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Best Books of 2019 – Chapter 2

This book, In the Enemy’s House by Howard Blum, was a Christmas gift from my wife last year. It was a book I knew nothing about but after quickly reading the subtitle once I had ripped off the wrapping paper, it immediately piqued my interest.  She said she chose it for me because it had been highly praised and having read it now, I can understand why.

You might recall one of my favorite books from 2018, was The Woman Who Smashed Codes, a story about a husband and wife who both had a legendary impact on codebreaking before, during and after World War II.  This book by Blum tells another fascinating story of no less import about code breaking during the Cold War.  The unlikely teaming of a hardworking FBI agent and another brilliant codebreaker are at the centerpiece of this story.

Prior to reading this book, I did not read the inside flap summary of the book so when the story unfolded as to what this team had stumbled upon, chills ran down my spine thinking of the enormity of their discovery (I will omit so as not to be a spoiler).

The book is broken down into three parts.  The first covers background information about the main US and Soviet players.  The second covers the evolution of the team’s code breaking successes and the revelation of what the Russian spies were attempting to steal.  The third part covers the race to confirm their suspicions and to capture, confront, and convict the perpetrators.

As I read the third part, I found my heart continuously racing and I could not put the book down.  As I absorbed more and more of the hidden truths of this incredible story, I began to think this is a must for making a movie (that would hopefully spur even more people to read the book) and I could even envision Tom Hanks playing the diligent FBI man.  If you are a fan of spy novels, you will love this unbelievable non-fiction story!

If you are like me and loved Jamie Ford’s debut novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, then you are in for a real treat.  Love and Other Consolation Prizes is another but even sweeter tale, as with all his novels, set in Seattle, WA.  Ford has a unique knack for finding a snippet of factual history and turning it into a wonderful novel.  The small piece of unbelievable history that lies at the heart of this story is the occurrence of a young orphan boy being raffled off at the 1909 Seattle World’s Fair—the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition—a historical fact.

Ford alternately weaves this story through the eyes of this young boy named Earnest at that fair and then as a senior citizen at the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair—the Century 21 Exposition—over 50 years later.

Earnest’s life story is slowly revealed concomitantly jockeying back and forth between 1909 and 1962.  We learn following his raffle that he ends up working in a house of ill repute, although a high-class one.  He becomes very close to two teenage maids (not professional ladies) that also work there and as the story leaps to 1962, we learn he has ended up with one of the two girls who is now suffering memory loss.

As the story unfolds, we see him falling in love with both of them but not until the story is almost complete, do we actually find out which girl he has spent his life together with and fathered two daughters,

The parallels between the trio’s lives at both fairs flows poignantly and you will at times find your heart leaping for joy and at other times your eyes filled with tears.  But once you have turned the last page, you’ll be sad it has concluded and like me look forward to Ford’s next intriguing novel.

I don’t recall how I became aware of this book or what prompted me to add it to my Amazon Wish list but when I found that its price had dropped from $14.99 to $4.99, I snatched it up.  I have read other books about air disasters, not so much from a morbid interest, but rather to learn more about the planes involved and the causes behind the crashes.  Reading Highest Duty:  My Search for What Really Matters by Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger & Jeffery Zaslow was a rare treat in how a tragic disaster was narrowly avoided with a successful outcome.

I have thoroughly enjoyed reading several other books about the development of aircraft; most notably 747:  Creating the World’s First Jumbo Jet by Joe Sutter and China Clipper:  The Age of the Great Flying Boats by Robert Gandt.   I hoped in reading Last Days of the Concorde:  The Crash of Flight 4590 and the End of Supersonic Passenger Travel by Samme Chittum that I would also learn about its development.  I was not disappointed and when I had written my review, realized it was an entire blog post all by itself that I posted last year.

It was a real treat to discover that someone else, with the blessing of the Ian Fleming Publications Ltd and the Ian Fleming Estate, wrote another James Bond novel.  If you read my book blog post from several years ago, you know that I have read and thoroughly enjoyed every one of the James Bond novels written by Ian Fleming.  So, when a BookBub popped up featuring a James Bond novel entitled Forever and a Day by Anthony Horowitz, I was intrigued.  When I read that this book included previously unpublished Ian Fleming material and was the prequel to Casino Royale, Fleming’s first Bond book, I pushed the one click purchase immediately.  I was not disappointed.

Those very familiar with the books and movies know that James Bond has certain tastes that carry over story to story.  This book reveals the genesis for many of those.  It further sets the stage for the next novel.  Since finishing all the books, I have missed reading the Bond tales.  This gem gave me another dose of those exciting adventures of 007 and made me quest for more.  Interestingly, Horowitz wrote another one, a follow up to Goldfinger, which I must read as well…

To be continued…

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