I have long had a soft spot for stories involving the London police force in the immediate aftermath of the Jack the Ripper murders. They were so mali...moreI have long had a soft spot for stories involving the London police force in the immediate aftermath of the Jack the Ripper murders. They were so maligned after failing to catch Saucy Jack that it became almost impossible to do their jobs. They had completely lost the faith and support from the populace.
In other words…a perfect situation for captivating historical mysteries/thrillers.
The Yard, which obviously refers to the very early Scotland Yard, is the first published novel by Alex Grecian who has an interesting and very successful background in writing graphic novels. And this is just such a captivating novel as I hoped it would be. It is definitely more of a “thriller” than a “mystery” as we come to know the criminals involved very early in the novel. Interestingly, there is more than just one case occupying the detectives of the Yard. In fact it is always refreshing to see a police force of any kind depicted with an overwhelming number of cases rather than the single case at a time that we usually see on network television. But there is definitely a primary case in this novel and it involves somebody murdering their very own detectives.
I found this to be an engaging read. A nice mix of characters, both on the police side and the Londoners they encounter. The murder case itself isn’t particularly complex but I love to see sleuths engaging their brains in eras before modern forensic science makes it seem easy. In fact, this story includes descriptions of the very first finger printing techniques used by their doctor (what we would call their “medical examiner”) and the resulting skepticism of most of the detectives.
4.5 stars. I’ll be happily adding the next two novels in what I’m sure will be a continuing series to my TBR list. I’m anxious to see how the “The Murder Squad” continues to jell going forward. (less)
This 5th book of a six book interstellar war series keeps up the desperate pace of the entire series with another fun ride along with Captain "Black J...moreThis 5th book of a six book interstellar war series keeps up the desperate pace of the entire series with another fun ride along with Captain "Black Jack" Geary and the remnants of the lost fleet as they make their way home dodging and fighting the enemy Syndics . They're getting close now and just as I was beginning to think we had seen every conceivable way to outsmart the enemy, Captain Geary surprises yet again. Not only are the space battles as realistic as ever, but we are treated to a POW rescue featuring the contingent of space marines in this book as well.
Just as the fleet actions ramp up for the finale so do the political pressures and their impact on Captain Geary's future plans. Intrigue abounds and opposing factions strike. I am thoroughly enjoying this series and really looking forward to number 6. Readers must be sure to start at the beginning of the series though with Dauntless; reading this as a stand-alone could theoretically work but imagine doing that.(less)
It has been seven years since The Quest was published, the 4th and what I assumed was the final novel of the Egyptian series by Wilbur Smith. But the...moreIt has been seven years since The Quest was published, the 4th and what I assumed was the final novel of the Egyptian series by Wilbur Smith. But the character of Taita is just too delicious a character to stop exploring at only four novels, so we can all rejoice that he is back.
This novel was emotionally satisfying for me in several ways. First, it’s a nice return to form. The first two books in this series, led by the ground-breaking River God, were awesome but the third was not as enjoyable and the fourth was a bit of a disappointment. This fifth novel not only brings back the marvelous character of Taita, the “long-liver” sage/scientist/inventor/eunuch but also the vibrancy of ancient Egypt and surrounding lands. These novels are billed as historical novels but, really, that is only because they take place in history. I did not do any fact checking on the events or personalities in this novel but I’m not sure I would feel comfortable relying on it for accuracy. Rather, this is a pure adventure novel with some important elements of fantasy including mythological deities impacting events on Earth.
The book is told from Taita’s first person point-of-view and his unsuccessful attempts at being humble at his own amazing successes falls short and is half the fun of reading all of these books. To hear him tell it, Taita is single-handedly responsible for most of the rise of the Egyptian empire, although he keeps such facts between himself and the reader. Indeed he is content to let the Pharaohs take the credit for his resourcefulness.
The novel is written in a fun-to-read style and reminds me a lot of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ books about John Carter of Mars or David Innes of Pellucidar. One adventure leads to another as Taita leads armies and navies in a chess match of intrigue against encroaching neighboring empires. Guile and charisma are his primary weapons and he wields them expertly, resulting in an absorbing well-rounded adventure novel complete with evil warlords, pirates, and damsels in distress. The final 50 pages were one of those edge-of-your-seat, can’t-read-fast-enough conclusions that I always hope for in an adventure novel. The book concludes in a satisfying way and, happily, it appears there may be more novels coming in the future. I can’t wait!
4.5 stars rounded up to 5.
Recommended Age: 14+ Offensive Language: None Violence: Yes, several scenes of war carnage, and references to rape and pillage Sex: Referenced. Frequent titillation and one graphic description of a pleasure “temple”
I've really been on a role lately with my reading choices.
Tucker Wayne is a former Army Ranger who has been working as free-lance high-stakes protecti...moreI've really been on a role lately with my reading choices.
Tucker Wayne is a former Army Ranger who has been working as free-lance high-stakes protection when he is recruited by Sigma Force for an extremely important mission. Readers of James Rollins’ Sigma Force series will understand the nature of that business but it is not necessary to have read those books before beginning this series at all.
The plot is a roller coaster ride of adventure. Tucker must extract a Russian scientist/pharmaceutical magnate from Siberia. A biological breakthrough has been discovered deep in Africa and it’s a race to see who can recover the find first. If the wrong people get there first, the find can be weaponized with devastating results. This is a fairly linear adventure story with the main team of good guys rocketing from one dangerous near-death encounter to the next. From traitors to shootouts to femme fatales to discovering ancient life origins, this is definitely a page-turner.
Of course what makes this novel different than so many other similar novels is Kane, a military working dog (MWD) of extraordinary training and intelligence. I’ve had the opportunity to work with MWD teams and it is an amazing thing to see. Kane has an understanding of over 1000 words and commands and his loyalty to Tucker is truly inspiring. It’s what really makes this novel. And don’t think that this fictional team is inflated beyond what real world WMD teams can do. While the vast majority of the novel is seen through the eyes of Tucker, we occasionally get to experience it through Kane’s eyes. Pretty cool.
In the past I have been reluctant to try a spin-off series, especially one that has two authors. I worry that it’s simply an attempt to cash in on the name of the well-known author while being written almost entirely by the other one. Even if that is the case here, I am so very glad I gave this a try. It was a blast to read and I am hopeful that there will be many more Tucker and Kane books to follow. (less)
I really like the character of Odd Thomas which is the only thing that keeps me coming back to these books. I like his view on life and how he always...moreI really like the character of Odd Thomas which is the only thing that keeps me coming back to these books. I like his view on life and how he always tries to do the right thing even if it means killing people (not murdering) to do it. His outlook is refreshing, generally, and the situations he finds himself in can be humorous or trecherous or anything in between. And this novel introduces a delightful new character who does not appear to be quite what she seems.
But I had to knock this one down a couple of stars because these books are suffering from too much filler. We don't need Odd's inner perspective on every little thing he encounters along his journey. Sometimes it is insightful but most of the time it just drags down the plot. It's hard to classify these books as "horror" because most of the supernatural bits are pretty benign. This one does seem to be leading into what will reportedly be the final book in the series though. If I didn't know that and thought there were quite a few more in the series, I probably wouldn't continue. As it is, I am just comfortable enough to read the final novel only to find out what happens.(less)
This is the second and middle book of the ‘Tyrants and Kings’ epic fantasy trilogy by John Marco. It’s an awesome read, very absorbing, and it kept me...moreThis is the second and middle book of the ‘Tyrants and Kings’ epic fantasy trilogy by John Marco. It’s an awesome read, very absorbing, and it kept me fully engaged over the course of 785 paperback pages. That’s nearing doorstopper status and sometimes epic fantasy books that are that long will drag at several points along the way no matter how well the overall story is presented. But I never got that feeling with this one. Quite the opposite, in fact. I kept wishing for more free time to get back to it and, in fact, made more free time by carving out time from so-called necessities, like sleeping and eating...and my job.
The story picks up shortly after the events of The Jackal of Nar conclude, as one would expect. We are introduced to several new major characters (since so many of the characters in the first book are no longer among the living). Lots of swashbuckling action ensues but Marco doesn’t scrimp on the character development or the deeper plot. The characters are often gray rather than simply good or evil and even the filthiest bad guys have some redeeming qualities. The book can still be considered military fantasy, I suppose, because it does involve warfare on land and sea, but just as in the first book, I tend to see that as just part of the story. Like Star Wars, there is warfare and battles, but I don’t consider that military fantasy either. The title refers to the wonderful and complex plan that the major baddie has designed to gain the throne of Nar. It was fun to be a part of and see it unfold as I worked my way through the story. Intrigue abounds.
The middle novel of a three book set is absolutely vital to the overall trilogy. It doesn’t start or end but it must not simply be filler for the larger story arc either. To continue the Star Wars analogy, this novel, in many ways, works like The Empire Strikes Back. I was reeling, along with our heroes, at the end of this one and can’t wait to dive into the concluding piece. It’s wonderful to read a completed series and not have to wait for the author to complete it. This novel only cements my feelings that John Marco ranks right up there with today’s bright fantasy authors. (less)
Financial thriller novels, like legal thrillers or military thrillers (or any other kind of sub-genre thriller novels) can be a difficult balancing ac...moreFinancial thriller novels, like legal thrillers or military thrillers (or any other kind of sub-genre thriller novels) can be a difficult balancing act. There has to be significant parts of the plot devoted to that sub-genre topic, in this case finance, without allowing those parts to overwhelm the layman reader. And at the same time the plot has to be, fundamentally, a thriller plot with enough action and intrigue to keep the pages turning. Christopher Reich does a good job here of balancing those forces.
I have a basic knowledge of finance but am certainly no Wall Street guru and I felt very comfortable with the level of financial buzzwords thrown at me in this book. You really don’t even have to know what a Hedge Fund is because it is briefly explained to you. Of course, I would suspect that most readers of financial thrillers are pretty well versed in basic financial terms or else they wouldn’t be drawn to such novels in the first place.
So that leaves the thriller part of the story. The plot focuses on two main characters. Bobby Astor is the CEO of Comstock Partners a very successful hedge fund. He is known as the Prince of Risk for his willingness to take large financial risks and has been hugely successful for the past 15 years. The second main character is his ex-wife, Alex, a fast burner FBI agent with visions of FBI leadership running through her veins. The plot itself involves high level investing where millions of dollars gained or lost every hour is no big deal combined with a terrorist attempt to disrupt and even destroy America’s financial leadership in the world. Happily, and refreshingly, the terrorists are not of Middle Eastern origin and there is no mention of Islamic Fundamentalism in the entire book.
Overall, this was a fun and fast paced read. Some parts in the middle seemed to be a little long or unnecessary and there were a few too many named characters that seemed to have been just thrown in to flesh it all out but weren’t actually of any importance to the story. My other concern is that the ending seemed a little forced with a rather complex plot being resolved in only a few pages. I did like the very end though. A lot. Almost like an epilogue, it was good to see closure for the main set of characters. (less)
This collection of 13 short stories, as gathered by Alfred Hitchcock, runs the gamut of scary stories. My enjoyment for almost any anthology varies co...moreThis collection of 13 short stories, as gathered by Alfred Hitchcock, runs the gamut of scary stories. My enjoyment for almost any anthology varies considerably depending on the story I happen to be reading at the time and this group includes 1 star to 5 star stories. Because it was published back in 1948, I had not heard of most of the authors represented here. Two notable exceptions (and with 5 star stories in here) are HG Wells with "The Red Room" and Ray Bradbury with the best story in the collection, "The Jar".(less)
Nearing the middle of the alphabet now and this series continues rolling along with another fun read. This one is especially fun because our intrepid...moreNearing the middle of the alphabet now and this series continues rolling along with another fun read. This one is especially fun because our intrepid heroine, Kinsey Millhone, is not hired on for a case this time. Instead she does a favor for a friend, a tiny little innocent look-into-something-for-me-would-you kind of favor. And so the adventure begins and, of course, nothing is as innocent as it sounds. It isn’t long before Kinsey finds herself in Dallas after a spur-of-the-moment decision, with follow-on adventure in Kentucky.
As always, Kinsey finds ways to get into trouble, even though at several points in the adventure, she is actively trying to leave the case since it just isn’t her problem. And having to deal with the set of dysfunctional family member characters she has to in this one, I can hardly blame her. This is certainly a mystery novel, with everybody trying to locate a hoard of missing money from a bank robbery over 40 years before. But it is a bit more of a “thriller” novel than usual, meaning the identity of the bad guy is known way before the mystery is solved. A lot of time is spent escaping and avoiding him rather than in a traditional who-dunnit style of mystery.
There is also a pretty cool twist on the word "Lawless" from the title and what that is really referring to.
I’ll keep on plugging away at these novels at the rate of about 4 per year. That will get me to the end of the alphabet at about the same time as Sue Grafton and Kinsey Millhone do. (less)
Neil Gaiman writes stories that are beyond my ability to properly review so I won’t even attempt it. I had no real idea what to expect when I opened t...moreNeil Gaiman writes stories that are beyond my ability to properly review so I won’t even attempt it. I had no real idea what to expect when I opened this book for the first time yesterday; all I knew was that it was a Neil Gaiman book and that was good enough to begin my quick but absorbing journey through its pages. Few authors can wring so much out of words as does Mr. Gaiman.
The novel has been described as a “fairy tale for adults” and I suppose that is as fair a description as any. We experience it as a single flashback sequence from the narrator back to when he was seven years old. But this is not a children’s book by any means. As the author himself says, “It’s a book with a child protagonist but definitely isn’t a YA book”. I firmly believe this is a novel that will be a different ‘type” of novel for different readers. For some it is a fantasy, for others it’s a horror story, and for others it may well be a poignant exploration of what it is really like to be a child. And for some, yes, it will be a most excellent YA book. For me I will rest easy knowing that it is all of these and more. If you’ve never read Gaiman, I’m not sure I would recommend this one to start. But for me, this is one book that will stick to my soul for quite some time to come.
My thanks to Goodreads for offering this free copy to me as a Goodreads giveaway.(less)
I’ve been a fan of the Dresden Files series since book number one, and a super fan ever since book number three. I’ve gushed about how...moreThis isn’t fair.
I’ve been a fan of the Dresden Files series since book number one, and a super fan ever since book number three. I’ve gushed about how the books keep getting better and better and I have urged my Goodreads friends to take a dip into this pool if they have any interest at all in urban fantasy or even if they have no interest in fantasy at all but just want a really great series of stories to read.
I used to think the novels in this series were simply awesome, with great characters that were multi-dimensional and formed a coterie of characters for Harry to work with and advance his larger story. It was far more than just Harry Dresden that we came to care about and root for.
I used to think the novels of this series had cool, creative plots, thoughtful, and full of intricacies that made for great reading fun. There were really cool and powerful fight scenes which drew upon the complex and yet organized magic system that Jim Butcher has created based on our own world’s myths and legends about magic. Creatures of all types can be found in these books, everything from basilisks to vampires to fairies and demons. And then throw in “real world” cops and mobsters and, trust me, it’s all fantastic.
I used to think the novels of this series allowed us to get deep into the protagonist, Harry Dresden through these books’ first person points of view. We have experienced his life, his triumphs, his foibles, his emotions, all through his own particular brand of wry humor. We have taken this journey with him as if it were our own.
My friends, this book is better.
The last book reached the pinnacle and it just could not have gotten better.
But it did.
The title is entirely appropriate as there are many changes that occur over the course of the novel, most of them major. There are aspects of Harry’s life that we have come to take for granted through the first 11 books but much of that is now no more. I can’t get too much more descriptive about these changes without major spoilage so suffice it to say that Harry Dresden’s future will be quite different than his past, in small ways and large ways.
So just when I thought these books couldn’t get any better, they got better. At least this one did and it will be nigh impossible to continue the trend. Fortunately, Jim Butcher knows what he is doing and so I am happy to keep following his work, drooling over the opportunity to read the next, and the next...(less)
This is a novel that combines historical fiction with a murder mystery with an added side dish of espionage thriller. It takes place in 1945 Los Alamo...moreThis is a novel that combines historical fiction with a murder mystery with an added side dish of espionage thriller. It takes place in 1945 Los Alamos, the home of the top secret Manhattan Project and the birth place of the atomic bomb. The plot follows Michael Connolly, assigned to investigate the disappearance and death of a security officer on “The Hill”. His investigation leads him through the very secret nature of the town site of Los Alamos and the surrounding area, the scientific community, possible traitorous activity among the scientists, and into the arms of a married woman.
I was drawn to this novel because I grew up in Los Alamos. I lived there for six wondrous years, from grade 7 through 12. I am a proud graduate of Los Alamos High School and I was very interested to see if this novel got the “feel” of the place right. Of course I wasn’t there in 1945 and much had changed from that time but I felt, overall, the author did a fairly good job of that. He dropped a lot of local place names like Ashley Pond, Fuller Lodge, route 4 up to Valle Grande, etc. The characters also spend a lot of time in Santa Fe, as was entirely appropriate given the secret location of the Manhattan project itself.
Ultimately though I was mildly disappointed with this one. The murder mystery wasn’t entirely compelling and far too much time was spent on the romance aspects. So much so that in the end, this was more a story about a man driven into the arms of a married woman and their love affair than it was about anything else. The espionage twists in the second half of the book improved my perspective quite a bit but it was a case of too little too late. There was also an attempt at some sort of existential comparison of unleashing the forces of fission to finding true love. It’s not that they “found it” but that it was “waiting to be found”.
My final criticism was the length of the novel. Several parts simply dragged on too long. It would have been a much better and tighter read at 100 pages less than its current 517. But still, it had its moments. I am definitely wishy-washy about this one which explains my middle-of-the-road 3 star rating. (less)
Sam Flint is a newspaperman, newly arrived to a frontier settlement in Arizona Territory called “Payday”. He is encouraged by the Eden-like budding to...moreSam Flint is a newspaperman, newly arrived to a frontier settlement in Arizona Territory called “Payday”. He is encouraged by the Eden-like budding town site and decides to setup his press and start a weekly newspaper. He meets friends, town leaders, and one particularly attractive woman that peeks his interest. His goal of attracting other entrepreneurial-minded people who can help build the town meets with some success but also starts to attract other sorts as well, including a soulless woman who begins to build an empire of gambling, prostitution, and extortion.
I really enjoy reading about frontier towns and their growing pains and this one combines many of my favorite elements including a variety of characters with interesting backstories and with conflicting goals and motivations. Sam Flint, himself tries to report the facts as best he knows them and letting the light shine where it may. Of course that in turn leads to more conflict and we are off to a nice read.
This is the first of three books with Sam Flint as the main character but in each one he moves on to a new town. So it might be considered a trilogy but this novel really does stand alone. I will definitely be reading the other two. (less)
How do you go up against 4 serial killers who are former British spies and assassins who have turned their passion for killing into a role playing gam...moreHow do you go up against 4 serial killers who are former British spies and assassins who have turned their passion for killing into a role playing game called The Four Horsemen?
This is an intriguing concept to explore but, unfortunately, I felt Patterson left a lot on the table this time around.
Here, the primary bad guy wasn't built around his superior intelligence and "mastermind" sort of planning of his crimes. He's more of a sick bastard who gets lucky time after time. Alex Cross's investigation seems to flounder throughout the novel as well, and he requires a lot of assistance from other agencies. Overall there were some pretty cool concepts here, especially the idea of having the Four Horsemen as an RPG but that aspect wasn't explored as deeply as I had hoped. Even the main bad guy wasn't really fleshed out too well.
But still, the novel is a page-turner. It's a quick read and had some nice moments but I had hoped for another intriguing Patterson bad guy and so ultimately I was a little disappointed.(less)
Tiffany Reisz continues to amaze me. Really, if you haven’t experienced her work, you need to get started.
Once again, she returns to the world of Nora...moreTiffany Reisz continues to amaze me. Really, if you haven’t experienced her work, you need to get started.
Once again, she returns to the world of Nora, Soren, and Kingsley, but what we have this time is an origin story. Nora is telling her own backstory. Now we have had glimpses before of Nora’s early years (before Eleanor morphed into Nora) but this time we get the complete chronological story of Eleanor from the age of 15 up to age 20. We see her home life, her relationship with each of her parents, her attitudes toward life while in school, etc. But most importantly, and for the vast majority of this novel, we get to see her meeting and coming to know Soren. Her transformation is not complete by any means by the end of the novel but these are definitely her formative years.
I was impressed with Ms. Reisz’s writing ability from the moment I opened her first book, The Siren, and I’ve enjoyed her getting better and better ever since. She is truly at the top of her game now; unlike so many characters you find in today’s modern erotic fiction, these characters are absolutely real. We know them and we are emotionally invested in them. The character of Eleanor in particular is funny and sad, and we are inspired to learn more and more about her. Even when we know her inner most secrets and desires, there are yet more secrets to learn. It is rare to find a character that we care about so much as Eleanor. And since this is a flashback story, most readers will already know future Eleanor (Nora) and so her voyage of self-discovery is doubly rewarding.
I understand this is the first novel of a new quartet for these characters. Bring on number 2, 3, and 4! (less)
This seventh book of the Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series ranks as my second favorite so far (after the first of the series,The Beekeeper's Apprent...moreThis seventh book of the Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series ranks as my second favorite so far (after the first of the series,The Beekeeper's Apprentice). This time around sees the couple off to British India in 1924 in search of the missing Kimball O’Hara. This is a very intriguing concept since Kimball O’Hara is better known to us as the fictional character “Kim” from Rudyard Kipling’s masterwork. To combine such prominent fictional British characters as Sherlock Holmes and Kim is ingenious and when you throw in the incredibly original character of Mary Russell as Sherlock’s young but equally brilliant wife, we get the foundation for a great story.
The subcontinent of India, especially at the time in which this novel takes place has always fascinated me. It’s just crying out for adventure and this novel doesn’t disappoint. It’s really more of an international espionage novel than a traditional Sherlock Holmes detective novel, something that can be said about all of the novels in this series. Kim is a trained British spy but has disappeared and so Mary and Sherlock act as spies themselves, going undercover as native travelling magicians to gather clues. The title, “The Game” refers to the Great Game of espionage. This was the time of Gandhi; political strife between Britain and Russia was prominent with India caught in between. It’s a lush landscape and to watch the characters play out the plot is a lot of fun. (less)
I have heard John Marco is one of the more under-rated fantasy authors out there and so I had been looking forward to giving him a try for quite some...moreI have heard John Marco is one of the more under-rated fantasy authors out there and so I had been looking forward to giving him a try for quite some time. I may just have found another fantasy author to add to my power rotation. The Jackal of Nar is the first book in a trilogy referred to as the Tyrants and Kings Trilogy and I must say, even though this is the first book he ever published, if this is an indication of his writing talents and the types of fantasy stories he tells, then there is nothing but great things to come.
In some ways this novel reminds me a bit of GRRM’s A Game of Thrones. Major themes involve power struggles at the very highest levels, lots of political intrigue, lots of shifting loyalties and no clear cut good guys vs. bad guys. The main character is Richius Vantran, a prince who is among his homeland’s primary warlords. The novel begins in battle and there is a lot of tactical level warfare described throughout the novel, but it is not really about those battles. Most of the “fantasy” elements, like Game of Thrones involve swordsmanship and the creative use of non-magical machines of war. There is magic but it is not described in much detail yet. In fact most of the populace does not believe it exists and those few instances when we, the reader, get to witness its power, it is truly awesome in its capability. I have no doubt that the next two volumes of this trilogy will explore this magical force.
And also as with GRRM, John Marco is not afraid to kill off major characters.
The plot is fairly complex but the author, thankfully, is able to boil it down so we know exactly what is going on when we need to know it. There are lots of strangely spelled place names and character names throughout and normally that can be a turn-off for me. Places like Ackle-Nye and Aramoor and Criisia and characters like Lucyler and Dinadin can become confusing when there are many of them but the author balances those out with people like Dyana, Tharn, and Sabrina, etc. The result is that unmistakable feeling that you’re reading fantasy but you’re also grounded is some familiarity.
If I have one criticism, it is that many times the main characters shift loyalties a little too easily. We have people that have been best friends since childhood that choose different sides over a single action. Others have watched their life-long enemies kill their own family members and yet become strong allies and even friends after a few weeks. I had to suspend my disbelief a little over some of those and thus the only reason this one didn’t earn 5 stars from me.
Regardless, this was really a fun read. Look out book number two…I’m looking for you… (less)
The fourth book in the “Clifton Chronicles” series continues the family saga of the Cliftons and the Barringtons bringing them up through the year 196...moreThe fourth book in the “Clifton Chronicles” series continues the family saga of the Cliftons and the Barringtons bringing them up through the year 1964. As in the other novels of the series, we are treated to the various triumphs and tragedies of this extended family as they make their perilous way through the 20th century. Combining boardroom power struggles, financial back-door deals, art auctions, IRA terrorist plots, this book packs in a lot of story.
And Mr. Archer is not afraid to kill off a major character or two.
I have often thought that Jeffrey Archer is an outstanding writer of short stories that have a twist. His novels have usually been fun reads as well, but they usually aren’t as masterful as his shorter works. In this novel, even more so than in the previous books in the series, he succeeds by combining a number of what really amount to short stories. They are certainly all connected and there is an overarching story arc which concerns the building and launching of the ocean liner, the ‘Buckingham’, but really, what we have here is several complete short stories, each with their own beginning, middle, and end. It’s a technique Mr. Archer uses often in his novels. It runs the risk of resulting is a disjointed novel but I think it works pretty well here.
And just as in the last book of this series, this one ends in a major cliff hanger. Our questions about who lives and who dies will have to wait until next year when the next book is published. The publisher describes this series as a “five-part story of one man’s life over the course of a hundred years, taking in the major events of the 20th and 21st centuries and exploring the timeless themes of love, family, and honor and how even a single existence can change the world.” Perhaps this was drafted as a blurb at the time of the first book’s publication because it doesn’t seem to be holding true now. If, indeed it is to be a 5-part story then the next book is the last and must cover a lot of time. We’re only in 1964 at the end of book 4. Also, the idea of “one man’s life” seemed true after the first book; it was all about Harry Clifton and his adventures. But in this 4th book, Harry is very much a background character and has virtually no influence on what happens over the course of the novel. This one is mostly about his family and those that are aligned against them for one reason or another. But that is OK because Mr. Archer does a great job of building these characters so that we care what happens to them. The good guys aren’t always successful and the bad guys aren’t always thwarted so it all makes for a fine read.
Regardless, of the publisher’s blurb, I am enjoying this series a lot and look forward to the next. I do hope book 5 is not the end and there are at least 4 or 5 more. (less)