Witty satire on the power of the imagination

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The Ditch by Herman Koch

Book Review:  4 out of 5 star rating

Robert Walker (though that’s not his real name) is the Mayor of Amsterdam.  He’s been happily married for many years to Sylvia (thought that’s not her real name).  At a New Year’s Eve party, Robert sees his wife talking to one of his aldermen, laughing at a joke, and despite the fact that he has absolutely no grounds for his suspicions, he’s sure they’re having an affair.  And off he goes on a paranoid journey that may cost him more than he thinks.  Or maybe not.

What a fun, thought provoking book this was!  I thoroughly enjoyed Mr. Koch’s wit and humor in this one, even more so than in his previous books which I also enjoyed.  I thought it was all very clever and engaging.  Despite its humor, it also touches on some serious issues, including what is apparently the Netherlands’ loose idea on euthanasia of the elderly.  That part of the book gave me chills rather than tickling my funny bone.  But even how that all ended up left me chuckling.  Herman Koch’s words expertly crawl into your mind to mess with it.  And oh that ending!  It left me with more questions than I started out with but I thought it was perfect for such a mind altering experience as this book was.  I’m not normally a fan of satire but I do like the way that Herman Koch serves it up.

Recommended.

This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.

 

Dark, wonderfully written political thriller

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Small Treasons by Mark Powell

Book Review:  4 out of 5 star rating

Tess is the mother of three children and while she loves being home with them, she’s developed a very odd obsession. She can’t stop watching online terrorist ransom videos.  She gets up in the middle of the night to watch them, particularly one she refers to as “The Man in the Basement”, an American journalist held by ISIS.

Her husband John, now a professor at a small college, has a bit of an obsession, too, his being with the past. He can’t shake an incident that happened at his previous job and he still mourns his dead first wife and his grown daughter who he hasn’t seen or talked to in many years.  James Stone, a man John worked with at his old job, is pressuring him to turn over files of another professor, Professor Edward Hadawi.  The FBI is investigating Professor Hadawi in connection with an extremist religious group.  If John doesn’t turn the files over, James Stone is threatening to bring to light what happened at John’s previous job.

Stone is not only looking for Professor Hadawi but also for a young man named Reed Sharma. Reed is being groomed to be a terrorist bomber.  The growing connections between Tess, John, James Stone and Reed Sharma make up the backbone of this compelling novel.

This is a very suspenseful political thriller and very well-written. The characters are very well developed and I cared about them all.  The most disturbing section was watching how Reed Sharma is convinced that becoming a terrorist bomber has great meaning.  It’s a chilling section and very disturbing.  The author smoothly moves between the interconnected stories – from Reed’s transformation to the personal issues in Tess and John’s marriage to the political undertakings.  It’s a wonderfully written timely novel about obsession, faith and violence amidst our current political climate.  There were sections that moved a bit slowly but three quarters of the way in, there was no stopping this story.  The suspense in the last quarter of the book was quite nerve wracking.  I’ll definitely be looking for more of this author’s work.

Recommended.

This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.