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The Hidden Child: A Novel
The Hidden Child: A Novel by Camilla Lackberg (Mystery/Suspense)
From a criminal plotting perspective this is probably Läckberg's best novel, incorporating two strong plots. The contemporary plot to determine the murderer of the historian is well thought out and doesn't involve nearly as much police incompetence as the previous novels (though there is still a little). All the small police force play useful roles, including new recruit Paola who seems to fit in well, and the case explores some interesting issues including the rise of neo-Nazi groups in modern Sweden. But perhaps the book's biggest strength is that this storyline links to a second one taking place in 1943-45, involving the recently killed historian, his brother who spent time as a prisoner of the Germans and several other Fjallbacka residents including Erica's mother. Eventually the solution to the present-day crimes is located in the past though the nature of the connection is well hidden until the end of the book. While the family lives of the characters in this series have always been a feature of the novels that I have enjoyed I do think this instalment went a little overboard with the minutiae of characters' lives. Certainly not all the children are hidden in this novel. In fact the thing is teeming with pregnancies (five), births lengthily described (two), and assorted toddlers and teenagers not to mention yet another love interest for Patrik's romantically unlucky boss Bertil, an encounter with Patrik's ex-wife and assorted other minor dramas. It doesn't feel like Läckberg has held much back for inclusion in the next instalment (aside from several more births I suppose). I do generally enjoy the lighter side of these novels though and it was nice to read a book in which pretty much everyone has a family life in the normal range (i.e. no dramas that can't be sorted out with a good chat and no alcoholic/near suicidal loners lurking underneath the covers). -- Added by billrye on 03/28/2015

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The 13th Juror
The 13th Juror by John Lescroart (Mystery/Suspense)
In The 13th Juror, Dismas Hardy, lawyer/investigator, undertakes the defense of Jennifer Witt, accused of murdering her husband and their eight-year-old son as well as her first husband, who had died nine years earlier from an apparent drug overdose. While preparing his case, Hardy learns that both of Jennifer's husbands had physically abused her. But Jennifer refuses to allow a defense that presumes her guilt. She is not guilty, she claims. Hardy is now driven to seek an alternative truth a jury can believe. As the trial progresses, the complex truth itself begins to change, to bend, to fade in and out of focus as the clock keeps ticking on Jennifer's fate, until there seems only one person left to convince, and she is "the 13th juror"the judge. The 13th Juror is a stunning and suspenseful novel of moral ambiguity, of good intentions, bad judgements and the tortuous path to ultimate justice. -- Added by billrye on 03/24/2015

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The Heart Of The Matter
The Heart Of The Matter by Graham Greene (Historical Fiction)
Scobie is a highly principled officer in a war-torn West African state. When he is passed over for promotion he is forced to borrow money to send his despairing wife away on a holiday. In her absence he falls hopelessly in love with Helen, a young widow, and his life is transformed by the experience. With a duty to repay his debts and an inability to distinguish between love, pity, and responsibilty to others and to God, Scobie moves inexorably to his final ****ation. The terrifying description of a man's awe of the Church and the ability to portray human motive and to convey such a depth of suffering make The Heart of the Matter one of Graham Greene's most enduring, tragic novels. -- Added by billrye on 03/24/2015

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Heart of Darkness, With, The Congo Diary
Heart of Darkness, With, The Congo Diary by Joseph Conrad (Historical Fiction)
Heart of Darkness centers around Marlow, an introspective sailor, and his journey up the Congo River to meet Kurtz, reputed to be an idealistic man of great abilities. Marlow takes a job as a riverboat captain with the Company, a Belgian concern organized to trade in the Congo. As he travels to Africa and then up the Congo, Marlow encounters widespread inefficiency and brutality in the Company's stations. The native inhabitants of the region have been forced into the Company's service, and they suffer terribly from overwork and ill treatment at the hands of the Company's agents. The cruelty and squalor of imperial enterprise contrasts sharply with the impassive and majestic jungle that surrounds the white man's settlements, making them appear to be tiny islands amidst a vast darkness. Marlow arrives at the Central Station, run by the general manager, an unwholesome, conspiratorial character. He finds that his steamship has been sunk and spends several months waiting for parts to repair it. His interest in Kurtz grows during this period. The manager and his favorite, the brickmaker, seem to fear Kurtz as a threat to their position. Kurtz is rumored to be ill, making the delays in repairing the ship all the more costly. Marlow eventually gets the parts he needs to repair his ship, and he and the manager set out with a few agents (whom Marlow calls pilgrims because of their strange habit of carrying long, wooden staves wherever they go) and a crew of cannibals on a long, difficult voyage up the river. The dense jungle and the oppressive silence make everyone aboard a little jumpy, and the occasional glimpse of a native village or the sound of drums works the pilgrims into a frenzy. Marlow and his crew come across a hut with stacked firewood, together with a note saying that the wood is for them but that they should approach cautiously. Shortly after the steamer has taken on the firewood, it is surrounded by a dense fog. When the fog clears, the ship is attacked by an unseen band of natives, who fire arrows from the safety of the forest. The African helmsman is killed before Marlow frightens the natives away with the ship's steam whistle. Not long after, Marlow and his companions arrive at Kurtz's Inner Station, expecting to find him dead, but a half-crazed Russian trader, who meets them as they come ashore, assures them that everything is fine and informs them that he is the one who left the wood. The Russian claims that Kurtz has enlarged his mind and cannot be subjected to the same moral judgments as normal people. Apparently, Kurtz has established himself as a god with the natives and has gone on brutal raids in the surrounding territory in search of ivory. The collection of severed heads adorning the fence posts around the station attests to his "methods." The pilgrims bring Kurtz out of the station-house on a stretcher, and a large group of native warriors pours out of the forest and surrounds them. Kurtz speaks to them, and the natives disappear into the woods. The manager brings Kurtz, who is quite ill, aboard the steamer. A beautiful native woman, apparently Kurtz's mistress, appears on the shore and stares out at the ship. The Russian implies that she is somehow involved with Kurtz and has caused trouble before through her influence over him. The Russian reveals to Marlow, after swearing him to secrecy, that Kurtz had ordered the attack on the steamer to make them believe he was dead in order that they might turn back and leave him to his plans. The Russian then leaves by canoe, fearing the displeasure of the manager. Kurtz disappears in the night, and Marlow goes out in search of him, finding him crawling on all fours toward the native camp. Marlow stops him and convinces him to return to the ship. They set off down the river the next morning, but Kurtz's health is failing fast. Marlow listens to Kurtz talk while he pilots the ship, and Kurtz entrusts Marlow with a packet of personal documents, including an eloquent pamphlet on civilizing the savages which ends with a scrawled message that says, "Exterminate all the brutes!" The steamer breaks down, and they have to stop for repairs. Kurtz dies, uttering his last words"The horror! The horror!"in the presence of the confused Marlow. Marlow falls ill soon after and barely survives. Eventually he returns to Europe and goes to see Kurtz's Intended (his fiancée). She is still in mourning, even though it has been over a year since Kurtz's death, and she praises him as a paragon of virtue and achievement. She asks what his last words were, but Marlow cannot bring himself to shatter her illusions with the truth. Instead, he tells her that Kurtz's last word was her name. -- Added by billrye on 02/28/2015

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The Kill Artist
The Kill Artist by Daniel Silva (Mystery/Suspense)
The tragedy of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and despair of its resolution provide the backdrop for Daniel Silva's complex yarn of international terrorism and intrigue. Israeli master spy Ari Shamron sets an intricate plot in motion to lure deadly Palestinian assassin Tariq al-Hourani into his net. Art restorer Gabriel Allon, a former Israeli agent whose family was killed by Tariq, is lured back into the fray by Shamron and teamed with Jacqueline Delacroix, a French supermodel/Israeli secret agent whose grandparents died in the Holocaust. Gabriel sets up in London to monitor Yusef, Tariq's fellow terrorist and confidant. Jacqueline is assigned to seduce him in hopes of intercepting Tariq, who is devising a plan to kill Israel's prime minister during peace talks with Arafat in New York and he has similar plans for Gabriel. The tortuous plot leading the various parties to the showdown in Manhattan is a thrilling roller-coaster ride, keeping readers guessing until the mind-bending conclusion. Sensitive to both sides of the conflict, the narrative manages to walk a political tightrope while examining the motivations of Palestinians and Israelis alike. The duplicity and secret financial juggling to keep government hands clean is personified in publishing mogul Benjamin Stone, who backs the Israeli efforts. He is just one of many larger-than-life characters (both real and invented) thrown into the mix. Arafat himself has a tense encounter with Tariq that underscores the volatility of terrorist loyalty. Two things I found hard to believe were how come Jacqueline isn't recognized when she's working for the art dealer, Isherwood, and why does Yusef, who supposedely is a double-agent working for Ari, betray Jacqueline to Tariq? All in all, I like it and I would give it 4 stars out of 5. -- Added by billrye on 02/27/2015

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The Invention of Wings
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd (Historical Fiction)
The Invention of Wings, a powerful historical novel by Sue Monk Kidd, begins, fittingly, with an image of flight: Hetty "Handful", who has grown up as a slave in early nineteenth century Charleston, recalls the night her mother told her that her ancestors in Africa could fly over trees and clouds. That day, Handful's mother, Charlotte, gave her daughter the gift of hope the possibility that someday she might regain her wings and fly to freedom. Throughout Kidd's exquisitely written story, Handful struggles, sometimes with quiet dissidence, sometimes with open rebellion, to cultivate a belief in the invincibility of her spirit and in the sacred truth that one does not need actual wings in order to rise. The story begins on Sarah's eleventh birthday, when ten-year-old Handful is abruptly pulled from the Grimké's work yard, adorned in lavender ribbons, and presented to Sarah as a gift. Sarah tries in vain to decline, but over time, the two create a bond that will ultimately and dramatically shape their destinies. As their intertwined stories unfold in their own voices, Sarah will eventually break from the only life she knows and go north to become an exile, encountering love and heartbreak, repression and renaissance as she searches for her voice and her place of belonging. Back home, Handful will experience her mother's mysterious disappearance, finding strength and answers in the story quilt she leaves behind. When Denmark Vesey, a free black man with messianic charisma, plots a dangerous slave insurrection in the heart of Charleston, Handful becomes embroiled in a conspiracy that threatens to shake the city to its foundations. Inspired by actual historical figures like Sarah and Angelina Grimké and Denmark Vesey, and enlivened by original creations like Charlotte and Handful, The Invention of Wings is the extraordinary story of two struggles for freedom: the battle of Handful to find the wings her mother promised and the equally intense quest of Sarah to liberate her mind and spirit. This triumphant novel also speaks with wisdom about the nature of evil and injustice, the courage to dare what seems unattainable, and the hope inside of us that the worst darkness can't extinguish. -- Added by billrye on 02/19/2015

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The Rosie Project
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion (Other Fiction)
Don tillman, the protagonist, is a teacher of genetics at a Melbourne University in Australia. He, along with his only 2 friends, Claudia and Gene set out to set up the "Wife Project." Then Rosie comes along seeking to find out who her father is and the "Wife Project" turns into the "Father Project.". I would give it 4 stars. You'll love it. -- Added by billrye on 02/18/2015

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