Sunday, April 23, 2017

books 4-7

The Martyr's Curse by Scott Mariani

Ex-SAS major Ben Hope has found sanctuary in a remote monastery in the French Alps.  But wherever Ben goes, trouble is not far behind.
When a team of merciless killers slaughter the innocent monks, Ben's revenge quest draws him into a bewildering mystery of stolen treasure, deception and murder.
As he works to unravel the clues he is confronted with a terrifying reality that threatens to cruelly reshape the future of humanity.  What is the significance of an ancient curse dating back to a heretical burning?  What are the real ambitions of the enigmatic 'Army of the Prepared'?
I thought this was a great book, it kept you reading and wanting to know what happened next.  I just found out that this is one of a series of 14 books all centered around Ben Hope.  I think each one can be read independently but it would help to read them in order to follow the trial of Ben.

The Hatmaker's Heart by Carla Stewart

For Nell Marchwold, bliss is seeing the transformation when someone gets a glimpse in the mirror while wearing one of her creations and feels beautiful.  Nell has always strived to create hats that bring out a woman's best qualities.  She knows she's fortunate to have landed a job as an apprentice designer at the prominent Oscar Fields Millinery in New York City.  Yet when Nell's fresh designs begin to catch on, her boss holds her back from the limelight, claiming the stutter she's had since childhood reflects poorly on her and his salon.
Nell's gifts can't be hidden by Oscar Fields' efforts, however.  Soon an up-and-coming fashion designer is seeking her out as a partner for his 1922 collection.  The publicity leads to an opportunity for Nell to make hats in London where she sees her childhood friend, Quentin, and an unexpected spark kindles between them.  But thanks to her success, Oscar is determined to keep her.  As her heart tugs in two directions, Nell must decide what she is willing to sacrifice for her dream, and what her dream truly is.
I thought this was an interesting book, telling the reader lots about the millinery trade.  I felt very annoyed, at times. with Nell with the crap she took from her boss, but I guess that was how it was in the 1920s.  The ending was quite predictable.  But overall I did enjoy this book.

The Ice Child by Camilla Lackberg

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It's January in the peaceful seaside resort of Fjallbacka.  A semi-naked girl wanders through the frozen woods.  When she finally reaches the road, a car comes out of nowhere.  It doesn't manage to stop.
The victim, a girl who went missing four months ago, has been subjected to unimaginably brutal treatment-and Detective Patrik Hedstrom suspects this is just the start.
The police soon discover that three other girls are missing from nearby towns, but there are no fresh leads.  And when Patrik's wife stumbles across a link to an old murder case, the detective is forced to see his investigation in a whole new light.

This is a review I found on
“Enter Demetrius and Chiron with Lavinia, ravished; her hands cut off, and her tongue cut out.”
This gruesome line comes not from The Ice Child but from Shakespeare’s goriest and rarely performed tragedy, Titus Andronicus (Stage direction, Act 2, Scene 4). The mutilations inflicted on Victoria Hallberg at the start of The Ice Child differ slightly in kind but not in brutality. Having been missing for four months, she wanders through a wood in the freezing cold, wrapped only in a red blanket. It is her bid for freedom and it does not last long. When she reaches the road, she is hit by a car and this time her injuries are terminal. The full extent of her pre-crash injuries is then shockingly revealed by the post-mortem.
Like watching Titus Andronicus, it is fair to ask how much of this unpleasantness the readership audience is prepared to stomach.
Crime fiction comes in various degrees of nastiness. A genre that deals primarily in murder is never likely to be an entirely comfortable read. But the spectrum is wide.
These days we would regard Agatha Christie as a lightweight and Michael Connelly, say, as a significant step up in nastiness. But both of these writers seem to be more interested in character, motive and procedure than in the grim details of death. The hugely popular Camilla Lackberg is much further towards the Titus Andronicus end of the spectrum.
This is a book that deals with a singularly nasty group of people in a pretty unpleasant way. I confess that it was not entirely to my taste.
The Ice Child, like most of Lackberg’s work, is set in the small Swedish town of Fjallbacka and, as in previous novels, features Detective Patrik Hedstrom and his crime writer wife Erica Falck.
Victoria Hallberg is not the only girl that has gone missing but her discovery in such a brutalised state provides the first clues in the inquiry. Running parallel to this is Falck’s research for her latest “true life” crime book which features a woman, Laila, imprisoned for murder and for keeping a child in conditions of extreme cruelty. Falck is determined to discover what really went on in the now-abandoned house where the crimes were committed. Slowly but surely, the two apparently unconnected storylines begin to merge.
The Ice Child by its nature challenges our complacency about evil, particularly in an age that rightly or wrongly is determined to find social and psychological explanations rather than to acknowledge that evil might exist as an entity of itself. “The girl looked so happy and innocent, so unaware of the evil that existed in the world. But Laila could have told her all about it. How evil could live right next to what was good, in a community where people wore blinkers and refused to see what was right in front of their noses. Once you saw evil up close, you could never close your eyes to it again. That was her curse and her responsibility”. 
Fans of Camilla Lackberg, and they are legion, will have followed the relationship of Patrik Hedstrom and Erica Falck over several books now but I have to say that I found their characterisation one of the weaker elements. Patrick in particular seemed altogether too weak and vapid to be a lead investigator despite the obvious incompetence of his superiors. The best of a bad bunch, possibly.
Lackberg also makes heavy demands on her readers in terms of keeping track of a very large cast of characters. Written in fairly short episodes, the book jumps from scene to scene quickly, necessitating the retention of a large number of names and plot strands. This is not to imply that the book is badly plotted, it isn’t, just that the technique for delivering the plot is demanding. Keeping track can be tough – a book best read in large doses, I feel.
Finally, it is always difficult to comment on the quality of writing in a translated book because it is not easy to tell whether the weakness lies with the author or the translator but, whichever, the result here is less than exciting. I found much of it rather flat.

The above pretty well sums up how I felt about the book.  There were so many characters and the story kept jumping from one to the other and it was hard to keep track of them all.  I didn't now that the author was so prolific in her writing of so many other books with the same main characters.  It finally came together in probably the last 30 pages.  I was glad to get it finished and I don't think I would read another of this authors books.
The Width of the World by David Baldacci
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This is it.  Vega Jane's time.  She's been lied to her whole life so she breaks away from Wormwood, the only home she's ever known, in search of the truth.  She battles horrors to fight her way across the Quag with her best friend, Delph, and her mysterious canine, Harry Two.  Against all odds, they survive unimaginable dangers and make it through.
And enter a new world that's even worse.  Not because deadly beasts roam the cobblestones, but because the people are enslaved and don't even know it.  It's up to Vega, Delph, Harry Two, and their new comrade, Petra, to take up the fight against a foe that's unrivaled in savagery and cunning.  Not only are the lives of Vega and her friends on the line, but her triumph or failure will determine whether a whole world survives.  Or not.

This is the third book in the Vega Jane series, and I'm sure there will be a fourth.  It's a very easy read and remains interesting and exciting from start to finish.  Relationships are developing more so there are different elements to the story other than battling the enemy.
I found that this book had a lot of similarities to some Harry Potter books.  I guess given the subject of the Vega Jane books this isn't unusual.