Friday, November 30, 2012

The Fallen Angel

by Daniel Silva
(Gabriel Allon series #12)

One of the measures of a good author is consistency, and by that standard, Daniel Silva is fantastic. The Fallen Angel is another excellent book in Silva's series featuring Gabriel Allon.

I've mentioned before how a series of books featuring the same characters will oftentimes get old and stale for me. Silva's Allon books have definitely not suffered that same trend. Even though each one tends to start the same--with Gabriel beginning the process of restoring some priceless painting by an Italian master, and getting pulled back into his former life as an Israeli intelligence officer, the field operation that he ends up leading is original and captivating.

This time it's a painting by Caravaggio that he's restoring for the Vatican when he's summoned to St. Peter's Basilica by the secretary to the Pope to examine the body of a woman lying dead from an apparent suicide jump from high up inside the dome. It's clear to Gabriel that the woman has been murdered, and his investigation into her death places him in the crosshairs of terrorists who have been stealing masterpieces to finance their operations.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Monstrous Regiment

Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett
(Discworld series #31)

The small Discworld nation of Borogravia is at war, a situation they tend to be in with alarming frequency. It's an inconsequential country whose citizens follow a god who is constantly adding to a list of abominations (the most recent inclusions were cats, cheese, and rocks).

Polly Oliver is a young Borogravian whose older brother has gone missing in battle, so out of a sense of familial duty, she decides to join the army to see if she can find him. But that's not as easy as it sounds since Borogravia's antiquated laws prohibit women from joining the army. But with the help of a haircut, some boy's clothing, and a pair of strategically placed socks, she's able to enlist.

She's assigned to a regiment of other newly enlisted soldiers consisting of a vampire, a troll, and an Igor, each with their own secret--which likewise requires an extra pair of socks. This group of soldiers, who have no business being in the army, begin to stand out due to their bravery, cunning, and overall higher-than-normal intelligence level expected from soldiers.

Monstrous Regiment is another great addition to the Discworld series. This time Pratchett aims his satirical guns at the armed forces, and at war itself. Religion suffers a little collateral damage as well, but only where deserved. My only complaint with the book is that it's one of the Nightwatch books within the Discworld series, but Sam Vimes, a fantastic character in that group of books, appeared far too infrequently.

Monstrous Regiment would be a good introductory book to the series if you've never read one before. There's really no backstory to be aware of since very few recurring characters make an appearance.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Monday, November 26, 2012

The One from the Other

The One from the Other by Philip Kerr

Before I had ever picked up one of Philip Kerr's Bernie Gunther books, I had read and enjoyed all of his stand-alone books. It's probably a good thing it happened that way. The first three books featuring the acerbic private investigator Bernie Gunther were interesting, but not that entertaining. If I had started with them, I probably would have quite reading Kerr awhile ago.

It'd been fifteen years since the last Gunther book by the time The One from the Other came out and I think the hiatus was good for the series. This one is noticeably better and I enjoyed it much more. There are four more books already published, and another set for 2013 and thanks to this one, I'm looking forward to reading each of them. I've also heard that Tom Hanks has been trying to acquire the rights to the books for an HBO series.

This one begins in Germany in 1949 and finds Bernie a broken and defeated man. His wife has been hospitalized following a nervous breakdown and Bernie has given up the PI business to run his late-father-in-law's hotel in Dachau. One night two America officers stop by the hotel and and set off a series of events that bring Gunther back to his old self.

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Monday, November 12, 2012

Cold Vengeance

Cold Vengeance by Lincoln Child & Douglas Preston\
(Pendergast series #11)

I'll begin by mentioning that Cold Vengeance is a continuation of Preston and Child's last book Fever Dream. And that a third book Two Graves, which comes out next month, will complete a trilogy telling the story of the death of FBI Special Agent Pendergast's wife Helen.

Twelve years ago, while Pendergast was hunting with Helen in Africa, she was mauled to death by a lion. For years Pendergast had believed that the attack had been just an unfortunate accident,until he discovered in Fever Dream that someone had sabotaged her rifle. As he continues to dig deeper into her death in this book, he continues to find more and more layers of mystery. Is it possible that Helen's family members were involved in her death? Or is it possible that she's still alive and was involved in a rouse to make everyone, including Pendergast believe she was killed? And if so, why?

I enjoyed Cold Vengeance. The last few books featuring Pendergast had been kind of hit or miss for me. But these last two have renewed my enjoyment for the series and I'm looking forward seeing how things finally wrap up with next month's book.

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Friday, November 9, 2012

Live by Night

by Dennis Lehane
402 pgs  (Joe Coughlin series #2)

With Live by Night Dennis Lehane adds justification to my opinion that he's one of the best writers alive today. His books are usually gritty, and the characters are almost always significantly flawed, but there's still an underlying beauty to the stories he tells. He creates protagonists that are just as amoral as his antagonists are, but he's able to create them in such a way that you can't help but feel sympathy and even empathy towards them.

Live by Night is the story of Joe Coughlin. A man who grew up in Boston during Prohibition. He's the son of the city's police captain, who instead of following in his father's footsteps, chose to "live by the rules of the night," and the more exciting life of a criminal. As a young man he began working as a petty thief for the mobsters that ran the city and was eventually handpicked to run the mob's operations in Florida.

In Florida Joe builds an empire, becoming the sole supplier of rum throughout the entire southeast portion of the country. But as his power grows, and while he ruthlessly eliminates all who stand in his way, he also demonstrates that he's not without a moral code that keeps him relatable and even endears him to the reader.

I don't know if there's another author who who could pull off what Lehane does in this book. Throughout the story I couldn't help but like and care about Joe Coughlin. In the real world I'd have had no sympathy for a person like that, but at every stage of Joe's life told about in the story, I cared about him. and I wanted him to succeed.

If you've never read one of his books, this is an excellent one to start with.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Third Gate

by Lincoln Child
(Jeremy Logan series #2)

In northern Sudan the Nile river gets lost amid the notorious Sudd, a constantly growing swampland, where mud and rotting vegetation have accumulated over the centuries to make it impassable. It's also the possible location for the hidden tomb of one of ancient Egypt's most influential Pharaohs--King Narmer. An archaeological team, led by the famous explorer Peter Stone, has secretly begun searching for Narmer's tomb under the mud and detritus, and they're running out of time to find it before the building of a dam down river floods the area and ends their search for it and its treasures.

As the team has gotten closer to finding the tomb, inexplicable setbacks have been occurring, giving credence to the rumors of a curse associated with it. Jeremy Logan, a professor of history, who specializes in paranormal activity, has recently been enlisted to join the team and investigate the occurrences.

I'm a big fan of the books Lincoln Child has coauthored with Douglas Preston. I've also enjoyed each of his solo novels. Unfortunately The Third Gate never took off for me. It's got a promising premise, but it never delivers on the promise. I never felt any type of fondness for any of the characters and occasionally had to reread a page or two because I found my mind had wandered off. It wasn't the type of book that I regret having wasted my time reading when I finish. But it wasn't what I've come to expect and what I'm looking forward from him going forward. It's the type of book to read on vacation, or while on a plane.

★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆