Crosscut is the fourth in Meg Gardiner's Evan Delany series, and a masterfully written and constructed story.
This time around, Evan and her on again,...moreCrosscut is the fourth in Meg Gardiner's Evan Delany series, and a masterfully written and constructed story.
This time around, Evan and her on again, off again fiancé Jesse have returned to China Lake, California for Evan's high school reunion only to learn that an inordinate number of her classmate have passed away under odd circumstances. And yet another alum has missed the festivities because she had been brutally tortured and murdered that evening. And I though my reunion sucked!
Gardiner's knack for detail and thorough research shine through the telling and lend not only an authority to the telling, but also make the danger and drama all the more present. The story unfolds and draws the reader along with each twist and turn, being shocked along with the characters.
We also get the treat of meeting Evan's parents this time out. Cleverly, Gardiner has laid out enough back story over the past books that neither requires long introduction, and their personalities add volumes to further understanding who Katherine Evan Delany is, and why.
Mostly though, I like this story because the heroes aren't super cops or action figures. Instead, they're normal people with feelings and problems and flaws, just like the rest of us. The thing that sets these people apart is, rather, an astounding level of gumption and grit. They overcome their personal demons because they have to in order to stay alive or to keep others from harm.
Gardiner employs an unusual technique in writing this book that I have had mixed feelings about in the past. That is, while the parts involving Evan are told first person, from Evans narration, there is a lot of additional story telling done in third person; the narrator is unknown and the reader is now privy to things the primary character isn’t. As a rule, writers aren’t supposed to jump back and forth; however, this author has pulled it off and added a great deal to the reader’s perspective.
I do highly recommend Crosscut, though I suggest reading the previous three in order to better grasp the characters and back story.(less)
I happened upon Meg Gardiner through a suggestion on Barnes and Noble for her more recent work, The Dirty Secrets Club. I liked that one so much, I ha...moreI happened upon Meg Gardiner through a suggestion on Barnes and Noble for her more recent work, The Dirty Secrets Club. I liked that one so much, I had to look up Ms. Gardiner and see what else she might have done. As it turned out, she has been very well received in England, but is only just recently becoming known in her native land.
China Lake is her first novel in the Evan Delaney series, and is an excellent piece of work, never mind a habit forming start for series junkies like me! From the first chapter I was drawn into the tumultuous and pulse quickening story. Gardner masterfully drew me into a world that I found rich, detailed, and disquietingly uncomfortable; exactly as the characters did.
The heroine, Evan Delany, is endearing, smart, tenacious; I liked her right from the start. That her antagonists were an apocalyptic, anti-government, bible cult were likewise drawing, working on my own personal emotions regarding groups of this sort; both those in the news and those I’ve personally known. The supporting characters were equally well written and either beloved or hated, depending upon their role.
The story pits Evan, an attorney turned Sci-Fi writer, along with her paraplegic lawyer boyfriend Jessie and her Navy fighter pilot brother against a “church” that takes to picketing funerals of soldiers and AIDS victims while plotting to do “battle” with the anti-Christ (Read= anyone who disagrees with them). The pivotal center piece is Luke, Evan’s six year old nephew who she is caring for while his father, Brian, is on deployment. Toss in some high school rivalries, Brian’s new assignment to China Lake, where they were stationed with their own father, years ago, a rabid dog, and top it off with a store room full of Reddi-Wip and stolen weapons…
I found the telling highly energetic and the bad guys appropriately unsettling. Far from a formulaic pattern, throughout the lengthy climax I was never quite sure who would live and who would die. Several times I found myself feverishly reading on, uncertain of what I might see next. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, despite my utter distain for the antagonists, and found myself very pleased with the wrap up.
I’m eagerly looking forward to my next Meg Gardiner novel!(less)
Jeffery Deaver has, once again, created a gripping and engrossing tale featuring his hero/heroin team of Lincoln Rhyme and Amelia Sachs. The Stone Mon...moreJeffery Deaver has, once again, created a gripping and engrossing tale featuring his hero/heroin team of Lincoln Rhyme and Amelia Sachs. The Stone Monkey, the fourth in the series, finds the master criminalist/crime scene investigator duo diving head first into a seemingly impossible task; working with FBI and Immigration authorities to locate a Chinese freighter out on the ocean, with a cargo of undocumented immigrants, and the human trafficker who is bringing them across. The trafficker, or “Sneakhead”, goes by the name Gui, Ghost, and has earned his reputation as both deadly and cunning.
Finding a ship in the midst of a raging ocean with nothing but forensic evidence is difficult, but when the ship sinks before the Coast Guard can arrive, the priorities change from arrest and evidence collection to rescuing the victims while trying to preserve the crime scene; and then to keeping the Ghost from murdering any more of his charges.
Woven into the fabric of the story is a reasonably deep look into the Chinese immigrant community, some cultural tradition, and the inevitable conflict of generational differences. These add a fresh color and intrigue to the telling, and all parties have to broaden their horizons to understand both the predator and the prey.
Adding to the mix of usual characters are the personal demons that Amelia and Lincoln wrestle with. Rhyme is still planning to undergo an experimental surgery that he knows won’t reverse his quadriplegic condition, but might give him just a little more feeling and movement; that is, if it doesn’t take all he has left. Amelia is as supportive as she can be while worrying about losing her love in the attempt. And, she desperately wants for them to have a child…
I very much enjoy the closeness, respect, and understanding that these two have developed over the course of the series. They operate with unstated anticipation of the other’s next question or instruction, knowing just what the other is thinking. The relationships with the supporting characters are, likewise, growing and deepening. When outsiders enter the fine meshing machinery it takes a while for them to become part of the big picture, just as it would be in any team that’s worked so closely for so long.
I do wish that Deaver had done just a little more research into the operations and procedures used by US Immigrations, which he erroneously calls INS throughout the book. The publication date is 2003, right on the cusp of the reorganization of the various agencies, but by that date, the enforcement arm of INS had been renamed the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE for short. He also stumbles over minor operational errors that few on the outside are aware of (I’ve worked for ICE as a Detention Officer since 2004), but that could have been discovered without too much trouble.
And, once again, I have to take issue with Deaver’s inaccurate firearms description. In chapter 44 he writes that the INS Agent working with Sachs has an issued Glock Model 36, the compact .45 caliber version of the venerable Austrian pistol. In fact, in 2003, ICE agents carried either H&K USP’s in .40 caliber or Sig/Sauer pistols in .40 caliber or .357Sig. I know it’s insignificant to the story, but when a mistake like this is made a special point of “evidence”, it makes me wonder what else is just as incorrect that I didn’t catch.
Those small issues aside, The Stone Monkey is superbly written and the plot twists are familiar and welcome to any fan of Deaver’s previous works. He kept my interest throughout the story and kept me guessing all the way to the end.(less)
This is my third time reading Red October and I was no less impressed. Clancy is a master of the technically complex made understandable, and I will a...moreThis is my third time reading Red October and I was no less impressed. Clancy is a master of the technically complex made understandable, and I will always bee a Jack Ryan fan. If you've seen the movie, you have no idea what the books is about...(less)
I fell in love with Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plumb series years ago and have been a loyal reader ever since. When I found that she had another seri...moreI fell in love with Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plumb series years ago and have been a loyal reader ever since. When I found that she had another series, I picked up this fist book with great anticipation. I was not disappointed.
While not nearly as tongue-in-cheek as the beloved but clueless bounty hunter, Metro Girl, is funny, lighthearted, and still thrilling. Alexandra (Barney) Barnaby, is a fresh and endearing character, and Evanovich manages to steer her in and out of trouble without becoming clichéd or redundant. Barney is smart enough to figure things out, tough enough to drive stock cars, and girly enough to feint when she gets giant spiders in her hair.
Overall, I enjoyed Metro Girl enough that I will be picking up the rest of the series. It’ll give me something to read while I wait for the next Stephanie Plumb to come out!(less)
Patricia Cornwell was once one of my favorite authors, and I took any opportunity to purchase her books wherever I found them, certain that I would re...morePatricia Cornwell was once one of my favorite authors, and I took any opportunity to purchase her books wherever I found them, certain that I would read them all, in order, over time. Sadly, she is no longer writing anywhere near the level she once had, and this is the last of her books I will ever purchase or read. In fact, I read it only because it was already on my shelf, and I hated to think I spent the money and never opened it.
At Risk is the first in Cornwell’s Winston Garano series (there are two so far). Best known for her Kay Scarpetta novels, and less for her Andy Brazil series, this new venture is, inarguably, her worst work ever. If you’ve read my review of her Isle of Dogs (Andy Brazil #3), then you know that is saying a lot!
As are her last several books, At Risk is written in a very distracting and unprofessional present tense. I found myself several times having to go back and reread passages that made no sense due to this annoyance. Imagine, if you will, trying to listen to a “Valley Girl” telling a story, and you’ll understand the feeling.
Story wise, At Risk is 212 page skeletal examination of the police work of Winston Garano, sometimes called Win, sometimes Geronimo. He’s a Detective with the Massachusetts State Police, assigned to the DA’s office in Boston. He’s a self-loathing wunderkind from the wrong part of Boston who wears top name fashions such as Hugo Boss and Prada, that he buys second hand at the thrift stores and constantly ruminates that he failed to get into Harvard like the rich kids.
He’s been on assignment at the National Forensics Academy in Knoxville, Tennessee, but his boss, the egomaniacal Monique Lamont has summoned him back early to investigate a case she is certain will land her the Governor’s office. As part of her new program which she calls “At Risk” she has decided that the best way to get additional funding for the new state forensics lab, as well as make her a shoe-in politically, is to put Win on a 20 year old cold case. A cold case that took place in another state. Knoxville, Tennessee, to be specific.
Never mind that a Massachusetts DA has no authority to investigate a case from out of state. Never mind that she has called Win BACK from Knoxville to tell him about the case. Never mind that any public official who so grossly misused their office and the public’s money like this would be stoned in the town square. Leave all reality and logic and common sense aside; this is still a terrible story told in the worst possible, hurried and assuming fashion.
At Risk reads like an outline for a story proposal, not a fully thought out manuscript. The characters are as thin as paper, and I often had to look back to see who Cornwell was talking about as she would refer to them by first name one moment and last name the next. You never get to actually care about any of them, though Monique Lamont comes close to being as detestable as she can in such a poor telling. I found Lamont annoying because she was a mean bitch, not because she was a well constructed antagonist. There is very little back story on any of them, and when a bit is tossed in here and there, it seems like another distraction; the flyer stuck under your windshield wiper that you forgot to remove before you began driving.
I am seriously saddened by the decline of Cornwell’s writing. Her first nine Scarpetta novels were excellent, deeply researched, and masterfully constructed. From Postmortem, right up to Black Notice, she wove intricate, albeit dark tales with vivid characters and detailed settings. After that, her writing style changed drastically and her stories fell apart in ever increasing chaos. From Mona Lisa to a kindergartener’s crayon drawings.
I still highly recommend her early work, but anything written after about 1999 will disappoint. Don’t bother with the Win Garano or the Andy Brazil books at all. (less)
This is my first Meg Gardiner book, and as a result, I have purchased several more… Yes, it was that good!
I thoroughly enjoyed the masterful way that...moreThis is my first Meg Gardiner book, and as a result, I have purchased several more… Yes, it was that good!
I thoroughly enjoyed the masterful way that Gardiner constructed both the story and characters. They have history and life beyond the pages; their wounds are deep, real, and color every action and thought, just as they do with each of us.
Equally masterful was the detail and descriptive passages that brought the San Francisco setting to life. This is the sort of thing that adds authority to the written word and makes the story believable and vivid.
I whole heartedly recommend The Dirty Secrets Club to any fan of psychological thrillers and crime drama. You will not be disappointed.(less)
Evan Delaney is having a very bad week. Her boyfriend Jessie’s brother PJ is wasted again, and he seems to think he saw a woman thrown into the ocean....moreEvan Delaney is having a very bad week. Her boyfriend Jessie’s brother PJ is wasted again, and he seems to think he saw a woman thrown into the ocean. Jessie’s a mess too, dealing with his family and PJ’s troubles. There’s a job offer on the table at Jessie’s Law Firm, but it’s on hold since she’s being accused of check fraud by a washed up rocker’s wife; both important clients.
And she’s got to be a bride’s maid for Jessie’s cousin on Saturday…
Meg Gardiner’s third Evan Delaney novel is a non-stop roller-coaster ride into chaos and mayhem. Written with an eye toward making the reader part of the heroine’s struggle, Gardiner again succeeds at creating character’s on both sides of the line who embody both subtle and overt draw. The good guys are good, but not super heroes. They get hurt, fall when they need to run, get depressed and don’t think of everything; just like real people. The bad guys are scary, unreasonable, without compassion, and easy to despise.
One of the most noticeable things for me is that I find myself feeling the frustration that Evan is experiencing. The situations unfold in a way that brings the reader right into the midst of the story. I find this one of the most telling traits of great writing, as I become part of the story, not just an observer.
Even more, I have really come to appreciate that the heroine is a Sci-Fi writer and part time lawyer, and not a cop. Because she’s not a cop, she doesn’t think like a cop, act like a cop, fight like a cop… She acts like a lover, sister, aunt, or friend would in overwhelming, out of control situations.
The physical descriptions of Evan’s world are vivid and colorful, and transport the reader into the midst of it. The Santa Barbara setting is beautiful and presents the perfect backdrop to the story.
I highly recommend Jericho Point to anyone who enjoys a great suspense novel. I do suggest that you read the previous books in the series first, as there is a great deal of development and background that makes this book more understandable.(less)
Mission Canyon is a place of nightmares and regrets for Evan Delaney and her fiancé, Jessie. It’s been just over three years since Jessie and his best...moreMission Canyon is a place of nightmares and regrets for Evan Delaney and her fiancé, Jessie. It’s been just over three years since Jessie and his best friend, Isaac, where run down while riding their bikes up in Mission Canyon. For Jessie, it’s meant piecing his life back together; physical therapy and a wheel chair, with Evan by his side. Isaac wasn’t quite as lucky.
Meg Gardiner’s second offering in her Evan Delaney series is a tightly wound, thrilling story with all the twists, turns, and blind curves that the road through it’s namesake possesses. While not quite as intense (to me) as China Lake, her first in the series, I found it very well told and deeply engrossing.
In a very different setting than before, Mission Canyon takes place in a world that seems to invade Evan’s familiar Santa Barbara based life. She’s just a few short weeks from her wedding to Jessie when the reappearance of the man who crippled him and killed Isaac takes them both spinning out of control. Everything she thought she knew comes into question; who are these people she thought were friends, and what really happened up in the hills above the city?
When a writer can make me feel loss at the death of a character, that’s the sign of truly deep authorship. Gardiner has done that, yet again, and while I didn’t feel quite the anger I had towards the antagonists in China Lake, the bad guys are well enough constructed that they do evoke plenty of emotion. Likewise for the characters who are revealed to be not what they were thought to be… Not at all predictable.
Mission Canyon is a thoroughly enjoyable book that I would highly recommend. While you don’t have to read the first book to understand the second, it does make the characters far more understandable. I look forward to the next books in this series.(less)
Meg Gardiner impresses me more and more with each and every book I read by her. Where many authors manage to either write a single series based on one...moreMeg Gardiner impresses me more and more with each and every book I read by her. Where many authors manage to either write a single series based on one main character, or several unrelated stories; Meg Gardiner is writing at least three series’.
The Memory Collector is the second book in the Jo Beckett series, which is every bit as good as her Evan Delany series.
Jo Beckett is a forensic psychiatrist who specializes in forensic autopsies as a consultant to the San Francisco Police. That is, she helps them by reconstructing how a person lived to determine why they died. This time around though, she is pulled into using her special skills on a living suspect who’s been exposed to something that seems to render his brain unable to form new memories. That is, his mind clears of all memory post exposure every few minutes. And he has a list of names on his arm followed by “Saturday, they die”.
As I have come to expect from Meg Gardiner, the story is meticulously researched and told in a way that draws the reader in for every twist and turn; and there are plenty of twists and turns. The heroes are just good enough to not get everything right, but not so flawed they can’t do what needs to be done. The villains, conversely, are not so evil that we even know who they really are all the time. I like that the line between good-guy and bad is not always so clear, and the really bad guys have a way to make the good do things they wouldn’t otherwise. In short, it’s real and totally believable.
I highly recommend The Memory Collector, with the caveat that you do need to read The Dirty Secrets Club first to fully get the back story. (less)