Category Archives: Books – 4.5 stars

Harlan Coben – Tell No One

Intense, fast-paced thriller about David Beck, a doctor who receives a mysterious email message from his wife Elizabeth…who was murdered eight years ago. His life is thrown into disarray as he struggles to gain a new understanding of what really happened at that crucial incident so long ago. His friends have fragments of the story, but they are all too scared to talk. Now that Beck realises Elizabeth may still be alive, he is determined to put the pieces together at any cost. He will not lose her a second time. Coben keeps the tension screwed up to the max throughout the whole book, twisting and turning all the time. A beautifully constructed page-turner.

Dennis Lehane – A Drink Before The War

This is the first of Dennis Lehane’s Kenzie and Gennaro detective series, and it’s amazingly good. Patrick Kenzie is hired by a trio of politician friends of his father’s to retrieve some documents that a cleaning woman stole from one of their offices. When he and Angie Gennaro track down the woman, they discover that the politicians aren’t the only ones looking for her, and that their motives for retrieving the documents are less than pure. The woman is murdered, and in the wake of this killing, Kenzie and Gennaro find themselves cast into the middle of a gang war spilling out into the streets of Boston. Patrick Kenzie is a strong, well-drawn character, and Angie Gennaro provides an complex foil for his self-destructive impulses. The book is filled with dark wit and gritty observations on race, class, and corruption. It’s both tense and thoughtful, and makes for a seriously gripping read.

Iain Banks – Raw Spirit

This is Iain Banks’s first non-fiction book, and he has done a brilliant job of it. It’s a pretty natural fit for him to write a book about scotch malt whisky, but although the goal of the book is nominally to find the “perfect dram”, he writes as much about his love of driving around Scotland as he does about whisky itself. If you’ve ever heard Banks speak, or hung out with him in a bar, you’ll recognize his voice in this narrative. It’s similar to the style of his novels, but much more relaxed and free-flowing. His last few novels have felt a little bit jaded and tired; Raw Spirit is fresh again. As well as bagging every single malt whisky distillery in Scotland in a variety of interesting cars, he rolls out bundles of anecdotes and rambles about whatever crosses his path in the course of his “research.” Raw Spirit is a funny, informative, and totally delightful read.

Harlan Coben – Fade Away

Ten years ago, just as he was about to turn pro, Myron Bolitar’s knee was wrecked in an accident on the basketball court. Despite extensive therapy, he never recovered enough to play at that level again. But now Clip Arnstein, owner of the championship-winning New Jersey Dragons, wants Myron to join the team. The real reson he want to sign Myron is not because he wants him to play, but because Greg Downing, one of the Dragons’ star players, has gone missing and he wants Myron to find him. Ten years ago, Greg and Myron were personal and professional arch rivals, and Arnstein hopes that being on the team will give Myron a better opportunity to track Greg down.

In the first two Myron Bolitar novels, Deal Breaker and Drop Shot, Coben only played about with Myron’s injury. We found out how it had changed the course of his life, turning him towards law school and a career as a sports agent. But it was mostly background colour, illustrating Myron’s history in sports, rather than pivotal plot information. In Fade Away, Myron confronts anew all of the issues he thought he had buried ten years ago. As the the missing person mystery progresses, he and his friends have to deal with the emotional turmoil that arises from the glimmer of hope that he might be able to play again. And eventually, they come to realize that the two halves of the story are more deeply and painfully connected than any of them had suspected.

Harlan Coben – Drop Shot

In Drop Shot, Myron Bolitar’s superstar tennis client, Duane Richwood, is playing in the early rounds of the US Open when Valerie Simpson, a former child tennis star, is shot dead. Valerie had approached Myron about being her agent while she staged her comeback. When the police start questioning Duane about his involvement, Myron digs deeper into the case, and soon finds out that all the threads lead back to the murder of a US Senator’s son six years earlier. A murder that no-one wants to see investigated again… Another cracking mystery from Harlan Coben.

Harlan Coben – Deal Breaker

Myron Bolitar: former pro-basketball star, lawyer and sports agent, with a history that also involves a certain amount of work for the FBI. How can you not love a character like that? Add in his friend and business partner, Windsor Horne Lockwood III, part East-Coast American upper-class snob, part martial arts genius with a brutal sociopathic streak, and you have a detective pairing that’s right up there with Spenser and Hawk, and Elvis Cole and Joe Pike. Throw in a story about young football star whose missing (presumed dead) ex-fiancée shows up in the back of a porn magazine, and you get a delicious mystery covering corruption, blackmail, and murder. Coben’s writing is both humorous and sympathetic. He weaves a satisfyingly twisty plot, and resolves it neatly at the end. This is the first book of his I’ve read, and I’m eagerly looking forward to many more.

James Bamford – Body Of Secrets

Although the writing is dry in places (especially at the start), this is a fascinating insight into the NSA and signals intelligence. The book doesn’t go into details about how the NSA breaks codes; recent years have seen plenty of books on codebreaking. Instead it focuses on the history of the NSA, the tough, dangerous, yet often tediously boring job of signals operators in the field, and the role that electronic intelligence gathering has played since the Second World War. But as well as notes of historical interest, Bamford has dug up an astonishing amount of inside information about incidents that security agencies and politicians would prefer stayed buried. His desciptions of incidents surrounding the lead-up to the Cuban missile crisis, and the Korean and Vietnam wars are eye-opening. He digs deeply into the question of who knew what and when, and comes up with some shocking answers. Definitely a must-read.

Neil Gaiman – Coraline

Coraline is a young girl who lives with her parents in a big house. Downstairs live two elderly actresses, and upstairs lives a crazy old man who trains mice. But the adjacent flat is empty. Or is it? One day Coraline opens the door between the two flats, and finds her “other mother” waiting for her. Even in this short a space (it’s a novella, really), Gaiman crafts a beautiful, creepy tale with all his trademark depth and imagination. Wonderful.

The Thames and Hudson Manual of Typography

An invaluable reference, this book discusses the history of typography and of various font types. It covers issues like composition, paper, and book design, all in easy to understand terminology. We bought it because its companion volume, the Thames and Hudson Manual of Bookbinding, by Arthur W. Johnson, is one of my invaluable bookbinding sources. It does not disappoint.