Monday, January 28, 2013

What Would You Do If...

Defending Jacob by William Landay

Imagine this.  You are a successful prosecuter, happily married, and the father of a smart, handsome, 14 year old son.  And then, one day, you go out on a call that turns out to be the murder of a student at your son's school.  It's tragic and as both a father and a prosecuter, you want to handle this case.  And then, it turns out that the only real suspect is your son.

In this book, author William Landay has taken a step beyond just telling a great story.  Half the fun of this book is how the story is told.  Landay masterfully develops the story in a way that makes the reader feel the pain of the main character, Andy Barber, as his career crashes, his marriage disintegrates, his finances are ravaged, and his deepest secrets are revealed.

This is a difficult book to review because I do not want to give away any of the good stuff.  For me, an important part of the "good stuff" is in the telling.

Here is one thing I can tell you.  I read a lot of mysteries and if you are a mystery lover, this is a book you simply must read.

Have you read it already?  Leave a comment telling us what you thought of it!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Malice of Fortune by Michael Ennis

If you are a fan of historical mysteries, you will love Malice of Fortune.  It is set in 16th century Italy against a backdrop of political intrigue and war.

Pope Alexander's son, Juan has been assassinated and the pope, one of the infamous Borgias, is holding the son of Damiata hostage.  To get him back, Damiata must solve the mystery of Juan's murder.  For assistance, she has none other than Niccolo Machiavelli who is in the process of pondering why men do what they do and Leonardo Da Vinci who is taking detailed observation to dizzying new heights.

One of the things that makes this book so intriguing is that it is based on historical fact.  The records show that the main characters were where the book puts them and doing the things the book shows.  Machiavelli was a minor diplomat involve peripherally in sensitive negotiations and Da Vinci was a military engineer working for the charismatic Duke Valentino, Cesare Borgia who is the illegitimate son of Pope Alexander.

This is a complex and well written book rich in both historical background and strong character development.  On top of that, it puts a new spin on The Prince, written later by Machavelli.

This is a great book for a cold winter's evening!

Friday, January 11, 2013

What happens when passions run so high that common sense and civil discourse are impossible?

In The Submission, author Amy Waldman takes on that question.  A memorial to the victims of a terrorist attack in New York is being planned 10 years after the incident.  A jury reviews anonymous submissions for the design and chooses a winner.  When it is revealed that the winning designer is a Muslim American, passions erupt fueled by an aggressive press.

In the hullabaloo that follows, civility and common sense are lost, vision wavers, positions change, intentions are swamped in chaos.

Waldman tells her story through specific characters including members jury, representatives of the victim families, reporters, political leaders, political activists, and the designer.  Everyone has an agenda and everyone weighs in.

In the end...well, you have to read it for yourself to see how it ends.

As I read this book, the tragedy of Sandy Hook happened and quickly propelled us into a discussion of guns and gun control and that discussion has become wildly overheated.  This book tells a good story and offers a valuable warning.  We all need to pay attention to how we are manipulated, to who is pulling the strings, and to what we have to gain or lose.  Most of all, we all need to dial it down a notch.