Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Steady Running of the Hour: A Novel by Justin Go

The Steady Running of the Hour: A Novel.  Justin Go. Simon & Schuster. April 2014. 480 pp.  ISBN#: 9781476704586.

An American citizen, Tristan Campbell, receives a summons to the law office of an attorney in London, England.  It involves a mysterious inheritance that must remain a secret.  The entire inheritance will be Tristan’s if he can find paper proof of his grandmother, Imogen Soames-Andersson, in only seven weeks.  It sounds like an easy job except that no one has heard of Imogen for years; indeed there is some sort of mystery about the marriage of Imogen to the once famous mountain climber, Ashley Walsingham.  So the quest begins!

The novel moves back and forth between Tristan’s search (eighty years after the life of Ashley and Imogen) and Ashley’s experiences as a mountain climber, soldier in WWI, the lover and husband of Imogen, and then as a mountain climber again.  Tristan and Ashley could not be more different if they tried.  Tristan remains very quiet and unbelievably, solidly methodical, considering what the outcome could be.    He travels from London to Europe researching paper trails for Imogen and her sister Eleanor. The trail is fascinating as Eleanor was an artist of some talent and assumed more of a motherly role to her sister.  Imogen is mentioned here and there by name only so it is Eleanor who is the link to provide the full story of the turbulent love story of Imogen and Ashley. Tristan then goes to the places where these sisters and Ashley Walsingham actually lived.

Ashley is truly the most powerful figure in this novel.  He is a talented, intelligent man who has a chiefly unruly and daring spark to his personality that endears him to both Imogen and his fellow mountain-climbing and military peers.  Imogen will try to make him choose between her and the war, but Ashley’s sense of patriotic duty exceeds even his deep, deep feelings for her.  One wonders what lies ahead for these star-crossed lovers who cannot live without each other.

Justin Go’s writing talents clearly excel in the way he provides descriptions of the stark brutality of the war as well as the incessant tension present in the mountain climbing experiences of these characters, undaunted by innumerable, formidable obstacles to success.  Add to that a heightened sensitivity and perception that every character in this novel possesses and one has the perfect combination for a phenomenal read. This is historical fiction depicting a side of cultural history rarely exposed to the public.  There’s something for everyone herein, adventure to romance to mystery to warfare, et al.  Fascinating, literate fiction crafted by a talented writer!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Never Never Sisters by L. Alison Heller

The Never Never Sisters.  L. Alison Heller. New American Library. June 2014. 352 pp.  ISBN#: 9780451416247.

Dave Reinhardt has been told to stay home from work until a storm in his company blows over. His wife, Paige, a marriage counselor, is totally unaware of the trouble brewing in her own marriage; instead she worries about Dave’s lack of communication and unstable emotional condition.  Paige wonders if this is another Bernie Madoff scandal in Dave’s company about to become public, with accompanying arrests and public denouncement a la media, which love a scandal that will guarantee comments galore.  Even if all is well, the implied crimes in the financial world just about guarantees the end of a bright, successful career.  But Dave is silent, shutting his door and shutting Paige out of whatever darkness may or may not exist in his career and thus perhaps their marriage.

Meanwhile, Paige’s sister, Sloane, has just reappeared after a twenty year absence.  Once a troubled addict and trouble-maker, Sloane has changed substantially, arriving with a fiancĂ© and other friend but still dripping sarcasm or total boredom when with her mother, Vanessa.  As the novel progresses, Paige comes across her mother’s journals, written on the express direction of their therapist and which prove to be amazing revelations that belie the confident, assertive woman Paige knows.

Paige is also presently working with a couple who state they want to stay together and work on their marriage but whose body language, cancellations, and lack of response to direct or indirect questions indicates otherwise.  She finally realizes something about how troubled marriages can begin to work to renew their relationship but her advice in her own life isn’t proving to be as easily attainable!

Just how far will Paige go to finally discover what is really going on in Dave’s work world?  Do her acts indicate a lack of trust that could completely demolish the fragile state of their connection right now? Why is Sloane visiting and can Paige reestablish what was once a normal sisterly relationship?  They have more in common than either initially realizes.

The Never Never Sisters is a captivating read with enough complexity, wit and secret surprises to keep the reader flipping the pages to discover more.  L. Alison Heller shows a remarkable perception about people that is the highlight of this novel, moving the reader through issues that every reader recognizes to some extent!  Very nicely crafted story, L. Alison Heller!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Terminal City: A Novel by Linda Fairstein

Terminal City: A Novel.  Linda Fairstein. Dutton Adult. June 2014. 384 pp. pbk. ISBN #: 9780525953884.

Assistant District Attorney Alex Cooper is called to the scene of another horrific murder.  This time the victim is a young woman who was obviously raped and knifed by a vicious killer.  One odd piece of evidence remains; a carving on the woman’s body that looks like a precisely carved ladder.  Add to this that the murder took place in the famous Waldorf Astoria, the notable hotel in which the President of the United States is to be a resident in a few days. 

Hundreds of videos need to be screened, dozens and dozens need to be interviewed, and of course relatives need to be notified.  Mercer and Mike are among others required to find the killer before POTUS arrives in three days.

Meanwhile, what seemed to be a unique crime is followed by other murders, each with the singular carving of what appears to be a ladder. A few days later while searching for anyone who would have seen someone carrying a large case into the hotel, the mystery becomes more complex.  An underground city exists with residents who are homeless but who feel safe in this putrid, filthy place with its caves and rules and regulations.

So the search continues. A mystery also concerns Mike who had taken a three month leave of absence and is now lying to Coop (Alex Cooper) for her own safety, supposedly. She’s not quite buying it!

Terminal City: A Novel is a fast-moving, intriguing criminal mystery that will satisfy readers who like this genre as well as new readers.  Linda Fairstein knows how to pace the tension and clues, while adding many funny moments to deflect the horror of the crimes that rear their heads during the investigation.  Nicely done, Linda Fairstein! 

The Book of Life: All Souls Trilogy - Book 3 - by Deborah Harkness

The Book of Life: All Souls Trilogy – Book 3.  Deborah Harkness. Viking: Penguin Group (USA). July 2014. 576 pp.  ISBN#: 9780670025593.

Diana Bishop, witch and historical scholar, is now wed to the vampire and scientist, Matthew Clairmont; together they are seeking to discover several scientific facts about their DNA.  For Matthew seeks to understand the composition of his “blood rage,” Diana seeks to learn more about the “weaving” skills she possesses that seriously affect the magic she is learning to control in her magic; and finally they seek the missing pages of the magical alchemical book Ashmole 782, which is “The Book of Life.”

These major characters are assisted by a covey of witches from New York, thwarted by Matthew’s evil son, Benjamin, and assisted by other scientists who are human, vampire, and members of the Congregation of Witches.  This is normally a highly unlikely union as vampires and witches are usually highly suspicious of each other and are more enemies than colleagues.  Add to the intense tension arising from Matthew and Diana’s reappearance from the 1500s to the present the fact that Diana is now pregnant with twins.  Will they be vampire, witch or human?  Will they possess the devastatingly destructive blood rage that Matthew has learned to control?  How will the virulent enmity of Matthew’s son and the orders of the leader of Matthew’s family affect Matthew and Diana’s relationship?

Ashmole 782 is the quest and the reader will be stunned by the gradually revealed truths about the composition of this book of magic and the reasons why many characters will do anything to find the missing pages and thus gain possession and power of the ancient tome!

The Book of Life… is carefully plotted, with tender and endearing moments of passion and love between Matthew and Diana; beautiful descriptions of several pivotal places, scenes of fierce conflict in which the battles increase the closer the characters come to the answers to each mystery they seek to solve, and detailed scenes involving the skilled analysis of DNA common, yet unique, to the witches and vampires in this quest.  While this may annoy some readers, it is actually quite necessary to provide credibility to the rest of the mystery of the main characters and the Book of Life.

Deborah Harkness is a skilled writer who has crafted a very different trilogy of novels that educates the reader about witches and vampires, avoids the stereotypical treatment of this topic, and succeeds in presenting an intelligent, albeit fictional, treatment of some historical realities about witches and vampires.  It’s quite an achievement and not for those who want a light read.  The Book of Life is fiction about the paranormal, history, science, romance, the supernatural and more, a noteworthy and memorable read! This is highly recommended, fiction written by an author who knows how to develop and embellish a great story!

Eden in Winter by Richard North Patterson

Eden in Winter.  Richard North Patterson. Quercus Publishing PLC. July 2014. 620 pp.  ISBN#: 9781623651473.

Richard North Patterson concludes his trilogy in Eden in Winter, preceded by Fall From Grace and Loss of Innocence. Adam Blaine is on leave from his CIA job after the death of his father, Ben.  There was no love lost between the two but Adam takes on the task of making sure that the real murderer of his father is cleared from guilt at the inquest into his father’s death.  In reality, almost everyone in the family wanted Ben dead, so acrimonious were their relationships to the family patriarch.
This is the story of Adam’s illegal activities to clear a family member, a connection to his father’s mistress who is now carrying his father’s child, and some very long conversations with a family friend/psychotherapist who attempts to help Adam purge his memories of the repression that has turned him into an emotionless man who steers clear of all feelings and emotional connection with family and friends.  It goes back many years and Adam tells it all one session at a time, prodded by his therapist and told in a strange way devoid of all emotional expression.  This is the only part of the novel that lacks credibility to some extent, not the telling but the inanimate manner of verbalizing the long-withheld poisons that leave Adam in a perilous condition most of the time in his job as well as with his family.

Adam returns to Afghanistan and the reader gets to travel with him in his ever-changing missions, one in particular ironically involving the American POW who has just been released after being kept a prisoner for five years, Bergdahl.  Adam is very, very good at his job but now his formerly clear-headed focus is thwarted by his experiences during his recent home leave.  That makes it risky business and vulnerable to being wounded or even killed!

Over the years, Patterson has changed the style of his writing to include more of a psychological bent to his novels.  This adds depth to the stories and throws in some contemporary issues that should make for interesting reading for today’s audience.  Relationships are variable certainly, but Patterson knows how to plumb the depths of those connections with the sordid as well as the sublime.

There’s something in this novel to appeal to men and women of any age. Nicely done indeed!