Hello again – Monday I posted a review of two history books, and today I am posting here two more mini-book reviews but of novels. One is about an elaborate art-theft thriller, and the other is about a charming mystery set in Botswana. Enjoy.
False Impression by Jeffrey Archer
Paperback, 448 pages, Published Nov. 28th, 2006 by St. Martin's Press
A very interesting thriller, somewhat slow to build but with great characters, both on the good-guys side and on the villain side.
About an art historian specializing in attribution, Victoria Petrescu, whose best friend works as a secretary to a repulsive crook banker named Bryce Fenston, who specializes in extending multi-million-dollar loans to people who have fallen on hard times but have a masterpiece of art in their possession. There's an odd coincidence that many of these owners have their throats slit before they can get out of hock to Mr. Fenston.
Tch, Tch, such bad luck they have, hunh?
The story starts the day before 9/11, and go thru roughly two weeks of the calendar. Not sure if choosing that date is just a gimmick, but it does explain that the paperwork and other artworks have been vaporized in the destruction of the Twin Towers.
The setting is New York and London and Tokyo and Bucharest with a brief visit to Russia. The Romanian connection is key, as is explained in more than one thread of the plot as more than one character has roots there. Possibly the best one is the hit man, or hit lady, I should say, a former Romanian gymnast names Olga Krantz, who IMHO is a worthy successor to the memorable Russian hit-woman in >i>From Russian With Love -- Rosa Klebb.
Many supporting characters, most of whom have full histories provided. Giving it four stars.
The Kalahari Typing School for Men by Alexander McCall Smith
210 pages, Published May 10th, 2002)
ISBN 0349117047 (ISBN13: 9780349117041)
A charming novel in the series by Alexander McCall Smith, set in Botswana and starring the redoubtable Mme. Precious Ramotswe as the proprietor of the Number 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. It is remarkable how one is drawn into the lives of these Botswanans (is that the word?) in the very simple and direct language used by the author.
This is number 4 in the series. Mme Ramotswe has moved her office into the premises of her intended, Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, mechanic and proprietor of Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors -- along with Mr. Maketoni's two apprentices and her own assistant, Mma Grace Makutsi -- who is so very proud of having achieved a final score of 97 on her typing exam.
Mr. Maketoni and Mme Ramotswe look for ways to supplement their meager earnings at the Speedy Motors site. One of the ideas they hit on is to start a driving school, to be called the Learn to Drive with Jesus school -- which I think would be a good name for a driving school anywhere, hey?
Mma Makutsi meanwhile, hits on the idea of teaching men how to type -- poor, hapless men who are pecking away at the keys by the venerable hunt-and-peck system, too timid to enroll in a regular typing class where they may be outshone by the women.
In some ways the classes are a roaring success and yet in another way it brings Mma Makutsi to the brink of the greatest heartbreak in her harsh life.
But that is averted by a little gumshoe-ing on the part of Mme Ramotswe. So never fear, and pick up what is possibly the best entry in the series of novels.