Book Review
Sunday, May 6, 2012
A Golden Hour, Death in Mexico and Those Greedy Bastards

"The Golden Hour"

by Margaret Wurtele

(NAL paperback, $15)

It is autumn of 1943 and 17-year-old Giovanna Bellini is teetering on the brink of adulthood under the worst possible circumstances. Tuscany, where she and her parents live, is being occupied by the German army that plans to blow up bridges, mine roads and take other desperate measures to impede the Allied advance.

Giovanna agrees to help her former teacher supervise the younger children at the school, which also serves as local headquarters for the Germans. This brings her into unavoidable contact with Lt. Klaus Eisenmann, a handsome German officer with whom she becomes involved despite the fact that he is married and has a family back in Germany.

Giovanna's father is an aggressive businessman who became a Fascist in the belief that Mussolini's party offered the best hope for a prosperous future for Italy. Her brother, Giorgio, strongly disagrees. As the war moves closer to home, Giorgio avoids military service by disappearing into the hills to join a band of partisans fighting for the Allied cause.

As if life were not already sufficiently complicated for Giovanna, Giorgio recruits her to help supply food and clothing to the partisans. Soon she is carrying these provisions to secret hiding places, where she meets other partisans including two brothers who are Jewish. Giovanna finds one of them, Mario, most attractive. Mario is severely injured and needs medical care, which Giovanna secretly arranges. As he recuperates, they spend long hours together in his hiding place.

Giovanna is at the heart of all these plots and subplots but eventually everyone she knows becomes involved. Some are headed for happy endings, others decidedly not. The risks spread far and wide. The author keeps her reader in suspense almost to the breaking point. What will become of the relationship between Giovanna and Lt. Eisenmann (to say nothing of his dog, Panzer)? Will the wounded partisan escape his shelter to return to the war? These questions are answered just when it seems that time is running out. The end of the war, the "golden hour" is approaching.

This is Wurtele's first novel. I hope it is not her last.

-- Reviewed

by John French

"A Death in Mexico"

by Jonathan Woods

(New Pulp Press, $15 )

Before moving to Key West, Jonathan Woods was a corporate lawyer in Texas, a locale that gave him easy access to Mexico -- the setting for his new neo-noir mystery, "A Death in Mexico." Unlike his previous book "Bad Juju and Other Tales of Madness and Mayhem," this is a sustained novel rather than a collection of off-the-wall shoot-'em-up short stories. And here he has found his protagonist, a character worthy of ongoing sequels. Inspector Hector Diaz is a Mexican policeman called into the night to investigate the brutal death of a model, her eyeless body discovered by two drunken tourists in the central plaza of San Miguel de Allende.

Woods tells his story in a slam-bam style reminiscent of Raymond Chandler. Obviously Chandler is one of his literary heroes, for Woods introduces the book with a quote from "The Big Sleep." And his writing is replete with metaphors that pepper you like bullets from a tommygun.

Bass Smallwood must identify the body of his daughter Amanda, the dead model. Gallery owners and collectible shop proprietors come under the bloodshot eyes of Diaz, leading him to a suspicious sculptor. But is Cy Munoz Vega merely a red herring -- a sacrifice of the Aztec wind god Ehecatl? As Diaz discovers, this murder is about heroin and duplicity, not passion.

For Inspector Diaz, this is merely "police business." For us, it's a good read.

-- Reviewed

by Shirrel Rhoades

"Greedy Bastards: How We Can Stop Corporate Communists, Banksters and Other Vampires from Sucking America Dry" by Dylan Ratigan (Simon & Schuster, $25)

Price of this book way 2 much. Ratigan disses corps., banks, China trade, bail outs, healthcare, debt for diploma, big bad oil, taxes.

Remedies r far out -- fringe stuff. Wants 2 make China quit making money. Wants corps 2 stop making 2 much $. Wants no loopholes urged by pol donors. Wants big bad oil 2 pay 4 wars past 20 yrs. ($15 per gal?). Wants $ out of politics. Wants legislators 2 dig ditches on retirement rather than work for any corps. Wants corp taxes returned to 1950 rate of 30% from current 7%.

Jobs will happen if we get a level playing field with China. Ratigan believes we can make it happen. Join his social network, Get Money Out of Politics.

Hard to read in 1 sitting. Some will get off on it. Most will find good rant but not well supported.

Wait for paperback -- cheaper.

-- Review Tweeted

by Ron Hignight