Over 550 book reviews with full author links

24 August 2012

William Diehl: Hooligans

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Great no holds barred action-packed thriller
This is one of the best thrillers that I have read this year and although it was written in the 1980's I rate it higher than many of the best-selling thrillers released this year.  I loved the fast non-stop page-turning action, amazing characters and a plot with so many twists that it keeps you guessing up to the last page.

Jake Kilmer is a federal agent investigating organised crime who has been trying unsuccessfully for several years to make a case against a Mafia family known as the Cincinnati Triad. The Triad disappear for some time and then turn up again in Dunetown, Georgia where Jake spent his happiest teenage years. During the last 20 years since he left Dunetown, Jake has lived through the horrors of the Vietnam war and become a tough motivated cop determined to eliminate the Triad by any means.  Since Jake left, Dunetown has changed from an idylic backwater to a glitzy city where the Triad can  operate and profit openly.

Jake joins an unusual group of local crime fighters recruited from the dregs of police society to stamp out organised crime.  Because of their characters and appearance the locals call them the Hooligans.  When the Mafia leader and some of his top people are murdered, Jake and the Hooligans are the only chance that Dunetown has to stop the bloodshed and eliminate organised crime from the city.

William Diehl was a great thriller writer from the 1970's to 1990's who died in 2006  It is wonderful that his estate has released several of his books on Kindle at affordable prices, including the well known Sharkey's Machine and Primal Fear which were made into very successful movies.

I loved Sharkey's Machine, didn't understand or appreciate Chameleon and really enjoyed the pace and sizzle of Hooligans.  There are still 4 or 5 of Diehl's books that I look forward to reading soon.

19 August 2012

Richard de Crespigny: QF 32

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A rivetting real life thriller - disaster avoided
This real-life thriller about how a Qantas Airbus A380 super jumbo landed safely after a catastrophic engine explosion was as rivetting as most of the fictional adventure thrillers that I read normally. While there is a lot of technical detail most of it is essential to be able to understand what happened.

On 4 November 2010 Qantas flight QF32 with 469 people on board left Singapore on a routine flight to Sydney. Just before the Captain (Richard de Crespigny) turned off the seatbelts sign there was a double explosion in Engine 2 that sent metal shrapnel through the wing and fuel tanks and damaged or wrecked many of the computer controlled flying systems.

Captain de Crespigny has written a comprehensive description of what happened that day and how his team of very experienced pilots and superb cabin staff prevented what could have been the largest air disaster ever. He has written the book as a partial autobiography which describes his personal and flying experiences that helped him handle this unbelievable situation. Despite all of the traumas, De Crespigny still believes that the A380 is one of the safest planes in the sky, especially as it could survive damage that would almost certainly have caused other planes to crash.

The Captain and his crew were faced with an explosion and failure of Engine 2 which resulted in degrading of the performance and power of Engines 1 and 4 and failure of reverse thrust in one of the 2 enabled engines. Many hydraulic systems failed as the shrapnel cut wiring controls. Fuel pumps failed and there were more than 14 fuel leaks. The landing gear could only be set by gravity. There were 77 penetrations of the wing and 500 impacts on the fuselage by the shrapnel.

The story tells what happened in the cockpit and the passenger cabin during the 2 hours before a landing could be attempted and De Crespigny stopped the plane within 100 metres of the end of a 4,000 metre runway and near to waiting airport fire tenders. Even after an amazing landing the danger was not over as fuel was leaking near the braking system that had reached 1,000C during the emergency landing and the engines could not be stopped.

"It doesn't matter how well trained you are for these incidents, when they actually occur it leaves an emotional scar." While he was super confident during the crisis, Captain de Crespigny re-lived every second of the event as post traumatic stress hit him when he returned to Sydney and it took 4 months before he was able to fly again.

This book seems to have been written as a cathargic response and a pre-emptive description of events ahead of the release of the detailed, but bureaucratic Air Transport Safety Report at the end of 2012.

This is an important book about aircraft safety and the importance of pilot and crew training and teamwork. I hope that the publisher can arrange for the book to be released internationally (it is currently only available in Australia).

17 August 2012

Peter Robinson: In a Dry Season (Inspector Banks Novels)

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Top marks for this acclaimed British police procedural series
Friends had been suggesting for some time that I should read Peter Robinson's Inspector Banks books. I am so glad I did as it introduced me to one of the best British police procedural series around.

Both Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks and Detective Sergeant Annie Cabbot have run foul of the Yorkshire Police administration and have been posted to police career Siberia by politically sensitive and seemingly inept Chief Constable Jerimiah (Jimmy) Riddle. (Isn't it interesting how many Police Chiefs in detective novels have strange names and are made out to be both politically sensitive and inept.)

As further punishment Riddle assigns DCI Banks and DS Cabbot to work a cold case that the Yorkshire police department considers to be insouluble and somewhat of a joke. A skeleton has been found buried in the ruins of a long abandoned village - Hobbs End - that have emerged at the bottom of a remote reservoir after a long drought.

Through detailed police work Banks and Cabbot quickly discover the identity of the skeleton, and that she was murdered and subsequently stabbed several times around the end of World War II. The story cleverly intermixes the current police investigation with the story of Hobbs End community during the war, from the days of the blitz to the impact of American servicemen from a nearby bomber base on the village.

Banks and Cabbot do a brilliant job in tracking down the story behind the murder by talking to a small number of people who lived in the village who are still alive and finding key information in old and dusty records in England and the US.

Peter Robinson shows great skills in describing the developing relationship between the leading police players and everything about the people of Hobbs End, especially the impact of the US servicemen on the village when most local youth are serving overseas. His love for the Yorkshire Dales shines through brightly and his description of England during the war is accurate and atmospheric.

I enjoyed this well written and deceptively clever detective novel and will certainly be reading more Peter Robinson books in the future.

14 August 2012

David Rollins: War Lord

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War Lord - the best adrenalin filled escapism around
David Rollins has written another page-turning, adrenalin filled thriller in the Vin Cooper series which equals and sometimes surpasses most current top selling military/espionage action thrillers.

Special Agent Vin Cooper is different from other fictional action heros (such as Jack Reacher, Mich Rapp, Oliver Stone etc.).  Whle he is happy to work in a team he achieves most when he acts as "Lone Ranger with no Tonto". He has been scarred, both physically (with serious bullet and knife wounds) but also emotionally with the recent death of Special Agent Anna Masters - "Masters and I had been close - partners and, well partners".

Compared to most other heroes, Vin Cooper is extremely funny, especially when facing life and death situations. Here are some examples:
1. When answering an important multi-choice psychological test Vin answered A to everything, giving him a different personality reading to everyone else.
2. "What are you going to do Cooper?" "Don't know but it never stopped me before."
3. "You don't like following orders, do you Cooper?" "Orders I like fine. It's just stupidity I'm not down with."
4. When faced with disposing of a body from a public toilet - "We have to get rid of him." "He's too big to flush - I tried."

Still guilt-ridden over Anna's death, Vin agrees to help out an acquaintance of hers - a Vegas showgirl - to find her boy friend Randy who is missing when his plane  goes down in mysterious circumstances near Darwin. She has also been sent a gruesome package - a severed hand wearing Randy's Air Force Academy ring plus a mysterious ransom note. What starts out as a search to find out what happened to Randy soon turns into a world-wide chase to prevent an event of catastrophic proportions. In the process Vin adds some more bullet wounds to his collection, some first and second degree burns and just misses out being bitten by a very deadly snake.

Those of you who read Ghost Watch will also recognise some of the really nasty types that Vin battled in the Congo.

I read a lot of thrillers and David Rollins has been at the top of my list since he started writing about 10 years ago with Rogue Element and Sword of Allah, featuring the Australian SAS. This Aussie author then moved on successfully to his current series featuring US Air Force OSI Special Agent Vin Cooper. I look forward to reading the next book he is currently working on  - Standoff (Vin Cooper, Book 6) about the Mexico/US drug trade.

PS Where does the humour come from? His website shows Rollins' inimitable Aussie humour - "What sort of books do you write? Ones without pictures to colour in."

07 August 2012

William Diehl: Chameleon

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Disappointing after Sharkey's Machine
After really enjoying Sharkey's Machine I was disappointed with Chameleon. I read somewhere that some of Diehl's books were great and others not so great - IMHO Chameleon was not one of his best.

The first few chapters looked pretty good but after that the plot became devious, frequently unbelievable and difficult to follow. There were scenes and characters that didn't add to the plot, and baddies turned out to be goodies and goodies turned out to be baddies. The technology part of the story has dated a lot as things have changed greatly since Diehl wrote the book in the 1970's or 1980's.

William Diehl had a reputation as an excellent thriller writer and it is great that his estate is releasing most of his books in Kindle format. They do need to fix the editing where every paragraph has an extra line break which makes it hard to follow the story.

I still have a couple of Diehl's books to read and hope that they get better.

03 August 2012

Daniel Silva: The Fallen Angel

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Another great collection of "Gabriel's Groundhog Days"
Best-selling author Daniel Silva does it again - another page turning, gripping adventure thriller featuring  Gabriel Allon, the talented Art Restorer who is also a top Israeli Mossad agent and assassin.

I have titled this review "Gabriel's Groundhog Days" because the latest book is based on a repeat of many of the features of Allon's twelve previous adventures:

* The story starts with Gabriel undertaking a difficult restoration of a priceless painting, and his hope that he and his wife Chiara (also a former Mossad agent) can live a peaceful and normal life.
* The unlikely friendship between an Israeli Mossad spy/assassin and the Pope's private secretary and the Pope himself (Gabriel saved  his life in a previous adventure).
* Gabriel's "Operational Buzz" connects an accidental incident to another plot to undermine Israel and throws him back into his old profession.
* A team of Mossad's key experts assemble again in "Gabriel's Lair" deep in Mossad's headquarters to plan a response to the threat.
* The ageing but unretiring the spy captain Ali Shamron still controls the action.
*  Skilled team spywork and violence combine in an adventure that spans several countries (Italy, the Vatican, Austria, the US, Denmark, and Switzerland). Gabriel is not welcome in some of these countries as an aftermath of his previous violent activities against enemies of Israel.
* Clever plots are based around current and past events involving Israel's enemies from Iran and Hezbollah.
* Gabriel is shot at, blown up, and kills many people and eventually saves Israel from another potential disaster.

While there are signs that it is difficult for Silva to maintain the standards of the rest of the Gabriel Allon adventures, especially in keeping up a tough annual timetable, this latest book is still exciting, page turning and frequently riveting enough to be another best-seller. I look forward to seeing if Daniel Silva can do it again in a year's time.