"Every one has a plan until they get punched in the face."
This quote from Mike Tyson is why I love Tom Schreck's Duffy Dombrowski. Duffy is not only "Every one has a plan until they get punched in the face."
This quote from Mike Tyson is why I love Tom Schreck's Duffy Dombrowski. Duffy is not only a mid-level boxer, he's a counselor for troubled youth. In the fifth installment of the series, 'The Ten Count' (CreateSpace 2014), Duffy is sent to a private high school to help students come to terms with the brutal murder of one of their teachers. As he works with students and faculty, he finds a lot of problems at this school that could have contributed to this man's death and--being Duffy--he can't stop himself from trying to unravel the mysteries. Add to this a blossoming love interest, an odd affair, and a hiccup in his career, the story is non-stop action.
Duffy Dombrowski is a believable mix of rough boxer and thoughtful therapist. Once you're in his head (it's written in first person), you realize there's a lot more going on than fighting and drinking. In fact, Duffy has a solid moral compass, a respect for real people, and no need to impress others or be impressed by superficial trappings.
I love the procedural stuff--how to be a boxer--that's included, like this:
"...a day with shadowboxing, heavy bag work, three rounds of mitts, and these new plyometric things I've started doing that were supposed to make me explosive."
I have never been a boxing fan, but through Duffy's eyes, I got a real appreciation for for the sport and the passion behind it. I almost want to watch the next match on TV.
"Like some guys' La-Z-Box recliner, it [the boxing gym] was where I went when I wanted to get away from the day and unwind."
Great internal dialogue for Duffy throughout the book helps the reader get to know the main character well and understand his motivation and thought:
"I probably should've gone for a recovery drink [after his gym workout] high in protein with low glycemic complex carbohydrates and combined that with a light snack of the same proportions that also had some fiber to fill me up. That's what I should've done."
This could be a stand-alone story, but it uses characters and ideas introduced earlier in the series, so you might want to read those first. Click to see my reviews of Getting Dunn and The Vegas Knockout. ...more
The "Flamekeepers" (Thomas & Mercer 2015) is the story of a doomsday cult that might be headed into dangerous territory. Alecia Motley, a member,The "Flamekeepers" (Thomas & Mercer 2015) is the story of a doomsday cult that might be headed into dangerous territory. Alecia Motley, a member, warns the FBI and they call on former SEAL Lukasz Gardocki to infiltrate the group and see what the real goals are. Lukasz agrees because he carries ongoing guilt that he couldn't save the life of Alecia's brother who was a former SEAL. What he finds when he gets there is a mixture of well-intentioned, hard-working people and a devious leadership group that is too secretive for Lukasz's instincts to trust. When he finds out their real purpose, he wonders if he will escape with his life saving Alecia.
"Flamekeepers" is written by J. Gregory Smith, former Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award quarter finalist (ABNA is no longer a contest) and author of the Paul Chang Mysteries series. Smith is an excellent storyteller with interesting characters. What they lack in complexity, he makes up for in their true voices and honest interactions with each other. It didn't take long before I was rooting for Lukasz and Alecia and a host of other supporting actors, hoping they would come out of this thriller in one piece.
Where Smith had trouble was in his plotting. Though well-paced with lots of action, as it approached the climax, several spots were unbelievable. The reasons Smith gave for the characters' actions didn't make sense which left me wondering what was really going on. Luckily there were just a few of these (though at critical moments), and Smith recovered with an excellent surprise ending.
Overall, a good read from an up-and-coming new author. I look forward to watching his career develop....more
I am a C.J. Box fan. I've read the entire Joe Pickett series (15 books) so when "Badlands" (Minotaur 2015) showed up on my Vine list, I grabbed it, hoI am a C.J. Box fan. I've read the entire Joe Pickett series (15 books) so when "Badlands" (Minotaur 2015) showed up on my Vine list, I grabbed it, hoping this might be the start of a new series. It is the story of criminal investigator, Cassie Dewell, who leaves a job in Montana for a new post in Grimstad North Dakota, center of the American oil boom. The town is undergoing massive cultural and social changes due to the skyrocketing oil business. Cassie immediately is caught up in what seems to be an open-and-shut auto accident that ends up mired in drugs, vicious Salvadoran hitmen, and corrupt police.
The story is fast-moving, fascinating to read, with lots of intriguing clues and well-developed characters. The setting is the wild badlands of the frigid American northern states, a perfect location for Box's signature nature descriptions. It includes two distinct point-of-views, Cassie's and the twelve-year-old boy who ends up unwillingly in the middle of his town's drug sales.
Cassie Dewell is an interesting character. We are introduced to an overweight, atypical detective who is leaving a job where she wasn't well-respected, maybe running from a past that could be viewed as good or bad. As she grows with her new job, we as reader develop respect for her ability to line up the clues and connect the dots. Like all good mystery storytellers, Box doesn't always explain what's going on, just throws the puzzle pieces out there for us to mull over.
My only problem with the book was it didn't include Joe Pickett. Maybe a cameo, some time in the future, CJ? Could you make that happen?
Overall, a satisfying read that delivered on all of its promises....more
I'm always excited when a new John Wells novel comes out, so when "Twelve Days" showed up on my Vine list (G.P. Putnam 2015), I grabbed it. This is thI'm always excited when a new John Wells novel comes out, so when "Twelve Days" showed up on my Vine list (G.P. Putnam 2015), I grabbed it. This is the ninth in the series about John Wells, an American ex-CIA spy who was undercover as a Islamic jihadist for ten years, gathering critical information for his country and also developing a respect for the Muslim religion that he adopted while under.
This is a tight sequel to the prior book, "Counterfeit Agent". In that book, Wells stopped the person involved in a nefarious plot against America but not the plot. In this book, Wells finds the goal of the people who hired the man Wells killed: Protect Israel by starting a war between America and Iran. Wells knows in his gut that Iran is not responsible, but fails to convince anyone in power of that. He has twelve days to reveal the truth or watch America attack Iran for crimes they didn't commit.
If you didn't read the prior novel, no worries. The first fifty-seventy pages of this book are a replay of events leading up to the present, but from the viewpoint of the bad guys rather than Wells. I've seen that done within a novel, but not across two different books. It involved copious amounts of narrative and backstory, though nicely constructed, and I kept wanting to rush through it because I knew the plot points.
John Wells is a fascinating character, with his undercover experiences that shape everything about him, his broken personal relationships that he can't get past, and his ongoing struggling between the peaceful underpinnings of Islam and the violence of his chosen profession. Overall, a good read....more
I've never heard of C.J. Box, author of "Endangered" (Putnam 2015). I picked the book because it got good reviews and is the fifteenth in the Joe PickI've never heard of C.J. Box, author of "Endangered" (Putnam 2015). I picked the book because it got good reviews and is the fifteenth in the Joe Pickett series. More importantly, Lee Child recommended it--'one of today's solid-gold, A-list, must-read writers.' I wasn't about to argue with Jack Reacher's right hand man.
Now I have to read the rest, it was that good.
Joe Pickett is an easy-going, easy-to-know Wyoming game warden and family man. He takes his job seriously and has a reputation for solving mysteries rather than settling for the easy answer. Joe never is bigger than life, but he's always true to life. In this story, he's in the middle of mystery dealing with poachers who killed an entire Lek (community) of sage grouse when his 18-year-old daughter is found unconscious in a ditch, beaten and left for dead by her assailant like so much trash. While Pickett tries to unravel this mystery while working on who killed the sage grouse, he finds himself at odds with one of the nastiest local families you'd ever want to meet. For them, anything is fair game if they can get away with it.
This is not a hard-charging, fast-paced thriller with a complex plot that constantly whips you around like a roller coaster. The wonder of this book is the author's voice, through the character of Joe Pickett. He's kind and non-judgmental, but strong and firm in his beliefs. He's natural and uncomplicated, the type of person you'd want for a friend. The power of his personality drives the story, tinges every action, and kept me turning pages. Through Box's magnificent pen, I got to not only know Joe Pickett but understand his motivations. I've already ordered the rest of the series....more
Robin Burcell's "The Kill Order" (Harper 2015) is the fifth in the FBI Special Agent Sydney Fitzpatrick series (the second series created by Burcell).Robin Burcell's "The Kill Order" (Harper 2015) is the fifth in the FBI Special Agent Sydney Fitzpatrick series (the second series created by Burcell). Sydney becomes embroiled with a powerful computer code called the Devil's Key. It's repercussions are so extensive, it is considered a danger to national security and anyone in its possession is ordered to be killed--the Kill Order.
The problem starts when a deep-cover American agency asks Sydney to draw a profile picture of a man a twenty-year-old pickpocket (Piper) saw kill her boyfriend. Because Piper has an eidetic memory, she remembers minute details and quickly identifies the man as a powerful government official. To make things worse, Piper saw the Devil's Key and now has it stuck in her brain, which means she must be killed. Sydney, with the help of the specialized government agency, decide to unravel why the code is so lethal and hopefully in that way, save the girl's life. What they don't expect is that doing this puts all of them in mortal danger.
The characters are interesting and clever and the plot fast-moving--in fact, it never slows down. The importance of the Devil's Key is explained, but to me, not believably enough. I get that it's a backdoor into sensitive computers. What I don't get is why that isn't solvable since it is a known problem. I found myself bogged down by the plot. At times, it seemed to be going in circles albeit at full speed, as the author tried to figure out where it was really headed.
I was disappoint that Sydney's skills as a forensic artist didn't show up more in the book. I know they're spotlighted more in other volumes in the series (i.e., "Black List"), so Burcell might have wanted to broaden the foundation for the plot by delving into other areas. One other point that didn't detract from the book's score: I think this book would have been easier to understand if I'd read some of the earlier books in the series first. Characterizations were a bit sketchy and there were references to earlier cases that I assume were from prior books. I think if I'd ready the books in order, I would have felt much closer to the characters.
Overall, a great read from a talented author. I will be reading the rest of the series--starting with Book 1....more