The Cobra by Frederick Forsyth

 

Description: Veteran Forsyth (The Day of the Jackal) shows once again he’s a master of the political thriller by taking a simple but completely original idea and turning it into a compelling story. The unnamed Obama-like U.S. president, disgusted by the horrors wrought by illegal drug trafficking, decides to bring the entire weight and resources of the federal government against the international cocaine trade. He first declares drug traders and their cartels to be terrorists, subjecting them to new and extensive legal procedures, then he brings in ex-CIA director Paul Devereaux to head the team that will implement the effort. Devereaux, known as the Cobra from his operations days, is old school–smart, ruthless, unrelenting, and bestowed by the president with free rein to call in any arm of the government. Forsyth lays out how it would all work, and readers will follow eagerly along, always thinking, yes, why don’t they do this in real life? The answer to that question lies at the heart of this forceful, suspenseful, intelligent novel.

Didn’t capture my undivided attention; it was on in the background and that was where the bland content let it stay.

5* The Day of the Jackal
4* The Odessa File
3* The Fourth Protocol
3* The Dogs of War
4* The Devil’s Alternative
2* The Afghan
2* The Cobra
3* The Kill List
5* The Shepherd

The True Deceiver

 
The True Deceiver - Tove Jansson, Thomas Teal, Ali Smith

bookshelves: winter20092010, fraudio, published-1982, shortstory-shortstories-novellas, translation, bettie-s-law-of-excitement-lost, next

Read in December, 2009


Publisher description:
Deception—the lies we tell ourselves and the lies we tell others—is the subject of this, Tove Jansson’s most unnerving and unpredictable novel. Here Jansson takes a darker look at the subjects that animate the best of her work, from her sensitive tale of island life, The Summer Book, to her famous Moomin stories: solitude and community, art and life, love and hate.

Snow has been falling on the village all winter long. It covers windows and piles up in front of doors. The sun rises late and sets early, and even during the day there is little to do but trade tales. This year everybody’s talking about Katri Kling and Anna Aemelin. Katri is a yellow-eyed outcast who lives with her simpleminded brother and a dog she refuses to name. She has no use for the white lies that smooth social intercourse, and she can see straight to the core of any problem. Anna, an elderly children’s book illustrator, appears to be Katri’s opposite: a respected member of the village, if an aloof one. Anna lives in a large empty house, venturing out in the spring to paint exquisitely detailed forest scenes. But Anna has something Katri wants, and to get it Katri will take control of Anna’s life and livelihood. By the time spring arrives, the two women are caught in a conflict of ideals that threatens to strip them of their most cherished illusions.

BBC description: Winter settles over the Swedish fishing village of Västerby. Katri offers to run errands for the ageing artist who lives on the outskirts. But what does this strange young woman want in return from Anna Aemelin?

Indira Varma reads from the novel by Tove Jansson. Abridged by Jeremy Osborne.

On her very first visit to the rabbit house, Katri identifies just which window will be the window of Mats’ new bedroom. The manipulative skills of the sociopath are very cleverly displayed by Jansson and one cannot help but feel sorry for Anna at the halfway mark.

Didn’t like this one at all.

3* Finn Family Moomintroll (The Moomins, #3)
5* Moominland Midwinter (The Moomins, #6)
3* Moominvalley in November (The Moomins, #9)

4* The Summer Book
3* Travelling Light
1* The True Deceiver
CR The Listener

Research by Philip Kerr

 

Quercus Books

Dedication:

For Harry Armfield

Description: If you want to write a murder mystery, you have to do some research… In a luxury flat in Monaco, John Houston’s supermodel wife lies in bed, a bullet in her skull. Houston is the world’s most successful novelist, the playboy head of a literary empire that produces far more books than he could ever actually write. Now the man who has invented hundreds of best-selling killings is wanted for a real murder and on the run from the police, his life transformed into something out of one of his books. And in London, the ghostwriter who is really behind those books has some questions for him too…

Opening: It was the American novelist William Faulkner who once said that in writing you must kill all your darlings; it was Mike Munns – another writer, but like me, not half as good as Faulkner – who made a joke out of this quote when he telephoned my flat in Putney that Tuesday morning.

Ironical it is that this story is published ~ nine months after Prayer. The blurb for ‘Research’ includes this: a book factory publishing many bestsellers a year – so many that he can’t possibly write them himself. Heh.

‘Research’ is a standalone book with unsympathetic, two-dimensional characters and the ugliest cynicism towards the written word and mentality of readers I have ever encountered. I can’t work out if it is full-on satire or just partial but the outcome is the same, readers will be insulted.

Every behaviour has its impact.

Mainly this is an attack on all those combo authorships of test-tosh thrillers that churn out many books a year, yet Kerr is in his own firing line, two crap books in a year.

I took time out half way through just to pick up other stories to reassure myself that some authors still feel passionate about writing and care for their readers; what a breath of fresh air.

Although technically this is marginally a better book than ‘Prayer’ purely because it doesn’t bring Old Scratch out to play, ‘Research’ flat-lined out of any enjoyment factor. There wasn’t enough good stuff to make a feedback sandwich so I’ll just deliver the line: cynicism, snark, distain for readers, and authorial career suicide is not a pretty thing to witness.

3.5* March Violets (Bernard Gunther, #1)
3.5* The Pale Criminal (Bernard Gunther, #2)
3.5* A German Requiem (Bernard Gunther, #3)
3.5* A Quiet Flame (Bernard Gunther, #5)
1* Prayer
1* Research

The Twilight Hour by Nicci Gerrard

 

Description: Eleanor Lee is fiercely independent. She has lived alone well into her nineties, despite her now near-total blindness. Now, finally, she has been persuaded by her children to move into a home.

She employs Peter, a recent graduate nursing a broken heart, to spend the summer sorting through her attic – papers, photographs, books and letters – ahead of the move.

These fragments of her own history unleash in Eleanor a long-concealed story of forbidden love, betrayal, passion, grief and self-sacrifice; and in their unlikely friendship, something is unlocked in Peter’s heart, too.

Fell in love with this from the very start and knew unless something drastic happened to radically alter the feeling, this would be a five star encounter. I was getting the same the same buzz that I had when reading The Thirteenth Tale.

The Twilight Hour is not a mystery. This standalone from one half of the successful Nicci French authorship has given a throughly intriguing story here, a life-sized slice of skeletons in the family cupboard, so the fizzled-out ending was really hard to take. There were no ends left untied, no threads hanging but no big finale either, and this screamed for a grandiose gesture.

Three and a half memory-burning bonfires.

The Outcast by Sadie Jones

bookshelves: summer-2014, published-2008, surrey, britain-england, radio-4, period-piece, abandoned, next, bettie-s-law-of-excitement-lost

Read from August 02 to 11, 2014

BABT

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b009fsnr

Description: 1957, and Lewis Aldridge is travelling back to his home in the South of England. He is straight out of jail and nineteen years old. His return will trigger the implosion not just of his family, but of a whole community.

A decade earlier, his father’s homecoming casts a different shape. The war is over and Gilbert has recently been demobbed. He reverts easily to suburban life – cocktails at six thirty, church on Sundays – but his wife and young son resist the stuffy routine. Lewis and his mother escape to the woods for picnics, just as they did in wartime days. Nobody is surprised that Gilbert’s wife counters convention, but they are all shocked when, after one of their jaunts, Lewis comes back without her.

Not far away, Kit Carmichael keeps watch. She has always understood more than most, not least from what she has been dealt by her own father’s hand. Lewis’s grief and burgeoning rage are all too plain, and Kit makes a private vow to help. But in her attempts to set them both free, she fails to predict the painful and horrifying secrets that must first be forced into the open.

As menacing as it is beautiful, The Outcast is a devastating portrait of small-town hypocrisy from an astonishing new voice.

Even with the lovely Emma Fielding reading and the Surrey location, I just could not warm to this at all. NEXT

Good Bait by John Harvey

bookshelves: newtome-author, mystery-thriller, series, published-2012, london, britain-england, summer-2014, contemporary, bettie-s-law-of-excitement-lost, next

Read from April 14 to June 29, 2014

 

Hampstead Pond in winter.

Description: When a 17-year-old Moldovan boy is found dead on Hampstead Heath, the case falls to DCI Karen Shields and her overstretched Homicide & Serious Crime Unit. Karen knows she needs a result. …

G

A body in the pond starts this series off. Karen Shields, a down to earth black officer from the Homicide and Serious Crime Command unit, speaks with a thick London patter. At times it reads like a corpse list, meh. A two icicle read. Next!

Doubling Back by Linda Cracknell

bookshelves: spring-2014, afr-kenya, britain-scotland, nonfiction, published-2014, radio-4, bellybutton-mining, bettie-s-law-of-excitement-lost, fraudio, next, snoozefest

Recommended to ☯Bettie☯ by: Laura
Read on May 29, 2014

 

BOTW

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b044jbjf

Description: A beautiful and moving memoir where the author retraces walks undertaken by others, from the Highlands of Scotland to the Swiss Alps and Kenya.

In 1952 Linda Cracknell’s father embarked on a hike through the Swiss Alps. Fifty years later Linda retraces that fateful journey, following the trail of the man she barely knew. This collection of walking tales takes its theme from that pilgrimage. The walks trace the contours of history, following writers, relations and retreading ways across mountains, valleys and coasts formerly trodden by drovers, saints and adventurers. Each walk is about the reaffirming of memories, beliefs and emotions, and especially of the connection that one can have with the past through particular places.

Episode 1: Dancing, Kicking Up Her Legs: The author visits a hillside above Loch Ness following in the footsteps of the Scottish novelist, Jessie Kesson.

Episode 2: Baring Our Soles: While walking barefoot through Kenya, the author discovers the connection between feet and politics.

Episode 3: In His Footsteps: Today, Linda bravely retraces the Alpine ascent made by her father in 1952 and in doing so discovers some truths about the past and about her relationship with her lost father.

Episode 4: The Heaven Above and the Road Below: Linda sets out to walk from her front door to the Isle of Skye and, in doing so, uncovers memories of the past and finds inspiration for the future

Episode 5: Walking Home: Linda Cracknell looks to the future as she walks the pilgrimage route of St Cuthbert’s Way between Scotland and England and as she follows her own footsteps around her home town of Aberfeldy in Perthshire.

I don’t know so much, when first-worlders aren’t donning Dr Martens and buddhist robes, they are swanning around belly-button-mining for yet another sub-par travel snooze-fest. BBC BOTW last week was made of the same paltry fayre: Stringer: A Reporter’s Journey in the Congo

Sharpen up BBC book selectors!

Portrait of the Mother as a Young Woman by Friedrich Christian Delius, Jamie Bulloch (Translator)

bookshelves: paper-read, shortstory-shortstories-novellas, translation, women, war, wwii, under-500-ratings, spring-2014, next, bettie-s-law-of-excitement-lost, published-2006, yawn

Read from April 29 to May 18, 2014


grrrrramazon description (which seems to be a personal review):

So the good news first: It’s got the usual suspects – Rome, the war, the Germans. Now to the slightly trickier aspect: there is just one, 105-page-long sentence with a single full stop after the final word. I have been advised “Don’t mention the sentence”. But this is no twisted, unreadable Germanic syntax a la Thomas Mann. Far from it: Instead it’s a mesmerizing psychological portrait of the human need to safeguard innocence and integrity at any cost – even at the risk of excluding reality.

Usually the plot line of a single sentence is quickly told. And this is no exception. It describes a walk through Rome one January afternoon in 1943. A pregnant young German woman is on her way to listen to a Bach concert at the Lutheran church. Innocent and naïve, the war is for her little more than a day-dream, until she realizes that her husband might never return.

Will she change her attitude? Her refusal to understand the obvious turns this slim book into a page-turning thriller. No really. The author’s stroke of genius is to present the young woman as credibly normal. She commits no crime, she just walks along having thoughts and some doubts too. We understand her. We engage. And we follow her because we all want to know if she finally admits reality of her situation. Or at least Peirene did.

However, it’s not for the page turning that I chose this book. After all there are many spell-binders out there. But it is plain and simply for “the sentence”. Its rhythm mirrors so beautifully the steps of a walk – you can almost feel the paving stones beneath your feet. At the same time the text is astonishingly clearly structured. It drives towards an end just as the young woman heads for her concert. Neither lose their direction. The book enchants like a Bach cantata and so enthralls us with the rhythm of the words and the beauty of Rome that we too are tempted to forget the reality of war.

Translated from the German by Jamie Bulloch.

Dedication: For U.B.

Opening: Walk, young lady, walk if you want to walk, the child will like it if you walk, Doctor Roberto had said in his funny German with a strong Italian accent

Came to this story for no other reason that it is part of the delicious Peirene Press series ‘books to red in two hours or less’. However this entry did not strike me as at all palatable.

3.5* Next World Novella
4* The Brothers
WL Sea of Ink
1* Portrait of the Mother as a Young Woman
4* The Murder of Halland

Black Chalk by Christopher J. Yates

bookshelves: spring-2014, published-2013, britain-england, oxford, games-people-play, debut, e-book, net-galley, bettie-s-law-of-excitement-lost, mystery-thriller, north-americas, next

Read from May 08 to 16, 2014


Description: Who knows better than your best friends what will break you?

One game. Six students. Five survivors.

In the intimidating surroundings of Oxford University a group of six friends begin to play a game — an elaborate variant on truth or dare, in which the loser of each round has to perform an embarrassing challenge. The eventual winner stood to walk away with a sizable prize, not simply the money that each had contributed to the pot from their student grants, but a substantial sum staked to them by a mysterious campus organisation known as the Game Society, provided that the students agreed to keep both the Game and its sponsorship secret.

But the game quickly assumes a life of its own: the stakes grow higher and the dares more personal, more humiliating, finally evolving into a vicious struggle with unpredictable and tragic results. Now, years later, one player, who believed he had fled the Game long ago, discovers that it is far from over.

Dedication: For Margi
Because without you nothing

Opening quote is from D H Lawrence:

Never trust the artist
Trust the tale

Opening: HE PHONES early. England greets the world five hours ahead of us and I answer before my day has gained its groove.

Sounds all twitter and bisted doesn’t it. Just what I fancy a slice off.

Here we go:
Fourteen years after the game started in their first year at Oxford, the players meet for the final round.

In a way, because of the blurb and description, I expected something of a higher callibre. The premise had me itching for the read, however the way the story was set up there was over use of fore-shadowing device.

A solid read with a lot going for it in the right hands.

Crossposted:
WordPress
Booklikes
LeafMark
Librarything
aNobii

The Cold Song by Linn Ullmann

bookshelves: translation, spring-2014, under-500-ratings, published-2011, mystery-thriller, norway, currently-reading, books-about-books-and-book-shops, one-penny-wonder, paper-read, abandoned, bettie-s-law-of-excitement-lost, casual-violence, contemporary, doo-lally, duck-shit, families, gulp, lifestyles-deathstyles, mental-health, midlife-crisis, newtome-author, ouch, next, room-101, slit-yer-wrists-gloomy

Read from April 10 to 30, 2014


Description: Ullmann’s characters are complex and paradoxical: neither fully guilty nor fully innocent

Siri Brodal, a chef and restaurant owner, is married to Jon Dreyer, a famous novelist plagued by writer’s block. Siri and Jon have two daughters, and together they spend their summers on the coast of Norway, in a mansion belonging to Jenny Brodal, Siri’s stylish and unforgiving mother.

Siri and Jon’s marriage is loving but difficult, and troubled by painful secrets. They have a strained relationship with their elder daughter, Alma, who struggles to find her place in the family constellation. When Milla is hired as a nanny to allow Siri to work her long hours at the restaurant and Jon to supposedly meet the deadline on his book, life in the idyllic summer community takes a dire turn. One rainy July night, Milla disappears without a trace. After her remains are discovered and a suspect is identified, everyone who had any connection with her feels implicated in her tragedy and haunted by what they could have done to prevent it.

The Cold Song is a story about telling stories and about how life is continually invented and reinvented.

Translated from the Norwegian by Barbara J Haveland

Dedication: For Niels

Opening quote: ‘Tis Love that has warm’d us?’ – John Dryden

Opening: Jenny Brodal had not had a drink in nearly twenty years. She opened a bottle of Cabernet and poured herself a large glass. She had imagined the warmth filtering down into her stomach, the tingling in her fingertips, but there was none of that, no warmth, no tingling, nothing, so she drained the glass and waited.

Linn Ullmann is the daughter of actress, author and director Liv Ullmann and director and screenwriter Ingmar Bergman.

THOUGHTS DURING READING: Not far enough in (~40 pages) to say if the storyline is good or not but two points have struck me thus far:

1) affected, forced and belaboured descriptions that say more about a writers’ workshop than sincere heartfelt scribbling:

exhibit 1: the brushing of the hair
exhibit 2: Liverpool FC

2) too many views of Ullman’s real-life family connections – it smacks of thinly veiled name-dropping and it leaves a nasty taste in the mouth.

exhibit 1: Fårö
exhibit 2: Liv

That said, I am intrigued enough to continue on…

Trivia – two hours south of Oslo is Arendal and a spit off shore is the island of Tromøy, where the main man and I hunkered down for a year. Knausgård’s book one of My Struggle (A Death in the Family, first published 2009) was set on that island, an estate just up and over from our gaff. SO, the point I am getting to is this bit in Ullman’s book:

The final part of his trilogy was to be about time. Jon planned to write a hymn to everything that endures and everything that falls apart.

It all seems connected in a plate of worms type way.

Dreadful is closest.
;O)