Friday, April 30, 2010

"How else but through a broken heart may Lord Christ enter in." Oscar Wilde

Det. Mike Turner is a moral man in a world of lies and deceit. He is transferred to the Internal Affairs Division of the LAPD and is part of a unit pursuing three crocked cops.
Another obstacle for Turner is dealing with his lieutenant. Lt. Metcalf is a man with no street experience who spends most of his time protecting his job and is afraid to make decisions.
Turner is an "everyman" type of person. He's lonely, no wife or current girlfriend when the story begins and he has an older dog who has bladder difficulties but is still his buddy. Turner is also friends and looks out for his elder neighbor, Eddie, who often spends time at Turner's house, taking care of the dog or watching TV and making himself at home.
The story follows the trail of the three dirty cops. It seems that two of them do much of the illegal work and the other is the mastermind.
This is the author, Connie Dial's second novel. She has twenty-seven years of experience in the LAPD to fall back on and uses that experience to make her story realistic.
The dialogue is well done but the characters are not strong. Lt. Metcalf is stereotypical and, Miriam, Turner's old girlfriend who rekindles their relationship, is immature and self centered, a rather unlikable character. Turner, himself, is likable and easy to sympathise with but a bit more into his motivation and internal dilemmas would be an improvement. The author did provide a plot twist that made the story more interesting.

Monday, April 26, 2010

"They say that kings are made in the image of God. If that's what he looks like, I feel sorry for God" Frederick The Great

Some men just don't know when to stop. Stella Hardesty had enough abuse from her husband, Ollie. She finally hit him with a wrench and removed the problem. So many people testified about Ollie's abuse, that Stella pleaded to self defense and didn't face any jail time.

Now, women who don't know how to rid themselves from abusive situations, approach her as a problem solver.

Stella is a fifty year old woman whose mood is darkened with the effects of menopause. She owns an assortment of guns and tools that she puts to use to convince heavy handed men that they had better smarten up and behave.

One woman who asks her help is a girl named Chrissy. She informs Stella that her husband Roy Dean took her son, Tucker. Chrissy has been abused in the past by Roy Dean and Stella had to give him a lesson in proper behavior.

With Tucker missing, Stella attempts to trace Roy Dean's trail which leads to some illegal activity Rod Dean was involved with. In her attempt to learn more, Stella makes a tactical mistake and ends up in the hospital.

The sheriff is Stella's friend and possibly more, once he leaves her bedside at the hospital. Chrissy arrives and becomes more forceful. She demands to be more of an active participant in her son's search and so the two women begin working together.

Stella is a fresh voice in women's literature. The author must have enjoyed creating this overweight, menopausal, former abused woman as her central figure in the novel. Her arrival makes this reader think of Daisy Duke from the Dukes of Hazzard, aged thirty years and put on considerable weight and decide to begin her adventures.

Enjoyable and entertaining.

Friday, April 23, 2010

"To know how to wait. Is the great secret of success." Joseph De Maistre

After Stalin died, in 1956, the violent regime in the Soviet Union was beginning to breakup and the police were thought to be the criminals and the criminals were innocent. Stalin's successor, Khrushchev distributes a secret speech saying that Stalin was a tyrant and that Russia would change.
Before the change took place, Leo Demidov took on the name, Maxim, and pretended to be, a follower of a man named Lazar and was the lover of Lazar's wife, Anisya. When the time was appropriate, Leo betrayed Lazar and Anisya, forcing them to betray many others and then sending them both to prison.
As the changes took place after Stalin's death, criminals gained more control. Anisya is released from prison and takes on the name Fraera. She begins planning to take revenge against Leo. She becomes the head of a gang and kidnaps Leo's adopted daughter, Zoya. Fraera then informs Leo that he must free her husband from prison or she will kill Zoya.
Leo had been in charge of a homicide branch of the police. His trusted associate and friend is Timur. Leo knows that they can't release Lazar through normal methods so Leo pretends to be a prisoner and sent to the same Gulag as Lazar. Then, he can arrange an escape for them both. Timur's job was to act as a security officer in the Gulag.
With an excellent sense of history and drama, the story unfolds, providing the reader with an enlightened view of the intrigue and deception rampant in Russia in the 1950's.
This is one of the best historical mysteries that I've read in a long time. Leo Demidov is a well portrayed character who wins the reader's heart with his love for family and sense of justice.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Joseph's brothers came to the Pharoah's land for food to keep their people from starvation. The Bible

Gus Carpenter returns to Starvation Lake after working as a reporter in Detroit and getting into trouble by withholding the source of one of his stories.
Gus runs "The Pilot," a local newspaper and he gets a call from a friend on the police department when a snowmobile washes up at Walleye Lake. When Gus arrives, Sheriff Dengus Aho refuses to give him any information. However. it is similar to the snowmobile of legendary hockey coach, Jack Blackburn, who has been missing since 1988.
Gus' temperamental reporter, Joanie McCarthy, investigates the story of the missing coach. As this is going on, Gus is visited by former hockey teammate and current Real Estate developer, Teddy Boynton. He wants to build a marina and luxury hotel on the lake and wants Gus to support his project in the paper.
The reader is able to see the events of 1970 when coach Blackburn arrived in Salvation Lake from Canada. He had coached in Canada and begins coaching a team of younger players including Gus, his friend Alden "Soupy" Campbell and Boynton. Eventually the talent got better and better and the team was set to challenge for the state title.
Blackwell's fiery enthusiasm was catching and with the team's success, the town developed. The coach was the pitchman for developer Francis Dufrense. However, the team came one victory short of its goal and then, after the snowmobile disappeared, interest in Salvation Lake dwindled and development moved down lake.
With finding the snowmobile, secrets that had been hidden for years gradually comes out. What was the coach and his assistant, Leo Redpath, hiding? Somehow, a number of the young men who played for the coach seemed to change but no one could put it all together until Gus and his reporter, Jonie begin digging.
A splendid debut novel with excellent characterization and description. It is easy for the reader to visualize the scenes and the characters of Gus and his pal, Soupy are well described and easy to sympathize with.

"The secrets to all good writing is sound judgment." Horace

When the Civil War ended, many Confederate soldiers returned to their homes to find those homes had been burned to the ground. Often, their families were either murdered or had disappeared.

After Appomattox, Col. Rodney Tilt and the men of the Eleventh Virginia decide to travel back to their homes together.
They pass deserters, bushwhackers and union cavalry looking for un-surrendered Confederates.

When the unit reaches Lynchburg, they are shocked to see a northern patrol storm into the city and begin shooting surrendered Confederates. One man escapes and tells them that Lincoln has been assassinated and the Northerners are patrolling the main roads looking for Confederates to take revenge upon.

Taking back roads, slows the unit down and some men break off and travel the remainder by themselves.

One day, they are joined by Meg Forsythe who tells the men that a wild looking group of horsemen found that her family was sympathetic to the union. They killed her two brothers and made off with her mother and sister.

Misfortune followed the group and they are ambushed by a group of Northern Cavalry. When the Confederates do not surrender, there is gunfire. Two of the Confederates are killed and four other are hung for disobeying the terms of their surrender, not to bear arms against Union forces.

The few remaining soldiers finally get to Tilt's home and find it, in the midst of being attacked by a group of outlaws. They manage to chase the bandits and begin rebuilding their homes and their lives.

In this plot driven novel, the reader is given one small segment of the story after the next and a sense of suspense or drama is never achieved. The characters were one dimensional and one character changed completely during the story and the change didn't make sense. In addition, although the book does give a description of what life may have been like after the Civil War, there was so much sorrow that it was depressing.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

"Everything is beautiful, in its own way" Old song

A novel set in South Africa, at a time when feelings of apartheid were prominent.

It is 1952 and new apartheid laws have gone into effect separating white from black and mixed race people. Detective Emmanuel Cooper an Englishman who had fought in the war, was nearby on another case and is summoned to the scene of a murder.

There were few phones in this outlying town of Jacob's Rest, a small town on the border of Mozambique and South Africa. When Cooper asks a local constible if he called the Detective Branch in, he's told that the officer couldn't get a line direct to headquarters.

Cooper is shown to the scene where he sees the body of a white police captain. The murdered man was Captain Pretorius and three of his sons are standing by. They are furious that the detective division only sent one man, to investigate the death of a murdered police captain. Cooper tries to calm them down, saying that the information was unclear and they hadn't been informed of the victim's race, sex or occupation.

Cooper also meets Constable Samuel Shabalala. Shabalala is a tall, powerful man and Cooper can see that he is the one who would probably know the most but since Shabalala is black, he had to wait until he was called forward to the murder scene.

The story goes from there. When Cooper calls into his boss and asks for reinforcements he's informed that there aren't any. In fact, the powerful Security Branch is on its way and will be taking the case over. However, they are goal minded to flush out any black communist radicals and look for political solutions. Cooper is instructed to be his Superior's eyes in the field and continue his own investigation and find the murderer regardless of political expediency.

As Cooper investigates the case, he finds that in the last few years there was a person molesting young women but the case was never solved. Captain Pretorius had worked on that case so Cooper decided to follow it up. What he finds is that Captain Pretorius had his own secrets and wasn't the ideal man that everyone thought. He had strained relationships with the black and colored residents and ruled the town with his sons, without asking for permission to take what he wanted.

Malla Nunn has written a wonderfully complex story about a time that many readers have either forgotten or never knew in detail about. Detective Cooper is well described and shows his determination, his intelligence and empathy. He is a character that this reader looks forward to seeing in print again.

Well recommended.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

"Hush little baby, don't you cry, you know your daddy's bound to die." old song

Matt Marshall had a heart attack and died at age fifty-one. Shortly before his death, he changed his will so that half of his $105 million dollar estate will go to a daughter he fathered while serving in Vietnam. He had never met this daughter and a condition of the will is that she be found and that she is living in the United States.
Private investigator, Adam Bruno, son of a bookie, is hired to find the woman. However, since Marshall's family stands to lose half of their inheritance, they aren't helpful and Matt's friends remain closed mouthed about his Vietnam days.
Adam is persistent and is finally able to interview Matt's former combat buddies. When he finally gets a lead something stands in his way, some of the people Adam felt could be most helpful, are killed. Adam continues his search but is harassed by Matt's family and lawyers claim that he is not doing his job and should be replaced.
A touching story that was well done. Adam is an easy character to sympathise with, he's honest, determined and an all around good guy.
The conclusion was particularly well done and is a scene that should be on film.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

"Horse sense is a good judgment which keeps horses from betting on people." W.C. Fields

Libyan Col. Mummar al-Qaddafi has constructed a nuclear device which he threatens to explode in New York unless the United States will agree to set up an independent Palestinian state. He gives the US thirty-six hours to agree to his demands or else he will set off the device and wipe New York off the map.

Det. Angelo Rocchia and his girlfriend, Grace Knewland are two of the New Yorkers who would be killed in the explosion. Over dinner, Grace tells Angelo how happy she is to learn of her unexpected pregnancy.

In Washington, D.C., the President tells his agents to take whatever steps they need and so United States agents are setting up listening taps of the Libyan diplomats.

Qientin Dewing FBI assistant director for investigation is in charge of mobilizing his agents and having them examine all known terrorists fingerprints and photographs.

The terrorists, Laila Dajani, her brothers Whalid and Kamal have the explosive device. Only Whalid seems to possess the conscience about killing so many innocent people.

The authors have a reporting background and the story reads as if it was news bulletins from local newspapers. The characters are well drawn and the reader meets pimps, pickpockets and dockside laborers who will do their part in trying to find the explosives and stop the terrorists before they can blow up the city.

Friday, April 9, 2010

"Our greatest glory is not in never failing but in getting up every time we fall." Confucius

Norwegian Police Det. Harry Hole is assigned to the case of a bank robber who ordered a bank teller to give him money before he counts to twenty-five. When he didn't get his money on time, he kills the cashier and escapes with the money.
Harry is one of the best investigators on the staff. He's a recovering alcoholic whose actions remind this reader of Dirty Harry. He's rough, uncouth and since he lost his partner, Ellen Gjelten, he's not very popular. However, his boss, Bjorne Moller likes him and tries to give him the things he needs.
While Harry's girlfriend is out of the country, he gets a call from an old girlfriend, Anna. She invites him to dinner and the next morning, Harry wakes up with a splitting headache and no memory of the last few hours.
Moller calls and asks him to come to the scene of an apparent suicide and sends a car for him. When he gets to the scene, he's shocked to see that it's Anna's apartment. All the indicators show that it is a suicide but Harry doesn't believe it and wants to know the truth. Then he begins getting threatening e-mails and thinks that he is getting set-up.
This is a fast moving novel with plenty of action. The characters are unique and enjoyable. The author has provided a number of intelligent plot twists to surprise the reader and make the book even more enjoyable.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Delay is the deadliest form of denial." C. Northcote Parkinson

Katherine Murkowitz had difficulties in her former job and took the blame for something that wasn't her fault. After being unemployed for a longer spell than she could have imagined, she accepts a job in a small electronics firm.
Two scientists, run the firm. They had worked at a university lab and discovered that with superconductors they could make solar cells efficiently. This discovery could solve the world's energy needs. However, the scientists become greedy. They understand that if they announce the discovery then the university will get the rights and the money. As a result they keep the discovery secret until it is proven and then they find the right bidder.
The high bidder is a Chinese corporation. It would seem that inteligent people would understand that China is a repressive society so they might be putting themselves at risk in selling it to this company. The offer of riches blinds them to the danger of working with a firm in China. When the company tells them that they must come to China to perfect their discovery, warning bells should have rung.
Katherine is a pleasant character to root for and one of the few characters who has a sense of morality.
During the time that the Chinese are working on the development of this energy source, the Americans learn what the Chinese intent is. Now the United States with their spies and special forces agents, come up with a plot to stop the Chinese before they can fully develop the plan.
A most original and interesting plot. I did have difficulty believing that scientists who discover something that could change the world wouldn't have been rewarded if they did the right thing in the beginning and make their discovery known. Certainly, riches would follow. Toward the conclusion, I felt that the tension could have been increased but for a first novel, Robert Troy did a fine job and it goes to show what someone can do when they self publish. It is a good example of what publishers and agents are missing.

Friday, April 2, 2010

"Ours is not to reason why. Ours is but to do and die" Tennyson

Claude Wheeler is a Nebraska farm boy who isn't sure of the meaning of what his father is doing with the farm or with his life.
Like many of Cather's stories, this novel is based on people in her life.
This story was written after WWI and is based on her cousin, C.P. Cather, who was the first Nebraska army officer to die in the war.
The story begins as Claude is still living at his parent's farm. He is attending the college they picked for him after his parents were visited by a man his mother called, "Brother Weldon" came out and was preaching nearby. Temple College is the school and Claude was sent to live with Weldon and Weldon's sister, with Claude's rental contribution to the Weldon's home, an important part of their ability to maintain their financial stability.
Claude didn't like the school and didn't care for Temple,he would rather go to the State University. When he finally persuaded his parents to permit him to attend the State University, his view of the world widened. He also met Julius Erlich and became friends with Julius family. Claude saw this family as people who could enjoy life and speak about meaningful things. Julius mother, became particularly fond of Claude.
Back home, Claude took over much of the management of the farm. He was sensitive and shy but spends time with Enid Royce, the daughter of the grain merchant. One day, Claude was injured and had a time at home, recuperating. Enid visited him daily and they eventually decided to marry.
When the war breaks out, the people around Claude didn't know much of European history.
Claude's father suggests that Claude call his friend, Ernest, a German immigrant, and ask him what the Bohemian papers say about it. Then the German army entered Luxembourg. Claude didn't know where Luxembourg was or even if it was a city or a country.
The story is told in narrative style and seems to have a theme of America's innocence prior to their entry into the war. It details how much influence the a person's faith had and Claude's growth from a sensitive farm boy to a new army lieutenant, helping his men as they became sick on the voyage to Europe.
We learn about a time in history and the leisure manner that people in mid-America had.
An entertaining and informative read.

"Clear conscience never fears midnight knocking." Chinese proverb

John Wells is a CIA agent. He's currently re-energizing after his last action adventure.
Now, he's called back to Langley when two men, who were part of a ten-member interrogation unit are killed within twenty four hours of each other.
The unit worked out of a secret location in Poland and is known as the Midnight House. These interrogators are known to use the harshest treatment to the hardened jihadis, who they thought had information about future terrorist activities.
When these two men are killed, officials look into the rest of the unit and find that the deaths that may have been thought otherwise, could have been something else. Wells is asked to find out who is killing the members of this unit, why it is being done and to stop the killer.
I've enjoyed this author in the past but in this work, Berenson must have assumed that the reader read the preceding novels about the lead character. There is little development and Wells comes across as a one dimensional character and is uninteresting.
The subject of torture of terrorists has been done and doesn't have the zest that it once had.

Currently Reading

Currently Reading
Broken Promise