Friday, August 1, 2014

Rose Gold, An Easy Rawlins Mystery, by Walter Mosley

Walter Mosley has written another terrific Easy Rawlins mystery.  This one is set in the turbulent 60's era:  Black Power, hippies, getting high, and the rebellion of youth against The Man.  As for the title, Rose Gold is the nickname used for Rosemary Goldsmith, the daughter of a wealthy arms manufacturer.

Easy Rawlins, a black detective already well known to the LAPD, is who they go to help find Rose.  Maybe she has been kidnapped by a Black Power anarchist, or just maybe she is in on the plot and is trying to extort money from her dad and his company.  The Special Assistant to the Police Chief, Roger Frisk, a little shady himself, comes to Easy's house on a Sunday afternoon.  It is pretty clear that Easy does not have much of a choice on whether or not he'll take the case.  This case needs to stay out of the news and Easy is instructed to talk to no one except Tout Manning, Frisk's assistant.

Lots to ponder on that case, including the real story on the Black Power anarchist...Easy remembers him when he was trying to make it in professional boxing.  And several of Easy's friends and acquaintances need his help in resolving the complications in their lives.  One is being black-mailed, another  has a white woman friend whose mixed race pre-school age son has been kidnapped.  Her black husband has recently died and he was estranged from his family. 

The only police officer Easy trusts is on leave and in trouble with the higher ups, according to Special Assistant Frisk. Easy needs his help but Suggs is wallowing in his misery, missing the girl friend who has gone missing.  That would be the girl he arrested for passing counterfeit money before he started dating her, thus his troubles with the bosses.  Easy promises to find the girl if Suggs will sober up and help him with resolving the other cases.

Mosley's prose is a pleasure to read. He weaves a many stranded mystery and brings it all to an exciting and satisfactory conclusion. Easy Rawlins is one clever and capable detective, and it is pretty easy to imagine Denzel Washington as the confident detective in the movie's a role he has played before in the film version of Mosley's earlier, The Devil In the Blue Dress.

I read a pre-publication digital copy courtesy of edelweiss.  Thanks for the pleasurable opportunity!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Anthem's Fall, by S.L. Dunn

Anthem's Fall begins as a science fiction thriller-type story featuring Kristen Jordan, a grad student at a New York university.  She is one of those smart kids who skipped every couple of grades, graduated high school and college very early and is recruited to work on a ground-breaking cell research project by a prestigious scientist at Columbia, based on her senior thesis on the DNA double helix.   Three years into the project, she is more of a colleague to Dr.Vatruvia than a research assistant.

But as the story opens, she is sensing that Dr.Vatruvia is not sharing all that he has learned about the synthetic cell the team has produced. The researchers are careful to emphasize that the cells they have produced are synthetic; not living, as categorizing them as living would mean dealing with regulatory governance and oversight. Kristen's ethical sensibilities are raised as she considers what consequences might result from further experimentation.  Her fears are confirmed when Vatruvia insists that she sign a non-disclosure form before he tells her of the progress that has been made with the synthetic cells.

Tension mounts in the Research Center, but unexpectedly the author introduces a new set of characters and a seemingly different plot line, taking place on another planet in a galaxy far, far away, one might say.  This is the planet Anthem, and be prepared because it's civilization is about to fall.  This society is built on the assumption of the supremacy of raw power and strength. Battles and all out war are a way of life for these beings, who are similar to humans (except that they are able to fly and have super powers that make them virtually invincible). 

Will these two stories ever come together?   As a matter of fact they do.  Genetic manipulation has contributed to their downfall, but can it be that their redemption might be found on Planet Earth? That is what the last survivors think, as they board a space ship headed there.  They have no idea that one of their own has come to Earth several years earlier, but with a plan to assimilate and help, not conquer and subdue.  Expect some mighty stunning battles in the skies filled with the skyscrapers of New York.

Surely there will be movie talks before long!  Lots of action; lots of buildings destroyed and planes crashing, not to mention the battle of world views:  Whose morality will prevail? Is it too late to save Earth?  Too late to rebuild Anthem?

Look for a sequel to answer some of these questions.

I received my copy from LibraryThing, and am glad I got a chance to review it. 

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Girl You Left Behind, by JoJo Moyes

JoJo Moyes has created yet another heartwarming and thought-provoking tale.  The Girl You Left Behind follows the unlikely fate of a portrait of a young Frenchwoman painted by her husband in the years preceding the German occupation of France during World War I.  Artist Edouard Lefevre has left his young wife in the small town where she grew up while he is serving in the French Armed Services. 

In 1916, Sophie is helping her sister run the family hotel in a small village now occupied by the Germans.  The villagers are completely under the thumb of the occupiers and experience all kinds of suffering and deprivation at the hands of the Germans.  The portrait now hangs near the cafe in the hotel and comes to the attention of the German Kommandant. He is an art connoisseur who is taken with the strength and spirit that emanates from the girl in the portrait.  Sophie comes to realize that she can use the portrait to gain a reunion with Edouard, who has now become a prisoner of war, and she is willing to do whatever it takes to be reunited with her husband.

Nearly one hundred years later, Sophie's portrait is given to a young British woman by her husband and is treasured by her in a special way since her beloved husband has died suddenly and unexpectedly after giving her the gift. She is stunned when, some years later, the painting is subject to a request from the heirs of Edouard Lefevre, who claim that the painting was looted by war criminals and should rightfully be returned to the estate.

Liv Halston honestly doesn't know the history of the painting, doesn't know it's value, but her gut feeling is that it belongs to her.  The battle for ownership of the painting becomes public, and gets ugly as the publicity paints Liv in a most unfavorable light. 

This novel is a portrait of women who are willing to risk everything for love, as well as the complex and sometimes shadowy provenance of art works which change hands during war time.

A really good story with an excellent and ultimately very hopeful ending, in my humble opinion.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Queen of the Tearling, by Erika Johansen

Kelsea Raleigh Glynn has been raised to be The Queen of the Tearling as soon as she comes of age, but there are some doubts whether she will survive the trip to her coronation.  Some of her subjects stand to lose power and prestige if she ascends the throne; most of those who might benefit don't have the power to act.

She would not have survived childhood had she not been secreted far away to be raised by foster parents.  At age 19 she is taken again by soldiers.  They hope to return her to the castle, but other soldiers and mercenaries are just as determined to stop her.  She wants to rule with integrity but has no idea how deep her country has slid into corruption.  It may already be too late to turn the tide.

Kelsea is apparently sadly lacking in the beauty her mother was renowned for, but makes up for it in cleverness and courage. 
She has a pendant that affirms that she is royalty, but it takes awhile for her to realize it's potential for magical power.

I enjoyed the fantasy as well as the plot twists, not to mention how refreshing to encounter a heroine with limited glamor to entrance her subjects, but plenty of the characteristics that inspire loyalty and may make her a great leader.

Werewolf Cop, by Andrew Klavan

Andrew Klavan has written a thought provoking treatise on the battle between good and evil in a supernatural crime novel. The title Werewolf Cop suggests a Young Adult focus, but the novel has a  much greater audience potential in my opinion.

The protagonist is Zach Adams, an elite police detective on the trail of an international crime boss, Dominic Abend. Originally known as a member of  a German crime syndicate, Abend has apparently moved to the US after pretty much taking over Europe.

Adams is a  good man who struggles with the spiritual concept of grace and his own capacity for receiving forgiveness for wrongs he has committed.  He is a family man who loves his wife but he violated his vows to her just once.  On top of this guilt burden, he is concerned with suspicions which his supervisors articulate against his trusted partner.  He wants to trust him but begins to harbor doubts about who in the department he can really trust. In addition to grisly crimes in his pursuit of taking over crime syndicates run by local thugs, Abend is apparently buying the loyalty of some police officers.

He follows clues to Europe in the pursuit of the mysterious Abend, but is attacked unexpectedly by a wild animal. After very nearly dying from the attack he returns to police work, not really realizing at first the far reaching consequence of the attack.  But after the next full moon, there can be no doubt. He has killed without even considering his actions because of the overriding urges of the beast within him. How can one ever be forgiven for that?

But on the other hand, who will suspect him? And he seems to be getting ever closer to the elusive Abend, so he doggedly pursues that case, even as he realizes the hopelessness of his own situation.

Received a digital early review copy from Edelweiss...thank you!  A thoughtful tale, much to reflect on, and I do recommend it.

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Wilder Rose, by Susan Wittig Albert

This book is quite the spoiler for died-in-the-wool Little House on the Prairie fans, who feel like they know Laura Ingalls Wilder personally.  Author Susan Wittig Albert has done a great deal of research on Laura Ingalls Wilder's daughter, Rose Wilder Lane.  At the end of the day, as the saying goes, it seems pretty clear that the compelling stories of life on the prairie were pretty heavily edited, okay, rewritten, by her daughter to make them the charming and heartwarming stories they became.

Rose was already a successful and oft published journalist when she moved back home to help her parents, Laura and Almanzo. Her mom was 61at the time.Rose had traveled and lived internationally for awhile, earning her living writing for magazines such as the Saturday Evening Post. She knew what the editors and the readers expected and knew how to shape a story that would appeal to the readers.  She encouraged her mother to write down some of the family stories, not realizing how much of her own time they would eventually absorb. Rose's goal was getting her mom's work published so the subsequent royalty checks could help support her parents financially.

Ms. Albert, the author, used Rose's journal to capture the sometimes tense moments between mother and daughter.  Mrs. Wilder was innately managing and manipulative; Rose was quietly resentful but always hoping to please her mother.  The journal also revealed all the famous and near famous folks that Rose counted as friends.  Shaped somewhat by her life experiences during the stock Market Crash and the Great Depression, Rose became almost libertarian in her views.  She is generous, but weaves her own web of family and friendship by being generous with her money.

Rose's life is certainly significant and her resume is extensive.  The irony is that the works that will live far beyond her were the ones she "ghost wrote" with her mom, the books where her name never appears at all.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Blieberg Project, by David S. Khara

Another winner from the Le French Book team, this time the story is a modern day espionage thriller with roots in the Nazi regime of WWII.  Jay Novacek is a Wall Street trader who has met with enormous financial success but is seemingly defined by self-destructive behaviors in recent months.  That changes when a knock on his apartment door reveals the Air Force team which has come to inform him of his absentee father's death.  Soon he is overwhelmed with new information about his past and his father's true identity, information that will change his life forever.

His Wall Street boss turns out to be a CIA operative who knows more about Jay's dad than he had ever revealed.  The action begins to move very quickly, as it seems his father has left a trail that both the good guys and the bad are eager to follow, and we can't always be sure which is which. 

The fast paced action in the present is interspersed with back story chapters that reveal the beginnings of a conspiracy in the Nazi laboratories. Many lives were callously sacrificed in the pursuit of facilitating the mutation of humanity into a race of Ubermensch, or Super Men. Not all the researchers in the lab were loyal to Nazism above all.  Their loyalties lay with a shadowy mysterious international group called the Consortium, which manages to survive the fall of Nazism and spread into other countries at the end of WWII.

It seems Jay's dad had gotten too close to revealing the sordid ties of  the Consortium to his own government and they took his life, but not before he was able to leave the key to revealing the evil plans and scary progress of the Consortium.  That is,  if Jay and his compatriots can only get to the information first. There is a lot of hand-to-hand to fighting, an explosion here and there, all to keep the excitement level racing in this fast-paced book.

This is the first in a series of Consortium thrillers, so be on the lookout for more excitement to come.