This is the second in the ever fascinating series of crime stories by Donna Leon featuring Commissario Guido Brunetti. I have read others and am tryinThis is the second in the ever fascinating series of crime stories by Donna Leon featuring Commissario Guido Brunetti. I have read others and am trying now to catch up with the ones I missed.
Here, Brunetti is called out in the middle of the night to investigate the death of an young American found floating in one of Venice's canals. His boss Patta, a politically driven incompetent, wants to write the incident off as a mugging gone wrong. Brunetti knows better and becomes even more sure of his conclusions when the dead American, Sgt. Michael Foster's commanding officer, Captain Peters, a woman and a pediatrician, comes to identify his body and reacts in such a way that Brunetti is sure she is afraid and is hiding something.
To investigate the killing, Brunetti visits the American Military Post near Vincensa, the "Strange Country" in the title. He discovers planted evidence, uncooperative officials, and eventually a link to a far reaching conspiracy involving the disposal of toxic wastes. The investigation is further complicated when a fine art theft looks like an insurance scam and Patta wants Brunetti to buy the powerful owner's story.
The beauty of Leon's writing lies in her obvious love of Venice as seen through Brunetti's eyes, her understanding of the Italian way of doing things in a climate of almost total corruption and influence, her excellent characterizations of even the minor players in the story and her unwillingness to tie everything up in a neat little bow, leaving the reader with a sense of unease but also a realization that the story reflects reality.
I enjoyed the sinuous journey Brunetti took to get to the truth of the matter and highly recommend it to others.
What a pleasant surprise! I had not heard of this author and was entranced with his mixture of historical fact, historical fiction and fantasy. As a fWhat a pleasant surprise! I had not heard of this author and was entranced with his mixture of historical fact, historical fiction and fantasy. As a former employee in a zen monastery, Matsuoka was also able to weave elements of that discipline into his narrative.
The timing, 1861, is in the middle of the Japanese transition from the shogunate to an empire. Genji, the main protagonist, is a Daimyo or Great Lord, and a far thinking samurai warrior, who recognizes the power of the Westerners and questions the weaknesses of his own highly structured, militaristic, blood soaked society. He is also subject to visions of the future as was his father, Kiyori, and his uncle, Shigeru. It runs in the Okumichi clan.
He has invited missionaries, Zebediah Cromwell, Emily Gibson and Matthew Stark to Japan and has agreed to let them build a church on his estates. Genji is also madly in love with Heiko, the pre-eminent geisha of her time and she with him. His closest retainers Sohaku, Kudo and Saiki are all dedicated to the old ways of the samurai society and often don't understand where Genji is headed but their dedication and obedience does not allow them to gainsay their master. The head of the Shogun's secret police Kawakami has dedicated himself to the destruction of the entire Okumichi clan.
The story unfolds from there as plots, counter-plots and counter-counter plots are undertaken. The insights into the thinking processes and behaviors of the Japanese are fascinating and accurate as far as I know. I was carried into a land I know little about and loved every minute of it.
I plan to read subsequent books from Matsuoka and highly recommend this one, his first....more
This, #2, in the Knights' Templar Series, is a most enjoyable, well researched, medieval "who-dunnit".
The story opens with the brutal murder of AgathaThis, #2, in the Knights' Templar Series, is a most enjoyable, well researched, medieval "who-dunnit".
The story opens with the brutal murder of Agatha Kyteler, who the villagers accuse of being a witch. As Sir Baldwin and his visiting friend, Bailiff Simon Puttock, are investigating the first killing, an unlikable merchant, Alan Trevellyn, is also brutally murdered in a similar fashion. The plot proceeds from there as the two try to solve the crimes and see if there is a connection from the past.
One of the strengths of the book is how the author weaves other characters into the story as Baldwin and Simon work to uncover the truth. Jecks seems to have a very good handle on the attitudes and motivations of these 14th century people. Also the descriptions of these folks coping with a cruel winter storm are outstanding.
I enjoyed the process of what was basically a medieval procedural where the primary method is constantly questioning people and looking for inconsistencies and lies coupled with some pretty amazing powers of observation. The ending was a bit of a surprise, which made the experience an even better one.
I'm looking forward to reading additional volumes in this series. I can certainly recommend this one.
An excellent hard to put down story by one of my favorite authors.
The plot is not overly complicated but Krueger putting a scene that happened at theAn excellent hard to put down story by one of my favorite authors.
The plot is not overly complicated but Krueger putting a scene that happened at the end of the story in the beginning certainly whets the appetite. Sheriff Cork O'Connor, the protagonist of the entire series has his deputy, Marsha Dross, shot while answering a domestic disturbance call on the Ojibwe reservation. It soon becomes evident that the shot was meant for O'Connor. Soon thereafter an obnoxious Chicago businessman, Eddie Jacoby, who's trying to negotiate a contract for his employer to manage the Ojibwe casino is stabbed to death. Jacoby's powerful father, Lou, hires a sexy private investigator to "help" and Eddy's brother, Ben, it turns out once had a strong relationship with Cork's wife, Jo.
The plot unfolds from there as the two cases are investigated. There are plenty of twists and false leads that appear to endanger Cork's family and upset the possible scenarios Cork and his team come up with. Many interesting characters come and go and the Northern Minnesota woods and lakes play a strong role in the book.
The ending leaves the reader somewhat up in the air, though it's not that hard to imagine what the outcome will be, perhaps in the next book in the series, "Copper River".
I highly recommend this book even for those being introduced to O'Connor for the first time.
This is the second volume in the Century trilogy. Once again we can see how adept Follett is at recreating historical eras, whether it be medieval EngThis is the second volume in the Century trilogy. Once again we can see how adept Follett is at recreating historical eras, whether it be medieval England or mid Twentieth Century, Germany, Russia, The U.S. and England, as he does in this book. The main characters are the children of those we were introduced to in the first volume, "Fall of Giants".
I can fault the book on some things but the over-all experience was very satisfying. One thing Follett is meticulous about is getting the history right. As an undergraduate history major who specialized in the years Leading up to WW II and the war itself, I was impressed with the accuracy and understanding Follett brought to the era. He also illustrates the significance of events that were important at the time but have not been publicized as much recently like the Spanish Civil War, the Manhattan Project, the Labour Party victory in England in 1945 and others.
Another device, Follett makes good use of is frequently switching from one location to the other so the reader can get a sense of what was going on across the entire world. As you might expect from the author of so many spy thrillers, the plotting is very well done. He carries the plot with an excellent narrative that keeps us involved as the plots unfold.
On the negative side of the ledger, I find there are far too many coincidences which, while providing a reason for the plot to move along, nevertheless create a certain unreality that's hard to accept. His characters, as admirable as they are in most cases, often come across as stereotypes, the plucky Welsh miner, the vapid American heiress, the arrogant British Earl, the self sacrificing wife and mother, etc. Combine that with some overly maudlin moments and the story seems at times to be trying too hard to tug at the reader's heartstrings.
To hang in with a story that takes 890 pages to tell indicates that overall the book is a winner. I am looking forward to reading the third volume in the series, "Edge of Eternity"....more
I am not a Baldacci fan but did enjoy some of his early efforts like "Absolute Power" plus a couple of the Camel Club novels. I have mixed feelings abI am not a Baldacci fan but did enjoy some of his early efforts like "Absolute Power" plus a couple of the Camel Club novels. I have mixed feelings about this book. It has a number of interesting twists and a totally evil villain who I loved to hate. On the other hand, the characters are somewhat stereotyped and there are just too many coincidences to keep the plot realistic.
Shaw, the main protagonist, is a covert operator for a mysterious black ops agency that specializes in capturing and/or assassinating criminals who are otherwise protected or hidden from sight. Reggie, the female protagonist, is a member of a private British clandestine group working to take down Nazis and other evil doers.
Shaw's mission is to capture Evan Waller, a Canadian sex trafficker who is upping his game and selling nuclear bomb components to Arab terrorists. Once captured Waller will be convinced to give up his customers in exchange for a clean slate.
Reggie and her team are dispatched to assassinate Waller whose real name is Fedir Kuchin, an ex-KGB agent, who was responsible for massacring thousands of his fellow Ukrainians and faking his own death to escape retribution.
All three end up in a town in Provence, France where the plot thickens as everyone has an agenda and no one is entirely clear on what the others are doing. Makes for a very suspenseful story. The plot moves quickly from here on and Baldacci does a good job of keeping the reader guessing with a lot of plot twists including the ending.
Except for the aforementioned caveats, I did enjoy the book, especially the last half or so. I do recommend it. Just don't get your expectations too high....more