Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Defender of the Innocent: The Casebook of Martin Ehfrengraf - Book Review

I wanted to like this one - it's no secret I'm a fan of Lawrence Block and since I knew everyone would be reading his A Walk Among the Tombstones in anticipation of the movie (you've read the book, haven't you?  And seen the excellent move?  No?  Take my advice:  treat yourself to both.), I wanted to try something of his I hadn't read.  I was familiar with this character and may have even read an Ehfrengraf story or two in the dim past so I thought, why not?  Block hasn't let me down yet.

And he hasn't let me down with this book, either, I guess.  It's just not my thing.  Ehfrengraf is a defense attorney who, well, like the title says, defends the innocent.  Even if they're guilty.  And he'll stop at nothing to prove their innocence.  Which is the hook - how will Ehfrengraf be able to prove his client's innocence in the face of overwhelming evidence?  He's no Perry Mason and his methods are unconventional to say the least but after a story or two, you get what this is all about.  While he may come across as dapper and charming, he's a sociopath and I have no desire to read about sociopaths.

Block is skillful as always, keeping the action offstage but telling the stories in a way to keep you interested and so I admired that.  But I have to admit, I found myself trudging to the end and if it weren't for my goal to give the entire book a chance, I wouldn't have given the entire book a chance.  Block is a great writer.  This isn't a great book.

(I bought the Kindle version - I'm not sure there's a print edition - and I'm not sure if I'm pleased with the experience.  It's there on my Kindle if I want to re-read it again but I won't so now what do I do with it?)

Monday, September 8, 2014

Tatiana: Book Review

Tatiana is the latest in the Arkady Renko series written by Martin Cruz Smith.  (I mentioned briefly here the last book I'd read in the series.  To see all of my reviews on this series, click here.  Yeah, I like 'em.)  I liked this one as well as any in the series - no, it can't compare to the first but then none of them can - and you wouldn't do badly if you decided to dip in at this point.  As with all series, the asides and digressions will catch you up on who's who and what's happening but if you've been following the series, you may find these explanations tedious.  I did but then I always find these sections of a series book to be tedious.

Yep, there's a good mystery to be solved at the core and you'll probably figure it out before Renko does but go along for the ride anyway if you want to see the corruption of modern-day Russia and learn something along the way about Kaliningrad and chess and code-breaking and even high-class racing bicycles.  Smith's (Cruz Smith's? - I never know where to look for his books, under the C's or the S's) writing is smooth and swift and the story carries you along to a, well, not very spine-tingling climax but then you really didn't another shoot out did you?  No complaints:  the loose ends are tied up and all the characters accounted for and the pieces left in place for the next Arkady Renko adventure.

I'm looking forward to it.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Books I've Read

According to this blog, it's been well over a year since I've read a book but that presumes a truth to the philosophical question:  if a book review is unposted, does that mean a book hasn't been read?

Ha!  I've read books.  I just haven't posted about them.  Here's a list, in no particular order, of what I've read in the last 16 months or so:

Stephen Hunter's latest Sniper's Honor.  Bob Lee Swagger learns about a Russian, female sniper from World War II which, of course, has modern day repercussions.  Plenty of shooting and sniper lore and a harrowing, surrealistic battle scene between Nazi tanks and Commie tanks.  You haven't read anything like this before.
Lawrence Block's The Thief Who Counted The Spoons.  Delightful, but then the whole series is which meant I had to re-read the other 10 Bernie Rhodenbarr novels in the series to confirm it. and that lead me to re-read A Ticket to the Boneyard, which is anticipation of the upcoming movie of his book, A Walk Among the Tombstones which should be pretty good.  I mean, it's Liam Neeson against the bad guys.  What more could you want?
For some reason I turned back to Martin Cruz Smith's Gorky Park.  I've blogged here about the rest of the series but you don't really know how good the first was until you go back there and see for yourself what Smith managed to do.  As good as the series is, the first is the best.  
I don't know why I read Robert Harris' The Ghost.  I've like his other stuff:  FatherlandEnigma, and Pompeii, all of which I must've read before this blog since I don't see where I posted my thoughts on these before.  But I'd blogged about the movie, which I liked, despite many reasons not to, and I read the Kindle version which means I must've gotten a deal on it.  Whatever.  I enjoyed it.  I especially liked the behind-the-scenes look at ghost-writing and the publishing world.  Nice twist at the end, too.
Both volumes of Hemingway's Complete Letters.  (Link goes only to the first volume but you can get to the second volume from there.)  Sorry.  For aficionados only.  

So by my count that's 17 books or a little over a book a month.  Not much of a pace but it'll do.

Sunday, August 17, 2014


Holy, moly, it's been a lifetime since I've updated here.  Blake was good enough to challenge me for the funny stuff last month and though I'm loathe to disappoint him, looking back over these posts I see there's a disappointing amount of funny and an overwhelming amount of banality.  Sorry, friend Blake.  Let me try to do better.

I started this blog for a reason - I just can't remember what it was.  Oh, right.  Here's the reason.  And here's the first post, six long years ago.  And here's a secret:  I'd actually started this blog way before that first post.  For some reason, I'd deleted the first version and so the first posts are now down the memory hole.

I've title this post "Blogging" and tagged it that way as well, but I see I've used that tag 82 times - 83, now - and I seem to blog a dismayingly amount about not blogging.  Which I'm doing now.  But with Twitter and Facebook, has blogging become obsolete?

Could be.  Those social media platforms offer a lot and I've found myself over there to be far more active than I have been over here.  Why?  I can't rightly say.  Both platforms offer an immediacy, and an audience, that I don't get over here on Blogger but this blog is where I started and I really should either stoke the fires over here or give it up altogether.

Which is all to say, I really need to get back to blogging.  Some things just won't work on Twitter or Facebook.

Friday, July 18, 2014