Tuesday, January 31, 2023

My Father's House

My Father's House by Joseph O'Connor
1/31/23; 440 pages
Europa Editions
The Rome Escape Line #1

My Father's House by Joseph O'Connor is a very highly recommended historical novel and literary thriller set in Vatican City during WWII and based on the true story of Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty

Vatican City is the smallest, neutral, independent sovereign country in the world, occupying one fifth of a square mile within Rome. Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty and seven associates who refer to themselves as "the Choir" risked their lives to smuggle thousands of Jews and escaped Allied prisoners out of Italy under the Gestapo boss in charge of the area, Obersturmbannf├╝hrer Paul Hauptmann.

In September 1943 German forces moved in to occupy Rome. The only safe place to hide would be in Vatican City. Hiding people in various areas and exercising extreme caution, the Choir used aliases and forged IDs. They referred to the people they had hidden as "books" and hiding places as "shelves." Like a thriller, the subterfuge they had to use and the threat of danger is ever present, only the heroes here are doing so out of love and faith.

The writing is exceptional and the characters, who vary widely, are all brought to life as realistic individuals. They are not perfect people, but they are all willing to risk their lives to save others. Hauptmann is a seriously ruthless adversary who knows people are being smuggled out and escaping. O'Connor's prose is wonderfully descriptive and detailed, bringing the setting and the characters to life. The emotional impact of this novel is also ever present.

Chapters tell the story about what happened in 1943, but the details are told through the various points-of-view of members of the choir twenty years later. This allows them to also to share their personal reflections about what happened. My Father's House is the first book in a new trilogy.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of the publisher via Edelweiss.

Monday, January 30, 2023

The Drift

The Drift by C. J. Tudor
1/31/23; 352 pages
Random House

The Drift by C. J. Tudor is a highly recommended post apocalyptic thriller told through three storylines. The setting is during a world wide plague. The survivors in the novel are all in the midst of a raging snow storm while heading to or at the Retreat, a mountain top medical facility where survivors can assist in working on a cure or hiding from the Whistlers.

Hannah, a medical student, is trapped with a handful of survivors in a coach/bus that has crashed off the road. Meg, a former police officer, is trapped along with others in a cable car stranded high above the ground of the mountainside. Carter in in the ski chalet known as the Retreat where the generator has issues and he doesn't trust anyone who is there with him. The identities, secrets, and problems surrounding these individuals are all part of a larger puzzle. It is a sort of locked room mystery with three different rooms in a much larger maze.

The narrative switches between the three different settings/storylines. Along with the struggle for survival among the three groups, the impending sense of fear and doom is found in the harsh weather conditions, the deadly virus that some may be infected with, and the feeling of wariness and mistrust as it becomes increasingly clear that someone may not want them to survive. The Drift is certainly a post apocalyptic thriller, but it is also a mystery because you don't know the full picture of what is happening.

The dialogue between characters is great and the action and intrigue in the three storylines is compelling as the tension and pressure increases in the three situations. There are a lot of characters to keep track of among the three groups of people, which was a draw-back and slowed down my reading in the beginning while I was trying to keep everyone straight. The denouement surprised me.  

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Random House via NetGalley.

Friday, January 27, 2023

Exiles

Exiles by Jane Harper
1/31/23; 368 pages
Flatiron Books
Aaron Falk #3

Exiles by Jane Harper is the very highly recommended procedural and the third installment of the series featuring Aaron Faulk.

Set in Southern Australian wine country, Australian Federal Investigator Aaron Falk is going to the christening of a friend's baby and the festival on the weekend that marks the one year anniversary of Kim Gillespie's disappearance at the town of Marralee's food and wine festival. Thirty-nine-year-old Kim had tucked her five-week-old sleeping baby into her stroller and then vanished into the festival crowd, never to be seen again.

Now, a year later, Kim's older teenage daughter, Zara, and Falk's friend Greg Raco have asked him to look into the case as they ask anyone at this year's festival with more information to come forward. As he looks into the case, questions begin to emerge. What happened to Kim Gilles? What would make a mother abandon her child?

Exiles is an excellent addition to the procedural series, following The Dry and Force of Nature. Although you can read them as stand-alone novels, they are better read as part of the series. The novel sets an atmospheric, thoughtful, deliberate pace as both the setting and the investigation are carefully explored. There are plenty of suspects and motives within the narrative as the secrets and evidence is disclosed. The narrative unfolds in three timelines: a year previously, a week in the present, and three years in the future.

Harper is an exceptional writer and pays equal attention to the development of her characters as she does to the investigational part of the procedural. The characters are all fully realized, complex individuals, with established backstories. Falk is the narrator of almost all of the novel, which gives his character by far the most depth and complexity.  His voice is already the main focal point of the narrative.

There is actually more than one mystery that begs to be solved in Exiles. Clues are present as the narrative unfolds and careful readers will appreciate the challenge and the presentation. This is an excellent third novel in the series and rumor has it the final Aaron Falk. This is an excellent ending to the series if that is the case.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Flatiron Books via NetGalley

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

The Family Reunion

The Family Reunion by Karen King
1/23/23; 320 pages
Bookouture

The Family Reunion by Karen King is a highly recommended domestic drama.

Mary's husband Paul passed away after 38 years of marriage and she misses him every day, but she also never told him her guilty, shameful secret. When she was barely 16 she gave birth to a daughter she named Hope. Knowing her father would never permit her to keep the baby, she gave birth alone and then abandoned Hope wrapped in a yellow blanket with a note. She hid nearby to make sure Hope was quickly found, but has regretted her decision for 45 years. Now she has decided to find Hope and introduce her to her two children with Paul, Joanne and Jason.

When she actually finds Hope, the two confirm they are related through a DNA test. Mary learns her first born daughter's name is Cathy and the two immediately begin to form a relationship. Mary is thrilled to share time with her oldest daughter and hopes Joanne and Jason will accept her. When they all meet, however, the tension is palpable. It seems that Joanne and Jason are concerned that Cathy's motives for the relationship may be to take advantage of Mary financially. And then strange things begin to happen...

After a very intriguing opening which foreshadows problems to come, the pace of The Family Reunion slows down while setting all the pieces of the plot into place. The direction the plot takes will increasingly hold your attention after every chapter. The narrative is told through the points-of-view of Mary, Cathy, and Alison, Jason's wife. Joanne and Jason are truly disagreeable characters. At time you will fear that Mary is too trusting and naive. Cathy seems sincere and helpful, but we also know that she has a few secrets of her own.

King does a commendable job placing suspicion on everyone as well as throwing a few red herrings into the plot to keep you guessing. There is a whole lot of secrets, deception, gaslighting going on in the plot, which does make the story compelling. And then, of course, the foreshadowing in the opening of a dark turn in the plot will keep you reading to see who this man is and why he was after Mary. There are several shocking twists and turns in the narrative, but the twist at the ending is totally unpredictable and surprising.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Bookouture via NetGalley.

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

The Devil's Ransom

The Devil's Ransom by Brad Taylor
1/24/23; 432 pages
HarperCollins
Pike Logan Series #17

The Devil's Ransom by Brad Taylor is a very highly recommended action packed thriller and the 17th novel in the Pike Logan Series.

Afghanistan has fallen and Pike and Jennifer learn about it while on a routine cover development trip to Tajikistan. They need to help Jahn Azimi, who is on the run from the Taliban as well as extract Ahmad Khan, an Afghan government official who helped Azimi flee Kabul along with the Bactrian Treasure, a priceless trunk of valuables that they liberated before their escape. Complications arise when every other entity in the Taskforce is hit with a ransomware attack and it appears to be tied to the Taliban. And this is only the beginning of the much larger problem and complicated action.

The quality of the writing is excellent and the action is truly non-stop in The Devil's Ransom. The plot is an intricate tangle of deceit, danger, and nefarious plans that Pike and his team must stop. The action along with the twists and new revelations in the plot moves along swiftly and will hold your attention throughout the entire novel. Pike and his team are quickly going from one mission to another in the swiftly moving, intricate, and changing novel. As you are reading keep track of who is who and where they all are and you will be fine.

Since this is the seventeenth novel in the Pike Logan series, the characters are complex and fully realized individuals. Readers new to the series might not have some of the nuance about the characters, but they will still be able to enjoy the novel. Enough backstory and information is provided to keep all readers up to speed. All the characters are distinct and great individuals. Action/Adventure/Espionage/Thriller readers won't want to miss this one.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of HarperCollins via Edelweiss.

Sunday, January 22, 2023

In the Garden of the Righteous

In the Garden of the Righteous by Richard Hurowitz
1/24/23; 480 pages
HarperCollins

In the Garden of the Righteous: The Heroes Who Risked Their Lives to Save Jews During the Holocaust by Richard Hurowitz is a very highly recommended historical account and tribute of ten individuals who risked their lives to save others during the Holocaust. Because they chose to put their personal safety at risk to rescue others during a time of overwhelming danger, their extraordinary actions and deeds were recalled by those they saved and they were all honored as the Righteous Among the Nations at the Yad Vashem complex on Jerusalem’s Mount of Remembrance.

Many know the stories of Raoul Wallenberg and Oskar Schindler who risked their lives to save Jewish people. Hurowitz presents the background and actions of ten lesser known individuals who demonstrated great strength of character, determination, and compassion while doing the right thing when their actions could result in their demise too. The ten righteous people covered include: the Portuguese diplomat Aristides de Sousa Mendes; Princess Alice of Battenberg in Greece; Gino Bartali, an Italian tour de France winner; the Japanese vice counsel/spy in Kovno, Lithuania Chinue Sugihara; circus ringmaster Adolf Althoff and his wife Maria; Georg Ferdinand Duckwitz a German Foreign minister in Copenhagen and the entire population of Denmark; Polish social worker Irena Sendler; Hiram Bingham IV (Harry), vice counsel at the consulate in Marseille; protestant pastor Andre Trocme in the French village of Le Chambon sur Lignon in the d├ępartement of Haute-Loire.

The well-written and researched accounts of these individuals and those who assisted them are all compelling and include their backgrounds, details of their extraordinary actions, and the aftermath of their actions. Hurowitz’s research also reveals the rescuers’ greatly varied motivations and examines the common traits among these individuals that encouraged them to do the right thing. Since the historical accounts are detailed and cover a wide variety of areas across many countries, this is a history that requires careful reading to follow who is where and what is occurring there. In the Garden of the Righteous by Richard Hurowitz is an excellent biography of ten people who are  the Righteous Among the Nations.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of HarperCollins via Edelweiss.

Friday, January 20, 2023

Don't Open the Door

Don't Open the Door by Allison Brennan
1/24/23; 384 pages
MIRA Books
Regan Merritt #2

Don't Open the Door by Allison Brennan is a very highly recommended mystery/thriller/procedural and the second book in the series featuring Regan Merritt.

Regan Merritt has left the US Marshals and her ex-husband, Grant after the murder of their ten-year-old son, Chase, and moved to Arizona. When her former boss, US Marshal Tommy Granger, is shot and killed after contacting her claiming he had new information about Chase’s murder, Regan returns to Virginia. She plans to investigate what happened to Tommy and what new information he had uncovered in his investigation into Chase's murder. As Regan begins to look into what happened and tries to meet with Grant, it becomes clear quite quickly that there is a whole lot more going on and someone wants to stop any questions or additional investigations into.

Don't Open the Door  is a wonderfully written complicated mystery/thriller/ procedural that will quickly pull you into the plot and hold your attention throughout. Although it is the second novel featuring Regan Merritt, the first is The Sorority Murder, I feel that it can work as a standalone. There is enough background information to bring readers up to speed quickly. (You might want to read it, however, because it is a very good novel.)

Regan is a fully realized character and you will support her in her search for truth and justice. It is unimaginable to have to deal with the murder of a child, but as Regan discovers more information and it seems that there are insiders involved, she isn't sure who she can trust. Her level-headed reaction to information is a perfect character trait. The FBI's involvement makes it worse and more complicated. There are numerous characters but they are all easy to keep track of within the context of the narrative.

The pace is quick throughout with short chapters to keep things moving as the twists keep coming in the developing investigation. The plot is riveting; full of twists, danger, suspense, and surprising information. Regan is a great character as she takes information in and processes what it means. Don't Open the Door is a novel you won't want to miss.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of MIRA.