Monday, 28 July 2014

North And South by Elizabeth Gaskell

Paperback:  In a world of conflict, happiness can come in the most unexpected forms.

Margaret's safe existence is turned upside down when she has to move to the grim fictional town of Milton, when industrialisation was changing the English city from 1760 to around 1840.

Initially repulsed by the ugliness of her new surroundings in the industrial town of Milton, Margaret becomes aware of the poverty and suffering of the local mill workers and develops a passionate sense of social justice.

However, she is thrown into confusion by stern factory owner and self-made man John Thornton whose treatment of his workers brings them into fierce opposition.

As men and women, workers and masters come into violent conflict, it seems opposites can never meet.

But do John and Margaret's power struggles hide deeper feelings?

And, when it seems Margaret has lost everything, can she find the one thing she never expected?

In North and South, Elizabeth Gaskell skilfully fuses individual feeling with social concern, and in Margaret Hale creates one of the most original heroines of Victorian literature.

About the author:  Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell née Stevenson was born in London in 1810, but spent her formative years in Cheshire, Stratford-upon-Avon and the north of England.  She was a British novelist and short story writer during the Victorian era.  Her novels offer a detailed portrait of the lives of many strata of society, including the very poor, and as such are of interest to social historians as well as lovers of literature.

In 1832, she married the Reverend William Gaskell, who became well-known as the minister of the Unitarian Chapel in Manchester's Cross Street.  For sixteen years, she bore children, worked amongst the poor, travelled and, latterly, began to write.  In 1848, Mary Barton made her instantly a celebrity.

In 1850, Dickens secured her to write for his magazine, Household Words (1850-1859), and she contributed fiction for the next thirteen years, notably another industrial novel, North and South (1855).  In 1850, she met Charlotte Brontë, who became a life-long friend.  After Charlotte's death she was chosen by Patrick Brontë to write The Life of Charlotte Brontë (1857), a controversial work.  

Her position as a clergyman's wife and as a successful writer gave her a wide circle of friends both from the professional world of Manchester and from the larger literary world.  There is nothing of the amateur about Elizabeth Gaskell.  Her output was substantial and wholly professional.  As Dickens discovered when he tried to impose his views on her as editor of Household Words, she was not to be bullied even by a man as imperious as he was.  Her later works, Sylvia's Lovers (1863), Cousin Phillis (1864) and Wives and Daughters (1866), show her developing in new directions.  Elizabeth Gaskell died suddenly in November 1865.

Rating:  4/5

Friday, 25 July 2014

No Lesser Plea by Robert K Tanenbaum

Paperback:  Roger Karp, a handsome District Attorney with an insatiable lust for justice, won't rest until he gets no lesser plea than "guilty of murder" out of a vicious assassin.

Mandeville Louis killed two people in cold blood, then cleverly threw a phony crazy fit in court and walked away from his trial.

Now, lying in wait in a psychiatric ward until the heat is off, Louis may slip through the system again.

But Karp refuses to let go of this sociopath who laughs at the law while he kills again and again.

For even in the relative security of a mental hospital, Louis's homicide spree is not over as Karp's beautiful colleague, Marlene Ciampi, becomes an unwitting pawn in the two men's deadly battle of minds and murder.

No Lesser Plea (1987) is the powerful debut in the Butch Karp and Marlene Ciampi series set in New York.

About the author:  Robert K Tanenbaum is an American trial attorney, novelist, and former mayor of Beverly Hills.  He is the author of 28 books, 25 novels and 3 nonfiction works.  The Piano Teacher (1987) is the story of a psychotic killer.  Badge of the Assassin (1979) recalls the true account of Tanenbaum's investigation and trial of self-proclaimed members of the Black Liberation Army who assassinated two NYPD police officers, Waverly Jones and Joseph Piagentini.  It was later adapted into a movie titled Badge of the Assassin (1985), starring James Woods as Tanenbaum.

Tanenbaum's signature work, Echoes of My Soul (2013), was published in May 2013 by Kensington Books and was named 'Pick of the Week' by Publisher's Weekly in its April 22, 2013 edition.  It is the true story of one of the most intense manhunts in police history—and of the young District Attorney who exonerated the unjustly accused, brought the killer/ rapist to justice and forever reformed law enforcement practices, paving the way for the Miranda Decision.

Tanenbaum also served as Deputy Chief Counsel for the House Select Committee on Assassinations to investigate the John F. Kennedy assassination.

His latest Butch Karp and Marlene Ciampi novel, Tragic - a murder mystery that focuses on the murderous effects of weak character and unbridled ambition intertwined with shocking tempestuous deception - was published by Simon and Schuster Gallery Books in 2013.  (Wikipedia)

His next Butch Karp and Marlene Ciampi novel, Fatal Conceit, will be published on 20 August 2014.

Rating:  5/5

Monday, 21 July 2014

The Wolf In Winter by John Connolly

Hardback:  The community of Prosperous, Maine has always thrived when others have suffered.

Its inhabitants are wealthy, its children's future secure.

It shuns outsiders.

It guards its own.

And at the heart of Prosperous lie the ruins of an ancient church, transported stone by stone from England centuries earlier by the founders of the town.  A secret lies beneath its ruins.

But the death of a homeless man and the disappearance of his daughter draw the haunted, lethal private investigator Charlie Parker to Prosperous.

Parker is a dangerous man, driven by compassion, by rage, and by the desire for vengeance.

In him the town and its protectors sense a threat graver than any they have faced in their long history, and in the comfortable, sheltered inhabitants of a small Maine town, Parker will encounter his most vicious opponents yet.

Charlie Parker has been marked to die so that Prosperous may survive...

The Wolf in Winter (2014) is the twelfth book in the chilling Charlie Parker thriller series.

About the author:  John Connolly was born in Dublin in 1968.  His debut, Every Dead Thing (1999), swiftly launched him right into the front rank of thriller writers, and all his subsequent novels have been Sunday Times bestsellers.  Books To Die For (2012), which he edited with Declan Burke, was the winner of the 2013 Anthony, Agatha as well as the Macavity Awards for Best Non-fiction.  He is the first non-American writer to win the US Shamus award.  Check out his website at

Rating:  6/5

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Terminal City by Linda Fairstein

Hardback:  'A terminal can be a station, but not every station is a terminal.  Everything comes to a dead end right here.'

When the body of a young woman is found in a suite at one of the most prestigious hotels in Manhattan, Assistant DA Alex Cooper and Detectives Mike Chapman and Mercer Wallace find themselves hunting for an elusive killer whose only signature is carving a carefully drawn symbol, which bears a striking resemblance to train tracks, into his victims' bodies.

When a second body with the same bloody symbol is discovered in a deserted alleyway next to the Grand Central Terminal building, Alex and Mike must contend with the station's expansive underground tunnels and century-old dark secrets to find a killer who appears to be cutting a deadly path straight to the heart of the city.

International bestselling author Linda Fairstein returns with a breathless, explosive thriller - Terminal City (2014), the sixteenth book in the Alex Cooper series - exploring the dark side of New York City, as only she can.

About the author:  Linda Fairstein is a former prosecutor and one of America's foremost legal experts on crimes of violence against women and children.  For three decades she served in the office of the New York County District Attorney, where she was Chief of the Sex Crimes Protection Unit.  In 2010, she was presented with the Silver Bullet Award from the International Thriller Writers Association.  Fairstein's Alexandra Cooper novels have been translated into more than a dozen languages and have debuted on the Sunday Times and the New York Times bestseller lists, among others.  She lives in Manhattan and on Martha's Vineyard.

Visit Linda's website at and follow her on Twitter @LindaFairstein

Rating:  6/5

Sunday, 13 July 2014

The Smoking Gun: Day By Day Through A Shocking Murder Trial (A True Story) with and by Gerry Spence

Hardback:  From America's foremost criminal defense lawyer and author of the bestselling How to Argue and Win Every Time (1995) comes this riveting, true account of a trial that adeptly exposes the unrelenting power of the state, which so often crushes those - guilty or innocent - who come before the bar of justice.

It could happen to you.

When Sandy Jones and her teenage son were accused of murdering a real estate developer on their hardscrabble Oregon farm in 1985, the prosecution had an eyewitness to the shooting and a photograph of Sandy holding a smoking rifle.

County officials kept Sandy in jail while they awaited the trial, despite ballistic evidence that strongly suggested she hadn't fired the fatal shot.

The case erupted into an epic struggle between Sandy - who was poor, different, and a woman - and the "good old boys" of Lincoln County, Oregon, who held all the power.

Though the Joneses' guilt seemed eminently clear to the county and the prosecution, Gerry Spence, renowned for his work on the cases of Karen Silkwood and Randy Weaver at Ruby Ridge, took the case pro bono and the courtroom battle exploded into three years of intensely moving jury trials, recounted here from the record of the case.

The Smoking Gun (2003) follows Gerry Spence through his passionate arguments with two different judges and two different prosecutorial teams, his exacting jury selection, his expert questioning of the witnesses, and his incredible rapport with the jury as he fights for the rights of Sandy and her son.

With a superb sense of drama and an intimate knowledge of the court system, Spence highlights the pitfalls that every defendant faces, making The Smoking Gun extremely relevant today, when our rights are being eroded and when the average American, even if innocent, is hard-pressed to obtain a fair trial.

Gerry Spence wrote in his Introduction, "This story, based on the actual record of the case, asks the dark and frightening question, How will justice be delivered to you when you are called before the criminal bar?  What if you can't find a skilled trial lawyer to defend you, one who cares about you?  What if your lawyer turns out to be one who'll fight for you only if you have the money to buy that which has become another commodity in America - something called justice - and you don't have the price?  What if you are left to fend for yourself as were Sandy Jones and her child fighting their battle against the good old boys of Lincoln County, Oregon?"

"In this book I take you with me in and out of the courtroom in a hopeless murder case.  I take you behind the scenes, into the judge's chambers, into our worried, sometimes frightened hearts as lawyers who must garner the skill and the power to ward off the inevitable, the conviction of our client, who was, in this case, captured at the crime scene on film with a smoking gun in her hands.  This case, or parts of it, might have been your case, and Sandy Jones might well have been you.  Read on."

About the author:  Gerry Spence has spent a lifetime representing those he calls "the lost, the poor, the powerless, the voiceless, and the damned."  He has tried and won many high-profile cases, including the Karen Silkwood radiation poisoning case, the defense of Randy Weaver at Ruby Ridge, the defense of Imelda Marcos, and the case brought against Penthouse magazine by Miss Wyoming.  He has never lost a jury criminal trial.  Spence is the founder of the non-profit Trial Lawyers College and a well-known national commentator on the justice system.  He is the author of twelve previous books and is a noted photographer.  He lives in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Monday, 7 July 2014

The Making Of Tesco: A Story Of British Shopping by Sarah Ryle

Paperback:  From one man's Hackney market stall to a company serving fifty million customers in thirteen countries every week, this is the extraordinary story of one of Britain's most remarkable companies.

Told by those who themselves feature in it - Tesco's own employees - it relates a fascinating social history as well as an epic business venture.

Drawn from hundreds of hours of interviews with Tesco staff, collected by National Life Stories at the British Library, these personal accounts from across the decades are frank, insightful, sometimes funny and, above all, very human.

How, then, did Tesco grow from Jack Cohen's barrow in Hackney to the hypermarkets in Hungary and Thailand and a home-delivery service to customers from Cheshire to the Czech Republic?

Why and how did Tesco survive and (mostly) thrive where other British companies stalled?

And what impact has Tesco's success had on its employees and consumers?

Here is Tesco's authentic story, The Making of Tesco (2013), carefully researched and engagingly written by Sarah Ryle, told for the first time by the people at the very heart of the business.

About the author:  Sarah Ryle works in Tesco's Corporate Affairs team.  She read history at Oxford University and trained as a journalist on a local evening newspaper in Bath.  She was a business and economics reporter at the Guardian for two years, and retail correspondent and consumer affairs correspondent at the Observer for eight years.  She lives in London.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Slave Hunter: One Man's Global Quest To Free Victims Of Human Trafficking by Aaron Cohen with Christine Buckley

Hardback:  From living the rock star life to wading through the world's war zones, refugee camps and brothels, Aaron Cohen left behind his closest friends, his dying father, and his partnership with a legendary musician to take on treacherous rescue missions in search of modern-day slaves.

Years of drug addiction and late-night partying led Aaron Cohen, one-time best friend and business partner to Jane's Addiction frontman Perry Farrell, on a path of spiritual discovery that has both transformed and endangered his life - a path that has drawn him into the shantytowns of Cambodia and the hidden brothels of Latin America, across the sweltering savannahs of Sudan, up to the Dalai Lama's Himalayan retreat, and through the unforgiving jungles of Burma and the deserts of Iraq.

At a time when more people than ever before are enslaved somewhere on the planet, Aaron Cohen is a slave hunter - working to find and free human beings from various forms of bondage.

The flesh trade is the world's fastest-growing and most deadly illegal enterprise - even more profitable and easier to hide than guns, drugs, and precious gems.

Free from diplomatic restrictions and political agendas, Cohen is a unique asset to government agencies, think tanks, and anti-slavery organizations.

He navigates the oppressive territory of pimps and drug lords, cloaked in the all-too-familiar world of substance abuse, oversized egos, and changing rules.

Working alone and posing as a sex tourist, he slips into brothels, urged by madams to select from a lineup of women and girls as young as six!

Sometimes he can save them from their captors, but more often than not, he must leave them behind, taking only the evidence he hopes will eventually lead to their rescue.

Struggling to make ends meet on his own negligible salary, Cohen faces temptations few could resist and witnesses atrocities his friends and family cannot understand.

And though many assignments over the years carry him away from his ailing father, his commitment to protect, assist, and empower human trafficking victims - and to disrupt the patterns that lead to all forms of enslavement - is unyielding.

In a remarkable exposé of a sinister trade most of us will never experience first-hand, rocker-turned-antislavery activist Aaron Cohen reveals the fast-paced, timely, inspiring, and unforgettable story of a real life Slave Hunter (2009).

About the authors:  Aaron Cohen is a human rights activist who draws his inspiration from the Jubilee, the ancient law of debt forgiveness and slave liberation.  Cohen has established a modern-day Jubilee movement to forgive debts and free slaves around the world, Abolish Slavery.  Cohen was awarded a Commendation from the County of Los Angeles for his efforts to combat human trafficking.  On his international missions to Nicaragua, Israel, Egypt, Ecuador, Iraq, Colombia, and Myanmar (formerly Burma), Cohen worked undercover and assessed the slavery phenomenon from the inside.  He received the World War II Memorial Foundation/The Immortal Chaplains 2008 Prize for Humanity and has been honoured with a US Congressional Certificate of Merit for his public service.

Christine Buckley was born in New York and is a graduate of Boston College.  Her travels have taken her to five continents and taught her to shear sheep, cultivate rice, sail without a GPS, and edit a state-run newspaper with a straight face.  Christine's LA Weekly cover story on Aaron Cohen was a 2008 LA Press Club and Maggie Award finalist.  She has contributed to National Public Radio, the New York Times, Russian Newsweek, and Current TV, among others.  Her reporting has also won her an Associated Press award.  She plans to return to Southeast Asia to work with human trafficking victims.