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Best Books of 2020 – Chapter 4

I don’t recall when I first became aware of this debut novel by Samantha Downing, but I was intrigued enough by the description of the book to add it to my Wishlist.   Touted as a cross between the TV series Dexter and the movie Mr. and Mrs. Smith both of which I enjoyed, it was when I received an Amazon $5 off coupon for its purchase, that I snapped it up.  I was not disappointed.

While a viewer might have begun to root for Dexter in his TV crimes since he was after all, getting rid of some very bad people, as the early murders in this book are revealed, one might feel a similar sentiment.  But then a twist in the plot brings those feelings into question as one after another unexpected events occurs.  These twists are then compounded exponentially when the real purpose of the crimes is revealed bringing into jeopardy both protagonists.

Little more can be said without being a spoiler so if this brief synopsis has intrigued you as well, you might find this an enjoyable book.

Towards the end of the year, I went on a mini “Agent Pendergast” binge reading three in a row of this series by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child.  After being introduced to these books by my oldest sister with her recommendation to read one of their best, The Cabinet of Curiosities (third in the series), I have faithfully read each in this series in the order in which they were published.  And I am glad I have as in each book, there is reference back to a previous book that to me, only made sense having read the prior book first.

In City of Endless Night, the 17th in this series, the story returns to one of those familiar in that Pendergast is working with his tried and true cohort, Vincent D’Agosta, NYPD, in investigating a string of brutal murders in New York City.  As the body count continues to climb, the investigation seems to be homing in on a likely suspect until all of a sudden everything changes when D’Agosta is kidnapped by the murderer and Pendergast makes his unexpected reveal.  What follows is a fight to the finish.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading all three, each with its own suspenseful and surprise finish, but this one stuck out as being worthy of mention on my list.  If you are not familiar with these books, I would recommend as I did read the third to see if your interest is piqued and if so, start at the beginning.  You will enjoy many hours of pleasurable reading getting to know Agent Pendergast more intimately.

I don’t recall where or how I found out about The Rhythm Section by Mark Burnell but when I read a brief description of the main character as a prostitute turned assassin I was intrigued.  The heroine, Stephanie Patrick, is on a self-destruction path in the oldest profession when she learns that the loss of her parents and siblings in a plane crash was no accident.  As she takes on the new role of tracking down those responsible, she uses a number of different identities to advance her search.

The unexpected twists and turns that this novel takes offer many surprises some of which occur at the very end of the book.  During the climax of the story, I could not put the book down and felt my heart racing as I turned the pages.  The story is so real to life that it is amazing that it was written and published years before one of the most horrific terrorists attacks ever occurred.

After finishing the book, I was pleased to see there were a total of four books in this series and I will definitely read the next installment.  Also, this first book was recently made into a movie which I obviously will have to watch as well.  If you enjoy espionage novels, you will definitely love this book and its heroine.

There is always a story behind how I select my classic book to read and this modern classic, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, is no exception.  I never read it in high school, so I probably first became aware of it when my oldest son and daughter-in-law moved to New York after they married and settled in Brooklyn.  Then it was mentioned in another of my favorite books this year, The Urban Forrest by Jill Johnnes when talking about the Survivor Tree.  But ultimately when it was featured as a sale on my daily BookBub that prompted me to purchase it.

Prior to diving into the story, I read the forward to this 75th anniversary edition written by Anna Quindlen which gave me some information about a plot that I knew nothing about.  Described as a coming of age book for the main character Francie, I puzzled how the tree factored into the story.  I think the ending would have been more shocking to me had I not read the Forward.

Set in the years before and during the Great War, I was utterly amazed at the shear poverty their family lived in.  But as I read on and as Francie aged, things improved.  While we don’t know how Francie’s life ended up, she was definitely headed in the right direction at the end of the book and just as the tree proved, she was a survivor.

Having finished it now, I am glad to add it to my small list of classics that I have read.  I just might have to seek out the CliftNotes version to see what discussions and contemplative meanings I might missed had I read this book in high school.  There are a lot of lessons to learn from this book and a lot to ponder.  Since I missed out on all those discussions in high school, maybe an opportunity will present itself in the future where I can discuss it with someone at a party who read it and enjoyed academic discussions of its story.

I hoped you enjoyed my book reviews this year.  If you are interested in reading more reviews, you can also go back through my previous posts by searching on the “Books” category.  And if I piqued your interest enough to read one of these books, then my efforts have been worthwhile.  But if you read one and thoroughly enjoy it as much as I did, then I will have brought pleasure to both of us.  Because there is nothing better than a great book!


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