Most members of the police force who have been exposed to the victims of a homicide become inured to the brutality that one human being ca...moreRATING: 4.25
Most members of the police force who have been exposed to the victims of a homicide become inured to the brutality that one human being can wreak upon another. However, the current murder is one that causes even the most hardened officer to turn away in horror. The victim (or rather, what is left of the victim) has been found in a deserted factory. The method of murder? Sandblasting. Beyond gruesome, the mutilation is the work of a madman, one who delighted in torturing his victim for more than two hours as he wielded his instrument of torture.
The Sheffield police are under great pressure to soothe the public by finding the perpetrator as quickly as possible. The first difficulty lies in the fact that they cannot even identify the victim. The second is that the entire department is a collection of completely dysfunctional individuals who have created a totally ineffective police unit, rife with corruption. The head of the group, Detective Superintendent Jack Singleterry, is driven by only one emotion, hatred, whether that be of the crooks that he comes up against or the members of his own unit. He forces confessions by dubious means such as shoving sharpened pencils up a suspect's nostrils. He's completely cowed everyone who works with him, including Chief Inspector Bill Naylor, who has escaped into a bottle and is just putting in his time. There's a religious zealot, Detective Inspector John Tilt, and a female detective constable, Ruth Wilet, who is trying to hide her sexuality. When they are assigned to the case, they are labeled "Jesus and the Lezzie". These are the people who are going to fight the cause of justice.
The case is buried which has been the approach of this police unit for almost 30 years. That would be the end of the story except for 2 factors: Tilt has become obsessed with the murder, a happening that is causing him to doubt his religious beliefs and to give up on his faltering marriage. He cannot close the case inside his head and continues the investigation even after it has officially closed. The second event occurs when Tilt attends the unknown man's funeral. Even that is going nowhere until Tilt attends the unknown man's funeral. The only other attendee steps forward and states that he is the murderer and that his reason for being there is to make sure that the victim is dead.
The story that this man has to tell is even more horrifying than the facts of the murder that he committed. As the narrative unwinds, the reader finds their sympathies moving from the victim to the confessor. Indeed, my initial feelings of revulsion at how the victim was murdered began to move toward feeling he didn't suffer as much as he deserved to.
THE EXECUTIONER'S ART is bleak in its outlook and is labeled "noir" as a result of the emotionally wrenching events depicted in its pages. What is truly disturbing is not the recounting of the actual murder but the revelation of its cause. I was transfixed by this book. David Fine exhibited tremendous skill in his sympathetic portrayal of a man who has committed a gruesome murder. This powerful debut novel will appeal to those who like their crime fiction hard-edged and dark.
One of the problems that the author of a suspense/thriller series faces is the fact that he or she is exposing their protagonist to a high...moreRATING: 3.5
One of the problems that the author of a suspense/thriller series faces is the fact that he or she is exposing their protagonist to a high level of danger throughout the books that they create. What may seem credible in Book 3 or 4 can feel like overkill by Book 5 or 6. Fortunately, Lee Child has found the key to maintaining believability in the Jack Reacher series, of which PERSUADER is the seventh. In each of the books, he takes Jack in a new direction, and in each he faces an altogether different set of circumstances than in any of the previous works.
PERSUADER opens with a rip-roaring scene that starts the book off at a torrid pace. Just when you've digested the opening scenario, you discover that all is not as it seems.
Reacher is working with the FBI to infiltrate a purported drug dealer's home, and he obtains access through an elaborate set-up. Jack has 2 missions. The first is professional, and that is to try to find a female agent who has gone missing from the operation. The second is personal and involves settling the score on a murder that happened more than 10 years earlier. He had done what was necessary at the time, but when he sees a "dead man walking", he realizes that he was unsuccessful.
Hired as a bodyguard for Zachary Beck, successful Oriental rug seller, Reacher lives on Beck's estate and is able to investigate from the inside while being supported covertly on the outside by FBI agent Susan Duffy. Reacher has a background in the military, and he uses the skills he learned there to deal with the nasty characters that he comes up against. Never hesitating to kill when it's necessary, Reacher doesn't suffer any angst about his actions. In this situation, Jack is dealing with many untrustworthy people. Out of those, he tends to feel a sense of protectiveness for those who are victims of their situation and not necessarily intrinsically evil, even though they often don't return the favor. Reacher has his own moral code, which may be different from the mainstream, but it guides him and he lives by it.
Child came perilously close to stepping over the credibility line with Jack dodging danger right and left and moving on after being injured. He managed to avoid the "Energizer Bunny" syndrome, wherein the protagonist takes a lickin' and keeps on tickin'. It's a measure of Child's skill that the reader goes along with the possibilities that he has created, even if they hover close to over the top. The characters are so well developed that we are willing to grant some leeway in terms of total plausibility. One unique aspect of Child's work that sets him apart from many thriller writers is that he creates strong female characters, and Susan Duffy, the FBI investigator, is a great match for Reacher.
Child is an excellent writer, and PERSUADER is a worthy addition to the series. I liked it less well than the previous book, WITHOUT FAIL, which had more of a personal feel to it. In this case, I felt more removed from Reacher as a person than I did in that work. Nonetheless, very few writers can beat Child at his ability to create a complex plot and ratchet up the suspense to gut-wrenching levels without sacrificing the development of the characters along the way.
The author of seven books in the private eye Harry Devlin series set in Liverpool, Martin Edwards has stepped in a new direction with his...moreRATING: 3.75
The author of seven books in the private eye Harry Devlin series set in Liverpool, Martin Edwards has stepped in a new direction with his first standalone novel, Take My Breath Away. The book follows two separate plot threads which ultimately intersect. The protagonist of the book is a former lawyer turned writer by the name of Nic Gabriel. The second story line features a paralegal by the assumed name of Roxanne Wake.
It's most unusual to go to a party and see one of your best friends murdered by a spurned lover. But it's well nigh impossible for the killer to be a woman who committed suicide five years earlier. Yet that is what Nic Gabriel witnesses when Dylan Rees is stabbed by Ella Vinton, a woman who bound herself to the tracks and was killed by a train. It doesn't seem likely that she could recompose herself. Nic blames himself for his slow reaction to seeing Ella and what she is about to do and vows to determine exactly what did occur here. He doesn't have much to go on other than some enigmatic last words from Dylan.
Meanwhile, Roxanne Wake has just accepted a job at Creed, a firm that specializes in human rights law. From the first, we know that Roxanne is working under an assumed name and that she is hiding her past from her employers. Slowly over the course of the book, it is revealed that her real name is Cassandra Lee and that she was involved in the murder of her lover in a case that garnered headlines across the nation. She's changed her appearance and is trying to move on, but somehow Nic recognizes her anyway when he visits Creed while tracking down clues in Dylan's case.
Nic is a man who is at loose ends. A few years earlier, he wrote a true crime best seller book. Since that time, he has had no motivation to write another book nor to pursue any paying pursuits. Roxanne naturally assumes that Nic wants to write a book about her situation and will do anything to keep the past buried. As it turns out, there is plenty of material to use within the Creed firm, as their past history is suspect and the current group of lawyers all are more than they seem.
The plot perhaps has a few too many threads going at the same time, even within the boundaries of one character. Nic, for example, is not only searching to find the truth about Dylan but also to prove that his father did not kill his mother. At times, particularly in the Roxanne thread, Edwards teeters on the brink of melodrama. There are all sorts of other deaths that come to the surface during the course of the book.
The book was well written and well paced, although I did think that Edwards stretched out revealing Roxanne's secrets a bit too long. The various characters were well drawn. Edwards did a superb job in resolving all of the plot points, and the resolution was very satisfying. The ending, in particular, was excellent and cast doubt in the reader's mind about whether the truth had been revealed or not. (less)
This fifth book in the series finds Joseph Antonelli defending Stanley Roth, one of the most powerful men in Hollywood, who has been accus...moreRATING: 3.75
This fifth book in the series finds Joseph Antonelli defending Stanley Roth, one of the most powerful men in Hollywood, who has been accused of murdering his movie star wife, Mary Margaret Flanders (nee Marian Walsh). There were only 3 people at their home when Mary Margaret was killed: Mary Margaret, Stanley and a maid. The security system had not been breached. When the police find Mary Margaret's blood on some clothing in Stanley's laundry hamper, he is charged with murder.
Antonelli has a reputation for being a lawyer who rarely loses. Roth calls upon him immediately; but strangely, he seems rather disinterested in his own defense. Instead, he is consumed by the details of a movie called Blue Zephyr (which is also the name of his studio) that he has written and is planning to film. The movie is really 2 things: an homage to Orson Welles' Citizen Kane as well as a fictionalized account of Stanley and Mary Margaret's life together, including an accounting of who killed her. If the movie makes Stanley look bad, so be it—the making of a great movie means more to him than the unraveling of his entire life.
Stanley's situation is threatening the future of the studio, and the partner who is the main financial backer is ready to pull out. There is a scene where Stanley almost kills him with a wine bottle. Although not a violent man, Stanley has lost control of his temper before, most noticeably when he hit his wife and gave her a black eye after she had an abortion. Antonelli uses all of these events in a very unique way in his defense of Stanley, and the trial is wonderfully portrayed in these pages. It's not the usual defense to bring up Roth's lack of concern about his wife's affairs, the fact that he hit her, the fact that he attacked his partner. It appears that this risky strategy just may backfire.
Buffa has done an exceptional job in creating the character of Stanley Roth. He is a very unique individual, and it is fascinating to see how he turns everything that happens into a movie-related event. The man is a sheer genius with incredible talent. He steals the book from Antonelli. The conversations between the two men are intriguing. In an interesting twist, Blue Zephyr is eventually filmed, and Antonelli is portrayed by an actor who was part of the trial.
Buffa has a unique writing style. As he is presenting the narrative, he also threads in some thought-provoking questions about the nature of fame and desire and obsession that apply to Antonelli just as much as they apply to Roth.
Based on the strength of STAR WITNESS, I plan to seek out the other books in this series.