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Sunday, March 20, 2022

THE MISSING PIECE by John Lescroart

 THE MISSING PIECE
by
John Lescroart

    The Missing Piece is the nineteenth installment in John Lescroart's Dismas Hardy series. The expected publication date for this book is March 29, 2022.

    Paul Riley had been convicted of the rape and murder of Dana Rush. After serving eleven years for the crimes, and with the help of the Exoneration Initiative, Riley was cleared of the crimes and released.

    When Riley was murdered four months after his release, police arrested Dana's father, Doug Rush. And Doug hired Wes Farrell, the former district attorney and current partner of Dismas Hardy. 

    Hardy's longtime friend, Abe Glitsky, had been an inspector in charge of homicide with the San Francisco Police Department; he was now retired and doing some work for Hardy's firm as a private investigator. When Doug failed to show for a court appearance, Hardy asked Abe to locate him. 

    And, Abe investigates with the dogged determination that we have come to expect from him. But, as Doug had failed to appear, there was no client and, hence, no case. Nonetheless, this doesn't stop Abe. We accompany Abe as he follows the convoluted twists and turns that arise in this complex plot. There are multiple suspects, multiple motives.

    Although The Missing Piece is a Dismas Hardy novel, it feels a bit more like an Abe Glitsky novel. Hardy's role doesn't feel as "front and center" as we are accustomed to in Lescroart's previous Hardy books, and this is a refreshing change. Regardless of how it is categorized, The Missing Piece is another great addition to the continuing Hardy/Glitsky saga. It remains one of my favorite series.

    Highly recommended.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

THE INVESTIGATOR by John Sandford

 THE INVESTIGATOR
by
John Sandford
(anticipated publication April 12, 2022)

    The Investigator, by John Sandford, is the first Letty Davenport novel. Readers familiar with Sandford's work know Lucas Davenport, the protagonist in Sandford's Prey series; Letty is Lucas's adopted daughter.

    Now twenty-four years old and having recently completed graduate work at Stanford, Letty is offered a unique position as an investigator with the U.S. Senate and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Although she works for Senator Colles, she is a liaison with DHS, works in the field with a DHS investigator (although her position is entitled "researcher"), and is issued a carry permit.

    Her first assignment pairs her with DHS agent John Kaiser and takes them to Texas, on the trail of some missing oil. What they land in is a lot more complicated and sinister than mere missing oil. Along the way, we learn how much Letty resembles Lucas - from the love of nice clothes to the knowledge of, and proficiency with, guns. And like Lucas, Letty is similarly smart and resourceful.

    I love Lucas Davenport and have always thought that Letty was an interesting addition to the Prey series. So, I was very excited to learn of Sandford's new Letty Davenport novel. But for two small issues that gave me momentary pause, I loved The Investigator. First, the plot at times felt a little fantastical. Even though we are aware of Letty's history and her proficiency with weapons and survival, it seemed a tad extreme for a 24 year old, with no official special training, on her first assignment. And second, even though we know that Letty is a lot like Lucas, there were a few parts at the beginning where Letty came across as disrespectful and bratty (for example, sitting sideways in the senator's nice leather chair, throwing her leg over the arm, and telling the senator that he was boring her). Lucas might be a no-nonsense, cut-to-the-chase kind of guy, but I do not see him as being this disrespectful. 

    Nonetheless, The Investigator is quintessential Sandford; the writing is good, the plot is complex, and the process of resolution was logical and methodical. Letty is a great character, and there is plenty of room for her to grow and develop as an investigator. I greatly enjoyed this reading experience, and I look forward to accompanying Letty on many investigations in the future.

Saturday, November 13, 2021

THE ADDRESS BOOK by

 THE ADDRESS BOOK
What Street Addresses Reveal About Identity, Race, Wealth, and Power
by
Deirdre Mask

    The Address Book: What Street Addresses Reveal About Identity, Race, Wealth, and Power, by Deirdre Mask, is a 2021 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award Nominee for Nonfiction, a Finalist for the 2020 Kirkus Prize for Nonfiction, One of Time Magazine's 100 Must-Read Books of 2020, and Longlisted for the 2020 Porchlight Business Book Awards. Mask considers how streets are named and the effect that having (or not having) a street address has on a person. Many of us think that we have addresses so that we can receive mail; but their purpose, Mask tells us, instead is so that we can be found.

    The Address Book deals with addresses across the world and touches on some fascinating issues. Mask considers the more mundane - for example, the difficulty for emergency vehicles responding in a rural area without street addresses, and the need for an address to complete an application for government benefits - as well as the more obscure - for example, purchasing addresses in Trump's Manhattan for a building that is not located on that street, and differences with addresses in Japan and Korea that may be linked to language differences. 

    Although each of the disparate areas and issues is interesting, there does not seem to be one theme throughout the book. In my opinion, this makes it feel disjointed, like a collection of short pieces rather than a fluid work addressing one issue. Despite the lack of a unifying thread, the material is interesting. There is more to addresses than the superficial, like the mundane mail delivery, and I never considered the complexities involved in having or issuing an address. This was a thought provoking read, and I recommend it.


Sunday, October 17, 2021

THE MADNESS OF CROWDS by Louise Penny

 THE MADNESS OF CROWDS
by
Louise Penny

   In The Madness of Crowds, the seventeenth book in Louise Penny's Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series, Gamache and Three Pines, like the rest of us, are trying to return to a post pandemic "normal". Gamache was spending the winter holiday/New Year at home in Three Pines with his family when he was asked to oversee security while an academic statistician, Abigail Robinson, spoke at the local university. Robinson's position was that statistics mandate the genocide of the weak, infirm, and disabled. Although Gamache detested the position she was espousing, he was required to see to her safety when there was an attempt on her life. And then there was another murder in Three Pines, with multiple suspects.

    Louise Penny is a master at character study, and her work in The Madness of Crowds is no exception. In fact, she may have outdone herself, as this book considers both the more superficial look at Robinson's proposal and the deeper underlying reactions of the suspects and others repulsed by Robinson's arguments. Gamache was not excepted from this, and I found it interesting how his reactions influenced the investigation.

    As is usual when I finish a Gamache novel, I am saddened that my friends in Three Pines are gone again. Like many other fans, I would love to live in Three Pines, with the Gamaches and the others. It is interesting how many people want to move to this village, despite spotty internet connectivity and a very high (for its size) murder rate. 

    Meanwhile, I will anxiously await the next installment and the return of my friends. But, The Madness of Crowds is a quality addition to this exceptional series, and I highly recommend it.

Thursday, October 7, 2021

THE BOOKMAN'S TALE by Charlie Lovett

 THE BOOKMAN'S TALE
by
Charlie Lovett

    In The Bookman's Tale, by Charlie Lovett, we meet Peter Byerly, a bookseller from North Carolina who is living in Kingham, Oxfordshire. He moved to Kingham after the recent death of his wife, Amanda. While browsing in a bookstore one day, Peter was surprised to find a Victorian era painting of Amanda that had been inserted into a book on Shakespeare forgeries. We accompany Peter as he tries to unravel the mysteries surrounding the painting. Along the way, we learn about a longtime feud between two neighboring families and about Shakespeare forgeries. Resolving the mystery even requires that Peter authenticate a book that allegedly formed the basis for Shakespeare's A Winter's Tale.

    The Bookman's Tale is a lovely book. The complex plot meanders through three different time periods, leaving me wishing that I had paid more attention to the dates in the chapter headings. I am a book collector wanna be and always love books about books and book people. But Lovett's book included more detail than others that I have read, including a description of the process of repairing/rebinding a book that I found fascinating.

    I thoroughly enjoyed The Bookman's Tale, and I highly recommend it.

Saturday, October 2, 2021

BETTER OFF DEAD by Lee Child and Andrew Child

 BETTER OFF DEAD
by
Lee Child and Andrew Child

    Better Off Dead, by Lee Child and Andrew Child, is the 26th installment in the Jack Reacher series. Its anticipated publication date is October 26, 2021.

    In Better Off Dead, Reacher is heading west and entering a small border town in Arizona. He meets another army veteran, Michaela Fenton. She is looking for her twin brother, Michael, who has gone missing. Naturally, Reacher offers to help.

    I am a long time fan of Jack Reacher, having followed each of his adventures, wherever his wondering has taken him. But after I began reading Better Off Dead, I was taken aback; this was not the Jack Reacher whom I know and love. For example, Reacher is described as scruffy and unkempt, like a hobo. Although the quirky Reacher buys, wears, and tosses cheap clothes, he is rarely scruffy and unkempt. It is mentioned about Reacher being a civilian. Reacher might be "separated" from the army, but I do not think that he sees himself as a civilian; his entire life has been the military, and his entire being is military. There does not appear to be a military presence in this Reacher, not in his demeanor or in his thinking. And, although Reacher has no qualms about using force, he does so only if needed, only if there is no other way, and even then, only to the level required; much of the violence I was reading about in Better Off Dead felt gratuitous. 

    Both the character and the writing were unsettling. They seemed flat, lacking the usual depth found in Reacher books. Facts about Reacher seemed to be thrown out there, almost as a second thought rather than incorporated within the plot. And, the plot of Better Off Dead also felt linear and flat, lacking the usual robustness and complexity I recall from prior Reacher adventures.Yet the conclusion to this book felt overly complicated; I still do not understand the resolution, and it does not seem to fit nicely together like prior Reacher books.

    Near the end of my reading Better Off Dead, I read that Andrew Child has taken over writing the Reacher books. I don't know whether this is true or, if so, whether it is the reason for my discomfort with this book, but I do not like this incarnation of Reacher. Better Off Dead was a nice experience with a new character, but as another adventure with Reacher, I was disappointed.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

THE VANISHED DAYS by Susanna Kearsley

 THE VANISHED DAYS
by
Susanna Kearsley

    The Vanished Days, Susanna Kearsley's new novel (expected publication October 5, 2021), is set around the time of the union between England and Scotland, a time of turmoil in Scotland awash with rumors about a return of the exiled King James. But, The Vanished Days is Lily's story. Lily has filed a claim to recover monies owed her for the loss of her husband, a sailor on the Darien expedition. Her claim has been challenged, and Adam is asked to investigate. During the course of this investigation, we learn Lily's story.

    I was especially looking forward to The Vanished Days as I was under the impression that it was a prequel to The Winter Sea, my favorite of Kearsley's books. I was puzzled, after completing the book, as it did not strike me as being a prequel; I then saw the book referred to as a "companion novel" (or, a "prequel and companion novel"). Although the book is not really a prequel, much of it does involve the Graemes, the Morays, Captain Thomas Gordon, and others well known from The Winter Sea.

    The Vanished Days meanders through Lily's story in typical Kearsley fashion until the end where Kearsley included a plot twist that left me feeling a bit like I had been sucker punched. After taking a quick spin through The Winter Sea (because of the prequel issue, noted above), I immediately began reading The Vanished Days once again. I have a few concerns whether the "plot twist" works, but as that involves spoilers, I won't pursue that further here.

    One of my favorite parts of all Kearsley novels is her author's notes, entitled "About the Characters." In this, Kearsley notes what is historically accurate, what historical support she has, what she has introduced and why, and the like. And, her "About the Characters" in The Vanished Days does not disappoint. I love how Kearsley respects historical accuracy and weaves the fiction around what can be found.

    I am a longtime Kearsley fan and usually love everything that she writes. I do not love The Vanished Days; it is probably my least favorite Kearsley book. To be clear, although it may be my least favorite, it is, nonetheless, a Kearsley book, and, hence, held in very high regard. I did not particularly care for Lily. Throughout the book, I felt like I was learning about Lily as an outside observer (like I was reading about her); more often with Kearsley books, I feel like the characters draw me into the book with them. And, the book felt a bit choppy, like it jumped from stage to stage in Lily's life. Although Kearsley has masterfully smoothed out some of that "jumpiness," those transitions seemed more tenuous than is typical for her. 

    Nonetheless, The Vanished Days does provide welcome background for The Winter Sea. It is a solid addition to Kearsley's complex weaving about Scottish history and the Jacobites. Highly Recommended.