Latest book you've read

I’ve lost track of the books read since my last post but anyway here are a couple of interest.

The free book, Burke’s War started with seeing a murder from an aero plane window while landing. Burke had spent four tours in Iraq and Afghanistan as an Army Ranger and Delta Force commander. He was a US government lethal killer and became disillusioned with the armed forces and retired to run the telecommunications company where he acquired the nickname of The Telephone Guy. There are a lot of interesting twists and turns along the way before the killer is brought to justice.

Second trilogy book, Burke’s Gamble was about America’s gambling casinos and how an old army friend got thrown out of a window. Investigation and revenge revealed cunning twists. Although the book has some vicious and brutal accounts of violence the author has a lighthearted approach with a touch of humor.

Third trilogy book, Burke’s Revenge is the third book in the trilogy and was of interest due to the location being in Turkey and crossing into Syria, the same journey I travelled a long time ago. A mission was aborted not before two fighter jets bombed the enemy followed by the team evacuating in helicopters. Quite a few Burke’s friends died on the mission and his revenge of both the enemies and army personnel that caused the failed mission.

Final book, Burke’s Samovar about an ISIS group attacking the Special Forces Network in Fort Brag and killing a close army acquaintance. Once again plenty of CI-4 explosions and bloodshed before Burke’s Merry Men brought justice to the perpetrators.

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I’ve just finished “The Blanket of the Dark” by John Buchan. I downloaded it some time back as a free e-book, having read several others of his books and thoroughly enjoyed them. However, I didn’t realise until I started reading it that this is an historical novel, which is not usually a genre I’d read. I decided to read it anyway, as I like the author.

The book is set in England in the reign of Henry VIII. There are references to figures and events which my knowledge of English history is insufficient to recognise, but they were not crucial to the story. The action centres around a plot to overthrow Henry and replace him with a new monarch. I know enough history to know that didn’t happen, and I found it a bit odd reading the book, already knowing the plot must fail.

However, it is well-written, and a good adventure, if not something I would normally have chosen to read.

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I just read another free ebook and surprise, surprise the author lives in Leeds, North Yorkshire! I lived quite close for nearly twenty years! Andrew Barrett, part-time writer and employed by the Leeds constabulary is a Senior Crime Scene Investor (CSI) and imparts his detailed knowledge to his crime scenes.

https://www.andrewbarrett.co.uk/welcome-to-andrew-barrett/

“Ledston Luck” is fourth in the Eddie Collins series. It is set about ten years ago and based 16 km east of Leeds in the county of West Yorkshire, UK. Coal mining used to be the main source of employment until the pit closed in 1986 and now has a population of about 400.

Eddie Collins, the forensic investigator is sent to investigate the discovery of a body in a basement of a derelict church. His gruff, defensive, prickly, occasionally downright obnoxious and utterly obsessive nature about his work makes this a compulsive read but may not appeal to all readers.

Language is crude and to be expected due to the extreme graphic details involving savage beatings which are rife throughout the book.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book, also read the free short story, “The Lift” and now half way through Eddie Collin’s first book in the series, “The Third Rule”.

Edit and perhaps off-topic:

Do other readers prefer reading book reviews before starting a new book? I prefer reading reviews afterwards because curious to know of what others thought about the book? Many reviews have far too much details about the plot and characters. Reading some reviews before the book spoils the plot and also to waiting for characters to appear :frowning:

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I tend to not bother much with reviews either before or after, except in the form of threads like these where it’s sometimes interesting to hear what other people thought. One that I’m in on another forum is particularly scathing about the work of James Patterson, for example, but I quite like a lot of his stuff - sure, it’s an easy read, not challenging or stimulating intellectually, but that’s not necessarily why I read a book. The same thread has also suggested that the new Lee Child “Reacher” book is not up to scratch, presumably because he’s delegated the writing to his brother, so I am a bit concerned what I’ll see when I get around to reading my copy. On the other hand, another contributor there recommended a book which sounded good so I bought it and wasn’t impressed at all.

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I’ve just finished “Fallen” by Benedict Jacka, the tenth book in the “Alex Verus” series. (If you want to try reading them, start at the beginning - “Fated” - or you’ll be lost.)

The books are set among the mage community in current-day UK. There are Light mages, who follow the laws and concords of the Light Council, and Dark mages, who do not. However, things are not as clear cut as that. While some Dark mages are clearly evil, others just want autonomy, or distrust the Light Council. Lightwise, not all Light mages are good, and some Council members abuse their powers for their own ends.

In the middle of this is Alex Verus, who was apprenticed in his youth to a powerful Dark mage, from whom he eventually escaped when he realised the extent of the man’s evil. As a result, he is hated as a betrayer by much of the Dark community and distrusted by most of the Light community. When the series starts, he is living quietly in Camden, trying to avoid attracting attention from either side. That doesn’t last …

Mages have one power - fire magic, life magic, air magic, etc. - and Verus’s power is divination. I really like the way this is portrayed in the series. He can’t predict the future (“Who will win the FA cup?”), but he can “path walk” possible futures to try to determine a course of action. So he can “see” what will happen if he opens a door or takes a particular route (nothing, or he’ll run into a guard, or be killed by a booby trap, or …), allowing him to choose the immediate future with the best possible outcome. Occasionally, he can even listen in briefly on conversations by watching the future in which he walks up to the people talking! I find this whole concept very intriguing.

There is also an interesting cast of characters - mainly human, but including an air elemental and a giant sentient spider, among others.

If you like urban fantasy with plenty of action, then you’ll probably enjoy this series.

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I’ve just finished “A Damned Serious Business” by Gerald Seymour. Heck, it was hard going. Every time a character thinks or says something, there’s a paragraph or two of background to it, most of which we’ve read at least once. I’ve read other books by him and I don’t remember them being anything like as difficult to plough through.

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I’ve now finished “Revenge” by James Patterson and Andrew Holmes. An ex-SAS soldier turned private security consultant gets involved in death and kidnapping. Unusually for American authors writing books set in the UK, I didn’t notice any major howlers (£100 notes, that kind of thing), perhaps Mr Holmes is from the UK and made sure of that.

I think with these co-authorship deals, the main name author thinks up the basic story and the lesser-known one does the bulk of the heavy work - I think I read that in an interview with the late Clive Cussler, though maybe each does it differently.

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I’ve just finished “That Affair Next Door” by Anna Katharine Green, a “whodunnit” first published in 1897 and set in New York.

The narrator is a middle-aged spinster, Amelia Butterworth, who notices a man and a woman arriving late at night at the house next door, which she knows to be empty as the family is on holiday. Ten minutes later, the man leaves alone, and the following day a woman’s body is found in the house. The case seems straightforward, but Miss Butterworth has noticed several anomalies. However, when she tries to draw these to the attention of the police, she is treated condescendingly because of her gender and status, and not taken seriously. She therefore sets out to investigate for herself.

Amelia Butterworth is somewhat smug and self-righteous, yet she grew on me in the course of the book, and I couldn’t help sympathising with her, especially in her frustrations at being dismissed by the police. The plot took several unexpected turns and the book was an enjoyable read.

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I’ve just finished “True Faith and Allegiance”, a Tom Clancy novel but written by Mark Greaney after TC had died. I bought it when it was new (2017-ish) but put it on one side and only just got around to it. It’s very good, reminded me how good TC stuff is despite this being a different author. Set in “The Campus”, the agency that President Jack Ryan’s son works in, a cyber-criminal has stolen some US security information and is selling it off to ISIS to help them plan attacks.

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I’m currently (a few pages here and there) reading principles of anatomy and physiology.

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I’ve just finished “Target Alex Cross” by James Patterson which was enjoyable. Multiple assassins have several targets of high-ranking US political figures and there’s a bit of a race on to catch up with them. An easy read, not a particularly deep background story but not bad because of it.

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Just finished “Beneath the Bleeding” by Val McDermid. Featuring cop Carol Jordan and psychiatrist Tony Hill, a footballer appears to have contracted a rare virus until a nurse discovers something more sinister. I’ve read quite a few books of this series, I went off them for a while but I can’t remember why. A decent read, I wish I could remember to read them in sequence but this was on the used books stall the other day.

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I’ve recently finished “Lost Man’s Lane” and “The Circular Study” by Anna Katharine Green, the second and third books in the “Amelia Butterworth” trilogy.

In “Lost Man’s Lane”, there has been a series of disappearances of travellers in a small, rural town. Mr. Gryce, the detective Miss Butterworth met in her first adventure, persuades her to visit connections she has in the town, in the hope of uncovering clues or information not available to the police. It soon becomes apparent that the house where she is staying is harbouring a dark secret, but is it connected to the disappearances?

Unlike the first book, this is less of a classic “whodunnit”, with clues to be found and pieced together, and more of a mystery, with noises, strange happenings, odd behaviour, but nothing really tangible - more “The Mysteries of Udolpho”* than Miss Marple. It was still a good read, although I felt there were a couple of minor loose ends I’d have liked to see tied up at the end.

*Off Topic:
I have read “The Mysteries of Udolpho”, but in my defence, Jane Austen made me do it! The young heroine of "Northanger Abbey - one of my all-time favourite books - is a great reader of Gothic novels, and “The Mysteries of Udolpho” is mentioned several times in the book. When I came across it as a free e-book, I felt obliged to further my education. shifty_suspect

“The Circular Study” begins as a whodunnit, with a body found in a house in strange circumstances. Miss Butterworth and Mr. Gryce work together to piece together events and explain various anomalies about the room. However, the second half of the book revolves around an old wrong, and a long-cherished plan for vengeance, which ultimately ended in the death of the man in the study. I found this quite tedious, and also somewhat far-fetched. Not a book I really enjoyed.

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I’ve just finished “The Kingdom” by Jo Nesbo. Two brothers inherit the family farm, one stays home while the other goes abroad to do great things, then comes home to build a massive hotel. A reasonable enough tale.

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I’ve recently finished The Scorpion’s Tail by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child.

An FBI agent, Corrie Swanson, is tasked with investigating a shooting that seems boring and trivial and turns out to be so much more.

I love the style of Preston & Child, it’s easy to grok. I’ve also read their entire Pendergast series so far, which is also good (though the later books are better than the earlier ones). Pendergast also makes an appearance in The Scorpion’s Tail, which is nice although he may be a bit too show-off.

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I’ve recently finished “Miss Cayley’s Adventures” by Grant Allen, first published in 1899. It’s described as a detective novel, but I’d say it’s more adventure than detective, although Miss Cayley does solve a number of puzzles along the way. Either way, I really enjoyed the book, which is well-written and witty.

Lois Cayley is a recent graduate of Girton College, Cambridge, who finds herself penniless through no fault of her own. The traditional option of teaching fills her with horror, so she determines to find another way to earn her keep. She decides to go out for a walk (in London) and take the first opportunity which comes her way to find employment. As a result, she becomes a “companion” to a cantankerous old lady, escorting her on a journey to Germany. Thereafter, she continues to seize whatever chances come her way to travel and see the world. Lois Cayley is a likeable heroine, brave and adventurous, with a great sense of humour.

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Gone with the Wind. Part || now. Classic

I’ve just finished “The Sentinel”, the latest Jack Reacher book by Lee Child and, now, co-authored with his brother Andrew. I enjoyed it as I do most of these. I did read some quite negative reviews of it when it first came out, which delayed me starting it, but I didn’t find anything particularly bad about it.

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I recently watched the “The Queen’s Gambit” which was an October 2020 Netflix “mini-series” adaption of William Travis’s book. Surprisingly the publish date of the book was 1983 and the author died August the following year. Lung cancer caused his early death when he was only 56.

The story starts with Beth Harmon being told of both parents dying in a car accident. She entered an orphanage aged seven and while there the janitor taught her to play chess. Soon she was winning chess tournaments despite having numerous personal issues.

I enjoyed the mini-series but was frequently left wondering about Beth Harmon’s thoughts during the many scenes where she rarely spoke, especially during the long chess tournaments.

I decided to read the book and was delighted to find it so much better than the mini-series. Her early years were a struggle about how she overcame traumatic experiences before becoming a chess master.

There are only fourteen lengthy chapters which I found strange considering the modern trend is even to have single page chapters.

Highly recommended and tempted to read his other books, some of which were made into successful films.

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I’ve just finished “Cold Killing” by Luke Delaney. A decent book, a serial killer taunts the detective who is after him but cannot find enough evidence to convict.

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