Book review: The Romanov Empress

Romanov EmpressThe Romanov Empress
by  C. W. Gortner
Ballantine Books

Genre: Historical Fiction
431 pages


When I hear about the House of Romanov, I automatically think of Tsar Alexander Nicholas II, his wife, and his children. So when I saw The Romanov Empress, the latest book by Gortner, an author whose writing I really appreciate (see for instance my review of Mademoiselle Chanel), I thought it was about one of the girls. So I was at first a bit disappointed to discover the empress in question is actually Maria Feodorovna, Nicholas’s mother. However, the quality if the book counterbalanced my disappointment.

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Book review: Conan Doyle for the Defense

Conan Doyle for the DefenseConan Doyle for the Defense:
The True Story of a Sensational British Murder, a Quest for Justice, and the World’s Most Famous Detective Writer

by  Margalit Fox
Random House

Genre: Nonfiction/True crime/History/Biography
352 pages


This brilliant nonfiction reads like a thriller, both because of its topic and because of the writer’s skill at structuring her story.

Conan Doyle for the Defense is about what was supposedly  “one of the most notorious murders of its age”, a bit like a “Scottish Dreyfus affair”.

A case all too common: a rich old woman was robbed and killed in Glasgow, and for various reasons explained in the book, the police targeted Oscar Slater, a German Jewish gambler, even though they soon had evidence he could not have done it.
“An innocent man was pursued, tried, convicted, and nearly hanged”, a “supreme example of official incompetence and obstinacy”, of “judicial and prosecutorial misconduct.” A “disgraceful frame-up, in which stupidity and dishonesty played an equal part.” Nothing new under the sun…

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Book review: Killing Commendatore

Killing CommendatoreKilling Commendatore

by  Haruki Murakami
Knopf Publishing Group

Genre: Literary fiction
688 pages


In just a few days, I devoured this new 680 page novel by Murakami, and I’m still a bit stunned by its beauty, and disappointed I’m done. So far, I kept saying 1Q84 was my favorite by him, but now Killing Commendatore replaces the top place in my chart.
There’s something in Murakami‘s writing (or I should say, in his translator’s,  kudos to Philip Gabriel!) that I have not find in any other writer to that extent: I will call it a flow.

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