline revolves around the theft of rare books from a Venice library, and the reader learns a good bit about the art, collection and trafficking in that commodity. A brutal murder follows the discovery of the book thefts and Brunneti's procedural gradually unwinds both crimes.

This is a relatively short novel (many of Donna Leon's novels are not lengthy) and some fans will be left hungry for more. Understandable as the author has kept us all enthralled for years with rambles around the city of Venice and pleasurable interactions between the Brunnetis and their children, not to mention their terrific meals. The writing here (and in most of Leon's books) is so good that it pulls you into a reading rhythm. You (OK, I) almost want more. But how can you complain when the novel delivers so well.
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