Sunday, August 24, 2008

Roman Dusk By Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

This is, perhaps, the latest in a series of stories and adventures of The Count Saint-Germain a character created by the author. Saint James is a vampire who has been roaming the earth for some 3500 years. He has become very sophisticated, cultured and rich. He has learned to feed without killing his prey and can manage, with some care, to walk about and live during the daylight hours although he still must return to his native earth at night. He has learned to transmute base metal into gold and can create precious gems at will. In Egypt, he learned to resurrect an individual but not as a vampire but , rather, as a servant ghoul who becomes a trusted ally.

In this novel, Saint Germain is living as a foreigner in Rome during the decline of the Empire around 160 AD. He is a well regarded merchant with a fleet of ships that trade goods around the known world. As a foreigner, he pays extra fees to the officials who tax practically everything; sometimes twice. He, cheerfully, pays the fees to avoid bringing official attention to himself. Saint Germain has learned healing and has become rather a “humanitarian” and feels almost compelled to look out for and take care of the ill and oppressed which of course there are plenty.
He makes an enemy of one of the taxing authorities who is determined to find out as much as he can about Saint Germain.
The present Caesar is merely a boy controlled by his mother and wasting the treasury of Rome by lavish and decadent expenditures.
The Christians are a growing sect, fiery and intolerant and a group of particularly militant boys are starting fires at places they feel are immoral and ungodly.
Saint-Germain becomes involved in the happenings of Rome at this time and finds himself becoming more and more in danger. The author uses a lot of fabricated letters from characters in the story and from characters that Saint-Germain has known from other places that help advance the plot or give information about Saint-Germain or other people in the novel. This is quite effective.
This was a fascinating story; I enjoyed the characters ; mean, petty and dangerous and found the historical fiction and the eroticism between Saint-Germain and his female companions interesting. I have scanned some of the other Saint-Germain novels but this is the first that I really devoured. I will go back and look at some more.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Buckingham Palace Gardens By Anne Perry

The Prince of Wales has invited four business men to Buckingham Palace to discuss the possibility of a trans African railroad starting from Cape Town to Cairo. After dinner, entertainment is provided by four ladies from a local brothel. The next morning, one of the men rises early and while walking down the hall sees a closet door ajar, looks inside and discovers the body of one of the prostitutes. Her throat and belly had been slashed, a very bloody scene, indeed. The Prince is notified; the Queen is away and expected later in the week and because of where this happened, he decides to bring in “Special Services” (homeland security) to investigate rather than the police. A senior officer from Special Services and a homicide expert are dispatched to the palace. Their instructions are to solve the crime discreetly; there is to be no publicity and the culprit will not stand for a public trial he will disappear.

There are some great characters. Each of the four guests are suspect; we learn all of the baggage that they carry and how each has had dealings with one another at one time or another, some rather frightening. The two investigators follow a twisted trail with bizarre clues such as wine bottles filled with blood, broken porcelain, missing clothes. Good suspense and you might find yourself changing your mind a couple of times as to “who done it” Very entertaining story.

The Bourne Betrayal By Eric Van Lustbader

I have read, nearly, all of Robert Ludlum’s novels, exciting and well crafted all; the Bourne series was my favorite. The Estate of Robert Ludlum made a smart choice when they gave Eric Lustbader the right to continue the series; he really did a great job!
The earlier Bourne stories have a wealth of characters, exotic places, and tense adventures as well as the compelling hero, Jason Bourne for the author to draw on and he put together winner.
Jason is drawn back to work for the Central Intelligence because a Deputy Director and Jason’s best (and only) friend, Lindros is missing on assignment. The agency hates Jason because of his unorthodox ways but they know that Jason will find his friend.
Radical Muslim terrorists have got their hands on atomic bomb material they have a refining plant and a plan to bomb a major US city. They are also plotting to destroy the Central Intelligence agency. There is plenty of action, double cross, evil and dangerous people and settings in Africa, the Middle East, Russia and Eastern Europe and Jason Bourne is at his best using disguises, sophisticated weapons and gadgets and fighting with knives and his hands and feet. This was a great thriller.

The Burning Time By Robin Morgan

The setting is Ireland in the year 1324. The Catholic church has instituted the Inquisition (also called “the burning time”) and has chosen Ireland, in particular to seek out heretics. The Irish have traditions that go back many hundreds of years where nature is worshiped and they feel that it should be ok for them to practice the "Old Religion” as well as what the Church believes. This, of course, is out of the question and a Bishop is sent to a particular region where “pagan practices” are outwardly practiced to enforce, by any means, the doctrines of the Church.

The Bishop, mean and ridged, goes up against a strong willed, courageous and outspoken woman, Lady Alyce who is a leader in the Old Religion practice and who has some connections to influential men.

The battle lines are drawn and the reader will enjoy the conflict. The character and bombast of the Bishop is well drawn and very frightening and the Lady Alyce is a treasure This was a well researched story ; many actual people are portrayed in the novel. It maybe a little long on the ancient practices but a very interesting read.

My Theodosia By Anya Seton

Interesting historical fiction based on the life of Theodosia Burr Alston the daughter of Aaron Burr, Vice President to Thomas Jefferson and known for killing Alexander Hamilton in a duel and being tried for treason for an attempt to form a Republic of the South West for which he was certainly guilty but they could not find enough evidence to convict him. Burr was a hard and scheming scoundrel and was disliked by many including Hamilton. He lived extravagantly but he was always hounded by creditors.
Theodosia was Burr’s great weakness; he doted on her and Theodosia, in return would always support and defend her father against any one or any thing. Burrs influence was very great; he oversaw her education and even chose a dullard (but very rich) for her husband.
The lives, the culture and the way people lived in upper class society in the 1800’s in Charleston, Georgetown in the city and on plantations and the politics of the day combined with a charming story of an educated young girl pushed , for political reasons, into a bad marriage which would take her away from all she was familiar with made a good read.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

First Daughter By Eric Van Lustbader

This is a new novel by a versatile and interesting writer. Not too long ago, I enjoyed one of his earlier novels “The Testament” which had a religious underlying theme; this new one deals with religious fanaticism, politics and deception in a contemporary setting where you might be tempted to connect some of the characters in the current administration.

An ultra conservative President who believes that his administration has been guided by God has only a few weeks left before a new President elect is sworn in. He is afraid that his successor is a “Godless” man who will change the “Christian nation” that he has promulgated.

The President has chosen a certain liberal religious group as a target to be attacked as a terrorist group hoping to sway congress to keep his conservative policies. As he puts his “attack dogs” to the job, the President Elect’s daughter, Ali, is abducted. A top ATF agent, Jack McClure, is assigned to help find the seventeen year old because he is a friend of the President elect and Jack’s daughter,Emma, who was killed in an auto accident went to the same school. Although Jack works best on his own, he is required to report to the President’s Director of Home Land Security and an FBI agent. The interplay and tensions are very well done.

Lustbader uses McClure’s guilt in connection with his daughter’s death and her relationship with Ali to create a kind of ghostly situation where Jack sees and speaks with Emma as he searches for Ali. I think it took away from the story.

The first chapter of the novel “Inauguration Day”, sets the stage for tense and exciting action that takes place during the preceding month.

This was a good thriller with an interesting protagonist and a couple of neat surprises well worth reading.