This wonderful novel, which pays homage to the genre of the absurd, The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of a Window and Disappeared is a terrific romp through time and place, featuring the most unflappable protagonist I’ve yet encountered.
The story starts on the 100th birthday of the irrepressible Allan Karlsson. Trapped in a nursing home, destined to live out his remaining years, gazing out a window, tolerating the orders of the head nurse, denying his spirit of adventure and desire for a tipple, Allan turns his back on celebrations designed in his honour and, as the title suggests, climbs out the window of his room and, as far as the authorities can make out, vanishes.
Only, Allan hasn’t disappeared. Instead, unwittingly, he embarks on an amazing journey where he encounters people both good and dangerous, an elephant, a suitcase full of cash, bamboozled police and an attorney with poor judgement. Accused of being a murderer, kidnapper, thief and other terrible crimes, Allan is a wanted man. Remaining blissfully unaware as he travels across country, collecting people as one might stamps and finding hospitality where others might expect hostility, Allan relishes his adventures. Along the way, the readers learn about this incredible man’s past, a past that makes his improbable present so exceedingly ordinary. This is because Allan has not only met many of the movers and shakers of Twentieth Century history, but played a pivotal role in most of the major events – grand and catastrophic.
Laugh out loud at times and deeply poignant in others, this is a great read that demands you suspend your disbelief, buckle your seatbelt and go along for what is a wild and gratifying ride.
Engagingly written, it’s hard to put down and leaves you with a warm and very contented feeling that makes ageing seem like a hell of a lot more fun that it’s often cracked up to be; certainly more exciting than remaining in a nursing home counting the days.
Tags: adventure, ageing, American Presidents, Atomic Bombs, China, Churchill, de Gaulle, France, history, Indonesia, Jonas Jonasson, Lyndon B Johnson, Mao Zedong, North Korea, Oppenheimer, Russia, Stalin, The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out a Window and Disappeared, Turman
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The Patriot Threat, by Steve Berry is the tenth in the Cotton Malone series and though it’s focussed very much on internal US matters and federal taxation, much of the action takes place in the Mediterranean.
It seems that there is a potential problem with the 16th Amendment, a problem that could bankrupt the entire government and impact severely on both the world economy and the US’s dominant position within it. With the proof of this problem about to be handed over to the enemy (in this instance, a fictitious North Korean scion of the Kim-Jong-Un dynasty), Malone is tasked with retrieving it before either a Kim uses it to bring down the US and the global economy or the Chinese do.
The usual suspects appear, Cotton, Luke and Danny Daniels and Stephanie Nelle and a new character is given a chance to show her chops, Isabelle Schaffer from the Treasury. Initially stuffy (and borrowing a wee bit from Vesper Lynd from Casino Royale), Isabelle soon finds her place and, possibly, an ongoing role in this series. Apart from the North Korean bad guys (including a niece whose back story is well told if harrowing) there are also some “accidental” villains in the form of US tax vigilantes who appear to dwell more in the realm of The X-Files and conspiracy theories than the real world and suffer as a consequence.
Mostly fast-paced, there is a tendency in this novel (and many of Berry’s books of late) to get bogged down in great tracts of quotes from “official” records from the past – some of which are actually documents that Berry quotes from, others which he makes up – as well as reams of history. I have noted in previous reviews how I find these direct quotes don’t add much to the narrative but seem to slow the pace to a snail’s crawl. I would rather a character paraphrases what they learn as, in the end, it’s the kernel of information within these historical manuscripts/certificates etc that drives the narrative forward and reconciles the plot. Berry is so concerned with “proving” his research and the lengths he goes to in order to tie his speculation to fact, that I think sometimes the fiction suffers as a consequence.
What is good about this novel is that while one relationship is in hiatus, another begins to grow, and if you’ve been following the series and the characters, that is gratifying in the extreme.
Overall, a good read. 3.5 stars.
Tags: China, Croatia, North Korea, Steve Berry, taxation, The Patriot Threat, treason, Venice
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