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Monday, October 24, 2016

Review: Quarry in the Black by Max Allan Collins

Certainly not as interesting as Lawrence Block’s Keller, Quarry is an adequate substitute if you are suffering from assassin-story deprivation. I’ve read all the Kellers and now all the Quarrys. They are both enjoyable, but Keller is a much more interesting and well-developed character.

This time Quarry discovers that a second hit team has been assigned to hit the same target, a serious breach of etiquette. The target is a “future” Martin Luther King. Jr. prospect and soon Quarry is up to his pubic hairs in attractive women and KKK sheets.

Fast, enjoyable read.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Review: Nightlife by Thomas Perry

Audiobook. Thomas Perry delivers a fine novel about a chameleon-like woman who preys on men (just how deliberate her actions might be I will leave to other readers.) Perry presents the story from a variety of different points-of-view: the Portland detective sergeant looking for her; the gambling-addicted former D.A. office’s retired investigator, and Hugo Poole, the local crime boss’s, hired gun. The killing that started the manhunt and flight was that of Hugo Poole’s cousin and Poole wants to know if the killing might have been revenge for something he himself had done.

There are lots of similarities to Perry’s Jane Whitfield series. The woman, who adopts multiple identities--much too easily IMO ( it just can’t be that easy to create new drivers licenses, and having scanners and printers close at hand all the time also seemed a bit fortuitous) -- manages to stay several steps ahead of her pursuers. How she does it provides for an intriguing, excellent long-flight read or listen.

A minor complaint is that there is often extensive backstory to minor characters with only ten pages to live.

Review: Night Prey by John Sandford

This one is sixth in the series, written by John Camp under the Sandford pseudonym. I prefer the earlier Lucas Davenports to the later ones. Sandford’s other series, I like even better, especially Virgil Flowers, which has a special brand of humor. The Kidd series suffers from being quite dated technically, when read today, but were excellent when I read them several years (decades?) ago.

It’s a good story, although I found Conley’s terminal disease to be implausible in the context of her actions in the story, not to mention Lucas’s little oration on the degrees of rape. That was weird.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Review: Dark Wind by Tony Hillerman

Admittedly, I listened to this book, which may have colored my response to it. On the other hand, I have difficulty with books where seemingly unrelated plot-lines all merge together in the end or never get tied up. On the other hand, the setting and cultural details of the Navajo and Hopi tribes, not to mention the big-bad federal agents are always interesting.

I know there's a trend in some camps to denigrate writers who write about an ethnicity to which they do not belong. It seems to me Hillerman was diligent in his research, and to suggest that to write about something you must have experienced it yourself, would just about destroy all literature.

In the end, pretty good, but not one of my Hillerman favorites.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Review: The Ghost by Robert Harris

Audiobook: I like Robert Harris and have read several of his books, many of which have an historical grounding. As this was promoted as being different, I avoided it, but one day started up the audiobook and I was hooked. The premise is quite interesting. A ghost writer, never identified by name, has been hired to complete a famous ex-prime minister’s memoirs after the apparent suicide of the former “ghost.” There’s a very short deadline, and he’s dismayed to see the 600 pages left by his predecessor are virtually unreadable, boring in the extreme.

Then things get a bit complicated as Adam Lang, the subject of the memoir and supposed author, is indicted by the International Criminal Court for having permitted and encouraged the rendition and torture of suspects following the 9/11 attacks. I suppose it’s the height of irony that the country that created the Nuremberg courts, trials and executions, the United States, has withdrawn from participation in the ICC, along with the Sudan (its president was indicted) and Israel, although being one of the signatories. That it is perhaps afraid of subjecting its leaders to international sanctions for committing war crimes puts the U.S. in good company with countries like China, Iraq and North Korea. I suspect it’s because Congress fears possible indictment of GW Bush for his complicity in the treatment and torture of prisoners. In any case, the indictment of Lange (Tony Blair, anyone?) makes the memoirs, already sought after, hot property, indeed.

Terrorism has been a real boon to those in power providing a rationale for obtaining more control over their “subjects,” while providing them with more mechanisms, in the name of security, of course, to remove themselves even further from the electorate in bomb/gas-proof limousines, guards, etc. That is a sub-theme of the book that has a host of relevant meanings for the word “ghost.” (Note that the book has been reissued under the title “Ghost Writer’ which loses much of the impact of the double meanings.)

Some interesting discussion on the relationship between truth, memoirs, ghost writers, and politics. I found it hard to put down, listening while walking the dog, sorting stamps, cleaning, etc. My only complaint was the ending , the justification for which seemed thin. Good read, nevertheless.