Blog Posts by Uncle Will

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/.
Posted by Uncle Will on 06/04/12
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Camilla Lackberg is the best selling mystery author of Sweden.  She has 7 best sellers; to date, only 3 have been translated into English.  This is her latest in her Fjallbacka series.  What is it about Swedish authors that seem to mandate that all their mysteries have at least 20 characters?
 
True to form, this latest story has several plots with interconnecting characters.  The story begins in the present with Patrik and Erica, the proud parents of newly born Maja.  Erica has all the signs of postpartum depression.  Patrik hasn't a clue since he is immersed in investigating the shocking death of his wife's best friends' 8-year old daughter Sara...found tangled in a fishing net off the coast of Fjallbacka.   
 
Chapter 2 backs up to 1928 and has Lackberg tangling-in the title character, Anders Anderson, who is an artist with hammer and chisel in hand.  His canvas is Stromstad's quarry's granite.  He is commissioned by the town's most prominent businessman to create a great granite statue.  Agnes, the rich man's spoiled and only daughter has commission plans for Anders of her own.  The story continues to flip-flop back and forth between storylines, building to a dramatic conclusion.
 
All of Patrik's police cronies are back; each with their own set of hang-ups and emotional baggage.  Anna, the abused wife and younger sister of Erica, continues to plot her (and her children's) escape from her ogre husband Lucas. 
 
Make no mistake about it, this 500-page book is not an easy read and readers are advised to begin with Lackberg's first two mysteries in the series: The Ice Princess and The Preacher.    The series' central characters continue to develop from book to book.  The last chapter is always the "teaser" foreshadowing what is to come. 
 
If one enjoys mysteries that are thought-provoking and not formulaic, heroes that are flawed, and romance that endures, this Swedish series is carved in stone. 
 
   
Posted by Uncle Will on 05/25/12
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"Vengeance is mine...sayeth the short story lover."
 
Lee Child has edited a collection of short stories from noted mystery authors Dennis  LeHane, Alafair Burke, Michael Connelly, Twist Phelan, Zoe Sharp, Jim Fusilli, Rick  McMahan, Anne Swardson, Steve Liskow, Brendan DuBois, Michael Niemann, Karin Slaughter,  Michelle Gagnon, Orest Stelmach, Adam Meyer, Dreda Say Mitchell, Darrell James, C.E.  Lawrence, Janice Law, and Mike Cooper.
 
Short stories are always a challenge to create for mystery writers.  Stephen King has in the past said that he thinks the successful ones are more difficult to write than the typical novel. There isn't an unsuccessful one in the bunch collected here. 
 
There is fine supply of twisted plots and complex characters.
 
"The Unremarkable Heart" I found to be the most controversial; the cleverest one has to be "Even a Blind Man." Lee Child fans will enjoy his dark entry "The Hollywood I Remember."  Make certain to read Child's introduction on how he chose the authors and their works.  It, too, is most enjoyable.

The lengths of all the stories are perfect for that bedtime nightcap to end the day.
Posted by Uncle Will on 05/09/12
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Vivian is a teen werewolf.  She recently lost her father, who was King of the Pack, in a horrific fire.  Her mother, Esme, is 40-going-on-18 and Vivian's closest competition for male attention.  Like any teenage girl who lacks parental guidance, Vivian is depressed and a loner.  All her male peers are beasts...both figuratively and literally.  It's tough enough for a teen to deal with puberty, yet alone the repercussions of full moon transformations.
 
One day Vivian's life is transformed when she initiates a conversation with Aiden.  He is a creative classmate.  He has a gentle soul and smile to match.  He has a group of friends that could rival any werewolves' pack.  He also, in the eyes of any card-carrying werewolf, is nothing but a meat-boy
 
Meat-boys are not meant to be friends or lovers of werewolves.  Meat-boys are meant to be meals. 
 
Vivian's struggles abound.  She fears what a relationship with Aiden might bring out in her.  She fears being shunned by her pack for crossing a line that is forbidden.  She fears that her family will retaliate against Aiden for her indiscretions. 
 
Add to the plot the murders of some humans that draw unwanted attention to the pack and a power-struggle for a new leader; and the reader gets the classic story of  forbidden boy meets forbidden girl...with some howling at the moon added for special effects. 
 
This book was adapted into a film starring Agnes Bruckner and Hugh Dancy.  It should be required reading for teens (or adults) that feel the constant pressure to fit into today's society. 
 
Posted by Uncle Will on 04/06/12
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Carl Hiaasen once again writes a book that a reader can really sink their teeth into.  The question is why  has it been categorized a Kid's Book?   It must be because it carries a PG rating.  This is textbook Hiaasen:  characters that are a tad off-center, witty dialog galore, and the setting in the Florida everglades. 
 
Mickey Cray is a loving husband and father, a professional animal wrangler, and a certifiable nutcase.   His doting son, Wahoo, loves giving his father a hand around their animal farm.  One of Wahoo's hands is sans  thumb thanks to Alice, the alligator, who one day was a little more eager to get fed by Wahoo than he anticipated.  Mrs. Cray has to take a short-term interpreter's job in China to help pay the bills.  Times are hard.
 
Hard-pressed for income, Mickey signs a contract with a network studio that produces the extremely popular TV series: Expedition Survival!  The star of this television show, Derek Badger, is battier than one of the bats that nearly bites off Derek's tongue while filming footage for an upcoming everglades' episode.  
 
Mickey and Derek are not a match made in heaven.  Derek, the supposed environmentalist, has total disregard for anything living.  His only concerns are having a massage each night in a posh motel that sports a hot tub in his suite and an abundance of chocolate éclairs at his bidding.  So totally out of control is Derek that he has to have his own personal wrangler....Raven Stark.  She has the undesirable job of being his production assistant and full-time baby sitter.  
 
Before packing up and traveling to the proposed filming location, Mickey and Wahoo sort of adopt Tuna, a runaway abused classmate of Wahoo's.  Tuna's mother is in Chicago.  She has escaped her drunken husband's beatings by leaving to care for her sick mother.  After receiving her latest black-eye from daddy dearest, Tuna decides that swimming solo upstream would be better for her health than remaining home.  Home is a trailer parked in the local Wal-Mart lot.  
 
As expected, there are production problems a-plenty betwixt Derek and Mickey that must be wrangled by Raven and Wahoo.  When Tuna's dad discovers her current whereabouts, the collision course among the three mental midgets is more dangerous than entering the Bermuda Triangle.
 
 
 
   
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