Wayne Tedrow, Jr., Las Vegas intell squad, is sent to Dallas to kill a black pimp named Wendell Durfee. The Casino Operator's Fund has chipped in $600...moreWayne Tedrow, Jr., Las Vegas intell squad, is sent to Dallas to kill a black pimp named Wendell Durfee. The Casino Operator's Fund has chipped in $6000 to get it done. Durfee had shivved a 21 dealer, who lost an eye. The trail led to Dallas. When Tedrow arrives, there's something bigger going on. Everyone is walking around crying, distraught. It's November 22, 1963, and JFK has just been assassinated.
Ward Littell, former cop and now a mob lawyer, consults with the big guys like Howard Hughes, Jimmy Hoffa and Carlos Marcello. He also convenes with Mr. FBI, as in J. Edgar Hoover, who manages the spin on JFK. It's important to make it look like a one-man operation, even though the reality is that there are a lot more people involved in it than that. Anyone who can cannibalize the Lee Harvey Oswald as lone killer scenario needs to be disposed of. Most of them are, with the exception of a woman that has hooked Littell in spite of himself. Finally, enter Pete Bondurant, guy who does whacks, mob enforcer, guy with big plans for running drugs in Las Vegas and a distinguished alumnus of the Bay of Pigs. He's involved in the assassination, can't talk about it, and it haunts him totally. That day in Dallas was a pivotal event which had a long-lasting impact on each or these 3 men's lives for years to come. The other lead character in the book and one who drives many of the happenings is J. Edgar Hoover. What a paranoid, scheming piece of work he was!
This is an ambitious book, which might well have been entitled Six Thousand Conspiracies. We begin with the assassination of Kennedy which is credited to his angering the Mob in his approach to the Cuban situation. The book moves forward through the mid 60s. Several of the characters end up working a heroin pipeline deal in Vietnam during the early Johnson years; others are running guns to Cuba. Littell is working on a scheme with Howard Hughes to buy up Las Vegas Casinos; Hoover is directing a mudslinging campaign against Martin Luther King. And Wayne is on a personal vendetta to eliminate Wendell Durfee after the brutal slaying of his wife. Ellroy leads us through 5 years of conspiracies, concluding 700 pages later and leaving us with all our assumptions about the history of those times wavering.
Ellroy's writing style takes some getting used to. He writes in very short, 3-5 word declarative sentences. It's hard to build the flow of the plot because the style is so staccato. Within a few pages, I was lusting for adjectives. After 50 pages, I had to stop and go back to the beginning because I couldn't follow what was happening. Once I did that, however, I was able to get caught up into the book, although there were other times where I had difficulty following exactly what was going on. The structure of the book was to have several chapters where specific characters were followed, and then transitional chapters along the way where various explicatory documents were inserted, such as transcripts of telephone calls between Ward Littell and J. Edgar Hoover or memoranda between the characters. This provided some relief and contrast to the writing style of the main narrative.
In addition to being a hard book to read because of the over-stylized writing, there is raw violence and heavy racism that is sometimes hard to take. Overall, I'm of two minds about the book. I found it difficult to read, confusing and aggravating as far as the writing style. But I was full of admiration for the scope of the book and the way that Ellroy presented the various conspiracies with enough detail so that you could believe his alternative theories and have you questioning what really did happen. He shows a corrupt society peopled with morally depraved, manipulative, obsessed and sadistic individuals. If you're a fan of the previous entry in this projected trilogy, American Tabloid, you'll love this book. I didn't exactly love it, but I sure couldn't put it down either!
China Bayles was a criminal defense attorney in a big Houston law firm. As she approached 40, she began to have moral twinges about her work, the fact...moreChina Bayles was a criminal defense attorney in a big Houston law firm. As she approached 40, she began to have moral twinges about her work, the fact that most of the people that she was working to free were guilty. She resigned and moved to Pecan Springs, TX, where she bought a small herb shop, Thyme and Seasons. The shop is adjoined by the Crystal Cave, a New Age venture run by her best friend, Ruby Wilcox. China recently began to live with her cop lover, Mike McQuaid and his 11-year-old son.
China is on the planning committee for the annual herb conference. Mike has lent his pick-up truck to a friend, Rosemary Robbins, to move some furniture. China needs to use the truck to pick up some conference supplies. When she does so, she discovers Rosemary in the truck, dead. Suspicion first turns to Rosemary's ex-husband, Curtis, who physically abused her in the past and then to Rosemary's current lover, Jeff, who has disappeared.
I don't know if I suddenly became very astute, but I figured out the killer about 1/3 of the way through the book. Although the plot was a bit thin, Albert has several great strengths. Her characterization is excellent. China is an imperfect person who is torn between her own need for independence and her feelings for McQuaid and his son. Albert perfectly captures the Texas setting--its climate, rhythm, dialect and attitudes. (less)
Although his heart belongs in Montana, Milo Milodragovitch has been living in Texas for quite a spell, having moved there to be with a wom...moreRATING: 3.25
Although his heart belongs in Montana, Milo Milodragovitch has been living in Texas for quite a spell, having moved there to be with a woman by the name of Betty Porterfield. Despite having been married 5 times, Milo has not quite mastered the relationship thing; and all the signs are there that this one is going sour too. He is ostensibly the owner of a bar, but the reality is that the business is just a front for laundering money. He's actually a rich man, but bored with his life. So he dabbles in a bit of private investigating now and again.
Settled down but not settled in, Milo is moved to change his circumstances when he has an encounter with a killer that leads him on to a quest that is hard to satisfy. He's going in a lot of different directions but ultimately finds some measure of peace, albeit at a very high price. Milo has turned 60 in this book, and there's a sense of world weariness. But never fear, he hasn't given up boozing, drugging and the pleasures of the boudoir. And a fairy tale ending is highly unlikely.
Having read all of Crumley's Sughrue and Milo series books, I can state that the man is a master of the written word. The pages sing with the poetry of his prose with lyrical passages that leave the reader gasping at their beauty. However, the plotting generally tends to disappoint in his books. He turns his plot threads into strands of spaghetti, many of which never meet their sauce. The characters are well drawn, but Crumley operates in a whole different moral realm. Even though Milo is supposed to have cleaned up his act, he drank gallons of booze and snorted a million lines of cocaine. I generally feel like I need rehab after reading his books.
In spite of Milo's recreational choices, he remains a knight in shining armor who tries to redress wrongs and defend the innocent. In this book, he's searching for a missing wife, proving a convicted man innocent, dealing with piles of killers and more. Milo's core of goodness in the midst of so much evil is what keeps the reader coming back to these books. They are dark but with just enough of a glimmer of hope that they aren't depressing.
It's best to approach this book after reading some of the earlier books to understand just where Milo has been. He's the kind of character that grows on you. This is a book that a lot of people are not going to like. But I'm not one of them. The sheer beauty of his writing in spite of the weakness of some of the other narrative elements keeps me coming back to this series.
Khaled Assah is a young student at the University of Jordan who is working on an archaeological dig when he stumbles upon a hidden cave. W...moreRATING: 2.75
Khaled Assah is a young student at the University of Jordan who is working on an archaeological dig when he stumbles upon a hidden cave. Within the cave, he finds a reddish-brown clay jar which resembles the pots that held the Dead Sea Scrolls dating from the first century A.D. Against all odds, it appears that this unassuming student has found a priceless relic. The secrets of the scroll, once unraveled, will reveal the hiding place of some gold and silver lampstands (also known as menorah) spirited from Solomon's temple in 587 BC. Unfortunately, he loses possession of the scroll and it becomes the object of a quest by groups of Palestinians and Israelis.
Greg McKenzie is a retired Air Force criminal investigator. He and his wife, Jill, are taking a tour of the Middle East with their Sunday School class, mostly seniors from Nashville, Tennessee. Greg is glad of the respite from his problems at home, having been involved in some situations that had made him a persona non grata with the Nashville Police Department. Greg is a man of volatile temper and exceptional stubbornness, traits that do not serve him well for the most part. For some reason, during part of their tour, he and Jill face a very persistent souvenir salesperson who insists that they buy a jar containing a parchment scroll. Unbeknownst to Greg and Jill, they are being used as instruments to transport the scroll to the United States. From the point that they acquire the scroll, the narrative focuses on the efforts of various evil Middle Eastern types to get the scroll back.
Threats and force do not work, so the villains resort to kidnapping Jill. McKenzie, being a former investigator, thinks he knows better than anyone else about how to get her back, but all of his efforts are totally misguided. There are several meets set up, but Greg never brings the scroll to trade for his wife. Frustrated, the villains end up spiriting Jill away back to Israel, and Greg follows in an attempt to free her. After some rather incendiary face-offs, the situation is tidily resolved.
Campbell has a very smooth writing style which made the actual reading of the book very enjoyable. Up until about the halfway point, I was engaged in the story and enjoying the characters. However, he ended up turning his irascible protagonist into someone who was not very likable for the long haul. His pigheadedness in playing games with the villains while his wife's life hung in the balance struck me as sheer stupidity after a while. I got tired of his bluster. In addition, the plot became very implausible to me from the point that the villains took Jill back to Israel. Why would they have bothered? Why would they not have either escalated the violence against Greg so that he would give up the scroll or killed the hostage to display their seriousness about their intentions? I felt like he lost control of the plot in an effort to make it complex. It was hard to believe that possession of the scroll could be the trigger for World War III, for example. Every single thread was neatly tied at the conclusion of the book, which felt contrived and implausible.
What started out as a good read fizzled out for me over the course of the book. Campbell has excellent writing skills and has the potential for more than was achieved in this book. (less)
French criminal investigator Michael Dalton and his American art professor fiancée, Jennifer Bowen, have been through a lot together. Some time ago, t...moreFrench criminal investigator Michael Dalton and his American art professor fiancée, Jennifer Bowen, have been through a lot together. Some time ago, they lived through a murderous situation where Michael was terribly wounded and Jennifer saved his life. But now, the future is bright, as they are about to be married. Michael has inherited a fortune in art and property and plans to resign from the police business before his honeymoon. But that, alas, is easier said than done. A young girl's body washes up on the beach of a resort near Aix-en-Provence, and it turns out to be Caroline, the young daughter of close friends. Her back has been hideously marred through the application of nitric acid, and Michael must at least get the investigation started.
No one realizes it at the time, but Caroline is the victim of the grand vision of an artist by the name of Garrett Lee Brant. Brant is a tattooist and severely disturbed individual from Venice, California, who believes that he communes with Paul Gauguin. It is his mission to create the ultimate art work, using the unblemished skin of young girls as his canvas. He and his wife, Eve, are aided in accomplishing this goal by a perverted Flemish photographer by the name of Jan Korteman. The girls are meant to be living montages of Brant's work; but as might be expected, things don't go as planned.
Despite the horrible nature of the crime, Bogner does a good job in minimizing its gruesomeness. We spend more time in the head of Brant than we do in watching him create his "art". There is a full cast of weird and depraved characters—Jan Korteman who has the wealth to pursue his lusts; Heather Malone, a rich American nymphomaniac who is obsessed with Garrett and has her body sculpted in the image of Pamela Anderson to be more alluring to him; and Eve, the wife who kidnaps the young victims for her husband. Bogner also does well with the "good" characters of Michael, Jennifer and their parents.
The one problem with dealing with an insane and amoral character is that the author has to be cautious not to take the narrative too far into the realm of eccentricity, for the reader may find the total depths of weirdness too extreme. That is what happened here. The reader can accept Brant's conversations with Gauguin as a measure of his delusions. However, a revelation about Brant's identity at the conclusion of the book was just too over the top.
Bogner does a fine job in depicting the French setting, both in the habits of its people and especially in its food. He's created a very readable albeit strange book which is marred by a finale that flew too far afield.
Kaitlin LaMar is a probation officer on the Gang Violence Suppression Unit in Santa Ana, California. She is responsible for monitoring the...moreRATING: 1.5
Kaitlin LaMar is a probation officer on the Gang Violence Suppression Unit in Santa Ana, California. She is responsible for monitoring the activities of approximately 45 probationers to ensure their compliance with the terms of their probation. Given the fact that she has been specifically assigned to work with gang members, many of her probationers are younger. A particularly sad case is the 9-year-old by the name of Miguel "Mooch" Esparza, who is in Juvenile Hall on a charge of allegedly murdering Kaitlin's 7-year-old godson. Kaitlin has a soft spot in her heart for Mooch, perhaps too soft, as during the course of this book he threatens her, holds a gun to her head and forces her to jump off a jetty into the ocean. With her other probationers, Kaitlin shows just the right mix of heart and hardness. You need to be tough to deal with the kind of people that LaMar sees on a daily basis, and Board does a great job of depicting these characters. She is helped in her duties by her cop partner, David Nava. They each have a role in working with the probationers.
One evening as Kaitlin is walking with her boyfriend, Blaine Stedman, a wealthy yacht designer, they hear a scream. They discover the body of Mooch's mother, Maria (who had had for many years acted as his sister). Maria had seemed the epitome of a woman who worked hard to help support her family, contributing her income to help her parents and working to get a place for Mooch and herself to live as mother and son. There doesn't seem to be any reason why Maria would be targeted to be killed. But as Kaitlin investigates, she uncovers the reality behind the event.
I found the revelations around the life of a probation officer to be very interesting. Board really had a handle on exactly what the roles and responsibilities were, and the details were illuminating. She presented LaMar as a character who cared about the people she was supervising, but also didn't allow her to be too soft (except in the case of Mooch, and she should have been harder). Her writing style is very smooth with well-written dialogue. My only complaint is that the book was written in present tense, a style that I find jarring, but that's a personal bias.
I was very involved for about two-thirds of the book when it fell apart for me. Kaitlin had a few episodes throughout the book where she felt that Maria's spirit was present. I'm not the kind of person who accepts supernatural elements in their reading, so this made me a little nervous. However, it wasn't overdone so I was willing to go along with it. That is, until she whipped a Ouija Board out of the trunk of her car and had her cop partner help her ask questions about the case. Shortly thereafter, Maria's ghost comes to visit her in her bedroom and repeats the word that she said as she was dying: "Todopoderoso", Spanish for "Almighty" and another incident where the ghost comes along to save the day. Those events put the book beyond my ability to suspend disbelief. Perhaps the reader who has more tolerance for mystical happenings would not find these elements objectionable.
I was very disappointed in the book overall. Board lost control of the plot; the villain was obvious from the minute they were introduced; the sex and romance clumsily portrayed. The first book in this series, Angels of Anguish, was exceptional. I was sorry to see the talent exhibited in that book not realized in this sophomore effort.
Perhaps you, like I, were under the impression that high seas piracy was controlled and eliminated in the last century or so. However, the year is 200...morePerhaps you, like I, were under the impression that high seas piracy was controlled and eliminated in the last century or so. However, the year is 2008, and high-tech pirates are conducting some very sophisticated operations in Indonesia. As the book opens, a satellite whose payload contains some very critical data on new and unique compounds that cannot be created on earth is about to splash down before being recovered by the appropriate authorities. Before they are able to recover the craft, it is artfully stolen away by the pirate band. Other acts of aggression are being carried out in the seas of Indonesia by what appears to be an organization of a united pirate fleet coming under a single centralized command.
The United States reacts by putting together a task force led by Commander Amanda Garrett of the US Navy. She has many resources under her control, including two battleships and various other sea and aircraft. The mission is of the highest importance, and as such, the US Navy Admiral, Eddie Mac, is on board with Garrett and her Sea Fighters. Amanda is a brilliant tactician who time and again outwits the forces of evil. The various strategies that are employed during these operations are very creative. Clearly, Cobb is an expert on all things military and uses his knowledge to enhance the credibility of the book. Unfortunately, the pirate operation never seems to come out ahead in any of the encounters, which stretches credibility.
The brains behind the pirate operation is a handsome and exceptional man by the name of Makara Harconan. Makara and Amanda are worthy and equal opponents, who are attracted to one another in spite of the fact that they are enemies at the core. Unfortunately, once Cobb moved off the battlefield and into the bedroom (or the island beach or the isolated cave), the narrative was far less assured. Having established a group of strong female characters, he has Amanda act in a totally inconsistent way in her initial meetings with Makara, showing a vulnerability and weakness that was never apparent in any other setting. The Sea Fighters engage in several missions to overcome the pirates, and during one of them, Amanda is captured and whisked away to a very secure hideaway that was used by the Japanese during World War II. She and Makara are basically living in his love nest. She is able to transmit some information about her location, and the Sea Fighters focus on coming to her rescue.
The main issue that I had with this book that it had a tremendous amount of technical language around the operations and the equipment which made it very difficult for me to understand. Although the use of this vocabulary did lend verisimilitude to the narrative, it really limited comprehension for the average reader. The strange language coupled with a plethora of acronyms made me feel like I was reading a Sanskrit war text. The first 100 pages really dragged as the basic situation was set up in highly technical detail.
The book was populated with an overabundance of characters, and it was difficult to sort out who each person was and their role in the operation. There was a veritable deluge of air and seacraft—ships, hovercraft, helicopters, etc.—and their crew members to keep track of. The personal story line was a bit sappy. The romance element really detracted from the story.
Cobb was wise in setting Target Lock in 2008. That afforded him the ability to employ technology that is not currently available today, but without getting so advanced that the narrative felt like science fiction. This book would likely appeal to those with a military background. It really did not appeal to me. This is the fourth book in the series, so obviously it has its fans.
Senseless is a book that does not leave you, whose disturbing images remain with you long after you finish the last page. It is that most...moreRATING: 4.75
Senseless is a book that does not leave you, whose disturbing images remain with you long after you finish the last page. It is that most shocking of books, one whose gruesome acts resonate in reality. It is terrifying because it could so easily be true.
Eliott Gast is a mid-level American economist working in Belgium, not the kind of person you would think would make an attractive hostage. However, while at a business dinner in Brussels, he is kidnapped by a group of terrorists who oppose the European economic union and imprisoned in a totally white apartment with no apparent way in or out. His captors remain elusive, and he lives comfortably for a few weeks. The kidnappers provide him with the necessities, as well as books to occupy his time; but there doesn't seem to be a purpose in his snatching. Little does he know, but Gast's plight is being broadcast on the Internet. He is the first online hostage.
The kidnappers are raising funds by running a vote on the site. The results of the vote determine if Gast will be tortured and removed of one of his senses. If the viewers donate enough money and vote for his release, he will be let go. His fate is entirely in the hands of the visitors to the site; and he systematically loses each of his senses, one by one. He is a man who has had a sensual relationship with food and wine and the finer things in life, and the loss of his ability to hear or touch or taste or smell is a blow to everything that he has lived for.
After each vote, his captors perform a medical procedure to remove one of his senses. One does not have to read the details to be deeply disturbed by these events. Imagine losing your hearing, and knowing that it is only a matter of time before another sense will be snatched from you. At the mercy of an anonymous group of onlookers, there is nothing to be done, no way out. You are an entertainment commodity, something to watch in horror, a reality show that has no limitations.
Senseless is a grim read, with Eliott in a truly hopeless situation. Even the reader feels complicit in what happens to Eliott—after all, just like those voting to continue the torture, you are continuing to turn the page to see what gruesome event is next. Senseless is the perfect title for the book—in addition to being rendered truly senseless, the acts of which the books speak have no moral meaning and depict humanity at its worst and possibly most real. This is a deeply disturbing yet oddly thought provoking book, beautifully written but emotionally wrenching. I found it extraordinary.
PROTAGONIST: DI Charlie Priest SETTING: Yorkshire, UK SERIES: #2 of 13 RATING: 4.0 WHY: Rereading to refresh memory before continuing with later books - C...morePROTAGONIST: DI Charlie Priest SETTING: Yorkshire, UK SERIES: #2 of 13 RATING: 4.0 WHY: Rereading to refresh memory before continuing with later books - Charlie is investigating 2 cases, one the disappearance of a young girl whose father he suspects and the other a serial killer who is targeting men of the cloth and leaving behind a mushroom graphic. At the same time, he is courting a widow, Annabelle, who is endangered because of knowing Charlie. A satisfying read, made more so by the well-integrated humor that is natural and not just thrown in for effect. (less)
It's 1951, and Brian Kane is a private investigator who does most of his work for the Hollywood studios. He's on retainer for Regal Pictures and is as...moreIt's 1951, and Brian Kane is a private investigator who does most of his work for the Hollywood studios. He's on retainer for Regal Pictures and is asked to figure out who is blackmailing Hanna Mills, who is the girlfriend of the studio head, Robert Clarke. For some reason, Mills and Clarke are totally unwilling to provide Kane with any information at all about why Hanna might be the target of a blackmailer. So he pretty much has to start at Square One when conducting the investigation, a situation which didn't really seem credible. Why would Clarke even bring Kane into the picture if they were going to cover the lens?
Be that as it may, Kane probes Hanna's background and the people that she associates with. He uncovers a link that goes back to the time of the Nazi regime in Europe. Several of the people associated with Hanna are vaguely connected to some sort of pornographic endeavor which may be what Clarke and Mills are hoping will not be broadcast to the present-day media. When there is a murder on the set of a western, Brian begins to unravel the missing links.
Assisting Brian in the investigation is his long-time girlfriend, Kitty. Kitty is a high-priced call girl and nymphomaniac. Unlike the first book in the series, The Big Switch, Brian and Kitty's relationship begins to achieve some depth beyond passionate sexual encounters. In fact, Kane seems to be moving toward controlling his libidinous urges which led to him sleeping with any woman he met and more or less being faithful to Kitty. He probably would not put it that way, as he tends to rationalize what they mean to each other. In my mind, this was a very welcome development.
The Deal Killer is a noir tale that is faithful to its setting. There is a texture to the narrative that keeps the reader firmly rooted in the 1950s, through various references to products and people of the day. I found the plot of the book to be rather weak but did enjoy the growth of the characters. When Bludis puts a strong plot with these newly interesting characters, he's going to have a boffo book on his hands.
Inspector Anders, Interpol senior inspector, was introduced in The Wooden Leg of Inspector Anders, where he cleverly solved a situation involving the...moreInspector Anders, Interpol senior inspector, was introduced in The Wooden Leg of Inspector Anders, where he cleverly solved a situation involving the Italian Mafia. World weary, introspective, an amputee who lost a leg as a result of a bombing earlier in his career, Anders is once again involved in a highly complex case which originates in Frankfurt, Germany. A drug company is in merger talks, and their joint boards are meeting to finalize the arrangements. Somehow, a bomb has been planted in the conference room, and the 16 board members are now nothing more than DNA fragments. It's a horrific scene, and the message is quite clear—companies considering mergers that will result in widespread unemployment will be targeted for similar treatment.
A group going by the name of "Judgment Day" claims responsibility for the deaths, although it's also possible that this was the work of a very deranged individual. The local and national law enforcement agencies come together to allay the threat, and Interpol is called in as well with Anders and his dapper partner Matucci investigating the situation. Interpol's main contribution in cases like this is its computerized criminal file and database of major crimes. There are 3 other mergers between various companies in various countries in the works, and it's a guessing game as to which of these will be next. The perpetrator(s) provide some guidance by contacting a local reporter and, using a synthesized voice, giving information on the possible next hits. The most tantalizing clues are snippets of quotes from the 15th century work, Ship of Fools, which lead Anders and Matucci to locations in France, Belgium and Germany.
Further acts of terrorism occur. It's very puzzling how there are generally people in the vicinity of each of these acts who have no recollection of anything strange occurring before the actual killings. It appears that a master hypnotist may be using his talents to wipe out their memories of the events; and that Anders is not impervious to his tactics, teetering on the edge of sanity at some points. This to me was a weak element of the book and a too convenient a device for creating an invisible evil force. The resolution of the book really stretched credulity as this was inconsistently played out.
Although there was a lot going on in the book, the pace seemed slow to me. The book is actually a locked room mystery, with several rooms involved, each with their own set of associated puzzles and red herrings. Politics and greed create some interesting bedfellows, and there aren't too many individuals in this book who could be labeled "good guys".
Anders is an interesting character. He's a bit older, rather introspective and highly intuitive, although some of his hunches are horrendously wrong. He is very enamored of women who have vulnerabilities and life experience. In spite of that, it's difficult for the reader to feel that they "know" Anders (what IS his first name?). On many occasions, his politeness is noted—he is of the urbane, philosophical mold created by authors such as Donna Leon and Michael Dibdin, although he is lacking some of the humor and warmth of their creations.