Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Cold Kiss by John Rector | LibraryThing

Audiobook. A good thriller must have several things going for it to keep me entertained: I must care about one or more of the characters; I have to want to find out what happens in the end; and it has to be reasonably well written. If the characters are relatively normal people, i.e., don’t have the superhuman powers so common in some thrillers today, that's a plus. My crap-detector swings into overdrive when our hero manages to take on twelve bad guys with one six-shooter and gets all of them. Sometimes two criteria out of three works; sometimes not. Cold Kiss meets all three.

This book reminded me so much of A Simple Plan ( by Scott Smith. Nate and his fiancĂ© find themselves driving into a blizzard on their way to Reno to get married. At a rest stop they meet a man, obviously ill, who offers them $500 to drive him there also as his car needs some work. They agree but as the snow worsens they are forced to stop at a motel in the middle of nowhere with heat but no power.  They discover the man has been shot, and, he has a suitcase full of money. One thing leads to another and soon the man is dead, the motel’s handyman is suspicious, the snow is worsening, and everyone is getting greedy.

Paul Michael Garcia reads with a laconic, slow tempo that drives the tension effectively.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Vanishing Game by William Boyd | LibraryThing

Alec Dunbar is an actor.  Called to a producer’s office one afternoon, he discovers the part was really for a woman, but on the way out he is offered £1,000 by a woman to drive a flask of what appears to be water far into Scotland to a church.  It supposedly contains water from the River Jordan to be used at a ceremony.  Having few funds, Dunbar accepts.  His car in disrepair he accepts the offer of the woman’s Land Rover.  (Weirdly, this novella was sponsored by Land Rover and given away for free download. It's sprinkled with color photographs.)  What makes the short read amusing is that Dunbar uses knowledge acquired by acting in films to help himself get out from under the bad guys who invariably want what’s in the flask.

It’s a painless way to spend an hour or so and the cost was right.

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Monday, March 23, 2015

Belfast Noir (Akashic Noir) by Adrian McKinty | LibraryThing

I'm not much of a fan of short fiction.  Often I find that authors either don't know when to bring the story to a close, or, they end them too abruptly. But I do like to discover new authors through collections, and the series of city-based Noir tales published by Akashic (soon they might run out of cities;  I doubt we'll see a Pelican Rapids Noir) can occasionally be a gold mine for finding new authors.  How many I discover will affect my rating.

Edited by two favorite authors, Adrian McKinty and Stuart Neville, this one is devoted to stories in or around Belfast.  There were a couple I really enjoyed, some others that were just OK, and a few that got quickly skimmed after reading the first couple pages.  Generally, those written by authentic Irish authors fared the best.  Unfortunately, there were too few stories that gripped me.

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Sunday, March 22, 2015

True Summit: What Really Happened on the Legendary Ascent of Annapurna by David Roberts | LibraryThing

Maurice Herzog was the first person to reach the summit of Annapurna, one of the 8,000 meter peaks.  The expedition he guided in 1950 suffered tremendously on the way down, as did Herzog who lost all fingers and toes to frostbite.  His account of the journey was a testimony to the team-building self-sacrifice and wonderful spirit of the four mountaineers (less was said of the Sherpas who carried Herzog and Lachenal for miles on the descent.) His colleagues, Lionel Terray, Gaston Rebuffat and Louis Lachenal,  were successful climbers in their own right, and Terray’s and Lachenal’s mountaineering books are considered classics. Herzog’s book, which he dictated from his hospital bed, made him a national hero in France.  The question Roberts raises in his book is whether Herzog’s account is true.

Herzog made himself into a hero with canny public relations and perhaps by not emphasizing the important role his colleagues played in the ascent. He made each of them sign contracts not to publish before they left. That he was self-aggrandizing is not in doubt.  In my experience, mountaineers who write books about their feats all tend to have blinders on, completely understandable when you consider their isolation, even when in a group, as they make the climb.

David Roberts compared the individual accounts of each climbers diary with Herzogs published version and notes what Herzog changed or omitted. He intersperses his narrative with comments of his own reflections about climbing, and he then uses the other climbers' reports and diaries to dismantle Herzog's self-aggrandizing recollections. In the end, I think the author is perhaps making a mountain from a valley. He says it best himself:

Surely the discrepancies begged critics to accuse him of dishonesty. The new, more self- serving version might cast a better light on Herzog, but it was an open invitation to readers such as myself to call his rewriting bluff. The third possibility, I thought, was that this is indeed how memory works, in all its fallible reinvention of the past. After nearly fifty years, Herzog’s emotions about those dramatic days high on Annapurna had perhaps restructured his memories… These reconstructions need not be cynical, or even fully conscious, on Herzog’s part. They could be the fruit of memory’s seizing again and again on disturbing, pivotal events, reshaping them with each rehearsal, trying to find meaning where there was only happenstance.

A terrific book for anyone who likes to read about mountaineering and even, perhaps, those interested in the malleability (not to mention fallibility) of memory.

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Saturday, March 21, 2015

Three Doors to Death by Rex Stout | LibraryThing

I suppose I could spend some time detailing the plots of these three novellas, but when it comes right down to it they are formulaic, but my, what a formula.  I love Rex Stout, although the early novels are probably better than those toward the end of his life.  Nevertheless, if you have never read any Nero Wolfe stories, you must.  The characters are classic and the word interplay between them is wonderful.

My favorite is the third.  Wolfe is desperate as Theodore has left for an extended period of time to care for his sick mother so Wolfe has no one to do the dirty work with the orchids.  He thinks he’s found a replacement and has actually left the brownstone to beseech Andy to come work for him.  Unfortunately, Andy’s fiance has just been killed and he’s the prime suspect so if Wolfe wants to get his orchids cared for he has to solve the crime quickly.  Wolfe actually has to sneak through the woods in the middle of the snow, falling down a couple of times. Now that must have been a sight.

Just go read all those you can get your hands on.

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