Sunday, February 22, 2009

Writ In Blood By Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

It is the year 1910 the major powers in Europe are Russia, Great Britain and Germany. Czar Nicholas Alexandreivich Romanov has commissioned Ragoczy, Count Saint-Germain to, secretly, meet with King Edward VII of Britain and Kaiser Wilhelm of Prussia and Germany (all three are related through the Queen Victoria line) to attempt an agreement which would limit the manufacture and sale of arms and munitions which would be a first step towards peace in Europe. The Czar was particularly concerned because he did not want his children particularly his son to experience the horrors of war.
Saint-Germain’s efforts are thwarted by the arms manufacturers and the arms brokers; particularly at this time because they see big profits in the growing trouble in the Balkans. Saint-Germain is followed wherever he goes and several devious plots where they try to discredit Saint-Germain are developed. There are, also, ugly rumors and attempts on his life as it is perceived that the Count may be making progress. In one desperate attempt, his enemies kidnap Saint-Germain’s current lover; the circumstances and rescue are spell binding.
It is interesting to find our 4000 year old vampire in the 20th Century; he adapts so well, his wealth is staggering and he has his long time (2000 years) servant and friend Roger to help and watch over him. He is still viewed with suspicion and as a foreigner but he is unperturbed. For all of his years, he takes a keen and kindly interest in the people of the age and he gives large amounts of money to the Arts and hospitals. He is attractive to women and while this attraction is ultimately necessary to his survival he cares for his “lovers” very much. Some interesting comparisons of Count Saint-Germain and Count Dracula are made by Saint-Germain who, in this time, has met Braham Stoker and has read his novel.
This is another very well researched story with fascinating characters. The title, “Writ In Blood” refers to how history is written. I am happy that there are still more that that I can read and enjoy.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Divine Justice By David Baldacci

I have been reading David Baldacci for many years; this is one of his finest novels. Vietnam veteran hero, Oliver Stone, special operations assassin and a man cheated and lied to by his government and members of “The Camel Club” a group dedicated to searching out the truth are back together in a gripping story of danger, betrayal and conspiracy.

Oliver has killed a corrupt U.S Senator and the head of U.S Intelligence, two powerful men who were responsible for ruining Oliver’s life. He becomes a fugitive; all U.S and local agencies are looking for him. The searchers instructions are to locate him but only one agency will take him. Oliver has information and secrets and will be killed if he is captured. His friends from the Camel Club risk their careers to aid him in his flight.
On the run, he befriends a troubled young man from a tiny town and accompanies the man to his home town and finds himself involved in murder, drugs and a horrifying Federal prison.
This was a great read.

The New Annotated Dracula By Bram Stoker

This book with pictures and illustrations is 611 pages. The entire novel is dissected; each chapter has 20 to 40 notations explaining contemporary times and beliefs, habits, powers and manners of vampires, comments and history of the major characters and research notes relating to locations and geography of the setting in the story. The book also has appendixes about later vampire stories and a chronological dating of the history of Dracula as well as a section about Dracula after Stoker. The book was edited by Leslie Klinger
This volume augers well with “The Vampire Book The encyclopedia of the Dead” that Claudia sent me back in 1998.

The Joy of Reading By Charles Van Dorn

Professor Van Doren has put together a guide to and a brief summary of the works of 169 authors beginning with Homer and ending interestingly enough with J K Rowling. This volume is a treasure; the summaries and stories are so well written and Van Doren reflects the history of the time of his selections. Nothing tedious here do not be intimidated by Aeschylus or Euripides, plunge right in to Dostoevsky, is it easy and so very interesting. A great reference book.

Better In The Dark By Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

The Count Saint-Germain finds himself shipwrecked and washed ashore on a remote beach in Saxony. His rescuer is Ranegonda the “Gerefa” of a Saxon fortress.
The year is 937 AD a King is in charge of Germania and lesser wealthy men oversee large areas and the “Gerefas” manage castles and surrounding villages. The church, the Bishop and the monks of the various areas have absolute power as far as interpreting the will of “The White Christ”; strict rules and omens and punishment including death are the way of life throughout the country. Women have few, if any rights except for the “high born”. The former Gerefa of Leosan Fortress, Giselberht, became a religious fanatic, joined a nearby monastery to “get out of the world” and appointed his sister, Ranegonda, Gerefa of the fortress. Unprecedented but Giselberht had no son and his sister turned out to be a strong and efficient leader. These are dangerous times, bands of robbers, pirates and aggressive Danes wander the woods and attack the villages. The King is involved with war and can spare nothing for those in the territories and caused further problems by making demands for lumber and materials.

Saint-Germain and Ranegonda become allies even though he is being held for ransom. Germain’s knowledge and counsel is sought but taken cautiously because he is a foreigner. As time goes on Saint Germain and Ranegonda become lovers and become embroiled in devious plots contrived by Giselberht’s wife who has lost status and looks for another husband and by the powerful monk assigned to the fortress who has the narrowest of religious views and hates Saint Germain and Ranegonda. Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, as usual , has done a wonderful job researching this time in history folded it into this compelling novel. This is an earlier Saint Germain story but whatever century he shows up in he is always fascinating.

Friday, February 06, 2009

The Night Stalker By James Swain

Abb Grimes a convicted serial killer of eighteen women is in prison waiting execution. He has requested that ex cop Jack Carpenter find out what has happened to his grandson who is missing and may have been kidnapped. Carpenter is a “missing child” specialist with many years of success. Abb’s son, Jed is the prime suspect for the disappearance but Carpenter does not think that Jed did the deed.
And so we have the beginning of a riveting thriller. Jack’s former police associates need his help but will not tolerate his methods. The FBI comes in and tries to get Jack off the case they are convinced of Jeb’s guilt, One of the Cops keeps putting more obstacles in Jack’s way and there are more killings which implicate Jed.
This was a splendid mystery with action, suspense and several unexpected twists.

The Reader by Bernhard Schlink

“The Reader is a fascinating and compelling novel about the meeting of a young boy and an older woman that takes place in Germany after World War II.
Michael Berg is recalling his life when he was fifteen years old and how he became physically and emotionally involved with Hanna, a thirty something year old street car conductor. Theirs was a passionate and difficult relationship but they seemed to care for each other very much. At first, the relationship was love making but Hanna became interested in Michael’s school work and learned that Michael had missed a lot of school because of illness but did not seem to care. Hanna told Michael that he could not come to see her unless he studied hard and caught up and further, he was to read his school reading assignments to her. Michael’s school work improved and his self confidence grew. He was able to hide his relationship with Hanna from his family and things went well; reading, loving, talking and some minor arguments but one day Hanna went away.

A number of years later, Michael was a law student attending a seminar on Nazi war crimes; he was assigned to observe a war criminal trial and discovered that Hanna was among those on trial but she refuses to defend herself. Michael followed the whole trial. As the trial unfolded and horrible deeds are discussed and a verdict for all of the defendants is rendered, the reader will remember details and actions of earlier years and will understand Hanna’s dilemma but, perhaps, will not understand Michael’s. This was a great and moving story.

The Broken Window by Jeffery Deaver

Astounding and believable story about identity theft on a grand and world wide scale. Lincoln Rhyme’s involvement starts when his cousin is arrested on murder charges and the evidence against him is overwhelming - too perfect for Rhyme .
As the story develops more and more people police and even members of Rhyme’s team find their lives drastically changed; mortgages are suddenly in default, automobiles are suddenly repossessed, bank account balances are either reduced or increased substantially if the person is being set up as a suspect for a financial crime.

A giant information service company, a data mining outfit that maintains personal, financial, legal and intimate records of millions of persons and companies world wide is supposed to be helping Rhyme and his team but they are also being obstructive because the US Government does not wish their role in the company to be known.

The Lincoln Rhyme series has always been first rate;I look forward to Deaver’s next one.
I suppose there is not much we can do about the growing data bases that contain such detailed information about our lives. I believe that the things that happen in the story happen all the time and that our Government enjoys the power that such knowledge gives it.