James Lee Burke was a new author for me until Wolfe loaned me some Robicheaux mysteries. Burke has become one of my favorites. Wolfe and Lee usually read different genres than I read, so I always have something new to learn from them.
Jesus Out to Sea —James Lee Burke
Burke has no time for academia, gentry folk or fake smiles. When he writes the underdogs are the champions. Burke carries their cause, even in their tragedy and the seamy side of life that darkens their day to days.
The 11 short stories in this collection present men, women and children, all up against astronomical odds, from poverty, to abuse, to addiction, to natural disaster, and forces too monumental with which to reckon.
Yet, the characters are brave souls with a grit that passersby could never imagine. They’ve got color and depth and excruciating pain that brings them off the page and into your psyche. “Jesus Out to Sea” is a story that conveys the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina which the news stories completely missed. The disenfranchised, the burnt out, the hopeless drifting away, being taken by an undercurrent beyond their control, is a striking image for Burke’s characters. How they manage to keep their heads up despite it all, packs the wallop that blows me away.
Home Grown— Ninie Hammon
Of course growing and selling marijuana is legal these days, so you might think that this story has no punch. You might want to think again. Based on true events of the Corn Bread Mafia operating out of Kentucky, during the 1980’s, it portrays how lives are shattered by organized crime, especially the lives of “little guys” trying to make a few tantalizing big bucks. The syndicate spans over the South and the West and before it’s all over 400 million bucks of weed is confiscated and 56 people in 5 states are arrested. There is plenty of “collateral damage” too. Innocents get destroyed and the “little guys”, after all, are just so much debris. Just like real-life hard-drug syndicates today.
Sarahbeth Bingham is a journalist for the LA Times, come home to her murdered father’s funeral. He was the owner and editor of a local paper, and his last written words tell us that there was foul play afoot and that he was “on to it”. As Sarahbeth investigates and discovers how her little central Kentucky home town has been the catalyst to a huge crime ring, lives become unraveled, tragedies reel out of control and Sarahbeth puts her own life on the line with her by line. “Don’t mess with a man who buys ink by the barrel,” read a plaque above her Dad’s desk, and Sarahbeth carried through with that promise.
Ninie Hammon is a story teller par excellence and grips you from the beginning clear to the end. Her writing is polished, artistic and inspiring. There is no prescribed “Deus ex machina” here. There is however, power in her work that draws upon The Hand of The Living God.
The English Assassin – Daniel Silva
Gabriel Allon is a former Israeli spy turned art restorer, who gets pulled back into the spy business to investigate Switzerland’s collaboration with Nazi Germany in the plundering of untold art treasures during WWII.
The settings for all of Gabriel’s adventures are nothing but stunning. I want to go there. I want to eat there. I want to see the sights. And Gabriel himself, is quite a guy. He’s got integrity and humor and guts. He’s handsome and smart. He also has a tragic past that makes him mysterious, dark and sensitive.
The mystery is fast paced, and fascinating. The twists and turns keep you turning the pages into the night. There is even the beautiful, tortured, violinist Chiara that puts sparks and tension into the break neck, white knuckle ride this story takes us on.
Then there is the English Assassin. I like that Silva doesn’t make this man an entirely evil person. A former British soldier, for his own painful reasons, he becomes a mercenary killer. He is after Gabriel because of the powers who want the art heists and Switzerland’s part in it all covered up.
It really is a good story and the writing is stark, lively and compelling. I recommend this book if you love a good mystery. Me? I don’t think I’m the “Silva-Type”. Too much killing. Too much chaos. Sometimes I just need to sit and knit.
The historical aspect of the Swiss and Nazi partnership in the loss of huge and valuable European art was extremely interesting to me. I’d like to investigate that particular part of history further.
Percy Jackson and The Lighting Thief —Rick Riordon
For every kid that ever suffered in school from what is now know as ADHD or ADD (or when I was a kid—just plain not paying attention — staring out the windows all day… not doing well in school—procrastination, underachieving, lazy, irascible, or any of the other adjectives written on my report card), now we know — we’re half Greek God! If only we had known! Well, Percy does find out and even gets to go to a school for demigods. His father is Neptune and his mother a wonderful, understanding, beautiful woman who has protected him from all the bad guys for a very long time. Until he was 12 anyway.
So Percy has to go to the underworld and he has to encounter, fight, out-wit and save the day against multiple forces against him. With his good friend Athena and some other very good guys, they come through with a last minute save.
The book is fun, funny, creative and a good study of Greek Mythology in our day in age. I loved the line, “The real world is where the monsters are. That’s where you learn whether you’re any good or not.”
Percy is good. And so is the book.