Sansom, Ian. The Norfolk Mystery.

NY: HarperCollins, 2013.

This is a period mystery yarn that probably won’t appeal to everyone because of the main character’s rather pushy all-knowingness, but it’s kind of an interesting read. In 1932, Stephen Sefton graduates from Oxford with a poor third-class English degree (he’d spent too much time carousing as a student), so he spends a few years teaching at the poorer sort of public (i.e., private) boys’ schools. Then, fighting off boredom, he joins the Communist Party and in 1936 he goes off to fight the Falangists in Spain.

(more…)

Advertisements

Lehane, Dennis. The Drop.

NY: HarperCollins, 2014.

This rather short novel was based on the film of the same name, which itself was based on the short story “Animal Rescue,” which Lehane had written a few years before. It sort of epitomizes his recurring theme of working-class life and problems in the fading industrial Northeast. Bob Saginowski runs the bar in the place owned by his cousin, Marvin, who used to be a big-time fence but who now knuckles under to the Chechen mafia, which uses the bar as a conduit for their other criminal revenues.

(more…)

Published in: on 18 December 2017 at 5:32 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

Wolitzer, Meg. The Interestings.

NY: Penguin, 2013.

Wolitzer has published close to a dozen novels but her record has been somewhat uneven. This may be one of her best, though, especially to those of us born before 1960. It’s the story of six kids who first come together one evening, aged fifteen and sixteen, in the summer of 1974 at Spirit-in-the-Woods, a determinedly artsy summer camp in the Adirondacks run by a couple of aging Greenwich Villagers.

(more…)

Published in: on 16 December 2017 at 6:22 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

Hiaasen, Carl. Star Island.

NY: Knopf, 2010.

Hiaasen, the off-the-wall conscience of Florida environmental politics and a very funny writer, couldn’t produce an actual bad book if he tried. That said, this one is nowhere near his best. The subjects this time are the nature of celebrity in modern America (one can be famous just for being famous, as Paris Hilton has demonstrated), the real world of the paparazzi (they know they’re considered the scum of the earth and they don’t care), and rampant real estate development (who needs another wildlife refuge anyway?).

(more…)

Published in: on 12 December 2017 at 8:36 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , ,

Griffiths, Elly. The Crossing Places.

NY: Houghton Mifflin, 2010.

This is the first entry in a lengthening series featuring English archaeologist Ruth Galloway of northern Norfolk and it’s a first-rate piece of work. Ruth is not unattractive, but she’s pushing forty and weighs in at 180 pounds. She concentrates mostly on her career, both teaching at the local university and excavating in the nearby coastal marshes, which she has come to love, and where she lives in a small wind-and-rain-swept cottage.

(more…)

Adams, John Joseph. Federations.

np: CreateSpace, 2016.

Multi-author science fiction anthologies are always a toss-up when it comes to quality. Some editors, like Gardner Dozois, nearly always turn out a superior product, but in most cases you get a few good stories surrounded by considerable dross. That’s certainly the case here, though the twenty-three stories included tend unfortunately more toward the dross side of the ledger. Moreover, the title is somewhat misleading.

(more…)

Published in: on 7 December 2017 at 2:31 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags:

Maas, Sarah J. Throne of Glass.

NY: Bloomsbury, 2012.

The author has apparently aimed this series (it’s up to at least eight books now) at the teen market — and I mean that in the most denigrating way possible. She seems to think that as long as there’s a swashbuckling female lead, plus magic and a bit of romance, the reader won’t notice the plot holes, the seriously non-credible characters, or the gratuitous overwriting. Celaena Sardothien is the most able and successful hired assassin in the kingdom (or empire, or whatever it is) of Adarlan, even though she’s only eighteen.

(more…)

Blish, James. A Case of Conscience.

NY: Walker, 1958.

James Blish was one of the more intellectual science fiction authors of the mid-20th century and this is probably his most important work, for which he won a Hugo in 1959. “Religion in science fiction” leads most fans to think of A Canticle for Leibowitz, published at about the same time, but there the Catholic Church was simply the background for a post-holocaust plot line. Blish — who was a thoroughgoing agnostic at the least — is more interested in actual questions of theology. And that makes for a fascinating and involving story. Moreover, it’s only the first of his four books on similar themes.

(more…)

Macdonald, Ross. The Drowning Pool.

NY: Knopf, 1950.

In many ways, Los Angeles private eye Lew Archer was to the 1950s what Philip Marlow was to the same city a generation earlier, but he doesn’t seem to be much read these days. Which is a shame, because Macdonald was an excellent writer of noir-ish crime stories. This was Archer’s second case, in which he tries to find out who’s attempting to blackmail the young wife of the heir to a large, oil-rich estate in the hills north of LA. But she’s not going to give him much to work with.

(more…)

Kleid, Neil & Nicolas Cinquegrani. The Big Kahn.

NY: NBM Publishing, 2009.

The author and artist of this graphic novel are both new to me, though they seem to have a body of work already on the market. It’s kind of a strange one, too. The story opens with the funeral of Rabbi David Kahn, who helped establish New York’s Congregation Beth Shemesh, served as its leader for many years, and was a noted figure in the community. And his eldest son, Avi, presently his father’s assistant, is the obvious choice for the job.

(more…)

Published in: on 24 November 2017 at 5:32 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,