Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Don't miss this dandy.

Fans of Grisham's "The Firm" will think they've found a new ice cream store when they read this excellent drama.
Doug McKenzie is a new attorney. He joined his current firm for a chance to work with the best, Dan Morgan.
One day, while playing in the state amature golf championship, with Dan doing commentary and caddying, Dan gets bad news. Ferris Eddington's daughter Rita has been arrested for killing Ferris' only son and Ferris wants Dan to defend her.
Dan accepts and Doug is assigned to work alongside him. This is helpfull since Doug has almost grown up at Eddington's ranch where Eddington was a friend of Doug's father.
They learn that Ferris' son, Travis, was staying at an irrigator's shack on the ranch. Rita and her 12 year old daughter, Miranda, enter the house. Shots are fired and a ranch hand sees Rita holding the gun as she leaves the house. The women are brought to the police station and Miranda becomes catonic.
The trial begins. The prosecution is led by a somewhat stereotypical bumbler, Maximilan Hauser. Someone out to make a name for himself. Danny leads the defence. He seems to know everyone in the legal community. (If the story were filmed, this part would be well cast as Clint Eastwood.)
The writing style is precise and in tune with the characters who are wll drawn and likable. The author provides some excellent plot twists and the courtroom drama is well done.
Highly recommended.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Here's a gate house that shouln't be opened.

John Sutter moved to London after his wife, Susan, killed her Mafia don lover, Frank Bellarosa.
Now John has returned to the Gold Coast of Long Island for the imminent death and funeral of an old family servant.
Anthony Bellarosa arrives at Sutter's home and offers him a job. Bellarosa is an uncouth character and constantly refers to Sutter's work with his father and how his father lost his home to taxes. Sutter attempts to ignore him but he follows Sutter as if he were Sutter's pet.
Sutter sees Susan and believes that Bellarosa might want revenge on her for killing his father but Susan doesn't heed his advice. Sutter and Susan rekindle their romance and decide to remarry. After hearing about their plans Bellarosa is furious, he threatens Susan and tells Sutter he is not immune to fallout.
Many of DeMille's novels have been outstanding, particularly "The Charm School," "Plum Island," and "Lion's Gate." However, this novel is below par.
There are pages upon pages where nothing happens. Sutter has wit and his dialogue is excellent but the plot, simply is boring. It was a struggle to finish and I would not recommend the novel.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Read this novel or you'll miss a great book.

Jonathan Quinn is back after the author's well received "The Deceived" and his "The Closer."
Quinn is still working off his debt to Peter and is asked to oversee an informational exchange in Ireland. Terrorists are up to something and the exchange is to tell more of their intentions.
The exchange is botched.
In Africa, U.N. worker, Marion Dupuis, discovered an orphanage called Roslyn's Place. She decides to help and is influential in getting food and school supplies. Roslyn tells her that the rebel soldiers are approaching and they want to take one of the children, Iris, a Down Syndrome child of 5 years of age.
Marion finds that children from other countries with special needs have been disappearing. She takes Iris and goes into hiding.
Something happens to a governmental agent in Manhattan and Peter asks Quinn to find Marion and see why the other side, an organization called LP wants Marion.
In Montreal the terrorists achieve their goal. Marion and Iris are transported to California where Iris is to have an important part in the terrorist scheme.
This is a nice story that unfolds like the skin of an onion, layer by layer. It unfolds slowly but patience is rewarded and Brett Battles weaves the plot professionally.
In his biography, Battles tells us that he has been influenced by Alistair MacLean and Jack Higgins. It is easy to see that influence in the action, dialogue and suspense.
In California, Quinn and his team confront the terrorists and once more Battles has them overcoming great odds to achieve their mission.
Don't miss this one!

Monday, June 22, 2009

An example of a writer's early work for comparison

David Morrell's "Blood Oath" was written in 1982. It has a bit of the author's own history to it in that like the lead character, Morrell never knew his own father who was killed in WWII.
Imagine if your father died in WWII and you went to France to visit the grave and found that there were no records of him?
This is what happens to Peter Houston. He's in France to visit his father's grave and give his father the news that Peter's mother has died. Not only is Peter's father not in that military cemetery but there are no records of him. The administrator is baffled and tells Peter that this has happened in two other occasions.
All Peter has is info that Pierre de St. Laurent wrote to Peter's mother and promised to look after his father's grave but now St. Laurent is also missing.
A stranger tells Peter that the person he seeks is in another town and while Peter and his wife Jan are driving there, a van forces them off the road into a river. Peter survives but Jan doesn't.
When he awakens, he is back at the hotel he had been staying at. The owner and his daughter, Simone, felt pity for his loss and permit him to recover at that hotel. Simone becomes Peter's assistant. Peter then has his wife's funeral and immediately sets out to find the missing man. However, this was a trap and Peter and Simone are almost killed.
Not knowing where to turn to, the couple look into the other missing servicemen to get the answers.
The actions of the characters are beyond belief. How can a man bury a loved one and not have a period of mourning? Not only that but shortly thereafter, Simone is expressing her affection for Peter and he is accepting it. Improbable.
The suspense was well developed but Peter is not a likable character and although he has had the loss of his mother and then his wife, the reader feels no sorrow for him because he seems too uncaring.
The interesting thing about this novel is to see it in comparison to Morrell's later works and see his vast improvement as a writer.
Only recommended as a point of comparison.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

War certainly is hell.

"Fields of Fire," James Webb's classic novel about Vietnam describes the horrors of Vietnam so vividly, the reader can close their eyes and visualize the helicopter landing on a field in the country and joining the platoon fighting for their lives.

Robert Lee Hodges, Jr. has a rich family tradition in the military and in 1969 he enters the Marines to add his legend to the family history. It was said that with his family background, if there had been no Vietnam, he'd have to invent one.

After completing Marine Officer training he's shipped to Vietnam. He is a replacement for an officer, killed in battle. After joining the unit, we meet the men who are central to the story.

Snake, nicknamed for his tattoo has a low level job in the states. After an unpleasant incident and fight at work, he's fired. He sees the marine motto, "Death Before Dishonor" has that tattooed and then enlists. His steady attitude and fearlessness in battle helps save other lives.

Will Goodrich is the college man of the unit. While his buddies were running off to Canada or going to grad school to avoid the draft, he leaves Harvard and joins up. He is the sensitive man of the unit and we see many horrors through his eyes and can feel the affect of the destruction on a young man not much more than a teenager.

These men and others are in a position where enemies surround them. Is the farmer in the village nearby really just a farmer or is he Viet Cong?

Webb lets the reader see what war will do to a man. Sgt. Austin joins the platoon, he's spit and polish and demands rules that work stateside but not in the world of death and destruction. Not long after his arrival he's fragged. One of his men throw a grenade close enough to injure him and take him away from the unit.

A well done story that relives a time of history that is still looked on as one of the darkest in the United States.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Sometimes you win, sometimes you don't.

"At the City's Edge" by Marcus Sakey offers a good read but disappoints.
Jason Palmer returns from Iraq. He didn't get the send off he wanted as his discharge was not honorable since he got one of his men killed and the officials said it was his fault.
Now he's jogging and approached by a car with some men in it who want to forcibly put him in the car to talk about what his brother is doing. However, Jason manages to disarm the leader, take his gun away and leave the people in the car wondering what they did wrong.
Jason's brother, Michael is a crusader. He owns a bar and wants to improve his neighborhood which is having trouble with gangs. His wife was killed by a 13 year old in a stolen car and he cares for his 8 year old son, Billy, by himself. When Jason asks him about what the people in the car may have wanted, he doesn't tell him anything but shortly thereafter, he's murdered and his bar burned down.
Little Billy saw the killers and now they want to kill him. They break into his home, where Jason now lives but Jason hears them and escapes. He meets Officer Elena Cruz, a street cop but well regarded and a member of the anti gang intelligence unit. She knew Michael and is trying to find answers about his death.
With Officer Cruz and Jason both looking for the same thing, they join forces. When they do, they are told certain things will happen and maybe they can get the answers but all is not what it seemed.
Who killed Michael? All they know is that someone is arming the gangs of the neighborhood and setting them against one another which results in more killing.
Sakey is a good writer. The characters have flaws but are believable and well developed. However, he breaks no new ground here and the urban gang conflict has been told a number of times and this seems more of the same.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

You'll bite your nails to the core reading this.

Dr. Abby DiMatteo is caring for a patient who entered Bayside Hosp. brain dead. Abby's boyfriend is Dr. Mark Hodell, a key surgeon on the cardiac transplant team.
The husband of Abby's patient agrees to transplanting his wife's organs. A fellow MD has a 17 year old teenager, Josh who is in desperate need of a heart but when Abby checks for a cross match she finds that Mark has changed the recipient to an elderly patient whose husband is a Machiavellian who tells his wife, he'll do whatever it takes.
When Abby asks Mark who changed the authorization, Mark tells her it was Dr. Aaron Levi.
The next day, Josh almost dies and Abby and her friend, Vivian decide to override Dr. Levi's decision. They move Jeff to Mass General and get the comatose's woman's husband to sign a release directing his wife's heart to Josh.
Gerritson is beyond compare when it comes to creating tension. Her medical background enables her to draw vivid pictures of what goes on in the transplant world. The scene where Abby and Vivian are transporting the heart to Mass General and the authorities from Bayside are ordering the ambulance back to that facility is built with extreme tension.
At the same time as we read about the transplants we read of a corresponding story where children are stolen from their parents in Eastern Europe and transported to a ship in the Boston Harbor. We can only guess what is going on with these children and what horrific event awaits them.
The husband of the elderly woman gets another heart but he is vindictive. He gets the hospital to force Vivian to resign and sets out to destroy Abby's career.
Again, Gerritson's style is well done and the reader feels at one with Abby and awaits her resolution to the delema. When Abby learns that Dr. Levi has committed suicide and two other doctors from the transplant team have had similar deaths, she investigates. What happens will take the reader to find out.
Read this, but don't wait until you're going to the hospital!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Love is blind could get you in trouble.

When you read about a killer being sent to prison and placed on death row, have you ever considered what becomes of their family?

Bill Floyd gives us something to think about in his well received debut novel, "The Killer's Wife."

Leigh Wren's husband is a serial killer. She tries to convince herself that the evidence she is finding around the home has some other explanation but after having a child and living with this for a time, she goes to the police. Her testimony helps send her husband, Randy, to death row. Then Leigh tries to start her life and that of her son, all over. She moves across country, changes her appearance and begins what she hopes will be a normal life.

Charles Pritchett is a wealthy man. He feels that Leigh must have had some part in the killings and his daughter, Carrie, was one of the victims. He hires detectives to find Leigh and when he does, he makes her life miserable, trying to disgrace Leigh and telling the authorities that he believes that Leigh might have been an accessory to Carrie's killing.

The detectives who found Liegh are horrified at what Pritchett does to Leigh and attempt to befriend her and tell her how she might retort the inaccuracies in Pritchett's attack, including his attempt to hire a convict to kill Randy in jail.

At this time there are more murders, that have a similarity to the killing that Leigh's husband did. They suspect that he was communicating with someone outside of prison and that person is carrying on his murderous activities.

Bill Floyd has written a story that covers murder from a new prospective. His dialogue is well done and the characters and their actions are logical. Similarities are drawn between Floyd's writing and that of Dennis Lehane. If he can be compared to Lehane, that's a wonderful compliment.


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Here's a story that will make you smile.

Suppose Tom Sawyer lived today and instead of getting his friends to paint the picket fence, he sold them what they thought was collectible comic books but was only the covers with the inside hidden by a plastic shield.
"Drawing Dead" by Pete Hautman is a cleverly done story where two con men have a gimmick like this. They make a mistake in trading a number of these "collectible" comics to mobster, Joey C. (Joey Cadillac, IE Joesph Battagno).
One day Joey's girlfriend is bored and wants to read what is inside the Batman comic book. Joey refuses but when she keeps at it, he relents. What they find is blank pages. Joey is furious at being taken and sends his henchman, Freddy Wisnesky, after them to teach them a lesson.
The action moves to Minnesota where the Conn men have moved. Entering the story is Joe Crow, a former cop and recovering cocaine addict. Joe loves playing cards and his privacy.
Joe is hired by stockbroker and conniver, Rich "Dickie" Wicky to find out who his wife, Catfish, is having an affair with and then bribe the person to move away.
Joe comes into contact with Freddy Wishesky and Joe's car suffers for it. Now Dickie owes Joe some money but keeps stalling him. Joe has a friend and neighbor, Laura Debrowski who tries to help and when she meets up with Joey C. the outcome is not good.
With all of the Conn games going on, Joe and Laura decide to plan one of their own. They want to turn the table on Joey C. and the two comic book Conn men, Tommy Campo and Ben Fink.
Hautman does a fine job in describing the characters. Joe and Laura are unique in that you don't read of many former cocaine addicts who seem to be successful in building their life back. Dickie Wicky is similar to Danny DeVito in Elmore Leonard's "Smart Money." The crispy dialogue and humor are influenced by Leonard and Mark Twain.
Try it, it will put a smile on your face.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

"Hold Tight" and keep your children safe.

What lengths would a parent go to if they felt their child was in danger of getting involved with drugs or worse?
Dr. Mike Baye, a main character with some punch, and his wife,Tia have two children, 11 year old Jill and 16 year old Adam. Mike is a former All American hockey player from college and he doesn't hesitate to use his combative nature when his son's safety is threatened. When one of Adam's friends commits suicide and Adam starts acting secretively, the parents install a security device on his computer.
They find an email on Adam's computer telling him that people are getting together to get high at a neighbor's home when the neighbor's parents are due to go out of town. They feel that they must take action to keep their son from getting involved in something that might cause them to lose him.
In another part of this compelling story, two women are abducted and killed in a savage manner.
Harlan Coben does a masterful job of weaving different plot lines together to create a story that is hard to put down.
At one point we learn about pharma parties where teens steal drugs from their parents' medicine cabinets, and get together and put the drugs into a bowl and have a trail mix of some kind and get high.
This is a fine novel with well drawn characters, a disturbing plot with a lesson and dramatic tension that lasts throughout the story.
Highly recommended.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

A heart stopper!

"The Dark Tide" by Andrew Gross

Charles Friedman runs a hedge fund dealing with considerable amounts of money and some questionable investors. One day he decides to take the Metro into New York from his home in Greenwich, CT.
That's the day terrorists blow up the train.

The same day there is a hit and run in Greenwich and the victim has Charles name and cell phone number in his pocket.

Karen Friedman is soon visited by two men threatening her and looking for unaccountable money Charles was responsible for. Then on the one year anniversary of the bombing, Karen watches the old news and sees her husband leaving the train station covered with soot.

Gross does a fantastic job with this novel. His talent toward building suspense and keeping the action going is unsurpassed. The characters were well drawn although I question Charles' motivation in some of his decision making.

My heart was racing so much in this story that I was afraid I was going to need medication to calm down. This is my pick for Thriller of the Year.

Highly Recommended!

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Broken Promise