Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Decision at Delphi by Helen MacInnes

I really like Helen MacInnes. She wrote political suspense novels--all with that element of romantic adventure (a la Mary Stewart) that I love.

One sentence summary: Architect/Journalist Ken Strang travels to Greece for a series of articles he's working on but gets embroiled in a nihilistic terrorist plot, escape from which becomes complicated when he falls in love with his beautiful, intelligent and oh so vulnerable photographer, Cecilia Hilliard.

Yeah, that about covers it. I've actually read better ones from Helen MacInnes, but as far as I have discovered, none of her novels is bad. I particularly enjoy the fact that these novels are all written 50 or so years ago--I love "vintage" books. Love them. Hers are generally post WWII, but I also really enjoy E. Phillip Oppenheimer who writes WWI political thrillers. They are less gritty than modern thrillers, but just as gripping. If you appreciate the un-gory, the un-profane, the un-sexually'll enjoy Helen MacInnes like I do.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Wings of the Falcon by Barbara Michaels

Okay, I admit it, I'm a sucker for a gothic adventure/romance. When I was a teenager, my sister and I gobbled up Victoria Holts and Mary Stewarts (I still love Mary Stewart), with the occasional Barbara Cartland thrown in (not so gothic, but often hilariously melodramatic).

And I have long enjoyed Elizabeth Peters. She writes romantic adventures AND the Amelia Peabody series, all books that I have gobbled up and regularly re-read. I vaguely knew she wrote under the pseudonym Barbara Michaels but I don't remember if I've read any of those.... Well, what I didn't realize was that these ones are the gothic-type adventure/romances that I have loved since forever (many have supernatural elements as well)! And I think this one might be the first of hers that I've read. It won't be the last, of course.

One sentence summary: 17-year-old Englishwoman Francesca is left alone and unprotected after the death of her father and must travel to join the unknown (to her) and powerful Italian family of her late mother. Hold on, I can't do this in one sentence. In Italy, Francesca becomes sympathetic to the efforts of the heroic "falcon" and his followers to unite Italy and free the downtrodden from the absolute rule of the local despots. Sounds kind of "Zorro", doesn't it? It reads that way, too.

In any case, it's a historical lesson and an exciting story and we get caught up in Francesca's dangers and passions and adventures. I really enjoyed it and think that I must add all the Barbara Michaels books to my already groaning book shelves. Yay!

The Angel and the Jabberwocky Murders by Mignon F. Ballard

What a charming book this was! It's another mystery, this time set in the fictional small town of Stone's Throw, South Carolina.

My one sentence summary: Our heroine, 50-something Lucy Nan Pilgrim and her guardian angel, Augusta, uncover a connection between the deaths of several young women at the local college. Can they figure out who the murderer is before another girl is killed?

I usually dislike amateur detectives--they seem unnaturally snoopy and get themselves in all sorts of odd situations. But I really liked Lucy Nan. Her pursuit of information seemed very like ordinary curiosity. I expected more "magical" input from the angel Augusta, but she spent most of her time dispensing calming advice and cooking and cleaning. I guess that's maybe what many women would wish for in a guardian angel? Many of the recipes that Augusta uses are included in the book, by the way.

In any case, this southern mystery was interesting and engaging and I liked all the characters very much (even the murderer was likeable!). I'll be looking out for more books by Mignon Ballard.

Blood from a Stone by Donna Leon

I'm back! After a month or two of moving stress, I am back into my regular reading routines (I hope!). I started out by visiting my new local library and checking out a few mysteries.

This one is a police procedural, set in Venice, Italy and stars Commissario Guido Brunetti, an honest, hard-working Venetian police officer.

You know I dislike summarizing, so here's my one sentence summary: Commissario Brunetti encounters widespread governmental corruption as he investigates the death of an illegal African vendor.

This was an entertaining mystery--I really like police procedurals--with a slightly unresolved ending. I felt frustrated by the corruption at all levels of government that our main character was stymied by.

There was no sex nor bad language in the book. I enjoyed the family life of Guido Brunetti. Altogether, I enjoyed the book but didn't like it enough to seek out others in the series.