Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Grey Beginning by Barbara Michaels

cover of The Grey Beginning by Barbara Michaels
The Grey Beginning by Babara Michaels is a good, old fashioned gothic mystery. Kathy Malone is devastated by the death of her young husband, Bart Morandini. After seeking help from psychiatrists, she finally decides that she should go to Italy to make contact with Bart’s grandmother, the Contessa Morandini. The Contessa hasn’t replied to Kathy’s letters, and Kathy wants closure. When Kathy finally makes it to Tuscany and gets to the Morandini estate, she finds herself getting sucked into life there. The Contessa misinterprets Kathy’s stomach emptying with morning sickness and assumes that Kathy is pregnant. Kathy discovers that a ten-year-old child, Pietro, or Pete, is living a strange existence there. Pete is locked in his room and kept under close supervision. Pete lost his father and mother in a plane crash and was recently ripped from his home in the US. Kathy is concerned about Pete, and she becomes even more concerned when she hears that Pete has been trying to harm himself. Is it hereditary mental illness as the Contessa insists, or is it something else? Throw in the mean, hulking caretaker, Alberto, his sneaking wife, Emilia, the professor looking for letters from Browning, and the lunatic assistant gardener, and Kathy is up to her elbows in a sinister, gothic environment. Can Kathy resolve her issues over her husband’s death? Can she figure out what is going on with Pete, and possibly rescue him?

By the end of the book, all the loose strings are wrapped up. Although this book was published in 1984 and has a contemporary setting, the book is a great example of a classic gothic. Lurking evil, a huge house, and a feeling af entrapment permeate the book. I found myself getting caught up in the story and rooting for Kathy to figure out what the heck was going on. Of course, this wouldn’t be a romantic suspense gothic without romance, and Kathy has two potential suitors: Pete’s psychiatrist and the academic professor, David Brown. I thought the book was great, and I enjoyed reading it. I wish that Michaels/Peters/Mertz wrote more books in the genre.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Fallen Angel by Daniel Silva

cover of The Fallen Angel by Daniel Silva
I have been a fan of Daniel Silva’s Gabriel Allon for years. Every summer, I look forward to the latest installment. I do admit that I was starting to get slightly tired of Allon being beaten to near death, so I was really looking forward to The Fallen Angel.

The Fallen Angel had Allon back in Rome, restoring a Caravaggio for the Vatican. Pope Paul VII and his right hand man, Monsignor Luigi Donati returned as main characters in the story. I liked the other book that involved the Vatican, Pope Paul VII, and Donati, The Messenger. Allon was asked to investigate the possible suicide of a young woman who worked in the Vatican unit that investigated the ownership of Vatican relics. Her job was to determine if other countries might have a claim to the relics. Allon determined that the suicide was really a murder, and it lead him on a long, twisted journey into stolen antiquities and plots against the Pope and the Jews. The Arab terrorist groups weren’t happy with the Pope supporting the Jewish people. Allon raced against time to keep the Pope and the state of Israel safe.

I really enjoyed The Fallen Angel. I liked that Allon wasn’t at death’s door or that Chiara, Allon’s wife, wasn’t being terrorized. The action was well paced, and I found myself engrossed in the story. Silva told a great story, and he put in all the news about the region, with references to the Arab Spring and Muslim Brotherhood. If you haven’t read a Daniel Silva, you can start with The Fallen Angel. Although the characters have a back story from the other books, Silva recounts enough of it so the reader can enjoy the current book without reading the others. I would strongly recommend The Fallen Angel to anyone who loves contemporary action thrillers.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Terminal Freeze by Lincoln Child

cover of Terminal Freeze by Lincoln Child
I read Terminal Freeze by Lincoln Child on my Kindle. So, I’ll give some feedback on that experience with this particular book. Terminal Freeze is very much a thriller on the order of Michael Crichton. The book is set in the Arctic Circle region of Alaska. A group of scientists are working from the military’s Fear Base to study global warming. There are only a few military personnel still on the base because it has been closed down. The scientists are alarmed at the rapid thawing of glaciers in the area, and they start to notice a really distinctive blood red aurora, around the time they find a prehistoric creature, believed to be a saber-toothed tiger, encased in ice within a cave in one of the glaciers. The local Indian tribe, Tunit, leader journeys to the base to warm the scientists to cease and desist. However, the cogs are the wheel are already in motion. The scientists are there thanks to a grant from a media corporation, who sends out a team of film production people to make a documentary. The producer, Emilio Conte, digs up the chunk of ice enclosing the creature and takes it to the base to thaw an expose on a live broadcast. However, as soon as the thawing process starts, the creature disappears. The production folks believe the creature was stolen, but the scientists start to believe that the creature was flash frozen alive, and that when the ice was thawed, the creature came to life. Well, it turns out he scientists are right, and the creature, much larger and deadlier than a saber-tooth starts to prey on the people at Fear. A blizzard keeps the people at Fear, and it becomes a race to see if the creature can be stopped.

I really enjoyed the thrills of the story. Some of the descriptions of the creatures ripping apart of the people it hunts down can be a bit gruesome, but it’s not so bad that I couldn’t finish reading the book. I didn’t feel that Lincoln Child had such a tight grip on the characters. i wasn’t sure if he planned on featuring Evan Marshall, one of the scientists originally at Fear, or Jeremy Logan, a historian/enigmalogist who is the main character in Third Gate, the new Lincoln Child book. Although the story is formulaic, I still enjoyed it.

My only problem was with the Kindle format. It seems that when the Kindle copy was created, from a print version. At least I assume that because some of the words have hyphens in the middle of sentences, as if the word was originally hyphenated at the end of a sentence. It was consistent throughout the Kindle version, and it really started to irritate me.

Appointment with Death by Agatha Christie

cover of Appointment with Death by Agatha Christie
This is the final book in the Poirot in the Orient collection. I hate the character of Mrs. Boynton, who eventually is murdered, and I admit that I look forward to her murder. In the book, Mrs. Boynton rules her step-children and own child with an iron fist, causing them all much mental anguish. Lennox, Raymond, Carole, and Ginevra (Mrs. Boynton’s biological daughter) all suffer mental torment at Mrs. Boynton’s hand. They are captives, unable to escape. The only person not affected by Mrs. Boynton is Lennox’s wife, Nadine, but Nadine is troubled because she loves Lennox and can’t get him to escape. Mrs. Boyton usually keeps the family at home, but she decides to take a trip to the Middle East. The trip gives her a chance to test and strengthen her hold on the family. However, revolt is in the air, and Hercule Poirot overhears Richard and Carole talk about how they must murder Mrs Boynton in order to escape. When Mrs. Boynton dies on a trip to Petra, the local authority, Colonel Carbury calls in Poirot to find out what really happened. Additional characters in the book are:
  • Sarah King, a young doctor who has fallen in love with Richard (and vice versa)
  • Dr. Gerald, a French psychologist who is fascinated by the relationships in the family and troubled by the anxiety he sees
  • Jefferson Cope, a family friend who is in love with Nadine
  • Lady Westholme, a member of Parliament, who just happens to be on the trip
  • Miss Pierce, an older woman who also just happens to be be on the trip
I have to admit that this is not the first time I read the book. I knew who the murderer was, but I have to admit that I remember from the first that I was truly surprised at whodunit. Christie knows how to present the psychology of the various characters. Mrs. Boynton oozes evil. You want someone to kill her and to make her suffer the way she made others suffer. But as Poirot says, murder is murder. The murderer should not be allowed to walk free just because the person deserves to die. Of course, Nadine Boynton brings up the case on the Orient Express, but Poirot dismisses that as an aberration in his usual technique. If you haven’t read it, you should. See if you can figure out the murderer. The clues are there, and Christie tries to get the reader to see it by calling out the significant points. All I know is that Appointment with Deathis an enjoyable and satisfying mystery.