"Gray Retribution" (Thomas Mercer 2014) by Alan McDermott is the fourth in the Tom Gray series, about an ex-SAS warrior who's created a career out of"Gray Retribution" (Thomas Mercer 2014) by Alan McDermott is the fourth in the Tom Gray series, about an ex-SAS warrior who's created a career out of teaching vulnerable countries to defend themselves against attacks. After losing his wife and child to a vicious murderer, he has surprisingly gotten a second chance at life and wants to bury himself in a world that includes his new wife and child and no murder or mayhem. When his wife's uncle runs into trouble with local hoods, Gray tries to help him with disastrous results. Compounding that, soldier friends are stuck in the middle of a civil war in Africa and Gray needs to effect a rescue.
This is a fast-moving action thriller that rarely lets the reader catch his/her breath. Gray is an interesting character, maybe a tad flat, maybe defined a bit too often by cliche emotions and expected reactions rather than what would catapult him to a fascinating character. But the plot never stops, always leaves readers guessing, right up to the surprise ending. Definitely give it a try if you like action thrillers....more
G.B. Joyce's "The Black Ace" (Penguin Group 2014) is about Brad Shade, a medically-retired ice hockey player-turned-recruiter who ends up in the middlG.B. Joyce's "The Black Ace" (Penguin Group 2014) is about Brad Shade, a medically-retired ice hockey player-turned-recruiter who ends up in the middle of the suicide-turned-murder of a former teammate, Whisper. Slade wanted to walk away--tried to several times; he wasn't the type to put himself out for anyone--but had arrived at that point in life where his personal self-worth was suffering because of his past actions, and Slade couldn't ignore that he hadn't been the right kind of friend to Whisper. As he helped the grieving widow, planning to do the minimum that would get him out of town and back to his real life (a place where he was a step away from losing his job and a step past losing his family), he kept finding one more injustice that he felt compelled to right. Despite being beat up by small town thugs, ignored by the police, and threatened by unknown bad guys who clearly didn't want Slade uncovering the truth of his buddy's death, Slade kept plodding forward.
The story may sound like it's about a murder, but it's really about Brad Shade growing up, discovering life is messy and personal and might be better traveled with a few friends.
Might be. He's not sure of that.
What makes this story exceptional is the author's voice--Brad Shade's voice. He's drenched in ice hockey. That's what he did for thirty+ years and he can't let got even as he knows he's too old and it hasn't given him a particularly good life anyway. There is lots of ice hockey language, phrasing, allusions. I spent the first thirty pages lost. I'm not sure why I kept reading, but I did, and GB Joyce let up enough that I understand Slade sufficiently to want to follow his journey of 350+ pages. Here's a particularly illuminating passage:
"I wanted to say that only the mentally ill commit suicide and mental illness isn't something that's there for explaining. Not by family and friends. Not by scientists who can confidently explain most things. Not by men of the cloth who can doubtlessly explain everything. Not by a mope like me who struggles to explain anything. If I had known her better or if she had been a total stranger, I would have managed to spit that out.
This homespun, dark wisdom, distilled from a life lived hard, kept me reading.
Overall, a good read, probably better if you love ice hockey. I'm not sure I'll read the rest of the Brad Shade series, but I don't feel like I wasted my time meeting him....more
Prolific author Wilbur Smith's latest novel, "Desert God: A Novel of Ancient Egypt" (William Morrow 2014), is the third in his series about Taita, forProlific author Wilbur Smith's latest novel, "Desert God: A Novel of Ancient Egypt" (William Morrow 2014), is the third in his series about Taita, former-slave turned adviser to a Pharaoh. The novel opens as a land-locked Egypt fights for survival against the barbarian Hyksos. Through this first person account, we see how Taita analyzes threats, assesses options, and crafts solutions that invariably work out. Even the surprise ending is a win for Taita as he masterfully turns disaster into success.
I love historic fiction, done well, it's a perfect blend of a plot-driven 'history mystery' and a peek into how people led their lives long before machines did it for us. With dozens of books to his credit, Wilbur Smith is a master if this genre. His voice is forthright and clear with a strong sense of place and time.
The main character in "Desert God", Taita, is fascinating. He is full of confidence, brilliant, and an extraordinary problem solver. When he is working on a problem, the story becomes a procedural on how he reaches brilliant solutions. Taita is like the heroes I love in thrillers, but lacking the flaws, insecurities, and broken dreams that usually accompany them. Despite this, Taita has an objective acceptance of his superior skills--
"It always surprises me how a few kind words from me are treasured by even the lowliest members of our entourage. One often forgets how one is revered by others less talented than oneself."
"I often think that I am too forbearing with those who are not as sharp-witted as I am."
"Modesty usually prevents me from employing the word beautiful when describing myself, but honesty requires me to do so in this instance."
While he lacks humility, he also avoids hubris.
Noticeably missing in this story was an inciting incident--a crisis around which the plot revolved. The first third of "Desert God" could have been a simple summary of the Egyptian dynasty tightly constrained to Taita's version of a noble life. Because of his super-human skills (a trait that is explained toward the end of the book), he is not a particularly reliable narrator for an historic novel. It took at least a third of this four hundred-plus page book to find the plot. I won't tell you what it is, but it surprised me.
Wilbur Smith, with over 125 books to his resume and 125 million fans in 26 languages, is a good find. Overall, "Desert God" is a good mix of history and plotting. I never felt like it was too narrative or pedantic. I've already ordered the two prequels to Desert God (which Amazon reviews say are better than this one--I can't wait)....more
Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard's "Killing Patton" (Henry Holt and Company 2014) unsurprisingly recounts the death of General George S. Patton Jr., thBill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard's "Killing Patton" (Henry Holt and Company 2014) unsurprisingly recounts the death of General George S. Patton Jr., the most famous General on all three sides of WWII. It is the fourth in the 'Killing' series, covering the assassination/murders of President Lincoln, President Kennedy, and Jesus --all best sellers.
When I read the first in this list--"Killing Lincoln"--I didn't know as much as I should have about the assassination of America's sixteenth President. I skipped Kennedy and Jesus for the same reason I read Lincoln.
Patton, though--I didn't even know there was a mystery.
Like the "Titanic" movie, the basic story is no surprise. Superhero flawed warrior fights off his personal demons to perform miracles and turn the tide of war. Good thrillers all include those elements. It was the allusion to a long-hidden mystery where I had no idea one existed that made me buy the book. Written in typical O'Reilly-Dugard fashion, it is cogent, well-researched, heavily-evidenced, and non-conspiratorial, with the type of countdown of Patton's days the authors used in "Killing Lincoln". The internet is full of pithy Patton quotes, but I'll add a few more:
"We shall attack and attack until we are exhausted, and then we shall attack again."
"I had all my staffs... in for a conference. As usual on the verge of an attack, they were full of doubt. I seemed always to be the ray of sunshine, and by God, I always am. We can and will win, God helping."
"Faith and patience be damned! You have just got to make up Your mind whose side You are on. You must come to my assistance so that I may dispatch the entire German Army as a birthday present to your Prince of Peace." [Gen. Patton prays to God]
"Have taken Trier with two divisions." [a message sent by Patton to Allied headquarters after received an order from them to bypass Trier because 'it will take four divisions to capture it']
And the courage of American soldiers:
"Any man can break. But the advancing Americans know they don't have that luxury. Just like the Roman legions who once fought off the Germanic hordes on this same stretch of land, they hold the fate of Europe in their hands." [referring to the Battle of Bastogne]
"They've got us surrounded. The poor bastards." [referring to the Battle of Bastogne]
No, the story is no surprise, but I was surprised how much I didn't know about the details:
* I didn't know President Roosevelt was as sick as he was. Polio was just the tip of his personal iceberg. * I didn't know Hitler was as sick as he was--physically, that is. * I didn't know Patton believe in reincarnation:
"Patton is convinced that he was a soldier and a great general in his many past lives. He once stood shoulder to shoulder with Alexander the Great and Napoleon. He crossed the Alps on an elephant [as Hannibal]... ... Though he had never visited [Langres France], Patton gave [his French liaison officer] a tour of the Roman ruins, including the amphitheater, parade ground, and various temples dedicated to a deity. He also drove straight to the spot where Caesar had once camped..."
* I didn't know Churchill came up with the term 'iron curtain'. * I didn't know how much Patton hated the Russians. * I didn't know Stalin ordered Patton's death (though the book doesn't allege Patton was killed by the Soviets, merely posits this as one possibility).
That's a lot I didn't know considered how much I've read about WWII.
Before closing: Some in the media (the Washington Post quoting MSNBC and Media Matters) panned the book's claim that Patton was killed by the Soviets, repeating the official finding that Patton died from complications of the car accident that paralyzed him. Truly, I didn't get that from the book--that conclusion, that Patton was killed by the Soviets. In fact, O'Reilly-Dugard offered many scenarios, one being that there was no murder at all, that his death resulted from what the government papers called a 'fender bender' ...more
The Bequia Mysteries series revolves around a mysterious man with a hidden background, a brilliant police detective, and a yacht anchored at the exotiThe Bequia Mysteries series revolves around a mysterious man with a hidden background, a brilliant police detective, and a yacht anchored at the exotic Caribbean Island of Bequia (close to the setting of the hit TV show, Death in Paradise). Each book is told from a different character's point of view, allowing us as the reader to get to know the main actors intimately and carry that knowledge into the other books. I've never seen this before in a series (usually, the main character is the consistent main point of view) and I found it refreshing, bringing me closer to the action and emotions of all characters....more
This is the third in a series by Gay Hendricks and Tinker Lindsay about private eye, Tenzing Norbu, a former Buddhist monk-turned ex-LAPD detective whThis is the third in a series by Gay Hendricks and Tinker Lindsay about private eye, Tenzing Norbu, a former Buddhist monk-turned ex-LAPD detective who is now a PI to the stars. Norbu has a series of rules he tries to live by, often fails. This book, 'The Third Rule of Ten' (Hay House 2014), deals with the third rule--'there is a fine line between healthy privacy and unhealthy secrecy'.
Norbu is hired to find a missing maid for her wealthy and politically-inclined boss, but instead finds murder, drugs, and a whole lot of bad guys. As he struggles to unriddle the clues that populate the case, he also fights to understand his personal life. Why does he suddenly want to eat meat instead of the vegan diet he's used to? Why won't he discuss it with his girlfriend? Why is he avoiding the council of his fellow Buddhist monks?
I confess. I was drawn to this book hoping it would be a reprise of David Carradine's role as warrior monk, Kwai Chang Caine, in the 1970s television series 'Kung Fu'. I still miss the man's gentle wisdom that explained so many problems in a logical, peaceful manner. It isn't, but Norbu does refer constantly to his Buddhist upbringing and the simple life rules that guided him during that time. For example:
"I realized I was witnessing karma happening right before my eyes. He'd gotten a reprieve when my first shot bounced off his bulletproof chest. But then he'd spurned that subtle gift from he universe and called in his destiny."
While the plot is typical--cartels reek havoc on American innocents--the author's voice is not. Consider these snippets:
* "two lifeless bodies lay sprawled on the ground like a pair of indefensible reproaches." * "in the months we had been officially together, I'd learned at least one very important lesson: Never, ever wake up a forensic medical examiner on her one day off." * "It had been weeks, enough weeks to qualify as months." * "Heather hears like a hawk sees." * "...we rarely had time to really talk or better ye, not talk and just be."
Overall, a good read, especially for the underlying theme of calm and peace in a chaotic, often mad world.
I gave it 4/5 stars, but I'm not sure I'll read the other books. I wanted more Buddhist wisdom and less maverick. But many readers disagree with that assessment. Check out this post from the Progressive Buddhist....more
Given a choice (assuming no new Jack Reacher novels are out), I will choose a police procedural as my weekly reading. Since L.J. Sellers won't write eGiven a choice (assuming no new Jack Reacher novels are out), I will choose a police procedural as my weekly reading. Since L.J. Sellers won't write enough Detective Jackson novels, I have been forced to cast a wider net. I ran into British Detective Chief Inspector Kate Daniels, the star of Mari Hannah's "Deadly Deceit" thanks to my good efriend, Rebecca Bradley. This is Hannah's third of four books about a Northumberland-based team of crime stoppers trying to unravel a triptych of seemingly unrelated crimes--a fire that killed a father and his infant son, an old man who collapsed in the street and was robbed of his life savings, and an old woman who died in a hideous multi-car pile-up--but the autopsy showed she was killed first, likely for her million dollar lottery ticket. The plotting is fast, tight, and unpredictable, but it's the way Daniels thinks that makes this story a stand-out.
This is a character-driven story, centered around DCI Kate Daniels. She is honest, hard-working, scrubby when necessary, strong in her opinions but open-minded to those of others. She has a tight circle of players who contribute to her detecting skills and each is better than the other. She's obsessed with her job, career-intense, but the story is real enough to show how despite Danie' best efforts, her personal life (in the form of a partner she's madly in love with but who may not square with Daniels' career) spills over. It's intriguing to listen in as she addresses each decision.
Another piece I love about this series is the very British way it is presented. Here are some snippets:
* didn't answer straight away * bit of a break * Dixon kept shtum * a thought occurred that really wound Daniels up * picked up her clobber and left the room * clued-up detective * it's a dog's breakfast if you ask me
Overall, a fascinating story. Now I'm waiting for the fifth in the series. Mari? How's it going? Can I get you coffee?...more