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To compliment my earlier review, The Great New Orleans Kidnapping, let’s turn the clock forward a bit from 1870 to the turn of the century and Empire of Sin.

Have you ever heard of Storyville in New Orleans? I had only because of my interest in WWI and had read a bit about how the War Department played a big part in making Storyville a thing of the past. Well, Gary Krist has taken on how it was before vice was “contained” in New Orleans, what happened when it was, and how it ended up just another interesting way to deal with vice that was abandoned. The best part is he does it in a way that isn’t all in your face with salacious specifics. It is so tasteful that you could be reading a story about how Detroit became the motor city, a subject much less objectionable.

Prostitution is/was, at the end of the day, a business and in the Victorian era and for a period after it was more or less seen as a needed thing that will-not-be-named in gentile company. So what is an up and coming city supposed to do? New Orleans decided that no longer would the pleasure palaces be scattered around the city willy nilly and while they didn’t think they could lick it entirely, the fine city leaders (some of them brothel owners themselves or at least backed by the owners) came up with the idea to corral it in one specific area. Genius right? Okay, perhaps not in today’s way of thinking, but it worked for many years for them.

There were murders, bumbling cops, paid off city and state leaders, a brothel owner in the State house, and even the aging Carrie Nation came by, set aside her ax, and had tea with a lady brothel owner. It was what it was and Krist’s take on it allows you to learn without feeling like you have to hide the book in last week’s New Yorker.

I said it last time and I’ll say it again, New Orleans has an amazing history of acceptance and in the South at that period of time, that is saying a heck of a lot. Read it…now.

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Empire of Sin Book Cover Empire of Sin
Gary Krist
History
Crown
10/28/2014
432

Describes the internal struggle in early-20th-century New Orleans between the city's upper crust and the underworld, focusing on the head of the red light district, Tom Anderson, who fought to keep his vice business at the top in a wicked city. By the best-selling author of City of Scoundrels. 30,000 first printing.

 

Paris Homicide

I love the gritty psychologically driven Scandinavian crime novels and they led me to reach out for a broader view of European Crime.  Let me tell you, it isn’t all gritty, but that doesn’t mean you have Ms. Marple in the library sipping tea either.

Paris, oohhh, Paris, with the tragic history and all of those romantic spots…Just like any modern city, there are murders there too, fictional and otherwise. In comes, Frédérique Molay, and her creation, Chief of Police Nico Sirsky.

The three part (so far) Paris Homicide series has opened my eyes not only to real-life Paris, but to the interesting way that La Crim’ investigates murder. I say interesting, because the mechanisms and procedures are different from what we are used to here and that adds to the intrigue of the plots for non-native readers.

The plots kept me reading as well. The 7th Woman features a killer of women, Crossing the Line starts with a freaky message secreted away in an odd body part, and City of Blood plays havoc with modern art at the site of a former massive slaughter-house with is now Parc de La Villtte, a world-class cultural center.

Nico Sirsky is different in that he isn’t really some tragically flawed alcoholic with decades of self-imposed wreckage behind him. He has a past just like we all do, the same with sad events, but it doesn’t define him like many fictional crime fighters. He is a good compassionate guy, who is very good at his job, with a teenage son, and a relationship in bloom. He’s multi-dimensional not for his bad habits, but because one can relate to him.  He’s a shift from the norm and really a breath of fresh air because of that.

So, if you want to see more of Paris and how they fight crime, not be afraid of turning the lights out at night, and yet still want some murder in your reading….check out Frédérique Molay, and her work, The Paris Homicide Series.

Check out the review at The Bowed Bookshelf

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Reviews in Miniature

Coming Out of a Reading Fog

I read a lot, so much that it is pert near impossible to review everything…or even most…or even. Do you find yourself loving books so much that instead of reviewing what you just finished, you rush to start the next?Anyway, I want to hold myself more accountable to at least mentioning some of the books I blow though while avoiding life.

These books have me peering through the mists of time to mention.

Let Him Go

Let Him Go by Larry Watson

The writing style of this slightly different from the norm, very little in the way of identifying who is saying what and you have to immerse yourself in the characters to figure it out. No matter, immerse you will with a powerful story of letting go and sacrifice in the Dakota of yesterday.

George and Margaret lost their son. However, they are on a journey to get their grandson back. It will cost them in ways that they didn’t imagine. I may have cried.

 

 

Fetch

Fetch the Devil by Clint Richmond

A wealthy mother and daughter go on a trip across the country only to end up dead in the Chihiuahuan Dessert in 1938. Was it Nazi espionage or were they just in the wrong place and the wrong time?

Interesting true crime made more intriguing because it shows how worried we were, rightly so, about Nazi spies even before getting into the war. I liked it so much that it has been staring at me, waiting to be reviewed for months. Most books get ditched mighty quickly after reading here.

 

 

 

woman with a gun

Woman with a Gun by Phillip Margolin

Back in the day, pre-blogging, I loved Margolin. He was a safe author to pick up at airports or really quickly at the store. He never disappointed and this suspenseful mystery won’t let you down.

It’s been a decade since Kathy Moran took this enigmatic photo and discovered the subject’s husband murdered. So what’s the real story behind the photo and why are people still dying?

 

 

 

Vampire

The Last American Vampire by Seth Grahame-Smith

Squeee a sequel to Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter! Yikes, more name dropping than the latest celebrity memoir!

The first book featured a whole new way to love Lincoln. This one was a fun lark that, while a fun lark, doesn’t break as much ground. (ha ha, breaking ground and vampires)

It was a guilty pleasure and I blew through it like a house on fire.

 

 

De Niro

De Niro: A Life by Shawn Levy

I hoped the book would give me more of an idea of what makes De Niro tick was more of a rehash of his roles and a view of De Niro from afar. While I understand the roles he actually has taken, there is no further glimpses into why he picks them really other than perhaps, having worked with them before…or never having done so.

To be fair, most bios of film actors fall into this trap.

 

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I received De Niro: A Life from Blogging for Books for this review.

Tolstoy

When I was in school, I read The Death of Ivan Ilych and feel in love with Russian literature.  No, I think I fell in love with Russia in toto. How could one not with a beautiful and mysterious place with churches like the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood? Coolest.Name.Ever. My obsession led me to the first career goal I ever had, to work for the State Department in Russia. Then the wall came down and so did my enthusiasm. Anywho….

800px-Храм_Спаса_на_крови_7

As the years have gone on, I’ve devoured other Russian works and have never been disappointed. (even though I still have issues with the practice of patronymic naming) Strangely, I’ve never really read a thing about the authors themselves, until now.

Tolstoy was an idol in his time and he created a social movement that garnered a ton of followers called Tolstoyans.

“To speak of “Tolstoyism,” to seek guidance, to inquire about my solution of questions, is a great and gross error. There has not been, nor is there any “teaching” of mine. There exists only the one eternal universal teaching of the Truth, which for me, for us, is especially clearly expressed in the Gospels…I advised this young lady to live not by my conscience, as she wished, but by her own” Tolstoy- What is Religion?

The top follower was Vladimir Chertkov and his Machiavellianism ended up ruling over Tolstoy, his work, legacy, and even his death as you will learn in Tolstoy’s False Disciple.

I found the power that Chertkov wielded over a person that founded his own social movement astounding. Tolstoy was arguably the greatest Russian writer and thinker and yet he was led around by the nose by this chameleon-like  upstart. Frightening, to say the least.

The book gave me a better understanding of the times they lived in, a new appreciation of Tolstoy and his work, and knocked the pedestal that I had him on down a few feet. It was an awesome study in how a person’s character can be so powerful even when they have no new ideas of their own to offer.  Chertkov was a vile human being in my book, but in no way does this make the book vile. It may make you want to go back in time and smack poor Leo on the head though…

There is also a not-so-favorable review on The New Yorker.

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City of Liars and Thieves by Eve Karlin

City of Liars

This period of New York history, right around 1800, is really lacking representation in historical fiction. I can think of only a few that I have ever read set then and it’s a shame because the big names like Hamilton, Washington, Jefferson, etc. were either still alive or at least still known as contemporary figures and the whole country was finally settling down to the business of being a country. New York City still had a lot of wide open spaces, pigs roamed the streets as de-facto organic garbage collectors and the citizens were starting to struggle with the growing needs for drinkable water. There was no hint of the city we all know today.

Elma Sands, a young pretty Quaker woman, comes to the city to live with her cousin and hopefully to escape the out-of-wedlock label she has been forced to wear in her small town in Northern New York. Her cousin, Catherine Ring, looks upon her as a younger sister and hopes to alleviate some of her feelings of isolation with Elma near.

Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr and rising and hungry for more power. Their enmity is already set, but their ultimate confrontation was a few years away. Right then, they were the poster boys for the drive to get water to the city that was growing by leaps and bounds daily. Unfortunately, their aims were more about power and gain than by actually doing the public service of public works.

Elma falls in love with a boarder in the Ring household and while it makes Catherine worry, the risk seems to be resolving when she tells her cousin that she and her beau intend to be married as soon as they tell his brother, a right hand man of the water company. The young man looks to be in love with her and Catherine breathes a sigh of relief when the pair leave together to share the good news. The next morning, the young man is back home, but Elma is nowhere to be found.

Soon, the whole city is looking for Elma and hounding her extended family on Greenwich Street. Catherine soon learns that when it comes to dealing with the cronies of Burr and Hamilton, the public is at a distinct disadvantage. When Elma’s body is found at the bottom of a useless newly dug well, she finds herself alone in fighting for the truth and ultimately for justice.

The period was fabulously written and it is oddly comforting to see that the “haves” have always had a leg up when dealing with the “have-nots”. It is never right and always hard to swallow, but Catherine is a strong heroine that you can’t help identify with. I’ll be on the lookout for more from Eve Karlin.

City of Liars and Thieves by Eve Karlin

  • Print Length: 258 pages
  • Publisher: Alibi (January 13, 2015)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • ASIN: B00LYXY076

 

This book was provided by TLC Book Tours. See what other readers thought here

 

 

 

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City of Liars and Thieves Book Cover City of Liars and Thieves
Eve Karlin
Fiction
Alibi
1/13/2015
266

A crime that rocked a city. A case that stunned a nation. Based on the United States’ first recorded murder trial, Eve Karlin’s spellbinding debut novel re-creates early nineteenth-century New York City, where a love affair ends in a brutal murder and a conspiracy involving Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr erupts in shattering violence. It is high time to tell the truth. Time for justice. . . . How she was murdered and why she haunts me. It is not only Elma’s story, it’s mine. On the bustling docks of the Hudson River, Catherine Ring waits with her husband and children for the ship carrying her cousin, Elma Sands. Their Greenwich Street boardinghouse becomes a haven for Elma, who has at last escaped the stifling confines of her small hometown and the shameful circumstances of her birth. But in the summer of 1799, Manhattan remains a teeming cesspool of stagnant swamps and polluted rivers. The city is desperate for clean water as fires wreak devastation and the death toll from yellow fever surges. Political tensions are rising, too. It’s an election year, and Alexander Hamilton is hungry for power. So is his rival, Aaron Burr, who has announced the formation of the Manhattan Water Company. But their private struggle becomes very public when the body of Elma Sands is found at the bottom of a city well built by Burr’s company. Resolved to see justice done, Catherine becomes both witness and avenger. She soon finds, however, that the shocking truth behind this trial has nothing to do with guilt or innocence. Advance praise for City of Liars and Thieves “Gracefully written with exquisitely drawn, convincing characters, this is one of those rare historical novels that hit not one false note. City of Liars and Thieves offers a compelling tale of romance and intrigue, set in a fascinating era of Manhattan’s tumultuous past.”—Leslie Wells, bestselling author of Come Dancing “City of Liars and Thieves is both a historical murder mystery and the tragic story of a vulnerable woman snared in the ambition of New York’s most powerful men. Eve Karlin captivates at every step with a nuanced narrator, right-here-and-now details, and steadily mounting dread. But it’s the twist ending that leaves us gasping, like the narrator, with the vertigo of disillusionment and a craving for justice.”—Maia Chance, author of Snow White Red-Handed “In this absorbing tale of lust, greed, and scandal set in postcolonial New York City, Eve Karlin is as adept at conjuring the yellow-fever-ridden streets of eighteenth-century Manhattan as she is at creating characters whose motives and yearnings feel timeless. I couldn’t tear myself away.”—Suzanne Chazin, author of Land of Careful Shadows “Both suspenseful and emotional . . . Karlin does a great job weaving together her fictional accounts with actual historical ones.”—No More Grumpy Bookseller “Precisely my sort of mystery: full of history and great writing . . . Kept me on the edge of my seat . . . If you’re into history at all or love a great mystery, don’t pass up City of Liars and Thieves. You may know how it all ends, but what you find in the middle is definitely not to be missed!”—Bibliophilia, Please “A well-researched, minutely plotted piece of work that will appeal to lovers of historical crime set in the New World.”—Crime Fiction Lover

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