Blood and Bone by William Lashner William Morrow $24.95 (US); $26.95 (Can) ISBN: 978-0-06-11PROTAGONIST: Kyle Byrne SERIES: Standalone thriller RATING: 1.5
Blood and Bone by William Lashner William Morrow $24.95 (US); $26.95 (Can) ISBN: 978-0-06-114348-9 February 2009 Hardcover Thriller
REVIEWED BY: Maddy Van Hertbruggen DUE DATE: 3/2/09 RATING: 1.5 quills
Some people can never come to terms with the past. They tend to float through life and not be engaged with the present. Their time and energy is spent on things that happened long ago. That's definitely the case for Kyle Byrne, a young man who can best be described as a slacker. He flunked out of college, forfeiting a promising sports career. He's lost his job and is about to lose his home. He doesn't seem to care all that much. The only thing that sparks his interest is his father, who died 12 years earlier. Although Liam Byrne left Kyle's mother and wasn't much of a father, Kyle is obsessed with him, to the point that he thinks that he sees him everywhere that he goes.
Liam's former law partner, Laszlo Toth, is murdered; and the police are all at once very interested in what really happened to Liam. Kyle immediately becomes a suspect because of his strange behavior. After Toth's death, he is approached by more than one person interested in something known as the O'Malley File. Forsaking his slacker ways, he is committed to finding the file and learning more about his father's circumstances. He is assisted by a surprising partner. He is also targeted by a lunatic straight from the pages of Villains R Us.
I find it amazing that I actually finished Blood and Bones, because it failed for me on almost every level. The writing was overwrought and clichéd. The characterization was inconsistent, with Kyle moving from being a complete loser to an intelligent, perceptive and dedicated investigator. The central evil character was created out of recycled cardboard. On the other hand, I did find the two main police characters to be a bit more credible; I especially liked the older investigator, Henderson, who was world worn but not burned out. He balanced out an inexperienced and somewhat incautious younger female partner. The supposedly clever plot twists were just irritating. I especially chafed at how the father sub-plot resolved.
A friend with reading tastes similar to my own mentioned that they like Lashner's Victor Carl series featuring a greedy, down-and-out lawyer. That certainly sounds more palatable than this standalone thriller.
Eddie Perlmutter has been a cop in Boston for over 30 years, but thePROTAGONIST: Eddie Perlmutter SETTING: Boca Raton, Florida SERIES: Debut RATING: 1.5
Eddie Perlmutter has been a cop in Boston for over 30 years, but the cold weather in New England is killing him. As a nod to his arthritic knees, he decides to take an early retirement and move to Boca Raton, Florida. Initially, he works as a security guard for a golf course. However, "once a cop, always a cop" really does apply to him. He can't seem to help stumbling across crimes. He runs up against a counterfeiting ring that is also involved with ecstasy and is run by the Russian mafia. His investigation uncovers the group, and he is lauded by the media for unveiling the ring. They dub him the "Boca Knight", and soon he finds himself doing private detective work. His first job is to find out who killed one of the country club elites, Robert Goldenblatt. While investigating, Eddie himself becomes a target of the Aryan Army.
Descended from a hot-headed renegade from Russia, Eddie often struggles to control his own temper. The warning sign is that he sees red spots—and he sees more red spots than a ward full of measles patients. But despite his flaws, he manages to single-handedly resolve situations that the entire police department has not been able to manage. Boca Raton could have saved itself a lot of money by just hiring Eddie to become the police force; it seemed as if he were the only one who had the courage and brains to deal with the criminal element in the city.
Putting aside my doubts about Eddie in the role of Super Cop, I had a more fundamental issue with the book and that was the fact that Perlmutter's penis had a leading role in the story. Early in his life, Eddie nicknamed his penis "Mr. Johnson". Mr. Johnson appears on almost every page of the book. We either see his reaction to any females who happen to cross Eddie's path or are subjected to Eddie and Mr. Johnson talking to one another. I'm assuming that Forman meant this to be amusing; instead, I found it downright distasteful. Mr. Johnson is very active while in Boca Raton, which was a turn-off to me.
As far as the actual narrative, I felt that Forman didn't know what kind of book he wanted Boca Knights to be. It starts out seriously and then turns into a vaudeville act full of one-liners when Eddie goes to Florida. From there, it makes another turn into private investigation. All along the way, Forman sprinkles factoids about the various settings. Some of that was interesting, but in many cases, it felt like the author had done research and wanted to make sure that it got included in the book. The one thing that I did feel was well done was a crime simulation that helped uncover the truth of a puzzling situation.
In general, I tend to cut new authors a bit of a break and focus on the potential that they exhibit. Unfortunately, there were too many things that did not work for me to be able to do that with Boca Knights. I had a lot of problems with the fact that the tone of the book wavered wildly and that the main character was so improbably talented, both as a Super Cop and a Stud Muffin. Although I finished the book, I also pulled down the shade on any further adventures with the "Boca Knight".
PROTAGONIST: Alexandra (Alex) Cooper, Assistant District Attorney SETTING: Manhattan, New York RATING: 2.0
There are many authors whose books are not onlPROTAGONIST: Alexandra (Alex) Cooper, Assistant District Attorney SETTING: Manhattan, New York RATING: 2.0
There are many authors whose books are not only associated with a specific protagonist but also a particular setting. George Pelecanos writes of the Washington, DC, area; Michael Connelly of Los Angeles. Linda Fairstein focuses on New York City and includes many little known facts in her books featuring Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Alexandra ("Alex") Cooper.
The latest case that Alex is looking at along with her usual homicide detective colleagues Mike Chapman and Mercer Wallace is quite unusual. A man disguises himself as a firefighter and sets a small fire outside a woman's apartment so that he can gain access to her home. Once inside, he sexually assaults the victim, Tina Barr. Tina is very reticent about revealing any of the details of the attack. Only days later, another woman turns up dead in her apartment. Karla Vastasi is at first mistaken for a wealthy heiress named Minerva Hunt. Tina is a respected conservator at the New York Public Library; and as it turns out, Minerva Hunt's family has a lot of ties with the NYPL. When Tina goes missing, the focus of the investigation turns to the library.
Fairstein takes us deep into the world of NYPL, its physical plant, its collections of rare books and maps and its secrets. One of the major faults of the book is the fact that she takes us too deeply into this world—there are far too many arcane details about the maps, the buildings and the history of the library and surrounding area. I felt like I was attending a group of research lectures. For every topic that comes up, there's a character who is an expert who blathers on and on and on about it. The sections dealing with the rare maps were especially trying—it is hard to follow a description of a complicated map without seeing it. There was an excessive amount of dialog and not enough action.
The characters in Lethal Legacy never came to life for me. I wondered why Alex was so deeply involved in the actual homicide investigation, appearing at the scenes with the detectives. Perhaps I'm misguided, but I don't believe that an Assistant DA would serve the role of secondary homicide detective. I've never cared for the character of Mike Chapman. His habit of referring to Alex as "Blondie" and to females as "broads" drives me to distraction. On the other hand, Mercer had no distinct personality. I would be hard pressed to provide a minimal description of him. Finally, there is Luc Rouget, Alex's French lover and chef—there is absolutely no chemistry there, and the relationship feels forced. There are little hints that Alex and Mike should be together which boggles my mind.
I didn't care for Lethal Legacy at all. I was never engaged by the characters, and the investigation is almost an afterthought. Although there were some interesting tidbits provided in the various research lectures, the overwhelming amount of information presented on each topic bored me to tears. I know that this is a very popular series; but frankly, I don't see the appeal. ...more
Located in upstate New York, Bantam is the kind of small town where you wouldn’t ePROTAGONIST: Abby Silvernale, waitress SERIES: Debut novel RATING: 2.0
Located in upstate New York, Bantam is the kind of small town where you wouldn’t expect anything much to be happening, other than the occasional rowdy drunk getting out of control or some teenaged horseplay. Abby Silvernale has been living there for a few years. Ever since her husband’s suicide two years earlier, she’s been working as a waitress at her friend Dulcie’s restaurant. And now she finds herself intimately involved in a veritable crime wave.
First of all, someone has been “borrowing” Dulcie’s minivan in the middle of the night and returning it, fully fueled, before dawn. Even though it’s two o’clock in the morning, Abby rushes over to Dulcie’s house when she calls about the situation. Abby ends up spending several hours hiding in a hedge trying to see who returns the van. Oooooo kayyyyyyy, I’m sure we’d all do something like that to help our friends, right?
Then the mother of a young teen boy who Abby has spoken to twice is killed, and he is immediately arrested. He calls on Abby to find him a lawyer and speak to his estranged father. And finally, a young woman goes missing. Her father, who has never met Abby before, pays her $500 to find information about his daughter's associates. Uh huh.
I think that writing a believable amateur sleuth type book must be one of the most difficult things for an author to pull off successfully. How do you take an ordinary person and place them in extraordinary situations while maintaining credibility? In The Dark End of Town, we’re dealing with a waitress who hasn’t been in town all that long and who lives with her two dogs in a trailer. It just doesn’t work to place her in the middle of murders and mayhem and have her investigating as if she were a PI. She has no special skills that equip her to investigate anything other than where she placed her keys. She doesn’t reach out to the police which endangers herself and others.
In spite of the credibility gap of placing this kind of character in these kinds of situations, I found Pomeroy to be a writer who shows great potential. I was really moved in the narrative sections where Abby is thinking about her late husband and the issues that they faced in their life together. The prose in those segments is lyrical and touching. Unfortunately, in other parts of the book, the writing is heavy handed and clumsy. There are numerous crude sexual references throughout that jarred me every time they appeared.
The Dark End of Town is a debut novel, and it's understandable that the author has some rough edges. In spite of my difficulties with the basic set-up, Pomeroy managed to pull off a few good twists. And even though Abby was out of her element and at times I found her irritating, she started to grow on me over the course of the book. Will I be reading the next in this series? No. But I do think that the reader who enjoys books featuring amateur sleuths will find The Dark End of Town entertaining and a bit different from the usual.
PROTAGONIST: Tom Mason and Scott Carpenter SETTING: An island for rich gay men SERIES: #11 of 11 RATING: 1.0
When Tom Mason, a retired Chicago high schoolPROTAGONIST: Tom Mason and Scott Carpenter SETTING: An island for rich gay men SERIES: #11 of 11 RATING: 1.0
When Tom Mason, a retired Chicago high school teacher, and Scott Carpenter, a former professional baseball player, got married, Tom's gift to Scott was an annual trip to Korkasi, an island in the Aegean Sea which was the most exclusive and expensive gay resort in the world. The staff on the island cater to the guests' every whim; it's an idyllic escape for the privileged as well as a place where some of the visitors indulge in questionable practices and pleasures.
Shortly before New Year's Eve, a ferocious storm hits the island and all contact with the outside world is cut off, and there's no way to leave the island. Someone takes advantage of the situation and murders the owner of the island, sets off an explosion at the resort's headquarters which kills several employees and goes on a killing spree of horrendous proportions. Tom and Scott take it upon themselves to uncover the murderer before everyone dies. Unfortunately, they are successful.
I am actually amazed that I was able to complete EVERYONE'S DEAD BUT US, because just about every aspect of the book was deeply unsatisfying. There was not one character with whom I felt any connection. Tom and Scott seemed like the same person to me; since Tom is the narrator of the story, he has a bit more depth than Scott. They are described by another character as follows: "They are considered to be studs and very hot. Being that studly with decent money, although not old money, makes some difference. I believe they are really in love." The other characters in the book are complete caricatures. No one is likable—they are spoiled and whiny or confrontational, with dialog that is at times laughable.
Zubro may have been trying to play homage to Agatha Christie with the secluded island setting, but he certainly did not succeed at building a plot that was cohesive and plausible. Maybe there's hidden treasure—it seems that some of the guests may have been using the island to hide major art pieces (e.g., Mona Lisa) for some unknown but likely nefarious purpose. There's possibly an evil cabal of gay thieves; let's not forget the pretender to the French throne or the sadistic football player. There's an Israeli agent who may be there to set up the Korsaki as a terrorist base. Every few pages, another character is dispensed with a bullet to the head. Amazingly, the killer is unable to hit Tom or Scott, even after dozens of shots at them. The motivation for the killings is preposterous, at best. The resolution was so beyond belief that I'm still tsk-ing at it.
It may have been possible for me to overlook some of the failings of the book if Zubro had exhibited skill in his writing. Sadly, that was not the case. I was constantly floored by various turns of phrase and construction of paragraphs. It's hard to imagine that the prose came from an author who has won the Lambda Literary Award and published almost 20 books.
- "The rain would sluice off some of the mess on us….And the rain wasn't as good as your Kenmore in the basement for cleaning in the first place."
- "Sounding like an oboe on downers or Eeyore on his worst possible day, Oser said…."
- "I'd dealt with death while I was in the Marines. I wasn't used to it, not like you get used to the color of your refrigerator."
I did find some of the descriptive passages to be very well done and only wished that Zubro had carried his skill in that area to the writing of the rest of the book.
PROTAGONIST: Paul Riley, lawyer and Michael McDermott and Ricki Stoletti, police detectives SERIES: Standalone RATING: 1.5
Sometimes being a voracious rePROTAGONIST: Paul Riley, lawyer and Michael McDermott and Ricki Stoletti, police detectives SERIES: Standalone RATING: 1.5
Sometimes being a voracious reader of crime fiction can make it really hard to give a new book a fair chance. If you spend a lot of time on the dark streets or in a locked room, you've come to know (and often, detest) some of the clichés of the genre. You're aware of the trends, and which themes and approaches are overdone. It's actually rather sad to pick up a book like Eye of the Beholder, read about six young women who have each been murdered in horrible and different ways, and instead of saying, "I can't wait to find out what this is about", moaning, "Oh, crud, another serial killer book." Being ever an optimist, I thought that I shouldn't pre-judge the book. After all, Ellis surely wouldn't use any of these timeworn devices in this book, would he?
- Chapters told from the deranged serial killer's point of view
- The motivation for the murders being religious, probably with sexual overtones
- Strange anonymous handwritten letters to the protagonist
Unfortunately, he did, those and more. Let's not forget having the lead character be a suspect—after all, he was the last to see one of the victims, and his fingerprints are on her murder weapon. Raise your hand if you think he is guilty. I thought so.
Well, back to the six dead bodies. They've been arranged in a college auditorium in the order in which they were killed. The police quickly locate a prime suspect, a man who was stalking one of the victims. And they just as quickly arrest him, since his house is a Fruminous Frenzy of Forensics. Terry Burgos is off to prison, courtesy of prosecutor Paul Riley. Riley shows that the victims were killed by the methods outlined in a song by Tyler Skye, with the lyrics related to various Bible verses.
And now it's several years later. Riley is a hugely successful lawyer whose main client is the father of one of the victims. Eerily, there is a new group of murders. Riley is the first to recognize that the killer is following the lines of the second verse of the song. Only Terry Burgos is in jail, and this second killer is very organized. He doesn't leave any trace evidence, and he isn't exactly following the "rules". Riley begins to wonder if he missed something when he was trying the first case. That could have been an interesting premise, but Ellis obscured it with a tangled web of plot developments that were impossible to follow, much less believe.
It's a pity that this book was such a complete cliché, as Ellis does write reasonably well. He did nothing fresh nor inventive, and that was the kiss of death as far as my reading enjoyment went. It's as if Ellis were playing a game of poker using a deck of Cliché Cards. He shuffles the deck and deals them out—assumed identities, swapped bodies, the KGB and more—but never plays a winning hand. I didn't cash in my chips, but ultimately, Eye of the Beholder was a misdeal for me.
PROTAGONIST: Johnny Steadman, reporter SETTING: 1936 London SERIES: #1 of projected trilogy RATING: 2.25
If you’re an ambitious reporter, you live for thPROTAGONIST: Johnny Steadman, reporter SETTING: 1936 London SERIES: #1 of projected trilogy RATING: 2.25
If you’re an ambitious reporter, you live for the scoop. But what do you do when nobody will admit to the fact that anything out of the ordinary has happened? Such is the situation that reporter Johnny Steadman faces when he gets a tip that a policeman from the Snow Hill precinct has been killed. According to his contacts at that station, none of their personnel has been harmed. But Johnny has reason to think differently and sets off on an investigation that irretrievably complicates both his personal and professional lives.
In addition to following the clues to what could be the story of his career, Johnny is also approached by his best friend, Matt Turner, who is a cop whose life is falling apart. Coincidentally, the reason for his malaise is tied to the story that Johnny is chasing. What he finds out is horrifying and involves male rape and sadism. And then he finds himself in the line of fire of the villains; what happened next was rather graphically portrayed and disturbing.
SNOW HILL is based on a supposedly true incident that occurred in London in 1936. Sanderson has done a good job of creating the period detail—I felt as though I were there back in the 30s beside Johnny. Unfortunately, the author went overboard and dropped in irrelevant historical facts that slowed the pacing of the book and took the reader away from the main narrative.
On the whole, the characters were rather stereotypical. I found the focus on homosexuality to be overdone; I would have preferred to have the characters defined by more than their sexuality. In addition, the protagonist is the victim of some of the worst clichés in the genre, such as attending a meeting in an alley in the wee hours of the night. You know that can’t turn out well!
Sanderson showed a deft hand at establishing the setting, but he didn’t do nearly as well at the other writing essentials, such as plot and character development, dialogue and pacing. SNOW HILL is intended to be the first book in a trilogy. Based on this initial effort, I won’t be looking for other books in this series.
PROTAGONIST: Josh Cohan, archaeoologist, university professor, linguist, mystery solver and stud muffin SETTING: Jerusalem SERIES: Debut RATING: 1.5
ThePROTAGONIST: Josh Cohan, archaeoologist, university professor, linguist, mystery solver and stud muffin SETTING: Jerusalem SERIES: Debut RATING: 1.5
The astonishing success of The DaVinci Code created a new market for books containing a historical mystery with religious significance. I believe that The Secret Scroll is following the DVC pattern with a present day mystery that has at its roots ancient sacred secrets. However, it only partially succeeds in its efforts to build a credible and believable scenario.
Josh Cohan is a university professor and archaeologist who is taking a sabbatical in Jerusalem, feeling quite dissatisfied after an older professor takes credit for one of Josh's finds. He has a vision which leads him to a cave near the Dead Sea where he uncovers a jar containing a scroll written in Aramic. As he begins to translate the scroll, he realizes that it may have been written by Jesus Christ. If so, his discovery could make a significant contribution to understanding the history of the time; in fact, it would be one of the most important historic findings ever. As much as he'd like to keep the information to himself, he knows that he needs to share it with the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), who will validate the finding.
Word of the scroll soon gets out. A fringe group of religious zealots called The Guardians under the leadership of the "Master" demands that the scroll be turned over to them. Although the Master supposedly wants to know the truth of the materials, he is actually determined to destroy the scroll so that the Guardian's version of reality will be perpetrated. They go to great lengths to obtain the scroll, including taking people hostage and assassinating them when they resist. One of their targets is the daughter of one of the IAA members, with whom Josh has fallen in love. Although Danielle is supposed to be independent and outspoken, she serves more as a voluptuous damsel in distress than anything else. She seems to be constantly facing men who want to rape her.
The Secret Scroll is Cutler's first book. I had issues with many aspects of the book, with the romance element being one of the most egregiously disturbing. None of the characters came to life for me; they all just seemed to be planted to serve a specific role rather than being developed to engage the reader's interest or sympathy. Several things that happened in the narrative were silly to me. For example, Danielle is taken hostage and placed in a small alcove. She decides that she would like to take a shower, and is allowed to do so. Is that a privilege usually given to a hostage? And of course, continuing with the sexual undercurrent, there are about a dozen Guardians salivating as they watch her bathing.
The one part of the book that was well done was the translation of the secret scroll. It presented a plausible picture of Jesus Christ that would actually have altered the way that he is viewed today.
The historical speculation was interesting, but the soap opera-ish tone of the narrative and the religious ramblings of the various sects made it impossible for me to enjoy the book. The fact that the protagonist had mystic visions, the ability to lay hands on people and heal them, translate ancient Aramic in hours, meanwhile acting as a kind of private investigator, had my eyes rolling more than once. It was all too much to believe.
PROTAGONIST: The Brodie family SETTING: East end of London RATING: 2.0
Martina Cole is a best-selling author in the UK, and Close is the first of her booPROTAGONIST: The Brodie family SETTING: East end of London RATING: 2.0
Martina Cole is a best-selling author in the UK, and Close is the first of her books to be published in the United States. Perhaps the fact that it is reminiscent of the TV show, The Sopranos, made it seem that the book would appeal to an American audience. That rationale remains to be proven.
Close is a sprawling book that follows the saga of the Brodie crime family of London over several decades, beginning in the 1960s. The family patriarch, Patrick Brodie, has a knack for the crime business and worked his way up to being the kingpin of the East End of London's crime scene. He falls in love with a much younger woman, Lily Diamond, who is a perfect match in every way—they both had dysfunctional childhoods but are totally dedicated to each other and their ever growing family. That doesn't mean that Pat doesn't stray; he takes advantage of sexual opportunities, but never feels that he is unfaithful since the women mean nothing to him. Lil is amazingly accepting of Pat's little trysts. As it turns out, she is a pretty good businesswoman in her own right and manages some of Pat's hostess clubs for him.
Pat and Lil have 5 children together. The eldest, Patrick Junior, is out of the same mold as his father. The second son, Lance, however, is amoral and vicious, to the point where his own mother cannot love him. His affection comes from his grandmother, who has always been emotionally unavailable to Lil but completely bewitched by Lance. There are two twin girls, one who has mental issues when she is older as a result of an action that is telegraphed repeatedly throughout the book before being disclosed.
The basic story focuses on Pat and his dealings with his underlings and competitors. It boils down to survival of the fittest. Those who are greedy or disloyal are dispatched in ways that will teach others a lesson. Of course, there is always the next best thing on the horizon. One cannot expect to live a long life as a crime lord, which proves the case for Pat, who is brutally murdered by some of his henchmen in front of his wife and children. Pat never thought of providing for his family; after his death, Lil does whatever is expedient to support her family. She has a relationship with his replacement, which results in 2 more children and another child by a different man (that's 8 children in all). Ultimately, when Pat Jr. grows up, he takes up where his father left off. It's more of the same—treachery and gruesome retaliation, over and over again.
Close is a hard book to like. I don't believe that I found one character in its 500 pages that I cared about. I’m assuming that we were supposed to view Lil as the noble mother who sacrificed all for her brood. Instead, I found her to be an opportunist and a vitriolic woman who showed no nobility. The lack of likable characters made it difficult to maintain an interest in the book, especially since Cole's writing style consists of pages and pages of redundant exposition. She must have brought up Lil's guilt about her feelings about Lance dozens of times, as well as repeatedly describing Lil's abysmal childhood and her mother's failings. Some judicious editing would have reduced the length of this book considerably.
Did you ever have a small thing in a book drive you nuts, something that it is likely others won't notice? In this book, it is the use of the word "skulduggery". It's an odd enough word that it kind of sticks out, and the author seems to have fallen in love with it. It appears 4 times in 2 pages in one section, and it became like fingernails on a blackboard every time I saw it in the book. It was interesting to me that the book was not Americanized at all, which is unusual for something being aimed at a mainstream audience. I think many readers will find some of the references and slang impenetrable. It's odd to see a gangster being referred to as "an ice cream", for example.
Close is one case where you shouldn't believe the hype. It's not a very good book with significant weaknesses in characterization, plotting and dialog. I do wonder if one of Cole's 12 previous books might have been a better choice to introduce her to the US.
PROTAGONIST: Sarah Armstrong, Texas Ranger SETTING: Texas SERIES: Debut RATING: 2.25 WHY: Sarah Armstrong is one of only two female Texas Rangers on the jPROTAGONIST: Sarah Armstrong, Texas Ranger SETTING: Texas SERIES: Debut RATING: 2.25 WHY: Sarah Armstrong is one of only two female Texas Rangers on the job. She's on a case involving a psychopathic serial killer, and is the only one who doesn't believe the prevailing profile of the murderer. Although not badly written, I ended up disliking this book a lot. She exhibited the most appalling personal and professional judgment. Every time she made one of these bad decisions, I felt my gut churning - it was preposterous to believe that a person in her position could act this way or that the author could think that this was plausible. ...more
PROTAGONIST: Police lieutenant Steven McCord SETTING: City in the midwestern US RATING: 2.25
It's a sad day when a law enforcement official begins to viePROTAGONIST: Police lieutenant Steven McCord SETTING: City in the midwestern US RATING: 2.25
It's a sad day when a law enforcement official begins to view the killing of an individual as a "common ordinary murder" (COM). That's exactly how Lieutenant Steven McCord feels at the murder scene of an elderly man, Charles Carden. It isn't until his wife, Nora, humanizes the victim by mentioning that he was a very good man that McCord shows an interest in pursuing the case beyond the perfunctory. In reality, it's not his responsibility to do so; he is serving in an administrative function. Nonetheless, when he finds that there may have be more than one victim, he takes a much deeper interest in the case, although doing so is really not his job.
I expected A Common Ordinary Murder to be a police procedural; but as it turned out, the whole crime aspect of the book served mainly as a bookend to the narrative. Instead, it focused on the anxieties and tribulations of three characters: Steven, Nora and a nurse in whom Steven has become interested, Lindy Alden. As far as the crime, McCord tended to figure out what happened by visualizing scenarios in his mind, rarely relying on any hard evidence to solve the case.
Steven is in a deep state of unhappiness. After more than 20 years as a cop, he feels no sense of satisfaction about what he is doing. In fact, he doubts that he is making any kind of meaningful contribution to society. He decides to go to law school with his main goal being to make a lot of money so that he can lead a freer life. In fact, he appears to be leaning toward becoming a criminal defense attorney, a profession he has loudly derided in the past. At the same time, he is vaguely dissatisfied with his marriage, for reasons that were never clear to me. His wife, Nora, is intelligent and passionate; they seem to be in love and have two children of whom they are proud. He finds himself attracted to an ICU nurse; again, I could not see any attributes that Lindy possessed that would justify Steven giving up his marriage and life so that they could be together.
These three characters are in a deep state of angst throughout the book, which rapidly became tiring to read. Steven is conflicted about his career and what to do as far as Nora and Lindy are concerned. Nora agonizes about the state of the marriage, even before she knows that there may be another woman. Her worries really began to annoy me, and often verged on silliness. For example, one evening Steven is an hour late and she subsequently obsesses with this constantly, calling it "the lost hour", with her imagination running wild about where he was. And then there's Lindy, who's had her share of failed relationships in the past, who constantly analyzes herself.
A Common Ordinary Murder was most decidedly a book that I did not enjoy. I did not want to spend my time with characters that I didn't like while they wallowed in their angst. I found a lot of the dialogue to be artificial and stunted, most especially for the character of Lindy. And I definitely did not appreciate the amount of page time spent on Nora's religious reflections.
Those readers who don't mind a slower-paced book and who enjoy delving deep into human psychology may find the book more appealing than I did.
PROTAGONIST: Grady Service, game warden SETTING: Michigan SERIES: #6 of 6 RATING: 2.25 WHY: Grady Service is a game warden who is investigating tainted fiPROTAGONIST: Grady Service, game warden SETTING: Michigan SERIES: #6 of 6 RATING: 2.25 WHY: Grady Service is a game warden who is investigating tainted fish eggs. It appears there is a nefarious company that is mixing lower grades of eggs from New York with pristine eggs from Michigan and passing them off as caviar. Isn't that an exciting premise? There was zero urgency to the plot; things were revealed through interrogation rather than action. Too many characters and government agencies; never connected to the protagonist at all. The replication of dialogue didn't succeed--2 characters were into "dude" speak; 3 spoke like dose New Yorkers. The only reason that the rating isn't lower is because the writing was not horrible; I was able to finish the book. ...more
Did you ever engage in the word play of good news/bad news? "There's good news and bad news. The good news is blah blah blah." At which youRATING: 2.5
Did you ever engage in the word play of good news/bad news? "There's good news and bad news. The good news is blah blah blah." At which you rejoice. "The bad news is yuck yuck yuck." At which you cry. That's essentially the theme of this book, with every good thing that happens counterbalanced by a horribly bad thing.
Charlie Millar is 27 years old and is employed by the British Security Service as a spy. On his current assignment, he is working in a subway photo booth. Operatives turn in pictures and speak in code which directs Charlie to do certain things with the negatives. Working in the same booth is a middle-aged man by the name of George Shaw. As it turns out, George is also a spy. Through some bureaucratic snafu, they were both assigned to the same post, which was not supposed to happen. One day, they each receive a mission via a canister of film. In spy school, they learned that if the 13th frame of the film was blank, they would need to kill someone. The 14th frame would show to who the target was. Charlie's 14th frame shows George; George's 14th frame shows Charlie. To say the least, they are both confused about this turn of events. However, confusion turns to determination when they find that they are both targets of someone else.
Against all odds, they band together to get away from the threats that surround them. It's an interesting premise, as neither of them entirely trusts the other. Is George leading Charlie to a remote region where it will be easier to kill him? Is Charlie doing something that means that George is going to breathe no more? As time goes on, they find that they have a lot in common, and the tensions ease. They both want to leave the Service. Ultimately, they manage to evade their pursuers, only to find more challenges in their new environment.
GOOD NEWS, BAD NEWS is the debut novel of David Wolstencroft who is the writer and creator of the BBC spy drama Spooks. That background has enabled him to craft an action-packed plot that has a lot of high drama as well as touches of humor. However, I had a few problems with the book, the first being the way that the opening chapters were narrated. They are told from Charlie's point of view and present him as an utter naïf, when clearly that is not the case. That section just didn't fit for me and should have acknowledged his occupation instead of depicting him as just an average guy who follows his co-worker out of curiosity.
I really enjoyed the main narrative section of the book and the dilemmas that Charlie and George faced both with their situation and in their relationship. Unfortunately, Wolstencroft went far afield in the conclusion of the book, and I felt cheated by how it resolved, relying on a cliché that's so bad that it should be outlawed. I wished that he had played it straight.
The good news is that Wolstencroft has the talent and imagination to write extremely well. The bad news is that he missed the mark in this book.