Friday, January 30, 2015

Don't climb this mountain

With the financial crisis of 2008, Samantha Kofer gets downsized. However, she is given the chance to return to her Wall Street Firm after working for a non profit.

Her company had a list of companies to choose from and Samantha decides to work for the Mountain Legal Aid Clinic, in Brady, Va.

The type of cases that go through her office is made up of miners who have lost their jobs due to black lung disease and their company refusing their compensation demands. She also works on creating wills and with a woman who was dismissed from her job illegally.

The people in Appalachia are definitely a group that would create sympathy but Samantha seems to be just fulfilling the requirement before she can return to New York and a high income salary. I didn't feel that she was emotionally involved with her clients.

She does meet another attorney who has taken the minor's plight to heart but she doesn't commit to help in the long run. She returns to New York to speak about her old job and speaks to her father in trying to decide her future but I didn't feel an empathy for her or that she had the guts to help those desperately in need.

There were many greedy characters in the book, from debt collectors, to coal mine companies or to FBI agents under the influence of the coal mine companies themselves.

The best part of the novel was the description of what strip mining does to the community, to the natural landscape and to the will to live of some of the depressed former miners.

I'm a fan of Grisham's writing but I expected more from this story.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A prison escape and pursuit

 Lemar Pye, his mentally challenged cousin, Odell and another prisoner escape from McAllister State Penn, a maximum security prison. Pye had just murdered another prisoner so he had nothing to loose. The men go on a killing and robbery spree in Oklahoma and West Texas.

They stop at the farm of crusty WWII vet, Bill Stepford to find guns and ammunition.

Later that day, state trooper and his young partner, Ted Pepper, stop at the farm to check on Stepford. A local waitress asked them to look in on him because she was worried that he hadn't stopped at her restaurant for his morning coffee. This was something Stepford never missed.

Unaware that they were walking into an ambush, Pepper is killed and Pewtie is wounded and left for dead.

Stephen Hunter has provided his readers with a well plotted story of the escape, the horrors that are committed by the fugitives and the relentless pursuit.

All of the major characters have flaws. Pye is a self centered egotist, having an affair with his young partner's wife. His lieutenant is an alcoholic living in the past. Lemar Pye is such an evil person that the memory of  his disregard for taking another man's life will remain in the reader's memory for a long time. I was totally wrapped up in the chase to bring him to justice.

"Dirty White Boys" has been compared to the characters and setting of "In Cold Blood," and I found the book to be an enjoyable reading experience.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Terrorist threat

Operatives Pike Logan and his partner, Jennifer Cahill receive a letter terminating their services with Blaisdell Consulting, an umbrella company of their real employer, a counterterrorist unit called the Taskforce. Some governmental officials felt that Pike and Jennifer had gone too far in their last case.

They arrive in Washington and their commander, Col.Kurt Hale ask them for help because his niece is missing. He thinks it's part of some terror operation where a number of children of government officials have been kidnapped.

Hale says he'll pay them privately and that he's worried about Kylie, his niece who is an exchange student in England.

Pike and Jennifer get to work and it's as if Jason Bourne and James Bond were mixed together. There is a complicated plot involving a splinter group of IRA terrorists, a Croatian arms dealer, and Somalia terrorists have combined to plan the capture of the children of government officials for a unique ransome, combined with a jewel robbery and the Somalia's planting a bomb in London.

There's lots of action interspersed with meetings in Washington of the officials who were skeptical of Pike and Jennifer from their past operation. The children of many of these officials are involved and we observe their thoughts.

The novel was very complicated and had to be read slowly to appreciate it. The author is a master of suspense but the action was long in coming and I was growing weary of what would come next.

I enjoyed the story and look forward to another book by Brad Taylor but wish this one ended sooner.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Run run, get around, I get around

The reader knows off the bat that the story will be dealing with the unnatural as a man lost in the desert sees a beautiful girl. He believes it's only a dream until she takes a bite from his thigh.

The action takes place on the California-Mexican border. Jess Galvin is in a Mexican jail after being arrested when he tried to stop an incident against a young girl which took place in the back room of a bar.

After Jess successfully defends himself in a jail incident, he's offered freedom if he would do one job. He's to transport a beating heart across the desert, travel to a holy site where the power has been sealed by holy blood  and deliver an item into the hands of the man's son. The item is a beating heart.

Another character of note is Sherry Richards, a sixteen-year-old girl who is abducted.

The final person that the story follows is an honest sheriff whose jurisdiction is in a Texas border town.

We know that the deal for Jeff to cross the desert is from a devil like person who wants Jeff's soul and along the way, there is an Army of Virgins, young girls who arise from the desert and seek revenge on those who travel there.

The plight of the  three central characters is followed as they get into one seemingly impossible situation after another.

The story reminded me of Stephen King's "The Stand" where the forces of good meet up with an army of evil figures who want to rule over the earth.

The novel was a quick read but a little too long for me. Although this is not my usual reading choice, I did find the novel entertaining.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Home at last

In this 1986 novel, USAF Major Joseph "Joe Mack" Makatozi's plane is forced down over the Bering Sea.

The Russians have forced his plane down. They capture him and take him to a secret prison in Siberia. He is taken before Col. Zamatev, a hard line GRU officer who plans to force information from Joe Mack.

The Russians realize that Joe Mack has valuable information about modern jet planes. The prison is in a little known area of Siberia and Zamatev tells Joe Mack that no one knows where he is so there won't be an effort to search for him.

Joe Mack is part Sioux, part Cheyenne. He is also a decathlon athlete of near Olympic caliber. He's also a proud man and resolved not to give in.  He is able to find an object that permits him to pole vault over the prison fence. Then he begins on an heroic effort to cross Russia and escape.

He has no weapons or food or winter clothing so the odds are against him. In addition, Zamatev assigns Alekhin, a Yakut Siberian to trail Joe. The Yakut, as he is called, is an enforcer at the prison and a good tracker who has taken Joe Mack's escape personally.

I had read this story in the past and enjoyed it again. Reading about Joe Mack's survival in the freezing cold mountainous region reminded me somewhat of Jack London.  Joe Mack is able to make a bow and arrow and he survives on his innate skills. When the Russians send a helicopter after him, that segment of the story reminded me of the movie, Rambo.

Overall, the nonstop action was entertaining and his relationship to the people he meets during his escape was interesting to follow.  The writing is realistic, so much so that when I read about the Russian winter setting in, I made sure the windows of my house were closed tightly and the heat was turned up.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Michael Connelly marches at the head of the band

LAPD Detective Harry Bosch returns from retirement to work in the LAPD Open-Unsolved Unit.

He's teamed with and eager rookie, detective Lucia Soto, who has just been honored for her quick thinking in a shooting incident.

They view the autopsy of a mariachi musician, Orlando Merced,  who was shot with a stray bullet ten years ago. He was paralyzed from the wound and finally died of complications. This raised the case to a murder investigation.

The detectives travel to Mariachi Plaza, the scene of the shooting and speak to other mariachi musicians to get a start of the investigation. Then they interview the other members of the group. Gradually, they work their way up fitting little pieces of the puzzle into place. The direction of the investigation changes and politics comes into being.

During this time, Det. Soto is also investigating an apartment fire that proved to be arson resulting in murder. The Bonnie Brae apartment fire which killed nine victims. She has a personal interest in this case because she was in the building and some of her friends were killed.

As politics enters the case, other impediments add to the complications but Harry's experience and Lucia's energy and determination build the two cases intelligently and suspensefully.

Harry Bosch is one of the best detectives in mystery literature and he shows his knowledge and mentoring ability with Lucia.

Los Angeles is well described with the various restaurants, roadways and historical references. At one confrontation they are in the Los Angeles hotel where Whitney Houston died.

The ending is a slam dunk and leaves the reader gasping for more.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Strangers in the night

This is the perfect medicine for the reader yearning to be thrilled and entertained. It is absorbing, compelling and filled with richly described characters in a rural setting that seems so real that the reader seems part of the action.

Keye Street, a Chinese American, has a background in profiling with the FBI. She is now a private investigator and is asked by the sheriff of Hitchiti County Georgia to assist in a case involving the kidnapping and murder of two teenage girls.

The bodies of the two thirteen-year-old girls are found off a waterway in the woods. Fishermen noticed a blouse which led officials to the deceased girls. They had been kidnapped and murdered but it was ten years between the crimes.

Characters are introduced and studied to determine if they had any connection with the crimes.
The sheriff's two leading Criminal Investigators resent Keye's intrusion in the case and she has to deal with their resentment while working to find a killer.

Sexual offenders are rounded up and questioned. Various facts about their past comes to light and new crimes are found for some of them.

Williams has been compared to Karin Slaughter with good reason. Their female protagonists are gutsy, independent and determined in their search for criminals and in this case, child predators. Williams also has the ability to give enough evidence to suspect someone, only to have that person exonerated and someone else must be found to investigate. To this reader, it seems realistic as if that would actually happen.

This is the start of the series and I'm definitely hooked. Even though it's only the start of the year, this is the best book I've read in a while. The suspense was terrific and the surprises kept me at the edge of my easy cchair

Sunday, January 11, 2015

King of the road

"Mr. Mercedes" tells the story of a deranged sociopath turned killer and a retired cop who tries to identify and arrest him.

Of course, with Stephen King, there is great publicity and this novel was named by one source as the number one mystery/suspense book for the year.

There is a heart catching beginning to the story. A number of people are queued up to enroll in a job fair. They are discussing the hard times they've encountered. Out of nowhere, a stolen Mercedes plows into the crowd, killing eight and injuring many more.

Bill Hodges is a recently retired detective and remembers a number of cases that he wasn't able to solve and still haunt him. The Mercedes Killer is at the top of his list. He decides to investigate this case again and the story intensifies and Hodges receives a letter from the Mercedes Killer, taking credit for the kills and mocking Hodges for his inability to catch him.

Hodges works with his old partner to revive the cold case. Later, Hodges begins getting help from a young man named Jerome, who worked for Hodges in various capacities. Jerome is enthusiastic to work for Hodges and is adept at  the internet.

This is a traditional good vs. evil as we view Brady Hartfield gloat about his crime and then plan more evil acts. Hodges becomes more involved, in particular, with the family of the owner of the Mercedes.

Suspense mounts as the killer intends to strike again with more casualties than his first crime.

Told from an outside look at the characters and their actions, this plot driven novel certainly entertains.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Mustang shuffle, you better slow your mustang down

Some stories can be scary or romantic or sentimental. "Mustang Shuffle is just plain fun!

Glenn Gillman isn't at his home when a hitman arrives at his house. His friend and fellow prankster, John Yee is at Glenn's house when he's shot and killed. The killer is disappointed to see John's Oriental features and knows he's shot the wrong man. However, he watches CSI so he knows what to do so he won't be caught.

Mistakes happen with many of the characters. Another character is at a restaurant where he used to work, the restaurant manager has a heart attack and when he can't be resuscitated, the character thinks he'll be accused of causing the man's death, so he hides the body in the trunk of his car.

Carl Hamilton is upset when one of his fellow Vancouver City Councilmen complains on TV about Hamilton's missing meetings. Carl decides to have his obedient hitman cut the man's tongue out.

Doug Meier is a popular teacher at a local school. Ryan Coleman is one of his students and a pothead. Ryan thinks Doug looks a little stressed so offers to sell him some weed.

Echo is the alias of the hitman. His girlfriend, Seren has been stealing money from her company and wants one last substantial theft before moving on.

I enjoyed the characters and their dialogue. When I read about one character having two pet crocodiles, I laughed and felt like I was reading one of Elmore Leonard's books.

I received this book from an internet friend, in return for my honest review. I have to tip my hat to my friend for a most enjoyable and fun reading experience.

A New York Christmas

A Christmas gift story about a wealthy family in New York City in 1904.

This tasty story has Jemima Pitt, daughter of Thomas Pitt, head of Britain's Special Branch,  accompanying her acquaintance Delphinia Cardew across the Atlantic to New York. Phinnie is to be married to Brent Albright, an heir to his family's wealth.

There is a question as to a person not invited to the wedding and when Jemima tries to learn more, she comes across the body of a woman who had been murdered. Jemima is accused of the crime.

We see what a brave person Jemima is, in that, the daughter of a famous police investigator, she decides to find the killer and is assisted by a kindly New York Police Officer, Patrick Flannery.

There is a feel of a Charles Dickens tale here as there are many family connections between the Albright's and the Cardew family. Jemima looks into the deceased woman's past and learns of the woman's kindness and her true relationship with the family. As in one of Dickens's stories, a poor woman had an honorable goal in mind and wealthy individuals misinterpreted it.

I enjoyed the story and the look at New York City life in the 1904 time. It was also interesting to see the wealthy aristocracy of the Albrights and compared it to the Gillingham family of Downton Abbey.

Jemima is a brave person who is gutsy and determined. I would enjoy seeing how she developed during her life in America.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Killing unsoftly

When I first read the blurb on Robin Burcell's "The Kill Order," it seemed like a book with lots of action and entertainment. Fortunately, my assumption was correct and this was an action packed, first rate novel.

FBI Special Agent Sydney Fitzpatrick knew her father was involved in the theft of The Devil's Key twenty years ago and murdered as a result. But she didn't know much more.

Now, she rescues a young woman named Piper who possesses an eidetic memory. She read this list of numbers at her friend's home. He purchased a number of computers on sale from the FBI and one of the computers had this code left in the hard drive. Her friend tries to figure it out.

However, his interest kicks off an alert that someone is attempting to penetrate the code and the kill order goes into effect - where anyone attempting to explore this code is killed because the Devil's Key poses a threat to national security. It permits the user to observe private communications on anyone they want. This timely topic adds to my interest in the story.

Sydney and her partner have to protect Piper and learn why the Devil's Key is so important. There is a covert government group called ATLAS and they work together with the FBI against the criminal group wanting the Key for themselves.

I enjoyed the action and the story, Piper is a unique character with her pink hair and facial rings, she is also a pickpocket. Sydney is interesting as a character and we observe her attempting to more to her life with a relationship that is in jeopardy due to her work.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

He's a devil in disguise

I looked forward to reading this book which promised to be a suspenseful debut. The book hit the spot, delivering  the suspense and provided a new voice in literary thrillers.

Ellie Jones is age 21 and a crime reporter for the "Free Press," in Toronto, Canada. She's haunted with the kidnap murder of Lianne Gagnon, her best friend. This happened ten years ago when both girls were age eleven.

Currently with Ellie's job, there is a great deal of publicity surrounding the arrest of Paul Bernardo. He's accused of being the Scarborough Rapist, a serial killer.

As Ellie is examining this case, she checks into the history of young girls who were murder victims. With her interest piqued, she gets on the trail of a chameleon, Robert  Nelson Cameron and his many aliases.

The story is tense as someone begins stalking Ellie and she's not sure where to turn for help. She's learned things about her mother's teenage years when Ellie's mother lived in a communal setting. Her mother admits to knowing Charles Manson and the reader's imagination spirals upward.

Through this dark story, we feel for Ellie's fear mixed with her inquisitive nature and desire to learn what happened to her best friend. There are a number of surprises as Ellie continues her quest.

I enjoyed this story although I felt it could have been shortened. Ellie's boyfriend didn't strike me as a likable character and I wondered about Ellie's attachment to him.

I give the story a 3 * rating and the literary writing 4*s

Legal mystery

A young woman named Charlotte King is robbed and murdered in New York. Police are on the scene quickly and get a description of her robber with Charlotte's last breaths. Then they spot a black man running down the street, dressed in the manner in which Charlotte described her attacker. Damon tucker is brought back to the woman and as she lay dying, she seemed to indicate, he was her assailant.

Arch Gold is appointed as the defense attorney. Tucker believes he's being set up and is outraged at his arrest.

Arch looks into Charlotte's past and learns where she worked and then her mother tells Arch that she had been seeing the president of her company, David Yates. Yates owns a PI firm that he expects to go public next year and it could make him millions.

Yates is a sinister character and we, along with Arch, wonder if he killed Charlotte or had her killed but will Arch be able to prove it? Will Damon be found guilty? There are interesting questions that the reader needs to learn for themselves. (I don't want to reveal plot elements).

The story is well written. The author is an attorney and he describes events in a realistic manner. The characters are well described, Arch with his determination and compassion, Damon with his anger and self righteousness.

Well done.

Currently Reading

Currently Reading
Broken Promise