August Reading Was Full of Secrets, Soldiers and Secret Soldiers
Before sharing some recent reading, let me turn you on to a book I first read in 2005: “Strange But True” by John Searles. All these years later, it’s about to be a major motion picture, and I couldn’t be happier for John. His novels are unique, defying easy labels, but featuring unforgettable characters and plot twists that keep you up at night.
Now, on to the August reading:
“Gone” by Jonathan Kellerman (2006) Our story starts with one of those hoaxes that dominates and frustrates our 24 hour news-cycle, but also exposes a seamy secret. Kellerman’s duo of psychiatrist Alex Delaware and LAPD Detective Milo Sturgis are always fun for a ride-along. Kellerman’s one of the first authors I think of for an airplane ride or beach reading.
“Goodnight, Saigon: The True Story of US Marines’ Last Days in Vietnam” by Charles Henderson (2005) The famous copter-leaving-the-roof photo doesn’t begin to do justice to this period, but Henderson does a phenomenal job of research and narrative. What it was like, at the end, for Americans and Vietnamese? Getting the candid story of our former enemies is one of the book’s greatest achievements.
“Hand in Glove” by Ngaio Marsh (1962) As much as she created clever whodunits, Marsh always gives us vivid characters, crazy families, all to be ruthlessly sorted out by Chief Inspector Roderick Alleyn of Scotland Yard.
“The Rembrandt Affair” by Daniel Silva (2010) One of the very best espionage novelists. Silva’s hero is Gabriel Allon, an Israeli superagent whose cover is his “other” job, as a master art restorer. In this one, a painting by the Dutch master hides a Holocaust secret.
“Out” by Natsuo Kirino (1998) This multiple award-winning story of four Japanese women who embark on a gruesome crime is one of the most unusual and unforgettable books I’ve ever come across. There’s almost no way to briefly describe how much action, plot twists and heart you will find here.
“Rogue Heroes: The History of the SAS” by Ben MacIntyre (2016) An account of how Britain’s special services unit began, during WW2. Not so much a sweeping history, the author gets “up close and personal” with unique men who did the most incredible things you never heard of.
“Gideon’s Corpse” by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child (2012) The second Gideon Crew novel in a series. Crew’s a nerdy scientist-turned secret agent. While the plot (are terrorists about to set off a dirty bomb somewhere in the US?) feels contrived, Crew is a refreshingly cynical, human, relatable kinda guy. You find yourself thinking, “I’d do/say the same thing!”
“The Daughter of Fu Manchu” by Sax Rohmer (1930) Rohmer wrote a long series of potboilers involving a megalomaniac Chinese villain bent on world-domination. But enough about President Xi (just kidding!). Some people can’t get past the (period-correct) ethnic stereotypes. If you read it for what it was, the Fu Manchu series compares nicely to the Sherlock Holmes series, with Fu Manchu as Professor Moriarty to Neyland-Smith and Petrie as Holmes and Watson.
“Thinking About Crime” by James Q. Wilson (1975) What if we had a discussion about crime, its causes and solutions, without regard to party, politics or the personal? In a book that has been reissued many times over 40 years, Wilson says that criminal acts have rewards and penalties, and we have to be honest about both if we want to protect ourselves and reduce crime. It’s dry reading, but thought-provoking.