Reading a novel by Howard Frank Mosher is like sitting down for a chat with an old and valued friend. I've been a fan since reading his first novel, DReading a novel by Howard Frank Mosher is like sitting down for a chat with an old and valued friend. I've been a fan since reading his first novel, Disappearances. This latest in his output is no disappointment. God's Kingdom (northeast Vermont) is told from the viewpoint of Jim Kinneson, a budding young writer in the 1950s, who absorbs the history of his family from their arrival in the territory in the 1750s down to his time through stories told by his beloved grandfather and others. Hovering always in the background is a family secret that haunts his father and grandfather. The stories of his quirky characters shaped by the environment and their experiences are entertaining in and of themselves. But Mosher brings in additional elements in a coming of age story that is much more. We empathize with Jim's development as a person, his hunting and fishing adventures, his love of baseball, his schooling and early attempts at writing and, finally, his introduction to the mystery of love. Oh, and he does finally unravel that family secret. Mosher tramps familiar ground in this short novel, but it's an intriguing and altogether enjoyable journey. ...more
A fascinating examination of how we (humankind) became who/what we are. Harcourt, professor emeritus of anthropology at the University of California, DA fascinating examination of how we (humankind) became who/what we are. Harcourt, professor emeritus of anthropology at the University of California, Davis, traces the journey of the human species out of Africa and describes the biological and geographical forces which have shaped the beast into what it is today in all its glorious variety. In the process he never shirks from noting differences of opinion or separating theory from established fact. His explanations of how environment, biology and even culture have shaped the differences between members of the same species across the world are lucid and backed by the latest scientific thought. Evolution is an ongoing process and more changes lie ahead. In an epilogue, while ending on an optimistic note, Harcourt warns we are not eternal. We are the surviving branch of a much larger tree of ancestors gone extinct. "Now in a world in which our technology allows exploitation on a massive scale," he writes, "that same greed makes us fat, and it makes us lethal--to ourselves as well as to the world." ...more
The prologue sets the stage for the murders to come, though the motive isn't immediately clear when the first victims are two elderly women. Samson SegThe prologue sets the stage for the murders to come, though the motive isn't immediately clear when the first victims are two elderly women. Samson Segal, an unemployed man who passes time spying on his neighbors becomes the prime suspect when the third victim is the husband of beautiful Gillian Ward, who has become an obsession for Samson. While Samson views Gillian as a perfect woman, he is unaware of her own doubts about her marriage and her performance as a mother, doubts which have led her into an affair with her daughter's tennis coach. John Burton, a former Scotland Yard detective, who has his own character flaws. When Samson flees to avoid arrest, Burton becomes his protector and they join forces to solve the mystery. Link is regarded as one of Europe's bestselling crime writers and this novel was absorbing enough to keep me reading. That said, I didn't find Burton a particularly engaging character. I was much more intrigued by Detective Inspector Peter Fielder and Detective Sergeant Christy McMarrow who were given short-shift by the author. And, while it might be the fault of the translator and not Link, there seemed to be a heavy reliance on cliche throughout the novel. ...more
Sister Deirdre is back on the detecting job when a serial killer begins stalking the nuns of Saint Brigid's Monastery in this second of Philip FreemanSister Deirdre is back on the detecting job when a serial killer begins stalking the nuns of Saint Brigid's Monastery in this second of Philip Freeman's enjoyable sixth century Celtic adventure series. Deirdre, a nun who also retains her status as a Druidic bard, and her grandmother, a respected Druid seer, soon determine the grisly murders are ritual sacrifices, which points the finger of guilt at one of their own. Such sacrifices haven't been performed by the local Druids for centuries and the manner in which they are done defiles the religion. When Deirdre declines to reveal Druidic secrets Sister Anna, the abbess, expels her from the monastery. Because of her unique position with insight into both worlds, King Dunlaing charges Deirdre with the task of finding the murderer whose actions pose a risk not only to relations between the Christians and Druids but also to the peace of the kingdom. The assignment tests Deirdre's image of herself and her faith and before she can track down the killer there will be more deaths. She, her family and friends will face imminent danger and, finally, the heroine will be forced to offer herself as "sacrifice" to prevent all-out war between the eastern and western clans of the kingdom. Once more Freeman has penned a gripping, fast-paced novel sure to transport the reader to another time and world. ...more
The lives of men often fail to go as planned. Count Byron Khun de Prorok expected his remarkable discovery in the Sahara would propel him to the pinnacThe lives of men often fail to go as planned. Count Byron Khun de Prorok expected his remarkable discovery in the Sahara would propel him to the pinnacle of archaeological success and assure his financial future. Willy Brown escapes a domineering father and the rural doldrums when he accepts a job assisting Prorok on a midwestern lecture tour. The immediate hopes of both men are dashed by a combination of the count's sloppy record keeping, professional jealousy, misinterpretations of the definition of "treasure" and a vindictive father-in-law. Willy proves himself an able ally. The narrative switches back and forth in time to portray the count's Saharan expedition and the lecture tour, both of which are fraught with problems emanating from his careless attention to detail and naive assessment of the people he's dealing with. An entertaining fictional account of a phase in the life of an actual Philadelphia born amateur archaeologist who might have been the model for the tomb-raider Indiana Jones. ...more
The Devil, or at least a man who fancies himself such, is stalking the streets of Atlanta in 1881, leaving in his wake mutilated corpses, each with anThe Devil, or at least a man who fancies himself such, is stalking the streets of Atlanta in 1881, leaving in his wake mutilated corpses, each with an initial carved on their forehead.
It’s not an auspicious time for such goings on as the good citizens of the city are celebrating an industrial rebirth with the opening of the International Cotton Exposition and William Tecumseh Sherman, who once destroyed the city, is coming back as an honored guest.
Intent on stopping the murderer in his tracks, the “ring,” Atlanta’s leading businessmen, summon disgraced former lawman Thomas Canby, dangling the carrot of an opportunity to restore his reputation. Canby, who fought for the Union in the late war, though not out of patriotism, is paired with Cyrus Underwood, the city’s first black police officer. As might be expected, there are some tense moments as the two become acclimated to one another.
This well-paced and atmospheric narrative shows men are fully capable of evil without the help of the occult.
Guinn has written a crackerjack follow up to his Edgar finalist first period mystery. And, the ending of The Scribe dangles the promise of more adventures in a follow up with the same team. ...more
When two children are rushed to Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem with traumatic injuries suspicion immediately falls on the mother who seems detached anWhen two children are rushed to Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem with traumatic injuries suspicion immediately falls on the mother who seems detached and unconcerned about the health of her babies.
Thus Naomi Ragen introduces us to her character Daniella Goodman, a seemingly pious orthodox woman intent on convincing authorities the injuries to her children are the result of unfortunate accidents.
Detective Bina Tzedek, a mother herself, and her colleagues are stunned, unable to believe a mother can be so blasé about such apparent child abuse.
In chapters that move back and forth in time we learn how Daniella, an intelligent and religious woman, met the naïve dreamer Shlomie, a luftmensch, married and immigrated to Israel with him, there becoming a baby-machine and pawn in his unrealistic lifestyle.
Falling under the influence of a charismatic, brutal cult leader, their lives descend into a horrific hell from which there seems no escape.
In an afterword, Ragen reveals this novel was inspired by several actual case of self-proclaimed messiahs and their followers who committed vile acts in the name of religion. It is a disturbing concept and makes one wonder how any sane person could allow themselves to become so deluded. Unfortunately, these cults are not restricted to one religion or continent.
Though described as one of Israel’s most popular authors, Ragen’s writing seems uneven and even cliché-ridden in places. Still, despite this and the disturbing nature of the subject matter, it is a compelling read. ...more
This is my latest release, a historical mystery set in Pennsylvania in the 1890s. I'd prefer to have readers give the rating, but if you can't like yoThis is my latest release, a historical mystery set in Pennsylvania in the 1890s. I'd prefer to have readers give the rating, but if you can't like your own work......more
J. D. Miller, the man known as The Lawyer, rides into a Texas town just in time to witness a jailbreak in which a marshal and deputy are killed. In anJ. D. Miller, the man known as The Lawyer, rides into a Texas town just in time to witness a jailbreak in which a marshal and deputy are killed. In an exchange of gunfire with the fleeing desperados, Miller downs one of the gang and confirms another is Jules Despare, a man he’s been pursuing.
Despare is one of the men who murdered his family. The nickname defines Miller’s former profession when justice was his aim. Despare and his comrades have set him on a new course—retribution.
The town offers the lawyer a badge, an offer he refuses—first because it conflicts with his goal and second because he scorns their failure to offer the job to Ernest Tell, the remaining deputy, because of his skin color.
After Tell is waylaid by a party of bigots, the two unite in a common cause.
This is the second in The Lawyer series written by Wayne D. Dundee. A bevy of well drawn characters, plenty of action and suspense. Whether one of his hard-boiled crime stories or his Westerns, you’re always assured of a good read with Dundee. ...more
A chilling insight into the mind of a killer based on an actual murder case in 19th century Ireland.
While researching for a non-fiction social historyA chilling insight into the mind of a killer based on an actual murder case in 19th century Ireland.
While researching for a non-fiction social history, archivist Andrew Hughes stumbled upon references to a sensational murder that had been problematic for police in Dublin in the 1840s. This led him to the real John Delahunt who sparked his imagination and resulted in this excellent first novel.
The recreated Delahunt is an amoral young man who becomes a tool of a clandestine government agency, informing on others for pay. He soon discovers the highest reward is for murder and, when there are none to report, has no compunction about doing the deed himself and putting the blame on others.
Delahunt is abetted in his decline by Helen, an odd young woman he courts (among their first ‘romantic’ outings is attendance at a hanging) and with whom he eventually elopes after her family rejects him as a suitor. Despite abject poverty, Helen stands by her man for the greater part of the novel until he learns near the end she is, like him, a manipulative liar.
Hughes’ skill at depicting the harsh life of Dublin’s poor is reminiscent of Dickens and Wilkie Collins. Despite the grim nature of the subject, there are passages of dark humor and there were moments when I found myself sympathizing with Delahunt’s plight as the narrative brought him closer to the gallows. A gripping read. ...more
Shakespeare’s comment is a fitting description of this study by Desmond Seward. Though it might seem the vic“Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.”
Shakespeare’s comment is a fitting description of this study by Desmond Seward. Though it might seem the victory of the Tudor usurper over Richard III at Bosworth assured the reign of Henry VII and his heirs, but it was not so.
Henry’s avarice and unpopularity contributed to aid conspiracies by both supporters of the rightful Yorkist heirs as well as a variety of pretenders for the 24 years leading to his death and were a contributing factor in the paranoia of his son, Henry VIII.
Though Henry VII had married a daughter of Richard’s brother Edward to strengthen his claim on the throne, the legitimacy of his own Welsh parentage was questioned by many who saw little evidence of the “old blood royal.” There were a number with a better claim to the crown, particularly Richard’s own recognized heir, John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln. Henry moved quickly to confine him in the Tower of London. Edward, the 10-year-old Earl of Warwick, was also confined in the tower.
These moves failed to rein in dissent. Lord Lovell and the Stafford brothers initiated the first rebellion in 1486 on behalf of Warwick. It was the first of many, too many to enumerate in a review, and they continued on a regular basis right up to Henry’s death in 1509. After the ascension of his son, threats and rumors of threat resumed and fed a murderous rage in Henry VIII that had him obliterating foes and friends in a combination of fears for his life and a scramble to produce a male heir.
Seward details these various conspiracies in a fascinating narrative, the plots being abetted at times by the Irish and the Scots as well as France and other royals seeking their own advantages. This assistance went not just to legitimate claimants but also to a number of pretenders including Perkin Warbeck who convinced Margaret, a sister of Richard; James IV of Scotland and others he was one of the twins alleged to have been murdered in the tower. Whether he was actually who he claimed to be or a deluded madman, he came as close to achieving a successful rebellion as any and must have caused Henry VII nightmares.
I have two minor complaints with the book. First, one that is not Seward’s fault. The similarity of names and titles (the latter complicated by the fact both Henrys were in the habit of awarding a title, then taking it back only to bestow it on another person) can be confusing. The index is a help in resolving this issue. Second, Seward seems to take the word of Polydore Vergil and Thomas More as gospel when both are known to have been defamers of Richard and the Yorkists. Some quotes from the like of George Buck or John Rous might have provided a little more balance.
When the bones of Saint Brigid go missing from the monastery at Kildare, the task of recovering them is assigned to Sister Deirdre, a nun raised in aWhen the bones of Saint Brigid go missing from the monastery at Kildare, the task of recovering them is assigned to Sister Deirdre, a nun raised in a Druid family and trained as a professional bard.
The bones and their healing powers draw pilgrims to Kildare and the monastery is largely dependent on donations for its ministry. Without this support Sister Anna, the abbess, fears the school must close and the poor be turned away.
Deirdre, already guilty over the accidental burning of a new church intended to help provide for the monastery, is shocked and initially views it as punishment when the abbess assigns her the investigation. But pragmatic Sister Anna sees it differently—Deirdre is “insufferably curious” and her heritage and work as a bard provide her with unique tools for the job.
Deirdre and her friend Sister Dari soon discover a number of suspects—ranging from royalty to a jealous abbot and a fearful bandit chief—all of whom pose a variety of threats to the investigators. In addition to the dangers she faces with her prying, Deirdre’s reencounter with Cormac, a young king she’d loved in the past, causes her to question both her faith and his motivations.
Freeman has penned an absorbing and suspenseful tale of a time when Christianity coexisted in a shaky alliance with the pagans in Ireland and life was far from simple. This is the first in a projected series about the adventures of Sister Deirdre. I, for one, look forward to reading more. ...more
Most recognize the Wright brothers as aviation pioneers, but know little about them on a personal level.
Fact is, on a personal level, Wilbur and OrvilMost recognize the Wright brothers as aviation pioneers, but know little about them on a personal level.
Fact is, on a personal level, Wilbur and Orville were generally reclusive, work-obsessed, idea-driven with apparently little time or interest in people outside their closely-knit family and a carefully chosen group of friends with similar interests. In a word, nerds—who would have struck a majority of their fellow creatures as odd in any time period.
That does not detract from their genius, their heroism or their contribution to history.
In another spell-binding, thoroughly researched expedition into history, David McCullough offers us the opportunity to walk (or fly, if you prefer) in their shadow and get to know them and their struggles better.
Given the advances made in aviation since those early days, we tend to take too much for granted just what was accomplished by two virtually self-educated bicycle mechanics from a small Midwestern city.
Fortunately for us (and McCullough) the Wrights lived in a time when people kept better track of their daily doings—in diaries, letters and other records. Had they not, much of what Wilbur and Orville did would have been lost.
One of the more interesting family members we meet is their sister, Katherine, a spunky school teacher who seemed more inclined to speak her mind to critics and those who fawned over her brothers. Not only did she work at her own profession, she also managed the household, cared for their aging father, supported her brothers in all their experimentation and was among the first women to fly as a passenger. Her marriage at the age of 58 caused a rift between her and Orville, which wasn’t healed until she was on her deathbed.
McCullough also shines light on the many other less familiar aviation pioneers and experimenters and the relation between them and the Wrights, among them Samuel Langley, head of the Smithsonian, whose own effort failed despite a heavy influx of money from his institution, the U.S. government and Alexander Graham Bell.
Despite the potential military advantages of aviation, the U.S. government was a late-comer in jumping on board, despite Wilbur’s early attempts to stir interest. Great Britain, France and Germany were already making proposals before the American military agreed to flight demonstrations. Given the religious and pacific inclinations of the Wright family I found it surprising the brothers did not foresee the horrors of aerial warfare as did H. G. Wells, who wrote:
“The war comes through the air, bombs drop in the night. Quiet people go out in the morning, and see the air fleets passing overhead—dripping death, dripping death.”
This is a most disturbing novel. It’s also a skillfully crafted Gallic contribution to the catalog of crime noir.
It is not a novel for the squeamish oThis is a most disturbing novel. It’s also a skillfully crafted Gallic contribution to the catalog of crime noir.
It is not a novel for the squeamish or those offended by graphic portrayals of violence against women. If you are able to get past those issues and give it a chance, you’ll have a suspenseful, nail-biting ride in pursuit of a villain who makes Hannibal look like a choirboy.
Lemaitre, a former teacher of literature, said he intended this first in a trilogy as a “homage to crime fiction.” In that he has succeeded—first, by recreating murders from other classic works, and, second, by creating both a most unusual detective and a superb villain.
Commandant Camille Verhoeven, the victim of his mother’s toxic smoking habit, which has left him “a pale, slightly less deformed copy of Toulouse-Lautrec,” is, nonetheless, a successful policeman, contented and happily married to the Irene of the title, who is carrying their first child.
His equilibrium is upset as the copycat murders begin, one after a number, and he’s forced into a cat and mouse game with the killer which you know at the outset must end badly.
This is the first of the trilogy I’ve read. I look forward to more time with Commandant Verhoeven.
(Frank Wynne has done an excellent job with the translation and there’s a helpful afterward explaining the French judicial system as well as a glossary of terms.) ...more