Mar 5, 2009

Book Review: The Tomb of Zeus by Barbara Cleverly

The Tomb of Zeus
The Tomb of Zeus by Barbara Cleverly is an archaeology mystery published in 2007.

Those who love Greece, the Greek Isles, and Greek mythology will have little problem with the archaeological setting - the island of Crete in the late 1920s.

Laetitia Talbot, a student from Cambridge, is sent by her professor to work on the island with British archaeologist Theodore Russell. Russell has invited her to stay with him and his wife and two other students at his Villa Europa.

When she arrives, Laetitia is disturbed by an air of menace at the villa. When one of the occupants dies, Laetitia's discomfort definitely increases. Was the death a murder or a suicide? She is determined to find out, even if she has to unearth all the secrets surrounding the villa.

Interestingly, the characters in the story parallel the characters in Greek mythology. Theseus of Greek myth arrives in Crete to find and slay the half-man, half-bull Minotaur hidden in a labyrinth underground. Theodore Russell is in Crete at a much later date to unearth ancient Greek statues and temples in archaeological digs. Theodore's complicated family and love life also parallels that of Theseus.

Laetitia is aware of this as she searches for clues to solve the murder. She is helped by a former lover, William Gunning, who is working with her in Crete. Together they uncover an ancient tomb at their work site that only creates a second mystery. Have they found the long-sought tomb of the Greek god, Zeus?

A very enjoyable book that deals with a murder mystery and an archaeological mystery. The plot revolves around Cretan culture, history, mythology, and religion, and also around Laetita's attempts to solve a present day murder in a very exotic locale.

Book provided by the publisher for my objective review.

More on antiquities on Crete.

A Pale Horse by Charles Todd, a review

I found A Pale Horse by Charles Todd, a mystery set in the U.K., an interesting and well written book.

Setting: Nine cottages in Berkshire, England beneath a hill with a chalk horse etched out on its side, presumably by ancient Britons. One of the cottages has been empty for a while, once occupied by a man known as Partridge, who has "gone missing." No one has seen him recently, not his neighbor who feeds his cat in his absence, nor any of the other residents of the cottages.

Characters: Partridge worked for the British army during WWI, developing poison gases for the war effort. The British War Office has since been keeping tabs on him due to the sensitive nature of that work. When he disappears, Inspector Ian Rutledge is sent out from London by Scotland Yard to find him.

Mystery plot: Rutledge is also called on visit Yorkshire, a town where some young schoolboys have found a man lying dead in a deserted abbey, his face covered with a WWI gas mask. The schoolboys are convinced it's the work of the devil, and give no information to the authorities looking into the case. Rutledge clears the local schoolmaster of this crime after the local inspector falsely puts the blame on him. Rutledge begins to suspect the dead man is actually Partridge, the man the War Office wants to find.

Main plot: The mystery of Partidge's life and death and the effects on his family of his work on poison gases for warfare is the basis of the book's plot. There are several false leads and red herrings in the way of the truth, including the suspicious deaths of two of the other cottage residents in Berkshire, but with uncommon persistence, Rutledge is able to untangle the web to get to the heart of the mystery of Partridge, his life, the suicide of his wife, and the estrangement of his two daughters.

Historical relevance: The novel is set in the 1920s, just a few years after the end of the first world war. The theme follows early attempts to develop biological weapons.The seriousness of Inspector Rutledge job is offset somewhat by a subplot involving Rutledge's sister and her love affair, which, unlike Partridge's life, has a happy ending.

A goodbook for mystery lovers who are also history buffs. I would rate this police procedural/British mystery 4 stars.

Book provided by the publisher, for my objective review.

Mar 3, 2009

Book Review: Dirty Little Angels by Chris Tusa

Dirty Little Angels
In this character-driven novel, Dirty Little Angels by Chris Tusa, we meet sixteen-year-old Hailey, who wants a sign that God is listening to her prayers to help her family. She has tried prayer, as her mother taught her to, but life is still harsh in New Orleans.

Hailey’s father has been laid off from work and spends his time in the pool hall and with another woman; Hailey’s mother is confined to bed after an injury to her back; the parents are sleeping separately, and the threat of a divorce hangs in the air. Her older brother Cyrus has been arrested several times, carries brass knuckles in his pocket, and hangs out with high school kids who smoke pot and drink.

When Moses the preacher, a man with a violent past, enters their lives, he doesn’t lead them out to a “promised land,” however, but into violence, crime, and personal danger. In the end, when Hailey's brother Cyrus is threatened, Hailey makes a crucial decision. Does Hailey become a Dirty Little Angel?

It’s easy to become involved with the main character - her angst and her confusion about friends, sex, and religion. The dialogue, setting, and action in the novel gives the reader a good sense of time and place. Most of the book seems to simply set the stage and unveil character, and we wonder where it all will lead. If you persist to the end of the novel, you will be well rewarded with the last chapters of the book.

The author has described his novel as “southern gothic with traditional elements of the grotesque. It's character-driven, though a plot does develop. It is a bit violent, though I try my best not to glorify the violence. I like gritty books that don't have a tidy ending, so don't expect an Oprah-style novel.”

Very easy reading, fascinating characterizations, and a strangely satisfying ending.

Book provided by the author, for my objective review.

Feb 24, 2009

Book Review: Greek Winds of Fury by Judith Gould

Greek Winds of Fury

Judith Gould's 2008 novel, Greek Winds of Fury, described as romantic suspense, is a mystery novel without thriller elements of extreme violence, or graphic descriptions of blood and guts, etc. Armchair travelers as well as cozy readers will enjoy this trip into Greece and the island of Samos.

The protagonist Miranda, part Greek and an employee of a well known antiquities establishment in New York City, is delighted to be invited by a former professor to an archaeological dig on Samos during the summer. The crew is trying to find a lost statue of the goddess Hera, created in the th century B.C.

Miranda takes a cruise ship to the island and arrives in Samos to discover dangerous mysteries and a new love interest. She discovers that the ship has been using the identities of real passengers to create false passports and boarding passes for illegal immigrants, who are hustled from a port in Turkey to European ports.

Not only that, but there seems to be smuggling of antiquities from the Samos site to art stores and dealers around the world. Some of the missing pieces Miranda recognizes as part of the shipments to her own place of work in NYC. Crew members of the site on Samos have been disappearing, moreover, and one body is washed ashore after Miranda arrives there. "Big Mike" from the U.S. helps Miranda discover the truth, even at the cost of much danger to themselves.

Gould's detailed and colorful descriptions of place, setting, and people make this book a nice armchair travel piece. The plot will also appeal to mystery lovers and aficionados of Greek culture and antiquity. I confess though that parts of the novel dragged, especially toward the end. Some of the extended dialogue and a gratuitous sex scene that does not clarify or advance the plot could have been cut. I got impatient at the end for the denouement, so to speak, but overall the novel was enjoyable, with a good plot, deft prose, and a good substitute for the real thing - a mystery cruise on the Aegean

Feb 3, 2009

Brando as Mark Anthony

I watched the 1953 film, Julius Caesar, the Shakespearian play made into a movie starring Marlon Brando as Mark Anthony, James Mason as Brutus, and the equally famous John Gielgud as Cassius.

Got to relive high school English classes when famous lines such as Mark Anthony's speech came up, eloquently delivered.

Friends, Romans, countrymen,lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.

Other famous lines I knew were from Shakespeare; a few lines I was surprised to find out were also Shakespeare's. Such is the power of the Bard.

Feb 2, 2009

Mysteries set in Hawaii

Left Coast Crime has a made a list of mystery books with settings in the Hawaiian islands, primarily for those attending their Say Aloha to Murder conference coming up in March in Hawaii, though anyone can look at these lists.

I noticed that pet/vet mystery author Cynthia Baxter is on the list with Right from the Gecko. Carolyn Hart's Death in Paradise , Sue Henry's The Refuge (see my June 28 review), and Jessica Speart's Restless Waters are also listed.

See Mysteries Set in Hawaii

Great 1930s movies

Have discovered some classic black and white movies of the 1930s that I enjoyed watching and can recommend.

Harold Lloyd's comedies: Feet First made in 1930 has Chaplinesque humor and hilarious but harrowing scenes of him dangling from ropes and pulleys outside a skyscraper, and scrambling to get back into an open window. He wears his signature bowtie and white straw hat in several of his comedies set in the 1930s. In The Cat's Paw, he wore a tie and "bush" hat.

Greta Garbo and Joan Crawford and others converge in the Grand Hotel in Berlin, 1932.

Louise Rainer
stars as the hard-working and long suffering farm wife in The Good Earth, 1937, based on the book by Pearl Buck, and plays a spoiled Southern wife in The Toy Wife, 1938.

Bette Davis in The Petrified Forest, 1936

Ninotchka with Greta Garbo, 1939. A Russian woman falls in love in Paris. Remade later on as a musical, Silk Stockings, with Cyd Charisse.

Clark Gable and Hedy Lamar in Comrade X, 1940. An American tries to take a Russian woman and her father to America. Comedy drama set in Moscow.

Sunday Salon: New Reads

 Recently finished: Central Park  by Guillaume Musso,  March 16, 2021 by Bay Back Books. Genre: thriller, mystery Source: Netgalley The book...