What a book!

September 8, 2011

Review: The Baker Street Letters

Filed under: Fiction,Mystery — mike @ 6:21 pm
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The Baker Street Letters
The Baker Street Letters by Michael Robertson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Not bad for a mystery. I ran across the audio version of the second book in this series and grabbed this one to catch up. I’ll be honest, I only read it because the author is a Boilermaker, like me. But, whatever gets somebody to read, right?

That said, I normally steer clear of Sherlock Holmes pastiches. What a pleasant surprise to discover this is not a Holmes pastiche. The premise is that this barrister moves his office into 221B Baker Street and as a result, people write letters to Sherlock Holmes asking him to solve cases, among other things. And then the rest is more or less straightforward mystery.

I’m not a huge mystery fan, but I like the occasional one, and this one was an entertaining and fun, light read. A found a few situations a little unrealistic, I just didn’t see some of the characters, or any person of the intelligence of the people in this book, actually making some of the decisions they end up making. But it’s a minor complaint.

This is a fun, quick, book-to-read-between-books read. And it was engaging enough to continue with the second book, “The Brothers of Baker Street,” which I am so far enjoying even more.

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August 27, 2010

Review: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

Filed under: Fiction,Mystery,Uncategorized — mike @ 5:52 pm
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The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (Millennium, #1)The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’ll admit, I read (well, listened) to this book because of hype and peer pressure. I generally don’t like too many mysteries, but I am glad I at least read this one.

It starts out way boring enough though. The however many pages about a libel case and the background story about how it came about is just numbing. Which is weird, because Larsson was a journalist; he should have known his lede needed to be trimmed.

But once Lisbeth Salander is introduced, the story picks up and she certainly lives up to all the hype. She’s one of the more refreshing characters (heroine? anti-heroine?) in mysteries because she’s not as cliche as so many seem to be.

The violence toward women in this book can be a little repellent, but the point is, well, I hope the point is, that it is a serious problem anywhere, even places that are held up as perfect in the U.S. (eg, Sweden, France, wherever).

I guess if I knew more about Swedish society and current issues, some of this book would have made more sense to me, as I have read that Larsson’s whole Millennium trilogy is meant to be a criticism of Swedish society. But once you see who has what skeletons in their closets, you kind of figure out who Larsson’s targets are. They aren’t much different than those in U.S. novels and movies.

A note on the audio edition: The excellent Simon Vance is the narrator and rather than fight, and lose, with bad Swedish accents, he simply uses different British accents for his characters. That works fine, although I have recently listened to his narrations of the Dune and James Bond novels. So for a disc or two, Mikhael Blomkvist sounded like Duncan Idaho and Henrik Vanger sounded like M. But that’s not a complaint, it’s just funny.

The upshot: Read this before the movie comes out, so you won’t look like you’re behind the bandwagon, but you can still chat about it around the watercooler.

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Review: Blockade Billy

Blockade BillyBlockade Billy by Stephen King
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

An enjoyable non-horror-ish novella from Stephen King.

King is a baseball nut, but he doesn’t bog down the story in too much baseball detail. If you aren’t into the sport, you might feel a little disinterested, but, as usual, King drops enough juicy tidbits to keep you reading. And, as usual, King drops enough vulgar colloquialisms to keep you laughing throughout. You feel like you’re really listening to an old baseball codger in a rest home eager to talk to somebody about something, anything, as long as he doesn’t have to join the virtual bowling group.

I listened to this as an in-between-books book. It was short, light and fun. Craig Wasson is a great reader, although I felt his voice sounded a little too young for the character who was narrating. But it’s a minor quibble. He does a terrific job otherwise.

I did not listen to the other story in this edition, ‘Morality’, as I had read it when it was originally published in Esquire. I didn’t like it as much then and so was ready to move on to my next audio book.

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January 22, 2010

Myron Bolitar series by Harlan Coben

Filed under: Harlan Coben,Mystery,Sports — jacksheard @ 9:08 am
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Trying to pick one of this series would be mighty difficult. So I’ll just do the whole thing.

Harlan Coben’s series stars Myron Bolitar, a sports agent who solves mysteries for his clients.

He’s a jock. He’s a ladies man. He’s a smart ass.

He’s cool.

He’s a lot of things I fancy myself as, so I love reading about him.

The books all have a sports theme of some sort. Here’s a quick rundown:

“Deal Breaker” (football)

“Drop Shot” (tennis, U.S. Open)

“Fade Away” (basketball, with the Celtics)

“Back Spin” (golf)

“One False Move” (basketball)

“The Final Detail” (baseball, with the Yankees)

“Darkest Fear” (no particular sport, more mystery)

“Promise Me” (again, less sports, more mystery)

“Long Lost” (international thriller!)

Through the course of these novels, Myron and his friends (one a former female wrestler and another an ass-kicking martial arts snob) go from sports mysteries with clients and problems with mobsters to parenthood, dealing with aging parents, struggling through relationships and — most of all — crazy situations.

One early annoyance is fake professional team names, but that gets rectified in the third book when he starts using real teams.

Coben has an amazing ability to mix suspense and thrilling mystery with a slice of humor that keeps Myron seeming real, despite his resume: Duke basketball star, Harvard law school, stint with the Celtics, sports agent and international superdetective.

And his favorite drink: Yoo-Hoo.

YOU’LL LIKE THIS SERIES IF: You’re a sports fan and like reading mysteries. Also, if you’re tired of mystery novels with the same tired cast of characters and detectives.

Series gets five stars out of five.

Link to Harlan Coben site

January 18, 2010

“The Lost Symbol” by Dan Brown

Filed under: Dan Brown,Mystery — jacksheard @ 8:49 pm
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I had great expectations for this book. I loved “The DaVinci Code,” “Angels and Demons” and “Digital Fortress.” Plus, I’ve got a Masonic background (I’m member not in good standing), so knowing it had a Masonic story line really excited me.

The one thing I love about Dan Brown is his books take place in such short time periods. A day and a night. Awesome. So exciting.

I sometimes like the way Dan Brown tells you a lot of information, history and oddball knowledge. However, this can get old.

In previous books, he kept this in check. Not so in “The Lost Symbol.” The story is basically “DaVinci Code: Washington D.C.” with a lot of history lessons. Like, “Hey, see that stone? That was laid by George Washington’s friend Simon. Simon had a cat. The cat ate his homework …” and on and on and on.

In the end, I’m glad I read it, but it wasn’t great, and certainly didn’t live up to my expectations.

YOU’LL LIKE THIS IF: You like watching reruns on the History Channel or really like Brown’s other books. And, you’ll want to read it if you’ve read the others in this series.

Two stars out of five.

Link to Dan Brown site

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