Tuesday, March 31, 2009

2009 Thriller Award Nominees Announced

Fresh from The International Thriller Writers news letter, the 2009 Thriller Award Nominees have been announced.

Best Thriller of the Year

"Hold Tight" by Harlan Coben

"The Bodies Left Behind" by Jeffrey Deaver

"The Broken Window" by Jeffrey Deaver

"The Dark Tide" by Andrew Gross

"The Last Patriot" by Brad Thor

Best First Novel

"Calumet City" by Charlie Newton

"Child 44" by Tom Rob Smith

"Criminal Paradise" by Steven Thomas

"Sacrifice" by S. J. Bolton

"The Killer's Wife" by Bill Floyd

Thrillermaster Award

David Morrell honoring his influential body of work.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Irish bogs reveal a preserved body

Brendan McGann is cutting turf in a peak boy on a chilly April morning when he discovers the head of a young woman in Lough Derg in County Gallway.
Cormac Maguire works at the National Museum as an archaeologist and Nora Gavin, an American pathologist work together to examine the well preserved head of a young woman and attempt to find answers to how she came to be there.
Other young women have been disappearing from the area including the wife and son of wealthy land owner, Hugh Osborne.
Hugh asks Cormac to help as an archaeological survey at a construction site. Cormac agrees and asks Nora to join him so they can find more about the girl who's head they found. Since they are helping Osborne, he asks them to stay at his home with his cousin and son.
This is a wonderfully descriptive novel with Gothic aspects. It depicts the emotions of the locals, their love of music that gives meaning to many of their lives and tells of the history of the bog which has provided a livelihood to many people for generations.
Cormac and Nora find a ring in the girl's mouth and they are able to date the time when she was decapitated as around 1652. When they ask a teacher what was happening in that time he tells them that this was a time of ethnic cleansing in Ireland similar to Bosnia of recent times. The Catholics were forced to move from the vicinity and make way for the Protestants by Cromwell. Many Catholics starved and the times were merciless.
Hart does a magnificent job in telling this story. The reader becomes involved with the characters and the novel moves along with the smoothness of a well oiled machine.
Highly recommended.

Friday, March 27, 2009

They're dying like flies in Iowa

"Known Dead" by Donald Harstad, 1999.
Deputy Sheriff Carl Houseman is conducting surveillance on a marijuana patch at a state park, in hope of finding the people who were culitvating the marijuana.
It's a routine job but suddenly something goes terribly wrong, shots are fired and officer Bill Kellerman and a doper are killed. Houseman is assigned to a task force to find the killers.
A witness tells Houseman that he had seen men in military camaflogue outfits with automatic weapons, the witness thought the shooters were government employees.
The investigators discover ammunition boxes showing markings from outside the country. They decide to interview farmers in the area of the crime. Officer Ridgeway is assigned to serve papers on Herman Stritch, who is a leader of a local militia group. Stritch is behind on his bills and thinks that the law enforcement people are coming to evict him and someone in his home opens up on Ridgeway, wounding him and killing his associate.
When reinforcements arrive and surround the home, Herman's daughter in law, Melissa escapes with her baby and tells the police that her husband Bill and a group of militia had been training in the park in the day of the killings. Houseman talks Herman and his family into surrendering but when they do, two members of the militia group escape through the back door.
Harstad writes a good story without much extraneous details. From the lack of descriptive elements and concentration on the narrative plot, the author appears influenced by Elmore Leonard.
There is also a Bernie Madoff type poncy scheme. Melissa reveals that Herman and many of the other members of the melitia are being advised financially by a person named Wilford Jeschonek who has recommended that they take loans out on their farms and buy shares in gold from a bank in South America, promising a return in 15 years of ten times the face value. Houseman advises Melissa that these schemes are common and still people are gullible enough to believe their promises.
Without disclosing the plot, the later section of the story tells that the militia has something up their sleeve. Houseman and DCI Agent Hester Gorse lead the search for those in charge. They find that the head of the militia and Herman Stritch's wife have a thing for each other and Houseman uses that information to his advantage.
It is an enjoyable read and recommended.

Monday, March 23, 2009

All Souls Day the day of the dead

After reviewing the Edgar Award nominees I thought I'd reread and review a book read in the past.
"Dia De Los Muertos" by Kent Harrington was one of the notable publishing events of 1997. Published in a limited first edition by Dennis McMillan the book is a collector's gem.
The story centers around the poverty and hopelessness of Tijuana.
With the Mexican economy in shambles the situation is right for smuggling illegals into the United States.
Vince Calhoun is a DEA agent who is weighed under by his immense gambling debts. These debts are now due to be paid.
Vince and a crooked cop from Tijuana named Castro are in the business of crossing illegals into the United States.
Vince is offered a deal. His English bookie, is a Machiavellian character named Slaughter. He tells Vince that if he crosses Frank Guzman, his debt will be forgiven.
When Calhoun and Castro attempt to smuggle four Chinese girls across the border fate deals a nasty blow.
First, the car gets stuck against a rock in the sand, with the car's axle caught against a rock they have a difficult time attempting to free the car from its situation. As they are doing this, they are discovered by a rat patrol, who scout the desert looking for people to rob, there is a shoot out and Calhoun and Castro escape to Tijuana. There they learn that the girls are mules, full of heroine that they have ingested to get it over the border.
Showing a streak of ethics, Calhoun knows that if he leaves the girls in Tijuana and they are found, the girls would be ripped apart to get the drugs. Knowing this, Calhoun decides to get them across the border for their own safety. Another incident happens along the way and Calhoun comes to the rescue using his DEA identification.
It is a plot driven novel with very little unnecessary dialogue, almost a Hemingway approach to the story. It is well done and if the reader can stomach spending time with a group of evil characters, this can be an enjoyable read.
Recommended for the strong of heart.

No one is telling the truth in Brooklyn

"A Cure for Night" by Justin Peacock opens with Joel Deveraux and his girlfriend Beth discussing their next get together. Shortly thereafter Beth is found dead in the ladies room after chocking on her vomit from taking drugs.
Beth's father is an influential attorney and accuses Joel of supplying the drugs, he hasn't but admits to taking drugs himself. As a result, he's fired from his firm and his license to practice law is suspended for six months.
Through a friend, Joel is offered a job at the Brooklyn public defender's office. There, after a number of average cases, he is appointed second chair to Myra Goldstein in defending Lorenzo Tate in a murder trial.
How do you defend someone who has confessed to murder and there is a witness who identified him as the shooter? This is the task they endeavor to achieve.
Tate is accused in killing college student Seth Lipton.
We find that most of the character's in this courtroom drama are deeply flawed. Seth is not an innocent college student who is only at the drug scene because he is researching his thesis in sociology. No, we learn from his college roommate that Seth is a buyer and seller of heroine and cocaine for other students on campus.
Did Tate only confess because he had been in an interview room for over twelve hours and he doesn't have a high IQ?
We learn that the witness has a child by Malik Taylor and he and Devin Wallace have had arguments over Yolanda Miller who has had Taylor's child but is now living with Wallace, a drug dealer and the other person shot but only wounded with Lipton was killed.
During the course of the story Joel defends a young man accused of having drugs. He helps win an acquittal only to find that the man was, in fact, guilty.
The story goes on but the characters are not likable. Joel has a drug history and is tempted with drugs during the course of the Lorenzo Tate trial.
As the trial is coming to an end, Myra and Joel are telling the jury of Yolanda Miller identifying Tate when it could have been Malik Taylor who had shot Wallace.
Just before the culmination of the trial something unexpected happens and there is a surprise twist in the plot.
The events enfolded with little suspense and with the flawed characters, this book did not appeal to me.
Not recommended even though it was nominated for an Edgar Award for the best first novel in the mystery field.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Things are amiss on the English shore

A young woman named Hayley Daniels is found raped and strangled in Taylor's Yard, a narrow passage that leads from the town into the Maze.
In a neighboring town, not far from where the first body was found, at a place called Swanshead, the body of a quadriplegic woman is found by a man walking his dog. The woman has had her throat cut and is still in her wheel chair when found.
DI Annie Cabbott is on loan to the nearby town. She has just spent a night with a stranger she met at a bar. The man's youth and the quantity of liquor consumed during the night are indications of the turmoil Annie is feeling.
Annie is placed in charge of the investigation of the woman in the wheelchair and Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks heads the inquiry into Hayley's death.
Peter Robinson has written a wonderful character driven novel. The two investigations parallel each other and we learn much of the history of the two police officers. Their methodical, step by step investigations don't go anywhere until Annie finds the murdered quadriplegic is Lucy Payne, the wife of a mass murderer of young woman. Lucy may have been an accomplice in her husband's killing spree but as the police close in on him, he kills one of the police officers and is killed by the other police at the scene. Lucy jumps out of a window and is paralyzed.
DI Cabbott feels that the killer might be someone from the families of Payne's husband's victims who are seeking revenge.
Cabbott is a flawed person who seeks escape in alcohol and yet is an astute criminalist. She goes through Lucy's past and the victims of Lucy's husband and eliminates possibilities until she gets results.
While this is transpiring, DCI Banks continues searching for Hayley's killer within the town and the late night crowds in the village.
The reader learns much more than the steps to find the killers. We learn how dealing with these poor victims can even effect the lives of experienced police officers. So they need alcohol to release the horrors that they've seen? And what about personal relationships? Can someone seeking unmoral killers have the compassion and empathy in dealing with people they care the most about?
A well told tale by Robinson who has won many notable literary awards including the Edgar and the Anthony awards.
Highly recommended.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Dirty Harry has a sister!

"Calumet City" by Charlie Newton, a novel nominated for an Edgar Award for the best first mystery.
Patti Black has survived a horrid childhood. Her parents died in an auto accident and she was placed in a children's home where she was raped numerous times before escaping at age 16.
After a few career turns, Patti joins the Chicago Police Department and becomes one of the most decorated cops on the force.
Her unit is assigned to go on a raid to recover stolen merchandise in a seedy section of the city.
When they order the occupants to open the door, the police are met with machine gun fire. Patti returns fire, killing two members of a street gang called the Gangster Disciples.
To show Patti's grit, she goes to the station, files her report, goes home, changes and goes out to practice with her rugby team. "Go ahead, make my day."
A body is found in the basement of the building and this opens the door to the foster home where Patti had been abused.
There is an attempt on the mayor's life. If the mayor is killed, the next person in line to take his place is black alderman Leslie Gibbons. Fearing that the attempt on the mayor might be racially motivated, the superintendent of police asks Patti to go into the black community and try to gage the temperament of the people.
Patti does her job but at the end of the day when she sees the mother of one of the boys Patti shot, Patti tries to offer the woman her condolences but Patti gets in trouble with one of the black politicians.
The newspapers support Patti as a hero but soon afterward she leans that there is a hit on her.
We learn that she has a child and Patti thinks that the hit is coming from Roland Ganz, the man who raped her and fathered her son.
Newton tells a rapid fire story with no holds barred. There are gruesome details of people getting killed, with plot twists as Patti learns more of what happened to Roland Ganz after she ran away from the foster home.
We follow a trail to Arizona and a commune that has recently been vacated and there Patti learns that she is the owner of this land. Patti is stunned and thinks it is some sort of scam that Roland Ganz is pulling in order to get to her and her son.
This is an action packed story that is lengthy and a bit complicated. Patti's childhood explains her hard nosed attitude and it is somewhat exciting to see her in action.
A recommended book.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

"Dawn Patrol" Don Winslow

Take the perfect climate in San Diego, put in a former cop turned PI who has a love to surf, mix in an attractive attorney who wants to hire him to find and protect a star witness and you have the ingredients of this dandy novel.

Boone Daniels is the main character and he is so good that he is almost a caricature of "Goodness." It began with his days as a policemen when he saved a prisoner from a beating by another cop in order to force information from the prisoner. Then, after he left the police department, while surfing, he saved a child lost in the surf, and at another time he persuaded a money loving woman not to seek a divorce settlement from one of his friends. All these things were done while Boone stayed humble, not caring about money, he took no real monetary reward for his good deeds.

Boone is a legendary figure to his fellow surfers and Winslow has fun with the character's names. We encounter Hang Twelve, High Tide and others nicknamed for their surfing or extra curricular activities such as Dave the love boat.

Dan Silver, aka Daniel Silvieri, a strip club owner has set fire to one of his warehouses. He wants to collect the insurance but the insurance company has evidence that the fire was set and they refuse to pay. Silver sues the insurance company and Tammy Roddick, a former girlfriend of Silver was the witness that Boone is to protect. Tammy saw Silver set the fire and is supposed to testify at his trial.

Boone protects Tammy but something happens at the trial with a wonderful change in direction of the author. Now we find that there is much more going on than just arson. Without revealing the plot, this is a dramatic change that is heart catching.

Tammy found something that was being hidden from the public and wants to do something to remedy this injustice.

One of Tammy's friends gets killed and Danny must use his skill to make things right. The way Danny goes about his task is a joy to read.

Don Winslow can take credit for another superb novel full of plot twists drawn together like a skilled grandmother knitting a quilt for a newborn grandchild.

Well Done!

Monday, March 9, 2009

"Empire of Lies" a fun read

Jason Harlow has a comfortable life with his wife and three children in the Midwest.

He's watching his children at play when he gets a frantic call from a former girlfriend. She's in New York and has to see him in an extreme emergency.

Because he is still sentimental about this woman and the excitement they had he travels to Astoria, New York. He learns that he has a daughter from this girlfriend. The daughter is only a high school sophomore and has disappeared.

Jason travels to Manhattan and finds Serena. She has been associating with a group of questionable friends and is drunk. When Jason tells her that he is a friend of her mother and says his name, Serena admits that her mother has spoken of him and that her mother told her that Jason might be her father. She acts terrified and not to take her home because they will find her and kill her.

Then she tells Jason that she has witnesses a murder and that the murderers will be after her if she tells anyone. Thinking that the right thing to do is to bring her to the authorities he starts to drive her to Manhattan but she escapes from the car and is picked up by her friends who had been following her father's car.

Jason has his doubts about his daughter's story until he happens to watch a TV show about a missing college student named Casey Diggs who was claiming that he found a possible terrorist plot. The description of the student matches Serena's victim and decides to investigate further. He goes to the authorities but they don't believe his story.

He attends a lecture of Prof. Arthur Rashid and listens to him persuade his students how the United States is against Muslims. When Jason digs further he learns that Rashid is engineering a murderous attack against an unknown target in New York but one that will lead to many casualties.

From the TV show that Jason watched, he knows that the commentator Patrick Piersall was investigating Diggs disappearance and the possibility of terrorist activity but the next day Piersall is discredited and the show taken off the air.

Jason feels that Piersall might be the only one to believe him and they meet up but Jason leaves the meeting frustrated and not knowing what to do.

He is still trying to find his daughter and decides to confront Rashid and persuade him to talk. When he does certain things are learned and the action speeds along at a breakneck pace.

This is a well written action thriller that lost some of its believability toward the end but was still a powerful story.


Saturday, March 7, 2009

Edgar award nominee for 1st novel "The Kind One"

Fans of Ranymond Chandler will enjoy this novel set in Los Angeles in the 1930's. It isn't so much a mystery as a novel of mobsters with Philip Marlowe type of unwasted space and dialogue.
Danny Landon is working for a mobster named Bud Seitz.
Danny, aka, Two Gun Danny, has amnesia from being hit on the head with a lead pipe.
Bud asks Danny to act as bodyguard for his mistress, Darla.
As the novel begins there is an uncomfortable scene where Bud's pet chimp bites Darla and Danny has to put the animal down. This is too reminiscent of the recent attack by a chimpanzee to the woman in Stamford, CT.
This descriptive novel is plot driven with intense dialogue and little character development.
After a slow start, we see considerable bi play between Danny and Darla. The reader is made to wonder if they will become romantically involved and if so, will they meet the same fate as Bud's last girlfriend and the employee who made a poor choice and inappropriately touched her and paid the ultimate price.
As the action progresses, Danny is attempting to help his 11 year old neighbor, Sophie, who is in an abusive home.
Life is cheap for those who associate with Bud and he doesn't hesitate to kill anyone who displeases him weather it is a stranger or one of his employees.
As Darla becomes more uncomfortable with Bud's autocratic attitude towards her, Danny's feelings for her grow. She seems to care for Danny in return but the reader can't be sure.
With action mounting, we find that there is a relationship between Danny and Bud that is more than just employer, employee and this adds another complication.
Finally, Sophie is about to be sent to a reform school by her alcoholic mother and Darla is desperate to escape from Bud and Danny must help each person.
This is a well told story and was nominated for an Edgar Award for best first novel. It is also going to be a movie and is in current production with Casey Afflec and due to be released in 2010.
Congratulations to Mr. Epperson on a job well done.

Friday, March 6, 2009

"The Calling" Don't read this book alone.

Senior citizens who are terminally ill are being killed in and around Port Dundas in Ontario, Canada.
Detective Inspector Hazel Micallef is approaching retirement age at 61. Hazel is a bit cranky and has a back so painful that it takes her some moments each day to stand and stretch. She lives with her 87 year old mother, Emily, who seems to run the house and her daughter's life.
The first victim is Delia Chandler. When Hazel finds her, Delias' throat has been cut and she seems to have been bled out. Hazel is also informed that there are no defensive wounds and that Delia may have cooperated with her own death.
As the search for facts continues, Hazel's is given more investigators. One is Officer Wingate, who checks on cases of terminally ill seniors who were listed as suicides and they find that this killer may have killed as many as 16 elderly victims. Wingate believes that the killer appears to be posing as a healer, making contact with people terminally ill, perhaps promising a cure.
We follow the killer, Simon, as he goes from one victim to another and when he speaks to one of his victims, the reader learns that Simon promises not an alternative to death but insuring that their bodies are complete and be as whole as God made them when they die.
Since the victims seems to have chosen him, Hazel doesn't know how to stop the killer.
However a French Canadian Detective, Sevigny joins the team and progress is made. They follow a trail and come upon a dead body and results come from this without telling too much of the drama.
This is a tight drama that is difficult to put down. The writing is so realistic that it seems as if the reader is going through a series of police procedurals.
The writer has chosen not to give her name only using Inger Ash Wolfe as a pseudonym for this North American literary novelist.
What ever her true name is, she has done a wale of a job.
Highly recommended.

Currently Reading

Currently Reading
Broken Promise