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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Unsinkable - A review

Expectations are a terrible thing because so often they let you down. I started this book really wanting to love it. I mean what's not to love here. A wonderful story of grit and determination in a teenage girl, who at sixteen isn't even a woman yet, striving against all odds to break the world record as the youngest female to single-handedly sail around the world non-stop. That she does not succeed is not the story here the story is thee fortitude and perseverance she demonstrates having to repair the ship, following instructions over the phone from hundreds of miles away in the worst conditions imaginable, and the will to survive when her yacht almost capsizes and then the disappointment when her mast snaps off leaving her drifting in a spot on the Indian Ocean just about as far from land as she could be. My heart broke along with hers when she had no choice but to activate the emergency beacon and summon help.

The problem is that I just gave you the entire book in one paragraph. It would have been longer obviously if the trip had not been cut short, so the preparation for the journey is dwelt on too long to give the book some filler. We are a third of the way through the book before she even sets sail. Now I am going to assume that, like any other athletic event, the party performing the feat has trained. it would really be a story if they did the deed without preparation. The only book I had read that I could compare this one too was Dove (Sunderland mentions having read this herself) a story of Robin lee graham, who sailed the world as a sixteen year old over thirty years ago. He was a pioneer in this type of single-handedly sailing the world and an inspiration to the author here. His book spends the first chapter on the preparation and the rest on the journey. Unsinkable should have followed suit.

The other problem, and it is because of the elongated beginning that this is even discussed are the parents of the author. I recall when this journey actually took place and the press questioned whether or not she was capable and if the parents were out of their mind letting her do this trip. Now Sunderland showed all of us she was capable, level-headed and courageous. However, the fact that she had to call for help pack to her dad and the team she had assembled rather than being able to figure it out or jerry-rig the boat shows that perhaps she was really not a 'seasoned salt' and could have used a little more time in real life before sailing on this trip. The book does little to convince me of that fact and the parents somehow take the blame in the court of the people for not realizing this fact.

Anyway, hats off to Abby Sunderland for surviving her adventure and for being able to tell us all about it in this stirring book. It should be proposed reading for all teenagers that are sitting around each summer bored. They don’t have to sail the world but they can apply themselves whole-heatedly to some task or other, and that is the lesson Sunderland brings us. I salute her efforts.

Random Violence - a review

Mackenzie thrills again with the next in the Jade De Jong series. Jade, a private detective has recently returned from self-exile in England after needing time to get her head together following her last caper.
She immediately falls back in not only with the criminal underworld informants she had cultivated, but also into a semi-partnership with police detective David Patel. Hoping to stay close to Patel in order to foster a romantic relationship, they find themselves at loggerheads, especially when he admits that he has married and had a child since her absence. The fact that his wife and he are separated only seems to open more wounds for the couple.
Her arrival back in Johannesburg is also timed for the release of a hardened criminal that Jade believes was involved in the death of her father—a police commander whose death was set up to look like a simple auto accident—a decade previously. Along with helping Patel solve a possible home invasion style murder that leads to a much more complicated case with multiple victims and a vicious gang of murderers, Jade has her hands full keeping Patel’s new commander off his back as well as keeping from him the knowledge that she has already shot and killed a notorious thug with a gun she was not supposed to have been carrying.
All of this mayhem helps complicate a simple plot. One that is a simple P.I. out does the police at their own game, figures out the bad guy first, girl gets guy in a happy ending. At least the murders and car chases keep us entertained enough to stay interested.
Not quite a page turner, but remarkable nevertheless as the reader is held spell bound by the author’s interpretation of South Africa, the rhythms of her cities, and their cry for help.

Friday, July 1, 2011

A Death in Summer - a review

With humidity as thick as molasses, an Irish heat wave threatens to bring Dublin to a slow crawl in this 1950s drama. Like Ireland itself, time moves slowly and this novel could have been written in a time dating from 1920s forward. Only references to concentration camps and the French resistance give us an accuracy to bring time forward.

Like a take-off on Holmes and Watson, Inspector Hackett and his trusted partner, pathologist Dr. Quirke make an odd pair poking around in the affairs of dead newspaper owner, Richard ‘Diamond Dick’ Jewell. In a country still torn with prejudice after World War II the Irish seem surprised to find a Jewish conclave here in Dublin, one treated with respect unless they happen to get in the way. Jewell apparently got in someone’s way.

Dropping clues like flies on a sticky summer day, Black allows us to see ahead of his investigators and we want to shout out warnings and have them discard the red-herrings. As the only so-human, flawed protagonist, Quirke, stumbles blindly ahead, only seeing the clues like a mole suddenly blinded by the bright sky after sticking his snout of a hole for the first time. Surely he can’t help but notice what he has been tripping over, especially when a bloody finger is attached to his front door in an envelope.

Jewell’s death has so many possible suspects that it takes the entire book to whittle them down slowly, one at a time keeping you guessing until the very end. The plodding pace of the book helps evolve the storyline and makes this one worth hanging in there until the inevitable conclusion.

Blind Fury - A Review

In this sexually charged thriller Detective Inspector Anna Travis, finds herself leading the investigation of the murders of three women whose bruised and raped bodies had been dumped in a field close to the M1, the major thoroughfare between London and Manchester. All the girls had the same MO and no DNA had been left at the scene.

Carefully piecing together the clues, digging up dirt in places the former investigator missed, Travis has to work carefully not to antagonize the crew she was working with as well as keeping her former lover, and now boss, at arm’s length. The evidence mounts and they run into increasing dead end after dead end until a letter arrives from Cameron Welsh, a prisoner who Travis previously helped put away for sexual homicide. Welsh is kept under close surveillance in a top security wing at Barfield Prison in Leeds.

Welsh claims to have information to help solve the murders. Is this just a bored prisoner looking for sexual kicks of his own or does he really have knowledge on the subject that will help another young lady from meeting a similar fate?

During her trips to Barfield Prison, Travis is subjected to all manners of disgusting tirades from Welsh, who does however, prove to be useful in some of the scenarios he poses, and at the same time Travis falls hard for the young prison guard Ken Hudson. In the process of falling head-over-heels for the guard, she finds evidence which suggests that perhaps he may be involved in the disappearance of the murdered girls.

This tear-away thriller will keep you awake at night, prying your closing eyes open with toothpicks, to get to the next clue. Definitely a rip-roaring, can’t-put-it-down read.

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