Friday, June 21, 2019

Cruel Limerick

Our tongue's spelling rules beget laughter,
But weeping will follow soon aughter.
Correctly to draught
Is a treacherous craught,
To which children are led as to slaughter.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Dogs, Cats, Aliens & Robots

The Secret Life of Pets 2 – REVIEW IN PROGRESS

Men In Black International – REVIEW IN PROGRESS

Lost in Space, Season 1 – REVIEW IN PROGRESS (This review will be about a DVD of the Netflix original series, not the 1960s TV show.)

Broken Ice

Broken Ice
by Matt Goldman
Recommended Ages: 14+


Tuesday, June 11, 2019


by Andrew Grant
Recommended Ages: 14+

David Trevellyan is minding his own business, to the extent that can ever be said about a Royal Navy intelligence agent on assignment in New York City. He has just finished a job, dined alone and started walking back to his hotel when he spots a dead hobo lying in a pile of garbage. No sooner does he observe that the hobo has been executed by a professional than the police show up and arrest Trevellyan for the crime. They have an anonymous tipster's voice describing him as the guy who done it. Their case is so solid, the English consulate sends a colleague to tell him he's been disavowed. Then FBI agents show up, accusing him of killing five real hobos, besides the fake hobo he found, who is actually an FBI agent. Awkward.

If it seems a bit like the opening act of a Jack Reacher novel, you'll have spotted a family resemblence about which more will be said later. But although Trevellyan is a big, hard, highly capable guy somewhat lacking in teamwork skills (to say nothing of empathy for other people), he is also part of a bigger organization and he spends the better part of this book working alongside the FBI to solve an increasingly alarming series of crimes. At first, it seems like it's just a matter of gangsters hanging fake IDs on dead bums as part of a Social Security scam. Then a link emerges between the victims and a private security company that guards a hospital in post-war Iraq. But finally it proves ever so much bigger than a cover-up for some medical jiggery-pokery.

A team player he is not. In this fast-breaking case, however, it pays to be the guy who charges recklessly forward, rather than dotting all the Is and crossing all the Ts FBI-fashion while the evidence disappears and the bad guys get away. On the other hand, hewing to the naval tradition of "Never mind the maneuvers, just go straight at them" (plausibly if fictionally attributed to Horatio Nelson) has its risky side. Like dealing with a female psychopath who literally castrates any man who disappoints her. Like questioning a suspect whose goons are ordered to kill you if you refuse to be bribed. Like having to choose between stopping a weapon of mass destruction and saving someone you care about, because you can't do both at the same time. At least, if you're a man like Trevellyan, there's always the consolation of getting even.

Part spy thriller, part mystery procedural in which the protagonist blows up all the procedures, part case study of the making of an international action hero – especially during the thematic vignettes that head each chapter – this is a gripping, keep-you-guessing piece of entertainment with a hard-to-forget character at the center. Some of his memories of naval intelligence training and prior assignments would be entertaining enough without the main event, for which they are meant to serve as instructive examples. I especially got a kick out of the bit about an office in France where everybody was obsessed with milk. But there's a kick of another kind at the end of the book – a weapon's recoil – which leaves us free to imagine exactly what Trevellyan will do next. It's one of the tightest, toughest, most disturbing and most daring book endings in my recollection.

This is the first of three David Trevellyan spy thrillers by a British author who happens to be the younger brother of Lee Child. Not to be confused with a New Zealand-based author who goes by the same name, this particular Grant is also the author of three Cooper Devereaux novels (False Positive, False Friend and False Witness), the standalone novel Run, and the Paul McGrath novels Invisible and Too Close to Home. The sequels to this book are titled Die Twice and More Harm Than Good.

Monday, June 10, 2019

The Third Gate

The Third Gate
by Lincoln Child
Recommended Ages: 14+

In this third novel featuring history prof and "enigmalogist" Dr. Jeremy Logan, the sometime co-author with Douglas Preston of the Agent Pendergast series takes us to one of the most haunting, and possibly haunted, places on earth: an inhospitable swamp called the Sudd at the headwaters of the Nile, where – a certain adventurer named Peter Stone believes – the greatest archaeological treasure in history lies beneath 35 feet of sucking mud and rotting vegetation. If Stone is right, it's the authentic burial site of the first pharaoh to unite the two Egypts, Narmer (3100-3050 B.C.). His tomb may even contain the original double crown, which has been depicted in lots of tomb paintings but never actually recovered.

On the downside – and this is where Jeremy comes in – Narmer's tomb sports one of the nastiest curses ever recorded. They haven't even found it yet, and weird things are already happening. It's a job made for the guy who specializes in getting to know the unknown. But this time, a rational, scientific explanation may not be possible. Logan, who apart from everything else is a sensitive empath, is picking up on an evil presence. A woman whose near death experience broke all previous records is starting to channel an angry spirit. And the little accidents that happen whenever a few people are packed into an isolated facility are getting bigger. And less accidental.

Paranormal creepiness seems to be the order of the day, any day you're reading a book authored (or co-authored) by Lincoln Child. When I first started reading his books, in alternation with Lee Child's Jack Reacher series, I worried about confusing them. I now laugh at that concern. Once you get to know them, you'll laugh, too. But quietly, lest whatever hobgoblin dwells in the nearest eldritch pit should hear and turn its evil thoughts your way. Did I just make you shiver? No? Well, I don't pretend to be a Lincoln Child, who can make you wonder whether a hero in his third adventure will survive, even when you've already read his fourth and fifth. (I'm also, as I've admitted before, bad at reading series of books in order.) Read this book all through the night, if you want to. Just keep the lights on.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Aladdin and The 15:17 to Paris


The 15:17 to Paris – REVIEW IN PROGRESS!!

Walking Shadows

Walking Shadows
by Faye Kellerman
Recommended Ages: 14+

I might as well face it. I'm terrible at reading series of books in order. I skipped straight from The Ritual Bath, the first Decker/Lazarus novel, to this 25th and latest installment – mainly because the paperback was available. Meanwhile, I put in a request at the library for Book 2, Sacred and Profane, so I can get back to canon order again.

When I previously looked in on Peter Decker and Rina Lazarus, he was an LAPD detective, and divorced father of a teenage girl, investigating serial rapes and the occasional murder; she was a fetching young mother of two small boys, a widow who ran a mikvah (ritual bath) at a yeshiva (Orthodox Jewish community). At the end of that book, it wasn't certain that he, a lapsed Baptist, had any chance of winning over her, a very religious Jew. But there was a gleam of hope.

Obviously, that hope was realized, because Book 25 finds them married, sorta-halfway retired in the upstate college town of Greenbury, N.Y. Their nest is empty, unless you count a junior detective with the Greenbury P.D. named Tyler McAdams, who has kind of adopted them and takes every opportunity to invite himself over for dinner. Apparently, this arrangement has been going on for a couple of books, because the Deckers have a bit of history in Greenbury by now. In the grand tradition of "trouble finds him," the veteran homicide cop finds himself dealing with one homicide after another in a town that never had that kind of trouble before.

This year's crop of murder starts with a young man from the neighboring, mostly blue-collar town of Hamilton turning up with his skull bashed in just over the Greenbury side of the town line. It hardly seems possible that Brady Neil's death could be unconnected to his father's conviction for the murder of a wealthy Hamilton couple – though the dad, Brandon Gratz, is still safely locked up. Twenty years ago, the Hamilton PD seemingly did a good job catching him and his accomplice. Now, the very fact that Decker is looking into the case puts a lot of backs up – and, quite possibly, puts another killer on the warpath.

The result is a convulted mystery in which the integrity of an entire police department comes under scrutiny. Multiple people suffer gruesome deaths. A young cop has her grit tested. A bombing, a hostage situation and some close-quarters combat ensue. I don't mean to spoil anything, but the reader should be prepared for the rather unusual possibility that this time, Peter Decker may not get his man. He'll solve the mystery, sure, but like reality, it won't be neat.