The Shadow District by Arnaldur Indriðason

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The Shadow DistrictThe Shadow District by Arnaldur Indriðason
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Shadow Killer is new series by Icelandic author Arnaldur Indridason set during he allied occupation of Iceland during World War II. Indridason previous series revolved around a rather melancholic detective called Erlendur who was tormented by his brother’s disappearance in a storm when they were boys. The setting for the Erlendur series was contemporary. So the new series is a change of pace with a historical setting.
I have read a bit of Icelandic history that pointed to a degree of tension between the locals and the occupying forces during World War II. This forms the backdrop to this novel. The Shadow Killer sees Flóvent, Reykjavík’s sole detective, joined by the young military policeman Thorson. Flóvent is an Icelander whereas Thorson was raised in Canada by Icelandic parents.
The murder is intriguing and points to a variety where the initial clue is an American service revolver. This draws in the military which means there is lots of tension. Flóvent and Thorson are both neophyte homicide detectives. Red herrings abounds make it an enjoyable read. This is the first of the series translated into English and I am looking forward to more.

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Three Weeks in the US

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We have just spent three weeks in the US including a few days in Toronto. This is our last night before we head back to Australia. We have been to New York, Raleigh North Carolina, Las Vegas and San Francisco. All very different places. Our three weeks in the US has been something of a whirlwind.

New York was cold and the people brash. We saw Times Square and rode the subway something I never imagined that I would do. Central Park seemed safe and we walked the the length of it admittedly by mistake. Nevertheless it was an interesting experience.

North Carolina was different as we visited my cousins who I only found through family history research. They looked after us very well. I met four second cousins which was great . North Carolina had a much gentler pace than New York. The visit was great.

San francisco was another world altogether  old architecture when a distinctly European flavour. This is not surprising as California has its roots in Spanish and Mexican culture. The big surprise was how cold it was.

Finally our three weeks in the US revealed that most people were friendly and helpful.

The Other Side of Silence (Bernie Gunther, #11)

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The Other Side of Silence (Bernie Gunther, #11)The Other Side of Silence by Philip Kerr
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Other side of Silence is the 11th Bernie Gunther novel by Philip Kerr. I have read all in order and I must say that all have been enjoyable. I admire the way Kerr keeps the narrative rolling forward. Bernie Gunther’s past keeps catching up with him in different ways. There is always a nod to his Kripo past and his wartime service. Those who have been along for the journey will know that the latter always causes him grief.
We find our hero Bernie Gunther working in a hotel on the French Rivera in 1956. It is all spies and blackmail in this instalment. A cleverly crafted tale involving W Somerset Maugham, MI6 and the STASI. However, Bernie’s past with the NAZI’s casts a shadow over his current position a discreet hotel concierge.
There is intrigue a plenty up and down the Riviera and Bernie finds himself falling for a woman. Bernie usually falls in the arms of a woman or is fondly remembering a liaison with another.

I am an unabashed fan of this series and can only wait to read the next instalment Prussian Blue.

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The Lady from Zagreb – Phillip Kerr

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The Lady from Zagreb (Bernard Gunther, #10)The Lady from Zagreb by Philip Kerr
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the 10th Bernie Gunther novel from Phillip Kerr. Bernie Gunther is a former Berlin detective who gets sidelined during the Nazi regime in Germany. He is a man who more often than not treads his own path usually comes at personal cost. What makes the Phillip Kerr novels so interesting is the blend of fact and fiction. Bernie Gunther is woven in and around real events from the Nazi era. The earlier novels were firmly placed in the prior to WWII   then and  during the war. However, the hero Bernie Gunther has slowly aged across the series. The evolution of the series now has Bernie Gunther living in a post WWII world where he inevitably encounters people from his past.
In this volume Bernie’s mind is cast back in time whilst in the cinema watching a famous actress. In an imaginative plot Joseph Goebbels features as a tormentor of Bernie. The atrocities that were committed in what is modern Croatia by the notorious Ustaše militia. Throughout this there is time for a wartime romance which is the subject of his reflection. Buried in all of this is a detective novel all very satisfying.
I am an unashamed fan of Phillip Kerr’s Bernie Gunther novels. The is one more that I am aware of and possibly another in the pipeline.

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An Hour Before Daylight

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An Hour Before Daylight: Memoirs of a Rural BoyhoodAn Hour Before Daylight: Memoirs of a Rural Boyhood by Jimmy Carter

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This memoir was written Jimmy Carter the former US President. It focuses on his childhood in Plains Georgia up until the time he left to go to college. I’m not one for reading biographies but found the book in library on a cruise ship. It written in a very readable style and presents a series of anecdotes from in and around the farm where he was raised. It is a story of growing up in the great depression. Although Carter does acknowledge that they did not do too badly.

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Jack of Spies by David Downing

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Jack of Spies (Jack McColl, #1)Jack of Spies by David Downing

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have to confess to being a David Downing fan I have read all the ‘Station’ novels and enjoyed the attention to historical detail. In some ways Jack of Spies featuring Jack McColl as our hero follows the ‘Station’ series. Set amongst the turmoil and political machinations that in train prior to World War One.
Our hero Jack McColl is working semi officially for British intelligence. The story touches on British – German relations prior to WW1 and has hour hero cruising across the Pacific from China to the US. He is ostensibly a car salesman selling an expensive English vehicle and shipping the demonstration vehicle from town to town. This allows him movement and a comfortable life.

There is an intriguing link to Irish nationalism and unionism in the US. His love interest also cuts across his world of espionage and Irish independence. A life complicated by love.

I enjoyed this read and found the blend of historical fact and fiction engaging and realistic.
When I was reading this I was hoping that there would be more and I am pleased to have discovered there are in fact 2 more books already published.

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The Lydden Bell

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Our first night in England the owner of our B&B suggested this pub up the road. The Lydden Bell is a delightful country pub in the Kent countryside. We had just arrived from Adelaide via Doha with about 26 of travel time. My heart’s desire was an English pub meal.

Local beer cod and chips what more could you ask for. Lovely whitebait for entree. The only disappointment was an Eton Mess for dessert which really was a tasteless mess. Three pints of local ale i forgot the name  A lovely sunny evening then it was a quick cab ride to our accommodation Crabble Hill Guest House and then off to bed.

 

Travelling Again

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We are travelling again this time it’s 5 weeks in Europe. Starting with a 2 week cruise leaving from Dover in England. There are quite a few ports of call Dublin and then Oban in Scotland. The ship then sets sail for Iceland. We are landing in four ports Sigurdsfjordur, Akuyeri, Grundursfjordur and Reykjavik. The final two ports are Belfast and Liverpool before we return to Dover.

Stage two is four days in the U.K. a drive down to Looe and then up to London. We then head to Lisbon to start a 10 day river cruise through Porto and into Spain to the city of Salamanca.

A quick flight to London and then off to Malta for 5 days. The last hurrah is back to London and a flight home via Doha.

Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army

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Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary ArmyBlackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army by Jeremy Scahill

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

 

This is Jeremy Schahill’s probe in Blackwater and organisation that is it seems an army for hire. I’m sure that those that support this kind of endeavour will think this is a biased account of their activities. Apparently, Blackwater declined to put their side of the story. The author has relied of official documents and former employees some of whom are disgruntled.  

That aside the book has an impressive list of references for each chapter so I can only assume that Scahill has done his research  Continue reading “Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army”