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Monday, September 1, 2014

The Neon Rain; Wayfaring Stranger; The Corsican Caper; and The English Girl

James Lee Burke.  The Neon Rain.  © 1987  Robicheaux 1  In this first novel about Dave Robicheaux he is a police lieutenant in the homicide division of the New Orleans police.  He finds a murdered mulatto girl in the waters of a bayou.  The sheriff for the parish where she was found says she drowned and refuses to order an autopsy.  Robicheaux is convinced she was murdered and thus begins a chain of events in which Robicheaux is waterboarded and narrowly escapes being murdered and his brother Jimmy is shot in the head by a professional hit man but survives.  Robicheaux is back and forth between a local criminal organization and a group of adventurers making arms shipments to Central America.  The latter group is run by a retired two star and employs some former CIA special forces people.  Robicheaux kills one in self defense and his friend Clete Purcell takes $10,000 from someone to kill another.  At the end of the book Robicheaux is reinstated in the police force and then resigns.  Purcell takes off for Central America to work as a mercenary.  There are no hints here about how Robicheaux and Purcell rebuilt the friendship that was ruined by the hit but is such an important element of books later in the series.  August 2014
James Lee Burke.  Wayfaring Stranger.  © 2014  Weldon Holland is the grandson of a Texas lawman who was the subject of one or more earlier novels.  In 1934 at about age 15 he encounters Bonnie and Clyde “camping out” on his grandpa’s ranch and never forgets it.  As an army lieutenant in WW II, he saves the life of his sergeant at the Battle of the Bulge.  They end of behind enemy lines and wander into an abandoned death camp.  Among the corpses they discover, Rosita, a Spanish Jew who had fled from Franco when the Spanish revolution failed.  She is still alive but unlikely to survive without their help.  They carry her with them until they find shelter with a German farmer who has had it with the Nazis.  When the US forces overrun the area, Rosita is taken away to a hospital in a DP camp.  Weldon eventually finds her again in Marseilles just before she is to embark for Israel.  He persuades her to marry him, maybe the smartest thing he ever did, and she accompanies him back to Texas.  The sergeant is a pretty uncomplicated guy, but he knows welding and he recognizes that the technology used to build German tanks was way ahead of anything in the US.   He adapts it for welding pipelines and persuades Weldon to become his partner in a pipeline construction company.  They are too successful, and a wealthy oilman sets out to take their company.  His method is to try to ruin their private lives.  He uses a movie contract to try to separate the sergeant from his wife, and he sics the FBI on Rosita as a probable communist.  Towards the end, things get pretty close to unbelievable, but it’s a great read.  August 2014
Peter Mayle.  The Corsican Caper.  © 2014   Mayle should stick to travel writing.  Oleg Vronsky, a Russian gazillionaire decides he wants a  house in Marseilles that belongs Francis Reboul, billionaire friend of farcical detective Sam Levitt and his farcical partner Elena Morales.  Vronsky is willing to kill to get what he wants and hires a couple of Russian thugs to knock off Reboul.  Meanwhile we hear about the lovely wines and delicious meals enjoyed by all.  The murder is to be in Corsica.  I couldn’t help think of the difference between this Corsican caper and the one I just read in Daniel Silva’s The English Girl .  Apparently this is the third installment in this gourmet detective series.  You can forget it.  August 2014 
Daniel Silva.  The English Girl.  © 2013   (13th in this series).  After Madeline Hart, a rising star in the PM’s party and also his mistress, is kidnapped, the kidnappers demand demand payment  of €10 million within 7 days, or they will kill Madeline and reveal her affair with the PM.   A senior officer in MI-5 asks Gabriel Allon, a famous Mossad agent, to find Madeline.  It’s not an official Mossad operation, so Gabriel is on his own.  He flies to Corsica to hire some help.  Then it’s on to Provence where Madeline was abducted and he finds the house in which she was being held.  Gabriel and his partner kill the people who had been holding Madeline, but she is no longer there.  When instructions come for delivery of the money, the kidnappers demand that Gabriel be the one to deliver it.  After he delivers the money he runs to pick up Madeline who is locked in the trunk of a car.  The car explodes and the body in the trunk is burned beyond recognition or forensic analysis.  Then things get interesting with a Mossad operation in Russia to go after the kidnappers and a huge twist in Madeline’s story.  August 2014

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