Over 550 book reviews with full author links

31 December 2013

Clancy Tom & Mark Greaney: Command Authority

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 A fitting farewell to the Jack Ryan saga
This is the last Jack Ryan novel signed off by Tom Clancy before his untimely death in October 2013. I say signed off because it is clear that for many years Clancy had relied on a stable of co-authors to write most of his books - and Mark Greaney is the best of them all and should be given most of the credit for this book. "Command Authority" takes us back to the classic days of "Clancy's" writing style and plots for politico/espionage/covert ops thrillers based loosely on actual and imaginary relations between the US and the rest of the world.

Jack Ryan, Senior, is President again and his son, Jack, Junior, is working as an analyst with The Campus, small off-record self-financing covert operations group set up with Ryan, Sr's. blessing. While Jack is at heart an analyst he is being trained as a covert operator by Ryan's old chums, including John Clark and Domingo Chavez.

In a thinly disguised critique of modern Russia under former KGB Lieutenant Colonel and now Russian President, Vladimir Putin, Greaney introduces us to Valeri Volodin, a dominating and aggressive Russian President who had also served with the KGB. Volodin become wealthy during the breakup of the Soviet Union before gaining political power. After a carefully contrived assassination of the former head of internal security which he blames on the West, he combines the internal and external security services under Roman Talanov, an unknown but ruthless person with links back to the KGB and to one of the most powerful gangs in the Russian Mafia.

This time Jack Ryan Senior gets involved again with the Russians when and old Russian adversary, now a friend falls ill in the White House with a fatal dose of radioactive Polonium. All things point to the Russian Secret Service being involved.

Jack Ryan Senior also gets involved in thwarting, with the help of NATO, a Russian attack on Estonia. After this Volodin steps up his plans to invade and absorb Ukraine into Russia and tasks Talanov to get Gleb the Scar, chief operative of the Seven Strong Men criminal organization, to organise internal resistance. The Campus tracks down and keeps an eye on Gleb who has taken over a heavily guarded hotel in central Kiev.

Meanwhile Jack Junior is in London working as a financial analyst and is tasked to find how the State owned Gazprom was able to virtually steal several billion dollars of pipeline and oil fields in Russia from a Scottish billionaire. Jack follows the money trail and finds that the money was laundered through a numbered Swiss bank account which has links to the former KGB. He also finds that over a billion dollars has been syphoned into a personal account, but Swiss laws prevent him from getting any information about the account.

In the background, and rapidly moving to the foreground, the focus turns to Jack Senior's work when seconded to MI6 in the 1980's hunting down Zenith, a Russian assassin code-named Zenith. The story switches between the past and the present as the significance of Zenith's identity and activity in the present becomes known.

From this you will see that Greaney has built up a complex and interconnected plot, with lots of espionage, and military and covert action. He has crafted one of the best contemporary Jack Ryan adrenaline-packed page-turning adventures for some time. After "Executive Action" I kept away from Clancy's work because it was running out of steam, both in plots and the writing. I didn't enjoy the first Greaney collaboration with "Locked On", but enjoyed "Threat Vector" (another Greaney collaboration) and really enjoyed "Executive Action". This is a fitting finale for the Jack Ryan series. Thank you Tom and your helpers for creating the genre of techno/espionage/politico/covert ops thrillers that have spawned so many other similar series.

Tom Clancy and Mark Greaney: Threat Vector

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Best "Tom Clancy" Jack Ryan novel for some time
This is the penultimate Jack Ryan novel signed off by Tom Clancy before his untimely death in October 2013. I say signed off because it is clear that for many years Clancy had relied on a stable of co-authors to write most of his books - and Mark Greaney is the best of them all and should be given most of the credit for this book. "Threat Vector" takes us back to the classic days of "Clancy's" writing style and plots for politico/espionage/covert ops thrillers based loosely on actual and imaginary relations between the US and the rest of the world.

Jack Ryan, Senior, is President again and his son, Jack, Junior, is working as an analyst with The Campus, small off-record self-financing covert operations group set up with Ryan, Sr's. blessing. While Jack is at heart an analyst he is being trained as a covert operator by Ryan's old chums, including John Clark and Domingo Chavez.

This time the Ryans are involved with trying to destroy plans for world domination by China. This starts as a world changing cyber war with The Campus tracking down Chinese hackers who are bent on destruction of the modern world which depends so much on computers. Clancy (or should I say Greaney) have taken a big step forward in setting up a believable situation where a few key Chinese computer nerds can threaten to bring the world to its knees.

The plot also features political and military leaders of the Chinese Communist Party jockeying for position to either keep China the most powerful economy in the world or make it the most powerful military country in the world by conventional and cyber warfare. The start of their conventional war by declaring all of the South China Sea to be Chinese territory has a lot of similarities to what is happening with the dispute over ownership of islands with the Japanese.

The cyber background is believable, the covert ops exciting and the military descriptions more than adequate to maintain the Clancy image. Greaney and his military and computer advisers have put together a contemporary Jack Ryan adrenaline-packed page-turning adventure. After "Executive Action" I kept away from Clancy's work because it was running out of steam, both in plots and the writing. I didn't enjoy the first Greaney collaboration with "Locked On" but I am pleased that I decided to read this book.

28 December 2013

David Rollins: Standoff

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Vin Cooper takes on the Cartels
OSI Special Agent Vin Cooper had been chasing an AWOL airman when he discovers that he has been killed in a massacre at a small private airport near El Paso, Texas. A couple of unknown planes visit the airfield unannounced and a squad of heavies massacre a family headed for a trip to Disneyland and anyone else in the way. Authorities at the scene miss that a ton of drugs has been stashed in a container on the airfield  - but Cooper doesn't and gets involved in a gunfight with corrupt police.

Soon Vin finds himself on the run from the police who have framed him for murders he didn't commit. This just happens to be the perfect cover for his most dangerous mission yet – crossing the border and infiltrating a drug cartel and finding out the reason for the massacre. This gets him involved with the leader of a major drug cartel just across the Mexican border in Juarez - the big question is whether they believe him. If not he cartel leader's main bodyguard promises Vin a very painful death.

While Cooper can work in a team he believes that he can achieve more when he acts alone as "Lone Ranger with no Tonto". This time is no exception when Cooper tries to do the unbelievable - infiltrate and destroy a Mexican cartel single-handed and stop another even larger massacre.

24 December 2013

Nicholas Sparks: The Resue

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Predictable tear jerker
Nicholas Sparks is a consummate author of stories about mature relationships where couples with flawed histories discover one another. "The Rescue" demonstrates all of Sparks' undoubted skills in writing this kind of book with a fair dose of tear jerking thrown in for good measure.

Single mother Denise Holton is driving home during a bad storm when she swerves to avoid an animal on the road and her car skids off the road, knocking her out and trapping her. When volunteer fireman Taylor McAden rescues Denise the back door of the car is open and  her four-year-old son Kyle, a boy with severe learning and speaking disabilities, has disappeared into the surrounding forest. Taylor leads a search team to find Kyle in the dark during an intense rainstorm. The search is made more difficult because Kyle is not able to answer their calls.

Denise's life as a single mother with a young son with learning difficulties has been hard. She has recently moved to the small town of Edenton, North Carolina, spending most of the day teaching Kyle and working the late shift as a waitress. It has been a lonely life which has not left any time to make friends or have a relationship.

Taylor has always been a loner who  feels compelled to take terrifying risks to save lives but something in his past has made it impossible for him to have a serious relationship. A tender connection between Taylor and Denise, and especially with Kyle, develops. Taylor has to face his past if this relationship can continue.

I read some of Nicholas Sparks' books as an interlude from my regular diet of sometimes pretty heavy thrillers. This one gave me the interlude I needed and once again this was a good tear jerking tale about complex human relationships. This time, probably, because I have read a few of Sparks books with similar themes, the story was a little bit too predictable, especially the Epilogue.

23 December 2013

Jo Nesbo: The Bat

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Disappointed again with an early Harry Hole thriller
A couple of weeks ago I read "Cockroaches" the second Harry Hole crime thriller and was disappointed. At the time I said that because all the later books in the series have been translated from Norwegian before Cockroaches there was probably a clue that this was not one of his better books. "The Bat" is the first in the series and was translated ahead of Cockroaches so I assumed it would be better - unfortunately I was wrong.

"The Bat" is set in my old hometown of Sydney. It was a bit like a tourist book taking in the best and worst of Sydney, plus a lesson about indigenous Australia from the local investigator. The main thing I learnt was that Australians called him Harry Holy which mystified me until I discovered that this is almost similar to the correct Norwegian pronunciation that sounds like Hula or Who-la. I guess that is why the translator decided to use the anglicised name of Hole.

I always prefer to start at the beginning of a series to keep track of character development and past historys. In this case I was wrong and I probably should have seen another clue and started with more popular books later in the series. I have read many better thrillers by Indie authors.

Others tell me that the later books in the series are much better. I do plan to read them but after this book it won't be a high priority.

18 December 2013

Candice Fox: Hades

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Amazing, chilling, violent and emotionally challenging first novel
WOW, what an amazing first novel. I am emotionally flogged by the pace of the action, the violence, the body count and episodes of pure fear. With that background it is hard to say I enjoyed the ride but it will certainly stand out in my memory as one of the most unusual, outstanding and memorable crime thrillers I have read in the last 12 months.

Hades Archer is the man they call the Lord of the Underworld. He lives in a junkyard  in Sydney that contains twisted sculptures he has created from scrap. He will arrange to dispose of anything, including bodies - for a fee. Even Hades decides draw the line when someone wants him to dispose of two small bodies - who are still alive. Hades actions will affect many for years to come.

Twenty years later, homicide detective Frank Bennett meets his new partner, the dark and beautiful Eden Archer. Her brother, Eric, is also in the homicide squad and immediately makes it clear that he has real problems with anyone chosen to be Eden's partner. While they are experienced detectives, it is soon clear to Frank that there is something very unusual about Eden and Eric.

While investigating the attempted drowning of a drug addict the homicide squad don't believe his story about a cache of large toolboxes on the floor of the harbour until the divers bring up the boxes and the bodies they contain.  Hilary Mantel wrote a classic book called "Bring up the Bodies". Candice Fox could have easily given the same title to this book.

Frank and Eden are now looking for an unusual serial killer who kills to keep others living. While the body count keeps climbing Frank is faced with two challenges, to find out the dark secrets that power Eden and Eric, and to protect a potential victim of the serial killer.

This book is not for the faint hearted (an example - Hades observed "An adult body needed a long tooth saw"). It paces you through an emotionally charged, violent and bloody environment from the very start to a stunning climax. It is dark, compelling and very original crime fiction written by an author with a bright future. I totally agree with the book description that Hades is the debut of a stunning new talent in crime fiction. It only seems to be listed for release in Australia and New Zealand and definitely deserves a wider audience.

Candice Fox tells us on her website that she has a multi-book contract and she is close to completing her next book "Eden". While I look forward to that book I hope that the publishers will give me time to recover from this one.

My thanks to Random House and The Reading Room for providing an advanced copy of this book.

15 December 2013

Jack Higgins: A Season in Hell

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Another great Jack Higgins Adventure
Jack Higgins can always be relied upon for an exciting page-turning easy-reading adventure story. This book certainly meets those expectations.

Sarah Talbot is a top Wall Street operator with connections to the US President. When she is at the top of her career she is devastated that her son has been murdered in Paris. Sean Egan is a former SAS and UK intelligence operative. He is similarly devastated when his sister is murdered, also in Paris. What brings them together in grief and revenge is the fact that both bodies were used to to smuggle heroin into the UK.

Sean and Sarah will stop at nothing to avenge the deaths that have one other common factor - the victims were drugged before death with a chemical that takes away their ability to understand what is happening. This chemical has only been seen elsewhere in assassinations in Northern Ireland. Their search for the drug mastermind takes them through London, Paris, Sicily, and Ireland as they uncover organised crime gangs that may be responsible. All the time they are tracked and sometimes assisted by a brutal operator working for the mastermind, known only as "Mr Smith". The most surprising thing is that they are assisted by a top Mafia boss who has never been involved with drugs and has a vendetta with another Mafia family who are at the top of the drug trade.

This was not as good as Higgins classic "The Eagle has Landed" and the "Night of the Fox" but was still a pretty good read, albeit a bit dated.

12 December 2013

Craig Lancaster: 600 Hours of Edward

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A Gem of a Book about a person with Asperger's syndrome
Once in a while I come across a gem of a book that I will remember for a long time. It is about 600 hours in the life of 39 year old Edward Stanton who has Asperger's syndrome and lives alone in Billings, Montana. In writing  a diary for himself Edward says "This is a story of  how my life changed".

Edward lives alone because he has an obsessive-compulsive disorder which makes it difficult for him to relate to other people, especially if they don't conform with Edward's rigid and obsessive view of the world. He says "I'm developmentally disabled. But that doesn't mean I'm crazy". He has never been able to hold down a job because while he is very efficient in doing routine things in his own way, he gets angry when someone tells him to do things differently.

Edward's life revolves around a carefully constructed regime where he tracks common things in his life and does things at exactly the same time each day. This book takes us through 600 hours of Edward's life (we might think of it as 25 days but Edward prefers to see it in hours) when his self-structured life is challenged by people and events.

Every morning Edward records important data. He records the time he woke up - 7.38am which is exactly the time he woke over the last three days and for eighteen out of the last twenty and 221 times in the last year - the day of the year (the 287th day of the year because 2012 is a leap year), and the exact temperatures yesterday from the Billings Herald-Gleaner and the forecast temperatures which he will change tomorrow when the actual temperatures are known (forecasts are notoriously off base). He feels satisfied when he has completed his daily database recordings.

Edward visits his therapist at 10am sharp each Tuesday, refusing to start his therapy sessions even a minute before the appointed hour. He is supported by his rich and politically powerful father who can't relate to Edward (even getting his lawyer to write to Edward to arrange an appointment if there are any financial or other problems to discuss). Edward is frequently angry at people and things and his therapist encourages him to write complaint letters to them, but never post them. His unsent letters are all kept in green folders (because Edward prefers green) and his Father's folder is the largest of them all.

Edward's life is about to change and be challenged when a divorced mother with a young son move in across the street, he is successful in arranging his first date ever using and online dating service, and his relationship with his father is dramatically changed by an ultimate and unexpected gift.

This is a sensitive and emotional account of how a developmentally disabled person faces up to change. A lot of the book is repetitive because it records Edward's days and feelings in great detail - but that is the real story about Edward. Craig Lancaster allows us into Edward's life so that we can understand his feelings about the world. Lancaster has written a sequel, "Edward Adrift" which follows up on 600 Hours which will definitely be next on my reading list.

07 December 2013

Ian Rankin: Saints of the Shadow Bible (Inspector Rebus #19)

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Vintage John Rebus
Ian Rankin is a top British crime writer and this is #19 in the extremely successful Inspector Rebus series. Recently I have read a lot of books by popular authors who try to put new life into a series that should be running out of steam. With this book Rankin is doing the same by taking us back to the John Rebus's early days in the police force and reviewing what he really is and what he has become.

John Rebus is back in the force which is his only life. The only way at his age he can continue to work in the force is to take a demotion to Detective Sergeant and he is now working for his old protegé Detective Inspector Siobhan (pronounced shiv-on) Clarke. Their first case together is a car crash where the daughter of an important London businessman is badly injured in a single driver car crash. What is strange is that her seat belt is unbuckled and one of her shoes finished up under the passenger seat, suggesting that someone else was driving and had moved her into the driving seat to cover up his part in the crash. Her boyfriend happens to be the son of Pat McCuskey, the Scottish Justice Minister and a top protagonist in favour of an independent Scotland.

At the same time DI Malcolm Fox of the Complaints Division (their Internal Affairs) is looking at a 30 year old case that involved the detectives at the Summerhall Police Station who were well known for keeping down the crime rate by doing things their way and sometimes bending the law to do this. Rebus was a raw Detective Constable at the time and was recruited to become one of the "Saints of the Shadow Bible" who swore to uphold their own policing standards. Rebus admits that at times he did a few things he now regrets but he was never knowingly involved in really bad things. While initially wary of Fox, John Rebus decides to help him with his investigation with the philosophy of "if you don't like them join them". Surprisingly Rebus and Fox work well together, but with slightly different motivations.

Most of the living members of the Saints are retired and frail, but DI Stefan Gilmour has moved on to become a very rich property developer who is a major proponent of the "No" case for an independent Scotland. Fox's investigations mainly centre on the acquittal of Billy Saunders for murder which he believes was manipulated by the Saints especially because Gilmour resigned from the force at that time. The investigation builds strength when Saunders disappears and is later found shot by a gun known to have been confiscated years ago by one of the Saints.

John Rebus is a enigmatic character who, despite his age, is still at the top of his game but no longer at the top of the force. He is a loner who collects evidence in his own ways and feeds it where it will have the most effect. While he was a member of the Saints he is prepared to look at all of their sins with Fox and make his own judgements.

In my opinion most authors I have read recently attempting a series revival have failed my tests in some way. Ian Rankin passed my tests with flying colours with this very clever and well written Scottish police/crime story which seamlessly mixes the past with the present against a timely backdrop of the current buildup to the referendum for an independent Scotland. While it is part of a series it can easily be read as a standalone story. I recommend this book to all lovers of UK crime stories and to others who want to get a good introduction to this genre.

James Lee Burke: Heaven's Prisoners (Dave Robicheaux Mysteries)

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A compelling and intelligent thriller
Recently I told an author friend of mine that I was numbed by the poor quality of recent thrillers I had read and he told me to "read something by James Lee Burke - the man's a master". That was great advice. Burke doesn't write your normal type of crime thriller, he is a fabulous storyteller and a master of prose who writes stories of literary quality full of great characters, violent emotions with almost poetic descriptions of the landscapes where the action happens. 

Dave Robicheaux has retired from a long career as a homicide detective and is running a boat, bait and food business catering for tourists to the bayou area of southern Louisiana. He is very happy in his new marriage to Annie and is winning his long and hard battle with alcohol. Dave and Annie are on their boat one day trawling for shrimp when a small plane crashes nearby. Dave saves a six-year-old girl's life but her mother and three other people in the plane perish. Annie looks after the small girl who can only speak Spanish and names her Alifair, after Dave's mother.

When the police search the plane they only find three bodies. One man was missing. Dave remembered him clearly, he wore a pink shirt which had been ripped in the crash to show a tattoo over one nipple and his neck was broken. As usual Dave couldn't leave this alone and it  unleashes the devils of gang vengeance which strike at Dave and his family.

This is a dark story which is sometimes violent and faces up to the despair of loss and the demons of alcohol. It is also very philosophical about life and its dangers and weaknesses, which is rare in a thriller. I found parts of the book both compassionate and tear-jerking.

I strongly recommend this book as one of the most compelling and intelligent thrillers I have read for some time. This is the first of Burke's novels that I have read and it won't be the last. I will especially remember his vivid descriptions of the Louisiana bayou where I could almost smell the water, the moss, the trees and the flowers that Burke so loves. Another author who does this so well is the great Pat Conroy with his landscapes of the Carolina wetlands.

While this book was written in 1988, well before Hurricane Katrina, Burke may have had a premonition of the future when he felt a big storm building up and quoted the lyrics of this song - "Don't come `round tonight, it's bound to take your life. A bad moon's on the rise, I hear hurricane's a blowing, I know the end is coming soon, I feel the river overflowing, I can hear the voice of rage and ruin."

05 December 2013

Kathy Reichs: Bones in her Pocket

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A small dose of Bones as an appetiser
This short story/novella was basically written as an e-book appetiser for Kathy Reich's next book, "Bones for the Lost". Tempe Brennan fans will no doubt enjoy another small dose of bones ahead of the larger dose in the next book.

Kathy Reich's long time character forensic anthropologist Temperance (Tempe) Brennan is called to identify a couple of bones found in Mountain Island Lake in a remote area of Carolina. When she gets to the part of the lake where the bones were found she spots an oversize canvas bag in the water covered with flies. Of course as Tempe is involved, the bag contains a decomposing body and she sets out to find who it is and who put it in the lake.

The immediate suspect is a local environmental activist and nutcase, Herman Blount, who Tempe finds "charismatic in a Charles Manson type of way". Tempe takes on her normal super sleuth role to identify the body and the killer.

Many authors write a short story/novella as a teaser for a forthcoming full-length book. Sometimes the teaser is better than the book and vice-versa. My jury is out on this one as I felt that this time Reichs had probably tried to put too many bones in a small bag.

26 November 2013

Melissa F Miller: A Marriage of True Minds

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Sasha and Leo get married
Melissa Miller tells us this novella is written for readers who are already hooked on the Sasha MacCandless legal thriller series because you will know the guest list - "After all, who wants to attend a stranger's wedding?" I have read and enjoyed most of this entertaining but not especially challenging series about a dynamic diminutive lawyer who gets into all kinds of scrapes and can defend herself in the most difficult situations because she is an expert in Krav Maga self-defence.

Over the series Sasha has taken her time to become fully committed to a relationship with her long time partner, former US Marshal, Leo Connelly, but when she decides it is time to get married she makes sure she does it with a splash. All of Sasha and Leo's family, close friends and workmates are invited to a week at a luxury resort in Nicaragua culminating in the wedding on New Year's Eve. Sasha's main concern is that the wedding planner insists that she turns her cell phone off during the ceremony and that her Mother will ensure that her wedding dress is so tight that she may faint walking down the aisle. Leo's concern is that he can't be armed during the ceremony.

 Leo has always called Sasha "A trouble magnet" and her wedding is no exception when she hears that Jeffrey Bricker has escaped from prison and is looking for Sasha to revenge her recent success stopping him releasing a killer flu that would have brought the US to its knees. Bricker's hired thugs invade the wedding rehearsal with the result that "Sasha entered the ballroom with her machete drawn....."

This is lighthearted but enjoyable escapist nonsense that Sasha's many fans will really enjoy.

Timothy Ashby: Time Fall

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From time to time (forgive the pun) I read and enjoy the occasional time-travel book. Last occasion was '11.23.63' by Stephen King where someone was able to go through a time portal to the days before Kennedy's assassination. This imaginative story is very different when a squad of US commandos on a mission to create havoc in a remote area behind Nazi lines parachute through an intense storm and land at the right place but don't know that the storm has sent them to 2011 not 1944.

Lieutenant Arthur Sutton, Sergeant Hugo Roth (a German/American Jew) and 4 other soldiers set off in 1944 to sabotage a Panzer Maintenance Depot, a Luftwaffe landing field, and an SS training camp. Despite some observing some strange things (no blackout, unusual military vehicles and different aeroplanes) they don't realise the time change and go ahead to achieve their objectives. At the training camp they inadvertently kill a group of potential terrorists in German uniforms and get chased by a key counter-terrorism outfit led by a right-wing former Hitler Youth member who wants to restore Nazi values.

Their next objective is to kill a wounded Luftwaffe hero convalescing at his home nearby. They do not believe the claim of the old man living in the house with his granddaughter that he is the hero. Sutton has been wounded and he is left behind when Roth orders the rest of the squad go off to wage WWII again.

This book was great fun as long as you go along with the fantasy. I thoroughly enjoyed the imaginative mix of past and future. The Epilogue gives a special twist to the ending.

Thomas Keneally: Shame and the Captives

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A major cultural misunderstanding
This is an interesting and challenging book about one of the three main events where WWII impacted directly on the Australian people. Most people know about the bombing of Darwin and the mini-submarine attack on Sydney Harbour, but how many know about the bloody escape by Japanese POW's from a  camp near Cowra, NSW?

During WWII Australian troops captured many prisoners of war on all battlefronts. While some of them were sent to POW camps near where they were captured, by August 1944 there were nearly 20,000 POW's in Australia. Most of them were Italians, but just over two thousand were Japanese most of whom resented the fact that they had not been killed - "The Japanese soldier never permits himself to be taken".

Keneally weaves a fictional story based on the Cowra POW breakout which shows the conflicting culture and emotions of the local people, the camp administration and the different prisoner nationalities. In a fictional town of Gawell, on the tablelands of NSW and far from the battlefronts, a POW camp is built close to a farming community to house European (mostly Italian), Korean and Japanese prisoners. The camp is split into 4 compounds, 2 for the Europeans, 1 solely for Japanese (Compound C) and the fourth for captured Japanese merchants, and Koreans and Taiwanese.

The camp commanders have little understanding of the cultural stresses Japanese prisoners are facing with the disgrace of their capture. Many Japanese give false names, knowing that their families would have been told of their death because they are missing. Many look to death as the only way out of their incarceration and do not understand the compassion and respect given to them by their captors.

Keneally weaves a gentle story of the local community and the integration of trusted Italian prisoners, and the camp commanders and their naive feelings that they should run the camp humanely within the Geneva Convention in the hope that Australian prisoners will also be treated humanely by the other combatants. The camp is lightly guarded because a breakout is considered unlikely. The camp is commanded by officers who are in general mostly too old or injured to fight overseas. What surprised me most by this fictional re-enactment of the breakout was the inept, almost Dad's Army reaction, of the guards and the local training camp to the escape of hundreds of Japanese prisoners from Compound C searching for death.

This is an interesting and sensitive tale based on an important incident in Australia's WWII history. I have recently read Keneally's splendid WWI saga "Daughters of Mars" and in comparison found the writing style of this book to be much dryer and less inspiring than his previous book.

Michael Connelly: The Gods of Guilt

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The Lincoln Lawyer rides again
Criminal defence attorney Mickey Haller is back doing what he does best - running his small legal practice from the back of his Lincoln Town Car. He is still recovering from a time when switched sides to be a successful prosecutor, and he nearly became Los Angeles County District Attorney before disaster struck when a defence case went badly wrong and impacted his career and his relationship with his daughter and first wife.

Mickey is always on the lookout for cases with the highest stakes and biggest paybacks and the top of the line are murder cases. One day Andre La Cosse, an internet "pimp" who designs and manages web-sites for call girls, asks Mickey to defend him on a murder charge. This case is different because the victim, Gloria Dayton, was a former client, a prostitute Mickey thought he had rescued and put on a straight and narrow path - but she was back on the game. It is also different because just before Gloria's death she had told Andre should contact Haller if he ever needed legal assistance. Andre also has the means to pay for his defence - in gold bullion!

What starts off as a straightforward case of  providing a good defence for a guilty person quickly changes when Mickey realises that Andre may not be guilty.  The case quickly brings back the ghosts of Mickey's past which can have a serious impact on his professional and personal future.

Mickey needs all the help he can get to try to find an another killer to tie to Gloria's murder. In this he is helped by his strange but very effective teeam of associates.  His second wife, Lorna (still a very good friend), acts as his receptionist; her mountain of a husband, Cisco, is his investigator; and a young female attorney, Julie Aronson, is his very smart legal associate. This time his driver, Earl, who is paying off his legal fees by driving Mickey around LA in his Lincoln Town Car, also becomes part of the action.

Mickey's father (a lawyer too) told him that the jurors were the "Gods of Guilt" but from experience Mickey knows that the gods of guilt are judging us every day of our lives and in every move we make. This is never so true as in this case.

Michael Connelly has moved Mickey Haller on from the days when he was seen as a "sleezy" lawyer in the first Lincoln Lawyer novel. While he is still prepared to do courtroom tricks, he has matured and morphed into a relentless pursuer of getting to the truth and this case tests him to the limit. Connelly is still at the top of his game and this is an entertaining page-turner that will satisfy most of Connelly's fans and will undoubtedly be part of many Christmas reading wish lists.

Jo Nesbo: Cockroaches

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A disappointing introduction to Harry Hole 
I haven't read any of Jo Nesbo's detective novels in the Harry Hole series so was keen to read this one because it is #2 in the series and I always try to read a series in order if I can. All of the later books in the series have been translated from Norwegian ahead of this book so there was probably a clue that this was not one of his better books.

Harry Hole is a complex but flawed character, a skilled detective and investigator who thinks outside the box but personally a very troubled individual who hits the bottle hard when he is not working.

The Norwegian Ambassador to Thailand, Atle Molnes, is found stabbed with an ancient oriental knife in a seedy Motel, come brothel on the outskirts of Bangkok. Molnes has been a senior Christian Democratic politician who was given the posting by his close political friend who had recently become Prime Minister. An urgent meeting between influential people in the Prime Minister's Department, Foreign Affairs and the Crime Squad quickly agree that the matter must be investigated quickly without undue public attention. They decide to send one investigator to help the local police with their investigations. Harry Hole is their unanimous selection based on his recent performance in solving a case in Sydney.

After quickly sobering up, Hole flies to Bangkok to meet his local counterparts. Nesbo does a great job in describing conditions is Bangkok, the heat, traffic, noise, bars etc., the life of an ex-pat and the diplomatic community, and the way the local police operate.

Hole quickly gets to know the Embassy staff, the Ambassador's wife, Hilde, and her teenage daughter and several key Norwegian ex-patriots in Bangkok. He soon discovers that Hilde, a borderline alcoholic, had started an affair with Jens Brekke, a rich financial trader, within days of her arrival in Bangkok. He also discovers the seedy side of Bangkok, with its sex and drug trade and links to pedofilia, all of which have some impact on the case.

The book was well written and the investigations were well documented and I could easily become a fan of Harry Hole (though I did have some difficulty following Norwegian names and places). The first half of the book was fine but later on I did have trouble with complexity and unbelievability of the plot line which left me wondering if I would read later books in the series. As I said at the beginning there is probably a clue that 9 out of 10 books in the series were translated earlier that it was not one of the better books in the series. Will I read more Harry Hole books? Probably - I have a copy of "Police", the latest in the series which I have been meaning to read for some time.

17 November 2013

Douglas Corleone: Good as Gone

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Chase to find a missing child
This is a fast moving chase to find a missing child who has been abducted for no apparent reason by someone unknown to the family.

Former US Marshal Simon Fisk hunts down children who have been taken illegally by an estranged parent. He doesn't normally touch abduction by strangers because he is continually haunted by the unsolved disappearance of his six year old daughter which triggered his wife's suicide.

Fisk has a big dilemma because the French police want to charge him with past misdemeanors when he tracked down parents who had fled to their country. They offer to drop the charges if he will help them with a high profile stranger abduction case of six year old Lindsay Sorkin from a luxury Paris hotel. Her father is a key partner in a Silicon Valley startup that is designing remote-controlled automation that could potentially replace soldiers in the battlefield. After finding himself closely related to the impact on the parents, Fisk reluctantly agrees to try to find the trail of the abduction.  This leads him into the dangerous underworlds of France, Germany, Poland and Belarus.

Along the way Fisk meets beautiful Polish attorney Ana Staszak whose boss Mikolaj Dabrowki is implicated in the abduction through his close association with notorious Polish gangsters who he has successfully defended.  Ana joins Simon in the dangerous chase to find Lindsay which moves from country to country and they have to deal with some of the worst criminals in Europe and Russia who are involved with drugs, prostitution, child pornography and sex slavery.

The first part of the book was exciting and compassionate as Fisk starts to find the trail. The second part went downhill with me because it became over the top, with continual violence as Fisk catches up and deals with the many gangsters who are involved with the abduction. It was also very difficult to follow some of the Eastern European names.

I enjoyed the first part of the book but got lost in the escapism of the second part. Thriller writing is becoming more competitive especially with the upcoming throng of talented self-published authors and some established authors are turning to more unusual plots to keep their lead. This was one of the "one man can beat many" syndrome plots that are too over the top and quickly lose my attention.

Tony Park: Ivory

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An exciting African adventure
Tony Park writes great adventure stories. What makes them special is that they are set in Africa, a continent that this Australian writer has come to know and love. This is one of his early works which I enjoyed revisiting again.

Alex Tremain was born in Mozambique in Southern Africa and the family ran a luxury hotel on a beautiful island just off the coast in Mozambique. When civil war came to the country the hotel was ransacked by the rebels and the locals. Alex went off to war and joined the South African army. When peace returned Alex vowed to rebuild the hotel into a luxury resort again - but the main problem was money. So Alex and some friends become pirates, ambushing ships on the high seas and stealing building materials or goods that could be sold easily.

Jane Humphries is a successful corporate lawyer with a large UK shipping company who is having an affair with her married boss, George Penfold, who promises her that he will leave his wife. Jane is scared stiff of flying and George arranges for her to go to an important meeting in Cape Town by sea on his flagship container ship, MV Penfold Son. En route the ship picks up a mysterious group of security people who act like mercenaries. By chance while Alex and his crew are tracking a Chinese ship they witness a rendezvous with Penfold Son where a mysterious package changes hands. When Alex boards the Penfold Son to find the package they are met with strong opposition from security. The Captain hands the package to Jane and tells her to guard it with her life. She hides in a the ship's lifeboat and is joined by Alex and his team as they escape from the ship.

After recovering from becoming unconscious after a dangerous lifeboat launch, Jane has to come to grips with the fact that her charming and handsome host at the partly restored hotel is a notorious pirate. She also has to come to grips with the fact that her charming boss is sending his vicious security team to find her and the mysterious package. At the same time she becomes increasingly attracted to Alex.

Meanwhile Alex still needs more money to complete the hotel restoration and does a deal with an unscrupulous Chinese to steal a huge amount of legally culled ivory from under the noses of the South African military.

Sounds complex doesn't it? Yes it is very complex and a bit overboard (forgive the potentially maritime pun) but as long as you don't take it too seriously it is an exciting, page-turning adventure set against the interesting wildlife background of Southern Africa.

16 November 2013

Martin Cruz Smith: Tatiana

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How to solve an unsolvable puzzle
In Kaliningrad, a remote part of Russia on the coast of the Baltic Sea, a skilled language translator is killed. His notebook with key coded notes from a secret meeting he translated is missing.

In Moscow, Senior Investigator Arkady Renko (of Gorky Park fame) is attending the burial of Grisha Grigorento, from Kaliningrad. Grisha led lived 2 lives, one a wealthy respected businessman and the other a mafia type chief with drug, prostitution and arms-selling connections. He had with many enemies and someone had shot him in the head. Most of the leaders of the Russian underworld attended the funeral.  Grisha's unscrupulous son, Alexi, is not above suspicion.

During the ceremony there was a demonstration nearby against the proposed burial of Tatiana Petrovna  a famous investigative journalist on sanctified ground. Tatiana had apparently committed suicide recently by jumping from a sixth floor window. Renko gets involved in looking at her death and finds a tenuous connection between the three deaths.

Renko is a diligent investigator who has never reached the heights in his career because of his integrity. He is still a skilled operator and in looking into each of the deaths starts to find a link between them.

Cruz Smith has been called a writer of literary fiction thrillers - and I would agree. This is not your fast-action, page-turning thriller. It starts slowly but turns into a skillfully crafted tale of diligent police investigation in the complex and frequently corrupt world of modern Russia. It is not as good as some of the earlier books in the series but is still and enjoyable and intelligent read.

Kathleen Tessaro: The Perfume Collector

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A charming story of two women in search of who they really are.
Grace Munroe is an upper class wife in 1950's England who is confronting a loveless marriage but with no idea how she can escape to live her life as she wants. She really doesn't fit into the social climbing set that dominates her husband's ambition and is stunned when she finds a clue to his possible infidelity. One day she receives a letter from a lawyer in Paris telling her that she has been left an expensive fashionable apartment in Paris and a financial bequest by a French woman she doesn't know. This starts her journey to Paris where she meets an intriguing solicitor who helps her to follow up the fascinating and "fragrant" background to the unusual bequest.

The story switches to the life of Eva D'Orsey, who, at age of fourteen in the late 1920's, becomes a maid at a exclusive hotel in New York.  There she meets some unusual people; Madame Zed, a French perfumier and her genius apprentice Andre Valmont; Miss Waverley, a high-class courtesan; and Charles Lambert, an English aristocrat and WWI hero with a penchant for gambling and alcohol. Lambert recognises that Eva's eidetic memory could help him with his gambling ambitions.

Each of these people affect the course of Eva's future life. The story moves from the past to the 1950's with a connecting theme of personalised perfumes. While a lot of the story is a little predictable, the atmospheric descriptions of the times and both Eva's and Grace's search for who they really are makes the book enjoyable. Eva's last words in the book are "all that matters now is what Grace Munroe decides to do next".

This was a fragrant interlude between my daily dose of thrillers (a sorbet between courses or a 'step outside the wheelhouse').  I really enjoyed the break with this tale of two strong and potentially independent women and the discovery of their connections across the years.

James Patterson: Cross my Heart (Alex Cross #21)

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When an author has written 20 books in a successful series they feel they need to do something different to keep the series alive. This time James Patterson decided to turn the tables on Alex Cross and have a killer hunting him instead of Cross hunting a killer.

Thierry Mulch (not real name) is a psychopathic serial killer with chameleon style abilities who believes he has committed some perfect crimes and got away with them. To bolster his enormous ego he even participates (in disguise) in University seminars that discuss the crimes. Mulch's ego is hurt that Detective Dr Alex Cross has never given up trying to solve the crimes - so hurt that he decides to hunt down Cross and his family, like a predator priming himself for the kill.

One week later Alex Cross’s whole world is crashing down around him - Thierry Mulch has destroyed everything he loved, and everything he believed in and left him a soulless man.

This is a very explicit book with a lot of unnecessary and extreme psychopathic violence which is not for everyone. I can understand why Patterson decided to up the ante and turn the tables to keep the series alive but as far as I am concerned the author made a vital tactical mistake by leaving the story open with a cliffhanger (death-hanger?) ending. Of course this will leave his fans anxiously awaiting his next book in the series - but not me.

This is the first James Patterson book that I have read and I doubt that I will read any more.

09 November 2013

Michael Robotham: Bombproof

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Hilarious tale about an innocent Criminal
Every now and again I find an unforgettable gem of a thriller - this is one of them because it is clever, realistic and very funny, in a dark kind of way. It is especially unforgettable because the "anti-hero", Sami Macbeth, has the ability turn a desperate situations into  hopeless ones.

Sami has two ambitions, to be a guitarist in a popular rock band and to care for his sister, Nadia. She is part Algerian (as is Sami), nineteen and absolutely beautiful. His first hopeless situation happens when Sami is being driven home from a gig by a friend who runs away when the van is stopped by the police because, unknown to Sami, gems from a major robbery are stashed in the van.  For the last 3 years Sami hasn't been able to care for Nadia because he has been in jail as an accessory to the robbery. His time in jail is relatively comfortable because the long term dangerous prisoners protect him as they believe he is a master safecracker.

After 3 years all Sami wants to do is to get laid and care for Nadia. He succeeds with trumps on the first one but Nadia is missing. A drug lord, Tony Murphy thinks Sami is a master safecracker and wants his help. He holds the trump card as he has put Nadia under his control by forcing her to become a crackhead. On top of this, dangerous society criminal kingpin, Ray Garza is chasing him for different reasons.

There follows a litany of hopeless but extremely humorous situations. Sami is forced to help someone blow up a safe for Murphy and during their escape his companion blows himself up on the London Underground. Sami is chased by the police as a suspected terrorist and inadvertently gets involved in a bloody hostage situation. Things keep going from bad to worse with the entire London police force chasing him on terrorist alert. The only saving grace is that so many of the situations are so downright hilarious they made me laugh out loud.

The book is set in the UK and written in the local vernacular (eg the police are "rozzers"). The bad guys are really bad and violent, aided by a bent senior policeman from Scotland Yard. Fortunately for Sami his parole officer and her ex-husband,  retired detective Vincent Ruiz, are on Sami's side.

Michael Robotham is an Australian author who writes fast moving and skillfully plotted. I'm sure that I detect some Aussie humour in the book. He has written several very good more serious bestselling psychological thrillers set in the UK which I have enjoyed. This is a stand-alone dark humour thriller which I enjoyed even more and is highly recommended. His books are being released in the US and will hopefully get the same following that he has in the UK. The e-book I read was a reissue of a book first published in 2008.

05 November 2013

David Baldacci: King and Maxwell

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Another Bestseller by Baldacci
Once again David Baldacci shows that he is a consummate author of popular thrillers in a page-turning adventure featuring two of his most popular characters, Sean King and Michelle Maxwell - former Secret Service agents turned private investigators. This book will undoubtedly become a pre-Christmas bestseller.

King and Maxwell are driving through a storm when they nearly hit a teenage boy, Tyler Wingo, wandering the highway in the dark. They find that he has fled his nearby home after hearing that his father has been killed in Afghanistan. When they take him home it is clear that Tyler is on his own as there is no love lost with his stepmother.

Next day Tyler contacts them directly and hires them to find out more about his father's death. He tells them he is concerned because he has been told by the Army that there will be no casket as his father's remains are not recognisable. What Tyler doesn't tell them is that he has received a carefully worded email with a coded message from his father - sent after the time he was said to have been killed.

King and Maxwell start to uncover an international incident that begins with the loss of an unknown cargo of 4,800 lbs in a remote part of Afghanistan and the disappearance of Tyler's father. They discover a cover-up that implicates the Pentagon and even higher and become part of a chase to find Tyler's father, uncover the truth and the conspirators. The chase will put their lives at risk many times and claim many lives before it ends in a deadly showdown .

In this book Baldacci explores the special relationship between Sean and Michelle, and Sean's reaction when she was in hospital with serious gunshot wounds from their last adventure. This time Baldacci also introduces us to Sean's ex-wife Dana, in a more than cameo role as the wife of a 2 star General at the Pentagon. He explores Sean and Dana's past life and their relationship when they meet again.

One of David Baldacci's great strengths is his ability to create and ring the changes between a number of compelling characters (including The Camel Club, John Puller, and my recent favourite, Will Robie). It is great to see the return of King and Maxwell after a break of a couple of years. Their adventures with the Secret Service and as private investigators have been some of Baldacci's most successful thrillers over the last 10 years.

PS I was browsing next year's pre-orders on Amazon recently and found that Will Robie (recently featured in "The Hit") will be back at the end of April 2014 in "The Target".

03 November 2013

Deanna Raybourn: Midsummer Night (A Lady Julia Mystery)

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Amusing introduction to the Lady Julia series
Earlier this year I really enjoyed and highly recommended Deanna Raybourn's latest and very memorable adventure romance book "A Spear of Summer Grass" set in 1920's Africa. Some reviewers had difficulty in adjusting to her change of style from the Victorian sleuth adventures of Lady Julia Grey so I was intrigued to read this novella which introduces all of  Julia Gray's adventures by way of an amusing tale of her wedding to her partner, Nicholas Brisbane.

Lady Julia is not your normal Victorian lady. She is a widow of a loveless marriage and has found in Brisbane "someone who always preferred a more direct and physical demonstration of his affections than the written word". Brisbane is not your normal Victorian man. He is part gypsie from his mother and part "giorgo" from his father and he has inherited his mother's Romany "sight" that has helped him to solve many mysteries (increasingly with Julia's help). Some of his Romany family are not happy with his life in the giorgio world.

Julia's family and friends are a mixture of larger than life and very amusing characters.  Her family plans for a huge wedding are disrupted at the last moment by an unwelcome visitor from one of her investigations. How this disaster is overcome makes amusing and entertaining reading.

I recommend this 56 page novella as a quick and amusing introduction to the main characters and their romantic adventures.

Lisa Scottoline: Accused: A Rosato & Associates Novel

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Rosato & DiNunzio Lawyers
I have read and enjoyed several books in Lisa Scottoline's Rosato & Associates series about an all female Philadelphia law firm and after a fairly long break was keen to read another book in the series. Mary DiNunzio has always been one of my favourite Associates because she is bright as a button but frequently lacking in self-confidence and closely tied to a strange but very loving Italian family.

Mary is no longer an Associate - she has become a partner in the firm with Bennie Rosato. Everyone at the partnership celebration is happy and Bennie wants to change the firm's name to "Rosato & DiNunzio", but Mary doesn't yet have the self-confidence to take that step. She is also worried that her live-in boyfriend, Anthony Rotunno may be getting a more serious about their relationship than she can cope with and is basically happy but surprisingly disturbed when Anthony gives her an engagement ring.

Mary's first client as a partner is Allegra Gardner, a daughter of a very rich Philadelphia family. Sounds easy doesn't it - until Mary finds that Allegra has just turned 13 and is using her Grandfather's trust money to hire a lawyer without family approval to investigate who killed her elder sister Fiona six years earlier. The other problem is that Lonnie Stall pleaded guilty and was imprisoned for the murder of Fiona. While Allegra is mega-intelligent, representing a minor without the support of her parents is a challenging task.

During the investigation Mary is challenged at every turn by Allegra's parents and has to use all of her skills and connections, including her loving but somewhat dysfunctional family and friends, to get close enough to the case to find out what really happened. At the same time in the background she has to face up to planning her forthcoming wedding which is being dominated by her difficult future mother-in-law, Elvira (who Mary nicknames "El Virus") .

I really enjoyed some of the earlier books in the series but this one focusses too much on the trivial especially when Mary's gets her family involved in Allegra's hobby of beekeeping to get contact with her family. Much is made of finding parking spots and buying doughnuts, the DiNunzio family friends ("Pigeon" Tony,Tony "From-down-the Block" and "Two-Feet" Pensiera), Anthony's mother Elvira ("El Virus") and  and of course the wedding plans.

I did enjoy the book but it lacked the courtroom dramas of other books in the series and as it progressed I felt sidetracked by the trivial so didn't enjoy it as much as some of the earlier ones featuring Mary DiNunzio.

01 November 2013

Alan Gold & Mike Jones: Bloodline

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A fascinating novel of Israel - past and present
Bloodline is a fascinating contemporary story about modern Israel intertwined with a past history of Israel.  I read the prequel "A Turn in the Road" which was interesting but really didn't prepare me for what the first book in the Heritage Trilogy was about.

The preface has this quotation ""Absolute faith corrupts as absolutely as absolute power." Bloodline is a story of about absolute faith and absolute power throughout the ages in in Jerusalem and the Middle East. It also introduced me to a strange radical Jewish sect, the Neturei Karta, who believe that that Jews are forbidden to have their own state until the coming of the Jewish Messiah. In this story their belief is so strong that some of their followers team up with the Palestinians to try to bring down the State of Israel.

The contemporary story starts with Bilal HaMizri, a young Palestinian under the influence of a radical cleric who tells him that he has been chosen for a special purpose - to get close to the Wailing Wall, so revered by the Jews, and explode several bombs. He is told that he will enter Paradise and live forever in green fields surrounded by 72 virgins. After killing a guard Bilal is chased, and shot. He tries to detonate the bombs but only the detonator works. He finishes up in hospital and not in Paradise, holding in his hand an ancient seal from the first Temple.

Bilal is taken to hospital and Yael Cohen, a young Israeli Surgeon, operates on him and saves his life. Because they both share a very rare blood type she unwillingly finishes up giving him a blood donation. Being puzzled by the rare blood connection she sends his blood for a DNA test and is stunned to find that it shows that Bilal has a strong family relationship with her. What is even more puzzling is that her family came to Israel from Russia many years ago and she doesn't know of any family connections with Palestinians.

The story interweaves with the past in an almost scholarly description of the history of Israel from the days of King Solomon to those of the brutal Roman occupation during and just after the birth of Christ. The story follows each generation in an almost Edward Rutherfurd pattern, focussing on Jerusalem and the building and demolition of temples on the holiest place on earth for the three monotheistic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and gives a detailed and vivid history of Jewish occupation of Jerusalem during those troubled times. The seal is the connection between the past and the future.

Alan Gold and Mike Jones have combined seamlessly to create a very different kind of story to the ones I usually read which kept my attention throughout. It is a very unusual debut epic thriller moving across the ages and I look forward to reading the rest of the trilogy when it is completed. Highly recommended for someone who wants to read a completely different type of thriller and learn a lot of history in the process.

28 October 2013

Tony Park: The Prey

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Mayhem in modern day Southern Africa
This time in "The Prey", Australian author Tony Park takes us to modern day Southern Africa with a story of powerplay, lawlessness, violence, and the continued influence of the civil wars of the fairly recent past, set against a background of the perils of underground mining and the beauty of the African bush and its wildlife.

The Eureka mine, owned by Australian based mining giant Global Resources, is one of the largest and most successful deep underground gold mines in South Africa. The mine has many disused mineshafts and tunnels from earlier days where the "zama zamas" illegally hunt for gold under the brutal control of Wellington Shumba, a product of the many violent civil wars in Southern Africa. During a hunt for the illegal miners operating close to Eureka's current operations, 2 security guards are killed and Chris Loubser, responsible for mine safety, is kidnapped by Wellington to help him improve the safety of his illegal operations.

Global Resources is facing another battle in South Africa where their proposal to develop a huge open cut coal mine in a private game area just outside the Kruger National Park is coming under a strong environmental publicity attack from Tertia Venter who operates a tourist park in that pristine area.

Kylie Hamilton, high flying Executive General Manager, Health, Safety, and Environment is sent to by her Australian based South African CEO, Jan Stein, to manage the response to the kidnapping and the proposal for the new mine. There she meets former recce commando Cameron McMurtrie, the tough but efficient manager of Eureka and gets involved with him in the rescue of Loubser and the elimination of the "zama zamas".

The story then becomes rapidly moving and sometimes a bit unbelievable thriller as Kylie and Cameron hunt down Wellington at the same time as Wellington hunts down, kills and kidnaps. When the mine is closed down by the unions for environmental safety reasons Wellington virtually takes over the whole underground operations.

At first I found the idea of illegal miners operating close to a large mining operation to be a bit far fetched until I learned that in mid 2009 over 80 illegal miners operating in old workings of the Harmony Gold mine were killed in an underground explosion. To alleviate their economic distress, many unemployed, independent and redundant miners are operating illegally in old workings throughout Southern Africa under unsafe conditions.

I am a great fan of Tony Park and have enjoyed all of his adventure stories of Africa. While I enjoyed this book, IMHO this one was not as good as the others because it focussed more on sometimes unbelievable actions and less on the Africa that Park loves and knows and loves so well.