Connelly, Michael. Echo Park.

NY: Little, Brown, 2006.

Retirement didn’t sit too well with Harry Bosch, ex-LAPD homicide detective, and after two years of combining his pension with occasional private investigations, he’s thrown up his hands and come back to the force, working cold cases in the Open-Unsolved Unit. And he’s paired with one of his old partners from his previous life who is everything he’s not — young, black, female, gay, and computer-literate.

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Published in: on 31 May 2010 at 2:24 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Baker, Kage. Not Less than Gods.

NY: Tor, 2010.

Baker’s first book about the worldwide, million-year machinations of Dr. Zeus Inc. — the Company — was In the Garden of Iden, and it was highly original, and innovative, and dramatic, presented intriguing characters, and was filled with excellent writing. And it deservedly won a number of awards. The second and third entries in what became a sort-of series were pretty good, too. And then the author seemed to lose her way and things began to slip.

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Published in: on 30 May 2010 at 12:01 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Costa, Daniel. The Lost Gold of Rome: The Hunt for Alaric’s Treasure.

Stroud, Gloucs., UK: Sutton, 2007.

Historical treasure-hunting expeditions, especially the search for long-lost archaeological sites, are guaranteed to fascinate. (Look at the Indiana Jones movies.) One of those is the unknown fate of the real Ark of the Covenant, the Great Menorah, and the other treasures liberated from the Second Temple in Jerusalem by Titus and brought back to Rome in A.D. 71. But the Temple artifacts are only part of what disappeared from Rome during a period of only a few days in August 410 when Alaric’s Goths cleaned out the city. Alaric himself died rather suddenly not long afterward, near the town of Cosenza, down the peninsula in Calabria, and was buried secretly — supposedly under a river bed.

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Published in: on 28 May 2010 at 6:08 pm  Comments (2)  
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Dee, Jonathan. The Privileges.

NY: Random House, 2010.

I’ve never read anything by Dee before. Embarrassingly, I picked this novel up because the cover illustration and the flap copy were interesting. But I’m glad I invested the time in reading it, because the man is a master of the English language. The story begins twenty-odd years ago on the wedding day of young Adam and Cynthia Morey, the first in their set to actually get married. He’s the son of a middle-class union official, she the daughter of a slightly more well-to-do business type. Dee’s recounting of the events of that day, see through the eyes not only of the (very) happy couple but also her mother, his brother, her stepsister, their best friends, and the wedding planner, sets the scene for their rest of their lives.

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Published in: on 26 May 2010 at 7:56 am  Leave a Comment  
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Willis, Sam. Fighting Ships, 1750-1850.

London: Quercus, 2007.

Willis is an acknowledged expert in the naval technology of the Napoleonic era, but he turns out to have a good eye for art, as well. Not only that, this volume (the middle of a trilogy) is folio-sized, so all the full-page reproductions of paintings and technical drawings and battle plans are at a scale that shows off important detail — far more so than I have seen in smaller books.

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Published in: on 24 May 2010 at 1:48 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Connelly, Michael. The Narrows.

Boston: Little, Brown, 2004.

Connelly has developed this odd habit of killing off characters from his earlier books, even the major players. In this case, it’s Terry McCaleb, retired FBI profiler and heart transplant survivor, protagonist of Blood Work, who has died suddenly on his charter fishing boat, a victim of his new heart following the path of the old one. (Clint Eastwood went to the funeral.) Only Terry’s wife isn’t at all sure that’s what really happened, so she calls up retired LAPD homicide detective Harry Bosch, a friend of Terry’s. (Like any successful detective, Bosch seems to know almost everyone in L.A. worth knowing.)

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Published in: on 22 May 2010 at 6:11 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Blake, Nicholas. Steering to Glory: a Day in the Life of a Ship of the Line.

London: Chatham Publishing, 2005.

Chatham specializes in maritime reference works and naval history, and this is one of their best efforts — an examination — in an extraordinary depth of detail — of the workings of a 74-gun ship of the line in 1810. Being a fan of Hornblower and Aubrey and all the rest, and being a working historian as well, I’ve read, over many years, every explication and history of the subject I can find, and still I learned a considerable number of new things here.

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Published in: on 18 May 2010 at 11:26 am  Comments (1)  
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Pope, Dudley. Ramage.

Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1965.

Talk about beginning a story in media res! Nicholas Ramage returns to consciousness on the lower deck of the frigate on which he serves as Third Lieutenant to find that his captain and the two superior lieutenants have been killed by shot from the French 74 that waylaid them a few minutes before. Like it or not, he’s now in command — and half the crew is dead, many of the guns are dismounted, and they’re taking water at the rate of a foot every fifteen minutes. The groggy Ramage takes a round turn on himself, however, and manages to get the survivors of the crew away in a boat and out of their fix without being captured.

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Published in: on 15 May 2010 at 5:31 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Haythornthwaite, Philip J. The World War One Source Book.

London: Arms and Armour Press, 1992.

People of my generation, born during or immediately after World War II, have tended not to know a lot about the Great War; its successor simply loomed too large in our experience and that of our parents. (Readers under thirty tend to think of Vietnam as ancient history.) Also, World War I had no clearly defined set of causes, only a hazy termination, and very few set-piece battles or campaigns. This excellent resource work should cure most of those problems for the reader willing to take the time to absorb it.

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Published in: on 13 May 2010 at 2:08 pm  Comments (1)  
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Bowersock, G. W., et al (eds). Late Antiquity: A Guide to the Postclassical World.

Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999.

Though I shifted over to American studies in grad school for practical reasons, my original love in the field of history was late antiquity and early medieval and I’ve maintained that interest ever since. As in all areas of the social sciences, things change, both in methodology and in academic tastes, and this field is no different. Bowersock and his colleagues have attempted to bring together in a single volume a number of tools and resources that will allow someone who has been out of touch for a couple decades to become quickly aware of the present questions and controversies among classicists and medievalists — and they’re about half successful.

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Published in: on 11 May 2010 at 9:35 am  Leave a Comment  
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