Archive for August, 2008

This was quite a mixed bag!  I didn’t realise that it was part of a series involving the same detective, and it would perhaps be beneficial to read the prior books in the series, although this is by no means necessary in order to understand the plot.

The book is set in Cologne, where Hamburg Police Officer Jan Fabel has travelled in order to help the Cologne Police catch a serial killer – a man who attacks women during ‘Karneval’ an annual celebration when everyone lets their hair down, goes a little crazy and becomes someone else.  This killer has a curious predilection for the taste of human flesh, and is extremely dangerous, but a city in organised chaos is not an easy place to find him.

Unknown to Jan, a colleague of his, Maria Klee, has also travelled to Cologne in order to settle an old score with a hated enemy (the background to this is obviously contained in one of the earlier books, but it is easy to understand enough of what had happened for this part of the book to make sense).

A third party is also travelling to Cologne – a Ukranian team led by a Special Forces Commander, whose intention it is to take down a ruthlessly cruel crime boss.

Inevitably, all three threads of the story, which start out quite separately, converge.

There was a lot to enjoy in this book – several twists and turns, with many genuine surprises.  The plotting was very clever, and I would be interested to read prior books by this author.  I did feel that it may have benefited from being perhaps a third shorter, but that is a minor gripe.  Overall, an enjoyable book, which I would particularly recommend to fans of Dean Koontz and other similar writers.

(I’d like to thank BCF Reviews for sending me this book to review.  BCF Reviews blog can be found here.  Craig Russell’s website can be found here.)

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This is a very moving story which made me feel angry and sad while I was reading it.

The book is narrated by Chief Bromden, a patient at a mental institution.  He is believed by staff and fellow patients to be deaf and dumb, but the truth (as we find out on page one) is that he is not, and is therefore perhaps more aware of what is going on around him some of the other patients.

Nurse Ratched rules her ward in the institution with a system of fear and intimidation.  Her coldness and cruelty is very apparent early on in the story. Such is her reign of fear that none of the inmates dare stand up to her.  Even the ward Doctor – her superior – is terrified of defying her.

Into this regime comes Randle P McMurphy, criminal, gambler and unlikely hero.  McMurphy has chosen to come to the institution in lieu of serving a custodial sentence on a work farm.  He believes that it will be a breeze, and expects almost a holiday camp.  As he finds out, the reality is very different.  He is shocked, not only by the nurse’s treatment of the patients, but by the way they just accept it.

McMurphy encourages to the men to start thinking for themselves, but this is something which does not go down at all well with the nurse, and her effort to maintain control over the patients leads to a drastic conclusion.

The characterization in this book is excellent.  It was clever on the part of the author to make McMurphy a not altogether likable man – it would have been too easy to turn him into a classic hero; instead we have a man who rebels against authority, is a known criminal, and encourages others to act out (albeit for their own good).  Nurse Ratched is a hateful character, although sadly, all too believable.  Her pleasure in intimidating the patients, and her frustration at finding someone who is not scared of her, is almost palpable.  Chief Bromden is also vividly portrayed – unsurprisingly, as the book is told from his point of view.

Well written, touching and even funny at times, this is a book I wish I had read a long time ago, and certainly intend to read again in the future.  I would also recommend watching the film adaptation, starring Jack Nicholson as McMurphy.

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This is the fourth book in the Inspector Montalbano series.  As with all of the others, I enjoyed it very much, although it does slightly feel like more of the same.  The books are pretty formulaic, but that does not in any way detract from the pleasure of reading them.  

In this book, Montalbano investigates the violent murder of a beautiful woman. There appear to be many possible suspects for the murder, and as always, Montalbano manages to upset his superiors, his colleagues and even his girlfriend, the long suffering Livia, during the course of his investigations.  Things of course, are not what they initially seem, and it is up to Montalbano to find his way through the web of lies, and get to the truth of the matter.  In the meantime, there are problems in his personal life, where events do not unfold as Montalbano and Livia had hoped.

By this point in the series, the characters of Montalbano and his colleagues are all familiar to us, and therefore not a lot of time is spent on developing them (there’s no need to spend time doing this).

All in all, a very good read, with plenty of Montalbano’s trademark caustic wit and grumpiness, and lots of the lovely Sicilian foods of which he is so fond.

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This book tells the story of the Rubin family, a well respected Jewish family headed up by the matriarch, Claudia Rubin, Rabbi, author and minor celebrity.

Outwardly, life appears to be terrific for the Rubins, but on the wedding day of Leo, the eldest son, Leo bolts, and runs away with another Rabbi’s wife.  This event is the catalyst for the disintegration of the entire family.

Norman, Claudia’s patient husband has secrets of his own, which he is desperate to ensure she will not discover, even though he knows that one day, she inevitably will. Frances, the eldest daughter has her own anguishes and worries, and ponders how she can find her way to happiness.  The youngest two children, Simeon and Emily, are both completely selfish and entirely dependent on their mother, although in her eyes, they can do no wrong.

This is a well written story of a family in crisis; the characters are entirely believable, and the situations which occur are very easy to visualise.  Claudia Rubin herself actually struck me as an extremely dislikeable character – selfish, and happy to deny her elder children and husband their happiness for the sake of appearances.  Simeon and Emily are very irritating, and I found myself hoping for their come-uppance.  It is interesting however that they are the only two members of the family whose point of view we never see.

Based on this book, I would definitely want to read more by this author.

(Author’s website can be found here.)

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This is a very funny book, which dog lovers especially would enjoy.

Blake, the cross-breed ‘author’ shares his diary with us, which involves romancing other dogs in the park, constantly thinking up new ways to cause mischief and most importantly, taking on the park bully, a pit-bull called Razor. It made me laugh out loud on several occasions – it may be not be a book to make you think too hard, and it won’t change your life, but it will certainly make for a hugely enjoyable read!

Blake truly has a personality (dogality?) of his own – this will come as no surprise to any dog owners – and all of his four legged friends have their distinct personalities too.  Life through Blake’s eyes casts a hilarious light on many situations which will be familiar to humans.

Definitely recommended!

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