What I've Been Reading
We go back to the 1970s(?) with a very young John Rain in Tokyo, just getting going in the assassination biz. It's one of Barry's best books, certainly one of his more accessible, and I enjoyed this one a lot. Learn how Rain became Rain.
The Martian by Andy Weir
A decade or so in the future NASA has landed people on Mars a couple times. In the latest mission everything goes to hell and the Mars team has to make an emergency exit. It appears that one of their team is killed and they abandoned him and head back to Earth. But due to a (sort of) bit of luck, he survived. Now he really has to survive as the only man on Mars until he can figure out how to let NASA know he's alive and they can figure out a plan to rescue him. This a novel-length version of that game where you're given a Frisbee, a bottle of Coke, a fire extinguisher and a deck of cards and try to figure out how to survive on the Moon. Weir keeps the science as plausible as possible, and the narrator (whose name eludes me at the moment) is hilariously sarcastic. Probably the best book I'll read all year.
The Black Box by Michael Connelly
A Harry Bosch novel and a good one. During the LA riots, Bosch had briefly investigated the death of of a foreign journalists, but with LA on fire, the case was shunted off to one side. Now he gets a chance to look at the extremely cold case now. Very satisfying.
Dirty Martini by JA Konrath
I've read this before and I re-read it for a very specific reason, i.e., I'm writing (on spec) a sequel to it with Derek Stillwater partnering up with Lt. Jacqueline Daniels. It may or may not get published in this fashion depending largely on Joe's wife and Joe, but I'm having fun with it. The book's good, a mass murderer called the Chemist is using botulin toxin to poison people throughout Chicago. The first time reading it I thought, "Well, Derek would be there somewhere," and also, "Damn, I should have written this novel." We'll see how it shakes out. My book, in one version or another, should be out later this year with any luck.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling
I don't think I need to say more.
The Counterfeit Agent by Alex Berenson
A terrific espionage novel. It ends with a big of a cliffhanger, setting up the next novel, presumably. It's a little hard to describe, but a group, possibly affiliated with Iran, appears to be attempting to hide a nuclear bomb on U.S. soil as a kind of cold war move. Or is it a false flag operation made to make Iran look guilty?
Red Shirts: A Novel with 3 Codas by John Scalzi
A hilarious and weirdly "meta" novel that I generally read if I'm feeling blue, because it cheers me up.
The Brilliant Disaster: JFK, Castro, and America's Doomed Invasion of Cuba's Bay of Pigs by Jim Rasenberger
A brilliant book, although I'm not sure I'd call the Bay of Pigs invasion brilliant at any level, although it seems to me that the CIA and the US government really never learned their lesson from the Bay of Pigs, i.e., we'll invade and the oppressed natives will be so grateful that they will rise up and overthrow their oppressor. Yeah, worked great in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Stalking the Angel by Robert Crais
The second Elvis Cole novel. It's an odd one and probably his weakest book (which isn't terribly weak), but the ending is a bit frustrating. Still, you can see that Crais sets up a lot of expectations and then bashes them apart, so things are never quite what they seem.
The Cairo Affair by Olen Steinhauer
I can't decide if this novel is brilliant or I hated it. Or both. I suspect it really reflects what much of espionage is really like—nobody really has the full picture, half the information anybody has is false, intelligence agencies lie to each other, people within intelligence agencies lie to each other, they're so compartmentalized that nobody actually knows what's going on. This book has several "main" characters (or perhaps none, it's not always easy to tell) that are given POV sections lasting several chapters long. So you often see events from different POVs, but overlapping in time and location, which can make it a very disjointed read. It all comes together at the end, more or less, but I didn't feel 100% satisfied with it. Steinhauer's very LeCarre-ish, which I appreciate can be a great compliment, but it also suggests that the book might be less about entertaining the reader than making some sort of literary statement. So if you're a reader of really serious espionage novels, this books for you. If you want a touch of James Bond and fun in your espionage, well, you might be frustrated with this book.