Tuesday, April 30, 2013

How to become popular for a politician

There are two parallel stories in this satirical novel.

In one, President George Bush and Jim Baker are given an idea from a man on his deathbed. If there is ever a need to boost the president's popularity, put this idea into motion.

In the other portion of the story, a young Hollywood actress, Maggie Krebs, comes to see investigator, Joe Broz. She tells him that she was promised a part in a movie but the director disappeared. She wants Joe to find the director.

The political segment of the story is reminiscent of Capote's "In Cold Blood" in that it is a mixture of fiction and non-fiction. Capote's novel was called the first non-fiction novel. This book is laced with footnotes and true-to life characters.

As the two parts merge, we see the relationship between Joe and Maggie develop while others are attempting to hinder Joe from finding out what happened to the director.

I enjoyed the lighthearted manner of the story.

Monday, April 29, 2013

A classic.

The story opens with Elizabeth Channing arriving at Chatham, Massachusetts to become the new art teacher at the Chatham School.

Arthur Griswold, headmaster, meets her at the station. He's accompanied by his son, Henry, who will be a sophomore at the school. Henry is the narrator of the story.

Channing is a romantic and Henry develops a puppy love for her.

Soon after her arrival, a domestic at the Griswold home, Sarah Doyle, asks Channing if she would teach her how to read.

Henry and Sarah are the same age and they both find themselves at Channing's cottage at the same time. Henry would be working on his art and Sarah on her reading.

Then, Leland Reed arrives at Chatham to become the new poetry teacher. He's accompanied by his wife and small child.

Leland and channing are drawn together as the story moves back and forth from the peaceful start of the story to a trial involving some of the characters.

The reader isn't sure what crime was committed but there are parallels to Dreiser's "An American Tragedy."

Winner of the Edgar Award, this is a story that tugs at the reader's heart as the central characters are led to a tragedy that they don't seem able to avert.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

This could be the house of the rising sun.

Joe DeMarco is a problem solver for speaker of the house, Congressman John Mahoney. Joe is told by Mahoney to look into the conviction of Brian Kincaid, a lobbyist  for murdering his partner.

The case looks tight against Kincaid but DeMarco begins to unravel it and to learn that Kincaid's conviction was due to a well planned set-up.

Orson Mulray has inherited the family pharmaceutical company and wants to use that to become one of the riches men in the world. He sets up a complicated plan to develop a new drug that will cure a major disease. Instead of going through the normal procedures, he gets with his company attorney, the unscrupulous Fiona West and they begin doing whatever it might take to make their dream a reality. They hire scientists and set up locations in obscure locations in order to experiment on people.They also hire a number of ex-military men to eliminate anyone standing in their way.

Joe DeMarco is relentless in his pursuit of answers. He's helped by a friend named Emma, who had been diagnosed with cancer but has been told she is now cancer free.

The novel is skillfully written. It also provides a deep and insightful look at the pharmaceutical industry and the steps someone might take for financial gain.

The well crafted novel will hold the reader's attention from the first page and deserves to be included in the lists of best thrillers of the year.


Thursday, April 25, 2013

This book misses the mark

New York private eye, Payton Sherwood sees three men begin roughing up a young girl in his New York neighborhood. He steps in to help the girl but they turn their anger on him and beat him severely  He's barely conscious when the girl comes out of hiding and steals his rolex watch.

Thereafter, this noir novel leads the reader through Payton's search for the girl, Gloria, and his desire to learn why the men were after her. He also wants his watch back.

I found little original in the book and wondered why Payton continued to spend his time and money trying to find Gloria, even after he had recovered his stolen item.

Payton becomes involved in one bad thing after another which made me wonder how much would it take him to stop working on this case and go on to a case where he could get paid for his efforts.

The author's descriptions of New York and the homeless and the neighborhood parks was rock solid.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A woman who stands behind her beliefs

I was happy to re-read this book which has been in my library for many years.

V.I. Warshawski's bank account is running low and she gets the opportunity to solve two needs.

She's an active feminist and takes on a case involving a woman's construction group that was turned down for a contract by a bank that had a community lending policy. Vic gets to help the women and get paid for doing so.

Vic's office building is scheduled for demolition. When there is an electrical problem she decides to try to fix it herself. In so doing, she finds a homeless woman living in the basement along with her three children, one of whom is sickly. The woman tells Vic she is trying to get away from an abusive husband.

A parallel story is about Vic attending a retirement dinner at a wealthy couple's home and seeing the mistreatment of the couple's children by the woman and her influential husband.

I enjoyed the story and the manner in which Paretsky covers the areas such as irregularities in the construction trade, bribery of officials, abused women and troubled children of wealthy and impoverished families.  The author also does a good job at balancing her topics and the reader is able to follow a complex plot easily.

V.I. Warshawski is a gutsy woman who stands up for what she believes in.

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Monday, April 22, 2013

Put your hand on the hand of the man who wrote this dandy thriller

I noticed this book on a list of best thrillers of the year and decided to read it. I'm glad I did.

Austin Clay is a CIA operative whose actions are so clandestine that only he and his handler know of his operations.  In this case, he's told that a CIA agent, Blake Nelson, is missing in Russia. If Clay can't find him and get him out, he is to eliminate Blake so the Russians can't get the info he knows.

While researching the case, he learns that a young Hungarian girl, working as a nanny for an ambitious Russian official, learned many state secrets during pillow talk with the official. The official is now dead and Russian agents are looking for the girl. It is possible that Nelson was on his way to see her when he disappeared.

The story plays out at a breakneck pace. Both Clay and the Russian agents are after the girl and the race is to find her first.

The action scenes are very realistic and Clay is believable, someone the reader can relate to and imagine they would like to emulate.

This is an exceptional novel!

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Saturday, April 20, 2013

Less than imperial

History re-writer, Peter Bowen tells of Luther "Imperial" Kelly in this story.

The  USS Maine has been blown up in Cuba and Teddy Roosevelt, Secretary of the Navy, orders Kelly to lead a recruitment program to get men who will follow Roosevelt as his "Rough Riders."

Kelly travels to the west and the recruitment goes very well. However, most of the men he recruits are gunslingers or cowboy roustabouts not use to following orders. Included in the recruits are Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Kelly's adventures follow fast and furiously.  He's ordered by Roosevelt, to gather information on the Spanish troop strengths and later, helps Teddy at San Juan Hill where most of Roosevelt's gang refuse to follow him and Kelly comes to the rescue.

Thereafter, Kelly is ordered to Cape Town to observe the Boer War. He meets an old friend, Winston Churchill who is there as a correspondent. Later, Kelly travels to China and the Philippines where he enters a romantic relationship.

The action is fast paced but reads more like a comic book than a novel. Kelly is a character without depth and has little to like.

I wasn't drawn to the story and other than seeing a different look at  history, I found it hard to finish.

Friday, April 19, 2013

A psychological thriller set in Stockholm.

Dr. Siri Bergman operates a psychotherapy practice in Stockholm with her best friend, Aina.

Siri lost her husband a number of years ago from a diving accident and she feels she can empathise with people suffering loss because of her own situation.

One of her patients is a young woman, Sara Matteus and when Siri finds Sara's body in a place where Siri normally goes swimming, it begins a number of events that make it look like someone is out to harm her.

As a protagonist, I felt that Siri is someone who attracted my attention. However, she is a passive person and when things began to go badly for her, she didn't do enough to protect herself.  Also, with the setting in Stockholm, I would have liked more descriptions of the surroundings since I'm not familiar with the area.

Otherwise, an enjoyable read.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A mixture of WWII history and fiction.

W.E. B. Griffin is one of my favorite military historical novelists.  In this work, he combines with William E. Butterworth IV.

Much of Griffin's best work is in the past but I read this novel with an open mind and was entertained.

During WWII, Germany places two two-men groups in America in order to do what they can to disrupt the American way of life. Their activities might consist of setting off bombs in railroad stations or blowing up electrical power stations, the men had freedom to pick their targets.

The OSS was still a young agency under Wild Bill Donovan. It was fresh from success of helping an important scientist escape from German rule.

Now, OSS agents are assigned to teams to enter France and encourage resistance groups prior to the Allied invasion of France.

I enjoyed the cavalier attitude of many of these young OSS agents. They didn't accept traditional authority based on outdated ideas and they didn't care for narrow minded officers. However, these agents were ready to die for their country.

This is a complex book and a compelling read with historical details of actions prior to the Allied invasion of Europe. I found it enlightening how the OSS used Mafia connections to appeal to the loyalty of the Mafia members and help with planned actions in Sicily where Mussolini was taking actions against the Mafia.

Monday, April 15, 2013

A good story and an interesting plot

With the publication of  "Night Moves," it brings back fond memories of being at Doc Ford's Sanibel, Rum Bar Grille, for a rehearsal dinner at a family wedding.

The story takes readers on a literary ride relating to one of the more famous incidents of WWII and brings the mystery of the incident into a new light.

It was during the winter of 1945 that five Navy torpedo bombers disappeared in the Florida region.

Doc Ford and his friend, Tomlinson, accompany a pilot named Dan Futch, in searching for the missing planes. There are complications and someone appears not to want the secret of the missing planes to come to light, while others want to be included in any historic discovery.

While attempting to find the missing Avengers, someone tampers with Futch's plane and they are forced to land in the Florida Everglades.

Why is the event that occurred over sixty years ago so important?

In a suspenseful story, we observe Doc Ford and Tomlinson attempt to get the hidden answers.

The plot mixes history and mystery while Doc tries to explore who sabotaged the plane he was on and to uncover the truth of the missing planes. There is also an interesting side story of a love starved neighbor who seems drawn to every man she meets.

I enjoyed the story and Doc Ford's approach to solving the mystery. Since he lives aboard his boat, there are numerous references to fishing and life of a person living on a marina which I found entertaining.


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Saturday, April 13, 2013

A fine, literary novel, the setting reminded me of "Cold Mountain."

As much as "The King of Lies" is a mystery, it is also a family chronicle. In the North Carolina setting, as Work Pickens travels the countryside to see his love, Vanessa, the setting is reminiscent of "Cold Mountain" which was written by fellow North Carolinian, Charles Frazer.

Work Pickens is a defense attorney in Rowan County, North Carolina. He's called out of court and informed that his father's body has been found. Ezra, a powerful but universally disliked man, has been missing for almost two years. When his body is found and Work goes to the scene, the novel begins to spin with possibilities.

The night Ezra was last seen, the delicate family balance was destroyed. Certain facts about Work's sister, Jean, and her female companion, Alex, came to light. A confrontation developed and when Work's mother attempted to intervene, matters turned deadly.

Work is a man with both strengths and weaknesses. He does his best at defending his clients but isn't ambitious. He doesn't love his wife but is reluctant to call off his marriage and make a new life with the Vanessa, his true love.  The female characters are not strong, Work's wife, Barbara, his sister Jean and his girlfriend, Vanessa are all women who have been manipulated throughout their lives.

The story is told with literary excellence and Work Pickens is a character who will remain in the reader's thoughts long after the book is back on the shelves.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Look here for good suspense

Journalist McKenna Wright sees footage of a woman rescuing a teenager who had fallen onto the train tracks.

McKenna recognizes the woman as an old friend and former classmate of McKenna's husband at West Point. The woman, Susan Hauptmann, had disappeared nearly ten years ago.

Thinking that this might be a good story of interest to her paper, McKenna begins looking into Susan's disappearance, not realizing that by doing so, she'd be putting herself and her husband in danger.

Also taking her time is a story McKenna was working on about a police killing of a young man and a police officer accused of shooting the man while the man was unarmed.

McKenna becomes paired with Det. Joe Scanlin who feels that he didn't do justice to Susan's disappearance because Scanlin was dealing with a family issue of his wife's battling early Alzheimer's disease at the time.

Alafair Burke has spun a complex plot that moves along nicely with appropriate tension. The last hundred pages of the story were very exciting as parts of McKenna's investigation and the legal case come together in a surprising manner.

Please check my Amazon review with the below link and place any comments there, or to indicate "YES" the review was helpful.


Sunday, April 7, 2013

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

In "Blood Money" the story initially seems pulled from the newspaper headlines. The story tells of a highly publicized murder trial in Florida where a nightclub waitress is accused of murdering her two-year-old daughter for interrupting her mother's life.

Jack Swyteck realized how difficult the case would be when he took it on and was anticipating a guilty verdict.

When the jury announced 'not guilty' there was an outrage.

As the woman, Sydney Bennett, is scheduled for release, there is a near riot and a young woman dressed up to look like Sydney is injured and goes to the hospital in a coma.

There are many twists to the story as the injured woman's family has no health insurance and the woman's father  asks Jack to sue the TV station for their part in causing the riot which resulted in his daughter's injury.

We also learn of a darker side where a serial killer is at work and manipulating many of the events.

I enjoyed reading about Jack Swyteck and his code for taking on difficult cases.  I also liked the message in the story about families without health insurance and their fear of the hospital costs. In addition, I agree that the news media often causes things to escalate and should bear responsibility when things get out of hand due to their trying to build up a situation to something grander.

Please check out my Amazon review and use the link below to go to Amazon and leave comments.


Saturday, April 6, 2013

"Crime and Privilege" tells the story of a middle class man involved in the world of the rich and influential. These people seem to feel that they can buy their way out of any difficult situation.

Not feeling wealthy like his friends, George Becket appears to be in awe of them.

The book opens with George at a party in the Palm Beach mansion of Senator Gregory of Massachusetts. George is with two college aged friends who offer to show an intoxicated co-ed the mansion. Upstairs, the two members of the Gregory family have sexual relations with the barely conscious woman.

George is in a moral dilemma about the wrongness of the situation and his friend's actions but doesn't want to create any hard feelings. Eventually, he's had enough and stops further assault on the woman.

Later, he's visited by a member of the co-ed's family. They want him to testify about the rape. When he tells the man that it appeared consensual, the man tells George that the woman's father is very wealthy and will ruin his life unless he testifies.

Years later, George is a lowly DA in Cape Cod. He's housed in the basement of the DA's office and takes the least prestigious cases. He's approached by a man looking for help with the investigation of his daughter's murder almost nine years previously. The coincidence is that this also involves the Gregory family.

George reluctantly takes action but his investigation begins in a half hearted manner.

The story is well told and the writing literary as we see George become more convinced in his actions and willing to take on the family and its wealth.

George is somewhat interesting but a weak character. I felt that the story was enjoyable but a bit too lengthy. George traveled around the world to get answers and this seemed to lessen the tension.

Walter Walker is a fine writer and I look forward to reading more by him in the future.

Please check out my Amazon review of this book and place any comments on Amazon.


Tuesday, April 2, 2013

"Bad boy, Bad boy, what you gonna do." Song lyrics

A woman comes to the police department requesting Det. Inspector Alan Banks. She's a former neighbor of Banks and wants to report that she found a gun in her daughter's room.

Since Banks is on vacation in America, his partner, Annie Christie, takes the case. She reports the crime and a group of firearms authorized police go to the woman's home. Unfortunately, there is an incident at the home.

Banks's daughter, Tracy, heard about the incident and went to ward the girl's boyfriend, Jaff and in so doing, becomes part of the situation. He tells Tracy that he has to hide out and she takes him to her father's house since she knew her father was away.

The author takes us through the steps of the investigation as we follow the history of the gun and learn more about Jaff who is holding something for a bigger criminal and he is in danger from this man and the man's enforcers.

The story is well done with sufficient tension to maintain the reader's interest. There are some good surprises and overall they combine for an enjoyable reading experience.


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Broken Promise