Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Defector by Daniel Silva

Gabriel Allon is pulled out of semi-retirement when Russian defector Gregori Bulgavov disappears from his comfortable life in London. The British are willing to believe Bulganov re-defected, but Allon knows otherwise. Once again, Allon assembles a talented team to free a friend from a seemingly impossible situation. This book is a sequel to Moscow Rules, but can stand alone. I'd recommend reading Moscow Rules first, though. Daniel Silva is the master of the spy thriller, and this one is no exception. I like the earlier Gabriel Allon books best, but as long as Silva keeps writing them, I'll keep reading them.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Wanting by Richard Flanagan

In Wanting, Flanagan draws the parallels in the lives of the Arctic explorer Sir John Franklin and writer Charles Dickens, illustrating that both reason and desire coexist in all humans.
Mathinna, the native Aboriginal girl from the Van Dieman's Land was "adopted" by the Franklins as Lady Jane, Sir John's wife, wished to transform her into a proper English woman, but her real intentions were questionable.
In 1854, when the Arctic Voyagers failed to return, Lady Jane asked Dickens to defend her husband by refuting notion of cannibalism. Dickens wrote a play about the doomed Northwest Passage, starring himself and in the process fell in love with a young actress, Ellen Ternan.
All the characters were torn between reason and desire, especially when Lady Jane visited the St. Joseph Orphanage. She could have "saved" Mathinna... There are some raw and heart-wrenching depictions in the novel that haunt me after reading it. However, Flanagan was excellent in exploring the ramifications of colonialism and the moral dilemmas we must face up to.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

An international best-seller, this book is set in Sweden. The main character is Mikael Blomkvist, a financial journalist who is at loose ends because he recently lost a libel case. He is hired by the elderly patriarch of the very wealthy Vanger family to look into the disappearance of Harriet Vanger. Harriet disappeared 40 years ago and is presumed to have been murdered, although her body has never been found. The book is primarily a murder mystery, and a pretty interesting one, but several other storylines are woven into the plot. The tension and complexity build as the novel progresses, and it all comes together quite nicely. The characters are varied, different and not always easy to like. Although there are a few inconsistencies in the plot, the fine writing and masterful pacing more than make up for these minor distractions.

This book is not for everyone, as there is graphic violence, language and sex scenes.