Sunday, August 30, 2009

Here's a novel that should be an great movie.

Ben Forsberg is on his honeymoon when his wife, Emily, is murdered.
In Austin, TX, a hit goes wrong. Nicky Lynch, a freelance assassin, was supposed to kill two men. He murders Adam Reynolds, a software designer, who had information he was trying to sell to the government. However, Nicky was also supposed to kill the other and then set up Ben. The other man is a former CIA agent, called Pilgrim. Pilgrim escapes, finds Nicky and kills him.
Later in the day, two agents from the Homeland Security office call on Ben and ask him to explain why his card was in Nicky's pocket. They also tell him that Ben's name was listed on Reynolds' appointment schedule and his number was on Reynolds' cell phone. When Ben tells them that he knows nothing, they take him to their office.
Nicky's brother was also at the scene of the assassination, he informs his boss that there was a problem.
Sam Hector owns a security firm, Global Security. Sam is the one setting up Ben and Pilgrim. He has a second assassin team. When Nicky's brother, Jackie, tells him that they missed Pilgrim, Hector tells Jackie and the backup team to go to the building where Pilgrim has his office, kill everyone but bring back Pilgrim's boss, a woman known as Teach.
Pilgrim kills the members of the second team and rescues Ben from the Homeland Security office. The assassination team managed to kill one Homeland Security agent but not the other, Joanna Vochek. Jackie Lynch does capture Teach and brings her to Hector.
As this is happening, the reader learns that there is a team of Arabs in New Orleans planning something but we aren't sure what it is.
Ben and Pilgrim realize that they were set up and agree to work together to clear their names and find out who was behind the set up. They make a connection to Sam Hector, who Ben thought was a friend. Pilgrim had found a package of matches from a restaurant, Blarney's Steakhouse, with not much else to go on, they trace the restaurant and on their computer, Ben sees a photo of Hector and shows it to Pilgrim. Pilgrim is shocked. He knows the man and his name wasn't Hector when he worked on a covert operation with Pilgrim 10 years ago.
Now that they know who is setting them up, Ben and Pilgrim must get enough evidence to show to the officials. Then they must figure a way to stop Hector. They do know that Hector's firm makes money when there is unrest and they're sure he's planning something that will take many lives. Action is needed.
Jeff Abbott is a multiple Edgar Award nominee. He has written a complex plot that is packed with action and keeps the reader guessing. He has given some interesting plot twists that help make his story unique and appealing.
Ben is a likable character who goes from a mild executive to Rambo in a short time. Pilgrim has his own motives and his character isn't fully developed.
The story was well done and is already optioned for film.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Enjoy this book with a glass of wine and some tasty cheese.

After reading a number of heart stopping thrillers, which I fully enjoyed, it was a pleasant relief to read a well paced story that was entertaining and yet easy on my nerves.
In "A Duty to the Dead" Bess Crawford makes her debut. She his a WWI nurse and investigator. She's serving on the red cross ship, Britannic when it hits a mine and sinks. Although thirty men die, Bess escapes with only a broken arm.
Bess had cared for a wounded man, Ambrose Graham, who had been healing but suddenly but suddenly his wound turned septic and he died. He asked Bess to deliver a message to his brother. "Tell Jonathan that I lied. I did it for Mother's sake. But it has to be set right."
When Bess is home, recovering from her broken arm, she travels to Kent to deliver the message. At the Graham's, she meets Ambrose's mother, Jonathan, who is also home on leave, a brother, Tim, who has a club foot and is declared medically unfit for war and their cousin, Robert Douglas. She also learns that there is an older brother, Peregrine, who is institutionalized.
A doctor in town learns that a nurse is there and asks her help in dealing with another vet who is trying to overcome his own battle infliction. Ted Booker suffers from shell shock after seeing his twin brother killed in action. In an compassionate, well described scene, Bess talks to Ted as if she was at the front with him. It seems to help it looks like he's recovering. However, she's saddened to learn that Ted died. It appears that he took his bandages off and committed suicide.
Bess' medical assistance continues. We learn that Peregrine has caught pneumonia and cannot be treated at the institution. Mrs. Graham doesn't want him home but Robert persuades her that it is the correct thing to do. Bess offers to care for him but Mrs. Graham does warn her that Peregrine has murdered someone when he was fourteen, but not of sound mind. Once more, Bess' ministrations are successful and Peregine gets over his illness.
Bess then returns to London where she has an unexpected visitor. Peregrine was going to be sent back to the institution again but escaped. He wants Bess to help him uncover what happened when he was fourteen. He doesn't remember the details.
Reluctantly she agrees and she and Peregrine relive the details of the night when the Graham's servant, Lily Mercer was murdered.
This is a well written, nicely paced novel. The author manages to get the reader involved in the story and it is an interesting time to attempt to understand what was happening at that time. There is also a lesson on how facts can be misconstrued. Bess is a well described, heroic character and Peregrine is a sympathetic character.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Move over Jason Bourne!

Atticus Kokiak is a bodyguard and sometime assassin. He and his lover, Alena, are hiding out in Kobuleti, a Georgian town in what had been part of U.S.S.R.
Someone makes the mistake of murdering Atticus' neighbor and friend, Bakhar Logidze. They also murder the man's wife and son but they take his 14 year old daughter, Tiasa. They plan to use Tiasa as a payback for a wrong committed by Bakhar. They will sell her to human traffickers who will then sell her to be used for prostitution.
Atticus in a step similar to the plot of "Taken" the movie with Liam Neeson, decides to rescue Tiasa from the Georgian gang who took her. Atticus gets the name of the gang leader, Karataev. He pays the man a visit, goes through a shootout and makes the man tell what he did with the girl before Atticus shoots him.
In addition to the exciting story, it is interesting to see the places that Atticus travels to in attempt to rescue Tiasa. First he goes to Dubai. There he finds a home that is being used for child prostitutes. He shoots more hoods and rescues 7 girls. However, Tiasa is not among them.
Returning home to Kobuleti, Atticus finds his home burned to the ground. He is fearful until he hears that Alena has escaped and is in Russia.
The action is swift and the story told with mounting suspense. I'm reading about Atticus but in my mind, I'm seeing Jason Bourne on another of his adventures.
Atticus is a fun character who does whatever it takes to make a wrong into a right.
Well done and highly recommended.

Monday, August 24, 2009

A speeding train turns into a broken escillator

Paul Skoglund is afflicted with Tourette's syndrome. Because of that, he says words impulsive and sometimes twitches. It's hard to keep a job.
When Paul's aunt Vivian asks him to repair the damage done to her hunting lodge in Hudson Valley, he reluctantly accepts. Paul had been taking college courses to better himself but was a fine carpenter and that work was more abundant.
When Paul and his girlfriend Lia see the hunting lodge they are surprised at the extent of the damage. Paul even asks Vivian if there was someone who had a grudge against her but the only person she could think of was a former gardener.

Mo Ford is transferred to the Lewisboro Barracks of the State Police.
He inherits a number of cases. One involves the hit and run killing of Richard Mason, another involves the disappearance of three local high school teens.

When Mo interviews Mason's family, he speaks to Mason's sister, Heather who is schizophrenic. Heather tells him that she was with her brother that night and the person who killed him was superman. She also tells him that she is writing a story and in the story the policeman dies.

Mo researches the damage to the hunting lodge and soon feels that there is a connection between the missing teens and the hunting lodge. He was told that there may have been satanic rituals at the hunting lodge.

Paul and Lia and Mo become friendly and attempt to solve the mystery as time goes on. They suspect Vivian's son, Royce who bears a hatred toward his mother. As the repairs are done, there is subplot of what happened to Paul's father, Ben, when he was visiting Vivian and committed suicide.

The story moves along with intelligence and it is interesting to see how Paul balances the medicines that slow down the Tourette's but taking smaller dosages so he can do his job. However, toward the last part of the book the reader is given pages of pages of information on Tourette's, of paranormal activities and of people having superhuman abilities. This came out without warning and was distracting and somewhat unbelievable.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

"The Last Child" Worth the effort.

John Hart's "The Last Child" is his third novel and continues his tradition of well written, literary mysteries.

His 13 year old protagonist, Johnny Merrimon reminds me ot Tom Sawyer and I think some of Hart's writing could be influenced by Mark Twain.

Johnny Merrimon has a good family and normal life until his sister Alyssa vanishes. A year goes by, during which Johnny's father has left home and not been seen again, and his mother has a boyfriend who is abusive to her and to Johnny.

No one seems to believe that Alyssa could still be alive after being missing for so long but Johnny continues his search. He has make up maps of his community and goes out at night asking others if they might have seen his sister. He has one friend, Jack who is constantly with Johnny and looks up to him. In this it is similar to Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn.

There is also a police officer, Det. Hunt who understands what Johnny may be going through and takes a personal interest in Johnny, and his mother, Katherine's unfortunate circumstances.

One night Johnny comes upon a mototcyclist who has just been hit by a car and lays in the road, injured. The cyclist tells Johnny, "I found her." Then he hears the car returning and tells Johnny to run.

Johnny returns home that night and finds another child is missing. Since this is a young girl, Johnny doesn't know if the man on the motorcycle meant his sister or the new missing child. Det. Hunt takes Johnny to the spot of the man's accident and they find his body at the foot of a bridge.

Johnny makes a major discovery not long after that (The reader will have to find this portion themselves so as not to spoil the plot).

This is an excellent, well written work. During the story there is also reference to Golding's "The Lord of the Flies" and it is fair to compare Johnny with the protagonist of Golding's work, Ralph. In particular when Johnny feels he must climb to a birds nest and get a feather for good luck.
The plot is original and has many subplots that heighten the reader's interest. Johnny is a well drawn, sympathetic character who the reader pulls for throughout the story.
Highly recommended.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

"Offer of Proof" a well done courtroom drama

Charlotte King, a wealthy white woman is robbed and murdered in New York City. The police find a black man, Damon Tucker running in the street a few blocks away. The police take him to where Charlotte lay and with her last breath, she seems to identify him.
Arch Gold is a modern day Atticus Finch ("To Kill a Mockingbird"). Arch is a veteran defense attorney whose father was a bookie. Arch feels his background so stays on the job as defense attorney long after others leave that position for higher paying jobs.
It's Arch who gets the case to defend Damon.
Damon is outraged at his arrest and feels that the police are attempting to frame him. Arch listens to Damon's side of the story and when he checks things out, Damon's statements ring true and Arch comes to believe in his innocence.
After seeing Damon's point of view, Arch wonders if maybe Charlotte's killing wasn't just a robbery attempt gone bad. Maybe she was killed on purpose and the robbery staged to throw off the police.
He questions Charlotte's mother and learns that Charlotte had been sleeping with her boss, David Yates, who runs a PI firm "with a lot of power." Yates intends to take his company public within the next year and this will be worth millions to him.
When Arch tries to speak to him, David acts suspiciously and threatening. Arch wonders if maybe Charlotte found out something and Yates either killed her or had her killed.
When the case comes to court, Arch tells the judge that he is offering another point of view, i.e. that it was David who killed Charlotte.
The author is an attorney with the Legal Aid Society and writes with the knowledge of his legal work and of the people who are often treated unfairly by the legal system.
A well done story. The characters are believable with Arch being compassionate and Damon being angry.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Currently Reading

A wealthy woman is robbed and murdered in New York. The police find a black man running down the street a few blocks away. They bring him to the woman, who is waiting for the ambulance. She seems to identify him before she dies.

The case goes to court, Arch Gold is the defender and he's one of the best. After checking on some of the things that the young man told him, Arch believes him and decides to look into the history of the murdered woman. What he finds puts a scare into him.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

"Smoke Screen" a delight!

TV newswoman, Britt Shelly wakes up in bed with heroic detective Jay Burgess . She doesn't remember going to bed with Jay and when she tries to awaken him, she realizes he's dead.
Britt got her first big break five years before with a story of the fire of the Charleston P.D. She told of the heroic rescue by Jay Burgess and three other city employees who led others to safety.
Firefighter Raley Gannon and Jay were best friends. Raley kidnaps Britt and tries to make her tell him what went on at Jay's apartment. Britt still can't remember and then the cause of death is determined as suffocation and Britt is a suspect.
After the news of Jay's suffocation, Raley amazes Britt by telling her that what happened to her also happened to him. He was lead investigator for arson at the police dept. He felt that someone was stonewalling his investigation and was pretty sure that one of the victims didn't die in the fire but was murdered and the fire was started to cover up the crime. Raley went to Jay's party. A pretty girl gave him a drink. He woke up next to her corpse. When the police investigated that case, Raley was removed from his fire investigation. Then Britt's TV show centered on how the girl who died is the forgotton person so with this publicity, the fire chief fires Raley.
Once they realize that they've both been set up, Britt and Raley bond together to find the killers and clear their names. Two men are following Britt and there are a number of close escapes.
Raley believes that Jay's murder and the set up to take Britt off the case stem from one of the heroes of that fire, really being the killer.
This is a wonderful romantic mystery. It is well written and develops momentum as the story progresses carrying the reader along with the excitement. Britt and Raley are gallant in their pursuit of answers and make a very romantic couple.
Highly recommended.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

"Nothing to lose" doesn't hit the mark

Jack Reacher decides to walk across America. When he gets to the junction of Hope and Despair in Colorado, he chooses to visit Despair. When he attempts to order coffee in a local restaurant, he is ordered out of town and told that they don't like strangers.

Being a former Marine, Reacher doesn't like being told what to do and waits 'til dark to return to Despair. After checking a local factory, he finds the emaciated body of a young man. Then he returns to his motel in Hope and meets a college student, Lucy Anderson, who was also made to leave Despair. Her husband is missing.

The plot was slow to develop and at times bordered on the absurd. At one point Reacher gets into a bar fight with six men. He inflicts such damage to the men that they need medical treatment for things like, a broken arm, a broken nose, and a concussion, while he comes out of the fight with hardly a scratch. In another case, returning to Despair once again, he is with Officer Vaughan, when a crowd of two to three hundred people stand in the highway blocking their way, chanting, "Out! Out! Out! The image didn't seem realistic.

When things happened with the plot, it seemed that the decision to take action was based on Reacher's intuition with little to back it up, ie was the problem with the factory, was it with the military, was it something with the kingpin Jerry Thermond?

The town of Despair is unfriendly, the people think little of anyone but themselves and with Reacher's usual point to help people who couldn't help themselves, no one really wanted his help. He should have left the people in Despair to their own fate.

This book describes the greatest rescue of all time. In May of 1940, 400,000 Allied troops were pinned against the French port of Dunkirk and Hitler's army was closing in. For the Allies, it seemed like they were doomed and escape impossible.
The story leads up to the rescue with hundreds of interviews of the participants.
Walter Lord, who interrupted his studies at Yale Law School after Pearl Harbor, lets the readers experience what is happening as if reading the conflict and episodes in the daily paper or in letters home.
However, with the excessive interviews, the reading did become laborious and it was difficult to maintain interest.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Darcia Helle has a hit with "Hit List"

When authors can serve a dual purpose of entertaining and teaching at the same time, they surely have hit the mark.
Darcia Helle has done so with this book which not only provides a good story but brings out the subject of mental breakdowns and how children of parents who have a breakdown might best care for those they love.
Ian Mc Cormick's mother, Corinne, has had a serious breakdown and is frightened. Occasionally, when Ian arrives home he will see evidence of this such as his mother watching a blank screen TV.
When the psychiatrist she had doesn't seem to be helping, Ian hires a P.I. to find out what happened to his mom in the days prior to her breakdown. Why is Corinne so frightened? Perhaps the lovely P.I. Lucinella "Lu" Martel will find the answer.
The reader is made aware of two men, Nico and an employee, Skeets, discussing if Corinne really knows anything and what they should do with her. At the same time a Det. Graham and his partner are watching the house.
Lucianna and her efficient uncle, Vinny, find that Nico is the subject of a police investigation by Det. Graham.
Nico heads a gang called Unit K that deals with young children, some runaways, for use in pornography, or as young hookers. Lu also learns that before Corinne became detached, she dated a man named Sam Evans who works for Unit K as a private contractor.
What are the connections between the police watching the house, Nico and Unit K and Sam Evans? These are things Lu has to uncover as attachment for Ian grows.
Darcia Helle has done a fine job of tying the ends together while exploring the relationship between Ian and Lucianna. The author also brings out the effect of mental disorders on those around them and that even relatives often disassociate themselves from the afflicted. She also underlines the importance of an adult child caring for a parent who has a breakdown, rather than the easy route of having the parent placed in a home.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

"Last Known Address"

In the snowy Chicago winter, a serial rapist is pursuing victims.
Det. Sloan Pearson is still new in the Sex Crimes Unit and this male dominated group thinks nothing of the sexual harassment they give. "I'll bet she got a hot wax." Says one when she's returning from being late due to seeing her father in the hospital where she learned that his condition made his heart too weak to be operated on.
Since her mother's death when Sloan was a young school girl, it had just been her father and Sloan. Now she feels useless as his weak heart needs care but he seems to have given up and placed himself in the hands of his flighty girlfriend.
When one of the rape victims turns out to be a woman who just showed Sloan a unit she was thinking of buying, Sloan takes a personal interest in the case. With fierce determination, she goes through the investigation as if she were the victims only advocate.
At various parts of the story, we read the thoughts of a person who has been raped. It is a bit confusing because we aren't given the person's name. I thought it might be Sloan.
Pearson is compulsive and not a very likable character. Perhaps a woman facing her troubles couldn't be likable but she is also not a sympathetic character.
Schwegel's writing is compelling in spite of the confusion.
The setting is well described and if the sexual innuendo that Pearson must bear are true, I would hope that this novel, like those of Frank Norris almost 100 years ago, would cause an industry to be improved and women's equality be corrected.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

"Fear the Worst" Be Brave and try this page turner

I was hooked on this novel from page 1.

Tim Blake is a used car salesman in Milford, CT. His 17 year old daughter, Sydney (Syd) is staying with him for the summer and working at a local hotel. One day she doesn't return home. When Tim goes to her hotel he is informed that Syd never worked there and they don't know her.

What should he do?

He tries to maintain his life and barely keeps some normalcy until police tell him that they've found Syd's car in a WalMart parking lot and that they found blood in it. He continues looking and gets a tip that Syd was seen in Seattle but it turns into a hoax. Someone wanted him out of the way, why? When he returns home, his house has been trashed and when the police arrive and search his home, something is found that puts Tim in a bad light, but he doesn't give up.

Tim may be a car salesman but he becomes "Everyman" in this story. Nothing stops him from his pursuit of his daughter. He may not be a Special Forces employee but he is just as heroic and this is much the theme of this work.

The suspense mounts and when we see Tim looking for his lost child, there seems an influence on Harlan Coban's writing. The setting is in the Milford, Stratford area of Connecticut. When I asked the author, who lives in Toronto, how he could so perfectly describe the setting, he mentioned that he was born in New Haven and lived in Darien early on. Then would visit relatives from his home in Canada. He remembered it well. Reading the scenes was like opening the "New Haven Register" and finding about this lost teenager.

Barclay is a symphonic master in this novel. The story starts slowly, like Ravel's "Bolero" but then the action mounts and it becomes John Philip Sousa and "The Stars and Stripes Forever."

Highly recommended!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

"Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less" Worth the price

Jeffrey Archer's first novel starts off slowly but then picks up speed in the second two thirds of the story.

We read of Harvey Metcalfe who was born in 1909, the son of poor Polish emigrants. He rose from a pauper to the president of a bank by the time he was age 35. However, much of his accomplishments were done by bribes and shady deals.

Harvey sees opportunity in oil. He buys a company in England and puts out the word that his company has struck oil. Stephen Bradley, a mathematical genius, Dr. Robert Oakley, a society doctor, Jean-Pierre Lamanns an art dealer and James Birgsley, an English lord all invest heavily in the company and are financially ruined.

Bradley won't go meekly and contacts the other major investors and sets up a scheme for getting their money back and obtaining retribution from Metcalfe.

Archer does a wonderful job with dialogue, language and characterization. He creates both suspense and humor while describing how each man will use his specialty to take revenge on Metcalfe.

The novel is somewhat autobiographical in that Archer was close to bankruptcy and left public office at a young age to write this novel in order to repay his creditors.

The timing of the story is renewed with the Bernard Madoff scandal and the similarity in names of Metcalfe.
I enjoyed the novel a second time as I compared the two and thought of the fun it would have been if Madoff had come to a similar end.
Fun read, good for a rainy weekend.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

"Fault Line" has a minor fault

Alex Treven has risen far in his law firm but now he has a chance for full partnership. He's met with an inventor, Richard Hilzoy, whose invention may change encryption for everyone.

Alex asks his superior, David Osborne, if the partnership will back the project and David agrees. He asks that Alex work with Sarah Hosseini, a young Iranian attorney in the office.

Just before Hilzoy comes in to sign contract papers, he's killed. Then the patent examiner dies suddenly and Alex is attacked at his home. He's fearful and asks his brother, Ben, for help.

Ben is a Jack Reacher type character. He works for the military taking out foreign assets who may present a problem to the country. When Ben arrives home, they go to Alex's office where they find that the inventors papers are missing. Ben tells Alex and Sarah that they be in danger and to go into hiding and see if they can reconstruct the information from papers Hilzoy kept in a hidden place. After that, Ben does his thing. He finds the people following Alex and then tries to find who is behind the murders.

The first part of the novel was well written and the suspense worked well. In the second part, the story bogged down. The characterization of Alex, Sarah and Ben left much unsaid. Ben was just too convenient and there was too much info on the technical parts of the invention. This was confusing.

Eisler's John Rain novels are outstanding and he has received the Gumshoe award and the Barry Award for Best Thriller of the Year.

His first novel in the John Rain series, "Rain Fall," 2002, has been made into a motion picture and is scheduled for release in 2009.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Not one of Clark's best

Broadway actress Natalie Raines is in Cape Cod starring in a play. She believes that she recognizes the person she thinks killed her roommate, many years ago when both women were aspiring actresses. She leaves the Cape and hurries home but the killer is already there.
Natalie's estranged husband, Greg Aldrich, is accused of the murder. The case is given to Emily Wallace to prosecute. Emily is an assistant prosecutor and spends all her time getting ready for this big case.
What Emily fails to see is that her next door neighbor, Zach Lanning, is taking an unhealthy interest in her. Zach has installed a microphone in her home and watches her through his blinds. What else Emily doesn't know is that Zach isn't an innocent lamb. He is a wanted man for killing his family one and a half years ago.
The case against Greg centers on the testimony of Jimmy Easton, a petty criminal who was caught burglarizing a home. When interviewed about the robbery, he told officials that Greg paid him to kill his (Greg's) wife.
Clark does a good job in making Greg a sympathetic character but she fails to do so with Emily. How could this bright assistant prosecutor fail to notice that her neighbor was watching her? Why would some intelligent woman leave her windows open so she could be watched?
I've enjoyed Clark in the past, but this novel isn't up to her usual excellence.
Wait for the book to be made into a TV movie.

Currently Reading

Currently Reading
Broken Promise