Friday, December 31, 2010

'All human life is here, but the Holy Ghost seems to be shomwhere else." Anthony Burgess

In August, 1918, Lt. Billy Prior is returning to the front after a period of recuperation for "sell shock" and asthma. Even though he is still having asthma attacks and his doctor advises that he should stay away from the front and the gas attacks, he feels that it's his duty to return to the front lines.
William Rivers is the psychologist who tries to help the soldiers at the hospital. We see the men who are afflicted with various ailments and Rivers' optimism and the faith in human spirit as he tries to help.
Rivers speaks to a soldier named Moffet who suffers from emotional paralysis of the legs. When a treatment brings feelings back to the man's legs, Rivers thinks that he's helped only to find Moffet locked in a bathroom attempting to commit suicide. These men were only at the front for a short while and the horror that they've seen was enough to have their minds or bodies shut down in protest. This has a parallel to today's servicemen and woman who are so young and so many of them return from Afghanistan or Iraque with mental or physical issues so that there are more suicides within military than any time in the past.
The author gives us a good image of the upper class and the common soldier during the first world war. There is a difference in the respect and care provided to the officers. In one conversation, Billy relates that a man named Birthwhistle stated, "Of course one can't rely on them. Their values are different than ours. They're a totally different species, ...these W.C.'s" When Rivers is puzzled with the initials, WC, Billy states that this is for Working Class.
Billy also tells Rivers that the W.C.s are men who are getting their bollocks shot off so they can go on being the lilly in the dung heap." It appears that he is saying that this is the means with which the working class will raise their status, by serving in the war and risking their lives.
The novel won the Booker Prize and provides a good phychological profile of the soldiers and their acceptance of orders to go to the front and for so many, sacrifice their lives.
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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

"Young blood, I can't get you out of my mind." Song Lyrics

In southern Minnesota, Robert Tripp, an employee at a grain company, kills, Jacob Flood, a local farmer. When Tripp is questioned by the police, the sheriff is able to break his story and jails him. Then, Tripp is murdered in his cell. The sheriff suspects one of her men, Jim Crocker, is involved. Because of the internal politics, she calls in investigator Virgil Flowers, from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.
When Virgil goes to Crocker's home to question him, he finds Crocker murdered and made to look like he committed suicide. Virgil is also informed of a fourth victim, a young teenage girl, Kelly Baker, who was found in a cemetery.
Virgil tries to put the four deaths together. He learns that Tripp was gay and that Baker had some extreme sexual activity and abuse prior to her death. Then he talks to Floods wife.
Flood's wife, Alma, also informs him that Crocker and her husband were childhood friends and that may have given Crocker a reason to want to kill Tripp. Alma also admits that Kelly Baker was a member of their church. Since the church connection was coming up more often, Virgil told Alma that his father was a minister and he quotes verses of the bible to her but she doesn't catch the biblical connection. Sensing a fraud, Virgil begins looking closer at the church connection.
Upon leaving the Flood's home, the reader learns something perverted is going on and soon after Virgil begins unravelling a scenario that is hard for him to believe. There appear to be over a hundred families in this church and they are involved in a mulitgenerational sexual activity that is unheard of.
How will he be able to stop this perversion? The church members won't talk about it and he must find a weak link. Where to look?

This is an extremely well plotted and suspenseful novel that the reader will enjoy. Virgil is a wise cracking character who is also dedicated to finding wrongs and correcting them, however, he doesn't mind some extra curricular activity with the attractive sheriff.
Highly recommended.
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Friday, December 24, 2010

"A sentimental person thinks things will last...a romantic...hopes they won't." Unknown Source

Boston attorney, Charles Stone, handles special assignments for Franklin Life.

In this instance a $500,000 life insurance policy was taken on the life of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Jack Spears. The beneficiary is Senorita Consuelo deV.

Now the agent is found murdered and Stone is asked to find out more about this Mexican woman.

The novel is advertised as a travel mystery so, as Stone drives from Massachusetts to Mexico, we get glimpses of various places such as Carlsbad Caverns, San Antonio and others. Initially, I found this distracting and wished that the author would just get on with the story.

Coincidences abound. As soon as Stone crosses the Mexican border and goes into a bar, Consuelo, "Connie" is sitting there. She approaches him and sets up a meeting with her boss, Eduardo Silva. At that meeting, Silva informs Stone that he attended mining school at the University of Nevada. It just so happens that Stone has an old friend that is in charge of the mining school there. Silva tells him that Stone's friend was a major influence on his life.

The dialogue is stilted, at the border patrol, Agent Collins states she has "Everything you want to know about the brutal attack...on Spears." Later, Connie is chasing Stone and Collins. She has them pinned down behind a rock formation. Connie comes after them with a gun and yells, "You have dishonored my life and family, Mr. Stone and as for that red haired agent, she deserves the same kind of death as Jack Spears...I plan to carry out a more complete ritual of revenge with her." I don't think that someone would have a discourse when they are trying to shoot someone and call her intended victim "Mr." Also, every time anyone speaks of Spears death, it is referred to as "...the brutal attack."

There is word that Spears may have been a rogue. When Connie is with Stone, she admits that Spears was saved from being killed by a Tribal Elder in Afghanistan. When he was fighting Al Queda and now, Spears is trying to get arms to the Tribal Elder so that he and his village can defend themselves against Al Queda.

I enjoyed the story but felt that it wasn't realistic that the two women in the story immediately fall for Stone and want to go to bed with him. In addition, while Stone and Agent Collins are driving back to Boston, they are too naive to take precautions against reprisals from shooting Connie.

The author can tell a story and the plot is compelling enough to keep the reader interested but I didn't find Stone sympathetic or likable. The author is working on a new novel with this character and I think that with some editing and realistic dialogue, the next novel will be an improvement.

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Thursday, December 23, 2010

"A doctor can bury his mistakes but an architect can only advise...where to plant vines." Frank Lloyd Wright

Chief Inspector Armand Gamache is recovering from injuries from a prior case, the specifics are not fully described as the story begins. He's currently spending time in Quebec City, where he's doing research at one of his favorite spots, the Literary and Historical Society.
As he walks his dog and approaches the society on a frigid winter morning, he finds police investigating the murder of Augustin Renaud. We later learn that Renaud has for years, spent most of his time looking for the burial spot of Quebec's founder, Champlain.
Gamache is asked to help in the investigation and prevent possible tensions from arising between the English and French speaking communities.
At the same time, he's getting messages from the community of "Three Pines" where he helped prove that his friend, Oliver, was guilty of murder. Oliver's partner doesn't believe that Oliver is guilty and Gamache sends Jean-Guy Beauvoir to reconstruct the murder investigation and see what he finds.
As the story continues, Gamache has flashbacks to his case that went wrong. One of his men, and friends, Agent Paul Morin, was abducted and there were questions about who abducted him and what their intentions were. This portion of the novel is sometimes confusing because there is no delineation between the other parts of the story and if the reader isn't careful they can miss that Gamache is now thinking about past events.
Louise Penny is a multiple award winner and has great talent. In this work she has written a literary novel with a unique plot. Her characters stand out in their actions, their thoughts and beliefs. Gamache is the modern Hercule Poirot.
Readers will again enjoy her story and the history of Quebec that is intermingled within the novel's action.
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Monday, December 20, 2010

"Everything is sweetened by risk." Alexander Smith

Lt. Alex Delillo, of the L.A. police department is investigating the killing of one of the owners of a local florist shop. When she and her partner arrive at the home of one of the shop's employees, to question him, the front door is rigged with explosives. Alex's partner is hospitalized and is lucky to be alive.

Just prior to the report of the murder, Alex's teenage daughter, Lacy, created a near riot at a beauty pageant when she removed two cylinders from beneath her gown and told the audience that they were destroying the environment. Believing that the cylinders contained some kind of poison, the crowd panicked. Lt. Delillo and other police calmed the crowd and Lacy admitted that the cylinders only contained insecticide. Alex is furious and wonders how her daughter has changed so quickly from the daughter she knew, six months ago, who was most comfortable in jeans and T-shirts.

With Alex's partner injured, she begins working with Detective Dylon Harrison who was in the bomb squad. Maybe it's a needed quality to have in the unit he is in but Harrison is a calming influence on Alex. As we will later see, he also has this beneficial quality with victims.

Soon after, a body is found in a remote area and identification shows him to be a member of the Mexican army. Los Angeles officials speculate that he may have brought bomb making equipment to the area.

Lacy goes missing and Alex and Harrison search the home of a part time employee at the florist. Here they find that a man is strapped to a chair with bombs set to explode via a motion detector if the man moved. Harrison is able to disarm the explosives and the mad admits that Lacy has been kidnapped.

The novel is packed with action as Alex attempts to find the mad bomber and her daughter. We learn that the bomber wants to set the explosives in a place where the TV camera will catch the explosion live and he can become famous and feared.

All of the exciting action in the book seem realistic and the author, Scott Frost draws the reader into the action and to become deeply concerned with the story and Lt. Dilillo's attempt to stop the bomber and save her daughter.

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Saturday, December 18, 2010

"A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he's braver...longer." Emerson

Our first view of Tommy Bedford is when a prison guard is escorting him, at age thirteen, to see his mother before she's executed after being found guilty of murder.

The actual story begins in 1959 when Tom is eight-years-old. He lives in a world where his heroes are the stars of Western TV shows. He owns a photo of Flint McCullough, star of "Wagon Train," which he cherishes.

Tom is a quiet boy who is attempting to cope with a nighttime bed wetting problem. His parents are understanding and sympathetic but they are much older than the parents of his friends.

He's sent to Alhlawn Prep, boarding school, to toughen him up. The school, an imposing Gothic mansion had been a mental hospital and is a cold, frightening facility for this little boy. There is similarity to Tom Brown in the novel by Thomas Hughes, which took place at an English boarding school in the 1830s.

At Ashlawn Prep, Tom undergoes such bullying by other students and sadistic behavior by one faculty member that he smuggles a letter out to his sister, Diane. He thinks that his sister is the only one who would understand and he pleads with her to find a way to get him out of the school.

Upon receiving the letter, Diane is brought to tears with compassion but she's not in position to help. She's a young actress on the brink of success.

It's not for another year that Diane has become a successful actress. She has moved to Hollywood where she met actor Ray Montane, who is famous for his cowboy character, Red McGraw. Diane rises in success while the cowboy movies of the times diminish in popularity and he begins to feel somewhat jealous of her success.

Imagine the effect of a little boy, now age nine, when his actress sister, and her famous boyfriend come to the school. Tom's esteem soars but then Diane admits that she's not his sister but is his mother. But at the same time, she and Ray are able to provide a home for him in Hollywood.

The story is interlaced between events of the past and what is happening currently. We see how sixteen-year-old Diane became pregnant and how Tom, in his fifties is now a divorced filmmaker and writer. The emotional abuse he had growing up has led to his escape into alcohol which ruined his marriage and changed the rest of his life.

A powerful character driven novel by the author of "The Horse Whisperer." The pacing of the story and of Tom's life make him and Diane memorable and sympathetic characters.

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

"It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future." Yogi Berra

Dodge Hanley enjoys his life as a P.I. He has his retirement from the police department and his income as an investigator for his friend, attorney Derek Mitchell.
Dodge has been divorced from Caroline King for thirty years and he still has a strong feeling of longing for her. He was taken by surprise when he received a call from Caroline, asking for his help. She informs him that their daughter, Berry, is being stalked by a madman who almost killed her.
When Dodge arrives in Houston, Texas, Caroline introduces him to Berry as a private investigator, friend. Then, they tell Dodge what prompted their call for help.
Orin Starks, a former co-worker with Berry, entered Berry's home and told her that he had come to kill her. When she yelled for help, her friend, Ben Lofland, who was in the house, ran to her side. Starks seemed surprised and wounded Ben, then ran from the house.
Dodge Hanley is a no nonsense, chain smoking tough guy in the Clint Eastwood-Dirty Harry image. He begins working with a local deputy sheriff, Ski Nyland, an Afghanistan veteran.
As the men search for the stalker/intruder, we learn of Starks going on a killing rampage. He kills a teenage boy who was at the wrong place at the wrong time, then he kills again. The police find the body of another former office worker who had problems with Starks when they worked together.
I wanted to like this novel more but found the characters stereotypical. Other than Ski Nyland, I didn't find any of the characters interesting or truly sympathetic. Starks reactions to Barry's insulting rejection of his advances seemed extreme until the reader gets the full story while Berry, rather than sympathetic comes across as a liar who is out to get ahead at all costs.

The author provided a subplot in the form of flashbacks as we learn of Dodge and Caroline's romance, thirty years prior. While this had some interest, the movement back and forth in time, distracted from the plot. By the time the novel ended, I found that I couldn't care less what happened to the characters or what caused Starks to become what he was.

Sandra Brown is one of the legends in mystery writing and I've enjoyed her past novels but this novel disappointed.
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Sunday, December 12, 2010

"If the devil does not exist, and man has created him, he has created him in his own ...likeness" Dostoyevsky

Det. Cassie Maddox works in the Dublin Police domestic violence unit. Years ago, she worked undercover, posing as a college student at the University of Dublin. For that assignment, she made up a name and documents as Alexandra Madison.

Currently, her boyfriend, Det. Sam O'Neill calls and tells her to drop whatever she's doing and come to a murder scene.

Upon arrival she's shocked to observe how much the victim looks like her. What's more astounding is that the victim is carrying identification identifying her as Alexandra Madison.

Because of the uncanny resemblance to the deceased, Frank Mackey, Cassie's former boss in the undercover operation, sees a unique opportunity. Since no one else knows of the victim's murder, he asks if Cassie would go undercover again and return to the home the victim shared with other graduate students.

Cassie agrees but first she must learn all she can about the victim, who was referred to as Lexi. She must become an expert on the victim and the other housemates.

The novel proceeds in a leisurely manner, with a fascinating portrait of how someone might react if they could come back to life and was returned to the setting with four others, one of whom might be her killer.

Cassie plays her role well and there seems to be no indication that any of her housemates doesn't think she is Lexi.

The is good character portrayal. One standout was when one of the housemates relates how he informed his parents during a Christmas vacation, about his sexual orientation. The parent's reaction and the character's reaction was cinematically done and memorable.

I enjoyed the novel although thought that the leisurely pace was a bit overdone. The reader sees the other housemates and attempts to identify who Lexi's killer could be. Adding an additional element is that the people in Glenskehy, Ireland, do not like the residents of the home where Lexi and her fellow grad students live. Could the murderer be one of the town's unhappy residents?

The novel progresses realistically and we watch the character of Lexi attempt to identify her own killer.

Readers who enjoy reading of stories set in Ireland will enjoy the realism and characterization provided by the author.

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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

"The sky is no less blue because the blind man doesn't see it." Danish Proverb

This is the story of the relationship between two brothers.
In his younger days, Edward admired his adventurous, dare devil brother, Lawrence, who was six years older that he.
Years pass by, Lawrence leaves home and hasn't been seen by Edward for fifteen years. Then, like a Prodigal brother, he shows up at Edward's home, unannounced and in need of food and clothing.
Edward has become a wealthy eye surgeon in California while Lawrence is an out of work card dealer in Nevada.
Initially, the reader doesn't know the reason for Lawrence coming to his brother's home. It seems as if he might want to re-establish a relationship with Edward.
Lawrence does win over Edward's five-year-old son Jonathan's affection. Lawrence acts insanely with Jonathan flopping on the floor and making monkey noises while on an outing at the local zoo. Jonathan may enjoy this but Edward is skeptical.
Then, in a revealing moment, Lawrence asks if he can stay with Edward for a while. Callously, Edward refuses. He gives him some money and drives him to the bus station.
The story goes on and Edward narrates his earlier days with Lawrence.
Nothing really happens in this novel. Edward is a passive, sermonizing character with little to like. Lawrence is a Machiavellian, out for whatever thrill he can get.
The novel has had mixed reviews and I continued to read, expecting the story to improve. It didn't. Cardboard characters, uninteresting plot and a novel without a message. Need I say more?
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Sunday, December 5, 2010

"If a dog's prayers were answered, bones would rain from the sky.' Turkish Proverb

There are many puzzles to be solved as Dr. "Tempe" Brennan, forensic anthropologist, works at her latest challenging endeavor. Temp arrives at the scene of a drowning near Montreal, Canada. She finds that the victim is wrapped in a manner that suggests an auto erotic sexual fetish.
After taking fingerprints, the victim is identified as John Lowery. What is remarkable is the United States authorities list Lowery as being killed in a helicopter crash in Vietnam, forty years earlier.
Politicians become involved when Canadian officials notify Lowery's family about finding Lowery's body. A Congressman in the Lowery's family's district, wants to know why Canada is claiming that Lowery must be a deserter and Lowery's father demands to know who is buried in Lowery's grave.
The author's writing style is very descriptive and has the effect of making the reader pause in the reading, just to experience the author's literary style. When Temp goes to North Carolina to examine the body in Lowery's grave, she meets Lowery's father, Plato. "Lowery's eyes were what grabbed you, black as wormholes in space. His gaze seemed to laser straight into your soul."
After removing the body from the grave in North Carolina, Dr. Brennan travels to Hawaii to the U.S. military command that tries to recover Americans who are missing from military actions. Brennan is accompanied by her daughter, Kathy, Brennan's ex-lover, Det. Andrew Ryan and Ryan's daughter.
In an interesting subplot that adds another part to the puzzle, Tempe assists in identifying bones found by divers. There is enough here to make a student pursue this field of study. Tempe finds that the bones are from a missing teen and now authorities must discover if the teen's death was from a shark attack or was he murdered.
Still another complication arises when another set of remains is discovered with Lowery's dog tags. Who are the other two people whose remains are found? Which set of remains is actually Lowery's? These questions must be answered.
The author also deals with important issues in this novel, such as the continuing effort by the government to identify the remains of servicemen who have been missing from United States conflicts. There is also the question of how servicemen who participated in the Vietnam war feel about their participation in the conflict so many years after the end of hostilities.
I enjoyed the story and the manner in which Dr. Tempe Brennan is able to solve a problem and find a murderer by using her intelligence rather than so many thrillers with the protagonists resorting to violence in order to get the answers they need.
This is the thirteenth novel in Kathy Reichs's series and represents a good accompaniment to the TV show, "Bones."
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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

"No man was ever shot by his wife while doing the dishes." Source unknown

A sniper kills five people from his perch in a parking garage and sets up former marine sniper, James Barr, for the killings.
When questioned, Barr refuses to talk but tells his attorney, get Jack Reacher.
Reacher arrives at Barr's sister's request but has no love for Barr. Reacher knows that Barr did kill a number of people during his time in the marines. Even though the people he killed in Kuwait City may have deserved their fate, Reacher arrives with the goal of helping the prosecution.
The defense attorney, Helen Rodin, is up against her father, as the prosecutor. Her father has a strong record of convictions and advises her not to take the case.
Helen decides to defend Barr anyway and convinces Reacher to look at the evidence. When he does, he feels that it's too good to be true. Then, he begins to dissect each part of the evidence against Barr.
Reacher is still adverse to helping defend Barr but when he leaves Helen's office, someone tries to set him up for a beating. He turns the tables on the attackers and becomes more interested in helping Helen defend Barr.
Reacher shows again that he's the one person who could be counted on when there seems no hope. His military training as a homicide investigator makes him more analytical and his physical size and skills with weapons gives him the tools he needs to overcome his adversaries.
This is a well plotted novel. Lee Child has the ability to make the person that Reacher is helping into a sympathetic character and Reacher is the savior. Parts of this story were predictable but the story kept me turning the pages to see how Reacher would achieve an almost impossible goal.
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Sunday, November 28, 2010

"Oh, the ...joys of living...the cool silver shock of the plunge in a pools living waters." Robert Browning

Boundary Waters is a canoe area on the Canadian/American border.
Cork O'Connor, the former sheriff of Aurora, Minn. is asked to find a young country and western singer who has disappeared.
Shiloh is the daughter of William, "Arkansas Willie," Raye, a former country and western singer who is gay and now manages Sholoh's record company. Shiloh had been sending weekly letters to Willie but they suddenly stopped. He tells Cork that she had been depressed and wanted a place of seclusion but a winter storm is coming and Willie's worried.
Federal police are also looking for Shiloh because she may have been a witness to her mother's murder by an Italian gangster, Vincent Benedetti, who owns a casino in Las Vegas. Apparently, Shiloh had a type of amnesia and couldn't remember the details of her mother's murder but now, Shiloh's memory is returning.
A studio musician named Elizabeth Dobson, claims that she has letters from Shiloh with some valuable information in them. Dobson told a reporter. Now, Dobson has been murdered and police think that it's because of the letters.
The federal police seem suspicious but maneuver a young Indian American boy and the boy's father to help find Shiloh.
We see one of the author's themes at play with members of the federal government taking advantage of Native Americans by threats and intimidation.
The plot driven novel gives the reader the chance to see the resourcefulness of Cork O'Connor as he leads the search party.
Also in the search party is a ten year old American Indian, Louis Two Knives, who is a well mannered boy, learned about the wilderness area from his grandfather. Louis is actually the trail leader and relates stories about the Indian history and traditions to pass the time as the group searches for Shiloh.
I enjoyed the story and gave it a higher rating due to the descriptions of the area and Indian history.
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Friday, November 26, 2010

"Inflation is as violent as a mugger, as frightening as an armed robber and as deadly as a hit man." Ronald Regan

This is a novel examines the lifestyle of the wealthy, carefree, society members and a greedy financial advisor who places his own greed before his client's interests. Although the story is fiction, it could be taken from the financial section of today's newspaper.

At age sixty-eight, Matthew Wirth is tired. He's ready to retire from his investment advisory firm. He's been moving in that direction for years and giving up the day to day functions of the job to his partner, Morrie Clay.

A client, Mac McAllister, with eighteen million dollars invested in the firm, wants to move his account to another firm. Though he has been a client for years, his wife, Rene, is pressuring him to make the change.

Morrie storms out of the office when he hears the news. He's put almost $750,000 of Rene's money into a risky hedge fund and borrowed over $600,000 by using $4,000,ooo in assets in her account as collateral. This was done without Rene's authority and Morrie had his secretary sign Rene's name to the papers.

Matt, Morrie and McAllister all have homes by the lake. Another neighbor, Tom Sherman, and his wife, are also having problems. Tom's son, Jamie, by a former marriage, is a known drug dealer and is under investigation.

Things turn ugly with Rene's body is found floating in the water, the morning after Matt Worth's annual July 4th bash.

The sheriff knows how influential these wealthy people are and wants the case closed quickly as an accidental drowning. However, Detective James Raker disagrees with his boss. He convinces the sheriff to give him some time to see if there's more to it.

Then the Sherman's son Jamie is found dead in his boat. The sheriff wants this case closed too but Raker thinks that the cases are related.

The author is presenting a number of areas for his readers to consider. The stock market has made millions for some people but there is still greed and people want to take advantage of it.

Also, how are the retirement plans of a person affected by their employees misdeeds? We question how quickly a dream can be turned into ash and the result on a person's marriage.

Are some of the wives of these wealthy men as conniving as their husbands? Are they the cause of the greed and corruption?

The author, John J. Hohn has put together a contemporary, suspenseful story. Formerly, this would be called a morality play. The characters of the story are engrossing as are their motives and changing loyalties.
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Sunday, November 21, 2010

"I see the bad moon arising. I see trouble on the way." Song lyrics

In one of their first cases, investigators Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro found missing four-year-old Amanda McCready. They returned Amanda to her mother but her mother was of dubious character and the investigators wished that they were bringing Amanda back to a better home. Now, Amanda is sixteen-years-old and her aunt, again, asks their help.

The setting remains the streets of Boston with the homeless, the abandoned, shuttered homes and for many, lost hope.

The economy in 2009 is hurting and unemployment is soaring. Many people who once had decent jobs and could support their families, are now on the streets. Angie is at night school and Patrick's income is barely enough to keep the family in their home.

Amanda's aunt, Beatrice McCready, discloses that Amanda's mother, Helene, isn't providing a good home. Helene is often neglectful and often drinks to excess. Beatrice thinks that Amanda is missing and Helene is hiding the fact.

At first, Patrick didn't want to become involved but now he and Angela have a child of their own, Gabriella, who is four-years-old. When Patrick and Angie talk about rescuing Amanda from her kidnappers but then returning her to an unfit, substance dependent mother, they decide to take the case.

They find that Amanda is an honors student in high school and a Harvard scholarship is hers if she just finishes her courses. They also learn that her friend, Sophie, disappeared along with her.

The story follows the path of the two girls and a black market baby selling operation. Amanda is on the run and has two items that the leader of an eastern European gang, wants. Kirill is as ruthless as they come. He's a meth user and not totally balanced.

Dennis Lehane is a new father and at a recent mystery conference panel discussion, he stated that he wanted this novel to make a statement about parenthood and the economy of 2009.
He accomplished his goals with an excellent addition to the legend of Kenzie and Gennaro.

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

"Anybody who plays the stock market not as an insider, is like a man buying cows" Daniel Drew

The subject matter of this novel is as timely as getting the information from the six o'clock news.
Will Connelly, a corporate attorney, comes to work early to work on a project. He's busy at his work when he sees the body of senior associate, Ben Fisher, plummet past his window on the thirty-eighth floor.
Will is still dwelling on his grief when managing partner, Dan Rubinowski, informs him that even though it's a sorrowful time, business must continue and announces that Will has been made a managing partner.
Wanting to celebrate, Will stops at a bar on the way home. He meets a Russian woman and they begin talking about work. She gets him to admit that he's working on a merger for a client, Jupiter Software. This company is a world leader in encryption software.
No sooner does he tell her this then he realizes that he has broken a number of securities laws, divulging a possible merger of a publicly traded company. If Katya bought stock in the company, he would also be guilty of insider trading.
Katya is persuasive and invites him to her apartment where they spend the night. The next morning, two Russian men bang on the door. Yuri and Nikolai enter the apartment, rough Will up and demand more information on what Will is working on.
Naively, Will is afraid for Katya as much as for himself. Then, after using physical force, Yuri tells Will that he wants early information on the merger so that he can invest and earn some money. Again, implausibly, Will doesn't go to the authorities but knows that he's in trouble and has broken security laws.
At the firm, Claire Rowland, is the due diligence officer. Her job is to make sure that the proper laws are followed. In a cost cutting move, she is fired against Will's vote. That night, Claire asks Will to join her for a drink. At her apartment she tells him that something is going on at work. There is a government program to hide a computer chip in the encryption software so the government will know what's going on and decrypt the data in every encryption program.
The story is a bit technical but Reece Hirsch is a strong writer and has put together an interesting and timely novel. The plot moves swiftly and the final confrontation adds an unexpected surprise. The author has developed a sympathetic character in Will and I enjoyed seeing Will maneuver his way out of an impossible situation.
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Monday, November 15, 2010

"A truth that's told with bad intent beats all the lies you can invent." William Blake

Ryan James, a promising minor league baseball player is playing the last game of the season when he gets the word that his wife, Chelsea and daughter, Ainsley, have been in a car accident. By the time he arrives at the hospital, his world collapses when he's informed that Chelsea died on the operating table.

Three years go by and Ryan is a morning talk show host on a local radio station. He's left baseball, suffers from insomnia and is raising Ainsley on his own.
Emma Carlisle is a bright, young trial lawyer in Providence, Rhode Island and couldn't put the Chelsea James case out of her mind. The case had gotten significant publicity in the area, due to the young mother dying and her husband's promising career.
As the third anniversary of Chelsea's death arrives, Emma finds a note on the windshield of her car. There is a newspaper story about the car accident in which Chelsea died and someone attached a note, "I know who did it."
Complications arise. Chelsea's younger brother, Babes, who suffers from Asperger's Syndrom, and is a naive, childlike man, goes missing. Emma believes that she sees him at the scheduled rondezvous where an informant will reveal what they know of Chelsea's accident. When Emma makes a motion to approach Babes, he runs away.

Then Emma talks to Ryan and inadvertently tells him that the suspect in the drunk driving is a political figure currently running for reelection.

The characters are what make this good feeling mystery interesting. Ryan, Emma and Babes are all characters that the reader gets to know and becomes drawn to so that we become curious to know what happens to them.

The author is very talented and just when the reader thinks that they might have an idea of the direction of the story, something is revealed and the story changes direction.

Readers will enjoy the story as we see a character's hopes for the future, dashed and later, when hope is turning to despair, there is an uplifting as if there was a greater power seeing that such love and life will have some meaning.
Please check out my amazon review of this book and if you agree, please indicate that my review was helpful.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

"Down the way where the lights are gay...I took a trip on a sailing ship." Song Lyrics

In Elmore Leonard's new novel, he writes of Somalia pirates and life in the Djibouti area.
Dara Barr has been an award winning filmmaker. She reads about the Somalia pirates becoming more brazen and decides to do a documentary about them.
She is accompanied by a philosophical cameraman and confidante, Xavier LeBo, who stands six foot six and is a virorous seventy-two years old.
Dara and Xavier travel to Djibouti, in Northeast Africa, a country bordering Somalia. She views the pirates as the underdogs. These people have an average income of under $1,000. and have high malnutrition and mortality. However, they are brave enough to attempt to stop the massive tankers crossing their waters.
In their search, Dara and Xavier meet various people, none of whom seem to be what they appear, at first glance. There is a wealthy Texan, Billy Wynn, who lives on his yacht. His companion is Helene, a former model, who he promises to marry if she's proven acceptable by not becoming seasick or restless on the yacht. Billy has another side to him in reference to his dealings with the pirates and al Qaeda terrorists.
Xavier introduces Dara to her first pirate, a likable man named Idris. Idris is now retired and drives his Mercedes as a status symbol. He tells Dara that he can introduce her to other pirates and one of his friends is Jama, an African American al Queda Muslim, who becomes a cold hearted killer and wants to make a statement by setting off an explosive bomb.
The story was interesting and the characters were certainly different. It was bothersome how Dara could be so accepting of people who were going around killing others. Xavier is a colorful character and one who would remain in the reader's mind into the future.
I think that readers will enjoy this story telling a part of the Somalia philosophy that is not highly publicized. The pacing was well done and the dialogue masterful.
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Saturday, November 6, 2010

"Broken hearted melody won't you bring him back to me." Song lyrics

The title of this novel could represent the status of the characters and the situations in which they find themselves.

Officer Lena Adams of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation arrives at the scene where a suicide note is left at a lover's lane spot, popular by area teens. The spot is at the side of Lake Grant. When divers recover the body of a young woman, Lena sees a stab wound to the rear of the girl's neck and knows she's not dealing with a suicide. The girl is identified as Allison Spooner, a college student and waitress at a nearby restaurant.
Lena accompanies acting chief, Frank Wallace, to Allison's apartment. On route, Lena smells alcohol on Frank and then observes him drinking from a flask. At the apartment, they are met by Brad Stevens, a young detective on the police force. When Brad looks in the apartment window, he sees a person they believe must be Allison's boyfriend, Tommy Brakam. He has a mask on and his holding a knife.
In the attempt to question Tommy, he becomes out of control and stabs Brad. Then Tommy is caught and jailed.
While the other officers accompany Brad to the hospital, Tommy commits suicide in the jail. In looking at his background, we learn that he was a flawed, or broken individual. He was just nineteen-years-old and had an i.q. of around eighty.

Dr. Sara Linton arrives at her parents' home for Thanksgiving. She had been married to the former chief of police and blames Lena for her husband's death. Sara was also the former coroner. Prior to Tommy's suicide, she had been asked to come to the jail and speak to Tommy.
When she finds that Tommy had committed suicide, Sara learns that Lena had interrogated Tommy. Thinking that this is another case of Lena failing to do her job, Sara calls in Special Agent Will Trent to investigate a possible case of police neglect.

Of the characters, Lena is a broken or flawed person due to her guilt over the former chief's death. Although she had been cleared, she still felt responsible.

Acting Chief Wallace appears to be an alcoholic and overreacts to the situation.

Sara's flaw is that she cannot forgive Lena and wants her to pay for causing Lena's husband Jeff's death.

In an interesting plot, we see the police investigate Allison's murder and Tommy's suicide. Will Trent is an appealing character. He is dyslexic and had grown up in a foster home. He has overcome his dyslexia to a point but has difficulty reading police reports.
There is an interesting portrayal of the town and the university. The university doesn't want any bad publicity and often covers up crimes.

I enjoyed Lena's characterization. She's easy to sympathise with and is a sincere person and wants to do the correct thing, even if it costs her job or her freedom.

The novel was very interesting and the story seemed as if it could have been taken from the local newspaper of a city that has a large university in it.
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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

"No fathers or mothers think their own children ugly." Miguel De Cervantes

This is a story that shows a woman's transformation from an unattractive, submissive wife into an assertive and lovely woman who knows what she wants and how to go about it.

Nell Calder wasn't born beautiful, a fact that even her unfeeling mother informed her about. How she was able to grow normally in an home with an unloving mother was a tribute to an inner strength she didn't know she had.

She married well but at a party on an island in the Aegean Sea, her husband, Richard, a banker, and her precious four-year-old daughter, Jill, were murdered. Nell fell from a balcony during the struggle with a killer and was so badly injured that she needed plastic surgery.

After the reconstructive surgery, Nell's appearance changed to that of a lovely woman but inside, she was still a shell. When she learned that her family had been murdered, she went into a depressed state.

Nicholas Tanek was at the party and felt somewhat responsible for the killings. He tells Nell that the man responsible for the tragic killings is Philippe Gardeaux, and that the killings were carried out by Gardeaux's man, Paul Maritz. Gardeaux is a criminal and attempting to gain prestige and position with the Colombian drug lords. After learning of the man who ordered her family murdered, Nell has a new reason to live, revenge.

The author does a nice job in describing Nell's progress into a woman possessed with the need to seek revenge from the killer of her family. We also see Nicholas bring out a softer side of Nell, as an artist. However, she keeps this in the background as she is undergoing physical strengthening and learning offensive skills to use against the killer.

Nicholas is a criminal of sorts and a rival of Gardeaux but he doesn't deal in drugs. He brings Nell to his ranch to train and admits that he is an adversary of Gardeaux and will continue to pursue him for Nell but she insists that she wants to be part of the revenge, with his help.

This is a fast moving novel with a number of interesting characters. At one point, Nell signs up for training in a para-military facility in Florida and meets a young man named Peter Drake who had been sent there by his father so that he could become tough. Peter is a childlike person and slow mentally. Nell's relationship with him as a form of big sister, was a pleasant sub-story.

I enjoyed the novel and the plot development. The author provided a surprise toward the end that was well done but perfectly logical.

An enjoyable read.

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Saturday, October 30, 2010

"We did come from the land of ice and snow." Song Lyrics

Maura Isles, a Boston medical examiner, attends a conference in Wyoming. She meets an old friend from medical school and decides to join his companions on a ski trip.

In the heavy snow, they make a wrong turn and become stranded on a deserted road.

Seeking help, they arrive at a group of homes to find that they are all empty and look as if they have been recently deserted.

One of Marua's companions becomes seriously injured and another tries to ski back to a populated area to find help. When this person doesn't return, Maura feels that she is the best one left to attempt to get help.

Meanwhile, back in Boston, Maura's friend, Daniel Brophy, a Catholic priest that she has been seeing, becomes concerned when she doesn't arrive at the airport on her scheduled return trip. He tries calling her with no success and finally asks Maura's friend, Boston homicide detective Jane Rizzoli, for help. Jane and her FBI husband, Gabriel, make some queries and feel worried enough that they travel to Wyoming to search for Maura.

The suspense mounts as the local police do not seem very forthcoming. Then there is a report of finding bodies of a man and woman burned beyond recognition but there is evidence that the woman may have been Maura.

The author provides exceptional pacing in this novel. As law enforcement personnel approach the suspected mastermind of a number of deaths, it is as if Tess Gerritsen was a composer and the reader listening to music such as the "1812 Overture," as the action reached its climax.
After this high point, the author provided an unforeseeable plot twist that succeeded in taking me by surprise. I found this part of the book anticlimactic and would have liked it just as well if the novel concluded prior to the plot twist. I also felt that the author had one major character being attributed to acts that would have been out of character with the way the character was described prior to that point. This change was difficult to accept.
The author did deal with a number of sensitive subjects in the novel such as cults and the manner in which women can be relegated to a lower role in cults. Gerritsen also provides information on the children born from cult families and how, sometimes they are neglected.
Overall, a fun read.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

"When you're growing up in Brooklyn, the Bridge is like a friend." Barry Manilow

In August, 1978, Samantha Bonti, is a fifteen-year-old, living in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn with the dream of someday becoming a writer and crossing the Brooklyn Bridge to become a success in Manhattan.
Samantha "Sam" is half-Jewish, half-Catholic in a neighborhood that is predominantly Catholics of Italian heritage. She is sometimes shunned in this Italian neighborhood. Luckily, as she begins high school, she meets Janice Caputo, a senior at the school. Janice is street savvy and becomes Sam's best friend.
At the Feast of Santa Rosalia, mixed with the sound of the elevated subway and the sizzle and aroma of sausage and peppers, Janice introduces Sam to a twenty-year-old named Tony Kroon. Kroon is also of mixed heritage being Dutch-Italian. He is a construction worker with the muscles to prove it, along with his blond hair.
Sam becomes infatuated with Tony and believes that she has met her dream man. She writes about her experiences in the manuscript she is working on and feels a happiness unlike anything she's felt before. She is conscientious with Tony because of her sick mother and the fact that she and her mother live on Sam's grandmother's social security and Sam's mother's welfare checks.
Although happy in her relationship with Tony, Tony is controlling and wanting to advance their romance to a degree that Sam isn't ready for. She creates boundaries and demands his respect.
The novel continues with their relationship and the Italian friends of Tony who are obviously doing illegal things. When Tony begins spending large amounts of money on Sam, she is concerned where the money came from.
In a moving story, we see Tony go from the controlling person to steps in abuse and see what happens to Sam. She is a courageous person with dreams that won't be dimmed.
The dialogue is another strong point as is Sam's descriptions of her Brooklyn neighborhood. The novel is being developed into a movie and I can only hope that the movie is as good as the book.
This is a debut novel from an author of great promise. Recommended.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

"You're searching for good times...but you'll me." Song lyrics

In a well acclaimed, tender, coming of age story, "The Time Traveler's Wife," opens with Claire Abshire, age twenty, and Henry De Tamble, age twenty-eight, accidentally meeting at her library.
Claire immediately recognizes Henry from her past but Henry is at a point of time travel where he hadn't met her yet. He suffers from Chrono-Displacement Disorder and moves through time without control.
Claire is a sweet woman who appears like a special next door neighbor or the girl you fell in love with in the eighth grade. Her love for Henry is intricately described so that the reader knows just what Claire is feeling as she finds her love, as he had promised she would, in the past.
The novel moves back and forth between other times and is told from both character's points of view.
We are also privy to Claire's and Henry's difficulties with time travel. Henry tells us that at one point he sees a young child die in an accident and wishes that he could go back in time so he could warn the child's mother to be careful. However, he has learned that with time travel, he can't change history.
Claire has the difficulty of keeping Henry's appearances secret. When she becomes a teenager, there is also loneliness in the time that Henry is not there and she feels alone and segregated from her friends since she can't tell her friends about Henry.
There is some difficulty in keeping track of the character's ages at the various times they meet since this happens out of sequence in the novel. Later in the story, Henry tells a friend that Claire first met him when she was age six. She met him in 1977 but he first met her in time travel in 1991.
The love story was a pleasure to read about and how the characters overcame the difficulty with time. I felt that there were times when the story seemed to meander but for originality and characters that the reader can feel empathy and fondness for, this was a superior novel.
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Thursday, October 21, 2010

"I never assumed idea was so special that ...using it would guanantee the quality of the music." R Morris

Raymond Hogan is running for re-election to the Kindle County Prosecutory's office. He is being challenged by Nico Della Guardia, who is winning the race.

Rusty Sabich is Hogan's deputy prosecutor and narrator of the story.

Carolyn Polhemus, a prosecutor in Hogan's office, is found raped and murdered. Since Hogan is busy with his campaign, he asks Rusty to run the investigation. Nico uses the fact that a member of Hogan's staff has died and that he hasn't found the murderer to move further ahead in the race.

As Rusty continues his narration, he tells us how uncaring and cold, his wife Barbara, has become. When she finds that Rusty is to head the investigation into Carolyn's murder, she admits that she knew Rusty had been seeing her and Barbara ask Rusty to move out of the house.

As the story continues, we follow Rusty's involvement with Carolyn and how she became the dominant one in the affair but then ended it abruptly. Rusty sees her with Hogan and asks if he also was sleeping with Carolyn.

In a contemporary manner, Rusty seems like a battlefield general whose superior has let him down, perhaps there is a comparison to one of the generals who had been in charge in Afghanistan.

This section ends with a very cinematic, suspenseful scene in Raymond Hogan's office. Hogan tells Rusty that he will be vacating his office almost immediately and an arrogant Tommy Moto, who is Nico's right hand man, tells Rusty that they will be inditing him and that he, Moto, has evidence that Rusty was in Carolyn's home on the night she was murdered.

The second half of the novel revolves around the trial. Rusty's defense attorney is Sandy Stern and he becomes one of Rusty's few friends, along with an investigator named Dan Lipranzer. Stern seems like a professorial and fatherly type and does a wonderful job defending Rusty.

The pacing of the novel was particularly well done. Rusty, is a stoic character and takes a back seat while other's defend him.

A most enjoyable and visual story with court scenes that will live on in the reader's memory.

After the court case came to a conclusion, there were an additional seventy pages explaining what happened and how Rusty and Barbara, and other characters continued with their lives. I felt that this segment of the novel too lengthy and it slowed down the effect of the story. Otherwise, this was an extremely readable and entertaining book.

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Sunday, October 17, 2010

"Do not call to a dog with a whip in your hand." Zululand Proverb

Schiffer Hartwin ia a pharmacy company that has developed Culovort, a drug beneficial in the treatment of patients undergoing chemotherapy.
The patent for the drug has run out and now it is inexpensive and is not much gain to the company. Suddenly, the supply of the drug runs out.
Dr. Edward Kinder, whose father is undergoing chemotherapy, contacts Private Eye, Erin Pulaski, to prove that the company is manipulating the supply.
Erin breaks into the company offices and steals important documents but is almost caught and has to escape through a bathroom window.

The next day, Helmut Blauvelt, a German national, who is the company's fix-it-man, is found murdered and FBI agents Lacey Sherlock and Dillon Savich, a husband and wife team, are called to investigate.

Germany is also sending Agent Andreas Kesserling to investigate. They all coordinate with Bowie Richards, who is the New Haven agent in charge. Bowie is also close friends with Vice President Valenti.
When they were summoned, Sherlock and Savich had been helping U.S. Senator David Hoffman, who had been seeing an object outside of his home window. While Dillon is investigating outside Hoffman's home, he hears a voice of a spirit telling him that danger is coming to Hoffman.
cons = There was supposedly grumbling when Bowie was brought in to run the New Haven field office of the FBI, instead of promoting from within. However, bringing in a new field commander is a common practice in the FBI and avoids prior relationships between agents if they are promoted from within.
---One of the FBI Agents has his cell phone connected to Christmas carols and in the midst of the action, the reader is told of the music of "It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas," and other carols. This would be a totally unprofessional step for an agent to take and took away from the drama of the novel.
---There are many cases of dialogue repeating that is unnecessary and takes away from the situation, "...she ate another shrimp." "I see you like the shrimp," "I usually order the shrimp myself." It would be easier and more literate to change the repetition to change to things like, I enjoy that item on the menu, etc.
...Unrealistic dialogue, as for instance, Kesselring walked in. A character mentions, "What are you doing here, Agent Kesselring ?" If he just walked in, the character wouldn't have needed to mention his name.
...An FBI agent communicating with spirits.
Pros... The author writes a good story and in spite of the above flaws, she keeps the reader's attention and desire to see how the mystery of the novel is solved.

I have enjoyed Catherine Coulter's work in the past but don't think that this is one of her better novels.
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Thursday, October 14, 2010

"It's been a hard day's night and I've been working like a dog." Song lyrics

Magnus Torval, a recently retired police officer, is on vacation with his fiance, Mariela and they decide to get married at the last moment.
While fishing, he notices a blue piece of cloth that doesn't look right. With a closer look, he realizes that he's discovered a recently buried body.
When Greg Takarchuck learns of the body, he has two fears. The first is that his father hasn't been home for two days and it might be him, and secondly, if it is his father, Greg would be taken off the case. Soon after, Greg learns that his worst fears are met and it is his father's body.
In a story that is similar to Louise Penny's wonderful, "A Rule Against Murder" when the investigator is on a wedding anniversary trip and enters a murder investigation, in this novel, Magnus is supposed to be married in a few days and has to reassure Mariela that he's not going back on his plans to give up criminal investigations.
There is more to this novel then a simple murder. Greg Takarchuck and his parents are Ukrainians and Pentecostals. When thinking of a reason for the murder, Greg wonders if it could be for religious reasons or from his father's past military service.
As the two men think about the murder, Greg is put on compassionate leave and meets with Magnus. Greg tells Magnus about his father's service in Afghanistan while with the Soviet Army.
Soon after, a Russian businessman, Vladislav Ostrovsky, also known as Petrov, arrives and tells Greg that he wants to examine some of Greg's father's ledgers and that he, Petrov, was the supplier of the Russian antiques that Greg's father sold.
The novel is complex and well told. We learn that a number of the characters were members of a unit that was active during the Russian-Afghan war and that there was an incident during one of their missions. We also learn that Greg's father may have been selling stolen items.
How will the police determine who the killer is? Is it due to the Religious background, or something from the victim's past?
It is interesting to learn of actions of men of the Soviet Union and their experiences in Afghanistan as comparison to today's United States and NATO forces fighting a war in the mountains of that country.
I enjoyed the novel and learning about a part of Russian history and the artifacts that Greg's father was selling in his store. Part of the setting was in the mountains in Swiftwater, Washington and this was well described.
I would have given the novel a higher rating but as interesting as the story was, I didn't feel the suspense and felt that the story could have been condensed to make a more compact thriller.
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Monday, October 11, 2010

"Somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue." Song lyrics

What could possibly draw the attention of Dave Robicheaux and the New Iberia police department more than the death of seven young women?
Even more, Dave is concerned that one of the women killed doesn't fit the profile. Bernadette Latiolais was a high school senior who had been offered a college scholarship.
When a body is dumped in the field of a cain farmer in New Iberia Parish, Dave and his boss, Helen Soileau find something that connects with Bernadette and begin their investigation.
Dave hooks up with his old and loyal friend, Clete Putcel and they turn their attention to a former pimp named Herman Stanga. When Stanga and Clete get into a confrontation, Clete beats Stagna so severely that Stanga is hospitalized and begins the process of suing Clete. Later, when something happens to Stanga, Clete becomes the main suspect.
As an interesting aside to the story, Dave Robicheaux's daughter Alafair is attempting to get her first novel published. This reality mixed in with the mystery gave me added enjoyment. I believe it demonstrated how proud the author must be of his real life daughter, Alafair's success as a novelist.
I also found the author's literary style of first person narrative, mixed in with Alafair's details in the novel to be well done.
The setting, as always with James Lee Burke, is described as seeing a painting of the action drawn in front of the reader. "...a town square that opened onto lovely vistas of oak trees and flowers...planted along the bayou's edge." Very visual and entertaining.
The novel will keep the reader's attention as the story unfolds and once again, Dave Robicheaux shows that he is one of the finest characters in literature.
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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

"Once I had a secret love, that lived within this heart of mine." Song lyrics

Just when the reader is thinking that John Sandford's "Secret Prey," is going to be a somewhat predictable story, the author provides his magic touch and the novel soars to a most dramatic and memorable thriller.
Bank president Daniel Kresge is murdered while on a hunting trip. He was in the process of leading his bank into a merger that would have made him rich but would cost many of his employees their jobs. Kresge was also in the midst of a costly divorce so there were endless possibilities to be the murderer.
The two employees who were in line to take over the bank are Susan O'Dell and James Bone. They begin maneuvering for control while placing Wilson McDonald in charge during the transition.
It's almost as if the story was an afternoon soap opera with the various conspirators and Bone having an affair with Kresge's wife.
Deputy Chief Lucas Davenport is leading the investigation. Just as he and his team begin to feel they are making progress, another bank executive is murdered and they are back to the chalk board. The hunt for the killer intensifies as Davenport takes certain steps and the killer counters his progress, it's almost a dance of the dead.
Sandford does a masterful job, at first, making the reader wonder who the killer is, then, when Lucas has it narrowed down to one person, he must get the evidence to stop the killing and get the evidence to convict a habitual and ruthless killer.
The characters are excellent and well developed. The author describes the Minnesota countryside nicely so that the reader can get a mind picture of what the setting must look like.
I enjoyed the novel and recommend it highly.
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Monday, October 4, 2010

"A smile is the light in your window that tells...there is a caring...person inside." Denis Waitley

After a fatal bar fight, Ben Traven is in a jail in the Philippines when his boss, Scott Horton, manages his release. Horton needs Traven to perform a vital mission.
Rogue agent, Daniel Larison feels betrayed by the government and has stolen ninety-two torture tapes. He is blackmailing the government and will release the tapes to the news media unless he gets his payoff.
The CIA, FBI and other government agencies are after Larison and Horton wants Ben to locate him.
Ben gets a lead from Larison's former wife, Marcy, that Larison might be in Costa Rica. The FBI follow him to Marcy's home. Two FBI agents attempt to force Ben to accompany them and both wind up in the hospital, but a petite young black FBI agent, Paula Lanier, gets the drop on Ben and convinces him that they should work together.
Like many thriller novels today, there is competition between government agencies and when independent contractors are brought in, to apprehend Larison, they seemed to have no intelligence for field work. Larison is able to spot them, overcome a tranquilizing dart and eliminate twelve men without much effort. This disregard for life and unemotional approach to killing fellow Americans left me cold. The fact that Treven was ordered to observe this action and did little to prevent it also seemed inconsistent to what an honorable agent would do.
The story also had its mandatory romance scene. The rough sex action added nothing to the plot and was unnecessary.
I found that the characters were stereotypical, from the agency leaders to the men on the field. The story also meandered and didn't hold my attention as well as it should have. Finally, the conclusion was unsatisfactory. I could see that there was a good deal of research about these tapes but after reading the author's excellent John Rain series of novels, this novel disappointed.

Note: I did think that it was fun that Treven's superior is named Scott Horton and that Scott Horton, contributing editor of "Harper's" has written one of the blurbs on the back cover.

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Friday, October 1, 2010

"The narrower the mind, the broader the statement." Ted Cook

In an utterly realistic, noir novel, the reader follows the actions of Tom Farrell as if someone was walking behind him and filming every event.
After release from prison, Farrell gets a job as a night doorman on Park Avenue. There is a hotel across the street and he watches the armored car picking up money on a regular basis. He also makes note of the times of radio car patrols.
Farrell puts together a team for the heist and sets his plan into motion. The last person added was an Irishman named Durkin. Although the robbery went smoothly, Durkin had his own agenda for the money. He takes a shot at Farrell but misses. Farrell shoots back and wounds him, then Farrell's accomplices, the Burns brothers, take care of the rest and do away with the body.
Not long after Durkin was at the bottom of the Harlem river, Farrell learns that he was a member of the IRA.
The next step is to find a fence for the jewelry taken in the robbery. Farrell and his gang travel to the home of an Albanian but there is an altercation when the Albanian tries to rip Farrell off.
Later, Farrell and his men are celebrating at a New York bar, Farrell goes downstairs to use the facilities and is fortunate to survive the bloodbath upstairs.
The story seems taken from a person from the hardest segment of Manhattan and the Bronx. It tells of the disintegration of a man and the many things that can go wrong when someone commits crimes and numbs their mind with alcohol and drugs. It teaches of what life can be on the streets and the misery of a person's life.
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Thursday, September 30, 2010

"Getting caught is the mother of invention." Robert Byrne

Harlan Coben's novels are a joy to read, in part, because they are so realistic that it's easy for the reader to put themselves into the story and imagine the action happening to them.

Social worker Dan Mercer is a giving person, coaches girl's basketball and helps seriously troubled teens. He thinks one of his teens may be in trouble and is answering a plea to come to her home for assistance. He arrives and hears a voice telling him to come in. He enters the home and walks into a sting operation run by reporter Wendy Tynes and coordinated with the police.

Wendy's goal is to catch sexual predators, publicly humiliate them and have them arrested.

She confronts Dan and tells him that she knows that the reason he entered that house was to have sex with an underage teenager. Dan tells her that she's wrong and that he's being set-up. She scoffs at this and tells him that that's what they all say.
There is a pre-trial hearing but no matter what the outcome, Dan is labelled as a sexual predator and faces public wrath.
This is a suspenseful, can't put down story where the facts come out gradually and the reader is kept on edge. We watch Wendy attempt to get the real answers but there's much more to the story and her life and reputation are at risk.

The characters are sympathetic and described in a believable manner. The novel is breathtaking.
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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

"Things, like a walk in the park." Song lyrics

This story brought to mind Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood," due to the mixture of fiction and realism.

"The Things They Carried," tells of a platoon of soldiers and their experiences in Vietnam. It gives an interesting insight into the make-up of soldiers on active duty and serves as a comparison to today's army fighting in Afghanistan.

In the story, we learn what various soldiers carry in the field. Not only do they carry the usual equipment with which to fight the enemy but they are their own personal items and this is what makes them interesting. One man carried a sewing kit, another had a New Testament, still another carried Dr. Scholl's foot powder, men carried Malaria tablets and Lieutenant Jimmy Cross, the central figure in the story, carried the letters from his love, Martha, a college student back at Mount Sebastian College in New Jersey. In a sad manner, we also discover that Jimmy was madly in love with Martha but that she didn't share his love and felt that their relationship was more like good friends.

The author also provides a picture of the activities the soldiers took part in when not in the field. We learn of Kiowa teaching a rain dance to Rat Kelly and another soldier adopting a puppy. This made the soldiers more real.

I enjoyed the book, which is made up of linked stories. However, it is more like a journal of Tim O'Brien's Vietnam experience. To me, it was more like a lesson in history than a novel and what appealed to me was the uniqueness and descriptions of the men who are my age and what they went through in the war.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

"Foreign policy is really domestic policy with its hat on." Hubert Humphrey

Counter terrorism operative Scot Horvath is working for a new secret agency that is buried deep within the Department of Defense and isn't burdened with answering to self-serving politicians.
Scot is asked to go after a man who had helped him in the past. The man is known as The Troll and is accused of being the mastermind behind the bombing of a bus filled with American college students in Rome.
Elsewhere, a cab runs down a young girl who had been out partying with her friends in Chicago. When the girl's family doesn't get any results from he police investigation, they hire a former Marine, John Vaughan, to investigate.
While that is going on, Scott believes that someone was attempting to pin this on The Troll. Scot wants to get proof and to punish those responsible. With The Troll's help, they prove that it was a set up and that there is a terrorist organization planning two more strikes in Europe after which they will be taking their terror to the innocent people in the United States.
In Chicago, John Vaughan teams up with Paul Davidson who is in the Public Vehicles division. They find a lead to a cab driver who ran down the girl. When they go to the cab driver's home, they find bomb making material and they learn that the cab driver is part of an undercover terrorist scheme that involves explosives.
The two cases come together with excellent action and suspense. Scot Horvath continues to be an enjoyable hero. He stops at nothing to get his man and is brave, patriotic and doesn't hesitate to use whatever means is necessary to get answers and stop the terrorists.
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