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Assignment in Brittany

by Helen MacInnes

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Wow!

I’m going to give this book the full 5★, even though a couple of parts dragged for me.

Do you know when this book was first published?

1942.

When WW2 was still raging on. Ms MacInnes moved to the States in 1937 & communications (of course) aren’t immediate the way they are now. But I’m going to assume that Ms MacInnes had done her research – or even talked to people who had had first hand experience.

Martin Hearn was the body double of a badly injured (in Britain) Breton & is parachuted into Brittany to take his place in a village of people who knew the real Bertrand Corlay well. Martin is also fluent in French, but will he be able to deceive people who knew the real Corlay well – like his mother & his fiancée?

Like I said above, there were some slow patches, but both the beginning & the end were taut & exciting & I found the (view spoiler)

Be prepared for some chauvinism;

And yet it was difficult to restrain his own particular brand of humour when a young woman took herself so seriously: still more difficult when the young woman was so beautiful as this one.

Disappointing from a female author, but unfortunately so common in 2oth century fiction.

I still loved it.

The Girl in the Mirror

by Rose Carlyle

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Warning: Open spoilers.

Summer & Iris. The mirror twins. Saintly Summer & calculating Iris.

They are sailing a yacht from Thailand to the Seychelles when things go horribly wrong & Iris decides to take over her twin’s life.

The whole premise was very farfetched & not helped by some banal & unpolished writing at the start. But when Summer disappears the writing goes up a notch & it is fascinating (if unlikely) watching Iris’s stratagems.

For me the ending was quite frankly ridiculous & I am still confused by how much Summer’s husband Adam knew. Other readers have complained that all the characters were unlikeable but I did like Ben. A couple of characters notably Colton had abrupt character changes that seemed to be designed to fit with the plot, rather than reality.

So 3.5★. & that high only because I always go easy on Kiwi authors. This is Ms Carlyle’s first novel & I am confident that she will improve as time goes on.

Die Again

by Lisa Gerritsen

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This isn’t the sort of book I normally read.

At all.

But my neighbours & good friends absolutely loved it, in spite of not normally being a fan of Tess Gerritsen’s work & pressed this book on me.

In their opinion it wasn’t necessary to read the earlier books in this series as they thought they were inferior to this one. I don’t know if I agree with this, as there are a lot of mentions of previous events which help explain Jane & Maura’s characters & motivations.

What I struggled with at the start was;

• The excessive foreshadowing of one early event.

This must have been mentioned six times, so the subsequent, gory discovery was no great surprise.

• The blood, gore & all round gruesomeness. I normally don’t do violence (or horror, if it comes to that) & this book came very close to being a DNF at around 10%. But I decided to give the book till around 20% to engage me & I am very glad that I did.

The action was fast paced and the story of gruesome murders & disappearances on a safari in Botswana and the horrifying death of a taxidermist in Boston are intertwined. Or are they? *Evil Cackle.*

Lots of twists & turns so be alert while reading.

Recommended to those with a reasonably strong stomach.

Recommended to me by John & Cara.

Ice Station Zebra

by Alistair MacLean

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Alistair MacLean was one of my late Dad’s favourite authors & I read many of MacLean’s books when I was young. My favourite was Where Eagles Dare. I’m fairly sure I haven’t read this title before. I think I would remember the plot idea, as for me it was a very original one.

A nuclear submarine, the Dolphin, answers a distress signal to investigate what has happened at a weather monitoring station. Aboard the Dolphin is the mysterious Dr Carpenter, & it soon turns out he has a very close connection to the Drift Ice Station Zebra…

This book was an uneven read for me – slow moving in parts, with a lot of Dialogue as an Explanation and a large caste of characters who often had similar speaking styles. I had a lot of trouble telling them apart & in the end I gave up. The peacock-like mutual admiration that some of them feel for each other was a turn off, & the book shows it’s age being that there isn’t a single female character.

But the parts of the books that worked really worked & had a lot of action & excitement.

No longer my genre & while I would like to read Where Eagles Dare again, I can’t imagine that I will read any of MacLean’s other books.

Lonely Road

by Nevil Shute

Rating: 5 out of 5.

After finishing this book last night, I have thought too hard about it not to give it 5★

And this is in spite of a protagonist/narrator who I found very unlikeable at the start, and a very unusual preface and confusing first chapter. I reread the preface after I finished the book and found that everything did in fact work.

The wealthy and usually solitary Malcolm drives drunk (definitely) and has a serious accident(apparently) where he sustains a serious head injury. Even confused, Malcolm is a tenacious character who tries to make sense of his fragmented memories of the night.

After recovering, lonely and away from home in Leeds, he goes to a dance hall. The partner he chooses, Mollie, interests him and turns out to have an important link to his story.

As I am typing this, I realise these are a series of fantastic coincidences, but such is Shute’s skill and, even though this was only his third book, he weaves his story together well, so well that in spite of knowing how the story ends I’m hoping for as better outcome for Malcolm and Mollie

Shute has written a brief Author’s Note at the start of my edition, stating that the first chapter of this book was an experiment that wasn’t that well received by all readers. I like it but would say this book is for patient readers only. But, once this tale gets going, it is nearly impossible to put down.

Recommended.