Friday, February 28, 2014

One Summer

By Bill Bryson

Bill Bryson takes a look at the summer of 1927 and with brief and illuminating discussions of  the antecedents of the events of that summer. Charles Lindbergh, record floods in the Mississippi basin, flagpole sitting, Clara Bow, talkies, Herbert Hoover, Calvin Coolidge, Al Capone, Sacco and Vanzetti, Henry Ford, Babe Ruth  and more are all featured in this entertaining and fascinating look at what our ancestors were up to almost a ninety years ago. I am not a fan of baseball but even the stuff about Babe Ruth was pretty interesting.  Bill Bryson has a real gift for making history come alive by telling the human story not just a bunch of dry facts. He knows how to get personal with his subject matter and doesn't shy away from the unsavory aspects of the story. It was a pleasure to read this entertaining and informative book.  

Fallen Women

By Sandra Dallas

New York, 1885. Beret Osmundsen had good reason to hate her beautiful younger sister Lillie.  But when news of Lillie’s murder reached Beret she felt both grief and rage and she needed to know more about the circumstances of Lillie’s life. Last Beret knew, Lillie was living with their aunt and uncle in Denver. But now she finds out that Lillie was killed in a house of prostitution. So she travels to Denver in a quest to understand her sister and determined to bring the killer to justice.
Beret, a woman of wealth and intelligence, is not unfamiliar with the seamy side of life. She runs a halfway house for troubled and endangered women in New York City.  Though the Denver police would rather she stayed home and let them handle the investigation, Beret inserts herself into it and builds a good working relationship with the chief investigator, Mick McCauley. McCauley is not the typical flat foot, he is a man of money and influence, quite equal to the challenge of escorting a society lady through the underbelly of Denver’s tenderloin district.  Together Beret and Mick will dig through Lillie’s hidden history and discover the truth of her murder.

This was a very interesting read. The story of Beret and Lillie and Beret’s growing relationship with Mick were quite engaging. The murder mystery was interesting too, although the murderer was not much of a surprise. Altogether, I enjoyed it a lot.

Wagers of Sin

By Robert Asprin and Linda Evans

Skeeter Jackson is a young scammer with a checkered past. Living with two parents too self-involved to care for their child,  Skeeter turned to petty theft in rebellion. He then became the victim of a random time gate that landed him in the camp of Genghis Khan’s father. Skeeter had to learn to survive the harsh conditions of the Mongol steppes.  Five years with the Mongols taught Skeeter survival skills but when he was rescued and returned to his parents in modern times he still could not cope with his parents’ indifference. He ran away and eventually ended up on Shangri-La Station where he earned his living stealing from and scamming the tourists on their way to visit the past through the time gates.
Skeeter joined a group going back to Roman times. He had a plan: he would go to the Coliseum and pose as a bookie and take peoples’ bets on the outcome of contests and then go back through the time gate with his takings before the gamblers can collect on their bets.  An ill-advised scheme that backfired when one of the bettors turned out to be a ferocious gladiator who, upon discovering Skeeter’s scam, pursued him through the time gate and into Shangri-La Station, determined to get back his gold and kill Skeeter for making a fool of him.

And that’s how the story begins, with Skeeter in hot water with an enraged Roman gladiator. It adds in several other story lines, too many to mention here. Most of the related story lines are fairly interesting, but the best is the story of Skeeter. The only story line that was not as interesting was that of Margo which was quite boring and could have been left out of the novel to good effect.

This is the second book in the Time Scout series and probably would make for better reading if the reader is familiar with the first book, Time Scout, which I was not.