Tuesday, December 30, 2014

"Spectrum" A Special Novel of Suspense

In this exciting Karen Vail story, the reader follows Karen's graduation from the New York Police Academy as the first in her class. As a reward for her performance at the police academy, Karen is assigned to the detective bureau. She's assigned to ride with the highly regarded detective, Carmine Russo.

In the ensuing events, Karen and Russo answer a call in a dangerous area. Two hoodlums get the drop on Russo and there doesn't seem much hope but Karen shows her courage and ability to think outside the box and saves Russo's life.

A second story line follows the story of a woman from Greece. Lavania is in America with her husband Basil, her two children, Cassandra and Dimitri and their close friend Fedor and his son Niklaus. This group is together for an evening of enjoyment at a bowling alley. An altercation ensues leaving a victim blind and Basil arrested.

The victim is the son of a man with ties to the mob and this fight begins years of hardship for Lavania and her extended family.

Vail's career continues to show her abilities and she comes across her first involvement with a murder victim. The killer eventually is given the name the Hades Killer and Vail develops a lifelong interest in profiling and the FBI.

Other cases come and go and we view the dangers that law enforcement personnel experience in a suspenseful and dramatic manner.

The trail of the Hades Killer and Karen's career are portrayed in a realistic and thrilling manner. Thrills continue as Karen gets closer to the serial killer and Lavania and her extended family continues to have problems.

Karen's bravery in the face of danger reminded me of Kate Murphy, the first year cop in Atlanta in Karin Slaughter's "Cop Town.

New York is also well described with various restaurants, traditional foods and a view of the horror that police and firefighters faced in the 9/11 terrorism strike.

I highly recommend this book. Although I felt it could have been a bit shorter, it held my interest throughout and the characters jumped out of the pages with their realism. I will look forward to the next novel by Alan Jacobson and the exploits of Karen Vail.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Edgar winner by a master story teller

In the 1990 Edgar Award winning novel, "Black Cherry Blues" Dave Robicheaux is mourning the death of his wife, Annie.

Dave's troubled college roommate Dixie Lee Pugh tells him that he (Dixie) overheard two men discussing two men they murdered in Montana.

When Dave checks into it, the two men become aware of Dave's interest. They make a mistake in threatening Dave's six-year-old step daughter Alafair. Dave reacts with a rage that he's known to release at times like this and he is arrested. He's charged with the murder of one of the men and the other is the main witness against him.

We follow Dave's actions as he travels to Montana. He runs into his old homicide partner Clete Purcel who is currently working for a minor gangster, Sallie "Sal" Dio. Sallie has Dixie Lee purchasing land deeds and there is a conflict with AIM, the American Indian Movement.

Dixie is an interesting character who is an accomplished musician and tells of being such places as Brooklyn, New York where he appeared at a concert with Chuck Berry. Clete Purcell is memorable for his idiosyncrasies and loved for his fierce loyalty to Dave. Dave's adopted daughter, Alafair, is a sweetheart. She wonders why her fellow students and teachers think it's odd that she speaks with a Creole dialect.

Dave Robicheaux is a troubled character who fights against his alcoholism, his bouts of rage, and his torment of letting down people in his past such as his murdered wife.

Burke is one of our most talented suspense writers. "Black Cherry Blues" was his first commercial success. Dave is a defender of the defenseless and is often pitted against big business and governmental bureaucracy.
He's also a highly literate author.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Memories are made of this

In "Remember Me Like This," we follow the Campbell family from a different point of view. Many novels conclude when a kidnap victim returns home. In this well conceived story, it is the start. Justin Campbell went missing at age eleven.
There were 'missing' posters placed around the area and law enforcement searched everywhere, even divers searched under water but with no findings. Townspeople in the community outside of Corpus Christi, Texas, were compassionate and supportive but less so with each passing year.

Then, Justin is found.  He's returned and his kidnapper arrested. But, how did the family adjust? His parents reacted differently and his younger brother, Griff, now age fourteen, has his world turned upside down once again.

Many families split up when a child dies or goes missing. Unjustly, they often blame themselves for what happened. They'd give anything to change back to life before their loss.

We observe what happens to Laura and Eric, Justin's parents. There is bitterness with the kidnapper but eventually there seems a betrayal at the legal system.

Griff has a new girlfriend and a teenager's life that is filled with changes encounters more as some people wonder why Justin didn't attempt to escape from his captor.

With Griff and Justin being teenagers experiencing how cruel life can be this writer was reminded of the young characters in "To Kill a Mockingbird."

This would be a great read for a book club with unforgettable characters and a dandy plot. One of the best books of the year.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Die trying


Tess Gerritsen, a physician, has written a long string of well written and entertaining novels about the exploits of Boston Homicide Detective Jane Rizzoli and medical examiner, Dr. Maura Isles.

In "Die Again," a group of tourists on safari in Botswana come upon one calamity after another. Their bush guide warns the group not to stray from their camp at night.
His warning doesn't work for their tracker whose screams awaken the group. They rush to where the sounds were coming from and find his dead, maimed body.
Then, their vehicle breaks down and another member of the group is killed by animals.

In Boston, six years later, Rizzoli and Isles are ordered to the scene of a sinister murder. They find a noted taxidermist who was killed and his body left as if a leopard had killed him and left the body hanging for a later feast. The many animals that the taxidermist had on display in his home added to the macabre image of those who entered his home.

Something in the victim's home leads investigators to another body. Rizzoli and Isles continue to look for connections between the victims and Dr. Isles finds records of murders around the country where the victims were left in the same manner as the taxidermist.

More is learned about the safari party. There was only one survivor, a woman who followed a river and a herd of elephants until she came to a civilized location.

This is a novel that is best to read slowly and savor the puzzle that the author has provided. How she links the murders of members of the safari to the victims in Boston was cleverly conceived.

There is a surprising plot development and the suspenseful story line is well paced. It displays the author's literary talents and story telling ability.

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

"Deadline" a call of the wild

Virgil Flowers, chief investigator of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, is asked to come to Tripton, Minnesota to investigate a scheme where someone is stealing dogs. Many of these dogs will be resold to regular people but many others are sold to medical laboratories.

 This isn't the kind of case Virgil normally investigates but he does it because the caller requesting him is a friend from college.

While looking for a place in the hills where the dogs are being hidden, Virgil comes across a hidden meth lab. He calls a friend in the DEA and they stage a raid.

A major change in the story occurs when a country reporter who was researching a major theft by members of the school board, is murdered.

Virgil is generally an easy going detective. Instead of hard knocks, he gets results from befriending people who might be involved in criminal activity and they often confess to him.

This is an enjoyable story with a number of surprises so that the reader can't guess the next part of the story. It reminded me of a Stephen King novel where the character doesn't know who to trust.

I enjoy Virgil's down home style as seen when he takes time out from chasing criminals to just watch life along the Mississippi and see the fishing boats pass by.

The reader also observes the activities of the school board and their panicked reactions as they try to save themselves.

The dog owners are a colorful group as many of them are hunters in the Minnesota countryside. There is also a group called the Minnesota Woman's Anti-Vivisectional Group who I wouldn't want to cross. If you get these ladies mad, watch yourself!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

One plus one passes my test with flying colors

I thank my wonderful wife for recommending this entertaining book.

It tells the story of Jess Thomas, a gutsy woman with a never say die attitude about life.

Jess is divorced and raising her ten-year-old daughter Tanzi and her teenage stepson, Nicky, who wears wears eye makeup and is bullied because of it. Norman is the family dog, a big slobbery gas hound who leaves a trail of dog hair wherever he goes.

Jess tries to run the household with her job as a cleaning woman and with her part time work at a neighborhood bar. Her former husband, Marty, failed at many job attempts and finally left Jess. He hasn't sent any alimony and claims he's too depressed to find a job.

Ed Nicholls is a part owner of a software company but under investigation for insider tracing.

Jess learns that there is a scholarship offered to a prestigious private school but Tanzi has to take the exam for the Math Olympics and Ed offers to drive them.

Their trip to Scotland was the trip to hell. One thing after another happens along the way, Tanzi gets carsick if Ed goes at high speeds, they can't find nighttime accommodations because of the dog, Ed gets food poisoning and on and on.

Unpredictably, a romance develops between Jess and Ed and the family comes together in a manner which will make the reader cheer. The story is told from the four main characters points of view and this enables the reader to get a clearer idea of their thoughts and reactions to what is happening in the story.

I credit Jill Moyes for her imagination and story telling ability.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

A thriller about weapons of mass destruction

Army Captain Ben Hawkins is ordered to follow up on a report of possible missing material from the Tupelo Chemical Research Facility. He thinks it's going to be a simple matter but he's wrong. Some of the deadly chemicals that were part of a weapon system and were gradually being destroyed, have gone missing.

He speaks to the commander of the facility and a report is written to higher up personnel in the FBI and other government agencies.  Soon, officials verify the missing chemicals.

As officials search for answers, one of the army handlers goes AWOL and Ben knows there is a bigger problem.

We also learn of an Iranian named Mahmoud who has thought up a plot to give the United States a payback since the U.S. supplied Iraq with weapons in the war against Iran. Mahmoud's father was in the Revolutionary Guard and he suffered from the chemical weapons Iraq used in the war. Mahmoud has also recruited a young Iranian woman who wants revenge against the U.S. for shooting down an Iranian passenger plane that was flying toward a U.S. warship in the Persian Gulf in 1988. The woman's parents were passengers on the plane.

The plot thickens and we see events in Iran where Colonel Kashani is made aware of the plot and considers the repercussions against his country if the plot succeeds.

The action moves swiftly and the suspense mounts. It is a story that made my heart beat faster and faster.
Ben is well described but for an officer involved in an intelligence operation, he reveals quite a bit of information to his girlfriend. There is also a surprise toward the conclusion that didn't seem logical based on the information about the character involved.

D. C. Hampton knows about chemical warfare and tells a good story. I look forward to his next novel.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Jack Reacher in action

Jack Reacher is doing his thing, traveling around the country without a steady job, living each day as it comes.

He's contacted by a high ranking military officer from his past who needs his help.

Someone has shot at the president of France. The shot hit the glass in front of the president but didn't wound him. The officials triangulate the direction from where the shot was fired and observe that it was three quarters of a mile from the president.

Only a few snipers have the ability to hit a target from that distance. Since Reacher is a noted sniper, he's asked to help identify the shooter. In addition, a sniper who Reacher arrested when he was a military policeman has just been released from Leavenworth and has disappeared. This man could have a grudge against Reacher and so Reacher is asked to check him out. In addition, there is an upcoming G8 summit scheduled in France and if the sniper was using his shot at the French president as a warm up, the results could be catastrophic.

Reacher works with a bright young operative, Casey Nice. She's a rookie analyst who needs her Zoloft to calm her nerves and help her sleep. Reacher must rely on her assistance and act as a substance counselor.

Lee Child always writes exciting action fiction and this book hits the mark. The author shows Reacher eliminating the possible suspects and when he discovers that the shooter has allied with a London gang, Reacher goes into action.

Somewhat of a formula novel but still exciting.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

"The treasure of love is easy to find." Song lyrics

After reading the sparkling review of this book by an internet friend, I wanted to experience the story telling and literary quality of the book myself.

I'm so glad I did.

This is a story of Gu Bao who goes from an inexperienced eighteen-year-old law student in China to a woman determined to have her own child and peruse her chosen career. She also becomes a voice of defiance to those authorities who insist on the rules in China in the time of the Tiananmen Square Protests in 1989.

The story develops as Bao is a law student when female students weren't permitted to date.  She meets and falls in love with Tong, who is also a student. He's attending the Nanjing Army Command College and is due to graduate in the near future.

The couple must keep their romance secret because students at the military college aren't allowed to date prior to graduation with the Chinese idea that the student must devote full time and energy to their studies.

We learn of the protests at Tiananmen Square and other places in China. This was a new development for Bao who was taught to obey and bow down to Chairman Mao Zedong.

As her character develops, Bao returns to the home of her grandparents and must decide what to do with the child she is expecting.  Later, she meets a young woman living in the mountains because of the oppressive rule of only having one child. This woman's determination and love of her husband and first child is well described and heart catching.

The development that we see in Gu Bao is tenderly displayed as her character begins to flower. To see the determination and pride that she begins to feel for herself and the strict rules of her government gives the reader a good view of China at that time and a wonderful view of an excellent character.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

A Curiously good novel

"The Cabinet of Curiosities" is an exceptional read and an intelligent literary accomplishment.

In New York, a tunnel at a construction site leads to a storage area where there are the bones of thirty-six people.

Nora Kelly a museum archaeologist at the New York Museum of Natural History is asked to use her expertise to help learn the time when the bodies were placed in this area. She tells officials that the bodies date back to 130 years prior by an unknown serial killer.

Special Agent Pendergast and Dr. Kelly work together to learn more. The construction site was the area where a costly building project was underway and access to the site is denied as construction continues.

Kelly and Pendergast are assisted by a sergeant of the New York Police Department named O'Shaughnessy and Kelly's on again off again boyfriend, reporter William Smithback, Jr.

Gradually, the investigators look at historical records from the Museum and other reference areas. They learn of the serial killer was creating a cabinet of curiosities where unusual items were placed for personal or public interest. As the investigation leads to a mysterious doctor in the past, a copy-cat killer begins killing people in New York. This killer is dubbed "The Surgeon" by news media.

The story is cleverly penned with most unusual and interesting characters. Agent Pendergast likes to investigate unusual cases. He also has the ability to go back in time to get more facts to aid with the case he's working on.  Bill and Nora have been seeing each other and seem just about to move in together when complications in this case get in the way.

A further complication is that Nora's boss, Roger Brisbane, is a controlling person who is trying to cut costs at the Museum and doesn't want Dr. Kelly taking on pro-bono work with the FBI.

There are numerous plot twists and we read the novel as if were were trying to fill in the answers to a "New York Times Sunday Puzzle" The action begins slowly but builds up with lightening speed so the concluding moments pass by quickly and in a suspenseful manner.

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