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An Irish Catholic police inspector investigates murders during the Troubles in the 80s.

The Cold Cold Ground

Seventh Street Books, 2012, 320 pages

The Cold Cold Ground is the start of a major new series from Adrian McKinty, author of the acclaimed Falling Glass, Fifty Grand and the DEAD trilogy.

Featuring Catholic cop Sean Duffy whose outsider status in the mostly Protestant RUC makes it as hard to do his job as the criminals he’s fighting, this is the start of a new series set in Troubles-era Belfast. A body is found in a burnt out car. Another is discovered hanging from a tree. Could this be Northern Ireland’s first serial killer, or another paramilitary feud?

More Belfast noir.Collapse )

My complete list of book reviews.
A war veteran turned P.I. investigates the alleged suicide of a supermodel.

The Cuckoo"s Calling

Little, Brown and Company, 2013, 455 pages

A brilliant mystery in a classic vein: Detective Cormoran Strike investigates a supermodel's suicide.

After losing his leg to a land mine in Afghanistan, Cormoran Strike is barely scraping by as a private investigator. Strike is down to one client, and creditors are calling. He has also just broken up with his longtime girlfriend and is living in his office.

Then John Bristow walks through his door with an amazing story: his sister, the legendary supermodel Lula Landry, known to her friends as the Cuckoo, famously fell to her death a few months earlier. The police ruled it a suicide, but John refuses to believe that. The case plunges Strike into the world of multimillionaire beauties, rock-star boyfriends, and desperate designers, and it introduces him to every variety of pleasure, enticement, seduction, and delusion known to man.

You may think you know detectives, but you've never met one quite like Strike. You may think you know about the wealthy and famous, but you've never seen them under an investigation like this.

In which J.K. Rowling proves she can write something other than Potter.Collapse )

My complete list of book reviews.

Book Review: Ashley Bell, by Dean Koontz

A "valiant girl" with a brain tumor takes on a mother-raping Nazi.

Ashley Bell

Bantam, 2015, 560 pages

Who is Ashley Bell? From number-one New York Times best-selling author Dean Koontz comes the must-listen thriller of the year, perfect for listeners of dark psychological suspense and modern classics of mystery and adventure. Brilliantly paced, with an exhilarating heroine and a twisting, ingenious storyline, Ashley Bell is a new milestone in literary suspense from the long-acclaimed master.

Mary Sue and her little dog too.Collapse )

My complete list of book reviews.


A chess grandmaster's polemic against Putin.

Winter is Coming: Why Vladimir Putin and the Enemies of the Free World Must Be Stopped

Atlantic Books, 2015, 322 pages

The ascension of Vladimir Putin - a former lieutenant colonel of the KGB - to the presidency of Russia in 1999 should have been a signal that the country was headed away from democracy. Yet in the intervening years - as America and the world's other leading powers have continued to appease him - Putin has grown into not only a dictator but a global threat. With his vast resources and nuclear weapons, Putin is at the center of a worldwide assault on political liberty.

For Garry Kasparov, none of this is news. He has been a vocal critic of Putin for over a decade, even leading the pro-democracy opposition to him in the farcical 2008 presidential election. Yet years of seeing his Cassandra-like prophecies about Putin's intentions fulfilled have left Kasparov with the realization of a darker truth: Putin's Russia, like ISIS or al-Qaeda, defines itself in opposition to the free countries of the world. He is still fighting the Cold War, even as Americans have first moved beyond it and, over time, forgotten its lessons.

Lest we be drawn into another prolonged conflict, Kasparov now urges a forceful stand - diplomatic and economic - against him. For as long as the world's powerful democracies continue to recognize and negotiate with Putin, he can maintain credibility in his home country. He faces few strong enemies within his country, so meaningful opposition must come from abroad. Argued with the force of Kasparov's world-class intelligence, conviction, and hopes for his home country, Winter Is Coming is an unmistakable call to action against a threat we've ignored for too long.

With some relevance to this year"s presidential election.Collapse )

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Book Review: Orphan X, by Gregg Hurwitz

Avenging crusader has to alternate between beating up bad guys and apartment coop meetings.

Orphan X

Minotaur Books, 2016, 356 pages

The Nowhere Man is a legendary figure spoken about only in whispers. It's said that when he's reached by the truly desperate and deserving, the Nowhere Man can and will do anything to protect and save them.

But he's no legend.

Evan Smoak is a man with skills, resources, and a personal mission to help those with nowhere else to turn. He's also a man with a dangerous past. Chosen as a child, he was raised and trained as part of the off-the-books black box Orphan program, designed to create the perfect deniable intelligence assets - i.e. assassins. He was Orphan X. Evan broke with the program, using everything he learned to disappear.

Now, however, someone is on his tail. Someone with similar skills and training. Someone who knows Orphan X. Someone who is getting closer and closer. And will exploit Evan's weakness - his work as The Nowhere Man - to find him and eliminate him.

Grabbing the listener from the beginning, Orphan X is a masterful thriller, the first in Gregg Hurwitz's electrifying new series featuring Evan Smoak.

He"s a Gary Stu, but an entertaining one.Collapse )

Also by Gregg Hurwitz: My review of Tell No Lies.

My complete list of book reviews.
A race of psychics prepare for the apocalypse.

The Faithful

Thomas & Mercer, 2015, 480 pages

FBI agent Josh Metcalf believes he has uncovered a decades-long conspiracy involving missing children. His obsession has led him to compile hundreds of cases. All involve children rumored to have psychic abilities - and all have no witnesses, no leads, and no resolution.

Meanwhile Rowan Wilson, a meteorite hunter for NASA's Spaceguard Program, is losing her grip on the past. Memories of the childhood she thought she'd had are vanishing, and dark recollections of kidnappings, mind control, and an isolated mountain ranch are taking their place.

When Rowan's shadowed past converges with Josh's research, they uncover a deadly plot to reshape humanity. With the world's survival dependent on stopping a vast network of conspirators, can they decipher - and expose - the truth in time?

A moderately entertaining thriller ruined by unnecessary soap opera.Collapse )

My complete list of book reviews.

Book Review: Farthing, by Jo Walton

A British manor mystery with a veneer of alt-history.


Tor books, 2006, 319 pages

One summer weekend in 1949 - but not our 1949 - the well-connected "Farthing set", a group of upper-crust English families, enjoy a country retreat. Lucy is a minor daughter in one of those families; her parents were both leading figures in the group that overthrew Churchill and negotiated peace with Herr Hitler eight years before. Despite her parents' evident disapproval, Lucy is married - happily - to a London Jew. It was therefore quite a surprise to Lucy when she and her husband, David, found themselves invited to the retreat. It's even more startling when, on the retreat's first night, a major politician of the Farthing set is found gruesomely murdered, with abundant signs that the killing was ritualistic.

It quickly becomes clear to Lucy that she and David were brought to the retreat in order to pin the murder on him. Major political machinations are at stake, including an initiative in Parliament, supported by the Farthing set, to limit the right to vote to university graduates. But whoever's behind the murder, and the frame-up, didn't reckon on the principal investigator from Scotland Yard being a man with very private reasons for sympathizing with outcasts and looking beyond the obvious. As the trap slowly shuts on Lucy and David, they begin to see a way out - a way fraught with peril in a darkening world.

In which gay old England bends over for fascism.Collapse )

My complete list of book reviews.

Book Review: The Stranger, by Albert Camus

French existentialism in Algeria.

The Stranger

Vintage International, 1942, 123 pages

Albert Camus' The Stranger is one of the most widely read novels in the world, with millions of copies sold. It stands as perhaps the greatest existentialist tale ever conceived, and is certainly one of the most important and influential books ever produced. Now, for the first time, this revered masterpiece is available as an unabridged audio production.

When a young Algerian named Meursault kills a man, his subsequent imprisonment and trial are puzzling and absurd. The apparently amoral Meursault, who puts little stock in ideas like love and God, seems to be on trial less for his murderous actions, and more for what the authorities believe is his deficient character.

In which some guy you don"t care about kills some other guy you don"t care about.Collapse )

My complete list of book reviews.
The comic misadventures of Samuel Pickwick, Esq., in Dickens' first novel.

The Pickwick Papers

Originally published in 1837 in serialized form; 801 pages

The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club (commonly known as The Pickwick Papers) is the first novel by Charles Dickens. The book became the first real publishing phenomenon, with bootleg copies, theatrical performances, Sam Weller joke books and other merchandise.

Written for publication as a serial, The Pickwick Papers is a sequence of loosely-related adventures. The novel's main character, Mr. Samuel Pickwick, Esquire, is a kind and wealthy old gentleman, and the founder and perpetual president of the Pickwick Club. To extend his researches into the quaint and curious phenomena of life, he suggests that he and three other "Pickwickians" (Mr. Nathaniel Winkle, Mr. Augustus Snodgrass, and Mr. Tracy Tupman) should make journeys to remote places from London and report on their findings to the members of the club. Their travels throughout the English countryside provide the chief theme of the novel.

Its main literary value and appeal is formed by its numerous memorable characters. Each character in The Pickwick Papers, as in many other Dickens novels, is drawn comically, often with exaggerated personalities. Alfred Jingle provides an aura of comic villainy. His misadventures repeatedly land the Pickwickians in trouble. These include Jingle's elopement with the spinster, Aunt Rachael of Dingley Dell manor, misadventures with Dr. Slammer, and others.

Even Dickens wasn"t at his best in his first book.Collapse )

Verdict: I have been a Dickens fan for years, and I have never not enjoyed one of his books, but The Pickwick Papers isn't my favorite. Being his first novel, it doesn't have as much of the brilliance of prose that characterize his later books, and being a big collection of serialized adventures, it goes on and on with only a few recurring storylines. Worth reading for Dickens fans, but I can only rate it 6/10, as it's a very thick book for a relatively small amount of substance.

Also by Charles Dickens: My reviews of A Christmas Carol, A Tale of Two Cities, Bleak House, David Copperfield, and Great Expectations.

My complete list of book reviews.
The First Marines on Peleliu and Okinawa.

With the Old Breed

Presidio Press, 1981, 326 pages

With the Old Breed is a modern classic of military history AND has been called "one of the most important personal accounts of war that I have ever read," by distinguished historian John Keegan. Author E. B. Sledge served with the First Marine Division during World War II, and his first-hand narrative is unsurpassed in its sincerity. Sledge's experience shows in this fascinating account of two of the most harrowing and pivotal island battles of the Pacific theater.

On Peleliu and Okinawa, the action was extremely fierce. Amidst oppressive heat and over land obliterated by artillery shells, the combat raged ferociously. Casualties were extreme on both sides, and by the time the Americans had broken through at Okinawa, more than 62,000 Japanese soldiers were dead. Against military policy, Sledge scribbled notes and jammed them into his copy of the New Testament. Those notes form the backbone of what Navy Times said "has been called the best World War II memoir of an enlisted man."

One of the best "War is hell" books.Collapse )

Verdict: With the Old Breed is highly recommended for anyone who is interested in World War II history, but especially for anyone who find war memoirs interesting and would like to know what war looks like to someone who's just another rifleman, not a general or a destroyer captain or a pilot, but a Marine whose job was to hack through jungles and shot and get shot at until the shooting is over. Read this book, and be grateful you will never have to go through that. 10/10.

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