Saturday, November 28, 2009

"Once our minds are "tattooed" with negative thinking, our chances for long-term successes diminish." John Maxwell

In one of the most highly decorated novels of recent times, "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" gives the reader one of the most enjoyable experiences that could be desired.
Mikael Blomkvist has lost a liable suit against Hans-Eric Wennerstrom and is facing prison.
Before beginning his prison term, Mikael is offered a job and a promise to be able to clear his name and get evidence that will convict Wennerstrom of Mikael's claims that he was a dishonest manipulator and misappropriated funds meant to help less fortunate people. To do this, Mikael must spend a year writing the family history of the Vangers and to research the disappearance of Harriet Vanger.
Harriet is the granddaughter of Henrik Vanger's brother and disappeared over forty years ago.
Part of the mystery is that Harriet disappeared from Hedeby Island. At the time there were only about sixty people on the Island. One of the men on the Island is Harriet's brother, Martin, who is now the CEO of Vanger corporation.
Mikael stays at a guest cottage on the Island and later contacts Lisbeth Salander, the girl with the dragon tattoo. Lisbeth is a twenty-four-year old hacker and a person with amazing common sense, perception and possessing a photographic memory. She is anti-social and has been classified as mentally incompetent. As the story begins, she is under legal protection of an attorney who attempts to control her by forcing her to gratify his sexual desires.
What Mikael and Lisbeth unearth is a multi-generational pattern of serial rape and murder.
Salander is one of the most memorable characters I have ever had the pleasure of reading about. She is slim, almost anorexic, she seems like a teen rebel with her piercings and tattoos but is as smart and relentless as anyone I've encountered in literature.
The author, Stieg Larsson, was the editor in chief of the magazine, Expo. He died in 2004 of a heart attack, not long after delivering the manuscript to the editors.
The novel has won or been nominated for:
Strand Critics Award nominee - Best First Novel
Macavity Award 2009 - Best First Novel
ITV Crime Thriller Award 2008 for International Author of the Year for "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo."
Barry - Best British Crime Novel
Anthony Award nominee = Best Novel '09 and Winner: Best First Novel.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

"Great deeds are usually wrought at great risks." Heordotus

George Young is an attorney for a New York insurance firm. His work involves the analysis of suspicious insurance claims.
He's called to the home of Mrs. Corbett, widow of his company's founder. She's in ill health and wants George to look into what her son, Roger, was doing prior to the time he walked into the path of an oncoming truck and was killed.
In a story that "The Washington Post" compares to "The Bonfire of Vanities," George finds that Roger had a girlfriend. Eliska Sedlacek, a Czeck. She had a relationship with a Russian and she carried items into the United States for this man. In the man's last trip, he asks her to carry a larger package. This man is later killed and Eliska is informed that the man took something of large value that didn't belong to him and the people want it back.
Through the investigation, George learns things about himself that are significant.
Harrison has written a nice story that was originally commissioned as a fifteen-part weekly serial.
George Young is a sympathetic character. He shows his integrity by continuing his search even when danger builds. Harrison has given the reader an interesting plot twist which is almost enough to have the reader go through the story again, with the new information.
An enjoyable read.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

"Sow to the wind and you will reap a whirlwind" Bible

This novel is set in February 1979 with the Iranian revolution.
As Iran is in a life and death struggle after the Shah has left, a British helicopter company is secretly controlled by the Noble House of Hong Cong. The members of the company question how much longer they will be able to operate their bases throughout the land.
In Aberdeen, Andrew Gavallan and Linbar Struan discuss the direction of the Nobel House and what should be the proper course of management. It is easy to see that the two men detest each other.
The novel could well be a text book on the Iranian revolution. However, like most of the author's books, strict adherence to historical facts are not always the case.
Even back in 1979, the reader can read of the conflict Iranians had with Shiites and Sunnis as well as their distrust and dislike for outsiders such as the Americans, Canadians and British who were looking after their oil interests in Iran at the time.
The novel is lengthy and complex.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The one who cannot restrain their anger will wish undone what their temper and irritation prompted them to do." Horace

In rural Atlanta, a badly injured woman is hit by a passing car. She is alive but in critical shape. A torture victim.

Will Trent, a detective with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation goes to the accident scene and finds a cave where at least two victims were tortured. The local police resent his intrusion in their case. They order him to leave but before he does, he discovers a second victim, recently deceased.

As I was reading this story, I was surprised by the number of plot similarities between this 2009 novel and Lisa Gardner's "Hide" which was published by Bantam, January 30, 2007.

Both novels have an underground chamber, or room, in which victims are placed. The victims are either murdered or tortured there. Both novels have antagonists with a family connection. Both have an antagonist that was in need of mental care and both stories have a compassionate male protagonist with a no nonsense law enforcement female partner.

I enjoyed both stories and both contained a surprise but the similarities in plot was distracting.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

"At eighteen our convictions are hills from which we look; at forty-five they are the caves in which we hide." F. Scott Fitzgerald

Bobby Dodge is a Mass. State Police Detective. He's called to the scene of a gruesome mass murder that took place on the grounds of the old State Mental Hospital. Six bodies of children are found in an underground chamber, it is estimated that the crime took place over twenty five years in the past.
One body was tentatively identified by a chain around her neck as Annabelle Granger. However, a woman who read about the bodies being discovered, comes to the police department and admits that she is Annabelle and when she was 7 she gave the locket to her friend, Dori Petracelli.
Annabelle also bears a striking resemblance to Cathryn Gagnon who Bobby met at a hostage scene. When she was younger, Catheryn had been captive in an underground chamber but hunters heard her cries and rescued her. Later, in the hostage scene, Bobby had to shoot her husband who was threatening his family. After he came to know her, Bobby felt that Cathryn set up her husband.
Bobby and Detective D. D. Warren figure that Anabelle had been targeted by a predator and her parents relocated to attempt to save their daughter. Two years before this, Richard Umbrio had kidnapped twelve year old Catherine Gagnon but when the hunters rescued her, she testified against Umbrio and he was in prison when in 1982, her parents reported a prowler who they later thought was a predator.
The investigation moves back to the State Mental Hospital. A records search finds two possible suspects and the reader learns what these men did and why they needed hospitalization. Both men had since been released but the authorities questioned their mental stability.
Lisa Gardner creates suspense as if she were a chef, putting the ingredients together for a feast. The momentum increases with the well crafted plot. In addition, the author provides a surprise toward the novel's conclusion which was excellently described. Annabelle is a sympathetic character who develops into a confident woman, in control of her destiny. The antagonist was well portrayed but the reader will have to learn just how by turning the pages themselves.

Highly recommended.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

"A rumor without a leg to stand on will get around some other way." John Tudor

If it's possible for something to go wrong, it will.

This seems to be the motto of the Border County Sheriff's Department and Sheriff Leonard M. Blood. Blood is ordered to serve a notice of eviction on Glenn Allen Ables for tax evasion. He realizes that there is danger involved so asks for the help of two deputies. Ables happens to be an anti government survivalist. When Blood attempts to serve the document, one of his deputies is shot and wounded, another, barely escapes.

Huddleson, Montana seems to be a no nonsense area where they don't seem to take any prisoners. The Huddleson Police Department under firebrand Chief Moody, is called out and not long after, shots are fired, one of the sheriff's men is killed and, as we will later learn, so is one of Ables' children.

With the situation worsening and memories of Waco, Texas fresh on the minds of law enforcement officials, John Banish, an FBI negotiator is called in. Also in attendance at this time is Reginald Perkins, agent in charge, Butte, Montana. A turf war springs up and Deputy Fagin, head of the Marshal's Special Ops Group is attempting to command the situation.
In other words, chaos reigns. This story concentrates on the action taking place without much character build up. As a result, it reads more like a lengthy newspaper report than as a novel.
"The Standoff," a first novel by Chuck Hogan, describes the intricacies of crime scene negotiating and the intense feelings of anti government feeling that exists in some areas of rural America. The author appears to look on as an outside observer and present the legal aspects of the decisions that law enforcement officials make in the time of crisis.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

"Look not mournfully into the Past. It comes not back again. Wisely improve your Present." Longfellow

Reporter Ellen Gleeson is raising her adopted son, Will, by herself. One day she sees a flier, "Have you seen this Child?" Something makes her look again. The photo looks amazingly like Will. How could that be?

Being a reporter, she investigates. She searches Google and the family looking for their son, Carol Braverman is looking for her son, Timothy. It's uncanny.

Somewhat concerned, she checks the adoption records and everything seems in order. Just to be sure, she calls the attorney who handled the adoption and finds that she is dead, suicide.

With increased anxiety, she looks at the adoption form and checks the birth mother, Amy Martin. She also manages to get Carol Braverman's DNA by following her to a bar and getting a cigarette she had smoked and discarded.

At the home of Amy Martin, she finds a photo of a man, Ellen begins referring to as, the Beach Boy. Soon after, Amy is found dead. Her friend, Melanie Rotucci thinks that Amy may have taken tainted drugs. She also tells Ellen that Amy had been dating a guy named Rob Moore who used to smack her around. This was four years ago, just at the time, the adoption process was starting.

Now, Ellen comes to believe that this Rob Moore was involved in the adoption. She believes that Will is really Carol Braverman's son Tim and Rob is now eliminating anyone involved in the adoption. Can she stop him before he gets to her and Will? Must she give up the thing she loves the most, her son, Will?

A well done, fast moving drama. This would be perfect for the screen and I would look forward to seeing Ellen portrayed by Nicole Kidman or Renee Zellwiger. The author's description of Ellen is so well done, that it feels as if Lisa Scottoline actually knew this fictitious person. Great suspense, great action, heartaches and drama!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

"Every Goodbye Makes The Next Hello Closer"

An arrested prostitute calls FBI Special Agent Kimberly Quincy claiming to have important information for her. Deliah Rose tells her that a wealthy john is taking street prostitutes to his place, then paying them to let his poisonous spiders crawl on them and engage in other dangerous activities. She states that her friend Ginny was with him and has vanished. Delilah has found Ginny's boyfriend's school ring in the john's car and wants Agent Quincy to stop him.

Kimberly's associate, Sal Martingnetti also informs Kimberly that he's worried that someone is picking off hookers. Twice he has had the drivers licenses of three women placed on the windshield of his car. But, no bodies have been found so it's difficult to get his superiors to permit him to mount an investigation. Even though Kim is five months pregnant, a time that women might begin to take things easier, she decides to work with Sal to attempt to find and stop the person responsible for his crimes against the prostitutes.

One night they follow Delilah down a street where they know that Ginny's boyfriend was shot and realize that Delilah is really Ginny. Ginny admits it and tells them that she calls the john Dinchara, a play on the word arachnid because of his fetish with spiders. She realized that Dinchara gets a kick when someone shows fear so when she didn't scream after Dinchara placed a black widow spider on her, he let her live. He does make her turn tricks and once per month he meets her and gets a payoff.

Kim and Sal must find a way to get Ginny to take them to Dichara and get enough evidence to convict him of his crimes. They propose Ginny wear a wire. Then they find that Dinchara has a teenage boy helping him and is also grooming a younger boy. Now their mission is to stop Dinchara and rescue the boys.

The author knows suspense and has given her readers a story that will keep them mesmerized until the end. She tells her readers that the idea for the story came from her adorable daughter who became obsessed with spiders. Her characters are well described and the antagonist was truly evil, not only doing terrible things to people but training young children to help him in his crimes.

A well done novel that will keep Gardner's fans coming back for more.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

"There are souls which fall from heaven like flowers, but ere they bloom are crushed under the foul tread of some brutal hoof." Jean Paul

Chief Inspector Armand Gamache is called to the location of a man found murdered in the bistro in Three Pines, Canada.

From the moment the body of the Hermit is found, the author perfectly captures the soul of this quaint area in Quebec. I was captured at the start of the novel. The first words, "All of them? Even the children? The fireplace sputtered and crackled and swallowed his gasp. "Slaughtered?"

I was hooked.

Louise Penny is a very descriptive writer. I believe that her books would be easy to transition to the world of film. In fact, as I learned more of Oliver Broule and the Hermit, and the Hermit's home in the woods filled with treasures, I was picturing the story unfolding as a made for TV drama, perhaps on Mystery Theater.

Louise Penny's writing reminds me of the great Agatha Christie and I can't help comparing Armand Gamache with Hercule Poirot, from his quiet, unassuming manner to
his extreme politeness to the characters and suspects in the story and to his use of logic to solve the puzzle of who killed the Hermit and how did the body get to the bistro.

This is the fifth story with Chief Inspector Gamache and the critics knew from the start that Louise Penny was a star in the making. Her first Armand Gamache novel, "Still Life" won the New Blood Dagger, Arthur Ellis, Barry, Anthony and Dilys Awards.


Saturday, November 7, 2009

"I saw gas lamps in the Chinese shops in Shanghai.I saw their elimination by electric lights." Hu Shih

P.I. Lydia Chin is asked by her mentor, Joel Pilarsky, to help locate missing jewelry dating back to WWII. In Shanghai, a cache of jewelry had been found and identified as belonging to European Jews attempting to escape Hitler's influence. Shortly after being found, a Chinese official is suspected of stealing the jewelry.
Not long after being hired to look into the missing jewelry, Joel is murdered. Additionally, one of the pieces of jewelry that Rosalie Gilder brought out of Germany is the Shanghai Moon, a rare, valuable gem.
When Joel is killed, Lydia's former partner, Bill Smith, contacts her and they decide to work the case together. A usual part of the novels with Bill and Lydia contains a bi-play about their personal relationship but there is little of that in this story.
Lydia is told by her friend Mary Kee, a detective in New York's 5th precinct, that a Chinese citizen, who was a policeman, has been killed. He had been looking for Wong Pan, the official accused of taking the jewelry.
Besides the mystery story, S.J. Rozan is providing her readers with a history lesson. Rosalie Gilder's letters to her mother, during the time of turmoil in WWII gets right to the human feel for the trials Jews were subject to at that time. I felt as if I was reading an updated "The Diary of Ann Frank" from the point of view of a young woman exposed to the terrible aspects of War and the manner the persecution of Jews can affect innocent people.
The plot is complex but the story is interesting and enlightening. Worth the effort.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

"When Saladin was fighting the Crusaders, he would warn them, he would offer them a truce, he would go the extra mile before attacking. Michae Scheuer

In 1958, Jimmy and Dave Robicheaux were swimming in the Galveston Bay when sharks appeared nearby. A young woman, Ida Durbin, rescued them and forever left her imprint on their lives.

Jimmy, particularly, becomes infatuated and finds that Ida has been working as a prostitute to pay off a family debt. Just when Jimmy and Ida were going to run away to Mexico, Ida disappears.

Years later, Dave learns from a dieing friend that Ida was snatched by two policeman who were on the pad. They were paid by the owner of the house of prostitution.

Shortly after learning this, Dave is assaulted. He gets his job back at the Iberia Sheriff's department. Sheriff Helen Soileau wants him to look into the murders of women who are abducted in Baton Rouge and killed. The last victim was a young woman in New Iberia who might have been a victim of opportunity. When he gets the job back, it gives Dave the chance to look into Ida Durbin's disappearance.

There is a continuing dispute between Dave and Val Chalons. Val is a TV personality and when his sister is murdered, a set of Dave's prints are found in her home. Val makes public this information and the fact that Dave has just married a Catholic Nun. This escalates the conflict to one of physical nature where Dave puts Val in the hospital and almost loses his job. However, after a period of desk duty, Dave goes back on the trail.

James Lee Burke is one of the best mystery writers in America. He is one of only three people who have won the Edgar Award for Best Mystery Novel, two times. "Crusader's Cross" continues his excellent writing. The plot is unique, the descriptive writing is excellent and Dave Robicheaux is one of the best protagonists in literature, he is sincere, religious, brave and generally, a good guy.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

"Double double toil and trouble, fire burn, and cauldron bubble." Shakespeare

Special Investigator J. P. Beaumont has been assigned to the new Special Homicide Investigation Team. He returns from vacation and goes to the autopsy of the sixth victim who has recently been murdered and dumped in the Seattle, Washington area. All the victims were young, Spanish women. They had been wrapped in tarps and burned so that what remained was just ashes and bones. All of the prior victims had their teeth removed to prevent identity but Beaumont is told that the latest victim still had her teeth.
While this is happening, in Cochise County, Arizona, Sheriff Joanna Brady is told of a homicide in her jurisdiction. The manager of an ATV park is found dead, run over countless times by ATVs, his body being guarded by his dog.
Brady and Beaumont have a history together. They worked on a case years ago and both felt some spark between them. However, Brady was married and neither pursued it.
Beaumont's investigation starts to move forward. Through dental records, the last victim is identified. The nearest kin turns out to be Jaime Carbajal, a detective in Joanna Brady's homicide department. Beaumont discovers that the woman had been living in a mobile home and had a quantity of money. Connections are made to a Miguel Rios, who makes money from helping poor people cross the border from Mexico for a fee. Then, if the young women couldn't pay the fee, Rios forces them into prostitution.
It is interesting to see the two protagonists of Jance's many novels work together. It is also worthy of note that the many illegal emigrants face so many obstacles and being forced into prostitution is just one of them.
A pleasant read that moved from the investigation in the state of Washington to Arizona, by the Mexican border. However, jumping from one investigation to the other without chapter breaks was sometimes confusing. Still, the author knows how to tell a story and this was a pleasant read.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

"To be left alone, and face to face with my own crime, had been just retribution." Longfellow

4 1/2 stars.

In this fine novel which was nominated for an Anthony Award for the Best First Mystery Novel, a predator stalks and rapes law student Chole Larson and escapes.

Twelve years later, a string of murders have occurred in the Miami area. A policeman pulls a car over for a traffic offense and when the driver of the car refuses to allow the officer to check his trunk, a K-9 unit is called. The dog whiffs something. On popping the trunk, they find a dead girl with a missing heart. William Bantling demands his lawyer.

He's brought before the court and prosecutor C.J.Townsend. She wonders if Bantling is the serial killer or a copy cat. Then, she hears the man's voice and remembers it. Even though it's been twelve years, C.J. remembers the attach, the break-up of her relationship and her nervous breakdown. She had moved to Florida, changed her name and passed the Florida bar exam. She's able to survive with drive and periodic visits to her analyst.

When C.J. recognizes the voice, she becomes more determined than ever to make sure that the man who raped her and killed the woman in the car, gets what he deserves. However, C.J. must be careful that she stays impartial and then she can have her retribution.

This is a wonderful, plot driven novel. C.J. Townsend is a first rate protagonist, sympathetic, yet strong in her resolve. The author adds an interesting but somewhat predictable plot twist at the end of the story which heightened the enjoyment.

Film rights have been sold to Warner Brothers and John Wells productions, the film is currently in production.

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