Book Review: Macbeth by Jo Nesbø

Macbeth
Jo Nesbø
Translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett
Hogarth Shakespeare, April 2018
ISBN 978-0-553-41905-4
Hardcover

Since Shakespeare’s Macbeth was first performed in 1606 it has been reenacted in many guises and venues.  For instance, Orson Welles staged the play in 1936 with an all-black cast.  Jo Nesbø’s Macbeth is the most recent of six books in the Hogarth Shakespeare series in which the play is retold by various authors.  However, this is the first time the tale has been written as a crime story, Nesbø’s forte as a top Scandinavian writer well-known for his noir fiction, especially the Harry Hole novels.  As the author notes, the play is one of his favorites and provides an outline for the novel, a tale of love, corruption and lust for power.

Set in a decaying unnamed town, abandoned by industry, ridden by drugs and unemployment, the story has at its heart Macbeth’s grab for power using his position on the police force and his pact with the drug lord, Hecate.  Coupled with his love, Lady, whose ambition for power even exceeds his, Macbeth murders his way to the top, becoming police commissioner and grabbing to become Mayor and complete control of the town.  It is a gruesome story that only Mr. Nesbø could write, with a force so powerful only a Bard could have written it.]

Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, April 2018.

Book Review: Condition Book Two by Alec Birri

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Title: Condition Book Two
Series: The Condition Trilogy
Author: Alec Birri
Narrator: Jonathan Keeble
Publication Date: January 17, 2018
Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopian

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Purchase Links:
Audible // iTunes // Amazon

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Condition Book Two
The Curing Begins…
The Condition Trilogy
Alec Birri
Narrated by Jonathan Keeble
Essential Music Limited, January 2018
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the publisher—

Discovering an infamous Nazi doctor conducted abortions in Argentina after the Second World War may not come as a surprise, but why was the twisted eugenicist not only allowed to continue his evil experiments but encouraged to do so? And what has that got to do with a respected neurologist in 2027? Surely, the invention of a cure for nearly all the world’s ailments can’t possibly have its roots buried in the horrors of Auschwitz?

The unacceptable is about to become the disturbingly bizarre. What has the treatment’s “correction” of pedophiles got to do with the president of the United States, the pope, and even the UK’s Green Party?

As if the Condition trilogy wasn’t unsettling enough….

The medical experiments that took place during the Nazi regime are, to this day, horrifying and a look at just how evil humanity can be in the name of science. A young Argentinian police officer, Emiliano—who becomes unrealistically entangled in a romance with Maria—is not prepared, though, to find evidence of continuing work being done in an orphanage, leading to a hunt for the former Nazi who’s involved.

That hunt goes on for years until we find ourselves in the year 2026 and back among some of the characters from the first book including Professor Savage and Nurse Tracy. Tracy is still just as unlikeable as before and still just a foil for sexual fantasies but we learn much more about what the professor is really up to. I’m looking forward to getting the true story with Book Three, The Final Correction (an ominous subtitle if there ever was one).

Jonathan Keeble continues to be an excellent narrator in this second book of the trilogy; he has a wonderful tone to his voice and his interpretation of various characters is quite good albeit with some limitations with the Argentinians.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, March 2018.

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About the Author

Alec Birri served thirty years with the UK Armed Forces. He commanded an operational unit that experimented in new military capabilities classified at the highest level (Top Secret Strap 3) and it is this that forms the basis of his novels. Although semi-autobiographical, for national security and personal liberty reasons, the events and individuals portrayed have to be fiction but are still nonetheless in keeping with his experiences.

Website
Twitter
Facebook

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About the Narrator

If you regularly enjoy listening to audiobooks then this Shakespearean actor will need no introduction. Winner of a 2016 SOVAS award, Jonathan’s voice is rightly recognized as being one of the best, and his narration of The Condition Trilogy is no exception.

LinkedIn
IMDB

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Play an excerpt here.

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Follow the tour here.

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Book Review: Desert Kill Switch by Mark S. Bacon

Desert Kill Switch
A Nostalgia City Mystery #2
Mark. S. Bacon
Black Opal Books, 2017
ISBN 978-1-626947-19-1
Trade Paperback

A great cover for a novel with excellent possibilities. Unfortunately, the opportunities were never quite realized. To be clear, this is a largely enjoyable story with an eminently satisfactory conclusion. The characters are interesting and have elements which are unusual, intriguing and certainly worth following in future stories.

The beginning of the novel is particularly interesting. Lyle Deming, the stepfather of a college girl, is driving her through the desert so she can get some pictures for a class project. They happen on a murder scene and Deming is desperate to shield the girl from the bullet-riddled body. He drives away, calls the local sheriff and a short-time later learns they can’t find either the body or the vintage 1970 Pontiac that was parked next to the body. The car is important because Deming is working as a cab driver for a new Arizona tourist attraction called Nostalgia City, designed as a trip back to the nineteen seventies.

The public relations and marketing office of the Arizona nostalgia site is run by Kate Sorenson. Readers meet her first in Reno where she is attending Rockin’ Summer Days, an annual Reno event, as a vendor for Nostalgia City to recruit travelers. When she has a confrontation with a local auto dealer of questionable reputation, things get complicated.

The two characters come together, become entangled at several levels and ultimately murder and thievery get sorted. The use of kill switches is explained, although the kill switch of the title seems to almost be an afterthought. The novel is neither memorable or inferior, it just is, neither memorable nor especially disappointing.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, November 2017.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.

Book Review: Everything I Never Told You by Celeste NG

Everything I Never Told YouEverything I Never Told You
Celeste Ng
Penguin Books, May 2015
ISBN 978-0-14-312755-0
Trade Paperbook

Everything I Never Told You is the Fabergé Egg of literature. As a whole it is breathtakingly beautiful. Viewing details closely and from different perspectives; unique gems are revealed. While stunning unto themselves; they become totally transformed when part of the whole.

This is the most heart-breaking book I’ve ever read. Actually painful. As the gloss wears down, and the truth trickles out, the ache began…gnawing in the pit of my stomach….knowing where this was going, hoping that it couldn’t be heading in that direction, but knowing that there really is only one path.

Not to say the story is predictable….the opposite is true….there are clever twists…..much like the old science lesson as to what is really “full”…..there are times when the reader is convinced that the complete story has been strung out, in vivid Technicolor with all of the lines connected….only to feel almost sheepish when Ms. Ng subtly spills secrets that snap the picture into a totally unanticipated focus.

Never have I seen a situation from all sides so clearly. Intuitively, I would expect to have a sure opinion at the end. Knowing all of the facts, it should be simple to identify the “bad” guy(s), the “good” guy(s), the mistakes, people acting selflessly alongside those with only mal intent. Sort it out, point the finger, assign the blame, perhaps feel a bit righteous and move on.

But, this book….it’s like real life and it just doesn’t work like that. The answers don’t shake out neatly into two columns and there are no promises, no guarantees. Each of us has seen a person exert little to no effort, yet reap great rewards and on the other side of the coin, we’ve all seen the person put his whole heart and mind into a goal, but not achieve success.

Ms. Ng puts pen to paper in the most generous, considerate, thoughtful and eloquent way and gives us the Lee family. And immediately takes young Lydia away. After artfully creating the glaring absence, Ms. Ng truly introduces Lydia to us and we begin to understand her, admire her and then feel for her.

Everything I Never Told You is simultaneously a fantastically phenomenal book filled with gorgeous, thoughtful prose and clever, cutting comments; and an imperative example of what is truly heart-breaking. I whole-heartedly recommend this to everyone.

Reviewed by jv poore, October 2015.

Book Reviews: Cop Town by Karin Slaughter, The Thieves of Legend by Richard Doetsch, and Cabin Fever by James M. Jackson

Cop TownCop Town
Karin Slaughter
Delacorte Press, June 2014
ISBN No. 978-0-345-54749-1
Hardcover

Kate Murphy is a young widow from a well-to-do family. Her husband was killed in the service and Kate has made the decision to join the Atlanta Police Force. Her first day on the job leaves her wondering if she has made an error in judgment and needs to rethink her decision.

Nothing is easy on the first day. The legs on her uniform are too long; her cap is too big and falls down in her face and her shoes fall off with every step. It seems the Atlanta PD could care less if the uniform fits the female officers. The male officers enjoy painting a penis on the women’s bathrooms and the colored women police officers have a separate dressing room divided by a curtain.

The Atlanta PD is full of racism and very few new officers, particularly women, meet the criteria necessary to gain respect. Kate is partnered with Maggie Lawson. Maggie has a brother and an uncle on the force, neither of which treat Maggie with much respect. Maggie tries to give Kate a few tips as far as work is concerned but neither woman feel their partnership will be a success.

Immediately the pair are thrown into the investigation of the death of another police officer. Maggie’s brother, Jimmy Lawson, was partnered with the officer killed and managed to carry him all the way to the hospital even though he was also hurt.

It is suspected that a criminal called “The Shooter” is the one killing the officers. Each time a cop is killed the situation seems to have been set up in the same way. Maggie and Kate hook up with a black police officer, Gail Patterson, who agrees to help them locate a pimp that Maggie feels has some information they can use. The three get the information but more trouble than they signed up for.

Cop Town is an exciting book that is difficult to put down. I’ve read all of Karin Slaughter‘s novels and she has long been one of my favorite authors. This novel is a standalone but I am hoping that I might be reading more about Maggie and Kate in the future.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, July 2014.

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The Thieves of LegendThe Thieves of Legend
Richard Doetsch
Atria Books, November 2012

ISBN978-1-4165-9898-5
Hardcover

Master thief Michael St. Pierre is blackmailed into stealing an ancient artifact hidden several stories beneath the royal palace in the heart of the Forbidden City. His ex-girlfriend, KC Ryan, also a master thief, is under the same duress to steal a second part of the artifact located in a different area of China.

Michael has five days before the U.S. Army Colonel behind the blackmail says he’ll kill KC.  KC has the same kind of deal with the female assassin set to guard her. Michael’s and KC’s lives depend on each being successful. Meanwhile they’ll need to contend not only with Chinese Triads, but with more than one madman. Fortunately, Michael has a couple good friends willing to do almost anything the help protect him and KC, and prevent the artifact from falling into the wrong hands.

Lots of violence here, and just when you think one of the bad guys has been eliminated, he pops up again like an unkillable weed.

The well-developed characters are brilliant, as Michael and his friends, Simon and Busch, as well as KC prove as they work through a convoluted puzzle. They’re also goodlooking, and tremendously athletic.

The action is non-stop, the plotting clever with a delicious mystery at the center. The setting moves from country to country, from land to sea, and the tension never ceases to ramp up.

Mr. Doetsch, who states he loves research, has included a historical character, a certain Zheng He, in the story, which adds a nice touch and whets one’s appetite to learn more about him.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, May 2014.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder.

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Cabin FeverCabin Fever 
A Seamus McCree Mystery
James M. Jackson
Barking Rain Press, April 2014
ISBN:978-1-935460-90-9
Trade Paperback

Several terrific and unusual characters. An unusual and intriguing plot line. A not-so-popular worthwhile setting. Smart dialogue. Those are all the good elements of this novel which features one of the most cranky and short-tempered protagonists this reviewer has ever encountered. Seamus McCree is a brilliant financial forensic analyst. He works for a non-profit that offers security and financial crimes examinations to banks and similar institutions.

He’s spending time recuperating from his last violent encounter in the cold winter woods of the Michigan Upper Peninsula. It gets really cold up there. It’s about -40 when he discovers a naked woman half-frozen on the unheated porch of his cabin. Nursing her away from death begins to reveal an intriguing plot.

Now we get to the questionable and not-so-good parts. Everybody in the book speaks sometimes from their personal point of view. That includes the author-narrator. That can be confusing at times. And it sometimes takes the narrative off on wandering paths through tangled underbrush and that slows the pace when we need a little more push, not less.

Then there is the formatting. Traditional rules of formatting say you either indent paragraphs or you insert a blank line between them, but not both. Moreover, in fiction, readers expect indents, not spaces. I suggest, if readers let that and some other formatting anomalies bother them, they’ll miss an enjoyable reading experience. Generally well-written, there are some logical lapses that made me grind my teeth. In the aggregate however, in spite of a lot of murders, I found that my time reading Cabin Fever was worthwhile.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, August 2014.
Author of Red Sky, Devils Island, Hard Cheese, Reunion.