Books: An Adriatic Love Affair

An Adriatic Love Affair by Jamie Kurow is a love story / romance novel, so it’s a little out of my normal reading category. But I’ve read Jamie Kurow’s two previous books (and reviewed them last year) and really liked them so I accepted an Advance Review Copy – and I really enjoyed this book.

An Adriatic Love Affair by Jamie Kurow

If you liked Joanne Harris’ Chocolat, Five Quarters of an Orange, Blackberry Wine… you’ll really enjoy An Adriatic Love Affair, because as well as a love story, it’s a foodie and travel read.

Mary, the main character, travels from her home in New York, for her summer vacation. Her corporate lawyer husband pulled out of the trip at the last minute, as he has done for the past few summers, leaving her to wonder if she really even has a marriage.

Mary travels first to Munich where, most mysteriously, she receives a hand-written letter addressed to her by name, fore-telling that she will lose two important people in her life, but once she gets past these losses, she will find everlasting love.

She goes on to Budva, in Montenegro where she has rented an apartment for the summer vacation. She writes emails to her husband trying to understand why he did it again – bailed out on her and their vacation at the last minute. She also writes to her three teenage sons, asking them to join her. Budva is a small town on the Adriatic coast and Mary thinks it would be the perfect place for each of her teenage sons to spend the summer – swimming in the sea, hiking in the mountains, exploring the medieval towns and castles…

And Mary also meets and falls for Marko, the owner of an alluring little cafe/bakery near her apartment where she becomes a daily customer.

Her youngest son agrees to join her. As does, eventually, her eldest son. But the middle son, Nate, who we learn is mildly autistic, stops replying to her emails.

As Mary’s emails to her husband back in New York suggest that their relationship has ended / is ending, she becomes more and more charmed by Marko. But as much as she would like to fall in love with him, she can’t stop thinking that Nate is in danger and in need of her help.

And as that letter in Munich said, and as an elderly grandmother in Budva has also told her, until she finds Nate, she won’t find everlasting love.

One of the things I liked about Jamie Kurow’s earlier two books (A boy on an island in danger and murder@fort-willys) was their expertly-crafted, last-minute finishes. An Adriatic Love Affair has a great finish too, so I’ll stop describing the plot here.

Threaded throughout the story is a travelogue of the Montenegro coastal region. I holidayed there one summer about 15 years ago when the area was still a part of Serbia and this story has really captured the beauty of the sea which is utterly perfect for swimming in, the magic of the small medieval towns along the coast, and the dramatic hills that rise almost vertically out of the sea and the Bay of Kotor. And also, this book has managed to explore some of the local cuisine, my favourite of which was krempita – a pastry and vanilla-custard treat that has me right now thinking that maybe it’s time for a return trip to Budva. And because I can’t really describe krempita, here’s a picture…

Krempita – a vanilla-custard filled pastry treat, perfect with an espresso – yum!!

Er…, the book. A highly-recommended read while at the beach or in the plane or on a train on the way to a summer vacation.

Books: Path of Peril

Path of Peril by Marlie Parker Wasserman is a fictionalized account of Teddy Roosevelt’s trip to inspect the Panama Canal and associated assassination attempt.

Path of Peril
by Marlie Wasserman

Accompanied by his wife and an entourage of White House and protection staff, Roosevelt sees firsthand Panama’s challenges and inequalities. The plot weaves the stories of White House secretary Maurice Latta and journalists with the events surrounding the President’s inspection of the canal project against a backdrop of an assassination plot.

The story includes a staggering number of characters, way too many for this reader to keep track of and most chapters are semi-standalone stories that describe each character’s role in the assassination attempt. The descriptions of characters and the setting are vivid and make for an interesting and engaging read. I would have liked a faster-paced development of the plot with less characters to remember.   

Books: Murder between the pages

Murder Between the Pages by Josh Lanyon wasn’t the easiest book / murder-mystery to read and follow because the characters weren’t easily distinguished and different characters told the story in different chapters.

Murder between the Pages
by Josh Lanyon

In the years just after WW2, an author of a soon-to-released novel is shot dead in a small bookstore during a book presentation. Two rival authors, Len and Felix, as well as the police set out to solve the case. The murder-victim had made enemies because of his not-so-fictitious characters in previous books so several in the audience had sufficient motive and opportunity.

The plot is well-constructed and the case is relatively straightforward for the ‘detectives’ (and the reader) to solve. The plot ticks along at a good pace and so the book is a relatively easy and comfortable read.

Books: A Winter Grave

A Winter Grave by Peter May is a well- written murder-mystery set in the near future in Scotland.

A Winter Grave by Peter May

A meteorologist discovers the body of a missing journalist in an ice-cave above Kinlochleven and Detective Cameron Brodie, from Glasgow, is assigned the initial investigation. Set in the near future, Brodie endures the effects of climate change and technological advancement as he his whisked in an un-piloted drone to the remote village where journalist was last seen alive. Recently diagnosed with cancer and given around 6 months to live, Brodie has personal reasons to revisit the Scottish mountains he first visited with his father during childhood.

The village is near the site of Scotland’s large nuclear power plant. With the help of the local policeman, the hotel-owner and a worker/whistle-blower from the power plant, Brodie’s investigations eventually lead to the knowledge that the now-dead journalist was investigating a shady political past associated with the power plant and a recent earthquake with possibly lethal consequences for all who live in the region.

The characters are well-crafted with a good amount of the book is spent revealing Detective Brodie’s past and eventually revealing a present-day relationship with one of the key characters. The plot is well paced and the overall story has an eerie degree of credibility.

A very good read, highly recommended.

Books: A Perfect Time to Murder

A Perfect Time to Murder by N.R. Daws is an easy and comfortable winter-time read. It breaks one of the fundamental rules of whodunnits but it’s well-written and the characters and plot work well so I recommend it as an easy weekend read.

It is January 1941 and Det Inspector Kember has been called to investigate a suspicious death at a coal mine in Kent. Air Force pilot, Lizzie Hayes is grounded and follows Kember to help. Kember applies his logical detective training while Hayes applies her forensic psychology training. (The psychology is highly dubious, but it makes for a good story, so we’ll forgive it.)

Almost all the staff at the mine has cause to kill the victim. Navigating a coal mine/colliery in the snow, during a war with blackouts and surrounded by possible killers puts Kember and Hays at risk and they make several narrow escapes before help arrives.

As a whodunit, A Perfect Time to Murder rather fails because it breaks some of the rules. The reader isn’t given all the clues and without them, there was no way to work out who the killer was before the grand reveal at the end of the book. Agatha Christie would not approve! But as a light piece of historical fiction, set in a quaint setting and time, it works fine. The characters are interesting and agreeable and the plot ticks along at an easy pace. The writing is accurate and so the entire book is a comfortable winter read.