More than 850 book reviews

Tag Archive for ‘historical novel’

65 good new books I’ve read in 2016

I suppose sixty-five seems like a lot of books to most people, but it’s far from all the books I’ve read in 2016. Listed here are only those that I rated @@@@ or @@@@@ (4 or 5 out of 5). Keep in mind that I’m very selective in choosing books (emphasis on very), and I… Read More ›

Shell shock, madness, and the Great Depression

Among the Mad (Maisie Dobbs #6), by Jacqueline Winspear @@@@@ (5 out of 5) If your taste in crime fiction runs to blood, guts, and gore, you’re unlikely to enjoy reading Jacqueline Winspear‘s Maisie Dobbs series. If, instead, you favor a more cerebral approach focused on three-dimensional character development and psychological insight, you’ll find exactly… Read More ›

A hard-boiled detective in Nazi Germany

A review of Prague Fatale (Bernie Gunther #8), by Philip Kerr @@@@@ (5 out of 5) I find historical fiction grounded in fact irresistible. When a plot rests on events that really took place and characters who really lived, I’m prepared to give the author a little slack if the writing style is less than… Read More ›

A fascinating Chinese detective novel

A review of The Chinese Maze Murders (Judge Dee #1), by Robert van Gulik @@@@ (4 out of 5) Robert van Gulik’s series of 16 Judge Dee mysteries are set in China sometime during the era of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). They’re grounded in his intensive scholarly study of ancient Chinese detective stories, some of… Read More ›

Gay life in 1950s Britain

A review of Exposure, by Helen Dunmore @@@@ (4 out of 5) Though marketed as an espionage thriller, this captivating novel is more precisely about the fragility of gay life in the UK half a century ago. It quickly becomes obvious that this will turn out to be a major underlying theme in the action… Read More ›

A sad tale of disappearing forests

A review of Barkskins: A Novel, by Annie Proulx @@@ (3 out of 5) 1693. New France (later eastern Canada). Two indentured servants from the old country, Rene Sel and Charles Duquet, have arrived to start work felling trees in the wilderness on behalf of a titled Frenchman. Over the subsequent 320 years, the innumerable… Read More ›

A compelling murder mystery set during Stalin’s terror

A review of The Darkening Field (Captain Alexei Dimitrevich Korolev, #2), by William Ryan @@@@@ (5 out of 5) It’s 1937. The Soviet Union, still reeling from its drive to collectivization and the elimination of the so-called kulaks (rich peasants), is now in the grips of the terror Stalin has initiated to purge the Party,… Read More ›

My 56 favorite authors of mysteries and thrillers

OK, I admit that number 56 is a little over the top. Well, maybe a bit more than a little. How could I have 56 different “favorite” authors, much less in a single genre? Well, a little arithmetic tells the tale. Since January 2010, nearly six and a half years ago, I’ve been reading an… Read More ›

A thriller that revolves around a Catholic’s confession

A review of A Prayer for the Dying, by Jack Higgins @@@@ (4 out of 5) Over the course of five decades, he has used many names; Martin Fallon is just one of them. He carries a huge load of guilt for the tragic errors of his past. As a soldier for many years in… Read More ›

Ronald Reagan deconstructed in a new novel

A review of Finale: A Novel of the Reagan Years, by Thomas Mallon @@@@@ (5 out of 5) Fair warning: I’m a lifelong political junkie. I vividly recall an argument with my little brother about the Dewey-Truman campaign in 1948, when I was seven. (Arthur called the President “Twu-man.”) So, I can’t approach any historical… Read More ›