Thursday, February 26, 2009

"The Night Following" Don't rush to read.

The unnamed driver is using her husband's car while hers is in the shop and finds a condom in the glove compartment.
While driving home from shopping and distracted by her sorrow, sunlight momentarily blinds her and she hits and kills Ruth Mitchell who had been riding her bike. She knows that she has killed Ruth and drives away, unable to face the consequences of her deed.
She immediately begins to feel regret and when her husband tells her that their marriage isn't working and he's leaving to live with his lover, she starts following Ruth's bereaved husband, to see how he is coping with Ruth's death.
This psychological novel is very drawn out and I found myself skipping pages looking for sections relevant to the outcome of the story.
The story moves between Arthur's writing a diary to his late wife with such detail that it takes away from the novel's action, i.e. Arthur asking Ruth where the pressure cooker is or wondering about his ineptitude with the microwave.
Arthur finds a story Ruth had been working on with her writing group and then given up and placed it in the attic and then we read pages and pages of this story which has a setting of 1932.
In the meanwhile, the woman who killed Arthur's wife arranges to be more and more in his life, in an attempt to take Ruth's place and make him believe that his wife had returned.
I found the action developed too slowly and did not care about the characters and the premise was rather bizarre.
Mild recommendation for the patient reader. 2 1/2 stars.

The novel was nominated for an Edgar award for the best mystery novel of the year. How the judges picked this novel and left out Michael Koryta's "Envy the Night" is a mystery in itself.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

"Extreme Measures" by Vince Flynn not pick up this book unless you can spend the next three days glued to its pages as you follow the thrilling action to its conclusion!

Mitch Rapp and Mike Nash are counterterroism experts. The CIA has stopped two terrorism cells before they could act against the USA.

However, a captured terrorist reveals that there is a third cell about to strike but before Rapp and Nash can get the details from the prisoner they are stopped by congressional do gooders who object to their interrogation techniques.

When Rapp tries again to get the prisoner to talk an Air Force Captain alerts the base commander that Rapp is not following the congressional committee's orders. Mitch confronts the officer and when the officer tries to arrest Mitch, he strikes him.

The captain complains to the congressional committee which is about to meet and discuss these tactics. They are considering arrest of Mitch for his disregard for law when going after the terrorists.

Mitch doesn't care what the politicians think. Ever since the terrorists killed his wife and new born child, Mitch has made it a point to fight terrorism at all costs.

Vince Flynn's writing explodes across the pages of this thriller in a breathtaking manner. It is almost as if the entire season of "24" were wrapped up in one heck of a story. Chapters rotate between what Mitch and Mike are doing and the terrorists, who are led by a Saudi Arabian named Karin Nour-Al-Din.

There are intelligent pauses in the action as we learn more about the characters and one segment where Mike's son gets in trouble for fighting and we learn that he was defending his sister's and his mother's honor was extremely well done.

Highly recommended.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

"The Price of Blood" by Delcan Hughes

Delcan Hughes is an Irish playwright and director. This story is billed as an Irish novel of suspense. It tells a story of a part of Dublin full of pain, loathing and deep secrets.

Ed Loy is a PI and is asked by Fr. Vincent Tyrrell to find Patrick Hutton, a jockey who has been missing for 10 years. Fr. Tyrrell's manner makes it seem that he is agonized with this man's story. Ed asks for more information from Fr. Tyrrell and the priest tells Ed that he knows more but because of the seal of confession, he cannot disclose it.

Leo Halligan is just out of prison and set on revenge against Ed for putting his brother into prison.
Ed is investigating a case of vandalism. While on that case, he comes upon a body and when he views the body and searches the man's pockets he finds record of a bet with a local bookie. The short stature of the body and betting receipt make him think he has found Patrick Hutton, he wonders at the coincidence, 10 years missing and dead as soon as Ed is asked to find him.
There is a tattoo of a crucifix and the Greek omega on the man's arm and soon after this body is discovered another body turns up with the same marks on the body. It turns out that this was another detective who had previously been hired to find Patrick.
Patrick Hutton worked for Fr. Tyrrell's brother, F.X. Tyrrell a prominent horse trainer. They had a number of successes together but as Ed investigates he finds there were a number of fixed races with horses being doped. There is indication that Patrick rebelled against holding his horse back and tried to show he was throwing the race. When Ed finds the body, the man's tongue was cut out and he thinks it is a sign that the person wanted to tell the authorities about the fix.
Ed interviews Patrick's widow, Miranda Hart. She reminds Ed of his former wife and he can't help himself from falling for her.
The story moves along and Hughes delves more into the underside of Dublin with Patrick and Leo being residents at a children's home where at least one of them may have been raped and the two boys may have been lovers. It is also revealed that Fr. Tyrrell had a room at the home. F.X. Tyrrell also had influence at the home and it may be for homosexual reasons that he hired Patrick as his jockey.
More bodies pile up including F.X. Tyrrell's former wife Jackie, who had been giving Ed some background about her former husband and fixing the races. Jackie's tongue is also cut out.
Hughes can tell a powerful, if dark story and the reader has to be willing to view this segment of society. This is a plot driven story that is a hard read with none of the characters are very likable.
Ed's friend Dave invites Ed to their home for Christmas Eve. Dave is under stress and not paying sufficient attention to his wife, Carmel. The reader may think that this is the one character with redeeming characteristics but Ed walks in on Carmel who has just been spending time with Dave's boss, Det. Geraghty, in the upstairs bedroom.
Reading this novel was like finding someones diary and seeing the hidden secrets of their life. It was a compelling story but with characters and a part of Ireland that are depressing.
Only recommended for the avid reader.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

"Sins of the Assassin" by Robert Ferrigno

Imagine that you have been in a time capsule and ended up in the year 2043. The United States is no longer a country. New York and Washington, D.C. have been destroyed by nuclear bombs.
This is the setting behind "Sins of the Assassin."
In what used to be the western United States is the Islamic Republic, governed by an aging, moderate president. However, behind the scenes are the Black Robes, a fringe group out to destroy any non fundamentalists.
In the east and south is the Christian Bible Belt torn by warlords.
Rakkim Epps is the hero of this futuristic tale. He is a defender of the Islamic Faith and foe of the fundamentalists.
He is asked to return to the Bible Belt when Col. Zachary Smitts is becoming a threat. He has a growing army and has greatly increased the territory he governs.
The armies in the Bible Belt are enemies of the Islamic Republic. The Colonel brings in John Moseby, a finder, to locate an advanced weapon from the old regime that is powerful enough to change the course of current history.
Since the Colonel is such an anti Muslem, Rakkim is asked to go undercover with a young assistant to find this weapon before the Colonel has a chance to use it. Rakkim's assistant, Leo, is a pudgy teenager who seems irreverent to Rakkim but is a genius and later proves his usefulness.
It is Leo who will be able to tell if this new weapon is dangerous and if so to destroy it.
The Colonel's deputy is a sadist named Gravenholtz and he becomes a rival of Rakkim. (Seeing the name Gravenholtz made me feel that the author is influenced by Charles Dickens in naming characters for their personality).
As the action progresses, Rakkim stages a diversion with a group of red necks and drug users from the Bible Belt led by Matthew Crews.
There is a battle and Rakkim has grown fond of the Colonel and helps defend him while Leo takes steps to prevent the weapon from getting into the wrong hands.
There are some interesting turns of plot here and a villainous character called the Old One is seen as the person pulling many of the strings and a major influence in the Black Robes.
Ferrigno is a wonderful writer who won Mystery Ink's 2007 Gumshoe Award for Best Thriller. This novel has been justly nominated for the Edgar Award for best mystery novel of the year. It is the second book in a planned trilogy.
Highly recommended.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

"Dead or Alive" by Michael McGarrity

Readers who enjoyed Gunsmoke and Bonanza in the early days of TV will enjoy this plot driven novel if they can accept the novel's brutality.
"Dead or Alive" is an exciting adventure of the modern day west.
Craig Larson is one of the truly villainous characters in recent times. His killing spree is reminiscent of the legendary villain, Blue Duck, from "Lonesome Dove."
Later in "Dead or Alive," when Larson decides that he wants to kill cops, he reminded me of Blue Duck who met Gus McCrae at one point in that novel and uttered one of the more memorable lines in that novel. "I ain't got time to waste on killin' some old Ranger with holes in his underwear.
There's plenty more need killin'."
In "Dead or Alive," through a case of mistaken identity, Craig Larson is being transported to a minimum security facility. He has already killed two times and manages to escape during his transportation and begins a killing spree.
As he evades capture, his murderous activities become increasingly gruesome. His murders include forcing drugs down a former girlfriend's mouth, causing her death, beatings, shootings and arson.
His bullet turns Sheriff Paul Hewett into a paraplegic and when Lt Clayton Istee is passed over for promotion due to political reasons, he resigns.
Clayton is Kevin Kerney's half Apache son and in this novel, Kerney is retired from his position as Sante Fe Police Chief.
When Larson's first killing is Kerney's partner, Riley Burke, Kerney and Clayton team up to track Larson down. They are sworn in as special investigators for the New Mexico State Police and as Larson becomes more unhinged the only question is how many more people will Larson kill before he is caught and dealt with.
While this novel is entertaining, it is very violent. The author never develops the reason for Larson's hatred and his motivation in killing. In addition, McGarrity has gotten away from his descriptive ability in making the New Mexico territory live in the mind of the reader.
McGarrity can tell a story that keeps you guessing but I don't think this is one of his better works.
Mild recommendation.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

"Angel's Tip" entertaining read

This is the second book involving Ellie Hatcher who made her debut in "Dead Evidence."
Ellie is jogging when she comes upon the body of a young woman, Chelsea Hart, a college student who had come to Manhattan for her college break.
Ellie investigates the manner in which the killer mutilated Chelsea's face and hacked off her long blond hair. However, Ellie is new to the NYPD homicide unit and her views aren't given much credence.
Chelsea's friends tell the police that the three of them had been drinking in one of the trendy bars in New York. When the police investigate the other patrons, they center their case on Jake Meyers, a young hedge fund manager who had been seen with Chelsea the night of her murder. There is also evidence that he had sexual relations with her. When the police concentrate on this suspect, another man confesses. The DA and police think the case is wrapped up but Ellie disagrees.
During the investigation, a call comes in from the tip line that a victim named Robbie Harrington, was also strangled in 2000 and her hair was hacked off. Robbie also had been drinking in one of New York's trendy bars.
Doing research on her own, Ellie finds two more victims who had been strangled and had other similar things in their murders. Ellie's commanding officer doesn't believe her.
When Robbie's sister brings out some points about her murder that were not in the file, Ellie learns that her commander, Lieutenant Dan Eckels was the lead investigator of that case and she is concerned.
Ellie is dating a news reporter and aspects of the case get into print making Ellie look like she is leaking aspects of the case to the media and getting in trouble with her superiors because of it.
Now another victim is discovered with the initials EH carved onto her forehead and Ellie convinces her superiors that the killer is after her.
With the knowledge of Ellie's past and the manner in which the evidence shows that there must be someone with inside knowledge, Ellie, the DA and her partner consider if the killer could be a policeman?
The suspense in finding the killer and Ellie's relationship with her news reporter boyfriend, Peter, carries the story.
Could the killer be her partner?
Another aspect of the story is the effect of the death of the women on their families and this is well done.
Burke has spun a nice story which is easy to read and engrossing.

Monday, February 9, 2009

"Envy The Night" Great fun!

Fans of Stephen Hunter are sure to think that they've died and gone to heaven when they read this captivating book.
It is as if Hunter's character Bob Lee Swagger has returned to provide one more adventure.
In Hunter's work, Swagger is a decorated former Marine Corps sniper who fought in Vietnam. He is living in the legend of his father, former Arkansas State Trooper Earl Lee Swagger.
In "Envy The Night" Frank Temple III is following his warrior family tradition. Frank Temple fought on DDay and continued in the military, decorated posthumously for his service in Korea.
Frank II followed his father's example in Vietnam in Special Ops and later as a U.S. Marshall. In his career he worked as an exterminator of the extremely evil criminals who escaped into society to continue their crimes.
Through the years, Frank II is handled by Devin Masterson who, we are told, gave up Frank to the authorities, rather than going to prison, when their activities are discovered.
As this novel opens, Masterson has escaped from the hospital after someone tried to kill him in prison.
Frank III is summoned to his father's cabin by Ezra Ballard, a long time friend and military associate of Frank II's. After Frank II's death, Ezra has been looking after his father's cabin.
Young Frank is on route to the cabin and is involved in an auto accident. Although it is clearly his fault, the other driver insists on paying for damages and pleads not to involve authorities.
When the cars are towed to Nora Stafford's garage, her mechanic finds a tracking device hidden in the other driver's car.
Nora is in her office when one of the men who was tracking the car arrives and demands to know where the driver went. As she is being manhandled by this thug, Frank arrives. Frank remembers the lessons his father taught about self defense and beats up the attacker.
However when the police arrive to arrest the attacker, he escapes.
The author as written a true page turner and the reader pulls for young Frank from the start. The psychological impact of him viewing his father as a hero and then discovering his hidden side is well developed. As the tension revolving around the possibility of Frank turning into another killer or being able to rise above it mounts, the reader is gripped and can't wait to see the outcome.
When Masterson arrives at the lake, his wife, Renee and the other car driver, Vaughn are there. How Masterson seeks to find his wife and see revenge on Vaughn is central to the drama of the novel.
Not only is the cottage important, but the lake itself represents purity and cleansing. Its restoration abilities helped Ezra maintain his sanity after returning from Vietnam and at the end of the novel, I feel the lake provides the ability for certain characters to avoid their fate.
Young Frank's attempt to stop Masterson with Ezra's help is at the other end of the drama and Frank's growing attachment for Nora is a secondary story.
Excellent novel, well deserving praise as one of the best mystery novels of 2008, don't miss this one!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

"The Dirty Secrets Club"

I began this novel with great anticipation after reading praise from various authors. Stephen King commented that if you like Sue Grafton or Janet Evanovich or even Lee Child then the reader would enjoy this work. It is also listed at least in one publication as among the best mystery novels of the year.

"The Dirty Secrets Club" begins with San Francisco experiencing a number of small quakes while at the same time a group of well known people have committed suicide and even murder.

Jo Beckett is a forensic psychiatrist who has been asked to investigate what connects the victims. She is a likable character who is still getting over the death of her husband while on a rescue mission to take a young girl to a hospital for emergency treatment.

Jo discovers something called the Dirty Secrets Club, which, requires applicants to submit a resume giving a secret, shameful deed about themselves before they can be admitted.

People join the club because they are troubled because of their past and they need a place to unwind with other people who would understand because they too have done bad things.

However, someone begins blackmailing club members, threatening to reveal their secrets, driving a number of the group to suicide.

Jo almost prevents one suicide which takes place in front of her and when she reads the note the victim left behind, Jo is informed that the club plays games on the edge and they must have crossed someone. Since these games are played while the members are in disguise, the person who was crossed wants the names of the rest of the club to track them down and kill them.

With the fast moving action, we learn that a character named Perry was a low level racketeer and that the club members stole $500,000 from him and left him to die, now he wants pay back.

Gardner's descriptions of San Francisco and the character development of Jo are done nicely but some plot devices are too extreme for belief. Why these intelligent people wouldn't have forseen the possibility of blackmail is not acceptable. At one point another earthquake enables someone to escape from the courthouse and Perry's advocate got a job in a delicate position without finding a significant part of her background.

Be that as it may, if you can suspend belief for awhile, sit back and enjoy reading an adventurous work
Mildly Recommended.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Day The Music Died

We all liked Ike back in '59. Alaska and Hawaii became states, Neil Sedaka sang "Oh! Carol" Louis Armstrong entertained us with "Mack the Knife" and on this day, Feb 3, 1959, the music died.
The Big Bopper, Richie Valens and the great Buddy Holly were on their way to a concert in Fargo, North Dakota when their plane cashed into a cornfield near Clear Lake, Iowa.
The Big Bopper was 28, Buddy Holly age 22 and Richie Valens 17 years old.
They had appeared at the Surf Ballroom on Monday night and were scheduled to appear in Fargo the next night.
There was a chartered bus which took the other members of the troupe but the three stars wanted to get there early so they took the plane.
While The Platters were singing the number one song that week, "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes," rock and roll fans around the world had tears in their eyes at the loss of three legends.
They all died so young and had such potential, we all lost something of ourselves that fateful day.

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