Profile for Blue in Washington > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by Blue in Washington
Top Reviewer Ranking: 306
Helpful Votes: 1234

Learn more about Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
Blue in Washington "Barry Ballow" (Washington, DC United States)
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   

Show:  
Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-20
pixel
The Bone Polisher (Simeon Grist #6) (Simeon Grist Mystery)
The Bone Polisher (Simeon Grist #6) (Simeon Grist Mystery)
Price: £2.94

4.0 out of 5 stars Fear, loathing and robust humor in West Hollywood, 16 Jan. 2014
Timothy Hallinan is one of those unusual crime writers who can go very dark while simultaneously pulling in wit and hilarity. "The Bone Polisher" is a good example of his abilities in this direction. The storyline deals with the serial killing and post-death humiliation of gay men, police brutality and other violent assaults. At the same time, it features a protagonist, PI Simeon Grist, with a wicked sense of humor, well-honed talent for sarcasm and unworldly insight into the foibles and humanity of everyone but himself.

It's a fine mix of story and characters, with enough menace and pathos in the mix to produce a very entertaining novel. It's the first of the Simeon Grist stories that I've tried (and liked very much), but I've been a big fan of this author since I first read my first Poke Rafferty book and then got totally hooked on the Junior Bender (Hollywood burglar) series.


The Purity of Vengeance (Department Q Novels)
The Purity of Vengeance (Department Q Novels)
by Jussi Adler-Olsen
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £11.09

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Revenge served cold with a cup of tea - 4+, 13 Jan. 2014
Another first-rate crime story from Jussi Adler-Olsen, who has definitely climbed to the top of the heap of Scandinavian mystery writers. Once again the oddball cold-case coppers of Department Q of the Copenhagen police have landed a big case that revolves around the disappearance of half a dozen good Danish citizens on the same day in 1987. The link between the missing persons will turn out to be a woman with a terrible past that make her the poster child the terrible misjustices visited on poor women and children by the Danish social system of the pre-1970s. Deeply connected to the investigation of the missing persons are the past and contemporary activities of a right-wing political party that promotes political and social policies similar to those of 1930s Nazi Germany.

The storyline is first rate, as always, but the wit and humor vested in the story's great characters are even better. Those elements--in my opinion--are what make this author in some ways more enjoyable to read than other of the northern Europeans like Fossum, Nesbo, Mankel, Theorem, etc.

This is a fine novel that is original, intelligent and highly entertaining from page one.
W


The Fire Engine That Disappeared (The Martin Beck series, Book 5): 9
The Fire Engine That Disappeared (The Martin Beck series, Book 5): 9
by Maj Sjowall
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Small and superb, 6 Jan. 2014
True story - just after reading this tight and witty detective story, I was riding in a taxi listening to the drive talk about his attempts to overcome writer's block and finish his autobiography (a kind of Middle European Walter Mitty with a lot of Alan Furst thrown in). I handed him my well-worn copy of "The Fire Engine that Disappeared" with the comment that he could consider it as a writing masters class. It didn't reduce my cab fare, but I'm willing to bet the novel will help him get his own book finished.

In any event, "The Fire Engine..." has been very well reviewed and I can only agree with those who have loved the book over the years. It still feels fresh after 40 years and, my God, the writing is so clear and witty and the characters so strong. There is a typically compelling procedural that follows the initial murder to be investigated. Overall though, it really is the wonderful characters--led by the estimable Martin Beck--who make this book and its fellows so enjoyable.

A fine, quick read that will make you anxious to get a hold of everything in the Martin Beck series.


Winter in Madrid
Winter in Madrid
by C. J. Sansom
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.59

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Mediocre writing from a good writer, 6 Jan. 2014
This review is from: Winter in Madrid (Paperback)
Disappointing historic fiction from a normally good writer (albeit one who specializes in Tudor politics of the 16th Century). "Winter in Madrid" is set in 1930s/early 1940s Spain, and is supposed to be a story of espionage and political intrigue, focused on British efforts to keep Franco from entering WWII on the Axis side. Lots of potential with a dynamic and compelling period of time in a fascinating and tragic country.

Somehow author C.J. Sansom has made all of this flat and uninteresting. His characters are, without exception, one dimensional, self-absorbed, unintelligent and rarely very credible. The story plods on way beyond where it could end successfuly and the conclusion is truly one of the least credible and unimaginative that I can remember from a respected author. He is somewhat successful in conveying the economic and social stress that Spaniards were living through at the time, but otherwise fails to vest that in heft for his storyline.

I join some other reviewers who have opined how Alan Furst might of handled this material and agree that adopting Furst's style could have salvaged this long-winded and pessimistic novel from what it actually is.


The Siege
The Siege
by Arturo Perez-Reverte
Edition: Paperback
Price: £13.48

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The 1811 siege of Cadiz as a background for a serial killing spree - 4-, 5 Jan. 2014
This review is from: The Siege (Paperback)
I don't think that there are many writers better at describing battle action and its aftermath than the Spanish writer Arturo Perez-Reverte. The author's mystery stories are equally well written and original. His background as a journalist equips him with the gift of observation and a straightforward writing style that is not overburdened with metaphors, adjectives/adverbs, etc. All of this skill comes to bear in "Siege", a story of a somewhat obscure moment in the Peninsular War that was something of a sideshow in Napoleon's attempt to conquer the whole of Europe.

By 1811, the French controlled a good chunk of Iberia, with the Spanish loyalists and their British allies holding on to a few coastal cities and isolated inland areas. Cadiz, at the extreme southwest corner of Spain was the most notable holdout against the French and hosted the Spanish government-in-exile. In the year 1811, while the ancient city was besieged by the French on land and sea, a series of gruesome murders begins, and the crimes increasingly appear to be connected to the placement of the French shelling of Cadiz's neighborhoods.

On the trail of the serial killer, is the city's chief of police--ruthless in his policing methods and angered by his inability of stop the murders. While the killings continue, Cadiz's role as a maritime center continues and the story recounts some skillfully told sea battles--another of author Perez-Reverte's fortes.

While there is enormous detail about artillery, metaphysics and 19th Century commerce crammed into this novel, it is a rich stew of history, compelling characters and policing that lives up to this writer's well-earned reputation as one of the most original storytellers in historic fiction and mystery genres currently active.


Berlin Noir ('March Violets', 'The Pale Criminal' and 'A German Requiem') (Penguin Crime/Mystery)
Berlin Noir ('March Violets', 'The Pale Criminal' and 'A German Requiem') (Penguin Crime/Mystery)
by Philip Kerr
Edition: Paperback
Price: £16.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Great beginning to the fine Bernie Gunther series, 27 Dec. 2013
This was a re-read for me long after I became a staunch fan of the Gunther series. I think the first two stories included in "Berlin Noir" are among the best that Kerr has produced. The plots are intricate and the characters credible. The third story here, "A German Requiem", while pretty good, goes a little overboard in its use of similes coming out of the protagonist's mouth and maybe a little to far in spinning of conspiracy.
The book has been well reviewed and I certainly concur with those reviewers that found the book to be first-rate entertainment.
Comment | Permalink


History: A Novel (Penguin Modern Classics)
History: A Novel (Penguin Modern Classics)
by Elsa Morante
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.88

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful, 20 Dec. 2013
This compelling and super poignant novel chronicles the story of four main human characters and three animals(!) over several years during and just after WWII. Set in Rome during that period of tremendous economic and political stress, it follows the lives of Ida Mancuso, an elementary school teacher, her two sons, Nino and Useppe and a family friend, Davide Segre, a Jewish anarchist/intellectual--all in a gradual downward spiral as Italy's ill-considered military adventures pull the country into economic privation and social chaos. It is one of the clearest explanations of what happens to society's poorest and most defenseless during such times.

Author Elsa Morante's inclusion of three animals (two dogs and a cat) in the lives of her main characters goes beyond anything that you will ever read. The three are given feelings, voices, thinking processes and actions that make them the moral exemplars in the midst of human disarray and crisis. It's hard to do justice to how strong and credible these characters are, but they often do carry the novel forward and give it some semblance of hope and of what we like to think of as "humanity" when most needed.

Overall, this is an amazing book, with clear connections to the styles of Zola, Grass and even Tolstoy. It is tragedy on a grand scale as well as an indirect demand for greater social awareness, justice and a higher degree of daily humanity. .


False God of Rome (Vespasian)
False God of Rome (Vespasian)
by Robert Fabbri
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Vespasian's imperial apprenticeship continues, 7 Dec. 2013
Third installment of a strengthening series that follows the life of the Roman emperor Vespasian, literally from the cradle. "False God..." finds the rising protagonist in the service of the fading emperor Tiberius, in the Libyan desert; but soon to become the BFF of the new and truly looney imperial replacement, Caligula.

Author Robert Fabbri pulls out all the cruel and degenerate stops in portraying the reign of the depraved Caligula and the dilemmas that Vespasian, his family and other prominent Romans faced in trying to live through this very dangerous period. Even as he serves as Caligula's righthand man, the now 30-year old protagonist gains some insight into his own future as the possible founder of a new dynasty, with the clear understanding that someone is destined to knockoff his lunatic sponsor.

Plenty of action and over-the-top bad behavior in "False God of Rome", which ends before Caligula is done in, and a lot of years before Vespasian is due to take over the empire. This is well written, historically credible and serves up some terrific characters.


Fear Artist, The (Poke Rafferty)
Fear Artist, The (Poke Rafferty)
by Timothy Hallinan
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A Vietnam ghost shows up in Bangkok to haunt Poke Rafferty, 4 Dec. 2013
Another good story in the Poke Rafferty series. Great characters and a fine zig-zagging plot. In "The Fear Artist", Bangkok-based travel writer and occasional sleuth Rafferty, is witness to a street murder that drags him into a complex conspiracy with elements of contemporary Thai politics, Blackwaterlike mercenaries and Muslim extremism. For most of the book, Rafferty is separated from his wife and daughter, but partners with one of his regular Thai buddies to survive attempts to eliminate him as a potential spoiler to secret service operation orbiting around an ex-CIA renegade and current American expat. The latter is the central villain of the story and a serious piece of work he is. At the same time, this opponent has some dimension to his character, being "tragic" in the classic sense of the word.

Overall, this crime novel has virtually everything going for it and fans of the series (and Hallinan's other books) will not be disappointed.
Comment | Permalink


Ottolenghi: The Cookbook
Ottolenghi: The Cookbook
by Yotam Ottolenghi
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £17.68

5.0 out of 5 stars Ottolenghi scores big with "Ottolenghi", 28 Nov. 2013
My admiration for this author/chef knows no limits. Really. I've been cooking out of Ottolenghi's "Plenty" cookbook for the past year or so at least twice a week and it's changed the family's eating habits and appreciation of good taste astronomically. So when this newly published cookbook (from the restaurant menu) was published in the U.S., I was interested. At the same time, I wondered how the newbie could improve and/or expand on the author's two previous (and terrific) books. I shouldn't have been the least bit skeptical. "Ottolenghi" is even better than its predecessors and chock-a-block full of great new food.

I come to this opinion from the perspective of someone who cooks almost exclusively vegetarian dishes. "Ottolenghi" is about two-thirds non-meat in content. Lots of terrific new vegetable entrees and sides, with the usual emphasis on freshness, herbs, nuts and Middle East/Mediterranean spices. What's really new in the author's approach in is cookbook, is a generous section on desserts (most of them adaptations of classics) and many recipes for sauces that can be used with a lot of different entrees or as dips, spreads, etc.

I'm just getting started in using this new book--and in fact started with dessert! How does chocolate chestnut bar sound? A kind of exotic brownie, but richer and creamier than the traditional approach. Killer taste. The same chapter includes a fine recipe for a more traditional brownie, but clearly better, judging from the ingredients.

I'm a total fan of this guy and his books and have been giving them as gifts for the past year. I even gave one to a Moroccan friend who is a wonderful cook, but who became an instant admirer and regular user of Ottolengthi's "Plenty". So get the new one or at least one of the earlier books--it/they will change your life.


Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-20