O Parker, you must have had an idea for this book but could not put it all together. A very weak 3 stars, ladies and gentlemen. In a way, I am pained...moreO Parker, you must have had an idea for this book but could not put it all together. A very weak 3 stars, ladies and gentlemen. In a way, I am pained after reading this novel. All of the quirky Parkerisms are present: pithy dialogue, interesting set pieces, Susan and her psychobabble (although I could live without this), and Spenser and his humor. But the pieces all seemed to be forced into place. For me, Parker said to himself: "I have an interesting idea for a novel. It is going to take place in Georgia, and it's going to involve horses." After that, he just started writing and soon found that he really did not know the details of this story. Perhaps leaving the confines of Boston put Parker off his game, I don't know.
The story itself appears straightforward: a gunman is shooting horses at the Three Fillies Stables. Spenser is called to investigate. That's about it. Sure there are other aspects of the story: infidelity, poisonous relationships (marriages), haunting pasts, crooked security officers, and the meeting of Tedy Sapp who makes his debut in the Parkerverse. But all of these elements were lackluster, boring, dare I say, droll. For me, the titular horse, HUGGER MUGGER, was more interesting than most of the supporting cast in this one. Which is pretty sad because Hugger graces very few pages.
The dust jacket proclaims that this novel is filled with "razor-sharp dialogue, eloquently spare prose, [with] some of the best supporting characters to grace the printed page." I wish I would have read that book instead of this one.
Perhaps I missed something. But for the life of me I cannot say what that would be. If anything, read this one to complete the series.
Ugh...I think I need a break from Spenser. I say this with all the love I can muster for both the character and the character's creator, Robert B. Par...moreUgh...I think I need a break from Spenser. I say this with all the love I can muster for both the character and the character's creator, Robert B. Parker. While I found this one enjoyable, it didn't jive like most of the Spenser novels. Perhaps it was the story-line; perhaps it was the structure; perhaps it was just me.
Spenser's buddy, Frank Belson, has recently been remarried to a much younger, and very attractive woman. Unfortunately, she goes missing. When Frank approaches Spenser, he doesn't really want to ask Spenser for help...alas, Parker doesn't give much to this interesting dynamic of Frank and Spenser's relationship. What Parker does is have Spenser remember that at one time, Spenser lost Susan. I like Susan as a character...but not in every book. She seems to pop up when she doesn't need to.
So Spenser takes the job after Frank is shot. This is not much of a spoiler as it happens in the first 20 or so pages (and to my disapproval, is not given much ground to walk). This case becomes personal for Spenser, and he takes the job. Hawk is off gallivanting in some tropical paradise so Spenser asks Mr. del Rio if he can have one of his shooters as back up since most of the story takes place in an Hispanic slum. Spenser wants Bobby Horse, but he gets Chollo instead. This was quite enjoyable as this is really the beginning of Chollo and Spenser's friendship. But I found this also lacking. The dust jacket states that Chollo is "a Chicano shooter with an ironclad attitude and an unflinching sense of honor." I found Chollo's attitude to be bored most of the time; and, as for honor, I found this neither supported nor questioned. If honor relies on the fact that Chollo is neither satisfied nor dissatisfied after killing someone than the statement is accurate. Plus, I missed Hawk. The banter between him and Spenser is sophomoric, to be sure; but it was better than the witless banter between Chollo and Spenser. Again, perhaps it was me...
But what really bothered me the most was the ending. I won't give it away...but let me say rain and gardens equals deus ex machina. Overall, this is worth your time and effort if your goal is to get a complete picture of the Speserverse. If not, you can probably safely skip this one.
Reading a James Patterson novel is akin to eating soggy cereal -- eatable but not necessarily the first choice for breakfast. With that being said, I...moreReading a James Patterson novel is akin to eating soggy cereal -- eatable but not necessarily the first choice for breakfast. With that being said, I gave this one four stars. Call me a hypocrite, if you like. But the rating is not so much on Patterson's skills as a writer (which he has few, in my opinion); rather the rating deals with his skills as a storyteller (which he excels at).
FOUR BLIND MICE stars Alex Cross, a homicide detective with too much education. (Morgan Freeman played the character in two movies: Kiss the Girls; and, Along Came a Spider...interestingly enough, Freeman also played a big-brained detective in the movie Se7en; Tyler Perry is playing Cross in the upcoming film). Cross is thinking about leaving the game, joining the FBI as a profiler. But strange murders are taking place where the killers are painting their victims red, white, or blue and leaving strange calling cards at the scenes, albeit away from obvious notice.
The killers have a strange connection to Vietnam and some of the atrocities committed there by American forces. I enjoyed this thread of the novel. It was fast-paced, filled with action (sometimes implausible), and kept the pages turning. When the novel slowed, it was during the threads of Nana Mama's, Cross's grandmother, health issues, or when Sampson, Cross's best friend, begins dating the widow of one of the murder victims; or when Cross begins his dating of a San Francisco detective. To be honest, my mind barely registered these parts. The writing was flimsy here, at best. (James this part is for you: STOP WRITING SEX SCENES...I have seen more passion between acorns and soil than what you "showed"!!)
So the problems with the novel are numerous, but, as I said, Patterson can tell a story. His ability to twist and turn a plot is enviable. However, too many twists and turns just make a mockery of the story. FOUR BLIND MICE borders on having too many twists. Not to mention, unlikely escapes abound in this novel. I have a great ability to suspend belief; but there are limits to my abilities. At one point I actually scoffed aloud at the scene in the forest when Cross and Sampson take on three trained Army Rangers who also happen to be trained assassins...read and you'll understand.
Okay, I haven't really said anything positive about this book to warrant my four stars. Here goes. I got caught up in it. I wanted Cross to so desperately catch these killers that I lost sleep convincing myself that the next chapter would shed some light on this case. (Unfortunately, most of the chapters I convinced myself to read were one of the threads I found lacking.) And when the hook was out in the open, I darted through the pages, back and forth, looking for the golden thread of plot order, finding only barely noticeable fragments, but loving every darn second of this very weak novel. But, as I said, I was caught up in the story. I cared about Cross and Sampson and about the murder victims, which there are plenty.
Overall, I would say that there is no need to rush out and find this book. I'm pretty sure that won't be a problem anyway since every used bookstore in the country has about five million copies of Patterson's books. But if you find yourself needing a novel that won't take much time or effort, you could do worse than this one.
Not really. But Parker does place Spenser in a different environment than Spenser is accustomed to.
POTSHOT opens with a beautiful blonde seeking Spenser's skills. Her husband has just been killed and she wants to hire Spenser to unravel the mystery. There's only one catch: Spenser has to leave Boston and go to Potshot, Arizona. Of course, Spenser takes the case.
While in Potshot, Spenser learns of the Dell gang, a mysterious group of people under the influence of a man that goes by the handle of The Preacher. The Dell gang makes it living off the residents of Potshot. Spenser doesn't like this much. But he's no fool. He knows that he is going to have to call in some favors to get some support if he is to lay waste to this gang. Enter: Hawk, Tedy Sapp, Chollo, Vinnie Morris, Bobby Horse, and Bernard J. Fortunato III. Past readers will recognize these names; for those that don't, these characters have populated previous Parker novels.
After Spenser assembles his gang, the novel slows down. For the most part, Parker uses this time to explore the banter between this group of men. For some, this is going to be incredibly annoying. But for those of you that know these characters, this part of the novel should be quite entertaining. Every one of these characters has a personality that could easily fill a novel all on their own.
As the time comes closer for Spenser's gang to tussle with the Dell gang I could not help but think that I had seen this from Spenser before. With a little research, the mystery was solved. POTSHOT was published in 2001. Parker also published GUNMAN'S RHAPSODY in 2001. This latter novel being a western. As a lover of westerns, this made my reading experience all the more enjoyable.
And although the ending is a bit anti-climatic, the book serves as an entertaining read. Perhaps I liked it so much because Spenser's gal, Susan Silverman, Harvard Ph.D., was only a bit character. (I have a tendency to rag on Susan...but, hey, it's my review.)
Overall, POTSHOT is worth your time. Unlike some of the other Spenser novels, Parker really seems to have channeled his skills with this one.
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED (for both lovers of the Spenser series and lovers of westerns)
L.A. OUTLAWS was a pleasant surprise. I had never previously read anything by T. Jefferson Parker. So when I came across this book in the free bin at...moreL.A. OUTLAWS was a pleasant surprise. I had never previously read anything by T. Jefferson Parker. So when I came across this book in the free bin at my town's library, I saw no reason not to take a chance. I love me some good noir fiction.
In fact, just reading some of the blurbs on the Praise pages got me all excited. The Seattle Times compared T. Jefferson Parker to Elmore Leonard...who doesn't love Elmore Leonard? Win. The Providence Journal-Bulletin said that L.A. OUTLAWS was the best book of its kind since NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, a book I adore. Not to mention they also said that the villain in L.A. OUTLAWS rivals Anton Chigurh as "psychopath of the century." Win, win!!
I was sold. Hook. Line. And sinker.
So the story goes as such: Allison Murrieta, a sexy femme fatale,enjoys robbing fast-food franchises. She's pretty good at it, too. Think of her as a modern day Robin Hood. She steals. She gives. But one night, after successfully knocking over a KFC, she drives past an auto shop and notices that something is not right. For most of us, we would contently drive by, never thinking twice of stopping. Allison Murrieta is not most of us. In fact, she is not really a person. She is only an alias. I won't spoil why she is an alias. The reason is part of the book's charm. So Allison stops to investigate. What she finds inside is horrible. A slaughter has occurred. Dead bodies litter the floor. Blood paints the walls. Members of two rival gangs have riddled each other with bullets. Not to mention the one guy in the whole place who seems so out of place that he might have fit in better on the dark side of the moon, is motionless in a pool of his own blood. Allison soon finds out why everyone is dead (view spoiler)[diamonds, and a whole shitpot of them (hide spoiler)].
The problem is, this prize doesn't belong to her. And a man by the name of Lupercio wants them back. And he will do anything to get them back. Anything.
Enter Charlie Hood. He's the poor cop that stumbles upon the scene. Hood is a great character. Haunted by what he experienced in the Iraq war, Hood only wants to live a noble life, do good for a change. The battered cop/detective/P.I. has been done a million times before but T. Jefferson Parker adds to the mythos of a damaged hero extraordinarily well.
Through action and romance and more action, T. Jefferson Parker creates a believable world of violence, corruption, gangs, hitmen, and law enforcement officers all battling for the warehouse prize. Vivid writing, strong characters, and deft plotting add to the overall enjoyment of the novel.
There is only one problem that I had with the novel: (view spoiler)[Lupercio dies too soon! I think it was like 60 pages into the novel and the dude was toast. Granted, I did find the way he died to be unique and gruesome, but still. Anton lives far past page 60. So: sorry Lupercio, Anton wins the BAMF award (hide spoiler)].
Overall, a great beginning to the Charlie Hood series.
I was late to the Spenser party. I can't remember exactly what Spenser tale I read first, but it was somewhere around book 25 or so. Parker's style of...moreI was late to the Spenser party. I can't remember exactly what Spenser tale I read first, but it was somewhere around book 25 or so. Parker's style of writing: short, quick sentences, fast-paced, clothing and food descriptions galore, sprinkled with literary references was pretty much solidified by this time. MORTAL STAKES is a different Spenser. In this one, Parker takes his time describing environs, people, and the intricate mind of his Spenser character. This is thoroughly enjoyable. For me, the systematic, conveyor belt mode of storytelling in the later Spenser novels becomes quite cliche -- even if I do love the character.
So here I am, at this Spenser's party, and, if I may, loving every frickin' minute of it. The voice of Spenser is different. Martin Quirk is different. Frank Belson is different. And, yet, they are still the same characters I met in the later novels; the difference now being that I am truly meeting them at an early stage of their literary lives. How I wanted to tell Spenser during this time to stay clear of Susan Silverman, the woman that is going to cause him so much pain...and redemption. How I wanted to have Quirk and Belson know that they are not in for a picnic in some of the later novels. How I wanted to reassure Spenser that he will not be facing the world alone, that one day he was going to meet Hawk. But I couldn't. The music was just too good and I was drinking the kool-aid, ya know?
You see, what it comes down to is this: Spenser is one of my favorite literary characters; Parker is one of my favorite novelists, and to see them in their infancy was incredible. Parker can craft a plot; he shows it in MORTAL STAKES. A three-pronged dilemma that involves baseball, pornography, and murder. But unlike the later novels, Parker takes his time, allows for growth, shows a side of Spenser I'd never seen before. To see a novelist work like this was like seeing the secret to a favorite magic trick. I feel lucky for having come across this book.
Okay, so I sound like the ultimate ubergoober fanboy -- I am okay with that. If you only know Spenser through Parker's later novels, take the time to go back and discover Spenser's roots. It is well worth it.
James Patterson owes Hollywood a debt of gratitude. If it wasn't for the movie version of this book, I would not be writing this review. In fact, if i...moreJames Patterson owes Hollywood a debt of gratitude. If it wasn't for the movie version of this book, I would not be writing this review. In fact, if it wasn't for this movie, I would not have read the past three Cross novels, ever. I am not a fan of James Patterson. His writing is beyond abominable. (This will come as no surprise to those of you that have read my previous reviews of Patterson's Cross series.) But Patterson does have one redeeming quality: he has a storyteller's heart. The action was frenetic and fierce; the set pieces continuously changed; and the characters were only slightly annoying when it came to dialogue. If I'm being really honest, I would prefer no dialogue in Patterson's novels at all. Okay. I'm done ragging on Patterson. I should probably take it easy, the man does have 76 bestsellers to his name.
The plot of ALEX CROSS is twisted, to say the least. Cross is determined to hunt down a man known as The Butcher. (view spoiler)[The Butcher killed Cross's wife. (hide spoiler)] This villainous monstrosity was such in my head that when I watched the movie I was worried Matthew Fox was not up to the part. No worries, Fox nailed the part and then some. The game of cat and mouse ensues for nearly 400 pages. Filled with unbelievable action, underdeveloped characters, and hyperviolence, this novel exceeded all of my expectations; it's not like I read a Patterson novel for depth. (Okay, no more ragging, I promise.) (view spoiler)[Even if Patterson does try, in vain, to add depth to this story by constructing flashbacks of The Butcher reliving some grisly moments with his abusive father, and Cross's own flashbacks of his wife, these distractions never take away from the action. (hide spoiler)].
But the best part of this novel was the unintentional (I think) metafictional element. You see, one day when Alex comes home, tired, frustrated, on edge from chasing The Butcher, he sits down to watch some television. After flipping through the channels, finding nothing of real interest, Cross decides to watch a Tyler Perry Madea movie. This is only funny because Tyler Perry has now taken the role of Alex Cross, previously played by Morgan Freeman. So there I was, reading this novel, and thinking how trippy it must have been for Alex Cross to be watching a movie that had a gigantic old woman that looked like himself in a starring role. The book was published in 2009, so I guess there could have been a time when Patterson went back and placed this little Easter egg...regardless, besides the action, which there is plenty, this little scene bumped the book one full star for me. I can appreciate an author that can have some fun with themselves.
Go and read the book; it only takes a few hours.
And then go and watch the movie. There are worse things you could do with a free night.
With all the grocery-store thrillers cramming the wire racks, few are really worth the time and effort. BURIED PREY is not like those cheap knock-offs...moreWith all the grocery-store thrillers cramming the wire racks, few are really worth the time and effort. BURIED PREY is not like those cheap knock-offs. Unlike those other stories, John Sandford's novel has depth, great characterization, superb plotting, and enough twists and turns to keep the reader thinking and engaged.
This is only my second Lucas Davenport novel, so my expertise in this series is limited. The other one I read was RULES OF PREY. In the review for RULES OF PREY, I lauded Sandford's ability to make reading fun for the reader, bring them to a place that few escapist novels accomplish yet taut so boldly. BURIED PREY brought me back to that wonderful reading-fantasy-place of police detection. Plus, BURIED PREY offers a great history of who Lucas Davenport was before becoming a supercop for the the BCA, which was a bunch of fun to read. It's nice to know that a character such as Davenport had a fairly routine back story.
The story itself is one that has been told countless time: psychopath killer of children gets away from the police's initial investigation and ups the body count because of this blunder, but must remain a few steps ahead of passionate detectives that harbor misgivings about not fully exploring all leads. In the capable hands of John Sandford, this story line becomes unique. It's not that Sandford does something new; he doesn't. But what he does do--and does well, by the way--is engage the reader so they want to flip pages as fast as their eyes are able to scan the page. In a way, Sandford's storytelling abilities kidnap the reader and makes them want to ignore everything else important until the final sentence has been read. I sound like a gushy fanboy, but who doesn't love reading like that?
At 450 pages, BURIED PREY is a quick read. But be forewarned: Once you enter this world, it is very difficult to leave before reaching the end.
Ghostwritten by Ron Goulart, THE GOGGLE-EYED PIRATES is a fanciful romp of superhero justice based on the character the Phantom created by Lee Falk. T...moreGhostwritten by Ron Goulart, THE GOGGLE-EYED PIRATES is a fanciful romp of superhero justice based on the character the Phantom created by Lee Falk. The plot is simple: terrorists (I use the term loosely) hijack ocean liners and loot them of their valuables. There really is no motive for any of the crimes, save because they can. Laughable, yes. Believable, depends on how much you've drank already during the day.
Goulart's writing is sub par, characterization is almost nil, and the action sequences are a horrendous compilation of boofs, bops, bams, and zonks. But the story is pure fun! Think cotton candy made in a factory where the workers are giant weasels on meth. I don't really know what that means, but that's my description of the reading experience. And to be honest, that is a great reading experience. No thinking. Pure storytelling (again, I use this term liberally).
I do have one problem with the book. The Phantom has a wolf sidekick named Devil. I think this idea is pretty cool. But the wolf never did anything in the story. All it ever did was sit and guard an exit whenever the Phantom patted its head. Pretty lame. I wanted the wolf to go batshit crazy on some perps. Show its wild side. Perhaps it plays a bigger role in the other books. But since I got this book for free at my library's giveaway, I will probably never know what went on before or what goes on after this installment in the series.
If you see one of these books, pick it up for a few hours of mindless adventure. Sure it's going to kill some of your brain cells -- but these were the weak ones already.