[reading] What have you read recently? (continued)


The Guvnor
Staff member
The Mask of Dimitrios, by Eric Ambler.

Technically a stand-alone, there is a sequel (The Intercom Conspiracy) which is set about a decade later.

While visiting Turkey during the 1930s, author Charles Latimer is introduced to a Turkish police chief, and accompanies him to a mortuary to view a body fished out of the Bosphorus. Here, the policeman tells him about the body - it has been identified as that of a criminal of Greek extraction. Latimer is intrigued by the dossier, and sets out to find out more, retracing Dimitrios' footsteps from Smyrna in 1922 (where Dimitrios starts his criminal career with the robbery and murder of a money-lender and the framing of his accomplice for the murder) to Paris in 1939 where the explosive denouement takes place in an extraordinary flat of one of Dimitrios' former gang members.

Throughout the journey, Latimer comes to understand his own motives for tracing Dimitrios' journey. Initially thinking it would form a plot for his next detective novel, he develops an obsession with Dimitrios. From encounters in seedy bars and train carriages, from luxury villas to shabby hotels, the pre-war Balkans are skilfully drawn.

You know I have never read Eric Ambler. I think I saw a few on my grandparents bookshelves, that's all I know...
I read a load a few years back from the local library even if I had to order them from the warehouse. If you like Between the Wars spy-type fiction then they are great and he is a very good story teller/writer.


Rune Priest
I certainly didn't read it in one chunk, I found it easy to read a chapter or two at a time. In some ways, the story was quite episodic, so it lent itself to that reading experience. I seem to recall seeing it in our local branch library in Poole, but don't recall ever reading any back in the day. I might try and pick up the others if I see them cheap, but with so much to read, I'm not fussed.


Rune Priest
An Easy Death, by Charlaine Harris (Gunnie Rose 1)

It's been on my TBR pile for a while now since picking it up in a Kindle deal a couple of years ago. Not bad, although a touch on the ultra-violent side for my taste but it goes with the genre. A mash-up of the alt-hist, urban fantasy and Western genres.

Lisbeth Rose is a gun-slinger, working for a gang of people smugglers in what was Texas in an alternate USA in roughly the 1930s or 1940s. The break-point appears to be early 20th Century, with Theodore Roosevelt predeceasing McKinley, and their replacements unable to hold the USA together. Portions went to Canada and Mexico, all bar one of the original 13 states returned to the British Empire, and the West Coast becoming the Holy Russian Empire after the Communist takeover in Russia. The remaining states also split. Gunnie Rose lives in Texoma, and is smuggling people from what is now Mexico into New America.

After one such run ends in the death of the rest of her crew, she accepts a job with a pair of grigori (wizards) from the HRE who are searching for the child of a grigori who had been criss-crossing North America. This grigori was a descendant of Rasputin who had escaped Russia with the Tsar Nicholas and his family and had been keeping Tsar Alexei alive with blood transfusions. Now Rasputin is head, none of his descendants remaining in the HRE are suitable donors. The hunt is on to track down descendants - or to make sure the hunters fail in their mission.



Rune Priest
The Scholars of Night, by John M Ford

One of the best cold war thrillers ever written. I managed to score a copy of the eARC of the new edition from NetGalley, and promptly started reading. I've owned a copy of the original paperback for many years.

Nicholas Hansard is an historian at a small US college. He plays 'live action' Diplomacy with Dr Allan Berenson and a small circle of friends and students. Both he and Berenson work for the White Group, a US agency. 2 documents are found: a WWII dossier that went missing when the courier died in action, and a lost Christopher Marlowe play found in an English country house. The first implicates Berenson as a double agent, the second Hansard is asked to authenticate after Berenson is assassinated. Unbeknownst to both sides, Berenson has been building a network of his own - to start WWIII. After his death, his lover takes over. It's a race against time to prevent this happening.

Written in the format of a play, the action is part flashback, part real-time and part dramatic reconstruction. A typical densely-plotted Ford novel, the story drags you in and keeps you there to the conclusion.

The book is due to be released this autumn - buy it!


Rune Priest
Inanna's Tears, by Rob Vollmar and MP Mann

Graphic novel collecting the series. In the comics clear out, I came across the few issues of the comic I had, and was inspired to track down the graphic novel. Unfortunately, it wasn't available in a Kindle edition, probably because Archaia went out of business (even if it was available, I refuse to buy Comixology because I can't download).

Set in ancient Sumer, it tells the story of the conquest of a city by a warlord attempting to overthrow the patron goddess of the city and take over. The old husband of the goddess has died and passed the role to a young priestess who is loved by one of the temple scribes. She is trying to settle into her new role by dealing with unrest and shortages, but isn't given the chance as the warlord of the northern barbarians camped outside the city wants to take over.

An interesting take, especially if you read Harry Turtledove's Between the Rivers, which touches on some of the same themes. Recommended.


Rune Priest
Border Worlds, by Don Simpson

Found I was missing some issues when I catalogued the last of our comics (unless we find another box of Cerebus), so I got the graphic novel.

Part Star Wars, part early Alliance-Union, part noir, this SF story takes place on a space station orbiting in a multiple system. Jenny Woodlore is laid off from her job on Earth, and loosing her home at the same time, decides to join Frank, her brother, who lives on Chrysalis, the afore-mentioned space station. He runs a 'trucking' business, and has changed his name to Skylore from Woodlore thinking it to be more outward looking. When Jenny arrives, the business is on it's last legs - Frank had loaned their last working cargo hauler to a local low-life, Rory Smash, and it had been destroyed by Space Fleet attempting to evade pursuit. It turned out that Rory's hot-rod had been used as collateral for the loan, and Jenny grabs it and turns the business around by using the hot-rod as a taxi.

Dr Beecher, the architect of Chrysalis, returns from retirement on one of the planets in the system. Jenny was his taxi driver and they continue meeting. He is concerned by stresses on Chrysalis on passes by one of the planets, and confirms the finding of some scientists that the orbit is decaying and Chrysalis is doomed within a few months. Their findings are disputed by the government, who try to suppress them.

Cody and Drasin Revell are a brother and sister team of scientists from Earth. They discover a transmission from a probe entering a black hole, and decode it. This took some doing as the probe used 1000-year old communication protocols. The information they discover would usher in a golden age, but all Earth government can do is require them to create a black-hole weapon to crush their interstellar rivals. Escaping from Earth, they flee to Chrysalis, where they are supposed to be met by Rory Smash and taken out of both empires...

The graphic novel collects the original stories which were published as colour back-ups in Megaton Man, and continued in their own B&W comic, Border Worlds. Unfortunately, Simpson never completed the story - it ends with Rory Smash returning and reclaiming his hot rod, rescuing the Revells from Space Fleet (who were about to return them to Earth), Dr Beecher fleeing Chrysalis, and the Woodlore/Skylore business now in proud possession of a lipstick-red passion wagon. So, end of book 1, and as far as I know, Simpson never continued the story, so we are left with unanswered questions. There appear to be some cuts to the more erotic scenes from the comic notably from Border Worlds - Marooned. This latter has been interpolated into the story as chapters 16 and 17, and there has been some additional material added to maintain continuity.

I liked it back when I first got it, and very much regret the story was never completed. Recommended.
Road Seven, by Keith Rosson

Given to me from the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program in mistake, but the publisher said to keep it and sent me my original request as well.

It's taken me the best part of a year and 3 tries to read it; I kept stalling and my reading slump last summer didn't help either. Basically, 2 guys go cryptid hunting in a independent territory of Iceland. Both guys are basically losers; one is a perpetual student about to flunk out of his graduate programme, the other is an author who had a run-away best seller with what purported to be an autobiographical account of an alien abduction.

I had a hard time caring about either character and spent most of the book wondering why they were supposed to be remotely interesting.

Not my cup of tea at all.