Block, Lawrence. When the Sacred Ginmill Closes.

NY: Arbor House, 1986.

It’s 1975 and Matthew Scudder hasn’t been a New York City cop for several years. And when he quit being a police detective, he also quit being a husband and father, at least of the live-in variety. Now he lives in a residential hotel in a relatively cheap part of Manhattan and spends his time drifting from saloon to bar, drinking with his friends (his “saloon friends,” he makes a distinction) and occasionally earning a little money as an unofficial, unlicensed private investigator.

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Martin, Steve. Shopgirl.

NY: Hyperion, 2000.

The best way to approach this short book is to pretend you’ve never heard of Steve Martin, to forget that he was once a wild and crazy guy with a fake arrow through his head. Anyone who has read his more recent novels (this one was his first) and short stories and screenplays knows he’s a lot deeper than that. His imagination also displays considerable breadth, from the hilariously bizarre originality of Cruel Shoes to the in-depth social observation of An Object of Beauty.

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Published in: on 27 January 2012 at 9:57 pm  Leave a Comment  
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** ALERT **

This is for all those who have been following the Booksmith review blog through Facebook. I don’t at all like what Facebook is doing with the data of its users (nor what Google is about to do). They’re changing their rules in midstream in a way that I’m convinced is actionable under federal privacy laws. Not that that necessarily means anything these days. In any case, I’ve whittled down my presence on Facebook to an absolute minimum and I will shortly be deleting my account there entirely – assuming I can figure out how to accomplish that, and assuming I can make it stick. Anyway, if you’ve been reading my reviews via posts on my Facebook page, and if you wish to continue reading them, please consider subscribing to them by email or as as RSS feed. Links for both methods may be found in the right-hand sidebar on the blog. Or, you can simply bookmark the blog at WordPress. And I urge you to think about your own privacy at Facebook. Thank you.

Published in: on 26 January 2012 at 10:57 am  Leave a Comment  

Birdsall, Jeanne. The Penderwicks.

NY: Knopf, 2005.

I have a granddaughter just turned nine who has always read well beyond her theoretical level, and this book and its two sequels are presently her favorites. In fact, she insisted I read them. Probably not many adults without kids in the house read children’s books, but having been a public librarian all my life, I’m well used to reading almost anything and everything. (How else can you make suggestions to patrons?)

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Talbot, Bryan. Alice in Sunderland.

Milwaukie, OR: Dark Horse Books, 2007.

This oversized graphic novel has gotten quite a few awed reviews, so I had hopes of an unusual reading experience. What it is, basically, is a rather detailed history of every bleeding thing that has ever happened in and around the Northumbrian port town of Sunderland.

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Le Carré, John. Call for the Dead.

NY: Walker, 1961.

I read a great deal, both classic literature and recent novels, and have done for half a century. In all that time, I have accrued a list of favorite characters, from Elizabeth Summerson and Dorothea Brooke to Lazarus Long and Harry Flashman. And George Smiley, the short, fat, nearsighted genius of the Secret Intelligence Service during the Cold War, is very near the top of that list.

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Published in: on 21 January 2012 at 8:37 am  Leave a Comment  
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Ewan, Chris. The Good Thief’s Guide to Vegas.

NY: St. Martin, 2010.

British crime novelist Charlie Howard is a moderately successful author, but in the real world, he’s also a talented thief and burglar, usually working on commission but sometimes for himself. His moral code is somewhat negotiable but he’s not a bad guy, really. Stealing is just what he does.

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Published in: on 19 January 2012 at 7:45 am  Leave a Comment  
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Ewan, Chris. The Good Thief’s Guide to Paris.

NY: St. Martin, 2008.

This is Ewan’s second novel about Charlie Howard, mystery novelist-slash-gentleman burglar, and while it’s not bad, it’s not as good as the first one (set in Amsterdam) — or, for that matter, the third one (Vegas).

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Published in: on 17 January 2012 at 7:15 am  Leave a Comment  
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Ewan, Chris. The Good Thief’s Guide to Amsterdam.

NY: St. Martin, 2007.

Charlie Howard is a British author of detective novels, the continuing protagonist of which is a burglar. Strangely enough, Charlie Howard himself is also a burglar. He’s not really a bad guy — picking the locks to places where he oughtn’t to be and taking things that don’t belong to him just gives him a special thrill and also helps with his cash flow.

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Published in: on 15 January 2012 at 7:23 am  Leave a Comment  
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Thomas, Chris (ed). London’s Archaeological Secrets: A World City Revealed.

New Haven: Yales University Press, 2003.

I’ve always been interested in London’s deep history — all those two thousand years of layers — and in searching for a good, recently published survey, I had high hopes for this oversized volume from the Museum of London’s Archaeology Service.

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Published in: on 13 January 2012 at 9:33 am  Leave a Comment  
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