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Somewhere along the way- probably while trying to keep two blogs and write two books at the same time- I realized that I wasn’t doing what I really intended with this blog. I thought that I needed to write long, informative posts, when really, I would rather just have a sort of public record of the books I’ve read and what I thought of them. Many of them don’t require lengthy reviews, at least not for me.

As I was updating my lists of books I’ve read this year- 111 and counting!- I noticed that at the pace I’m going, I’m reviewing so few books, I might as well not bother. Instead, I think I’ll try to write shorter posts more often, and keep them more as a reminder to myself of what I thought of the book. Plus, any of you who are looking for something to read might find it informative.

I still won’t review every single book, but I’ll try to keep a rundown of the ones that made an impression: negative or positive. So, without further ado- here’s what I’ve consumed in the past 10 days or so, while laid up with something that felt suspiciously like pneumonia:

1The Cuckoo’s Calling- Robert Galbraith

Four Stars

That J.K. Rowling wrote this must be one of the worst-kept secrets of our time. It’s a pretty good murder mystery, and I can see why she would have liked to find out what people really thought. Supermodel falls off her balcony, washed up PI and his idealistic assistant figure it out. Dark and gritty, though not terribly so, at least by my standards.

I like the fact that Rowling’s style is pretty anonymous. If someone hadn’t spilled the beans, there’s no way I could have identified the author. In general, I like that. Though I can appreciate a deft literary touch, there’s something to be said for just getting on with the story already.

2Needle in a Haystack- Ernesto Mallo

Four Stars

I seem to be awash in murder mysteries lately. I guess they make a bed-ridden life more interesting, without adding any real danger. Mallo is an Argentinian writer who was openly opposed to the junta, back in the day. His protagonist, Inspector Lascano is haunted by his wife’s ghost while he tries to navigate the perilous world of a nasty dictatorship.

Aside from the annoying dialogue, done mostly stream-of-consciousness-style in italics with no quotation marks and little punctuation, I loved it. I feel even more prejudiced against Argentina now (after reading an article a while ago about how horses are typically trained there), but there’s no doubt it makes for an exotic and interesting backdrop.

3The Deputy- Victor Gischler

Five Stars

This is probably too violent and gory and crazy for most tastes, but I loved it and read it in one sitting. Part-time deputy in a small Oklahoma town gets in way, way over his head. Let’s just say, I lost track of how many times the fellow had sex and how many people he killed, in just one night. Highly surreal and unrealistic, it felt a lot like watching a Hong Kong action movie.  The voice was simple, real, and brought to mind an Okie with a guitar and a somewhat stupid expression. Which pretty well sums up the protagonist. If you can stomach it, you’ll put your life on hold while you plow through this.

4Irreparable Harm- Melissa Miller

Five Stars

First in a series featuring the feisty Sasha McCandless, a Pittsburgh corporate attorney, this was pure enjoyment. The villain is able to take down airliners with merely a smartphone, and he’s about to put the technology on the open market. Of course, only Sasha can stop him. Though small, she’s very smart (naturally) and extremely good at Krav Maga, which is hard on the bad guys, and on some of the good as well.

Miller is a practicing attorney, but is gifted at spinning the legalese into the web of the story in a plausible (at least to layperson me) way. Another edge-of-you-seat-all-in-one-sitting-and-don’t-forget-to-breathe read.

5Head to Head- Linda Ladd

Four Stars

I wish I could say I loved this, but it was just a shade too Silence of the Lambs creepy for me. Just gross in a really scary way. It was still a good read, although plausibility was stretched, especially at the ending. I realize that serial killers are nuts, but this one just seemed way too organized. I just didn’t want to believe it, which probably says more about me than it says about the story. If you like creepy, atmospheric detective yarns, this one’s for you.

6Sacred Treason- James Forrester

Three Stars

This was interesting- a thriller set in Elizabethan England. I found the prose and dialogue a bit stilted, but it’s a rare writer who can really pull off that time period. I was also a bit uncomfortable with the point of view- that of “loyal” Catholics living under and hating the Protestant Elizabeth. That’s totally my fault though, since I grew up in a very Protestant family where Fox’s Book of Martyrs was considered bed-time reading.I wonder why I had nightmares!

Anyway, enough about my issues. Interestingly, Forrester is a pseudonym for a British historian, and this shows in the meticulously researched details. I didn’t love it, but I’m glad I read it.

7Black Out: An Inspector Troy Thriller- John Lawton

Five Stars

Just my cup of tea. A murder mystery set in London during the Blitz. It’s bad enough that the city is being demolished night after night. But now dead bodies are turning up, too. And these aren’t bombing victims. And they’re German! What the heck is going on?

Inspector Troy is a posh, second-generation Russian emigre who braves the class divide and a strangely uncooperative bureaucracy to get the job done. I kind of get tired with the protagonists sleeping with all of his main suspects, but he’s far from the only offender, even in this very list.

Every bit of this book was perfect. The atmosphere, the characters, the period dialogue. I’ll be reading more of these.

Okay, I’m almost done. Just one more!

8Stewards of the Flame- Sylvia Engdahl

Four Stars

Part mystery, part sci-fi, part philosophy, this book is hard to classify. It takes place in the future on another planet, but some of the things that happen there seem fairly plausible here, today. Which is the point.

A benevolent democracy loses its way as its citizens become virtual slaves to a super-oppressive health-care system. Only a few people think this is a bad idea, and they form an underground movement that isn’t going anywhere, until the protagonist arrives.

This is not an easy read, but I found it interesting. There’s probably too much talking and explaining of philosophical ideas- some of it seemed repetitive- but this is thought-provoking, fairly suspenseful and overall, well-done. There seem to be more in the series, but I’m not sure if I have the stamina.

And that’s all! Well, not exactly. I read a few other books in the same time period, but they weren’t particularly note-worthy, for one reason on another. Now that I’m caught up, expect to see shorter and more frequent posts.

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