When I saw that Death in August was translated by Stephen Sartarelli, I could have done a happy dance. Sartarelli is a superb translator, and I love tWhen I saw that Death in August was translated by Stephen Sartarelli, I could have done a happy dance. Sartarelli is a superb translator, and I love the work he's done with Andrea Camilleri's Inspector Montalbano mysteries. Then I began to read. I was hooked by page three and the description of Bordelli's meeting with his boss. There is wit and humor in this book, and I loved every bit of it.
Inspector Bordelli is fifty-three, and although he's still looking for Miss Right, he's beginning to wonder if he's too old for her. His investigation is not told in a linear fashion either, but interspersed with his dreams, his childhood memories, and memories of fighting in World War II.
Although the heat could be considered a character in this book, I was rather disappointed that its setting of Florence didn't have a more commanding presence. However, the most charming scene in Death in August is the dinner party Bordelli has for his friends. Not only is it a celebration of wonderful food and drink, but quite an eclectic-- and happy-- gathering of people as well.
The investigation quickly proves that Bordelli doesn't have to figure out WHOdunnit, but HOW they done it, and the way he does so is rather ingenious and certainly entertaining. Piras, the young policeman who helps him solve the crime, brightens things up for Bordelli, especially when the inspector finds out he is the son of his old war buddy.
Although there are some similarities to Camilleri's Montalbano mysteries, I did not find this book to be a pale imitation. In its own way Death in August is every bit as good as its Sicilian counterpart, and I certainly look forward to reading more. ...more
If you're the type of reader who prefers to have at least one likable character in the fiction you read, Truth may not be for you. There's not one sinIf you're the type of reader who prefers to have at least one likable character in the fiction you read, Truth may not be for you. There's not one single person I cared for in this book. If you're the type of reader who prefers a linear plot that moves straight and true from Point A to Point B, Truth may not be for you. Main character Stephen Villani has a tendency to wander back and forth between the present and various chapters in his past. If you're the type of reader who doesn't care for short, sharp sentences, or ones that look a lot like lists, Truth may not be for you. Peter Temple's writing style reminded me of another favorite author's-- Ken Bruen. And lastly, if you're the type of reader who is deeply offended at the liberal use of a four-letter obscenity that begins with "c," you should probably give Truth a miss. It's there, and in quantities that could easily put some readers off. I know I tired of it and wished that some of the characters would turn to the D's in their dictionaries.
Now that I've listed all the reasons why you shouldn't read Truth, let me tell you why I kept on reading from first page to last and wound up giving it a high rating: Peter Temple's story grabbed me by the throat and wouldn't let go.
When he was a boy, Stephen Villani and his father planted a forest:
"From the time the trees were head high, every time he walked the forest he heard new bird calls, saw new ground covers spreading, new plants sprung up, new droppings of different sizes and shapes, new burrowings, scrapings, scratchings, new holes, fallen feathers, drab ones and feathers that flashed sapphire, scarlet, blue, emerald, and soon there were tiny bones and spike-toothed skulls, signs of life and death and struggle among the arboreal mammals."
The forest represents all the promise of Villani's youth, all the goodness that his life can contain. When new to the force, he was trained by the legendary Singo, a police officer with the sensibilities of the USA's Harry Bosch. Everyone counts, or no one counts. Do the job right regardless what the brass tells you. But Villani's life is under serious threat-- just like the wildfires that are threatening his beloved forest. It is our job as readers to see the deadfall begin to accumulate, to watch as each fallen limb, each bit of dead brush, slowly chokes the goodness from this man's life and makes it ready for the flames. We can see how each decision he made slowly transformed him into a man we don't like very much.
The mystery's gripping, too, but for me this book is mainly a riveting character study of a man I'll not soon forget. Villani believes himself to be a blurred copy of all the important men in his life with their worst bits magnified. Is Stephen Villani beyond redemption? That's for you to discover for yourselves-- and I hope you do. ...more
This is a Dover reprint of the original publication of the handbook many pioneers swore by as they headed west across the United States in the nineteeThis is a Dover reprint of the original publication of the handbook many pioneers swore by as they headed west across the United States in the nineteenth century.
Anyone who has an interest in the nineteenth century, whether it be literature, design, or history, should be acquainted with Dover Publications. They've been my go-to source for affordable reprint editions of novels, clip art, floor plans... all sorts of things. I can spend hours looking through their catalogs and website.
Dover is responsible for reprinting this gem-- The Prairie Traveler-- and if you ever wanted to know if pioneers had a guidebook for how to equip themselves for a transcontinental journey, the answer is yes. Veteran Randolph Marcy covers every conceivable topic westbound travelers would need to know. What type of covered wagon to buy. Oxen or mules? What to pack in the wagon and how to pack it. How to ford streams. What sorts of guns are the best. What to do in case of snake bite. How to deal with Indians. And that's just for starters.
This little volume packs a ton of information, some of which is still useful today. I've read plenty of histories, biographies, and historical fiction about the pioneers, but reading this guidebook made their journeys tactile, immediate. It brought back memories of my grandfather and I walking along the wagon ruts of the Oregon Trail near Scottsbluff, Nebraska. It brought home how difficult that journey was for the thousands of people who endured it.
I learned a great deal from reading The 1859 Handbook for Westbound Pioneers. The added bonus was that it also fired my imagination. ...more
When I read one of Todd Borg's Owen McKenna books, I simply cannot turn the pages fast enough. There's always a first-class mystery to solve, new thinWhen I read one of Todd Borg's Owen McKenna books, I simply cannot turn the pages fast enough. There's always a first-class mystery to solve, new things to learn, plenty of adrenaline-pumping action to survive, and-- most of all-- a wonderful cast of characters to catch up with.
As usual, the gorgeous scenery of Lake Tahoe can be considered a character in Tahoe Blue Fire, and like most characters it can sometimes be high maintenance, which is why readers get to learn a bit about the machines that remove all the snow that falls in the area, and how they get rid of the huge piles of white stuff so we can drive safely on the roads. However, if snow and machinery aren't your things, you can also pick up information on computer forensics, Traumatic Brain Injury, service dogs, and history-- from the Medicis in Italy to local Tahoe history when Frank Sinatra was in town.
The story is yet another good one, although one segment that takes place away from Lake Tahoe made the story's momentum falter a bit, and the curious behavior of one of the characters clued me in to the identity of the killer too soon for my liking. Tiny blips on my radar however, because Tahoe Blue Fire is packed with goodies.
As usual, Borg's wonderful cast of characters provide the majority of those goodies. Owen McKenna has a great supporting cast: two buddies on the local police and sheriff's departments; a love interest with a brilliant mind of her own; and Owen's constant companion, a Harlequin Great Dane named Spot who wears a faux diamond stud in one ear. Spot is fantastic-- one of my favorite dogs in literature. Spot is a well-trained dog that helps out whenever and wherever he can, but the thing I love about him most is that Spot isn't Super Dog; he doesn't go around spelling "Help!" in the mashed potatoes. Mostly he wags a lot. And watches you eat. Spot's a typical dog that makes a difference each and every day, just like a lot of other dogs.
When it comes to characterization, Borg knows that the best kind is most often found in small but telling details. It's the fact that McKenna gets himself into a lot of dangerous situations, yet he doesn't carry a gun. It's the fact that he has a key to his girlfriend's house, but only uses it when she tells him to. It's the fact that McKenna feels guilty because he didn't take his client more seriously and she was killed as a result. And it's the fact that he takes the time to show a young K-9 officer how to care for his stressed-out dog. The entire Owen McKenna series is filled with moments-- facts-- like this, and as a result, this reader has come to care deeply for these characters.
If you see that this is the thirteenth book in the series, and you just don't feel like investing in something this long, I hope you'll reconsider. You'll find that Tahoe Blue Fire reads very well as a standalone. If you're the type of reader (like me) who loves good stories and characters who feel like a part of your family, you'll be glad you've found a series with some meat on its bones. Either way you look at it, this series is one of my favorites, and I recommend it highly. ...more
With just two books in the Mainely Needlepoint series so far, I confess that I'm hooked. Lea Wait has a series that delivers when it comes to needlepoWith just two books in the Mainely Needlepoint series so far, I confess that I'm hooked. Lea Wait has a series that delivers when it comes to needlepoint (this time restoring old damaged pieces) without going overboard. That can be a tricky path to tread, but if there's needlepoint in the cozy I'm reading, I want its percentage to be somewhere between just walking past a shop window and saying, "Oh look at that needlepoint pillow!" and doing so much stitching that the characters don't have time to stick their noses outside to solve a murder. The author has the perfect blend in this series, and that really ups the enjoyment factor for me.
Threads of Evidence also started like gangbusters with Angie and her friend clearing out that marvelous old house and getting ready for a sale. As long as that was going on, I refused any and all attempts to get me to come up for air. What's wonderful is that once the sale was over, the story and the characters assumed control and kept me turning the pages enthusiastically.
Angie is one of the best amateur sleuths going because she worked for a private investigator in Arizona. She's familiar with how to do things, and if she needs some help, she can always phone up her former boss. She's also very level-headed and smart. Life dealt her some hard knocks rather early in life, so even though she's positive and upbeat, she's still a bit reserved. (Have some fun, but don't be surprised if someone wants to shove you into the handbasket to Hell.)
There's some competition between Angie and her friend, and other Mainely Needlepointers do their part to help solve the crime. If that's not enough, there's Angie's grandmother's wedding to keep tabs on. I only solved half the mystery which is always a plus-- and I have a confession to make. I wish that Hollywood actress had chosen a screen name that didn't make my eyes hiccup every time they saw it. It probably won't bother you a bit, but since I'm from Phoenix, Skye West just sounds like a blend of Sky Harbor Airport and the old America West Arena-- or the name of an airline. I know. Silly, aren't I?
What's not silly is how much I enjoyed this book, and how highly I rate this series. Bring on book three! I can't wait to see what happens next to Angie and the Mainely Needlepointers. ...more
There's a nice little subgenre in crime fiction that's all about genealogy and how crimes committed in the past have a way of causing even more griefThere's a nice little subgenre in crime fiction that's all about genealogy and how crimes committed in the past have a way of causing even more grief in the present. As main character Nigel Barnes says, "Anyone who seeks to forget the past has a corpse in the basement," and that's exactly what's happened in The Blood Detective. A crime was committed in the past and swiftly forgotten by almost everyone. Notice I said "almost."
Waddell has an excellent cast to solve this mystery. Nigel is young, intelligent, and passionate about family history-- well, all history for that matter. He's not without his own skeleton in the closet, and as soon as I knew what it was, I was watching carefully to see how he deals with it. I'll leave that for you to discover for yourselves. His two police colleagues are interesting in their own ways. Heather Jenkins is the likable one of the pair, and although I really didn't care much for Grant Foster (I keep hearing that line from an old commercial, "Who's behind those Foster Grants?"), I certainly appreciated his character being fleshed out more by book's end.
The story in The Blood Detective is a bit like that snowball going downhill, gaining size and momentum till the powerful crash at the end. I enjoyed the journey, possibly because there are no clues to be found in the present. Barnes has to spend a lot of time in newspaper archives and records offices to piece everything together, and watching how he does it is fascinating. History and genealogy really do solve this crime. And Barnes' habit of tossing out name origins as he goes along? Pay attention. (Just a word to the wise. Besides, they're fun.)
I almost added this book to my Best Reads of 2015 list except for one thing, and it's something that doesn't happen to me very often. One scene toward the end was over-the-top with the pain and gore quotient. It had me tied up in a Gordian knot of quivering sympathy pain. I think of it as the "Annie Wilkes on steroids" scene. Be that as it may, I really enjoyed this book. Dan Waddell has joined fellow Englishman Steve Robinson in crafting mysteries steeped in family history that I just don't want to put down. I'm looking forward to meeting Nigel Barnes again-- soon! ...more