Archive for January 9th, 2018

The Road to Ithaca


The Road to Ithaca (Captain Martin Bora – 5) by Ben Pastor

The fifth in the Martin Bora WWII mystery series. In May 1941, Wehrmacht officer Bora is sent to Crete, recently occupied by the German army, and must investigate the brutal murder of a Red Cross representative befriended by SS-Chief Himmler. All the clues lead to a platoon of trigger-happy German paratroopers, but is this the truth?

Bora takes to the mountains of Crete to solve the case, navigating his way between local bandits and foreign resistance fighters. With echoes of Claus von Stauffenberg, Bora is torn between his duty as an officer and his integrity as a human being.

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 Ben Pastor

Author’s Bio

It’s a dangling preposition, but soldiers are what I write of.

Clearly I do not agree with Samuel Johnson’s opinion that patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels. Nor do I believe what a somewhat jaundiced colleague told me years ago, that academia is the second-last refuge of scoundrels. One way or another, and sometimes at the same time, I have been in touch with both worlds all my life. Teaching for years in a military institution squared the circle for me, fastening the link between my academic background in the Classics and an abiding interest in the warrior’s life, ancient and present.

Speaking of links, I am also one of those people who for various reasons find themselves at or near borders no matter what. I grew up between two provinces in central Italy, lived on the northen Italian frontier afterwards, and then along the river parting two American states (Illinois and Missouri); in the following years I was a resident of that border republic par excellence which is Texas. And then came Ohio, old gate to the West, and then Vermont, adjoining Canada. When in Italy, I live on a piece of land that for over a millennium marked the dividing line between two townships, two provinces, two regions, two states, and sits on the 45° parallel to boot.

It seems to me that this being on the intriguing edge between cultures says much more about me than any other biographical detail. I may appear from the outside fascinated with irreconcilable dichotomies: war and peace, past and present, right and wrong, male and female, power and lack of power… But just as it is true for geographical boundaries, that a no man’s land manages to exist always, I am fully aware of all that swarms and thrives between opposites: the juice is there, the spark and the sting inhabit it, and it’s there that as a person, a writer and a sometime scholar I’d rather stroll.



My Review

4 stars

Captain Martin Bora is in the Germany army during World War II. He is a strong soldier with loyalty to his country. But he is also not blind and sees what Hitler is doing and realizes that he is not on the winning side of this war. Bora is sent to Crete to buy wine for Moscow when he is to investigate the shooting of a Red Cross representative that may have been committed by German paratroopers. Although Bora is nipping at the bit to get back to Moscow for Operation Barbarossa.

Bora might want to get this unwanted task over and done with quickly, but he is drawn into the investigation just like the reader. We bounce between Bora’s journal and a third person narrative to explain both how Bora is a dedicated soldier yet doesn’t blindly follow his leaders. He also doesn’t want to be in newly over run Crete that is filled with political tension. But when he starts digging into the murder, so many more things come to light.

This is a great story that compares to the Odyssey with the different locations and events that Bora goes through. Although some parts did get rather heavy with the Odyssey and drew a touch too far away from the heart of the story. Besides that, I did enjoy this story and am very curious at reading the other Captain Martin Bora stories.

I received The Road to Ithaca from the publisher for free. This has in no way influenced my opinion of this book.

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The Firemaker


The Firemaker (China Thrillers – 1) by Peter May

Margaret Campbell, a Chicago forensic pathologist, has been invited by the Chinese government to teach at the Beijing police university. She has accepted the six-week assignment with misgivings but is desperate to escape a troubled life in America. Arriving in Beijing, she checks “nothing to declare” on the health declaration they gave her on the plane—nothing, that is, “except a broken heart and a wasted life, neither of which was contagious.”

She gets off to a bad start when her car knocks senior detective Li Yan off his bicycle. In a furious clash, he dresses her down in perfect English. But Li soon finds himself reintroduced to Margaret by his superiors when the newly promoted detective’s first case requires Margaret’s special expertise to identify a horribly burned corpse. Thrown together to track down the killer, Margaret and Li must bury their personal and cultural differences when they uncover a conspiracy that threatens not only their lives, but the lives of millions.

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 “A fluid plot, rounded characters, and deft handling of two very different cultures makes this a winner.”

–Publishers Weekly

“Each installment of the Chinese Thrillers series provides rewarding views of the Beijing landscape and insights into cross-cultural relationships.”

–Kirkus Reviews

“An absorbing and well informed account of Beijing life today and the inside workings of the Chinese police…far from a dim sum, this fare turns out quite piquant.”

–Russell James, Crime Time Magazine

 “An enjoyable read with a graphic portrayal of Beijing in winter.”

–Sunday Telegraph

 Peter  May

Author’s Bio

Peter May is the multi award-winning author of:

  • the internationally best-selling Lewis Trilogy set in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland;
  • the China Thrillers, featuring Beijing detective Li Yan and American forensic pathologist Margaret Campbell;
  • the critically-acclaimed Enzo Files, featuring Scottish forensic scientist Enzo MacLeod, which is set in France;
  • and several standalone books, including the multi award-winning Entry Island (January 2014, Quercus UK), Runaway (Quercus 2015) Coffin Road (Quercus 2016) and I’ll Keep You Safe (riverrun 2018).

He has also had a successful career as a television writer, creator, and producer.

One of Scotland’s most prolific television dramatists, he garnered more than 1000 credits in 15 years as scriptwriter and script editor on prime-time British television drama.  He is the creator of three major television drama series and presided over two of the highest-rated serials in his homeland before quitting television to concentrate on his first love, writing novels.

Born and raised in Scotland he lives in France.

After being turned down by all the major UK publishers, the first of the The Lewis Trilogy – The Blackhouse – was published in France as L’Ile des Chasseurs d’Oiseaux where it was hailed as “a masterpiece” by the French national newspaper L’Humanité.  His novels have a large following in France.  The trilogy has won several French literature awards, including one of the world’s largest adjudicated readers awards, the Prix Cezam.

The Blackhouse was published in English by the award-winning Quercus (a relatively young publishing house which did not exist when the book was first presented to British publishers).  It went on to become an international best seller, and was shortlisted for both Barry Award and Macavity Award when it was published in the USA.

The Blackhouse won the US Barry Award for Best Mystery Novel at Bouchercon in Albany NY, in 2013,

Entry Island won the Deanston Scottish Crime Book of the Year 2014 and the ITV Specsavers Crime Thriller Club Best Read of the Year 2014.

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My Review

4 stars

Margaret Campbell is a forensic pathologist in Chicago that has been invited to speak at the Bejing police university. She has had a rough go lately and jumps at the chance for a fresh place to regroup. Unfortunately she didn’t really think things through and arrives in Bejing with no idea about their culture. She just seems to be offending everyone. Then it doesn’t help that she knocks a man off of his bike.

A badly burned body is discovered and Margaret is called in to help investigate. Of course the man that she knocked off his bike is new detective Li Yan, the one assigned to this case. Both Margaret and Li seem to be at each other because of the clashing of culture but they try to set this to the side to solve this case.

This is the first book that I have read by Peter May. I really like how much he puts into this story. I felt just like Margaret, like a fish out of water, and could see me making the same mistakes as her. I really liked Li. He is clearly from another world from Margaret and although they didn’t initially get along they became a great team.

Now, the mystery started out good and really had my attention. But it seemed to stall and had me wanting to get back to it. The, mystery was a good one when it finally picked back up and I enjoyed that. Of course you have a cliff hanger ending that has made me want to rush out and get the next book in the series, The Fourth Sacrafic.

I received The Firemaker from Quercus for free. This has in no way influenced my opinion of this book.

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