Over 550 book reviews with full author links

20 November 2016

Peter Watt: While the Moon Burns: The Frontier Series 11

The MacIntoshes and the Duffys continue to battle on
Christmas is coming so it is time for the next annual episode from Peter Watt of his gripping Australian historical family saga/melodrama about the MacIntoshes and the Duffys. The main problem is that over the year I have forgotten so much about the many interesting characters that play a part in this long-running saga so it takes a time to remember them again, despite some pretty good back-story writing.

While the war in Europe is over the war in the Pacific continues its bloody toll. Lieutenant Donald MacIntosh (a goodie) and Major David Duffy are battling the Japanese in the jungles of New Guinea. Captain James Duffy, a US Marines top fighter pilot has returned to the Pacific War and Sergeant Jessica Duffy has returned from a secret mission where she rescued a key US officer from the Japanese.

Meanwhile, at home Sarah MacIntosh (a real baddie) is increasing her control over the MacIntosh businesses by foul means or fair (mainly very foul) and has taken advantage of war profits to increase the wealth and power of the businesses. Despite that, she never forgets her enemies and takes aim at Tom Duffy who at last, with her brother Donald's help, has at long last been able to purchase his ancestral property of Glen View. She also takes aim at anything that is precious to Donald.

As always the mythical elderly Aboriginal warrior Wallarie still haunts the family members, protecting some and warning others of danger. "A long time ago a white fella called Donald MacIntosh had all of my mob killed. I survived - and now I am also gone. Sometimes I fly to the earth as a wedge-tailed eagle and soar above the lands I once hunted."

This is a sweeping historical melodrama with so many characters and settings that it is sometimes hard to keep track of them. Peter Watt does a great job with these characters, especially the real baddies. He is also prepared to kill off characters who you are barracking to survive and prosper.

I have read all of this long running series and still come back to it from year to year. I seriously recommend that interested readers should start with "Cry of the Curlew" to give you a background to the series. Watt has a great feel for Australian history in the late 19th and 20th Century. This book takes us from the Pacific War to peace and then back to war again in Korea. It finishes up at the start of the Malaysian communist uprising which I am sure will be the starting focus for next year's episode.

11 November 2016

James J Kaufman: The Collectibles

An emotional tale of love and tragedy
In his early days, Joe Hart is exploring the mountain wilderness with his uncle when he comments that he feels so ordinary. His Uncle gives him this sage advice - "Do what the other fella can't. Be what the other fella ain't. And then help the other fella."

This is an unforgettable story of two men from different worlds, which collide early on but really collide many years later. In the mountains as a youth, Joe rescues Preston Wilson, another youth reluctantly travelling in the mountains with his dominating father. When Preston's father leaves his mother because he has become a financial failure Preston vows to do everything to become a financial success.

Years later, Preston is an apparent success but his automobile sales group is about to go bankrupt. Preston faces not only losing his businesses but also his wife who had financially supported him. At the end of his tether, Preston looks for a lawyer with a track record of helping businesses in trouble. This leads him to Joe Hart, who has become a successful lawyer after years as a top rated submarine commander. Preston realises that fate has once again brought him to Joe but how can he find him?

Joe has once again retreated to the mountains to recover from a personal tragedy. Preston tracks him down and tries to persuade Joe to come down and help him. Jo reluctantly agrees but only after he extracts three promises from Preston which he must fulfill whenever called upon. Preston meets the first two promises and Joe makes an arrangement with the banks for restructuring of the finances and changing the management of his businesses to give them a chance of becoming successful again.

Preston's businesses are now recovering but Preston cannot recover from the loss of his wife who walked out on him at his darkest hour. Then Joe calls in the final and most unusual IOU - Preston must meet, earn the trust of, and care for several people. These are Joe's "collectibles" - a rag-tag bunch of people that Joe has supported whom Preston would never normally want to know. Can Preston find the strength and integrity to make good on his promise to Joe? Does he have a choice?

This is a wonderful debut novel by James J Kaufman and I defy anyone with some sensitivity to have a dry eye during parts of this book, especially the finale. It is the first installment of a trilogy and I look forward to reading the other books.

I listened to this novel as an audiobook, which heightened some of the more emotional elements for me. As an Aussie, the American accent of the narrator was initially difficult to identify with but in the end, I quite liked the presentation.

10 November 2016

Lee Child: Night School

Getting to the end of the road so reinvent something
This is #21 in the long running Jack Reacher series. Each year I vow not to read Lee Child's annual episode in the life of Jack Reacher but each year I succumb to the addiction to find out how Child keeps a moribund series breathing. This year Child has run out of new ideas so he has to reinvent the past.

Back in 1996 Reacher is at his zenith as a Major in the CID of the US Army and has just got a medal for a secret operation in Bosnia when he is called to a innocuous "Night School" which really isn't innocuous. The only other students are another couple of guys from the FBI and the CIA who are also at the zenith of their careers. His teachers are from the top echelon of the security system working directly to the President. Of course one of the teachers is an attractive blond haired security specialist.

It is soon very clear that this is not a school but the start of an operation to track down potentially damaging terrorist activity happening in Hamburg, Germany. Child then starts a well written but pretty third-rate post Cold War thriller with Reacher, his trusted sergeant Frances Neagley, CIA agents and German police cooperating to chase down the terrorist threat. Of course Reacher and the attractive blond haired security specialist find time for some, off-plot and unnecessary, close personal collaboration that has nothing to do with chasing terrorists.

The story didn't really need Reacher to be the star who could think and act faster than the rest. It didn't really need Reacher to take on and beat up several German right-wing skinheads singlehanded. The story was there so that Child could reinvent the past to keep the series from running out of steam and keep his long time best-selling character alive and kicking.

While it is well written in Chld's inimitable addictive style, IMHO is doesn't solve the long-term issue that this series has run out of steam. But of course, like me, many people will read the book to find out if this conclusion is correct. Will I be back again next year for another dose of Reacher - at this stage probably not but then I've said that too many times before.