Blog Posts by Uncle Will

Posted by Uncle Will on 02/04/13
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Set in post-war Los Angeles, this new nonfiction book reads like historical fiction.  Lieberman has an easy-going narrative style that keeps his recounting moving fluidly. 
 
Mickey Cohen was the major mob boss in L.A. in 1946.  A certain captain in the LAPD realized that the only way to bring Cohen down was to work outside the law.  It was the old adage of fighting-fire-with-fire. Sgt. Jack O'Mara was selected to lead a team of detectives that would be the firefighters that were to put out Cohen's flames.  This book is the historic account. 
 
Lieberman's book rights were purchased by Hollywood and a major motion-picture was released last month starring Ryan Gosling and Josh Brolin.
 
If L.A. Confidential was to your liking, this book will not displease. 
 
 
 
 
Posted by Uncle Will on 11/26/12
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The book jacket reads:  "...Based on a screenplay by Mario Puzo, award-winning author Ed Falco's thrilling,all-new prequel to The Godfather continues the saga of the Corleone family..."
 
For those of us that have not gotten enough of the family Corleone in either literature nor film, this prequel will be a satisfying read.  The story's set between the years of 1933-1935.  Don Corleone's eldest son, Sonny, is a seventeen-year-old stud.  He is the ringleader of a mixture of Irish and Italian cronies who augment their meager weekly paychecks by ripping-off the most powerful gangster in New York City...Giuseppe Mariposa.  Sonny is not the sharpest blade in the silverware drawer, but he is savy enough to know that his identity as "boss' must never be discovered by Mariposa or more importantly, his father.   So Sonny's gang steals from one mobster and sells these goods to another...Luca Brasi.    
 
We learn that Luca is the most feared "hitter" in all of NYC.  He is not a soldier in any of the families because he's his own boss and swears he'll never answer to anyone.  He takes pleasure knowing that he can do almost anything he wants at anytime.  He also knows that somewhere down the road he will be held accountable, but Luca does not fear God, the reaper, or any mortal man.
 
Readers get the back-stories of Sonny's siblings:   Orphan-college-boy Tom Hagen, slight and sickly Fredo, bookworm Michael, and the little princess, Connie.  The Don is a successful olive oil importer, but the favorite target of Mariposa's mistrust. There is the subplot that details the hate amongst the Irish and Italians and mobsters and how this festers into tragedy and extreme sadness.  
 
Ed Falco has written four previous, independent novels.  Hopefully he will find enough success in this prequel to continue the Corleone saga.    
 
  
Posted by Uncle Will on 11/26/12
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Charles Todd is the American mother-and-son writing team (Caroline and Charles Todd) that has produced fifteen Ian Rutledge and four Bess Crawford mysteries.  
 
I'll be honest.  This was a novel that I had to read since I'll be leading AHML book discussions on it in January and February 2013.  I was pleasantly surprised how well-written and engrossing it was.  
 
Elizabeth Crawford is a British nurse during World War I.  She is the only daughter of a stalwart Colonel and supportive mother.  She is attractive, intelligent, compassionate, and fiercely independent.  She is the "son" that Col. Crawford always longed for.  
 
Bess is aboard the hospital ship, Britannic, when it hits a mine and sinks.  She severely breaks her arm in the process and is fortunate to survive.  Before the ship went down, Bess, was falling in love with a wounded officer in her care...Arthur Graham.
 
On his deathbed, Graham made Bess promise to deliver this message to one of his remaining brothers:  "...Tell Jonathan that I lied.  I did it for Mother's sake.  But it has to be set right..."  Thus Convalescing Bess visits the dysfunctional home of the Grahams to fulfill her promise. What unfolds is a sorted tale of jealousy and betrayal.
 
All the characters were believable and the pacing of this book was marvelous.  The 3-sentence mystery was perfectly composed and will challenge any reader who professes to be able to solve the most challenging of "whodunits."    
 
 
 
 
Posted by Uncle Will on 11/09/12
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This book weighs in at about 15 ounces.  It has about 150 pages.  It takes about 15 minutes to read.  It is the product of a brilliant marketing strategy:  Why not offer, to the millions of fans of fictional character Jack Reacher, a road map of his moral code? 
 
AHML's very own Jon Freier and I have had discussions as to who is the "badest" of fictional characters.  Our short-list usually comes down to Robert Crais' Joe Pike and Lee Child's Jack Reacher.  
 
This book adds new meaning to the words machismo and hubris.   
 
Until Crais copycats Child's brainchild-publishing-ploy and releases a tell-all book like this, my vote goes to Major Jack...hands-down and knuckles-up.
 
Please note:  On December 21, 2012 the film Jack Reacher will open at theaters around the country.  It is based on the 2005 novel One Shot:  A Jack Reacher Novel. This will be the first film adaptation for Lee Child's brainchild.  The 6'5" 250 lbs. part of Jack Reacher will be played by the 5'7" 165 lbs. actor Tom Cruise.  Oh, the magic of Hollywood!     
 
 
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
 
 
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