Christmas reads

Savannah, Georgia, USA bars and restaurants on River Street.

I’ve added parts of three books into this year’s tally. I was still grappling with King’s The Institute, before eclipsing two new bestsellers. The first was John Grisham’s latest, The Guardians. Connelly’s The Night Fire was next. Both of these works were highly rated and, in particular, was a return to form for Grisham. My current read is She Said by a pair of Times journos. Kantor and Twohey peel the onion on the controversy that sparked the #metoo movement. I can glimpse the finish line already. 

  1. The Guardians (Grisham). While all of Grisham’s past releases have been well-hyped, this offering debuted at numero uno on the Times bestseller list. Aside from being commercially massive, reviewers likewise warmed up to this novel. This is significant since most of his work has only garnered mixed reviews, although he is the undisputed king of the thriller genre. The Guardians refer to a group of Georgian lawyers who help death row inmates. The book focuses on Cullen Post, a lawyer/minister, as he races against the clock to save the innocent from being falsely extinguished. The book opens as Post’s client is on his last supper, before he is given a reprieve. Post also has a chaperone whose official title is his investigator. The man, himself exonerated from death row, provides much needed support for Guardians.

The overarching narrative though is Quincy Miller, languishing in death row for twenty-two years. He was convicted of Keith Russo’s murder, the small-town attorney who was hiding many secrets. The sheriff has done a number with witnesses, ‘experts’, and the authorities, making sure that Miller was the fall guy. When the case is re-opened, the baddies scramble as they try some damage control. Cullen’s bravery and determination changes the complexion of the case: witnesses recanting, experts unravelled, and authorities called to answer. Soon the FBI is called in and Miller is set free; the erstwhile sheriff is apprehended. The Centurion Ministries of the 80s inspired the book. Short chapters, breezy prose, well-developed characters…a worthwhile read. 

Rating: 4.6/5

  • The night Fire (Connelly). The second instalment in the Bosch & Ballard series, this represents my twentieth Connelly read. I’ve only started perusing him in 2017. In this edition, Bosch’s former mentor leaves Harry a murder book of an unsolved crime. All this time Harry and Renee wonder why the case remained unsolved. John Jack, the mentor, didn’t seem particularly fussed about solving the crime, as he had no notes on the murder book. Did he have ulterior motives for hiding the case? Furthermore, did he wanted to case to remain unsolved forever? It turns out that the gay murdered in the alley was his son. The question remains: did he knew this all along, or had he just found out about it? The deceased was a wasted talent, a gifted artist who bowed out far too soon. Bosch was left to piece together what little there was to find.

Harry likewise juggles another case, the murder of a judge. His basic instinct tells him that a disgraced lawyer was behind the attack. He goes so far as to hire the attorney to snoop on him. This episode would have a tragic outcome, with a company hitwoman and guns a-blazing. It would involve the Vegas police, the LAPD, and the feds. Ballard provides a steady second fiddle, herself trying to get to the bottom of a case in downtown LA. Her badge and access assists Bosch many times over the story. Her quick thinking and autonomy make her a model heroine, as she not only fights crime but her male boss as well. Grand Cayman was a nice backdrop for ‘Freeze!’ In case you’re wondering, the title refers to the passion that drives Bosch to clear cases. He talks about it a few times during the course of the novel. 

Rating: 4.65/5

  • She Said (Kantor and Twohey). This constitutes my first foray into non-fiction since the Thurston autobiography. In between, I’ve read three Connelly’s, Slaughter, Robotham, King, and Grisham. I’ve been looking forward to this book since first hearing about it. As the book cover suggests, ‘breaking the sexual harassment story that helped ignite a movement’. Jodi and Megan are the two Times reporters who finally bring down Harvey Weinstein. The former Miramax licensee has been paying off women to silence them as he continued this troubling pattern. What surprised me was how many lawyers, aides, assistants etc. have been enabling this behaviour over the years. Trying to uncover the allegations was one thing but cracking the brick wall of silence and sharing it to readers was another. Jodi and Megan had the odds stacked up against them from the start. Once the story finally broke, they were inundated with similar stories from women.  

For their work on the issue, the two reporters were recognised with the Pulitzer Prize. They did it the right way, from sourcing to fact-checking, writing to editing and finally, approaching Weinstein for his side of the story. Along the way, victims retreated, Harvey threatened them, and Hollywood actresses clammed up. While majority of the book concerns Weinstein, the ending chapters are dedicated to Christine Ford, the daring victim of Brett Kavanaugh. Once again, Jodi stepped up to help tell Ford’s story. I am about thirty pages from the end; it’s an insightful if challenging read. I will admit that it’s not as smooth as Grisham or Connelly, but it has its own charm. Make no mistake: there’s a lot to love here. 

Rating: 4.35/5 

These three books have been all good reads. My next book would be Albom’s Finding Chika. If his past efforts are any indication, this should be a pretty cruisy one.

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