Sunday, April 27, 2014

In the misty moonlight...

I was asked to review this book by the author and since Mystic, Connecticut is one of my favorite places, I was happy to accept.

I was most entertained with the novel which does a fine job in capturing the atmosphere and setting of Mystic.

The reader experiences a character named Tony as he murders a recent Annapolis graduate. Then Tony removes the man's clothing and cuts off the buttons as "trophies." After which Tony disposes of the body.

At the Mystic Marina, Liz and Garret Adams live aboard their boat, "Sloopy."
They go on a boating excursion and discover the body of Ensign Steven Bates. They notify the authorities but something makes Liz want to help in finding the killer.

The life of the characters who live aboard their boats at the Mystic Marina is well detailed. We see the serenity they seem to feel by living on their boats but we also learn that many of them are hiding things from their past.

After another murder, Liz goes to a psychic and is given direction in searching for the killer but also receives a warning that the killer is aware of her investigation and might be wanting to harm her.

The reader also experiences the love between Liz and Garret, and that of the Marina manager, Jim, and the girl he is to marry in the near future. We also feel sadness for the young woman who works at the Marina and bears a secret love for the Jim.

The dialog is realistic without unnecessary commentary and the story moves along nicely while keeping the reader's attention.

I received a copy of this book in return for an honest review and the comments are my own.

Friday, April 25, 2014

We have a special face for friends

I received a copy of this book in return for an honest review. It is a step out of my norm for reading preferences so I read it with that in mind.

Joe Ledger was a Baltimore cop who performed heroically in a raid against terrorists and was recruited into the DMS (Department of Military Sciences). This is an elite group of operatives who battle against terrorists or other threats to the U.S.

This is a book of short stories where Joe is in charge of the Echo Team. They go on various missions, often, against people who have been changed in some way and are not the humans they had been.

One of my favorite stories, "Zero Tolerance" where Joe is sent to Afghanistan. There is a woman, wife of a terrorist, who is a molecular biologist. She has developed a pathogen that turns infected people into a hard to kill, zombie like creatures. Joe comes face to face with the woman, Amirah, and it is a struggle for life. What I enjoy most about Joe's actions is that he shows compassion. A soldier infected with the virus is about to begin turning into one of the zombie like creatures. Joe asks the man if he'd like to end it now, before he turns and Joe puts the man out of his misery.

I also enjoyed "The Vault" where soldiers volunteered for a program on genetic enhancements and they were turned into killing creatures. One of the volunteers was a Marine named James Collins. Much like the situation in the previous story, Joe asks Collins if he'd like to be remembered as a Marine who died for his country or what he turned into. Then Joe takes action.

The reader could compare these stories with horror stories of the past. It is certainly a page turner book. There is some bleak reality but the plotting and writing are good and the stories original and interesting.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

"All human evil comes from man's inability to sit still in a room." Pascal

Frank Knox is an operative of Rutherford Risk. He is also an art expert. His company deals in government contracts and information. It was shaped in the image what the first director of the CIA did with that organization.

Knox is sent to Istanbul to make contact with a man he's dealt with in the past. The man is an art connoisseur. The man's brother is Iranian and there is suspicions about him. Knox is to work with his so called partner, Grace Chu. She knows about computer technology and self defense and is good person to have in a tough situation.

They are to offer the man an invaluable piece of art that has been thought to have been destroyed.  Frank's superior wants Grace to trail the money the men might have in purchasing the art piece.

Even though there is a great deal of action, the novel is slow and uninteresting.  Frank and Grace are pursued by Iranians, Israeli agents and agents from Turkey. Frank is stabbed, tasered, hit with a re-bar and shot. Both he and Grace are captured and released more than once and finally, the reader wishes that they would just get on with it. At one point Frank states that the pieces just don't fit and the reader feels exactly the same.

That is the problem with the story. Who are the villains? Are the men using the art as a currency for weapons? Is there a sinister plot from Iran? We don't know and after a time, the reader ceases to care.

I've enjoyed Ridley Pearson's work in the past and consider myself a fan but the writing and plotting in this book don't measure up top his past efforts.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Many a tear has to fall but it's all in the game

Henrik "HP" Pettersson is an immature person who acts on impulse.

When he's on the train, he finds a mobile phone. When he picks it up, there is a message to him, challenging him to join a game. He figures this is a gimmick from his friend but agrees to play. The Game Master gives him tasks to do which progress in difficulty.

HP has to wear a camera and is excited by the thrill of other people following his actions and likes the idea that he can win money in the game.

He's a good candidate for the game since he doesn't have a job and has no one to be responsible to. As he performs the actions, it's as if he can't determine what is right and wrong or what is breaking the law.

The game is controlled by the Game Master who is a "big brother" figure and a key rule of the game is that he's forbidden to talk about it.

HP's sister, Rebecca "Becca" is his opposite. She's a security officer with the Swedish Security Police. She's quiet but motivated and efficient. However, she's weighed down by the fact that she owes HP a debt since he took the blame when a man Becca was dating became abusive. When the man was fighting with HP, in a struggle, the man fell off a balcony to his death.

The plot wasn't realistic. HP's inability to say no to the challenges reminded me of The Manchurian Candidate. When HP injured his sister in one of his tasks, it injured Becca and the man she was with. The reader would assume this would be sufficient to have him stop the game but that wasn't the case.

The plot was confusing at times. Some of the time I couldn't determine who was talking or who was being addressed. A number of the characters have nicknames and many weren't introduced with background information.

HP was not likable but I did sympathize with Becca and wished for her success and that she wouldn't be harmed by her brother's actions. I also found the writing to be uneven.

I give the story three stars for the uniqueness of the plot.  This is the first book of a trilogy but I do not feel interested in following the story in the other books.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Decency is a more exhausting state than its opposite.

For readers curious about what goes on inside the US Predator program, this dandy novel will provide an insider's look.  The book explodes with action as Clarke describes the leading pilots of drones, their missions, and the intelligence personnel who run the program.
The drone program has had such success that a group of Arabs who are on the terrorist list set up a meeting.. The meeting is with the head of the Qazzani Cartel who deal with heroine distribution, the sale of weapons, stolen electronics and gold. They have also been responsible for the death of many Americans.
They decide to strike back against the US. in a two fold plan. They will explode bombs at key US cities, attack drone pilots in America and destroy drones on the ground.

Clarke details the success of the drone program but also conveys the bad publicity from strikes that killed innocent people. When the terrorists set up a trap for the drones, they make it look like the drones were responsible for an attack on an orphanage.  This gives more bad publicity and makes certain officials in Washington condemn the program and want to install rigid rules before a strike can be made.

The administrators of the drone program have to deal with these politicians and feel that many of them seem to have forgotten what happened in 9-11.

Clarke revs up the suspense as the days get closer to Christmas, the day the terrorists plan to unleash their attack. We wonder how the terrorists can be identified and if they can be stopped before many people are killed.

Monday, April 14, 2014

All day all night, Mary Anne, down by the sea side sifting sand

In this novel, Alistair Burke has given her readers a gripping novel that is well constructed and a plot that flows like a river.

Helen Brunswick is a psychotherapist who is murdered in her New York office. The killer then breaks her bones and sends police a note, since this is the same mo as a killer in jail for a serial killing, 20 years ago, they have the wrong killer in jail.

NYPD assigns detectives Ellie Hatcher and her partner JJ Rogan to give the case a fresh look. Since many of the killings happened in Utica, NY they have to work with the Utica PD. However, the serial killer, Anthony Amaro, was convicted for only one killing, that of Donna Bland and this killing was in New York City. While they are investigating the murders from the past, there is a parallel investigation on Helen Brunswick's murder.

Amaro learns of the new killing and appeals to have his conviction overturned. He works with an attorney famous for getting convicts released and Carrie Bland, an attorney, goes to work for her. Carrie is the sister of Donna Bland, the victim. Carrie thinks that if Amaro was innocent, by working on the Amrao case, she might find the real killer.

It is interesting to see the justice system at work. When new evidence shows DNA that doesn't match Amaro, a major plot turn of events occurs. We learn of Amaro's past and what it means to Hatcher and Rogan to make sure Amaro isn't allowed to go free, since they believe he is the serial killer.

The two fold crime mystery is a solid read. The portrait of Carrie Bland working for the release of a man who was convicted for killing her sister, is something that will capture the reader's heart. There is also a good description of the investigatory process and investigating crimes committed in New York City and upstate New York and how they are handled with the different agencies looking for the killer.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Verses which do not teach men new and moving truths do not deserve to be read

There are two plot lines to this fast moving story.

Ali Reynolds a reporter who had attended the police academy, travels to England with her elderly majordomo, Leland Brooks. There is a family reunion for the Brooks family but there is also a secret that has been hidden for years.

Leland left England due to the pressures when he feared someone would expose him as being gay. Soon after his departure, Leland's father changed his will, excluding Leland from his family's estate.  Now Leland wants to reconnect with his family but he learns that his father was murdered. The murder was committed after the Korean war and when Ali learns about this she asks Leland if he wants her to look into the murder.

The other segment of the story involves a teenage boy, Lance Tucker, who is in jail for hacking into his school's computer program. Shortly before his scheduled release, he's severely injured in a fire.

Lance developed a new computer program and Ali's fiance, B. Simpson, who owns High Noon, a computer company, fears for the boy's safety.

There were a number of surprises and with someone trying to get the boy's computer program, sometimes it was difficult to tell the good guys from the bad. Ali helps in this case along with her fiance.

The plot moved along well and it was easy to follow the action in both parts of the story although solving the murder of Leland's father was slow moving. I was entertained by the story and it was fun following Ali as she tried to solve a duel mystery shortly before her wedding date.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A classic thriller

The Pilgrim is an intelligence agent who goes out of his way to keep his identity secret.

The story opens with him helping a NYPD detective, Ben Bradley at a murder scene. The killer took great care not to leave anything that could identify him or her. However a library card is found and the only book the killer took out was a book on committing a perfect murder. What astonishes the Pilgrim is that this is the book he wrote under a pseudonym.

In Saudi Arabia, a teenage boy witnesses the execution of his father. His father's crime was to criticize the government, his punishment was beheading. Seeing his father beheaded was the first step in radicalizing the boy who would be known as the Saracen. He vowed vengeance against capitalism and thought he would hurt Saudi Arabia more by striking against the United States.

The Pilgrim served as European head of an ultra secret organization, the Division. After an operation in Turkey where his assignment was to terminate a double agent, he wanted a break in counter espionage.
However, he's called back to duty to lead an investigation. In Afghanistan, evidence is found on contaminated clothing that someone had experimented with smallpox. It is thought that it might be from a terrorist who is planning a strike against the U.S.  The Pilgrim is to find the man and stop him before he can unleash his plot.

Terry Hayes has created a complex plot driven thriller. The Pilgrim searches for the Saracen's motives and feels that the more he knows of the Saracen, the better the chance of stopping him.

The characters are fascinating. The Pilgrim is sympathetic and a master investigator. He has given up his desire to have someone in his life so that he wouldn't be distracted from his job.  Ben Bradley became a hero in 9-11 where he saved lives but was seriously injured. The Saracen was evil but we could see how his ideas of revenge developed and his reasoning for wanting to kill people in the hated U.S.

The plot is marvelous while giving provocative thoughts about revenge and a man's dedication to finding the truth.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Enjoyable read

I've been a fan of C.J. Box since he began his series with Joe Pike in "Open Season" in 2001. The author is well regarded and has received many literary awards such as the Edgar Awards.

In this story, Joe is now a troubleshooter for Wyoming Governor Rulon. Joe is asked by Rulon to look into what is going on in Medicine Wheel County. It's a beautiful countryside but many of the residents have been on government assistant programs for lengthy times. Now, a wealthy man, Wolfgang Tomlinson has purchased a large parcel of land and set up a little domain. He is suspected of a murder for hire business.

Joe is asked to observe and report back. He's assisted by FBI agent Croon who is an old friend of Joe's. Joe's cover is to work with the local game warden and observe what Tomlinson is up to but to take no action. Of course, Joe does what he usually does, stirs up the pot and sees what transpires.

The writing is crisp and there are a number of surprises. Nate Romanowski appears. He's a falconer and old friend of Joe. Nate is a rebel and nature lover and always interesting to follow.

The setting is well described and we learn how this section of Wyoming became impoverished and how Tomlinson apparently came to the rescue of the town. Then, he becomes a little emperor and does whatever he wants.

There is also a subplot with Joe's daughter who is a college student. There is a man in her dorm who she suspects might be out to harm other students.

The dialogue is appropropriate as are the reactions of the inhabitants who see Joe as someone who might ruin the easy life they have. I found the other game warden to be sympathetic but his motivation was misplaced.

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