I review books feeling like the guy who says, “I know you’re really going to like [insert title or author].” Well, dammit, I like the books and want others to share my happiness! The reviews have gone up on Amazon and B&N, and on Roberta Stuhr’s site, Favorite Books and Book Review (http://philadelphiabookreview.blogspot.com/).
Here, then are seven thumbnail reviews of 2011 that were published in Book Editor Anne Bendheim's "Tell Us What You're Reading" column in the Asbury Park Press:
Fur-Face by Jon Gibb is an e-book for young adults that will also fascinate older adults. A young boy, a newcomer to the English countryside is confronted by a talking cat, who — like his friend Razor the fox — has been part of a mind control program. Challenges confronting him include a secret deal with Russians, concerned parents, nefarious scientists, and secret tunnels under the animal park. And a budding infatuation with a young girl.
Pirate Latitudes was a manuscript discovered after Michael Crichton died in 2008. It’s a rousing good page-turner in the tradition of Treasure Island and Pirates of the Caribbean. Capt. Hunter is technically a privateer who learns a Spanish galleon filled with treasure is being repaired in a fortified harbor. He assembles a crew with the Governor’s blessing to hijack it. Along the way, all of the mishaps and conquests possible — shipwrecks, imprisonment as a pirate, battles —confront Hunter and his misbegotten crew.
Who knew my favorite meteorologist is also a writer of whodunits? The Morning Show Murders, first of Roker’s three published novels, concerns the death of Billy Blessing’s TV show producer who’s been poisoned by food from Blessing’s restaurant. Worse yet, the Manhattan DA closes Blessing’s restaurant and the new exec suspends Blessing from the Morning Show. Blessing has to become a sleuth to find the murderer. It’s a rollicking, fast-paced mystery, filled with New York’s sights, sounds and personalities. Follow up this one with “The Midnight Show Murders” and “The Talk Show Murders.”
Fascinated by Caleb Carr’s treatment of 19th century forensic psychiatry in The Alienists and Angel of Darkness, I continue to search out this author. In The Italian Secretary, Carr takes Sherlock Holmes and Watson to Scotland. A pair of murders at a castle being restored leads Holmes to suspect Queen Victoria is next, her demise orchestrated by the German Kaiser, Scottish nationalists—or even the ghost associated with Mary, Queen of Scots.
With Mexico’s drug battles in today’s news, Arturo Pérez-Reverte gives us a literary backstory to a Latina who becomes The Queen of the South. Theresa, girlfriend of a narco pilot, gets a call warning that if this special phone ever rings, he’s dead and the narcos are coming for her. Theresa flees to Spain, surviving over the next 12 years by building one of the biggest drug rings in the Mediterranean. She’s one tough woman in a man’s world, and you have to love even the bad guys.
John le Carre’s A Most Wanted Man follows a Turkish Muslim boxer who unknowingly takes in a medical student. The book shows us the post 9/11 rivalries of spy agencies in three countries as we learn the student is actually the terrorist son of a Red Army colonel with a mysterious bank account. This may be le Carre’s best work — and most humanistic. John le Carre is a “must-read” author.
Dennis Lehane delivers horrifying insights into 1918 Boston with The Given Day. After the Great War and influenza epidemic, but before the ‘20s began roaring, police officer Danny Coughlin has to contend with leading a strike, mayhem from his policeman godfather, anarchist terror, and unrequited love for the Coughlin family maid. Lehane, author of “Mystic River,” has written a terrifying novel of Boston’s large-scale rioting, families torn asunder by pride, Bolshevik bombers, and wanton murders.
I know you’re really gonna like them.