Tag Archives: Paris

Revolver

The Bullet PB

The Bullet: A Novel (Gallery Books, $16.00, 357 pages)

Caroline Cashion, an attractive middle-aged Georgetown professor, is happy in her solitude until she begins having pain in one of her hands. Medical tests reveal that she has a bullet lodged in her neck, near her brain. It turns out that she was adopted at the age of three, and that her parents were murdered at the same time she was shot. The bullet that hit Cashion failed to kill her because it passed through her mother’s body first. Shocked, Cashion is determined to find out what happened almost four decades ago and why.

Mary Louise Kelley’s second novel (Anonymous Sources) is quite engaging and told in true cinematic fashion. The story is based in the D.C.-area, with stops in Atlanta and Paris. I will guess that most readers will enjoy the read until about four-fifths of the way through the novel. And then it becomes problematic as Kelly has created a conclusion that’s a bit too clever – in the mode of Scott Turow’s Presumed Innocent, and far too unlikely to occur in the real world. Cashion herself complains in the story about “…novels with bleak endings that drove you to despair.” The ending here drove me to a place called Disappointment. It’s not a pleasant stop.

Joseph Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book was released in trade paperback form on December 8, 2015.

A Thriller

Note: The hardbound release of The Bullet was labeled as A Thriller. The trade paper version is listed as A Novel, which appears to be more accurate.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Suspicious Minds

The Adversary by Reece Hirsch (Thomas & Mercer, $14.95, 382 pages)

adversary-225

Attorney Chris Bruen is the central character in this, author Reece Hirsch’s second thriller. The timing of the premise couldn’t be better; cybercrimes are rampant as of this reviewer’s read. Between the Target credit card debacle over Christmas 2013 and the outing of the National Security Agency by Edward Snowden, the believability of this story is high.

Chris Bruen is an intellectual property attorney whose career path has moved him from being a federal Department of Justice prosecutor for computer crimes to private practice in San Francisco, California where he has traded public service for greater pay. His work is basically the same; although his clients are in the private sector.

The client paying for Bruen’s time and expertise this time around is BlueCloud, a giant in the operating systems universe. While in the short term a dead hacker in Amsterdam halts his search for the company’s problems, the trail that opens up provides Bruen with nearly unlimited challenges. The cast of characters expands as the plot thickens. There are constant reminders of shifting values and allegiances among the people he must move to arrive at a solution to BlueCloud’s dilemma.

Along the way, Gruen visits many locales in addition to Amsterdam, including Barcelona and Paris. Everywhere he goes doubt and suspicion are his companions. The tech talk used by the characters seems reasonable and its accuracy appears to be spot on. The shifting scale of universality of technology is a stark contrast to the scale of warfare raged among a small number of human troops that dominate the world in which Bruen labors.

Author Hirsch keeps the pace moving smartly with mounting tension and lurking evil. Although Bruen’s cancer diagnosis reveal in the early pages of the book plants a seed of doubt for the reader, it is hopefully not the last we see of him as he is an entirely agreeable character. Please keep us supplied with new stories Reece Hirsch, Esq.

Highly recommended.

Ruta Arellano

reece-hirsch-sitting-300

“Reece Hirsch is writing and running with the big boys.” John Lescroart, New York Times bestselling author.

A review copy was provided by the author. Reece Hirsch is also the author of The Insider: A Novel.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Garden Party

Empress of Fashion: A Life of Diana Vreeland by Amanda Mackenzie Stuart (Harper, $35.00, 419 pages)

What interested Diana most, once again, was the philosophy detectable throughout her life:  her faith in the divine spark, the complete worlds of imaginative people whose distinctive tastes and determination turned fantasy into reality.

A bigger than life person often sparks the interest of the general public.   A biography can be engaging and illuminating, as was the story of the 20th Century designer Coco Chanel, The Gospel According to Coco Chanel by Karen Karbo.   However, let’s be realistic, the general public isn’t fascinated by the women’s fashion queen and king-makers, the wizards behind the screens.   It’s pretty much a niche market for biographers.   In this book, the wizard behind the glossy pages of Harper’s Bazaar and American Vogue magazines, Diana Dalziel Vreeland is the subject of this, the second biographical work by British writer Amanda Mackenzie Stuart.

As with most biographies, Empress of Fashion tracks Mrs. Vreeland’s life in chronological order, from her birth in Paris, France on July 29, 1903, to her death in New York City on August 22, 1989.   Given the vast number of cigarettes she inhaled during her lifetime – most photographs show her smoking, it’s amazing that she lived to the age of 85.   The early chapters are filled with references to many of Mrs. Vreeland’s well-known relatives, both living and deceased.   Author Stuart might have enhanced the reader’s experience by including a family tree illustration.   A perfect example can be found in the sumptuous biography, Sister: The Life of Legendary American Interior Decorator Mrs. Henry Parish II by Apple Parish Bartlett and Susan Bartlett Crater.

Mistakes that might previously have seemed nugatory now loomed larger.

The language used throughout the book is quite specific and not necessarily in common use.   Ms. Stuart describes the upper crust of society as “gratin.”   Yes, the meaning can be determined by its use in the sentence; however, “infra dig,” “nugatory” and “fete champetre” required a quick look-up.   If her reference to an outdoor party had been in Italian, as in una festa all’aperto, this reviewer would have understood.   Sadly, my eighth grade conversational French is lamentably rusty.

Happily, there are photographs to inform the reader just how beautiful Mrs. Vreeland’s younger sister Alexandra, her husband Reed and her two sons were in contrast to her own angular and hawkish face.   The point in made throughout the book with regard to Alexandra and Reed.   Perhaps the beauty she placed on the pages of the fashion magazines and the wonderful clothing lines she encouraged (Bill Blass, Halston, Oscar de la Renta) did compensate for her features.   It seems to have been a driving force that propelled her to fame and notoriety.

There was a noticeable shift in voice and cadence of the book as the telling of Mrs. Vreeland’s life drew to its conclusion.   It began in an almost prissy and pompous way but eased back and took on an infatuated, emotional and nearly-poetic tone at the end.

Recommended to the fashionista over forty.

Ruta Arellano

Note:  During the height of her fashion magazine career in the early 1970s, Mrs. Vreeland challenged her long-standing notion of presenting clothes and accessories as desirable purchases for ladies.   Her editorial features in Vogue were confrontational and highly suggestive of sexuality and aggressiveness.   This reviewer was newly-married and employed in San Francisco at the world headquarters of the Bank of America.   Vogue offered little or no help with suggestions for looking well-dressed and appropriate to my work environment.   At the time I was confused about why Vogue had ceased to provide helpful fashion guidance.   Ms. Stuart’s book has cleared up the mystery.   RA

A review copy was provided by the publisher.   Empress of Fashion is also available as either a Nook Book and Kindle Edition e-book.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone

The Paris Wife: A Novel by Paula McLain (Ballantine Books, $15.00, 352 pages)

“I wish I had died before I ever loved anyone but her.”   Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

Paula McLain presents a convincing rendition of the unique but enduring relationship between Ernest Hemingway and his first wife, the conscientious and serene Hadley Richardson, in her first novel The Paris Wife.

After a brief and long distance relationship, the confident young twenty-year-old Ernest proposes to Hadley, a conservative spinster in her late twenties.   On the quest for the ideal inspirational setting in which to write, McLain’s story takes us to the art scene in Paris in the 1920s as the aspiring artists – on the brink of greatness – share their hopes and dreams in local cafes.   McLain’s story is so detailed and believable that you can enjoy teaming up with individuals as they meet their fellow artists and enjoy team with individuals such as Gertrude Stein.   Her character Hadley happens to recall a conversation that she and Ernest had while sharing drinks with F. Scott Fitzgerald as he announced his hopes for the success of his then-recently written novel The Great Gatsby.

The reader will understand why Ernest was so inspired during the couple’s trips to Europe, especially while watching the bullfights in Pamplona.   The reader will also sympathize with Hadley, the ever-loyal wife who strives to maintain the attention of her husband, standing by his side through circumstances that even the strongest of us would run from.   The depth of the conversations and the personalities of the characters come alive in McLain’s dialogues and Hadley’s interpretations of the relationships that develop during this phase of Ernest’s life (including his union with his second wife).

McLain does a remarkable job of defining all her characters and in describing the landscapes and cultures of the couple’s travels.   You will become so entranced with her story you will no doubt forget that you’re not actually reading Hadley’s autobiography.

The story left me with a desire to rediscover Hemmingway by rereading A Moveable Feast and The Sun Also Rises.   I know that I look forward to my next trip to Paris where, while sitting at some of the same cafes once visited by the Hemmingways, I will try to imagine what it was like for this young couple in the local art scene during the Roaring Twenties.   I will also contemplate what Ernest Hemmingway’s life may have been like if he had remained with his first love, Hadley.

Highly recommended.

Kelly Monson

A review copy was provided by the publisher.   The Paris Wife was released in a trade paperback version on November 27, 2012.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Coming Up Next…

A review of The Paris Wife, the bestselling novel written by Paula McLain, which will be released on Tuesday (November 27, 2012) in trade paper form.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Lies, Lies, Lies

Requiem for a Gypsy: A Commander Jana Matinova Investigation by Michael Genelin (Soho Crime; $25.00; 356 pages)

“The nearsightedness created by self-importance would always get in the way of finding evidence, particularly in a case like this.”

Commander Jana Matinova of the Bratislava police force is faced with lies, trickery, gunfire and a manipulative, but adorable, teenage girl named Em in her most recent appearance in Michael Genelin’s mystery series set in Eastern Europe, Requiem for a Gypsy.   Commander Matinova, Em and Prosecutor Truchanova are seriously outnumbered by the male characters in this somewhat dark tale of hubris and greed.   They may be outnumbered, but they are not timid or shy.

The first death of the book, a hit and run in Paris, sets up the mystery and the second person to die begins what turns out to be a killing spree.   The shooting victim, Klara Bogan, and her husband Oto are the hosts of a name day celebration in Bratislava that is quite lavish by Slovakian standards.   The party is broken up by deadly gunfire followed quickly by the mass exodus of the guests.   To make matters more stressful, Matinova’s superior, Colonel Trokan becomes collateral damage because he has shielded Oto Brogan from the gunfire.

Commander Matinova is thwarted repeatedly as she seeks to determine the name of the intended victim at the party.  She believes that Mrs. Brogan is an unlikely target.   Colonel Trokan is willing to back his commander; however, State secrets and protocols prevent him from giving her the official lead in the investigation.   Enter the arrogant and off-putting sister agencies that are drawn into the story as the killing and deceptions take Matinova on trips around the neighboring countries and even to Paris, France.   As expected, the characters display their power in various ways – wearing uniforms, behaving arrogantly, ignoring Matinova or just shooting each other.   In the latter case powerful gangsters and law enforcement officers are equally involved.

Author Genelin provides a rich mix of regional history and politics as he presents the reader with one red herring after another.   His portrayal of the nasty xenophobia present in Eastern European culture is portrayed well by  his character Georg Repka, who Matinova initially idolizes and later despises when she sees his true nature.

The heaviness of the story is enlivened by Em, who wrangles her way into Matinova’s care and protection by knocking at Matinova’s door in the middle of a snowstorm.   Who can resist a waif-like girl selling earings door-to-door in the cold?   Surely not Matinova who is lonely and misses her granddaughter who lives thousands of miles away in the USA.   Em steals the scene whenever she appears in the story.   Genelin has the ability to set up Em with plausible truths and convenient lies that the reader is hard pressed to differentiate.   His experience as a prosecutor in an earlier time of his life shines through on numerous occasions.   Moreover, his love of the subtle quirks in dining habits and quaint places around Europe are put to good use as mini characters in the story.

The starkness and lack of colorful descriptions, aside from food and beverage, prevalent until nearly the end of the book, keep the reader focused on the interactions of the characters and the aggression that some of them display as an integral part of life in their world.   When Genelin does go into detail about room decor, clothing or symbols of opulence, he reinforces the distance between his heroine’s life and the lives of those she must bring to justice.

Well recommended.

Ruta Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.   “Rich in compelling plot twists and sobering history lessons.”   Amazon

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Telstar

Trader of Secrets: A Paul Madriani Novel by Steve Martini (William Morrow, $26.99, 392 pages)

Be prepared for globe-trotting action as Steve Martini launches his most recent Paul Madriani thriller at a full throttle.   This pace is maintained as the action shifts among key players and the locales where they are hiding, cooking up mayhem or stalking human prey.

Martini’s fans will be pleased that the story picks up the thread of danger and fear that Madriani’s nemesis, Liquida Muerte, has brought to previous novels.   The nucleus of characters includes his attorney partner Harry Hinds, lady friend Joselyn Cole and, of course, Madriani’s beloved daughter, Sarah.   Further out from the inner circle are Thorpe at the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and his cohort of spies and snitches.   The premise, locating and stopping terrorists bent on producing the means for destroying key targets in the U.S., creates tension and no end of drama.   The subplot is pure Martini – fierce papa Madriani needs to assure the safety of Sarah and will do most anything to secure it.

”I knew it.   I knew it.   This thing smelled the minute I got that call from the White House.”   Thorpe got out of his chair, waiving the cigarette around like a torch.   “So now they dump it on us to find these guys, and if we fail, it’s our ass in the flames.   And if that’s not enough, they want to play hide the ball.   They can’t tell us what it’s about.   Son of a bitch,” said Thorpe.   “Damn it!”

The focus on wicked scientist from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California seems a bit like the reverse play on the TV show NUMB3RS where brilliant scientists solved ugly crime with math and physics.   The doubts about who’s the good guy and who’s the self-centered monster make the plot twists and turns all the more enjoyable.   Martini knows how to play out the suspense and snap to a conclusion, segue to more action and never miss a beat.

While some thriller series may lose their vitality, thankfully, the Madriani franchise is clearly not one of them.   This reviewer is looking forward to the next installment from Steve Martini’s vivid imagination.

Highly recommended.

Ruta Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.   “Martini is a crafty pro.”   The Washington Post

“Martini has created one of the most charismatic defense attorneys in popular fiction.”   Linda Fairstein

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized