Showing posts with label novels. Show all posts
Showing posts with label novels. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Ian Rankin's Black and Blue Book Review

Eighth in the series, Black and Blue: is An Inspector Rebus Novel by Ian Rankin. Find my review here.
Interesting the number of covers Ian Rankin’s Black and Blue has had. I am surprised though I know that different book formats come with different covers. This book, however, seems to have had a lot of different looks. I suppose that is what happens to a successful book as it gains some age.

Of course, once you have a book in your hand, it matters not a whit what the cover looks like though the cover may have helped that book find its way into your hands in the first place. In this case, what it looks like did not matter because this book is one of the books that will be discussed in the late fall class I am taking in Ottawa through Carleton University’s Learning in Retirement program called Classics of Detective Fiction: From the 1960s to Today.

Ian Rankin’s Black and Blue is a fictional detective story, written  in 1997 and based firmly in the Scotland of the 1990s. In her class notes, our instructor Stefani Nielson calls the book “post-Christie,” “British realism noir” and she says that it features a “working class anti-hero.”

I did not know what was meant by that last term, anti-hero, so I googled it and Wikipedia shares that “An antihero is a main character in a story who lacks conventional heroic qualities and attributes such as idealism, courage and morality.” Inspector Rebus is a hard-working, hardened police officer and former SAS officer now coping in self-destruct mode with what life has thrown at him. He is anti-social and struggles with relationships. He is a drinking man with sometimes questionable scruples who is determined to get the job done regardless of who is in the way.

The Story


Black and Blue finds our anti-hero unofficially working four cases at the same time. Among the four, two stand out. He is searching for a mass murderer nicknamed Bible John on a cold case from the 1960s and 1970s and he is searching for a copycat murderer who has been nicknamed Bible Johnny. Set in Scotland, the author helps us visit his Scotland from the comfort of our arm chairs. Our travels will include time in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Shetland and even the oilfields in the North Sea.

It is a long book at more than 550 pages but it is action packed so if you love to read, that should cause you no issues. If you read the book, you will become heavily invested in the main character and consumed by the desire to know who is responsible for the crimes committed and if and how they are all connected.

Is this a good time to tell you that Black and Blue is the eighth in a series of books about Inspector Rebus? It is my first Ian Rankin novel because I am reading it in preparation for my class. In normal circumstances, I would have picked book one as a starting point.

Who Will Like This Book?


Anyone who likes a well-crafted detective novel and does not mind the world that a police officer travels in. This book definitely has violence but it is far from the worst I have ever read and, of course, it has a police officer who drinks, smokes and cuts corners.

Reviews


Goodreads says, “Written with Ian Rankin's signature wit, style and intricacy, Black and Blue is a novel of uncommon and unforgettable intrigue.” The readers who right the reviews on the website rate this book 4.08 out of 5. One of those readers says, “Now this is how you write a really good crime novel!

On his blog, Simon McDonald says, “…this book is one of the author’s best… more than awhodunit, it is a searing commentary on mid-nineties Scotland, told so palatably, so relentlessly…

Personally, I have really enjoyed this novel and meeting Inspector Rebus. It is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED by me if you enjoy crime detective fiction. I will definitely have to go back to the start of the series, which is where, I imagine, you will start if you decide you would like to travel in Inspector Rebus's world. You can find all of Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus novels on Amazon quickly by clicking right here.

Ian Rankin's Rebus The Definitive DVD Collection

Interesting Facts


This book is considered an important story in Tartan Noir, which is genre in crime fiction written by Scottish writers and set in Scotland. Wikipedia says that Tartan Noir has roots in Scottish literature but adapts elements from other writers like era-specific American crime writers and European crime writers.

The title of the book, Black and Blue, relates to the Rolling Stones album of the same name, it relates to the state we often find our anti-hero in and it relates to the oil fields and the policeman of this story.

The Dancing Pigs, the successful punk music band featured in this book, were recreated from an unsuccessful band that the author played in for a year as a 19-year old. Rankin enjoyed making the band successful in his book. Who could resist? I think I would have done the same.

You may also have seen a mini-series called Ian Rankin's Rebus about the character that aired in 2000. Find it on Amazon here.

Be sure to come back and let us know how you enjoy any of Ian Rankin's books and, if you have seen the mini-series, we would love to hear that, too.

See you
at the book store!
Brenda
Treasures By Brenda

Quick Links:

Buy Black and Blue on Amazon.
Find Ian Rankin's Rebus The Definitive DVD Collection on Amazon.








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Saturday, July 27, 2019

The President is Missing Book Review


I am not an American nor am I particularly political. However, I do love some James Patterson novels and this book, The President is Missing, which is co-authored by Patterson and former President Bill Clinton, came to the top of my reading list for my book club recently. It is a fictional work, billed as a thriller and, as the tagline says, is one that only a president could write. Here's a short, engaging trailer for the book:


According to a USA Today interview on the video that follows, Patterson and Clinton sat down to create the best book about the presidency that has ever been written. I do not think they achieved that goal. They did write a sometimes entertaining fictional story in which the President of the United States struggles to deal with a potential cyber attack and the possible destruction of the American way of life when a terrorist sets out to destroy the internet, its servers and all the computers in the United States. The President attempts to do so with the help of a small handful of trusted staff members.

I found the book a bit hard to get into and at times drawn out. In particular, I found the last section, where the President’s address goes on for far too long, unnecessary.  However, the book does give us a look into the inner workings, though obviously no secrets, of the U.S. government and it includes some humorous moments and a very likable though not perfect President.

The Guardian calls Clinton’s involvement one of the great things about this book and says that it is almost a “guarantee of political authenticity.” They go on to say that it feels like the “outcome of a conversation between one writer with an unusual skill at thriller plotting and another with an exceptional grasp of global politics.” I agree and I believe that there is value to the reader who is interested in that authenticity.

On a more serious note, The President is Missing deals with our dependence on the internet. Take a moment and think about what we could or could not do without the internet and computers. You will come up with a long, long list that includes banking, healthcare, transportation and so much more. After reading this book, you may decide to keep some cash under your mattress.

Despite having a hard time starting the book and the sometimes drawn out parts, I did enjoy it. It was not a favorite though and I cannot give it my ‘Highly Recommended’ rating but I would recommend it if you are interested in a peek into the government, you enjoy reading thrillers and are willing to tolerate the slow parts.

What Did Others Think?


For starters, the book was a Number 1 New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal and Amazon bestseller though that is I am sure in great part due to the two names on the cover.

You will find that Amazon customer reviews are all over the place with 77 percent of them being 5 or 4 star. I do not think that is great but nor is it really that bad.

The Washington Post calls the book an awkward duet and writer Ron Charles calls it our for the being the obvious marketing ploy that it is. Two big names, one book. True, I suppose.

To the detriment of the book, The Guardian says, "This novel is indeed missing several things, including a believable plot and even the remotest sense of narrative tension." I would counter with it is a fictional thriller.

The Independent calls it “absurdly boring.”  I think that is an extreme position though the book had its moments.

Despite the comments and reviews from those parties, I believe that the following interview from Today with both of the authors may help you decide you want to read the book despite the shortcomings.


Once again, I can and do recommend this book if you are interested in the inner workings of the government, you enjoy a thriller and James Patterson and you can tolerate the slow parts. You can find your copy of The President is Missing on Amazon by clicking right here. Of note, The President is Missing may soon become a movie or television mini-series.

If you do read this book, be sure to come back and let us know what you thought. Was it a good read? Was it interesting despite the issues mentioned above? Would you recommend it to a friend?

See you
at the book store!
Brenda
Treasures By Brenda

Quick Link:

Buy your copy of The President is Missing on Amazon.









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Thursday, November 15, 2018

The Perfect Mother (2018) Book Review

"Some people are so good at making perfect look easy…"

The Perfect Mother is a psychological domestic thriller as well as a reflection on motherhood. It is set in Brooklyn, New York, where a group of new mothers whose babies are all born in the same month become friends through a mom’s group and go on to support each other through the ups and downs of new motherhood.

These women and one 'token' man are very different individuals and come from a variety of backgrounds. However, they are united through the common experience of motherhood.

When the mothers finally allow themselves to go out for an evening and leave their babies at home, their worst nightmare comes true. A baby is kidnapped.

A few members of the group become obsessed with helping recover the baby and their informal investigation unearths secrets from the past that will test marriages and friendships.

Author Aimee Molloy told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle that she came up with the idea of the book when her own children were less than five years old. She was still very aware of “the pressures women face and the choices they have to make, particularly when they’re raising a child in a city with no family around to help.”

Here is the short book trailer, which does not really tell much about the book but definitely gives you a feel for the mood in this story:

The Perfect Mother is Molloy’s first novel. However, she also wrote the very successful New York Times Bestselling biography However Long the Night: Molly Melching’s Journey to Help Millions of African Women and Girls Triumph and she is the co-author of several non-fiction books.

Is The Perfect Mother RECOMMENDED by me? It is. It is a very enjoyable, easy-to-read book with a suspenseful ending that will keep you guessing. Amazon says that it was one of the most anticipated books of the summer of 2018 though I do not know how they measure that statistic. It did go on to become a New York Times bestseller and will soon be a movie. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle said it is "gripping and suspenseful and impossible to put down, a true who done it." Pick it up and you will take a suspenseful trip into motherhood.

Of special note is the fact that the grandmothers in my book club who have young grandchildren enjoyed the daily emails woven throughout that detailed what babies might or might not be doing at each stage.

Order your copy of The Perfect Mother on Amazon by clicking right here. If you have read it, do tell what the rest of us what you thought of the book and, if you enjoyed it, do stay tuned for the upcoming movie version of this novel that is being compared to the previous book and movie releases, Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train.

See you
at the book store!
Brenda

Quick Links:

Order your copy of The Perfect Mother from Amazon.
Follow my Pinterest board full of gift ideas for moms and my board full of great books to read.











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Wednesday, September 26, 2018

The Weird Sisters Book Review

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown, A Book Review


Most of us are aware of at least some of the personality traits that come with birth order. The oldest often assumes more responsibility as a child, the middle often feels like they need more attention, the youngest often seems to be more doted upon. The Weird Sisters embraces, among other topics, the topic of birth order as it shares the life of three sisters in small town Barnwell, Ohio.

Eleanor Brown’s first novel's title does not reference weird as you and I might think when we first see the book. As a matter of fact, the sisters are not weird at all.  Brown’s meaning is as in wyrd from old English. Fate or fated. Destined, which sort of suits the book given the presence of William Shakespeare’s books throughout the story line though that difference was not obvious to me when I picked up the book.

The oldest sister in the trio is the stereotypical eldest sibling. She is a reliable, predictable woman who held a caretaker role over her sisters when they were all children and, though now a successful math professor, never left their hometown and never gave up her role as family caretaker.

The middle sister is a woman who wants to impress, throwing herself into everything she does with gusto in an attempt to stand out and be noticed. Sound familiar? She has a successful career in New York City but is fast-living and promiscuous and, underneath all of her expensive veneer, is ashamed of who she has become. Her failed attempts to maintain her lifestyle has her packing her designer goods and heading for home.

The youngest sister, the stereotypical spoiled younger sibling, is a real vagabond. She floats from experience to experience, town to town, job to job and cannot figure out what she wants to do with her life. Events in her world have her grabbing her backpack and heading for home, too.

Their father is a famed Shakespearean professor who cannot keep his head out of a book for a minute and their mom is equally obsessed with and distracted by books. Growing up, the family did not own a television. Instead, reading was their source of entertainment. Everyone in the family embraced the love of books and became avid readers though as adults some of them did not want the world to know that fact. Brown’s interwoven references to and quotes from William Shakespeare are interesting but will not in any way take away from your enjoyment of this book if you are not a fan of his writings.

Coincidentally, the sisters return home at a time when their mother is suffering through a cancer diagnosis and the resultant treatments. While helping to look after her, there is a whole lot of learning and growth done by all three. They learn who they are and who they want to be as well as to trust in themselves and in each other. You will have to read the book if you want to find out whether or not they stay at home or pursue lives outside of Barnwell.

Obviously, one of the strong themes in this book is that of birth order. The New York Times says the book seems drawn from a Sociology of the Family textbook, which made me smile because yes, I thought that when I was reading the book. It does include some of the stereotypes of birth order. Other themes include coming of age, boomerang children, family conflict and love.

There is no violence and minimal foul language in this book. There is however, sex and adultery as well as drug and alcohol use though I believe that they are presented in a manner that is not offensive. They are an important part of the story of these women who are trying to find themselves.

The Weird Sisters is an entertaining novel and HIGHLY RECOMMENDED by me. It is my first book by Eleanor Brown, a New York Times, national and international bestselling author and it will not be my last. You can buy your copy or read more about it on Amazon by clicking right here.

Be sure to let us know if you have read it or if you will be reading it and, of course, what you thought of it.

See you
At the book store!
Brenda

Quick Links:

Buy your copy of The Weird Sisters on Amazon.




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Monday, February 19, 2018

The Guilty Book Review

In The Guilty, David Baldacci takes you on a non-stop, action packed adventure in Cantrell, Mississippi.

When a top ranked government assassin is unable to perform his job, he heads home to deal with unresolved issues from his past and winds up embroiled in his father's murder investigation.

Making matters more difficult is the fact that he has been estranged from his father for 20 years. Talking to his father is no easier now than it was when he was a lad and his father's life being on the line does not seem to make a difference. His father wants no help from his son and is resigned to his own personal situation.

Robie, however, refuses to let his father take the murder charge without fighting back. His efforts, combined with those of an equally skilled coworker, to save his dad eventually help him start a proper relationship with his father. Better late than never, as they say. It turns out that his book is about murder and about family.

I was amazed at the action that took place in the first half of the book, which meant that there was lots more still to come. It was fast paced and hard to put down.

Yes, The Guilty is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED by me. Read more about it or order your copy from Amazon by clicking right here.

As it turns out, The Guilty is number four in a series called Will Robie and David Baldacci has written many other books, which I look forward to checking out. It is always great to find a new author that you enjoy and if all of Baldacci's books are as good as this one, I will have some more sleep deprived nights ahead.

See you
At the bookstore!
Brenda
Treasures By Brenda

Quick Links:

Order The Guilty from Amazon here.
See David Baldacci's author biography on Amazon.




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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

A Man Called Ove Book Review

Fredrik Backman's novel, A Man Called Ove, is a story about the grumpiest man ever. I really, really had to struggle to put Ken Follett's enthralling Fall of Giants down in order to read Ove for my next book club meeting. This problem seems to keep happening to me; that is, having to put one book down for a book club book. That's okay though. Part of the reason for joining a book club is to read books you might not have chosen on your own.

My husband, as always, was good at pushing me to the book I needed to be reading. Whenever Chris saw me with the wrong book in hand, he’d raise an eyebrow and I would reluctantly put Fall of Giants down in trade for Ove. My heart, however, was not in it. At least, not at first...

In the end, I cared. I cared about Ove and how he had come to be such a grumpy old curmudgeon. The cover suggests that reading this book will cause you to feel sympathy for the curmudgeons in your life, which might well be true but I am so very glad to say that I do not know anyone even a little bit as grumpy as Ove. He is, as Amazon says, "the bitter neighbor from hell."

Ove complains about everything. He is a strict believer that rules are meant to be followed, signs obeyed, things put in their place. If you do not feel the same way, be prepared to hear about it. He rejects most of modern technology believing computers, mobile gadgets and even modern vehicles to be bad news. He has strict routines and principles to be adhered to.

Despite Ove, or perhaps I should say because of Ove, A Man Called Ove is an entertaining book. It tells his life story and the story of the people who become his friends despite his off-putting personality. It does a good job of illustrating how one life affects the next and then the next.

Believe it or not, I would RECOMMEND this grumpy old man’s story. You will laugh and you will cry though I do remember laughing more than crying.

There were a number of surprises in this book. The one that bothered me is the age of this grumpy old man. I was jaw smacked when I finally found out how old he was and I see from other reviews online that I am not the only one who takes exception to the age that author Backman set for a grumpy old man.

If you pick up and read A Man Called Ove, be sure to come back and let us know what YOU think about Ove’s story (and about his age.) You can find it quickly and affordably priced on Amazon by clicking right here.

If you are looking for more books by Fredrik Backman, you might like to check out this review of My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry by another contributor here on Review This.

Stay tuned for more book reviews!

Brenda
Treasures By Brenda

More Book Reviews:

Steve Berry's Amber Room.
John Sandford's Extreme Prey.
The One Man by Andrew Gross.


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Thursday, March 30, 2017

The One Man Book Review

Set in Poland in 1944, Andrew Gross’ The One Man tells the story of a man and his family rounded up and sent to a Nazi concentration camp after a failed escape attempt. Alfred Mendl carries with him his important research but that work is promptly burned on his arrival at the camp.

You have likely guessed that Mendl is not just another prisoner. It turns out that his knowledge in the realm of physics is information that only two people in the world know. The other man with this knowledge currently works for the Nazis and the Americans are desperate to gain Mendl’s knowledge so that they can win this war.

Meanwhile, in the United States, Nathan Blum works steadily away at decoding messages from occupied Poland. Previously, he had escaped the Krakow ghetto. Because his entire family was executed after his departure from home, Blum wants to reap revenge for his family and eventually agrees to go back to Poland to break INTO the concentration camp with the end goal of helping Mendl escape and bring back his physics research. Of course, breaking into a concentration camp is unheard of but getting out is really the difficult part.

This book is part historical fiction and part thriller and it is definitely a page turner. It is emotional and it will take you on a horrifying journey. I don’t think it is a spoiler if I say that I finished reading this book with tears running down my face, which is pretty unusual for me. Yes, The One Man comes HIGHLY RECOMMENDED by me for anyone who enjoys World War II fiction and a gripping story.

Author Steve Berry says, “Haunting and thrilling…A masterful blend of family and duty laced with heroism and characters that are intriguing and richly drawn...You must read it!"  You can read more about The One Man on Amazon here.

Do you enjoy historical fiction? Will you be checking out The One Man?

Brenda
Treasures By Brenda

More Book Reviews:

Steve Berry's Amber Room
John Sandford's Extreme Prey
Tarashea Nesbit's The Wives of Los Alamos 




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Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Wives of Los Alamos by Tarashea Nesbit

The women wives in this book arrived from around the world. They came from different lifestyles, backgrounds and situations. Their average age was 25. Their educational backgrounds varied from those with doctorate degrees to stay at home moms to dancers. Most did not know exactly where they were going or what awaited them when they arrived in Los Alamos, New Mexico. These women were forced to come together to create a life for their families in New Mexico.

TaraShea Nesbit's The Wives of Los Alamos is the story of the women who supported the men who worked on one of the biggest research projects in World War II. Unknowingly, these families would be tied to a huge development that changed the course of history.

Their lives during the time they spent in Los Alamos were tough but they had even bigger challenges ahead when their experience was over and they had to weigh their contribution to the creation of a hugely destructive development of the 1940s known as the Manhattan Project.

Is The Wives of Los Alamos a True Story?

Here a 9 minute video in which Nesbit shares a bit of the real story which she writes about in the book:



Would I Recommend This Book?


The story is told by all of the women together in one voice. That is, the book is written in the first person plural a method that I personally did not care for. Here's an example from the beginning:

"We were European women born in Southampton and Hamburg, Western women born in California and Montana, East Coast women born in Connecticut and New York, Midwestern women born in Nebraska and Ohio, or Southern women from Mississippi or Texas, and no matter who we were we wanted nothing to do with starting all over again, and so we paused, we exhaled, and we asked, What part of the Southwest?"

That voice was okay for the first while but eventually I would rather have had the story told by a single individual. I can, however, see how this voice allowed many viewpoints to be expressed in each situation but there are many who could not get past the author's style. Others, however, really enjoyed this book and the style it was written in.

At the end of the book, I was left with a lot of thinking to do. How did those individuals cope with knowing they had made such a horrific contribution to the war effort? How would you cope? How would I?

Yes, I would recommend this book because it is a novel about a very significant scientific development in world history that takes place in the United States. You might want to read it for that fact alone and you never know, you might enjoy the style, too.

You can buy your copy from Amazon by clicking right here. If you do read it, be sure to come back and let us know what you think about the style and the story.

Happy Reading!
Brenda
Treasures By Brenda

Quick Link:

Buy your copy of The Wives of Los Alamos on Amazon.









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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Review of Novels that Take You Behind the Scenes in Book Publishing Houses

Two Novels Let You Peek into the World Of Book Publishing


Have you ever wondered how the authors of best selling books get to the top? I just discovered two authors new to me whose novels provide a peek into the offices of publishers and their agents, as well as insight into book marketing and the publishing industry. I will review these novels here.  


Spider Web with Scott Quote, photo from Pixabay


Marsha Grimes offers a humorous look at the competition between publishers, editors, and agents for popular authors . Just to make it interesting, a few hired killers with scruples are added to the mix.

 Writer Steve Martini's thriller, The List, shows another aspect of the publishing industry that focuses on the marketing of an author persona. In this book, an author's idea for promoting her new book involves a bit of deception that almost gets her killed in the end.


Martha Grimes Novels about Publishing


Buy Foul Matter at Amazon
The two books I read by Martha Grimes are Foul Matter, my favorite, and The Way of All Fish, which bored me. Many of the same characters populate both books. We meet the first of those characters, Paul Giverney, in Foul Matter. He is trying to choose a new publisher who will meet his conditions – a publisher who would do whatever it takes to get whatever he wants. He decides that Bobby Mackenzie of Mackenzie-Haack is his man. 

Mackenzie wants Paul badly because Paul writes best-selling books that would carry the costs of marketing them and make money for Bobby, but Paul will only come on board if he can have Tom Kidd, who doesn't like to edit the kind of commercial fiction Paul writes, as his editor. Tom Kidd only likes to edit literary fiction, especially that of Ned Isaly.

Paul is now a free agent and the big publishers are competing to sign him. Mackenzie wants Paul's book, but Paul has one condition that is blocking the deal. Paul insists Mackenzie drop Isaly. Paul wants Kidd to edit his books, but almost everyone knows that if Ned Isaly is dropped, Kidd will also go and he would take Mackenzie's best literary authors with him, including Isaly, who has won a lot of awards for his fiction. Besides that, Isaly is still under contract for one more book. Breaking the contract isn't legal. Paul insists the legal team could find a way if they really wanted to. 

Clive Esterhaus is second in command to Mackenzie, and handles acquisitions along with some editing. His job is to get Paul Giverney under contract. He just doesn't see how he can get rid of Isaly without breaking the contract and also losing Kidd and his literary authors. 

Mackenzie puts a book written by Danny Zito, an ex-mob contract killer who is now in the Witness Protection Program, on Clive's desk, and hints that maybe Danny would like to write another book. Clive knows the real hint is that Danny still knows people who might be able to solve their Isaly problem for them. Danny refers Clive to hit men Candy and Karl, and Clive contacts them. Bobby Mackenzie hires them to get rid of Isaly.

Candy and Karl are unlike any hit men you've ever seen and have their own conditions. They don't want to “do” anyone they don't think deserves it. They take the advance money and study the potential “project” for a couple of weeks until they decide whether they want to take the job. If they decide they don't, they return the advance. Candy and Karl ask Bobby and Clive why they want Isaly eliminated and they can't believe the answer  they get. Karl would actually like to write a book himself, and is fascinated by what he's learning about book publishers. 

As the book progresses, we often see Ned and his friends Saul, Jamie, and Sally, at Swill's bar, where many literary folks hang out. The friends also run into each other in the park, another place they frequent.  Saul, like Ned, is a literary author. Sally is a wannabe writer who is an assistant to Tom Kidd. Jamie is a romance writer. Saul sometimes takes them for dinner at the Old Hotel, which is known for including and excluding dinner guests, and even some who only want a drink at its lobby bar. No one knows what criteria determines who gets in and who doesn't. Clive is one of the anointed but neither Bobby nor Paul can get in on their own. No matter where they get together, Saul, Ned, Sally, and Jamie often discuss their books and the writing process. There's a lot of shop talk.  


Novels that Take You Behind the Scenes in Book Publishing Houses
Photo Courtesy of Pixabay


Ned is at the very end of the process of completing a book.  He's been struggling over what to do with his character Nathalie in the final scene. He has left her in a park after her lover has ended their affair, and he keeps "hearing" her entreaties not to leave her there like that. On one such occasion his thoughts are distracted by his realization that he can't remember what Pittsburgh, the town he grow up in, looks like. This bothers him, and he decides its time to visit his hometown. He thinks that might help him figure out how to end his book. He tells everyone he's going to Pittsburgh. 

Naturally, Candy and Karl follow him so they can observe him and decide whether to take him on as a project. Sally, who had overheard part of a meeting between Bobby and Clive discussing how to end Ned's contract, senses something is up that's not good. She has mentioned this to Saul. Each of  them separately decides to go to Pittsburgh when Ned does without telling Ned or each other. In the meantime, Clive is afraid Candy and Karl might really kill Ned and he might get blamed. So he hires someone to follow Ned and protect him. Her name is Blaze. Clive decides to go to Pittsburgh himself, as well, just to keep and eye on things.   

Paul, although he stays home, is worried at what his demands may have set in motion. He has nothing personal against Ned, so he hires Arthur Mordred to protect Ned. Ned himself is oblivious to all of this. He only vaguely senses someone may be following him.  He does wonder why Candy and Karl seem to be turning up everywhere he goes. 


Arthur Mordred, Candy and Karl know each other and wonder why they are seeing each other on the same turf. It seems like the whole gang is in Pittsburgh, though Saul and Sally don't let Ned or each other know they are there at first. The Pittsburgh chapters are fun for the reader, with Ned mostly just looking around while all the others follow him as inconspicuously as possible, often in disguise. The last day the disguises come off and everyone acknowledges everyone else, but not why they are there. Then everyone goes home and they all manage to get back to New York safely, including Ned Isaly, so the problem of what to do with him remains.  You will have to read the book to see how the situation is resolved, and only at the end is it revealed why Paul wanted Mackenzie to break Isaly's contract. 

The best parts of the book are the conversations between Candy and Karl as they “research the project” and interact with everyone. They provide a lot of comic relief. It was, in fact, this humor and the spoof on the publishing industry that made the book interesting. The characters were not very well-developed, but the dialogue was great. The whole scene (several chapters) in Pittsburgh is hilarious. Some readers may find Ned's mental interactions with Nathalie a bit tedious. though. 

A reader might pick up the idea that in spite of having written the popular Richard Jury novels, which I've not yet read, Grimes is not especially fond of how the publishing industry operates and that would also apply to the way books are marketed and get to the best seller lists. Steve Martini picks up some of these same themes in his legal thriller, The List.

Review of The List by Steve Martini


The title refers to the  New York Times Bestseller List that every author wants their book to be on. I'm classifying this as a legal thriller because two of the main characters are lawyers. The book is much different in tone and style than Martha Grimes Foul Matter. In the Grimes books, there were plenty of opportunities to laugh and the fun was in seeing the characters interact and learning what they really thought of each other. In The List, you will find yourself holding your breath and unable to put the book down. It is full of action and suspense. 

Book Review of The List
Buy The List at Amazon
 The List begins with a Prologue in which Abby Chandlis is running for her life on an old docked ship. She is trying to reach Morgan Spencer, her lawyer, whom she is sure is aboard. She is fleeing two men on the dock, whom you will meet later in the book. Then the book moves to Chapter One and we discover Abby is a lawyer who works with Morgan Spencer. It's obvious the two are very good friends, but not lovers. Abby wants to keep it that way. Morgan doesn't.

Abby has written a book, but since she has written previous books, which although published never got very far, she is reluctant to publish her new book under her own name. She has chosen the pen name of Gable Cooper. She is afraid that if she submits the book under her own name she will get less for it because she's a woman and it wouldn't be marketed well because her other books weren't best sellers. She knows her new book is blockbuster material.

We next meet Carla Owens, who is looking for Gable Cooper. Carla is a powerful literary agent, and she tells Abby that she must get hold of Cooper because a major publisher wants the book and expects it to be very successful. Abby says Cooper is in South America researching another book and cannot be reached. The truth is that Abby hasn't found anyone to play the part of Cooper for the book jacket, interviews, and book signings. She promises to try to find Cooper. She is his legal representative in the negotiations. 

The scene then shifts to Jack Jermaine, a frustrated writer who is currently at home in Coffin Point, South Carolina, using his rejection slips for target practice. He is handsome, rugged, and very good at shooting.

Meanwhile, back at Abby's office, she explains her problem to Morgan, to whom she tells everything. He's upset because they have a new boss, Cutler, whom he doesn't like. It appears Cutler wants to downsize, and that means both Abby and Morgan could lose their jobs. Abby asks Morgan to file a copyright for her on the new book so she can prove, if there's ever a problem with the person she gets to lay the part of Cooper, that she herself wrote the book. The only other person who knows about her authorship is is her best friend Theresa, who is divorced because her husband Joey has abused and almost killed her. Abby had acted as Theresa's divorce lawyer, and Theresa is currently living with Abby.

Morgan, as Abby's lawyer, wants all the details of how Abby intends to pull off letting someone play her part without the publisher and agent finding out who really wrote the book. They discuss all the details of how Gable Cooper will sign papers and contracts that deposit Cooper's advances, signed over to Abby, in Abby's account. Then she will pay Cooper his share. Morgan wants to be sure only he, Abby, Theresa, and whomever turns out to be Cooper, are the only ones who know Abby really wrote the book. Because he doesn't trust Cutler, he tells Abby he will keep all the documents safely at his home.

Abby, realizing she has to come up with a Gable Cooper soon, goes with Thersa to L.A. to hire someone to play the part. She settles on the handsome Jess Jermaine. Theresa is staying with friends. Abby stays in L.A. to continue briefing Jess on his part. After that her plan is to fly to New York, meet Carla alone, and then after the two of them have worked out the details, they would meet Jess at the airport together.

Meanwhile, back in Seattle, Joey has broken into Abby's home and torn it up, waiting for Theresa to appear so he can abuse or kill her. While he's there, the people trying to get the movie rights to the book appear looking for Cooper. Joey answers the door, plays along, pretends he is Cooper, and agrees to sell them the rights for only $25,000.

Abby gets into New York at 2 AM and after only a few hours sleep prepares to go meet Carla. Under her hotel door she finds a handwritten note from Jess saying he can't be Cooper after all, but not to worry, he's made arrangements. She imagines her entire book deal flying away and is furious, but when she calls Carla's office about the change in plans for picking up Cooper, Carla very happily tells her that she has been chatting in her office with Cooper and he's wonderful. Jess had arranged for his brother Jack, older and just as handsome, whom we met earlier in Coffin Point shooting up rejection slips, to substitute for him. Abby is extremely angry that Jack got to Carla before she did, but she's in a bind and finally has to accept the situation in order not to blow her own deal.

Since this is a review, not a synopsis, I won't tell you about all the dead bodies, romance, and double-crossing that follow or even introduce all the players in this drama. The plot is too intricate for me to do that here. I did not pay careful enough attention to all the details on my first reading, and so I was more surprised than I should have been at the end. What I could not do is put this book down. As I'm rereading parts of the book today, I find myself laughing at some parts I'd forgotten about. There is touch of humor because of who the people are and how they interact, even though the mood of most of the book is tense.

Novels that Take You Behind the Scenes in Book Publishing Houses


My Recommendations 


I would recommend either Foul Matter or The List to writers or anyone else interested in the publishing industry. Foul Matter is a light book with a lot of comic relief. Most of the action is intellectual, and most battles take place with words. The “goons,” Karl and Candy, have their own version of justice. They tend to find an appropriate punishment to fit whatever is crime in their eyes. 

Although The List has a bit of humor, it has much more violence and suspense than Grimes' books. It, too, has some vigilante justice, but it's more violent than in that in Foul Matter.  You will find language and behavior in both books you would not want your grandchildren to imitate, but nothing worse than they would see in a PG-17 rated movie or much of today's television, or overhear in conversations. The F-word is used often by some characters because it fits their personas. There aren't any sex scenes in Foul Matter that I can remember, but The List has a few that would be rated R if they were in a movie. Forewarned is forearmed. I didn't see anything that seemed inappropriate in its context, and I enjoyed both books, different as they were from each other.

Which of these books do you think you'd want to read first?



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