Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Fifteen - Special Assignments - Boris Akunin

Quirky detective Erast Fandorin is back again for two adventures in the streets of Moscow. The first mystery involves a 'Jack of Spades' con man who swindles the prince of Moscow out of his house by selling it to a German prince. Erast and his new assistant Ansii investigate any strange advertisements in the newspaper as a way of detecting where the 'Jack of Spades' next con will be. Ansii ends up falling in love with Jack's lovely assistant and just barely captures the 'Jack of Spades' in one final con.

The second mystery involves Jack the Ripper like murders within the Moscow streets. Ansii is killed shortly after figuring out who was killing the victims. Erast ends up killing the murder suspect but not without losing the love of his life.

Akunin, Boris. Special Assignments. Random House (2008). 352 pages. ISBN 0812978609.
This book came from reading a review of it in Entertainment Weekly. Boris Akunin's dialogue is witty and unpredictable, but is overshadowed with detailed descriptions of the scene and historical tangents to build depth for the characters.

Fourteen - Life Class - Pat Barker

Set in England during World War I, Life Class captures the lives of young artists during war time. Paul and Elinor flirt after art class one day and decide to meet at Cafe Royal that night. That night Paul is introduced to a model named Teresa and falls madly in love with her. Meanwhile Elinor and Kit, a former art student, leave together. Paul begins to date Teresa and finds out she's married. Teresa's husband confronts Paul and ultimately Teresa decides to spend some time in the country. As she is leaving, Teresa points out that Paul really is in love with Elinor.

Germany declares war on Russia and Neville decides to join the Belgian Red Cross. Paul applies for the army and is rejected. He decides to join the Red Cross as well. Paul heads to the front and rents a room in the local town so he can paint. Elinor and Paul write letters back and forth. Paul invites her to visit him and they end up making love as the town is bombed. As the war continues, Paul and Elinor's lives are challenged as they both struggle to find their love for each other and their passion for art.

Barker, Pat. Life Class. Doubleday (2008). 320 pages. ISBN 0385524353.
This book had a good premise, but struggled to capture this reader's attention. Pat Barker's vivid descriptions of the war time conditions are overshadowed by the lack of connecting plot lines between the main characters.