Well, a couple of weeks ago I bragged about how I was caught up with my reviews. Just kidding. I now find myself behind again. I've got 9 books to review (some of them from a while ago). I'll do them in chunks of 3, starting with 3 of my solid B-Listers: Sam Eastland, Robert Harris, and Philip Margolin.
Archive 17 is Eastland's 3rd book in the Pekkala series. His first one, The Eye of the Red Tsar, just made my Volume IV of Fiction for the Non-Fiction Reader. I enjoyed his second one too - Shadow Pass. He has created an interesting character. For those who don't remember, Pekkala was the top security man for the tsar at the time the tsar was overthrown in 1917. When the Bolsheviks took over the government from the Romanovs, Pekkala was sent to a prison camp and then out to the nearby forest where he lived alone for 10 years. No other prisoner had ever survived that sentence. He ultimately ends up working directly for Stalin, starting in 1929. That was the subject of Shadow Pass. Now, in Archive 17, it is 1939, and Pekkala is still working for Stalin. He poses as a prisoner who is sent to a gulag in Siberia so that he can uncover the location of the tsar's missing gold. He has to infiltrate a prison gang that is known to be loyal to the tsar and who, allegedly, knows where the gold is hidden. Not only is the Soviet Union about to enter WWII, but it's also close to bankruptcy. This, of course, makes Pekkala's mission crucial to Stalin. I didn't like it as well as #1 and #2, but I still liked it well enough to keep reading his books. If you haven't read Eastland yet, then pick up The Eye of the Red Tsar.
The Fear Index, from Robert Harris, is a modern-day take on Westworld (the Yul Brynner movie from 1973) and 2001, A Space Odyssey (1968). The story centers on Alex, a brilliant American computer expert living in Geneva. Hoffmann Investment Technologies, which he founded, is an investment company that makes decisions based on algorithms. Basically, the computer adds up all of the facts, history, and recent trends surrounding a company and determines what buy and sell action should be taken - and then takes that action. The people that work for the company, quants (short for quantitative analysts) just make sure that the computer is doing what it's supposed to be doing. As you might expect, the computer begins to act in a way that goes beyond a computer's typical function. I've liked, but not loved, all of his books. I have never been tempted to include him in the FFTNFR lists, but his best one is Enigma. That one takes place during WWII in England and focuses on the analysts who worked to break the German code in order to gain intelligence information about what the Germans were planning to do. He wrote The Ghost, which was turned into a movie starring Ewen McGregor, Tilda Swinton, and Pierce Brosnan. And he wrote a trilogy about Rome in the time of Cicero. He is remarkably consistent.
Capitol Murder, Margolin's novel, is the 3rd centering on Brad Miller, an attorney, and Dana Cutler, a private investigator. For a book with 340 pages, it has a lot of storylines. Brad is living in Washington D.C. and working for Jack Carson, a senator who is a ranking member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Clarence Little, a convicted serial killer, was a client of Brad's when Brad worked for a law firm in Oregon. Now, Clarence is being represented by Millie Reston who gets personally involved with Clarence and works to get his conviction overturned due to tainted evidence. In the meantime, Brad's wife, Ginny, works for the district attorney's office and has an unknowing role in a CIA scheme. Oh, did I mention that there's a terrorist cell in D.C. that is looking to blow up RFK Stadium during a Redskins' game? Although I seem to be making fun of Margolin, I'm actually not. All of the story lines make sense and come together. Margolin is very much like Harris. None of his books belong in the FFTNFR lists, but they are all very readable. I have liked all of them.
UPCOMING: I am well into my author interviews. I will begin posting those in August. I can only imagine how torturous it must be for all of you to wait for those. Well, the wait is almost over!
PROGRAM NOTE: My next blog will be a review of a book I received from a rep at HarperCollins. This is the first book I have gotten from them. And since I have not yet offended them (unlike Penguin Group, which has blackballed me from any future ARC's), I want to get my review in quickly.