Secrets Girls Keep

Secrets girls keep

I first read this book while lounging around in rehab last year.  And now another winter afternoon with time on my hands, so I reread it.  And I am glad I did.

I have read and loved all the Thaddeus Murphy books by this writer and I wondered could this new protagonist, Michael Gresham stack up.

Michael Gresham is a criminal lawyer working with his wife, Danny, his friend and confidant Marcel, who also acts as his researcher, and his secretary, Mrs Lingscheit making a tight little legal team.

We meet Michael at the Grand Jury Room in Chicago, or rather outside it as lawyers cannot enter the Room.  Gresham is here on behalf of his client, a thrice-elected sheriff who is being accused of and charged with embezzling public funds. Then suddenly, the client loses it and takes a woman hostage, dragging her into the Jury Room where he proceeds to threaten all those already there.

The hostage situation is overcome, negotiations completed, and the sheriff is taken off to jail.

But this is only a very small part of the story.  Gresham receives a call for help from his priest.  The priest confesses that years ago he had a sexual relationship with one of the congregation, and a boy was born.  He has had no dealings with the boy but has now heard that the boy is arrested for murder and he calls upon Michael Gresham to help.

In true John Ellsworth style, we are taken through a twisted and complicated plot to reach the surprise at the end.

Oh, and by the way, there is a foolish would-be drug dealer who is represented by Gresham, who manages to get the case dismissed when the arrested cocaine is shown to be missing from the police evidence room.

The trial scenes are evidence of an experienced criminal lawyer, all the characters are believable and on second reading, I enjoyed this fast paced book and will look for anther in the series.

 

 

Big Little Lies

big little lies

Another book given to me to read by my daughter.

I had heard much about this book and at the beginning, I thought that the praise was higher than it needed to be.

We are introduced to a small seaside community close to Sydney, Australia, and in particular to the small public school which the children attend.  We meet various mothers, and one or two fathers, whose lives seem to revolve around the school and its activities.

There is a group of Blonde Bobs look-alike stay -at- home Mums who are very involved with the school; Renata a highly achieving lawyer whose children are left in the care of a not very observant nanny; Madeline employed part time by the local theatre, has a teen-aged daughter from an earlier marriage and two small children with her current husband, who attend the primary school; Bonnie the second wife who has a daughter now attending the school; the sycophantic Harper who wants everybody to know how friendly she is with Renata ; Jackie, a hot-shot in the corporate world and the very beautiful Celeste, married to a rich, high flying, fabulous man.

And then into this close group of people comes Jane.  A single mother with a son, Ziggy and somehow neither of them really fit into the place at the beginning.

Accusations are parried about that Ziggy is bullying a little girl and passions erupt in the school yard.

But all comes to a head on Trivia Night, a fund raising party to raise money for boards for the school.

To say I couldn’t put this book down is an understatement.  On a cold autumn afternoon, I sat for four hours reading this book.  And after a doubtful start, I recommend this book highly.  If you haven’t discovered Liane Moriarty, a Sydney-based writer, I suggest you get a copy of this book.  You won’t be disappointed.

 

 

Taken on Trust

Today, with nothing else on the calendar and with the sun shining brightly onto the couch, I settled down to re-read this book by Terry Waite.  Having finished the book I remembered that I had written a review way back in March 2012 at the beginning of my blogging journey.  I should like to repost it here.

 

Book cover

I have this old, dog-eared copy of Terry Waite’s book, that I have read several times in the 20 years or so since his release.

I bought a copy when it was released and enjoyed it so much that I gave copies to various friends as Christmas presents.  I was reminded again of this man when reading about a recent failed attempt to free hostages in Nigeria.

In 1987 Terry Waite, as the special envoy for the Archbishop of Canterbury (though not a clergyman himself), went to Beirut to negotiate the release of several hostages, including John McCarthy, Terry Anderson, and Brian Keenan. He had already successfully negotiated the release of hostages in Iran and Libya, but when he arrived in Lebanon to meet with Islamic Jihadists, he too was taken captive.

As he said on his release, he foolishly believed the words of an intermediary that he would not be taken.  As he says  “I went without guards, arms or a locator device”.   So far from being a hostage negotiator, he found himself a hostage.  He was taken to various houses to shake off any followers and then eventually to a prison cell in Beirut.

Besides being chained to a radiator, he was regularly blindfolded, beaten on the soles of his feet, subjected to mock executions, and moved from place to place in a large refrigerator.  But he maintains that the mental torture of being in solitary confinement for so long, far outweighed any physical torture.

We have heard tales of prisoners retaining their sanity by practising their golf shots, running marathons or as in Waite’s case, writing their autobiography in their heads.  Waite spent 1,760 days in solitary confinement, his only contact with the outside world was through wall tapping to his fellow hostages.  Apparently, these hostages had a radio and could listen to the BBC World News.

In his book, he reveals the inner strength that helped him endure the savage treatment he received, his constant struggle to maintain his faith, and his resolve to have no regrets, no false sentimentality, no self-pity. of photos.

Waite was released in November 1991 some 20 plus years ago.

After his release and giving one interview to the media, he realised he needed time to readjust to life and so with his wife Frances and their four children he stayed away from the spotlight for a year to recover and convalesce.  During this year he put the harrowing account of his ordeal down on paper and then published it in his book, Taken on Trust.

Then,  rather than dwell on his own suffering, he turned his energies to helping others in desperate situations. He campaigned for the welfare of prisoners, and gave support to families of hostages through Hostage UK; he even offered to negotiate on behalf of military personnel held captive in Iran in 2007.

Terry WaiteThis is a difficult book to read, but one that is also difficult to put down.  We are told that  “Waite no longer works for the Church of England, but retains the faith that kept him going through nearly five years of captivity. His experience as a prisoner, he says, also helped him to see the shallowness of modern materialism. In 2009, angered by the MPs’ expenses scandal, he considered running for office as in independent candidate, but now believes he can do more good as an active humanitarian rather than as a politician. And despite his religious affiliation, he is sympathetic to the Occupy London protesters who have set up camp at St Paul’s Cathedral. “Our society is going to fragment unless we are very, very careful,” he said in an interview with the Guardian last week. “ We have a responsibility for the elderly, for the sick, for children and for those who are casualties of society.” Source The Irish Times, November 26, 2011.

Post Script.  I recently heard Terry Waite being interviewed on the radio.

The Other La Boheme

The Other Boheme

I have loved opera since being introduced to it by an early boyfriend when I was 17, and have been intrigued by the world of those who choose to make opera singing their career.  So when this book was offered on NetGalley I immediately downloaded it.  And I wasn’t disappointed.

Four long-time friends, all opera singers, commit to supporting each other through thick and thin and particularly on their journey to the top.  Stephanie, Henry, Jennifer, and John name themselves The Dolci Quattro.   We meet the four friends as they are performing in Leoncavallo’s La Boheme. a lesser known version of La Boheme, for a second-tier opera company.  They hope this will give them the necessary exposure and allow them to rise to a first-tier company.

Often singers have to work multiple jobs in order to pay for a voice teacher, to help develop the voice and a voice coach, to focus on specific performance music.  And Pere Momus, owner of Café Momus in Manhattan, a gathering place for connoisseurs of opera knew this and so he hired aspiring artists pursuing their dreams, as waiters and waitresses.

An opera singer’s voice is his/her only thing on offer but it is a fragile instrument that needs to be cared for.  It is easily affected and disturbed by emotion.  Concentration is lost and ways of coping, particularly on a performance day, have to be found.  The Dolci Quattro understood this and shared everything and when one was disturbed they pulled together to help.

The offer of steady employment to Henry in a job as an assistant professor to teach voice and to produce school operas causes much talk and deliberation before a decision is made.  Will he accept or will he follow his dreams?

We are offered an insight into the life of an opera singer and recognise how hard one must work to stay on track.  Thank you, Yorker Keith, for a very knowledgeable and entertaining glimpse into the life and world of aspiring opera singers.

 

 

 

 

House Without Windows

“The message, the rain, the divine light comes through my window,
Falling into my house from my origins
Hell is that house without a window.”
Part of the Epigraph in the book, accredited to Rumi.

House without windows

This is another of the books my daughter gave me for Christmas.  It is a big book, in excess of 400 pages, so it was one to read when I could just sit with nothing else to do. Fiji in the sunshine was the perfect place.

And what a great book it is.  It is told by Zeba, and she tells us of her life before marrying Kamal and how her life turns out during her marriage.  Kamal is a spiteful man, he is self-indulgent and sorry for himself.  He thinks he should have more and be more and somehow, it is all Zeba’s fault.

For more than 20 years Zeba has been a loving wife, good mother and peaceful member of the village, but that is all changed one afternoon when Kamal is found brutally murdered in their courtyard.  Zeba refuses to speak and as she is the one to find him, and there is nobody else to blame, she is declared by the villagers to be the killer.   Her children claim she cannot be responsible for the crime while her husband’s family insist she is and one of his brothers tries to take the law into his own hands, attempting to strangle her.  She is taken into custody and sent to the women’s prison.  Here she finds herself surrounded by women who in many cases, have been wrongfully imprisoned but through lack of access to qualified defence lawyers here they must remain.  She forms an unlikely sisterhood with these women who are removed from the harsh and unforgiving world outside the walls but who feel a safety within the walls.

We are introduced to her Mother who is a shaman/healer/setter of curses and not always in a good way.  But she loves her estranged daughter and resolves to use her magic powers to help her if at all possible.

Early in the book, we are introduced to Yusuf, the lawyer, and his family who have escaped Afghanistan and settled in the US.  This shows another side of Afghan life as it is lived today.

Yusuf, Zeba’s lawyer, is fighting on her behalf and is trying to make sense of the law as now being portrayed and acted upon, but he is at a loss how to help his client who refuses to communicate or help him in any way.

A large part of the book takes place in the prison and Zeba’s coming to terms with the other inmates.  And while I wanted a positive outcome for the woman with whom I had developed a strong connection, I didn’t see how it could be without ruining the integrity of the book and its characters.

Nadia Hashimi is an American born Afghani woman and she has delved deeply into the lives of ordinary women who strive to live within the law, which is particularly hard as the law is constantly changing.  She introduces both traditional and newer Afghan culture and history giving the reader a sense of understanding of both ways, although of course to really understand one would have to delve more deeply than can be shown in a book of fiction.

I highly recommend this book to all and while it is gripping and somewhat horrifying in part it is most certainly a good read.  And though it is fiction I am sure that there is a good deal of fact interspersed with Hashimi’s story.

The Woman Who Ran

When I was in rehab last year I had loads of time to read and my daughter kept me plied with books.  This is one that I read and that has stayed with me ever since.  I’m sorry that I am only now covering it on this site.  My review has been on Goodreads since May 17, 2016.

woman who ran

 

This is one of those books you can’t put down. Well planned and so well researched. The characters are totally believable and I was left feeling for this woman and her problems.

We are thrown into the 21st century while still harking back to the Brontes and Wildfell, its ghost stories and all. Helen Huntingdon escaping from a husband who totally oppresses her decides to move far away to the Dales.

Much is made of her time as a war photographer sometimes with her husband Art and often alone, of his total dominance and of her acceptance of this.

She is unable to rely on anybody else but eventually, she confides in a retired journalist who helps her sort out her life.

I recommend this to all my friends.

Missing Alibi

This is the second book in the Faukon Abbey Mysteries series.  You may recall I reviewed the first in the series, Remember Me, in March this year.

Once again this story is written as a play, perhaps another Greek Tragedy and once again we meet DI Greene and his offsider DC Ford and their friend and journalist Jimmy Carter.

Carter goes to meet a mysteries and romance writer who has recently moved into the area.  He knows the house in which she lives as its previous owner was murdered. The writer knows this about the house and being intrigued decides it is a good plot for a story.

We find out that the writer’s husband does not spend much time in Faukon Abbey, preferring to spend weekdays in London with his mistress.  And we soon discover that this man is not all he pretends to be.

The writer is murdered and the police are making little progress in their investigations so once again, they call upon Jimmy Carter to assist them.  After all, he did know the murdered victim and perhaps she has said something to him during their long interview that could set them on the path of the murderer.

Meantime there is another death reported.  This time of a local farmer and while initially it is considered suspicious, it is determined to have been death from natural causes.

There are many twists and turns to this novel before we eventually find out who is the murderer.  A man, the murdered woman’s husband, who with his mistress is involved in a car accident while leaving his wife’s house in a car that was running out of brake fluid, a will that has been lost having been tampered with, the dead woman’s brother who suddenly appears after several years, the sister of the writer’s first husband, a solicitor who is acting rather strangely.

Yes, there are several potential perpetrators but it is not until the end that we find out who did it.  My only complaint is that much of what really happens is made clear to us by the characters who summarise the evidence and then reveal the culprit and the reason why.  This rather detracted from a cleverly conceived and executed story.

But having said that, this is a book that will keep you reading well into the night.  And now that it has been edited, it is an easy read.

Note – I was given a copy of this book to read and voluntarily post this review.

 

Grand Cru Heist

Grand cru

Are you a lover of France, French wines, and mysteries? if your answer is yes, this series could be for you.

In this second book of the series, we are introduced to Benjamin Cooker, winemaker and wine writer extraordinaire, his assistant Virgile Lanssien, and Cooker’s friend, Hubert de Bouard de Laforest, winemaker of Grand Cru.

Cooker is set upon by a gang of thieves, his classic Mercedes 280SL is stolen along with his wallet and his notebook with all his notes and memories of the wines he had tasted.

Cooker has been advised to rest and recuperate and decides that a hotel in the Touraine region will suit him rather more than going home to his chateau in the Medoc.

At the Chateau de La Tortiniere he connects with the young concierge Gaetan who apart from appreciating young, beautiful women, is also a lover of good French wine.  He also meets a certain Mr Morton, owner of a splendid classic Morgan Plus8.  These two men find they have much in common.  Cooker writes about wine and is a winemaker, Morton claims to work for a wine brokerage in London and both men have a tendency for good Havana cigars.

The friendship is short-lived as Morton makes a sudden departure from the hotel in search of his young, beautiful travel companion.

In a short time, there are two murders to solve as well as the continuing theft of Grand Cru from a variety of wine outlets.  Cooker quickly becomes involved in the murders.  But more, he is involved in finding the thieves of the wine.  So think a French Hercule Poirot winemaker.

As an added bonus we are given great descriptions of art, architecture, landscape and history of the region together with the wine drunk with the food eaten.

This is a short, easily read book but one that I found a delight to read.  The two authors, unknown to me, are obviously well versed in French wines and know the Bordeaux region well.

I started the series with this the second book.  I shall now go to the first and look forward to reading more 0f the adventures of Benjamin Cooker..

Changing Lanes

 

Changing Lanes

This is another of the books I read during my rehabilitation last year, but as I couldn’t remember much about the story, I decided to re-read it today.

Picture a cold, windy Easter Saturday; everybody is out and one is alone in the house.  So reading was definitely the task(?) of choice.

Changing Lanes is the story of Abby Halliday.  On one fateful day, Abby’s life is totally changed She is told her syndicated column is no longer required; it’s not edgy enough.  Add to that the house she and her fiancé have purchased to live in following their wedding in 2 months’ time, is declared uninhabitable due to a termite infestation, and her fiancé sends her a text to say he won’t meet her for dinner as he is in Paris, France.

Meantime, Abby has gone back to her parents’ house in Paris, New Jersey, where she had planned to stay until the wedding.  Now since her dream house is no longer available, she will stay there indefinitely.

We are introduced to her parents, Mother, a woman totally involved with providing a special family life for her daughters, Father who having retired now takes up a passion he has always had and has hidden, two sisters, one a pouting teenager and the other a delightful 5-year-old baby. Also, there is Nan who has lived with the family since her husband died.

The story follows  Abby through her adventures driving her Father’s cab, reconnecting with two friends and many of the people from her childhood and Mick, the son of the next door neighbours with whom she had a teenage crush years before.

We move with her as she adapts and changes to the new opportunities available to her as she recognises that what was her dream life now ceases to be and there are other choices to be made.

This is a light-hearted book, easy to read and hard to put down.  I strongly recommend it for a wet afternoon when you feel that the ironing, cooking or even writing,  can be put aside for a time to relax with a good read.

Note – I received a free copy of this book and in return, I choose to write a review.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blood Trails

I read this originally way back in October but decided to reread it after discussion with another reader.

A new book, a new series, a new protagonist from Diane Capri, one of my favourite authors.

blood trails

 

Michael Flint is the protagonist or maybe, after all, he is a hero. Flint is an heir hunter who claims to be able to find anyone. This time he’s given the task of finding a woman who hasn’t been seen or heard of for more than 20 years. Added to the problem is that time is very limited. An option is about to expire and two oil moguls are in a fight to the end to get the rights.

Michael Flint and his associate, Katie Scarlett have few clues to the missing woman’s whereabouts and Flint is being pursued on both sides and everywhere he goes.
This is well worth a read and I’m looking forward to the next book in the series.