Joanna Mason, a six-year-old girl, was the only person to escape when a madman killed her mother, sister and baby brother. Thirty years later, JoannaJoanna Mason, a six-year-old girl, was the only person to escape when a madman killed her mother, sister and baby brother. Thirty years later, Joanna is a successful doctor with a baby of her own when the madman is released from prison. Regina Chase is Joanna's precocious sixteen-year-old mother's assistant; Neil Hunter, Joanna's husband, is an entrepreneur with big troubles.
Police detective Louise Monroe, recently married herself, is attempting to protect a woman and her children from an abusive husband and is also participating in the investigation into a suspicious fire at one of Neil Hunter's properties. Ex-cop and P.I. Jackson Brodie who has always been enamored of Louise, has family difficulties of his own.
All of their lives intersect over a four-day period containing a number of near-cataclysmic events. Atkinson weaves the detailed story lines together in a very interesting book which is really more of a character study than it is a crime novel. All of these characters are interesting and their stories combine in a great climax. This is a very good read, but one should not be expecting to find here a very traditional crime novel....more
When a beautiful young woman is found naked and shot to death in the park across the street from the 87th Precinct station house, the Detectives of thWhen a beautiful young woman is found naked and shot to death in the park across the street from the 87th Precinct station house, the Detectives of the 87th assume that this is just another tragic homicide and begin their investigation by attempting to identify the victim. Shortly thereafter, though, the detectives receive a communication from their old adversary, the Deaf Man, and the murder takes on a whole new significance.
Twice before, the Deaf Man has orchestrated elaborate criminal plots within the boundaries of the 87th, each with a huge payday at the end for the Deaf Man. And twice his plans have been foiled, in each case more by accident than by the conscious efforts of the detectives who always seem to be one step behind him.
Now the Deaf Man has contrived another convoluted plot--this during the festive holiday season--that will both make him a fortune and at the same time will take deadly revenge on Steve Carella and his other adversaries in the 87th.
As the story progresses, the Deaf Man continues to send envelopes to the detectives with mysterious clues that probably point to his ultimate objective, but the detectives are unable to decipher the clues. In the meantime, the Deaf Man draws into his orbit a number of other actors, some innocent and others not so innocent, as he puts his scheme into motion.
At times the story tantalizes, but at others it seems as if McBain is just playing an elaborate game for his own amusement, both at the expense of his characters and of the reader. There's very little police work done in this police procedural; mostly we watch the detectives sit around speculating about what the Deaf Man is attempting to do. For me, this is a middle-of-the-road entry in this series; I prefer the books in which the detectives actually do a little detecting....more
First published in 1934, The Case of the Howling Dog was the fourth entry in Erle Stanley Gardner's long-running series featuring Perry Mason.
At thisFirst published in 1934, The Case of the Howling Dog was the fourth entry in Erle Stanley Gardner's long-running series featuring Perry Mason.
At this point, Gardner was still in the process of establishing the formula that he would adhere to once the series hit its stride. Lieutenant Tragg, the intelligent and sympathetic homicide detective, and Hamilton Burger, the D.A. who would become Mason's principal adversary had not yet been introduced. The police department is still represented by the oafish Sergeant Holcomb, who wouldn't recognize a clue if it bit him in the backside. The D.A.'s office is represented by an assistant D.A., Claude Drumm who immediately falls into every trap that Mason so cleverly baits for him.
Della Street, the faithful and adoring secretary, Paul Drake, the reliable detective, and Perry Mason himself are still evolving into the characters they would ultimately become. Mason is a bit rougher around the edges than the suave attorney that most crime fiction readers would recognize, and at this stage of the game he's much more willing to severely bend, if not actually break the law in the interest of serving what he sees as the greater good.
As is often the case in this series, the plot becomes almost hopelessly convoluted: A man comes to see Mason about his neighbor's howling dog and about writing a will. Complications ensue.
Suffice it to say that there will be a murder. Inevitably, Mason's client will be the prime suspect, and inevitably the case against the client will appear to be open and shut. As always, the D. A.'s office will be salivating at the chance to finally beat Mason after suffering so many ignominious defeats at his hands. And of course, as always Perry will pull the rabbit out of the hat and save the day at the very end.
Obviously, this story is a bit dated and is clearly a product of its times, but it's still a fun read and an opportunity to see Perry Mason and these other characters in their formative stages....more
This is the third outing for Joseph Hansen's insurance investigator, Dave Brandstetter. Medallion, Dave's company, is carrying a life insurance policyThis is the third outing for Joseph Hansen's insurance investigator, Dave Brandstetter. Medallion, Dave's company, is carrying a life insurance policy on Richard Wendell. Wendell has been shot to death and his mother, Heather, finds Larry Johns, one of Richard's lovers, standing over the body with a gun in his hand.
To the police, it looks like an open and shut case, which is bad news for Medallion who will be out $25,000. This book was published in 1975 when $25,000 no doubt seemed like a lot more money than it does today, and so Dave goes out to investigate. He's troubled because the physical evidence suggests that the police might have jumped to the wrong conclusion. Most important, the fatal wound is a contact wound and the accused man did not have gunshot residue on his hands. It's at least possible that Wendell committed suicide. It's even possible that Heather Wendell who disapproved of her son's gay lifestyle might have shot him. In either case, Medallion would be off the hook.
The victim was co-owner of a gay bar, and the deeper Dave probes into the case, the more suspects seem to emerge. The hunt takes Dave, who is also gay, through the homosexual subculture of L.A. and through a variety of interesting twists and turns before reaching a conclusion that many readers will have gotten to ahead of him.
This is a solid entry in the Dave Brandstetter series although it is not one of the best of them. As usual, Dave' father, the chairman of Medallion, makes an appearance and it's always fun to watch the interaction between the gay son and the solidly heterosexual sixty-five year-old father who is currently working on wife number nine.
Dave's father has heart trouble and his doctor has advised him to stop drinking, smoking, screwing and working so hard. Dave allows that this might be good advice as Dad lights a cigarette and mixes a pitcher of martinis. Dad's not having any of that and warns Dave that he should be prepared to go freelance when the elder Mr. Brandstetter kicks the bucket because the Board won't keep Dave on the payroll due to his lifestyle.
To this Dave just shruggs. "I like the job," he said. "But I feel about it the way you feel about your heart. I'm not ready to give up my sex life for it." Well said, Dave.
In any long-running series, even one as good as this one surely is, inevitably some books have to be better and some weaker than others, and althoughIn any long-running series, even one as good as this one surely is, inevitably some books have to be better and some weaker than others, and although I certainly enjoyed reading Invisible Prey, it's not among the best books in John Sandford's Prey series.
In every one of the books, at least thus far, the lead character, Lucas Davenport, and his supporting cast have always been consistently excellent--witty, intelligent, and always a lot of fun to hang out with, even if only vicariously. Given that, these books always tend to rise or fall depending on the quality of the villains involved, and through the years, Sandford has created some truly unique, creepy and compelling bad guys. Unhappily, that's not the case here. The crimes at the heart of the book are fairly pedestrian and the villains are sort of ho-hum, not nearly as capable of engaging the reader or of scaring the living bejeesus out of him or her as is often the case with a Sandford antagonist.
As the book opens, an elderly and very wealthy woman in St. Paul is murdered in her home, along with her maid. The house is chock full of paintings, antiques and other such things, some of which are very valuable and some of which are not. The problem is that there's so much of the stuff that no one knows for sure whether anything valuable is missing. It's possible that some junkie broke in and killed the women, simply looking to score enough loot to finance his next fix, especially since there's a half-way house, filled with offenders, right across the street. Or, of course, there could be something more involved.
As the chief investigator of the Minnesota BCA, Lucas Davenport would not normally be involved in an investigation of this type, but the wealthy victim was politically connected and so the governor puts Lucas on the job. At the same time, Lucas, along with that f***ing Virgil Flowers is involved in the investigation of a state official who may have been having hot, kinky sex with an underage girl. This is a very sensitive investigation politically, and it's a lot more interesting than the murder case.
The plot of the book is somewhat convoluted and involves antiques, quilts, frauds perpetrated against museums, and other such things. The villains are revealed early on and part of the story is told from their point of view. But they aren't all that interesting and they're not all that much fun to watch. The book flags a bit whenever the scene switches away from Davenport to them. Certainly these people don't hold a candle to Clara Rinker or to most of the other Sandford villains.
Again, that's certainly not to say that this is a bad book; it isn't. And even a mediocre book by John Sandford is a lot more fun to read than a lot of other books that one might pick up. I enjoyed the book, but it certainly won't rank among my favorites in the series....more
In a series of five books, published from the mid- to late-1990s, Thomas Perry detailed the adventures of Jane Whitefield, a tough, clever, contemporaIn a series of five books, published from the mid- to late-1990s, Thomas Perry detailed the adventures of Jane Whitefield, a tough, clever, contemporary Native American woman who lived in western New York. Jane came to the rescue of people who were in serious trouble, guiding them out of their old lives and into new ones. In the process, she almost always had to help her clients to escape from brutal thugs who were hot on the trail. This usually put both Jane and her client in mortal danger and demanded that Jane use all of her wits and considerable physical skills to disable or eliminate the bad guys. Along the way, Jane created a new identity for the client and taught him or her how to survive in a new life.
Jane finally retired, married a doctor, and created a happy, fulfilling new life for herself, flawed only by her inability to conceive a child. Now, five years after her last adventure (nine years in real time), a pregnant young girl turns up at the hospital where Jane's husband works in Buffalo. The girl is looking for Jane, but only knows her maiden name, which the hospital staff does not recognize.
Coincidentally, Jane is heading a fundraiser at the hospital that evening, and in the middle of the soiree, a bomb goes off, interrupting the festivities. Jane and the young girl are thrown together in the confusion and it turns out that the bomb has been set by a team of hunters who have been hired to capture the girl and return her and her baby to the girl's abusive boyfriend and his seriously weird parents.
Naturally, Jane will have to come out of retirement and help the poor woman escape. She quickly discovers that because of technological advances, it's a lot harder--and a lot more expensive--to create a new identity for someone in the post-9/11 era. If that's not bad enough, Jane also discovers that the crew in pursuit of her new client is easily the toughest group of adversaries that she has ever faced.
The result is a book that begins, literally, with a bang and continues to move at a breakneck pace from start to finish. As always, it’s fun to watch Jane work, and it’s particularly interesting to see the details of how she creates a new identity for Christine, the woman she’s assisting. Inevitably, perhaps, Christine will make the exercise a lot more difficult than it otherwise might have been, but this simply means more fun for the reader who gets to watch Jane react to the added threat.
This book does require the suspension of some disbelief. For example, even after being out of the business for several years, Jane seems to have a huge supply of fake identities put away, along with an inexhaustible stash of hundred dollar bills hidden in her basement. Without them, the book would come to a pretty abrupt halt on about page three.
Readers who have waited not-so-patiently for Perry to resurrect Jane Whitefield will be very happy to have her back. But those who’ve never read this series and who have missed all of the backstory might be better off starting with the first book in the series, Vanishing Act, and working their way forward. They won’t be disappointed and, unlike the rest of us, they won’t have to wait nine years to get to Runner.
J. McNee is a former Scottish cop who has left the force and become a private investigator. McNee is even more emotionally wounded than most other depJ. McNee is a former Scottish cop who has left the force and become a private investigator. McNee is even more emotionally wounded than most other depressed PIs and is still mourning the loss of his fiance who was killed in an accident nine months earlier. One suspects that McNee was never the most sociable person to begin with, but he has now become almost totally anti-social and rejects everyone who attempts to help ease his grief.
McNee is hired by a farmer, James Robertson, whose brother, Daniel, had apparently committed suicide. The two brothers hadn't seen each other in thirty years until Daniel came home to kill himself. James Robertson wants answers. In particular, he wants to know who his brother had become in the intervening years.
McNee takes the case and uncovers some very uncomfortable truths about Daniel Robertson who had become a thug employed by a London mobster. Things are further complicated when two other brutal thugs, employed by the same mobster, appear on the scene. Pretty soon the bodies are dropping left and right and McNee is up to his neck in a difficult and very dangerous situation.
The reader, of course, is supposed to be rooting for McNee, but it's sometimes hard to do. The man is so withdrawn and so indifferent to anyone who reaches out to him that the reader (or at least this reader) finds it very hard to sympathize with him or to care about him. This is a very dark, moody book that is redeemed more by the atmosphere that the author creates than by the protagonist who inhabits it....more
Recently divorced, California lawyer Damon Pierce receives an urgent message from Marissa Brand, a woman he once loved (and perhaps still does), askinRecently divorced, California lawyer Damon Pierce receives an urgent message from Marissa Brand, a woman he once loved (and perhaps still does), asking him to come to the West African country of Luandia. Marissa's husband, an activist named Bobby Okari has been accused of murder by the corrupt, brutal regime that runs the country.
Luandia sits on an oil of ocean and lots of outsiders, Americans included, are anxious to get their hands on it. None of them are much concerned about the way in which Luandia's government exploits and abuses its own people. Nor do they care about the catastrophic environmental consequences of the oil production.
Pierce is determined to save Bobby and so becomes his lawyer at great personal risk. Patterson weaves a complicated web of intrigue that is at once scary and terribly disheartening, and by the time you finish the book, you want to swear off ever using a drop of oil again.
I have always been a huge fan of Patterson's work, especially his political thrillers, and I really wanted to like this book as well. There is a terrible earnestness about it; in addition to telling a captivating story, Patterson is obviously determined to open our eyes to the consequences of our addiction to foreign oil.
And therein lies the problem, such as there is one. A lot of the book is spent in an effort to educate the reader to the situation in Luandia, which is a stand-in for Nigeria, and to the the larger implications of our dependency on the resources of countries like it. In consequence, the book seems almost preachy at times, and it takes a fair amount for time for the book to really gather steam. Once it does, though, you can't put it down.
I'm giving this book three stars, which to me means that it's really very good, but not excellent. I respect the book's good intentions and it's an appropriate reminder of the fact that our continued addiction to oil--and to low oil prices--has a cost that goes well beyond that which we pay at the pump. And, once it does get rolling, it's very compelling. But I don't think it's as riveting as a lot of Patterson's other work....more
Measured against the standard set by most crime fiction writers, this is a pretty good book, but based against the standard set by Michael Connelly itMeasured against the standard set by most crime fiction writers, this is a pretty good book, but based against the standard set by Michael Connelly it's sort of average, somewhere in the middle of the pack of the large number of books he has now produced.
This seems a bit odd, because the protagonist in this book is a newspaper reporter and Connelly was himself a reporter for a good number of years before he became a novelist. One would think that Connelly would have this character nailed. In truth, though, the author doesn't begin to inhabit the character of Jack McEvoy in the same way and to the same depth as he does the character of his more noted series protagonist, homicide detective Harry Bosch. McEvoy is well drawn, but he's not nearly as compelling or as interesting as Bosch.
The book opens with the apparent suicide of McEvoy's twin brother, Sean, a Denver homicide detective. Sean had been severely depressed, agonizing over his failure to solve a particularly brutal homicide. Everyone assumes that Sean was unable to live with his failure and so decided to take his own life. Jack is reluctant to believe that his brother would do such a thing, but the evidence seems overwhelming, and McEvoy ultimately accepts it.
As a reporter, Jack specializes in writing about homicide cases and he decides to do an article on his brother's death. In researching the subject, he discovers that a number of other homicide detective across the country have apparently committed suicide in ways similar to his brother, Sean. Jack now begins to have second thoughts and ultimately concludes that Sean did not kill himself but was, in fact, the victim of a serial killer who has been targeting homicide detectives.
Jack ultimately convinces several departments to reopen these cases and when it becomes clear that Jack is right, the FBI comes on board. Jack forces his way into the investigation and so has a close up view of the investigation and the hunt for the perpetrator who becomes known as The Poet. Along the way, Jack will become involved with a beautiful FBI agent named Rachel Walling and before all is said and done, Jack winds up putting himself in the sights of the deadly Poet.
This is a tense, well-written book that is especially illuminating about the methods that the FBI uses for profiling and chasing serial killers. It should appeal to large numbers of crime fiction readers, and even if it is not quite as good as several of Connelly's other novels, that's only because Connelly himself has set the bar so high....more