One book at a time – my favorite recent ones

Child 44 – by Tom Rob Smith

 

Set in the Soviet Union in 1953, this stellar debut from British author Smith offers appealing characters, a strong plot and authentic period detail. When war hero Leo Stepanovich Demidov, a rising star in the MGB, the State Security force, is assigned to look into the death of a child, Leo is annoyed, first because this takes him away from a more important case, but, more importantly, because the parents insist the child was murdered. In Stalinist Russia, there's no such thing as murder; the only criminals are those who are enemies of the state. After attempting to curb the violent excesses of his second-in-command, Leo is forced to investigate his own wife, the beautiful Raisa, who's suspected of being an Anglo-American sympathizer. Demoted and exiled from Moscow, Leo stumbles onto more evidence of the child killer. The evocation of the deadly cloud-cuckoo-land of Russia during Stalin's final days will remind many of Gorky Park and Darkness at Noon, but the novel remains Smith's alone, completely original and absolutely satisfying. Rights sold in more than 20 countries. (May)
Set in the Soviet Union in 1953, this stellar debut from British author Smith offers appealing characters, a strong plot and authentic period detail. When war hero Leo Stepanovich Demidov, a rising star in the MGB, the State Security force, is assigned to look into the death of a child, Leo is annoyed, first because this takes him away from a more important case, but, more importantly, because the parents insist the child was murdered. In Stalinist Russia, there’s no such thing as murder; the only criminals are those who are enemies of the state. After attempting to curb the violent excesses of his second-in-command, Leo is forced to investigate his own wife, the beautiful Raisa, who’s suspected of being an Anglo-American sympathizer.

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Buy the book here (Amazon Canada):
Child 44 and The Secret Speech: Digital Omnibus Edition (The Child 44 Trilogy)

A Fraction of the Whole – by Steve Toltz

I collected a few quotes from the novel.

If you are a father and you have a son, this book will go straight to your heart.

With rights sold around the world, this irreverent comic adventure spanning three continents is poised to be one of the most talked about fiction débuts of the year. A Fraction of the Whole marks the arrival of an ambitious new writer who deftly mixes humour, surprise, and astute observations of the human condition to create a novel that entertains, scandalizes, and enlightens. Martin Dean spent his entire life analyzing absolutely everything – from the benefits of suicide to the virtues of strip clubs versus brothels. Now that he’s dead, his son Jasper can fully reflect on the man who raised him in intellectual captivity. As he recollects the extraordinary events that led to his father’s demise, Jasper recounts a boyhood of outrageous schemes and shocking discoveries – about his infamous and long dead criminal uncle, his tortured and mysteriously absent European mother, and Martin’s constant losing battle to make a lasting impression on the world. It’s a story that takes them from the Australian bush to the cafés of bohemian Paris, from the Thai jungle to labyrinths, mental hospitals, and criminal lairs, from the highs of first love to the lows of rejection and failed ambition. The result is an uproarious indictment of the ridiculousness of the modern world and its mores, and the moving, memorable story of a father and son whose spiritual symmetry transcends all their many shortcomings.
(click on the pic to buy on Amazon Canada) With rights sold around the world, this irreverent comic adventure spanning three continents is poised to be one of the most talked about fiction débuts of the year.
A Fraction of the Whole marks the arrival of an ambitious new writer who deftly mixes humour, surprise, and astute observations of the human condition to create a novel that entertains, scandalizes, and enlightens.
Martin Dean spent his entire life analyzing absolutely everything – from the benefits of suicide to the virtues of strip clubs versus brothels. Now that he’s dead, his son Jasper can fully reflect on the man who raised him in intellectual captivity.
As he recollects the extraordinary events that led to his father’s demise, Jasper recounts a boyhood of outrageous schemes and shocking discoveries – about his infamous and long dead criminal uncle, his tortured and mysteriously absent European mother, and Martin’s constant losing battle to make a lasting impression on the world.
It’s a story that takes them from the Australian bush to the cafés of bohemian Paris, from the Thai jungle to labyrinths, mental hospitals, and criminal lairs, from the highs of first love to the lows of rejection and failed ambition. The result is an uproarious indictment of the ridiculousness of the modern world and its mores, and the moving, memorable story of a father and son whose spiritual symmetry transcends all their many shortcomings.

** ** **

Buy the book here (Amazon Canada):

A Fraction of the Whole by Toltz, Steve (2008) Paperback

Last night in Twisted River – John Irving

A whole chapter of the book takes place in Toronto.

The action also moves to Muskoka and the bush around it.

In 1954, in the cookhouse of a logging and sawmill settlement in northern New Hampshire, a twelve-year-old boy mistakes the local constable's girlfriend for a bear. Both the twelve-year-old and his father become fugitives, pursued by the constable. Their lone protector is a fiercely libertarian logger, once a river driver, who befriends them. In a story spanning five decades, Last Night in Twisted River - John Irving's twelfth novel - depicts the recent half-century in the United States as a world
In 1954, in the cookhouse of a logging and sawmill settlement in northern New Hampshire, a twelve-year-old boy mistakes the local constable’s girlfriend for a bear. Both the twelve-year-old and his father become fugitives, pursued by the constable. Their lone protector is a fiercely libertarian logger, once a river driver, who befriends them.
In a story spanning five decades, Last Night in Twisted River – John Irving’s twelfth novel – depicts the recent half-century in the United States as a world “where lethal hatreds were generally permitted to run their course.” From the novel’s taut opening sentence – “The young Canadian, who could not have been more than fifteen, had hesitated too long.” – to its elegiac final chapter, what distinguishes Last Night in Twisted River is the author’s unmistakable voice, the inimitable voice of an accomplished storyteller.

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Buy the book here (amazon canada):

Last Night in Twisted River

Dominion – by C.J. Sansom

What if Hitler conquered London?

At once a vivid, haunting reimagining of 1950s Britain, a gripping, humane spy thriller and a poignant love story, with Dominion C.J. Sansom once again asserts himself as the master of the historical novel. 1952. Twelve years have passed since Churchill lost to the appeasers and Britain surrendered to Nazi Germany. The press, radio and television are tightly controlled. British Jews face ever greater constraints. But Churchill's Resistance soldiers on. And in a Birmingham mental hospital, fragile scientist Frank Muncaster holds a secret that could alter the balance of the global struggle forever. Civil Servant David Fitzgerald, a spy for the Resistance, is given the mission to rescue Frank and get him out of the country. Hard on his heels is Gestapo agent Gunther Hoth, a brilliant, implacable hunter of men, who soon has Frank, along with David's innocent wife, Sarah, directly in his sights
At once a vivid, haunting reimagining of 1950s Britain, a gripping, humane spy thriller and a poignant love story, with Dominion C.J. Sansom once again asserts himself as the master of the historical novel.
1952. Twelve years have passed since Churchill lost to the appeasers and Britain surrendered to Nazi Germany. The press, radio and television are tightly controlled. British Jews face ever greater constraints.
But Churchill’s Resistance soldiers on. And in a Birmingham mental hospital, fragile scientist Frank Muncaster holds a secret that could alter the balance of the global struggle forever.
Civil Servant David Fitzgerald, a spy for the Resistance, is given the mission to rescue Frank and get him out of the country. Hard on his heels is Gestapo agent Gunther Hoth, a brilliant, implacable hunter of men, who soon has Frank, along with David’s innocent wife, Sarah, directly in his sights

** ** **

Buy the book on Amazon Canada:

Dominion

Winter in Madrid – by C.J. Sansom

 In September 1940, the Spanish Civil War is over and Madrid lies in ruins while the Germans continue their march through Europe. Britain stands alone as General Franco considers whether to abandon neutrality and enter the war. Into this uncertain world comes Harry Brett, a privileged young man who was recently traumatized by his experience in Dunkirk and is now a reluctant spy for the British Secret Service. Sent to gain the confidence of Sandy Forsyth, an old school friend turned shadowy Madrid businessman, Brett finds himself involved in a dangerous game and surrounded by memories. Meanwhile, Sandy's girlfriend, ex-Red Cross nurse Barbara Clare, is engaged in a secret mission of her own.
In September 1940, the Spanish Civil War is over and Madrid lies in ruins while the Germans continue their march through Europe. Britain stands alone as General Franco considers whether to abandon neutrality and enter the war.
Into this uncertain world comes Harry Brett, a privileged young man who was recently traumatized by his experience in Dunkirk and is now a reluctant spy for the British Secret Service. Sent to gain the confidence of Sandy Forsyth, an old school friend turned shadowy Madrid businessman, Brett finds himself involved in a dangerous game and surrounded by memories. Meanwhile, Sandy’s girlfriend, ex-Red Cross nurse Barbara Clare, is engaged in a secret mission of her own.

** ** **

Buy the book on Amazon Canada:

Winter in Madrid

Three Nights in Havana: Pierre Trudeau, Fidel Castro, and the Cold War World – by Robert Wright

On January 26, 1976, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau became the first leader of a NATO country to visit Cuba since the crippling 1960 American economic embargo. Accompanied by his wife, Margaret, and baby Michel, Trudeau was greeted in Havana by 250,000 cheering Cubans and a 30-foot poster of himself. “Long live Prime Minister Fidel Castro!” Trudeau would famously shout at the love-in.
On January 26, 1976, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau became the first leader of a NATO country to visit Cuba since the crippling 1960 American economic embargo. Accompanied by his wife, Margaret, and baby Michel, Trudeau was greeted in Havana by 250,000 cheering Cubans and a 30-foot poster of himself. “Long live Prime Minister Fidel Castro!” Trudeau would famously shout at the love-in.

Buy the book on Amazon Canada:

Three Nights In Havana

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City of shadows – by Ariana Franklin

Berlin, 1922: A city of fading beauty plagued by unemployment and rampant inflation becomes home to a growing number of refugees. Esther Solomonova survives by working as secretary to her fellow Russian émigré,
Berlin, 1922: A city of fading beauty plagued by unemployment and rampant inflation becomes home to a growing number of refugees. Esther Solomonova survives by working as secretary to her fellow Russian émigré, “Prince”Nick, a scheming cabaret owner. Always on the prowl for a deal, Nick smells money when he hears of a woman in an asylum claiming to be the Grand Duchess Anastasia, daughter of the Russian Czar, the lone member of her family to escape assassination by the Bolsheviks. Enlisting a highly suspicious Esther, Nick plans to prepare the woman—known as Anna Anderson—to claim the Romanov fortune.

Buy the book on Amazon Canada:

 
City of Shadows

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