The Reckoning, by John Grisham

Eight stars

John Grisham continues his long-running string of novels with another piece that offers some unique legal discussions. Pete Banning is a well-respected white farmer, a war hero, and an all-around amiable man around Clanton, Mississippi in 1946. This is why it is so troubling when Banning walks into the office of black Methodist minister Dexter Bell and shoots him dead. Banning refuses to elude the authorities and will not speak about the crime. Going through the motions of a trial, but choosing not to offer a formidable defence, Banning is found guilty and sentenced to death. After a few delays, Pete Banning’s day with the electric chair is set. Banning is executed while his adult children and some other family are left with more questions than answers. After a thorough flashback depicting Pete Banning’s life and time in the Pacific arena during World War II, it is back to the late 1940s, where Joel Banning is trying to hold down the fort as the new man of the household. His mother, Liza, has been in an institution since before Pete’s death, another mystery that no one can answer. With wrongful death suits circling around the estate, Joel juggles his legal studies with trying to dig a little deeper to understand why Pete Banning might have felt the need to kill Dexter Bell. There are some loose ends that do not make much sense, but the Bell family remains focussed on punitive damages. With everything up in the air, Joel Banning watches all he has known circle the drain in a family mystery that no one seems able to decipher. Another great Grisham piece that develops slowly and will take a dedicated reader to finish. Recommended for fans of Grisham’s ‘southern legal matters’, though it is apparent that the novel has significant filler sections to pad its length.

I have long been a fan of John Grisham’s work, which approaches the law and courtroom matters from unique perspectives, investing the responsibility in the reader to piece the larger narrative together. That being said, some of his latter work seems to stuff a great deal of information that dilutes the legal arguments with too much backstory. Pete Banning plays a key role throughout the novel, with his development arising through significant backstory recounting in the middle portion of the book. Leaving his family to wonder what happened to fuel his need to commit capital murder, Banning’s life story comes to life when he is a POW in the Philippines, where Grisham offers a detailed narrative that keeps the reader enthralled. The latter portion of the novel shifts much of the focus on Joel Banning, legal mind and amateur sleuth. Trying to piece the great family mystery together, Joel seeks to turn over many stones to see what might slither out. The numerous other characters offer some interesting 1940s South flavour to the story, particularly the legal matters that address how a white man can be charged and fond guilty of killing a black man in Mississippi. Grisham is keen on stand-alone novels, though there are usually some interesting stereotypes that emerge throughout. The story in this piece is strong, depicting both the legal issues around race and murder, as well as estates and wrongful death suits. Most interesting of all is trying to determine what might have led Pete Banning to commit the ultimate crime and toss his family into significant distress, which comes together in the final chapter. I will admit that the middle section of the book, that exploring the time Banning spent in the war, presumed death and being tortured, seemed to be a great deal of drawn out character depiction and backstory. Some have bemoaned its presence in the novel, though I simply wonder if it could have been curtailed to a refined few chapters. While I choose not to spoil this for anyone, that backstory portion does not play into the foundational arguments for the murder he committed. I found the writing to be quite captivating as I pushed through the story in short order. Another Grisham success for those with patience!

Kudos, Mr. Grisham, for entertaining the reader from the outset. This is a story that will keep the reader thinking throughout as they become enthralled with the detailed writing. I cannot wait for the next piece you have planned.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

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The Hiding Place, by C.J. Tudor

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, C.J. Tudor, and Crown Publishing for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

After the great success of her debut novel, C.J. Tudor returns with another psychological thriller that straddles two time periods to bring readers an enthralling novel. Joe Thorne left the village of Arnhill after a problematic childhood that included some tragic personal events. Now, armed with a teaching degree and having fled his last posting under a cloud of suspicion, Thorne is back to teach at the local academy. While many years have passed, Arnhill seems to still be the same speck on the map, with the problems flowing through to the next generation. As Thorne tries to acclimate himself to old grievances, he is reminded about his sister and her desire to chum along with him when she was a precocious eight. As he has memories of the events that led to her disappearance, Joe sees things differently and remembers the great changes in Annie when she turned up two days later. This led to an Annie he did not recognize, which snowballed into a fatal car accident that left Thorne orphaned. Struggling with those memories and how to handle his new crop of students, Joe Thorne’s recent past catches up to him and creates a gaping void. However, someone holds the truth to his past and a deep secret that he has spent decades trying to hide. With nothing to lose, Joe Thorne forges to rectify some of the pains of his youth and avenge Annie’s disappearance at the hands of another, while burying everything else a little deeper. Tudor presents another masterful psychological thriller that keeps the reader guessing as the story unravels at break-neck speed. Recommended for those who enjoyed her debut, as well as readers who like a little chill in their novels.

I admit that I was not as enveloped in Tudor’s opening novel as some, but I did find there to be some redeeming qualities, which is why I was happy to return for another go. Tudor makes no excuses for her writing style, which mixes a well-balanced narrative and flashback chapters to fill in the backstory gaps. Joe Thorne has an interesting role in this novel, living in both the past and present, while offering the reader a smorgasbord of development and backstory on which to feast. While he is a loner of sorts, the reader can see a Joe who has a purpose, even if it is fogged in an odd connection to his sister who died in a horrible crash many years ago. Many of the other characters prove useful vessels, both to propel the flashback sequences forward and to offer sober revisiting in their older incarnations. Tudor does well to keep the reader involved while also keeping large gaps out of the narrative. The guesswork left to the reader is interesting, though there are some nagging aspects that plague the narrative until the final chapters, rectifying an entire story’s worth of confusing in a single reveal. Tudor paces her story well and keeps the reader on edge, only pushing the final piece into place in time for the reader to catch their breath and end the intense novel.

Kudos, Madam Tudor, for another winner. I quite enjoyed this piece and hope others will find as many chills as I did throughout.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Dark Sacred Night (Bosch # 21, Renée Ballard #2), by Michael Connelly

Eight stars

Always finding ways to be unique with his writing, Michael Connelly offers up something different for his fans in this latest novel, which mixes two of his most talked-about protagonists. Two detectives from two jurisdictions, sharing their life stories and bound together by a single cold case that has them fully committed. While working the ‘late show’, LAPD Detective Renée Ballard comes across former LAPD legend Harry Bosch flipping through old files. Ballard soon learns that Bosch is working a cold case while things are slow down at San Fernando PD. After some digging of her own, Ballard approaches Bosch to see if he needs any help, particularly obtaining information within the LAPD. Thus begins a loose partnership between the two as they look into the murder of a teenage prostitute from almost a decade before. Bosch is doing this as a favour to someone he knows, but remains somewhat circumspect on why he’s being so nice. While Bosch and Ballard work their respective cases on different shifts, the Daisy Clayton investigation continues to heat up. With information tying her abduction and eventual murder to a non-descript van, Bosch and Ballard try to narrow down the list of suspects, while staying on top of the drama that shapes their own lives. The more they work together, the better they get to know one another, so different and yet so in sync. Could this be the ultimate pairing that no one saw coming? And does the murderer, hiding in the shadows, stand a chance with these two detectives on their heels? Connelly mixes some strong Bosch work with the still evolving Detective Ballard to create a great story that allows fans to get their fill of both characters. Recommended to fans of both series who always wondered, ‘what if…?’

I quite enjoy Michael Connelly’s work, spanning an interesting career. I am also a fan of authors who blend their series protagonists together, just to see how the chemistry will play out. Connelly has done it before, but this new connection could be an even more interesting fit, given the newness of Renée Ballard on the scene. Those who enjoyed Ballard’s introduction as a protagonist are able to extract a little more about the woman and her policing style, as well as the grit that emerges when she works alongside LAPD legend, Harry Bosch. As with his involvement in the series that bears his name, Bosch has grown and changed, but always seems to have new and exciting angles yet to be revealed. His backstory and development seem set in neutral, but there are always crumbs on which the series fan can feast, even as Bosch teeters on the brink of giving it all up. However, many would ask what happens to Bosch when he can no longer shape policing and help those in need. Connelly pokes at this bear in this piece, leaving the reader to wonder if Bosch’s days are finally numbered. The story was a brilliant mix of a handful of cases, seen through the eyes of both protagonists. Mixing the narrative angles, the reader is able to see both Bosch and Ballard working through things from their perspectives, as well as a joint effort to find this killer who has slipped through the cracks for nine years. The story moves along at a wonderful pace, offering struggles for both detectives while also seeing them grow closer together. This connection is one that cannot be ignored and should not be shunned, as there is much to be seen when it comes to it. A mentor-mentee situation could be budding and who better than Harry Bosch to have as a guide?

Kudos, Mr. Connelly, for a wonderful series that seems only to get better. Bring on more, when time permits. Your fan base grows with each new publication!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

High Crimes, by William Deverell

Seven stars

With 2018 coming to a close, I chose to try one final William Deverell novel. With his vast knowledge of the Canadian legal system and experience with clients involved in many criminal activities, Deverell brings a unique realism to his writing, though asserts that it is all fiction. In this piece, the story opens in a Newfoundland courtroom, where a wily lawyer has been able to turn the tables and help his client elude conviction. Thereafter, there are whispers by drug trafficking kingpin Peter Kerrivan of a plan to bring a new and highly potent form of marijuana into Canada, directly under the noses of both local and American officials. Gathering a small group of diligent workers, Kerrivan is able to facilitate a trip to Columbia to check out the product, literally tons of ‘female bud’ marijuana. From there, it will have to makes its way up the coast and back through Newfoundland, where distribution is sure to garner hundreds of millions of dollars, should all go right. However, RCMP and DEA officials have been tipped off, but must play their cards right, in order to ensure the law is on their side when they intercept the drugs before arriving in Newfoundland. If that were not enough, lawyers await to tie government officials in knots and possibly keep anyone involved out of prison. It’s an adventure on the high seas that no one could have predicted. Deverell does well to keep the reader hooked throughout this novel, which finds new and exciting ways to tell a story of dealing, trafficking, and using in 1980s North America. Some who are familiar and enjoy Deverell’s writing may enjoy this one, though it is written in his highly dense style, which is sure not to appeal to all readers.

As Canada has recently legalised cannabis use by its citizens, there are some interesting aspects to this novel that make it a worthwhile read. However, very little of Deverell’s premise involves personal use of the product, but rather massive shipments through numerous borders, all while eluding authorities during America’s War on Drugs. Deverell fills the pages with information, drug-use, and legal meanderings to give the reader interesting angles on the entire business of the drug trade. While there could surely be called a few protagonists, many of the key players melded together for me, leaving a general group of ‘drug runners’ who seek to make their millions by taking a sizeable gamble. These include one fellow whose personally recorded journal is placed within the pages of various chapters. The story is strong and its ideas are quite interesting. That said, I am not sure I was ready for as dense a read as Deverell offered, as I was sifting through the narrative and trying to extract precisely what themes were being presented. However, the story flowed well and kept my attention, educating and entertaining me in equal measure. While not my favourite piece, I am happy to have given Deverell another chance to impress me in the final days of this year!

Kudos, Mr. Deverell, for another interesting novel. I love how you make me think while I read, even if my brain is not always able to compute what you want the reader to understand in short order.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

The Case Against Impeaching Trump, by Alan M. Dershowitz

Seven stars

Having read a great deal about recent topics surrounding presidential impeachment, I thought it appropriate to explore a little more about sentiments against the constitutional removal of President Trump. There are surely many Trump supporters who oppose impeachment talk, even those not employed by Fox and Friends. However, I sought something with more teeth and legally grounded. Enter, Alan Dershowitz, who makes strong and repeated assertions that talk of impeachment is not only premature, but also legally unfounded. Dershowitz presents arguments that he makes clear to the reader that he’s held for over fifty years and offers them repeatedly throughout this tome. Interestingly enough, I have read many of the texts Dershowitz hopes to debunk with his arguments, citing that these legal scholars and academics suffer from tunnel vision and could not support their assertions if the ‘shoe were on the other foot’, one of his tests to credibility. Dershowitz, an admitted civil libertarian, extols the necessity that impeachment and bringing criminal charges against opponents should not be a club to remedy ideological differences. Dershowitz also spends much time trying to erode the entire current impeachment process as being anything but supported by law. He cites strong concern about the hiring of a special prosecutor to undertake investigations into all the alleged activities that fuel the calls for impeachment, explaining that bias has rotted the core of the exploratory system. With a less than stellar Robert Mueller, an Attorney-General in Jeff Sessions who tried to play two roles, and members of Congress who are fixated on loose claims, Dershowitz goes almost so far as to call the entire process a sham. Narrow interpretation of the US Constitution is another area where Dershowitz tries tirelessly to nullify the need for considering Trump’s actions as worthy of impeachment. A firm believer of literal interpretation of the Founders’ words, Dershowitz cannot see where Trump has done anything to contravene the limits set out by those who created the political rulebook for the United States. The repetitive nature of Dershowitz’s arguments leaves the reader to wonder why he needs to constantly provide an air of self-aggrandizement, as though others could never contribute as effectively. Dershowitz shows why he is the ideal criminal defence attorney, pushing smoke into the eyes of the layperson while concocting bouts of browbeating to confound someone who simply wants some basic arguments to offset much of what is being said in print and on television. Dershowitz is to be applauded for holding firm to his ground, but makes few arguments that come across as substantial without being condescending. An interesting read for those who can comprehend his complex and highly academic views, though sure to miss the mark for many other readers.

I admit that my impeachment binge may have been one-sided, though I did learn quite a bit from the constitutional and legal areas of the matter at hand, which have helped shape my opinions. However, while I respect some of the sentiments made by Dershowitz, his approach seems to be very troubling or extremely narrow-minded. While there are some who assert that the US Constitution lays out rules that must be followed and we cannot stray from them, I have always been a ‘Living Tree’ believer, that laws, even of a constitutional nature, must grow with the society they oversee. I always marvelled at how former Justice Scalia could make rulings based on the Founding Fathers original intent without taking modernity into account, but he seemed to do so effectively. Dershowitz takes that same approach in that he tries to tie the reader into knots about believing those who call for impeachment without clearly defined reasons in the Constitution. Taking this approach not only confounds those who seek to have modern discussions, but also closes the door on having an evolving exploration, when one mind is stuck in the late 18th century. Additionally, Dershowitz offers up a rebuttal of those who speak of collusion or obstruction, refusing to see anything in federal statutes that supports claims. Again, he is happy to parse the laws to his literal favour, rather than allowing his mind to expand and work in the modern exploration of a living constitutional document. Infuriating as it is, this pales in comparison to his oft-repeated sentiment that he is the sole legal mind who has held firm and would sat the same things no matter who was being slandered. This self-aggrandizement does little to warm the reader up to his arguments, as they are forced to watch Dershowitz pat himself on the back, yet continue to call himself entirely neutral. This is likely because this text is a set of short essays published over a short time, in which Dershowitz repeats his key arguments. While this could be used effectively, the reader forced to hear that same arguments (i.e. shoe on the other foot) over and over, things quickly become mundane. I had truly hoped for some strong arguments refuting the sentiments made by the other side, but was subjected to inane arguments that chose more to mock others for being too invested rather than provide counter-claims that could sway arguments. For all this intelligence and the stellar work he has done in criminal defence, Dershowitz seeks not to help the common American turn their opinions, but wants to blather on in law school classrooms and in the clouds with those academics who can handle his banter.

Kudos, Mr. Dershowitz, for your long-winded arguments. If mockery and tying the reader in knots is your attempt to confuse people into agreeing with you simply to stop the circular arguments, you have succeeded. Heaven forbid that you change your mind and agree to help Trump on the Senate floor with the impeachment trial, for that could be as brain-numbing as watching them shampoo the carpets ahead of the trial itself.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

The Girl Without Skin (Greenland #1), Mads Peder Nordbo

Seven stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Mads Peder Nordbo , and Text Publishing Company for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

While I quite enjoy Scandinavian murder mysteries, there are certainly degrees of quality, as with any genre. I stumbled upon this piece by Mads Peder Nordbo and liked the dust jacket blurb, hoping it would live up to the synopsis. Learning that Norbdo works in Greenland offered me some hope that he would be able to shed some unique light on the setting, as well as the story’s development throughout. Danish journalist Matthew Cave is sent to Greenland to cover their upcoming elections. However, there is a sensational story coming out of the small community of Nuuk, which demands Cave’s attention. A man is found on the ice, his organs removed in a brutal manner. While it surely could be one of the many wild animals in the region, the cuts seem to precise and clean to be anything but that of a knife blade in a human’s hand. As Cave begins to investigate a little more, the body count increases and the severity of the attacks seem to be growing as well. Cave pokes around and discovers a connection to a set of crimes from back in 1973, where small children were kidnapped. As the community is reeling, Cave’s editors are demanding answers and sensational coverage, which he is not yet ready to offer. Following the trail, Cave discovers that some of the missing children have reappeared, as though they were dropped from the sky decades later, with no past and for no known reason. As he wrestles with his own personal demons, Cave must follow this case through to the end, even if the results are anything but satisfying. An interesting story that Nordbo makes his own, though there was some element missing to make it stellar. Those who like Scandinavian mysteries may find something worthwhile herein, though I felt the flow and entire premise fell a bit flat for my liking.

What is it that defines a Scandinavian mystery? Must the author hail from that region to be given this classification? Perhaps the story must take place within those countries defined as ‘Scandinavian’? I ask this because the story takes place entirely in Greenland, which may be part of the Danish territories, but the flavour of the novel is definitely unique. Nordbo uses this unique approach to flavour his novel in such a way to allow it to stand out, as well as some of the biographical information I provided above. Much of the setting and the societal norms differ greatly from those used in the numerous Scandinavian novels I have read, though this uniqueness is not entirely unwelcome. Matthew Cave is an interesting character and proves to be a worthy protagonist. Receiving his surname from his father, a member of the American military stationed in Greenland, Cave left the area at the age of four to settle in Denmark. This strain from any father figure proves to be a recurring issue throughout the novel, as does the loss of his wife and unborn child, thereby erasing his chance to be a father. Nordbo uses this thread to push the story along, as Cave seeks to piece together some of the happenings to those children from 1973 and the resulting murders in more modern times. Cave proves to be an effective journalist, but I did not feel a connection to him, which may be more to do with the style of writing that Nordbo offers. Many of the other characters who grace the pages of this book are a mix of gritty members of the police or community members, who mix a Danish and local indigenous culture into their daily lives. Nordbo tosses names and terminology around with ease, leaving a reader not entirely adept with either to flounder. Still, I was able to make some general connections and limped my way through the piece. The story’s premise was decent and I am pleased to have been able to follow it, but it was also weakened by a lack of flow and jilted writing. A mix of short and longer chapters, the story seemed to sputter along and I could not entirely tell if it was the translation that was causing me such distress or a lack of cohesive writing in whatever language. I have often said that Scandinavian novels seem to offer a seamless transition when translated, but this was surely an exception. I noticed that this was the first in what might be an upcoming series, so I am not sure if I want to continue when the next piece surfaces. That being said, I am forewarned and forearmed, should I choose to continue. Other readers preparing for this undertaking should be as well.

Kudos, Mr. Nordbo, for a decent effort, though it missed the mark for me. I can only hope that others find something stellar in this writing, as it did not meet by, admittedly, high expectations.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

The Case for Impeachment, by Allan J. Lichtman

Eight stars

To simply peruse bookshop shelves and lists on Goodreads, one can assert that much has been written about Donald J. Trump since he announced his candidacy for President of the United States (POTUS). The number of publications since he ascended to the White House is likely exponentially larger than any other POTUS during the same short time in office. Within both those groups of books, there sits a sub-group of books about Trump’s impeachment, citing various sources and reasons. It’s not yet been two years since he has been in office—at the time of this review—and I baffle myself that I need not rely on #fakebookstats to make this assertion! Enter, Allan J. Lichtman, a distinguished professor at American University, who predicted Trump’s victory months before it took place. He also asserts that, using his own formulaic means of picking a winner, he has not been wrong over the past eight presidential elections. Not as well-published was his prediction that Trump would be impeached even before he lay his hand on a Bible before *reader, please choose your preference of the true/fake number* Americans watched in person on that January day. Publishing this piece months into the Trump presidency, Lichtman offers up a convincing case about why Trump should and will be impeached by Congress for deeds he undertook. Lichtman explores the historical use of impeachment for the curious reader, particularly on three sitting presidents. He uses the examples of Andrew Johnson—who was saved from having his impeachment upheld in the Senate by a singe vote—and Richard Nixon when discussing the role Congress played in investigating both men and how Trump’s actions paralleled those of his Oval Office brethren. Effectively laying out some of the changes brought against the Johnson and Nixon, Lichtman explains how they could be used against Trump, replacing the arguments with modern examples. From treasonous activities to collusion, through to crimes against humanity and abuse of presidential power, Lichtman reveals how Trump the man entered into the fray with so much baggage that Congress has much that can be used to bring forth Articles of Impeachment that can receive bipartisan support. While all this may be damaging, Lichtman also brings up an argument that I have not heard previously about the timing of acts and how they play a role in presidential impeachment. He effectively shows how acts that took place before Trump ascended to POTUS can and should be used to fuel an impeachment, citing examples of a recently removed federal judge. If this is the case, there are new and interesting angles to be discussed when it comes to the topic. As I mentioned before—something else that will stoke the fires—this book came out in April 2017, with only a few months of Trump presidential fodder and yet makes strong and convincing arguments for egregious acts that include treason and collusion with the Russians. No Mueller, no white supremacy, and no mass exodus of Cabinet officials (save Michael Flynn). These arguments are based on pre-White House acts that should not be ignored as partisan rhetoric. Worry not, Trump fans (or undecideds), as Lichtman offers some clear and foolproof ways of steering clear of impeachment, which will require only the same sacrifices as others who became president. As of now, it seems Trump has steered clear of any and all recommendations, sullying the office in new ways each day!u An interesting and eye-opening read for those who want to explore the topic a little more, particular by a man Trump praised for predicting his victory in November 2016.

I admit that I have been on a binge when it comes to American politics of late, exploring some of the more controversial aspects of Trump and his 2016 presidential campaign. I have also long had an interest in impeachment and read about the topic when I can. To see an academic of such high regard lay out the systematic reasons for Trump’s impeachment, I cannot help but perk up and listen. Many can say this journalist or that lawyer is biased and has no right to make such sweeping comments, but I have come to wonder if so many recognised people in their fields are making varied, yet similar, arguments, can we all be blinded and singing out of the same fake hymn book? With a man who makes double-speak an Olympic event, can the citizenry of the world sit around and make assertions that they are being duped by all but Fox and Friends? Lichtman offers the reader sound evidence, weaving together both recently happenings and those in history to assert that Trump has been acting in ways that Congress could and should push for impeachment. We have all heard the rigging of elections and the handing over information to the Russians, which are strong arguments, but Lichtman also introduces ideas about crimes against humanity. These parallel some of the ideas used by Congress to push for Nixon’s impeachment, though the rationale is vastly different now. The reader should go into the book with an open mind and allow themselves to be pushed in one direction or another. I did and find a lot of it quite revealing and convincing, without feeling a degree of inculcation. While the topic is quite academic and, at times, esoteric, Lichtman writes in such a way that the layperson is not lost when trying to follow the arguments. Headers and simple background for each topic guides the reader effectively. However, this topic requires some balanced approach, which is why I will next turn to a leading legal scholar who offers the opposing view, before making my final opinion. It seems the only fair thing to do, under the circumstances and is better than trying to shut out the opposition and call them fake!

Kudos, Mr. Lichtman, for opening my eyes up to new and revealing reasons that the US Congress should open impeachment proceedings soon. You make some convincing arguments for the case and I wonder, Mike Pence in the wings aside, if there are effective reasons not to proceed. Let me have a look now!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

The Jubilee Plot (Esther and Jack Enright #7), by David Field

Eight stars

David Field presents readers with another novel about the criminal element of Victorian England in the latest Esther and Jack Enright piece. While Jack and Esther are in Essex with their four children, Percy has been stirring up the pot in the Met and finds himself out of a job, at least temporarily. Word of how well the Enrights work has made it through the ranks of Scotland Yard, where a special team is being assembled. In preparation for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, security has begun to hash out potential violent plots. While Her Majesty is the primary focus of protection, one cannot forget many of her grandchildren, who are monarchs in their own countries. When whispers of a Fenian plot surface, Jack and Percy are given undercover positions in the ‘Irish Group’ to suss out potential leaders. While the work is just what Jack loves to do, it puts an obvious strain on his marriage. Esther may have finally become aware of the mistress called Work and how she can ruin a happy marriage. All the while, a mystery man appears at Esther’s door, someone who could also derail the Enright family in a single day. With the Jubilee approaching, Jack and Percy can spare no time as they seek answers, which reveals gaping holes in security, and trouble from the least expected places. Field does a masterful job of putting together a great story that will keep the reader enthralled throughout. Fans of the series will likely enjoy this latest piece, as might those readers who love Victorian mysteries that are read in short order.

I enjoy promoting David Field whenever I can, with a writing style not only easy to comprehend, but provides the reader with historical context happenings during the Victorian era. Settings and political events come to life throughout this well-paced series. I rushed through the first few novels when contacted by the publisher, and knew that I would return as soon as more novels appeared in publication. Field uses the story’s setting effectively, shifting from the home in Essex to the streets of London without losing the narrative’s strength. Jack and Esther remain strong characters, though Field injects some new developments to create some disarray. Might the ongoing investigations that exemplify Jack’s choice to put work before his ever-burgeoning family finally have left Esther at the end of her rope? Percy and some of the other supporting characters do well to fit into the narrative, helping to enrich the criminal investigation and adding unique flavours that permit Field to explore the topic of treason and assassination from a variety of vantage points. Field keeps the story fairly straightforward, though can never be accused of diluting or oversimplifying things for the curious reader. Field effectively educates the reader all about the Fenians and Irish uprisings, ahead of some larger bloodier events in history. These short reads can be digested in a single day without feeling cheated. One can only hope that Field’s collection of ideas does not dry up anytime soon, as these novels are perfect for a reader who enjoys historical fiction.

Kudos, Mr. Field, for another success. I see a few more pieces are coming down the pipeline and I anticipate their arrival!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Letters from Father Christmas, by J.R.R. Tolkien

Nine stars

Please join me in my last Christmas read of the season. Below, you’ll find my original review:

From the annals of one of the 20th century’s greatest writers of fantasy comes this collection of letters, perfect for the holiday season. A collection of letters written by Nicholas Christmas to the Tolkien children, this book is filled with the Christmas spirit and all the lovely stories that take place each year at the North Pole. The letters, penned in the 1920s and 30s, introduce the children to North Polar Bear and his helpful role as Father Christmas’ assistant in the preparation for the great Christmas delivery. Annual letters talk about wandering reindeer, small polar cubs, as well as the warm weather and fiscal belt-tightening required, which serve to entertain and educate the Tolkiens. As the years progress, the recipients change, though Father Christmas is sure to remember those older Tolkiens who may choose no longer to write. Making loose references to letters written and sent to him, Father Christmas adds a secondary gift with most letters, a hand-drawn picture in ink, depicting some of the key events mentioned in the text. This wonderful set of letters is sure to make any lover of Christmas feel a little warmer during the holiday season. Fans of Christmas will enjoy this short piece, as well as those who love Tolkien’s unique style.

I was put onto this short piece by someone who shares my love of the holiday season, as well as a well-crafted piece of writing. Tolkien surely lays the foundation for both and has made this very short buddy read worthwhile. Using his wonderfully expansive mind, Tolkien surely devised the idea to communicate with his children on an annual basis. Without pulling the children into anything too time consuming, Tolkien develops a set of characters who can be revisited on an annual basis, as well as referencing the children’s letters and trying to explain how he came to choose the presents that appeared in their stockings. From the slightly grumpy North Polar Bear to the always helpful red and green elves, the letters are sure to capture the attention of the Tolkien children. The hand-drawn additions to the letters, done by Tolkien himself, add another layer of beauty to these letters, warming the hearts of the children who were sure to find them in the post close to Christmas, as well as the reader, who might marvel in the detail offered. While I listened to the audio, I made sure to borrow the hard copy from the library to marvel at the drawings. Any parent or adult with children close-by will surely think this a superb idea to bring added excitement to Christmas. I wonder if this idea might be one that I begin with Neo next year, if he is willing to write a letter to the North Pole. That said, my drawing leaves much to be desired. It’s the thought, though, right?!

Kudos, Mr. Tolkien, for helping me spark the holiday season with this piece. I will be adding this to my annual Christmas reading list and wish I had known about it years ago.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Dear Madam President: An Open Letter to the Women who will Rule the World, by Jennifer Palmieri

Seven stars

The 2016 US Presidential Election is that indelible mark that will likely be commented upon far past the next such event. Historians are happy to watch the ‘players’ bandy their own theories about for the time being. Jennifer Palmieri, a senior member of the Clinton Campaign, pens this short piece in the guise of writing a letter to the future first female President of the United States. In fact, it is her own mini-memoir and soapbox statement about the campaign, the issues, and her involvement in the political process. She explores how this fictitious first female POTUS will have to embrace her difference from all past holders of the office, rather than try to downplay it. She speaks of how said POTUS will have to rise above the fray and face verbal bullets along the way, as well as some of the poisonous attacks that Clinton took from the Trump fans. This elusive POTUS will also have to strive to be better and look back on what came before her, seeking to better the institution and the country, while staying true to herself and her family. Overall, Palmieri needed a place to vent her frustrations about being so close and so far from being able to pen this letter to her own boss after 2016. A decent account of personal stories and sentiments, though by now the entire process has been so over-examined that without something new to offer, the narrative blends in to all the other pieces that fill bookstore shelves.

I will be the first to admit that I was not pleased with the end result of the 2016 US presidential election, for more reasons than one. However, I have read many of the books on the subject, from both academics and laypeople, campaign staffers and candidates, which has given me some detailed—and exhausted—insight into the process and the end result that November night. In the end, there are reasons that things turned out a certain way, some of which are being investigated at present. However, there seems to be only so much that can be said and so many ways to blame a fool. We must look forward to heal and while Palmieri wants to, she’s still wrapped up in some regurgitation that does little to move the discussion forward. Developing a book about an open letter to a future presidential election winner is good, though the true content of this piece is less about the uplifting newness of the process and a way to bitch about why Clinton could not hold that role. It’s ok, bitterness is likely still concentrated in the veins of the campaign workers, but they will need to shake some of it off and look to 2020, when there is a new chance to slay an old dragon. Palmieri has some interesting perspectives, having worked with some strong-willed characters in the realm of US politics. But, these are used as anecdotes to create a mini-memoir about her own life, rather than constructive ideas for a yet to be identified winner of a presidential election who will go where Clinton could not in 2016. May that woman be great and intelligent, as well as keen to govern, but may she also not sit around and kick the can about lost opportunities forever.

Kudos, Madam Palmieri, for a decent insight into your life and experiences. A brief read, so the experience is not overly time consuming or troublesome. You communicated well with the time given to examine the subject matter.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons