Archive for the ‘Espionage’ Category

Detective Inspector Annie Cabbot gets a case in which a man is found hanging from a tree. There are no signs of a struggle and by all appearances, it is suicide. When she learns that his name is Mark Hardcastle and he directs plays at a local theatre, she pays a visit and learns that Hardcastle has a boyfriend, Laurence Silbert. Silbert is the next stop on her quest for information and when no one answers the doorbell, Annie becomes skeptical. She breaks in and calls Silbert’s name. When still no answer, she and Winsome Jackman begin a search and find Silbert’s beaten body. At this point, Annie’s boss, Detective Superintendent Gervaise, suggests they call Detective Chief Inspector Banks home from his holiday.

Of course, what for all intents and purposes begins to look like a jealous lover’s murder/suicide, to Banks’ imaginative mind there are sinister doings. I won’t spoil the intrigue by describing these sinister doings, though.

I picked up All the Colours of Darkness, written in 2008, at Warwick’s Albert Wisner Public Library’s Friends bookstore and although it’s signed and normally I’d keep it, I think I’m going to re-donate it and let someone else get some reading pleasure. As always, Robinson’s DCI Banks books are great reading. In this particular book he does not deal with a cold case alongside a current one, which he has in many previous books.

There is intrigue, suspense, espionage, action. Of course, there’s Banks’ extensive and variable taste in music, some of which I want to write down. (Has anyone compiled a list of his music, similar to Michael Connelly’s Bosch CD?…actually there is, so click here.)

Other reviews here include: When the Music’s Over, In the Dark Places, Children of the Revolution, and Before the Poison.

I just received my copy of Robinson’s latest book, Sleeping in the Ground, which I can’t wait to read. It will be great vacation reading.

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I’m going to be in the minority, I’m sure, when I say that The Accident by Chris Pavone wasTheAccident not one of my favorite books of the year. It is suspenseful from page 1 to page 380 (the end). But, as I’ve said on some other reviews, too much of a good thing…..? Plus, there are killings and murders galore, more than is (i) necessary and (ii) believable…if, indeed, the plot is believable at all.

An anonymously authored expose of a media mogul appears mysteriously on literary agent Isabel Reed’s desk. If published, it will lead to the downfall of many prominent people. As a result, people are trying to stop its publication and will stop at nothing to make sure all copies are destroyed. That’s the premise. A key factor revealed towards the end of the book was something I figured out after reading about a third of the book, and since I’m notorious for not figuring things out, if I can, you certainly will.

Again, as a minority voice, I like subtlety. I don’t need a murder, especially a brutal one, thrown in my face to know it occurred. That’s my advice to Mr. Pavone.  As we’re wont to say in our library, “Less is more.”

One interesting thing about the book, is that it takes place in the course of one day. That’s a lot of activity within 24 hours. It takes place in multiple locations, with a lot of jumping back and forth between places and between time periods. It can get a little confusing at some points.

I did like Pavone’s first book, The Expats. So, is this a case of all the accolades unrealistically raising my expectations? I don’t know. All I do know is that there are better thrillers out there.


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I’ve always wondered the pressure authors are under when their first book is a runaway best seller, such as Mark Mills’ Amagansett. It was well worth the accolades. It had a marvelous story, interesting characters and great writing.

I’ll admit that I was disappointed with his next two offerings: The Savage Garden and The Information Officer. However, he’s on his way back with The House of the Hunted. Taking place in the early 1930s, it recounts the story of Tom, a retired World War I British spy who has purchased a villa in the south of France, living the high life. He’s surrounded himself with a group of friends and summers are filled with parties, the beach, sailing. One such friend is Leonard who now works for the Foreign Office. In 1919, Tom had fallen in love with Irina, who was imprisoned in Russia. Tom’s attempt to rescue her is unsuccessful and she is ultimately murdered.

Yet, sixteen years later, two attempts on Tom’s life are made within a few days. As evidence is uncovered, it all points back to Russia.

House of the Hunted is low on action and high on a description of Tom’s life, his friends, his god-daughter, Lucy (Leonard’s stepdaughter). In some respects it plays into the whole Gold Coast life of the rich and famous, describing the excesses of the rich when times are bad.

While House of the Hunted was surely enjoyable, it lacked something. It lacked conflict. All the characters were likeable, even the ones you shouldn’t like. It lacked an overriding struggle that readers can latch onto and care about. It lacked something to propel the reader forward, so that when the end comes readers feel surprised and satisfied.

I do recommend House of the Hunted. However it is not a mystery and it is not filled with espionage. It is a easy going story about the rich life in France in the 1930s.

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Mal Peet

I am really enjoying Mal Peet’s latest book, Life: An Exploded Diagram. However, if you compare it to Tamar, which I also enjoyed, you’d be hard pressed to say it was written by the same author. They are soooooooooo different.

Life, so far, is a rambling story of a man from his birth in 1945. So far, I’m in the early 1960s and he’s going through what every teenage boy goes through. He thinks about sex. But the way Peet describes his life and that of his family, the surroundings in which he lives, the girl he falls in love with, is unique, in my opinion. But, I’ll tell you more when I finish the book.

Tamar, on the other hand (the full title is Tamar: A Novel of Espionage, Passion and Betrayal), is just what the title suggests. It takes place during World War II and involves the Resistance, love and betrayal.

From the publisher: “When her grandfather dies, Tamar inherits a box containing a series of clues and coded messages. Out of the past, another Tamar emerges, a man involved in the terrifying world of resistance fighters in Nazi-occupied Holland half a century before. His story is one of passionate love, jealousy, and tragedy set against the daily fear and casual horror of the Second World War — and unraveling it is about to transform Tamar’s life forever.”

Tamar is full of mystery and suspense and action, unlike Life which, so far is much more laid back. Tamar was a book I considered worthy of shelf space at home, so now it proudly sits in my own personal library. I think it’s time for everyone to catch on: Mal Peet is a great author.

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