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A Fine Summer’s Day by Charles Todd
One of my favorite series, the Ian Rutledge mysteries are beautifully written and psychologically tense. In this new book, Todd takes us to the England Rutledge knew before the Great War. As an inspector for Scotland Yard, Rutledge is charged with finding the link between the deaths of several disparate men in different small villages. From a hanging to overdoses of laudanum, the bodies pile up – murders or suicides? As the clues add up, he finds himself tracking a meticulous suspect who is obsessed with completing a dark task and who is not above placing those Rutledge loves in jeopardy. A wonderful addition to the series that provides fans with a view of Rutledge before the tragedy that marks his character and new readers with a rich mystery that illustrates Todd’s mastery of the genre.
The Ingenious Mr. Pyke by Henry Hemming
A very absorbing tome about a genius who no one really knows about. Geoffrey Pyke was an original thinker who was not afraid to try out new ideas – he escaped from a World War I prison camp and published a bestseller about his experience; he created a new school system that was unconventional, but nevertheless let to reform in the English school system; he became wealthy by trading in metal futures and was innovative in establishing new types of financial speculation that are in use to this day; he also famously convinced Winston Churchill about the feasibility of creating aircraft carriers out of ice – really. Behind this brilliant and tragic man were suspicions by MI5 that he was actually a Russian spy, and Hemming does a thorough job of examining the details to hammer out a plausible and fitting role for Pyke in some of the most important events of his day. Some files on Pyke are still classified, as he notes, so the story may be far from over.
Waterloo by Paul O’Keeffe
The battle of Waterloo represents the end of the Napoleonic era in Europe; O’Keeffe’s work is a magnificent capturing of the time after the battle. With a strong eye for detail, he follows the dispatches announcing Napoleon’s defeat as the news spread across the world and gives amusing and insightful descriptions how the news was received. He covers all sides and every nuance adds to the history of the aftermath of the battle. He even covers Napoleon’s escape from the field of battle to the rousing accolades and praise he earned from the English people; though their enemy for decades, the English could not help but admire the diminutive general and O’Keeffe captures this in his closing chapters – a wonderful read.
Pirate Hunters by Robert Kurson
Kurson’s book on famed treasure hunters John Chatterton and John Mattera is an enthralling read that is chock full of the anecdotes and stories of adventure shared by these men. While searching for a sunken galleon, the two are captivated by the story told by an old treasure finder named Bowden about a sunken pirate ship named the Golden Fleece belonging to an infamous pirate named Joseph Bannister, and adventurous souls who famously fought two British warships and won! As a find, a genuine pirate ship ranks among the rarest things in this world, and the men discover that they need a new understanding of Bannister the man before they can find his ship. Highlighting the tension of having competitors, the stress of searching grids of sand with less than perfect instruments, plus the shadow of the international treaty that will take salvage rights away from men like them and award them to the country where the wreck took place, this is a fun and detailed read about obsession and history that makes such a livelihood so interesting.
Fortune Smiles by Adam Johnson
Johnson’s stories invade your soul with the power of an electrical current – sharp and painful with a resonate effect that tingles your every pore. The voices of his characters come from different walks of life: a former warden of a Stasi prison who troubles a tour group with his observations; a pedophile with insights into the dark world of child pornography on the Internet; a dying woman who desperately wants something undefinable from a music icon; a man trying to find his place in the world after escaping North Korea with a companion who may have an ulterior, hidden motive. Whatever the source, each story is inventive in style and substance; Johnson’s characters may be unusual and creepy, but the delight that comes from such perspicacity marks him as a wise and talented writer.