Monday, May 19, 2014

A Wanted Man by Lee Child

Yup, finally I have begun reading the Jack Reacher books. I have a friend who recommended them to me. I saw the Tom Cruise version of Jack on Netflix one time (little man Tom Cruise as very big man Jack Reacher? Really? Hm.). And I even bought this book at Costco and stuck it on my shelf a few months ago. But now my son has started reading the series and I kinda want to see what he's reading. He's all grown up, so it's not like I gotta check these things out for his protection, but I'm curious... And he'll be flattered that I'm reading what he's reading. Ha.

So, I started with "The Affair" (which I cannot recommend because of the gratuitous sex that it contained), but my son assured me that most Jack Reachers don't have that stuff. I think he's read, like, one or two, so he probably can't really assure me anything about "most" of them, but I thought I'd try another. So I picked up this one from my shelf (I had kind of forgotten it was there!). And it was free of all sex scenes. So there you go.

In this book our Jack, who apparently is capable of vanquishing any bad guy, hitches a ride with the wrong group of people. He gets in the car with 2 friendly men and one quiet woman and gets himself into a very complicated situation. Secrets, adventure, danger....and you know what I mean.

I liked the book. And I'll read more (unless they're more like "The Affair" than they are like this one). I like invincible heroes. I like spy stories. I like cops and robbers, especially when the cops win (unless the robbers are more worthy, of course :D). It was a very engaging book.

Bad language: a sprinkling of cursing--no f-words (which for me are the deal breakers)
Sex: none

It Had To Be You by Susan May Warren

Here's another Christian romance. And, due to my heightened sensitivity to reformed rakes (a la Candice Horn), I can't help but observe that our hero in this story, Jace Jacobsen, is a reformed rake. Yup. There's that element again, and this time in a Christian romance. Of course, in Christian romances, the hero can "find Christ" (and I don't meant to sound cynical here, because I do believe in repentance and God's forgiveness, through the atonement of Christ) and be all cleaned up. As long as he can forgive himself.

Which is our Jace's challenge in this book. He feels trapped by the image that he's inadvertently created for himself. He's a hockey player, a star hockey player--a violent star hockey player. He's an "enforcer", in fact which means (I gathered) that he's a particularly violent hockey player. But his health and his personal peace of mind, his honorable manhood is in danger if he persists in his current lifestyle. Can he really change?

And, by the way, can he hang onto our likeable but self-effacing Eden Christiansen's love? I liked Eden too. She was interesting and had her own misconceptions to overcome.

There are many other characters that have stories to tell in this novel--it's one in a series about the Christiansen family and we get to meet many of their friends along the way. They have their own struggles.

This was an engaging novel with some substantial messages to share. It's clearly a religious book, but not too heavy-handed. It also didn't skate over Christian principles with facile conclusions and catchy sayings. Well, not too many catchy sayings, anyway. Hm. It was not the best, nor the most memorable book I've read, but it was sweet in many ways and I enjoyed reading it.

Bad language: nope
Sex: nope

A Change of Heart by Candice Horn

Sorry about the Amazon image over there. I read this as an ebook and so couldn't easily take my own photo of the cover. So.

I think I like Candice Horn. She writes "clean" Regency romances. Here's the library journal summary of this one: "When the unconventional spinster Lady Mary Haviland offers to help the confirmed rake and libertine Jack Raeburn, Marquess of Pemberton, find a wife, she has no idea that she and her money will soon become the object of his pursuit-with surprising results."

Why are rakes and libertines so stereotypically attractive in Regency romances? Why does the coupling of the innocent woman and the experienced man still persist in appearing as the "ideal" in these so-called clean romances? I did NOT like Jack Raeburn. When he's misunderstood and jilted by his true love, he goes on a harlot binge, a bimbo bender. Really, he just goes to bed with as many women as he can get. YUCK. Who wants a guy like that? He's not just used, he's practically used up. Ew. He was a user from top to bottom and yet he was our hero, the match to our damaged and love-starved heroine. Sigh. Not my idea of romance.

It was an engaging book with a thoroughly soiled male protagonist. I guess I can swallow a less tarnished reformed rake from time to time (what Regency hero isn't a reformed rake? I'm going to start noticing this a little more often), but I couldn't fall in love with our Jack. Ick.

Oh, I'll read more Candice Horn. Perhaps I should stay away from the "The Regency Rakes Trilogy", though. I'm not sure this one could really qualify as "clean".

Bad language: nope
Sex: Well, yes. Lots and lots. But absolutely no titillating descriptions, no sex scenes really. We were told about Jack's behavior, not shown it. I felt bad for all the females that Jack burned through. It just felt so ugly.

Havoc by J. Phillips Oppenheim

E. Phillips Oppenheim, another of my favorite classic suspense novelists. I'm sure I've mentioned before that all of his novels (or at least many of them) can be obtained for free electronically--they're part of the Gutenburg project. He's prolific; he's written over 100 novels (and not all of them suspense, either). I spent about 5 minutes the other day downloading about 15 of his novels, so I'll  be making my way through all of them.

The main action in this book takes place in London and involves the frantic pursuit of a document that will certainly start a war. Critical alliances must be made, and only this document will make them possible. Our hero, Bellamy, (King's spy) and his lady friend, the divine Louise, involve themselves in intrigue and deception to rescue this document. On the other hand, our everyman, brave Laverick, finds himself accidentally involved, and will aquit himself with honor, we hope. And survive it all too, we hope. Romance, adventure, danger, international's all here. I love E. Phillips Oppenheim.

Bad language: nope
Sex: nope

Cover Her Face by P.D. James

Another P.D. James. I'm pretty sure I've read this one before, too. I was checking out a bunch from the library at one time and I'm sure this was among them. P.D. James is pretty memorable. Of course, this IS me we're talking about, so I didn't remember who the killer was. One of the lovely side benefits of an iffy memory: you can read the same mysteries over and over and still feel surprised at the endings (given enough time between readings, of course. I'm not totally without a brain). Ha.

This one starred the unpleasant, lovely and secretive Sally Jupp who, from the beginning of the book, you know is gonna get herself killed. Poor, crafty Sally. She really shouldn't have. Adam Dagliesh is in charge of finding her killer and he will. He always does. Darn it.

This was in the classic style of P.D. James. I've already gone on about her in my earlier blog about Devices and Desires, so I won't add to that. It was a good book. I enjoyed it.

Bad language: none or very little
Sex: nope

Assignment in Brittany by Helen MacInnes

Here's the teaser from the back of the book:

"Hearne looked at the man in the hospital bed and saw himself....Even Matthews, his commanding officer, had been fooled by the Frenchman's resemblance to Hearne. But once Matthews knew the truth, he decided to make good use of it. So Martin Hearne would become Bertrand Corlay, right down to the birthmark and the missing tooth. Then he would go 'home' to Brittany--and try to stay alive long enough to win the desperate game he was about to play."

We can add: "....and get the girl." Because there's always an aspect of romance in a MacInnes political thriller. Which I really like.

I didn't like this book as well as I like some others of Helen MacInnes'. For one thing, the premise made me on edge to begin with--going into a dangerous situation almost totally blind. From the very beginning of Hearne's stay in Brittany it became clear that there were big and important things that he didn't know about Corlay, things that could all too easily become fatal for our hero. I was waiting for the other shoe to drop through every single chapter. I guess that's what suspense is all about, right? But it made me uncomfortable, so this ended up being a book that I kept on picking up and putting down, until about halfway through when I became so drawn in that I didn't stop until it was all resolved. Oh, and the ending, well, it was a little bit ambivalent. Sigh.

Still, Helen MacInnes is, as you know, one of my very favorites. And I have a big pile of hers waiting for me--all found during my latest used bookstore orgy. I'm looking forward to them all. Of course, you'll be seeing them all too. Soon.

Bad language: none (or if there is any, it's very mild and forgettable)
Sex: none

The Saint Meets His Match by Leslie Charteris

I bought this book in that same kitschy little Boise, Idaho store that I mentioned in my last blog post (I think). I paid far too much for a used book, but I couldn't resist. I have to admit that part of its charm is that it was once the property of the Bibliotheque Municipale de Villepreux and I so enjoy picturing its possible journey from its nascent Great Britain to France. And was it in the "English language" section of that bibliotheque? And how did it get to an obscure little store in Boise Idaho? Anyway, I like The Saint. Mostly.

The Saint is in the best tradition of classic heroes--devil-may-care, attractive, honorable, immortal (can't kill that guy no matter what happens to him), clever, witty....oh, yes. In this book he meets a strong, angry, beautiful girl who is caught up in some bad behavior...but justified bad behavior (if there is such a thing). Can he help her banish her demons? Can he beat the bad guys? Will he romance the girl? Will she be his in the end?

This is a novel length adventure, by the way. And I found it difficult to get into, for some reason. I guess it moved a little bit slowly at first. And, I gotta say, The Saint's clever, flippant, daredevil approach to everything...well, it's easier to enjoy in small doses. I really did enjoy the collection of Saint short stories that I read, but this one was not quite as enjoyable. Still worth reading if you like that kind of thing (and I pretty much do), but not as engaging as many other things that I've read.

Bad language: nope
Sex: nope

Gideon's March by J.J. Marric

I found this book in some little store full of "vintage" kitsch somewhere in Boise Idaho. The shop was stuffed with overpriced junk, mostly, but different things appeal to different people, of course, and I found a few books that I considered a sort of treasure and I'm sure others find their nuggets as well...

But of course when I got home I found that I already had this book, only with a much less interesting cover. Sigh. I need a better portable system of remembering what books I own, since my own built-in portable system (my memory) doesn't seem to be working properly. Fortunately, that faulty memory also allows me to enjoy re-reading books, especially if there are years between readings. Ha. So I read this one again and I didn't remember anything about it. Nice. (And a bit alarming at the same time.)

I really, really like Commander George Gideon. I think he might be my favorite literary policeman. He's stoic, pensive without being maudlin, impressive without being arrogant. He's smart, experienced, a good family man, a considerate boss. I just like him. In this particular series installment, Commander Gideon is put in charge of preparing his force for a summit conference to take place in London. Important statesmen must be protected from possible attacks...and at the same time regular crime investigation must continue to take place. I thoroughly enjoy J.J. Marric's Gideon books.

Bad language: possibly a few mild curse words...but maybe not. I don't remember any.
Sex: nope

Devices and Desires by P.D. James

     I am going through a mystery/suspense phase, I guess. I tend to be a streak reader. If you follow my reviews, you will probably have noticed this.

     P.D. James is one of my favorite mystery authors--you know I especially like police procedurals--but I have to be in the mood to read P.D. James because she's rather dark.

    In this tale, starring Commander Adam Dagliesh, Adam inherits his aunt's windmill and the attached cottage on a sparsely inhabited stretch of Norfolk coastland. He isn't sure what he plans to do with it, but he takes some time off and travels there to stay for awhile, sort through the house and decide what its future will be. Of course, this book is a criminal mystery book, so while Adam is exploring his house, the coast, and getting to know his neighbors, there's a serial killer on the loose. Aaaaand lotsa other stuff going on. Because it's P.D. James and nothing is simple.

     It was a good mystery with lots of diverse elements that all resolved themselves in the end. As usual in a P.D. James book there's at least one perverted sexual relationship, there's plenty of bleak scenery, Adam is pensive and thoughtful and a little conflicted, and there are a series of grisly and tragic murders. Every P.D. James novel is poetic, stark, richly worded (can both of those things be present in the same book?), complex and completely engaging. This was, as usual, an enjoyable read.

Bad language: mild and infrequent
Sex: several characters are having sex outside of marriage and none of it is pretty (or titillating). P.D. James only does sex when it's pitiful or perverted. And not detailed.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

The Coffin Tree by Gwendoline Butler

I'm kinda tired of reviewing Coffin books. So here's my lazy Amazon-contributed summary:

"Two of [John Coffin's] policemen have died in apparent accidents. Coffin, suspicious, dispatches Phoebe Astley, a onetime paramour, to a clothing boutique suspected of laundering money, as part of an undercover operation. Then a charred body found near a strange tree seems to have belonged to the wife of one of Coffin's dead cops. But little is what it seems to be. Phoebe disappears and an unattached head (one item in a large body and body-part count) is sighted floating in the Thames. The frightened woman in charge of the store and the secretive pensioner who labors on artistic artifacts beneath the eerie tree are just two of the many odd souls who inhabit this brooding tale. Butler has fun teasing us with the identities of the dead, and Coffin's actress wife Stella Pinero, who manages to be both likable and thoroughly theatrical at the same time, adds some levity to these dark proceedings."

I liked this book. I really like the relationship between Coffin and his wife Stella. I also liked the explanation of the setting of these books that the author gives us at the beginning of the book. Here's what she said, "One evening in April, 1988, I sat in the Toynbee Hall in the East End of London, near to Docklands, listening to Dr. David Owen (now Lord Owen) give that year's Barnett Memorial Lecture. In it, he suggested the creation of a Second City of London, to be spun off from the first, to aid the economic and social regeneration of the Docklands. The idea fascinated me and I made use of it to create a new world for my detective, John Coffin, to whom I gave the task of keeping the Queen's Peace there." It was so nice to get an explanation about the Second City that we keep hearing about in these books!

Yup. I like the series. Interesting, engaging, entertaining...they're good.

Bad language: don't think so
Sex: nope

The Whisper of Shadows by J.L.H. Whitney

The cover of this book promises "Gothic terror and romantic suspense in the Victoria Holt-Mary Stewart genre--the compelling story of a desperate girl caught in an unholy web of evil."

Ooooh. Sounds promising, doesn't it?

I have a few questions for you, dear reader: When was the last time you found a moody, violent, surly man irresistible? Could you allow yourself to fall in love with a man you suspected of murder or would you (sensibly) run like crazy in the opposite direction? Do you find pain from the man you love just as acceptable as pleasure? When you are warned to stay away from a psychotic killer, do you go to his house when you are pretty darn sure he's not home or do you (sensibly) stay far, far away? When a string of murders take place in the neighborhood you are staying in, do you stay safely in the house or do you go for long walk alone in the surrounding woods?

If you are sympathetic towards a heroine who chooses the risky behaviors optioned in the above questions, then you will identify with our main character in this novel, librarian (unconsciously beautiful librarian, doncha know) Ruth Carson. So dive in and enjoy this book.

As for me, I'm a cautious soul. I found Ruth Carson a bit exasperating. Our author, J.L.H. Whitney, is compared to Victoria Holt and Mary Stewart. Of course, you know that I LOVE Mary Stewart and consider her to be the queen of this genre. I don't think J.L.H. Whitney measures up. I spent a few hours entertained by this story, but I probably won't read J.L.H. Whitney again. 

Bad language: nope
Sex: nope

Agent In Place by Helen MacInnes

I so enjoy these Helen MacInnes novels! This one was written 1976 and chronicles yet another cold war incident (fictional, of course).

Here we meet physically unexceptional (just right for a secret agent, right?), charming, ultra-competent British secret agent Tony Lawton. His friendship with Tom Kelso and his beautiful wife, Thea, both of whom become accidentally involved in a Russian plot against NATO, lead our Tony into an affair that he may not escape from alive. (Did you see how long that sentence was?)

I remained totally engaged in this story despite the fact that it was an account of a relatively small incident. Seems like so many political suspense stories usually involve world domination or destruction or something...but this one is about Russian spies and their attempts to infiltrate NATO. Nothing world-ending about it, but still very interesting. I love Helen MacInnes!

In fact, I am to the accidental-double-buying phase in my collection-building process of all of Helen MacInnes' books. Yup. Much to the delight of my daughter (who gets my accidental doubles), I now have read enough Helen MacInnes to kind of lose track of what I already own. Time to start putting lists on my phone. I keep thinking I'll remember what I've read, but I walk into a used bookstore and my mind goes blank. (Same thing happens to me in grocery stores--when faced with all those choices, I totally forget what I came for). Ha!

Bad language: no
Sex: no

Cracking Open A Coffin by Gwendoline Butler

Wow, that's a teeny, tiny picture. And this is another John Coffin book.

Just for fun, here's Amazon's summary of this one:

"The latest of the accomplished Commander John Coffin mysteries, after Coffin on Murder Street , revolves around the disappearance of two students from the university of the Second City of London. Although Amy Dean and Martin Blackwell have been missing only two days, Coffin, head of Second City police, starts to investigate, impelled by the still unsolved murder of student Virginia Scott the previous year. Amy and Martin's friends are markedly reluctant to offer information, as are the folks at the home for battered women and children where both Amy and Virginia did volunteer work. Not so restrained is Amy's father, former policeman James Dean, who is convinced his daughter is dead and points his finger at Martin. Formerly Coffin's partner, Dean is adept at finding ways to intrude on the investigation. Adding to the pressure on Coffin are anonymous phone messages warning him to "watch your back" and "tidy up your private life"--presumably a reference to his relationship with actress Stella Pinero. Butler deftly integrates the past and present into Coffin's personal and professional lives, portraying him as a pensive character as ready to turn a critical eye on himself as on those whose lives are caught up in the tragedy he hopes to untangle."

I liked this John Coffin offering best of the ones I've written so far. It was a great plot with an unexpected bad guy. And I'm liking our Stella Pinero more and more.

Bad language: I think there were 2 f-bombs in this one (or was it one of the others? I read 4 of them right in a row and some of the details have kind of run together )
Sex: Yes, our John and Stella are definitely sleeping together. No details, no sex scenes.

Why We Get Fat And What To Do About It by Gary Taubes

First, let's just acknowledge that this guy, Gary Taubes, is a journalist, yes, a reporter. Not a doctor. Or a dietician. Or a fat guy. He's a skinny, award-winning health reporter. Just saying.

You will like this book if you subscribe to the idea that carbs are fat-creating, cancer-causing, bad little gremlins that should be avoided at all costs, and that protein, fat and fiber are good things that promote leanness and all-around good health. If you find this to be true, then you will eat this book up (ha ha).

If, on the other hand, you are a proponent of the low-fat, high-carb, all vegetable/fruit, animal-proteins-are-toxic-to-humans idea (a la "The China Study"), you will either hate this book OR you will love to totally disagree with it.

It never fails to amaze me how studies and statistics can be used to "prove"just about any point of view. I guess my current conclusion is that you can't really believe anyone and we're all on our own in figuring out what works best for us. If Mr. Taubes is to be believed, the entire American health system is wrong when they recommend low-fat diets, when they encourage avoidance of red meat and consumption of whole grain bread, crackers, etc. Oh! And when they recommend regular exercise. Wow.

I'm not really feeling quite as cynical about Gary Taubes' conclusions as all that. Actually, I think he's probably right about some things. I read lots of diet books, though, and they're all sure that their conclusions are THE conclusions. It's hard to figure out what the truth really is. And let's remember that science changes its mind from time to time, also. So we are told this and that...sigh.

This was an interesting book. I'm glad I read it. If you're into diet literature, you'll want to add this to the diet soup in your head.

Bad language: none
Sex: nope!

In Spite of Thunder by John Dickson Carr

Another vintage mystery...this one was published in 1960 and stars the celebrated and intelligent Dr. Gideon Fell.

Hoping to prevent a murder, Mr. Ferrier, husband of the beautiful Eve Ferrier, (who could be a murderess herself), calls in Dr. Gideon Fell. Can he prevent the murder Mr. Ferrier fears? Does Eve Ferrier's past have anything to do with the future that her husband fears? And can Dr. Fell's friend Brian Innes keep young Audrey Page from getting in the middle of the whole dangerous situation?

Well, I found this book confusingly convoluted. I also did NOT like Audrey Page, who I think was supposed to be one of the most sympathetic characters in the novel. I found her to be spoiled and irritating, always running off when she was told to stay put and stay out of danger (duh! I've got no patience with heroines who run into danger. Who does that?). Too often the tone of the book seemed a little bit hysterical and, to top it off, I really didn't care for Dr. Gideon Fell. I don't think he inspired confidence. He was so self-effacing that I found myself agreeing with him when he claimed to be scatterbrained. Hm.

I think I've read one or two other John Dickson Carrs, but I do not like his writing style and I think I may be giving him a pass from now on. He's a big name in "the macabre, horror, evil and uncanny deduction" (according to the teaser at the beginning of this book), but his style isn't my favorite.

Bad language: nope
Sex: nope

Coffin on Murder Street by Gwendoline Butler

Another John Coffin police procedural mystery! I'm liking this series.

In this story we have a tour bus that disappears--with all its passengers on board, a mutilated stuffed dog, an elusive child-killer, a child porn ring, an active theater group....and lots more diverse pieces of what comes together as a well-plotted mystery.

John Coffin is an interesting guy. He's a little more of a worrywart than some other of our stoic male detectives (I'm thinking of men like Adam Dagliesh, George Gideon and the like), but I do like him. One of my small complaints about this series is that there is less action than some other police procedurals. This is because John Coffin is really a desk jockey--a high ranking desk jockey, of course (he is, in fact, the man in charge)--so we don't get to be a part of the action as often as we might if our main character were out on the streets actually doing the detecting. Aside from this, I am liking the Coffin series and look forward to reading more.

Bad language: very little, if any
Sex: none--although John and his lady love Stella are probably sleeping together, we get absolutely no scenes or details

Murder Within Murder by Frances and Richard Lockridge

Perhaps you have noted (from earlier entries on this blog) my liking for vintage novels. And my love of used bookstores. Yup. This book is a vintage little nugget from my Idaho used bookstore plunder.

Frances and Richard Lockridge, a husband and wife author team, wrote this long-running couple mystery starring Pam and Jerry North. The Lockridges published the first Pam and Jerry mystery in 1936. This particular story, "Murder Within Murder" was published in 1946 (my daddy was just a little boy!).

In this story, tight-laced Miss Amelia Gibson is poisoned in the New York Public Library...and her murder is very similar to another murder that took place years earlier. Pam and Jerry get involved because Jerry had just hired Miss Gibson to do some research for him.

This was a tight little mystery with some very charming bantering between husband and wife--that snappy 40's type of dialogue that seems so quaint to us these days. It was a pleasure to read.

Bad language: none
Sex: none

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Coffin and the Paper Man by Gwendoline Butler

I love used bookstores. I love they way they smell, I love their warren-like corridors, I love their dingy little storefronts and their old scruffy buildings, I love their bargain piles and their bundled bargains. I keep lists of authors I hope to winkle out in their stacks and I take chances on new authors. And have you ever noticed how well-read your average used bookstore employee is? I ask for their recommendations, I complain about the authors I can't find, I share new discoveries and these book people share, locate and enthuse right along with me. Love it.

Because of used bookstores (and ebay--a good source of titles once you've discovered who you like), I have developed a strong affection for all titles vintage. I love the mysteries, the noir, the Gothic horror, the suspense, the romance...all vintage. I have shelves of vintage romances (all published before 1980, cuz somehow they all get a little tawdry after that), piles of vintage mysteries, hoards of vintage Gothic horror and suspense...well, you get the idea, right? Some of them I value because of the quality of the writing, some because of the melodrama, some because they are little period jewels. I just love them.

Whoops! Having veered into my preoccupation with vintage titles, I'll bring myself back to the used bookstore theme I started with. Used bookstores are thin on the ground where in live in Northern California. Perhaps it's because rents are high here and people are extra busy working their 24/7 Silicon Valley jobs. Or maybe they just like all things new or even perhaps prefer e-readers...I don't know. But the only used bookstore within an hour of where I live is Half Price Books and while I do enjoy browsing those chain stores, there's nothing like a "real" used bookstore, owned by a sole proprietor who is in it for the love of books. So I'm in book heaven when I visit my folks in the Boise Idaho area because within an hour or less of their house are something like 5 or 6 used bookstores (that I know of so far). So when I visit them I make time (and budget space) for lots of used bookstore browsing. Blissful. (Happy sigh).

So on my latest trip there a few weeks ago, I found in the bundled bargain section a pile of these Gwendoline Butler mysteries. The oldest ones in my bundle were published in the 90s, the newest ones 10 or so years later, so they're not all that old (not "vintage" :D), but I'd never heard of them, so I was kind of excited to check them out. They're police procedurals, which are my favorite kind of mysteries, and they're set in London--two very good things.

This one, the first of my little pile, was my least favorite of the 4 I've read so far (I still have 3 or 4 more to go). It centers around the life and career of our main character, Chief Commander John Coffin of the Docklands district (the fictional "second London") of Britain's capital city. It was my least favorite, as I've said, but it was still interesting enough to easily hold my attention and invite me to read the rest. I felt the mystery in this one was a bit scattered, with the diverse parts of the story not quite tied up in a satisfying way. The story felt a bit "fuzzy" at times, if you know what I mean. Still, I like John Coffin. He reminds me a bit of J.J. Marric's Gideon (love that guy) in his leadership style, only I like the way J.J. Marric writes better--there are more details, less personal drama for our main character. Still, I'm liking this series. I'll let you know a little more about the others as I read them...

Bad language: very little, if any
Sex: nope, although there are references to it from time to time and our John Coffin seems to be in some sort of a relationship with the beautiful actress downstairs...but it's only vaguely implied, no details.