Date With Danger by Roy Vickers is lovely little bit of fluff. Bobbie Chandler, our heroine, reminds me of Saturday afternoon movies where the main ch...moreDate With Danger by Roy Vickers is lovely little bit of fluff. Bobbie Chandler, our heroine, reminds me of Saturday afternoon movies where the main character stumbles into trouble, repeatedly runs afoul of both bad and good guys alike, and yet manages to come out unscathed and with boy/girlfriend as a bonus. It all starts with blue satin slipper left behind in a taxi. Bobbie is on her way to meet her current fella when she grabs a taxi that a mysterious, smooth-voiced, movie-star-faced gentleman has just exited. As she rides towards the restaurant her foot nudges something which upon closer examination proves to be the blue satin slipper. Bobbie wonders how anyone could lose a slipper and not notice...but then she notices a message written on the bottom of the slipper in lipstick. One word: "Come." But come where? She then finds a note stuffed in the toe of the slipper that contains the address of Miss Aldringham, the society darling and daring adventuress.
When her gentleman is late to their dinner date, Bobbie sets off for Miss Aldringham's and begins an adventure of her own that will involve secret agents, double agents, the British Secret Service, mysterious plans for war-time devices, and a hunt for a dangerous killer. She also must avoid Scotland Yard--who are very anxious to talk to the beautiful red-head who was last seen exiting Miss Aldringham's apartment leaving a very dead Miss Aldringham behind.
This story is more readily a light thriller/adventure novel than a mystery. There really isn't much doubt about who is responsible for Miss Aldringham's death. The only true puzzle is finding out where the secret plans have gotten to. The spies, counter-spies, and Secret Service men are all on the hunt--even after the slipper shows up a second time with its sole split open. It's obvious that something was hidden there--but no one seems to have found the missing papers.
While I like Bobbie and her Secret Service men--they aren't as finely drawn as one might like. And the Scotland Yard men and secret agents are stock characters--smooth villains, rough henchmen, and disbelieving policemen. The best character of the bunch is Bobbie's Granny. The elder Mrs. Chandler is spunky and smart. In fact, she's the one who spots the clue that points the way to the true hiding place for the plans. The best plan for enjoying a book like this is to consider it a Saturday afternoon matinee...grab some popcorn and get comfy for a light adventure and a bit of ride. No intricate puzzles, not a lot of clues to track down--just a fun little outing with a happy ending for all (well, all but the bad guys) and Bobbie does manage to have her romance in the bargain.
It seems plain to me that I just don't get mysteries as written by Chinese authors. Previously, I had read A Pair of Jade Frogs by Ye Xin and I strugg...moreIt seems plain to me that I just don't get mysteries as written by Chinese authors. Previously, I had read A Pair of Jade Frogs by Ye Xin and I struggled with it as well. The problem for me is pacing and expectations--I realize this is absolutely my problem and no reflection on the authors at all (thus, I have not given a star rating to this novel--it wouldn't be fair). Decoded takes forever to get to the main kernel of the story--namely the problem highlighted in the first paragraph of the synopsis above. The synopsis that grabbed my attention and caused me to pick this up at the library.
The entire first half of the novel (perhaps even a bit more) is taken up in a minutely-detailed exposition of Jinzhen's ancestry--his family and all the details surrounding them and his birth and who he his and where he came from and where they lived and how they made riches from salt and how they lost their wealth and.... And--by the time we actually got around to the meat of the story I found I had no interest at all. Is there a need for an explanation of Jinzhen's background? Absolutely. Is there a need to go into such mind-numbing detail? In my opinion, absolutely not--because by the time I had made my way through the first half Mia Jia had lost this reader. And the intrigue of the thriller never brought me back.
Readers who are more capable at discarding preconceived notions about the pacing of a mystery/thriller may thoroughly enjoy this novel--and judging by the rating on Goodreads that is absolutely possible. I am sorry it wasn't possible for me.
Whatever I might have been, whatever I might become, here, today, I am a man who keeps his promises. ~Michael Suslov (p.435)
Michael Suslov is a CIA ag...moreWhatever I might have been, whatever I might become, here, today, I am a man who keeps his promises. ~Michael Suslov (p.435)
Michael Suslov is a CIA agent in Argentina. A man with slim ties to the former First Lady of Argentina, Eva Peron; he nonetheless has promises to keep and, as the saying goes, miles to go before he sleeps. And before this story is over he will be called upon to keep those promises--even at the risk of his life.
When Eva Peron dies, her body is preserved and held in trust for the Argentine people--but her body vanishes from the vault where it was kept and moved from place to place. Each time Evita's body is moved, devoted followers manage to find her and flowers are sent. After sixteen years, the Argentine people want Evita back and Suslov is called upon to transport the body safely. But there are more groups than one who want Evita's body...and moreover, they want to find the key to a Swiss bank box rumored to hold the millions that Evita reportedly stole. Some of the people on Suslov's trail are rogue CIA agents, some are former colleagues, and some are former friends--but they all want Evita and most want the money. It becomes more and more difficult for Suslov to determine who is on what side and it will be a long dangerous journey before Evita can be brought home and Michael can keep his promises.
After a somewhat slow beginning, this turns into a fast-paced thriller that keeps the reader on her toes. Lots of action and the chase in the final chapters is well worth the ride. The best of the book is in the denouement and I enjoyed Michael's interactions with Gina and Hector. And I have to chuckle when I think of the wool they pull over General Peron's eyes in those last moments. I agreed to read this as a review request because of the story of Evita--I knew very little before and was intrigued by the historical context and mysterious circumstances. It was very interesting to find out how many of the extraordinary events were factual. Overall, a very solid and interesting read. I give it three and a half stars, but if you are a thriller or espionage fan I can easily imagine it earning a higher rating.
This was first posted on my blog My Reader's Block. Please request permission before reposting Thanks!
[Disclaimer: This book was made available to me as an advanced reader copy--there may be differences between this copy and the final published version. My review policy is posted on my blog, but just to reiterate...This review copy was offered to me for impartial review and I have received no payment of any kind. All comments are entirely my own honest opinion.] (less)
Chalk up another winner for Carol K. Carr and her fabulous Madame of Espionage, India Black! In India Black & the Shadows of Anarchy Carol has onc...moreChalk up another winner for Carol K. Carr and her fabulous Madame of Espionage, India Black! In India Black & the Shadows of Anarchy Carol has once again provided an excellent Victorian-era adventure--this time taking us among the spies and anarchists intent on over-throwing (if not eradicating) the privileged establishment.
India's partner in the spying business, French, has disappeared on a top-secret mission for Dizzy, Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, and it's up to India to find a way to infiltrate the Dark Legion--the latest anarchist cell to spring up in London's underbelly of spies, malcontents, and Russian/French/German ex-patriots who are seeking a way to vent their spleen on the heartless rich who keep the common man under their boot heels. It's time for the workers and the poor to throw off their shackles, blow up a few government buildings, assassinate one or two peers of the realm, and generally create chaos & make mayhem. Dizzy and Inspector Stoke recruit India to make contact with the Dark Legion and to find a way to capture the elusive leader, Grigori. Her first order of business is to steal a strumpet from Mother Edding's establishment...for rumor has it that Martine, the "lady" in question has connections to the anarchists.
Soon India finds herself committed to blowing up a bandstand full of London dignitaries and making preparations for an even more daring scheme. Before the dust settles, she and French will face an old enemy and death--all in the name of queen and country. Along the way, India takes time to follow up clues that will tell her more about her past and her mother and she continues her quest to find out French's first name and any other tidbits about his life beyond the world of espionage.
India is her usual sharp-witted, cheeky, brazen self. She easily matches wits with foreign spies, home-grown anarchists, and hired ruffians out to end her career. She holds her own in a fight, shows she can handle her Bulldog, and takes care of the wayward girls in her house that get out of line. But then she can also charm the secrets out of unsuspecting engineer and dazzle a few guards along the way.
This story has everything from explosions and roughhouse fighting to clandestine meetings and hidden bombs. There are assassination attempts and near-drownings. We learn some of India's secrets and also a few of French's....and there's even a hint of romance in the air. And it's all told with Carr's marvelous gift for witty dialogue and incredible characters. Four and a half stars!
Casino Royale by Ian Fleming. Where it all began--the first book in the 007 legacy. This book introduced the world to what h...more"Mine's Bond--James Bond."
Casino Royale by Ian Fleming. Where it all began--the first book in the 007 legacy. This book introduced the world to what has become the most well-known British Intelligence agent in fiction.
I first read this one back in the mists of time when I was about 14 or so. There seemed to be endless rounds of James Bond Marathons with Sean Connery running on the television (that my Mom and Dad never wanted me to watch)....so I decided to take a look at the books--reading Casino and then Dr. No. My parents never monitored my reading the way they did the television-viewing. Perhaps they thought the visuals were more likely to warp me. Either that or, not being the heavy-duty readers that I am, they didn't realize the effect the written word might have. Not that reading about gambling, drinking martinis, and wild nights of passion, set me on the road to ruin...pretty boring Mid-Western life going on here. :-)
When Man of la Book posted his League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Challenge and included "read any James Bond novel" as one of the criteria, I wasn't sure which Bond book I wanted to try. I was tempted to reread Casino simply because I was curious whether I would still like it after almost 30 years. But I also thought I might want to try reading one that I hadn't read before. So...I asked one of our resident Bond experts in the English Department which book he would suggest if I were only going to read one Bond book and he narrowed it down to either From Russia With Love or Casino Royale. And when the Friends of the Library offered up the pictured copy for sale, my decision was made.
In 007's first written mission, Bond has been commissioned to out-gamble a deadly, high-rolling Russian operative known as "Le Chiffre." or the cipher. Le Chiffre has been playing games with Soviet funds and stands to be permanently relieved of his spying status if he doesn't have a run of luck at the Baccarat table to replenish his bankroll. Bond's goal is to bankrupt Le Chiffre so the Soviet organization SMERSH will punish their own. But even when it looks like Bond has gambled on a sure winner, he finds that the odds can quickly change--especially when some people just won't play by the rules. Add a beautiful female agent to the mix and the stakes become even higher. We're all set for an exciting finish...including a surprise assist from an unexpected quarter.
I have to admit that I still think Ian Fleming writes one heck of a spy thriller. Not my usual thing--but when I read them, I want my spy novels to be exciting. And Bond definitely delivers. You can't beat James Bond for smooth and debonair with all the glitz and glamor of the gaming world. An excellent story as long as you're prepared for the world you step into. I gave this story four stars on my first read and we're almost there this time. My only major problem with it on this go-round is with Bond's attitude towards women. I realize that he's a product of his time--but his views on romance (making love to Vesper will always "have the sweet tang of rape"?? Um. yeah. That goes over big in 2012.) and women's proper place ("These blithering women who thought they could do a man's work. Why the hell couldn't they stay at home and mind their pots and pans and stick to their frocks and gossip and leave men's work to the men.")...well, his views just don't go down well for me at this point. So, we'll deduct a bit for that. Three and a half stars for the latest reading.(less)
The Riddle of the Sands by Erskine Childers is another one of those books. Like A Coffin for Dimitrios by Ambler, it's a big deal. Ambler is credited...moreThe Riddle of the Sands by Erskine Childers is another one of those books. Like A Coffin for Dimitrios by Ambler, it's a big deal. Ambler is credited with inventing the modern suspense novel. Childers is credited by many critics as having written one of the best spy novels ever written--the classic Secret Service novel. It's supposed to be a terrific spy novel kind of book. I get that. I get that Childers did something great and did it early (1903!). But it just didn't do a whole lot for me.
Why, you may ask. Well, I'll tell you. Because for a large portion of the book, it's NOT about spying really. It's about two guys on a boat. Two guys who weren't really friends before they got on the boat together. They just kind of knew each other and the first guy (That would be Arthur Davies) has been puttering around in the North Sea and out of the blue sends a letter to the second guy (Carruthers, minor clerk in the Foreign Office) and asks if Carruthers would like to join him on his little boat, the Dulcibella, for a late season holiday. Carruthers comes along thinking it's going to be a jolly holiday only to find that it's a really tiny boat and there's no crew. It's just him & Davies. And it's a lot of work. He spends a few days being disgruntled about this, but then suddenly has a little epiphany about how great this really is and then Davies Reveals All. They become great chums and go off to spy out the land because England's gonna need this one day and Davies has gotten real suspicious of what might lurk out there amongst the sand and the water because of a run-in he had previously with a Bad Guy.
And I'm thinking, "Cool. Now we'll get down to cases and the real meat of the story is on its way."
Only it's not. Because first we have to talk A LOT about the guys sailing the boat. And tides. And sand. And letting the warp out (or in or something). And calm water and not so calm water. And running aground. And kedging-off....and a whole bunch of other really nautical-sounding words that I'm still not sure I understand what they are. And more tides. And running through the locks. And tugboats towing them. And lashing their little boat to a bigger boat. And charts and channels and watersheds. And, by the way, more sand. Lots of sand.
I suppose I should have known that sand was important. After all, it's in the title, right? But honest to goodness, I was so tired of all the details about sailing the boat and all the mentions of sand and whether the sand was showing or whether it was covered in water that by the time we did get around to the actual spy/thriller action of the story I was too sand-bound to be terribly impressed. Norman Donaldson tells us in the intro to the Dover edition (which I read) that "the richness of technical detail, especially in the yachting sequences, would have made it an outstanding and unforgettable volume of adventure even if the intelligence -gathering episodes had been replaced by, say, a treasure hunt or a search for the great auk." Um. Yeah. If the reader's really into the finer details of yachting (and hearing about them for pages on end), then, yep, it's a riveting little adventure novel.
As for me, a little bit of detail on how to sail the boat would have gone a loooooong way. And a quicker route to the action would have made this a much better read for me. I wasn't expecting the Victorian novelist's penchant for describing things in incredibly minute detail to be so prevalent in a spy novel. Not that I can't read Victorian novels with the best of them--but I sort of expect that sort of thing from a Dickens or an Eliot or even a Collins. Not from a spy thriller.
I must admit that I did like the main characters and I enjoyed their camaraderie (although as I briefly mention, I think it was a bit quick off the mark considering how they started). More of them doing something other than sail the boat or talk about sand would have been a welcome treat. Two and a half stars (rounded to three on GoodReads) for the characters, their interactions....and for this being a big deal kind of book.