50 Shades of Grey by E.L. James

50 shades of grey

50 shades of grey

This may be a novel and it may be fiction but it is certainly not to my taste. However, my wife and all her friends ‘rave’ about it and due to its incredible success I felt I should add it to my list of novels to discuss. The book of erotic fiction, 50 Shades of Grey by E.L. James, is surprising in its mainstream popularity given that it is a story involving such a succession of powerful, kinky sex scenes.

This is the story of a young woman, Anastasia Steele, and her obsession and love for a man who enjoys bondage and domination. 50 Shades of Grey has become the fastest-selling paperback since records began and has recently become the first ebook to break the one million sales figure. The plot describes the young heroine’s sexual submission to Christian Grey, a millionaire she barely knows. Mr Grey readily introduces her to his range of erotic master and slave fetishes and to his “Red Room of Pain”.

The book is said to have given bondage lingerie a boost in sales and has started a mini-baby boom. Some see the books as porn while others describe it as romance, but what is sure is that it will help booksellers give books a good flogging! There are now two sequels, Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed.

Fifty Shades of Grey didn’t hold my attention but there are certainly a lot of people who can’t put the book down.

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The Racketeer by John Grisham

The Racketeer

The Racketeer

The Racketeer by John Grisham tell the story of the life of Federal Judge Raymond Fogletree and his sudden and mysterious death. It’s surprising that these Judges don’t run into more difficulties when considering the enormity of the cases they deal with and the, sometimes, severe sentences they have to hand down to very dangerous individuals and organisations.

John Grisham states that in the USA only four active Federal Judges had previously been murdered, someone had just increased it to five.

The Judge’s body, along with that of his young secretary had been found in his lakeside cabin in the basement. The FBI had found the bodies after being alerted to the Judges disappearance by his law clerk. The clerk had become worried when the Judge didn’t turn up for Court on the previous Monday morning. The FBI checked the crime scene and found no forced entry and no indication of a struggle. Only the bodies showed evidence of a crime and the FBI felt it was someone close who had committed it.

The storyteller did not know the Judge but he did know why he was killed and who had done killed him. The only problem, a fellow lawyer, he now languished in prison.

The Racketeer is a piece of murder, mystery fiction which has a dark Noir feel to it. As always a tense and clever plot which has strong currents flowing through it. Well worth a read. Well done Grisham!

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The Prague Cemetery by Umberto Eco

The Prague Cemetery

The Prague Cemetery

The worldwide best seller, The Prague Cemetery (Il cimitero di Praga, in Italian) is a fictional novel by Italian author Umberto Eco which was published in 2010.

The novel starts in Paris, France in March 1897. A man who is variously a secret agent, adventurer and forger is asked to investigate assassination and political intrigue which may affect the future of Europe. His name is Captain Simone Simonini.

Various  non-fictional characters appear in the novel including are Sigmund Freud, Maurice Joly  and Eugène Sue. The novel touches on freemasonry, conspiracy theories,  and devil worship.

This is a fascinating book from Umberto Eco which, as always is written very well and which has an intricate plot. Well worth a read.

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The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

The Da Vinci Code

The Da Vinci Code

The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown, is a 2003 mystery-detective novel. It tells the story of Robert Langdon and Sophie Neveu who investigate a gruesome murder in the Louvre Museum in Paris. It relates to a supposed battle between Opus Dei and the Priory of Sion. The title of the novel relates to the murder victim being found in the Louvre in the Grand Gallery. His body was naked and artificially posed to resemble Leonardo da Vinci’s famous drawing called, the Vitruvian Man. A pentacle is drawn on the victims chest in his own blood and a cryptic message scrawled beside his body.

The fictional book has been very successful though, it has come in for criticism on many levels.

In a 2008 issue of The Paris Review Umberto Eco said , “Dan Brown is a character from Foucault’s Pendulum! I invented him. He shares my characters’ fascinations—the world conspiracy of Rosicrucians, Masons, and Jesuits. The role of the Knights Templar. The hermetic secret. The principle that everything is connected. I suspect Dan Brown might not even exist.”

During a lecture, the writer Salman Rushdie said, “Do not start me on ‘The Da Vinci Code,’ A novel so bad that it gives bad novels a bad name.”

Stephen Fry has been more vitriolic saying of Dan Brown’s work, “complete loose stool-water” and “arse gravy of the worst kind.” He went on to say, “I just loathe all those books about the Holy Grail and Masons and Catholic conspiracies and all that botty-dribble. I mean, there’s so much more that’s interesting and exciting in art and in history. It plays to the worst and laziest in humanity, the desire to think the worst of the past and the desire to feel superior to it in some fatuous way.”

Stephen King said of Dan Brown’s work that it was like, “Jokes for the John,” calling this level of work the “intellectual equivalent of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.”

The New York Times said the book was “Dan Brown’s best-selling primer on how not to write an English sentence”.

The New Yorker reviewer Anthony Lane said its “unmitigated junk” and described “the crumbling coarseness of the style.”

Among others, linguist Geoffrey Pullum called Brown one of the “worst prose stylists in the history of literature” and saying Brown’s “writing is not just bad; it is staggeringly, clumsily, thoughtlessly, almost ingeniously bad.”

Roger Ebert described it as a “potboiler written with little grace and style,” and then went on to say “I should read a potboiler like The Da Vinci Code every once in a while, just to remind myself that life is too short to read books like The Da Vinci Code.”

The author has also been embroiled in legal battles over alleged plagiarism in two of his novels.

I thought Tom Hanks who played Robert Langdon, Audrey Tautou and Sir Ian McKellen were very impressive in the film and that managed to transform the written work into something quite acceptable.

However, I have to agree with the other detractors as I did feel that the book was surprisingly purile, badly written and I found it quite turgid. Not what I expected. I wouldn’t personally bother reading any others that he writes.

He said of The Bourne Trilogy by Robert Ludlum that, ‘Ludlum’s early books are complex, smart, and yet still move at a lightning pace. This series got me interested in the genre of big-concept, international thrillers.’

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The Once and Future Spy by Robert Littell

The Once and Future Spy

The Once and Future Spy

The Once and Future Spy by Robert Littell is a novel about espionage and counterespionage involving the CIA. Stephen Coonts once said of Littell, “Eric Ambler invented the modern spy novel. Robert Littell perfected it. ‘The Once and Future Spy’ is a classic spy story.”
The plot involves a highly secret plan known only to a small group of specialists within Langley, the CIA headquarters. The plan was ultra-secret but someone has leaked it. There are deadly consequences for the plotters if they cannot trace the source. At the same time a CIA operative, known as ‘the Weeder’, is at work on a highly sensitive matter. The Weeder is obsessed with American history and a particular American hero. A clash occurs between the Weeder’s and Washington’s clandestine worlds creating difficult moral choices with far reaching effects.

Several of his novels have become New York Times and Washington Post bestsellers.

A clever, inventive novel from a world class fiction writer.

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The Vivero Letter by Desmond Bagley

The Vivero letter

The Vivero letter

The Vivero Letter was written in 1968 by Desmond Bagley.

The story starts as Jeremy Wheale’s brother is killed by a hit man sent by the Mafia. The tragedy revolves around a 16th century gold tray which is a family heirloom. Wheale travels from Devon in the south of England to Mexico and from there to the tropical rain forests of the Yucatán Peninsula. Wheale works with two archeologists as they try to find a legendary hoard of Mayan gold. The treasure is from the lost city of the Mayas, Uaxuanoc.   The Mob are on the trail of Wheale, as are the Chicleros, a deadly group of convict mercenaries as Wheale begins to mistrust his two archeologist friends.

A superb book with lots of action, a clever plot and great locations.

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Plum Island by Nelson DeMille

Plum Island

Plum Island

An NYPD homicide cop John Corey who was wounded in the line of duty is convalescing in a rural part of Long Island.  A young couple he knows are shot and killed on the family patio. They had previously worked as biologists at Plum Island, a research site which was said to be an incubator for germ warfare.

This double murder has terrifying global implications – and forces Corey and two incredible women into a perilous search for the secrets of Plum Island.

DeMille himself, has had a very interesting life spending three years as an officer in the First Cavalry Division of the United States Army. Between 1966 and 1969 he saw action as an infantry platoon leader during the Vietnam War eventually being decorated with the Bronze Star, the Air Medal and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry.

Plum Island by Nelson DeMille is gritty and atmospheric and I would thoroughly recommend it.

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The Salzburg Connection by Helen MacInnes

The Salzburg Connection by Helen MacInnes

The Salzburg Connection by Helen MacInnes

The story begins near to Salzburg, Austria, when a photographer called Richard Bryant dives into the Fintersee Lake, high in the mountains, to retrieve a large chest that had lain there for many years. Unknown to him, he is observed by others. This sets off a deadly chain of events.

Sometime later a lawyer, called William Mathison, to Bryant’s photography shop to ask about a photo book of the Austrian lakes that is said to be commissioned by Bill’s client, the publisher James Newhart. Anna, Bryant’s wife gives Bill correspondence from Eric Yates who previously claimed to be Newhart’s representative. Soon after Bill leaves, Anna’s brother Johann Kronsteiner is told, by family friend Felix Zauner, that Bryant has been killed in an accident. Bill finds that he is being followed. A desperate tale involving Austrian Intelligence, Mossad, Chinese Communists, CIA, Nazis and the KGB ensues. The secrets that lay hidden in the chest since the war were explosive.

This novel, by Helen MacInnes is one of my favourites. The start of the novel is very evocative and the suspense continues throughout the book. The story was written in 1968 and took inspiration from true life events. It had been suspected for many years that, near the end of the war, elite Nazis had trekked into the Austrian mountains and had hidden gold in the depths of many of the remote lakes. The most famous lake being Lake Toplitz which began to give up some of it’s secrets in the late 1950s as divers searched its depths.

A novel of high intrigue, spies and Neo Nazis and a very good read – particularly on a European skiing holiday on a dark night.

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