The Yard

The Yard

by Alex Grecian

The Yard (The Murder Squad #1)

Victorian London is a cesspool of crime, and Scotland Yard has only twelve detectives—known as “The Murder Squad”—to investigate countless murders every month. Created after the Metropolitan Police’s spectacular failure to capture Jack the Ripper, The Murder Squad suffers rampant public contempt. They have failed their citizens. But no one can anticipate the brutal murder of one of their own . . . one of the twelve . . .When Walter Day, the squad’s newest hire, is assigned the case of the murdered detective, he finds a strange ally in the Yard’s first forensic pathologist, Dr. Bernard Kingsley. Together they track the killer, who clearly is not finished with The Murder Squad . . . but why?

Filled with fascinating period detail, and real historical figures, this spectacular debut in a new series showcases the depravity of late Victorian London, the advent of criminology, and introduces a stunning new cast of characters sure to appeal to fans of The Sherlockian and The Alienist.

Cover design is an important factor for me when picking out a book.  I am a visual person and will often times pluck a book off the shelf just because of the cover.  This was one of those times, and boy am I glad I did!  Alex Grecian’s The Yard provided the perfect gritty murder mystery that I have been craving the last few weeks.

So negatives first just to get them out of the way.  I was displeased with how shallow most of the female characters are, especially with how developed the main characters are for a first novel.  Fiona and the two prostitutes are the only females I found relatable; the rest were just there and it left all dialogue including these characters flat and confusing.   I am hoping there is more to the woman in the next installment.  Just remember that The Yard is a first novel, so there could be more showing language instead of telling language, but I am excited to see how Grecian evolves over time.

Ok, on to all of the positive notes!  The main characters are wonderful.  I fell ‘head over heels’ for all of them and found myself rooting out loud for each in their struggles.  Day, Kingsley, and Hammersmith are vivid individuals in my imagination and I actually did a ‘happy dance’ upon finishing the book last night!  I will the starting the next installment, The Black Country, as soon as I get my hands on it.

I am impressed at the complex writing style utilized by Grecian.  Readers will follow multiple plot lines while solving at least three mysteries. Grecian’s style can be rather choppy because he jumps between each mystery and includes three interludes in to each main character’s past.  I was not initially a fan of the writing style because its complexity may discourage many readers, but I now believe it is the best way to present the story.  I suggest devoting large periods of time to reading The Yard because you will not want to leave Victorian London!

The Murder Squad novels would be a perfect read in the fall if you are a ‘tone’ reader like me.  Fall’s cool weather and dreary rain showers will only to draw you more into the story!  I applaud Alex Grecian; he has managed to capture the nature of real investigation while maintaining an entertaining story.  I am almost sad that The Yard had to end!

Has anyone else picked up Alex Grecian’s novels?  If so, what do you think?

Lindsay

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Orphan Train

Orphan Train

by Christina Baker Kline

Orphan Train

The author of Bird in Hand and The Way Life Should Be delivers her most ambitious and powerful novel to date: a captivating story of two very different women who build an unexpected friendship: a 91-year-old woman with a hidden past as an orphan-train rider and the teenage girl whose own troubled adolescence leads her to seek answers to questions no one has ever thought to ask.

Nearly eighteen, Molly Ayer knows she has one last chance. Just months from “aging out” of the child welfare system, and close to being kicked out of her foster home, a community service position helping an elderly woman clean out her home is the only thing keeping her out of juvie and worse.

Vivian Daly has lived a quiet life on the coast of Maine. But in her attic, hidden in trunks, are vestiges of a turbulent past. As she helps Vivian sort through her possessions and memories, Molly discovers that she and Vivian aren’t as different as they seem to be. A young Irish immigrant orphaned in New York City, Vivian was put on a train to the Midwest with hundreds of other children whose destinies would be determined by luck and chance.

The closer Molly grows to Vivian, the more she discovers parallels to her own life. A Penobscot Indian, she, too, is an outsider being raised by strangers, and she, too, has unanswered questions about the past. As her emotional barriers begin to crumble, Molly discovers that she has the power to help Vivian find answers to mysteries that have haunted her for her entire life – answers that will ultimately free them both.

Rich in detail and epic in scope, Orphan Train is a powerful novel of upheaval and resilience, of second chances, of unexpected friendship, and of the secrets we carry that keep us from finding out who we are.

Ok, I am going to try to keep my review short since the Orphan Train synopsis is somewhat long.  I picked up this novel on a whim while shopping in Target.  The history of the orphan train was appealing to me because, well, I am a historian and I remembered reading about it during my pre-teen years.

Orphan Train provides the stories of two very different women who are surprisingly connected by the fact that they are orphans.  Molly is a teenager assigned to helping Vivian organize her attic for community service, and the two soon become fast friends as they share the often painful details of their experiences.

I loved Vivian’s story, which is told in flashback style.  I was hooked on her storyline from the moment she boarded the train until the moment she finished her tale in her dusty attic.  Some moments still give me chills and I sobbed in my pillow on a few occasions.  Vivian led a hard life that was often void of true love and kindness; my heart hurt for her when she was in pain and soared in her brief moments of joy.  Young Vivian is a well written character that I connected with and her development allowed 91 year old Vivian to remain endearing to the end.

I did not enjoy Molly’s story.  Molly’s sole job in Orphan Train was to draw out Vivian’s story.  For some reason Kline also decided to make her a moody Penobscot Indian teenager who hates all adults thanks to the foster care system.  It was too much for this novel;  it felt like Kline was trying to force you to not only examine the moral depravity of the orphan train but also that of Native American relations and the issues of the modern day foster care system.  All things worthy of discussion, but not in this setting.  I actually found myself skimming over Molly’s parts so I could get back to Vivian’s story.

Orphan Train is a good book and I definitely recommend it if you are interested in the history.  I do not recommend it if you are one of those selfless individuals who donate their time and homes to foster children; the modern aspect of the novel will only leave you frustrated.  Has anyone else read Orphan Train?  I know it is a big book club novel.

Lindsay

East of Desolation

East of Desolation

by Jack Higgins

East of Desolation

Cape Desolation, Greenland–The wreckage of a private airplane is discovered high up in the icy desert. The pilot listed in the log and the body found near the plane are not the same. Charter pilot Joe Martin is hired by the pilot’s widow and insurance company to fly them through deadly terrain to the site of the crash…

couldn’t keep myself from reading East of Desolation when I saw it on the library shelf.  A thriller about an arctic pilot in search of a mysterious downed plane?  Are you kidding me?  This book was just begging me to read it!  I practically ran to my car to start listening to the audiobook.

So I’ll start with the positives.  I like the main character, Joe Martin.  He is a delivery pilot who is content to spend the rest of his days delivering supplies to the remote areas of Greenland.  Not much upsets him because he has chosen this simple, yet dangerous lifestyle, until he is hired to locate a plane that crashed years earlier.  Higgins does a wonderful job writing the aviation scenes and it was just fun listening to Joe fly against the Greenland elements.   The storyline was intriguing; I was constantly eager to learn more about the crashed plane.  It really isn’t hard to figure out who the ‘bad guys’ are, but there are a few surprise twists that kept East of Desolation interesting.  I even enjoyed the motley crew of secondary male characters.

Now for the negatives; the female characters were horrid.  ALL THREE OF THEM.  It is blaringly obvious by the writing style that East of Desolation was originally published in 1968.  These women where undeveloped and the epitome of every negative female cliché.  Here are their descriptions:

1. simple, round, gullible and hopelessly devoted to a manwhore

2. stunningly beautiful, manipulative, and just down right evil

3. oddly attractive, cruel, intent on being the center of attention, high maintenance, and whiny

Not a single one of them had any redeemable quality, and I was quite pissed that one of them was a love interest for Joe.  There was no real romantic connection because how can you make a down-to-earth guy work with any of these women?  They were only there to push the story along, and I would have enjoyed East of Desolation much more if they had been left out completely.

East of Desolation is a decent book.  Higgins drew me in with the over the top male characters, interesting mystery, and beautiful setting.  It is worth a read if you find this type of thriller interesting, but you may want to steer clear if you expect substantial and well developed female characters.

Are you a Jack Higgins fan?  These last two posts have me wanting to do some cold weather flying!

Lindsay

Milo Talon

Milo Talon
by Louis L’amour

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Milo Talon knew the territory and the good men from the bad. He had ridden the Outlaw Trail and could find out things others couldn’t. That was why a rich man named Jefferson Henry hired Milo to hunt down a missing girl. But from the moment Milo began his search, he knew something wasn’t right. Three people had already died, an innocent woman was on the run, and a once sleepy town was getting crowded with hired guns.

Suddenly, Milo Talon realized that there were still things he had to learn—about the woman he was trying to find, the man who had hired him, and the murderer who wanted him dead. But most of all, Milo had a few things to learn about himself. And he would have to work fast, because one mistake could cost him his life.…

I’m including westerns because I have always considered them a form of historical fiction. Plus, this is my all-time favorite western and it has a great mystery!

I love Milo Talon! Im a fan of his blunt personality and desire to do the right thing by good people. He’s just a good guy with a sharp whit and smart mouth who stands up for his friends. What’s not to like?! I also enjoy the supporting cast of characters L’amour provides our reluctant hero: the pretty girl in need of help, the kind ex-trail cook, and the mysterious horse wranglers. But Milo Talon is more than just a simple cowboy story. L’amour, the king of the western, weaves a complex mystery that starts with the search for a missing girl and cumulates with Milo and Molly running for their lives from parties greedy for railroad money. The mystery and the characters keep me coming back to this novel time and time again, and I need for it to be made into a movie. Now!

I do have to say that some readers are not going to appreciate the development of Milo and Molly’s relationship. There are no sappy details and it can read a tad unrealistic and abrupt. I love it, but I understand it’s not for most. Also, L’amour’s writing style is not the most showing. The language is blunt and straight forward, but I still feel like I’m right in the middle of the action while reading.

READ IT! Milo Talon is my all time favorite western and I want to hear what you think. I promise the ending is well worth it!

Lindsay