Just My Luck ~ by Adele Parks

The book was on sale, a relatively recent release, and had decent reviews. Okay fine and it is pretty good – compelling and page-turning anyway.   

Just My Luck
by Adele Parks 

2021 / 12h 50m 
Read by Louise Brealey & Kristin
Atherton
Rating: B  / thriller-suspense

Three couples, very close friends, have teamed up to play the lottery every week for 15 years but  after things getting tense for awhile, one night the friendship hits the skids. The next week one couple, the least prosperous, wins the lottery on their own playing the same numbers the group has played for years and they win about 13 million pounds. 

The trouble is that everyone (teens and all) many are jealous and want in on the win.  Also, they may all be best friends, but there are certainly a lot of secrets amongst the three couples, with no one being pure.  So they tear each other to pieces and everyone is affected.
 
First the old friends claim they were still in on the group play. Then other things happen, or are revealed, building the tension nicely.  The characters each have very different responses to the win.  Jake, the husband, who is having an affair with one of the women friends starts spending and giving money to relatives rather recklessly.  Lexie, Jake’s wife, who knows about the woman, works in social services and gives money to a favorite client.  Emily, their 15-year old daughter, spends money furiously and doesn’t want to go to school, gets beaten up by some friends, and worries she’s pregnant while her boyfriend kind of dumps her. Logan, their son, doesn’t really change a lot but he’s only 11.  

But things do change, the family is not necessarily safe, things turn violently criminal and then come the twists.  It’s a genuaine thriller after it gets started. 

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Cloud Cuckoo Land ~ by Anthony Duerr / 10

Oh my goodness what a fine, fine book!  It’s like something between David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas and Richard Powers’ Overstory.  

Cloud Cuckoo Land
By Anthony Doerr

2021 / 637 pages
Read by Marin Ireland & Simon Jones 
14h 52m
Rating: 10 – 21st century fiction 
(Both read and listened) 

I got about 1/2 way through and realized this was really good (!) so I started over and took notes and they turned out to be copious notes, in fact, because that slows me down and makes me contemplate each chapter a minute or two.  In doing that I read, listened and wrote until I feel I have enough knowledge of the book to give it a 10.  (I don’t usually give 10s unless I’ve read a book twice. I’ll give a 9.5 is if a book is so good I really want and intend to read it again, if I feel I really should read it again to fully appreciate it. And I often do exactly that with those books. But this time I feel like I gave the book what it deserves.
  
So what’s it about?  It’s a about lots of “amazing” things.  It’s about the many ways of telling stories – from just telling them orally like myths with a live audience of kids to reading them and writing them in various forms like translations, poetry, plays and novels right up to making video games of them (but not much of that or movies).  It’s about libraries which are full of stories including libraries from the days of Constantinople to now and in the future. And it’s about books without libraries to keep them safe.  

It’s also about the many ways the earth and its beautiful living creatures and plants are being destroyed.  

And it’s about love and family and language and reading and stories back to Aesop or before (to Diogenes and prior) . It’s about storytelling back to the days before the Saracens attacked Constantinople in 1453.

It takes place in Idaho, in Korea, in Constantinople and out in the galaxies.  It takes place in 1452 and ’53, in the early 1950s, in 2020,  and in 2146 (or so).  There’s one storyteller who originates in    the days of the Greek storytellers and fabulists.  

Zeno, Seymour, Anna and Konstance are the main characters of the plot threads while Aethon is probably the main storyteller with his own story to tell. Yes, there are 5 (five) plot threads occurring in 4 different time frames with 4 very different locations.  But Doerr manages to keep them separate until it’s time to weave them together.  

This is an ode to stories and storytellers in all their various forms and formats right up to and including the librarians of the world. 

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All Her Little Secrets ~ by Wanda M Morris

 Elise Littlejohn, a Black, middle-aged, single attorney, has managed to climb to the top via a quality education, hard work, and determination. She has gone from her origins in rural Georgia to the executive floors of an important corporate head office  located in Atlanta.  One day she goes in to work early and finds her boss dead on the floor in his office.  In shock, she exits immediately and plays dumb in her own office.  At first it looks like suicide – or so office rumor has it. But the police ask questions. 

All Her Little Secrets 
by Wanda M Morris 

2021 / (384 pages)
Read by Susan Dalian 11h 40m
Rating B / crime – thriller 

Just to twist things up, although he was married and white, that boss, Michael, was also Elise’s secret lover of many years. And then her troubled younger brother is involved. 

 This started a bit slow but it was all cranked up by 1/2 way mark and I kept listening. Then it got pretty juicy.  And I kept listening.  The narrator was an excellent choice. And by the end I was quite satisfied. 
This is a debut novel and I suppose that shows but I’ll be looking for another one by Morris. 

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The Joy and Light Bus Company ~ by Alexander McCall Smith

Oh it is a joy to have another new reader for The #1 Ladies Detective Agency series. Lisett Lecat read 20 of the books and she was terrific. I listened to 13 of them but read the first 8 or 9 in the print version. So over the years (since 1998) I’ve the whole serie – and in order, too. But I suppose all good things have to come to an end.  Unfortunately, the first reader selected to take her place wasn’t quite up to what the listeners had got used to and there were lots of complaints.

The Joy and Light Bus Company
by Alexander McCall Smith 

2021 (238 pages )
Read by Bianca Amato 8h 8m  Rating: A++/ very cozy series (Book #22 in The No. 1  Ladies Detective Agency series)

 

But Bianca Amato does a lovely job and I’m going to mention that on the Audible site.  (YAY) She got Mma Precious Ramotswe as being generally both smart and loving using common sense, while Mma Grace Makutsi, Ramatswe’s assistant and althoough she tries to learn different ways, she still comes off as a bossy know-it-all which an be hurtful to some. Amato’s characters are fairly easy to distinguish.
 
The action takes place in Gaborone, medium-sized capital city of Botswana on the northern border of South Africa. Botswana which has a stable government and does pretty well in the world.  It has had problems like AIDS, but crime and poverty have been decreasing lately.  

In this book, as usual, (and I firmly recommend these books be read in order as the over-arching plot line is almost the point) there are several plot threads:    

1.The main plot thread in his book is how J. L. B. Matekoni, husband of Precious, can grow his business. His business, Speedy Motors, is older but doing fine, so basically he’s satisfied, maybe just bored.  And at a conference about growing businesses,  he meets someone who wants him to go partners in the latter’s new bus company. That would mean getting a large loan from a bank. Precious is not happy about this. 

2. There is a small girl wandering around who looks like she’s being sadly neglected if not abused in some way. The child is taken to stay with the activist-foster mother of the town who is a good friend of Mma Ramotswe.  

 and 4. A new client of the detective agency has some complicated family/money troubles with a wealthy and aging father, a caregiver, two or three sisters and so on.  
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_No._1_Ladies%27_Detective_Agency


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The Sentence ~ by Louise Erdrich

The year 2020 was the year that, somehow,  still is.  Thinking back it was full of a lot of things Covid-19 and race riots and the pandemic and mass unemployment and the Coronavirus so as incident piled upon deaths and fear the outlook was kind of bleak at times.  But if you lived in Minneapolis and were Native American and worked in a bookstore and were haunted then … oh dear.  That’s what Erdrich dealt in her life and deals with in The Sentence.   

The Sentence 
by Louise Erdrich 
2021 / (395 pages)Read b
read by author 11h 45m
Rating: 8.5  women’s fiction 

This book opens with an event which happened several years prior to the main events of the novel but everything connects up.  This is mostly the story of Tookie,  a bookstore clerk in Minneapolis, who works in a bookstore.owned by Louise who is an author often away on book tours.   (See https://birchbarkbooks.com ) She’s happily married but she is also convinced that she’s haunted.

The bookstore specializes in Ojibwa/Sioux and other Native American literature but it seems they sell all kinds.  Regular customers are family and friends and Tookie is personally involved with many as well as serving them as customers. There are other customers and friends, too, of course.  

But one day, still in 2019, Flora, a good friend and customer, is found dead at home, a book open in front of her.  After the immediate mourning Tookie notices a certain “presence” around the store and even in her own home. Flora wasn’t actually Indian (as far as Tookie knew), but she was very much a part of the scene and loved Native culture and literature.  

 In the store there is a “confessional” which was found at a salvage store.  Pen, an artistic employee, decorates it.  Flora apparently visits Pen in the confessional, but Pen is exposed to a lot of glue there – does she really sense Flora – because Pen mentions that she is hearing movement too. And then,  right on time, comes the Coronavirus aka Covid-19.  

The Sentence becomes about many things,  family and love and literature and history and Native identity and superstitions and police brutality.  And then there’s the year 2020.  Oh, and ghosts. And babies. And the value of storytelling. 

I think Erdrich had more on her plate than she could really handle well. But all the pieces are so promising that don’t let’s throw them out just because a bigger story has landed. Sometimes life’s like that. And there are lots of deaths, too. But Erdrich is very skilled and manages the flow and tension of the stories and themes without winding up with a jerky narrative. And they are beautifully interwoven building to a very satisfying ending.
 
Fwiw,  Erdrich’s father was native Chippewa and her mother was 1/2 German and 1/2 French. The family had 7 children who were raised Catholic and lived close to the reservation and extended family members.  
 
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louise_Erdrich

 https://bibliobloggityboo.com/2021/08/22/the-sentence-by-louise-erdrich-literary-fiction-multi-cultural/comment-page-1/

https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/louise-erdrichs-the-sentence-explores-racial-tensions-in-a-divided-minneapolis

https://lfla.org/event/the-sentence/

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/02/books/review-sentence-louise-erdrich.html

https://www.complete-review.com/reviews/popus/erdrichl.htm

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The Sisters – by Mary S. Lovell

“… described by The Times journalist Ben Macintyre as “Diana the Fascist, Jessica the Communist, Unity the Hitler-lover; Nancy the Novelist; Deborah the Duchess and Pamela the unobtrusive poultry connoisseur”.  The family was “twice elevated to the British peerage, in 1802 and 1902, under the title Baron Redesdale.”   The Sisters focuses on the daughters of David Freeman-Mitford, 2nd Baron Redesdale, and his wife Sydney Bowles.

The Sisters: The Saga of the Mitford Family
By Mary S. Lovell
2011 / 611 pages
Read by Annie Wauters 18h 38m
Rating:  8 / history/biography
(Both read and listened) 

I knew I’d heard of the Mitford Sisters, but I recollected almost nothing. One of them was involved with Oswald Mosely, the English fascist,  and one with the Hitler himself.  I thought that was maybe the same sister. They were aristocrats of a sort. That’s about it. The family name dates back to the 11th century and the time of the Norman Conquest .  

As a group I thought the Mitford sisters were simply 1930s era socialites and authors,  perhaps more talented than their peers.  And I find out now none of the girls was formally educated so it’s really quite amazing. They first lived in the old country home of Asthall Manor which goes back in the family name to the 11th Century. But they moved to the somewhat nicer Chatsworth at Swinbrook – 
 
But this book delved into what they actually did, and that was really quite a lot for one family and this book is excellent in so many ways. 

The book also has some problems because the family was so large and they used a lot of nicknames, they got married and had spouses and children who had nicknames. Who is whom gets quite confusing. And there were in-laws and friends, even unto Rose Kennedy and her connection. (Of course this is interesting to Americans.) There is a lot of gossipy stuff naturally, as these folks were aristocrats sometimes behaving badly, shockingly even. 

Some wrote books. Some went to jail, some landed in the hospital. They all married and I think 3 divorced. A couple people were killed in the war.  

But they were also really quite involved in many of the important European events and issues of their times – Fascism vs Communism vs liberal democracy plus capitalism. “Being involved” was who they were. I think if they’d been born 50 years prior they would have been ardent suffragettes. In today’s world they might be involved in climate change and #metoo and political headlines, who knows?  This is one reason they are so interesting to women even today. 

The aspect I enjoyed most was the sense of time and place. The book really did re-create Europe before, during and after WWII.  Although Deborah, the youngest, didn’t die until 2014 and that was many years after this book was first published.   

The book is so much more than it starts out being.  It’s basically the biography of 6 less-than-wealthy aristocratic sisters, who although deprived of formal education (as well as doctors and medicines) thanks to the idiosyncrasies of their parents, were quite talented and privileged in many ways. They traveled in the literary circles with the wartime politics of the day thrown in. Each sister was also extraordinarily beautiful and stylish.  When WWII came around their own political ideas solidified and these young women held to them passionately. Diana and Unity fell toward Hitler and the Nazis,  while Nancy and Jessica did the opposite, going with the “liberals” almost to the point of communism.  

I remember when “The American Way of Death” an expose of the funeral business by Jessica Mitford was published but I never read more than excerpts.  (I think I was about 15.)

Their names and birth years of the sisters are:  Nancy (1904), Pamela (1907),  Unity (1914), Jessica (1917), Deborah (1920), Diana (1910).  The  estate where they grew up was Asthall Manor in  Swinbrook but they later moved to Chatsworth House while they were still young.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chatsworth_House

There’s an amazing section of photos in the front and nice source notes – the problem with the notes is that the book is mostly using letters from one family member to another, newspaper clippings, their own books, and so on. There’s also a “Select Bibliography” which seems to be mostly biographies but I”m not sure that’s a bad thing since this is a biography itself.  (Albert Speer’s Inside the Third Reich is mentioned 
Chatsworth Farms Shop: https://www.chatsworth.org/shop-dine/farm-shop/

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The Dark Hours ~ Michael Connelly

This is the 23rd book in the Harry Bosch series and the 4th in the Renee Ballard books.  I’ve followed Michael Connelly since the first book #1 the Harry Bosch series including the Renee Ballard books, the Mickey Haller books, Jack McEvoy and there may be others.  Throughout the oeuvre there are a lot of repeating characters and there a bit of an over-arching plot line. It’s okay to read them out of order but in order is better if you enjoy them.  At first I read them out of order – as I could find them available – until 1996 or so when I started with Amazon.  Since then I’ve read the last 35  books as they were published.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Connelly#Novels

The Dark Hours 
By Michael Connelly 
2021 – (401 pages)
Read by Titus Welliver, Christine Lakin 11h 4m
Rating: A / thriller – procedural

What John Grisham is to legal thrillers and Louise Penny is to who-done-its, Michael Connelly is for police procedurals. Yes, as usual The Dark Hours is heavy on the procedures of street cops and detectives plus office and department politics.  

At this point in the Harry Bosch series Harry has been retired for several years but keeps his hand in by helping a young woman detective with the Hollywood Division; that association has to be generally kept quiet though. Harry is basically bored. Renee Ballard is young, single, overworked and sometimes harassed but Bosch and Ballard have a similar mentality.

The first case(s) in this book: 3 young women have been brutally raped in what amounts to home invasions. Barrett gets information on the crimes from the victims even though the they were traumatized.  These violent rapes seem to be coordinated and the perpetrator is apparently a small group of men – not an individual. 

Another case, although not necessarily separate, is the murder by gunshot killing of a local business owner during a melee which erupted during a neighborhood New Year’s Eve party. As it turns out, the victim was an ex-gangster who “bought his way out” years prior and now had plenty of assets for someone …
 
So Renee is covering a serial rape case in the addition to the murder of a ex-gangster with one cop looking like he’s covering something up. Action includes coordinating activities with Bosch on the old gangster using and interviews with the victims on the rape case.  Ballard and Renee also coordinate sneaking around (out of the eyes of the bosses) getting stuff they need from whomever is involved. 

The book is kind of slow until Part 2 at about half-way which opens with much increased use of force.  Part 3, maybe 3/4 through, is intense, so hang in there. The elements are there – dangerous people who are greedy and willing to do what it takes, and scared people who will lie and snitch. Loyalty goes as far as a person is useful.  These tensions explode in Part 3 and naturally Ballard acts just like Bosch about putting solving the case above all else including department authority.  

Also, I think maybe all the descriptions and references to what Renee is doing when and how, slows the book down a bit. She checks reference material and cases and she calls a lot of people and she thinks a lot. She  communicates with Bosch who is always very discretely around and helpful.

A reading group asked a question about one-word reviews and my reply was that the book was “timely.”  By that I meant that there were references to quarantine, covid, distancing etc.  They’re waiting for vaccines to be released. Being older and having had surgeries, Bosch is “at risk,” but that’s not specifically mentioned. 

About narrations, Christine Lakin doesn’t seem to know how to read male characters. Otherwise she’s fine but it can seriously interfere with comprehension when the listener has to ask “Who said that?” and have a hard time figuring it out.

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A Line to Kill ~ Anthony Horowitz

It might be wise to read the two prior books in this series because Horowitz, as himself, needs a bit more introduction than is here.  Besides, he mentions these prior cases. 

A Line to Kill 
by Anthony Horowitz 

2021 / (384 pages)
Read by Rory Kinnear 8h 50m
Rating: A / crime who-done-it 

The conceit is of the series is that Horowitz is a writer of children’s books now studying a brilliant but mysterious detective named Daniel Hawthorne so as to write True Crime books. He’s already written two which have apparently been moderately successful.

Horowitz is to introduce Hawthorne to his publishers.  There they finalize a plan for Horowitz and Hawthorne to go to a festival where Horowitz’s upcoming book as well as his most recent prior, The Sentence is Death, will be hyped.  The festival at hand is held at Alderney Island in the Channel Islands.  

There are many characters and I would have gotten seriously confused had I not made notes. I think it made reading more fun, too, because I was following everything more closely. Here are the main characters:

Horowitz checks out the other writers at the festival: 
* Mark Bellamy – (Tea-Leaf)an old school style cooking writer –  jokester chubby- unhealthy 
* Elizabeth Lovell –  a blind woman who sees into the spirit world wrote two autobiographies – popular
* George Elkin – Alderney’s most famous historical author – Channel Islands – bird watcher and artist
* Ann Cleary –  children’s adventure books – “books behind bars” organizer – works with schools – her son was killed from drugs and suicide. 
* Myesa Lamarr – French – performance poet – in a rural dialect – 

There are a few other characters but those are the main ones. This is a true who-done-it so they aren’t much more than Agatha Christie characters.

One of the characters is killed fairly early on and Horowitz and Hawthorne are on hand to solve the mystery. I suspect there will be another book in this series – I look forward to it.


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The Promise ~ by Damon Galgut

Wonderful book!  And the winner of this year’s Booker Prize!   Damon Galgut has been a favored author of mine for years, but he can take awhile between novels. The only one on my blog is Arctic Summer and that was back in 2015.  (Sad to say I enjoyed that book the least.).  I’ve also read The Quarry, The Good Doctor, The Imposter and In a Strange Room – I missed his early novels.   

The Promise
by Damon Galgut
2021/ 296 pages
Read by: Peter Noble 9h 37m
Rating: 9.75 / Booker Prize winner
(Both read and listened) 

And with this book he’s gone and combined his wonderful writing talents with the subject of South Africa’s recent history which I’ve read many novels about.  (Including Cry, My Beloved Country by Alan Paton, several books by J.M. Coetzee, some books by Nadine Gordimer, Agaat by Maureen van Niekerk (marvelous) and there have been others. Galgut is originally from South Africa.

Anyway, yesterday it was announced Galgut had won this year’s Booker Prize for The Promise. Yay! This is his best novel imo, – hands down.  It takes place mostly on a farm somewhere in rural South Africa probably around Pretoria, in the years between the 1980s and the current day or maybe a bit beyond (?) I guess.  This book covers the period through the last years of apartheid, the eventual end of that in 1994 and today’s liberal democracy.  

The central characters are the members of the Afrikaner Swarts family. There’s Ma, aka Rachel, who at age 40 and in Chapter 1, dies of cancer. Her dying wish is that someone named Salome should have the house she lives in but which legally belongs to the Schwarts’. This is impossible due to apartheid, but Amor witnesses and remembers the promise Pa makes.  

And there’s  Pa, aka Manie, who apparently has some kind of wealth but probably not so much in the early days. He seems to ignore the end of apartheid.  

Then there are the children, Astrid, Anton and Amor who grow up and have lives during the four decades of the novel. And there’s Salome who has been the family servant for the entire time Pa has owned the land they’re on.  She and Ma were close and she is friendly with Amor. Even if apartheid has no legal standing, some attitudes don’t change.  Salome and her son continue to live in the little rundown house on the Schwartz property. Over the years the Stoltz family becomes quite wealthy but Solome doesn’t get the house Amor knows she’s due. And Salome gets older while her son gets angry.

Galgut’s writing in this book doesn’t include quotation marks which sometimes makes it difficult to distinguish who is speaking or if they’re thinking and so on. Also the pronoun get fuzzy.

 The third-person narrator is quite intrusive in his own way, but not quite omniscient because he asks questions for the reader. There are only 4 chapters in the book, but the scenes switch frequently and those changes are also sometimes difficult to navigate. The narrator of the audio version is wonderful but some issues – like no notice of scene change – become a bit more problematical.

The themes are generally death, family, apartheid, changes, reparations, who should rectify past injustices, how and when. 

I really enjoyed this novel! It took awhile to get into it but I started over at Chapter 2. Then, better understanding the situation, I was quickly hooked.  

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The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree ~ Shokoofeh Azar

This was a difficult book and yet it was amazing due to the hugely creative imagination of it’s author. The story is soooo mournful but the author’s carefully light touch, redolent of traditional Persian stories along with South American magical realism, keeps it from being steeped in melancholia. 

The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree 
By Shokoofeh Azar

2020 in English / 272 pages
Read by Priya Ayyar – 8h 20m
Rating:  9.6 / Booker Prize short list – historical fiction

Yes, Shokoofeh Azar, uses a form of magical realism and in my opinion that’s probably a good choice because the story deals with the Iranian Revolution of 1988 when the Islamic Republic of Iran violently took over with extreme control. How else to keep that subject from becoming morose other than adding the wonderful fantastical elements typical of Persian Lit like One Thousand and One Nights. 

Politics has never been much of a theme for fiction in Iran even today.  In fact, today,  reading or writing fiction is a dangerous thing to do in Iran.  I read “Reading Lolita in Iran” (Azar Nafisi – 2003) years ago and nothing has changed. Even the translator of The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree remains anonymous “for reasons of safety”.   

The Iranian Revolution of 1988 and its aftermath was extremely violent and Azar depicts that quite well. 

The author, who has lived in Australia and Canada since 2011 where she relocated at the ages of almost 40, has some interesting things to say about writing this book. She was 16 at the time of the Revolution but she didn’t write The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree  until after she had spent several years in Australia as a refugee.  She is now living in Gelong, Victoria and is studying communication and journalism at Deakin University.

So the themes become family and finding safety and love in many forms as well as the connection between life and death, the living and the dead.  Our first person narrator is already deceased but she has a story – or many stories I should say – to tell us.  In some ways this book reminds me of One Thousand and One Nights  ancient Middle Eastern origin) and also of Gao Xingjian’s Soul Mountain.  Gao was the Chinese/French winner of the Nobel Prize in literature in 2000.  

The focus of the story is on Bahar, our narrator, her brother Sohrab,  and sister Beeta along with Mom and Dad who live in a big house outside Razan, Iran.  The house is on about 10 acres of land with a large Greengage tree (plum tree) growing on it.  The family is made up of intellectuals who abhorred city life after the Revolution got going so they moved.  And when Sohrab was executed and his body added to the piles of corpses ready for removal Mom climbed into the Greengage tree for three days only coming down out of her tree after she comes to an understanding and then Bahar moves up into it. 

This is a lovely book about tragic times

Shokoofeh Azar
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shokoofeh_Azar

https://thepunchmagazine.com/the-byword/interviews/shokoofeh-azar-amp-lsquo-i-write-magic-realism-on-the-basis-of-facts-to-me-a-fact-can-be-a-dream-or-an-emotion-amp-rsquo

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1988_executions_of_Iranian_political_prisoners

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Finding Mrs Ford ~ by Deborah Goodrich Royce

I got this on a lark, it was a freebie at Audible with a premium membership and I needed something to go to sleep by (heh).  At Audible it’s labeled genre fiction and on Amazon as fiction/literature but somewhere – maybe on the sorting part of the sale info, it said mystery or suspense or something like that.   Anyway, I got it.

Finding Mrs Ford
By Deborah Goodrich Royce

2019 /  (320 pages)
Read by Saskia Maarleveld 9h 35m
Rating:  8 / literary fiction

The last thing I really remembered when I’d drifted off,  some FBI guys were approaching the well-to-do Susan Ford in 2014.  There has been a man on his way to see her he was newly in from the Mideast – the Catholic Chaldeans are mentioned shortly after this – a Christian group in Syria and Iraq.  He had Susan’s name and address in his possession.  But there had been a chapter or two taking place in 1979.  I did some research and this was apparently a 2019 literary publication which got some decent reviews.  

https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/finding-mrs-ford/

“Deborah Goodrich Royce’s gripping and relatable literary suspense novel Finding Mrs. Ford unravels the decades-old secret behind an otherwise perfect life.”

Okay fine – sounds reasonable.  I started over. This time was much better going.  Quite a lot of it was a love story or two and wealth. But at least I was awake.  

Part 1 introduces the reader to Susan, a young woman of about 20 years old and her friend Annie who is the same age. This is in Detroit in the summer of 1979. They’re supposed to be going to college in the fall but they get way-laid to waitress at a disco where dangerous and less than reputable people hang out.  And then they fall in love, each with her own man.  Susan is kind of straight-laced, but Annie flirts with trouble.  In the next chapter it’s 2014 and Susan is approached by the FBI.

Part 2 (starting with Chapter 34 but occurring at some point on the night of the ending of Part 1) concerns Annie – Susan’s friend who gets her in trouble in Part 1. And the narrative continues to alternate between 1979 and 2014 with the reception room of the FBI There was some commotion there at the end of Part 1.  

Fwiw, the Mafia and troubles in the Mideast have been raised as plot points and with the FBI involved in a 35-year old incident/crime.  This is what got me into the novel – it was called a thriller with great twists and suspense.

So yes, it’s a clever plot with a nicely structured presentation. The characters are okay – believable but not really differentiated.  The tension is very sparing to start out, but it’s there and it definitely increases steadily.  The reason for the 7.5 rating is that there’s a very strong romance thread which just sneaks in there and that got old.

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The Judge’s List ~ by John Grisham

This is the 2nd book in John Grisham’s Lacy Stoltz series which started in 2016 with The Whistler.  That book introduced Stoltz and her cohorts.  Then, also in 2016, Grisham published the short story “Witness to a Trial” as a prequel to The Whistler and it gives the background on the criminal gang involved. Now we have The Judge’s List which continues with the Lacy Stoltz series.  Wanting to get on with the series I read “Witness to a Trial” about 30 minutes before starting The Judge’s List.   

The Judge’s List 
By John Grisham
2021 /  (359 pages) 
Read by Mary-Louise Parker 11h 36m
Rating: A++ / mystery – legal thriller 

The young and ambitious Lacy Stoltz works at the Florida Board on Judicial Conduct where she investigates complaints about misbehavior by state judges.  One day a woman contacts her and demands a rather unusual meeting but Lucy agrees.  Jeri Crosby (aka Margie) is so nervous she can barely cooperate because the person she is trying to report is a murderer as well as a judge.  Her suspicion is that this man murdered her own father in 1992 and others before and more since. z

 Jackie has been obsessively researching this ever since and is scared the focus of her investigation is aware of her.  She’s ready to file a report with the right people but the police and the FBI won’t go near it.  So she finds the BJC and Lacy. 

This is a page-turner for sure.  Yes, there’s a slower seeming middle section, but it’s only maybe a couple chapters.  It’s a thriller for sure.  Grisham is a master of tension building.  

In places it’s also more gory than is usual for Grisham. But he’s been changing for years so I suppose this might just be a 21st Century version of Grisham’s original stories published in the early 1990s which were mostly legal thrillers (and the reason I’m so fond of that sub-genre). I would put this on a par with his early work and that’s a high bar.

“He’s smarter than we are, Lacy, and he’s always watching.” The judge was brilliant, thorough and patient.
 
That said, it’s not perfect. The story stretched my suspension of disbelief a bit in places.  Ross Bannick, the bad guy, and Jeri, the good guy, become almost mythical in their abilities. But it’s still terrific, Bannick and Jeri remain compelling as all the main characters do. 

There have been complaints about the narrator, Mary-Louise Parker,  but to me she was great and enhanced the tale.  It may take a chapter or so to get used to her.

I have no clue if there will be another book in the series or not.  I hope so.

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