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An Officer and a Spy
An Officer and a Spy
par Robert Harris
Edition : Poche
Prix : EUR 6,97

5.0 étoiles sur 5 Artful and brimming with life, 1 septembre 2015
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : An Officer and a Spy (Poche)
Turning facts into fiction is given to everyone. Turning a huge body of historical evidence into a factually near-perfect and thrilling novel is a rare talent. Loved the book throughout for its controlled pace of mounting intrigue and its atmosphere of smelly Paris in the mid 1890s. Enjoyed the author’s words of thanks to his wife, serving up cheerful meals to so many of his covert book sources over time.
This doorstopper of a book is ideal for people on long missions abroad, living through long, dark winters, and everyone else relishing a perfectly entertaining, bulky page turner about the greatest French scandal and miscarriage of justice of the 19th century, the Dreyfus affair. It is perfectly researched and highlights the precarious status of French Jews after France’s crushing defeat to Germany in 1870. It was the first war where artillery was used on civilian targets. France lost 130.000 souls and its eastern provinces of Alsace and Lorraine. There and then, the victors decreed a choice of allegiance: who stays becomes German, who leaves chooses for France. Most Alsatian Jews chose German citizenship, but not all… Since 1870, Jews in France became increasingly stereotyped as shifty people without a country, unreliable in war or in a French army.
In 1894, Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish captain in the French army was arrested for treason to Germany. He was interrogated, tried and sentenced to exile on Devil’s Island, a French penal colony in South America. Did he get a fair hearing or trial? How conclusive was the evidence against him? Had he raised suspicion before? Was he a scapegoat for lingering defeatism? Halfway into the book, the purported author of the investigation has enough evidence to exonerate Dreyfus and indict someone else. This is where this reader bows out because from now on the plot thickens…
Written in the I-form, this brilliant novel follows the one person who witnessed all court proceedings from start to finish, Georges Picquart (40), quite a character with his North African and Indo-China experience, through whose Alsatian eyes this tale unfolds. The loss of his Alsace is key to the book, so is his Alsatian network of family and friends and fellow exiles. Robert Harris describes Paris as a city of inequalities, stereotypes and second loves, suffering from seasonal stench, but also as the capital of a French state and army rapidly embracing novelties like gas and electricity, telephone & telegraph and automobiles. Highly recommended.

Sweet Tooth
Sweet Tooth
par Ian McEwan
Edition : Broché
Prix : EUR 9,37

5.0 étoiles sur 5 His best, 26 août 2015
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Sweet Tooth (Broché)
With so many reviews it is hard to add anything original or unexpected. McEwan tells the story quite convincingly from the perspective of Serena, a woman of around sixty reliving her youth and upbringing, early talents, time at Cambridge and her loves, and especially her brief career in Britain’s MI5, responsible for UK domestic security in the early 1970s, lasting only 18 months. Thereby condemning readers to turn page after beautifully-written page to find out what happened back in the early 1970s, which is a feast thanks to McEwan’s awesome background research.
Lots of linkages make great plots and books. McEwan is a master at casually dropping clues to explode later on or phrases to haunt a book. Brilliant re MI 5 in war and peace, the 1972- 1974 Troubles, energy crisis, miners strikes and other crises that beset Britain and the uses of the arts during the Cold War by intelligence agencies. Also brilliant re the novel’s other characters and his attention to detail throughout. Stunning achievement, highly recommended.
But there is more, far more for readers to discover esp. in the stunning final chapter. Kudos to John Le Carré and Martin Amis, but not to a policeman named Barnes. Viewed the use of italics in Tom’s weird stories as esthetic, to relax the eye, making blocks of text more readable, but could it have another, deeper meaning? “Saturday” has long been my favorite McEwan novel. Now “Sweet Tooth” is.

The President
The President
Prix : EUR 9,43

5.0 étoiles sur 5 Relentless, effortless masterpiece, 26 août 2015
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : The President (Format Kindle)
Time wise, the novels of Georges Simenon often last only a few days, but his masterful use of memories and flashbacks provide unusual depth to his often driven, obsessed main protagonists. “The President” (1958) has been translated afresh and describes in painstaking detail the unbroken spirit and thought processes of a retired, but still feared French politician. He is 82 and is in a physically fragile state whilst his mind still works like clockwork. Surrounded by staff who look after his safety and wellbeing, he lives in a converted farm on the Normandy coast surrounded by books inside whose pages he has hidden his stock of incriminating material on former colleagues and rivals. He still rises at 5:30 on the off chance of being called to rescue the nation once more, to do his lifelong duty and take charge again. He served as a minister 22 times, eight of which as prime minister .
Written in 1957, before France finally became a stable political entity in 1959 under Charles de Gaulle, this is a compelling novel about French politics, rule by coalition, role of the press and blackmail. It is also a fine character study of a man without compromise, assuming full personal responsibility again and again, ready to do whatever is necessary to prevent France from sliding into chaos. Stunning finish. One question: why this title? After all, a job he cherished, but never attained. Great read, great author.

The Saint-Fiacre Affair: Inspector Maigret #13
The Saint-Fiacre Affair: Inspector Maigret #13
par Georges Simenon
Edition : Broché
Prix : EUR 8,30

4.0 étoiles sur 5 Very personal early Maigret mystery, 19 août 2015
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : The Saint-Fiacre Affair: Inspector Maigret #13 (Broché)
Early work from 1932 and arresting for its bleak atmosphere. Commissaire Maigret returns to the village of his birth and to the castle whose farms and grounds his father managed for the aristocratic feudal estate of the Saint Fiacre family. He returns because of a murder foretold, with two weeks to spare. When? On All Souls, 1 November 1931 during early mass. Who will be killed? For the time being, that remains a mystery. On the eve of the fateful morning Maigret leaves Paris and at dawn attends mass in the village of his childhood, where, turned a sturdy man of 42 and smoking a pipe, nobody recognizes him anymore. And sure enough, someone dies during mass, someone he admired as a child, the Countess Saint Fiacre… But was she really murdered?
Maigret is one of several highly emotional main characters in the aftermath of her death. He is angry about the decline of the estate and whoever was or were responsible. Others are distraught for other reasons and few of them come out smelling of roses. Simenon acknowledges Sir Walter Scott as the original source of the Gothic-style finale of this family tragedy, with all likely suspects plus some innocent key witnesses, wining and dining in a candle-lit room in the castle, the deceased laying in state above them on the next floor and her only son Maurice about to give the performance of his life…
Lovely intermezzo between hi tech and dark web thrillers. As in much of the rest of Europe, in Simenon’s early 1930s rural France inns or homes often had no electricity and were poorly heated; few people enjoyed hot showers. Telephones were rare and a call to Paris took 15 minutes to get through. Catholicism was quite dominant and so was inequality between landowners and landless, masters and servants.
Finally, Simenon always wrote at breakneck speed. Aged 29, this was his 13th about Maigret after producing ten (10) titles in 1931. It follows that readers intent on justice for all with no loose ends remaining, are occasionally disappointed. Read earlier his 1939 “The Burgomaster of Furnes”, a psychological novel and found that novel really good. “The Saint Fiacre Affair” is a page turner and highly amusing because of Maigret’s personal fury and all the pathos and human frailty described.

Sleeping Beauty
Sleeping Beauty
Prix : EUR 8,99

4.0 étoiles sur 5 About adultery, avarice and anger, 8 août 2015
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Sleeping Beauty (Format Kindle)
This thriller is about an oil spill off the coast of California and the impact it has on the family owning the drilling concession. Within hours of the news breaking, PI Lew Archer accidentally meets one of its members, Lauren whose rescued seabird dies in her hands. He drives her to his apartment for her to clean up, learns more about herself and the name of her husband. After she has gone, LA finds his supply of sleeping pills missing. He starts a search, beginning with her husband, who hires him to find her, then questions separately friends and relatives for hours and hours, digging up a little dirt at every turn about members of a family held together by the promise of money….
Ross McDonald follows Archer’s progress in a neutral style and with lots of dialogue. Situated in 1973, not a word about Vietnam, all the more about WW II, still fresh in the minds of several key protagonists. Subtle, sincere and authentic throughout and carefully composed.
I enjoy rereading crime and spy writers of the 1960s and -70s to see how their books compare with today’s offerings. Most oldies worked alone or with a little help from their friends, eschewing the latest technology (Le Carré) or partially making it up (Deighton). Salvage consultant Travis McGee probed deep into various Florida-based scams and earning models; to get the details right, his creator John D. McDonald may have paid a researcher or two. Today’s virtual arms race among authors re digital matters, makes paid outside expertise indispensible. In addition, books have also increasingly been produced on creative assembly lines employing a dozen or more specialists full time, netting 3-4 titles annually, e.g. the late Tom Clancy, Harlan Coben. In other words, writing, once purely a craft, has become more industrial. Without external help, craftsman Georges Simenon (1903-1989) wrote 220+ books, selling 550m worldwide on a typewriter at a top speed of 60-70 pp/day. That is extreme. The other extreme is today’s bestselling sector churning out like linked sausages millions of market research-based, overlong and instantly forgettable books, not book titles...
So, this reader is pleased to see Ross McDonald is still remembered and being reprinted.

Gone for Good
Gone for Good
Prix : EUR 5,35

4.0 étoiles sur 5 School reunion of sorts, 5 août 2015
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Gone for Good (Format Kindle)
What new to say after so many positive reviews? Is this thriller an ode to novelist and activist Andrew Vachss (AV) ’s lifelong fight against pedophiles and sexual exploitation of children? AV’s security-conscious hero Burke led a weird posse of helpers and AV’s prose dripped with hatred from every page. Harlan Coben(HC)’s hero Will Klein is in the same business, but less focused on perverts and perpetrators. Instead, he highlights the backgrounds of the runaways arriving in droves in NYC and helps them from sliding into a drugs-dependent street life full of cheap casual sex and early death. Alone? Will Klein is also part of a gang of committed helpers, headed by the tattooed owner/founder of a small yoga empire, incidentally also his boss and best friend.
Enough about Vachss because HC’s thriller goes far beyond child abuse. It is about old murders, others taking place in the present and likely to happen in future. Intricate, intelligent plot full of cliff hangers in which Will Klein, a self-declared coward, is pressed by circumstances to rise above himself. And readers are always ahead of him in his search for answers to many questions and mysteries. No one except storyteller Will Klein turns out to be the type of person initially portrayed. HC is not a quick finisher (or economic writer), rather a meticulous plotter expertly suturing any remaining loose ends
HC’s writing is interactive, sometimes funny, ironical or laconic, sometimes thoughtful and emphatic, never losing pace or focus. My favorite chapter of this action-packed book concerns a key witness about two murdered former students of a girls college. She opens her door to investigator Will, dressed in full mourning, her small house almost bursting with Lady Di memorabilia… A chapter of pure slapstick (at least for me) at a time just past the halfway mark when the book needed it. Brilliant cameo.

Burgomaster of Furnes
Burgomaster of Furnes
par Simenon
Edition : Relié

5.0 étoiles sur 5 Powerful tale, 30 juillet 2015
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Burgomaster of Furnes (Relié)
First and last translated in 1952, since then appearing in various Simenon Omnibus collections, international publishers should perhaps follow the 2015 Dutch example and refresh/revive this 1938 drama with a new translation. After all, Georges Simenon (1903-89) has sold 550m books and is nr 17 as most translated author worldwide. His enormous oeuvre and sales have underpinned numerous publishing houses enabling them to expand. An imaginary Nobel Prize for Literature for dead writers should go to him first, not for depth of thought, brilliant ideas or sheer beauty, but for his impact on publishing.
This novel is about rags and riches and poor-born Joris Terlinck’s (JT) unstoppable climb to wealth and power in a West Flemish agro town of 5.000 souls. After 20 years in opposition in the town council, the Establishment symbolized by the local chapter of the ‘Catholic Circle’ gave in and accepted him as mayor, a job he does alone, innovating, breaking with traditions, incorruptible. Everyone calls him ‘Boss’. JT reads the minds of his enemies and snuffs out dissent and worse with a cold stare and a few terse words, also at home. Most of all, he is deeply set in his daily ways and that leads, step by tiny step to dark clouds gathering over everything he has defiantly created and micro-managed…
Moving and formidable, complicated psychological novel covering many painful themes and one brief incident turning into fatal drama, then infatuation. Otherwise, Georges Simenon may well have been the first Belgian francophone author to show that—despite all else—the Flemish way of governance and doing business was superior to the then dominant Wallonian culture of backroom decision making and nepotism. However, can a single-minded man like JT really dominate a small town without supporters, as suggested here? Great clammy, chilly and oppressive atmosphere throughout. Highly recommended.

Fire in the Blood
Fire in the Blood
par Irène Némirovsky
Edition : Relié
Prix : EUR 18,69

5.0 étoiles sur 5 Final Prayer, 25 juillet 2015
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Fire in the Blood (Relié)
This novel by Irène Némirovsky (IM; Kiev 1903-Auschwitz 1942) is set before WWII, but also the last book she wrote. It deals with what she called the surge in pure passion and urge for adventure afflicting most youngsters aged around 20. And also with marital infidelity, family secrets, indifference towards the Others and greed and avarice in Deepest France, Burgundy. Storyteller Sylvestre, scion of a clan of big landowners, now old and ruined, once thought pure passion was enough to conquer the world and sold his pastures and farmland to live life to the full in Canada, in Africa, the Pacific.
How long does the impulse or blind faith to try to conquer the world last among men and women? A few months, years, occasionally decades. Or never, as with passionless Jean, murdered, possible robbed too by his wife’s lover. Old Sylvestre is content to live out his lonely and impoverished pariah life in Burgundy in the little house and orchard he still owns, served by a maid in feudal France sometime between the World Wars. What happened to Jean is for readers to discover.
Could IM have found in this region a person or family who would have hidden her successfully until France’s liberation? Living and hiding in Sylvestre’s orchard and house, she might have survived, but the Others could easily have betrayed her. As happened in 1942. Full of atmosphere and drama, well plotted and deep down, sounding like a prayer for a safe place written by a fugitive in a French forest.

par Harlan Coben
Edition : Broché
Prix : EUR 10,03

4.0 étoiles sur 5 Children's book!, 24 juillet 2015
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Found (Broché)
Took this book home from the library thinking it dealt with sports impresario Myron Bolitar. He figures prominently indeed in the first chapters, but as the uncle of 13 or 14 year old basketball prodigy Mickey Bolitar, from whose perspective this book, and two earlier installments, “Shelter” and “Seconds Away”, is written. Live and learn. So, for 50 pages or so I entered then exited, a rather alien world of high school gazing, teens terrorized by an occult butterfly and other fears, and their addiction to social media, once described as a tool of reaction without action.
Reading on was no option, but hope nonetheless that other readers, esp. parents agree that Harlan Coben is the best possible advisor of carefully dealing with the internet: his writing style is always highly interactive, here through Mickey whose adolescent concerns and insecurities are perfectly echoed. To engage teenagers, he writes brief chapters full of drama and cliffhangers to warn about e.g. the perils of chat rooms. Unless I am terribly wrong, this book and series is an extension of, or aid to good parenthood.

par Philip Kerr
Edition : Broché
Prix : EUR 5,85

2.0 étoiles sur 5 Another disappointment, 21 juillet 2015
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Prayer (Broché)
Abandoned his 'Research' after 50 pp and consigned it to a small pile of books for when snowed in for weeks. Was it bad? Not really. It was Kerr's chattiness and hovering between genres that killed my appetite, a pity because writers like Ian McEwan in "Sweet Tooth" succeeded in doing just that.
In "'Prayer'" he probes into his own Catholic Scots upbringing via Giles ('Gil') Martins, who emigrated from Scotland to the US with his parents in 1990, graduated from Harvard and now working for the FBI in Houston TX. After years of investigating unspeakable violence, Gil has lost his faith in God and all that comes with it. He has not seen a single case of divine intervention, only senseless slaughter and mayhem. He always carries a gel with him to keep at least his hands clean. The start of a marital crisis with his deeply religious wife Ruth coincides with being assigned to a new case, whilst also receiving an urgent request from an Irish priest to investigate why an atheist friend has ended in a psychiatric ward, not responding to drugs or therapy. At work, Gil is ordered to find an unusual serial killer, one who terminates really good people who have been working abroad or at home for the poor and vulnerable. Priest Coogan gives Gil print-outs of internet files of similar cases of people suddenly turning catatonic, immune to treatment.
Despite plenty of excellent background on sectarian strife in Scotland, Christianity in Texas, the latest in US law enforcement and IT, "Prayer" is also wordy and formulaic with everyone talking in the same aggressive way, full of f* and s* words and their permutations. [Why so much cliché swearing in a book about a struggle between faith and atheism?] No doubt written with the best intentions, but on p.160, after its taxing, overlong 14th chapter, I took a quick peek on the internet to see if reading another 200 pp. was recommended. Alas, it was not. It has joined 'Research' on the little winter pile.

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