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27 October 2016

David Baldacci: No Man's Land (John Puller Novel 4)

Reality check needed when Baldacci ventures into "No Man's Land"
There are two stories, both of which started nearly thirty years ago.

John Puller's mother disappeared mysteriously then and despite an intensive search and investigation, she was never seen again. New evidence has just come to light that Puller's father, now a retired 3 star General suffering dementia, had secretly come home to Fort Monroe from overseas on the day his wife disappeared and is now a suspect in her disappearance.

John Puller is now a crack CID investigator with the Army and would be officially barred from working the case and face a court-martial if he disobeys orders. It is not in his nature to do nothing in a case affecting him and his family. When intelligence operative Veronica Knox, his old "friend" and ally on other cases turns up he knows that the case has far more ramifications than he realised.

Also thirty years ago something terrible happened to Paul Rogers which changed his life forever. As part of a top-secret project, based in Building Q of Fort Monroe, his body was altered to give him extreme strength, and resilience to pain so that he could perform superhuman tasks, including killing without any conscience. Rogers has just spent the last 10 years in jail for murder and with his parole determines to seek out and deliver vengeance to those who were responsible for his condition.

The stories involve huge coverups at the highest level which are continuing to the present day. Puller and Knox get pulled into the middle of this highly sensitive arena while Rogers is trying to hunt down the people who harmed him so long ago.  Baldacci carefully weaves together the stories until they converge.

I have read most of Baldacci's books and enjoy his writing. But this time I think he has stepped too far out of reality to get a top rating. You certainly need a need a reality check to enjoy some of the fantasy that Baldacci has created. IMHO the book has also been poorly edited as there are a lot of things that happen, especially at very high levels of government, that are not explained by the end of the book - maybe a consequence of meeting tough publication deadlines. In previous books in the John Puller series, there was an interesting personal relationship between Puller and Knox which was hardly an issue in this one.

25 October 2016

Michael Connelly: The Wrong Side of Goodbye

Harry Bosch is back again - better than ever
Harry Bosch left the LAPD again before they could fire him over a minor infraction. Since then he has successfully sued for being illegally forced into retirement. Once again Bosch has set up his shingle as a private investigator, but at the same time he is working as an unpaid part-time detective in the town of San Fernando outside of Los Angeles.

In his private investigator role, he is invited to meet an aging aviation billionaire, Whitney Vance, who has a proposition - find out if he has any surviving offspring who could become the heir to his huge fortune. At age 18 Vance had a relationship with a young Mexican girl called Vibiana Duarte, but soon after becoming pregnant she disappeared and Vance had never seen her again.

Bosch quickly finds a lead that Vibiana had a son who was adopted out shortly after birth. This lead fades when Bosch finds that the son perished when he was shot down in a helicopter in Vietnam. As soon as he starts to find more leads Bosch realises that he is being followed by powerful parties who don't want any surviving relatives to be found. When his search takes a more dramatic and serious direction he turns for help and legal protection to his half-brother, Mickey Haller.

At the same time, Bosch gets tied up almost full time with a major case for the small police force of San Fernando - a serial rapist who gains entry by cutting through the screen door of victims' houses. The hunt for the "Screen Cutter" heats up when more victims are identified and a criminal profile suggests that it is only a matter of time before the rapist also becomes a killer.

Connelly showed his skills in weaving Bosch's investigatory skills between two totally different cases. It was certainly a change not to see him constantly doing battle with his police superiors. There is not much background about his personal life as his daughter Maddy is at college and only has a cameo role.

Over the last year, I have been revisiting and enjoying several of Michael Connelly's earlier books. IMHO this one stands out as one of the best he has written and maintains his top place in US crime fiction and showcased Connelly's skills in keeping this long-running series alive. We will certainly see a lot more of Harry Bosch in the future.

I was able to review this book now as it was published in Australia on 24 October 2016 and won't be released in the US until 1 November 2016. It certainly deserves to be in the bestsellers list leading up to the festive season.