North River: A Novel

by Pete Hamill, 2007, Kindle edition by the Hachette Book Group

This is a story of  a doctor who grew up in a tough area of Manhattan and then enlisted in the army.  He was in the trenches in France in WWI and then returned to his old neighborhood to resume his practice.  In the very first pages of the book, his daughter dumps her child on his doorstep and takes off for Spain.

The story focuses on how he deals with having to bring up a child in this environment while trying to carry on with his own life.

While the book does provide some insights regarding how it was in this New York neighborhood during the Great Depression, it seems to focus a lot more on the relationship the doctor develops with his grandson and another individual who comes into his life.  The book sometimes seems to lack some energy and the ending is less that I had hoped for.  I enjoyed reading it, but it fell short of being a really memorable book.3 stars

The Lake House: A Novel

by Kate Morton, 2015, Kindle Edition, Atria Books, Reprint Edition, sold by Simon and Schuster Digital Sales, Inc.

This book is a mystery about a cold case disappearance of a young boy in Cornwall, England. A woman detective, who is temporarily suspended from her job for alleged misconduct, visits her grandfather who has recently moved to Cornwall after the death of his wife.  While there she becomes interested in what happened when the young boy disappeared.

The book is well-written but didn’t seem to offer much in the way of suspense as the disappearance occurred many years in the past.  Much of the narrative delves into the motives and thoughts of persons who had been dead for many years.  Additionally, the final resolution of the mystery depends, as many mysteries seem to do, on a somewhat hard to believe coincidence.3 stars

The Galton Case

by Ross McDonald, originally published in 1959, Vintage Crime/Black Lizard; Reprint edition (November 26, 1996)

This is another crime story featuring the detective, Lew Archer.  Unlike many of the detective shows on TV these days, Lew Archer has a dark side that comes out sometimes, typical of the Noir fiction genre.  The characters in the book aren’t very likable and there are some passages of violence where the author doesn’t hold back.

This novel has an interesting plot, but the resolution of the mystery depends on a pretty far-fetched coincidence which is also typical of many mystery stories.  Even though it’s a bit dated, it is enjoyable to read and, if one is into crime stories, this book is certainly one that suffices.3 stars


by Robin Cook, 2009, audiobook read by George Guidall, Recorded Books, Frederick, MD

This is possibly one of the worst books I have ever experienced.  My wife and I listened to it on our trip from Florida to Rhode Island and we were both very happy when it ended.

First of all, the author went on a rant about alternative medicine in the early stages of the book.  I am in agreement with a lot of what he said, but he just kept hammering it over and over again.  It got to the point where I wanted to fast forward as it got to the point where it was extremely tedious.

In the second part of the book, the main character (a medical examiner) just dropped his crusade against alternative medicine and suddenly turned to another project, seemingly to take his mind off his situation at home, a baby with a lethal brain tumor.  He then gets involved with a plot to extricate the Virgin Mary’s ossuary from under St. Peter’s tomb.  The implication of this extrication is that, if it turns out that they validate that it does contain Mary’s bones, it will invalidate the doctrine of papal infallibility and the Catholic Church will be totally discredited. The author again pounds the religious argument over and over, making it just as tedious and pedantic as the alternative medicine tirade.

Because of the split between the focus on alternative medicine in the first part of the book and on the religious aspect in the second part, the author attempts to tie it all together with a supposed miracle in the last chapter.  It’s a nice try, but it just doesn’t seem to cut it.

Compounding the issues above are some of the characters which are, quite frankly, repugnant.  There are the archaeologist and his geneticist wife who argue with each other like five year olds.  Their back and forth digs are ridiculous.  The archbishop of New York, who is complicit in the plot, is so rigid in his views that I couldn’t empathize with him at all.

Finally, the end of the book didn’t seem to bring it together.  The best thing about it was that it was over.  The reader, George Guidall, did his usual good job.  The reason I have rated this book at 1 1/2 stars versus only 1 star is because of the reader.  He saved us from having to read it ourselves.1 1/2 stars

A Death in Vienna

by Daniel Silva, 2004, audiobook read by John Lee, Books on Tape

This is a pretty good book about tracking down a Nazi war criminal in Vienna who has a connection to a right-wing politician who is running for the office of the Austrian Prime Minister.  The plot is believable for the most part and keeps moving throughout the book.  The characters are well done.  The reader did a good job as well.3 stars

All the Light We Cannot See

by Anthony Doerr, 2014. Scribner, New York

This book, about a young blind girl and a German boy genius whose paths cross in WWII, starts a bit slow and seems a little disjointed in the beginning, but it really comes together in the end.

The author utilizes very short chapters that alternate back and forth between the blind girl and the German boy.  I found that it took a little getting used to, but this technique really adds to the overall book. 4 stars

The Children Act

by Ian McEwan, 2014, Penguin Random House, New York

This book is about a woman judge in England who must rule whether a young boy should be forced to undergo a blood transfusion to save his life, despite the religious objections of his parents and the boy himself.  The state argues that the boy has been brainwashed by his religious teaching and his parents.  The parents and the boy argue otherwise.

The author focuses on the anguish that the judge undergoes in making a decision, but the book is also about her as a person and how wrapped up she is in her work and career.  It makes for an interesting scenario, but, unfortunately, the ending of the book seems very incomplete.  I enjoyed reading it but it left me feeling very unfulfilled.3 stars

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet: A Novel

by David Mitchell, audiobook narrated by Jonathan Aris and Paula Wilcox, 2010, Recorded Books

This is a story about a clerk in the employ of the Dutch East India company in about 1800 and his experiences in Dejima, Japan.  The book is very interesting as it characterizes the relationships between the Dutch merchants and the xenophobic Japanese.  It also depicts the corruption and contempt of the Europeans toward their Japanese counterparts.

The book was narrated very well and it was enjoyable to listen to. 3 1/2 stars


by Nelson DeMille, 2006, Warner Books, New York

This is a novel about a retired NYC police detective working for an anti-terrorist group within the FBI after 911.  His wife also works for the FBI and is officially his supervisor.  It takes place in the Adirondacks.

The plot is interesting, although somewhat of a stretch.  John Corey, the main character, is a bold, wise-cracking individual who, I think, may have a personality similar to that of DeMille.

The novel suffers a bit from a little too much dialogue with the villain, which sometimes slows down the action so that the books tends to drag in places.  While the bantering and jokes are fun, it can get a bit wearing at times.  Otherwise, the book was OK.2 1/2 stars

Into the Woods

by Tana French, 2007, Penguin Books

This is definitely a different kind of mystery.  Instead of action, the author focuses on the psychology of the detective who is also the narrator of the story.  The reader is exposed to all of his thoughts and emotions as he goes through the steps to solve this murder.

Since the detective is the primary character (i.e., hero) of the story, one would expect him to succeed not only in solving the murder, but also to receive recognition and rewards for so doing.  Don’t expect this book to come out that way in the end.

I enjoyed reading the book but it got a bit bogged down in it’s later stages.  Also, I was expecting some kind of unexpected “twist” toward the end.  Nothing like that occurred so I was a bit disappointed as I put it down.  The book was an interesting read but I certainly wouldn’t rave about it.3 stars