Allison Brennan has written over twenty thrillers and I've read a lot of them. Her latest--'Compulsion' (Minotaur Books 2015)--is her best, again. InvAllison Brennan has written over twenty thrillers and I've read a lot of them. Her latest--'Compulsion' (Minotaur Books 2015)--is her best, again. Investigative reporter Maxine Revere believes that the serial killer on trial for four murders is actually responsible for at least five more, but no one believes her. Here we have a fairly typical story of one person raging against a storm, standing tall despite a tidal wave of adversity. But before predictability can jell, the plot takes a dramatic turn and becomes something else entirely.
From that moment on, I couldn't stop reading.
The heroine, Max, carries the story. Most of the main characters are likeable, but flat--they serve their purpose as pawns in the story. Max, though, is different. She is driven, a successful journalist with a boat load of confidence and a track record that makes people listen. She teeters on the edge of being too self-centered to be likable. She has no humility about her superhuman abilities, rather like the neurosurgeon who performs surgeries no one else can, accepts them as her due. But her hubris is tempered by a solid moral compass that points to justice for the little guy. In this story, it is an older retired couple who have disappeared while on vacation. They are forgotten by law enforcement, but not their children. They can't move on, their lives frozen in time, their world dissolving, friends and jobs all secondary to the desperate search for what happened to their parents. When Max offers to help, she is not only is a chance to solve the mystery, but save their lives.
This is a gripping story with a non-stop action. I highly recommend it for those who enjoy plot-driven stories with strong characters.
Saul Black's 'The Killing Lessons' (St. Martin's Press 2015) might be the typical story of a psychocrazy killer if it weren't for Black's mesmerizingSaul Black's 'The Killing Lessons' (St. Martin's Press 2015) might be the typical story of a psychocrazy killer if it weren't for Black's mesmerizing insights into the mind of both the killer, the victim, the survivors, and those who attempt to bring some form of justice to the chaos. For three years, damaged San Francisco homicide detective Valerie Hart obsesses over stopping the horrific torture and murder spree that spans the Western half of the country. As it threatens to destroy her sanity and her life, she begins to lose hope that she can unravel the murderers crimes, but if she can't, she doubts her mind will survive.
The story is non-stop violence from the mental images Black draws of the bloody debauchery to the searing hunt for the madman whose childhood cauldron of broken lessons left no room for humanity--all tied together by non-stop inner monologue of not just the killer, but his hunters and victims. Read this one sentence, the rambling inner thoughts of a desperate captive awaiting her death, chock full of detail, emotion, reflection, and meaning:
"When she thought of her room at Oxford, the walls of books with spines cracked in testimony to dogged engagement, when she thought of how clearly she'd sensed the scale of the imaginative relationship--what the reading life demanded (which was, in the end, to keep finding room for everything human, no matter how ugly or beautiful or strange)--it was as if she'd turned her back on her child."
The only break readers get from the mesmerizingly deadly story are the quirky personal habits of Hart. Consider these:
* she wakes up to poetry instead of music * she tells herself--Not today. She can quit being a cop anytime she wants to. Just not today.
In all, a riveting drama that you won't be able to forget. Highly recommended for anyone with a strong stomach....more
Keith McCafferty's 'Crazy Mountain Kiss' (Viking 2015) is as much about the glorious wild Montana setting as it is about the dead girl found stuffed iKeith McCafferty's 'Crazy Mountain Kiss' (Viking 2015) is as much about the glorious wild Montana setting as it is about the dead girl found stuffed in a rustic cabin chimney. At the core of the murder mystery are the people who call these remote mountains and streams home and accept a life dependent on the whims of nature. Sean Stranahan, star of McCafferty's four-book series, is an eclectic small-town detective that doesn't look for clients and takes only those with interesting cases. This one--a wealthy sixteen-year-old cowgirl who disappeared without a trace to be found four months later in the tattered remains of the clothes she went missing in--leads down paths he never expected to results he didn't want to find. He spends half the book collecting seemingly disconnected clues that are then tied together into a satisfying conclusion, made more difficult because the girl's family has secrets they don't give up willingly. Along the way are trucks, dogs, broken hearts, and unrequited loves that add spice to the plot.
Sean Stranahan is unlike any character I've met. I might compare him to Lee Child's Jack Reacher, but only because of Stranahan's nomadic free spirit and moral tenacity for following clues. Stranahan lives in a teepee, is an artist, and loves fly fishing. He accepts people at face value, is non-judgmental, but can read between the lines of their hidden, unspoken thoughts. Everything he does is colored by the Montana landscape, its geography, and the people who call this tough habitat home.
This is the type of story I love--honest people, solid morals, flawed but forgiving, made stronger by failure, toughened by a life spent struggling to survive off land that is ruled by Nature. I fell in love with this sub-genre with Tony Hillerman's eighteen-volume Navajo series, and then CJ Box's twenty-volume Joe Pickett series set in Wyoming. McCafferty is an excellent addition to my reading list....more
'The Reckoning' (Vintage Books 2015) is Book #3 in Carsten Stroud's 'Niceville' trilogy, the story of a quiet southern town torn apart by murder and m'The Reckoning' (Vintage Books 2015) is Book #3 in Carsten Stroud's 'Niceville' trilogy, the story of a quiet southern town torn apart by murder and mayhem that can only be explained by supernatural beings. In this final chapter (read my reviews of 'Niceville' and 'Homecoming', the first two books in the series), what had been a thriller tinged with paranormal now is fully driven by the otherworldly actions of the hideous creatures that haunt what residents considered a safe and friendly place to raise their kids. The story is told through several point of views, almost like vignettes, tightly connected by the common plot line. With each vignette, we see another character's part in moving the story forward to its eventual climax. My only complaint is that it often takes a long time to get back to a favorite character as Stroud weaves his devious tapestry. And he always leaves us on a cliffhanger which--predictably--keeps me reading so I can find out what happens next.
What should make even non-paranormal readers try this book is Carsten Stroud's skill. He's a powerful writer, with a strong, unique voice that drives the plot and the characters. He's colorful, pithy, and likeable, able to draw readers in to the character's motivations with just a few sentences. Here are examples:
"The rain streaming down put a misty halo around all the streetlamps and hammered on the red tile roofs of the houses. The gutters were choking on leaves and muddy water."
"...also in their trudging walk and the way they sagged into themselves as they passed by him and went on out into the sunlit streets of Niceville. Their faces were blank, expressionless, and there were no children."
"...in hues and tints that even God had never seen coming..."
He used to apply this talent to military thrillers--six of them, all excellent. This trilogy shows his versatility as a writer.
I wonder what he'll pen next... Mr. Stroud? Would you give us a hint?
Be aware that this book is the third and final installment of a trilogy. It is much easier understood if you've read the first two....more
I can't say I've ever read a book about life aboard a supertanker, which is one of the reasons I selected Rex Burns' 'Crude Carrier'. When a crew membI can't say I've ever read a book about life aboard a supertanker, which is one of the reasons I selected Rex Burns' 'Crude Carrier'. When a crew member dies aboard the massive ship and the Captain provides little explanation to the family, the man's parents ask James and Julie Raiford of the Touchstone Agency for help. James goes undercover as an electronics technician to find out what caused the son's death while Julie follows leads on the outside by working with the tanker's owners and the insurance company. What they find is a massive plot that threatens the lives of most of the crew, makes a small handful wealthy beyond belief, and almost gets both Raifords killed.
This is a well-constructed novel with plenty of insider information on these crude-carrying supertankers. I've never read a story staged on a tanker so found this fascinating. The characters are likable with enough hints about their background that I liked traveling with them and want to find out more. The plot is highly believable and perfectly paced with a good balance between constantly moving forward and leaving me breathless. Once I got started, I didn't want to put the book down. It's recommended for those who like a touch of learning with their fiction....more
Rex Kusler's 'Smashed' (Thomas & Mercer 2014) is a fast moving Las Vegas-based story about murder, mystery, and the unpredictability of clients (wRex Kusler's 'Smashed' (Thomas & Mercer 2014) is a fast moving Las Vegas-based story about murder, mystery, and the unpredictability of clients (which anyone in sales can relate to). Alice James and Jim Snow are partners in both their PI agency and life, but polar opposites in everything else. This disparity of opinion often drives the action, decisions and motivation behind the story. When a harried slot technician asks for help revealing the truth behind the murder of her boyfriend, Snow and James find a lot more than they expected, right down to a surprise twist that changes the plot from a typical murder-mystery to one driven by the idiosyncrasies of the characters.
The main characters are fun, likable, with good interpersonal chemistry that makes them easy to travel with through the 270 pages of the book. Though a bit flat at times--even prescriptive--any hint of predictability is covered up by their fresh sense of humor, always slightly below the surface. Much of the story is devoted to their interplay. I found myself enjoying their dialogue, as you might with a best friend and his/her mate.
Overall, this was a good read and I will continue the series.
Note: Read for free as part of my Amazon Vine program...more
I am a longtime fan of Jack DuBrul. I've read the entire Philip Mercer series as well as all of DuBrul's co-authored Clive Cussler books. The man canI am a longtime fan of Jack DuBrul. I've read the entire Philip Mercer series as well as all of DuBrul's co-authored Clive Cussler books. The man can write--intricate plots, clever characters, exotic settings, and science that works. Plus, because my novels include a dollop of science to kickstart the plot, I'm always eager to see how the experts make this happen.
His latest, 'The Lightning Stones' (Doubleday 2015) is no exception. The eighth in the series and almost ten years after the seventh, it was well worth the wait. Philip Mercer, a geologist, again becomes unintentionally embroiled in the search for a missing geode that ultimately threatens the world. The problem is that no one--including the FBI--sees the danger between this missing rock and the future of the world. It falls to Mercer to travel the globe in a fast-paced effort to pull the threads that will stop the bad guys.
Mercer is sharper than most people you'll meet and quick to understand problems, but DuBrul carefully sets up the science so we can understand. He slowly parcels out fundamental knowledge so by the time he needs me to buy into the fantasy he's constructed, I do. In fact, I can no longer tell if the science that drives the plot is fact or fiction, so well buttressed is the framework. Think Star Trek science.
One issue I had throughout the story (which didn't affect the five-star rating) was that the danger inherent to the missing geode is not terribly clear. It is discussed early in the book and clearly DuBrul considers that sufficient. My advice: Take that scene to heart because it's a biggy.
Despite that, this is another great read from Jack DuBrul. Don't miss it.
--Read for free through my Amazon Vine membership....more