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Showing posts from September, 2012

CBR4 #33: The Italian Secretary by Caleb Carr

Have any of you been watching the BBC's Sherlock? I just watched the first two episodes of series two and they were SO GOOD. The fact that Benedict Cumberbatch didn't get an Emmy for his portrayal of Holmes was galling, and the fact that Martin Freeman wasn't nominated for best supporting was equally annoying. The episode "Scandal in Belgravia" just gutted me. The chemistry between the leads is riveting. If you haven't seen series one and two, you really should. (I haven't watched S2E3 yet--it's the Reichenbach Falls, and that's bound to be a tough one. Particularly since it's going to be FOREVER before series three finally arrives.)

Anyway, I told you that as a lead in to The Italian Secretary. This is a Sherlock Holmes novel, and as such it is not a bad addition to the genre. Holmes and Watson are called to Holyrood House in Scotland by Mycroft Holmes. They're asked to look into several deadly incidents that have occurred at the house…

CBR4 #32 - The Catch-Up (Five Books)

I've decided that I am going to go ahead and just do blurbs on some of the books I've read over the past several months. That way at least I can get it out there that I have not allowed my brain to turn entirely to mush. Plus, maybe I'll find while I'm writing the short bits that I have more to say than I realized. For the moment, I am going to count this as one giant entry for CBR4.

1. Dead Man's Song by Jonathan Maberry - This is the second book in the Pine Deep series and picks up right where the first one ends. The story of things going terribly wrong in the small town of Pine Deep continues hurtling along. The main characters are finally starting to draw together and get things figured out, while still trying to fight off vampires, the undead, and the difficult memories of things that happened the last time things went wrong in town. This is still mostly a set-up for the final book in the trilogy, but it feels a lot less like non-stop exposition.

2. Far North

CBR4 #31: The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson

I've seen a lot of people reading this book, and have read some very good reviews about it. Unfortunately, it didn't quite live up to the hype.

This book is divided between two subjects. The first is the Chicago World's Fair of 1893. The second is Chicago-based serial killer H. H. Holmes, who took advantage of the chaos caused by the fair to lure scores of women to their deaths in his "murder castle." Although these two subjects effected one another, and occurred at the same time and place, they don't mesh together as well as one one hope in this book.

The parts about the World's fair are very interesting--the amount of work and effort that was undertaken in such a short period of time are breathtaking, although there is the standard amount of ridiculousness that surrounds any very large project helmed by a forced committee (witness the 9/11 memorial museum, which is still incomplete eleven years after the event). Still, they managed to erect a miniature …

CBR4 #30: Nevermore by Harold Schechter

Harold Schechter is mostly known for his true-crime accounts of serial killers. However, with Nevermore he introduces one of my favorite characters of the year: Edgar Allen Poe, narrator and detective.

Through set of rather interesting circumstances, Edgar Allan Poe (pre-authorial success--he makes a rather small living writing book reviews, most of which are scathing at best) finds himself faced with the angry author of a book he has reviewed: famed American frontiersman Davy Crockett. Crockett and Poe are polar opposites, but they wind up ensnared in a perplexing murder mystery which they must work together to solve.

Poe is both exactly what you would expect and delightfully beyond what you could imagine. His voice is so deliberately and agonizingly over-the-top that it is hilarious. For example, an early passage from him runs thus:

Before I could summon this agonized yell (an act which would unquestionably have alarmed the entire neighborhood and occasioned me a great deal of embar…

CBR4 #29: Blood Groove by Alex Bledsoe

The basic plot of this book involves the Baron Rudolfo Zginski, a vampire who was captured and killed in 1915...well, not exactly killed. Badly maimed would probably be a better way to describe it. Due to circumstances beyond his control, he rises to find himself in 1975 Memphis. He has to figure out where he is, what's going on, and how to work things to his advantage. Along the way, he meets up with some young (and rather poorly trained) vampires, whom he teaches the ins and outs of being undead. He also must deal with a mysterious plot to destroy vampire-kind.

The plot of this was interesting and moved at a good pace. Baron Zginski wasn't a bad main character, though I will admit that I bristled a little at the way he treated some of the women who surrounded him, particularly his living meal-ticket. The younger vampires were more likeable, and I wanted to know more about all their back stories.

I think the most interesting thing about it is the idea of waking up aft…

CBR4 #28: Hollywood Nocturnes by James Ellroy

I hadn't read any Ellroy before this, but it totally grabbed me. Hollywood Nocturnes is made up of six semi-interlocking short stories set in Ellroy's favorite haunt--post-war L.A. In one story, a musician decides to solve his problems by having himself kidnapped. In another a mob enforcer is entranced by a woman who dates the two most powerful men in town. A series of murders on the African-American side of town isn't necessarily what it it seems to be.

The characters are mostly anti-heroes--in fact, some of them are pretty terrible--but they all have their own special charm. I was particularly fond of Buzz Meeks and his story.  The stories are quickly plotted, and detailed enough to be satisfying without running over. Ellroy's prose is clipped and slightly brutal, but also lovingly arranged, I and I enjoyed it in the same way that I enjoy some of Stephen King's literary gymnastics.

This book made me immediately set out to get my hands on more of the auth…