Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Address: A Book Review

Author Fiona Davis moves her attention from the Barbizon to the Dakota in THE ADDRESS, an intriguing tale that once again intertwines narratives from the past and present.

Her modern day (somewhat, as we're in the 1980s here) protagonist is a recovering alcoholic interior decorator who is distantly related to an architect involved in creating the Dakota in New York City. The reader's guide to the past is a British emigre who has come to America to manage the brand new apartment building that the owners hope will become THE address of the upper echelon of society.

Bailey Camden is seeking a fresh start by remodeling her rich cousin's flat, and finds a sympathetic ear in the building's superintendent who is also off the drink. They end up discovering some mysterious trunks stowed away in the depths of the Dakota, and that starts Bailey on a quest to find out how exactly she's related to Theo Camden the architect who was murdered by the Dakota's original lady manager.

Sara Smythe, the illegitimate daughter of nobility, finds a fresh start as the lady manager of the Dakota, but there's that handsome architect Theo Camden hovering around the fringes, shooting off sparks of sexual attraction. Except he's married with children, wouldn't you know. Well, a girl can't resist, can she, and before long she's up the stick.

Scandal doesn't begin to describe her predicament in the 1880's.

The story of Sara is revealed to the reader as Bailey uncovers bits and pieces of that narrative, the whole puzzle coming together with some well-crafted tension.

Then Ms. Davis creates an ending reminiscent of her earlier work, in which things happen that don't fit what's been set up because she wanted a particular ending. The cruelty of the antagonist comes out of the blue due to a general lack of clues sprinkled in earlier, even though she tries to lay them out at the end.

THE ADDRESS is an enjoyable read, in general, and worth the time for fans of historical fiction who enjoy the use of factual details to add depth to a novel.

Thanks again to Penguin Random House for the review copy used here.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

STILL LIFE: A Book Review

Still LifeStill Life by Sean Gleason
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sean Gleason demonstrates a rare ability to write fiction that reflects our ordinary, very real, lives. Reading STILL LIFE is like sitting in Louisa Patch's farmhouse, experiencing the highs and lows with her as she struggles to find success in the thoroughbred industry...and show her family that they wrong about her career choice.

Between caring for her special needs daughter and running a horse farm, the last thing she needs is another problem, but here comes her older sister with a new husband in tow. Louisa sees through him at once, and sets out to split the pair before her sister gets burned.

At the same time, she's working hard at building a relationship with the farm's owner, while an old flame is working twice as hard to build a relationship with her. She can't keep Cecil out of her life when she needs an ally to help her prove that she's right about the brother-in-law, who has managed to turn her family against her. The next thing she knows, she's in a racehorse syndicate with a mysterious backer who's hiding in plain sight.

The novel is deliciously complex, the narrative so compelling that you can't stop reading. Perfect for a weekend read when you need a few laughs and a few tears.

View all my reviews

Friday, July 21, 2017

Commercials As Educational Tools

You've seen the advert, most likely, and chuckled over the concept. What sort of robber would take a taxi away from the scene of the crime? So clueless, those criminals.

As it turns out, the premise behind Geico's getaway car ad has a ring of truth to it, and if a pair of burglars had taken the time to watch and learn, they might not now be sitting behind bars.

Anthony Wickliffe and his mate Darvell White thought they could find some serviceable pieces in an area of Chicago that is currently gentrifying. The West Town neighborhood is popular with the young millenials, who may not have much money but they are fond of electronics, large televisions, and the latest smartphones.

Also, they are at work all day earning money to pay for those luxuries, so no one is home, right? All the neighbors are away as well, block after block of recent graduates who had the sense to get professional degrees in things like accounting or finance.

So off they go to the streets where people have objects worth stealing. They break a few back doors, grab what they can, and tuck the goods in their little local hideaway for later retrieval. If you're going to steal small things, you have to steal in quantity, and that takes multiple entries. Even the thickest of criminals could see that multiple door smashings in a short period of time could cause alarm.

And then too, someone might have an actual alarm and you'd want to be light on your feet to escape before the police come. You can't run like the wind with a 60 inch flat screen on your back.

Once the goods have been got, however, a thief has to transport them home so the items can be put up for sale at the nearest flea market, or fencing operation, or maybe even Ebay. You wouldn't want to use your own car for such an operation because what if your vehicle is spotted on some surveillance camera? You never know who has cameras mounted, so it's best to travel in disguise.

What better disguise than a taxi?

The driver comes to you, wherever you are, and takes you to where you want to go. Taxis are everywhere, nondescript, and the cops could never connect you to the scene of the crime.

If only Mr. Wickliffe and Mr. White had paid closer attention to the Geico ad. Their clever business fell apart when the police were in the area investigating an earlier break-in. The authorities were watching a live shot on a security camera when they saw the gentlemen retrieving the stolen goods in the alley. The authorities watched them get into a cab and spirit the items away.

Colleagues of the viewing party easily apprehended the pair, in the cab, with the goods.

So it will be off to prison for the two, who should have paid closer attention to the Geico commercial and skipped the whole 'call a taxi' portion of their devious plan. Did they have no friends willing to loan them a car?