Friday, February 22, 2013

A Higher Call: An Incredible True Story of Combat and Chivalry in the War-Torn Skies of World War II

by Adam Makos and Larry Alexander, Berkley Hardcover, December 2012

...this story is tightly edited and all the more powerful for its brevity and focus

Some Spoilers  --  Yet another WWII story (I know too many!).  This one a true tale of chivalry in the air war in Germany.  Using a single instance of a German fighter pilot aiding the crew of a crippled US bomber the author takes the opportunity to describe life in the German air force for those who were not Nazis.  Telling the story of Franz Stigler, a Bavarian Catholic who served as a pilot we get the background on Hermann Goering’s air corps pilots, their esprit de corps, their life styles and their battles.  The author opens with Franz’s love of civilian aviation and reluctant recruitment into the air force.  He survives numerous crashes in Spain, Germany, and North Africa.  He flies over 400 sorties for the air force and comes to question the purpose of the war.  Remarkably he survives the war, the post war hardships in Germany and immigrates to Canada.

The US pilot in the story, Charlie Brown, is younger than Stigler and much less experienced than him when their paths cross in the skies over Holland.  But Charlie has many of the same experiences as Stigler, dealing with fear, a sense of despair and the strong feeling he won’t survive the war. 

I won’t tell the tale of their encounter because the author does it much better than I could, but it is a great story.  The author (an extraordinarily lucky man to find all of the key players alive and willing to be interviewed 50 years later) does a good job of interweaving the two stories.  The events that brought both pilots together 50 years later are almost as good as the original story.  This story is tightly edited and all the more powerful for its brevity and focus.  It continues to fascinate me that we can motivate young men (and women) to put their lives on the line in the way these two gentlemen did.  A great story that would bring up a number of interesting discussions for a book club.

I read a kindle edition of this book and again am unhappy with nonfiction on the kindle.  The images provided are awful and the documents shown are unreadable.  Come on guys at least provide a link to some good images if you can’t get them on the kindle.  No more nonfiction on the kindle for me! 

I read a copy of this book that I bought

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


by Jonathan Kellerman,  Ballantine Books, February 2013 

...the energy and suspense have gone out of this series for me

Guilt is the newest offering in the long running Alex Delaware series.  The early books in this series emphasized the psychological skills and interest of Delaware.  They were taut thrillers.  In the more recent books, Milo Sturgis, Delaware’s police lieutenant pal has become a central character as the series has moved into a more straightforward murder mystery type story.

 In this novel a series of seemingly connected events in an upscale LA neighborhood start the story.  The bones of an infant long dead are found buried in a yard of a home.  Nearby, the body of a woman and the bones of a second infant are found.  Milo conducts the investigation that leads to a power Hollywood couple (read Brad and Angelina) and their unusual life style. There are a few twists and turns before the murderer(s) are identified in the improbable ending.

As you can probably tell from my tepid review of this book, the energy and suspense have gone out of this series for me.  I find these stories to be just average police murder mysteries.  The characters have become predictable in their actions and the endings of these stories wildly unrealistic.  I will pass on the next book in this series.

I read a copy of this book provided by the publisher. 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Leaving Everything Most Loved

by Jacqueline Winspear  Harper, March 2013

...long time fans will be well pleased with this one.

The tenth novel in this series in the Maisie Dobbs series and it is a good one.  The year is 1933 and Maisie, a psychologist and private investigator, is asked to investigate the murder of an Indian woman.  It was common practice in England for British families returning from Indian service to bring an Indian amah to care for their children.  Unfortunately when the children are grown, the families often just released these women into a land that did not welcome them.  Usha Pramal the woman who was murdered was a charismatic well educated Indian, beloved by all who knew her.  Her murder was not well investigated by the police and her brother newly arrived from India asks Maisie to investigate.   The murder investigation takes the expected twists and turns as Maisie works slowly but competently towards capturing the murderer.

One of the hallmarks of the Maisie Dobbs novels is that they are well grounded in time and place- in this one London in 1933.  A small number of people led by Churchill and joined by Maisie’s love interest James Crompton are preparing for what they see as inevitable war with a rearming Germany.  Women are struggling to gain opportunities in the working world, in this story highlighted by Maisie’s assistant Sandra Tapley.  The devastating effects of WWI on the British continued well into the 1930s and we see this with the lingering effects on the health of Billy Beale, Maisie’s friend and assistant.  Lastly the overt racism that was common to the times is a consistent theme in this murder investigation.

On the personal front, Maisie continues to be unable to take the step and marry the incredibly patient James.  She has decided to close her business leave England and travel, possibly to India and other parts.  This could be the end of the series but I choose to believe that this will just give the author more exotic locales in which to set the stories.  If you haven’t read the earlier books in this series, it would be best to do so before reading this one, but it will stand alone.  Long time fans will be well pleased with this one.

I read a copy of this book provided by the publisher.