Blog Posts by Uncle Will

Posted by Uncle Will on 10/23/12
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Billy Boyle is born in Boston.  He comes from a long line of Irish policemen.  Just when he gets promoted to detective, he is drafted into the Army.  There's a war on and every able-bodied man is needed.
 
Some men are more able than others.  Some are just better connected.  It turns out that Billy's uncle is Dwight D. Eisenhower, the  Supreme Commander - Allied Armed Forces - Europe.  Strings are pulled and Billy becomes a commissioned officer and sails for England to join his uncle's intelligence team.
 
Before Lt. Billy can become acclimated to this new country, yet alone being an U.S. Army officer, he's assigned (whether he chooses it or not)  to uncover a spy.  A spy who is imbedded somewhere in the Norwegian network that is planning the invasion to recapture their homeland from German occupancy. 
Billy's new teammates are a beautiful British WREN officer and her unlikely lover...a member of Polish royalty.
 
To convolute things further, a Norwegian officer commits suicide.  The more Billy investigates, the less he is convinced that the suicide was a well-disguised murder.
 
If readers like World War II historical fiction, then this book will be an entertaining quick-read.   
Posted by Uncle Will on 10/23/12
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Keigo Higashino is the author of The Devotion of Suspect X, one of my Top-5 picks for 2011 and the choice of AHML's most recent Mystery Book Discussion on October 8, 2012 .  This newest title is only the second time one of his works has been translated into English.  This mystery series is quite controversial and an internet sensation.  The main character is the "brilliant, yet eccentric physicist," Professor Manabu Yukawa, who has been called the Japanese Sherlock Holmes
 
Playing Watson to Yukawa's Holmes is the Tokyo policeman, Detective Shumpei Kusanagi.   Together the two team-up to solve the most improbable of the city's criminal cases.  One minor difference in the Sherlock Holmes comparisons is that the Tokyo team is a threesome.  It includes Kusanagi's keen-sighted and demure assistant, Kaoru Utsumi.  Kaoru brings the much-needed female perspective to the two bachelors' deductive-reasoning discussions.  
 
In The Devotion of Suspect X, a strain was put upon the personal and working relationships of Yukawa and Kusanagi.  When a case of possible suicide/probable murder is investigated by Kusanagi, his junior detective/partner begins to feel that her boss and mentor is crossing forbidden boundaries and falling for the main suspect.  Utsumi's only recourse is to enlist the services of "Detective Galileo", aka Professor Yukawa.  The author is a master at intertwining the brilliance of all three main characters. 
 
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's first Sherlock Holmes story was written 125 years ago.  It was entitled:  A Study in Scarlet.  This book serves as a true testament that that style of writing is still popular today.   
Posted by Uncle Will on 10/23/12
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Karin Fossum is a very successful Scandinavian mystery writer.  The Caller, recently translated into English, was published in 2009.  It is the tenth book in her Inspector Sejer Mystery series.  It is the simple story of a set of childish pranks gone bad.
 
Johnny Beskow is anything but simple.  He is a teenager that has too much time on his hands and is emotionally disturbed.  His hate and loathing of his mother is just second to the respect he has for his grandfather.  This respect is based on the fact that Johnny's grandfather accepts the lad for who he is; unfortunately, the grandfather has no idea who the lad really is. 
 
Johnny is a vindictive prankster.  The pranks that he devises are so diabolical that even though no physical damage occurs, the psychological effect of his stunts is devastating and has the potential for long-lasting results.  The cruelty increases with each new attack. 
 
Inspector Sejer is a kindly old detective with the keen insight expected in a law enforcement agent who has seen just about every cruelty that man can conjure up.  His partner, Skarre, is a generation younger and less worldly.  Together they combine all their experience to solve the mystery behind the rash of devilish deeds that are turning a small town into "Nightmare City."
 
 
Several of Fossum's works have been adapted to film and TV in Norway.  The most famous probably is the 2007 adaptation of her novel The Girl by the Lake.  If interested, AHML has nine of her books and one DVD available for checkout.   Readers that enjoy mysteries that are shockingly realistic, but not gory, should take a stab at Fossum's collection.
 
Posted by Uncle Will on 09/18/12
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Trickster's Point is the 13th book in Krueger's Cork O'Connor series.  It's hard to describe just what endears me to his books.  Cork O'Connor is part Irish and part Ojibwe.  He is a loving father and husband.  His children respect, honor, and love him.  He has had more than his share of life's tragedies.  He lost his father when only 13 years old.   Death always seems to be on his doorstep.  He is like a hound dog.  He is relentless in his pursuit of truth and justice.  He respects the elderly, his bloodline, and their tribal teachings.
 
Yet he's also a flawed character.  He is an atypical hero.  He is at times stubborn beyond reason.  He makes enemies just as easy as friends.  However, he always tries to be true to himself, which might be one of life's most difficult challenges.
 
In this latest book, Cork's best childhood friend takes an arrow to the heart while the two are out hunting.  He asks Cork not to go for help, but rather spend the last remaining minutes of his life with him.  Three hours tick by and Jubal Little passes over to finally meet his Gichi-manidoo.   Unfortunately, the arrow in Jubal's chest is one of Cork's and O'Connor is suspected of murder.  Cork's mission is to clear his name, but more importantly find his friend's assassin. Jubal, not unlike his close friend, Cork, has his share of enemies too.  Cork's list of suspects grows as he tries to backtrack the true killer's movements prior to the attack.
 
Tracking and backtracking are of importance since it is obvious that the murderer was schooled in the "old ways" of stalking prey.  As Cork plods along, another corpse is discovered, not far from where Jubal's body lay. Another of O'Connor's hand-made arrows is found in the eye of that man. 
 
Cork eyes the two women in Jubal's life as probable suspects, but in his heart he cannot find any peace in those possibilities. What Cork must do is determine just how far someone is willing to go in the name of love.
 
For those that are avid fans, this book will reinforce the reasons why reading a William Kent Krueger novel is like sitting down and eating a hot, heaping bowl of homemade chili...both warm one to the soul and leave one feeling fulfilled.
 
        
Posted by Uncle Will on 09/18/12
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With Sweden these days seemingly leading the way with best selling mystery authors, this time I thought I'd try an Icelandic international author, Arnaldur Indriðason.  He has 10 out of 12 from his "Detective Erlendur" crime-novel series now translated into English.  He has sold over 7 million copies.  Operation Napoleon is one of his stand-alone mystery novels that was written in 1999 and recently translated into English.
 
The story jumps back and forth betwixt Iceland, 1945 and the Pentagon, 1999.   Several high ranking World War II officers -- some German, some American -- crash-land on a glacier during a horrific snowstorm.  One of the German officers sets out in the attempt to reach a farmhouse.  With him is a briefcase handcuffed to his wrist.  The other passengers are left to fend for themselves in the destroyed remains of their aircraft.  Where was the final destination of this mixed-crew and what was being transported in the cargo plane and locked in the briefcase? 
 
We discover that our government has secretly been trying to find the remains of the plane for over 50 years.  When satellite pictures show the glacier spitting-up the partial plane, a creepy crew of clandestine soldiers are sent to procure the remains and destroy all evidence of the event.  An Icelandic man, Elias, unfortunately witnesses the beginning of the extraction and contacts his sister, Kristin, before he disappears.  This sets off the thrilling chain of events that follows.  It's a race between good and evil to uncover the truth or to eliminate it completely.
 
This race is "a never-ending battle for truth and justice" and according to the author, hopefully the un-American way.  Written from the point-of-view of an Icelandic national narrative, the good old USA government comes across as anything but flattering.   America is viewed as a bullying nation that will go to any lengths to cover their tracks.  This book, at first shocking, ends up quite a refreshing read.  In our country where "wagging of the dog" is standard political practice, it's novel to get a different perspective of just how America has positioned itself as the leading world power.
 
In 2008, Arnaldur Indriðason wrote the screenplay for the foreign film:  Reykjavik-Rotterdam.  In 2012, the USA  remade its version Contraband which stars Mark Wahlberg.     AHML currently has several of this author's books in our collection:   Hypothermia; Artic ChillThe Draining Lake; Voices, Silence Of The Grave; and OutrageJar City is another of his books that was adapted to film in 2006. 
 
 
 
 
Posted by Uncle Will on 09/18/12
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This is the first book I've read by Carsten Stroud.  I was drawn to the book's front cover where Elmore Leonard was quoted as saying it had "...Terrific dialogue...and...oddball characters..."  That was endorsement enough for me.
 
This epic story has a multitude of characters.  So many that readers might want to keep a yellow pad handy to track names.  At times it seems that each chapter is introducing yet another person of interest.  Their back-stories are presented methodically.  
 
Stroud indeed has a method to his madness.  A young boy vanishes in the blink of an eye.  A former police officer and a current one commit a brazen bank robbery in broad daylight; killing several brother officers in the process.  A retired town matriarch disappears along with her gardener.  A missing child is found alive, buried in a grave that has not be disturbed for many years.  A former Special-Forces-soldier-turned-police-investigator and his wife possess a mirror that might be the link to several mysterious disappearances over the past century.
 
Niceville is a town with many secrets.  It is a place that is dwarfed by a humongous cliff which keeps much of the town in it's shadow for a good part of the day.  There is a surrounding sinkhole that seems to slowly suck the life out of some.  
 
This story is a thriller more than a mystery.  If interested in reading more by this author, AHML has four other of his novels:  Sniper's Moon, Cuba Strait, Cobraville, and Black Water Transit - which has been adapted to film.  It stars Lawrence Fishburne, Carl Urban, and Steven Dorff.  Stroud won the Arthur Ellis Award in 1993 for best new Canadian novel:  Lizardskin - which is available thru LINKin
 
 
Posted by Uncle Will on 08/21/12
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Private First Class William Joseph Kramer was in the 4th Marine Division during WWII.  He saw action in some of the most fierce battles in the Pacific.  He was honorably discharged after VJ Day.  He came back to the states and became a limestone sawyer.  He married and had two children.  When the inhaled limestone dust became life-threatening, he packed up his family and moved to New Mexico because the air was said to be drier and cleaner than Chicago. When work could not be found, he moved his family back to Chicago and once again proudly wore a uniform for the U.S. Government.  This time around it was that of a postal worker.  For the remainder of his life he never mentioned the war or shared his thoughts or feelings with anyone.
 
Chuck Tatum was an 18 year old Marine that was part of the first-wave landing force on Iwo Jima on February 19, 1945. The battle lasted until March 26th.   Tatum was awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart medals for his valor and wounds received.  This book is an in-depth look at the bloodiest battle of WWII.  110,000 Marines landed on the black sand beaches that day back in 1945.  6,825 Marines were killed during the siege.  The entrenched Japanese lost 22,000.  
 
Tatum's book was used as one of the four reference books for the filming of The Pacific in 2010.  It was made by the same production company that produced Band of Brothers.  The narrator in both films was Tom Hanks.
 
If it wasn't for books like Red Blood, Black Sand, interested parties today would not be able to understand the toll it took on the young men who bravely fought to keep our country free.
 
Pvt. First Class William Joseph Kramer had two tattoos...one each on his forearms.  One honored the love of his mother and the other, that of the Corps.  To his dying day he was damn proud of being a Marine.  This was evident in the way he carried himself.  The sharpness of his dress.  His inability to ever back down from anything. 
 
Like most of his brethren, he just didn't answer the question:  "...What did you do in the war, Daddy?..."  
   
 
 
 
Posted by Uncle Will on 07/25/12
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Stockholm's detective extraordinaire, Joona Linna, is back in this sequel to the best-selling first novel The Hypnotist. Joona is invited to join Sweden's elite-of-elite crime-solving team called "The Commission" as its sixth member. This small group of investigators are "...responsible for combating serious crime at both the national and international level...."  Joona declines the prestigious offer since they mandate a regimented procedure for investigating crimes. Variations to the theme are not welcomed.

Joona is the modern-day combination of a Swedish Sherlock Holmes and action star Chuck Norris. He basically has free reign over what cases he gets involved in and what means he uses to solve them. The nice part is that he is not pretentious or self-centered. He is just uncannily always right. 

The Nightmare has Joona investigating several murders whose connection is apparent, at first, only to him. A renowned pacifist and her lover are on the run from a robotic-like professional killer. The assassin is searching for a photo that would compromise a major arms deal if released to the public. The person who has ordered the killings has an unusual way of conducting business. Contracts are never signed. What he requires, in order to complete all business transactions with his future partners, is their willingness to share their worst nightmare.       

Alexander Ahndoril and his wife Alexandra Coelho Ahndoril write under the pseudonym Lars Kepler. These Swedish authors had a breakaway best-seller last year with The Hypnotist. The film version's release date is set for September in Sweden. The movie is about "a detective who pairs himself with a famous psychologist on a case involving a traumatized young witness to a crime." 

Posted by Uncle Will on 07/13/12
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This sophisticated horror story was not written for an uneducated audience.  It is hip 'n' happenin' and yet old-fashioned.  It is tragic, yet uplifting.  It has humor, yet is remorseful.  It is simply...well written.
 
Duncan is a British born author who studied philosophy and literature.  In this, his 7th novel, the protagonist is Jake, the last werewolf.  Werewolves have survived for over 1000 years.  Jake's dilemma is whether to surrender himself to two factions that are trying to capture him alive, flee from his human tormentors, or possibly commit suicide.  All of which are not pleasant thoughts.
 
Adding to Jake's displeasure is the fact that his only trusted human companion of fifty-plus years, Harley, has been kidnapped, tortured, and killed.  This action forces Jake to take a stand and confront some of his hidden fears and suppressed memories.  While mourning this loss and weighing feelings of self-destruction, Jake Marlowe stumbles upon the only thing left in life worth living for...Love!
 
Duncan's 3rd novel I, Lucifer is currently being developed for film. 
 
The sequel to The Last Werewolf is Talulla Rising.
Posted by Uncle Will on 06/27/12
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As Adam Sandler would say:  "...Not too shabby..."  This best describes this first published novel of  S. J. Watson. 
 
Shabby, at best, could  also describe the heroine’s memory.  Chris wakes each day with no memory of her past.  For over 20 years, her days begins in a panic.  Where is she?  Who is she? Why can't she remember anything?   Who is the man in bed next to her?
 
Each dawn, the man in bed next to her patiently explains to Chris that he is Ben, her husband.  He carefully outlines the traumatic past that she has survived and the resulting time-life-loop in which Chris' memory is stuck.  Imagine what this must feel like to experience!  
 
The lone, good outcome of this daily experience is that it's not like a nagging, horrific nightmare.  She has little or no memories of her past, so each day is news to her.  She discovers through Ben's daily narratives that she has spent a lot a time in hospitals and her prognosis is not good.   Over the years, doctors have not measured much change in her condition. 
 
One day a doctor contacts her and says that he has been secretly working with Chris for some time and feels that she may one day get better.  He encourages her to start a daily diary, hide it from Ben each night before they sleep, and then the doctor will tell her the next day the hiding place so that Chris can read and more easily assimilate her past.
 
Since no character in the story is without flaws and trust-worthy, the reader is constantly assessing the exposition and attempting to seek some truth.  Chris might have been in a car accident.  She might have had best friend who is since estranged.  Ben might have once divorced her.  She might have had a son who died in a war.  The list goes on.
 
This is a difficult book to write, but not that difficult to read.  There is a lot of redundancy that is to be expected since Chris's memory must be reassembled each day like a house of cards.  The final product, this book, withstands any gust of wind.  Looking forward to his next novel.  Watson's webpage can be found here:  http://www.sjwatson-books.com/.

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