Friday, October 31, 2008

Sepulchre By Kate Mosse

I bought this book on a whim about a year ago and it was on my “read” pile but I kept piling on top of it. This week I brought seven from the library and made five bad choices and “Sepulchre” was there for me to read.

What a great story!
A special deck of Tarot cards, the biography of a musician, an ancient Visigoth sepulcher, rumors of devils and haunting in the old forests surrounding an old country estate, a murder and people involved in the occult are all intertwined in a haunting and suspenseful tale of two young women from different times who find themselves in a village in Southwest France.
In the year 1891 Leonie Vernier, a lively seventeen year old leaves her stepmother and her familiar Paris surroundings rather suddenly with her older brother who seems to be some rather serious trouble, to stay in the town of Rennes-les-Bains with a widowed Aunt she has never met. Leonie will become caught up in the local legends which involve her own family. She will face dangers not only from the power of the occult and a deck of very old Tarot cards with images that look similar to family members, but from a powerful person seeking revenge against her brother.
In 2007, Meredith Martin, an American, is a graduate student, accomplished musician and author who is writing a biography of Debussy. From Paris, she heads for Rennes-les-Bains for two reasons; she has a weak lead on one of Debussy’s wives but more important, Meredith had always felt that she has family roots in this area. Strangely enough,
Just before she left Paris, she was lead to a Tarot reading and was given a special deck that will tie Meredith to her past. (“it is said that nothing happens without a reason”)
This is a well done mystery; it has history and intrigue and some tense moments when the Tarot cards and the sepulcher reveal the frightening past while the dangers of the present are brought to an exciting climax.

Uncertain Endings Edited By Otto Penzler

This is an anthology of short stories written by various authors. Each story leaves you with a question as to how it ends; it is up to the reader to guess or surmise what happens. The tales include such classics as “The Lady or the Tiger” (and did you know that there was a continuation?), the intriguing “The Mysterious Card and it’s sequel, and a Mark Twain mystery “A Medieval Romance”, this book was a lot of fun.

The Book of Merlyn By T.H. White

In 1958, the series entitled “The Once and Future King” was published; the first story was “The Sword in the Stone” which chronicled the history of Arthur and his training under Merlyn. “The” Book of Merlyn”, the final chapter, was not published until 1977.
This book begins where the last ended; Arthur is in his tent on the eve of his final battle with his bastard son, Mordred ; Arthur is weary of war and contemplates defeat when Meryln appears and takes Arthur to the council of animals that aided in his training when he was a boy called Wart.Since animals do not war on one another, we read long dissertations about how superior animals are to human the human race. This is T.H. White at his cynical and ironic best. A favorite quotation from “Once and Future King” By Merlyn: "The best thing for being sad," replied Merlyn, beginning to puff and blow, "is to learn something. That's the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn."

The Heretic Queen By Michelle Moran

This is a story of ancient Egypt and the Princess Nefertari. Nefertari’s aunt was Queen Nefertiti, the wife of Akhenaten who, together attempted to do away with the polytheistic views of the time and institute belief in a single god, Aten (the sun god). They removed the other deities from the temples and caused a lot of political upheavals to the end that a mysterious fire killed the Royal family. Egypt reverted to the old gods and Akehenaten and Nefertiti were branded as heretics; no one would even speak their names.
Nefertari had some powerful protectors that kept her alive as she grew up in the palace. She grew up with Ramesses II; they were good friends and Ramesses admired her intellect, her facility of languages and beauty in spite of her family background. When Ramesses ascended to the throne he took Nefertari as one of his wives and used her as an advisor.
The story detail the political intrigues of the court, some of the Hittite war, the many monuments including the giant statues at Abu Simbal where Nefertiti was depicted as being the same size as Ramesses II (a first in that time), and it hints at the great exodus telling about a group called the Habiru led by a man named Ahmoses. I enjoyed this one a lot.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Voice of Bugle Ann By MacKinlay Kantor

Bugle Ann was a Missouri fox hound bred and raised by Spring Davis. Her voice was one that sent chills up the spine of the men who would sit by the fire in the night and listen to the hounds chase a fox through Chilly Branch Hollow, high and round and with a brassy resonance, a sound like a bugle. This was not English style fox hunting with horses and bright jackets and a dead fox at the end of the chase; here, the fox went to his refuge and lived to be chased the next day.

Spring Davis loved his dogs and the other men at the fire would tease him for his special affection for Bugle Ann. Spring carried an old bugle and called his dog in from the hunt with two long notes.

One night, the men learned that an old farm had been sold and the new owner, known to be a mean man, was going to fence the property and raise sheep. The concerned hunters located and moved some of the foxes so they would not run near the fences but one night as the hunters listened to their dogs, they sensed and heard trouble. A fox had run through the new owner’s fence.
Some of the dogs ran through but a couple got hurt in the wire. Bugle Ann did not come in to her call.

The author wrote this beautiful and touching story in 1935. They made a movie based on the novel and I was just a small boy when I saw it. I remember that I thought it was very sad. I found this short novel, only 128 pages, at my library this week and read it for the first time; read it if you can find it.

Plague Ship By Clive Cussler with Jack DuBrul

Cussler’s Juan Cabrillo and his team of former soldiers and spies are back with another incredible adventure. An overzealous, well organized and well financed organization calling themselves “Responsivists” believe that the world is on the brink of disaster because of overpopulation. All responsivists are sterilized surgically but the leaders have a plan to use an extremely contagious virus that they developed to contaminate the world population. The virus is expected to cause the death of billions and of those that survive, one half will be sterile. The founder of the organization believes that “the greatest transfer of wealth in human history occurred when the Plague swept Europe and wiped out a third of the population. Lands were consolidated , allowing for a greater standard of living and paved the way for the Renaissance”

Juan has a challenge of epic proportions. For those that do not know Juan Cabrillo, he is one of three major heroes created by Clive Cussler (Dirk Pitt, of NUMA and Kurt Austen are the others) Juan calls himself “the chairman” of his organization that has high political connections that give him and his band of mercenaries secret work that pays big fees. He operates from a state of the art vessel, The Oregon, that is camouflaged to look like a beat up freighter. Like most of Cussler’s characters, he and his crew are practically indestructible in a fight, irresistible to women and experts in their chosen field of work .They work hard and play hard.
This is high adventure and you know that Juan will save the world but it is an exciting and fun read and the way they solve the problems is always unique. Very interesting technical inovations that, for the most part are probably true.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

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Leaves of Lincoln Century October 4th

A beautiful day for the 4th annual bike ride. Riders from all over the State(and Alabama) lined up for either the 100 mile, 62 mile(100 kilometers), 30 or 15 mile route. Back in the 70's I did the Century rides but now I am happy to to finish the 30 mile ride. Colorfully clad and very friendly folks all along the route made the effort well worth while. I met some nice people. A couple of the hills were especially hard for me but the reciprocal was worth it- 38 miles/hour going down hill was breath taking. The organizers had great snacks and fun people at the rest stops and at the end they served a delicious pulled pork lunch.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The Tenth Case By Joseph Teller

This is the first novel by Joseph Teller, a former undercover agent for the Bureau of Narcotics, and a trial lawyer for many years, who uses his experience and skills to create which may be an alter ego protagonist, Harrison J. Walker, “Jaywalker”. I was fortunate to read an advance copy; look for it in early October.

Readers have many choices when it comes to Police detectives, private investigators, and lawyers solving, investigating and either prosecuting or defending and most are carrying some kind of baggage or have an attitude. If the author is good, we want to read more; best examples are Patterson’s Alex Cross or Deaver’s Lincoln Rhyme. I liked Teller’s Jaywalker, he‘s a likeable “good guy”.

Jaywalker is a maverick New York lawyer who honed his skills as a public defender and is the kind of lawyer you would want if you run afoul of the law – some one who, really, cares and is not afraid to “bend a few rules” if it will get his client free. His success ratio is in the high 90’s.

Jaywalker is in trouble; his reputation and a perceived unseemly action with a female client have caused the court to suspend his license for a period of three years. The suspension does not, particularly, bother Jaywalker but he is concerned about the clients that are depending on him so he strikes a bargain with the court who allows him to select ten cases to bring to conclusion. It takes a while to work them out but his last one, "The Tenth Case", a murder, will become the most challenging and difficult case he has tackled. His client, a beautiful young woman, is accused of stabbing her husband. The woman, Samara Moss, former Las Vegas showgirl and some time prostitute, married billionaire Barry Tannenbaum, three times divorced and 44 years older than her. The marriage lasted eight years although after the first few months, they set up separate households and Samara spent his money and slept around as she was wont to do. Husband and wife met social obligations together but lived apart. Jaywalker had defended Samara on a drunk driving charge when she totaled Barry’s $400,000 Lamborghini and was very well compensated but this time, Jaywalker will have to settle for the same wages that a public defender would get.

The problem with the case was “why?”; Samara had it made she has money, clothes and total freedom to do what she wishes. The evidence against her was overwhelming and most of it was found in her own home. There was also an application signed by Samara dated shortly before his murder for a six month life insurance policy in the amount of $25,000,000 on Barry. Samara denies her guilt.

The characters are carefully developed and the plot and the action moves fast and smoothly. This became a very suspenseful novel.

The court drama was interesting, we follow the preparation, dialogue and interaction between the prosecutor and Jaywalker and the Judge and I was never certain about the outcome. I found it hard to put the book down until I finished it. MIRA Books is ready to publish another “Jaywalker” novel, I look forward to reading it