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A Prison Diary by Jeffrey Archer

Publisher: St. Martin's Press  ISBN: 0312321864

Hate him, ridicule him, criticize him, make satirical movies of him- but you got to admit his ability to bounce back- the perseverance to fight back when all seems lost.

We are speaking about Jeffrey Archer, Lord Archer, Member of British Parliament, a person who represented Britain in athletics in an international athletic meet, and storyteller extraordinaire. 30 years ago, an unwise business move, shattered Archerís political career, and from a Millionaire he was reduced to well, penniless- Archer turned to fiction writing- the novel was Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less, that catapulted him to immediate bestseller status, and made him a Billionaire. Success followed with Kane and Abel and later at the pinnacle of political stardom, a tabloid story in 1987 of the authorís alleged relation with a prostitute send him reeling back. Archer sued the tabloid, won the case, bounced back into the game and by late 1999, was the Conservative candidate for the post of the First Mayor of London.  But fate played truant again, and Archer was convicted for perjury, (for lying in the 1987 trial) and was sentenced for a 4-year term. Would Archer bounce back, or was it the Lordís last bow seemed to be the question in everyoneís mind.

            Well, judging by the thoughts and words of the author in this biography- rest assured, Archer hasnít called it quits, he will be back.

            A Prison Dairy, the first of a three volume series of the authorís life in prison traces the life of the author at Belmarsh where he was put for 21 days, following his conviction. In a raw but pensive style, the author describes his life, his Ďhorrendous life in hellí and how he came to cope with life in prison. Though he questions the justifiability of his sentence- Archer is particularly harsh on Justice Potts, the judge who presided the trial and Angela Piquet, his former Secretary who spilled the beans. Archer does not indulge in self-sympathy, and throughout the work there is an element of facts as it is- which makes a poignant read.

However, the greatest facet of the work surely is the optimism the author expressesÖ you got to admire the never say die attitude of the man

            Enjoyed it, disturbingly enjoyed the book.

                                                                      -    Narayan Radhakrishnan  


Unauthorized Departure by Maureen OíBrien

 Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur ISBN: 0312316003

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, , New Mystery Reader

When London DI John Bright begins to get death threats in connection to a previous case, he lets others convince him that he and his girlfriend, Jude, should take off for a holiday, and so two embark on a driving tour through France.  Wary at first, John soon enough settles into the peaceful and tranquil journey, until they stop at the small town of Neufchatel.  With only one hotel available, the two spend the night at the local inn, and all too quickly become embroiled in murder.  The ownerís fiancťe is found raped and murdered, and as John is the only unknown in this small town, he is the first to be suspected.  And when Jude goes missing, things go from bad to worse in a place where strangers donít stand a chance.

A menacing snapshot of a small town caught up in an incestuous type of loyalty, this thrilling mystery is heavy with nuance and ambiance.  Intelligent and likable characters add to the consistently looming suspense, while clever plotting keeps the reader engrossed, yet stymied.  And John Bright, especially, is so well-defined and perfectly rendered, that readers will find themselves hoping this will not be his last case.  Highly recommended.             


The Night Calls by David Pirie

 Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur  ISBN: 0312291043

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, , New Mystery Reader

In his 2nd novel featuring Arthur Conan Doyle and his mentor, Dr. Bell, we are treated to the young authorís early years, and his initial immersion in detective work.  Inspired by a true event, in which a serial killer had attended medical school with Doyle in the late 1800ís, this fictional account traces the pairís attempts to capture this new breed of killer who targets woman of the night, and then Doyle himself.  Some parts facts, and some fiction; this account combines the two seamlessly.  Along the way, the young Doyle falls in love, deals with family strife, and solves a few other cases.       

Those who are fans Sherlock Holmes and Victorian mysteries will no doubt find much to be enamored with in this latest from Pirie. Doyle is fully realized and believable, as is his mentor Dr. Bell, and it doesnít take much for the reader to imagine these characters as more fact than fiction, with the emotional and psychological revealing of young Doyle being especially note-worthy. The exploration of the new breed of killer is also remarkable, and quite stunningly portrayed in the evil form of Doyle and Bellís nemesis.  And with the cliff-hanging ending, fans will surely be back for the next exciting adventure in the series.      

Postcards from Berlin by Margaret Leroy

Publisher: Little Brown & Company ISBN: 0316738131

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, , New Mystery Reader

This is a dark and disturbing book.  It starts off unexceptionally: it's Christmas, and Catriona's daughter Daisy has a virus.  But as the days pass, the child sickens further, and cracks appear in the shiny surface of the family picture. 

Catriona's husband Richard initially sweeps aside her concerns about Daisy, but as weeks go by, he begins to wonder what's causing the illness and pushes Catriona into a succession of medical visits, each one more frightening to her than the last.  But why should Catriona be frightened of doctors, or even psychiatrists? The roots of her fear go deep into her past, which she has covered up for years and which now is coming back to torment her.  People begin to wonder: doesnít she want Daisy to get better? 

That question is a recurring thread in the book, until it seems that the only one who believes Catriona wants Daisy healed is Catriona herself, and even she's not sure some days.  A sort of frantic momentum builds up, causing the reader to mutter "Come on, come on, there must be a way out of this!"  

In defiance of a court order, Catriona flees with Daisy to Berlin, and the mother who abandoned her almost twenty years ago.  It's a move born of desperation, for Catriona hates the alcoholic former good-time girl who was the antithesis of the good mother that Catriona herself so wants to be. 

Once in Berlin, Catriona discovers that we can learn even from our horrible examples.  Some glimmer of understanding begins to shine between mother and daughter, and we feel that given enough time, they might both be made whole.  Time isn't available: Catriona's unnamed mother is dying of lung cancer, and the German police are hot on the trail of the fugitives.  Catriona's mother gives her a last gift, a precious scrap of information that leads eventually, through many dark days, to the solution of what's ailing Daisy.  That, plus the sensible help of Catriona's friend Fergal, brings about an ending that is not entirely happy, but much better than we had been expecting. 

The book is written entirely in the present tense, which is initially annoying, but as the plot gathers pace, one ceases to be bothered by it.  Definitely not a book to read if you're feeling down in the dumps, but recommended for the insight it gives to mother-daughter relationships.  It leaves you feeling as if you should send your own mother a bunch of flowers for not being like Catriona's mother.  Do it now, while you're still thinking about it!