Two Kinds of Truth – Michael Connelly

Harry Bosch is in trouble. A killer he put away a long time ago is about to be released because new evidence – evidence that puts Harry in the firing line. At the same time, he is trying to help his colleagues in the San Fernando police department after a double killing at a local pharmacy. Harry is the guy with the most extensive experience of dealing with this type of case, and his bosses have no real option but to let him call the shots. Harry does his best to keep things going in the right direction, while managing the resources and egos around him. And then there’s the small matter of the undercover operation…

If you have read any Bosch books, you will be on familiar territory. Harry’s half-brother, the Lincoln Lawyer Micky Haller, is involved as one of the final showdowns is a courtroom drama. It’s well done, indeed, and confirms that the author is as sharp as ever.

Highly recommended.

Spook Street – Mick Herron

Fourth in the generally excellent Slow Horses series (see here for reviews of 1-3), this is the weakest of the novels so far, primarily because it relies on too high a level of suspension of disbelief. But, if you can get over that, you will be rewarded with being able to enjoy the author’s wonderful cocktail of strong characters, snappy dialogues, and plain good writing.

This book begins with a terrorist atrocity in Britain. At the same time, current spook River Cartwright’s grandfather – an old spook – is rapidly descending into the hell of dementia.  The author does an amazing job – assuming you buy the central idea – of tying these threads together.

There are turns, twists, surprises, and pathos aplenty.

In short, if you have not read these books, start at the beginning. And do it now!

Pen 33 – Anders Roslund and Börge Hellström

First of a series featuring policeman Ewert Grens, this is a no holds barred, graphic, and troubling novel.

At the core, it’s about a pedophile who preys on young girls. Not much is left to the imagination. But the police involvement is only one angle – albeit the main one – as the revenge attempt by the father of one of the victims takes center stage for a fair chunk of the novel.

Set in Sweden, the book does a good job of painting the scene, and making the backdrop believable. Some of the prison scenes, and the politics of it, came across as all too realistic and horrific. The judicial process seems less well rounded. The level of characterization varies, but on the whole is good.

There are times when I think you can see the joins in the book – where the fact it is the work of two authors has had an effect – because there are small unfinished aspects of scenes, and the direction of the story is a bit jerky. However, it’s also possible I am imagining this, and instead what we have is the chaos of real life rendered as fiction.

The plot, such as it is, works well enough, but it is relatively simple and the only major twist is not that much of a surprise. If you cannot see what’s coming, you surely don’t read much crime fiction. On the other hand, the overall story is interesting and did have me thinking about some of the issues after I finished it.

I’m glad I read it, though am not fully convinced. I will probably read the next one to see if it improves, because with the rough edges ironed out, this would have been an excellent book. One for the reserve list.

Incidentally, none of the roughness should be put down to the translator – Elizabeth Clark Wessel – because from that perspective the language was spot on.

Happy 4th of July

I hope all those celebrating the 4th of July holiday have a great day. Whatever political challenges it faces and criticism it deserves, the USA is still a great country.

A Legacy of Spies – John Le Carré

Well, the critics really, really loved this.

They gushed and they gushed and they gushed. Then they gushed some more. I thought it was OK, but certainly didn’t mention a first gush, never mind the repetitions…

This is a spy novel where the author’s favorite (or most famous) character, George Smiley, is always in the background. But in the center of the stage is Peter Guillam, an ex spy, retired and living in France. One day, he is dragged back to the establishment by litigation from family members of some who died in the Cold War. Guillam and others are blamed, and the Secret Service is trying to cover its backside. Just what was going on between Guillam and Smiley, and the other spooks? All will be revealed.

The narrative flits from past to present, in nice flowing language which manages to glide over the death and tragedy unfolding in its pages. Then you realize what has happened, and you go back and read it again. Chilling.

The lead character is a good one: likeable, a bit of a rogue, and with his own (flawed) moral compass.

The atmosphere, especially when the book touches on the Cold War events, is terrific. The modern perspective is best when the author shows us the hard edge of the sneaky civil service, and a different type of dicing with death.

A Legacy of Spies is good, but not this author’s best work. Oh, and for the avoidance of doubt, it is still absolutely worth reading. Just don’t let all that gushing get in your way.

Two from Stav Sherez

These two novels, starting with A Dark Redemption, are police murder mysteries featuring DI Jack Carrigan and DS Geneva Miller.

The first book is about the dreadful slaying of a Ugandan student, the second about a horrific fire in which several nuns die. In both, the author does an excellent job of sprinkling a veritable shoal of (credible) red herring clues about the place to keep the reader off balance. However, as a seasoned crime fiction reader, I spotted the solution in Eleven Days as soon as a particular family relationship was exposed. Regardless, the plots are very well put together.

So far as the characters are concerned, A Dark Redemption is largely about Carrigan’s background, with Miller more up front in Eleven Days. They are both well rounded characters, but Miller could do with a bit more padding out, some of which may come to the fore in the third of the series.

The rest of the police squad are cardboard cut outs with a clear notion to tick the diversity box.

The backdrop that is consistent in both is London, and the author presents it well, with enough fresh perspective and nice language to make it more than just a familiar set of place names.

These books reflect a mountain of research and hard slog, which the author has put in so as to deliver fine examples of the crime writer’s craft. Not up with the best, but getting there. Recommended.

And now for a little good news

From Harry’s Place:

The PSC site has this in their commentary on the defeat:

Campaigners are concerned about threats to freedom of expression in the UK on Palestine as well as Westminster overreach in local democracy.

Yeah, right. BDS is all about freedom of expression. So long as you have the same views as BDS, that is.

I would be pleasantly surprised if the PSC went bust. Probably some crowdfunding campaign will ride to the rescue. Even if they do go bust, they will rise from the ashes, walk away from their debts, and reform as the Campaign for Palestinian Solidarity, or the People’s Campaign for Palestinian Solidarity, or something similar. Judean People’s Front, anybody?

Tomorrow’s Headlines

Source: WikiMedia

Exhibit One (from the Times of Israel):

Hamas threatens to launch 5,000 fire kites, balloons Friday

Terror group prepares for fresh protests on Gaza border, warns Israeli communities will ‘live under a siege of kites’

Hamas on Thursday threatened to send 5,000 fire kites and balloons deep into Israeli territory on Friday, when the Gaza border will see another of the weekly “March of Return” mass protests, Palestinian and Israeli media reported.

The Palestinian terror group, the de facto ruler in the Strip, said at a press conference that the incendiary devices will be launched from various locations in Gaza during the protest, which will also mark the first day of the Eid al-Fitr Muslim holiday.

And here is Exhibit Two (also from the Times of Israel):

IDF fires warning shot at Gazans preparing ‘fire balloons’, launches airstrike

Palestinians say missile launched by Israeli drone caused no injuries, in second such incident in less than a day

The Israeli military fired a warning shot at a group of Palestinians who were preparing to launch an incendiary helium balloon toward Israel from the central Gaza Strip on Thursday afternoon, followed by another airstrike on “infrastructure” to prepare the arson devices.

“A short while ago, an aircraft fired a warning shot at a cell that was preparing to launch incendiary balloons in order to drive them away,” the military said in a statement.

A short while later, the Israel Defense Forces said it carried out an airstrike in the same area. The army identified the target as “infrastructure,” but would not elaborate.

According to media reports, the “infrastructure” was an outdoor facility that was being used by the cell to inflate the balloons and make the incendiary devices.

So tomorrow, the kite offensive will continue, and Israel will have to take serious military action.

I could be wrong, but I don’t see any meaningful outrage from the West about this naked terrorism. I don’t see so called pro-Palestinian supporters rising up in their masses, fessing up that this is an act of war, not to say counter productive, and denouncing it. The threat somewhat flies in the face of suggestions that these protests are peaceful. But never mind that. For now.

Anyway, I predict that tomorrow’s later headlines will include something along the following lines:

Gaza Kite Club Blown Up by Israeli Jets

Hamas Cultural Wing Youth Leader (Kite Section) Killed by Israeli Sniper

Innocent Kite Flyers Shot by IDF

Peaceful Kite Protesters Badly Wounded by

Palestinian Youth Burned by Petrol Set Alight by IDF

EU Criticizes Israel for Disproportionate Response to Kids’ Kites

I am sure you can come up with your own suggestions. Unfortunately, based on past events, the real headlines are bound to include some that are more offensive.

Hey BBC, the Independent and the Guardian, I am looking at you…

Quote of the week

“Beyond the opinion that each one may have in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the cancellation of this party [game] is a victory for hatred, fear and terrorism. The World Cup has not started yet, but the Argentine national team has already lost its first points.”

Argentinian journalist Gabriel Chocron, as quoted by the Elder of Ziyon, here.