Saturday, July 31, 2010

"If you stand straight, do not fear a crooked shadow." Chinese proverb

Finn is a former N.Y. cop who was blinded in a violent incident. Currently, he works as a professor of literature in an exclusive school with a small staff. St. Valarian's Academy for Girls is located a half hour north of Manhattan.
The story centers during a Christmas vacation and the campus is mostly deserted. The only other male on campus is an Irishman named Murphy and called Murph. He has a bad shoulder and, to the blind Finn, Murph "...smells of shaving lather and whiskey." Murph serves as the groundskeeper at the school.
Although blinded, Finn's other senses are heightened and one night, he discovers a town girl who has been injured. Harley Moon had been moaning in the grave yard when Finn comes upon her. He brings her back to his room to bandage her wounds. While being treated, Harley tells him not to call the police and that he is in danger. Then she leaves.
The author uses flashbacks to allow the reader to learn of Finn and his former partner, Ray. We learn that when Finn was on the police force, there were a number of police officers who were being paid off by criminals and what Ray's part was. We also come to know that Ray is only out for himself and is jealous of Finn.
At the school, a number the female students are having a party with alcohol that has been smuggled into the school. Finn is considered to be a pal of the students and they invite him to share in their party. It is as if, since he can't see, the girls feel that he won't tell authorites about their party. As the party is progressing, they notice that one of their friends has disappeared and Finn goes in search of the missing student.
The suspense is well done and the author does a good job in describing how a person who cannot see can still defend himself. The action is particularly tense as we read of this blind man attempting to save the girls from whoever is stalking him, or them.
An enjoyable story with Finn, a well described character who shows his courage, empathy and professionalism in dealing with the young students and criminals.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

"...when a man adds something to the fragment of his life." Laurence Sterne

The Trident is a long range search vessel hired by the reality TV show "Sealife."
A group of scientists land on Hender's Island. They had been heading for Pitcarin Island when they received a distress radio signal and diverted to this remote Island.
The scientists see this out of the way Island as a chance to explore an area that has been isolated for hundreds of years. They are excited when they travel to the shore, accompanied by their cameraman. Their excitement ends when one of the scientists is attacked by a beast with "hippo sized vertical jaws," which kills the scientist.
The attack was caught on screen and people all over saw it on their TVs. It was a sensation. Many couldn't believe that it was true but it turns out that this was only an example of the creatures that live on the Island. In addition, one creature is deadlier than the next.
The scientists still see this as a historic challenge, a chance to discover something amazing. What they do discover is so startling that it changes their view of everything.
I enjoyed the book and found myself doubting that the scientists could make so many decisions that could and did put their lives on the line. Even when military assistance arrives, the scientists continued to return to the deadly Island.
The book has been compared to a modern "Jurassic Park" and while the decision making was doubtful, the story was enjoyable, just right for a vacation read, hopefully not on an Island occupied by man eating beasts.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

"Success is how high you bounce when you hit bottom." General George S. Patton

The story is told as a man is nearing the end of his life, reminiscing about the most momentous event of his childhood.

In East Texas, during the depression, twelve-year-old Harry Crane and his nine-year-old sister, Tom, find the body of a black woman, deep in the woods by their farm.

Their father, Jacob, is the town constable. He brings the body to the next town because he is afraid that if he goes to the young doctor in his town, that doctor would get into trouble by working on a negro. The woman is identified as Jelda May Sykes, a harlot who did some conjuring.

Jacob learns, from a former newspaper man, Cal Fields, that two other black women had been murdered recently. There wasn't much publicity because of their color.

Another complication is that the constable in that town, Red Woodrow, wants Jacob to stay out of his jurisdiction.

Meanwhile, Harry and Tom are convinced that a legendary killer is about, the killer, known as Goat Man, follows them home from deep in the woods.

After a period of quiet, another body of a black woman is found. This time the body is found in Jacob's jurisdiction.

The story is told in a warm, visual style as if the reader was sitting in a living room and listening to the events unfold while having a drink of a warm beverage.

Harry and Tom are excellently portrayed and could be children of Atticus Finch in "To Kill A Mockingbird." In fact, Scout Finch and the tomboy, Tom Crane could be twins, they are so much alike. Both stories have negro characters who are wrongly accused and are masterpieces of literature.

Monday, July 19, 2010

"Lots of people are dead, they're just not smart enough to fall over and decompose." Mary Burns

Frank Behr arrives at his friend, Aurelio's martial arts studio and finds that he's been murdered. Since Aurelio is so good in martial arts, Frank observes that it must have taken three men to do this.
Many people would walk away from a situation like this but Frank wants to find his friend's killer. As he begins searching, he's asked to look into the disappearance of two private investigators from one of the prestige agencies. At first, he declines but is old boss, Lt. Pomeroy, gets him to reconsider with the possibility of getting back on the job if he succeeds.
Frank is told that there are "pea-shake" houses where gambling takes place in low rent, condemned buildings in Indianapolis. Someone has been attempting to take over this action and are killing or beating the people who would be their competitors.
As the tension mounts and hearts begin to beat faster, we follow Terry Schlegal and his three sons, together with a former con named Knute, as they plan to take over all of the pea-shake houses; according to Financial Gary, this would be worth tens of millions of dollars.
The novel moves with breakneck speed with plenty of action and violence throughout. The author knows how to write a thriller and captures the reader's attention, not letting go until the final page.
I enjoyed the story and the protagonist, Frank Behr, a mixture of strength, bravery and integrity, with just the right amount of tenderness. The Schlegel family were well described villains, unique in their madness and combined immorality.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

"Never go to a doctor whose office plants have died." Erma Bombeck

Dr. Frigo is the nickname of Dr. Ernesto Castillo. His father either died or was assassinated and was a leading figure in the Democratic Socialist Party in St. Paul-les Alizes. With his death, leadership in the party would normally fall to Dr. Castillo. With this in mind, Castillo is summed to Commissaire Gillon's office to defend himself and assure the Commissaire that he wants no part in politics.
Segura Rojas, a compatriot of Dr. Castillo's father, asks to reside in the French Antilles along with Manuel Villegas, who leads the Mexican group of the party.
Dr. Frigo has a mistress, the artist, Elizabeth Martens who gives him advice. She believes that the French Secret Service needs a victory and wants to control Villegas.
Gillon doesn't trust Rojas or Villegas and wants Castillo to spy on them when they return to the Island.
A CIA agent becomes involved, offering bribes and looking ridiculous.
Castillo is pursuaded that if he wants to know how his father died, he should pretend to go along with Rojas and Villegas.
Villegas had been in Mexico because he had been exiled there by the junta that overthrew Castillo's father. His health isn't good and Gillon and the CIA think that if they get inside information about his health from Castillo, they will have an advantage.
The story is told with little drama or suspense. It's more in the style of learning the facts from newspaper articles, simply put to the reader to drawn their own conclusions. The style reminded me of Graham Greene in "The Honorary Consul."
For a novel written in 1974, it was interesting to see what was accepted as crime literature or mystery novels at that time.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

"When the night is young and the land is dark ...I won't be afraid...stand by me." Song Lyrics

New York Detective, Mike Hoolihan is called to the scene of an apparent suicide.
Mike is a woman with a nicotine voice, dyed blond hair and is an alcoholic who had been abused by her father.
The victim is Jennifer Rockwell, who Mike had known since Jenn was a little girl. Jenn if the daughter of Mike's former boss, Col Tom Rockwell, who is also a father image to Mike.
After viewing the body, Mike speculates that Jennifer did commit suicide but when she tells Co. Tom, he can't accept that and asks Mike to look at her findings again.
The medical report is that there were multiple bullets in Jennifer. Could her finger have frozen while pulling the trigger? Why would this seemingly happy, well adjusted, beautiful girl commit suicide?
The author gives the reader an appealing character in Mike Hollihan. Amis must have been in a mischievous mood when he was establishing her characteristics as a woman named Mike, formerly abused by her father and an alcoholic.
I was drawn into the story as it went along and found it quite delightful.

Monday, July 12, 2010

"Never perform card tricks for people you play poker with." Proverb

Armand Gamache and his wife arrive at Manoir Bellechasse, for their thirty-fifth wedding anniversary.

They are the ideal guests, not complaining and happy with the room they are given. They are happy to see their old acquaintance the innkeeper Clementine Dubois at the reception desk.

Clementine tells them that the Finneys have taken the other five rooms for a reunion, all arriving in their expensive cars and asking for free upgrades.

The highlight of the Finney's vacation is the unveiling of the statue of Mrs. Finney's first husband, Charles Morrow.

We learn of some of the family antagonisms which come to a point when the statue of Morrow is overturned and beneath the statue is the body of Julia Martin.

As the family is interviewed, we learn more about the petty jealousies and dislikes that the family had for each other. Ironic in that it made me wonder why they agreed to get together.

The author knows her psychology and must have a great knowledge of family intrigue since she does such a fine job describing the Finneys.

A well done mystery with excellent character descriptions and well described setting. I kept trying to guess who the killer might be, only to be surprised.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

"I've never fallen in love with my own voice but I've always had an attraction for it." Tom Snyder

Dr. Dan Ross is a well liked physician in Pittsburgh. He is murdered, leaving behind his bewildered, grief stricken wife, Elizabeth.

Commander Richard Christie is the man investigating Dan's murder. He's most sympathetic and understanding. He asks Elizabeth if she can think if anyone who might have wanted to hurt her husband. Elizabeth thinks for a while and suggests that it might have something to do with Pocusset Safe House, a home for troubled teens that her husband founded.

Across the street from Elizabeth's home, a man has been watching her. Then he notices that the next door neighbors are moving and he gets them to rent their home to him so he can be closer to Elizabeth.

His name is Frank Razzi and he seems strange and possibly deranged. He's a script writer and a part time teacher who spends much time going to his teaching position and back. His background is as a failure and his object in watching Elizabeth seems creepy.

The action is slow in developing and there isn't much drama. I didn't care for Frank and although Elizabeth was grieving, she seemed naive.

Frank has secrets and knows who killed Elizabeth's husband but to spread this thin plot over an entire book was too long.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

"I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father's protection." Sigmund Freud

The opening part of the novel nicely describes the strong relationship between Chicago Police Detective Ralph Shepard and his ten-year-old son, Derek. Maybe it was because Derek's mother died when he was just a small child, but the father-son bond is formed and grows with the story.
Ralph finally gets to work on a major case and when his investigation stalls, he needs more evidence and asks his young partner Troy, to go under cover and pretend to be a drug importer from Canada.
Things end tragically and when Ralph persists and is close to getting enough evidence to arrest underworld crime lord, Victor Lagano, he's gunned down in front of Derek and Derek's lifelong friend, Jimmy.
The boys grow up. Jimmy attends college and Derek goes to community college and enters the police academy. Jimmy takes a course that is run by Johnny Katalpa, Ralph's first partner, who became an FBI agent.
Johnny takes an interest in Jimmy and Jimmy is recruited into a so called specialized unit in the FBI, run by Marcus Web. However, the unit isn't all that it seems.
In a major coincidence, Derek meets a woman named Rebecca and becomes enamored with her. They have relations and after a night of love making, she leaves a note that she cannot see him again. But fate changes and when Derek goes to a concert, Rebecca is there with her husband, Victor Lagano.
The rest of the story details Rebecca attempting to get information about Lagano's crimes and giving it to Derek so he can bring Lagano to trial. If this happens, Rebecca will be put in the witness protection plan run by Marcus and this will have disasterous results.
For a first novel, and without major editing, the author tells a good story and provides excellent action.
A couple of flaws; when Derek sees his father killed, his father's boss is Chief Frank Szymanski and Derek is described as a teenager. Derek grows up, attends community college, joins the police and gets into the detective unit and Szmanski is still there. These positions in hazardous duty occupations never have a supervisor there for that length of time.
Also, when Marcus recruits Jimmy, the recruitment process is done in the backseat of a car. Even though this is an undercover unit, that wouldn't happen. And cops don't call each other by their full names, i.e. Marcus and James. Otherwise, I enjoyed the book.

Friday, July 9, 2010

"Green, green, I'm going away to where the grass is greener still." Old song.

When Cassie Maltham was age ten, she and her twelve-year-old cousin, Suzie Ashmore decided to take a shortcut home. They went through an old path called The Greenway.
Suddenly, things went strange, Cassie told her friends and she says that she must have lost consciousness and when she awoke, Suzie went missing. She never was seen again.
Cassie has been haunted with this for twenty years. Now she returns with her husband, Fergus and her friends, Anna and Simon. She wants to discover what happened.
Not long after her arrival, another young girl goes missing. This girl is the same age as Suzie was and she is also missing in The Greenway area.
What is the connection between the two girls going missing, twenty years apart?

Detective Inspector Mike Croft leads the investigation and John Tynan, who investigated Suzie's disappearance, comes out of retirement to help.
Cassie does something heroic but her actions were as if she was in a dream or trance. She can't explain it.
The novel does a nice job in describing the area and people. The discriptions are quite vivid. However, the plot was not really believable and would be better suited for the paranormal fiction fan.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

"The absence of the beloved, short though it may last, always lasts too long." Jean Baptiste Poquelin Molieri

Web London's FBI Hostage Rescue Team is lured into a trap, caught in a crossfire and slaughtered. He's the only survivor.
One witness to the team's massacre is a ten year old named Kevin Westbrook. He's the younger brother of a drug dealer named Big F. After the shooting, Kevin disappears.
Knowing that he needs to deal the with effects of the loss of his team, Web goes to psychiatrist, Claire Daniels. As he tells her about his past, we learn of the anguish and guilt that he feels that he is alive and didn't do whatever he could to save his team.
Percy Bates meets with the undercover agent who told the officials of what they could get in the raid. The undercover agent, Randall Cove suggests that one group is controlling the Oxycontin flow from rural areas to the major cities in the East Coast. Cove believes that the drugs could be coming from small pockets in Appalicia.
I enjoyed the book and felt that Web London was one of Baldacci's better protagonists. He's easy to sympathise with, compassionate and dedicated. The interaction between London and Claire Daniels was also well done and left me hoping for more.
The author also provided a number of well timed plot twists that caught me totally unaware.

Well done.

Monday, July 5, 2010

"The sky is not less blue because the blind man cannot see it." Danish Proverb

Virgil Cole and Everett Hatch return to Appaloosa where they had enforced the law in the past.
Currently, the town is run by Amos Callico, an ambitious, corrupt, chief of police and his twelve lawmen. Callico's always looking for personal gain and his manner of providing justice is to demand kick backs from the businessmen and town residents.
Virgil and Everett are hired to provide personal security by Lamar Spec, at his saloon, the Boston House.
Callico comes to Virgil and Everett complaining that they are taking money that belongs to him, then he asks if they would join him. However, he is rebuffed.
Word spreads and soon, the two men are providing honest security for all the saloons in town.
One day, their old friend Pony Flores and his half brother, Kha-to-nay, arrive. Kha-to-nay doesn't like white men because they took his and his people's land. Pony only speaks to Indians, and in this case, Pony is the only Indian around so any communication is through him.
Pony tells Virgil and Everett that his half brother killed a crooked Indian agent and robbed a bank. The government agents and the Pinkerton's are after him.
Parker is a master story teller. As I breezed through the pages, I kept thinking of Gary Cooper in "High Noon" and was humming the theme song from that movie.
Parker's visual descriptions and entertaining characters make the reader want the story to go on and on.
I really enjoyed the book and felt that I was sitting at a ring side seat as the realistic action was unfolding before me. Robert Parker passed away recently and all of literature will be sorry that he's not still with us, providing entertaining stories and believable characters who we'd like to emulate.

Friday, July 2, 2010

"If you enjoyed a little and endured a lot, you've done pretty well." Unknown Source

Stella Hardesty returns after her adventures in "A Bad Day for Sorry," left her in the hospital.
She had been abused by her husband for years and ended the abuse and Ollie's life. Now, she helps other women get out of abusive situations.
She's having dinner at Sheriff "Goat" Jones' home. The two of them have been building up to a more physical relationship and just as things are looking good, the Sheriff's ex-wife, Brandy, arrives.
Brandy hasn't seen Goat in three years and each claims that the other never got around to signing the divorce papers so they're still legally married.
As this is transpiring, a tornado rips the town and blows over the snack shop at the demolition derby track at the fairgrounds. Under the rubble, they find the mummified body of a woman.
Neb Donovan had been in charge of the stand construction and he becomes the leading suspect. His wife, Donna, hires Stella to look into the case and clear Neb's name. Stella had asked to intervene in the past when Neb had been addicted to Oxycontin. It appeared that Neb's recovery had gone well, until now.
This is another entertaining novel from the author. There are some laugh out loud moments and the author keeps the reader's attention as layers of the puzzle are peeled away and a possible solution is arrived at.
It is refreshing to see a female protagonist who won't be taken for granted and Stella, along with her new associate, Chrissy, show they have a strength to take matters in their own hands.
Great fun.

Currently Reading

Currently Reading
Broken Promise