ISBN: 978098753369X, a thriller that presents mystery, history, national/international political intrigue, science at the cutting edge, speculation and murder all combined in an e-book by Stefan Vucak.
Plot: Cherber Shaken, an accountant working to enlarge his nagging wife Alisa’s garden in a suburban area of Palestine, unexpectedly breaks into an ancient burial site, discovers two ossuaries containing unusual skeletons and a ‘different’ crystal. He sells them to Acaph Yaron, a man with some knowledge of such artifacts who takes pictures and sends them to Dr. Ezrah Kutner, an academic at the Rockefeller Archaeological Museum. Ezrah is intrigued by the fact that the skeletons are similar to others discovered in the country, buys the bones and containers. He does not know what to make of the crystal, so Yaron takes it to Tel Aviv and sells it to Geffen, a gem dealer. Geffen discovers it has unusual properties and arranges an auction by contacting Lau Wei in Hong Kong, Vasily Drotenkov in Moscow, and Terrance Truscott in the U.S. for their acquaintance with ‘high rollers’ who might be interested. Dr. Kevin Morrison, a remarkably intelligent inventor of a pigment that can be applied to various surfaces to absorb solar rays to generate power, wins the crystal for a 400K bid. Meanwhile Kutner discovers that the bones DNA dates to 730 BCE and are similar to others found in Peru in 1928. He speaks with Israeli authorities who decide they would be interested in the Chrystal. By this time, however, it has been sold to Morrison who sends his trusted ‘enforcer’, former Navy Seal Nolan Trotman, to pick it up. Trotman does but is attacked by an oriental disguised as a Middle Easterner, a couple of other people are killed and the story accelerates as action piles up, International incidents occur and the reader is led into an ever widening web of intrigue that never stops until the perhaps somewhat unexpected, but certainly considered, logical ending.
Discussion/Conclusion: The author has produced a story including fascinating historical features, interesting technological concepts, authentic military details, fanciful but totally possible elements of political intrigue at both national and international levels, business affairs, intriguing conjectures with respect to technological applications of the quantum theory and just plain old murder. These elements he has captivatingly interwoven to provide the reader with a uniquely satisfying story. Admittedly, judicial editing of some of the ruminations and verbal interchanges by and between some of the political figures would have served to avoid a ‘slowing’ in the story’s otherwise smoothly advancing pace. Also, the protagonist is quite shallow and much could be done to develop some of the other characters. However, as a basically plot driven story it provides a quite captivating novel.
4* Captivating basically plot driven novel; 3* for reasons cited.
Breakfast for Alligators, Tilted Hat Press, in e-book format is a compilation of: ”Quests, Showdowns and Revelations in the Americas” with a couple additions from Canada, specifically Quebec and one from New York, and New Orleans by Darrin Duford.
The author is well-known for his stories of travel and knowledge of gastronomical delights. Here he provides reports on 32 encounters and/or recipes obtained from his journeys in mostly little known portions of 14 countries over a period of 7 years beginning in 2004. A number previously have been published singly. The stories begin in Guyana, the only basically English speaking country in South America and the most interesting description of an automobile built not in a factory but purchased and assembled piece by piece by people in their home/yard. From here the reader is introduced to sauces made from the deadly juice extracted from the cassava after its detoxification to provide a dark, bittersweet liquid and to a rich meat from a cat-sized rat; life in the smaller towns of Uruguay and the establishment of bands of candombe drummers; another town that is not ON the border but rather IS the border between Uruguay and Brazil with unusual attendant features; joys (?) of public transportation on an Andean Bus; food specialties in the little town of Pucallpa and from Lake Titicaca, Peru; a Saturday downtown park experience in Ecuador; and more.
Discussion: This book presents informative, often amusing and sometimes amazing accounts of some most unusual travel experiences and gastronomical indulgences by an individual who obviously also is distinctly unusual. It also speaks reams about an individual who has little regard for his most fortunately well- and hard-working immune system. Persons not subjected on a more regular basis to many of the insults to which his has been subjected could not be as fortunate. The book is a fascinating read for anyone who hasn’t been fortunate enough to travel to these fascinating countries. Some of the author’s quite detailed descriptions of the rural areas/people/customs seldom visited by the usual traveler, unfortunately and regrettably at least from this reader’s interpretation, seem to be subtly tinged with a sense of superiority so often evident in Americans as they travel. This reader has spent considerable time in South America from Venezuela at the top to the Tierra Del Fuego and Ushuaia (pronounced oo shoo AYE ah), the town at South America’s very southern tip and has found that the harsh conditions described by the author in the smaller settlements, as well as larger cities may be a result of the time at which his visit had been made. For example, the description of Guayaquil was quite accurate in 2004 as a result of internal unrest. However, in the ensuing years it has been restored to its earlier splendor with the Malécon once again the place to enjoy a leisurely stroll along the riverfront which unfortunately as with the Mississippi, is not always a pleasant stream as this reader can attest from personally navigating it during spring floods. Additionally, using local public transportation in Ecuador for a journey to a rural village some distance from the capitol city of Quito, is similar to like activity in India, China, Korea, the Philippines, or even some of the rural sections of Mississippi in the United States. It is an activity largely designed to provide whimsical or otherwise entertaining tales to future listeners/readers. If my interpretation is incorrect, I most humbly apologize, but some of the passages appear to be quite disparaging of our neighbors to the south. It is true that often much yet needs to be accomplished, but when one considers what has occurred in Detroit alone, the thought comes to mind for travelling Americans about being careful about ‘throwing out the first stone’.
Conclusion: A well-written, often amusing, always interesting collection but occasionally exhibiting a tinge of ‘ugly Americanism’ with a most humble apology if this reviewer’s interpretation of the latter is incorrect.
3* 5* for most readers; 3* for this reviewer as explained below.