Quick Review: DARK SACRED NIGHT by Michael Connelly (Grand Central Publishing/Orion)

ConnellyM-HB21-DarkSacredNightUSPBHarry Bosch teams up with LAPD Detective Renée Ballard to face the unsolved murder of a runaway, and the fight to bring a killer to justice.

Detective Renée Ballard is working the night beat — known in LAPD slang as “the late show” — and returns to Hollywood Station in the early hours to find a stranger rifling through old file cabinets. The intruder is retired detective Harry Bosch, working a cold case that has gotten under his skin.

Ballard can’t let him go through department records, but when he leaves, she looks into the case herself and feels a deep tug of empathy and anger. She has never been the kind of cop who leaves the job behind at the end of her shift — and she wants in.

The murder, unsolved, was of fifteen-year-old Daisy Clayton, a runaway on the streets of Hollywood who was brutally killed, her body left in a dumpster like so much trash. Now Ballard joins forces with Bosch to find out what happened to Daisy, and to finally bring her killer to justice. Along the way, the two detectives forge a fragile trust, but this new partnership is put to the test when the case takes an unexpected and dangerous turn.

In Dark Sacred Night, the 21st novel featuring Detective Harry Bosch, he finally teams up with Connelly’s most recent fictional detective: Renée Ballard. Introduced in The Late Show (my first of Connelly’s books), I have been eagerly anticipating these two characters coming together. Two detectives utterly committed to their mission, they make for an excellent team. Couple these great characters with a gripping, moving story of loss and justice, and you have yet another must-read novel. Continue reading

Quick Review: THE WRONG SIDE OF GOODBYE and TWO KINDS OF TRUTH by Michael Connelly (Orion/Grand Central)

ConnellyM-HB19-WrongSideOfGoodbye

Bosch enters a new phase of his law enforcement career

As you may have noticed, I’ve been working my way through the Bosch universe novels at a fair clip this year. Now that I’ve caught up with recent novels, I thought I’d write some more reviews. These two novels were published 2016 and 2018 — they were separated by The Late Show, which introduced Renee Ballard (and was also the first of Connelly’s books that I read). Both of these were excellent novels, and Connelly remains one of the best writers working today. Continue reading

Interview with P. DJÈLÍ CLARK

ClarkPD-AuthorPicLet’s start with an introduction: Who is P. Djèlí Clark?

I’m a writer of speculative fiction by night and a mild-mannered assistant professor of history by dayd. Neither of those personas fights crime.

Your latest novella, The Haunting of Tram Car 015, will be published by Tor.com early next year. It looks really interesting: How would you introduce it to a potential reader? Is it part of a series?

The Haunting of Tram Car 015 takes place in the same world as a 2016 novelette published on Tor.com titled, A Dead Djinn in Cairo. Set in an alternate 1912 Egypt of steampunk, djinn, magic and clockwork angels, that initial story follows the exploits of Special Investigator Fatma el-Sha’arawi of the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities — tasked with policing the boundaries of the supernatural and the mundane. The Haunting of Tram Car 015 opens up this world further through two new characters — Agents Hamed Nasr and Onsi Youseff — as they attempt to deal with a case of magic and transportation gone awry. Hilarity and hijinks ensue. Continue reading

Quick Review: THE CORROSION OF CONSERVATISM by Max Boot (Liveright)

BootM-CorrosionOfConservatismAn interesting account of a Republican’s departure from his life-long political home

Warning that the Trump presidency presages America’s decline, the political commentator recounts his extraordinary journey from lifelong Republican to vehement Trump opponent.

As nativism, xenophobia, vile racism, and assaults on the rule of law threaten the very fabric of our nation, The Corrosion of Conservatism presents an urgent defense of American democracy.

Pronouncing Mexican immigrants to be “rapists,” Donald Trump announced his 2015 presidential bid, causing Max Boot to think he was watching a dystopian science-fiction movie. The respected conservative historian couldn’t fathom that the party of Lincoln, Roosevelt, and Reagan could endorse such an unqualified reality-TV star. Yet the Twilight Zone episode that Boot believed he was watching created an ideological dislocation so shattering that Boot’s transformation from Republican foreign policy adviser to celebrated anti-Trump columnist becomes the dramatic story of The Corrosion of Conservatism.

No longer a Republican, but also not a Democrat, Boot here records his ideological journey from a “movement” conservative to a man without a party, beginning with his political coming-of-age as a young émigré from the Soviet Union, enthralled with the National Review and the conservative intellectual tradition of Russell Kirk and F. A. Hayek. Against this personal odyssey, Boot simultaneously traces the evolution of modern American conservatism, jump-started by Barry Goldwater’s canonical The Conscience of a Conservative, to the rise of Trumpism and its gradual corrosion of what was once the Republican Party.

While 90 percent of his fellow Republicans became political “toadies” in the aftermath of the 2016 election, Boot stood his ground, enduring the vitriol of his erstwhile conservative colleagues, trolled on Twitter by a white supremacist who depicted his “execution” in a gas chamber by a smiling, Nazi-clad Trump. And yet, Boot nevertheless remains a villain to some partisan circles for his enduring commitment to conservative fiscal and national security principles. It is from this isolated position, then, that Boot launches this bold declaration of dissent and its urgent plea for true, bipartisan cooperation.

With uncompromising insights, The Corrosion of Conservatism evokes both a president who has traduced every norm and the rise of a nascent centrist movement to counter Trump’s assault on democracy.

I’ve been aware of Max Boot’s writings for a long time. I read many of his articles as part of my research for one of my PhD chapters. I frequently disagreed with him, especially on US domestic policy, but was always interested in reading what he thought about foreign policy (the subject of my thesis). During 2016, like many who are interested in/obsessed with US politics, I noticed his sharp break from his party and have watched with interest his evolution as his former-party has imploded and wholly bought into Trumpism. Continue reading

Quick Review: KING OF ASSASSINS by RJ Barker (Orbit)

BarkerRJ-3-KingOfAssassinsThe brutal, engrossing, twisty finale to the Wounded Kingdom trilogy

Assassin Girton Club-Foot has lived in relative peace for many years, but now his king, Rufra ap Vthyr, eyes the vacant High-King’s throne and will take his court to the capital. In a viper’s nest of intrigue, the endgame of twenty years of politics and murder will be played out in the bid to become the King of all Kings.

Friends become enemies, enemies become friends, and the god of death stands closer than ever, casting his shadow over everyone Girton holds dear.

And so the Wounded Kingdom trilogy comes to a close… It’s been a fantastic journey, to follow these characters from their youth to the ultimately tragic end of King of Assassins. Easily one of my favourite recent fantasy series, this finale did not disappoint. Continue reading

Quick Review: THE MAN BETWEEN by Charles Cumming (Harper Collins)

CummingC-ManBetweenUKA spy novelist finds himself recruited into the world of espionage…

He risked it all to become a spy. Now he must pay the price.

One simple task for British Intelligence takes him into a world of danger.

Successful novelist Kit Carradine has grown restless. So when British Intelligence invites him to enter the secret world of espionage, he willingly takes a leap into the unknown.

But the glamour of being a spy is soon tainted by fear and betrayal, as Carradine finds himself in Morocco on the trail of Lara Bartok a mysterious fugitive with links to international terrorism.

Bartok is a leading figure in Resurrection, a violent revolutionary movement whose brutal attacks on prominent right-wing politicians have spread hatred and violence throughout the West.

As the coils of a ruthless plot tighten around him, Carradine finds himself drawn to Lara. Caught between competing intelligence services who want her dead, he soon faces an awful choice: to abandon Lara to her fate or to risk everything trying to save her.

Charles Cumming is one of my favourite thriller authors. It’s becoming almost cliché to compare him to le Carré, but he remains the best comparator. Cumming writes intelligent, engaging and interesting espionage thrillers. In his latest novel — The Man Between in the UK, and The Moroccan Girl in North America — he takes a premise that is very interesting and possibly something many thriller authors think/fantasize about frequently: what if an author of the genre was recruited by a secret service to aid them in an investigation? I really enjoyed this novel. Continue reading

Quick Review: LEADERSHIP by Doris Kearns Goodwin (Simon & Schuster)

GoodwinDK-LeadershipUSAn excellent examination of four presidents, their development into leaders, and how they overcame the challenges they faced

Are leaders born or made? Where does ambition come from? How does adversity affect the growth of leadership? Does the leader make the times or do the times make the leader?

In Leadership, Goodwin draws upon the four presidents she has studied most closely — Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Lyndon B. Johnson (in civil rights) — to show how they recognized leadership qualities within themselves and were recognized as leaders by others. By looking back to their first entries into public life, we encounter them at a time when their paths were filled with confusion, fear, and hope.

Leadership tells the story of how they all collided with dramatic reversals that disrupted their lives and threatened to shatter forever their ambitions. Nonetheless, they all emerged fitted to confront the contours and dilemmas of their times.

No common pattern describes the trajectory of leadership. Although set apart in background, abilities, and temperament, these men shared a fierce ambition and a deep-seated resilience that enabled them to surmount uncommon hardships. At their best, all four were guided by a sense of moral purpose. At moments of great challenge, they were able to summon their talents to enlarge the opportunities and lives of others.

This seminal work provides an accessible and essential road map for aspiring and established leaders in every field. In today’s polarized world, these stories of authentic leadership in times of apprehension and fracture take on a singular urgency.

Doris Kearns Goodwin is one of the best presidential historians working today. Best known for her superb, exhaustive biography of Abraham Lincoln’s Cabinet and presidency, Team of Rivals, Goodwin has also written substantial biographies of Lyndon B. Johnson (who she worked for), Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Teddy Roosevelt and William Howard Taft. In Leadership, she examines how Lincoln, Johnson, FDR and TR developed into the leadership roles they inhabited. It is an excellent distillation of her previous scholarship with that specific question in mind. Engaging, rigorous, and illuminating, this is an excellent history. Continue reading