Over 550 book reviews with full author links

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.