Profile for Jill Meyer > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by Jill Meyer
Top Reviewer Ranking: 171
Helpful Votes: 3107

Learn more about Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
Jill Meyer (United States)
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   

Show:  
Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-20
pixel
The Dark Meadow
The Dark Meadow
by Andrea Maria Schenkel
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 14.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Spare writing..., 12 Sep 2014
This review is from: The Dark Meadow (Hardcover)
"The Dark Meadow", by German author Andrea Maria Schenkel is a short, dark, sparely written novel about a crime in Germany, soon after the end of WW2. It has been translated from German by Anthea Bell, who has worked with Schenkel to provide a twisty, turning story of desire, death, and the correct attribution of a crime.

This is the second of Schenkel's novels I've read; "The Murder Farm" was the first. In "Meadow", set in 1947 and 1965, a horrendous murder of a young mother and her small son set tongues a wagging in a small, isolated West German village. The young woman had returned to her village in 1944, pregnant with a child conceived out of wedlock. Her aging parents - devout Catholics - had taken her in and gave her and the baby a home. The home, however, was filled with anger the father directed at the daughter, who he felt had brought shame onto he and his wife. One day the daughter is found dead, lying on a couch in a pool of blood. The baby died a few hours later. Who had killed them? The natural suspect - the father - eventually "confessed" to the crime and was locked away in prison and then a mental hospital. Eighteen years later, new evidence is obtained and the case is reopened. With different results.

To say that Andrea Maria Schenkel's writing is spare is an understatement. But, somehow, she is able to give the reader a full rendering of the crime, the victims, and the secondary characters in few words. She draws a picture with those words that seems to convey the desoluteness of both the village and the people who live in it. Their lives are simple and the murder, stripped down as Schenkel does in her writing, is also simple.

I don't know if most readers will like "The Dark Meadow", but I did.


Rest is Silence, The : A Billy Boyle WWII Mystery (Billy Boyle World War II Mysteries)
Rest is Silence, The : A Billy Boyle WWII Mystery (Billy Boyle World War II Mysteries)
by James R. Benn
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 15.84

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another good "Billy Boyle" book..., 6 Sep 2014
I am comparing James Benn's latest book, "The Rest is Silence" to the preceding books in the "Billy Boyle" series, not necessarily to other historical mysteries. I think most readers of the review will already be familiar with the "Billy Boyle" series. "Silence" is the ninth book in the series.

Why do people read historical fiction? In many cases, these books give both an enjoyable plot and the chance for the reader to learn a bit more about history. That is, if the author writes the history with accuracy - or points out in an afterword what he has changed a bit for fictional stylings. American James Benn has been writing his "Billy Boyle" novels for about 10 years now. Billy Boyle is a young Boston cop whose family has finagled his way onto the staff of a certain American general he's related to. Billy becomes Ike's personal "fixer" and "looks" into various crimes that could affect the war effort. And in "Silence", that "war effort" is the pending DDay invasion of Nazi Europe.

Billy and his partner "Kaz" have been called down to the southern coast of England, near Dartmouth, to investigate a body that has washed up ashore from the English Channel. The body is of a man and is not identified and Eisenhower is worried the body could be that of a spy. The area the body is found is in the practice locale for DDay forces. While in the area, Billy and Kaz are invited by Kaz's friend, David, to stay at his in-laws' house, Ashcroft. And it is at Ashcroft that the Dame Agatha-type plot enters the story. Some untimely deaths along with the untimely turning up of a long-lost relative from the United States, and murders start. Also occurring in the area is the sinking of LST boats and the heavy loss of lives during a training incident of "Operation Tiger".

"The Rest of Silence" is part English country-home murder mystery and half WW2 war murder mystery. And, in fact, Billy is helped a bit in his investigation of the murder at Ashcroft and in the murders in the "Operation Tiger" area by a Mrs Max Mallowan, whose own country manor has been turned over to use by Allied forces. Mrs Mallowan's presence in the story is a sly joke I'm sure James Benn will hope is appreciated by his readers.

Billy and Kaz, with help from other secondary characters, do tie up the murder mysteries - both of them - in relatively neat fashion. I learned a little about DDay preparations along the south coast and, in particularly, "Operation Tiger". (It helps to read historical fiction with access to Wikipedia). I think this is James Benn's best book, so far. He writes in the first person - as Billy - which I think is rather a difficult thing to do. But he manages to pull it off. He has given his readers an excellent mystery and a chance to learn a thing or two. I'm looking forward to next fall's next book in the series.


Eichmann Before Jerusalem: The Unexamined Life of a Mass Murderer
Eichmann Before Jerusalem: The Unexamined Life of a Mass Murderer
by Bettina Stangneth
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 19.57

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Adolf Eichmann's "in-between" years..., 4 Sep 2014
I think almost every historian knows about the life and deeds of Adolf Eichmann before 1945 and then again, after his capture in Argentina and trial on war crimes and subsequent execution in Israel in 1962. It is the years in between his escape from justice at the war's end and his kidnapping that have remained largely unlooked at. But German author Bettina Stangneth has done a superb job of uncovering those "missing years" in her new book, "Eichmann Before Jerusalem: The Unexamined Life of a Mass Murderer". (The book was translated from German by Ruth Martin.)

Otto Adolf Eichmann was born in 1906 in Germany, but spent much of his early life in Austria. He was one of the "Second Wave" of Nazis. Those born later than Adolf Hitler and his cohort and raised during the WW1 years. These men weren't old enough to have served in the war, but were just as affected by the German loss and "betrayal" of those "traitors" back home. Many became fanatical Nazis and committed some of worst "crimes against humanity" both before and during WW2. Adolf Eichmann was at the top of the list of war criminals. He organised the killing of millions of Jews and he was very proud of his work.

After the war, Adolf Eichmann went on the run in Germany to avoid being turned over to Allied authorities for trial. He hid on a farm in northern Germany - in Luneberg Heath - but in the early 1950's, he went on the well-traveled road to perceived safety in Juan Peron's Argentina. The author makes it clear that "Odessa" and other groups touted as pipelines to take ex-Nazis from Europe to South America were somewhat less than well-organised, but Eichmann and others were helped along their journeys. Eichmann had already laid the groundwork for his escape years before he left Germany by putting out false info that he had gone to live in the Middle East, and was under the protection of various Arab rulers. This was easily believed as Eichmann had billed himself as the expert on Jews and the "Jewish Problem". He had claimed that he had been born in the German colony in Palestine and spoke fluent Hebrew and Arabic. Enough people believed him to make possible the hints that he had found safety in Syria or Egypt.

In the 1950 he arrived in Buenos Aries as "Ricardo Klement". His family - who had not joined him in hiding in Luneberg Heath - was still in Austria. Eichmann, as Klement, went to work in a job specially set up for him by sympathetic German and Argentinian Nazis. A few years later he was able to bring his wife and three sons to Argentina, where they lived in relatively modest circumstances. Eichmann and his wife later had a fourth son.

But while living in Argentina, Eichmann was very aware of the explosion in books and other media about what really did happen during the war years. The name "Adolf Eichmann" suddenly became more important as his huge role in the "Final Solution" became well documented. German authorities were asking "where is Eichmann". And if the German government was curious about Eichmann's whereabouts, Israeli officials were even more interested. (Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal had been given a hint about Eichmann's location in Argentina but had failed to interest any government agency in following up.)

Bettina Stangneth does a powerful job in documenting Adolf Eichmann's stay in Argentina and in the ex-Nazi society in which he lived. His identity in these circles was an open-secret and towards the end of the 1950's, Eichmann was beginning to talk about his war years. In 1960 his exile in Argentina ended with his kidnapping and trial. At the trial, Eichmann was very open to talking about the charges against him; he said he was just "carrying out orders".

Stangneth's book is one of the best written and best translated book about WW2 I've read. She completes a story of which we really only knew the beginning and end; she provides the middle.


Doctored: The Disillusionment of an American Physician
Doctored: The Disillusionment of an American Physician
Price: 8.60

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dr Welby or Dr Welbeck?, 21 Aug 2014
In the 1971 movie, "The Hospital", one of the supporting characters was an enterprising and mercenary doctor called, "Dr Welbeck". He was played by the wonderful actor, Richard Dysart, who turned his portrayal of the venal and uncaring "Dr Welbeck" into almost a caricature of the greedy doctors we're used to seeing lately. "Welbeck" was supposed to be the anti-Dr Marcus Welby, the saintly TV doctor of the 1960's. "Welbeck" got his comeuppance when his medical/business partner ran off to a Caribbean island with the proceeds of their joint medical practice. He died of a heart attack - richly deserved.

I'm staring off my review of Dr Sandeep Jauhar's memoir "Doctored" with the story of "Dr Welbeck" because the practice of medicine today is closer to "Dr Welbeck" than "Dr Welby". Gone are the days of house calls. Today's medicine seems to be practiced closer to a business model than a medical one. Patients who come into the hospital system or into private practices seem to be inundated with "tests". Expensive, often-not-needed-by-the-patient tests but tests needed to enhance the bottom line of the doctors' practices and hospitals. And, in some cases, tests to ward off accusations of malpractice if the patient goes south; did Dr So-and-so really do all he can to help/cure/save, etc?

Dr Jauhar's second book - his first was "Intern" - is part memoir and part business and societal "cri de coeur". Jauhar is a cardiologist and is proud of his work. He grew up in a family of doctors (except his father, who was a scientist) and he knew he wanted to "help others". But in the years since his internship, he realised that the economics of the practice of medicine was against him and most other doctors. The cost of malpractice insurance and the costs of maintaining a private practice are becoming exorbitant in today's world and Jauhar - with a young family to support - was finding it harder and harder to maintain his love medicine. "Referrals" from internists to specialists were becoming the currency of medicine in today' world.

Sandeep Jauhar is pretty open about these economic slight of hands - "you wash my back and I'll wash yours" - and without naming real names gives the reader the idea that economics is a major player in today's medical system. His book is an excellent look at that world by a middle-age, dedicated doctor who, I think, just wants to practice medicine.


Mona Lisa: A Life Discovered
Mona Lisa: A Life Discovered
by Dianne Hales
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 12.91

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The lives behind the face..., 18 Aug 2014
Author Dianne Hales's "Mona Lisa: A Life Discovered" is an excellent story of painter and subject; of a canvas and the world in which it was painted. It is Florence in the late 1400's/early 1500's, the ultimate "Renaissance Man" Leonardo Da Vinci, and, Mona Lisa Gherardini del Gioconda.

Dianne Hales has tracked down and written about the real Mona Lisa. The records of her existence are available in files and books in Florence and Hales has put them together in a book. Part of the book is factual - dates and marriage and children - but some is conjecture about Lisa Gheraradini's thoughts and actions. Hales couches her wording, using terms like "could have" and "might have", which softens the conjecture for the reader. She has learned enough about Lisa - her family, both birth and marital - and combining that with information about Florentine history - both social and governmental - gives the reader an encompassing view of the woman and her world.

But Dianne Hales also looks at both the painter, Leonardo, and his life, as well as the long life of the canvas. From Leonardo's possession to that of French royalty, to finally life in the Louvre, the "Mona Lisa" has been in French hands since the early 1500s. Except, of course, for life on-the-run as a kidnap victim in 1911: the painting was returned to the museum in 1913.

Dianne Hales' book reveals the woman behind the face in the painting. It's a marvelously readable book. And if you like reading about paintings and their subjects, pick up Carola Hick's "Girl in a Green Gown: The History and Mystery of the Arnolfini Portrait".
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 25, 2014 6:21 PM BST


The Reckoning (Inspector Madden Series)
The Reckoning (Inspector Madden Series)
by Rennie Airth
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 12.91

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent fourth book in the series..., 16 Aug 2014
British author Rennie Airth has a new book, "The Reckoning" in his John Madden series. "The Reckoning" is the fourth book, and while the three previous books were set in three different decades, this one begins after WW2 but goes back to the Great War.

Airth's books are considered "psychological mysteries" which I guess means that the deeds of the mind are as important as the deeds by the hands. Certainly murders are common in his books, but Airth is one of the best authors at looking as much at the motivation as at the act itself. "The Reckoning" begins with a look at a man trout fishing by himself. The reader knows something will happen. But, will it happen TO him or BY him?

England in 1947 was a country coming to grips with the "Peace". Rationing was still in effect and the cities were a patchwork of bombed out sites. The Labour Party had been in power since 1945 and the post-war economy was making a recovery. John Madden had long been retired from the Metropolitan Police and retired to gentleman farming, along with his doctor-wife and two children. But he retained ties with Scotland Yard and found himself involved in the murder of that fisherman...and a few others.

It doesn't take the reader long to figure out the trajectory of both the murders and the plot. The plot is actually rather mundane, but how Rennie Airth gets to the end of the story is what makes this book so good. He blends history - both the characters' and the country's - to end up solving the murders.

I couldn't decide between four stars and five stars. I considered four stars because the plot really is quite elementary, BUT ended up with five because of the quality of writing. This is a great read for Airth's many fans.


A Short Gentleman
A Short Gentleman
by Jon Canter
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.19

5.0 out of 5 stars Not for every reader..., 9 Aug 2014
This review is from: A Short Gentleman (Paperback)
British comedic writer Jon Canter has written, "A Short Gentleman", which is the story of a short gentleman who is recounting a crime he committed. This crime - never specified til late in the book - is certainly not one the reader would expect this Oxford-trained "Queen's Counsel", measured in every phase of his life, to make. His confession, written in the first person, is the entire book.

Okay, Robert Purcell, QC, is a short-in-stature but long-in-accomplishment. Born in the mid-1950's to a judge and his wife, Robert has his whole life plotted out by the time he's 10 years old. Go to Winchester College and then on to Oxford, Robert wants to attain success in his law career. His love life, indeed his personal life, is equally plotted out. "Correct" wife, two children (one of each gender), a house in London, and, eventually, ownership of his parents' house in Suffolk. Robert has loved this house all his life and owning it outright is his ultimate dream.

But Robert Purcell, while brilliant in public life, is almost autistic in how he handles friendships and love in his private life. While at Oxford, he befriends/is befriended by another law student, Mike Bell, who is from a lower social level. They remain friends - Mike Bell is one of the few friends Robert Purcell keeps. While Robert climbs the legal ladder and acquires a wife and family, Mike roams the world looking for opportunities in film making. Robert wants to be a QC and Mike wants to produce avant-garde films.

How Robert manages to lose his virginity at a rather late age, acquire a girl friend - to pop up later in the story - and then find the perfect woman to marry, are all parts of the story. Pompous and without much, if any, ability to self-analyze, Robert Purcell moves through his life as if in a well-planned dream. Until his parents die...and then hell breaks loose for Robert.

One of the most interesting characters in the book is Robert's wife, Elizabeth. Herself trained as a solicitor, Elizabeth represents for Robert the perfect choice for a wife. And she goes along with the cold marriage, until one day she realises that much of her life isn't what she wants. How she comes to terms with her situation and the way she handles it is handled very well by Jon Canter. And, actually, Cantor has written a funny book, filled with interesting characters, who remain with the reader. None are caricatures though most are unlikable. The least likable is Robert Purcell but the book ends with his finally coming to some sort of understanding of himself and the others around him.

"A Short Gentleman" will not appeal to many readers, but for the right one, it's a gem.


Abattoir Blues: The 22nd DCI Banks Mystery (Inspector Banks 22)
Abattoir Blues: The 22nd DCI Banks Mystery (Inspector Banks 22)
by Peter Robinson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 17.28

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Keeping Alan Banks busy..., 8 Aug 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Is there less crime in a rural area than in an urban area? Is London the "wicked big city" with murders and other crimes committed more than in other areas of England? Or does the area of North Yorkshire, both rural and urban, provide enough crime to keep DCI Alan Banks and his police crew busy? It sure seems so in British writer Peter Robinson's latest DCI Banks mystery, "Abattoir Blues".

Peter Robinson's series is a mix of police procedural and psychological study. The police officers - Alan Banks, Annie Cabbot, and Winsome Jackman, among others - are a team that appear in Robinson's books. He looks at the personal lives of these public people and in each book, Robinson advances their lives as he writes about the crimes they solve. It's nice for a reader to "check in" with characters he's followed for many years now and through many books.

"Abattoir Blues" is the story of rural crime. A tractor is stolen from a vacationing farmer's barn and, along the way, people are murdered. An accident of a truck carrying animal remains turns particularly gruesome when human remains are found at the accident site. Good police work ties the stolen tractor in with the murder and as people are questioned, the criminal circle widens. DCI Banks and his team do their duty and give the reader a look at both crimes and criminals AND at the lives of those charged with solving those crimes.

This book is the 20-something in the DCI Banks series. It's not available in the United States; I had to order the book from Amazon/UK. The book is very good, but not the best of the series. For the Peter Robinson fan, "Abattoir Blues" is must-reading. But for the new Robinson reader, I'd advise beginning with an earlier book in the series.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 9, 2014 1:41 PM BST


Grand Central: Original Stories of Postwar Love and Reunion
Grand Central: Original Stories of Postwar Love and Reunion
Price: 5.69

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting idea..., 5 Aug 2014
"Grand Central: Original Stories of Postwar Love and Reunion", is compilation of ten short stories by ten noted authors. The theme is New York City's Grand Central Station on a day in September, 1945. WW2 is over, soldiers are returning home, and the four-sided clock, the "Kissing Room", and the Oyster Bar are scenes of reunion of lovers and family, and also for the disunion of some characters. Each story in some way relates to another story in the book.

I felt the problem with "Grand Central" - and the reason I'm giving it 3 stars - is that while a few of the stories really are quite good, many of the others are mediocre. I read "Grand Central" yesterday and I already can't remember most of the stories. Some of the stories - Jenna Blum's "The Lucky One", "Alyson Richman's "Going Home", and Karen White's "The Harvest Season" - could be expanded into book-length fiction; the others are merely okay.

Short stories are notoriously difficult to write because the author has to "miniaturize" plots and characters. I've read book-length fiction by most of the authors of "Grand Central" and quite enjoyed them. Perhaps the problem here is not bad writing - per se - but rather bad writing for the medium.

In any case, I enjoyed reading "Grand Central" and was intrigued how well some of the authors related one story to another. I think it will do nicely for a lazy afternoon read...and the keeping track of the authors for future work. Preferably, book-length.


The Emperor Waltz
The Emperor Waltz
by Philip Hensher
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 12.91

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a book..., 4 Aug 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Emperor Waltz (Hardcover)
British author Philip Hensher's new novel, "The Emperor Waltz", is simply a tour de force of writing. The book, at 610 pages, is long but every page is worth reading. However, that is MY opinion; I have a feeling that when the book is published and reviewed in the United States, there will be a wide-range of star ratings and valid reasons for those ratings.

Hensher has written three main stories and two shorter pieces. The three main stories, which are written at intervals within the book, seem to come together at the end. Hensher writes about St Perpetua, a Christian martyr in the Third Century, a red-head who swept her hair off her neck, so as to give her executioner a clean blow with his sword. That red-hair pops up in other parts of the book. Look for it as you're reading. His second story - that of Bauhaus students in the early 1920's - introduces the reader to real Bauhaus teachers and craftsmen in their first school in Weimar. Paul Klee and Wassily Kadinsky mix as teachers to the imaginary characters of brothers Christian and Dolphus Vogt and sisters Adele and Elsa Winteregger. The brothers were sons of a Berlin banker and the daughters of a master puppet maker. The "ills" of Germany in the 1920's and 30's - both physical and emotional - is hinted at in the story. The "hinting" that Hensher does is far more effective than outright bludgeoning with murders that a less subtle writer might do.

But the main story of the three principle ones is that of Duncan Flannery, a young gay man who opens up London's first gay bookstore in the 1970's. His story - of his lovers and his friends - is told in a manner that places Duncan in the middle as the catalyst for the action around him. I can't stress how marvelously Duncan Flannery's story is written by Philip Hensher.

"The Emperor Waltz" is one of those novels that I occasionally find that when I'm finished I want to write the author and beg him or her to write another novel, using the same characters and continuing their lives.

The book I can best compare it to is American author Jonathan Franzen's novel "Freedom". Both are long novels that I felt did marvelous things with their characters. I was left after reading Franzen's book with an emptiness that the story had ended and I wanted...more. I have the same feeling with Philip Hensher's "The Emperor Waltz". (Both books also feature a bird on their covers.)

Please pick this book up if you're in a book store and take a look at it. If you're on-line, please read all the reviews and consider buying it and devoting the time to read it. I don't think you'll be disappointed.


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