The Last Queen of England–Steve Robinson

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I love great books, but I also love those books that I can wolf down and enjoy for all of their naughty empty calories, like a bag of Cheetos or potato chips.  This is one of those salty snack books.

If you’re a Dan Brown fan, like I am, this book is fantastic.  If you’re looking for something innovative, maybe not.  Jefferson Tayte is an American genealogist in London for a conference and to see his friend, Marcus, a big-whig genealogist recently retired from the National Archives.  Tayte does not wear tweed, but tan, suits.  Marcus introduces him to Jean Summer, an attractive divorced historian specializing in the British royalty at the dinner that precedes Marcus’ murder and sets the plot in motion.  What was Marcus working on about which he was so secretive at dinner and how was it connected to his being gunned down outside the restaurant?  Got the formula?

The puzzle concerns the British family’s royal tree, particularly at the time that the dynasty changed from the Stuarts to the Protestant, but distantly related, Hanovers after Queen Anne’s death in the seventeenth century.  Whatever Marcus had discovered seems to have caused his death, as well as the death of several others across the city, and the dead bodies start piling up as Tayte and Summer, assisted by the faithful loner DI, Fable, suss out the details.

In solid Dan Brown style, the duo traverse London and end up in familiar London sites as well as some less familiar.  They discuss construction and re-construction dates and decode some ahnentafel, binary numbers that stand for places on a genealogical table.   Because Tayte is a silly American, he requires history 101 lectures from Summer, who can then educate the reader on the Stuarts and Hanovers and the Jacobite rebellions of the seventeenth century.  What she does not supply, some students of hers do, and this was the one cringe-worthy portion of the novel, where history geeks are presented as rebels for challenging the text books.  That is what all good historians do, especially graduate students in history trying to carve their niche in the dialogue of interpretations that is history.  No historian believes history is a set of facts to be memorized and canonized  in anonymously handed down textbooks.  Historians write those books.

That small irritation aside, the novel was a fun read in terms of pacing, likable protagonists, and fun travelogue descriptions.  Jackson has a series of Jefferson Tayte novels that are probably worth a look if you enjoy this type of novel.

Finished 8/30/15 

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Inferno-Dan Brown

 

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Ok, why am I even writing about this book?  Because I started this blog to record the books I’ve read and my thoughts on them, so feel free to move along and read more insightful minds tear apart Dan Brown’s latest:)

Why should anyone read Inferno?

1–You have visited Florence and/or Istanbul and want to relive your trip through Robert Langdon’s run away from authorities and bad guys/girls.

2–You have not visited Florence and/or Istanbul, but have watched many travel shows about them and wish to expand your virtual touristing to novel reading.

3–You love Dante.

4–You hated Dante when forced to read excerpts from Inferno in high school and want to see if Dan Brown can make it interesting.  Or give it a hatchet job.

5–You know Dante from a video game and thought you’d get your eyes off of the gaming screen and into some summer reading.

6–You have a secret lust for Robert Langdon/your humanities professor and his professorial sartorial know-how.  Try not to picture Tom Hanks as Langdon if this is the case.  Unless you’re into Hanks in that way, but, seriously, ew.

Confession:  I loved Da Vinci Code.  I did not love Inferno.  So many have imitated Brown’s formula that his own work reads as an imitation of Dan Brown.  I love Dante and Florence, want to visit Istanbul, secretly lust after Robert Langon and his professorial garb, and like a lazy read, but it took a bit for me to get into Inferno.  I found myself paying attention to the writing and that’s always a bad sign–like watching for the microphone that keeps dipping into the shot during a suspenseful movie.  That’s just not where the reader/viewer’s attention should be when a writer is trying to race you from one plot point to another.  And there’s simply not enough Inferno in Inferno.  Dante scholars may be relieved, but I expected more.

I skipped the Uffizi in Florence because I didn’t want to spend my limited time standing in line, but now I have a renewed pledge to go back and get my ticket in advance.  My desire to visit Istanbul was increased, but with the events in Gezi Park last week, I’m nervous about the possibilities of such travel in the middle-range future.

On a related note (that will make more sense once you’ve read the book yourself), I heard a story on NPR this week about the US government using reproductive controls to manage the out-of-control mustang population out west.  And today the New York Times confirmed that the Obama administration has the records of all phone calls from Verizon Business Services for a three month period.  Cue the creepy music.  Book your ticket to Florence. Get out your copy of Dante’s actual Inferno.

Finished 5/13