Brendan Ryan's Book Review
SPECIAL EDITION BOOK LETTER...FOLLOW UP
March 19, 2020
Hello Again Book Pals,
Hopefully, you are all well both mentally and physically. And maybe the arrival of this book
letter will bring a few smiles and certainly something to do while, if you are like me, kind of
tucked in at home. Yes, I can still wander down the street although maybe that will soon be shut
down as well. Not to turn this into an altruistic endeavor, but I must admit I had fun working on
the letter and hopefully you’ll have fun reading it. And of course, then turning to some books
and television shows to help move the day along.
And truthfully, a few loyal readers have been nudging me to overcome some mid-winter
lethargy and get going on writing a new book letter. Because in actuality the last “traditional”
book letter was way back in August. Now, of course there were the highly enjoyed “28 favorite
reads of all time” followed by a summary of the reader's favorites...but maybe they don’t count.
Whatever. The good news is over the intervening, now almost six months I have been reading
my little brains out and have “discovered” several really excellent “new” authors, have read
many outstanding new offerings by longtime favorites and then candidly read some kind of
“meh” offerings from really top-level long-time favorites. And,, as a bonus, in the midst of all
this reading, have stumbled upon some truly excellent new television series. And in these
times, how valuable are those.
So, a dilemma. How do we stuff 10 lbs of sausage into a 5 lb sausage wrapper? Well, we’ll see.
But one thing I do promise is that this letter will not blibber blabber it’s way to the never
happen again territory of the 17-page opus of several years ago.
So off to the races. And let’s start with books from authors new to the book letter. In some
cases, to call these authors “new” is kind of ridiculous but if they’re new to me and the book
letter, so be it.
1. Anthony Horowitz – The Word is Murder
Brother Horowitz joins our list of authors with a staggeringly powerful credential to his name.
He is indeed the same Anthony Horowitz who quite literally authored every episode of all nine
seasons of quite possibly my single most favorite television show, namely, Foyle’s War. (more
on that in the television section.). He has also written a number of other novels but this one has
achieved broad acclaim. It’s actually quite a novel novel (I’ve wanted to say that for years). In
that, one of the lead characters of the book is actually Anthony Horowitz, himself in a true-to-
life role as a successful author of mysteries and of Foyle’s War with even some commentary on
how he’s thinking of writing the next season of Foyles.
How it all unfolds is “disgraced police detective Daniel Hawthorne, a brilliant eccentric
investigator reaches out to Horowitz to be a ghostwriter to document his life.” As the flyleaf
says, “kind of the Watson to his Holmes.” It actually is a pretty cool conceit (another word I’ve
wanted to use for some time). And the mystery itself is extremely engaging. A wealthy woman
in London, Diana Kowper, enters a funeral parlor one sunny morning and arranges for her own
funeral, sparing no details. Stunningly, she is murdered the next day. Did she know this was
about to happen? If so, why wouldn’t she have prevented it? And off we go. Hawthorne, who
had been “dismissed” from the Metropolitan Police Force is now “freelanced” by the Force to
solve this seemingly unsolvable mystery. And as Horowitz joins him in this effort we have a
really funny, excellent mystery and as one would expect from Horowitz, extremely readable
and entertaining. And I believe there is a second book in this series.
2. Ben Schott - Jeeves and the King of Clubs
Much to clarify here. Firstly, this is presented as “an homage to P.G. Wodehouse” which
means, I guess, in ordinary language that Ben has written this book to emulate Wodehouse
and to continue the Jeeves series. He does so brilliantly. And now, perhaps unnecessarily but
regardless, a little back story on yours truly and my connection to Wodehouse. Candidly, I love
P.G. Wodehouse and nearly everything he has written. I read them many years ago and think
they’re among the funniest books ever. Since I am in a rather expansive mood let me share
with you my very first P.G. experience.
A very very long time ago I had taken my first trip to Europe actually to meet my Grandfather in
Ireland. And then had continued on to London and Paris via trains and boats and basically had
a great time. Now fast forward, I am returning via the train to the boat to the train to the boat
to get back to Ireland. I am in Gare du Nord train station in Paris. And horror of horrors have no
book to read. I spot a book kiosk and predictably I’m confronted with limitless titles in French
and only five titles in English. Despite having taken years of French, I’m barely able to order a
beer in said language. I predictably and wisely scan the English titles. An author’s name pops
out, “P.G. Wodehouse.” Remember a close pal of mine in New York , Young Vincent,( actually
young at that time) badgering me to read anything by P.G.. I select the book. The title, I
remember to this day, Uncle Fred in the Springtime. Having no idea of what this could be
about, I pick it up, and proceed to take my seat on the train. Which in those days, on the
French trains, there were all these little 6-seat cabins, 3 people facing another 3 people and a
closed little door. (note, cabin or no, this was steerage.) In any event, the train pulls out, I
open my book, tuck into my window seat and start reading. And after about five minutes burst
out into uncontrollable laughter. To the immediate horror of the other five denizens of my
little cabin. One could just hear the little wheels turning in those French brains saying “Mon
Dieu, Sacre bleu ..we are stuck with this lunatic for three more hours of train travel.” So, I
quickly close the book, got myself under control and then on a very carefully rationed one or
two pages at a time continued reading, keeping my guffaws to a minimum.
So began my lifelong love of Wodehouse. This book by Schott truly measures right up there
with the best of P.G.’s own writings. P.G. has long since left the planet. So, if you can find this
one and you want to introduce yourself to the world of Bertie Wooster, Jeeves and all the
wackadoodles of that era in London you must pick it up. Or for that matter, wander to your
library or go online and essentially take any title by P.G. Wodehouse, give it a try and if you
react the way I did you have a vast array of extraordinarily entertaining stuff to read. And
honestly, if you don’t like it, there’s always Joy Behar.
3. Claude Berube - The Aden Effect
Now normally when I get an email from a book letter reader saying something along the lines of
“I have a good friend who’s just written a new mystery novel and I’d love you to read it.” I think uh oh ..time to head for the hills. That sounds a bit pompous, but I don’t mean it to be. But
here we have good news. One of our “book scouts “residing up in Maine, namely Evy, did just
that and put me onto this book. It is terrific. It introduces a lead character, Connor Stark, who
as the flyleaf says, “was a pariah, a man without a country, a former naval officer whose career
came to an unceremonious end after a court-martial resulting in a dishonorable discharge.” Is
Connor really a bad boy? Read on.
Predictably, given the title, a lot of the action takes place in the Middle East against the
background of modern piracy which is so abundant in that area. Stark is engaged by the U.S.
Ambassador to Yemen to help sort things out particularly through negotiating with assorted
less-than-luminous lights of the Middle East. I must say this book reminded me of another
book I read from, at the time, a new author. Think, Tom Clancy. Now, how’s that? Just as Tom
Clancy’s very first book, The Hunt for Red October was published by The Naval Institute Press so
too is this book. Just as Clancy had background in various parts of the U.S. military
establishment so has our pal Claude who has worked for U.S. Naval intelligence and on Capitol
Hill. And again, a similarity. I used to say, whenever I’d read a Clancy book, I would learn a
good deal about something that was interesting about which I knew nothing. Be it nuclear
submarines, Star Wars, whatever. And here too one gets an amazing introduction to the U.S.
Navy and the different warships it possesses. To me, as a former U.S. Air Force cook (who
knew) it’s all-new news. Is it accurate? I suspect it is and if a certain Bob B. reads the book, I
will be told quite straightforwardly whether it is as I think or not. Anyway, I ramble on too
much here. This is a terrific new read with a great new character as per the reviewers, The
Aden Effect is the thinking man's military thriller.” That works for me.
4. Paddy Hirsch - The Devil’s Half Mile
The front cover blurb states, “Wall Street trickery, corrupt politics, racial strife, gangs, murder.”
Ahhh one might say, a contemporary thriller. But no, reading further on the same cover it says,
“1799 New York – a hell of a town.” And that’s what it’s all about. This is a rollicking good read
about a rollicking crazy time in New York City. The lead character Justy Flannigan actually grew
up in NYC and then was shipped off to Dublin to get a law degree and it’s upon his return that
the story takes off. His father has been murdered, his ex-girlfriend is still around, and all sorts
of ner-do-wells are operating in dastardly fashion. There are corrupt politicians (Duh..it IS New
York ) and a wonderful fast-paced story about a time that is on the one hand, very different
from today of course and yet in many ways, not all that different. And all told in the context of
essentially a brand-new nation. So, in effect, a historical novel, a mystery novel, a romance
novel, a NYC novel for the price of one.
5. Kent Harrington - Last Ferry Home
Apparently, I have been asleep at the switch regarding Harrington. He is the author of
“numerous acclaimed novels” including one which was named one of the best novels of the last
ten years. The lead character is San Francisco Police Detective Michael O’Higgins who, to put it
mildly, has been going through a terrible patch since he lost his wife in an accident at sea for
which he continues to blame himself. On his very first day back from bereavement leave he is
summoned to a Nob Hill mansion to investigate a murder. The murder victim is a well-known
businessman of India background whose father is a prominent politician and business tycoon.
Predictable pressures rise up for a quick solution and conviction and the favorite target of same
is Asha Chaundhry, wife of the victim. Many reviewers reference this book essentially as a
“tough and thoughtful novel about grief and it’s consequences.” I think it’s better than that. It
is a bit dark, but I think it’s a terrific mystery novel and a terrific San Francisco novel. And I am
definitely looking into other books by Brother Harrington probably starting with what seems to
be his most acclaimed book, The Good Physician. One specific quote from our Michael
Connolly, “No one writes about the heart of darkness like Kent Harrington.”
6. Ted Lewis - GBH
Yet another lad about whom I have been blissfully unaware but is regarded as “one of the most
influential crime novelists Britain has ever produced and his shadow falls on all noir fiction
whether it’s on-page or screen” said no one other than Stuart Neville, one of the favorites of
this letter. Lewis actually died in 1982 and it’s only in very recent days that he is being in effect
resurrected and a number of his books are being re-published. Perhaps his most famous book
is Get Carter which I have not read. Another critic says Ted Lewis, “wrote brilliantly about
ruthless men clinging to their humanity with mordant wit and misguided but powerful senses of
honor.” That does describe this book. I very much enjoyed reading it. But believe me, it is
pretty grim. In fact, his writing style is not described as “dark” but rather “black.” As in really
really dark. Very briefly, the plot here takes place in London in the late 1970s at a time of
paranoia and madness in the London criminal underworld. The lead character George Fowler
heads a lucrative criminal syndicate that specializes in the production and distribution of “blue
films” aka pornography. And basically, through the course of the book, we watch his mind
disintegrate into trusting essentially no one and exacting rather harsh punishments on those
guilty of real or imagined wrongs.
7. Edwin O’Connor - The Last Hurrah
Quite simply a brilliant book when I read it first in the late 1950’s. (no, I did not read it when I
was three) and now again still a brilliant read. How I came to re-read it was after I wrote about
it in the “Favorite 28” I happened to be roaming The Strand Book store and there it was, a nice
pristine copy for $12 sitting on a shelf calling out to me. Sort of divine intervention at The
Strand. So, read it I did and could not recommend it more highly. The story centers around
Frank Skeffington a fictionalized political leader in the Boston of the 1940’s and 50’s. A
dominant character described as “a magnetic figure, half hero, half wastrel, a legend in his own
time.” The other key character in the book would be the thousands and thousands of Irish
immigrants who had poured into Boston since 1847 and had come to believe “it’s now our
time” and the way the Irish rose to prominence in Boston was as they did in many cities,
politics. And Frank Skeffington was their guy. A book about politics, about life, about
assimilation – all kinds of topics which frankly are quite relevant today. Brilliantly written by
O’Connor. Truly one of the great writers of all time. And the way he brings certain events to
life, for example, an Irish wake, is just stunning. And at its heart, it’s about how politics work
both on the way up and the way down. The relevant reading for any number of luminaries in
Washington DC today but suspect they’re all too busy. But if you want a great book to curl up
with. Truly a winner.
8. John Carreyrou - Bad Blood
Definitely not written as a mystery but actually, in reality, a mystery. Much as it’s all true. And a
wonderful example of how a dedicated, honest, persistent reporter in this case of the Wall
Street Journal essentially cracked the code on a Silicon Valley startup named Theranos and its
CEO, a young woman named Elizabeth Holmes who in effect positioned herself as a female
Steve Jobs. Billions of dollars were invested in this start-up including from such luminaries as
George Shultz, Rupert Murdoch, Henry Kissinger, and many other household names. As it turns
out it was all fundamentally a hoax and Ms. Holmes will be upon trial, I believe in the coming
year. Despite the fact that we know the story, so to speak, I still recommend reading this book
as it is a very easy read, a fascinating read and a remarkable exposition of how sometimes
things go awry in what seems to be the most reasonable of business ventures. Subtitle is
“Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Start-Up”. A really riveting read and by the way ‘best book
of the year” as chosen by a whole number of semi-worthy designators.
9. Jeff Lindsay - Just Watch Me
Aficionados of both books and television may recognize the name Jeff Lindsay as the author of
the hugely successful Dexter series. This isn’t Dexter. I never did get hooked on that series.
Here Lindsay launches what hopefully will be a brand-new continuing series featuring his new
lead character, specifically Riley Wolfe, described correctly as “an uncatchable master thief. An
expert in disguise.” Both are true. He genuinely is a brilliant thief and is driven partly by
money, of course, but also by the magnitude and thrill of the caper. Here we have Riley
deciding that he should steal the crown jewels of Iran. The collection is on a once-in-a-lifetime
tour of America guarded by space-age electronics and all sorts of heavily armed mercenaries.
Both Iranian and American. Will he nab the jewels or not? And sadly, who does he have to
trample in his quest to grab them? Read on Macduff. And come to the answer. A most
entertaining and knowledgeable experience. Rooting for the bad guy can be fun.
10. Jack Flynn - Blood in the Water
And just like that we’re back to in Boston again. But now in present-day and the bad boys are
none other than the very vicious El Salvadorian gang, MS-13. And predictably they are very
eager to expand their empire. FBI Special Agent, Kit Steele is Head of MS-13 Task Force and she
has successfully put the gang’s leader, Vincente Carpio, behind bars. Predictably, the gang
wants him out. Into the middle of this arrives Cormack O’Connel, long-time head of the Boston
Harbor Workers Union. How the FBI, the Union, and the gang interact is the essence of the
book. I’m not really doing it justice. This is a good one and it introduces certainly a new FBI
character and is 100% up to date on MS-13 and efforts to control them. A first book by Flynn
and really a terrific entry into the world of mystery writings.
Now, that would seem to be enough of brand-new authors. Now let me rattle through a rather
amazing collection of all-time favorites each of whom provided an excellent continuation of a
series or actually a standalone. But all of these are just superb writing and fun to read.
11. Abir Mukherjee - Death in the East
This is the fourth in this wonderful series all featuring Captain Sam Wyndham and his trusty
Indian sidekick Sergeant “Surrender Not” Banerjee. First, a word about our man Abir....born and
raised just outside of Glasgow, Scotland and has lived most of his life in the UK. Yet he is able
to write these stunningly accurate and evocative novels which largely take place in 1920’s India,
a time-critical to the Raj and with Gandhi and the boys very much on the horizon. This story
actually begins in 1905 London where Wyndham is a regular police officer and gets involved in a
murder case. It doesn’t get solved and he winds up heading off to India to join the police force
there essentially as a way to escape a lot of bad stuff that happened to him both in World War
I and in London. He does bring with him his addiction to opium which plays a role throughout
the story and weighs very prominently in this particular book. Few writers in my judgment do
as good a job as Mukherjee in literally transporting us to a time and place that is fascinating. I
do confess for whatever reason I am intrigued with India in both the 1800’s and of course the
1900’s. It’s an amazingly fascinating place. All of these books by Mukherjee are wonderful
reads and I strongly recommend if you have not yet delved into this series you go back and
start with volume One titled A Rising Man which won loads of writing awards both in the UK
and here. And then plow on through the remaining three. Just outstanding. And apropos of
nothing, the cover designs of each of these books is really a work of art. (relevance, big boy?).
12. Michael Connolly - The Night Fire
Yep...him again. I keep waiting for our boy to stumble but he keeps cranking out one excellent
Harry Bosch book after another. And that is one of the hardest things to do. Namely, to have a
series set in the same city, Los Angeles, with the same lead character, Harry Bosch, albeit 20-
years older than when it started, and still have the same level of excellence provided to us the
reader. Connolly has written now 33 books of which probably 20 feature Harry Bosch. And, of
course, the talented Connolly also is the executive producer of Bosch the Amazon Prime show
which is just about to launch season six all featuring Titus Welliver as Harry. Btw—excellent TV.
Once again, Harry who is now no longer “officially” with the LAPD, teams with LAPD Detective
Renee Ballard to help solve a long-ago crime that took place in LA. Specifically, the unsolved
killing of a troubled young man where the P.D. case book was taken without authorization by a
now deceased former mentor of Bosch. It’s always better to go back to the beginning of a
series but if you’ve never tried Connolly and you’ve never tried Bosch and you spot this book on
a pile in one of your stores, grab it and read it. Why not?
13. Peter Robinson - Before the Poison
Bet you thought this would be another of the great DCI Banks novels. But nay, not so. This IS a
stand-alone by the great Robinson whose DCI Banks series is one of the best out there. Both
books and on Netflix. (btw must-see TV—excellent). But for those of you who’d like to try
Robinson and not get tied up in a series of 20 books, this would be a great way to do so. As with
all of Robinson’s books, this takes place in his beloved Yorkshire but instead of Banks, we have as
our lead character, Chris Lowndes. For years, a hugely successful Hollywood music composer
with Oscars on the shelf. Who following the death of his wife decides to return home to
Yorkshire. Finds an isolated old house tucked in the middle of nowhere (relatively easy to do in
Yorkshire) and our man Chris is quickly sucked into an unsolved murder mystery. In fact, a
killing that occurred in that very house some 60-years ago and where the victim’s wife was
subsequently convicted of murder. I’m not sure I really like the way the flyleaf describes this
book as a “poignant exploration of guilt, self-sacrifice and redemption and a novel of unsettling
psychological suspense.” I think the PR dude here needs to get a bit of a grip on himself. I’d
never write that. I’d rather just a great book to read and as with anything by Robinson, very
well written and kind of not-put-downable.
14. Juris Jurjevics - Play the Red Queen
You may not remember Jurjevics but he wrote a terrific book some years ago titled Red Flags.
Now this book takes place in Vietnam in 1963 and as the flyleaf says, “It is the story of two
American GI cops caught in the corrupt caldron of the Vietnamese civil war stoked red-hot by
revolution.” A good summary and a fascinating time in Vietnam. Much of the book deals with
the characters who were leading Vietnam at the time such as the Diem Family, Madame Nhu
and of course in the North, Ho Chi Minh and others. So, this is not just a cop’s story but a story
of how that whole train wreck evolved. I was in college at the time and actually Madame Nhu
(who knew ?) came to campus to speak. So, it’s all very real and extremely well-written and a
fascinating book by a guy who was in Vietnam and then went on to be a writer and publisher
and then sadly he died a year or so ago. And of course, we cannot overlook the heart of the
book which is the Red Queen who is a Communist assassin who is selectively murdering
Americans and it’s she whom our two American MP’s are assigned to track down. So, you have
a really fascinating political book, historical book, mystery novel all in a country at a time of
staggering change. And to be totally clear this is most assuredly not a polemic suggesting how
brilliantly America handled the whole Vietnam situation.
15. Nick Petrie - The Wild One
This is the fifth book in this series which has frankly taken off like a rocket . All feature U S
Army Veteran Peter Ash who suffers massively from Post Traumatic Claustrophobia. And tries
to live a life pretty much of solitude. But keeps getting drawn into “opportunities” to help those
who desperately need someone with his superb military skills. That is true here as well. Quite
simply, Peter is tasked to find an 8-year old boy who, following his mother’s murder, has in
effect, disappeared with his father who is either a suspect or a good guy. And he apparently
has taken his young son to Iceland to hide under the protection of his totally lawless family.
Everyone is after the boy and Peter Ash , including the CIA and assorted other departments of
the U.S. government, the Icelandic Police and the lawless family. Ash is really a terrific
character pretty unique with the combination of stuff he has to deal with and the skills he has
and this series is right up there with the best of the ever-expanding category of “thrillers.”
16. Colin Cotterill - The Rat Catcher’s Olympics
Now I know some of you grumble that I tend to like books from strange places around the
world. Witness the last book, Iceland. But this series set in 1970’s Laos probably wins the prize
as the most implausible time/ location. But it is one of my most most favorite series. This is
the 12th book featuring Dr. Siri Paiboun the ex-national coroner of Laos. Now remember 1970+
was the height of the Communist regime in Laos surrounded by strange goings-on, to put it
mildly,in Cambodia, Vietnam and even Thailand and this guy and his little band of goofies are
laugh-out-loud funny in a time of sheer badness. This particular book is hilarious in that Siri and
his wife Madame Daeng who has her own set of issues, somehow maneuver themselves into
the position of accompanying the tiny Laotian team to the Moscow Olympics. You can just
imagine the mayhem that results with this anti-Communist bobbing about Moscow uncovering
all kinds of nefarious goings-on in both the Olympics and then within the Laotian team. Laugh-
out-loud stuff but just wonderful to read. And I guess you could start with this book if you want
to delve into the series. A little catching up but not too much.
Now as this letter grows longer, I still have quite a few really fine books by authors who have
appeared many many times over the years in the book letter. So rather than give exhaustively
long write-ups about each and thereby repeating stuff most of you already know well if you’ve
read any earlier letters let me do a kind of staccato run-through of some really outstanding
books by outstanding authors.
17. Ace Atkins (writing for Robert Parker) - Angel Eyes
Rather incredibly I think this is the 45th book in the Spenser series most written by Robert
Parker himself but the last seven or so spectacularly well done by Ace Atkins. Here we have our
hero, legendary Boston private eye Spenser heading off to Los Angeles to track down the
daughter of a Boston friend who has gone to Hollywood to make it big as a model/actress.
Nothing new there. But then the concept of Spenser in LA makes for a spectacularly good read.
He contends with the LAPD, Armenian gangs, sordid cartels, “Hollywood”--what could go
wrong? If you love Spenser, how can you not read it.
18. Ken Bruen - Galway Girl
#12 in this fabulous series set in Galway, Ireland all featuring Jack Taylor ex-Garda Siochána and
now a very independent and occasional private eye struggling with alcohol. One of the better
commentaries on Bruen’s writing is from the Chicago Tribune of all places that says he “writes
short rat-a-tat sentences that suggest a meeting of Samuel Beckett and Ogden Nash.” Quite
good that . Here someone is killing Guards (ie. police)in Galway and the Force is stymied. Who
do they turn to but Jack Taylor.
19. David Housewright - Like To Die
20. What the Dead Leave Behind
These two are the 14th and 15th books in this really outstanding and frankly under read series all
featuring Rushmore McKenzie, once a homicide detective in the Minneapolis PD and now an
“unlikely millionaire and occasional unlicensed private investigator doing favors for friends”.
That really says it well. This is a small band of continuing characters including girlfriend Erica,
ongoing cops and always fun interesting plot lines nearly always in and around the Twin Cities.
These are kind of, and I’m sure Housewright would not like this reference, but perhaps a Lucas
Davenport “Lite”. Once critic describes the series as “modern day noir mixed with light
comedy.” Super easy to read, an excellent series to drop back into every once in a while. Takes
about a half a page to get up to speed.
And now the section of the letter that all sheltering in place folk have been waiting for, mainly
a few television recommendations.
Now as any long-term reader of the letter knows I have long been over the moon for Foyle’s
War. And I honestly thought that it had ended at the conclusion of season five. But recently to
my delight,I learned that there are now also seasons six, seven, eight and nine. A total bonus
and what better time to stumble upon this than during home seclusion. This series in its
entirety was written by the aforementioned Anthony Horowitz and I think it is just brilliant. As a
reminder, each season accurately portrays and tracks an individual year during the time of
World War II. All from the perspective of Detective Inspector Foyle who despite wanting to ”Go
off to war” was ordered to stay home and essentially protect the homefront in the town of
Hastings. In the newly discovered episodes, (by me at least), the war is winding to a close and
what now should Foyle do. In effect, he gets engaged with MI5 and many of the same characters
continue. And it is just outstanding.
As I provide my second recommendation, specifically another British program, this time titled
Line of Duty I can hear howls going up across the readership of the book letter essentially
yelping, “finally that blockhead is following our recommendation”. And that is indeed true.
Many many readers have suggested this is one of the finest programs ever. And I do think it
measures up. It actually started running in 2012 in the UK and there are five seasons, each with
its about six episodes, each of which is about an hour long. So plenty of viewing available.
The central characters are all members of Anti Corruption Unit 12 whose mission is to
investigate possible corruption within the central police force. We are never really told what
city this is in. Could be London but then the film was shot Belfast. It ain’t Belfast but not sure
where. Each season is pretty much a complete story although there are lingering loose ends
which do get picked up in the following season. Each episode is definitely part of the continuing
story so you have to watch the entire season. Not hard to do because it is really riveting. Very
much a British “copper story” with the overarching theme that the police force at the very
highest level has somehow been compromised. Ner’do wells of every stripe wander through
but I must say I think the three central characters are extraordinary and I Just want to keep
coming back. Totally bingeable.
Our third recommendation it’s titled Vera and is based on several novels by a book letter
favorite author, Ann Cleeves. She was also behind another excellent series, Shetland ,
recommended in an earlier letter. But back to Vera. Again I’m pretty late getting on board this
train since it launched in 2011, now in its 10th season. Predictably I went back to season one,
episode one and I’m working my way forward. This series features a highly awarded actress
named Brenda Blethyn who stars as ”workaholic Detective Chief Inspector Vera Stanhope. The
action takes place in and around Newcastle in the UK and each episode lasts about 90 minutes and is in effect a complete story. I love that aspect. Much as many characters continue episode
and even season to season. In fairness, this is another classic British copper story but honestly,
Vera Stanhope really makes it unique. I totally love the way she plays the role alternating
between an absolute manic workaholic and a wisecracking boss. Much of the subject matter is as
expected in a crime show, a bit grim occasionally, but every episode provides at least some
pretty funny stuff. I’ve really only started on this program but at these times when we could use
a smile and something which really holds our interest, this could be just the ticket.
Fourth and final television recommendation is titled Jack Irish and happily, we move from the
British Isles all the way around the world to Australia. The lead character Jack Irish is an ex-lawyer turned private eye who as a review says is “really witty, hard-drinking, somewhat self-
destructive” self-styled finder of lost people. There are two seasons, each with six episodes and
each season is a complete story. The show is based on novels by Peter Temple, a terrific
Australian author. The show is very ”Australian” which frankly makes for something different
and very enjoyable. It also bounces periodically to the Philippines and back. As the London
Guardian said in a highly enthusiastic review, Jack Irish could be “a long lost descendent of
Humphrey Bogart played with understated wry charm by Guy Pearce (who did win an Emmy).
All right, my friends, that’s it. Hopefully, this adds at least a couple of smiles to your sequestered
day and may all stay well and come out the other side of all this very soon and very whole.
Would love to hear back -