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Violent Crimes (Amanda Jaffe)
Violent Crimes (Amanda Jaffe)
by Phillip Margolin
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £20.54

4.0 out of 5 stars COMPLES PLOT TENDS TO HINDER SUSPENSE, 17 May 2016
With the sixth Amanda Jaffe novel we find our highly intelligent, fearless Portland attorney facing not only killers but a challenging ethical decision.

When Christine Larson, a member of a prestigious law firm, Masterson, Hamilton, Rickman and Thomas, asks Amanda to represent Tom Beatty, a paralegal at her firm, Amanda readily agrees. Tom is a former Navy SEAL with PTSD who defended himself against a bully in a bar fight. Witnesses all agree that Tom didn’t start the fight and Amanda gets the charge dismissed. She’s pleased completely unaware that the real trouble is right around the corner,

Christine had been looking into falsified financial statements provided by her law firm, but before she has a chance to even ask questions she is murdered and her body planted in Beatty’s apartment. Further, someone tips a Portland narcotics detective that Beatty had been selling heroin - a trumped up accusation. The police pick him up and Amanda promises she’ll soon have him bailed out as she’s sure Christine was murdered by one of the top lawyers in her firm - maybe Masterson himself.

Beatty is released from custody shortly before Masterson is found murdered. Masterson’s son Brandon is seen running from the house covered in blood so Beatty is off the hook for that murder. An avid environmental activist Brandon readily admits to the killing and plans to use his trial as a platform to broadcast his father’s crimes.

It’s no surprise that Amanda is hired to defend Brandon. She doesn’t believe his story, but if he didn’t kill Masterson, who did?

For this reader the plot was overly complex and Amanda’s sleuthing does not reveal any great surprises.

Gun, The
Gun, The
by Fuminori Nakamura
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £15.90

4.0 out of 5 stars A TALE OF OBSESSION, 18 Jan. 2016
This review is from: Gun, The (Hardcover)
This noir tale (the Shincho Prize-Winning Debut) is uncomfortable to read yet totally compelling. The discomfort may be caused by having a good idea where the story is going and simply not wishing to go there. Yet, in many ways it is irresistible - the prose is spare, artistically written.

Nakamura wastes no time in setting his stage as the story opens on a dark rainy night when young Nishikawa walks without aim, “The relentlessness of the rain” seeming to symbolize his own melancholy. There you have it - dark, pouring rain and a melancholy young man who walks under a bridge and comes upon a corpse with a gun lying close by. Rather than the sight of a dead person it is the gun that captures Nishikawa. He takes the .357 magnum handgun with him and hides it in his small apartment.

Initially he is content merely to possess the gun. He finds a secret place for it, buys silky cloth to place it on, derives pleasure from repeatedly polishing it. As time passes he has liaisons with several girls and attends classes but it is the gun that fills his mind. Eventually, as one would anticipate simply possessing the gun is no longer enough for him.

The Gun is a dark tale, producing shivers as the story moves to its inevitable conclusion. Yet the choice of words, the brevity of prose is work by a master of his craft.

The Guest Room
The Guest Room
by Chris Bohjalian
Edition: Audio CD
Price: £31.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A RIVETING STORY OF LOVE AND VIOLENCE, 7 Jan. 2016
This review is from: The Guest Room (Audio CD)
Chris Bohjalian is deft at turning out topnotch novels, New York Times best sellers, Oprah’s Book Club selections, and he does it again with The Guest Room. Adding luster to this riveting tale are two sterling narrators - Mozhan Marno and Grace Experience. Light a fire, pour a toddy and sit back for a surprising crime thriller.

With The Guest Room we’re reminded of how easily what began as an evening of revelry can turn into a dark night of terror. A middle-aged banker with a Manhattan firm, Richard Chapman, decides to host a bachelor party at his Bronxville home for his younger brother, Philip, who manages a boutique hotel in Chelsea. Expecting there may be a bit of rowdiness Richard has dispatched his wife, Kristin, and their 9-year-old daughter to his mother-in-law’s for the weekend. Understanding as always Kristin is glad to be out of the way of the impending shenanigans.

While Richard did anticipate free flowing liquor and a stripper, he never dreamed that Philip’s friends would have arranged for two very young Russian girls and their thug-like body guards. When the men begin taking turns with one of the girls, Sonja, the other girl, Alexandra, takes Richard to the guest room where we learn in alternating narratives the story of Richard’s family and the horrific chronicle of Alexandra’s enslavement. She was a talented dancer and after her mother died a trusted friend arranged for her to go to Moscow ostensibly for a ballet audition - not so. Once there she is raped and trafficked until she, Sonja, and another girl, Crystal, are moved to New York. Once there Crystal is murdered by the body guards. Sonja knows this, so when the opportunity arises she takes one of Kristin’s knives and stabs one of the bodyguards while the other is shot in the ensuing melee. The girls escape.

And, what is to become of our erstwhile host? His once lovely home is now a crime scene, his firm placed him on indefinite leave and Kristin doesn’t take at all kindly to the time he spent with a young girl in their guest room. Hold on, there’s more to come - Alexandra is in great danger as she hides from the police who she believes will arrest her and the gangsters she knows will kill her.

Bohjalian leaves nothing out in this riveting story of love and violence.

Paradise City
Paradise City
by Elizabeth Day
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.88

5.0 out of 5 stars FOUR LIVES INTERSECT IN LONDON, 31 Dec. 2015
This review is from: Paradise City (Hardcover)
This is my first book by award-winning British journalist Elizabeth Day, and I can assure you it won't be the last. With Paradise City she tells us the stories of four very different people in alternating segments, which also reveal the life of a city - a grubby and glamorous London today where anything is possible.

The characters Day has chosen could not be more different in age and social position. The narrative is divided between Howard Pink, a self-made millionaire who while possessing all the accouterments of wealth and power knows that if he were truly revealed one would see a lost little boy, Carol Hetherington, an unassuming woman recently widowed, Esme Reade, a young journalist with a crush on her editor who comes to question her assignments, and Beatrice Kizza, a Ugandan asylum seeker.

As Day is also a journalist her description of the workings of a newspaper office are spot on - the pressure for stories, rivalries and vying for headlines. Perhaps the most affecting character is Beatrice, a young woman who suffered horribly in her former country and now works as a hotel maid. She believes she can do better than that, but how? Her back story is particularly moving, and when she is assaulted by a man her response will surprise all.

Day's take on Howard Pink alone is worth the price of the book - his love of luxurious hotels, his taste for bespoke clothing, his love of women are all beautifully painted bringing forth smiles or pangs of pity.

How these lives intersect is intriguing and well told. For this reader Day does have a tendency to over explain at times which slowed the story line. That aside Paradise City is a humdinger!

Precious Gifts: A Novel
Precious Gifts: A Novel

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars TYPICAL DANIELLE STEEL, 31 Dec. 2015
‘Tis the season for joy, goodwill, and in the hands of Danielle Steel a heart-warming story filled with surprises. Paul Parker may have been a charmer, but he was also irresponsible and unreliable. Veronique didn’t see this side of him, she found him totally irresistible and became his second wife. She was the daughter of an American financier and the granddaughter of a major French art dealer. What a heritage! And she needed all of that strength when Paul leaves her and their three daughters.

She raises the girls alone - their only gift from their father is a wariness of men. Yet as many wise folk remind us there is always some good in the worst of us. So, when Paul dies following a lengthy illness his family is astonished to learn how they have been remembered in his will. He has left a special gift for each of them intended to help them fulfill their dreams. To Timmie he leaves the funds necessary to open a facility to serve the homeless and underprivileged, to Juliette the wherewithal to hire a staff for her bakery, and to the aspiring actress Joy the money to hire help to get her acting career off the ground.

However, for his ex-wife Veronique he leaves the greatest surprise of all - a secret from the past that was kept hidden throughout their marriage. She begins searching for answers. And, thanks to Steel that search takes us to some of the world’s most beautiful spots - Rome, Paris, New York Venice.

And for each of them his gift will change their lives forever.

Dan John Miller delivers a highly listenable narration.

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