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« August, 2004 »
Object of Virtue

Yet another one of those antique mystery books. A mysterious object shows up and along with it a larger mystery. In this case the object is a Faberge style little figurine that may or may not have belonged to the royal family that was deposed from Russia. The family’s descendant now works for a tony auction house in New York City. The object appears on the market, drama ensues. I enjoyed this book even though it had a bit too much of a “lifestyles of the mega-rich” gloss to it with a bit too many brand names and other name-dropping. On the other hand, the mystery parts of it and the history involved when the protagonist goes back to Russia to try to untangle some of the loose ends of this story, are engaging and the book is well-written [and short] enough to bring it all together.

Time Traveler’s Wife

It hadn’t occured to me until I was watching a bit of TV today that this book is like the Terminator story. Except instead of the Terminator you have a time travelling librarian, and instead of the buff whatshername you have a lovely rich artist lady. The only way you can sneak a love story on to my reading list is if there’s a librarian in it. This story includes a time travelling librarian who falls in love and then goes back to be a part of his wife’s childhood, over and over again. Most of his time travel is accidental and inadvertent, and he always arrives at his new place/time naked and often vomiting. Time travel this becomes very taxing and he’ll often show back up in the “current” time all beaten up and, once again, naked.

Unlike other superpower stories, many people know that Henry is a time traveler and many people endeavor to help him along the way. Clare, his bride, bride to be, or widow depending when you come in to the story, is in the unenviable position of living a life with someone who at some level has already seen it happening. There are a few breadcrumbs dropped along the way so that the reader will pick up danger signs, notice a little warning bell, or pick up a clue, but the narrative, while not exactly linear, is at least cohesive.

The love and life these characters have together is achingly poignant in the level to which they can attain intimacy and the extent to which there will be some things that they can never share. It’s hard to discuss it at all without giving away plot points that are better left to discover by the reader. Don’t wait, read this book.

The Code Book

Simon Singh writes wonderfully understandable books about complicated topics. This basic treatment of a history of codes, codebreaking and code breakers is at once both easy to understand and yet rich in nuance and explanation. It’s one of those great books with lots of extra appendices where you can go for more information but don’t need to be bored with it if you don’t. Singh is also British so this exposition talks a lot about the simultaneous work going on in code creation and breaking in the UK as well as in the US. Apparently, public key cryptography, according to recently declassified information, was created by British intelligence at about the same time as it was discovered in the US, but national security kept the Brits' discovery under wraps until just recently. This book is full of little tidbits like that, codes cracked, problems created and solved and the obsessed and single minded folks who make codes their lives.

Reversible Errors

Another great crime and courtroom drama by Scott Turow. This one hinges on the innocence of a man about to be executed, one with a fairly low IQ and a very bad alibi accused of murdering three people a long time ago. A public defender assigned to the case discovers that the case is much more complicated than it seems. No surprise there. The book follows two different couples whose lives are wrapped up in this case and shows how the crime that was committed over a decade ago is still messing with their lives. If you like Turow, you’ll like this.

Birdwatching in Vermont

Regional bird books are great. Not only can they tell you what a bird looks like and where you’re likely to see one, but in this book’s case, they even have a frequency map for all the 250+ birds that spend time in Vermont, showing how many of them are likely to be in the state in a given month. There’s an amazing amount of data in this book, including the aformentioned frequency maps, but also maps to the best birdwatching regiuons in the state, tips for buying binoculars and other birdwatching apparatus, and a lot of local bird stories such as the huge tower [or 'kettle'] of hawks that sometimes shows up over Mount Philo. The book is not a field guide, it’s a companion, meant to be read at home or consulted later, but it’s a great introduction to local birdwatching which is written in a very accessible and even humorous style.

The Heir Hunter

Thriller mystery story about a guy who tracks down heirs of the recently deceased for a living -- and a share of the profits. This tale involves a very rich man who dies with no obvious inheritors. Heir hunter Nick Merchant commits some small-time bribery to get access to the guy’s files and learns that the case may be much more complicated than it seems. There is a shadowy government involvement and the high money competition of more established heir hunting firms. The bulk of this novel is not about merchat finding the heirs, but trying to figure out who is hunting him. Fun, read it at the beach or over some other lazy afternoon. The author is apprently an actual heir hunter and I’d love to hear more non-fiction accounts of that profession someother time.