First: Why is Stephen White not a bigger name in the mystery writer world? His work definitely rivals better-known authors for many reasons: his plottFirst: Why is Stephen White not a bigger name in the mystery writer world? His work definitely rivals better-known authors for many reasons: his plotting, his characters, his way with describing people and places so well that the reader knows them... I've read all of his books, and have always finished the last page with a satisfied sigh. "In Harm's Way" might not be the first book in the series to start with, but after reading it for the second time, I enjoyed it even more.
This book: The usual group of characters appear, in the usual setting of Boulder, Colorado. This time out, psychologist Alan Gregory is dragged into murder and mayhem when homicide detective Sam Purdy asks Alan to profile a gory murder in a local theater. Lacking strong credentials advising the police, Alan can't refuse to help since the victim is his neighbor Peter Arvin.
White sums up his plot through Alan in the first sentence of the first chapter: "You think you know someone." Those words weave throughout the 421 pages, as Alan questions not just the murder, but the actions of the people closest to him, the murderer and himself.
Assisted by his deputy DA wife Lauren Crowder, Peter's widow Adrienne and Purdy, Alan tries to write a psychological profile of a person who might be a serial killer. The theories change, and the mysteries about who Peter Arvin really was trouble the psychologist in unsettling ways.
Stephen White's books are not cozy mysteries, nor or they hard-boiled. "Harm's Way" is perhaps the hardest of White's books to describe, but no less worth reading. While this is a murder mystery, and it provides plenty of action and surprises (Alan gets shot!), White delved a bit deeper into many of his characters. If you're reading White for the first time, you'll discover one of the best writers in this genre. Furthermore, you'll become a hardcore fan when you read any of his other books. As a fan, I enjoyed this re-read; and as always, I finished it with a satisfied sigh....more
I finally picked this book up after remembering terrific reviews when it was initially published. Unfortunately, I didn't see any greatness by GoolricI finally picked this book up after remembering terrific reviews when it was initially published. Unfortunately, I didn't see any greatness by Goolrick, despite some spots of well-written prose. I'm not sure now what I expected, but I certainly didn't want to finish the last page of "A Reliable Wife" feeling as if I needed to shower.
A million of reviews have been written about this novel, but if you happened to miss them, the premise is based on a lonely, but rich man, Ralph Truitt, who advertises for a wife in the early 1900s. The woman he chooses, Catherine Land, arrives in Wisconsin, where everyone and every element of nature is harsh. Catherine is not the woman he expected; she's more beautiful than he expected and has perhaps answered his ad simply to scam him. Before they reach his home, Ralph is thrown from the wagon they're riding in and nearly dies. Catherine and a neighbor manage to nurse him back to health, and it's at this point you can imagine a piano playing warning notes that danger and dark motives lie ahead.
When one of the main characters is not busy scheming, the only other subject that arises is a soliloquy about the difficulties of sex. Not problems of intimacy or love, but sex. Apparently, those harsh and snowy winters in Wisconsin left the residents of Ralph Truitt's town with little else to consider.
A couple of clever twists pop up, but not without a lengthy background of how some sort of sexual activity played a part. I'm no prude, but I tend to think people spend their lives doing all kinds of activities.
The author himself has said that his characters are not likable. I'd certainly agree with that statement. And the scene he considers "pivotal" (involving Catherine and someone from her past) seemed jammed into the book just to qualify for a "literary" touch.
It's difficult being hard criticizing someone's work, but "A Reliable Wife" left me with such a creepy feeling I wanted to find a copy of "Pollyanna" to re-read, to clear my mind of the Goolrick's view of life....more
It's never easy to write a less-than-stellar review, but I'd be leading others to the wrong conclusion by recommending "Cold Case."
Apparently, attornIt's never easy to write a less-than-stellar review, but I'd be leading others to the wrong conclusion by recommending "Cold Case."
Apparently, attorney Barbara Holloway has appeared in 10 other Wilhelm novels, surrounded by a regular cast of characters including her father Frank; co-attorney Shelley and her disfigured husband Alex; an investigator named Bailey; and Barbara's current squeeze Danner and his son. Unlike Sue Grafton, who seamlessly introduces familiar characters whether you're reading her for the first time or the 20th, Wilhelm overwhelms the plot with so many people that the story gets lost in trying to remember who's who.
The book begins when 14-year-old Amy McCrutchen and a friend try to slip into brother Robert's party. Robert drunkenly hits on a pretty acquaintance even though he just proposed to his girlfriend. David Etheridge, a classmate, becomes involved in either protecting the McCrutchen's potential conquest, or using her, as well. As Amy sees it then, and 22 years later, David was a hero that night.
Both men are investigated for murdering the woman, who's strangled not long after the party breaks up. No one is ever arrested for the crime, and the death is forgotten until Robert McCrutchen is murdered 22 years later -- shortly after David Etheridge returns to town to give a talk on a controversial novel he's written.
Barbara Holloway and her supporting cast are hired to defend David, who becomes a prime suspect in both murders, though he's savagely beaten after his talk. Why David becomes the prime suspect in the murders is the biggest mystery of the book. Etheridge's guilt is a slam dunk to the police and even to his attorney Holloway, but I certainly couldn't figure out how he'd get convicted, especially when a much-more obvious suspect appears early in the book.
I made myself finish "Cold Case, though I was thoroughly confused why several, over-described events were included; they had absolutely nothing to do with the plot.
Perhaps if I'd read other books featuring Holloway, I'd have a better feel for why it was necessary to include so many other characters. And though I had no extra information as a reader than Barbara Holloway, I'm truly mystified why I knew who committed the crimes.
I'm glad Kate Wilhelm has a following; I'll just move on to mystery writers that give me more of a thrill.
Thumbs up for my first peek into J.A. Jance's world. This protagonist -- Ali Reynolds -- is a former TV anchor and not-so-young woman (thank you to JaThumbs up for my first peek into J.A. Jance's world. This protagonist -- Ali Reynolds -- is a former TV anchor and not-so-young woman (thank you to Jance), who finishes the Police Academy in Arizona, then discovers the job she's expecting is no longer available.
She doesn't have much time on her hands, despite the job loss, when Brenda Riley, a former anchor on another station, finds Ali, and wants help finding a boyfriend/fiancee she met on the Internet.
Time hasn't been good to Brenda, and Ali has no desire to help her former competitor, but life has a way of producing chaos when you don't need it.
Ali not only finds herself delving into the mystery of the missing fiancee, but has to deal with a younger boyfriend, a pregnant daughter-in-law, and law enforcement types who actually get to carry a badge. Ali gets caught in a whirlwind that involves murder, and more disappearances, when Brenda can't be found.
The charm of this book is in the characters; at the same time, my head spun trying to keep track of everyone and what role they played in this mystery. That said, I'd give Jance's Ali Reynolds another try, hoping so many characters don't fill the pages....more
My friends are growing weary of my raves about this book. But it's hard not to talk about a work so riveting and timely, and so full of twists that itMy friends are growing weary of my raves about this book. But it's hard not to talk about a work so riveting and timely, and so full of twists that it rivals a great suspense novel. As a reader who rarely wanders out of the mystery/thriller genres, it was astonishing that I couldn't put this down until the end.
Like most people, I was aware that James Garfield was assassinated, and remembered the crazed shooter's name. But the attempted murder itself is just one piece of incredible events and people who surrounded this President in 1880. Well-known historical figures like Alexander Graham Bell played a role in Garfield's life and death struggle, as did unknown people like Sen. Roscoe Conkling, a fellow Republican bitter about Garfield's rise to power.
This well-researched work is compelling for providing a vivid snapshot of Garfield, who was a genius, a loving father, a man who advocated for total freedom for slaves and a gentleman farmer basically forced into the Presidency. Had he not succumbed to mistakes by arrogant doctors, Garfield might have been considered one of our greatest Presidents. Detailed scenes about Garfield's wife, his vice president Chester Arthur and his colleague Robert Todd Lincoln (son of another President) flesh out a story that must be read to be believed.
Kudos to author Candice Millard's skill in letting readers view one of the most interesting -- and largely unknown -- periods of history....more
Pleasantly surprised was my reaction to Marcia Clark's foray into crime fiction. I enjoyed her nonfiction book about the OJ Simpson trial, yet I wasn'Pleasantly surprised was my reaction to Marcia Clark's foray into crime fiction. I enjoyed her nonfiction book about the OJ Simpson trial, yet I wasn't sure if she could produce fiction at that level.
Her protagonist DA Rachael Knight works too hard, drinks too much and obsesses too much over a man she chased away. She's hard-headed, though, and ignores directions from her superiors -- especially when she thinks they're not looking in all the right places to solve the cases assigned to the elite Los Angeles Special Crimes Unit where she works.
When squeaky-clean Jake Pahlmeyer, one of her closest friends in the unit, is found dead in a seedy hotel with a young male prostitute he allegedly murdered, Knight is forced to re-examine how well she knew her colleague. The answers disturb her, and send her off on a mission to prove Jake was the man she believed him to be.
With the assistance of a friend she does know well -- LAPD detective Bailey Keller -- the two women endanger their careers and lives by covertly following Jake's case in addition to the caseloads of crimes they're supposed to be solving.
Obviously, Clark knows her way around the court system, but those details are finessed into the story instead of taking away from the personalities she developed for this book. Another colleague in the Special Crimes Unit, Toni, is a ready-and-willing friend to cover for Knight and Bailey.
In Rachael Knight, Clark has created a tougher version of Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone -- with friends. That's high praise, and not an easy feat. Solving the mystery behind Jake's death, as well as a politically charged rape case, remind Prosecutor Keller that crimes are not always as easy to pigeonhole as she'd believed, nor are relationships.
"Guilt By Association" was a good and fun read, even if the emphasis is more on the characters than the crimes. Clark is obviously a good writer, and hooked me with imperfect, believable characters.
I'm looking forward to reading her next book featuring Knight, Keller and the cast of characters she deftly planted in this mystery....more
Since Andrew Gross has a solid fan base, (especially since he co-authored books with James Patterson), I feel less guilty "commenting" on his work.
SiSince Andrew Gross has a solid fan base, (especially since he co-authored books with James Patterson), I feel less guilty "commenting" on his work.
Simply put, "Don't Look Twice" doesn't even qualify as a good beach read. The plot is well-described by the publisher. Detective Ty Hauck and his teenage daughter are grabbing an ice cream cone when a barrage of bullets takes out the store's window, missing them, but killing the the guy standing behind Hauck in line.
Was Hauck the target? The owner of the store? Or as he finds out at the end of a chapter, the victim wasn't just any bystander. Gross writes, "They were staring at a Department of Justice ID."
Chapters later, he ends with this sentence: "She was staring at an automatic gun."
Then later, "She froze. There was $427,000 in it."
This style of writing was great in the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books. But there's a difference between simplicity and thinking your readers are simple-minded.
His overuse of italics to reaaally emphasize a character's dialogue is truly distracting, as are his too-often-used exclamation points.
It doesn't help that the plot isn't that compelling; the characters aren't memorable.
When you find yourself trying to count how many pages don't use italics ... well, I want to be drawn into a plot, not mesmerized by the misuse of punctuation.
If you're a fan of Gross, good for you. At least you're reading. But I don't think I'll be adding his work to my library. The title works for me, though: "Don't Look Twice." I won't. Promise. ...more
A rich housewife strangles the man who attacks her after savagely murdering her daughter. The police arrive, and the housewife discovers that the teenA rich housewife strangles the man who attacks her after savagely murdering her daughter. The police arrive, and the housewife discovers that the teenage girl left in a pool of blood is not her daughter, and the man she believed was about to attack her had actually been stabbed himself, trying to save the girl.
It's then the nightmare really begins. The housewife's daughter Emma is missing; it's her best friend the mother thought she saw beaten and stabbed.
Time for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) to step in because of family connections, annoying an already tense Atlanta Police Department.
Will Trent, a laid-back special agent for the GBI, is teamed with feisty Atlanta detective Faith Mitchell to figure out the not only the motives for the initial murder, but who's who in a mess of crimes. Trent and Mitchell, who appear in other Slaughter novels, make one of the oddest -- and most interesting -- teams in the mystery genre. Both have secrets that affect their work, without ruining their path to untangling the mysteries they're forced to plod through.
Slaughter's genius is making every character -- even secondary and background people -- potential threats to the case. Unlike many writers, Slaughter describes people in ways that make you remember them long after reading the book.
"Fractured" is truly a finish-in-one-sitting read; though the crime is vividly played out in the first pages, it's not until you close the last page that you know what Agent Trent and Detective Mitchell discover ... even if all that ends well is a bit broken.
Haters of Kindles/Nooks/E-readers in general: Kick up your heels. Lane Smith has cleverly defended those of us who prefer to hold a real book in our hHaters of Kindles/Nooks/E-readers in general: Kick up your heels. Lane Smith has cleverly defended those of us who prefer to hold a real book in our hand. The wonderful illustrations in "It's A Book" include a techno-savvy donkey who can't grasp how the written word can be understood without emoticons, electricity or passwords. A literary-loving gorilla patiently describes the wonder -- and simplicity -- of reading without fear of breaking the words, changing them into nonsense or losing the author's meaning. Not only should you add this to your bookcase (if you still have one), but you should buy a copy for anyone who looks at you skeptically when you remind them that a piece of literary art does NOT have the same effect on their (allegedly) glare-free screen. Thanks to Lane Smith, whose work is important -- and far shorter than this review. ...more
Lee Child, Harlan Coben, Karin Slaughter... Larry Brooks has written enough memorable mysteries to join these more-established names on bookshelves. TLee Child, Harlan Coben, Karin Slaughter... Larry Brooks has written enough memorable mysteries to join these more-established names on bookshelves. This literary venture, "Whisper of the Seventh Thunder," is a departure from more traditional mystery/thrillers. His look into unsettling political and religious mysteries should -- at last -- make his name as familiar as better-known writers.
In the beginning, accidental protagonist Gabriel Stone is grieving over his wife and unborn child's death in a plane crash. He'd met wife Lauren 13 years earlier on an island in Greece, where he was researching the visions of St. John, whose words evolved into the Bible's Book of Revelations. Stone was discouraged by friends to tinker with the Bible, even as fiction, but the open-minded Lauren encourages him to finish his version, believing that his sincerity will satisfy any Creator.
Though Lauren dies by page seven, Brooks cleverly inserts her influence into Stone's actions and reactions throughout the book. After just a week of unbearable grief, Stone awakens, furious that Lauren was taken from him. He immediately quits his job in advertising, and uses his anger to feverishly start -- and finish -- the book he's long-envisioned in nine short weeks. Though only one sincere response arrives from 16 queries he sent, one agent promises commercial and financial success beyond his imagination. Stone is overwhelmed by the offer, and prepares to fly to met his publisher.
But before Stone can pack his bags, Brooks deftly switches the book's scenario to the murder of a weightlifter in Washington, D.C. That death, the first of several, has been set in action by a man in glasses with an unclear agenda throughout much of the book.
Brooks smartly keeps the chapters short, creating an honest-to-goodness page-turner. From the mysterious man in glasses who murders on request, to political operatives in Washington, D.C., to Israeli theologists breaking Biblical codes, Gabriel Stone finds himself in the middle of political, religious and philosophical battles that become wars -- once the plot of his book is revealed. But Stone's fear mounts because his book is never published; he'd adamantly refused to comply with the publisher's changes. When the agent and publisher are murdered, Stone realizes that forces beyond his understanding want something from his book; something he's unaware of, but forced to run from.
Don't be tempted to cheat when you start "Whisper of the Seventh Thunder" -- to read the ending or the epilogue will spoil the twists and turns you'll enjoy from beginning to end. Even skipping ahead a chapter or two will ruin a great read. Nothing is as it seems in Brooks' novel, and the goosebumps he produces at the finish will send you back looking for missed clues. In "Whispers of a Seventh Thunder," Larry Brooks has produced a wild ride worthy of attention -- and a second read. ...more
Unlike a lot of reviewers, I loved this 17th Jack Reacher tale. Disclaimer, though: I love reading anything involving the ex-military cop. Lee Child kUnlike a lot of reviewers, I loved this 17th Jack Reacher tale. Disclaimer, though: I love reading anything involving the ex-military cop. Lee Child knows his character so well that fans can anticipate some of Reacher's actions, but still be surprised. In this outing, Reacher is hitchhiking his way through the Midwest to reach Chicago, where he'll grab a bus or train ride to Virginia. He isn't as quick finding a ride this time, because his nose is broken, and he looks a more disheveled than usual. Two men and a quiet, but obviously frightened woman finally pick him up. As long as he gets near Chicago, he's content to hop in the car with anyone.
The trio, as you will expect, is not just a regular group of folks trying to help a guy with his thumb out. When he's finally asked to take a turn driving, he picks up on the woman's desperate method to signal him by blinking her eyes in the rear-view mirror. Jack Reacher might not consider himself a genius, but when it comes to codes and numbers, he's Einstein with OCD. The female passenger manages to let him know that she's a hostage of the dozing -- and gun-toting -- men.
Though the drive through the Midwest's flat and endless highways puts the kidnappers to sleep, the twists in this book will keep readers awake. The twists within twists are believable when Lee Child writes them. He has a way, as well, of ending a chapter making you think you know what's going to happen, but proving you wrong.
People are never who they say they are -- something Reacher knows -- but even he gets thrown for a loop trying to figure out the exact nature of of what plays out once the FBI and the CIA take an interest in his traveling companions.
Like every Jack Reacher novel, I had to finish it in one sitting. Rather than being bored, I again whipped through the pages to see how this book would get him back to where he started ... trying to get a ride to Virginia, in this case.
If only Hollywood could cast SOMEONE not named Tom Cruise to play this huge, not-so-handsome hero, I'd pony up the money to see the movies that could enhance what Child has entertained us with for many years. Jack Reacher, despite his self-described not-so-handsome appearance, looks pretty good figuring out and dismantling a web of lies that could result in more deaths than he saw in the military. ...more
For the longest time, I didn't read Lisa Gardner; I had her wrongfully pegged as a romance writer. As she demonstrates in book after book, there's noFor the longest time, I didn't read Lisa Gardner; I had her wrongfully pegged as a romance writer. As she demonstrates in book after book, there's no romance in the murders that she writes about, and if you think you can peg whodunit, guess again. Familiar characters from later novels are central to this psycho-killer tale; FBI agent Pierce Quincy; ex-small town cop Rainie Connor; and Quincy's daughter Kimberly, who wants to follow in her father's footsteps. Gardner begins with a troubled woman, driving drunk with a handsome boyfriend urging her to take the wheel, despite her confusion. Before she can regain any control of her senses, her lover urges her to speed recklessly, knowing she'll do anything for him. A horrific crash eventually ends her life and immediately that of a man walking his dog, but the killer slips out of the car -- beginning a series of accidents that affect Pierce Quincy in the worst ways possible. The killer wants revenge, and he starts his spree by forcing Amanda Quincy, Pierce's oldest and most vulnerable child to drive head-on into a tree.
Over a year later, when his ex-wife agrees that Amanda is indeed brain-dead, allowing the young woman to be buried, Quincy hires troubled friend and private eye Rainie Connor to start digging into his daughter's death. Too many loose ends have kept him awake since Amanda's "accident."
Quincy is again shocked and outmaneuvered by the murderer, who slowly takes everything and everyone meaningful away from him. Despite his FBI experiences, he realizes it's time to depend on Rainie's smarts, as well as his estranged daughter Kimberly's toughness, to stop a reign of terror.
Suspects come and go, but until the final pages, Jackson cleverly disguises who the murderer is and why Quincy is targeted. The clever killer is hard to unmask. Gardner pulls no punches; the characters are imperfect, but real, and the psychology of being terrorized traumatic. Gardner proved early on that she knows how to keep you reading. "The Next Accident" is an enjoyable, and stay-up-all-night read....more
I've read several of David Baldacci's books, and enjoyed them. "Zero Day," however, isn't one of them. Baldacci's main character -- Army investigatorI've read several of David Baldacci's books, and enjoyed them. "Zero Day," however, isn't one of them. Baldacci's main character -- Army investigator John Puller -- is a dull twin of Lee Child's popular protagonist Jack Reacher. It was surprising to see so many similarities to such a well-known character like Reacher. The first time Puller craved coffee, I thought "Reacher." Aside from a strange (I hope coincidental) similarity to a well-known contemporary character, this book is filled with unnecessary details, unbelievable coincidences and too-obvious messages about topics as far-ranging as protecting the environment to bad behavior caused by health issues. The story begins when Puller is sent to a small West Virginia town to investigate the grisly murder of a military intelligence agent and his family. Puller is forced to work with a hard-nosed female police sergeant Sam Cole who has to deal with sexist officers and a messy personal life. How Puller and Cole discover why the initial murders were committed involves so many twists and unnecessary minor characters, the biggest mystery is how I managed to finish this book. Even if you're a Baldacci fan, I'd stick this mess at the bottom of your "to read" pile....more
I love a good mystery. A good thriller. A novel filled with suspense that keeps me on the edge of my recliner. But all voracious readers need to exploI love a good mystery. A good thriller. A novel filled with suspense that keeps me on the edge of my recliner. But all voracious readers need to explore other genres, and I'm thrilled that "Sabrina's Window" was the book that reminded me I need to expand my reading habits.
Al Riske has packed so much emotional punch in this 217-page slice-of-life novel that I'm still thinking about the people that inhabit the pages. If you don't recognize someone from this book, I'd venture you grew up in a cave. What Al has done is remind us of people and moments we all knew at some point -- but quietly slipped from memory.
A sentence on the back of the advance copy I read simply states "...a 17-year-old paperboy breaks the the window of a 31-year-old hair stylist -- an accident that marks the beginning of an instant, inexplicable bond between them." Whoever wrote that description captured everything and everyone affected by the events of that chance encounter.
Sabrina is not just a hairdresser; she's an artist who now believes her paintings should be shoved in a closet. Joshua is not just a hormone-ridden high school-er; he's a caring young man determined to do the right thing, whether it means working in Sabrina's yard to pay for the window, or working gently and persistently to understand his girlfriend's changing demands.
The people of Taos, New Mexico are not ready to accept Sabrina and Joshua's relationship, since such friendships normally fill hours of tabloid TV programs. But as the story unwinds, people's opinions do change, because it's impossible to ignore the diverse facets of love.
Al's elegant writing style strengthens the book -- his sentences are Hemingway-esque, but tweaked with vivid descriptions. Sabrina doesn't just enjoy driving with a boyfriend, "She liked riding around in his car, a classic '57 Thunderbird convertible, turquoise with a black interior."
That the ending made me smile topped this wonderful novel. Reading it was much like hearing a piece of music. I know I'll read it again, and re-discover the nuances of something beautiful. I look forward to Al's next book, whether it continues with the lives of these characters, or if he can produce others who moved me so much....more