Wednesday, July 02, 2008

July reads

On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan (audio)
Protagonists: Edward and Florence
Setting: Chesil Beach, England
Rating: 4.5
As always, McEwan is a masterful manipulator of words -- and the reader's emotions. There's not much I can say about the book without giving away what happens. It does mostly center on one night -- the wedding night of a young, inexperienced couple. Edward is looking forward to it; Florence is terrified. It's a story of love, chances not taken, and regret. I especially recommend the audiobook, which has an interview with McEwan, explaining the choices he made in the book.

We Shall Not Sleep by Anne Perry
Protagonists: Reavley family
Setting: Western Front, 1918
Rating: 4.6
In this, the last of the five-book arc that spans World War I, the war is almost over, anticipated to end in a few weeks. But the Reavley siblings are rushing to uncover the man they call "the Peacemaker," who was behind their parents' murder and who seeks to break any stability that peace may bring. They get their break when his German counterpart crosses the line to meet with intelligence services officer Matthew Reavley. But before they can get him to London, a nurse is viciously murdered on the front, and the Reavleys have to find her killer before they can move the German officer. Although this book was not as strong as others in the series, it wraps up all the loose ends nicely -- and finishes on a perfect note. I highly recommend this series.

I Shall Not Want by Julia Spencer-Fleming
Protagonists: Rev. Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne
Setting: Millers Kill
Rating: 4.8
It's been two months since the accident that killed Russ' wife, and he and Clare haven't spoken in all that time. But then an accident involving undocumented Mexican migrants brings them together, and soon they are solving a string of deaths. Meanwhile, a new character, Hadley Knox, is introduced -- one that Spencer-Fleming has said may spin off into another series. Spencer-Fleming manages to pair a controversial topic -- illegal immigrants -- with a trio of love stories, the main one, of course, being the relationship between Clare and Russ. The author, however, isn't done with the Clare and Russ story -- this book ends on another cliffhanger.

Stalin's Ghost by Martin Cruz Smith
Protagonist: Arkady Renko
Setting: Moscow
Rating: 3.6
Renko, an investigator for the prosecutor's office, is given a thankless assignment: investigate sightings of Stalin (yes, the dead dictator) on a subway platform. At the same time, Renko is investigating (not officially, of course) two colleagues he believes are corrupt -- heroes of the Chechen War, to boot. Throw in a homeless boy, a chess master whom Renko had taken into his home and who has now disappeared, and a lover who leaves Renko for one of the Chechen war heroes, and you have several plot devices that somehow manage to come together in the end. The book was a little too convoluted for me, but nevertheless an interesting look at modern Russia.

Ruling Passion by Reginald Hill (third in the series)
Protagonists: Andy Dalziel and Peter Pascoe
Setting: Thornton Lacey
Rating: 4.3
Peter Pascoe and his girlfriend Ellie set off for a countryside visit to their friends. But on arrival, they find a grisly scene: three of their friends dead and one of them missing. The missing man is the main, and only, suspect, but Peter and Ellie know he couldn't have killed his wife and friends. As usual, Hill delivers a wonderful story full of humor (amid the murders and other crime). Take for example, one slow-speed chase across a cluttered antiques shop involving Dalziel, already in bad humor from having to diet. More than 30 years after it was written, still fresh and funny!

Rating system:
5.0: Wow -- must read!
4.0: A book I'd recommend
3.0: Mediocre to good
2.0: Pretty Bad

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