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robtwinem

runner

I live in Bristol UK literary fiction and crime are my books of choice and when not reading I like to run

Currently reading

Hamnet
Maggie O'Farrell
Progress: 15 %
The Last British Dambuster: One man's extraordinary life and the raid that changed history
George Johnny Johnson
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Professional Reader 50 Book Reviews 80% Reviews Published

The world according to Irving

The World According to Garp - John Irving

To read John Irving is to surround yourself in his world and enjoy his amazing story telling ability. There are a number of themes throughout his books; his interest in wrestling, his love of the underdog, his battle to glorify small suppressed individuals in society, and help them gain recognition and a right to have their voice heard. The virtues of women, the strive for equality amongst transgenders, and the condemnation of misogynists who choose to vilify rather than praise. 

TS Carp, the illegitimate son of a WW pilot and a mother Jenny Fields who was to devote her life to the wellbeing of women in a world that seems increasingly hostile. From struggling author to devoted father Garp faces many challenges throughout his life devoted to his much admired mother Jenny fields and wife Helen. The writing of Irving is colourful,  attentive to detail, never boring with rich characters in abundance. Highly recommended.

New boy on the block!

The Burning Men - Will Shindler

It is with more than a little trepidation that I start book 1 in a new detective series. The reviews for The Burning men have been many and positive, so I was hopeful that such praise was justified and my goodness how right they were.

The past: A fire is blazing at One Pacific Square, a multi-billion-pound regeneration project. One resident is in situ and the first 4 fire fighters on the scene enter the burning building with little thought for their own safety. The consequences that follow will have fatal repercussions long into the future.

The present: DI Alex Finn & DC Mathilde (Mattie) Paulsen are assigned a new case. Finn has returned to full time duty following the sad demise of his wife Karin. He has much to prove, so many of his fellow officers will be suspicious of his early return and wonder if his state of mind can cope with the pressures of a new and at times complex investigation

Finn and Mattie attend the scene of a brutal crime.The charred body of a young man is discovered in the bathroom of an hotel….it was his wedding day. This is the start of seemingly random killings, but as the body count mounts, a tenuous association emerges between the Pacific Square fire and an historic bank heist. To me the mark of a good story is how believable the main characters are and how much of an impression they make on judgemental readers. DI Finn is a pedantic, organised, considerate private man always concerned with the minutiae, and the great responsibility placed upon him..."how smart his appearance was- the closely trimmed hair, the crisply ironed shirt, the carefully moisturised skin"........"He was a man of certainties and police work was the area of his life where he felt most certain".....DC Poulsen has to prove herself as a capable partner but does little to endear herself to Finn when she berates him in a moment of uncontrollable rage and unprofessionalism.

The pace of the narration is fast and although the plot is detailed it never becomes over complex and is always accessible. Future books in the series will undoubtedly reveal more in the colourful lives of Finn and Paulsen. The Burning Men has been a delight to read with a new army of admirers and I count myself amongst their number.

 

 

Where it all began

The Black Echo - Michael Connelly

There is nowhere better for me to try to understand the mindset of Harry Bosch or indeed his creator Michael Connelly by starting again where it all began book one in the series.

 

Harry is best described as "a detective who would do the right thing no matter what the cost. A man with a sharp worn code of conduct. A classic outsider.".... In The Black Echo we learn about Harry's activities as a tunnel rat during the Vietnam war and how the horrors of this underground hell helped shape him as a detective with the will to survive and a loner's code of justice. When the body of a fellow "rat" Billy Meadows is discovered in a drain outlet, Harry is determined to find the perpetrator responsible and bring justice to his onetime comrade in arms. In this endeavour he is joined by FBI agent Eleanor Wish, a relationship develops that becomes personal and leaves Harry wondering if her intentions are honourable or does she harbor an underlying agenda.

 

The weakness of the story is the plot; dirty money profits from Saigon laundered as precious stones and kept secret in a bank vault in downtown LA. The only way to retrieve the hidden stash is to tunnel deep into the innards of the bank. In contrast the strength of the story is the superb charactization of the main players. Bosch, Eleanor Wish and Deputy Chief Irvin Irving who appears to be on a one man crusade against what he views as underhand tactics by a maverick lone detective.

 

As always Michael Connnelly is razor sharp in his acute observations of the human spirit....."Sunsets did that here. Made you forget it was the smog that made their colors so brilliant, and that behind every pretty picture there could be an ugly story."....."He was a worn-out old man whose eyes had quit caring about anything but the odds on three year olds"..."I believe that shit happens. I believe that the best you can do in this job is come out even".......

 

Having just reread The Black Echo I have actually awarded it an extra star! Whilst the plot becomes a little laborious there are nice incidental comments that can be made. There is a theme of tunnels running through the story, a young teenager found murdered in a drainage tunnel, bank robberies where the perpetrators ingeniously use tunnels as their mode of entry, and of course Harry Bosch was a tunnel rat in Vietnam and murder victim Meadows was a tunnel rat and friend. The characters of Lewis and Clarke are portrayed as 2 buffoons from Internal Affairs, who under the strict command of Irving have been asked to shadow Bosch and somehow find or witness the detective acting outside the law. There is a particularly funny scene where Harry confronts the 2 and handcuffs them around a tree.....again this sense of comedy does not sit well in the overall theme of The Black Echo....needless to say the conclusion of this affair is swift and bloody.
The Black Echo is an important read not only because it is the first book in a great series but it lays the groundwork for many great adventures to come and the cynicism of dedicated detective that can only increase....

An important book

The Moon's a Balloon - David Niven

The Moons a Balloon, still flying high, and amazingly first published 50 years ago...why you may ask? It is not only a biography of our very own British born David Niven but also it is an important history of the lives and loves of long ago legendary hollywood silver screen greats....

Wonderful and original short story collection

Revenge: Eleven Dark Tales - Yōko Ogawa

A wonderful collection of short stories some dark some a little weird but all cleverly written. There is a loose connection theme running along side the clear prose that is always prevalent in Japanese literature. Highly recommended.

A great read from a master storyteller

Sweet Caress - William Boyd

A walk through the colourful life of Amory Clay. She is a professional photographer and an early assignment has her investigating the decadent, colourful, sexually liberated Berlin clubs of the early 1930s. There are passing glimpses of a future facist Germany that will soon spread its evil tentacles over an unsuspecting and sleepy world.
Back in London hosting an exhibition of her own work Amory is intrigued by the rise of Oswald Mosley and his facist followers identified and condemned by their famous black shirts. An unexpected and violent event occurs that changes Amory’s direction and focus.Through a number of casual sexual encounters she marries a soldier of the 2ndWW, a man deeply affected by his experiences resulting in an irreversible and permanent blackness with an inevitable sad conclusion. For a limited time she resides in New York until the disastrous American involvement in Vietnam demands her photographic skills.
William Boyd has a wonderful storytelling technique. He takes a life, an interesting life, and highlights the pivotal moments in that life, decisions taken, choices made, and consequences that followed. We are entertained, we are educated, we are party to the changing face of Germany, the slaughter of WW2 and the catastrophic decisions and campaigns that were the killing fields of Vietnam.

Spy wars

Dead Lions - Mick Herron

A boatload of burned out spies spend their twilight years in Sough House participating in deadend jobs until retirement. They are known affectionatley as Slow Horses. Their rather unothodox leader is Jackson Lamb, an overweight, chainsmoking, narcissistic misogynist who finds it amusing to pass wind in public. In a throwback to the cold war and possilbly in homage to George Smiley our assortement of oddballs seek out and destroy the threat of communists wherever these devious and cunning moles materialize. Some may enjoy Herron's humour and style of writing but personally I found it laborious.

A masterpiece

A New Dimension to Quantum Chemistry: Analytic Derivative Methods in AB Initio Molecular Electronic Structure Theory - Yukio Yamaguchi

Sometimes, even after many years of reading and reviewing, I encounter a novel that is outstanding in its content and thought provoking in the message the author conveys. The Kite Runner is a book that instantly demands the attention of the reader with writing that is simply sublime. Kabul, Afghanistan, a city, a country torn apart by endless occupation and constant fighting. First the Soviets attempt to influence and control then the Mujahideen emerge slowly changing into the more radical face of the Taliban. Often in the background America, the supplier of arms to influence and perhaps overthrow the government.

It is 1975 and a 12 year old Amir, together with his best and most loyal friend Hassan, are hoping to be successful in the local kite flying contest. An incident occurs that will alter the lives of both boys irrevocably as they follow their chosen path. Guilt and blame remain and many years in the future the opportunity occurs for some form of redemption. This is not an easy read there are no perfect happy endings and nor should there be because life is a game of chance, good and bad. The Kite Runner gives wonderful insights into the day to day hardships of a city at constant war with the fear of death always present from explosions, and gunfire. This is a society where women have few if any rights and men who view them as a possession to be used, threatened and abused at their desire. The heart-wrenching conclusion may be difficult to accept but offers a type of closure and hope for an uncertain future. A truly remarkable read, a book to be read and reread by young and old alike

Floating on a sea of words

The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro

Kazuo Ishiguro is fast becoming one of my favourite authors. His writing is seamless, it gently flows along unhurried soothing….Stevens is a long serving butler at Darlington Hall, this is a world of servitude, a world of privilege at a time where class distinctions were recognized and viewed as important. Stevens is content with his role, like his father before him he is a butler, he takes his daily duties very seriously and performs them with quiet efficiency. Through his eyes we the readers are silent observers to important historical events under intense discussion between elite decision makers in the days before WW2, a pivotal time in world history, the rise of Nazism and the impossible rush to inevitable conflict. Amidst this activity Stevens adheres to his expected and daily routine, and has little time to question his relationship, or otherwise, with the seemingly untouchable Miss Kenton. At heart The remains of the day is a love story told with sadness and humour, duty and loyalty appearing as more important than unrequited love. Lyrical and colouful this is a book that will delight from start to finish.

The Kennedy myth

The Kennedy Curse - James Patterson

Possibly the worlds best known thriller writer turns his penmanship to analysing the Kennedy dynasty. A very enjoyable, easy accessible, account of a family renowned as much for their abuse of privilege as their charasmatic leadership ability. To be a Kennedy seemed to imply that anything and everything was possible but history recorded a much more sombre account with death an uneasy bedfellow on many occasions.

Not for the faint hearted

Filth - Irvine Welsh

If you indulge in Irvine Welsh then expect to be shocked, his writing and his descriptions are at times excruciatingly painful to read. Sergeant Bruce Robertson is a typical Welsh character, he takes what he wants lives life to access and does not care if his actions harm or destroy anyone in the process. He is at heart a narcissist possessing an inflated sense of his own importance involved in numerous female liasions with little or no empathy for others. However underneath this facade is a very troubled possibly suicidal man, and the author uses a very clever way to disclose this to the reader. Robertson's use of alcohol and recreational drugs, with little or no intake of nutrition, have caused a deterioration in his health and he appears to be harboring an intestinal worm. This parasite becomes the main source of information for the detectives's increasingly bizarre behaviour, a very original and highly entertaining element in a narration not for the faint hearted.

I loved every word

Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall - Kazuo Ishiguro

A truly delightful story. Imagine sipping a cool lager on a sunny afternoon or slipping away on a cloud of your dreams. Japanese storytelling is written in a clear and direct language, so easy to follow and engage with. Locations often range from the atmosphere of cocktail bars to the sleepy world of jazz music. Nocturnes by the wonderful Kazuo Ishiguro has as its theme love and music from the sights and sounds of an always romantic Venice to the picturesque quintessentially English Malvern Hills. It comprises 4 stories, loosely connected, cleverley presented, lovingly told….Highly, highly recommended.

Delightful story

Before the Coffee Gets Cold - Toshikazu Kawaguchi, Geoffrey Trousselot In a little back alley in downtown Tokyo lies a small cafe and for the price of a cup of hot coffee you the customer can be transported back (or forward) in time. You may select this occasion to see a loved one, or revisit an event of your choosing. Told in the free flowing style reminiscent of such esteemed Japanese authors as Murakami and Ishiguro, Before the coffee get cold, is a delightful little story that will make you smile. Many thanks to the good people of netgalley for a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written.

The friendship bird

The Penguin Lessons - Tom Mitchell

On holiday and on a beach in Uruguay Tom Mitchell rescues a lone penguin from many thousands who have died due to oil polution. From this tragedy, perpetrated by arguably the penguins greatest enemy...humans, comes a novel of friendship, love and sadness as we laugh and cry at the survival of Juan Salvador (the penguin!) and the wonderful and lasting affect he has on all those who come into contact with him. Highly recommended!

A sobering account

Dresden - Sinclair McKay

Full of controversy this powerful novel explores and examines the carpet bombing of Dresden, an outstanding medieval German city almost totally annihilated by the British and American bomber crews under the auspices of Arthur “bomber” Harris. It examines the events of that cold February night in 1945 from the accounts of not only the survivors on the ground but the bomber crews tasked with this mission of what could only be described as an operation of annihilation. The heart of this superbly researched book is the question...can such death and destruction ever be considered as acceptable behaviour whatever the cause or purpose?

Wonderful read

By Ian McEwan The Children Act - Ian McEwan

Fiona Maye and husband Jack live a life of relative luxury in Grays Inn London. She is a high court judge as well as an aspiring concert pianist. One morning Jack decides to find himself a younger lover as Fiona it would appear is not sympathetic to his needs, and so departs the family home. This does little to comfort a lady who is aware of the march of time, the unflattering affect and the cost that must be paid as the human body ages….”...her body looked foolish in the full-length mirror. Miraculously shrunken in some parts, bloated in others. Bottom heavy. A ridiculous package. Fragile, This Way up. Why would anyone not leave her?....” At work in the law court “my lady Fiona” is presented with a very difficult case and her decision will prove to have very far reaching and lasting consequences on all parties involved. A 17 year old boy is desperately ill in hospital and is refusing a blood transfusion which could ultimately save his life. His religious beliefs and that of his parents is viewed by the family as more important than life saving intervention…..”Religions, moral systems, her own included, were like peaks in a dense mountain range seen from a great distance, none obviously higher, more important, truer than another. What was to judge?...”

 

Written in the delightful prose of Ian McEwan, one of England’s greatest living authors, The Children Act is mesmerizing. The writer captures beautifully the everyday life and the important work of the English High Court and through the eyes of Fiona Maye we begin to understand difficult decisions that must be made and consequences thereof. A wonderful book which I devoured in one sitting full of insight, understanding and profound observation….”Didn’t you tell me that couples in long marriages aspire to the condition of siblings? We’ve arrived Fiona. I’ve become your brother…”
Highly highly recommended.