Sunday, January 11, 2015

St. Nick by Alan Russell

Nick Pappas is a cop who is trying to hold his life together as he waits to see if he will be able to keep his job. As he sits alone on Thanksgiving morning he gets a call from his old partner. His parter runs security at a local shopping mall and they have a problem with muggers. He offers Nick a job to help tracking down the muggers. It isn’t until Nick gets to work that he discovers that he is actually going to be working undercover. As Santa Claus. Now he has to deal with crying children, tired parents, and a way to overenthusiastic elf while keeping an eye out for the predators who are targeting the mall’s shoppers. While on the job Nick meets others who are performing as Santa. One of the other Santas, a college drama major, ropes Nick into a gig at a children’s hospital where Nick befriends a young boy with a terminal illness. At the same time he comes across a letter to Santa from a young girl who has not been able to celebrate Christmas. Now Nick finds himself trying to locate the young girl, bring comfort to a dying boy, and find a group of muggers. All of this while coming to grips with the incident that may still cost him his job. Along the way Nick begins to remember what Christmas is about. Now with the help of a reporter, a very odd elf, and many others Nick will juggle all of these cases and in the process try to regain his own life. Will the magic of Christmas prevail?

St. Nick is a well written, clever, fun book. It is a cop story and not a traditional mystery. The story does touch on a lot of heavy subjects such as childhood homelessness and childhood diseases. Even though the book seems to have something to say about several issues it never does so in an overbearing or heavy handed manner. I tend to be drawn to more hardcore mystery and tough cop novels so I was unsure about this book as I started. The writing and the characters won me over. The characters are very enjoyable and cleverly written. Alan Russell has a real knack for story telling and it comes through in this book. This is a wonderful, lighthearted, and uplifting novel. I thoroughly enjoyed Nick Pappas and the supporting cast. I look forward to reading about these characters again in future novels. 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Double Agent by Peter Duffy

Double Agent is the true story of Nazi espionage in pre-war America and the German-American who helped to bring it down. During a visit to his native German a young William Sebold was coerced into becoming a Nazi spy. He was trained and returned to the United States to carry out his mission. His first act was to contact the US authorities and alert them to what was happening. He then agreed to serve as a double agent and to help bring down the spy ring. The book centers around the colorful cast of characters. Sebold, an adventurer with a nervous disposition, is the unlikely hero of the story. Among the colorful cast of characters is a South African adventurer, a Jewish socialite who escaped the Nazis by becoming a seductress of important figures, and a host of others who either sympathized with the Nazis or had a strong dislike for the British. The investigation would lead to the largest arrest of foreign agents as of that date. The trial of these agents would coincide with the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the entrance of the United States into the Second World War. These agents could have caused serious damage to the US war efforts, particularly in shipping. Instead they were in prison and unable to accomplish their goals.
Peter Duffy has written a well researched and enjoyable book. His prose style is very accessible to the average reader. He keeps his story unfolding at a good pace and does not slow the narrative down or get bogged in some minutia that will distract from the central theme.  Even when he describes the Norden Bomb Sight, a vital piece of equipment stolen before Sebold came on the scene, Duffy does not stick with a technical breakdown, but makes it understandable.  This is a fascinating story that, for some reason, has been lost to the general public. I am surprised that Hollywood has not taken up this story. After all you have the femme fatale, the strange adventurer, the hidden Nazis, and the nervous, but brave double agent. Perhaps someone will read this book and work up a screen treatment. Until then I highly recommend that you go down to your local bookstore and pick up a copy of Double Agent. You won’t regret it.