Monday, May 28, 2007

Mystery - Amelia Peabody is back!

Tomb of the Golden Bird, Elizabeth Peters - 05.27.07 *****

The Amelia Peabody Series is one of my favorite series, and I've waited anxiously for nearly a year for Tomb of the Golden Bird to be published in paperback. The series follows the exploits of the Emerson family who are Egyptologists in the early 1900's. Amelia seems to have a knack for getting involved in mysteries, and as her dear friend Abdullah often laments, "Every year, another dead body!"

In the newest installment of the series, the Emersons have been banned from the eastern end of the Valley of the Kings, and their dream of finding the tomb of king Tut has been crushed. When Howard Carter uncovers the tomb (exactly where Emerson predicted is would be) they watch helplessly as the tomb yields up it secrets to their rivals. But their own work is suddenly disrupted by a string of kidnappings - where no one is ever hurt - and threats, and questions that no one understands.

As the family prepares for the Christmas holidays, Amelia begins making her famous "little lists" to try and get to the bottom of the mystery. Secret codes, a mysterious death, spies and jounalists in disguise, Amelia must conquor them all to protect her family and friends, and uncover a sinister plot that may destroy the fragile peace of the middle east.


D is for Deadbeat, Sue Grafton - 05.22.07 ***

When a stranger hires Kinsey to find a young boy and deliver a cashier's check for $25,000, she figures it'll be a piece of cake. Unfortunately, before she can track the teenager down, the check the benevolent stranger paid her with bounces. The search for the elusive client quickly becomes far more difficult than she imagined - and when he suddenly turns up dead, the case suddenly becomes dangerous. The young boy doesn't want the money, her client is dead, and numermous suspects may be trying to get the money. She better solve this one quick before she becomes the next victim!

E is for Evidence, Sue Grafton - 05.23.07 ***

Kinsey's small office is located in an office building that houses an insurance company, and the company gives her free rent in exchange for her doing investigations for them part time. What starts out as a routine fire insurance case quickly degenerates into a multiple muder mystery - not to mention that someone is framing her for insurance fraud! It all seems to tie back to an apparent suicide from several years ago, but all the evidence disappeared from the police evidence room, and the suspicious death case was never closed. When Kinsey starts poking around in the events of the past, the muderer gets scared and starts delivering package bombs to anyone who might know more than they should. Plus her ex-husband has shown up with his new lover, complicating things for her emotionally as well as physically. When all the clues fall into place, it will take all her street-smarts to survive the blast.

F is for Fugitive, Sue Grafton - 05.24.07 ***

Kinsey is living in the main house with her 81 year old landlord / friend while he rebuilds her apartment, and the lack of privacy is getting to her. She's not used to having close friends or family in her life and doesn't always know how to handle the details. So when a father from out of town hires her to help clear his son of a 17 year old murder, she jumps at the chance to get out of town for awhile. Unfortunately for her, Floral Beach is a tiny town, and it seems everyone in town had a motive for killing Jean Timberlake, or a reason to lie about what they might know about that long ago night. When Bailey escapes from the courtroom on the day of his arraignment, everyone in town assumes he is responsible for the deaths that follow. Kinsey knows he's innocent, but can she prove it before the killer comes after her?


A is for Alibi, Sue Grafton - 01.25.07 ***

B is for Burglar, Sue Grafton - 05.20.07 ***

C is for Corpse, Sue Grafton - 05.21.07 ***

Kinsey Millhone is an ex-cop in southern California who has traded her police badge for a PI License. In A is for Alibi, she takes a case trying to solve an old murder - only all the suspects have an alibi! As she sorts through the clues she meets a nice young man and feels the beginning of an affair coming on. Unfortunately, her love life is interrupted by the killer when she starts getting too close to the truth.

B is for Burglar begins about two weeks after the end of Alibi. Kinsey is still recovering from being shot, and dealing with her feelings regarding the man she killed. What could be better than a nice little missing persons case to take her mind off things? But as the clues pile up, along with the dead bodies, Kinsey begins to wonder if there's a way to solve this case. But when the breakthrough finally arrives, can she solve the case before the murderer strikes again?

Having survived the Burglar case, Kinsey takes some time off for some good ol' physical therapy to rehabilitate her arm and leg in C is for Corpse. But when a young man, badly scarred and injured in a horrible car accident, asks for her help, she is curious. His claim that someone is trying to kill him doesn't seem to add up at first, but when he his corpse shows up several days later, Kinsey refuses to give up until she finds the murderer.

So far, this series is fun, light, quick reading. I like the fact that Grafton tends to have Kinsey actually solve the case, rather than so many other mystery writers who just have the main character stumble around until the killer gets afraid and tries to kill the character, thereby identifying themselves.


Night Watch - Sergei Lukyanenko - 01.20.07 ****
Day Watch - Sergei Lukyanenko - 05.18.07 ****
This series tells the story of the Others, a magical race of people living side by side with the humans of the world. Divided into to camps, the Light Ones and the Dark Ones, they battle continuously, each trying to gain advantage over the other and end the war for all time. However, the fight must adhere to the rigorous rules of the Treaty, enforced by the Inquisitors, who are Others that are on neither the Light Side or the Dark, but on the side of Balance.
Set in modern-day Moscow, Anton is a member of the Night Watch, formed of Light Ones who guard against the actions of the Dark at night. He's a low-level magician on his first field mission when everything goes wrong. And given two options, either of which may be a trap or a trick, he must find a third choice to save the city - possibly the world - but most importantly to Anton, a way to save a young boy who is an Other, but has not yet chosen between the Light or Dark. Anton must also find a way to deal with the sudden realization that the Light is not always good, and the Dark is not always evil.
Day Watch, the second novel in the series, begins about a year or so after the events of Night Watch, and presents the perspective of several members of the Day Watch - Dark ones who keep watch in the day. Interestingly, they see themselves not as evil, but merely proponents of Freedom. As the leader of the Dark Watch sets in motion events that will take away the advantages gained by the Light Ones, members of both watches must try to balance the playing field to stop an Apocalypse that might destroy them all.
Each book consists of three stories, the first two of which seem unrelated to each other, but the third story skillfully weaves the two together and brings to a conclusion the seemingly random events in the first two.
Excellent reading!


Assassin's Quest - Robin Hobb, 05.17.07 ****
In the final novel in The Farseer Trilogy we find the Six duchies in shambles. Self-proclaimed King Regal has stripped Buckkeep of all it's valubles and most of the staff, and retreated to Tradeford to establish his palace there, leaving the Coastal Duchies unprotected from the ravages of the RedShip Raiders. Queen Ketricken has fled with her unborn child to her home in the Mountain Kingdom to escape from King Regal's assassin's. The true king, Verity, is still missing on his quest to find the Elderlings and beg their aid against the RedShips. The entire kingdom believes Fitz to be dead, executed for treason.
Except for Chade and Burrich, who have begun the slow and difficult task of separating Fitz's mind from his Wit-bond wolf, Nighteyes. They slowly convince Fitz to take up his humanity again, but in his heart, Fitz has had enough. How much should one man have to sacrice? His wife and child, along with the rest of his loved ones, believe him dead, and can never be told the truth. After driving away his last two friends, Fitz and Nighteyes set of on a final quest - to assassinate the false king, Regal.
But of course, nothing goes as planned. The man & wolf have many adventures before finally reaching Tradeford, and the assassination attempt only draws Regal's attention to the fact that Fitz is still alive. Barely surviving his escape from the palace, he flees to the mountains, under a compulsion to find Verity and help him return with the Elderlings. For only Verity's return can save the kingdom, from both the RedShips and Regal. Along the way Fitz will discover the extents of the wild magic he holds - magic that can either destroy him or transform him beyond his imagination.


Royal Assassin, Robin Hobb - 05.10.07 ****
In Royal Assassin, Fitz has barely survived his first mission as the kings assassin. He returns to the palace, nearly a cripple, and spends the following winter trying to recover his strength. When he finally recovers, he discovers that the kingdom is in worse shape than before - the Red Ship barbarians have renewed their attacks along the coast, and treason and treachery threaten the throne. Verity, the King-in-Waiting, discovers ancient scrolls describing the Elderlings, a race of people who once came to the defense of the Six Duchies in ancient times, and promised to return again if called. Verity decides to go searching for them and beg their aid against the Red Ships.
Regal, the kings youngest son, immediately begins to use Verity's absence to usurp the throne. When word reaches the palace that Verity has died, he becomes the new King-in-Waiting, and begins the final stages of his plans. Accidents begin to befall those between him and the throne, and King Shrewd's health continues to fail.
Fitz and his allies struggle to keep the kingdom together, & protect the King and Verity's wife and unborn child. But eventually it becomes an effort to merely stay alive. Poison attempts & outright attacks must be survived, and when the King finally dies - murdered at Regal's command - it seems that Fitz has lost the battle. To protect his friends and loved ones, and save the kingdom, may require the greatest sacrifice - his life!


Assassin's Apprentice, Robin Hobb - 05.07.07 ****
The first novel in The Farseer Trilogy, Assassin's Apprentice introduces us to Fitz, the bastard son of Prince Chivalry, the King-in-Waiting of the Six Duchies. Brought to the royal palace at the age of six, Fitz is treated as an outcast by nearly everyone, with the exception of his caretaker (his father's stableman) and oddly enough, his grandfather, King Shrewd, who dares not pay too much attention to his own grandson for fear of inviting an attack by Fitz's many enemies. Nonetheless, the King decides that Fitz must be trained in the secret arts of assassination. Fitz's life becomes an unending drudgery of schooling - not just his letters and etiquette, but poison, herbs, & fighting skills.
As Fitz approaches manhood, savage barbarians begin raiding up and down the coast, destroying villages and kidnapping people. Their only demand is to pay them in gold to not return the hostages. Puzzled by this unusual demand, the gold is not paid, and as promised the hostages are returned - as souless savages. Now the kingdom must face the raiders from across the ocean as well as the murderous "Forged" that the raiders leave behind.
When the king finally sends Fitz off on his first dangerous mission, he suddenly faces even more enemies, as his own uncle tries to frame him for an assassination he didn't commit, and his greatest challenge - can he save the kingdom from the enemies hidden within?


Day of Confession, Allan Folsom - 05.03.07 ****
Another excellent novel from Mr Folsom, Day of Confession begins with Harry Addison, an entertanment lawyer from Los Angles receiving a voice mail message from his brother, Daniel, who is a priest in Rome at the Vatican. The message is brief, but Harry can tell his brother is terrified, even though the two have been estranged for nearly a decade. Unable to reach Danny, Harry goes on with his life until the following day when he is informed that his brother has been killed in a horrible terrorist attack in the country outside of Rome. And what begins as a simple trip to Europe to retrieve his brothers remains quickly becomes a nightmare. Followed by Italian and Vatican police, framed for the murder of a cardinal of Rome, stalked by a pschotic assassin, beaten, kidnapped, and left for dead in a sewer, the trip to Italy gets worse and worse as Harry desperately tries to solve the mystery of what really happened to his brother and how it all connects to the murders he and Danny are accused of. Despite the web of lies spun by the police, media and the Vatican itself, Harry must find the answers, for the lives of his friends and family and thousands of complete strangers depend on his ability to find the truth.
I could hardly put this book down (witnessed by the dark circles under my eyes from staying up too late last night!). Even though the whole "the Catholic church is evil and manipulative" cliche is becoming...well, cliche, (Thank you, Dan Brown!) I still enjoyed this book immensely and highly recommend it to anyone looking for an enjoyable read.

Saturday, May 26, 2007


The Exile, Allan Folsom - 05.01.07 ****
The Machiavelli Covenant, Allan Folsom - 04.11.07 ****

I read these two books in the wrong order, but the stories, while involving the same character, are pretty much stand alone novels. In The Exile, John Barron, a police officer in Los Angeles, becomes involved in a horrific manhunt for a brutal serial killer, and at the same time comes to the realization that his unit is a group of lawless vigilantes who threaten his own safety and the safety of his family if he tries to move against them. To protect himself and his sister, he must find the murderer, move his sister to safety, and create a new identity for himself, all while trying to solve a far reaching mystery and unravel a conspiracy that spreads across the globe and to the heights of wealth, prestige and power, and that, if unstopped, can change the face of the political globe.
In The Machiavelli Covenant, he returns from his self-imposed exile in England to the United States at the request of an old lover, whose husband and son have died mysteriously, and who is convinced that she herself has been murdered. Desperate to stay below the radar of the police who may still be searching for him, he tries to solve the murder of his friend. When the clues lead to Europe and an unexpected meeting with the president of the United States, who is also on the run from his Secret Service agents who are trying to kill him, the two compare notes and discover a conspiracy much greater and more evil than either realized.
These are both excellent novels that were difficult to put down - highly recommended!

Smoke &...

1. Smoke & Shadows, Tanya Huff - Finished 04.16.07
2. Smoke & Mirrors, Tanya Huff - Finished 04.18.07
3. Smoke & Ashes, Tanya Huff - Finished 04.19.07

This series had been on my To Read list for a long time before I was finally able to get them from the library, and I ended up enjoying it far more than I thought I would. Part supernatural spooky, part scary suspense, extremely humorous, these three books were, plain and simple, a fun read. The series is a follow-up to her "Blood" series, and even though I haven't yet read that series, these three stand alone and were well written and plotted.

4 Stars
(I know, I need to find some actual stars - but you get the point, right?)

Death in...

Death in Zanzibar, M. M. Kaye - Finished 03.20.07
Death in Kashmir, M. M. Kaye - Finished 04.22.07.
Death in Berlin, M. M. Kaye - Finished 04.25.07
Death in Kenya, M. M. Kaye - Finished 04.26.07
Death in Cypress, M. M. Kaye - Finished 04.27.07
Death in the Andamans, M. M. Kaye - Finished 05.05.07

I recently rediscovered this delightful series and was able to obtain most of them from the local library system, although I've still waiting for someone to return 'Death in the Andamans' so that I can read it. I originally read several of these books when I was in my teens, and liked them quite well, but had completely forgotten about the until I stumbled onto 'Death in Kashmir' at the library.
The books are short and fairly formulaic (young heroine travels to some exotic local, meets horrid chauvinist male whom she hates on site, becomes involved is multiple murders, tries to puzzle her way through the mystery, is attacked by the murderer for getting to close, and is saved by big strong chauvinst male who she now realizes is madly in love with her and that she is madly in love with him), but due to some combination of her writing style & the story settings, the end result is a delightful trip. There's a sense of nostalgia that permeates the stories and settings, as they all take place is locales where the way of life has drastically changed in the years since the author visited and lived in them.
The entire series gets 5 stars from me.