This is a fascinating memoir about living on an organic vineyard in Saussignac, Dordogne. The Caro and her husband are raising their two daughters to be environmentally aware in one of the most beautiful regions of France. The couple faces countless challenges in their business ventures, cultivating grapes, marketing their wine and strengthening their marriage.
The descriptions of wine and food is delectable but, more importantly, this book presents a persuasive look at the ecological dangers of using pesticides in vineyards. It isn’t easy to find organic wine up here in the mountains of North Carolina but the author has made a convert out of me. Oh, and one other little personal delight, is a meeting between Caro and author Martin Walker (see my review of The Templar’s Last Secret) at a wine fair.
Pub Date: Sept 2017
As a young orphan boy in Victorian London, Wiggins had been trained by the best. Known to us today as the Baker Street Irregulars, Wiggins and his fellow street urchins were initiated into the world of trade craft by none other than Sherlock Holmes. After a stint in the military, Wiggins is back on the streets working for a debt collector. A thankless job that isn’t paying the rent. Enter Captain Vernon Kell from the War Office. It is 1909, trouble is brewing abroad and England will be at war in five years. There are Bolsheviks in Russia, an arms race with Germany and European treaties are in peril. Foreigners are bringing their problems to Great Britain and Kell badly needs agents to work undercover.
Wiggins turns up his nose at the offer to go “official” until an old army buddy is killed by Russian anarchists. Sherlock Holmes, who recommended him to Kell, urges him to put his talents to good use. At first, Wiggins agrees to go undercover in a munitions factory only because he wants revenge. Before long, the investigation quickly becomes a complicated game with alarming consequences for the Empire.
H.B. Lyle was in the film industry and it shows. The story is fast-paced, rich in descriptions and the dialogue is true to the characters. Overall, this book is just plain fun. It is sprinkled with real life personages, such as Captain Kell, Winston Churchill and MI6 founder, Mansfield Cumming, as well as the literary characters of Wiggins, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. There is even a link to Her Majesty’s favorite spy, James Bond.
Pub Date: November 7, 2017
Beatrice “Trixie” von Falkenburg, a Countess of English/Czech decent, is drawn into helping her uncle discover the truth behind the death of her uncle’s former military aide. Outside of reading Sherlock Holmes, the Countess is totally unprepared to be an amateur sleuth, but what she lacks in worldly experience and guile, she makes up for in pluck and intuition.
Before long, Trixie is chasing down disreputable actors, an international thief, a Russian ballerina and an ingenious scientist. Learning as she goes, the Countess travels from Prague to Paris, on to London, and finally to a climactic meeting between Edward VII and Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm in the Czech spa resort of Marinbad.
The evolution from the Countess Beatrice von Falkenburg to Trixie the detective, is the delightful bit about this book. Her husband, the Count, has lost his ancestral home and most of his fortune but is off attending several “bachelor” hunting parties throughout the book. They write letters back and forth, he agreeably sends her money when she asks, but he is never there when she needs him. So, the reader, and eventually Trixie herself, begins to realize that maybe she doesn’t need him at all.
Film director, Stephen Weeks, paints a rapidly changing society that is ten years away from a World War. He propels the beautiful Countess on a confusing and often frightening adventure with masterful superfluities of wit and sparkle. I am looking forward to reading the next book in the series.
I love, love, love French private detective, Aimée Leduc! This series is like sitting down to a cup of espresso and a slice of tarte tatin, I have to pace myself. When it comes to Parisian ambiance, Cara Black does not disappoint.
Aimée is juggling her young daughter, an on-site computer security job, a possible blackmail, the return of her baby’s father and a host of other nuisances in the broiling August heat on the back of her unreliable pink Vespa. She doesn’t really have time to take on another investigation but her old friend Suzanne Lesage, is haunted by events she experienced during her stint in Serbia as part of an elite counter-terrorism team. Suzanne swears that the vicious war criminal Mirko Vladi is back from dead. When other members of the French team start dying, Aimée must contend with the consequences of a possible conspiracy and the safety of her child.
This is the 17th book in the series. You don’t have to read the series in order but, if you haven’t read these books yet, it’s easy to get hooked. The author is a master at running different plot lines at one time and her reoccurring characters and their backstories are fascinating.
Based on the author’s mother’s experiences during the war, yet a novel. Czech Lena Kulkova, her lover Otto and a small band of their fellow socialists manage to escape Paris and get to England ahead of the Nazis. They land in a small English village under the patronage of a like-minded noblewoman. They’ve all left family behind and as the war goes on, Lena begins to hear terrible rumors about the fate of her Jewish family.
There is a lot happening in this book. Maybe too much. However, Lena, does stay absolutely true to her socialist leanings. We get a glimpse, as the war begins to wind down, of the origins behind the rise of the Labour Party and the rise of the welfare state in Great Britain.
The last chapter brings us into the future, Lena’s adult daughter is visiting her elderly daughter. In her mother’s final days she discovers photographs of her mother’s family that perished in the camps. This revelation, while poignant, was a bit out of place. We don’t really learn why Lena never shared this with her daughter, which leaves us wondering about what else she left out.
Despite the disappointing ending, the author has written a compelling refugee story.
Pub Date 26 Sep 2017
Vivian Miller works long hours but, thank heavens, for her reliable work-at-home husband. He has dinner ready when she gets home, takes the kids to school and has always supported her advancement as a CIA analyst. Vivian’s current project, pluming the murky depths of Russian sleeper agents, has become an obsession. Her success at identifying these illusive cells could result in a desperately needed promotion.
Vivian is getting close. As she delves into a suspected Russian spy’s computer files, she comes across a folder with five photographs of ordinary looking Americans who fit the perfect profile for embedded plants. She flips through the pictures until she lands on one that freezes her in her tracks. In that moment, her job, country, her family and all that matters to her becomes precarious.
I stayed up late reading this one. Not only does it make you wonder about the strangers you pass on the street, it makes you question the people you know. High stakes suspense right up to the end!
Pub Date 23 Jan 2018