Home : Ex Libris : 1 August 1997

ex libris reviews

1 August 1997

The reviews contained in this page originally appeared in a precursor of ex libris reviews called Will & Jane's Book Page. It did not have a monthly format, being just a set of steadily lengthening pages on what we'd been reading. It was split into monthly sections for convenience when ex libris was launched in August of 1997.


What's New

7/19/97 David is teething (again) and learning to crawl, Jane's getting over the flu, and I've been chain-reading. You know, chain-reading. It's like chain-smoking. You finish a book, and pick up the next one, and keep going.... Anyway, I've added L.E. Modesitt, Jr and C.J. Cherryh to the list of recommended authors.

Will's Recent Reading

by Will Duquette

In the Presence of the Enemy
By Elizabeth George

For those keeping score, this is the first book I've read because a reader of this website recommended it...or rather, recommended the author (credit Marla Thornton). I've got a couple of shelves of books I've bought and not yet read, not to mention shelves of books that I re-read...and of course, I keep buying more as my whimsy takes me. Anyway, additional recommendations by my sister and my sister-in-law pushed me over the line, and I picked this book, basically at random from those of hers on the bookstore shelf. Most of the mysteries I've read and enjoyed are in the whimsical or humorous category: Elizabeth Peters, Charlotte MacLeod, Sharyn McCrumb, Sarah Caudwell, and Jonathan Gash, for example. George, however, is clearly in the serious category; she reminds me more of Martha Grimes (whose books I don't much enjoy). In the Presence of the Enemy is an interesting book, concerning an Conservative English M.P., and the editor of a scurrilous left-wing tabloid with a skeleton in their mutual closet. It was gripping and well-written, I enjoyed the continuing characters, but the ending let me down a little. There's a cliche in murder mysteries: the murderer turns out to be a psychopath or sociopath whose actions cannot be understood until you know what their particular kink is. It's all part of making the killer the last person you'd expect, which is understandable but annoying. At least George didn't pull Sue Grafton's trick, where the killer is almost always a sociopath who tries to kill Kinsey Millhone in the last ten pages of the book. In any event, I enjoyed it enough to buy another of hers, which I'll get to one of these days.

The Disorderly Knights
By Dorothy Dunnett

Third in her Lymond chronicles, this book takes Francis Crawford of Lymond to the Mediterranean in company with the Knights Hospitaller, aka the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, aka, simply, the Knights of Malta. A Turkish fleet is menacing Malta, and Tripoli which the Knights are commanded to guard. The Order is divided within by European politics, and in no very good position to withstand the Turks. Meanwhile, the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, is at war with France, who has allied with the Turk, causing the French members of the Order to fall under suspicion. Meanwhile, in Scotland, the Scotts and the Kerrs are feuding on the Scottish border. I'd like to say more...but I've noticed that each of the Lymond novels is a mystery: why is Lymond doing what he's doing? What's he after? I'd hate to give the answers away.

Pawn in Frankincense
By Dorothy Dunnett

In this volume, fourth of six, Francis Crawford of Lymond mostly chases around the Mediterranean from Italy to Istanbul (Stamboul in the language of the day), in search of...well, that would give away the ending of the previous book, so I can't tell you. Anyway, I enjoyed it, recommend it highly, and I'm eagerly awaiting the fifth and sixth volumes, which are due to be reprinted in September.

A Horse and His Boy
The Magician's Nephew
The Last Battle
By C.S. Lewis

I've read these umpteen times, and it amazes me how much deeper I find them as I grow older. (Sharp eyes will note that I re-read the first three Narnia books last month, and the last three this month, completely skipping The Silver Chair. I dunno. Maybe I just wasn't up for marshwiggles.)

Captain James Cook, a biography
By Richard Hough

Captain Cook is perhaps not as well known as he should be; he was one of the first great explorers of the South Pacific, and the first European to see Hawaii and the east coast of Australia. Botany Bay, destination of the First Fleet to Australia, was named by him and Joseph Banks, the famed botanist, who travelled with him on his first voyage. Cook brought a young officer named William Bligh with him on his last voyage to Tahiti; it was on the strength of this experience that Bligh was given command of the Bounty. Cook was born a poor farmer's son, rose to prominence in the Royal Navy, and died in Hawaii because he wasn't divine. This was an enjoyable book, and I particularly commend it to fans of Patrick O'Brian.

Well of Shiuan
Fires of Azeroth
Exile's Gate
By C.J. Cherryh

These books continue the story of Morgaine, and her follower, Nhi Vanye. I can't say too much about any of them without spoiling the earlier book; suffice it to say that in each book Morgaine and Vanye have just arrived in a new world via a gate from the world of the previous book, scout about, determine the political situation, unsettle everything completely, and leave again, closing the world's gate behind them. Exile's Gate was written quite a while after the first three, and I suspect Cherryh wrote it to bring emotional closure to the series. Our heroes travel onward, but that's the nature of Morgaine's mission: to travel on and on until all of the gates are closed. They'll never know when they've finished the job, because when they enter the last gate of all, there will be no receiving gate, and they will be lost. Not a bad series, not a great series for Cherryh; I liked the last two books the best.

Have any comments? Want to recommend a book or two? Think Will's seriously missed the point and needs to be corrected? Like to correspond with one of the reviewers? Write to us and let us know what you think! You can find the e-mail addresses of most of our reviewers on our Ex Libris Staff page.

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