audiobook that tells the story of a disgruntled U.S. Air Force intelligence analyst who used his cipher skills to almost pull off an incredible intel audiobook that tells the story of a disgruntled U.S. Air Force intelligence analyst who used his cipher skills to almost pull off an incredible intelligence theft and attempted sale of classified documents. The author discusses the spy’s background and details the tedious work of the FBI in tracking him down. It was an intelligence agency’s nightmare: having a mole in your own agency.
The FBI received a package containing several letters in a sophisticated cipher but when deciphered were marked by numerous misspellings. Those errors proved to be Brian Regan’s undoing. The FBI agent who doggedly pursued him was Steven Carr, and the methods used to track him are straight out of the best espionage/police procedural novels. Regan was a retired Air Force Master Sergeant whose dyslexia and ineptitude with social skills made him an almost perfect spy and he was viewed as the least likely person to be involved in such a scheme. One of eight children, he had been bullied and mistreated most of his childhood, considered stupid by most of his teachers because of his dyslexia. Steven Carr, his FBI antagonist, was a devout Catholic who considered his mission to track down Regan as a spiritual assignment.
Once they had identified their suspect, the FBI had to build a case, and here another of the ironies appeared. The agent who broke Regan’s ciphers had a disability himself, one that prevented him from doing arithmetic functions and math, a form of dyscalculia. He was really good at word problems but doing straight arithmetic and polynomial functions was very difficult. He was superb, however at pattern recognition and was discovered while taking a class from a postal inspector who told the clasExcellents to ignore some codes because they are insoluble. He took it as a challenge and deciphered the codes during class. First, though, to get into the FBI he had to get a college degree and it was only with the help of a very understanding math instructor (probably at a community college) that he managed to pass the math requirement.
Something I have emphasized over and over to my friends is to never, ever, ever, put anything into a digital document or email you don’t want the world to see. In spite of Regan’s having formatted his HD and deleted documents, they were, of course, all recoverable, including multiple versions of letters he had written. (The only way to truly protect yourself -- short of using a hammer to smash and fire to melt -- is to use a program that writes over your HD with multiple passes using gibberish.)
I love books about codes and ciphers so I liked the sections where Bhattacharjee discusses Regan’s system in some detail. Others may prefer the human aspects of the characters. For me it was a perfect mix and a very enjoyable book, difficult to put down. What was astonishing was how easy it was for Regan to steal highly classified material. Then again government has a tendency to over-classify material which perhaps leads people to be careless with the stuff. That he was discovered at all was a fluke, and the letters deciphered only because the letters happened to be delivered at the same time.
Audiobook. I don’t know if it was the narrator or just the silliness of the story, but I finally abandoned this after making it about 75% through. I jAudiobook. I don’t know if it was the narrator or just the silliness of the story, but I finally abandoned this after making it about 75% through. I just couldn’t get into the plot with its contrived features: the ex-government assassin who’s now a flight instructor approaching penury but with multiple contacts in the agency; the friend’s son accused of murder and overwhelming evidence he did it; the corrupt Congressman; the coincidences that are too numerous to count, and the landlady with a sarcastic tongue and heart of gold. Oh yes, the beloved cat name Kiddiot who is obnoxious, and the on-off relationship with a sheriff’s deputy who lives 200 miles away.
Perhaps you’ll like it, I found it a bit juvenile....more
Audiobook. Excellent police procedural, first in a series, read by the inimitable Kate Reading. The only caveat I have about listening to this as an aAudiobook. Excellent police procedural, first in a series, read by the inimitable Kate Reading. The only caveat I have about listening to this as an audiobook is sorting out the Norwegian names and keeping the characters straight.
Hanne Wilhelmsen is a detective inspector in Oslo and the putative protagonist of this series, yet she came across as almost a minor character. The story, hardly a spoiler, involves corruption at the highest levels, but the solution lay more with the foolishness and errors of the bad guys rather than any particularly illuminating insights of the cops.
Certainly others in the series will be worth reading....more
According to Max Allan Collins' afterward, This book was the first to be written of the Quarry series. It was re-released a few years later by his pubAccording to Max Allan Collins' afterward, This book was the first to be written of the Quarry series. It was re-released a few years later by his publisher with a different title: The Broker, a change he was unaware of, so when the opportunity to bring it out once again came around, he changed the title back to its original.
I like the Quarry series, but you can tell this was an early, unpolished work. Quarry's character is unsettled, and you get the feeling that Collins was struggling a little to make him into a bad guy with few redeeming traits. Collins admits he was "ripping off" Westlake's Parker, but in this book (not so much in the later Quarrys) the protagonist lacks Parker's sense of irony, as brutal as he may be.
Quarry is sent by the Broker to kill an apparently innocuous man in a small town along the Mississippi (patterned after Muscatine, Iowa but we don't get a good sense of place). He's also charged with taking out a man at the airport who is carrying a load of heroin. Quarry abhors having anything to do with drugs so he sets up the Broker who ordered the hit by hiding half of the load which he later uses to his advantage. When things start to go wrong, contrary to all good sense, he decides to find out who the original purchaser of the hit was.
It's a fun read, but not up to the level of the later books in the series. For a truly memorable "hitman" series read Lawrence Block's Keller books which set the standard....more
Let me begin by saying that Cleave is a very good writer. He has a facility with metaphors, similes and images that is quite startling. I just found tLet me begin by saying that Cleave is a very good writer. He has a facility with metaphors, similes and images that is quite startling. I just found the plot (was there one?) to be worse than thin. You can read elsewhere what purports to happen, I’ll just note that it follows several characters as they experience the first couple years of WW II in Britain and Malta.
Some things just didn’t ring true. The racism experienced by Zachary brought South Carolina to mind, not pre-war England, there just weren’t that many blacks around, let alone American blacks. and I suspect that a black child moved to the country to escape the bombing would have been seen more as a curiosity rather than an object to be bullied.
Note that I was in the distinct minority in our reading club....more
I couldn’t wait to get my hands (ears) on the latest Bosch audiobook (again perfectly read by Titus Welliver.) I love the confluence of Haller and BosI couldn’t wait to get my hands (ears) on the latest Bosch audiobook (again perfectly read by Titus Welliver.) I love the confluence of Haller and Bosch and this book is a perfect vehicle for the half-brother symbiosis.
Bosch is hired in great secrecy by a billionaire to find if he has an heir from a liaison many decades before. The stakes are enormous, especially after Bosch gets a holographic will in the mail shortly after the man’s death that names him executor and charges him with continuing his search for the heir. He, of course, calls in Haller and together they pursue the heir.A congruent investigation involves a serial rapist that’s also a good story showing off Bosch’s investigative talents.
“Instead of justice I got truth which was a poor substitute.”
Audiobook. Definitely not a tourist brochure for Finland. Right up front we are told of t“Instead of justice I got truth which was a poor substitute.”
Audiobook. Definitely not a tourist brochure for Finland. Right up front we are told of the Finnish racism, hatred for foreigners, especially Germans, the cold, the lack of light in the winter, and their penchant for alcohol and killing loved ones.
A Somali black movie star has been brutally murdered with a racial slur carved into her body.. The local inspector, Vaasa, married to an American ski resort manager, now pregnant with twins, knows he has political dynamite in this investigation. Suspects arrive in droves, and most of them are in the inspector’s circle. Admittedly, the town is small, but I was beginning to feel claustrophobic at the narrowness of his investigation. Mix in religious and cultural conflict and you have quite a melange. The Laestadian religion, a very conservative offshoot of Lutheranism, plays an important role in the book, as does the Koran. Both provide the motivations for many of the characters’ actions.
The Wikipaedia entry on Thompson notes that Vaara is portrayed as a “good” cop who goes bad in later novels and I can certainly see the seeds of future corruption. Given events, I wondered how he could ever follow up this novel with a second in the series. But I will certainly want to read the rest of the series. . Definitely not a book for those who like their cozies: it’s graphic and often profane.
Thompson, who had studied Finnish (as well as several other languages), was fluent in it, and lived in Finland, died in 2014 after writing four in the Vaasa series....more
Audiobook: I have read one other book in this series, The Rosary Girls. I went back to read my review only to discover I had not bothered. I almost diAudiobook: I have read one other book in this series, The Rosary Girls. I went back to read my review only to discover I had not bothered. I almost did the same with this book, having finished it months ago, yet not having jotted down any notes or thoughts while reading it.
It’s -- they both? -- were satisfying enough, I guess, if you are looking for a time-waster, but I remember being a bit dissatisfied with the premise of both: damaged person becomes a serial killer who poses his victims in ways determined by events in his childhood. The detectives solve the case more by their involvement rather than active problem-solving, sort of like “Midsomer Murders” where the crimes are solved only by the accretion of more bodies. There’s really not much of a mystery, as the reader is treated periodically to the mind and activities of the killer, who, I must say, seemed more a fantastical, rather than “real,” figure. True crime is far more prosaic motivations less extraordinary.
Nevertheless, the book, perhaps thanks to the reader, held my interest while walking the dog, so 3, rather than 2, stars....more
Strangers on a Train is the classic story of a man who meets a stranger on the train and they discuss the murder of the man’s wife. When this story beStrangers on a Train is the classic story of a man who meets a stranger on the train and they discuss the murder of the man’s wife. When this story began by a man, Ted, meeting Lily (she’s gorgeous, of course) in an airport bar and they begin to discuss killing his unfaithful wife, I feared Swanson had simply stolen and amplified the Highsmith plot. I was wrong for it turns out the two have much in common. Won’t say much as it would involve too many spoilers. I’ll just acknowledge the plot moved along with the force of a speeding train. 4.5 stars....more
Audiobook: That “Fuckin’” Flowers, as he is affectionately called, is relaxing in his favorite swimming hole with Frankie, his girl” on her farm afterAudiobook: That “Fuckin’” Flowers, as he is affectionately called, is relaxing in his favorite swimming hole with Frankie, his girl” on her farm after putting up some hay, a task Virgil hates, so she can sell it instead of feeding it to her non-existent cattle and can claim it as a business expense. All of a sudden her sister Sparkle charges down the path with her squeeze Bob, a nine-months-out-of-the-year-celibate priest (she only gets it during the summer.) If that weren’t a good enough beginning, Virgil is called away to find two tigers that had been stolen from the Minnesota State Fair zoo.
Best Sandford series, bar none. They are all good. Engagingly read by Eric Conger....more
Audiobook. Thomas Perry delivers a fine novel about a chameleon-like woman who preys on men (just how deliberate her actions might be I will leave toAudiobook. Thomas Perry delivers a fine novel about a chameleon-like woman who preys on men (just how deliberate her actions might be I will leave to other readers.) Perry presents the story from a variety of different points-of-view: the Portland detective sergeant looking for her; the gambling-addicted former D.A. office’s retired investigator, and Hugo Poole, the local crime boss’s, hired gun. The killing that started the manhunt and flight was that of Hugo Poole’s cousin and Poole wants to know if the killing might have been revenge for something he himself had done.
There are lots of similarities to Perry’s Jane Whitfield series. The woman, who adopts multiple identities--much too easily IMO ( it just can’t be that easy to create new drivers licenses, and having scanners and printers close at hand all the time also seemed a bit fortuitous) -- manages to stay several steps ahead of her pursuers. How she does it provides for an intriguing, excellent long-flight read or listen.
A minor complaint is that there is often extensive backstory to minor characters with only ten pages to live. ...more
This one is sixth in the series, written by John Camp under the Sandford pseudonym. I prefer the earlier Lucas Davenports to the later ones. Sandford’This one is sixth in the series, written by John Camp under the Sandford pseudonym. I prefer the earlier Lucas Davenports to the later ones. Sandford’s other series, I like even better, especially Virgil Flowers, which has a special brand of humor. The Kidd series suffers from being quite dated technically, when read today, but were excellent when I read them several years (decades?) ago.
It’s a good story, although I found Conley’s terminal disease to be implausible in the context of her actions in the story, not to mention Lucas’s little oration on the degrees of rape. That was weird....more