Sunday, 30 September 2018

My September 2018 Reading Summary and a Look at October

It's been raining all day and Jo and I are hunkered down watching curling... yes! Curling even though it's still September for a few more hours! I finished one last book today so, since I won't complete any more before tomorrow, I'm going to do my monthly update.

Sep 2018
I am 83% of the way to meeting my 2018 Goodreads reading goal of 110 books for the year. If I can read 9 books a month in the next three months I'll complete with room to spare. I've already selected 27 books to read before the end of the year. They currently reside in my night stand beside my bed.. :0)

General Info            Sep            Total
Books Read -            10                91
Pages Read -            3200          29300

Pages Breakdown
    < 250                    2            29       
250 - 350                  4            27
351 - 450                  3            21
   > 450                     1            14

Ratings
5 - star                      0            5
4 - star                      8            56
3 - star                      2            29
2 - star                      0            1

Gender
Female                     2            27
Male                        8            64

Genres
Fiction                     2            18
Mystery                   4            51
SciFi                        1            13
Non-Fic                   3            5
Classics                   0            2
Poetry                      0            2

Top 3 Books
 I had no 5-star books this month. I think I might be somewhat harder on my ratings than past years. Below are my top three. The reviews for each can be found in previous BLog entries if you feel like searching through..

1. Margaret Millar - A Stranger in my Grave (4 stars)
2. David Frum - Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic (4 stars)
3. Graham Greene - Loser Takes All (4 stars)

12 + 4  Challenge (completed 13)
Completed no books in this challenge although 2 currently on the go.

New Series (completed 23)
1. Jason Matthews - Red Sparrow (4 stars)
2. T. Frank Muir - Eye for an Eye (4 stars)

Ongoing Series (completed 18)
3. Peter James - Looking Good Dead (4 stars)

Decades Challenge (completed 22)
4. Hans Helmut Kirst - Last Stop Camp 7 (3.5 stars)
5. Colin Wilson - The Space Vampires (3.5 stars)
6. David Frum - Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic (4 stars)
7. Graham Greene - Loser Takes All (4 stars)
8. Katie Tur - Unbelievable - My Front - Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History (4 stars)
9. Bob Woodward - Fear: Trump in the White House (4 stars)'

Canadian Content (completed 14)
10. Margaret Millar - A Stranger in My Grave (4 stars)

Oct Books

Currently Reading

1. Anthony Trollope - Can You Forgive Her? (12 + 4 Challenge) I've been reading this since Aug 21 but it's a long 'un. Really getting interesting now though so I should finish shortly
2. Orson Scott Card - Ender's Game (12 + 4 Challenge) I'm enjoying. It's not necessarily a quick read
3. Craig Johnson - Death without Company (Ongoing Series) I like the folksiness of this one
4. Jake Tapper - The Hellfire Club (Decades Challenge) I haven't got too far into this one yet but I like the style
5. Marina Endicott - Good to a Fault (Canadian Lit) Just starting this one.

In the Mill

1. Hilary Mantel - Wolf Hall (12 + 4 Challenge). I've had this one for a few years. It will be my last 12 + 4 challenge book.


"England, the 1520s. Henry VIII is on the throne, but has no heir. Cardinal Wolsey is his chief advisor, charged with securing the divorce the pope refuses to grant. Into this atmosphere of distrust and need comes Thomas Cromwell, first as Wolsey's clerk, and later his successor. Cromwell is a wholly original man: the son of a brutal blacksmith, a political genius, a briber, a charmer, a bully, a man with a delicate and deadly expertise in manipulating people and events. Ruthless in pursuit of his own interests, he is as ambitious in his wider politics as he is for himself. His reforming agenda is carried out in the grip of a self-interested parliament and a king who fluctuates between romantic passions and murderous rages."

2. Robert B. Parker - The Godwulf Manuscript (Spenser #1) (New Series). I'm looking forward to trying this series.



"Spenser earned his degree in the school of hard knocks, so he is ready when a Boston university hires him to recover a rare, stolen manuscript. He is hardly surprised that his only clue is a radical student with four bullets in his chest.

The cops are ready to throw the book at the pretty blond coed whose prints are all over the murder weapon but Spenser knows there are no easy answers. He tackles some very heavy homework and knows that if he doesn't finish his assignment soon, he could end up marked "D" -- for dead."


3. Hugh Howey - Shift (Ongoing Series). I enjoyed the first compilation in the Silo series, Wool, very much. I've had this for awhile and have been looking forward to it.


"In 2007, the Center for Automation in Nanobiotech (CAN) outlined the hardware and software platform that would one day allow robots smaller than human cells to make medical diagnoses, conduct repairs, and even self-propagate. In the same year, the CBS network re-aired a program about the effects of propranolol on sufferers of extreme trauma. A simple pill, it had been discovered, could wipe out the memory of any traumatic event. At almost the same moment in humanity’s broad history, mankind had discovered the means for bringing about its utter downfall. And the ability to forget it ever happened. This is the sequel to the New York Times bestselling WOOL series.

Contains First Shift, Second Shift, and Third Shift."


So there you go, folks. Another month almost past. I'm looking forward to the last quarter of reading! Enjoy your week. 

Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Reading Update and My Author's A - Z

It's a beautiful, sunny, fresh day and new shows are starting to crop on the TV. Enjoyed seeing Murdoch Mysteries and Frankie Drake Mysteries last night, as well as The Good Doctor, Bull and 9-1-1. It's been a nice break from political bullsh** that I've been hooked on the past few months.

Every day I think Donald Trump has hit a new low but his recent smearing of Prof Christine Blasey Ford and the other potential Kavanaugh accusers just disgusts me. Of course, people like Mitch McConnell and Lindsay Graham have also shown what types of people they are. Talk about pre-judging people. Oh yeah, let's have a 'fair' hearing and then throw the whole thing under the carpet and vote the guy as a Supreme Court Justice. I think what adds to their hypocrisy and misogyny is the results today of the Bill Cosby sentencing. For every hard fought step forward that women make in their fight against assault and abuse from men in power, and men in general, they have to start all over when a new case crops up... Keep fighting!! Hey  Mr. Avenatti! If you've got credible witnesses against Kavanaugh don't waste time, just get them out there.

I also wonder how the 'Donald' is going to respond to being laughed at on the world stage as he praised himself in front of world leaders... I thought that was perfect. 'I'm so great! I'm so great! Oh, they're laughing! I didn't expect that reaction." Maybe he'll get someone besides Stephen Miller to write his speeches from now on.

Anyway, lets get on to books. I received the last book that Jo ordered for me this afternoon. I also finished two more books and started two new books. I'll also get back to my ongoing Author's A - Z.

New Books

1. Hope Never Dies by Andrew Shaffer. Jo and I saw this mentioned on The Daily Show, I think. It looked like a nice fun read. I'm glad she got it for me for our anniversary. Yes, yes.. I admit it, I miss them.. lol










"This mystery thriller reunites Vice President Joe Biden and President Barack Obama for a political mashup full of suspense, intrigue, and laugh out loud bromance.

Vice President Joe Biden is fresh out of the Obama White House and feeling adrift when his favorite railroad conductor dies in a suspicious accident, leaving behind an ailing wife and a trail of clues. To unravel the mystery, “Amtrak Joe” re-teams with the only man he’s ever fully trusted—the 44th president of the United States. Together they’ll plumb the darkest corners of Delaware, traveling from cheap motels to biker bars and beyond, as they uncover the sinister forces advancing America’s opioid epidemic."


Just Finished

1.  The Space Vampires by Colin Wilson. My first exposure to his writing. Different!









"The Space Vampires was my first exposure to British writer Colin Wilson. I have a couple of other books of his on my book shelf; The Schoolgirl Murder Case (1974) and Order of Assassins: The Psychology of Murder (1972). I found The Space Vampires by chance and the plot line sounded interesting.

The space ship Hermes is deep in space and discovers a derelict space ship that appear abandoned and ripped open by a meteor. When some of the crew, led by Captain Carlsen go onboard to explore the ship, the discover 30 humanoid beings in apparently deep sleep. They take three of the bodies, one male and two female on board the Hermes and bring them back to Earth.

In the lab where the bodies are kept, Carlsen brings a reporter in to view them. The young man is killed by one of the females, basically drained of his energy. The female then walks away. Her body is later discovered but it appears she may have taken over another. Thus begins a search for what appear to be space vampires. The other two bodies also die but their spirits also seem to have escaped the laboratory by taking over other humans.

Carlsen and vampire researcher Falladar travel to northern Sweden to discuss the case with another vampire researcher, one with a strange story. While there we discover that Carlsen might also have a secret. Is he connected with the first female vampire?

The story is somewhat scientific (Wilson has written non-fiction books and essays about the occult) but moves along as well at a nice pace. There are definitely sexual elements to the story and about the vampires influence on their subjects. The story picks up speed and tenseness as Carlsen and Falladar and other helpers search for the escaped vampires and discover their threat to mankind. Not a perfect book by any means but different and ultimately interesting and satisfying. (3.5 stars)"


2. Fear: Trump in the White House by Bob Woodward. Another of the books Jo got me for our anniversary.











"In the past couple of weeks, I've read Katie Tur's book about Donald Trump's campaign for Republican nominee and for President. I've also read David Frum's Trumpocracy. So to keep up with the self-punishment I took on Fear: Trump in the White House, the latest in a career of political stories by Bob Woodward.

Dare I say, depressing? I think that's pretty fair. While Frum's look at the Trump White House was more analytical, Woodward sticks more to a chronology of events and the players involved. I think it's fair to say that what you get is a Bizarro West Wing, if you want to compare to that great TV series, The West Wing. It seems that nobody trusts anyone, they are all out for themselves and Trump seems to prefer that friction.

The book doesn't cover a lot of new ground but it packages it up nicely to cover up until lat 2017. You get a look at the US withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accords, the Charlottesville incident and Trump's reactions, his dealings with China, North Korea, the Middle East and Afghanistan. There is a look at Trump lawyer, Dowd's dealings with Mueller and his team and also with Trump. You actually get a nice look at Rob Porter. All that I really knew about him was that he quit (was fired) due to domestic violence incidents in his past. But he plays a considerable role as Trump's scheduling secretary.

We do get a nice look at the machinations behind the scenes, as guys like Cohn, his economics adviser, with his globalist outlook tries to persuade Trump not to get out of trade deals while others like Bannon and Navarro and Ross do the opposite. There are definite cliques within.

What isn't dealt with a great deal is Sessions and his friction with Trump for recusing himself. It is there but not in some of the detail you get from the daily reporting. You don't get much of a look at the perceived corruption, from folks like Tom Price and Scott Pruitt. But then again, if every issue and cabinet member were to be covered, it would be a much much longer book.

All in all it was an interesting summation of many events but somewhat light on many others. Still a depressing view of a fractious White House led by a childish, petulant President. (4 stars)"


Currently Reading

1. Death Without Company by Craig Johnson (Walt Longmire #2). It's been quite a long time since I read the first book. I'm already sorry that it took me so long to get into the 2nd book. I like the style, the folksiness and the wit. Just waiting for the mystery to start.









"When Mari Baroja is found poisoned at the Durant Home for Assisted Living, Sheriff Longmire is drawn into an investigation that reaches fifty years into the mysterious woman’s dramatic Basque past. Aided by his friend Henry Standing Bear, Deputy Victoria Moretti, and newcomer Santiago Saizarbitoria, Sheriff Longmire must connect the specter of the past to the present to find the killer among them."

2. The Hellfire Club by Jake Tapper. I read about this before and it sounded interesting; a historical, political thriller by CNN anchor Jake Tapper.













"Charlie Marder is an unlikely Congressman. Thrust into office by his family ties after his predecessor died mysteriously, Charlie is struggling to navigate the dangerous waters of 1950s Washington, DC, alongside his young wife Margaret, a zoologist with ambitions of her own. Amid the swirl of glamorous and powerful political leaders and deal makers, a mysterious fatal car accident thrusts Charlie and Margaret into an underworld of backroom deals, secret societies, and a plot that could change the course of history. When Charlie discovers a conspiracy that reaches the highest levels of governance, he has to fight not only for his principles and his newfound political career...but for his life" 

Bill's Ongoing Authors A - Z

Charles Dickens
1. Charles Dickens (1812 - 1870). Back in high school I read The Pickwick Papers and I'm pretty sure I enjoyed it. However, I never read another Dickens book, except for maybe some excerpts, a chapter of David Copperfield back in Grade 7ish, parts of the Christmas Story, that sort of thing. However, last year one of my favorite books of the year was Nicholas Nickleby, totally engrossing. I now have two other of his books on my book shelf as well.

a. Nicholas Nickleby (1838 - 1839).












"Back during my high school days, and I shudder to think it was 50 years ago, I read The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens and I recall enjoying it very much. However such is my memory I may be wrong. ;0) Anyway, it took me that long to try another book by Dickens. Over the past couple of years I've been exploring the Classics more and in Jul, decided to try Nicholas Nickleby. I had an old book of this story. Not sure when it was published but the illustrations by W.H.C. Groome lead me to believe it was published in 1907.

Anyway, enough administrative details, what about the story? Simply put, I loved it. Dickens' writing style is so accessible and entertaining. He creates wonderful characters who you find yourself becoming very invested in. The story starts off with Nicholas and his mother and sister, Kate, being placed in dire circumstances. Their father has died recently, leaving the family without income. Uncle Ralph, not a nice man, sends Nicholas off to be a teacher at a boys school in Yorkshire and then provides poor lodgings for Kate and her mother, also getting Kate a job as a dressmaker. In both instances, both Nicholas and Kate are treated horribly. Things look so very grim. Nicholas finds the treatment of the boys at the school to be abominable, especially that of Smike, a boy or more rather a young man, who has been at the school for years and is the special punching bag of Squeers and his wife. Nicholas finally can take it anymore and after thrashing Squeers leaves with Smike to return to London.


This is the barest introduction to Nicholas Nickelby, so much more is to happen. You meet such wonderful characters as Newman Noggs, hard worked clerk for Ralph Nickelby, who does everything in his power to help the family, Vincent Crummles, leader of a roving band of actors, who takes in Nicholas and Smike, the Cheeryble brothers who provide so much generous assistance to the Nickelby family, even Miss La Creevy, the lovely lady who is such a good friend. And then the villains, the Squeers, Ralph Nickelby, Mulberry Hawk, who wants to abuse Kate, etc. 


Getting to know these characters as the story develops makes it such fascinating reading. Wanting to find out how everything will resolve makes you turn page after page. It's a very long story but it doesn't seem so. I won't say how everything turns out. There are so many varied possibilities. Ultimately I was so satisfied. Dickens is a great writer and story teller. I will have to now try another of his books, and I'll ensure it doesn't take me 50 years to try another. (5 stars)"


b. The Pickwick Papers (1836 - 1837). I would like to read this again.












"Few first novels have created as much popular excitement as The Pickwick Papers - a comic masterpiece that catapulted its 24-year-old author to immediate fame. Readers were captivated by the adventures of the poet Snodgrass, the lover Tupman, the sportsman Winkle &, above all, by that quintessentially English Quixote, Mr Pickwick, & his cockney Sancho Panza, Sam Weller. From the hallowed turf of Dingley Dell Cricket Club to the unholy fracas of the Eatanswill election, via the Fleet debtor’s prison, characters & incidents sprang to life from Dickens’s pen, to form an enduringly popular work of ebullient humour & literary invention."

c. Dombey and Son (1846 - 1848).












"Dombey and Son, Charles Dickens’s story of a powerful man whose callous neglect of his family triggers his professional and personal downfall, showcases the author’s gift for vivid characterization and unfailingly realistic description. As Jonathan Lethem contends in his Introduction, Dickens’s “genius . . . is at one with the genius of the form of the novel itself: Dickens willed into existence the most capacious and elastic and versatile kind of novel that could be, one big enough for his vast sentimental yearnings and for every impulse and fear and hesitation in him that countervailed those yearnings too. Never parsimonious and frequently contradictory, he always gives us everything he can, everything he’s planned to give, and then more."

Adam Diment
2. Adam Diment (1943 - ) I discovered British spy novelist Diment last year, one of those authors listed at the back of another book. Diment wrote 4 books featuring unlikely spy Philip McAlpine. He then disappeared from public life and was rumored to have moved Zurich with no plans for future novels. I've managed to find the first three books in this series and have read the first two. I hope to find the fourth some time.

a. The Dolly Dolly Spy (1967).












"The Dolly Dolly Spy is the first of four books by Adam Diment featuring British spy, Philip McAlpine. It was first published in 1967 and it definitely has that '60s vibe about it. McAlpine is a security officer for a big firm and is blackmailed into working for a subset of MI6.

He is sent for pilot and armed combat training in the US and assigned to a job with a company, International Charters that works out of a small island in Greece. He does legal and illegal flying missions and periodically reports back to his boss in England with information on his missions. Ultimately he gets assigned a specific mission, to acquire a target that MI6 wants to interrogate.
 

On its own it's a relatively simple spy story but there is more to it than that. The feel for the time is excellent. It's maybe a James Bond light but the characters are interesting. McAlpine is a neat guy, kind of a coward but still a guy whose quick off the mark and a problem solver. There is enough action, a bit of sex and drugs and rock 'n roll, and an entertaining spy story. Diment disappeared after his fourth book and has retained a cult following (from what I read anyway). If the other books are as entertaining, I'm looking forward to them. (4 stars)"

b. The Great Spy Race (1968).









"The Great Spy Race by Adam Diment is the 2nd of four books that feature Philip McAlpine, reluctant spy for the English. Set in the psychedelic '60s, the book is a bit sexy and filled with action, especially the last chapters.

The book reminds me of the 1967 Casino Royale, which starred David Niven, and was filled with spies in a spyish rolic, and also Mike Myers, Austin Powers. Not that the book is a comedy, but it has a similar tone, providing a picture of the time; drugs, sex, fancy clothes.
 

The premise of the story is that a rich, ex-spy offers intelligence that all countries might want and they have to provide spies to take part in a race, using the old-fashioned spy techniques. McAlpine is black-mailed by his boss to take part and begins a journey from London to St Tropez to Geneva and ending at an island resort in the Indian Ocean called Mali. McAlpine must use tried and true techniques like blackmail, forgery and sex to get information to continue his journey and to beat the other spies to the end. Accompanied for part of the journey with the sexy Josephine, it's a fast paced adventure. Don't expect a classic of the spy genre, rather more of a cult py story which is entertaining and action-packed. (3.5 stars)"

c. The Bang Bang Birds (1968).












"Philip McAlpine's escapes from death and encounters with girls begin in New York and move to Stockholm...espionage and the sale of secrets...glittering palaces of vice...golden girls with sub-machine guns..."

d. Think, Inc. (1971).












"Philip McAlpine, Switched-on, turned-on, pot smoking, pop spy comes in from the cold for a hot number - Chastity, the coal-black sex-kitten."

Gary Disher
3. Gary Disher (Australian). I've highlighted Disher previously in my Australian crime authors post. In case you missed it here he is again. Disher is an Aussie crime writer. I discovered his works listed at the back of one of my Soho Crime books. I took a chance on the first book of his police procedural series featuring Inspector Hal Challis. I was pleasantly surprised by the first book and enjoyed the 2nd just as much. I've got a couple of others waiting my pleasure. I'd also like to try his Wyatt novels. 

a. The Dragon Man (1999).













"I enjoyed The Dragon Man, the first DI Hal Challis mystery, by Garry Disher very much. It's an Australian police procedural that moves along very nicely, is populated with many interesting characters and has many nice little twists and turns as the police team investigate the various cases that make up the story. The basic story is the abduction, rape and murder of local women, but there are also other cases that may or may not be related; the woman from New Zealand who is living in the area under witness protection; a spate of arson attacks, break-ins, etc. 

The police investigation is lead by DI Challis, who also deals with regular calls from his wife who is in prison after trying to murder him; his current girl-friend, the local newspaper reporter; all the while working on rebuilding a damaged airplane. The other members of the police team are all interesting personalities, with their own foibles and issues but are also an effective investigating team. The cases, as well, were very interesting and they were tied together very satisfyingly. An entertaining page turner that I finished in a day once I stated it; excellent introduction to this series. (4 stars)"

b. Kittyhawk Down (2003).













"Kittyhawk Down is the 2nd book in the Inspector Hal Challis Australian police series by Garry Disher. I've enjoyed both immensely. It's a simple premise really, following the investigation of a variety of crimes by the Australian police of the Mornington Peninsula Police Force. The Criminal Investigation Bureau is led by Homicide Squad Inspector Hal Challis, in which he is assisted by Sgts Ellen Destry and Scobie Sutton. In this story we also follow to uniformed cops, John Tankard and Pam Murphy.

There are various crimes being investigated; the disappearance of a two-year old baby, the discovery of a dead body that washed ashore and over the course of the story, various murders. You follow the cops and also various of the suspects and other characters, including Challis' girlfriend, reporter Tessa Klein. Each cop has their own problems which makes them human and likable. The progression of the case, the various suspects and the community in which the story takes place makes it even more interesting. It's not a perfect story by any means, but then again, neither is life.


I just found everything about this story enjoyable and refreshing and I liked how the crimes were eventually worked out. All in all it was as satisfying as the first book, [book:The Dragon Man|815139]. (5 stars)"



c. Snapshot (2005).












"It had taken months for Janine McQuarrie to succumb to her husband’s pressure to have sex with strangers at suburban spouse-swapping parties. But after attending a few such events on the Mornington Peninsula, this Australian social psychologist rebels. And then, driving with her young daughter one day, she gets out of her car to ask directions from another driver, is killed. The little girl escapes when the gunman's pistol misfires.

Inspector Hal Challis, to whose Crime Investigation Unit the case falls, is thwarted in his efforts by his boss. The dead woman was Superintendent McQuarrie’s daughter-in-law. He seems to be more interested in protecting his son than in finding his daughter-in-law’s murderer. Who might have a motive to kill this attractive young wife and mother? One of her clients? One of the swingers she’d gotten together with at a party? Or, the obvious suspect, her husband? The villain turns out to be someone Challis never would have expected."


d. Chain of Evidence (2007).









"Inspector Hal Challis has been summoned to Mawson’s Bluff, his childhood home in the Australian Outback, where his father is dying. Sergeant Ellen Destry is left to head an investigation into a ring of pedophiles that has descended on the peaceful Mornington Peninsula, a resort community near Melbourne. A little girl has been abducted from the fairgrounds at the annual Waterloo Show; it takes her mother twenty-four hours to report her missing. By then, hope is slim that the police will find the child before it is too late.

Challis’ sister’s difficult husband disappeared from the Bluff four years ago; since then Meg has received nuisance mail that she assumes comes from him. While Challis is in town, an extra buried body is discovered when a new grave is dug in the local graveyard. A black plastic bag containing the corpse of Meg’s husband is found on top of a coffin that was interred four years earlier.

With two very different crimes to solve, Challis and Destry have their work cut out for them"


The remaining books in the series are -
- Blood Moon (2009)
- Whispering Death (2012)
- Signal Loss (2016)

There you go, folks. Hope you have a great week. Best wishes Professor Ford. Be strong!

Friday, 21 September 2018

My Friday Reading Update and Ongoing Mystery Genre Review

I've got a pretty darn good life; a lovely, caring wife, two cuddly puppies and a comfortable home in a wonderful area of Canada. But today I've found myself both angry and depressed at the world, well, mainly that part of the world to our immediate South. I know I probably shouldn't really care but the President has threatened to ruin my country and it makes me sick. And today he couldn't resist finally denigrating a brave woman who has accused his Supreme Court nominee of sexual assault when they were both teenagers. Maybe unfairly, I've been somewhat disappointed by muted response (probably just perceived by me) of some of the news (opinion) shows about this incident. (I'm referring to Deadline: Washington mainly) Maybe it's because some of the people hosting the shows previously worked with Kavanaugh and find it hard to accept that he may have assaulted a young girl with he was a teenager.

I so hope that the majority of American citizens heed the call and vote the Republicans out of their majority positions in both the Congress and the Senate this November. They have proven themselves to be nothing more than co-conspirators with the Orange Toadstool. I'm not getting my hopes up, mind you... *sigh*...

Anyway, the missus and I have turned off any news and are enjoying some classic comedies; MASH and The Mary Tyler Moore show. And she made me a tasty, comforting tuna sandwich for lunch, always a good thing. I'm hoping the Blue Jays can beat Tampa Bay again. Last night's come from behind victory was very exciting. (Full Disclosure - I turned it off when Tampa made it 8-2 and only discovered the result this morning. Jo found a replay of the bottom of the ninth on line and we got to enjoy it!

So, with that venting preamble out of the way, let's get on to the main subject of this BLog, BOOKS. I've finished one more book since my last update. I'll update that and my newest 'currently reading' and then move on to my Mystery genre inputs. I spent the past few days going through my online bookshelves to see what sub-genres I've already covered and then see what I have left to look at. Today I'm going to take a look at the remaining mystery authors / series from Europe, except the UK as it will take a few entries to cover that area.

So onward and upward, as they say! Whomever they might be.

Just Finished
1. Last Stop Camp 7 by Hans Hellmut Kirst. This basically finishes my Decades Challenge. I've only got to read a book published on my birth year, 1955. I've got Loser Takes All by Graham Greene as my pick to fill that space.










"Hans Hellmut Kirst is a German writer known for his stories set during WWII. I've enjoyed some of his books already; The Hero in the Tower, The Night of the Generals (also a great movie starring Omar Sharif and Peter O'Toole). He offers a unique view of the German military during WWII.

Last Stop Camp 7, originally published in 1966 is set just after the war. Camp 7 is a POW camp for German soldiers and civilians and run by the US Army. Capt Keller is the camp commandant and Lt Harte, a German - Jewish refugee, is in charge of investigating the prisoners to ascertain if any have committed war crimes and should be passed on to criminal courts in Dachau or Nuremburg. Hauser is a German POW who is suspected of committing war crimes. Harte investigates methodically but is being pressured to get on with it.

That is the basic premise, but what you have is an intricate story with a cast of many, both German POW's, Germans working in the camp, such as Fraulein Sylvia Meiners and Herr Gernsback, responsible for de-Nazification procedures, and then a variety of American GI's etc.

It's quite an interesting, different story. The characters are well described, Harte's cynicism, but his frustrated desire to sort out the Hauser issue; Keller's sometimes abuse of powers, his desire to get Hauser, and also to develop a relationship with Hauser's wife; and the infighting between the varied prisoners. I particularly liked Sylvia Meiners, who works as an administrator in the camp, who likes Harte and wants him to help this new Germany.

The story moves along nicely and comes to an exciting and satisfying conclusion. I've enjoyed the books of Kirst that I've read so far. I have a number of others on my bookshelf, especially a series involving the life of Gunner Asch. Well worth trying. (3.5 stars)"

Currently Reading
I've started a new mystery series set in Scotland.

1. Eye for an Eye by Frank Muir (DCI Andy Gilchrist #1).

"The idyllic university town of St. Andrews has become home to the most vicious serial killer Britain has ever known. Striking during heavy rain, choosing only victims who abuse women, 'The Stabber' has Detective Inspector Andy Gilchrist and his team baffled."


New Books
I almost forgot. I received a new book in the mail yesterday, from Fortius Books in the UK. 

a. Something Nasty in the Woodshed by Kyril Bonfiglioli (Charlie Mortdecai #3). I enjoyed the humor of the first book, Don't Point that Thing at Me. Something Nasty is chronologically the 2nd book, being published in 1976 but it's considered the 3rd book of the series.









"Life always seems to be more complicated than it should be for Charlie Mortdecai: degenerate aristocrat, amoral art dealer, seasoned epicurean, unwilling assassin, and confirmed coward.
Something Nasty in the Woodshed finds Charlie exiled from London due to his growing unpopularity on account of some shady art deals. Taking refuge in a country estate on the Channel Island of Jersey, he embarks on a well-intended hedonistic interlude. But his vacation soon morphs into a macabre manhunt, as Charlie seeks to expose a local rapist whose modus operandi bears a striking resemblance to that of a warlock from ancient British mythology known as 'The Beast of Jersey.'"

Mysteries from Europe


In the course of my posts about the mystery genre, I've covered a few areas of Europe. I've looked at Scandinavia, France and Italy. Today I'll cover the rest of Europe, except the UK.

1. The Netherlands
A.C. Baantjer
a. A.C. Baantjer - Inspector DeKok. Albert Cornelis Baantjer was born in Urk in 1923 and died in 2010. Over the course of his life, he wrote a series of detective novels featuring Inspector De Cock (translated as DeKok), meaning simply 'the Cook'. The series had both a spin-off movie and TV series, both named after the author. About 35 of his 60 books have been translated into English. I've read two so far and have two more on my bookshelf. I've highlighted Baantjer previously in my Author's A - Z series. I'll highlight the two books I've yet to read in this post.

i. DeKok and the Dead Harlequin (1993 / #6).

"This latest Baantjer mystery delves into a grotesque double murder in a well-known Amsterdam hotel. Inspector DeKok must unravel clues from two unexpected characters: a six-year-old girl who has trouble sleeping and a respected accountant who seeks DeKok's advice on committing the perfect crime. In a surprising twist, DeKok meets with the murderer and tries everything possible to prevent the man from giving himself up to the police. Risking the anger of his superiors, DeKok goes so far as to disappear in order to prevent the perpetrator from being found. With Dead Harlequin, Baantjer has created yet another intelligent, absorbing tale."

ii. DeKok and the Geese of Death (2004 / #27).

"In The Geese of Death, DeKok takes on Igor Stablinsky, a man accused of bludgeoning a wealthy old man and his wife. To DeKok’s unfailing eye the killing urge is visibly present in the suspect during questioning, but did he commit this particular crime?

All signs point to one of the few remaining estates in Holland. The answer lies within a strange family, suspicions of incest, deadly geese and a horrifying mansion. Baantjer’s perceptive style brings to light the essences of his characters, touching his audience with subtle wit and irony."


Janwillem van de Wetering
b. Janwillem van de WeteringGrijpstra and de Gier. van de Wetering was born in Rotterdam in 1931 and died in Maine in 2008. He was author of a number of works, mysteries, children's books, fiction / non-fiction, etc. I've purchased the first book in his Amsterdam Cops mystery series which features Adjutant Detective Henk Grijpstra and his partner Detective Sergeant Rinus de Gier. He wrote 14 books in the series and a collection of short stories from 1975 - 1999.

i. Outsider in Amsterdam (1975 / #1).









"On a quiet street in downtown Amsterdam, the founder of a new religious society/commune—a group that calls itself “Hindist” and mixes elements of various “Eastern” traditions—is found hanging from a ceiling beam. Detective-Adjutant Grijpstra and Sergeant de Gier of the Amsterdam police are sent to investigate what looks like a simple suicide, but they are immediately suspicious of the circumstances. 

This now-classic novel, first published in 1975, introduces Janwillem van de Wetering’s lovable Amsterdam cop duo of portly, worldly-wise Grijpstra and handsome, contemplative de Gier. With its unvarnished depiction of the legacy of Dutch colonialism and the darker facets of Amsterdam’s free drug culture, this excellent procedural asks the question of whether a murder may ever be justly committed."


The remaining books in this series are -
- Tumbleweed (1976)
- The Corpse on the Dike (1976)
- Death of a Hawker (1977)
- The Japanese Corpse (1977)
- The Blond Baboon (1978)
- The Maine Massacre (1979)
- The Mind - Murders (1981)
- The Street Bird (1983)
- The Rattle Rat (1985)
- Hard Rain (1986)
- Just a Corpse at Twilight (1994)
- The Hollow-Eyes Angel (1996)
- The Perfidious Parrot (1997)

2. Spain

Manuel Vazquez Montalban
a. Manuel Vazquez Montalban - Pepe Carvalho. Montalban was born in Barcelona in 1939 and died in Thailand in 2003. He was a poet, novelist, essayist, humorist and political prisoner. I became interested in him when I found a couple of his Detective Pepe Carvalho mysteries back in 2012. He wrote 17 books in this series. I have read one thus far and have another on my book shelf. This was a series that the book cover grabbed my attention first.

i. Murder in the Central Committee (1981 / #5).












"Quite a different story; a mystery set in Spain, with communist party dialectics, murder, food.. I wasn't sure about the translation at times, but I think it's just the style of writing of the author and the translating from Spain to English, quite different languages. There was humour, an interesting mystery; noir style; complications from various political factions, but ultimately a satisfying ending. I'm not sure if it's quite worth a 4, but more than a 3. I will read more to find out more about Pepe Carvalho, ex Spanish Communist and US CIA operative."

ii. The Angst - Ridden Executive (1977 / #3).












"When Antonio Jauma, a director of the multinational conglomerate Petnay, is murdered, his widow seeks out private investigator Pepe Carvalho, who had met and forgotten the playboy executive after their single chance encounter—back when Carvalho still worked for the CIA.

Jauma was a “womanizer,” according to a friend, “of the least pleasant sense,” and the police have decided that the murder is the work of an unhappy pimp. But Carvalho doggedly pursues his own phlegmatic investigation, with time out for his signature book burning (Sartre’s Critique of Dialectical Reasoning; Sholokov’s And Quiet Flows the Don), cooking (leek soup and a freshly-caught steamed turbot), and running with his girlfriend Charo, whose last name he can’t remember."


The remaining books in this series are -
- I Killed Kennedy (1972)
- Tattoo (1975)
- Southern Seas (1979)
- The Birds of Bangkok (1983)
- Alexandria's Rose (1984)
- The Spa (1986)
- Offside (1989)
- The Greek Labyrinth (1991)
- Olympic Sabotage (1993)
- The Little Brother (1994)
- The Prize (1996)
- Buenos Aires Quintet (1997)
- The Man of My Life (2000)
- Carvalho Millennium (2004)

Rebecca Pawel
b. Rebecca Pawel - Sgt Tejada. Born in New York City, Pawel is a high school teacher and author of mystery novels. She is especially noted for her series of historical mysteries set in Spain and featuring an anti-Communist in the Guardia Civil, Sgt Tejada. Since 2003 she has written 4 books in the series.

i. Death of a Nationalist (2003 / #1).

"Madrid 1939. Carlos Tejada Alonso y León is a Sergeant in the Guardia Civil, a rank rare for a man not yet thirty, but Tejada is an unusual recruit. The bitter civil war between the Nationalists and the Republicans has interrupted his legal studies in Salamanca. Second son of a conservative Southern family of landowners, he is an enthusiast for the Catholic Franquista cause, a dedicated, and now triumphant, Nationalist.

This war has drawn international attention. In a dress rehearsal for World War II, fascists support the Nationalists, while communists have come to the aid of the Republicans. Atrocities have devastated both sides. It is at this moment, when the Republicans have surrendered, and the Guardia Civil has begun to impose order in the ruins of Madrid, that Tejada finds the body of his best friend, a hero of the siege of Toledo, shot to death on a street named Amor de Dios. Naturally, a Red is suspected. And it is easy for Tejada to assume that the woman caught kneeling over the body is the killer. But when his doubts are aroused, he cannot help seeking justice."


Her other books are -
- Law of Return (2004)
- The Watcher in the Pine (2005)
- The Summer Snow (2006)

3. Ireland.
Tana French
a. Tana French - Dublin Murder Squad. American - Irish writer, French was born in Vermont in 1973. Her first novel in the Dublin Murder Squad series won numerous awards. She has since written 5 more books in the series and one standalone novel. I've read the first and third book in the series.

i. In the Woods (2007 / #1).












"You're twelve years old. It's the summer holiday. You're playing in the woods with your two best friends. Something happens. Something terrible. And the other two are never seen again.

Twenty years on, Rob Ryan - the child who came back - is a detective in the Dublin police force. He's changed his name. No one knows about his past. Even he has no memory of what happened that day.

Then, a little girl's body is found at the site of the old tragedy and Rob is drawn back into the mystery. For him and his DI partner, Cassie, every lead comes with its own sinister undercurrents. The victim's apparently normal family is hiding layers of secrets. Rob's own private inquiries are taking a toll on his mind. And every trail leads inexorably back...into the woods." I rated this 4 stars.


ii. Faithful Place (2010 / #3).











"Faithful Place by Tana French is the third book in her Dublin Murder Squad series and the 2nd that I've read. This book features Undercover cop, Frank Mackey.

Mackey's life is turned upside down with the discovery of a body in an abandoned house on the street, Faithful Place of the title, where he grew up. It turns out to be the body of his old girl friend, who he had planned to leave for London with when she disappeared. Frank left his neighborhood anyway and became a member of the Guard.


Frank is a troubled and angry man. He has issues with his ex-wife Olivia, long-term issues with his family back in Faithful Place. He's not been back since he left 20 years ago. The only member that he is in contact with is his younger sister, Jackie. His father was an angry drunk who beat his wife and kids and had issues with his neighbour across the way. (the reason will come out later in the book.) Of course, Rosie Daly, Frank's girl-friend is the daughter of this neighbor, who refused to let Rosie and Frank see each other.


Returning to Faithful Place to find out who killed Rosie is fraught with tension and memories for Frank and his siblings. Who killed Rosie and dumped her body in the abandoned house; her father?, his father? someone else?


Frank is told to stay away from the investigation by the investigating officer from the Murder Squad, 'Scorcher' but, well you know, he can't do that. Frank continues his own private investigation and also uses a young member of the Murder Squad to keep him informed. Another death / murder adds further impetus to the investigations.


I readily admit I struggled with this book. Frank wasn't sympathetic to me whatsoever; his anger is off-putting at times and often seems irrational. When he finds out that Jackie and Olivia have been letting Frank's daughter meet his family, I felt his reaction was unreasonable. But then again, I've not been in that situation. The investigation is part of the story but the more important part is Frank's dealings with his family and his ex-wife and his own internal feelings about his past and present. I liked Olivia and there daughter, Holly and actually liked Jackie and Frank's other sister Carmel and Frank's younger brother, Kevin. But Frank made it difficult for me to really love the story. Still worth reading and I will look for French's other books. (3.5 stars)"


The other books in this series are -
- The Likeness (2008)
- Broken Harbour (2012)
- The Secret Place (2014)
- The Trespasser (2016)

Ken Bruen
b. Ken Bruen - Jack Taylor. Ken Bruen was born in 1947 in Galway, Ireland. He is a prolific writer of hard-boiled and noir crime fiction. I've been interested in his Jack Taylor PI series ever since Jo and I watched the TV series based on the books. It took awhile but I've finally found some of the books in the series and have enjoyed the first. I'd also like to try some of his other series; DS Tom Brant and his Max Fisher series. I've read the 1st Jack Taylor book and have 3 others on my bookshelves; still trying to find #2.

i. The Guards (2001 / #1).













"The Guards by Ken Bruen is my first exposure to Bruen's writing, which was convenient as it is his first Jack Taylor mystery. I'd watched the TV series. Iain Glen plays Jack Taylor and now, having read the first book, he did an excellent job.

Taylor is an ex-Garda (the story is set in Ireland), who was drummed out for bad behaviour and now he works as an independent investigator. Well, he actually spends most of his time soaking up booze but he still tries to help people when he can. In this case, his client is Ann Henderson, who wants Taylor to prove his daughter, Sarah, did not commit suicide. Taylor doesn't want to take the case, but ultimately, decides to help Ann.


How much help does he provide Ann? Well, that's debatable as Taylor spends quite a bit of this book in a state of constant drunkenness. But he does investigate and manages, after a stint in the drunk tank, to find out that other girls have also 'committed suicide' in similar circumstances. Now I won't get into the details too much, rather I'll mention the style of the story.


I liked very much how it was written; a very much stream of consciousness, but still easy to read. At times, very poetic or maybe more like song lyrics. It flowed very nicely, from scene to scene. The story is peopled with interesting characters, some threatening, some lovely. It was an easy read and a book that was difficult to put down. How much help was Taylor to Ann? You'll have to check it out. I liked this a lot and will move on to the next book now that I've tried Bruen's work. (4 stars)"


ii. The Magdalen Martyrs (2003 / #3).










"Jack Taylor is walking the delicate edge of a sobriety he doesn't trust when his phone rings. He's in debt to a Galway tough named Bill Cassell, what the locals call a "hard man." Bill did Jack a big favor a while back; the trouble is, he never lets a favor go unreturned.

Jack is amazed when Cassell simply asks him to track down a woman, now either dead or very old, who long ago helped his mother escape from the notorious Magdalen laundry, where young wayward girls were imprisoned and abused. Jack doesn't like the odds of finding the woman, but counts himself lucky that the task is at least on the right side of the law.

Until he spends a few days spinning his wheels and is dragged in front of Cassell for a quick reminder of his priorities. Bill's goons do a little spinning of their own, playing a game of Russian roulette a little too close to the back of Jack's head. It's only blind luck and the mercy of a god he no longer trusts that land Jack back on the street rather than face down in a cellar with a bullet in his skull. He's got one chance to stay alive: find this woman.

Unfortunately, he can't escape his own curiosity, and an unnerving hunch quickly turns into a solid fact: just who Jack's looking for, and why, aren't nearly what they seem."



iii. Priest (2006 / #5).













"Ireland, awash with cash and greed, no longer turns to the Church for solace or comfort. But the decapitation of Father Joyce in a Galway confessional horrifies even the most jaded citizen.

Jack Taylor, devastated by the recent trauma of personal loss, has always believed himself to be beyond salvation. But a new job offers a fresh start, and an unexpected partnership provides hope that his one desperate vision, of family, might yet be fulfilled.

An eerie mix of exorcism, a predatory stalker, and unlikely attraction conspires to lure him into a murderous web of dark conspiracies. The specter of a child haunts every waking moment."


iv. Sanctuary (2008 / #7).












"When a letter containing a list of victims arrives in the post, P.I. Jack Taylor tells himself that it’s got nothing to do with him. He has enough to do just staying sane. His close friend Ridge is recovering from surgery, and alcohol’s siren song is calling to him ever more insistently.

A guard and then a judge die in mysterious circumstances. But it is not until a child is added to the list that Taylor determines to find the identity of the killer, and stop them at any cost. What he doesn’t know is that his relationship with the killer is far closer than he thinks. And it’s about to become deeply personal.

Spiked with dark humor, and fueled with rage at man’s inhumanity to man, this is crime writing at its darkest and most original."


The remaining books in this series are -
- The Killing of the Tinkers (2002)
- The Dramatist (2004)
- Cross (2007)
- The Devil (2010)
- Headstone (2011)
- Purgatory (2013)
- Green Hell (2015)
- The Emerald Lie (2016)
- The Ghosts of Galway (2017)

Well, there you go. A few authors and books for you to consider. I just enjoyed episode 2 of The Bletchley Circle: San Francisco. It was better than the first and quite enjoyable. Unfortunately, Jo just switched on The Rachel Maddow Show and we've discovered that the Republicans have told Professor Blasey - Ford that she has until 10:00 p.m. eastern time to let them know she will testify on Wednesday or they will go ahead with the vote for Kavanaugh. And no, she can't have other witnesses... they don't have time for that!! Scum!!!!!

Have a great weekend! 
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