Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Mistress of the Art of Death

by Ariana Franklin

Yes, I stumbled into another series, but at least this time from the beginning. In the midst of the second crusades, Cambridge England finds itself in a battle of another kind, to find who is killing their children. When four bodies turn up badly mutilated, King Henry Plantagenet solicits assistance from Salerno's medical school to investigate. What they get is the Mistress of the Art of Death, Adelia Aguilar, one of the only women trained as a doctor, let alone an investigator of the dead. As a mystery goes this is a pretty good story and although you might figure out the culprit ahead of time, there are some unexpected twists to throw you off. Up until the time when the killer is discovered I liked the book, but after that it started slipping. Without spoiling, I just could not accept that Adelia's defense in that pit stopped this crusader of a madman. The other thing that put me off was the little romance thrown in, which seemed out of line for the character and took the story a bit off course.

If you're a fan of historical fiction I wouldn't put too much stock in Franklin's information. Much of the time I questioned its validity particularly relating to medical facts and sometimes doubted attitudes and actions of characters. I've been known to really berate books for attributing details to times in which they don't belong, but for some reason I wasn't as bothered by these... maybe because I was listening to it and not reading?  I might even go so far as to read the next one, but it'll be a while.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Bone Orchard

by Daniel Judson

I'm not sure how I started reading "book 2 in the Gin Palace trilogy" which was clearly added as a subtitle, but it wasn't until about a third of the way through when I realized the book was referring to things of which I knew nothing, but it assumed I was fully aware. By that time I was already in the midst of the action so I just kept on reading. In hindsight, what I missed in book one didn't make too much difference.

For me, reading The Bone Orchard was like reading a James Bond script, heavy on action, light on substance. This is very much crime fiction noir with the cynical and unlikeable characters and the dark and seedy backdrop. The main character, "Mac" joins up with the small town's heavy in an effort to get his friend out of trouble. Just as in all Bond movies, you know from the start how it ends, which eliminates the suspense and the mystery. And just as in all Bond movies there are run-ins and fights galore. This book lives up to that as well. The bigger problem for me was that each fight was literally reading a blow-by-blow that went on for pages, which made this more like a movie script than a novel.

If you're a Raymond Chandler fan and enjoy hard boiled crime you would probably like this series and you might like to start with book 1. 

Monday, August 5, 2013

The Light Between Oceans

by ML Stedman

It's easy for me to think I'd always do the right thing in the face of a tough decision. I tend to be a rule follower and I want others to follow the rules or face the consequences of not doing so, but sometimes what's right isn't always clear and some situations call for rule breaking. The Light Between Oceans presents a dilemma in which doing the right thing will hurt someone but doing the wrong thing will hurt someone else; so who do you choose to hurt?

The reader's digest version of the controversy is over keeping an infant who was found drifting in a boat with a dead body. Tom Sherbourne and his wife have tried repeatedly to have a child but instead have suffered repeated miscarriages and still births, now this baby seems like an answer to prayers, but where did she come from?

For those of you who like a good catch-22, you should enjoy this book. It is well written and believable, if not a bit of a downer, but would provide for a lively book club discussion. In fact, my kids and I had a good debate over the subject on our return from St.L. I was a little surprised that my daughter expressed such a strong opinion and her viewpoint and reasoning was very sound. The problem for me in these type of books is that there is no good answer. I can see both sides of the coin and either heads or tails leads to pain.