Book Fortyfive: God's Spy

God's Spy, Juan Gómez-Jurado

What a slog. Everything about this book was difficult, from the preposterous plot to the cardboard characters to, worst of all, the stilted dialog. I'm going to guess that most of that blame lies on the shoulder of the translator. Either he has no idea how English is spoken or the poor fool had no choice but to translate some of the worst and weirdest dialog ever. My favorite bit comes when the two main characters (who are adults, mind you) show up at a delivery driver's house in the middle of the night to ask him some questions. "'I'm Ispettore Paola Dicanti and this is Padre Fowler. Don't stress out; you're not in any trouble and nothing has happened to anyone in your family. We just want to ask you a few urgent questions.'"

What the what?! Does anyone besides thirteen-year-olds actually tell people not to "stress out"?

But then, maybe I wasn't the prime audience for this book. I take it Mr. Gómez-Jurado was attempting to capitalize on the success of The Da Vinci Code and the whole Catholic church, conspiracy theory, hypocritical-men-of-the-cloth type of thing. Also, while there have been some thrillers that I have enjoyed, it takes much more for me to sit through that kind of grizzly murder shit without a good payoff in the end.

Book Fortyfour: Garnethill

Garnethill, Denise Mina

Gosh, this was a great mystery and a great thriller. At every turn you're thinking, "He did it! She did it! Everyone did it!" but not in a contrived sort of way. The story is set in a Glasgow that, like pretty much every character, is bleak and flawed. Maureen is our protagonist and the story feels so much about her that I kept thinking it was told in first person. And every time I picked it up again I was surprised it was third person. She is freshly released from a mental institution, after suffering a breakdown when she remembers that her father abused and molested her as a child. And she is dating a married man who is a therapist (but not her therapist, we are constantly reminded because that would be wrong, right?), who she discovers in her flat dead with his head nearly cut clean off (unfortunately the day after she discovers that he is married). Obviously, everyone thinks she did it, so she feels compelled to do her own research into the case to clear her name and possibly discover who offed her boyfriend. And there's so much more to this story, really, the amount of craziness and coverups and seediness is out of control. So, so good.

Book Fortythree: Kidnapped

Kidnapped, Robert Louis Stevenson

Sometimes I think there might be 12-year-old boy inside me (and no, not like that! Get your mind out of the gutter.) What I mean is, this kind of story feels totally made for me: adventure, sword fights, pursuit, the high seas, rebel uprisings. Just like in his other, only slightly better, book, Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson gives us a young hero who is suddenly thrust into some kind of marvelous adventure. This time, David Balfour is our protagonist, and after he is orphaned his miserly uncle sells him off to an unscrupulous sea captain to be a slave. But the real story starts when he meets Jacobite rebel Alan Breck and they take off across the Scottish moors running for their lives. Yes, I just said Jacobite. Not only is this a great story, but it's also a history lesson!

In essence this is a story about friendship and being true not just to yourself and your cause, but to those you love. So it's really a rough-and-tumble adventure with a heart of gold. Also, the intro to the Puffin Classics edition is written by my literary boyfriend, Alexander McCall Smith. Sadly, it's a bit of a letdown (apparently he thinks all kids are complete morons), but I'll give him a pass on this one. He still has my heart for loving Robert Louis Stevenson and wanting kids to love him just as much as he does.