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Books 103-105 Three Thrillers

All of these books form part of series that I've been reading.

Book 103: The Secret Speech
Author: Tom Rob Smith, 2009
Genre: Thriller. Historical. 1950s Russia.
Other Details: Hardback. 453 pages

Three years have passed since the events of Child 44 (my 2009 Book 55) and continues to detail the life of former MGB officer, Leo Demidov. I won't say too much about the plot to avoid spoilers for the first book.

Smith again has based his story around real events, this time the lead-up to the 1956 uprising in Hungary. The title refers to a secret speech made by Nikita Khrushchev in a bid to distance the new regime from the violence of Stalin's era. In the fall-out from Khrushchev's speech (supposedly secret but swiftly leaked throughout the country), many of Stalin's former henchmen suddenly feel dangerously exposed. Smith inserts Leo Demidov into these historical events as he also needs to come to terms with his activities while working for the MGB and deal with someone from his past determined to extract revenge for one betrayal.

Smith again delivers a gripping thriller that evokes a strong sense of the period. There is quite a lot of action in the plot and it really was impossible to put down.

Book 104: This Night's Foul Work
Author: Fred Vargas, 2006. Translated from the French by Sian Reynolds, 2008
Genre: Police Procedural. French.
Other Details: Hardback. 416 pages.

This is the fifth in the series of Commissaire Adamsberg mysteries and was the winner of the Duncan Lawrie International Dagger for best translated crime novel of the year .

This volume take place a few weeks after the events chronicled in Wash This Blood Clean From My Hands (my 2009 Book 60) and though some background is given, the character development works best if the books are read in sequence. Adamsberg has just bought a new house, which has the added bonus of "seven corpses in the garden and a ghost with a face like a walnut". Two people from Adamsberg's past appear on the scene. Acting pathologist, Ariane Lagarde is someone with whom Adamsberg clashed early in his career when he had questioned her findings linked to a possible suicide. The other is a new member of his team, who hails from a neighbouring village to the one where Adamsberg lived as a boy.

Two suspicious deaths lead to a strange and convoluted case involving the disturbed graves of virgins and the death of stags. There is also a brilliant cat in this book, Snowball, who emerges as a major asset to the Serious Crime Squad. As I've said before Vargas' books are not going to be to everyone's taste because of their Gallic sensibilities and eccentric characters. For me though all of her books have been winners.

Book 105: Doctor No (James Bond No 6)
Author: Ian Fleming, 1958.
Genre: Spy Fiction.
Other Details: Penguin Edition with Introduction by Simon Winder. 320 pages.

After the events in From Russia with Love, Bond is sent on a rest cure to Jamaica coupled with a simple assignment to investigate the disappearance the local Secret Service Station Head. The Governor of Jamaica believes that he has run off with his Secretary but the reader knows that both met a more sinister fate. Once on the island, Bond soon tangles with the minions of the sinister Doctor No, who owns a small island off the coast named Crab Key. On an investigative trip to the island with his friend, Quarrel, Bond meets the beautiful shell hunter Honeychilde Rider and they soon become the guests of Doctor No..

Again this is a sharply written spy novel and very much of its period. It was the first of the Bond books to be filmed in the early 1960s.
Tags: award winner, historical fiction, police drama, thriller, translation
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