Sunday, March 6, 2016

Two Good Ones: Chris Ewan's The Good Thief's Guide to Amsterdam and James Benn's The First Wave

Chris Ewan, The Good Thief's Guide to Amsterdam
 Minotaur Books; 2007

ISBN-13: 978-0312376338
Also available as an ebook

The first book in the series featuring Charlie Howard, author (of mystery novels) and thief.  He is recruited to steal two figurines (Speak No Evil and Hear No Evil), apparently worthless.  The may who recruited him is quickly murdered, and Howard comes under immediate suspicion of something by the Amsterdam police.  Charlie has to figure out (a) why the figurines are valuable; (b) who is after him; (c) who killed his "employer;" among other things.  The plot is quite nice, Ewan writes well.  Charlie is a reasonably likable character (even if he does tend to suggest another thief whose initials are B.R.).   The resolution is also well-done, if fairly obvious.  The one problem I had was that the denouement, in which Charlie gathers all those concerned (including the police) in an abandoned warehouse to explain things, takes almost the last 20% of the book.  Frankly, that was way too long.  Overall, a good start to the series.  (I earlier read, quite out of order, The Good Thief's Guide to Berlin.)

James R. Benn, The First Wave
Soho Press; 2007

ISBN-13: 978-1569474716
Also available as an ebook

The second in the series featuring Billy Boyle and set during World War II.  Billy Boyle is on his way to North Africa to assist in some undercover negotiations between the Vichy government of Algeria and the US forces about to invade North Africa.  Things don't go well, and Billy and Major Sam Harding are quickly embroiled in local politics, the theft of supplies at a quickly-established Army hospital in Algiers, the these of medical supplies--including most of the penicillin in the world,   the disappearance of a large number of French-Algerian opponents of Vichy (and of Billy's love, Diane, who is there as an OSS operative).  The plot is extraordinarily complex, and completely believable.  The situation is well-established; it's quite easy to believe both that these events could easily have occurred and that the people involved would act and react as they do in the book.  Billy's background on the Boston PD serves him well, and he displays growing skills as an investigator.  The ending is moth moving and authentic.  It's a good thing there are more books in the series.  Because I would hate to have to wait in order to read them.  The first book--Billy Boyle--is also excellent.  This is a series I suspect is best read in order.

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