THE GIRL WHO WENT MISSING by Ace Varkey

6 07 2015

Still no time at the moment for reviews (and not nearly enough for reading!) but I’ll try to clear the backlog again with a few quick notes.

First, then, The Girl Who Went Missing is set in Mumbai (Bombay) and is the story of an American girl’s search for her sister, who has disappeared while in India doing research on ancient Hindu temples. The author seems to know India well, and presents us with a very realistic portrayal of the trafficking of simple village girls from the provinces into Mumbai, ostensibly to work as maids in the houses of Bollywood film stars, but in fact destined for the red-light district, and in some cases to be sold to Arab traders for onward trafficking to the Gulf States.

It is basically a police procedural with, as I say, a fascinating setting, and I was very taken with the hero of the piece, Commisoner Oscar d’Costa. However, the style could be a bit zippier and the plot is too dependent on devices such as the two sisters both resolutely refusing to use mobile phones. Of course, the very existence of modern technology renders certain plots obsolete (unless you set your book in the past) but that is a challenge the writer must rise to; presenting the reader with a cop-out which is completely unrealistic is not good enough.





Marathons

1 07 2015

Marathons





TAROT INTERACTIONS by Deborah Lipp *****

1 07 2015

Originally posted on Tarot Poems:

Tarot Interactions cover

Let me start by saying that this is one of the best books on Tarot I’ve ever come come across – and I’ve read a lot!

What makes it so special? Look at the cover. That’s not simply a random couple of cards such as you might find on most run-of-the-mill books on Tarot; those two cards – those two characters – are interacting. And that’s what this book is all about.

Tarot Interactions cover detail

Deborah Lipp doesn’t tell us (yet again!) the meanings of individual cards; she doesn’t even spend much time on the interpretation of different lay-outs, apart from one six-card YES-NO spread that I have now incorporated into my repertoire and started using all the time. I’m not going to spoil it by giving away the details, though: you’ll have to buy the book!

What she tells us is to look for – and shows us how to find in…

View original 46 more words





THE TRUTH WILL OUT by Jane Isaac

1 06 2015

Truth Will Out cover

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley
in exchange for an honest review.

Another police procedural from Jane Isaacs, this (earlier) one featuring DCI Helen Lavery, a character I identified and sympathised with much more closely than I did with the hero of her subsequent novel, Before It’s Too Late. As I said in my review of that one, the protagonist was boring and the book needed editing but there was enough about it, especially the character of the victim, to make me willing to give this other story a go.

Two young women driving back from Italy discover that they have been tricked into transporting a consignment of drugs into England. Then, after they arrive home, one of them is murdered and the other, terrified, goes into hiding, leaving the police, who know nothing of all this back-story, with an inexplicable murder on their hands.

Yes, there are still editing problems. In the other review I noted particularly LAY and LAID. Here I might single out PAST and PASSED, as in these examples: “… glancing at the shop fronts she past” and “A Land Rover rattled passed”. Is it incompetent editing or sloppy editing? Or is it no editing at all, and this is how the writer left it?

But that said, I did enjoy the book much more than the other one and look forward to reading more stories featuring DCI Helen Lavering.





The Joys of Nature

25 05 2015

with books in wood





BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE by Jane Isaac

25 05 2015

Before Its Too Late cover

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley
in exchange for an honest review.

A fairly standard and straightforward British police procedural set in Stratford on Avon and featuring for the first time Detective Inspector Will Jackman.

A Chinese girl, Min Li, has been abducted while spending a year in England as a student, and it is her we meet close-up-and-personal as it were when the story opens with a dive into the deep end told in the 1st Person and printed in italic. It acts as something like a prologue, but there are further chapters where we return to her in her horrible rat-infested cell scattered through the book.

The bulk of the story, though, focuses on DI Jackman and is told in the 3rd Person.

This works well, but Jackman himself didn’t really interest me. He is too ordinary. Exactly what you might meet at a provincial police station in the UK, no doubt, but fictional detectives need to be a little more extraordinary in some way.

And again, the story is set in Stratford-on-Avon – Shakespeare’s Stratford. Yet the events could just as easily have taken place in any ordinary connotation-free provincial English town, for absolutely no use whatsoever is made of its being set in Stratford.

One more gripe: we all know that many American writers (though never the top-rank ones) have terrible trouble with LIE-LAY-LAIN and LAY-LAID-LAID, but British writers don’t. Or shouldn’t. Yet again and again we find ourselves stumbling over lines like: [Alice (Jackman’s daughter)] laid flat on the floor of her study, eyes clamped together, Bach playing in the background. Alice loved Bach. Whenever she had a research problem, she laid in the dark with her music … (And “eyes clamped together“?)

But all that said, the strong female victim made a nice change and I did enjoy the story: witness the fact that I have just downloaded the author’s earlier The Truth Will Out – which I hope is better edited than this one!





TARGET CHURCHILL by Warren Adler and James C. Humes

20 05 2015

Target Churchill coverThe story opens with a vivid description of Beria’s NKVD men replacing the SS in the wake of Zhukov’s race across eastern Europe and into Germany: the one quite as bad as, perhaps even worse than, the other. General Dimitrov, a Georgian like Beria (and Stalin) has spotted someone he thinks might be useful among the SS men they are executing en masse (no POWs here!) – an SS Obersturmbannfuhrer and marksman named Franz Mueller, who is also a US citizen. Dimitrov tests his commitment by setting him to shoot two dozen of his erstwhile SS comrades and, that done, recruits him and sends him off to Washington to live quietly and await orders – just another one of Beria’s countless moles spread out around the world.

Meanwhile, a disgruntled Churchill (having lost the UK election to Atlee, who is, in Churchill’s view, soft on “Good old Uncle Jo” Stalin) has received an invitation to receive an honorary doctorate and make a speech at a minor American university in President Truman’s home state. Believing as he does that Stalin and his cohorts represent quite as great a threat to peace and freedom as Hitler ever did – though very few people agree with him – Churchill decides to sieze the opportunity of a widely publicised event (Truman will be there on the platform with him) to warn the world about Stalin and communism as he once warned them about Hitler and nazism.

He composes one of his most famous speeches – it is the speech in which he introduces the phrase “the Iron Curtain” to posterity – but it is all to be kept under wraps until it is delivered. He does not want the Russians upset and Truman embarrassed in advance (Truman and Stalin are still oficially allies). However, the First Secretary at the British Embassy in Washington (the man who runs the show) is a certain Donald Maclean (click on the name if it doesn’t ring a bell) and Maclean arranges matters so that his master in Moscow (Beria) receives a copy of the speech long enough in advance for the mole (now Frank Miller) to be activated: Target – Churchill.

I have probably given away more of the plot than I should, but it doesn’t matter, you can get all this and more from the blurb and the many reviews around. What matters is the detail, especially the bringing to life of Churchill as he was in 1946, immediately after the end of the war. Revered throughout the world (where he wasn’t reviled) yet rejected in his own country and out of power, but certainly not impotent, for the pen is mightier than the sword and a great wordsmith (“the greatest wordsmith of the century”) could still compose speeches that would alter history. Which was why, in the view of the Russians, he had to be silenced.

HIghly recommended for all lovers of WWII fiction








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