Cherryh, C. J. Deceiver.

NY: DAW, 2010.

Carolyn Cherry(h) has published sixty-odd novels in the past nearly forty years and has picked up every available award several times over. She likes to do trilogies and short series, but her best-known books fall into two categories: The “Alliance-Union” novels, which share a universe and are often connected by background characters, but each of which stands alone; and the “Foreigner” series (of which this is the eleventh), which are a continuing saga and absolutely must be read in order, beginning to end. The set-up is simple:

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Published in: on 29 November 2010 at 4:50 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Robinson, Peter. Bad Boy.

NY: Morrow, 2010.

Twenty-three years ago, this author began a series of detective novels set in the Yorkshire Dales in the north of Britain (a region Londoners traditionally regard as being not far from the edge of the Earth), featuring a prickly, mavericky detective inspector named Alan Banks. He was a sort-of refugee from London himself, facing burnout after a series of physically wearing and emotionally draining cases, and hoping for some kind of redemption Up North. He arrived with a wife and two small children and set about learning the local ropes, which were quite different from the South. Even though I’m a “professional” reader, I somehow only discovered the series myself about three years ago and was almost immediately captivated by the character of now DCI Banks and the supporting players, by the author’s view of the Dales (he’s originally from there, of course), and by the cases with which the police force of Eastvale and environs have had to deal. (more…)

Published in: on 26 November 2010 at 6:47 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Pope, Dudley. Ramage and the Rebels.

NY: Simon & Schuster, 1978.

Like many of the yarns in this first-rate series of sea stories set in the Napoleonic wars, the plot this time is based on a real incident: The surrender of the Dutch colony of Curaçao in 1800 to a Royal Navy frigate — which puts it slightly out of historical sequence with the rest of the series, but most readers probably won’t notice or care. The Netherlands had been invaded and occupied by revolutionary France, which renamed it the Batavian Republic, and the island’s reluctant governor had managed to avoid the guillotine and keep his job — though he was continually in danger from the young Jacobins among his own people.

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Published in: on 16 November 2010 at 11:57 am  Leave a Comment  
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Willis, Connie. Blackout & All Clear.

NY: Ballantine, 2010.

[Note: This is actually a single, very long novel, I have treated the two volumes in a single long review.]

Connie Willis is a first-rate science fiction novelist, and she has a full shelf of awards to prove it. She’s written on a number of classic tropes and intellectual themes, but she seems always to come back to time travel — specifically, academic historians in Oxford traveling back to study and observe ordinary people in the past. In Doomsday Book, her best-known work, this meant the Black Death of the 14th century. In To Say Nothing of the Dog — surely her funniest book — it was Oxford itself in the 1880s. But Connie seems also to have rather a fixation on the Blitz, the Luftwaffe’s all-attack air attack on Britain in the early part of World War II.

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Published in: on 13 November 2010 at 11:07 am  Leave a Comment  

Pope, Dudley. Ramage’s Mutiny.

NY: Simon & Schuster, 1977.

Throughout this excellent series of Napoleonic naval adventures, the author never makes the tactical mistake of trying to cram too many plot lines between the covers of each volume. He generally sticks to two or perhaps three main narrative threads, and that’s the case here. Having essentially captured a French merchant fleet with only his own frigate and a couple of smaller French vessels which he had captured earlier, Capt. Lord Nicholas Ramage, the youngest post captain in the Royal Navy, has developed quite a reputation and has been gazetted several times in rapid succession — all of which isn’t making him many friends among his superior officers, actually.

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Published in: on 11 November 2010 at 11:03 am  Leave a Comment  
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Robinson, Peter. All the Colors of Darkness.

NY: Morrow, 2009.

This is one of the more unsettling episodes in the career of DCI Alan Banks of the North Yorkshire CID. Mark Hardcastle, a local theater set designer from a working class background, is found hanging from a tree in the woods near Eastvale. He was gay and was in a relationship with Laurence Silbert, who had money and a big house — but when the police go to see the latter, they find Silbert viciously beaten to death. Was it a murder-suicide caused by jealousy?

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Published in: on 9 November 2010 at 7:11 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Robinson, Peter. Friend of the Devil.

NY: Morrow, 2007.

DCI Alan Banks of the West Yorkshire CID is a pretty good detective, but his old cases seem to have a habit of coming back to haunt him. He starts out with a pretty ordinary rape/murder case in the Maze, a neighborhood of narrow, twisty passages and untenanted Victorian buildings only a minute’s sprint from the police station. The victim was young, bright, and sexy, with a tendency to drink too much with her mates on the weekends, and while Banks has problems with some of the suspects, he expects to solve the case without too much trouble.

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Published in: on 5 November 2010 at 9:37 am  Leave a Comment  
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Byatt, A. S. Possession.

NY: Random House, 1990.

One sort of novel is the straightforward narrative that deviates hardly at all from a single course, that charges ahead from beginning to end. Another sort, though, is more like a faceted mirror-ball hanging above a dance floor, reflecting the light of its characters and language and plot in all directions, and constantly moving, constantly metamorphosing before the reader’s eyes. This volume — which won every award on offer and has become an undisputed modern classic — is very much the latter sort of book. It’s a “romance” in the Arthurian sense. Also, TARDIS-like, it seems much larger once you’re inside it than it appeared from the outside.

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