Book Briefs – SINCE WE FELL, HOUSE OF SPIES and LADY HARDCASTLE mystery

Book Briefs - Since We Fell - 6-8-17.jpg
Two out of five stars.

 

Since it’s the first line of the book, this is hardly a spoiler.

On a Tuesday in May, in her thirty-seventh year, Rachel shot her husband dead.

In the opening of “Since We Fell,” author Dennis Lehane (“Moonlight Mile,” “Mystic River,” “Shutter Island”) lays out what you’d think would be the defining moment of this story, but take heed, fair reader. All is not what it seems in Rachel Child’s world.

She was raised by college professor Elizabeth Childs, Ph.D., a single mother who wrote books on making a marriage work, but who never walked down the aisle herself.

A man, remembered by Rachel only as James, was in her life briefly, but soon left.

After her mother’s untimely death, Rachel begins to search for her father, a journey that takes her down several rabbit holes, including a brief, but intense encounter with a private detective named Brian Delacroix.

Ultimately, Rachel is left adrift yet again.

Rachel, a promising newshound, travels to Haiti twice after the earthquake.

The devastation she sees causes an on-air breakdown during her second trip. She loses her job, career and credibility.

She retreats to her home, suffering from agoraphobia. Her marriage falls apart.

With the inheritance from her mother’s estate, Rachel moves into an apartment in Boston, eventually marrying for a second time. It’s this husband she shoots on a boat in Massachusetts Bay  –  the unlucky one in the opening scene.

But, just like her father’s backstory, the life Rachel has built is based on an illusion.

Lehane does a good job portraying Rachel’s struggles up to the point where she commits murder.

After that, the story goes off the rails into territory so implausible as to be considered fantasy. By the end, I found the plot so farfetched that even if I suspended everything I understand about reality, there was no way the ending could ever make sense.

 

House of Spies - use this one

Five out of five stars

New York Times best-selling author Daniel Silva introduced his popular hero, Israeli spy Gabriel Allon in 2000’s “Kill Artists.”

During the course of 17 years, Silva has given his fans one book a year, following Allon’s many escapades as he battles encroaching evil across the globe.

Allon was originally recruited to track down Palestinian terrorists responsible for the massacre of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Summer Olympic Games in Munich. The Isareli intelligence agency he works for is referred to in the books as “The Office.”

The number 11 carries significant importance to Allon, as evidenced in a climactic scene in “House of Spies,” the new book to be released July 11.

In order to provide cover for his covert activities, Allon presents himself as a world renowned art restorer who lived for years in an isolated cottage in Cornwall, on the southern coast of England. He retreated to the area after a car bombing took the life of his son and left his first wife with permanent brain damage.

After many years alone, Allon met the woman who would be his second wife and he became the father of twins.

In “House of Spies,” as Allon is settling into his job as director of The Office, ISIS carries out a horrific terrorist attack in London’s West End. A subsequent bomb at Allon’s headquarters in Paris thrusts him into the search for the ISIS mastermind behind the violence.

In order to complete his mission, Allon assembles a team of cracker jack spies who maximize their considerable skills to find and eliminate the ISIS threat.

It’s good to see Allon at the wheel, recruiting members for his team – some come willingly, others are coerced – making sure all contingencies are covered and then, executing the mission with deadly accuracy.

Silva, a former UPI/CNN journalist who covered the Middle East, is a whip-smart writer with considerable knowledge of his subject matter.

If you’re new to the series, I recommend you read them in order, as they do build on each other and give helpful insight into Gabriel’s background, motivations and heartache.

When he was in Dallas last summer, Silva hinted at a possible film deal.

According to Wikipedia, MGM Television and Silva announced on May 15 that MGM had acquired the adaptation rights for the Allon series; the press release contained no schedule and did not specify which novel or novels were under consideration. Silva his wife, Jamie Gangel, special correspondent at CNN, will act as executive producers.

Note: They didn’t ask me, but I’d cast Silva as the lead in the series. When he spoke in Dallas last summer, it was Gabriel’s voice I heard. And, who else better to understand the character’s motivation than the man who created him? Just sayin’.

 

A Quiet Life in the Country - Book Briefs - 7-6-17
Five out of five stars

While at the beach, I discovered a new mystery series set in the English countryside.

The year is 1908. Lady Emily Hardcastle, a widow with a penchant for adventure, and her maid, Florence Armstrong, have left the hustle and bustle of London for the “A Quiet Life In The Country.”

Their idyll is short-lived, however, when they find a dead body on a stroll through the woods.

As Lady Hardcastle and Flo insinuate themselves into the investigation, they reveal tidbits of their pasts, but not enough to really know (1) how Lady Hardcastle came to be such a good detective and (2) why Flo chose to become an expert in martial arts.

Then, an engagement party at a friend’s estate turns deadly and the two must use all their skills to find the killer and uncover the motive.

I found the characters in “A Quiet Life in the Country” charming as they came to life under the adept narration of Knowelden, a popular voice in the world of audio books.

Normally, I don’t listen to books, as I find myself falling asleep and I can’t find where I nodded off, but I do plan on reading the next two books in this delightful series, “In the Market for Murder” and “Death Around the Bend.”

Just think “Murder, She Wrote,” set in rural England and you’ll get the idea. Perfect for the beach or a rainy Sunday afternoon with a cup of Earl Grey.

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