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Look Behind You by Sibel Hodge

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 a-killing-sky-by-andy-straka

Free-Flowing Thriller with a Touch of Falconry

Review of A Killing Sky by Andy Straka

I love this author’s books. Cassidy Drummond asks PI Frank Pavlicek to find her twin sister Cartwright. She disappeared on the same night that the twins returned from a trip to Japan. Frank at first thinks that Cassidy is actually playing a practical joke on him. Why would the daughter of Congressman Tor Drummond not go to her own father to report that her sister is missing? He changes his mind when she shows him an old newspaper cutting she found in Cartwright’s suitcase. Why would Cartwright be interested in a newspaper cutting relating to a car accident in which two people, George and Norma Paitley were killed? Could he have something to do with his own daughter’s abduction?

These are just some of the questions that he and his former ex-homicide partner, Jake Toronto need to find answers for, and quickly because the longer Cartwright is missing, the bigger the probability is that they may end up only discovering her body.

This is my second encounter with Frank Pavlicek and hopefully not my last. Andy Straka manages to tell a story full of intrigue and seemingly impossible dead ends. His words seem to flow like a stream running over cobbled stones. He has a very special talent for managing to tell quite a dark story in such an easy fashion. I also love the bits that he manages to include about falconry. They add a touch of nature to an otherwise urban setting. Somehow, Andy’s own love for falconry, I think, is what enables him to tell a story with a depth that very few authors manage.

—Treebeard

 

Star Rating: Five Stars

5-Star Rating

 circling-the-sun-by-paula-mclain

Gripping Dramatisation of a Remarkable Life

Review of Circling the Sun by Paula McLain

This is a work of historical fiction, based on the life of Beryl Markham, who made aviation history with her flight across the Atlantic. But it does not touch on her escapades as a pilot, focusing instead on her life in Kenya.

Beryl Clutterbuck is just a young child when she moves with her parents and younger brother to Kenya from England. From the beginning, her mother is desperately unhappy, but her father is determined to make the 1,500 acres of untouched bush in Njoro into a prime stud farm. He has gained his knowledge of horses through steeplechasing and foxhunting and decides that he can somehow bring all his knowledge to wild Kenya.

Life is completely different from their home in England. Their accommodation is three huts, with no doors. Their nearest neighbours are Lord and Lady Delamere, a couple who would over the years, play a huge part in Beryl’s life, especially as her mother leaves after two years, taking her brother with her. Beryl, not even five, is left with her father. This is the first of many traumatic events in her life. Her first friends are members of the Kipsigis families who live on their farm. She is soon taken into their lives and becomes like a daughter to them.

Beryl soon learns as much about the horses as her father. She spends hours with him, planning which mare would breed with which stallion. She’s settled into life and her mother is almost a distant memory, until her father brings home a woman (Mrs Orchardson). They are not married, but she soon assumes the role of Beryl’s step-mother.

Beryl and school never really got on and when she turned sixteen, Emma Orchardson and her father insisted that she have a “coming-out party.” This is held in Nairobi and although she has met their neighbour, thirty year old Jock Purves, it is at this party that they are thrown together. It is on the same night that she meets Denys Finch Hatton and falls instantly in love with him. He and his friend Berkeley Cole will become a huge part of her life.

But Beryl’s love life takes an about turn when her father announces that he’s leaving Kenya and moving to Cape Town. He doesn’t offer to take her, so she feels that her only option, because she can’t live alone, is to marry Jock Purves. The wedding takes place shortly before her seventeenth birthday.

Their marriage is a disaster from day one, but Beryl can’t get Jock to divorce her. She moves to Lord Delamere’s farm to carry on with the stud, and also training horses for others. She is still only eighteen when she’s granted an English Trainer’s licence.

I could go on and on about this extraordinary young woman, who should have really been more famous that Karen Blixen of “Out of Africa” fame. They knew each other, were friends, shared the same lover (Denys Finch Hatton) and spent a lot of time together. But fate wasn’t really on her side for being famous nor were her achievements fully recognised. She was one of the first female horse trainers in the world. She was also the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic from East to West.

Paula McLain has managed to capture Beryl’s personality in this book. I was enthralled from page one and would have been happy for this book to be longer. She has absolutely described what Beryl must have felt as that young child, abandoned by her mother, forced into marriage before her eighteenth birthday but also captures her resolve to not let that dismal marriage or any other problem stand in her way. A truly extraordinary story describing the life of an even more extraordinary woman.

-- Treebeard

 

Star Rating: Five Stars

5-Star Rating

 the-incarnations-by-susan-barker

Ambitious Vision of Chinese History

Review of The Incarnations by Susan Barker

Taxi-driver Wang Jun is 31-years-old, care worn, living in a cramped one bedroom flat with his wife Yida and young daughter Echo. He is shocked when an envelope falls out from behind the visor of his cab. It is the start of correspondence from someone claiming to be his soulmate. Someone who goes on to describe in great detail the incarnations or re-births they have shared since the early days of Chinese history.

Wang Jun thinks that someone is playing very nasty tricks and trying to mess with his mind and desperately tries to discover who the person could be. He starts re-visiting people from his earlier life and thinks it must be his friend Zeng Yan, whom he met while in a psychiatric hospital, but Zeng Yan denies it. But still the letters keep coming, each one dealing with another shared lifetime.

This book manages to cover some of China’s history through shared lives. In some of the incarnations, they are father and daughter, in others they are sworn enemies, sometimes they are concubines serving a reigning dynasty. Whatever their shared lives are, they are a reflection of the history of China as the book travels through the centuries up to the present day.

This is not a quick read. You will need time to sit and enjoy the vast descriptions of the times, savouring the history that makes China what it is today. Some scenes are brutal, a mother cutting a son to make him into a eunuch, or one that really disturbed me, cleaning a toilet with a toothbrush under Mao Zedong’s rule. Whatever the story, you will find them rich and full of description.

Susan Barker’s knowledge of Chinese history shines through in this epic tale. This book will help you follow how China has evolved over centuries, each one with the particular brutality of the day.

--Treebeard

 

Star Rating: Five Stars

5-Star Rating

 blood-mist-by-mark-roberts

Serial Killings with Dark, Complex Plot

Review of Blood Mist by Mark Roberts

1984: Evette Clay was abandoned as a baby at a Catholic orphanage. Her first years there were under the watchful and loving eye of Sister Philomena. When she died, Eve was supposed to be adopted by a Catholic family, but six-year-old Eve refuses to be moved and insists on staying at the orphanage until she is of an age to leave.

33 years later: Detective Chief Inspector Eve Clay is happily married to Thomas, a doctor and has a beautiful baby son, Philip, aged two. She has a dedicated team of detectives working with her. None are prepared for the massacre that they find at the Patels home just before midnight. The reason they are on the scene so quickly is because the teenage daughter called 999 and they can hear her desperately pleading to save her life. They find the bodies laid out in an irregular quadrilateral pattern and one of the most disturbing aspects of the case is that the mother’s eyes have been gouged out.

Eve Clay and the team suspect that Adrian White, a psychopathic killer, who they had managed to have locked away in a psychiatric hospital is somehow involved, but how? Who could he possibly be in contact with?

This is one of the most thought provoking, powerful serial killing murders I’ve ever read. It’s brutal, but I found that the plot was so deep, so twisted, intense and clever that there was no way I could put the book down until the final page.

One thing I would like to especially mention and congratulate the author on, are the characters. They are so real, so vivid, without any of the usual flaws that some police characters have. Mark Roberts has been able to tell a story as if you are part of the scene, a part of the whole story, standing in the wings, watching the whole picture unfold before you.

This is the first book I’ve read by author Mark Roberts, but it won’t be the last. I sincerely hope that in the not too distant future, we get to meet DCI Eve Clay and her team of fellow detectives once again.

—Treebeard

 

Star Rating: Five Stars

5-Star Rating

 shadows-of-war-by-michael-radpath

Intrigue and Drama in Pre-war Europe

Review of Shadows Of War by Michael Ridpath

This is an intriguing thriller set just before the start of the Second World War, a period often ignored by authors who prefer the action and adventure of 1939-1945. Michael Ridpath works known facts into an intriguing story line with some skill. On more than one occasion he had me reaching for an online encyclopaedia to see if an event actually took place or a person really existed.

Ridpath uses Conrad de Lancey, his main character, to link his story together, moving quickly backwards and forwards through key events and places across Western Europe. He introduces real people alongside his own with ease and with a conviction that allows him to manipulate real events to his own end. Ridpath’s strengths are well identified with this genre but where unfortunately he strays into a style more suited to non-fiction it breaks the flow and readability of the story.

In a storyline full of conspiracy, deception and political manoeuvring Ridpath challenges the reader to wonder about the loyalty of some establishment figures, and especially that of the Duke of Windsor. He does this with skill but when he introduces relationships and particularly Conrad’s relationship with Anneliese his writing is clumsy and doesn’t feel right for a time almost thirty years before the liberation of women.

This is a good book where Ridpath maintains a good pace and manages to interweave some complex story lines without losing the reader. For those who love this period or genre this is well worth buying.

-8848

 

Star Rating: Four Stars

4-Star Rating

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