Reading "Altar of Bones" by Philip Carter was like reading a two-hour movie of the week. It's got everything you could want in a fast-paced action-oriReading "Altar of Bones" by Philip Carter was like reading a two-hour movie of the week. It's got everything you could want in a fast-paced action-oriented novel, including car chases, assassination attempts, exposed conspiracy theories, riddles, potentially supernatural elements, sexual tension, good guys, bad guys, (and sometimes you aren't sure which is which)...you get the idea. Everything but the kitchen sink is thrown at you leading to a page-turning read.
"Philip Carter" is a pseudonym for an internationally renowned author. I'm not sure who it is yet but this book is obviously not a first attempt by a new author. The two main characters, while not showing National Book Award level characterization, (who would want that in a thriller book anyway?) are well drawn and for the most part, I cared what happened to them. I did have some issues with the secondary characters. There are quite a few of them and they tended to be a bit one-dimensional. Perhaps a little more characterization with fewer supporting characters might be preferable. My favorite thriller novels always have fantastic bad guys and I felt this novel fell a little short in that regard, thus knocking it down one star but still, I enjoyed this one a lot. ...more
This is the sequel to The Other Side of Midnight and a worthy sequel all round. While the first was published in 1973, it wasn't until 1990 that thisThis is the sequel to The Other Side of Midnight and a worthy sequel all round. While the first was published in 1973, it wasn't until 1990 that this sequel was published. And since the first could have easily stood alone, I feel sure the author bowed to reader and publisher demand to provide a follow-up. Often that scenario ends in disaster for the second book but that's not the case here.
This is basically a book of double-crossing. I mean everybody double and triple crosses everybody else in this story and so the fun of reading it becomes trying to figure out just how it's going to be done. One of the main characters from the first book is back, Catherine Alexander, but unfortunately, she is the patsy for all the other characters and batted about like a ping pong ball throughout the plot. For those readers of the first book who were left unfulfilled because not all story lines were fully resolved or for those that needed to have justice for the "bad" guys, then this is a must read.
I had not yet read any of the author's previous work so was excited to see if I now had a "new" author to follow. I've read numerous "thriller" novelsI had not yet read any of the author's previous work so was excited to see if I now had a "new" author to follow. I've read numerous "thriller" novels, no matter how you define that term, and have long been wary of trying new authors because there just seems to be so many that write by some perceived formula for "success". That's not always bad as I do like a good adrenaline rush as much as the next guy, as long as there are the other aspects of a good novel (like well written characterization, proper plotting, setting, etc.)
I am pleased to report that this novel is, indeed, very well written and offers taught plotting and excellent characterization. As others have mentioned, the first part of the book requires paying close attention to make sure you understand the many different characters and what their roles/motivations might be. I won't rehash the plot here as that has been done well by other reviewers but suffice it to say it's a plot that is not only plausible in today's political world, but even likely. Some reviewers refer to a "stream of consciousness" approach to the story-telling but don't let that dissuade you. The author uses present tense throughout but, in my mind, that simply reinforces the here-and-now urgency of the plot and serves to suck you in to the story.
I would have awarded 5 stars except for a small feeling of dissatisfaction with the way certain plot elements were resolved. Chalk that up to my need to witness events instead of being told about plot climaxes that occur off-stage. Other than that, a most satisfying reading experience and, indeed, I do now have a "new" author to follow. ...more
It took a few of these stories for them to start to grow on me. I guess I am more used to the type of stories with twists in them that Jeffrey ArcherIt took a few of these stories for them to start to grow on me. I guess I am more used to the type of stories with twists in them that Jeffrey Archer writes. But there were still a lot of good ones in here. The last two stories in the collection were particularly good. "Ninety-eight Point Six" was a more typical twisted story. I knew right from the beginning who the twist would revolve around (the one that seemed the most innocent). However, the how of it was a nice surprise. The final entry in the collection, "A Nice Place to Visit" was a bit of a departure from the other stories. It was much darker and more brutal than the other stories. Perhaps that is why this was selected for the final piece of the book. The twists kept coming in this one, almost too many because it became a bit difficult to follow. I did enjoy it though and was very happy with the conclusion.
So overall the second half of the book really saved this collection. At this point I would definitely read more of Mr Deaver's short stories. I'm not so sure about his longer works with his signature character Lincoln Rhymes. It's not because I don't think I would enjoy them but rather because I already have a lot of authors in the thriller genre with on-going series...I can't keep up as it is. But who knows?...more
A nicely done thriller that combines a well-conceived plot involving the Nazi's stolen artwork and a myriad of characters trying to sort out that mystA nicely done thriller that combines a well-conceived plot involving the Nazi's stolen artwork and a myriad of characters trying to sort out that mystery while at the same time solve some murders associated with the lost treasure. The Paris setting seems to be getting a lot of attention in various reviews and, indeed, it is obvious the author is very familiar with Paris as well as Sarasota Florida, the other setting of the novel.
I did knock it down one star though for characterization. The author does a fine job in the mechanics of writing: plot, setting, pacing, and so forth but sometimes the novel comes across as "reporting". There are quite a few information dumps as the story does require that we readers understand a lot of historical material. So we have to get that information somehow. And, to his credit, the author does often relay that information pretty well...in dialog for example. But somehow I never felt like I really got to know the main characters as well as I wanted to. This is sort of nit-picky as I certainly did enjoy the overall novel. Some good action sequences balanced nicely with intrigue, romance, and historical flashbacks....more
I've wanted to get back to Alistair MacLean for a number of years now and just haven't done it. Admittedly, this particular MacLean novel may not haveI've wanted to get back to Alistair MacLean for a number of years now and just haven't done it. Admittedly, this particular MacLean novel may not have been the best place to start. Reportedly, it is the last novel he wrote and was published just a year before his death.
"Santorini" is the name of a small island off the coast of Greece in the Aegean Sea. The plot seems a little backward for what one would expect from a mystery/thriller. By that I mean, we pretty much know what is going on and who are the bad guys very early on and so there is never much suspense building up. I kept wondering how things would change up and show that what we thought was happening was really happening at all. But no change. It's a more cerebral MacLean book than I remember from the handful of other books I've read by him. That would be OK but the style and the plot seemed ho hum and lacked energy.
Another thing I noticed: too often, the protagonists seemed smug and fully confident that they had anticipated and defused any threats from the bad guys. Annoying and it made it hard to route for them in some scenes.
But even with these negative observations, I still enjoyed the book overall. But the next one I read of his will be one of his earlier works, usually regarded as his better stuff....more
There are times when I'm glad I have a long commute to and from work that allows me lots of time to listen to audio books. This was one of those occasThere are times when I'm glad I have a long commute to and from work that allows me lots of time to listen to audio books. This was one of those occassions because had I not listened to this novel over a two week period and instead tried to read it at my normal pace, I think I would have a less favorable opinion of it.
I've been a big fan of Nelson DeMille and have read most of his published works. This particular novel is a sequel to "The Gold Coast", a novel that the author himself states was a departure from his normal espionage or Cold War novels that he had published so far. "The Gate House" takes place ten years later but was written 18-19 years after the first one which I suspect makes it doubly difficult to pull off. I've read other reviews of this one and can't really blame readers who think this is one of DeMille's lesser achievements because of the very nature of the story. It is told from the first person POV and coming in at over 800 pages as it does, well...that can be an awful lot of one man's view of the world.
So yes, it does tend to drag through the first 90% of the novel. We get what seems to be way too many details on day-to-day life of the main characters but in retrospect I can see how much necessary character development was going on. John Sutter, the protagonist and POV character, despite first appearances, is a very complicated character and we really do have to see the world through his eyes to understand how he changes through the novel and how he resolves the situation at the end. And of course, when you have wealthy Long Islanders intermixing with mafia dons, with a set of nasty in-laws thrown in, you get an interesting situation that is fascinating to watch unfold. Both novels can be seen as "The Great Gatsby meets The Godfather".
But as I said, reading the novel might be just too draggy while listening to it was, for me, an enjoyable time with a more "literary" experience than I normally associate with Nelson DeMille....more
This 4th novel in the Bob Lee Swagger series seems to be universally regarded as the worst in the series. Readers who choose this one to sample HunterThis 4th novel in the Bob Lee Swagger series seems to be universally regarded as the worst in the series. Readers who choose this one to sample Hunter’s work are often baffled at why he and his characters are so popular and even long time readers of this series often recommend skipping it entirely.
I don’t feel quite so negative as that, however. This is certainly an uncharacteristic representative of the series but I like it when an author is comfortable with his characters and is willing to take risks with them. For some, this departure just didn’t work but I actually enjoyed it pretty well and saw it as a logical progression of the Bob Lee character.
So what’s so different? The plot starts similarly to other novels in the series with Bob Lee minding his own business on his spread in Idaho. He is approached with a request to find and return an ancient sword to the son of a Japanese officer who was on the opposing side of a World War 2 battle involving Earl Swagger, Bob Lee’s medal-of-honor winning father. Previous novels have always thrust Bob Lee into situations beyond his control, demanding a response (usually an extremely lethal response) even though he simply wants to be left alone to enjoy his well-deserved retirement. Here, he enthusiastically accepts the task and allows it to become his personal quest, due to reasons that are not fully explained until the final chapters of the book.
His journey takes him to Japan and back and events lead him to convert his honorable quest into a personal vendetta. He undertakes a deep dive into all things Samurai, learning from books, movies, magazines, etc. and eventually even learns the martial arts associated with becoming a Samurai warrior. This, I feel sure, is where the book falls apart for many readers. Not only is Bob Lee getting a massive info dump on Japanese culture (spread over many chapters), but so do we readers, often to the detriment of the progression of the plot. And the idea that any person, even one with the incredible warrior mentality and experience of Bob Lee Swagger, can become an effective Samurai warrior in such a short time is indeed asking a huge suspension of disbelief on the part of the reader.
But despite all of that I enjoyed the book. I may have been able to enjoy it more than others due to the fact that I listened to the audio version and I found the voice talent of Mr. Buck Schirner to be perfect for the voices, particularly the many Japanese characters. He depicted Bob Lee’s southern drawl so that he seemed like a dumb hick when Bob Lee wanted to sound that way. But he was also able to voice him effectively as a masterful strategizer and tactical military leader at those appropriate times as well. Quite an amazing job.
So my recommendation is for readers to not start the series with this one but for regular readers of the series to definitely skip it either. Overall I liked it despite its flaws. ...more
"Djibouti" is Elmore Leonard's most recent published novel. I've read four previous books by Mr. Leonard but all of them were from his early days when"Djibouti" is Elmore Leonard's most recent published novel. I've read four previous books by Mr. Leonard but all of them were from his early days when he wrote Westerns. I also listened to an audio book last year which was more of a crime thriller set in the 1930s. This book is the first I've read of his that is set in the present day even though that is what he is primarily known for. In point of fact, I have a long way to go if I want to read all of this author's output, this being the 44th book he has written and published.
Elmore Leonard is a master of dialog. He has said that if a piece of dialog sounds like writing, then he re-writes it. It naturally follows that his characters are incredibly real as well. They really do leap off the page, much like you are watching a movie instead of reading a book. This is all true in Djibouti, as well, with the main character, Dara Barr, a young but successful documentary film maker, becoming interested in all of the news reports a couple of years ago about the pirates off the coast of Somalia preying on merchant ships. Together with her 72-year old camera man, they set off to Djibouti to document the activities of the pirates. It isn't long, however, until they get mixed up with al-Qaeda terrorists.
Mr. Leonard reportedly writes his novels from the characters' point-of-view...but he makes up the plot as he goes along. That usually works just fine but in this case, unfortunately, it doesn't. The story meanders all over the place, albeit with great characters. The thriller aspect of the plot is diminished considerably because many of the scenes are of the two lead characters reviewing footage of film they shot earlier. So we lose the danger factor...they obviously survived in order to be viewing the tape. I also thought their reactions to be too subtle to be real. Several instances where they've just witnessed a man shot to death (in one case five men shot and killed) are greeted with nonchalance. They are cool customers but they seemed a little too cool.
Still, I do tend to be hard on writers that I think are very good writers so please take my comments with a grain of salt. Elmore Leonard's style is right up there with the great ones and it's hard to go wrong with one of his novels. ...more
The book was published in Britain in 2008, and is just now being published in the US. The author is an Afrikaner himself and this is the translated veThe book was published in Britain in 2008, and is just now being published in the US. The author is an Afrikaner himself and this is the translated version from the original Afrikaaner version. Hats off to the translators I must say because you'd never know this book is not in the original language. There are a number of local terms used, but always italicized and never used such that you can't determine their meaning from the context of the sentence. I particularly enjoyed the plot elements surrounding the vulture sanctuary project and various anti-poaching efforts taking place.
The story revolves around Lemmer, a bodyguard assigned to protect a young woman, Emma, who is in danger. Lemmer is a complicated character, with a convoluted past that is slowly revealed throughout the course of the novel. The first part of the book is a fairly straight-forward mystery as Lemmer follows Emma in her attempts to locate her brother, a man most people thought was dead for these past 20 years. Mr Meyer uses an interesting writing tool in the book: most of it is written in 1st person POV (Lemmer) but parts of it are written in 3rd person. That has potential to be intrusive in the narrative thread but here it works great.
The second part of the story turns everything on its head. It's absolutely delightful to read a thriller/mystery that is unpredictable and also includes multi-dimensional characters that you come to care about. Add to that a smart dialogue, humerous yet real, and you've got a real page-turner on your hands....more
This is one of those books that is written to the lowest common denominator. Lots of sexy situations, and characters that have complex backgrounds andThis is one of those books that is written to the lowest common denominator. Lots of sexy situations, and characters that have complex backgrounds and yet are curiously one dimensional. The plot was fairly predictable but filed with way too many convenient coincidences just so it would turn out the correct way.
Still, it kept my interest to the end. However, I suspect that I won't remember much about it next week....more
A well-written short story about a suburban couple who must face a home invasion. The husband also happens to be a criminal defense attorney which leaA well-written short story about a suburban couple who must face a home invasion. The husband also happens to be a criminal defense attorney which leads to an interesting twist. My only complaint is that I wish it were a bit longer...
Ethan Jones has become one of my go-to authors, whether for short stories or full-length novels....more