Jack’s Books: Who’s The New Girl?

What’s a summer without some intrigue and gossip?

Daniel Silva’s 2019 “Gabriel Allon” novel, “The New Girl” starts off with a new, quiet, very wealthy student at a Swiss private school, who arouses the curiosity of a teacher. Who is she, and why are faculty not allowed to ask questions? Soon enough, her true identity, and her value as a pawn in a game of international terrorism, are made clear. Gabriel, who’s now head of “The Office” (not Dunder Mifflin Paper, but Israel’s CIA) must try to extricate her from danger, and save the delicate balance of peace in the Middle East. Silva sets a high bar, and then exceeds it with one of the very best Allon books yet.

Also this month:

“Backtrack” by Joseph Hansen (1982) Attracted to this novella by Hansen’s really great P.I. series about Dave Brandsetter, but this book’s a bust. No Brandsetter, just a trite plot and dialog. It’s unlikely you would come across this 40-year old paperback, so no worries. Should you ever find a Brandsetter book at a garage sale or online, THAT you’ll enjoy.

“Before Midnight” by Rex Stout (1955) The great Nero Wolfe series soldiers on, this time Wolfe and sidekick Archie Goodwin must solve the mysteries of murder, and the corruption or rigging of an elaborate promotional contest for a perfume company. Contestants have to solve riddles for a million dollar prize, and yes, people have killed for far less. This is Wolfe and his cast of characters at their best. I love this series, and recommend reading it in chronological order, though it’s not necessary.

“War Fever: Boston, Baseball and America in the Shadow of the Great War” by R. Roberts and J. Smith (2020) I wish I could recommend this book, but it doesn’t quite match up to its promise. The authors attempt to tell, and link, the stories of three prominent men whose lives changed and were changed by the run-up to WWI: Red Sox star Babe Ruth, Boston Symphony conductor (and German national) Karl Muck, and college student-turned -war hero Charles Whittlesley. The authors have done their research, but the threads of the mens’ stories never quite hang together and it reads like a series of anecdotes or vignettes. Maybe you’ll like it; I found it hard to read and disappointing.

“The 14th Colony” by Steve Berry (2016) One of Berry’s “Cotton Malone” novels: what would happen if a president-elect and vice-president-elect both died after being elected but before tking the oath of office. I had never wondered about it, but Berry posits that many others have, and could plot chaos with a perfectly timed attack. Also, did you know how long and persistently the US secretly planned to invade Canada? I didn’t, but you’ll be fascinated by what Berry does (as well or better than anyone) in weaving together history and imaginative fiction. A great beach or travel read!

“Hostile Witness” by William Lashner (1995) This was lawyer Lashner’s debut as a mystery writer, and the introduction of his main character, attorney Victor Carl. Carl is a broke, desperate barrister barely staying afloat until a Philadelphia blueblood makes him the proverbial offer he cannot refuse: join him in the defense of a populist city councilman up for murder, arson and extortion. Carl is hooked, trapped and set up to take a fall. If you like legal thrillers by the like of Baldacci, Turow and Lescroart, you may enjoy this.

“Quiller’s Run” by Adam Hall (1988) I always say Hall’s the best espionage writer most people have never heard of. As good or better than the best from Robert Ludlum, Eric von Lustbader and even Ian Fleming. His operatve, Quiller, is a relentlessly cynical, weary, brilliant and brave British agent who gets the job done while wondering if it’s all worth it. Every Quiller novel is a gem. Here, he’s quit the government but taken a freelance assignment in Southeast Asia. Amidst lethal enemies, unreliable friends and cheating death at every turn, will he complete the mission? If you haven’t read Adam Hall before, you are going to thank me.

I’m always interested to see if you like any of these books I just finished, and of course, to hear your recommendations for reading: [email protected]

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