Over 550 book reviews with full author links

30 March 2014

Greg Iles: The Death Factory

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Penn Cage remembered
It is several years since Greg Iles published his last book because he has been recovering from a near fatal auto accident. It is a credit to Greg that not only has he started writing again but his writing doesn't seem to have been affected by that trauma. Most of us who were followers of Greg Iles will have dimmed memories of his last books featuring Penn Cage, and this novella is a great way to revisit a character that we previously knew so well. In a clever and useful novella Iles manages to revisit the life and adventures of Penn Cage and introduce us to his next book.

In a discussion with his uncle while they are waiting for news of the recovery of Cage's father Tom from a heart attack, Iles paints a vivid picture of Natchez and outlines some of Penn's former life from his time in the District Attorney's office in Houston to more recently as Mayor of Natchez when he smashed an international crime ring using a riverboat gambling casino based in Natchez for their nefarious activities (featured in his last book "The Devil's Punchbowl").

The novella also introduces a scenario of possible assisted death that is central to his next book "Natchez Burning" as Penn recounts the painful death of his wife Sarah and how Penn's father, Tom Cage, a respected doctor, helped her cope with a painful death by cancer with carefully administered medications.

This was a good novella - 4.5 stars. Now I am well primed to move on and read "Natchez Burning".

27 March 2014

Robert Glancy: Terms and Conditions

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Life is all about the details - LOL
Robert Glancy has written a, frequently very amusing, short gem of a book about Frank, a lawyer who specialises in the small print conditions in contracts. Frank is especially sought out by insurance companies because he is an expert in the use of "Force Majeure" (Act of God) - the ultimate opt-out clause to ensure that everything from weather to unforeseen incidents will get his client off the hook.

One day Frank wakes up in hospital after a serious auto accident with amnesia. Slowly he regains some memory of who he was, his family and what he does. Glancy documents Frank's recovery in the same way as his contracts, with frequent footnotes in small print. The largest block of small print is when he has sex with his wife Alice for the first time after the accident. Afterwards (still in small print) Frank observes that he still doesn't remember or really know his wife.

The real gem of the story comes as Frank slowly regains his memory and realises what a wimp he was and still is and how he has been manipulated by his family, wife and friends into becoming what he is. His wife Alice ignores him and is absorbed in her work as an HR Executive and his elder brother, Oscar, as head of the family law firm, treats him as a minor but valued employee who enhances the firm's coffers by producing watertight contracts that nobody reads.The only person who stands out from the crowd is his brother Malcolm (Malc) who sends him amusing emails about his meaningless travels around the world (from the very descriptive email address - fuckthis@hotmail.com).

Gradually Frank realises what a mess his old life was. After a lot of soul searching, one day he decides that he has to do something to change things. His first momentous decision was to change the font size of the small print in his contracts from Arial Eight to Arial Nine. His response is "Wow! I considered going to ten but, easy now, that was too radical." His changes from then become more radical and pretty hilarious, especially the ending.

My only reservation about this book is the small print. The publisher, following the spirit of the book, decided to print it in a font size that was smaller than my reading comfort zone (and with specs I have perfect vision) and the small print was almost impossible to read. Like the new Frank I would have preferred the font to be increased by at least one size.

25 March 2014

Isabel Allande: Ripper

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Disappointing attempt at a complex mystery thriller
Isabel Allande is Chilean author who has won many awards for her literary skills and she one of my most admired authors. She has recently extended herself by writing outside her normal literary genre. "Ripper" is her first attempt at a thriller and IMHO she has outreached her abilities by taking on a topic which is outside her comfort zone.

This is a very complex book which mixes Allende's great character building skills with an unusual approach to a serial killer thriller. The book starts with a side plot focussing on a motley group of teenage cyber detectives from around the world  who play an online game called "Ripper" brainstorming the Jack the Ripper killings. Teenager Amanda Martin is the games master for "Ripper" and she brings her beloved 64 year old Grandfather, Blake Jackson, into the game as her assistant. The game quickly becomes serious when Amanda turns their attention to the current day in San Francisco to look at a series of strange but possibly connected killings.

Allende builds up a fascinating insight into Amanda's pretty dysfunctional family where she was mainly brought up by her grandfather. After a short teenage marriage Amanda's parents divorced, with her mother Indiana setting up as a scatterbrained but effective natural healer, with "intuitive" massage and aromatherapy, who will try to help anyone she finds in need. In complete contrast her father takes up a successful career in the police and is Deputy Chief of Homicide. Amanda uses her connections with her father to gain insights into the murders that should not be released outside his office.

As well as Amanda's parents and grandfather we get to know several characters well by the middle of the book. Ryan Miller, is an ex Navy SEAL who lost a leg in Afghanistan, and Indi's lover Allan Keller is a wealthy man who has never had a job in his life. I loved the parts of the book when it meandered through some fascinating characters but I lost the plot as soon as it came face to face with being a thriller and things got out of control and unbelievable.

I have the feeling that Allande is still far more interested in characters than in mysteries. It might have worked better if Allande hadn't made it so complex and unbelievable and spiced it up with the extra complication of  the "Ripper" connection.

21 March 2014

Nora Roberts: The Return of Rafe MacKade (MacKade Brothers)

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The Nora Roberts' formula
Several years ago, as an interlude from my normal diet of heavy thrillers, I read Nora Roberts' Chesapeake Bay series about the romantic evolution of a close family of brothers. It was an interesting interlude so when I saw this Kindle book was heavily discounted and I needed another interlude I thought I would try again.

I was stunned at the similarity of the background, characters and romantic plot. A small country town, four brothers with excess testosterone, and a strong beautiful female who eventually tames one of the brothers. Nora Roberts is one of the most successful authors of this genre who has developed a formula that seems to work time and time again.

This time the brother is Rafe, the wildest of the bunch in his teens, who has returned home after 10 years having made good in real estate development. Rafe plans to restore an historic large antebellum house to its former glory and run it as a bed and breakfast. On his first day back he meets beautiful, strong minded and independent newcomer Regan Jones who is running an antique shop. Rafe commissions her to furnish his project to fit its history and, of course, plans to get personally more closely associated with the beautiful newcomer.

What follows is Roberts's normal plot of immediate physical attraction between the main characters but only a slow realisation that the attraction is more than physical. Roberts spices things up a bit by introducing the other brothers who have also settled a bit to running the farm, and being the town lawyer and sheriff who will feature in the next three books. She further spices it up by giving the historic house a ghost from the time of the Civil War.

Did I enjoy revisiting the Nora Roberts' formula? Yes and No. As usual it had the sparkle of an author at the top of her game but I felt a bit short-changed by the repeat of a plot formula that I remember well. Will I read the other books in this series? Probably not because reading this book did give me the interlude I needed and I will look for something a bit different when I need another interlude.

Now, somewhat refreshed, I am off on the thriller trail again where the plots are not so predictable

20 March 2014

Deanna Raybourn: City of Jasmine

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Last year Deanna Raybourn wrote "A Spear of Summer Grass", a delightful story about notorious socialite Delilah Drummond's escapades in mid Africa in the 1920's. "City of Jasmine" has a similar theme about a strong willed independent female travelling in the 1920's. The promo novella "Whisper of Jasmine" introduced us to  Evangeline (Evie) Starke and her whirlwind elopement with adventurer Gabriel Starke after they meet at a New Year's Eve party in 1914 held by matchmaker Delilah Drummond. Unfortunately the book itself didn't live up to the expectations in the novella.

Fairly quickly Evie's hasty marriage to Gabriel has turned sour and during their travels they parted company in China after a huge argument. Shortly afterwards Evie hears of his death with the sinking of the Lusitania. Five years later Evie has transformed herself into a famous adventurous aviatrix flying solo around the Middle East [She was actually taught to fly by Ryder Whitey, Deliah's love interest in Summer Grass.] Eve is in Rome and she is stunned when she receives a mysterious photo of Gabriel which seems to be taken recently. She tracks the source of the photo to Damascus and travels there (by train not plane) with her larger than life adventurous Aunt Dove and her pet talking parrot Arthur (whose favourite expression is to tell the Kaiser to bugger off).

The story then gets immersed in a travelogue for 1920's Damascus, a polyglot of mostly amateur and titled archaeologists exploring the ruins of a Caravanserai in the Syrian Desert led by enigmatic rude, ugly and grubby Oliver Rowan. Evie quickly gets involved in a host of strange adventures, including escaping into the desert to get away from dangerous enemies, being shot at, hiding in a cave and eventually living with a tribe of local Bedouins. It is only in the last few chapters that the story becomes interesting and a bit exciting and Evie has the chance to use her flying skills to chase down her enemies.

The middle of the book is enlivened by a few amusing and strange things. At a quiet time Aunt Dove is found reading the Q'uran to Arthur because "it's only fair because he heard Mass in Rome".  A couple of interesting characters are also introduced. Bedouin Sheikh Hamid ibn Hussein who just happened to go to school at Eton at the same time as Gabriel and mythical Saqr-al-Sahara who played a similar role to Colonel Lawrence in the war in southern parts of the desert.

It is always difficult for an author to keep up momentum on a new theme and unfortunately "City of Jasmine" was a bit of a disappointment after Summer Grass. Apart from the last few chapters I found this book didn't have the pizazz that made the previous book so enjoyable. The ending leaves an opening for a sequel and I don't think I shall be as keen to read it when it is eventually released.

Jo Nesbo: The Son

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A stunning new standalone thriller by Jo Nesbo
Most people will know Jo Nesbo's books through his very popular Harry Hole series. This time Nesbo has written a standalone thriller "The Son" (Sonnen in Norwegian) which IMHO equals if not surpasses his best Harry Hole thrillers. It is a pretty long and complex read and some of the violent parts may not be to everyone's taste.

Sonny Lofthus idolised his father, Ab, who was a police officer. At an impressionable age Sonny is faced with the apparent suicide of his father after admitting charges of corruption. His mother turns to alcohol and takes an overdose of pills. Left alone Sonny goes off the rails and becomes a drug addict. At the age of eighteen he confesses to murders he didn't commit in return for a promise from gangsters of a constant supply of drugs while he is in prison.

During the 18 years he has been in prison, despite his addiction, Sonny has become a charismatic and calm figure who other prisoners come to for absolution of their sins. One day a prisoner with terminal cancer makes a confession admitting that Sonny's father was murdered. This triggers off a major change in Sonny so that he can take vengeance on all those who had a hand in his father's murder. His main problem is that he is in prison, is a drug addict and has never lived outside as an adult.

While the main storyline is about Sonny it is also closely connected with the life of Chief Inspector Simon Kefas, who was a close friend of Ab Loftus. After Ab's death Simon's potentially brilliant career investigating fraud and corruption came to an end because of his addiction to gambling. Simon is now a reformed man and a dedicated leader of the homicide squad. On the home front his wife is rapidly losing her eyesight and Simon will do anything to save it. Along with a new female partner Simon investigates the death of a prison chaplain which drags him into looking at a range of crimes that eventually impact on Sonny's search for vengeance.

This is not a short read or sometimes a very comfortable read. At times it is extremely violent, gritty and noir. While there are corrupt gangsters and officials, drugs and multiple murders there are also characters that you can really care about. Sonny is an enigmatic character, at times innocent, loving, kind and compassionate and at other times violent and dangerous.

Nesbo has written a thriller with lots of twists and turns to keep you on the edge of your seat (actually I went back and revisited parts of the book to be able to really appreciate the writer's skills). He is able to turn on all kinds of emotions - but it is the killing spree that is the engine that really revs the story along. Despite that there is one aspect of the dramatic ending gives some hope for the future.

This book demonstrates Jo Nesbo's talents at writing top class thrillers. This will undoubtedly be a top candidate for one of the best thrillers I have read in 2014.

My thanks to The Reading Room and the publisher for an Advanced Reading Copy of this book for an honest review.

18 March 2014

TaraShea Nesbit: The Wives of Los Alamos

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A personal story about the A Bomb
This is a little story about a much bigger story. From 1943 to 1945 the US put together one of the biggest technical and construction projects ever - the development and creation of the Atomic Bomb - and managed to do it  in the greatest secrecy. A lot of the work in uranium enrichment was done at many locations across the country but the brains of the project were located in Los Alamos in a pretty remote area of New Mexico. There is no way a project of that scope could be undertaken in such secrecy in this day and age of instant communication, and satellites.

The brains of the project were civilian scientists, mainly eminent physicists from universities throughout the US and around the world. They were there for the long haul and were allowed to bring their wives and families to this out of the way place which was not prepared for them when they got there. There were few houses and when they were built they were very basic. The water supply was poor, and basic supplies were in short supply. They were a long way from anywhere, were seldom allowed to go outside the compound and the husbands worked almost 24/7.

The "Wives" (We ) were mainly in their 30's with young families or just starting families. "We" were mostly highly educated females living an academic lifestyle who were thrown together without much warning  in a remote community that was not really ready to accommodate them. Their family lives changed overnight. Their husbands became workaholics who couldn't tell them what they were doing and they couldn't tell anyone else, especially their parents, exactly where they were and why they were there. Even birth certificates were recorded as PO Box 1663, Santa Fe.

"The Wives of Los Alamos" is an attempt to describe their lives and their reactions to their situation in a narrative written in the first person plural "We". In some ways this succeeds but in others it doesn't because it prevents characterisation and lumps the good and the bad into one bag. What it does do is to emphasise how the wives had to pull together to survive in an environment when their husbands were not able to play a full role in their lives and had to lie to them in ways akin to unfaithful husbands. Despite all of this secrecy they knew that something big was about to happen and stayed up all night to view, at a distance, the most secret of all things, the first test explosion of an Atomic Bomb.

This book told me more about the human side of the project that changed the world forever. The wives had to club together in a way seldom seen in western society. When it was all over the forced camaraderie disappeared. Some remembered the experience with euphoria but many had lifetime worries about their place in such a world changing event. "Near the end we began to pull away from one another, we stopped by unannounced less frequently and started looking for the next thing."

This was an interesting book but I really didn't connect with the style and would have preferred to hear the story from personal and not a joint perspective.

15 March 2014

Jane Thynne: The Winter Garden

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Berlin 1937 - an adventure in dangerous times
Jane Thynne has written a clever and fascinating historical adventure about a female British agent living at the heart of Nazi Germany in 1937.

Clara Vine, last seen in "Black Roses" set in Germany in 1933, is the daughter of a German mother and a prominent British politician who is an important Nazi sympathiser. This time Clara is still in Germany in 1937 when Hitler is in total control and changing the Reich into a Jew-hating and war-mongering society. Clara is working as an actress making pro-Nazi films and has become a personal "friend" of some of the wives of top Nazis. She passes important intelligence on the Nazi elite to a contact at the British Embassy. Her role is doubly dangerous as her most closely guarded secret is that her Grandmother was Jewish.

Jane Thynne describes Germany in 1937 in intimate detail, especially the enormous changes that have been made to the country and its people since the rise of Hitler. She also describes the fascinating, unreal and excessive lives of the top Nazis and their families through Clara's association with dangerous and creepy Dr Goebbels and his wife and 4 children, the Ribbentrops, and the fairytale world of Herman Goering, the larger than life head of the Luftwaffe. She also paints a sad picture of the many changes being made to her beloved Berlin as the Nazi doctrine closes down the cosmopolitan life of the pre-war capital. There are cameo appearances by prominent foreign Nazi sympathisers, including the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, the Mitford twins (one married to Oswald Mosley) and Charles Lindbergh.

While the background story is really about Clara and her US journalist friend Mary Harker as they try to pass the real story of what is happening in Germany to the British and US governments and public, the story weaves around the puzzling murder of Anna Hansen (who Clara knew as a dancer) when she was attending a mandatory Bride School to allow her to marry a senior SS officer. One of the girls at the Bride School passes Mary a writing desk that Anna had hidden away. It is not clear until much later on why Anna was murdered and what was at stake.

At the same time Clara gets to know a top Luftwaffe test pilot who takes her on a joyride in one of the latest planes and provides her with key information about the readiness of the Luftwaffe for war. Clara suddenly finds that she is being followed, her apartment is trashed, she is the target of a hit and run and eventually gets taken in by the Gestapo. It is only her contacts with the Nazi hierarchy that spares her from the ultimate Gestapo treatment.

What I really liked about this book was the intimate look at the life of the Nazi elite at the time they were changing the country in the direction of war. She brings us a very believable character in Clara, at the same time both scared of what is happening to her and having the guts press on and even do a deal with the devil (Goebbels) to preserve her cover. It looks like Thynne has at least one more book to come which I am sure will be even more interesting as war gets closer and the dangers become greater for Clara.

11 March 2014

Deanna Raybourn: Whisper of Jasmine:

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Delilah Drummond - Matchmaker
Last year Deanna Raybourn diverted from her Lady Julia Grey series and gave us the delightful "Spear of Summer Grass" set in 1920's mid Africa featuring notorious socialite Delilah Drummond. In this prequel to her next book "City of Jasmine" Raybourn brings back an earlier Deliah in 1914 when she was married to  her beloved Johnny, who was about to go to fight in WWI. Not to be deterred by the war and Johnny's impending departure, Delia decides to throw a New Year's Eve party designed to be the event of the year.

When sending out the invitations Deliah has matchmaking intentions for Evangeline (Evie) Merriweather, an impecunious granddaughter of a Earl who seems to have no clear future. What Deliah doesn't know is that Evie has always dreamed of a life full of adventure, encouraged by her vivacious Aunt Dove whose life was full of scandalous affairs. Aunt Dove takes Evie under her wing and converts an old designer dress into a daring outfit for the party and sprays her with a scent jasmine "one of the most seductive scents imaginable".

What follows at the party is love at first sight, but is this the match that Deliah has planned? At the end a very changed Evie returns a book on "Practical Applications in Lovemaking ...." to Aunt Dove with the comment "It was a kind thought but not needed. At all."

All in all a charming and amusing prequel novella to whet our appetites for when we next meet a very different and adventurous Evie several years later in "City of Jasmine".

10 March 2014

Richard North Patterson: Eden in Winter

Future of a Fractured Family
This is the last in an unusual trilogy by one of my favourite authors Richard North Patterson. It is quite a change from his best-selling courtroom novels to this psychological family trilogy about the family of famous novelist Ben Blaine and the impact of his death/apparent murder when he falls from a cliff on Martha's Vineyard. It is also unusual because this third novel is a direct carry over from #1 "Fall from Grace" with #2 "Loss of Innocence" being a (very good) standalone sidetrack about the early days of Ben Blaine.

#1 covers the consequences of Ben's death through the eyes of his estranged son Adam who returns from Afghanistan to his father's funeral and discovers a treasure chest of buried family secrets, many of which could impact the police investigation of Ben's death. Ben is a serial womaniser and his last fling is with Carla Pacelli, a failed popular actress recovering from alcohol and drug abuse who is expecting Ben's child. Ben's hatred for his family surfaces in a recently changed will that leaves most of his wealthy estate to Carla and disinherits his wife from the family home.

Adam works hard to set up a scenario to protect his family from police investigations. This book starts with the Coroner's inquest where the police try to place the blame for Ben's apparent murder on family members. Adam continues to duck and weave with a shield of lies to protect his family. As things develop Adam, who is executor of Ben's will, becomes close to Carla and shares his greatest family secret with her, but he is not prepared to tell her the reason for his estrangement from and intense hatred of Ben which made him leave the Vineyard ten years ago.

This book also tracks Adam's dangerous CIA work in Afghanistan and the way that his developing relationship with Carla affects his work. The author also provides us with an interesting and well researched insight into intense therapy between Adam and his local psychiatrist about his relationship with his father, his approach to his work in Afghanistan and finally about his blossoming friendship with Carla.

While the trilogy cannot compare with Patterson's early work, I did enjoy the full trilogy because of the undoubted skills of the author in covering such a complex tale. With most trilogies it is normally best to start at the beginning. With this one I accidentally started with the second in the trilogy  "Loss of Innocence", an outstanding book which can be read in standalone mode. That book mostly covers the time before Ben becomes famous and before he marries Clarice. It also tells us a lot more (sometimes pretty favourable) things about Ben's character, and his drive to leave behind a family background of poor abusive and alcoholic parents.

All in all I am glad  that I read #2 first as it gave me more information about Ben that helped me understand the first book a lot better. The last book, "Eden in Winter" starts off where #1 ends so it is important to read that book before starting #3. My main criticism of #3 is that because it has been some time since #1 was released the author repeated several slabs of text from that book to remind readers of what happened in the earlier book.

09 March 2014

Richard North Patterson: Fall from Grace

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A tangled web of family lies, deceit and hatred
Richard North Patterson, who has long been one of my favourite authors, starts a very different psychological family trilogy with "Fall from Grace" about the family of Ben Blaine and the impact of his death/apparent murder when he falls from a cliff on Martha's Vineyard.

Ben's son Adam Blaine returns to the Vineyard to attend the funeral of his estranged father and immediately gets involved discovering buried family secrets, some of which will become public as the police investigate the circumstances of Ben's death. The only thing that is definite is that, despite his hatred of his father, Adam was on CIA duty in Afghanistan when Ben's death occurred.

Ben Blaine was a world renowned writer whose narcissistic personality gave him a ruthless drive to succeed no matter what damage might happen to those around him, especially his family. Ben loved the best things in life and was a serial womaniser who had little respect for his wife, Clarice who had brought him entry into the wealthy Vineyard society from the wrong side of the tracks. Ben's last fling was with Carla Pacelli, a failed popular actress recovering from alcohol and drug abuse.

Adam works to protect his mother, Uncle Jack, and gay brother Teddy from the fallout of Ben's death because all of them had a great hatred of Ben. Any of them could have been involved as an unbelievable bounty of buried secrets are unearthed thick and fast - not the least being that Ben was in the last stages of inoperable brain cancer and Carla was expecting his child. As Adam gets closer to Carla he starts to question everything about his family and his world starts to disintegrate.

The only thing that Adam tries to protect is the reason for his estrangement with Ben which made him leave the Vineyard ten years ago.

The whole plot has a ring of an unbelievable family soap opera and it is only Patterson's skills as an author that held my attention. Adam is the only well developed character, the family members are mainly on the sidelines and we only get to know Ben through the many, mostly terrible, things that he did during his life.

With most trilogies it is normally best to start at the beginning. With this one I accidentally started with the second in the trilogy  "Loss of Innocence" which is a far better book which can be read in standalone mode. That book mostly covers the time before Ben becomes famous and before he marries Clarice. It also tells us a lot more (sometimes pretty favourable) things about Ben's character, and his drive to leave behind a family background of poor abusive and alcoholic parents. That book, set at the time of the Vietnam war, also also focuses the intolerant attitudes of the wealthy conservative residents of the Vineyard to someone who does not have their family background or views. All in all I am glad  that I read #2 first as it gave me more information about Ben that helped me understand the first book a lot better. The last book, "Eden in Winter" starts off where #1 ends and follows the saga through to the bitter end.

This is one of the strangest trilogies I have reviewed because I really loved the second book but found the other ones somewhat lacking.

07 March 2014

Cliv Cussler & Justin Scott: The Bootlegger

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Pretty ordinary thriller
I haven't read a Clive Cussler book for a some time. I was a great fan of the early Dirk Pitt books but gave up reading them when they started to become a bit formulaic and repetitive. Cussler is now in his 80's and similarly to other ageing authors he has moved to co-authorship to maintain his output. This book in the Isaac Bell series is co-authored with Justin Scott and I would imagine that Scott has done most of the work.

What started to be a detective story about Prohibition and bootlegging in the 1920's got really serious when Isaac Bell’s boss and lifelong friend Joseph Van Dorn is shot and nearly killed in a high-speed chase of a bootlegging vessel. Things get even more serious when a witness to the shooting is executed in a manner normally used by the Russian secret police. Bell soon realises that as well as chasing the bootleggers he is up against communist saboteurs with a much larger agenda.

I think I would have enjoyed a no holds barred 1920's gangster/detective book more than this pretty strange twist in the plot. All in all compared to the exciting and very different early Dirk Pitt books, this was more like a B grade movie that would now only run on pay TV.

06 March 2014

Harlen Coban: Missing You

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Gone but not forgotten
In "Missing You" Harlen Coban returns to a similar theme to his ultra successful "Six Years" - enduring love despite being jilted. This time it is 18 years since NYPD Detective Kat Donavan was left inexplicably by her fiancé Jeff who she thought would be her soul-mate for life. Jeff also disappeared completey out of her and she doesn't know where he is.This happened about the same time as her beloved father, also an NYPD cop, was murdered in the line of duty.

Kat has not got over either event and has never married. One day her best friend, Stacey, gives her a most unusual present - a subscription to an on-line dating service with the message "You need someone. You want someone". With some hesitation Kat decides to have a quick browse through the site for potential dates and her world explodes when she sees a picture of Jeff staring back at her. His bio says that he is widowed with a daughter. Kat plucks up courage to send him an anonymous message that he will understand - a link to a video of their favourite song. She finds it disturbing and weird that Jeff doesn't recognise the song.

At around the same time Kat has a final near deathbed interview with her father's convicted killer, now dying of cancer while still on death row, and believes his confession that while he is guilty of other murders he was set up to take the rap for her father's murder.

Coben then takes us on a switchback of ups and downs and twists and turns as Kat follows up her father's murder, and tries to track down Jeff. She is also dragged into a case of multiple disappearances of people associated with on-line dating.. She becomes enveloped by a huge dark and dangerous envelope as she chases down these disappearances and tries to find the truth about what happened to the two big loves of her life who are "gone but not forgotten".

While Coben continues to display his skills at unfolding several apparently unconnected mysteries without providing all the clues until near the very end. This time Coben has used his author's licence to create some pretty unbelievable conspiracies and introduces some dangerous and violent sociopaths who prey on lonely wealthy people. He ties these together with a couple of shattering climaxes.

IMHO "Missing You" is not as good as "Six Years" mainly because it may have crossed my line in the sand for for implausibility for these kind of suspense thrillers. Nevertheless it is a page-turning top class thriller that will undoubtedly be devoured and enjoyed by most of Coben's many fans.

02 March 2014

J D Robb: Glory in Death

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An entertaining read
"Glory in Death" by J D Robb (aka Nora Roberts) is the second in  the Eve Dallas mystery series which is a combination of a police crime/thriller with a touch of romance to give it a bit of spice set in a futuristic setting.  From time to time I need an interlude from my normal dose of heavy thrillers and literary fiction and as long as I take the futuristic setting as part of the scenery then I am enjoying the series so far. But there is a long way to go because #38 in the series was released last month.

Lt. Eve Dallas is a very tough, competent and independent homicide detective who fights to find all kinds of killers. Her independence is being tested with her unusual but increasingly emotional and passionate relationship with charming Irish multi-millionaire, Roarke, whose successful business dealings sometimes seem to verge on being shady.

Prosecuting Attorney Cicely Towers, a well respected, powerful, well known and talented lawyer, is found dead with her throat slashed. What is surprising is that the murder is in a sleazy part of town and Towers has turned off all tracking devices prior to her meeting with the killer. Even though she is not senior, her Captain makes her as primary to work the case because he and his wife had a close relationship with the deceased. The case is adrenaline to the media which goes into overdrive when a beautiful, TV actress is found with her throat cut on the rear patio of her apartment building. It is clear to everyone that it is the same killer and Eve believes that she is in a race against time to find the killer an prevent another killing.

While Roarke knows both victims he has the perfect alibi, he was in bed with Eve at the time of the murder. Because there are few clues, after a profiling session with the police psychologist, Eve goes to a trusted media personality and gives an interview that sets herself up as a target for the killer.

Once again Roarke's contacts help Eve with the case which brings them closer together despite her discomfort at living a life of luxury not suited to a dedicated cop. The episode when Roarke flies an exhausted Eve to his incredible mansion on the cliffs in Mexico is a bit of magic.

I am not quite sure if I really understand or appreciate the futuristic setting with robots, auto-chefs and fast air and interplanetary travel. Basically these are most enjoyable detective novels with a bit of romantic spice which really don't need the futuristic distractions. I will keep reading the next in the series as this one gave me the interlude I needed.

01 March 2014

Honey Brown: Through the Cracks

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Depths of human depravity - gone but not forgotten
Honey Brown has written a challenging book about a disturbing subject - child abduction, abuse and imprisonment. While the book is well written and sympathetic to the children and families involved, the emotional subject may not be a choice for some readers.

When "Alan" was 4 years old he was at a showground with his parents and he wandered off and disappeared. Despite massive police searches for "the showground boy" and national publicity he was never found. While most child abductions finish with murder, his parents still have hopes that he will come back to them some time in the future - to them he is gone but not forgotten.

Over ten years later "Alan" (not his real name) has grown into a strong boy who can at last physically challenge his ageing "father" who has kept him imprisoned and abused for so long. Alan attacks his "father" and locks him in the windowless room where he had been kept imprisoned most of the time. He can then explore the house, with its highly fenced and padlocked garden, where he has been kept for so long.

Next morning he finds his father has died because he didn't have his heart pills. When visitors arrive Alan hides and is found by Billy, a teenager who has suffered extensive abuse himself, especially when in juvenile care with the Church. Billy immediately recognises Alan's plight and tells him to avoid contact with the Police because they could put him into the kind of juvenile hell that Billy knows so well.

Billy takes him on a tour of the seedy and downtrodden parts of the city, living rough to avoid the authorities. Alan slowly learns about the real world he has been missing and gradually regains some memory of the time before he was abducted.

This is a somewhat disturbing story about the outcome of the depths of human depravity on young children and how a couple of victims get together to face up to living a normal life again. Well done Honey Brown in tackling this difficult topic in a compassionate and realistic way with an eventual heart-warming conclusion. I was especially affected because we live near where a child was abducted ten years ago. In that case his grave was found years later and the accused pedofile is currently on trial for murder.