The 20th book in the “Alphabet” series featuring the intrepid Kinsey Millhone, is a very nice addition to the set. It’s also another example of the auThe 20th book in the “Alphabet” series featuring the intrepid Kinsey Millhone, is a very nice addition to the set. It’s also another example of the author taking a slightly different approach to telling the story this time around. We see this right off the bat when the story begins from the third person perspective of a character named “Solana”. The comfort zone that was Kinsey’s first person narrative was not to be…at least until the second chapter when things get back to normal.
Solana is the big bad for the novel; this is not a spoiler because it’s evident right from page one. As such, this novel is far more a “thriller” than a “mystery” for those that like to make such distinctions. Solana chapters are sprinkled throughout the book and as it progresses we learn just what a despicable human being she is. Not content to simply “trespass” on other people’s lives via identity theft, she is capable of much more devious pursuits. It’s intriguing to see some of the same plot points occurring from both Solana’s and Kinsey’s perspectives.
One of the main reasons I enjoy this series is that the books are not repetitive. This is not “Murder, She Wrote” with one murder after another in one small town. Rather, the books are much more realistic in portraying the life of a private investigator, including the many menial tasks they must undertake just to make a living. Besides the major situation facing Kinsey in the form of Solana in this book, Kinsey also engages is some routine process serving and insurance fraud investigation, all of which become interesting subplots in their own right. And the icing on the cake is a somewhat more active role for the loveable character of Kinsey’s landlord and neighbor, Henry Pitts, who turns 88 years old in this novel.
Well that was certainly better than I thought it might be. I wasn’t sure what to expect with such a title but right from the beginning I was pleasantlWell that was certainly better than I thought it might be. I wasn’t sure what to expect with such a title but right from the beginning I was pleasantly surprised. This novel is broken into two parts, the first taking place in 1975 when a somewhat amateurish crew discovers the wreck of the Titanic (the actual discovery took place in 1985) based on some decrypted evidence of gold bullion on board. The second half of the novel takes place in 1995 where an almost entirely different set of characters takes advantage of new technology and techniques to once again go after the rumored crates full of gold bullion on board the wreckage.
The title certainly suggests this to be a horror novel but most of the book is better classified as scientific adventure. I found the science of deep-sea diving and salvage operations in both eras to be quite interesting, and the build-up of suspense on what the characters might find within the hull of the doomed ocean liner was well done. Lots of historical tidbits were included as well. Once the wreckage was reached, there were horror elements introduced which began to drive the plot but even these supernatural reveals were also discussed among the two separate crews in a rather scientific manner…and quite plausibly. The horror, for the most part, was fairly subtle but had huge impacts on the plot. It struck a nice balance that included some moral lessons about greed and guilt.
Interestingly, this novel was written and published only a couple of years before James Cameron’s “Titanic” burst on the movie scene, so at the time of publication I think a reader might have been a bit more intrigued by the wonder and mystery that surrounded the Titanic’s sinking. Today it is hard not to picture scenes from the movie when reading this novel. Nevertheless, I was happy to take a chance on this one and I enjoyed it quite a bit. This author intrigues me so I may just have to seek out more of his work. ...more
Sax Rohmer (pen name of Arthur Sarsfield Ward) wrote five Sumuru novels during the 1950s with Return of Sumuru (published in Britain as “Sand and SatiSax Rohmer (pen name of Arthur Sarsfield Ward) wrote five Sumuru novels during the 1950s with Return of Sumuru (published in Britain as “Sand and Satin”) being the fourth. I always mention that he is more famous for his Fu Manchu novels but I think his Sumuru character is equally as important in the history of the genre. If Fu Manchu represented the Yellow Peril, the terrifying latent power of the East, then Sumuru represented the equally immense power of woman.
The novel does include a brief cameo appearance by Detective Gilligan who has been chasing after Sumuru for the first three books but this time the new protagonist is Dick Carteret who allies with American private detective, Drake Roscoe. Roscoe has a personal interest in this struggle since he was previously one of Sumuru’s victims. The two men work together to try to rescue two women from Sumuru’s formidable and persuasive cult. They are also drawn into another of Sumuru’s current projects, her attempt to gain the enormous wealth of a prominent and powerful member of Egyptian’s ruling regime. It’s all part of Sumuru’s master strategy for world domination.
For those who enjoy reading 1950’s-era novels of mastermind criminals, I urge the reading of the Sumuru novels. ...more
The extraordinary adventures of Ethan Gage continue in this 8th book of the series. Explorer, gambler, diplomat, sharpshooter, electrician, savant, trThe extraordinary adventures of Ethan Gage continue in this 8th book of the series. Explorer, gambler, diplomat, sharpshooter, electrician, savant, treasure hunter, romantic, womanizer, idealist, opportunist. These are all words that Ethan might use to describe himself but would fail to paint the full picture of him. Each of these books has detailed his amazing adventures and just because he now has a family, including a 5-year-old son doesn’t mean he is letting up. In fact, his family seem to augment his powers of getting into tight spots in search of treasure or titles.
The years 1806 and 1807 find Napoleon Bonaparte at the height of his expansionist career and while most of the other books in this series depict Ethan’s interactions with Bonaparte, this time around he does not, at least not directly. Ethan and his lovely wife Astiza, are recruited to steal two Polish swords from the Peter and Paul fortress. But that is just the first adventure, for this book is really a series of at least four adventures, all interconnected. The group travels (or are kidnapped and taken to) a Polish temple, a Transylvanian castle, and to the palace of the ruler of the Ottoman Empire. As expected in these books, intrigue and humor abound. If you’ve ever read any of the Flashman books by George MacDonald Fraser, then you will understand the sort of character that Ethan Gage is.
I am hopeful that there will be more books in this series. This one was independently published by the author who also happens to be a Pulitzer-winning journalist so hopefully sales will reach the appropriate number to make a ninth novel feasible. While this book could act as a satisfactory end to the series, it seems clear that there are a few lessons that Ethan Gage could still stand to learn about the relative values of treasure hunting as compared to a quieter, safer lifestyle. ...more
The sixth and penultimate volume in “The Clifton Chronicles” covers most of the 1970’s and serves to move events along pretty well. By now, readers arThe sixth and penultimate volume in “The Clifton Chronicles” covers most of the 1970’s and serves to move events along pretty well. By now, readers are very familiar with the major characters in the decades-long saga and so what we have here is essentially a grouping of their individual stories that occasionally overlap with the overarching story arcs that keep it all going.
We do finally get some closure to the Anatoly Babakov sub plot and we also get another in the endless Lady Virginia schemes but overall this one seemed to be a little less inspired than the other books in the series. Perhaps the whole thing is simply getting a little long in the tooth or perhaps Mr. Archer is saving a lot of the big whammies for the final volume. As in other books in the series this one does end with a bit of a cliff hanger but not an enormous one as we’ve seen before.
Nevertheless, Jeffrey Archer’s deserved reputation for storytelling is once again on display and I look forward to the final volume to be published later this year. ...more
After the intriguing events of the first novel in the “Millennium Trilogy” (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) the major characters start out this bookAfter the intriguing events of the first novel in the “Millennium Trilogy” (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) the major characters start out this book in a nice place. Life is good and it is time to get back to the more normal challenges of life. Of course things can’t stay that way or we wouldn’t have two more books in the series to enjoy. The plot gets going with magazine publisher Mikael Blomkvist having decided to pursue his next major expose, this time about a sprawling sex-trafficking operation. Meanwhile, hacker extraordinaire and socially challenged Lisbeth Salander is finding good uses for her financial windfall from the first book. A small problem arises when two of Mikael’s business partners are brutally murdered and it just so happens that Salander’s fingerprints are on the murder weapon.
I do believe I actually liked this second book even better than the first. I didn’t feel that way at first because the first quarter of the novel was fairly uneventful. I didn’t mind too much because the author’s writing style is pleasant and I didn’t mind being a voyeur into these character’s everyday lives. But I was starting to grow mildly impatient for the adventure to begin. Once it did though, the book didn’t let up for a second. All the way to the end for a huge cliffhanger. I seem to be running into those a lot lately. This might bother some readers but, fortunately, I already have the next book on the shelf ready to go.
I’m certainly not the first to point out the character of Lisbeth Salander as being one of the most interesting and intriguing in all of literature. The first novel managed to maintain quite a bit of mystery about her history and what sort of childhood traumas she had experienced to result in such an interesting adult…and yet still build her as a sympathetic character. But I was very happy to discover so much of her backstory in this book and see what it was that molded her persona. Lots of surprises here too, all serving the overall development of the plot as well.
Perhaps what made this novel such a good read for me was the author’s ability to tell the story from multiple points of view and yet only reveal small bits of information all the way through. That is a real balancing act to pull off but I always knew what I needed to know. I also realized there was more to learn…and that crushing desire to find out what was actually happening just below the surface led me to that “just one more chapter before bedtime” syndrome.
On to book three as soon as I recover a bit from the adrenaline rush I experienced at the end of this one.
Hopalong Cassidy, iconic western hero of stories and films, is minding his own business, traveling to the violent town of Seven Pines, when he discoveHopalong Cassidy, iconic western hero of stories and films, is minding his own business, traveling to the violent town of Seven Pines, when he discovers two men on the trail—One dead and one severely wounded. He leaves to seek medical assistance but upon his return he finds the wounded man has now been shot through the temple. That’s certainly enough for Hoppy to get involved and find out who would murder the man in cold blood. He hires on as a ranch hand at the Rocking R Ranch and proceeds to investigate in the manner of the sensationalized Ol’ West…meaning lots of gunfights are about to take place. Turns out there a number of factions vying to conquer the territory including rustlers, stagecoach robbers, and villainous gunmen of all kinds.
This is the second of L’Amour’s Hopalong Cassidy novels he wrote under the name “Tex Burns”. They are among his very first novels ever published but even so, this was a pretty decent western. Yes, it had almost every western trope conceivable thrown in but the plot was nicely paced with a lot of interesting characters. The quality of L’Amour’s work would only get better and better but I have been pleasantly surprised by the enjoyment these early novels have brought me. Of the three Hoppy books I've read by L'Amour, this has been my favorite so far. ...more
The “Tales of the Ketty Jay” keep right on rockin’ with this third novel in the four-book series. Even more swashbuckling action, perilous predicamentThe “Tales of the Ketty Jay” keep right on rockin’ with this third novel in the four-book series. Even more swashbuckling action, perilous predicaments, and intriguing characters are packed into this volume than the first two, as hard as that is to believe.
The beginning of the novel finds Darian Frey, captain of the Ketty Jay, and his crew enjoying the fruits of their previous labors and not being chased by anybody, for a change. They are even enjoying a bit of notoriety. That rapidly comes to an end of course, when the crew is hired by Frey’s on-again/off-again girlfriend, Trinica Dracken to seek out and retrieve a lost artifact. When Frey is marked with an ancient curse, it is a full-throttle race to return the artifact and save his life. High stakes indeed.
I really admire the author’s ability to create unique characters and let them play in his world. Very little is predictable here and watching the crew of the Ketty Jay scramble to save their own hides is half the fun. Several of the crew members get well-fleshed out backstories in this volume particularly that of the here-to-fore mysterious engineer, Silo. In many ways, this is his book. I also enjoyed seeing the character of Harkins finally getting a chance at the limelight and succeeding despite all odds, even given his extreme self-doubting personality. The addition of a new crewmember promises interesting problems for the final fourth book still to come. As for Frey himself, he continues to grow towards accepting the meaning of what a leader truly is and what it means to be the leader of a crew that has come to depend on his leadership.
This series has become one of my favorites. Like most others, I wish there were more than four books in the set. At least I still get to experience one more. ...more
Once again, the character of Tenzing “Ten” Norbu has provided me with an excellent mystery story combined with insights into the world of Tibetan BuddOnce again, the character of Tenzing “Ten” Norbu has provided me with an excellent mystery story combined with insights into the world of Tibetan Buddhism. I’ve read a wide variety of mystery and thriller novels but I always point readers to this series to experience an absolutely unique main character and sleuth. He is truly one of the most complex protagonists I’ve encountered but at the same time, one of the most endearing as well.
Tenzing’s fifth rule is “Be mindful, both making and keeping commitments, that they be springboards to liberation, instead of suffering.” That certainly sounds like good advice for anybody and Ten must deal with quite a few situations in this novel that require he be mindful of commitments, not the least of which is facing wedding planning along with his fiancée. The mystery plot is actually three mysteries that seem to be separate and distinct but turn out to be related to one another. Ten’s detective skills, augmented by his Buddhist upbringing allow him to pursue the missing persons’ cases and what appears to be a religious cult situation, while juggling a visit by his childhood friends all the way from Tibet. The plot moved along well and the rich characterization and present day Los Angeles setting made for a nice read.
I do recommend that readers start with the The First Rule of Ten and read the series in order because Tenzing and the other regular characters do grow and change as the books progress. At the very least read the previous volume, The Fourth Rule of Ten before reading this one because some key plot points from that book play a prominent role in this one as well. While the authors do provide some explanation, I think the reading experience is much greater if the books are read in order.
I hope there will be many more Rules of Ten still to come. ...more
The third and final novel of the Bill Hodges trilogy satisfactorily brings the larger story arc to its inevitable conclusion. Everything circles backThe third and final novel of the Bill Hodges trilogy satisfactorily brings the larger story arc to its inevitable conclusion. Everything circles back to the original bad guy, Mr. Mercedes himself, Brady Hartsfield.
I did rank this novel down one star from the first two books in the series. It would seem Mr. King gave up on his original intent to write a straight forward crime/thriller trilogy of novels and throw in some key supernatural stuff, giving the villain psychic and telekinetic abilities. That in itself is OK with me but the ready acceptance of these phenomena by the major characters seemed out of character. In addition there just didn’t seem to be too much new here. I don’t know if Mr. King had always planned for this sort of final novel, but it seems like he didn’t have a solid idea for its plot so reverted back to an easy way out.
Still, I almost always like King’s writing style and this book is no exception. Over the course of the three books I can appreciate how his main characters evolved and how they could simultaneously have flaws and make major mistakes but still be likable. All in all, this one is definitely worth reading, if for no other reason than closing out the larger story of these characters. ...more
Like many other readers, (particularly geeky gamers/fantasy/sf/movie buffs who spent their formative years in the 1980’s like myself), I really, reallLike many other readers, (particularly geeky gamers/fantasy/sf/movie buffs who spent their formative years in the 1980’s like myself), I really, really wanted to like this book. Love it even. Like I did with Mr. Cline’s first novel, Ready Player One. (See my review here)
Alas, it was not to be.
I will resist the temptation to start cataloging all that is wrong with this novel. I can see several prominent reviewers have already done that superbly. While I can appreciate the objectives that the author was working toward, the themes, the settings, etc., I just can’t recommend the final product. It reads like mid-quality fan fiction. I’m sure the author was under tremendous pressure to capture lightning in a bottle once again, as he did with his first novel, but unfortunately, he fell far short. In retrospect, trying to stick with the approach of including every conceivable geeky pop culture reference from gaming, movies, TV shows, etc. that he could cram in there may have been a mistake. Not only did it start to feel forced, it also invited the inevitable comparisons to that first amazingly successful novel once again. And this time, nothing about it was unique anymore.
Despite all of this, the author does have a certain charm with his characters and that came out from time to time during this novel. This is the main reason for my star rating…despite so many flaws, it was still kind of a fun book to read. Whether or not Ernest Cline will remain a one-book wonder, I will reserve judgement. As of now, the jury is still out. ...more