"One cannot but hang one's head in shame and abject frustration. We pollute the sea, we plunder the sea, we disdain the sea, we dishonor the sea that"One cannot but hang one's head in shame and abject frustration. We pollute the sea, we plunder the sea, we disdain the sea, we dishonor the sea that appears like a mere expanse of hammered pewter as we fly over it in our air-polluting planes--forgetting or ignoring all the while that the sea is the source of all the life on earth, the wellspring of us all." That environmental theme pops up quite a bit in the narrative of Simon Winchester's "Atlantic: Great Sea Battles, Heroic Discoveries, Titanic storms, and a Vast Ocean of a Million Stories." Winchester set out to write a book explaining all there is to know about the Atlantic, which he considers to be our most important ocean. An overwhelming task and one might doubt it's even possible. He may not have succeeded in his initial goal but he comes as close as anyone in writing a biography of our ocean. He explains how the ocean was born, how people living on its shores reacted to it and how, most importantly, it has influenced the development of the civilized world. To do this, he tells tales of man's first attempts to go out on the water, pirates, naval battles, the development of sea-going commerce and other topics. He also includes numerous anecdotes from his personal experience with the ocean. He fears for our future if we don't change and start treating our environment like a home and not a garbage pit. I'm not opposed to space exploration. It has resulted in many benefits for mankind. Still, I wish just a portion of the money and the interest could be directed toward oceanography. This is the planet on which we live. I have no desire to go live on a barren rock where there's no other forms of life. ...more
St. Saviour's Infirmary, an ancient edifice, faces demolition, due to be replaced by a railway bridge. Picture not a modern, antiseptic hospital. ThisSt. Saviour's Infirmary, an ancient edifice, faces demolition, due to be replaced by a railway bridge. Picture not a modern, antiseptic hospital. This is a damp, decaying place, the operating room floors slick with blood and cast off flesh, the wards smell of offal and everyone in the place harbors secrets. Not least of those harboring secrets is Jem Flockhart, who feels protected from scrutiny by the birthmark covering her eyes and nose "like a highwayman's mask" and who is forced to take on the guise of a man in order to follow her father's trade as apothecary. Into her life comes William Quartermain, junior architect, tasked with emptying the hospital's graveyard, and with whom Jem is compelled to share her room. At first she's wary of him, fearful he might discover her sex. But soon they become friendly as she escorts him around the property, introducing him to its denizens, including the ambitious, always bickering doctors. Jem has had only one other friend--Dr. Bain, a brilliant, progressive surgeon, who is the bane of his colleagues, particularly Dr. Graves, the frequent victim of his wit and derision. After Jem and Will discover six tiny coffins with strange content in the hospital's old chapel the questions they ask lead to murders, including that of Dr. Bain. I don't think I'd like to have lived in the period, but I find the Victorian era fascinating and grew up reading classics from the period. In this debut novel, Thomson evokes the age and gives us fully-developed characters with names right out of Dickens, a gripping plot and a distinct sense of place, unlike the paucity of much modern writing. She does follow the "had I but known" school. It doesn't bother me. People do think that way. I'd recommend this novel and I'm looking forward to the next from Thomson. ...more
The murder of a guard at a Japanese World War II prison draws another guard into an investigation of the crime and the value of life under trying circThe murder of a guard at a Japanese World War II prison draws another guard into an investigation of the crime and the value of life under trying circumstances. Watanabe Yuichi is only 19 and newly assigned to the notorious Fukuoka Prison when he's ordered to undertake the investigation into the slaying of the veteran and war hero Sugiyama Dozan. Since it had snowed overnight and there were no footprints leading away from the building it was natural to suspect a prisoner--especially since Sugiyama had a reputation for brutalizing prisoners. Anti-Japanese Korean rebels, who made up a good portion of the ward where the murder occurred, had been his favorite victims. But Watanabe, who grew up devouring books in his mother's shop, soon discovers another side to the violent Sugiyama. According to Yun Dong-ju, a Korean poet, Sugiyama was a complex person, a fellow poet, a lover of music and a man crippled by guilt who sought solace by aiding the prisoners in his own way. Yun and the prime suspects question why they would want to harm a man they feared and respected. As he delves into the crime he is confused by what he learns about Sugiyama and beguiled by Yun's poetry (which is artistically used as a bridge between narratives) and the man's buoyant outlook on life despite the harsh conditions of his own. Gradually, through twists and turns that keep the reader turning pages, Watanabe finds himself replacing Sugiyama as protector of the Koreans and is as stunned as we are when he learns the truth about how and why the veteran was murdered. There actually was a Yun Dong-ju who died at Fukuoka Prison in 1945 and whose poetry is revered throughout Korea. Lee has done an excellent job of evoking the character and the trials of the prisoners and their guards in this first work of his to be translated and published in the U.S. This novel is so much more than an ordinary mystery and is highly recommended. ...more
An only child, Cassie expected to inherit her father's estate. What she didn't expect was a house she didn't know existed in exchange for a promise toAn only child, Cassie expected to inherit her father's estate. What she didn't expect was a house she didn't know existed in exchange for a promise to investigate her mother's disappearance. She's barely moved into the house when she learns of suspicions her mother was murdered and has a list of suspects. In exploring the house she uncovers a few surprises--including a coffin with a skeleton in the attic, Tarot cards and a locket with a photo of a man who's not her father. Cassie seeks clues from her neighbors, none of whom she fully trusts. Among them are a nosey woman who appears to have been her mother's friend; Royce, a handsome building contractor who is eager to assist in her quest, and several alleged psychics. When invited to visit Royce's wealthy family, she discovers they also have a number of skeletons in their history, including one that leads to a surprising climax. If you enjoy a small town mystery with a feisty heroine, a cast of quirky characters, a well-paced plot and plenty of twists and turns and a bit of romance, this is a book you'll want to check out. ...more
Deep sea diving is a dangerous pursuit. Sven Fiedler left his native Germany to start a dive school in the Canary Islands with Antje, a lover he doesn'Deep sea diving is a dangerous pursuit. Sven Fiedler left his native Germany to start a dive school in the Canary Islands with Antje, a lover he doesn't love but is dependent upon. His dream is to celebrate his 40th birthday with a 100-meter dive to an unrecorded sunken ship. His plans and his future take a sharp turn with the arrival of clients Jola von der Pahlen, a soap opera actress, and her lover, Theo Hast, a struggling writer. Jola has a dream of her own. She hopes to win acclaim in the role of a pioneer woman diver/adventurer in an upcoming film. Zeh tells the story from the viewpoint of the three main characters, Sven, Jola and Theo, but one never be certain which of them is telling the truth. I'll admit, I couldn't work up much sympathy for any of the trio. It was a bit slow-going until the climax--which came as a complete surprise, something totally different than I expected. ...more
Guilt and compassion combine to put Crystal Moore and those close to her in jeopardy when she discovers a prominent citizen of Dallas is holding MexicGuilt and compassion combine to put Crystal Moore and those close to her in jeopardy when she discovers a prominent citizen of Dallas is holding Mexican women against their will as virtual slaves.
Shocked that slavery could still exist in the modern world, Crystal puts all else in her life on hold as she attempts to reunite one of those women with her children who are held hostage in Mexico as assurance of her compliance with her master.
Seeing rescue of the children is the only way to help the mother, Crystal goes alone into Mexico where she unites with Juan Grande, a mysterious Mexican, to undertake the dangerous mission. As a result, she becomes the target of the Texan and his Mexican supplier, barely escaping with her life in several incidents.
Callan's latest novel is a departure from his more cozy Father Frank series, emphasizing more the dark side of life and the creatures who inhabit that world. A Silver Medallion combines colorful characters (loved Eula, Crystal's feisty grandmother, who knows how to handle a bad guy), a suspenseful plot and plenty of action to keep the reader biting his nails, waiting to see what happens next.
There's a subplot of Crystal's dealings with an academic who has been doing his best to derail her quest for a doctorate. Callan does a fine job of balancing the two so the lesser plot doesn't detract from the main action.
A Silver Medallion is the second in the author's Crystal Moore series. ...more
This isn't a book you'll read in a day (or want to drag to the beach). But, if you have any interesting in this brilliant and creative family, this isThis isn't a book you'll read in a day (or want to drag to the beach). But, if you have any interesting in this brilliant and creative family, this is a book you'll want to read. There are a number of differences between this and other biographies of the Brontes, all of them laudable. Among them is an illuminating portrait of the single-parent, Patrick. Presenting documentation for various sources, some never quoted before, she reveals him to have been a hard-pressed but compassionate father rather than the cold, uncaring man portrayed by others. The evidence shows he sought to provide for the welfare and education of his children to the best of his ability and also found time in his busy schedule to read and play with them in their childhood. As they grew he endeavored to do more which, in some cases, ended tragically with the illness and deaths of daughters Maria and Elizabeth at boarding schools. The deaths of these siblings may have made Charlotte, Branwell, Emily and Anne more self-reliant. Speaking of Branwell, there's considerable information on him, his talent and his downfall as well as on the lives of Charlotte, Emily and Anne. Barker often refutes or expands on comments by Elizabeth Gaskell who she feels often concealed information or simply didn't have it available to her. Overall, a worthy effort and I'd give in more than five stars if I could. I know I'll be dipping into it again and again just for the readable entertainment value. ...more
Gary Inbinder's second foray into 19th century Paris begins, appropriately, at a crime scene.
A body has been found hanged from a bridge in a ParisianGary Inbinder's second foray into 19th century Paris begins, appropriately, at a crime scene.
A body has been found hanged from a bridge in a Parisian park with a history of violence. First indications are the man was a suicide, but Inspector Achille Lefebvre isn't so sure. The pathologist confirms Achille's suspicion the death was a murder.
The victim is identified as a Russian emigre with ties to the anarchist movement. This draws Achille into the dangerous worlds of espionage and international intrigue and an unwanted alliance with his former second, Inspector Rousseau who is now affiliated with a special political unit.
Though Rousseau has spies on the streets and even among the anarchist and Marxist groups who shelter in the city, Achille does not trust the man after their experience in the previous book. Instead, he relies on his own spies, recruited by the famed Le Boudin, and the latest in forensics, including fingerprinting and photography.
There are two possible motives for the murder and subsequent violence, but I'll leave you to discover them for yourselves.
The person responsible for the crimes and his accomplices are identified early, which detracts a bit from the element of suspense. But all the other elements that go into the making of a good mystery are present and working properly, compelling you to read on.
It was a treat to have another visit with Achille; his charming wife Adele; his bossy mother-in-law and other characters retained from the first novel. ...more
Discovery of the mutilated body of a popular model and Can-Can dancer spawns fears Jack the Ripper has moved to Paris.
Inspector Achille Lefebvre, a yoDiscovery of the mutilated body of a popular model and Can-Can dancer spawns fears Jack the Ripper has moved to Paris.
Inspector Achille Lefebvre, a young, married man, but also a pioneer in the use of forensics to solve crimes, is assigned to the case. His advocacy for use of scientific methods of detection as well as his acceptance of the unorthodox technique of fingerprinting estranges him from his former second, Rousseau, an old-style cop who believes things should be done his way.
Achille perseveres, despite Rousseau's efforts to belittle his achievements while bragging about his findings. They develop suspects, including the artist Toulouse-Lautrec; Jojo, a circus acrobat, and the respectable British gynecologist, Sir Henry Collingwood.
Which is the killer? Only Achille and his science can sort of the guilty.
Set in Paris during the 1889 Universal Exposition, Inbinder offers just the right amount of history and some names of upcoming artists to put us firmly in the scene with Achille.
Achille is a likable character, especially in those precious moments he gets to spend time with his beloved wife and little girl. All the characters are well-drawn, the plot is intriguing and the setting is perfect for a good read.
There's a sub-plot involving Betsy Endicott, heiress to a railroad fortune, and her friend and former lover, Marcia Brownlow, a prize-winning artist. Tying it into the main plot, Betsy is being courted by Dr. Collingwood.
We know early on who the killer is, though that doesn't prevent us from reading more. Inbinder still has some surprises in store for us. ...more