Good Reads: A Small Death in Lisbon

A Small Death in Lisbon is a murder mystery story based mostly in Portugal and alternating between modern day and WWII. It is a light and quick read thsmall-death-in-lisbonat mostly follows a traditional thriller crime plot.  You follow the investigation of a murder by two Lisbon detectives on the fringes of their peer group.  There are plenty of twists and turns to keep things interesting as a crime story.  But it will be particularly interesting to those who have visited or are visiting Lisbon with all its references to the city and its neighborhoods, foods and customs. Also, the WWII sub story shines an interesting light on Portugal during that time and as a crucial supplier of tungsten to both the British and Nazi war efforts.

It is a worthwhile accompaniment to your trip to Portugal, especially Lisbon.

Slaying the Badger

This was a fun read – especially while we were spending a couple weeks following this year’s Tour de France.  With a bit of bus travel and more than a few hours waiting for the peloton during our trip, we knew that we would have some time to dig into a few good books.  Slaying the Badger: Greg LeMond, Bernard Hinault, and the Greatest Tour de France fit the bill for me. This was a fantastic read that sucked me in from the first pages (yeck!).  It is a fascinating reporting on the 1986 Tour de France which was the first Tour that featured a team from the States and ended with the first winner from the States, Greg LeMond. It was also the last Tour for Bernard Hinault – a hugely popular French cycling legend who today is still very influential and prominent in French cycling.

The story line revolves around the inter-team fireworks between the two leaders Hinault and LeMond and their agreement that frustrated both but also set the context for one of the most entertaining races in its history. Ultimately,  the outcome solidified Hinault’s French popularity and position as a bit of a folk hero and LeMond as the first winner of the race from the USA and also a pivotal player in increasing salaries and the free market model in professional cycling.

Really? No helmets in ’86

It’s a story of characters – from the leaders, the managers, the owners and even the Tour’s officials. All involved seem to have been a bit off balanced at best.  It’s a fast, enlightening and fun read. Though, it is very much an “inside baseball” story that may be difficult for a casual fan, if you follow cycling or are intrigued by this race, it is a good one to pick up.

And if you want to know why you shouldn’t have your favorite Mexican food delivered from California to France the night before an important ride, definitely check this one out (or at least review the Amazon Kindle sample which will give you that answer)

The Only Book to Read in Cartagena, Colombia


Gabriel Garcia Marquez may be Latin America’s most well known writer. Hailing from Colombia he went to school and spent some time working in Cartagena. Many find his stories, such as One Hundred Years  of Solitude (perhaps his most renowned novel) difficult to read. But Love in the Time of Cholerea is not.  On a basic level, it is a classic love story set in colonial Cartagena about two lovers separated for most of their lives. On a deeper level, the story explores  love of many types and forms – marital and adulterous love, physical and platonic love, learned love, lusty love, etc. There is an interesting cast of characters with a story that keeps you wondering if the guy will get the gal until the very end.  Its all set in Cartagena during a boom time and in times of war and widespread disease (mostly notably cholera). It is a unique story and a good example of why Marquez is considered one of the best writers of our day.  Interesting note: he wrote it in 1985 and it was based on the tragic true story of an elderly American couple that were murdered in Mexico.

Its a classic and good read.


Book Review: The Last Days of the Incas

There are many books written on the Incas, and it can be a challenge sifting through the Last Days of the Incasplethora of books out there.  Perusing  Kindle samples (which I love) helps but can sometimes take time. However, this book, The Last Days of the Incas by Kim MacQuarrie, pulled me in immediately. Part of my rationale for choosing this book over the many other books was that it was not written by explorers claiming to have found Inca ruins, and MacQuarrie is a four-time Emmy-winning documentary filmmaker and an anthropologist.  If you have any interest in what happened to the Incas, the brutal takeover by the Spanish as well as three American explorers of Peru, this is a well researched and written book with a focus on the thirty-six year war between the Incas and Spanish.

MacQuarrie’s detailed account of the events during this war is woven into a fascinating story.  The book kept my attention throughout the roughly 540 pages as it reads more like a novel and has a number of interesting characters- the brutal and ruthless Pizarro brothers, the Inca emperors, Pachacuti, Manco, Atahualpa and his brother, Huascar.   And there is an added bonus towards the end of the book where MacQuarrie transitions from the thirty-six year war to the trials and tribulations of three American explorers (Hiram Bingham, Gene Savoy and Vincent Lee) who rediscovered various Inca ruins.  This section of the book was another fascinating read about the cutthroat explorer business.  This is a must read, in my opinion, for anyone planning to visit Cusco, Peru and the Inca trail and ruins.