Never Goodbye ~ by Adam Mitzner

On sale and although I’ve read a number of Mitzner’s books this might be one of the weakest.  I loved A Conflict of Interest, 2011, his first, but Mitzner seemed to go downhill after that . Still, they’re pretty good legal thrillers.  This is the first of a series of three and I’d already read the other two. 

*******
Never Goodbye
By Adam Mitzner
2018 / 
Read by Erin Burnett 10h 6m
Rating:  B+ / legal thriller 
*******

This one would be much better read than listened to because there are three women with leading roles and the voices are too similar – they’re identified at the beginnings of chapters.   Still -it’s complex and although I kept thinking I had predicted the ending,  I hadn’t. 

The plot involves Lauren Wright, a woman New York assistant prosecuting attorney for the victim’s bureau,  whose dead body is found in Central Park. Eventually another woman, Dana Goodwin the new chief in the victim’s bureau, is on trial for the murder with still another woman, Ella Broden (the old chief of that bureau), as lead prosecution.  Boyfriends and husbands are also involved.  

There is a certain amount of LGBTQ matter, almost a theme, as well as low-grade techie stuff. 

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Negroland: A Memoir ~ by Margo Jefferson

Negroland, by Jefferson’s definition, is that demographic which is comprised of upper middle to upper class Blacks from the days of slavery through today. The author was raised in this community and it has been written about in various ways by several authors down through the generations from prior to the Civil War.  

*******
Negroland: A Memoir  
by Margo Jefferson 
2015 / 
Read by Robin Miles 7h 59m Rating:  B+/ memoir
******* 

This may be the most honest memoir I’ve ever read. What’s it like and how does it feel along with what all happened growing up as a privileged “Negro” in a white world.  Negro is the word Jefferson uses rather lovingly. I think she understands the heritage of that word because it replaced the term “Black” back in the slave days. Respectable people would use the word “Negro” because it was much more respectable at the time.  

I say most honest memoir because it seems to me that, by what she reveals, Jefferson makes herself vulnerable in all sorts of ways.  Some of this would really hit home if I were to tell anyone similar things. There’s a lot of wisdom and insight being passed along here.

But that’s one thing which makes the book really great and no wonder the book won the National Book Critics Circle Award in Autobiography. Jefferson also won the 1995 Pulitzer Prize in Journalism/Criticism for her work with the New York Times.  Another thing which contributes to the success of the book is the Jefferson’s easy mastery of language.  It’s clear and yet literary in a wonderfully accessible way. 

Back in the days, (and probably today too), wealthy and aspiring Blacks were “privileged” while Whites were “entitled.” That’s a big difference – a huge difference – and it’s based on color. 

So Jefferson talks about shades of brown and hits the racism associated with colors light enough to pass easily for white to the never-pass of ebony. She discusses members of her own family who either reject white culture altogether or go the other way and pass for white (until they retire?).  Her father was the head of pediatrics at the oldest black hospital in Chicago and tremendously proud of his success. Her mother was a socialite and their children (2 girls) were sent to the best schools, often white private ones.  Margot’s sister Denise became a noted dance educator. 

The book covers the 1950s when Jefferson was a child in upscale schools and then living down the road from the University of Chicago. It goes on to include the 1960s and ’70s when the  US was in turmoil with both race riots and draft protests as well as the war in Vietnam itself.  And then the 1980s when change was in the air but not in the enforcement of the law.  The kids helped change the morés and the fashion, but the ideas only mutated from the old social attitudes which came from the Victorian era.  And women’s rights and status were barely touched until the 1980s.

The last couple chapters get a bit draggy with Jefferson analyzing Little Women in terms of the roles and temperaments of young women,  not necessarily black women.  And then some nostalgia creeps in when she talks about Marshall Fields and other cultural traditions of Chicago. 

https://therumpus.net/2015/10/the-rumpus-interview-with-margo-jefferson/ (interview) 
https://www.thenation.com/article/archive/10-questions-for-margo-jefferson/ (interview) 

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Down Cemetery Road ~ by Mick Herron

I discovered another Mick Herron book in my digital library – Down Cemetery Road.  This was published prior to the Slough House books and I suppose it shows.  Still the Mick Herron I know and love shines through.  

******
Down Cemetery Road
by Mick Herron
2003 (1st edition)  
Read by Julia Franklin 13h 46m
Rating:  B / crime-spy
******

Down Cemetery Road is the first of three books (The Oxford Series) which feature Zoe Boehm, a rather idiosyncratic private detective working out of Oxford, England.  Here Zoe is  avenging the death of her husband and has suddenly inherited the case of Sarah Tucker who hired him to find a missing child.  It’s fast-paced and complex.  I think Herron’s later books are better – it feels like he’s more in control of his plot and style which are different and the humor finds its place.

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Every Last Fear ~ by Alex Finlay

This book is not very good –  until it is.  It kind of sneaks up on you, or it did on me, and I got sucked into a seriously twisty thriller.  Yes, it starts out with a bang, a family is found dead in their motel room in Mexico. And I suppose that’s to kick-start the story, but it’s not enough to keep going. I did kept going anyway and as I went along I kept getting more and more involved with the characters and what could possibly have happened for this family to come to this end and who did it and what is all this cover-up is about and who’s doing that?  One of family sons is in college and couldn’t get away and an older son is in prison for something – we’re not told. That’s suspicious to start with, but there’s a lot more.  

*******
Every Last Fear
by Alex Finlay

2021
read by Cady McClain , Jon Lindstrom 10h 57m
rating; B / crime thriller

*******

At first, every sentence seemed like a twist.  Then I got more used to the characters and the time frames.  There seemed to be a bit too much extraneous material, but there’s an interesting structure. Alex Finlay is the author’s pseudonym so this may not be a debut novel although it feels like one. 

Except for himself and his older brother, Matthew Pine’s vacationing family is found dead in a motel room in Mexico.  Matthew didn’t go with them as his college schedule conflicted and Danny is in prison for the murder of a teenage girl for which the Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal.  His father,  is having serious troubles with money and  work due to spending both time and money on his son’s legal troubles.  

There is a lot of fluff in the book, but the main plot is very tangled, too. There are several places where I really had to suspend disbelief and it’s important that crime novels maintain credibility.   That said, it’s compelling in some way – the concept, the characters, the puzzle, the tension,  I don’t know.  
The structure is interesting and helps build tension going back and forth between “Before” (the family murder) and “After” as well as alternating between characters.  There is also a bit of dramatic script inserted because the first crime was made into a documentary.   

Unfortunately the male narrator has a pronounced sing-song rhythm and uses too much drama but that becomes less annoying as the book went on. The female narrator is good. 

Overall I enjoyed it after I got used to it,  but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to anyone.  

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A Galway Epiphany ~ by Ken Bruen

I was totally disappointed in this one.  I read it thanks to a challenge to read one of the group’s “favorite authors” of 2020 whose books we hadn’t read before. Okay fine – I picked Ken Bruen who was favorite #3 in the top 25!  (I’m only missing 4 or 5 authors of that list total.) 

*******
A Galway Epiphany 
by Ken Bruen 
2020/ 400 pages
Read by Gerry O’Brien  6h 7m
Rating:  C- / crime 
*******

Too bad – this book was too violent for me, the characters used gross language, and they drink too much. If we want to compare these authors to classic authors this goes along with Malcolm Lowery and Under the Volcano.

I loved Don Winslow’s Cartel trilogy and that was seriously violent but it has some literary value to make up for the gore. Blood Meridian is an incredible book, one of my favorites of all time. I’ve also very much enjoyed the whole of Mark Herron’s Jackson Lamb series as well as all of James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux series.  These are masterpieces and have an abundance of totally redeeming literary value. The only literary thing about Ken Bruen’s books is that he name-drops some other good books – that doesn’t make a book literary even if he does include Burke.  (One problem I might have is starting so far into these Jack Taylor books – there are at least 20 prior to this one. Taylor might be winding up his career the way Robicheaux and Lamb are.)

The plot threads were interesting enough,  but keeping 3 or 4 of them in the air at one time gets a bit much.  No wonder Jack seems a bit old and worn out. 

See this link for an interesting review: 
https://artsfuse.org/216926/book-review-ken-bruens-a-galway-epiphany-a-vision-of-exhaustion/

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The Way Home ~ by Mark Boyle

Reflections on living without technology, off the grid if you will, and off the land without a chainsaw or a smartphone.  Author Mark Boyle built his own little house and grew or hunted his own food and even started his own fire for cooking and heat without a lighter.  He and his parter lived this way for well over a year. Boyle had a modern type fishing rod and a bicycle but he gave up the bike locks.  

The Way Home: Tales from a life without technology
by Mark Boyle
2019 / 335 pages  
Read by Gerard Doyle 8h 36m
Rating:  8.5 / memoir-environment 

Boyle writes for the Guardian and he also wrote the book “The Moneyless Man: A Year of Freeconomic Living” published in 2010.  That book was based on his experiences living without money for a year.  

His little house and property are in central Ireland which he purchased in 2015 with the proceeds of his first book.  

Starting with a chapter called  “Winter,” the narrative follows the seasons through the years he lived without technology. He explains what he does like finishing his home, making friends and planting some vegetables.  He also records his thoughts and ideas. He’s an interesting thinker and a good writer with a smooth if somewhat digressive style.  He sometimes sounds like an old curmudgeon when he gets a bit nostalgic in his romancing of the past and complaining about “people these days.”  I have a feeling he’d be the first one off the farm if he felt he was stuck there and wanted to see the city.  

Chapter 2 is called Spring and Mark is busily planting more herbs and veggies – 30+ varieties.  He objects to all the plastic he’s using and considers foraging instead. (Which is kind of silly – my ancestors were farmers and they didn’t use plastic back in 1840 when they immigrated to the US and settled in Iowa – they had wooden and metal tools – check out your local museum.) He takes mental excursions into his personal history along with what brought him to the point of living as he does now.  And he contemplates his values – usually as opposed to what he thinks the rest of society does.   

He has many friends and makes new friends easily so much of the book involves people he knows and meets and what they all do.  

Since his youth he says he has wanted to do something with his life which had meaning, but how does one define that? Early on he left and returned to college a few times majoring in accountancy and taking a few odd jobs which suited him.  He starts writing essays and articles for the Guardian and started living without money which turned into articles and a book.
 
He says he misses Joni Mitchell –  ???  Excuse me?  Mitchell is 78 or 79 years old.  She was popular when I was in my teens and a bit older (plus an odd album or two in the 21st century).  But Boyle is only 41 years old  So, yup – that was nice music and it suits what you’re doing son,  but don’t tell me you’re nostalgic for it – lol.  That would be like me being nostalgic for WWII.  (That didn’t take much off my rating though – it’s a very enjoyable book if you like memoirs.) 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Boyle_(Moneyless_Man)

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A Promised Land ~ by Barack Obama

Obama has the nicest titles for his books. I think my favorite is “The Audacity of Hope” but they’re all good. But titles are one thing, lengths are another and this book is 730+ pages long in Kindle/hard cover format! That’s 29 + hours for the Audible. Good grief – sigh.

*******
A Promised Land
by Barack Obama
2020 / 730 pages
read by the authorRating: 8.5 / memoir
(Both read and listened)
*******

I’m not surprised to see the online ratings (Amazon and Audible) being either a 5 or a 1 because people loved or hated Obama – there are a few 4s stuck in there and they’re due to price or foreign reader. I’m an Obama fan so I expected my rating to be a 9 or more.  I was disappointed but I’m not sure why – parts were great, other parts were relatively boring.  (Michelle’s memoir was half the length! And Barack is going to do another volume! – LOL!)     

About the length – I suspect Obama loves the sound of his own voice, written or spoken.   Yes,  it’s thoroughly readable and mostly enjoyable being as well read as it is written.  The words aren’t really wasted because they all help set a total environment. This book took me a long time to read and I had to take breaks for crime novels – actually for all 7 Mick Herron Slough Horses spy mysteries. 

It’s basically a chronological overview of his 8 years in the White House and relates the daily tedium, the battles for legislation and the highlights like the killing of Osama bin Laden as well as some moments of personal life .  Obama includes some of his own reactions and responses, his thought processes but he never gets terribly insightful.   

There are no source notes – he probably used his journals and diaries and calendars.  My opinion of that is that this is a “memoir” which means it’s from the author’s considered memory and doesn’t have to cover everything. So much has happened since 2009 and this book only goes through September 11, 2012. 

 The photos in the end section are evocative and well-chosen.  But the events he covers are already history and will soon be of interest primarily to historians – it’s an interesting walk down memory lane though and I remembered most of the events as I read.  Obama’s attention to details is wonderful. Michele has her own memoirs and who knows, their daughters may write memoirs, too – it wouldn’t surprise me. 

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Slough House – by Mick Herron

This is the seventh book in the Slough Horses series by Mick Herron.  It may be the last book,  but I don’t know.  If another one in the series shows up, I’ll be reading it.

*******
Slough House
by Mick Herron
2021 / 247 pages
read by Gerard Doyle 10h 13m
rating: A+ / crime (spy)
(both read and listened)
*******

I went on a binge reading of them and read books 1-7 in about 10 days.  Why?  I’d wanted to do something like this for a long time but hadn’t found the books to do it with.  I’ve read 1 or 2 books in a series in a row but never 7!  
I tried to read book 1, Slow Horses, years ago but I wasn’t ready for it or something.  This time some people on a reading list (4-Mystery Addicts – https://groups.io/g/4MysteryAddicts -) were discussing the series with some folks being very positive about it so I thought I might try it again.  I did that and realized it was just what I’d been looking for – a good immersive mystery series which I could sink my teeth (my mind) into. And so, because the plotting, the characters, the language and the humor all called to me,  I determined I’d read the series.  And I did. 

From the publisher via Amazon:
In his best and most ambitious novel yet, Mick Herron, “the le Carré of the future” (BBC), offers an unsparing look at the corrupt web of media, global finance, spycraft, and politics that power our modern world. 

“This is a darker, scarier Herron. The gags are still there but the satire’s more biting. The privatization of a secret service op and the manipulation of news is relevant and horribly credible.”—Ann Cleeves, author of the Vera Stanhope series

At Slough House—MI5’s London depository for demoted spies—Brexit has taken a toll. The “slow horses” have been pushed further into the cold, Slough House has been erased from official records, and its members are dying in unusual circumstances, at an unusual clip. No wonder Jackson Lamb’s crew is feeling paranoid. But are they actually targets?  

With a new populist movement taking hold of London’s streets and the old order ensuring that everything’s for sale to the highest bidder, the world’s a dangerous place for those deemed surplus. Jackson Lamb and the slow horses are in a fight for their lives as they navigate dizzying layers of lies, power, and death.
*******Yes, I got tired of it at times, but nothing else seemed to be as compelling as the next book in this series. Right now if there were a #8 available I’d go for it because … well … just because.   There are a couple of novellas associated with the series and I haven’t read them because I don’t think they relate to the series as the regular novels.  I think I might go read them now – lol!   
There’s a list of characters somewhere online – I think on Goodreads – and it would be helpful to readers especially if they space the books out.  I didn’t use it but there were probably places I could have used it. I haven’t written little summaries or blurbs with my “reviews” because it’s too hard to avoid spoilers so I used the publisher’s blurbs.   

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Joe Country ~ by Mick Herron

This is the 6th book in the Slough Horses series by Mick Herron and it was just as good as  the priors.  I do recommend reading them in order because they’re not like Agatha Christie series, Each book builds on the plot and characters of the prior book(s).  If you enjoyed the prior books you’ll love this one too.  They’re full of very interesting characters and twisty plots.  The language is not your normal run-of-the-mill genre book chatter and the humor is to lol for.  

Joe Country
By Mick Herron
2021 / 247 pages
Read by Gerard Doyle 11h 34m
Rating:  A / crime (spy)
(Both read and listened)

From the publisher via Amazon (to avoid spoilers): 
If Spook Street is where spies live, Joe Country is where they go to die. 

In Slough House, the London outpost for disgraced spies of MI5, memories are stirring, all of them bad. Catherine Standish is buying booze again, Louisa Guy is raking over the ashes of lost love, and new recruit Lech Wicinski, whose sins make him outcast even among the slow horses, is determined to discover who destroyed his career, even if he tears his life apart in the process. 

Meanwhile, in Regent’s Park, Diana Taverner’s tenure as First Desk is running into difficulties. If she’s going to make the Service fit for purpose, she might have to make deals with a familiar old devil….

And with winter taking its grip, Jackson Lamb would sooner be left brooding in peace, but even he can’t ignore the dried blood on his carpets. So when the man responsible breaks cover at last, Lamb sends the slow horses out to even the score.

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London Rules ~ by Mick Herron

Cool book. – one more time.  This was # 5 in the 7-book series about Jackson Lamb and his crew of misfit espionage agents, slow horses, demoted from the regular MI% service.  I’m reading them all in order as a binge-read which I started about a week ago.  I now have #6 set up to go but better get this off before I forget. (I’m skipping the two novellas which are in some lists and are certainly about MI5 but not really about Slough House as we know and love it.  I might read them later.)  

*******
London Rules 
by Mick Herron 
2018 – 
Read by Gerard Doyle 11h 27m
Rating: A- / crime (spy)

(read and listened)
*******

With Lamb as their rude, racist, sexist, etc leader. the rest of the gang is River, Shirley, Louise, Catherine, Roddy, and JK Coe.  Their supervisors at the main office are corrupt and dangerous. The politcos are awful and the official villains the misfit agents face are the same. Even Lamb can be dangerous and they’re none too safe themselves addicted as they are to various substances and activities – except for River, perhaps, who has a family history in the service.  The main rule of Slough House is “cover your ass.”  (It’s a spin from “Moscow Rules” by Le Carré.) 

This series has been called a farce and so it is in many ways, but Herron is a stunning writer with excellent insight into the psyches of his creations and the books have received the highest critical accolades as well as numerous awards.

I read and listen because the scenes and characters change quickly and I often go to check on the print format and get caught up in it, reading ahead. Then at some point I catch up in the audio and keep going from there.

London spy sites: 
https://londonist.com/2011/11/top-10-spy-sites-in-london

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Spook Street ~ by Mick Herron

Oh I had such an excellent idea to binge read the Slough Horses series by Mick Herron.  It’s been a great way to spend this week of the pandemic, being retired and self-isolated as I am.  Now I’ve finished book #4, Spook Street, published in 2017.   I mention the date because the plots are very contemporary.  They go back to 2010, but it’s one book a year from 2015 on to 2021 with one in the works for 2022.  

*******
Spook Street
By Mick Herron
2017 /  320 pages

Read by Gerard Doyle 10h 32m
Rating:  A –  crime (spy)  
*******   

Exquisitely developed these stories have definite thriller as well as thinking aspects. The characters grow on you with their individuality  – especially the inimitable Jacob Lamb with his “stunningly inept collection of secret agents” as one reviewer called them.  The dialogue keeps me laughing out loud, sometimes until tears.  I am really hard pressed to consider which of his strengths, plot, characters, humor, or just plain story-telling (structure), gives place to Herron in my top 10 mystery writers.  I think it might be the humor which puts it over the top for me but I have a really warm spot for the characters and the writing is top-notch.

The chapters in this series are long, but comprised of smaller scenes which rotate through a number of characters and plot threads often having cliff-hanger endings.  I would recommend reading these in order because there is an overarching plot with a lot of character development.  

Spook Street opens with an outrageous and deliberate shopping mall explosion in which many young people are killed. Meanwhile, River Cartwright, one of the spooks of Slough House, is concerned about the well-being of his aging grandfather who was a top-notch agent during the Cold War.  

Lots of twists and turns here as well as some very intricately plotted thriller scenes but as usual the backbone of Herron’s writing is character and dialogue – his characters can be drop-dead funny as well as deadly.  

Praise for Spook Street
Winner of the 2017 CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger for Best Thriller
Shortlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger for Best Crime Novel 
An Irish Times Best Book of 2017 
The Guardian Best Books of 2017 
Seattle Times Notable Book of 2017
​A Boston Globe Best Book of 2017 
Nominated for the 2018 Barry Award for Best Thriller 
Shortlisted for the British Book Award for Crime & Thriller Book of the Year
Longlisted for the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award
Winner of the 2018 CrimeFest Last Laugh Awar

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2021/jan/15/mick-herron-i-look-at-jackson-lamb-and-think-my-god-did-i-write-that-my-mother-reads-this-stuff

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Real Tigers ~ by Mick Herron

Book #3 in this series and yup, I’m binge-reading!  (Actually, after I called it “binge-worthy” in one of my reading group lists an Audible reviewers said it was good for binge reading.)  I’m hooked on these characters and Herron’s wit. The plots are twisty and detailed while the language and tension are masterful.  There’s something to be said for getting into a series like this years after the first one was published.

*******
Real Tigers 
by Mick Harron
2013 / 443 pages
Read by Michael Healy 10h 53m Rating:  A-  / crime (spy)
#3 in the Slough Horses series
(Both read and listened) 
*******


She’s doing it!! I finished this book, the 3rd in the 7-volume series, and I’m about to pick up on the fourth, Spook Street.

Dead Lions starts off with Catherine, a long time Slough House spy, going missing and eventually found to have been kidnapped. That’s pretty simple, right? It gets hairier and much more complex.

I’m not going to drag out with my own words here (I want to get into my new book which I’m both reading and listening to again) so I’ll just paste the accolades it received.

A Telegraph Best Crime Novel of the Year
Shortlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger Award for Best Crime Novel
Shortlisted for the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award for Best Thriller
A Boston Globe Best Book of 2016

“[Herron’s] cleverly plotted page-turners are driven by dialogue that bristles with one-liners. Much of the humor comes from Herron’s sharp eye for the way bureaucracies, whether corporate or clandestine, function and malfunction. The world of Slough House is closer to The Office than to 007.”
—The Associated Press

“A pulsating spy thriller about a kidnapped fallen spy whose colleagues uncover a plot threatening the future of the security service.” 
—The Daily Express (UK)

“[Herron is the] le Carré of the future . . . The characters are brilliant.” 
—Patrick Neale on BBC’s The Oxford Book Club

“Heroic struggles, less-heroic failures and a shoot-out-cum-heist . . . with no let-up in the page turning throughout.” 
—Esquire 

“If you read one spy novel this year, read Real Tigers. Better still, read the whole series.”
—The Spectator

“[Reads] like an episode of Spooks written by Ricky Gervais . . . With his poet’s eye for detail, his comic timing and relish for violence, Herron fills a gap that has been yawning ever since Len Deighton retired.” 
—The Daily Telegraph, ★★★★★

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