Jonathon Lee — High Dive

grand-hotel-brighton-englandThis novel is unusual because you know the outcome (more or less) from the beginning. It’s a fictionalized version of the bombing of the Grand Hotel in Brighton, England in 1984 during the Northern Ireland conflict, “The Troubles.” The British PM, Maggie Thatcher was holding a conference there at the time. The story follows three fictional characters: the assistant manager of the hotel, his teenage daughter, and a young man who helped set up the bomb.

The father, “Moose” Finch, was into sports in school and was a diver and coach as a young man. He moved into hotel management in order to support his daughter, Freya, after his wife left them. There is typical tugging between father and daughter. He’s so busy with the nitty-gritty of the hotel that he doesn’t really know what’s going on in her life. He nags her about continuing her education, registering for university. She doesn’t know what she wants to do with her life—maybe travel. Freya has a brief affair with “Surfer John” who works at the hotel and her dad is completely unaware. Moose is wrapped up in details for the upcoming PM visit.

Dan is a young man from Ireland who has reluctantly become involved with radicals in the ongoing upheaval in Northern Ireland. He and his mother are one of a few catholic families occupying a home in a protestant neighborhood in Belfast. He keeps trying to convince his mother to sell her house and move. He is recruited to travel to Brighton to help set up a bomb in the hotel in advance of the PM’s visit. He meets Freya and likes her. She keeps popping up in his thoughts as the time for the bombing nears.

This a story about the characters involved in the event more than a story about the event. It wanders a bit. It took me longer to finish than the fast-paced mysteries and thrillers I like to read. But I did enjoy it.

David Baldacci — The Last Mile

Baldacci is one of my favorite authors and this is my favorite of his novels other than his first—Absolute Power.  In my opinion the two best strengths of Baldacci’s writing are his unusual characters and his intricate plots.

The Last Mile is an Amos Decker novel. I haven’t read the author’s first Amos Decker novel, but intend to read it now. Decker is a very unusual character. He has a condition called Hyperthymesia, caused by an old football injury, which causes him to remember everything. Along with his perfect memory, he has almost autistic social skills. The perfect memory is not always a blessing. He remembers in detail the death of his family.

Amos is working as a contractor for the FBI on unsolved cases. In this case, convicted murderer Melvin Mars is granted his release from death row when another man confesses to the crime. But Decker and his team prove that it was a false confession, even though they believe Mars is innocent. There are many twists and turns in the plot that keep you guessing throughout the novel.

The book is a page turner.