Saturday, October 30, 2010

Random Musings

I've been working, recently, on getting the list of books in my library published to this blog for people to browse. When I exported them from my old web site, the format got messed up, and so I've had to go through them line by line and remove excess line breaks and that sort of thing. Tedious.
Doing this really brings back a lot of old memories, and raises old questions, as well. I saw a notation that my copy of Azazel, by Isaac Asimov, had been loaned out to someone named Suzanne at Industrial Indemnity. My wife hasn't worked for II for at least fourteen or fifteen years ago, so I have no idea what this woman's last name would be, no idea how to reach her, and no memory of how or why I loaned it out in the first place. I can only assume that we had her and her SO over for dinner, showed them the library, and she must have been an Asimov fan who'd never read that particular book. Anyway, Suzanne, if you (or anyone who knows Suzanne) read this, please bring my book back!
Every so often, in the course of building the library, I went through "kicks" where I bought everything I could find by a particular author, read it all, shelved the books, and promptly forgot about the author until now. What in the heck was the series "Harry Borg and Gus the Lizard Man" all about? I remain clueless. The wonderful thing about maintaining a collection like mine is that if I really care enough to find out, I can grab the books off the shelves and revisit old friends.
There were a couple of times when I thought, "Wow, this is a major SF author. How can I only have a handful of their stuff?" Maybe budget considerations took over. I know that some of the more recent, current authors I'm really enjoying I've just borrowed from the library, because my bookstore bills were unbelievable five or six years ago, and after the company I worked for crashed and burned and I was out of work for two years, I just couldn't sustain my normal acquisition levels. I still had to feed the monkey on my back, but I had to rely on the kindness of strangers.David Drake and Jack McDevitt really stand out in this area.
And Michael Moorcock. This is where it all began, more than thirty years ago. My friend, Larry, and I were reading the Elric of Melnibone series and neither of us could afford to buy them all (at a price of $1.25 each), so we began swapping books back and forth and got the idea that the whole series should be kept in one place. He took them for a while, and eventually we combined our collections. It's been a cooperative venture ever since. From a seed of about a dozen books...
I see Star Trek: The Motion Picture tie-in paperback, and it reminds me of something. I went seriously out of touch with reality for a while when I was working incredible hours working in and managing restaurants. I never got to see the movie when it first came out. In about 1984, I was working in a restaurant in Oxnard CA and there was a waiter who was a huge Trekkie. He mentions something about the movie, and I tell him I've never seen it or the sequels, so he invites my wife and I over to his place to watch them on VHs. As the movie is in the opening fifteen minutes or so, Kirk and co are on a shuttle to the dry dock where the Enterprise is being readied for its mission. As they come around the ship, I see "NCC 1701" on the hull, and I just tear up, like upon being reunited with a long lost friend.
Some titles just stand out. Interstellar Pig? Servants of the Wankh?

Friday, October 29, 2010

Book Blogger Hop - October 29 to November 1

Book Blogger Hop
It's time for the Book Blogger Hop, hosted by Jennifer at Crazy for Books, again.
Today's question:
"What is the one bookish thing you would love to have, no matter the cost?"

I would like to have the library from Professor Henry Higgins' house in the movie with Audrey Hepburn, My Fair Lady. I would love to have the spiral staircase going up to the second floor, and the rolling ladder to reach the high shelves.

Wife of the Gods by Kwei Quartey

Wife of the Gods: A Novel
Scott Card (one of my favorite authors) has an interesting discussion on his Uncle Orson Reviews Everything site about the difference between the two Inspectors in Wife of the Gods, Fiti and Dawson, so I won't go there. This was an interesting departure for me. Most of the mysteries I read take place in U.S. locations, and this one took place in Ghana. I've also been reading the alternate history mysteries set in Great Britain lately, so maybe I'm being more cosmopolitan every day.

Inspector Darko Dawson has been called in to investigate the murder of a Health Organization worker, a young woman named Gladys Mensah. He leaves his home in the Ghanan city of Accra and goes to the small town of Ketanu, where he encounters both small town attitudes and primitive superstitions, even among the professionals helping him try to solve the murder.

Darko has a personal tie to Ketanu, as his aunt, uncle and cousing live there, and it was on her way home from Ketanu many years ago that his mother disappeared. So, at least he encounters some friendly faces during his visit, as he is able to spend time with his family there. I don't know if red herring is exactly the right term in this context, "red plantain" perhaps? Quartey lays down plenty of false trails for Inspector Dawson to follow and for the reader to get distracted by in this book.

Quartey makes the native customs come alive in Wife of the Gods. Indeed, the title refers to a group of women who were taken from their families while very young, for some imagined offense, and sent to live with the local witch doctor, eventually marrying him. Right or wrong, stereotypically, his treatment of the women is horrendous. There's a lot of disdain for women floating around in the book, as most of the male characters are abusive, unfaithful, or contemptuous of the women around them. Darko seems to have a decent streak, though, and eventually rescues some of the women from their tormenter.

I figured out who the murderer was pretty early in the game, but it came as an unpleasant surprise to the Inspector. A little slow, but an ok read.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Mall Purchase Night by Rick Cook

Mall Purchase Night
Mall Purchase Night, by Rick Cook, is one of those unremarkable novels that you run into all too often. There's nothing really wrong with the book, other than just being a rehash of all the "There are Elves among us" books that have inundated the bookshelves at B Dalton and Waldenbooks, etc. over the last five or six years.

The title appears to be a pun upon Walpurgis Night, which is one of those times when the beasties are let loose until dawn upon the world. Unfortunately, in Cook's novel, the beasties are loose in the shopping mall every night for weeks, searching for a lost talisman. The only other play upon words that I found to be entertaining in this book was the time when a small magical critter gets caught in one of the containers of topping in an ice cream shop and as it escapes across the counter, the owner asks "What was that?", and the soda jerk replies "A chocolate covered brownie."

And that's about as exciting as it gets, with a cast of stereotypical characters, from the gnarly skateboarders to the violent drug lords, the greedy developers, and a hero who manages to do something vaguely brave every so often by mistake, but otherwise drifts aimlessly for three hundred and thirty six pages until the lost talisman, which was there all the time on his girlfriend's necklace, is returned to the faerie realm.

If you're really bored at the airport or bus terminal some time, this one might take your mind off your misery for a bit.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Press Release - Sanctuaried, by Roger E. Hawkins, Ph.D.

I haven't read this book yet. Just got the press release, and requested a review copy. When I get it, you'll all get the scoop - Jon.

Sanctuaried: The CEO Divining Rod offers compelling analysis of the inner
sanctum of corporate power

New book by Roger E. Hawkins, Ph.D. is a revealing and often surprising analysis of over 700 corporate executives who strove for the high levels of corporate influence.

Charleston, SC - Oct 27, 2010 - What is it that separates the truly successful men and women who exist in the upper stratum of corporate environment from those individuals who almost made it?

Dr. Roger E. Hawkins, recognizing that professional success went beyond abilities and educational achievement, undertook a meticulously designed, two decade study of what he calls sanctuaried executives. The study included over 700 corporate executives who strove for the high levels of corporate influence, in both public and private corporations.
In his book, Sanctuaried: The CEO Divining Rod, Dr. Hawkins breaks down his data and applies it to seven individuals. Through this study we learn important elements that contribute to success, and lead to membership in that inner sanctum of the corporate elite.

What do these sanctuaried executives have in common? Dr. Hawkins looks at the Significant Life Events (SLEs) that many experienced on their way to the boardroom. Using their experiences as a guide, readers are able to assess their own experiences and devise steps toward moving forward. So many individuals achieve that near-the-top status of upper middle management, yet cannot seem to break through the final barrier. With this book, barriers can be broken.

About the book:

Sanctuaried: The CEO Divining Rod by Roger E. Hawkins, Ph.D.
ISBN: 978-1452865263
Publisher: CreateSpace
Date of publish: Oct 8, 2010
Pages: 150
S.R.P.: $16.99

About the author:

Roger E. Hawkins, Ph.D. is an industrial organizational psychologist with over 30 years of
experience in executive development, career planning, and organization and strategic planning. Hawkins received his doctorate from Illinois Institute of Technology in industrial organizational psychology. He recently published BLINDSIDED: Surviving Career Meltdown, for those displaced professional and technical women and men actively seeking employment.

Press Release - Flashes from the Other World by Julie Ann Weinstein

I haven't read this book yet. Just got the press release, and requested a review copy. When I get it, you'll all get the scoop - Jon.
Flashes from the Other World - Magic Realism Style Collection of Stories from
Author Julie Ann Weinstein

Encinitas, CA - Oct 26, 2010 - Author Julie Ann Weinstein announces the release of her short story collection, Flashes from the Other World .

The author is widely known for her magic realism style prose, a Pushcart Nominee and has been a semifinalist in various literary contests. With over ninety published stories under her belt, this book reflects the author's distinct style, a mix of paranormal, magical, mysterious and wacky all rolled into one stellar collection.

Ms. Weinstein is also a flash fiction writing teacher and writing consultant. From the jacket copy of Flashes from the Other World: "Magic without the hocus pocus, these stories explore the ethereal blur between reality and not, between dream and sleep, between love and other than love. They present relationships with a tender wackiness. Tossed into the mix are mischievous ghosts, who give the talking plants and even the seductive and vocal grains of sand a run for their money. Quirky and offbeat, these stories will touch your heart, although they may tug at your funny bone first."

"The collection itself is in the vein of magic realism, which is a style of fiction that first became
popular in Latin America with writers like Isabelle Allende and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I think of magic realism as reality that is slightly bent as compared to science fiction which stretches the bounds of reality exponentially. In my writing it's often a surreal landscape where the question of what is a dream and what is reality blur. It can be a place where the intangible becomes tangible, whether it's a ghost or a flower, vegetables, grains of sand or even a snail talking. In a world where things are often perceived as black and white, I see the shades and layers in between, finding new colors where the human emotions and the senses come alive," notes author Julie Ann Weinstein.

About the book:

Flashes From the Other World by Julie Ann Weinstein
ISBN: 978-0984621644
Publisher: All Things That Matter Press
Date of publish: Sept 26, 2010
Pages: 160
S.R.P.: $15.99

About the author:

Julie Ann Weinstein has published over ninety short stories and is a Pushcart Nominee. Recently the author was profiled in the San Diego Union Tribune - North Coast edition. Two of her stories were semifinalists in A Word With You Press, Ain't That Quaint Contest and Julie's second novel was also nominated as a semifinalist in Amazon's Breakthrough Novel Contest.

Vicious Circle by Mike Carey

Vicious Circle (Felix Castor)You know, there are two types of series mystery (well, probably more than that, but I'm only going to talk about two) that I read regularly. The first is the type where the "detective" appears throughout the series, but the villain or perpetrator of the crime is apprehended or killed, and doesn't appear in subsequent novels. The detective might not even be a professional, per se, thinking of Kellerman's Alex Delaware (a shrink), or Child's Jack Reacher (a retired MP), but that's not the point. The other type of mystery is one where the villain, or a subset of a number of villians, may be apprehended or killed, but there's always another bad guy or organization left lurking in the background, waiting for another conflict with the hero, thinking of Hamilton's Anita Blake or Harris' Sookie Stackhouse.

So, while this novel by Carey is not exactly a mystery, and Felix Castor is not exactly a detective, this story falls into the latter category of series mysteries. Castor is put in the position of having to do some detective work to figure out what's really going on, and the reader is dragged along through his false starts and misadventures.

I really love a smart aleck protagonist, and Castor has a tendency to give his adverseries a certain amount of lip. Amusingly enough, it usually results in him getting his head bashed, ribs cracked, or backside bitten.

Castor is hired by a married couple to help them track down the ghost of their daughter, Abby. Her spirit has been kidnapped by a fellow exorcist named David Peace (and I groaned like anything at the end of the book when his name turned out to be part of a great shaggy dog shtick). Should be a straightforward sort of thing, but it rapidly gets sticky. A renegade order of Catholic enforcers gets involved, a major demon gets loose to wreak havoc in a London shopping mall, Castor's succubus protege pulls him in for a consultation, Fix goes head to head with the director of the sanitarium in which his demon-possessed friend, Rafi, is sequestered, and the police haul him in under suspicion of human sacrifice.

Without spoiling things, I can only say that Fix's case is brought to a successful, though unanticipated, solution, while the rest of his problems just metastasize into another form, to be dealt with in the next installment. If you liked Carey's dark urban fantasy, The Devil You Know, you'll probably love this one.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Press Release - Essense of Gluic by Anthony Wedgeworth

I just received the press release from the author, but haven't read the book. A review  copy has been requested.

New YA/Adult Fantasy Novel: Altered Creatures: Essence of Gluic

Dubuque, IA - Oct 25, 2010 - Author Anthony Wedgeworth announces the release of book three in his six book fantasy series, Altered Creatures: Essence of Gluic.

War is pending as Bakalor, the Demon of the underworld, sends his minions out to ensure total destruction of all those who live above ground in the sun. His plan to resurface and rule the world is nearing the final stages as he tricks land dwelling leaders into a war that will cause them to wipe each other off the face of the earth. Ergrauth, the demon of the Del'Unday, leads his army of Altered Creatures to the final battle in order to capture the world before Bakalor claims it for himself. Unknown to the underworld demon, Ergrauth has no plans to share in his bounty.

Learning of the pending war plans, young Thorik Dain struggles to prevent the war from occurring in the first place, pulling him from his primary mission of saving his family and friends. Unaware that he is being used as a pawn by the powerful leaders and demons of Terra Australis, Thorik's desire to return his family to the safety of their small village inadvertently puts his life, as well as the lives of everyone who is trying to help him, in danger.

Follow Thorik Dain on his exciting adventures through a new unexplored land as he
comes face to face with dragons, giants, overwhelming magic, altered beasts, battle-risen undead, and even deceivers amongst his closest allies. Weighing upon Thorik's shoulders is his uncle's desire to control him, his mentor's obsession to vanquish a new rising leader, and Thorik's own internal demons of self-doubt. The land's destiny is in Thorik's hands, while his confidence and conviction to his beliefs will define his own fate.
About the book:

Altered Creatures: Essence of Gluic by Anthony Wedgeworth
ISBN: 978-0578063379
Publisher: Anthony G. Wedgeworth
Date of publish: August 29, 2010
Pages: 296
S.R.P.: $19.96

About the author:

Anthony Wedgeworth's character-driven groundbreaking epic fantasy evolved from 30 years of notes he made about this journey. Conceived from all of the travels he had as a youth, he took notes about the various cultures and terrain. Moving every 3 to 18 months, his father moved the family all over the world, including a stint in Madagascar, Africa which was still very tribal in culture at the time.

Wedgeworth grew up with severe dyslexia, causing him to fight his way through most classes, making him a stronger person and more resilient to challenges in life. Overcoming his learning disability, he worked that much harder and eventually became vice president of engineering at a major corporation as well as an owner of various companies. After receiving awards for several of his short stories, he knew it was time to finally write his long-awaited novels. Today, when he isn't writing in his Iowan home near the upper Mississippi River bluffs, he speaks at local schools to encourage children to overcome their challenges regardless of what it is.

Education Myths, by Jay P. Greene

Education Myths: What Special Interest Groups Want You to Believe About Our Schools--And Why It Isn't So
Ok, I gotta admit that I wasn't able to finish this book. Its author is an incredibly good statistician...and an incredibly poor writer. There's nothing wrong with his punctuation or grammatical skills, it's just that he displays no ability to make his material interesting enough to hold my attention.

Here are a couple of quotes from the book that I found interesting, however:

"A review of studies...found that teachers holding master's degrees did not produce higher student performance (except for high school teachers with master's degrees in the subjects they taught, as opposed to degrees in education) and that among new teachers traditional certification makes no difference in student performance."

"...a large study of Teach for America, which lets recent college graduates become teachers without obtaining traditional credentials. They found that in one year, students taught by nontraditionally credentialled teachers made significantly greater gains in math (equivalent to an extra month of instruction) and kept pace in reading gains."

If you're looking for a really good statistics-based study of what's working and not working in the US educational system, this is it. If you want something more than that, try another author.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century by William H. Patterson

Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century: Volume 1 (1907-1948): Learning CurveI'd have to say that this is the definitive biography of Heinlein, except that it's not, quite...there's still another volume to come. It's already the kind of massive tome you can bludgeon an armed intruder with. Patterson had full access to the Heinlein archives and a lot of help from his widow, Virginia, other family members and acquaintances. Most of Heinlein's actual friends have passed on by now, so they didn't provide a lot of input.

One of the fun things about reading this book is getting little glimpses and hints of where Heinlein came up with the inspiration for his characters, plots and themes. One of the things that's perhaps not so fun is wading through the incredible amount of detail, including his personal and professional correspondence, unclassified work he did for the Department of the Navy during WWII, and the amount of rent he paid for each place he lived.

The book takes us from his birth in 1907 to his marriage to Virginia (Ticky) in 1948. I hadn't known a whole lot about his first wife...or second wife...before I read this. The second wife, Leslyn, comes off as a real cast-iron bitch, with serious psychological problems and an alcohol addiction. I have to wonder if this impression isn't colored by how Virginia felt about her.

I also hadn't realized that he'd been so active in the Democratic Party in the 30s, running campaigns for other candidates, and even running for office in California, himself. His political beliefs were an interesting smorgasbord, not exactly what I expected from having read all his novels, and they may indeed have evolved somewhat over time to something I'd recognize as distinctly Heinlein.

I was also somewhat surprised to see how bad his health was. I knew that he'd had a medical discharge from the Navy not too long after being commissioned as an officer, but hadn't realized that he continually suffered from a number of ailments, and writing was one of the few professions that was physically undemanding enough for him to pursue. We might never have known of his vast storytelling talents had he not been forced to retire from a more active career.

Heinlein seemed from this history to run with a very bohemian, bon vivant sort of crowd. Patterson describes him several times as being very spiritual, but he wasn't - in the religious sense. He'd pretty well rejected formal Judeo Christian religion quite young, and experimented with anything else that came his way. Leslyn, herself, was a practitioner of ritual magic, and used it to ward their home from bad spirits, especially one that like to "come up from the basement".

His life is a veritable Who's Who of science fiction authors and fandom. Asimov was a protege, Ackerman a persistent gadfly in his social circle. L. Ron Hubbard (of later Scientology fame) was a frequent guest in the Heinlein home. Willy Ley was a close friend until he started promoting Werner Von Braun (a Nazi and member of the SS) in the U.S. Every social gathering mentioned in the book was full of authors' names I recognized from the Golden Days of SF. I wonder why they call them the Golden Days, as there's a ton more SF on the market and far greater opportunities today for authors than ever?

Anyway, I'm not sure whether I'm looking forward to Volume 2 or not. I'm sure it will contain a ton of great information about my favorite author, but it's gonna be a major time investment to winnow through the chaff. Serious R.A.H fanz, go for it!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Book Blogger Hop - October 22 to 25

Book Blogger Hop
Time for the Book Blogger Hop, hosted by Jennifer at Crazy for Books.
This week's question:
"Where is your favorite place to read? Curled up on the sofa, in bed, in the garden?"
My favorite place to read is in the bathtub.

61 Hours by Lee Child

61 Hours: A Reacher Novel (Reacher Series)I've really enjoyed Lee Child's Jack Reacher novels over the years, beginning with The Killing Floor. Reacher is a former CO of an Army MP branch, who made the decision on leaving the service to become rootless, owning nothing more than the clothes on his back, and with no fixed address, wandering at whim throughout the U.S. Various places where he stops provide the settings for the novels, when Reacher encounters some group of bad guys whom only he has the power to stop. A combination of his investigative instincts and his incredible physical strength and combat training always seems to overcome the odds.

In 61 Hours, Reacher is stranded in midwinter in the small town of Bolton, South Dakota when a tour bus he is riding on slides off the road. A gang of bikers has taken over an old military installation west of town, and has evidently been manufacturing and selling methamphetamine. One of the locals witnessed a drug deal taking place, and the biker involved is in a nearby prison. The police force suspects that someone will be dispatched to kill the witness, and they're faced with the problem of trying to provide 24 hour protection for her, while constrained by an agreement with the nearby federal prison that all of the police force will respond to either a riot in or escape from the prison, which would leave her unprotected, if it happens. When Reacher arrives, the local chief of police and his deputy ask for help.

There is, indeed, a conspiracy in place to remove the inconvenient witness, and at the far end of the spider's web, tugging at the strings, is a Mexican drug lord, Plato. Interspersed through the story, Child has included scenes at Plato's compound that are truly delightful in their depiction of a totally ruthless and amoral criminal. Plato is vertically challenged, only 4'1", and when one of his associates called him a midget, he had him drugged, taken to a local hospital, and his legs sawn off at exactly 4'10" from the top of his head, then sent the family the man's legs, in a fish tank full of formaldehyde. He likes to stake out people who steal from him in the desert with a manacle around one leg, a hatchet nearby, presenting them with the choice of death by exposure, or chopping off their own leg to survive. He laments the fact that his kitchen staff fears and bows down to him at one point, musing to himself that he hasn't harmed any of them, and they have no idea about the graves of their predecessors that are located in the back yard. A wonderful villain!


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Lodestar by Michael Flynn

Lodestar (Firestar Saga)Well, it's a little difficult to drop in right in the middle of a series and review that book, without saying a bit about the earlier books. Lodestar is the third in a series of four books by Flynn, beginning with Firestar, continued in Rogue Star, and ending in Falling Stars. The central figure in all of the books is Mariesa Van Huyten, the heiress to a large fortune and CEO of a rather large industrial conglomerate. When Mariesa was young, she saw a falling star streaking through the sky, and had an epiphany which terrified her. What if an asteroid of considerable size were to strike the Earth. The disaster which would unfold must somehow be prevented. When she comes of age, she determines to bend all of the efforts of her family's companies to getting the world back into space on a sustained basis, and establishing an asteroid shield of some sort.

With that goal in mind, we have a lovely time through the first two books watching as Mariesa and the people who work for and with her fight the good fight against bureaucracy, apathy and ignorance to get SSTOs running, space stations built, and make the whole thing commercially self-supporting. Anyone who's read much SF has seen the scenario a million times, but Flynn tells an engrossing tale - kinda like Tom Clancy without guns - very detail oriented.

So, by the time we get to LodeStar, there are shuttles going back and forth to a commercial space station in Low Earth Orbit. Mariesa has lost control of her company, but still weilds some power behind the scenes. Her cousin Chris is now CEO, and his son, Adam, has apparently betrayed or sabotaged their long term plans by selling his shares of company stock to a competitor, who now controls the space station.

In this book, the major action takes place in cyberspace, rather than outer space. Adam, it turns out, didn't knowlingly or willingly sell out the company, and the trail to find the real bad guys leads through virtual reality. So, a character who played a bit part in the earlier novels, Jimmy Poole, of Poole ESecurity, really gets developed and struts his stuff. Revenge of the Geeks, eh?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Caliphate by Tom Kratman

Kratman often writes with John Ringo, whom I really like, so I thought I'd give one of his solos a try. He's created a future about 75 years from now, which isn't all that unimagineable. In the 21st century, Islamic extremists succeed in smuggling nuclear weapons into several major U.S. cities, destroying three of them completely. The U.S. reaction is at first somewhat muted, as they recover and regroup, but eventually the enraged populace elects a man to the presidency who makes some radical changes to foreign and domestic policy.

When this new president feels confident he can carry out his plans, he goes after the core Islamic countries at first, wiping out, basically, all of the Middle East. By this time muslim immigration to Europe has basically replaced the old population, and sharia law is in effect there, leaving old Europeans in a condition of dhimmitude under The Caliphate. The U.S. continues to eradicate all vestiges of Islam around the world, and when this story begins, they are in the process of wiping out or deporting all of the Moros from the Philippines.

Two of the (I hesitate to call them heroes) protagonists in the book are Hans and Petra, "christians" of old European stock. As children, they are seized from their family when they are unable to pay the jizya (tax), and Hans is sent to be trained as a Janissary, while Petra at first is a household slave, companion to a young Muslim girl, Besma. Later, Besma's stepmother, to gain power in the household, encourages her son and his friends to rape Petra, and she is judged guilty of "enticing" the boys (as a woman's testimony is only worth half that of a man's in Islamic law) and is sold into prostitution ...oh that's right...temporary marriages performed by mullahs.

The other protagonist is an American soldier, John Hamilton, who has just finished the campaign against the Moros. He gets recruited into a Central Intelligence operation in Germany, where three scientists are suspected to be working on a deadly virus which the Caliphate will use to attack the United States. The paths of the three protagonists intersect when Hans is assigned to the unit guarding the facility, Petra is sent to the "comfort facilities" nearby, and Hamilton poses as a South African slave dealer to get to the scientists and destroy their work.

Interwoven into the middle of the stories of Petra, Hans and John, there is the tale that gradually unfolds from the pages of Petra's grandmother, Gabi's, diary. Gabi is a European progressive who believes above all in the virtues of tolerance and acceptance, except when it comes to Americans and their war-mongering, evidently. She doesn't really come to her senses until the Caliphate is nearly established, when her own daughter is raped and mutilated for failing to wear the hijab required by sharia law. This part of the tale allows the readers to understand how Europe could succumb to Islam, gradually.

This is definitely not a book for the squeamish. Graphic sex, graphic violence, graphic everything. Kratman's premise is scary, and controversial. Read at your own risk.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Lightpaths by Howard V. Hendrix

The blurb on the back cover says "if Heinlein had grown up reading William Gibson, this is the sort of thing he would have written..." I beg your humble pardon, but Heinlein was a master of his craft, not to be dragged down by comparison with a newly emerged garnet-in-the-rough author who took seven years to complete his first novel. Hendrix begins philosophical maunderings and political digressions within the first twenty pages, long before we've gotten a chance to empathize or identify with his characters, much less have a clue where this senseless display of vain erudition is going.

Finally gave up, only slightly confused and demoralized.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Press Release - Oracle's Legacy by R.B. Holbrook

***I just received this press release today, and I'm waiting on a review copy of the book, so I'll let everyone know my honest opinion of the book as soon as possible.***

Oracle's Legacy: Children of SunR.B. Holbrook Brings Fiery Conclusion to Sci-Fi Trilogy -Oracle's Legacy: Dawn of Illumination Volume Three

North Carolina author R.B. Holbrook announced the release of Dawn of Illumination Volume Three of the epic Oracle's Legacy.

Garner, NC, October 18, 2010 - Oracle's Legacy is an inventive story about a secret civilization known as 'The Structure', which was formed in approximately 6000 BC in order to create its own tiered system of enlightenment for its inhabitants that live alongside humans.

The Structure's society is comprised of seven Houses that chase after enlightenment by achieving various levels of growth in a disclosed attempt to understand the nature of energy in modern day times. Unique tattoo-like 'energy seals' display each level as citizens face life challenges, battles, death and re-embodiment.

Andrew Ian Dodge, celebrated science fiction author of The Gathering Dark and other tales: A Sage of Wales Collection and other literary works said, ""If you are the type who likes your novels complicated and multi-layered then this would be apt for you...the patience will be rewarded."

Oracle's Legacy: Dawn of Illumination brings the trilogy to a fiery conclusion as the book opens with Ollie and Creed storming a Moon facility ultimately destroying the base. During their constant fight with Moon, Ollie loses control of her powers causing massive destruction to everything around her.

The only one who can stop her is Augustus Granger. Granger plays a key role as Ollie's love interest and has a world to organize before Moon or the Pillars destroy it. Ollie experiences weakness and enlightenment as she battles throughout the book to take down Moon and the Pillars to help protect the world.

R.B. Holbrook is thrilled to bring a dramatic end to her science fiction trilogy with Oracle's Legacy: Dawn of Illumination. The author said, "The three years with Oracle's Legacy has been an awesome ride. Although it is still fresh in my mind and will always be a part of me, I have already begun writing a new fantasy series." She refuses to reveal any more information about series. Readers will just need to wait.

About the book:
Oracle's Legacy: Dawn of Illumination Volume Three by R.B. Holbrook
ISBN: 978-0557240678
Date of publish: Oct 18, 2010
Pages: 456
S.R.P.: $24.00

About the author:
Author R.B. Holbrook resides in North Carolina and after earning her Master's Degree, she pursued a career in writing. Oracle's Legacy is her first science fiction trilogy.

Dead in the Family by Charlaine Harris

Dead in the Family (Sookie Stackhouse, Book 10)
I can hardly believe this is the first Charlane Harris book I've reviewed here, but I pretty much read everything of hers I could get my hands on a couple of years ago, and this is her most recent Sookie Stackhouse novel, so the timing on when I started my blog might have kept her from appearing sooner.

I think I waited too long for this one to come in on request at my local library, and I probably should have bit the bullet and bought it to read sooner. I was really struggling trying to remember what had gone before in the series. Perhaps I'm going to have to perform a reboot and work my way through the series again, like I do with the Anita Blake and Dresden Files, and Honor Harrington, and... There used to be a fairly common preface in book series that got people caught up, but I think the custom has faded with time.

Sookie just has way too much on her plate, and too many plates to keep spinning some days. Her friend, Bill, is still suffering from silver poisoning from a Faerie bite. The were community is facing some new legislation that will require them to register as shifters, so the government can keep track of them (shades of Jewish persecution here, perhaps?). Her vamp boyfriend, Eric, is being targeted by one of the Vegas vampires who wants to take over his territory. Her witch-y friend, Amanda, is moving out of Sookie's house, while her faerie cousin, Claude, wants to move in. The FBI is trying to pin some crime, any crime, on her. Eric's maker and Master shows up unexpectedly, with a hopelessly insane "sibling" to deal with. Half her friends are pregnant, and the other half seem to be getting married. This book is very full of plots and sub-plots.

I need a scorecard.

If you've been following Sookie closely, you're going to love this one, as it wraps up a few of the story elements neatly, but still leaves plenty of good supernatural plots open for her next book.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Book Blogger Hop - Oct 15 to 18

Book Blogger Hop
Jennifer at Crazy for Books brings us the book blogger hop again.
This week's question:
"When you read a book that you just can't get into, do you stick it out and keep reading or move to your next title?"

My answer:
When I realize I'm not getting into the book, or don't care what happens to the characters any more, I drop it like a hot potato. There are far too many books that are waiting to be read! In my review, I'll tell you I didn't finish it, and the reason why.

Ha'Penny by Jo Walton

Inspector Carmichael is back in another mystery by Jo Walton, set in the world of the Farthing Peace. I had wondered which characters Walton was going to bring back in this novel, and was delighted to find the Inspector, though most of the characters from Farthing are only mentioned in passing here.

A bomb has exploded at the home of actress Lauria Gilmore, killing her and a companion. Carmichael and Royston are called in to investigate, and their path rapidly grows obscure as they try to figure out exactly who was killed with Gilmore, and why an actress, of all sorts, would be involved in a bombing.

Again, Walton splits the story into two narratives. The other protagonist is Viola Lark, another actress who has given up her family inheritance in order to pursue her stage career. She is cast as Hamlet in a cross-casting version of the Shakespearian play, in which Gilmore had already been cast. Walton does a good job, I believe, of distinguishing Viola's "voice" from that of her earlier character. She's not nearly as bubbly, nor witty, although there are some similarities, as both Viola and Lucy are born to the nobility, and have given up their privileges, though for different reasons.

While Lucy was innocent of any wrongdoing, Viola is a reluctant participant in the conspiracy that surrounds Gilmore's death. One of her sisters, Cressida, is a communist, and she drags Viola into the plot to kill Prime Minister Normanby and Hitler, together, on a visit by the Fuhrer to England, when he attends opening night of Hamlet.

As Inspector Carmichael and his sidekick, Seargant Royston, work their way through finding the details of the conspiracy and the conspirators, Viola slowly discovers the truth about the Reich and eventually becomes a willing accessory to murder and treason.

As in the first novel, things don't work out the way I had hoped they might, and I was a little upset about the way things ended. It does, however, make me hungry for the sequel, so I can find out how everything resolves...if it's the last one.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey

Kushiel's Dart
Note: This book is for mature audiences only. The review, however, is pretty much PG rated.

Was running a little short on reading material from the public library the other night, so I decided to re-read one of my favorites.

I guess this book falls somewhere between the categories of historical fantasy and alternative history. The story takes place in the country called Terre d'Ange, where today we would find France. The place and character names are liberally laced with French sounding words. The myth behind this world is that when Christ (Yeshua) died, Mary Magdalene wept over his body, and from her tears and his blood Mother Earth bore a son, an angel called Elua. Elua wandered the world with a dozen companion angels, but spent most of their time in Terre d'Ange, where they interbred with humans and bore the races that live there in the story. The surrounding countries also have had their names changed to protect the innocent, such as Alba (England), Aragon (Spain), Caerdicci (Italy), and so forth.

One of Elua's companions was Namaah, a female angel. During their travels, she would offer her body in exchange for support of one type or another. Her self-sacrificing behavior make her a patron saint, of sorts, to the d'Angelines, as Elua's last command to them before leaving for a higher plane was "love as thou wilt." In Terre d'Ange, courtesans of both sexes are indentured to one of the thirteen houses of the Night Court, and are highly trained and valued, performing their services for patrons until they have paid back their indenture price, and after that are free to love as they will.

In this setting, which is far more richly detailed by Carey than I have been able to share with you here, our heroine is a girl named Phedre, sold by her mother to the House of Cereus at the age of four. She is raised and educated in all the courtly arts by them until she is ten, when her indenture is sold to Anafiel Delaunay. Phedre was born with a scarlet "flaw" in her eye, which the adepts of Cereus scorn her for, but Delaunay recognizes the mark for what it is, the sign of Kushiel's Dart. Kushiel is one of the angelic companions of Elua, concerned with punishment, and his mark brands Phedre as an anguissette, an extremely rare person for whom pain is transformed into sexual pleasure.

Delaunay's motives, however, are a bit more complex than simply "pimping" Phedre out to those patrons who have a taste for sexual sadism. He is somewhat of a spy master, and he trains Phedre and another indentured servant, Alcuin, in the nuances of history and politics, the art of observation and intelligence gathering, and the languages of several nearby countries. When they reach the age when they are allowed to enter the "service of Namaah," they begin to accept assignments with various patrons whom Delaunay hopes may have information regarding conspiracies against the ruling house of Terre d'Ange, to whom he is intensely loyal.

And thence begins the tale. The story of Phedre's journeys is an intense, emotional, and deeply moving one. It's got tons of intrigue, plot twists, villainy, heroism, and everything that makes a classic. Best of all, it's the first book in a trilogy, followed by Kushiel's Choice and Kushiel's Avatar.

I highly recommend this one to those who are not faint of heart.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Mean Streets, by Jim Butcher et. al.

Mean Streets
Actually, my wife picked up this collection of four novellas at Hastings when she was between books. She's a Harry Dresden fan, but I don't think she enjoyed the rest of the book all that much.

In The Warrior, Butcher gives us an out-take on Harry and his friend, Michael. Michael was injured to the point of not being able to continue as the holder of Amoracchius, the blessed sword, any more, in an earlier Dresden novel. Harry becomes aware that someone is threatening Michael and his family in order to take possession of the sword, of which Harry is the custodian.

When Harry confronts the culprit, the action goes about as one would expect, but there are some interesting revelations about the story arc, and about Harry's true place in the scheme of things - read God's Plan. A good vignette to fill in some details.

I'm not a big fan of the Nightside series by Simon Green, though I own and have read the first novel. Green, via Taylor, is trying to be just a little too smarmy and cute with his tales of the evil that lurks in the hearts of men and in the Nightside, but if you like this series, you'll probably enjoy the additional glimpses it offers into this world.

I do, however, love the Greywalker novels by Kat Richardson, and the short story included here about Harper Blaine's quest to place an odd dog statue on a man's grave in Mexico was definitely interesting. I don't know how much of the detail provided about the Mexican Day of the Dead was accurate, but if it was, it's another bit of trivia to tuck away in my brain. Harper's ability to talk with the dead comes in handy, and she ends up putting some old injustices right.

I'd never heard of Thomas E. Sniegosky before, but I may just have to pick up his Remy Chandler books and give them a try. Remy is a fallen angel who masquerades as a human private eye. He's dragged into investigating the murder of Noah (yes, that Noah) by a group of fallen angels called the Grigori, whom he is not all that fond of.

There's an interesting (highly heretical) retelling of the story of the biblical Flood here, and I found the entire premise amusing.

A good collection, all in all.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Isle of the Dead by Roger Zelazny

Isle of the Dead / Eye of the Cat
(Note: mine is a much older cover art) An old friend of mine mentioned in an email how much he'd been influenced by the writings of Heinlein over the years. I, too, assimilated much of Heinlein's philosophy, but was reminded when I re-read Isle of the Dead the other day about Zelazny's immense influence on my life, as well.

Isle of the Dead begins with musings on how life is like Tokyo Bay. All kinds of odd things wash up on the beach and may stay there for a while or be taken away. Sometimes, things which are taken away may return for a while, but mostly they're never seen again.

This has been true in my life, especially as it relates to old friends and acquaintances, but this sort of occurrence is magnified in the life of Francis Sandow, protagonist of Isle of the dead, a man who has lived for centuries and has outlived many old friends and old enemies. At the beginning of the book, Sandow becomes aware that someone may be resurrecting a select group of his old lovers, friends and enemies for unknown but probably nefarious purposes.

As Sandow investigates, pieces of the puzzle begin to fall into place. An enemy he never even met has brought his old flotsam back to the beach in order to force a confrontation. Sandow and his enemy, GrinGrin Tharl, are both worldmakers, and their final battle brings into play forces which can create or destroy planets.

This one is well worth reading - and re-reading.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Venom by Jennifer Estep

Venom (Elemental Assassin, Book 3)
The third in the Elemental Assassin series sure knows how to show a guy a good time! Gin Blanco is up to her usual murder and mayhem here. Jonah McAllister still suspects that Gin may have had something to do with the death of his son, and he enlists the aid of another of Mab Monroe's thugs, the giant Elliot Slater, to beat the truth out of her as this novel begins. Ironically, she is saved from being beaten to death by Slater and his giant goons by Monroe, herself, who can't believe that anyone would endure the type of beating they'd already delivered if she could say anything to make it stop.

Next, Gin finds out that Roslyn, the vampire madam of Northern Agression, is being stalked by Slater. As the story unfolds, we find out that he has a habit of choosing "girlfriends" whom he can intimidate, rape, and murder. His association with Monroe keeps him from being prosecuted for his transgressions.

A further twist is thrown into the web when detective Bria Coolidge comes to town to replace Gin's old flame, Donovan Caine. She's another crusader, and her gathering of information on Monroe's nefarious doings has put her on the list of Slater's targets. Bria also happens to be Gin's long-lost sister, whom she thought dead until recently. Gin needs to figure out how to deal with her sister, and how to break the news to her that Gin is alive, as well.

Her relationship with Owen Grayson is about to be taken to a new level, as well. At the beginning of the story, Gin isn't sure she wants to get involved with him, but agrees to a date...sometime. Grayson's dogged pursuit of her, and some interesting personal history of his own, however, force Gin to reveal more about herself, and become more vulnerable, than she'd intended.

Lots of good action, a good plot, and learning more about some of Gin's other friends make this a great read. Can't wait for Tangled Threads.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Book Blogger Hop - Oct 8-12

Book Blogger HopIt's time for the weekly Book Blogger Hop, hosted by Crazy for Books.

Today's question: What's your favorite beverage while reading or blogging, if any? Is it tea, coffee, water, a glass of wine, or something else?

My answer is exactly the same as Jennifer at Crazy for Books.

Coffee in the morning, water any other time of day.

Love and War by John and Stasi Eldredge

Love and War: Finding the Marriage You've Dreamed Of
I have a bad habit. Actually, I have a number of bad habits, but just one of them is relevant to this discussion. When I visit someone's home for the first time, I don't give a crap what's in their medicine cabinet. I'm headed straight for the bookshelves, to see what they've been reading, if there's anything there I need to put in my TBR list, and occasionally to pick up a book and glance through it.

Back in April, I was at my daughter and her husband's house in Utah, helping celebrate her birthday, when I noticed a book on the counter. I picked it up and started reading it one morning while I was having coffee, waiting for everyone else to wake up, and read about halfway through it.

This weekend, I went to my daughter's house again to help build a new patio, and when I was having trouble sleeping, due to the coffee ice cream I had just before bedtime, I picked up the book again and finished it off. I did the same thing with Twilight, beginning it in Portugal, and finishing a library copy in the U.S. when I got home, but the delay between the two readings was significantly less than the six month gap, so this review may be a little disjointed, as I can't exactly remember the details of the first half of Love and War.

I believe John and Stasi do marriage seminars, and this book reads a little bit like them tag-teaming at a seminar. Each chapter bounces back and forth between one of them writing, and the other. This is sometimes nice, because you get both the male and female perspective on an issue or situation that they've experienced in their own married lives, but you all know by now how I feel about multiple POV novels, so it can also break my concentration on a narrative.

The key theme in this book, which is written with a target audience of Christian couples, mostly, is that as couples, we are embarked on a great quest - a mission from God if you will - in the midst of a huge war, darkness vs. light, evil vs. good, Satan vs. God. Therefore, we shouldn't expect that things are always going to be peaches and cream, and that we're going to go through some struggles. We should remember, however, that God made us, in marriage, "one flesh" for His purpose and it is His Will that we soldier together through the battles. Of course, one of our enemy's goals is to tear us apart, to make us less effective.

One of the most convicting portions of this book, for me, was the chapter about praying together as a couple. I'm afraid my prayer life is all about flying solo. Couldn't even begin to tell you how long it's been since my wife and I prayed about something together. Etheredge lays out a number of scripture references that make it clear how much more powerful our prayers can be if we're in agreement with one another, and what better partner in prayer can one have than one's spouse? If you're married, and the answer to that is someone other than "spouse", I think there's a problem, don't you?

This book probably won't shake the foundations of your world or marriage, but it's got plenty of little insights that make it worth your time.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Henry Martyn by L. Neil Smith

Henry Martyn
While Browsing at Hastings one day, I saw a book by L. Neil Smith that looked like great swashbuckling piracy and adventure. However, it was the second in a series, which was nowhere apparent, so I had to wait until I was able to find the first book before I could buy it. Henry Martyn was that book.

Well, after reading somewhere between 75 and 100 pages, I realized that this one didn't live up to the expectations generated by the blurb on the back either. It seemed to be written in the space opera genre, but I just couldn't empathize with any of the characters and nothing exciting was happening, so I gave up. Maybe y'all will have better luck.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Slanted Jack by Mark L. Van Name

Slanted Jack
Slanted Jack is the second in the Jon & Lobo series, and picks up slightly after the first episode, One Jump Ahead. Jon is enjoying a leisurely gourmet meal in a spectacular setting on the planet of Mund, when he is joined by an old "friend", Slanted Jack. Jack and Jon used to work con games together, and Jack got his nickname because he was never able to do anything straight.

Jack has a sad story and a proposition for Jon. He's acquired a young ward, Manu, who is reputed to be a native of Pinkelponker, the blockaded world (where Jon was born) that was reputed to be the home of people with special abilities, especially psychic. Manu is a seer, and he suffers from a rare disease that requires expensive treatments, Jack relates. In order to get the money for these treatments, Jack wants to allow Dougat, the leader of a widespread cult that worships all things having to do with Pinkelponker, to interview Manu, a privelege that he is willing to pay dearly for.

Jack doesn't trust Dougat, however, to deal squarely with him, and he hopes to hire Jon to provide backup muscle in case things go wrong. Jon is tempted by the idea of helping the boy, and agrees to help Jack, even though he knows there's a scam in the works, somewhere.

Along the way to meet with Dougat, Jon is accosted by some thugs in the hire of Chaplat, a local gangster to whom Jack owes money, and after a tense meeting with Chaplat, agrees to "find" and bring Jack to him to pay his debts. The meeting itself goes horribly wrong, and Jack, Jon and Manu flee the scene. Along the way out of that mess, Jon has a meeting with a local EC (quasi -government/military force) commander who also has some interest in the situation, and convinces her that he can get Jack, Manu, as well as Chaplat and Dougat, into her clutches.

So Jon is triple-dealing, at least, and things get wild and wacky before all his scams play out. Another good read in the series, looking forward to the next.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Growing Up Weightless by John M. Ford

Once again, in my continuing search for new authors to read, I picked up a novel by Mr. Ford. Growing Up Weightless is vaguely reminiscent of Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and some of Allen Steele's near-Earth novels. The protagonist, Matt, is a teenager with far too much leisure time on his hands - spent hanging out at the lunar equivalent of the mall with his friends, playing RPGs on the omnipresent computer network and watching the spaceships (which he'd dearly love to run away on) land and take off from the spaceports.

Behind the tale of Matt and his friends endless pursuit of juvenile amusements, Ford hangs an elaborate tapestry of lunar life and culture. I'm a little perplexed by some of it, but perhaps he wrote some earlier novels in the same setting that might enlighten me when I get around to reading them. There's also some interesting political machinations and intrigue which Matt's father, Albin, is involved with. He's a member of the lunar council responsible for obtaining and managing precious and rare resource of water.

There's some conflict in the relationship between Matt and his father that never really gets explained, though. It nagged at me like a piece of popcorn stuck between my teeth throughout the novel. We see no evidence of abuse or of being overly controlling within the novel to cause Matt's attitude, so maybe it's merely hormonally driven paranoia.

Actually, there's a number of events that are never sufficiently explained, from my point of view. I wondered if the entire novel wasn't an out-take from one of his other works, merely telling a story already told from another point of view.

Worth reading, but not a landmark in the genre.

Monday, October 4, 2010

In the Name of Honor by Richard North Patterson

In the Name of HonorIn the Name of Honor begins with a murder, and becomes a bit of a mystery. Paul Terry is a lawyer with JAG, in the Army. The son of General McCarran, Army chief of staff, Brian, has shot a fellow officer, Joe Abruzzo, and killed him. Abruzzo's wife, Kate, grew up with the McCarran family, and is like an older sister to Brian, and the men had served together in Iraq. General McCarran requests that Terry be assigned to defend his son against murder charges, if a court martial is convened. Complicating Paul's job is Brian's sister, Meg, who is also a lawyer, and wants to be involved in her brother's defense.

Both men, it appears, are suffering from behavioral changes caused by PTSD, and I thought for a while this book might get overly political about the Iraq war, but Patterson managed to avoid getting preachy on the subject, although he did mention in the afterword that he hoped to call attention to the plight of veterans suffering from PTSD, who go largely untreated today. It also begins to leak out that Brian and Kate were having an affair, and that Joe knew about it. Joe's behavior had already become physically abusive towards Kate, and he'd threatened her life with a pistol. Brian had taken the pistol from the Abruzzo home to keep it away from Joe, and ended up killing Joe with it when Joe came to his apartment to confront him.

So, we've got this big complicated swirling mess, and Terry must do his job as a defense attorney and dig up all the facts and history he needs to successfully get Brian freed. Terry's job becomes even more complex when he and Meg become lovers, and he finds out more about her family's history through his relationship with her. There's a twist to the whole story which I picked up on right away, and kept waiting for the big reveal, which Patterson saves for the book's final pages.

A good solid read, vintage Patterson;.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Book Blogger Hop - Oct 1-4

Book Blogger HopIt's time for the Book Blogger Hop, hosted by Crazy for Books. This week's question is
 "How do you spread the word about your blog? (e.g. Social Networking sites, Book Blog Directories, comments on other blogs...)"
My answer:
Primarily, social networking sites. I post on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. I also have business cards that I can hand out to someone if we've had a discussion about a book, and I feel they might enjoy my review. I also have my blog's URL as a signature that automatically appends to any email I send. Participating in the Book Blogger Hop the last couple of months has brought the most traffic to my site, though, almost double what my efforts of the previous seven months brought. Thanks, Jennifer!

Farthing by Jo Walton

I saw some books by Jo Walton at the library one day, and thought to myself, "I haven't read anything by Walton in a while, perhaps I should check one of these out (literally and figuratively)." When I got home later on, I realized that I have nothing by Walton in my personal collection and so I've probably never read anything by Walton in the first place. An author I thought was an old one becomes new, Voila!

An alternate history mystery, how cool is that? A murder has been committed at the home of Lord Eversley, possibly by anarchists, bolsheviks, or Jews. In Walton's story, the historic twist that creates the background is that England decided on a course of appeasement rather than opposition to Hitler during WWII (which I suppose wouldn't have been a World War after all) and therefor were left alone by him while he conquered the rest of The Continent, although he's still trying to invade Russia as the novel unfolds.

Walton's tale is told from two points of view, a first person narrative by Lucy Kahn (nee Eversley), which is so bubbly as to nearly be stream of consciousness - oddly opposed to her actual habit of keeping her mouth firmly shut unless she has something of import to say - and a third person mode focusing on Inspector Carmichael, who, with his sidekick Seargent Royston, is investigating the murder of Sir James Thirkie at the Eversley manor.

Whoever murdered Sir James was either an idiot, crazy, or leaving a false trail of evidence to implicate "The Jews". Anti-semitism is alive and well in England, though it hasn't approached the level of persecution that Hitler's rule enforces, and most of the clues seem to point to Lucy's husband, David, a Jewish investment banker. We get to see the progress of the investigation through the eyes of Lucy, as she watches and listens to her high society friends and family (she's an outsider to much of this since her marriage to a Jew) and their reactions to Thirkie's death, and through the methodical prodding and steady analysis of Carmichael.

The turns of phrase in Walton's work are really delightful. A couple of examples:

"I keep him from being hurt, or to enclose him behind castle walls where nobody could reach him. Instead I had brought him here where he had to sit down and eat salmon in hollandaise sauce among his enemies."

"David said, very reasonably, 'I know you attribute supernatural powers to your mother sometimes, but seriously, how could she have? Unless she did it herself- and I have difficulty imagining her stabbing a friend.'
'That's because you haven't known Mummy very long. Besides, Sir James was an ally, not a friend. But you're right - her usual style is stabbing them in the back.'"

I was involved in a short discussion about reviewing books with a fellow blogger, and the subject of whether a positive review can turn negative if the review doesn't like the ending came up. I absolutely hated the way this book ends, and so you'd think this spoiled the book for me. However, it wasn't a badly written ending, and the ending followed quite naturally and logically from the rest of the story, so I have to still give the book good marks, over all. I'll even read the sequel.