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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Currently Reading

Currently Reading
Broken Promise