NORTHWEST ANGLE transports you to Lake of the Woods, a huge, wild body of water, dotted with hundreds of small islands on the border between the U.S....moreNORTHWEST ANGLE transports you to Lake of the Woods, a huge, wild body of water, dotted with hundreds of small islands on the border between the U.S. and Canada. Krueger steadily ramps up the suspense, while weaving in a story of personal growth and discovery,courage under fire and the struggle to affirm one's faith in the face of adversity. Although Krueger's strong sense of place fills the senses, his characters are also well drawn, if ever-so-gently stock. My only complaint might be a plus for some readers. I round the overt message of the power of prayer a bit heavy-handed at times. Although, to be fair, Krueger also puts the religious characters at odds with several non-believers. He also does a good job of pointing out the immense potential for evil when religion is used to reinforce bigoted and paranoid points-of-view. Although I didn't like this book quite as much as VERMILLION DRIFT I think it's still worth a read for those who want to spend time in a world they may never have a chance to visit in person. (less)
Savages by Don Winslow is nothing if not explicit. Explicitly violent, explicitly sexual and explicitly, one of the most entertaining books I’ve read...moreSavages by Don Winslow is nothing if not explicit. Explicitly violent, explicitly sexual and explicitly, one of the most entertaining books I’ve read this year. While some writers use words like paint on a canvas, dabbing on a color here and another there and layering in thicker textures where needed, Winslow sculpts books, using words as the raw material to create fiction that is not only a treat for the imagination, but a feast for the eyes. From the two words that comprise chapter one “***k you.”, to taut passages of traditional narrative, character illuminating dialogue and even snatches of the story scripted as a screenplay, Winslow uses the page to carve out mental pictures that stay with you long after you’ve finished reading them. I’ve long admired Winslow for creating unique voices for his characters and with Savages he’s amped it up to 13, as Nigel says in This is Spinal Tap. Chon is a former Navy Seal who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, hired out as a mercenary and came home to Orange County with what his friend and lover O calls “baditude.” He craves action, hoards words and is deeply cynical about the American Dream. O, short for Ophelia or Orgasm, depending on who you ask, is the daughter of PAQU a totally SOC R & B. The second acronym stands for South Orange County Rich and Beautiful. I’ll let you discover the meaning of the first for yourself. She loves sex, food, shopping, reality television and smoking primo bud with her BFF’s and lovers Chon and Ben. A pacifistic “green” idealist, Ben converts the money he makes growing and selling the highest quality marijuana in California into schools, food and medical care for children in third world countries. You experience this generation why-not love triangle and a suspense-packed encounter with the dark forces of the Baja, California drug cartels from Ben, Chon and O’s unique points of view. Plus Winslow brings in the perspective of other players in the narcissistic Southern California “me” culture and the ruthless Mexican narcotraficantes. Ultimately, this is a story about the agonizing moral decisions life forces people to make in the name of friendship and survival. It is rich, textured and often laugh out loud funny. If you buy it, and I hope you do, here’s a warning. You’ll be turning pages nonstop until your bedmate groans and snarls at you to “turn out your light and go to sleep for God’s sake.” Banished from the bedroom by my wife and two dinky dogs (one of whom actually bared her teeth at me), I finished Savages on the couch, wrapped in the world’s rattiest bathrobe, while eating a still-ice-crusted scone pillaged from the freezer, washed down with Jack Daniels mixed into chocolate milk. Pretty much your perfect evening. (less)
My wife and I planning an oft-postponed trip to the U.K. next fall. We’ll probably pass on the major tourist attractions (look, kids, Big Ben, Tower o...moreMy wife and I planning an oft-postponed trip to the U.K. next fall. We’ll probably pass on the major tourist attractions (look, kids, Big Ben, Tower of London), opting instead to visit some of the places we’ve already toured via the books of many of our favorite British, Scottish and Irish mystery authors. From Sherlock Holmes’s dank and foggy moors to the seedy underbelly of the Edinburgh prowled by Inspector Rebus and the lofty haunts of the murderous professors of Morse’s and Lewis’s Oxford, we’ll keep busy while eating our fish and chips from newspaper cones and washing it down with a pint of bitters or a spot of tea.
But when it comes to London, Ben Aaronovitch’s MIDNIGHT RIOT will act as our tour book. His young mixed-race protagonist Peter Grant is on his way to a grim future of pushing paper for the Metropolitan Police when he discovers a heretofore hidden talent. He can see dead people. When Peter goes to the scene of a bizarre murder he encounters a witness who last walked the streets of the city more than a century ago. The clue this deceased busker provides leads to Peter being recruited by the dapper Chief Inspector Nightingale, London’s last living wizard to help investigate a case that defies ordinary logic.
What follows is a wild ride into some forgotten corners of London and the environs, encounters with a vicious killer who disassembles his victims faces and a territorial war between the Gods and Goddesses who are incarnations of the Thames and its tributaries. The supernatural pandemonium comes to a head during a night at the opera that its musicians, patrons and the readers will not soon forget.
Midnight Riot is a bit of a tongue-in-cheek potshot at those who may take the whole spooky-creepy-ghosty-vampirey thing ever-so-gently too seriously. It is, in turn, LOL funny, thought provoking and habit-forming. As you would expect from someone who wrote for DOCTOR WHO, Aaronovitch provides plenty of witty asides and amusing cultural references. I was especially fond of one involving my favorite catch phrase from the crude and wickedly funny BLACK ADDER television series.
While in the London area, I’ll visit St. Paul’s Church (not cathedral), The Royal Opera house, the headwaters of the Thames and many of the other locations Aaronovitch uses as backdrops for Midnight Riot. And with any luck I’ll have another of his books to read back at the hotel. (less)
When that ‘effing Flowers (as his peers in the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension refer to him) is sent to the small Minnesota community of Butternut Fal...more
When that ‘effing Flowers (as his peers in the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension refer to him) is sent to the small Minnesota community of Butternut Falls to investigate a serial bomber, it becomes personal in a hurry for Virgil. Innocent people are dying in what looks like a crusade to prevent a mega-store from opening. Angry and hostile opponents claim it will decimate the small business community and pollute the nearby fertile fishing streams. Virgil Flowers has to use his charm, wit and investigative savvy to find out who, in a town filled with suspects, is planting the bombs. And he needs to hurry before the next one goes off under him.
Sandford, among suspense writers is, in my opinion, the best at creating beleivable yet larger-than-life characters. Virgil Flowers is an equal mix of good-old-boy and deep-thinking philosopher who views the world with a cynical but hopeful eye. He fishes religiously and lives on junk food, yet spends time every night thinking about God and the nature of our existence. Not only does Sandford excel in creating protagonists we can root for, but his touch with the secondary players in his novels is deft. Several in this book stand out, including the tycoon who wants to build a Pye-Mart story in every town in America and a smart, funny, testosterone-infused high school kid named Thor.
Shock Wave is funny, heart-poundingly suspenseful and packed with small insights about the American way of life. Do yourself a favor and read it soon. (less)
So I came home last night after making a few extra post-retirement buck dealing poker at a company party exhausted. It was nearly 11pm, several hours...moreSo I came home last night after making a few extra post-retirement buck dealing poker at a company party exhausted. It was nearly 11pm, several hours past my normal bedtime and I was faced with one of life's impossible choices. Fall into bed and begin snoring immediately, or finish THE FOURTH WATCHER, another of Tim Hallinan's addictive as pistachio nuts Bangkok thriller. Guess which I chose. I finished about 1am and realized I'd never be able to sleep with his adrenaline-juiced climax, bigger than life characters and humidity-dripping corrupt-to-the-core city imprinted on my mind screen. I finally drifted off after pondering the themes Hallinan handles so well: the true meaning of family; the nature of evil and the polka-dotted elephant in our personal closet, our past. Timothy Hallinan writes a thinking person's page-turner and I for one can't wait to read the next one. (less)
Usually a book that's episodic will turn me off and I'll put it down early. Not so with Brian Doyle's Mink River. The story charmed me and drew me in...moreUsually a book that's episodic will turn me off and I'll put it down early. Not so with Brian Doyle's Mink River. The story charmed me and drew me in from page one and despite the fact there really wasn't a discernible plot line running through it, he made me care deeply about the people populating his fictional village.
What made it hard for me to put down was Doyle's rhythms and unorthodox formatting of his text. The lines between poetry and prose blurred and sometimes I found myself bobbing my head to the cadences of the words, like a long-haired heavy metal kid keeping time to Bohemian Rhapsody.
The characters are all sharply drawn, both human and "other." For fear of spoiling your enjoyment of the story, I'll leave it at that.
If you enjoy books about human dilemmas, human emotions and the triumph of hope over despair, Mink River should be added to your to-read list the next time you revise it. (less)
Christopher Moore is one of a handful of novelists who can make me spew unswallowed cola through my nose or giggle helplessly in a public place. He st...moreChristopher Moore is one of a handful of novelists who can make me spew unswallowed cola through my nose or giggle helplessly in a public place. He starts at over-the-top and floors the accelerator from there.
I’ve read his books in no particular order, starting with Blood-Sucking Fiends, recommended by a friend who found it a welcome relief from all of the earnest soul-searching and neck-biting of the trendy vampire books. From there I devoured You Suck, A Dirty Job, Fluke, and my personal favorite Lamb. (I have to admit I was tempted to buy a crate load of these to hand out to the white-shirted missionaries who troll our neighborhood looking for souls to save). After a hiatus of a couple of years, I picked up Sacre Bleu, read it, and almost coughed up a hairball.
So, it was with some trepidation that I bought a second-hand copy of Coyote Blue, one of Moore’s earliest works. After all, after half-a-dozen medulla-tickling page-turners, I was due to be disappointed, wasn’t I? Maybe I’d see him struggling to find that voice, so well honed in the later books. Maybe his 3-D characters would only inhabit two or even one dimension as he tinkered with the elements that made his later works such a pleasure.
I would have to say, Coyote Blue starts a bit slowly, compared to the race-horses-out-of-the-gate sprints of You Suck, and Lamb. The characters, at first feel a bit, well, ordinary. But, precisely on page 53 (At least of my ragged paperback edition), when we learn how “Coyote makes the world.” Moore jacks the adrenaline level and we’re off to the races.
From there to the surprising, yet inevitable finish, the story goes full-tilt, lampooning (in no particular order) Native American mysticism, insurance sales, gated communities, biker gangs, surfer culture, anthropomorphism, Christianity and casino gambling. Once again, I found myself laughing aloud and reading passages to my wife, who despite having already read Coyote Blue, laughed at his lines again, before punching me and telling me to leave her alone.
Those who are grim-faced and serious about their spirituality, of whatever stripe, will probably be offended by this book, just as many rigid fundamentalist Christians were offended by Lamb. But, from my point of view, not being able to laugh at the constructs we’ve created to combat our fear of the unknown is fraught with peril. Therein lies madness.
I can rank this as my favorite Christopher Moore book, Lamb and Blood-Sucking Fiends are still at the top, but it’s definitely a recommend for those who need stress relief and a therapeutic giggle or two. (less)