Here is Part 2 of my annual three-part Bookshelf, highlighting some of the books I read in 2021. Perhaps you will find an idea or two that will help you in our Christmas shopping.
The Cellist — Author Daniel Silva is back with his latest work of fiction involving Gabriel Allon, who splits his time between restoring works of art and being a secret agent man with Israeli intelligence. Silva wrote this one during the pandemic and while U.S. politics were redefining bizarre. In fact, he rewrote the last bit just to accommodate the goofiness that was going on in the U.S. It’s interesting how Silva refers to No. 45 without ever mentioning his name.
Crossroads: My Story of Tragedy and Resilience as a Humboldt Bronco — Kaleb Dahlgren is one of the survivors of the bus crash involving the Humboldt Broncos that claimed 16 lives. As the title indicates, this is Dahlgren’s story from childhood when he was diagnosed with diabetes through the bus tragedy and onto his attempt to return to hockey with U Sports’ York Lions. It really is incredible to read in Dahlgren’s words what he went through as he fought back from a serious brain injury after the accident. The book was written with help from veteran author Dan Robson.
The Dawn Patrol — Boone Daniels is a surfer — OK, a surf bum — and, on those occasions when he actually works, a private investigator. Don Winslow is an author who has a terrific way with words. (He also wrote Broken, which is included in Part 1.) Put them together and you get a thoroughly entertaining book. The characters are interesting, Winslow’s takes on the southern California lifestyle are piercing, and the dialogue is a treat. (See also The Gentlemen’s Hour later on in this list.)
Deacon King Kong — It’s New York City — actually, it’s a housing project in Brooklyn — in late 1969 and there is a shooting as the book’s central character, Sportcoat, takes an ear off a drug dealer. Author James McBride goes on to detail with tremendously entertaining dialogue and all kinds of social messaging the loves and lives of everyone who is impacted. Deacon King Kong? Sportcoat is a church deacon and a drinker who loves the neighbourhood’s home-brew (aka King Kong). This was one of The New York Times’ top 10 books for 2020, and with good reason.
The Defence — You would expect a lot of twists, turns and excitement from a story involving a recovering alcoholic who is a conman/scam artist-turned-lawyer and is defending the Russian Mafia’s top guy on a murder rap. Author Steve Cavanagh doesn’t disappoint in the book that introduced Eddie Flynn to readers.
Dragonfire — Suspend your belief for a few hours and dig into this chapter in the life of Alex Hawke, a likeable character created by author Ted Bell. This book involves a lot, including some of Hawke’s grandfather’s Second World War assignments, the potential assassination of FDR and the disappearance of Hawke’s grandson, Prince Henry.
The Dying Hour — This is the first in a trilogy of thrillers involving Jason Wade. He’s an intern in the newsroom at the Seattle Mirror, one newspaper in a three-paper town — hey, things used to be like that — and he’s eager because he wants a full-time gig. Author Rick Mofina knows his way around thrillers, and if you don’t mind a bit of blood, well, this one’s for you.
The Dynasty — Love them or hate them, you have to respect Robert Kraft, Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots for their terrific run. A dynasty? Without a doubt. With this book, author Jeff Benedict really does take you inside that dynasty — from the days leading up to Kraft’s purchase of the NFL franchise and how it almost ended up in Connecticut through Brady’s last season with the Patriots. Belichick’s single-mindedness will amaze you, as will the fact that, by the end, he and Brady hardly were communicating. Yes, this is quite a book!
Finding Murph: How Joe Murphy Went From Winning a Championship to Living Homeless in the Bush — Author Rick Westhead, a senior correspondent with TSN, has written a searing indictment of the NHL for its treatment, or lack of same, of ex-players who may have concussion-related ailments in their lives after hockey. He wraps all of that around the story of Joe Murphy, a former No. 1 draft pick and a Stanley Cup winner who was sleeping on the streets of Kenora, Ont., and in the bush around the community when Westhead and former NHL goaltender Trevor Kidd found him. This is a tough but necessary read if you have anything at all to do with hockey.
The Gentlemen’s Hour — This is the second book in which author Don Winslow features Boone Daniels, a surfer and private investigator who knows his way around the beaches and highways of the San Diego area. This entertaining read features murder, broken friendships, a fishy couple and a whole lot more. And, yes, because it’s Winslow doing the writing, there’s a Mexican cartel involved here, too.
Klondikers: Dawson City’s Stanley Cup Challenge and How a Nation Fell in Love with Hockey — There was a time when the Stanley Cup was a challenge trophy, meaning anyone could issue a challenge to whichever team held the trophy. This, then, is the story of how a team from Dawson City, Yukon, challenged the Ottawa Hockey Club. But it’s more than that because it also tells the story of the Klondike gold rush and, at the same time, the birth and growth of hockey in Canada. Author Tim Falconer has written a wonderful book that should be in every sports fan’s library. Well done!
The Law of Innocence — This is the sixth of author Michael Connelly’s books to feature Mickey Haller, aka The Lincoln Lawyer. Yes, Harry Bosch, the star of so many other Connelly books, makes a cameo appearance. In this one, Haller is working as his own lawyer as he fights to beat a murder rap after the body of a former client is found in the trunk of one of his three Lincolns. Yes, we know how it will end, but it’s fun getting there.
Long Range — This is the 20th book in author C.J. Box’s series that follows Joe Pickett, a game warden based in Wyoming, and all that he has to deal with, including, in this instance, a new sheriff who is more than a little out of his element. The story is wrapped around a long-range shooting that may have been intended to kill a judge, but didn’t. The series may be 20 books old but it hasn’t lost a thing.
Murder By Milkshake — He worked at Vancouver radio station CKNW and was having an affair with the radio station’s receptionist . . . so he murdered his wife by milkshake. Seriously. Author Eve Lazarus’s chronicling of this story has to be read to be believed.
Newspapering: 50 Years of Reporting from Canada and Around the World — The older I get the more interested I seem to get in history. Norman Webster, who died on Nov. 19, was a giant among Canadian journalists; he was an international correspondent and a national columnist and later editor-in-chief of The Globe and Mail and Montreal Gazette. He was there for a lot of history and writes about it with clarity, humour and passion in this collection of his work. Oh, and he also fired Conrad Black.
Part 2 of 3