My review of Standing in Another Man's Grave first appeared as a starred review for Shelf Awareness. It can now be viewed in extended version at Jen's...moreMy review of Standing in Another Man's Grave first appeared as a starred review for Shelf Awareness. It can now be viewed in extended version at Jen's Book Thoughts.(less)
LOCKDOWN is the first book in Sean Black's Ryan Lock series and I'm very excited that I don't have to wait a year for the next book - one of the benef...moreLOCKDOWN is the first book in Sean Black's Ryan Lock series and I'm very excited that I don't have to wait a year for the next book - one of the benefits of discovering a series late. This is a fun action-adventure novel with a little bit of everything in it. You can't argue that Lock's a real character when he's knocked out in the first 20 pages. And the shaved head with stitches isn't going to win him People's Sexist Man contest. But he's smart and funny and determined; I think I'm smitten. Lock is never about show; he's about doing the job and doing it right.
Sean Black is equally generous to his female characters. Lock's journalist on again-off again girl friend is an independent, no-nonsense gal. But the female I enjoyed the most in this particular book was the terrorist. There are simply no stereotypes to her character. I wouldn't recommend messing with Sean Black's women.
Black also does a superb job of including the relationship between Lock and Carrie Delaney so that it enhances the novel instead of taking the plot off in unrelated directions. But it's Lock's relationship with Ty Johnson that has the greatest impact on the book for me. Their sharp banter is priceless and the unspoken between them adds just as much to each's character.
The plot is fast-paced. This is a text-book thriller in that sense, but Sean Black puts a unique stamp on the genre in many other ways. (less)
FALLEN is the third book in the "Georgia" series that combined the characters from Slaughter's "Grant County" and "Atlanta" series. In addition to com...moreFALLEN is the third book in the "Georgia" series that combined the characters from Slaughter's "Grant County" and "Atlanta" series. In addition to combining the series, Slaughter has combined all the best elements of her writing to create a captivating, exciting crime novel.
I've always been a fan of Sara Linton. While she's a smart, beautiful woman, she's also awkward and quirky. She can't cook and she loves dogs. There are so many details about her character that draw the dimensions of a real person. Likewise, Will Trent, with his extremely unmasculine chihuahua, dysfunctional marriage and dyslexia, breaks all the stereotypes of the law enforcement hero. These are the kind of characters that make a story rich, that entice readers to engage with that story.
Second only to her characters is Slaughter's ability to tell a good story. The plot is action-packed with strong twists that add to the layers of complexity and keep the reader turning pages - or in my case they kept me listening to the audio. Bad things happen in Karin Slaughter's books; that's no secret, but her novels also drive the reader to seek justice for the characters.
The final element that is a definite stand-out in FALLEN, as all of Slaughter's novels before this, is the author's humor. She incorporates a dark, kind of dry humor that catches the reader off guard at times. It works to create Slaughter's signature style and adds to the enjoyment of the novels(less)
I've been a fan of Michael Koryta's almost as long as I've been reading crime fiction. When Koryta branched out to try his hand with the supernatural,...moreI've been a fan of Michael Koryta's almost as long as I've been reading crime fiction. When Koryta branched out to try his hand with the supernatural, I followed despite the fact that it wasn't my cup of tea. His work in this area intrigued me and captivated me, due in large part to the qualities that make him such a fabulous crime writer as well. He tells a superb story with fascinating, well-developed characters. However, when asked what my favorite work of his was, I always went back to his second crime novel, SORROW'S ANTHEM, followed closely by ENVY THE NIGHT. Until now.
THE RIDGE is the work of an exceptionally talented story teller coming into his own. The richness of the characters, the depth of the symbolism, the strength of the atmosphere all combine to suck the reader into Koryta's world. You fall down his rabbit hole and land in a world you logically know doesn't exist, but the reality of what you experience convinces you otherwise.
Whether writing in first person, or as in THE RIDGE from third person, Koryta allows his reader to intimately understand the mind of his protagonist, which in turn helps a bond form between reader and character. Now the reader is invested. Kevin Kimble is no different. What makes THE RIDGE different is Koryta's inclusion of the big cats and their roles as characters. Each cat is distinct with its own personality. Symbolically, those cats begin to have parallels to their human counterparts.
The lighthouse, featured prominently on the novel's cover, is also an important symbol. Koryta plays tug-of-war with good and evil - light and dark, leaving both sides covered in the mud of ambiguity.
With these elements of depth, the plot can't help but be multi-layered. Surfacely, Koryta had constructed an entertaining plot with well-timed twists and exciting action. Below that is a look into the human condition. The phrase "bound by balance" is repeated throughout the novel, and Roy Darmus, a reporter, tells Kimble, "You must be able to believe in a great evil." These underlying symbols and themes lodged themselves in my brain and still tumble around, demanding me to pay attention.
There are so many incredible strengths to this novel, but the one I believe holds them all together, like a tendon in the body, is Koryta's beautiful demand of the language. So often I will stop and simply marvel at the construct of a sentence, at how a simple compilation of words can create such a powerful effect:
"She took her seat again, and he pulled up a plastic chair that screeched coming across the floor and sat beside her. Not all the way at the opposite end of the table, but not too close either. Purgatory distance."
I was caught off guard the first time I read this passage, having to re-read it several times. But it wasn't until I came back to the passage after finishing the book that I could appreciate all the nuances and meaning packed into it. Koryta is an author who demands re-reading to completely appreciate everything nestled into his work.
Koryta has built upon his strengths in THE RIDGE, making this his most powerful novel to date. Now when people ask me what my favorite book of Koryta's is, I'm going to have to answer THE RIDGE(less)
Inspector Benedict "Ben" Devlin has a babysitting assignment in GALLOWS LANE. James Kerr has been released from jail and Devlin's superintendent, Cost...moreInspector Benedict "Ben" Devlin has a babysitting assignment in GALLOWS LANE. James Kerr has been released from jail and Devlin's superintendent, Costello, wants Kerr to stay in Northern Ireland. Devlin's job is to convince him to do so. However, Kerr has a mission. He needs to see "a man" to get something "off his chest." Then he'll be gone, he assures Devlin. But shortly thereafter people start dying unnaturally. Kerr is the prime suspect until he is crucified on Gallows Lane. Devlin is determined to stop the carnage, especially when his family is in danger.
GALLOWS LANE is a complex police procedural that has equal parts psychological action and physical action. Devlin battles internally with what is right and what is wrong as his wife challenges his loyalty to their family. She believes he selfishly puts their family in harms way for the glory of his job. While Devlin struggles with this internally, externally he's faced with knowledge of a corrupt colleague vying for promotion as well as his own unlawful act performed in an effort to secure justice.
McGilloway's style is magnetic. His sharp, crisp dialogue flows naturally and often accompanied by dry humor. The development of the characters is superb. Devlin is in many ways the classic crime fiction detective and in other ways uniquely McGilloway's creation.
GALLOWS LANE doesn't move like a thriller novel, instead the reader moves along more like the convicts who once walked the road: slowly, analyzing each step of their lives and how those steps brought them to this point. As readers experience Devlin's psychological struggles, they will likely find it difficult not to question what their own decisions would be and then realize they would struggle no less than Devlin. Beware of GALLOWS LANE, McGilloway may very well get inside your head and start moving around those "truths" you've held locked inside.
GALLOWS LANE is the second book in the Inspector Devlin series. I look forward to more from McGilloway and his troubled inspector. (less)
When Stella Hardesty couldn't take the physical abuse her husband doled out anymore, she fought back. That left her with an inherited sewing shop and...moreWhen Stella Hardesty couldn't take the physical abuse her husband doled out anymore, she fought back. That left her with an inherited sewing shop and a reputation. She took on her second job to help other woman in abusive situations. Since her moonlighting job isn't official, she's able to work outside the letter of the law if a situation demands it. Stella has to do just that when Chrissy Shaw believes her husband Roy Dean ran off with her son. And in this particular case, playing outside the law results in a little more than Stella bargained for. If Stella can finagle herself and Chrissy out alive, she may encounter some potential waves, however, with the handsome sheriff, Goat Jones.
There's a new spitfire in town; her name is Stella Hardesty. And there's a new crime fiction star in town; HER name is Sophie Littlefield. A BAD DAY FOR SORRY is an amazing debut novel. Littlefield blends creative humor, fast-paced action and stellar characters together, adds just a pinch of romantic spark, and the result is explosive!
As Stella so eloquently enlightens the no-good Roy Dean, "...badass comes in all ages." Stella is in her 50s, spunky, funny and done taking crap from anyone. While she covets that "badass" reputation, she also harbors an amazing capacity for compassion. Littlefield illustrates Stella's extremes through independence, too. As a reader I appreciate a strong, smart, independent female protagonist. But even the strongest of any gender needs a little help every once in awhile. Stella doesn't need a "white knight" but she can definitely benefit from a "helping hand" once and again. Stella is a character who is going to surprise readers for years to come.
Littlefield definitely has a knack with humor: finding the funny in everyday situations and everyday people. That's a big part of what makes this book come alive. From the crew at BJ's Bar to her teenage neighbor, Todd, to the crotchety old quilters; they are all dynamic and flawed and real; it's the richness of those characters that winds its way into the plot to meld everything together. Littlefield created a symbiotic relationship between the characters, the setting and the plot; the elements of this novel simply don't exist separately.
A BAD DAY FOR SORRY is a masterpiece, and only the beginning for both new gals in town. (less)
Remington James is a successful but unhappy advertising executive when his father dies. He returns to his hometown to run his father's store and care...moreRemington James is a successful but unhappy advertising executive when his father dies. He returns to his hometown to run his father's store and care for his mother who is dying of MS. While he is home, he decides to pick up the hobby, the passion, he gave up years ago, wildlife photography. He has set trap cameras in the woods of the Apalachicola River Basin in hopes of maybe catching the elusive Florida panther. As he is out taking pictures and checking his traps one evening, he discovers that he has caught not the panther on his camera, but a murder. And now the murderers are hunting Remington through the pitch black of the Florida woods.
If readers want to read DOUBLE EXPOSURE surfacely and minimally, they are in for a heart-pounding thriller. Lister's written a tight plot that doesn't allow one to slow down for even a second, just like his protagonist.
Lister created a powerful effect by being a minimalist in this novel. His protagonist is a photographer out taking pictures in the woods. Lister's prose mimics that process so you can hear the camera shutter click as you read:
Evening. Glow. Dark figures. Shot. Explosion. Bloom of blood. Body dropping to the cold ground. Death. Digging. Fire.
And Lister's setting development carries you smack into the middle of Remington's Eden that is horrifically transformed into his Hell all in the course of one night. Remington reminds himself to "Use your senses. All of them." And Lister helps the readers to use their senses, all of them. Whether they are seeing the beauty of the landscape or the nightmare of a murder. Whether they are hearing life, or feeling fear. Readers will definitely be in the woods with Remington James on the most terrifying night of his life. But they'll have to listen carefully to hear nature's sounds over the thumping of their own hearts.
If you want to delve deeper, you will find a complex interweaving of theme, plot, character and setting that results in a magical reading experience. Remington is almost a unique character in crime fiction in that he comes from a functional family. His parents loved him and he loved his parents; while Remington doesn't seem conscious of it, the reader quickly learns that both parents taught him skills that made him a great man.
And of course, nature is a prominent theme as well as a symbol in DOUBLE EXPOSURE. The dark of night is essential to build up the suspense, but it plays a role also in the idea that man is destroying nature. So Remington's manic race is not just a race for his life, but a race for nature. Can they both make it out alive?
Duffy Dombrowski is back for Round Three in OUT COLD by Tom Schreck. This time Duffy's taken a hard hit in sparring that knocked him unconscious. Inst...moreDuffy Dombrowski is back for Round Three in OUT COLD by Tom Schreck. This time Duffy's taken a hard hit in sparring that knocked him unconscious. Instead of listening to his trusted trainer, Smitty, he sneaks off to another gym and takes a second lights-out blow. Maybe these blows are why Karl, Duffy's schizophrenic client, doesn't sound so crazy to Duffy when he starts running on about a government conspiracy to keep Americans afraid. Despite everyone's advice to the contrary, Duffy teams up with a "guy who...wore a Redskins helmet and meditated in the nude." They are off to fight domestic terrorism. And of course, Al the basset hound tags along for the ride.
If you can read this book without laughing until your sides hurt, I do believe you were born without a funny bone. Schreck is an absolute genius: he reels the reader in with irresistible humor and endearing characters then slips in a plot comprised of multiple social issues the reader can't help but latch on to. If mixed together incorrectly, this combination has the potential to be a lethal concoction, but Schreck's recipe stirs in just the right amount of each ingredient for a delicious read.
In college I remember a classmate asking the question during an English class discussion, "if a schizophrenic is alone on an island, is he still a schizophrenic?" I couldn't help but recall that question as I read OUT COLD. In each of Schreck's novels he challenges society's belief about an "outcast" group; in OUT COLD, Schreck is challenging the reader to closely examine his/her beliefs about people deemed to be "crazy." In addition, he's calling attention to the government's tactics to gain support through fear. Schreck never lays out clear cut answers to these issues, rather he reminds the reader that these issues aren't simply "black" or "white" like so many people would prefer them to be.
I simply cannot deem a book "great" if it doesn't have amazing characters. The Fearsome Foursome are hysterically funny and a reminder not to sweat the small stuff. I find myself looking for them in the corner bar. I'm also convinced that one day I'm going to run into Duffy Dombrowski and learn that Schreck is writing non-fiction, not fiction novels. Schreck has created an entire cast of characters that the reader could probably identify in his or her own life.
And the real star, Al the basset hound, is crafted from Schreck's own experiences with the breed. Al's mannerisms and personality are all basset, true to the bone. Al contributes to the humor as well as to the development of other characters. He is a priceless element of this series.
The Duffy Dombrowski series is a rare combination of entertainment and challenge. Go ahead; jump in the ring with Duffy because OUT COLD is another knock out for Tom Schreck.(less)