VIDICH’S FIFTH BOOK IS A MATCH MADE IN BERLIN FOR TRADITIONALISTS

Standard

Its almost a hundred years since there was last conflict in Europe, yet, as I write this piece, there is conflict in Europe and what could lead to military action between the East and West, following Russian invasion of Ukraine last week. During the Cold War there were several times when we were close to World War III, the Cuban missile crisis for one and I distinctly remember the eighties tv adverts informing viewers what to do in the event of a nuclear strike. The cold war ended in 1989 with the fall of the Berlin wall and there is the possibility that Kiev or Kyiv as they spell it. Breaded chicken with garlic sauce will never be the same again, and neither will the city of that name, if it becomes the new Berlin. This brings us to this month’s second book review it’s the Matchmaker by Paul Vidich and published by No Exit Press ( www.noexit.co.uk ) on the 17th February.

Its Berlin 1989 and Anne Simpson an American translator for JORC (Joint Operations Refugee Committee) thinks nothing of her seemingly idyllic marriage to her East German Piano Tuner husband Stefan. Until that is, he goes missing on route back from a job in Vienna. When the CIA and West German Intelligence turn up at her door, she informed that she has been targeted by The Matchmaker an East German counter-intelligence officer who runs a network of stazi agents, “Romeo’s”, who target vulnerable women in West Berlin. As Anne comes to terms with the lies surrounding her marriage, the CIA want to use her to smoke out The Matchmaker as he has close ties to the KGB and want tom find out more about his connection with a high-ranking defector. But as the wall falls and the city descends into chaos, Anne wants answers for herself, is Stefan dead? And to catch The Matchmaker and deliver her own type of justice…

What immediately gets you about this book is that it’s only two and fifty pages long, making it an ideal one sitting read, especially if you are on a long train or bus ride or mid length flight. Unlike most of the crop of new and existing thriller writers, who think substance is better then style, Vidich goes with the well worn and successful route of telling the story with enough style and minimal amount of substance, so as not to distract the reader from what they picked up the book for, a good read.

Paul Vidich

The story telling itself harks back to the heydays of the likes of Le Carre, Fleming and Greene. Although it’s set in 1989, there none of the more modern reliance on gadgets and its all down to the old cut and thrust of cold war politics, cross and double cross. Men and women in smoky bars and lounges, walking snow covered streets in high collared coats and trilby’s. This is what true traditionalists seek as an escape from what you can see in any of the numerous small and large screen offerings , and Vidich delivers it style, especially when you realise this isn’t his first foray into this genre.

This is American authors Paul Vidich’s ( www.paulvidich.com ) fifth book. The other include An Honorable Man (2014), The Good Assassin (2016), The Coldest Warrior (2020) and The Mercenary (2021). Vidich has had a distinguished career in music and media. Most recently, he was a special advisor to AOL and Executive Vice President at Warner Music group, in charge of Technology and Global Strategy. He was also a founder and Editor of the Storyville App and currently lives in Lower Manhattan.

So, if you are looking for a well written and traditionalist type of spy thriller, then download a copy or pop into your local bookshop and fall in love with Paul Vidich’s books.

Reviewed by: Adrian Murphy

This book review is part of a Random Things Blog Tour. To see what the other reviewers thought of the book visit their sites listed below, then if you get a copy, comeback and tell us what yoy thought. We’d really appreciate the feedback.

PETROU’S SISTERLY DEBUT BURNS BRIGHTLY AMONG THE OTHER SUMMER READS

Standard

Sister Of Mine CoverI’m an only child, and the offspring of two other only children so the opportunity to observe at first hand the joys and tribulations of sibling relationships has been pretty non-existent.  My grandparents had many siblings however; and I recognised that in their families there was an emotional intensity to the reactions between siblings, both in terms of unconditional love and in some cases, long held feelings of jealousy and dislike. I always wondered what it would be like to have a brother or sister myself and enjoyed books such as Little Women and TV dramas such as the Walton’s so I was intrigued to read this month’s second offering and todays blog tour entry, Sister of Mine by Laurie Petrou, published by No Exit Press (www.noexitpress.co.uk) on the 20th June.

Hattie and Penny Grayson are sisters who have grown up in a small town. Everyone knows their troubled histories, but no one can know of the secret that binds them together. There is a fire, and someone dies, albeit a cruel and overbearing husband. Who is responsible and why? This shapes their future relationships with those they meet and each other.

This debut thriller was a very enjoyable read. Engrossing and thought provoking; I did, as the cover suggested, burn through it. There is a steady build-up of tension and a feeling of impending crisis throughout. The characters are very well described, and you feel you have great insight into their personalities and motivations because of this and the insights the slow drip of background history gives.

There was , I felt,  an interesting twist in perspective towards the end of the book , which I don’t want to spoil for other readers but I will say it changed my view of the main characters entirely and kept me mulling over the story and the effect a character being the narrator has on your perception of what is the ‘truth’. History is written by the victors as they say.

Despite sibling rivalry being a theme which has long been in our consciousness, with Cain and Abel , Romulus and Remus and Whatever Happened to Baby Jane to name a few disastrous relationships , this book to me felt fresh and not cliched. There were two strong female characters in lead roles, with the men playing minor, villainous or subservient parts.

laurie_petrou 2

Laurie Petrou

There is a matriarchal  onus to the book with the memory of a deceased mother constantly shaping the sister’s behaviour. There were some moments of dark humour too.

This Canadian author Laurie Petrou’s (www.lauriepetrou.wordpress.com)  first book, her day job is an associate professor at Ryerson University in Toronto, at its Media School. She’s also the director of the Masters of Media Production program at the school too. In 2016 she won the Inaugural Half the World Global Literati Award, which honours unpublished works by female authors, featuring female protagonists, for Sister Of Mine. She Lives in a small town in Ontario’s wine country with her winemaker husband and their two sons.

Overall, I was surprised this was Petrou’s literary debut as it felt so assured. Also given its size coming in at two hundred and fifty pages, it won’t take up too much room in your luggage. I myself am looking forward to seeing what she produces next. Will it  top this Sister Act?

 

Reviewed by:     Georgina Murphy

 

This review is apart of a Random Things Blog Tour, to see what the other reviewers thought, visit their blogs listed below. Then if you pick up a copy and read it, comeback and tell us what you thought, we’d all love to hear your feedback.

Sister of Mine BT Poster

YOU’LL NEED MORE THAN A FEW FAMILIAR FACES TO GET OUT OF BELLEVUE SQUARE

Standard

Bellevue Square CoverFor centuries we have been fascinated by the idea of there being a double of ourselves out roaming  the world somewhere. More recently we have attributed the German word Doppelganger and attached a supernatural element to the phenomenon. Your biologically unrelated twin, previously referred to as a ‘fetch’ is also sometimes referred to as your ‘evil twin’. Nowadays with the advances in technology, it is possible to use facial recognition software to search the internet for your ‘twin stranger’ as websites such as http://www.twinstrangers.net refers to it. This site alone has claimed numerous successful searches for twin strangers, including finding three twins for its founder!!!

Twins, Twin Strangers, Doppelgangers or more than   just uncanny biological likenesses play a part in this months second book, its Bellevue Square by Michael Redhill and published by No Exit Press (www.noexit.co.uk) on the 15th August.

Jean Mason, is a happily married Torontonian bookseller, with  two children, an interfering Jewish mother-in-law, oh, and a  doppelganger. Curious about reports of her double is living locally, Jean sets out to search for her. Having found a name and the locale for her double, she goes and lurks in areas where her twin has been spotted. There she meets and befriends a witness, Katerina who tells her a tale of an evil twin who steals a woman’s child. Jean starts to hang out in a local park, the titular Bellevue Square, where she befriends the local homeless population and bribes them for sightings of her double, which of course they are only too happy to supply. As the obsession with locating and meeting her twin takes over,  it starts to have an effect on  her business and personal life. At this point Jeans behaviour becomes obsessive and it all gets a bit surreal. When Katerina is murdered and Jean is found at the scene she identifies herself by her double’s name. It’s here we discover there is a medical condition called Autoscopy from the Greek for ‘self’ and ‘watching’ , where the sufferer don’t recognize themselves i.e their reflection in a mirror or window but believe it to be another person. Is her twin all in Jean’s head? Is Jean all in someone else’s head?

I was intrigued by the back cover blurb of Bellevue Square when I was sent it by the publisher to review for this ten day blog tour. Having an interest in thrillers and the paranormal, I was looking forward to this read. However, here I met the first of many obstacles to my understanding and appreciation of this book. Firstly, Jean uses technology all the time. She messages and calls people and uses Skype to call her sick sister. But, when searching for this mysterious lookalike, she goes all old school and prowls the neighbourhood, yes using technology would have made it a very short book, but in this day and age it felt a little strange.

Michael Redhill

Michael Redhill

Then  Jean starts using her twin’s name at the scene of Katerina’s murder. Here we go, I thought. She’s going to be implicated in the killing. I couldn’t have been more wrong, instead the novel veers off in another tangent and starts to delve  into the treatment of mental health problems and from here it all gets seriously existential. What is real? What is in our heads? My thoughts were drawn to films such as  Being John Malkovich and Shutter Island for parallels.

 

This is multi-award winning Canadian author, Poet and playwright Michael Redhill’s (michaelredhill.wordpress.com) ninth book, his other books include Martin Sloane (2001), Fidelity (2003), Consalation(2006), Saving Houdini(2014). He’s also written  four books under the pseudonym Inger Ashe Wolfe, featuring the detective Hazel Micallef, they include The Taken(2007), The Calling (2008), The Night Bell(2015) and The Door In The River(2012), he lives with his family in Toronto.

The more I read of the book, the less I cared about Jean and was starting to lose interest in the story. I would’ve liked to have learned more about the pre twin Jean before the story began to unfold further. But maybe there was no pre twin Jean? It kind of felt like Redhill couldn’t make his mind up either. As this is part of a triptych, perhaps I would be able make more sense of things after reading the other two books?

Its certainly an interesting concept. I did like the way he described characters of the

kensington-market-king

Al Waxman Statue in Bellevue Park

homeless in Bellevue Square, although I felt sometimes like he was writing a political statement regarding current problems with homelessness and the provision of mental health services. Redhill constantly turns the tables in this novel, altering your understanding of what you read a few pages before and took as real and now making it a lie. I was beginning to “doubt my own mind” a little by the end!

As for the title of the book, there is actually a Bellevue square in Toronto, it’s a small park in the heart of Toronto’s Kensington Market neighbourhood. Among its many talking points, is a life size bronze statue of Toronto-born actor and director Al Waxman, best known for his role as Larry King in the television series “King of Kensington”.

All In all, this was a thought provoking read. One for the deep thinkers amongst you but not for lovers of paranormal or mystery stories or,  it seemed, me.

Reviewed by Georgina Murphy

Don’t forget to read what the other reviewers on this blog tour thought by visiting their sites listed below.

Bellevue Square Blog Tour poster