Sunday, March 28, 2010
"One can pay back the loan of gold, but one lies forever in debt to those who are kind." Malayan Proverb
During the '80's building boom in New York, Billy Adare is a tunneler (a sandhog) in the day while he attends school at night. His brother, Paddy, is an enforcer, working for Jack Tierney, who runs the construction racket in the West Side of New York.
In this plot driven novel, we learn of the sandhogs, who, at that time, are mostly Irish. The mob is attempting to control the union. They want to replace the Irish with newly immigrated Poles, pay less and keep the difference.
When one union rep is beaten to death by Tierney's crazed brother, Butcher Boy, Billy's friends ask him to check with Paddy to see if he knows who is strong arming them.
Billy is in the middle of supporting his friends and fellow sandhogs and bettering his future by attending law school.
The author does a good job in describing the violence and ease in which life is taken by mob enforcers. The reader wonders how all of this happened with such little publicity. Being said, there is sadness for these brave sandhogs who want nothing more than to make a living and support their families.
Billy Adare is well described and is a character who shows that there is promise from the endless repetition of going down into the tunnels. He reaches for better things and the novel seems to say that with the right circumstances and hard work, this can be achieved.
The picture of New York, at that time, with the building boom and the rush to riches, is well done and brings the reader in. The author also brings in the view of the wealthy toward the working men when we see a girl that Billy was dating and the reactions of her family and friends toward her apparent lowering herself to date a man who earned a living with his hands.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
"...wish to rise? Begin by descending. You plan a tower that will reach the clouds? Lay first the foundation in humility." St. Augustus
Dave Robicheaux is working on three cases that he believes are somehow connected. The first, is the death of a young co-ed who is found dead of an apparent suicide but the facts do not add up. Then there is black vagrant, thought to be a victim of a hit and run. Not many people care for the loss of such an unfortunate person but to Dave, it is a matter of justice.
Back in the '80's Dave witnessed a friend who was gunned down in an armored car holdup. Dave had a problem with alcohol in those days and was unable to stop the holdup or save his friend's life.
Now, a young woman comes to town and is passing around money that has the color mark that indicates that the bills may have been stolen. The woman turns out to be the daughter of Dave's old friend. She and a group of unusual associates may be after the men who killed her father and now is an owner in a casino in New Orleans.
In addition to working with an agent from the FBI on the case involving money stolen from an armored car, there is a racial dispute between a black man who is known for selling drugs and two white college students. Later, when something tragic happens to one of the college students, the black man becomes the ambitious prosecutor's main suspect. However, Dave thinks that the man may have been set up by someone not wanting the student to be able to provide information about them.
James Lee Burke is a master and the reader is glued to the action as Dave tries to sort these misdeeds out. All of this is happening as New Orleans is on the verge of the hurricane Katrina and the devastation the storm created in the area. The approaching storm and the unsolved crimes keep the reader glued to the dramatic action as it unfolds.
Dave Robicheaux, with his sense of justice, his faith and his unstable temper is one of the great characters in literature. Together with his loyal but flawed side-kick Clete Purcel, these two characters leave an imprint that is unmatched.
Saturday, March 20, 2010
"Of all forms of caution, caution in love is perhaps the most fatal to true happiness." Betrand Russell
Former hot-shot, Washington, D.C. cop, Mason "Mace" Perry gets out of prison after being kidnapped, drugged and set up.
Returning to Washington, where her sister, Beth, is the Chief of Police, Mace wants nothing more than to clear her name and go back to what she loves, being a cop. However, she knows that she can't do anything official. She does know that one way that could get her back is if she solves a big case.
She meets Roy Kingman when he discovered a body at his office and is interviewed by police. They become friends and unofficially work together to discover who raped and killed the attorney Roy worked with.
The next development is when U.S. Attorney, Jamie Meldon's body is found. Beth Perry and her staff and the FBI arrive at the scene and are ordered off by higher authorities.
Mace overhears her sister talk with acting Chief District Attorney Mora Danforth, who prosecuted Mace for her crime and maintains a strong dislike to Mace and to Beth. Mace knows that Mora would love to see her fail so she could send Mace back to prison.
While Beth tries to see who had the investigation into Meldon's death stalled, she calls on Sam Donnelly, the nation's director of intelligence. Sam and his right hand man, Jarvus Burns are understanding of Beth's frustrations and promise to help.
The action is strong and constant in this thriller. There are so many offshoots to the story that it would have made an excellent serial on TV or in the theater. Excellent visual scenes include Mace's daredevil motorcycle riding and former college basketball star, Roy Kingman's challenging a drug dealer to a game of one-on-one basketball for his and Mace's life, this was a bit of a stretch but still, very entertaining.
Mace is a particularly entertaining character and one that readers could definitely sympathise with. The plot was well conceived and believable and the author kept the reader guessing as to a possible outcome up to the last pages.
Monday, March 15, 2010
The time is 1959, Ike Van Savage, P.I. is hired by Vicky Petrone, wife of mobster, Joe Petrone. Vicky tells Ike that her husband intends to kill her. Part of her reasoning is that Joe's has become tired of her and his first two wives died under mysterious circumstances.
In this noir novel, Rochester, New York is described as a town run by the mob. We learn quite a bit of Rochester at that time, the politics, the parties by the lake and the manner that police seemed to look the other way when the mob was active.
Intersecting stories involve, Paddy Doyle, a slum landlord who owns buildings downtown and refuses to sell his buildings to the mob. Then he sees one building after another go up in smoke. Paddy asks Ike's help in bringing the arsonist to justice or he'll do it himself.
While the arsonist case is in progress, Ike is asked to investigate business owner Eddie Gill. His wife is suspicious and wants Eddie followed. Ike confirms her suspicions as he sees Eddie take a sixteen year old girl who worked for him and bring her to a night club and then to a motel.
Ike's investigations describe part of the city life, crime seems to be everywhere and the police are bought and paid for by the mob.
I enjoy this type of story with good action and what is taking place on the page is more important that a complicated plot. The dialogue is excellent and reading about Ike's exploits reminds me of the great Raymond Chandler's P.I. Philip Marlowe. Neither man takes a back seat to threats and get the job done at all costs. It's easy to visualize what is happening when the reader is given words like this, "We looked at each other, she tightened her eyes, and I knew she was talking the truth. Whatever it was between us was roaring down the tracks and it knocked my bitterness out of the way like so much horse feathers."
Friday, March 12, 2010
"If at first you don't succeed try, try again. Then quit. There's no use being a damn fool about it." W. C. Fields
Home invaders break into Frank Meyer's home, killing the family. Frank had a successful business but before meeting his wife, Cindy, he had been a mercenary. He was part of Joe Pike's group.
Joe is approached by detectives who ask if he had any information about his friend's death. He's informed that the group has broken into six other homes. The other homes have been of drug traffickers and other criminals. Police feel that it is a trend and want to know if Meyer was involved in illegal activity.
When Myers' family was killed, the family nanny, Ana Markovik didn't die immediately and was taken to the hospital. Pike found out and went to the hospital to see if he could question her. When he arrives, Ana's sister Rina, was guarding her sister's room. Rina suspects that Joe was part of the group who tried to kill her sister. When he explains that he is a friend of the family, he learns that Rina and her sister are Serbians.
Since Joe knows Myers well, he knows that Myers wasn't involved in anything criminal and so deduces that it could have been the nanny that they were after.
Joe asks his partner, Elvis Cole, to research more background about Ana and her sister Rina.
Joe asks his partner, Elvis Cole, to research more background about Ana and her sister Rina.
With Elvis' help Joe learns that Rina is Karina Markov and has a history she is attempting to hide.
When Rina's sister takes a turn for the worse, Rina admits to Pike that she is aware of who killed her sister. The answer is totally unexpected and leads Joe and his partner down a trail that is filled with danger and involves the Unites States bureau of Alcohol and Firearms.
This story is a wonderful reading experience. Robert Crais is one of the better thriller writers around and Joe Pike is a heroic character that the reader can relate to and dream of his adventures as if they were the reader's own. The pacing is well done right up to the end which seemed to bring things together a little too conveniently.
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Milo "Meat" Pitts is released from prison with a dream of hitting the big score. His wife, Starla Hudek, works at Fleets grocery store. Although Meat hasn't had much to do with Starla in recent times, they are still technically married.
His scheme is to get insider information about the security from Starla and steal the cash from the Fleet grocery store when the armored car arrives to pick up the cash receipts.
Milo's planner is Doc Kasperson, a schemer who has a current business of selling a hair restoration program. Also involved is Milo's former cellmate, Ducky, an unimaginative bumbler.
Mitchell Morse, a former Detroit cop full of unleashed anger, was fired from his last job and applies for a security position with Fleets. In his former job, he met recent college grad Jean Satterfield. He was assigned to train her. There's an incident involving a striker and Mitch overreacts and is fired. The savagery with which Mitch fought with a striker appears to have made Jean become attracted to him.
With a group of characters who would do Elmore Leonard proud, Milo and his group begin their plot.
Doc Kasperson is supposed to be a man who knows how to go about setting up an armed robbery. His job is to set things up but he procrastinates. He tells Milo that he needs more information. Then, Starla states that she has met a new security officer, Mitch, and she thinks she could persuade him to join the gang in their plot.
One thing goes wrong after another as the story progresses with halarious results. Dock Kasperson is busy with his hair restoration client, Doyle Gilley. Doc tells the gullible Gilley that to grow hair on the top of his head, the rest of his body must be cleansed. Gilley is given a regiment of enema treatments. His girlfriend's reaction to finding Gilley in the bathroom giving himself an enema is priceless. His girlfriend, Twyla, tells Doyle that her father's remedy for baldness was to go shoeless because "...shoes and socks stopped off the natural electricity from the earth."
A well done story that had me laughing out loud. Mitch was a complicated character who changed pleasantly as the story developed. The writing was clear and the dialogue was superbly done.
Saturday, March 6, 2010
Hard knuckled P.I. Frank Behr reluctantly agrees to help Paul and Carol Gabriel search for their son, Jamie, who has been missing for over a year.
Frank knows that the chances of finding Jamie, who would now be age thirteen are slim. He tells the Gabriels that even if they do find where Jamie is, they might not find him alive after all this time.
Jamie had never returned home after his job of delivering newspapers. Jamie didn't mind the necessity of getting up early to do his work because it gave him the opportunity to be on his new bike.
Frank begins the investigation and since the last thing that was known was about Jamie's bike, Frank looks into who may have had a business of stealing and reselling children's bikes. Progress is made and an old informant provides Frank with a lead.
As the case moves on, Paul, feels that he needs to be doing something himself to help find his son and he pleads with Frank to let him accompany him in the investigation. Although it is breaking one of his rules, after much persuasion, Frank agrees.
The reader follows the dramatic story as one step leads to another, as if peeling the skin of an onion. However, with each step of progress, something occurs that looks as if the investigation will be stalled.
This is a novel of family love and faith. The Gabriel's never give up. It is well plotted and realistic. Frank Behr is an enjoyable character to read. He seems a detective similar to Robert Parker's "Spencer."
The action was good and I look forward to reading other work by the talented author.
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
"Perhaps I know best why it is man alone who laughs; he alone suffers so deeply that he had to invent laughter." Nietzsche
Mass. State Tpr. Bobby Dodge, is a sniper on the Special Tactics and Operations Team. He's alerted about a hostage situation. He arrives and sets up surveillance just in time to see a man aiming a gun at his wife. With only seconds to decide, Bobby shoots the man, Jimmy Gagnon, killing him.
Gagnon had been holding the gun to his wife Catherine. We learn that Catherine had been abducted as a teenager and buried underground for almost a month while her abductor abused her. She was saved when hunters heard her cries.
Jimmy was abusive and Catherine wasn't able to get help because Jimmy's father was an influential judge and would use his power to stop Catherine's attempts to discredit his son.
Now that Jimmy has been killed, Judge Gagnon takes measures to gain custody of Jimmy's son Nathan. Nathan has a history of hospitalizations due to sicknesses. The Judge states that his son, Jimmy wasn't the problem, it was Catherine.
The Judge also claims that Bobby knew Catherine and killed the Judge's son because he had improper feelings about Catherine.
The author sets the stage and slowly reels the reader in, as if she is placing explosives around the story which explodes with suspense in the final segments.
Bobby is a well described character. The author, Lisa Gardner, tells us of Bobby's past so that the reader is able to see why he is so determined to help this woman in distress. He stays strong in his belief and is someone who the reader will want to read more about in the future. Catherine seems so sad and as we read the story, we can't help but wonder how all of the bad things that happen to her can be. However, again, the author provides the answers in a well polished, dramatic story.