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The Quilty Reader

Lawyer, mother, avid reader. Game host extraordinaire! Partner in crime to Obsidian Black Plague! My bookish weaknesses include classics, fantasy, YA, and agreeing to read more books than is even remotely possible.

Reading progress update: I've read 90 out of 431 pages.

Red Sparrow - Jason  Matthews

I am pretty sure that my dad bought this book on our shared account, because it's been there since June 5, 2015. After the movie was released, I checked on amazon for the book, and saw I already owned it. This happens to me with ridiculous frequency, since my parents buy books constantly, so I can't really keep up.

 

At 20%, the meeting of the two main characters, Dominika and Nate, still hasn't happened. She just finished "Sparrow School," which is really "watch a lot of porn and completely dissociate sex with intimacy for Russia" school. And Nate just completely screwed up his first assignment, so he was sent to Finland. I'm sure that the "collision" will occur soon.

 

The format is a bit weird - the author includes recipes after each chapter, which feels very dissonant, as I associate this practice with books that are heavy on charm and light on substance. It's sort of odd to read an entire chapter about forced sex school, followed by a noodle recipe.

 

That aside, it's pretty interesting.

Summer of Spies: Book 1

Berlin Game - Len Deighton

Originally published in 1983, I distinctly remember seeing this book - along with the other two in the series - hanging around my parents bookshelves during the mid-1980's. I headed off to college in 1984 and never permanently lived with them again, just spending summers and vacations in their home. I do not think that I ever read any of them, but I was a tennis player, so I was taken with the title conceit.

 

I never read as much espionage as straight up mystery, but I did enjoy Helen MacInnes, and read some of the standard spy novelists, including Ludlum, Clancy (so long-winded), Ken Follett (before he started writing historical fiction) and Nelson DeMille, all of whom I plan to revisit in my summer of spies. I hadn't ever really noticed what a sausagefest spy fiction is until I started making my list yesterday, but women authors are few and far between with this genre. If anyone knows of any, let me know in the comments. I haven't made a list with this few women in years.

 

So, to the matter at hand. Berlin Game is not your standard spy fic. Bernard Samson is an aging spy with an expertise on Berlin who is sent back into the field when one of the British assets starts to look like he has gone a bit wobbly. Sampson is a spy who is the son of a spy, husband of a spy and is well embedded into the British intelligence service. He is a bit world-weary and cynical, and things at home are not great and he's been out of the field for five years. In addition, as the book progresses, it becomes clear that the British service has been infiltrated, and there is a highly placed spy in their midst.

 

Berlin is still a divided city in this book, and the Cold War is in full force and effect. I am not familiar with Berlin, my European travels having taken me to Munich, but not to Berlin, but Deighton's sense of place is palpable and convincing. This is the world of my youth, so I can connect to it with ease.

 

The action is this one is understated, without the frenetic pace that is more common in modern fiction. It unfolds at a leisurely pace, allowing me to get to know Samson, his wife Fiona, and the other men (and a few women) in the intelligence service. Once Bernard goes back to Berlin to try to extract the asset, things pick up a bit, and the end isn't a complete blindside, but it is a bit of a shocker and is quite well-done. I definitely want to read the other two in this first Samson trilogy, Mexico Set and London Match, as part of my summer spy-fest!

 

 

Bring on the drinking

They Came to Baghdad - Agatha Christie

Here ye, here ye.

 

Being that spy fiction seems to be the theme of the summer.

 

And further being that Agatha Christie's spy thrillers tend to be, erm, interesting.

 

And further being that several people have this book on their summer list.

 

It is hereby resolved that:

 

a buddy read of They Came To Baghdad seems to be a necessity and not merely an option.

 

Bring on the gin.

 

 

Let the drinking commence

 

Who's in?

Reading progress update: I've read 152 out of 303 pages.

Berlin Game - Len Deighton

Cold War spy fic takes me back to my youth.

Reading progress update: I've read 1 out of 303 pages.

Berlin Game - Len Deighton

From the intro:

 

"Until Berlin Game I had fretted and struggled as I tried to retain the pace of the action while expanding the reality of the people in the story. To give my characters a real, or at least a convincing, life demanded more space. Did giving them a domestic dimension mean pressing the pause button in order to relate the dull routines of mortgages, electric bills, children’s ailments and traffic jams? No, that is not the way to treat your readers unless you just don’t care about them; and in that case you should be writing literary novels."

 

 

Oh, snap. Len, I like you already...

 

Shamelessly Stealing: Summer of Spies

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I've been thinking about my summer reading plans! Wanda commented on my post and mentioned that her theme for the summer was spy fiction - and pointed me in the direction of her reading list.

 

You can find it here.

 

I am shamelessly stealing her idea, because it's such a good one!

 

 

I have a long list of classic spy authors that have been on my short end of my long list for number of years: Eric Ambler, John LeCarre, Len Deighton, Graham Greene and Helen MacInnes included. There are some more modern authors on her list that also look very interesting, such as Mick Herron and Joseph Kanon. And there are a few on my list that didn't make her list, such as Ken Follett and Alan Furst. 

 

Her list is James Bond heavy, and I think that I will stick to the film adaptations of that particular series, but overall, it looks very entertaining!

Summer Reading?

 

When Memorial Day hits, I start thinking about summer reading. I think it's a throwback to my school days, when I would leave at the end of the year with a list of recommended books to tackle over the summer.

 

Do you do this, too? What genres do you like to read in the summer? Is it the same or different from your "usual" reading style? Are you a project reader or a seat-of-the-pants reader?

 

Let's talk in the comments...

It's no Ripley, but it's all right

Strangers on a Train - Patricia Highsmith

I'm going to surmise that this is one of those rare occasions where the movie actually exceeds the book. 

 

Patricia Highsmith was amazing, of that there is no doubt. However, this book was extremely frustrating to read because there are so many terrible decisions being made by the main character, Guy Haines, whose encounter with a psychotic murderer is a terrible turning point in his life.

 

The plot is quite different from what I thought I understood it to be - and perhaps the movie aligns more with my misunderstanding. I went into it thinking it was more of an inverted mystery, and was interested to see where the mistake was made for the investigators to figure it out. I wasn't expecting one half of the plot to be a reluctant participant, and nearly as much of a victim as the murder victims.

 

I think that the biggest problem with this book is that it felt about 100 pages too long, and took fairly close to forever to get to the point. While Highsmith excels at building suspense, the pacing was way off in this one. In addition, the end was sort of anticlimactic. 

 

I'm still a card-carrying member of the Patricia Highsmith fan club, but this was a bit of a disappointment.

Reading slump has hit me hard

 

I hate reading slumps. Nothing is really capturing my interest right now - even my girl Agatha can't do the job.

The Last Coyote is a metaphor

The Last Coyote  - Michael Connelly

Details: This is book 4 in the Harry Bosch series, and is Book 4 in the Harry Bosch Universe. I'm way behind in my HBU reviews - I've read all the way through Blood Work, which is the 8th book in the HBU. 

 

Nonetheless, to discuss The Last Coyote, I must begin with the obvious and somewhat heavy-handed metaphor in the title. Harry Bosch is the last coyote: solitary and lonely, an anachronism in the urban jungle of Los Angeles. This particular book is all about Harry Bosch. 

 

We begin with Harry on suspension for throwing Pounds, LAPD brass, through a window. In order to be reinstated, he needs to be cleared for duty by a psychologist. During his suspension, Harry decides to work on solving the three-decades-old murder of his mother, Marjorie Lowe. Because he's Harry Bosch.

 

I really like this book, although the ease with which Harry puts together the truth about a case that went cold when he was 11 is somewhat, erm, unbelievable. He's a good detective, but really, that's a bit hard to swallow. The identification of the murderer, as well, was very anti-climactic.

 

In addition, I have to add that the idea of Harry's mother, who was, not to put too fine a point on it, a young and attractive woman who was a prostitute, catching the eye of not one, but two, extremely prominent Los Angeles attorneys (including Harry's father, the late, great, Mickey Haller, who was a well-known defense attorney) is, again, difficult to square with the realities of Harry's life. It's very Pretty Woman, which makes it implausible. And this isn't just Harry's rose colored glasses view of his beloved mother - this is the factual background that Harry uncovers.

 

Overall, this is a solid installment, and it clears up the mystery of his mother's murder.

Reading progress update: I've read 60%.

Strangers on a Train - Patricia Highsmith

After reading more than half of this one, and all of The Talented Mr. Ripley, Patricia Highsmith has overtaken Shirley Jackson as the American woman writing the most terrifying characters in literature. 

 

Moral of the story: do not talk to anyone, anywhere, ever. Do not make eye contact. In fact, pretend to be dead. Yeah, do that.

So much fun!

OB & I met at Powells and browsed for books and then got coffee! It was amazing.

 

Pic of my books:

 

 

Since both of us have "public" jobs, we're not really up for posting pics, but suffice it to say that it was amazing to get to meet in person! It was so much fun to have coffee and talk about books and about how much we love the community here at booklikes!

Authors I am on the look-out for!

Since Powell's has a huge used book inventory, I decided to look for inexpensive editions from these authors:

 

Patricia Moyes: this is a relatively recent author who writes mysteries in the "golden age" style. Her books are available on kindle, but they are a bit pricey for books of their age.

 

Madeleine Brent: these aren't available in ebook at all, and the used copies are fairly expensive. I am not sure if I'll be able to get my hands on any of them, but I'll give it a look-see.

 

Patricia Highsmith: I am on an "I want to read more Highsmith" kick, so I'll just take a look and see what they have!

 

Agatha Christie: anything that I don't already own in print is fair game!

 

Ngaio Marsh: these are also available in ebook, for a fairly reasonable price, so I'll only pick the up if they're under $4.00.

 

John Dickson Carr: he is pretty unavailable, so I'm going to take a look see!

 

I may come up with more as I think it over today! If anyone has any suggestion for OOP gems, especially mysteries, let me know in the comments!

 

Oh. My. God! You Guys!

Obsidian Blue and I are going to get to meet!

 

 

This Sunday!

 

 

At POWELL'S BOOKS, Y'ALL!

 

The Great American Read on PBS

 

This popped up on my twitter feed this morning! There is some utter shit in this list, but here's also some good stuff here. Apparently PBS is doing a six part series. More information here: link.

 

I've read 47, evidently. There's a quiz!

 

The Nursing Home Murder by Ngaio Marsh

The Nursing Home Murder - Ngaio Marsh

Because this one involves the murder of the Home Secretary, which is apparently a cabinet level position in the British Government (it seems to correspond loosely to a combination of the Secretary of State and the Head of Homeland Security, near as wikipedia can help me to figure out), it is one of the featured books in Chapter 12 of TSCC100, Playing Politics. 

 

This is also the third Inspector Alleyn mystery, but is the first one that I've read. I am reserving judgment overall because it was obvious to me that there was a backstory to the characters that I didn't have.

 

The mystery itself was fun - by the time Inspector Alleyn gets called out to the deceased Home Secretary, who died on the operating table from a septic appendix, pretty much everyone is a suspect. He's been getting threatening letters from the local anarchists and Bolsheviks, and he's broken it off with a mistress who is taking it badly and who just happens to be, along with his former friend and hopeful swain of the above mentioned mistress, the nurse and surgeon, respectively. They've both recently threatened him because the nurse is not handling the rejection with equanimity. And then we have his rather bizarre wife, a Leninst nurse, and an anesthetist who is disturbingly fond of a hands on approach to eugenics.

 

I didn't get the relationship between Alleyn and Nigel Bathgate at all, and the relationship with his fiancee, the fair Angela even less. I think I need more data in order to draw any conclusions. It was enjoyable, but a bit farcical.

 

Unfortunately, the solution to the crime was just plain bad. I had to read the last two chapters three times before I was able to really absorb what had happened, and at the end I was still just puzzled about the entire thing.

 

 

Allrighty then.