June 8th, 2016


Books #29-30

Book #29 was "House of Sand and Fog" by Andre Dubus III. This novel is about three lives colliding. Kathy Lazaro is a recovering drug addict whose house is auctioned off from under her due to a clerical error. The man who buys her house, Colonel Behrani, is an Iranian-American military man who fled Iran after the Shah was deposed and all his cronies were attacked and many killed. And Lester Burdon is the sheriff's deputy who helps Kathy move out of her house and becomes her white knight. All three are trying to do what's right, but each one has a flaw that means this situation will not be resolved without violence. I've seen a reviewer refer to it as a "Greek tragedy," and it definitely has a timeless, classical quality to it. It's very sad, but wonderfully written. I want to read more by Dubus now.

Book #30 was "Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes" by Maria Konnikova. This book combines two interests of mine: cognitive science and Sherlock Holmes, so how could I not love it? Konnikova talks about brain science and how to master critical thinking skills, using quotes and cases from Sherlock Holmes to illustrate the ideas and exericises. There were only a few ideas that were totally new to me, but I like the way she put the book together. I also think a lot about cognitive error and biases and how to counteract them, and there's lots of good advice about that in this book. Highly recommended!

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book collector

book 55

A Dangerous Place (Maisie Dobbs, #11)A Dangerous Place by Jacqueline Winspear

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This was hard to review because writing wise it's a solid three but the beginning and ending are complete ones, they might even go into the negative stars. I rarely spoil things in a review but this one will be spoilery.

Well for the first chapter at any rate. What this looks like is Winspear realized that if Maisie was Lady Compton, James's wife, she couldn't easily keep her job as an investigator. Frankly that would have been a great place to just end the series and start something new. But no, instead, Maisie loses another love when James dies testing military aircraft and for some reason we never learn her baby dies inside her (well to be fair they probably wouldn't have known why) and has to be cut out of her. We spend literally every chapter hearing about her pain. To be fair, someone suffering these sorts of losses would be eaten up by them but on the written page it becomes redundant and dreary. But that's not the worst of it. No, we never get to SEE Maisie being Lady Margaret Compton and expectant mother. We learn about it from a distance via telegrams and letters so we're never invested in her loss or why she's hiding from her family and friends even in the light of her father's new wife saying you might want to come home, Frankie is getting ill.

So Maisie is slowly working her way back to England and is in Gibraltar in spite of the civil war not far off in Spain. A giant chunk of the action is tied up this civil war, the rise of Franco, Hitler and Communism and being so political was a turn off for me as it's just not my interest.

Maisie stumbled across the dead body of a Jewish photographer, Sebastian Babayoff, and is determined to prove that it wasn't a refugee who killed him for a few coins. His sisters want answers but are hiding things like Babayoff's Communist ties. Maisie learns she's being watched by the British Secret Service as well.

The mystery isn't bad intercut with her tragedy (she never seems to eat more than a piece of bread and soup all day every day) and her teetering on the edge of becoming a morphine addict and a smoker to hide her pain.

And here's the final spoiler and it is for the ending so you might want to look away because I feel I have to say something. Not the name of the killer.

No, it's that the killer gets away AGAIN. This is the second Maisie Dobbs mystery that has ended in the killer being untouchable due to politics and that's two times too many. I think most mystery lovers want to see justice at the end, not just know who did it. To have this bell rung a second time felt like the beginning of this novel did: a complete cheat. I'm debating if I'll get the next one out of the library or not.

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