Following the cliff hanger conclusion of the fourth book in The Black Company Series, Shadow Games, this fifth book picks up immediately after and finFollowing the cliff hanger conclusion of the fourth book in The Black Company Series, Shadow Games, this fifth book picks up immediately after and finds the actual members of the Black Company down to a single soul…The Lady. One must always capitalize her name for she is one of the best drawn, most intriguing, least apologetic, and most devilishly beguiling women in all of fantasy fiction. This time, finally, she is the one telling the tale. And we get to see events from her point of view.
This novel is best read immediately after book 4 as together, they really are a duology within the larger series. As always with these books, the reader really needs to be on their toes because the plot is complex and details are sometimes sparse. The author’s style tends toward minimalism but nevertheless he manages to create an atmosphere that fully absorbs the reader. And holy cow! What an ending! I did not see that coming even though looking back, all the clues were there.
I want to say this is probably my favorite book in the series so far. That’s hard to say though because of the high quality of the others…and they are not at all the same. There is certainly no “formula” to the plots. Most definitely looking forward to the next. ...more
The second Travis McGee novel finds our self-described boat-bum doing a favor for an old army buddy who has been confined to a VA hospital and, sadly,The second Travis McGee novel finds our self-described boat-bum doing a favor for an old army buddy who has been confined to a VA hospital and, sadly, is unlikely to live much longer. The man’s young sister, Nina, needs help as it seems her fiancé has just been murdered in an apparent mugging gone bad. Travis’s investigation takes him to New York and leads him from one contact to another, the trail eventually leading to a high-priced call girl and an incredible scheme to steel millions from wealthy businessmen. Along the way, despite trying not to, Travis falls for young Nina, and she for him, although they both know it won't be a lasting thing.
John D. MacDonald was still forming his character Travis McGee in this second book in the 21-book series, a decidedly different sort of protagonist than what the marketplace at the time was used to. Travis has flaws and, generally speaking, being around him isn't always the safest place to be. Collateral damage occurs and innocent people sometimes get caught in the crossfire (or by poisoned coffee in this case). Most people agree that it is not until the third novel, A Purple Place for Dying that the general pattern and style for the rest of the books is laid down. Regardless, this novel was an enjoyable read despite the drugged-out LSD tripping scenes at a 1960’s era lobotomizing horror factory masquerading as a mental hospital. The title of the novel is most apropos! ...more
I am not exactly a political animal. I used to pay attention to the national political scene back when I was in college as I suppose many young peopleI am not exactly a political animal. I used to pay attention to the national political scene back when I was in college as I suppose many young people do and I also followed it pretty closely thereafter because it had sort of become a habit. These were the years of Reagan-Bush-Clinton, approximately 20 years during which I followed along pretty closely. However, the older I’ve become, the less I have come to identify with any particular party. I have formed opinions on issues but today I classify myself as a die-hard unaffiliated voter. For me most of politics has become a spectator sport (up until this current election that is). I am more interested in the behind-the-scenes strategies and tactics than the actual candidates etc.
So this book was a very nice read for me. James A Baker III was mostly a behind-the-scenes kind of guy, at least in his early career, and had an incredible view of US national level politics for a long time. He served four US Presidents as Campaign Manager, Chief of Staff, Secretary of the Treasury, and Secretary of State. Ford, Reagan, Bush 1, Clinton, and Bush 2 have all called on him for special projects, foreign envoys, etc. One must always be skeptical of a political person’s autobiography of course but it seems like there is a lot of honesty in this one for the author does eat a fair share of humble pie. I liked the way he described the major events that he was involved with from an insider’s perspective. I also liked the way he detailed how politicians in his day could disagree politically but still remain cordial to one another and even friends. The Ronald Reagan/Tip O’Neil example is only one of many. Sadly it seems those days are past. ...more
Another solid entry in the Sam Durell espionage series. A tight plot, a keen sense of the sights and sounds of real places (including Geneva, Rome, anAnother solid entry in the Sam Durell espionage series. A tight plot, a keen sense of the sights and sounds of real places (including Geneva, Rome, and a tiny island off the coast of Italy), as well as continually mounting suspense and intrigue all combine to make this one of my favorite books in the series so far.
The novel really shows Sam Durell’s text-book approach to spycraft. I don’t recall this so much in previous volumes, but this time there is a large role for his long-time girlfriend Deidre to play and the very idea of her being in danger cements Sam’s vow to never marry for fear of providing adversaries with leverage. Further, his by-the-book handling of the death of an operative and the evident turning of another agent lead Sam on an unwanted and unscheduled adventure and forced him to keep his emotions in check. There is a lot of fun spy adventure here in this novel and it certainly kept me turning the pages. I feel compelled to mention, however, that there is a rather graphic rape scene; it’s very appropriate to the plot and certainly leads the reader to heightened attitudes toward both victim and perpetrator. For me it made the stakes even larger.
I also enjoy this author’s portrayal of bad guys. They range from thugs to masterminds but they are seldom merely two dimensional. Looking forward to more books in this series. ...more
Every once in a while I succomb to the need to read a massively "popular" novel and so, once again I have done so. I am often disappointed when I do tEvery once in a while I succomb to the need to read a massively "popular" novel and so, once again I have done so. I am often disappointed when I do this but this time around I was Ok with the result. Nothing particularly noteworthy in this novel but nothing rotten either. ...more
The fifth novel in The Camulod Chronicles finally gets to the education of Arthur by his mentor and surrogate father, Merlyn. It covers the period ofThe fifth novel in The Camulod Chronicles finally gets to the education of Arthur by his mentor and surrogate father, Merlyn. It covers the period of time where young Arthur is aged 8 through 15, very formative years indeed. It’s also, perhaps, the most idyllic novel in the entire series. The end of the last book, The Saxon Shore, saw an assassination attempt on young Arthur’s life so Merlyn and a small group of trusted friends and protectors make their way secretly to an old abandoned fort not far from Hadrian’s Wall. There, Merlyn and company undertake the duties of educating Arthur and forming the man who will become the great king of all Britain. It’s almost a utopian novel in fact as there is only enough danger to the group to keep their skills up and provide key lessons for Arthur and his young companions and virtually no threats from outside political forces. This peaceful time also allows Merlyn to make some welcome changes in his own outlook on life and to recover from the loss of his wife. The end of the novel makes it clear that those circumstances will soon be changing as the group must return to Camulod (Camelot) to face new threats from old enemies.
This novel, as with all the others so far in the series, is a non-magical version of the Arthurian tale. It’s basically pure historical fiction with all of the tropes of magical Merlin, Excalibur, the Lady of the Lake, etc. all told via realistic explanations. The only caveat to this are some dreams that Merlyn has occasionally that seem to foretell what will come.
The book is told from Merlyn’s first person point of view, from a time long after the events depicted. This allows him to provide foreshadowing here and there but nothing that would surprise anybody who knows the basics of Arthurian lore. It’s also great fun to read how Merlyn excuses his own behavior when he has been foolish or stubborn.
These novels are awesome and I really am savoring each and every one. I seem to go through actual withdrawal when I complete one so I’m glad there are still several more to go. ...more
Continuing my effort to sample some of the great “Grand Masters of Science Fiction”, I turned to Damon Knight, named by the SFWA as its 13th Grand MasContinuing my effort to sample some of the great “Grand Masters of Science Fiction”, I turned to Damon Knight, named by the SFWA as its 13th Grand Master in 1994. He was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2003.
This novel is part fantasy and part science fiction. As the title implies there are really two main characters: Thorinn, a youngster with a lame leg, and the world itself. On the surface, the plot is a fairly straight forward adventure story of a young teenaged boy who is forced down a well and enters an exotic world filled with strange creatures and dangerous locales. Thorinn is alone and must survive a multitude of challenging predicaments as he makes his way towards his goal of returning to the surface. A large part of the fun of this book is seeing his youthful approach to solving problems and admire his stick-to-itiveness.
Most chapters begin with an italicized paragraph or two that, at first, seemed to have nothing to do with the story. But as I neared the end I realized how they did, in fact, relate and I began to see the much larger, even epic plot that was actually occurring. It unfolded brilliantly to a most satisfying conclusion. ...more
This is the 18th Robert Ludlum novel I’ve read. I had devoured the first 17 books decades ago when I was in my early 20’s and I feel confident in sayiThis is the 18th Robert Ludlum novel I’ve read. I had devoured the first 17 books decades ago when I was in my early 20’s and I feel confident in saying they had a great deal to do with my career ambitions at the time. The fictional worlds of espionage and intrigue were just what my young indestructible self considered ideal at the time. But alas my life took a different and much more realistic turn and I was destined to experience my love of such things through reading.
I’ve read hundreds of novels in the thriller genre since my early Ludlum days and have found many worthwhile reads. In truth, I had sort of forgotten about those old Ludlum paperbacks…until a few days ago when I realized I still had The Osterman Weekend sitting there on my countless book shelves, surrounded by similar titles, mostly unread Covert One novels written in Ludlum’s name but by different authors. The timing was perfect, having just finished another book, and so I grabbed it off the shelf and took the plunge.
The Osterman Weekend is Robert Ludlum’s second novel, after The Scarlatti Inheritance and was first published in 1972. I’ve always felt the early Ludlum, which I loosely define as those written in the 1970’s, are far superior to the more bloated works of his novels written in the 1980’s. There are exceptions of course but generally I have found early Ludlums to be better. Ludlum's novels typically feature one heroic man in a struggle against some sort of powerful adversary whose intentions and motivations are evil and who are capable of using political and economic mechanisms in frightening ways. Many times the nature of the adversary isn’t well-defined…it’s enough that we know they are the bad guys.
This book is a perfect example. It’s a tightly contained story with a protagonist, John Tanner, who through no fault of his own, is set up in a dangerous situation as a foil to reveal the identities of the bad guys. The novel includes a handful of major co-characters, occurs over a short time span and continuously builds suspense. The big bad is represented by “Omega” but we never learn exactly what Omega is. We just know what John Tanner knows and that Omega needs to be stopped. The problem for Tanner is that he does not know whom to trust. Even though written in the third person, the reader sees everything through Tanner’s eyes. As his suspicions about the other characters rise and desperation begins to set in, especially with his concern for his family’s safety, the same thing happens to us. It’s very effective and certainly kept me turning the pages.
My trip down memory lane was a fun and exciting one. And while this particular novel may have transferred over to my “completed” list, I may just have to revisit my thoughts on a follow-on career in some sort of espionage or counter-espionage field…the game awaits. ...more
Taking up shortly after the events of the last book Valentine's Rising, wherein we saw David Valentine play a major role in saving the Southern CommanTaking up shortly after the events of the last book Valentine's Rising, wherein we saw David Valentine play a major role in saving the Southern Command from the Kurians in this post-apocalyptic/post-alien-invasion series, I expected this 5th book to find him finally reaping some rewards from his leadership under extremely difficult conditions. But not so. Instead he finds himself screwed over once again and on the run.
This series is certainly unpredictable. This novel is more of a “journey” book as Valentine makes his way northward through Kentucky and into Ohio, an area occupied by the enemy, where Valentine discovers that life isn’t necessarily all that bad under their leadership. He has faced so many foes on his own side that he begins to question why he is fighting the Kurian Order at all. The ending was a complete surprise and would seem to throw the rest of the series in a whole new direction. ...more
The fourth novel in the series maintains the pace of previous books and continues to impress. The author is not content to settle into writing some soThe fourth novel in the series maintains the pace of previous books and continues to impress. The author is not content to settle into writing some sort of routine novel, just to get another book out. Rather, her characters and themes continue to grow while at the same time new and interesting concepts are introduced. A lot happens in these books and each one, so far, has had huge ramifications for all of the characters. I’m glad to see there are no “filler episodes”....more
I always enjoy reading William Martin’s novels. They have well-developed characters, interesting plots, and a writing style that makes then fun to divI always enjoy reading William Martin’s novels. They have well-developed characters, interesting plots, and a writing style that makes then fun to dive into. His Peter Fallon series is a perfect blend of a couple of my favorite genres: historical fiction and modern day thrillers.
For those that have yet to experience one of the Peter Fallon books, let me summarize the approach. Peter is a rare-book and manuscript expert and businessman, specializing in collectables of historical significance. In these novels, he is a treasure hunter, following clues from many sources until, hopefully, he reaches a successful end to his journey. But what makes these books unique is that we readers get to follow along in history, joining the historical figures (both real and fictional) and their adventures with that very same treasure that Peter is hunting in the present day. It is really cool to jump back and forth and see how the events laid out in history transform into clues for Peter to follow.
This time, the treasure is nothing less than an original near-final draft of the US Constitution, with margin notes scribbled by the founding fathers. This novel was published in 2007 but is even more relevant today as Peter’s present day world is engaged in a nation-wide debate on the the right to bear arms. Gun violence has reached such a level that they are even considering a repeal of the 2nd amendment. ("A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."). What would happen if some of those margin notes provided further insight on what the framers of the US Constitution might have been concerned with? Of course both sides of the issue have their thoughts and extremists in this novel are even willing to kill to either find the lost constitution or see it destroyed.
This makes for a fascinating tale and the book rises to the occasion. The historical chapters follow Will Pike and his descendants as the lost constitution is smuggled out of Philadelphia, sold, purloined, auctioned, and hidden for over two centuries. There are a lot of action sequences as the document's value grows over time and people fight over its location or ownership as well as a lot of family intrigue. I did feel some of the middle sections grew too long and other parts could have stood some pruning as well but overall it was a fully engaging story. It was also nice to see progress with Peter’s personal life as well.
I certainly recommend this series, particularly for those interested in historical America. The first two books in the series (Back Bay and Harvard Yard) were almost entirely set in the Boston area but this one found its way to all of the New England states. These books are a treat for me so I only read one per year or so. I always want at least one to look forward to. ...more
Ed Gorman is a prolific writer, specializing in crime, mysteries, westerns, and horror and methinks he enjoys combining those genres from time to timeEd Gorman is a prolific writer, specializing in crime, mysteries, westerns, and horror and methinks he enjoys combining those genres from time to time. This novel certainly has all the trappings of a classic western story but it has major elements of crime and even a bit of horror thrown in. Call it “western noir.”
The plot is more realistic than you typically find in western novels. Even though it’s told in first person POV, the protagonist isn’t very good at bragging about himself. While he does have honorable tendencies, this gets crowded out by his motivation for revenge, even at the expense of his own well-being. He isn’t a gunfighter or the typical square-jawed, narrow-waisted, stranger come to save the town from the bad guys. Instead he is sort of a dim-bulb farmer’s boy, being duped by the conniving rascals that he has pitted himself against time after time.
This sounds like a recipe for a disastrous novel but Ed Gorman is a great storyteller and the story here is a good one. I liked the easy-going, page-turning style and as soon as I realized this wasn’t going to be the “typical” western novel, and be burdened by predictable outcomes, I settled in for a great read. This is without a doubt the best “western” novel I’ve read in the past several years although I hate to pigeonhole it with that moniker. I’ll definitely be seeking out more Gorman in the future. ...more
This novel was a bit of a surprise for me. I’ve read Stephanie Barron before and I always have the same experience: the novels start out a bit slow anThis novel was a bit of a surprise for me. I’ve read Stephanie Barron before and I always have the same experience: the novels start out a bit slow and I have a difficult time getting into them. This, I feel, is partly due to the style of the narrative, a little more “literary” than I usually read. But then, I keep at it and the plot starts to develop and the characters start to come to life and by the end, I sit back and feel the need to take some time to reflect on what I’ve just read. The same thing happened with this novel.
There are two levels of mystery here. The story takes place in 1861, during the early years of Queen Victoria’s reign. The street level mystery revolves around a series of deaths, potentially murders that seem to be tied to the Irish barrister, Patrick Fitzgerald, whom Queen Victoria has summoned to deal with the after effects of the death of her consort, Prince Albert. All paths seem to lead to Fitzgerald in one way or another. At the same time, a much larger mystery, grander in scope, is occurring. This involves the Queen herself and the genetic flaw of hemophilia she passed to three of her children. This leads to questions on how the flaw has genetically transferred from one generation to another and how she herself is involved with its transmission…and ultimately to major questions on her parentage and right to rule.
Most chapters are told from Fitzgerald’s point of view but we do have quite a few from Victoria’s herself. There are quite a few characters sprinkled throughout and I found it confusing from time to time, trying to keep them all sorted. The ending really saved the book for me (5 stars there) but my struggles through the first three quarters will not permit me to grant more than three and a half stars for the whole. ...more
If this is a good example of James Hadley Chase’s work, then sign me up for more! I’ve read a fair bit of crime/noir fiction but am probably still onIf this is a good example of James Hadley Chase’s work, then sign me up for more! I’ve read a fair bit of crime/noir fiction but am probably still on the steep end of the learning curve as I continue working to discover which authors I like and which are better left alone.
This is a stand-alone novel (he does have several series of 3-5 books) and with a definite noir or pulp fiction vibe to it. A private investigator (and part-time blackmailer) named Floyd Jackson is enlisted to steal a gold compact from a rich mansion in California. He’s smart enough to realize there is something fishy going on but he can’t put it together until it is too late. Add to that a beautiful femme fatale, a murder or three and hiding out from the law and it all combines for a pretty cool story. But what I really liked about it was the writing style, with Floyd as the first person POV character telling the story in an easy flowing narrative that kept things moving well. The characters are well-drawn 1950’s era low-lifers that really captured my attention. The mystery of who is scamming who unfolded perfectly.
An interesting note: the author was a Brit and some of his earlier novels were based purely on what he had read about America, not on having visited yet. This book contains several instances of British slang being used by Americans as well as complete misjudgment of distances between cities (i.e. driving from the Los Angeles area to Albuquerque New Mexico in a single afternoon). But I didn’t let any of that bother me from enjoying a good read.
Finally, I suggest reading the original version of the novel and not the Harlequin publication of 2009 in which they took out certain words and passages they decided would be offensive to modern audiences. ...more