July 30, 2007
"The Amber Room" by Steve Berry
Are you looking for a quick summer read for the airport or beach? If so, then “The Amber Room” by Steve Berry might just fit the bill. Atlanta judge Rachel Cutler takes off to Germany following clues left by her father who recently died. A Russian immigrant, he had spent time in a Nazi concentration camp during WWII and later served in a Soviet post to track art lost/stolen during the war. Rachel heads off in search of The
Amber Room, one the treasures never recovered. She is soon followed by her ex-husband, probate lawyer Paul, and they end up following clues and fighting for their lives as they get caught between two competing groups of “bad guys” who are also searching for The Amber Room. A little slow going at the beginning, the second half of the book keeps up a rapid pace.
July 16, 2007
"Acqua Alta" by Donna Leon
A while back I wrote about Donna Leon’s “Death and Judgment.” I recently finished the next book the series about Commissario Guido Brunetti, “Acqua Alta.” In this fifth episode, Brunetti is called upon to solve the brutal beating of an American archaeologist (who readers met in an earlier book “Death at la Fenice” along with her lover an opera singer) and the related murder of a crooked museum director. This series continues to be a well-written police procedural with the added ambiance of Venice (Acqua Alta is the flooding of Venice, a relatively frequent occurrence during high tides and heavy rains and plays a nearly constant role in this book). The story also brings into the plot Chinese antiquities, the Mafia, sexual orientation discrimination and hate crimes, opera, and the ever present theme of corruption and government inefficiency. I was reading this book during breaks while attending a conference. Two of the people sitting in the row in front of me noticed the book and we got into a lively conversation of how much we enjoy this series (both of them had read the book) and our conversation must have been animated enough that the two people sitting directly behind me asked for information on the author/title, etc., so they could start the series.
July 09, 2007
"The Memory Keeper's Daughter" by Kim Edwards
Two or three times a week for the course of more than two months, I would pick up and then put down “The Memory Keeper’s Daughter” by Kim Edwards. I had heard good things about this book from several friends, but the thought of reading a book about someone who gave away his imperfect child was just so distasteful to me, I wasn’t sure I wanted to commit a day or two to reading the story. Obviously, I finally took the plunge, and found it worthwhile.
The story starts in 1964 when Dr. David Henry’s wife Norah goes into labor during a snowstorm. Their obstetrician is unable to make it through the storm, so David and his nurse, Caroline handle the delivery. Paul is born and he is unexpectedly followed by Phoebe, who has Down’s syndrome. Ostensibly to save his wife the pain of likely losing this child soon to heart problems, David asks Caroline to take Phoebe to an institution for children with Down’s syndrome. David tells his wife, who was sedated during the delivery, that their daughter died at birth. Caroline, after seeing the institution and being appalled by it, decides to keep Phoebe and raise her as her own. The story then moves forward through time, with glimpses into the lives of these characters every few years for the next 25 years. We see David and Norah’s marriage fall apart as Norah continues to mourn the “death” of the daughter she never got to see and as David lives with his guilt over lying to his wife and his unresolved pain over this sister’s early death due to a lingering illness. Paul struggles to live up to his father’s expectations and Caroline struggles to get Phoebe medical care and educational services. There is resolution in the end, but without an unreasonably pat happy ending.
July 02, 2007
"The Monk Downstairs" by Tim Farrington
If you are looking for a gentle story about life and love, you may want to consider Tim Farrington’s novel “The Monk Downstairs.” After 20 years in a monastery, Michael Christopher leaves to start life “in the real world.” He rents an in-law apartment in the bottom of Rebecca’s house. Rebecca, a former hippy/beach bum is a graphic artist and single mother to six year old Mary Martha. Rebecca has an uneasy relationship with Mary Martha’s father, a professional surfer who has never really grown up. Friendship and then love grows between Mike and Rebecca. We learn move about the inner thoughts and feelings of Mike and his reasons for leaving the contemplative religious life, through letters he writes to a monk back at the monastery who is trying to “save” the former Brother Jerome. Rebecca, a strayed Catholic, struggles with some of Mike’s beliefs and as woman who has had poor luck with men, isn’t sure she wants to fall for Mike. The comfort and support he provides during the harrowing days following Rebecca’s mother’s stroke lead to a stronger bond between Rebecca and Mike. I am looking forward to the next part of their story – “The Monk Upstairs.”