This book was not quite what I expected after skimming a couple of reviews; I think it was even better.
Michael Hainey's father, a Chicago newspaperma...moreThis book was not quite what I expected after skimming a couple of reviews; I think it was even better.
Michael Hainey's father, a Chicago newspaperman, died in 1970 when the younger Hainey was six years old and his brother two years older. Little was said about him after that, or about the manner of his death -- just that he had had a heart attack at 35. As Michael grew up and became a journalist himself, various parts of the story did not add up. When he reached the age at which his father had died, he began to investigate in earnest, After many difficulties, he learned the truth -- or rather, many truths.
After Visiting Friends kept me fascinated from beginning to end. It's not only the story of a great family history investigation, but a meditation on fathers and sons, and the larger topic of family. With side trips to Nebraska and California, it's also a great Chicago story. Very highly recommended.(less)
It's been quite a while since I read the previous entries in the Jane Whitefield series. In Runner, Jane has taken on a new case five years after her...moreIt's been quite a while since I read the previous entries in the Jane Whitefield series. In Runner, Jane has taken on a new case five years after her retirement to the quiet life of a doctor's wife. When a pregnant girl asks for her help, Jane, who's been worried about her and her husband's failure to conceive, can't help but assist her to escape those who are seeking her. Jane must deal with 21st century technology and the increased security that followed 9/11. When things start to go sour, it's because she doesn't really know how her 20-year-old charge will behave, and doesn't warn her against every possible slip. Perhaps my memory is faulty, but I found this book had more violence -- some carried out by Jane herself -- that I recalled from earlier books. I also felt more aware of the moral ambiguity inherent in Jane's use of illegal means to help more-or-less deserving fugitives. But I was glad to have Jane Whitefield back. Something else new was that I listened to Runner on Audible. The reader (Joyce Bean) was excellent and I look forward to hearing her read Poison Flower, the next book in the series.(less)
I believe Walter Mosley got quite a bit of buzz when he first published Devil in a Blue Dress in 1990. I seem to recall that I began to read it at the...moreI believe Walter Mosley got quite a bit of buzz when he first published Devil in a Blue Dress in 1990. I seem to recall that I began to read it at the time, but for some reason didn't get very far. Perhaps I just wasn't into noir fiction back then. A couple of years ago we listened to White Butterfly, another in the series, and enjoyed it very much. So when I saw this on Audible I couldn't resist giving it another try.
The narration, by Michael Boatman, adds immeasurably to my enjoyment. Boatman sounds just as I would imagine Easy does (the story is told in first person) and the voices he does for the other characters, including the women, are believable as well. Mosley himself has an excellent ear for dialect and dialog, and the combination of author and narration takes the listener to a completely different place -- in this case, Watts, Los Angeles, 1948.
Devil in a Blue Dress explains how Easy Rawlins went from working in an aircraft factory to being a private investigator. Easy is a black World War II veteran, originally from Houston, who has ended up in Watts and has bought a small house. He is so thrilled to own his own home that he even enjoys receiving junk mail, so when he loses his aircraft factory job because of a disagreement with the white foreman, his main concern is how to make his next mortgage payment. When his bartender friend introduces him to a mysterious white man who offers him $100 to search for a missing young woman, Easy takes on the job, despite some misgivings which turn out to be well-founded.
Although the plot is fascinatingly full of incident, the characterizations and setting are equally strong. Easy is a complicated man with simple desires which the world seems eager to thwart. The setting of LA in the 40s, legally integrated but still full of racism, adds to the tension of the story. Very highly recommended.(less)
The fifth in the Chet and Bernie series, the adventures of the Little Detective agency as told by Chet, the partner who happens to be a dog, is the be...moreThe fifth in the Chet and Bernie series, the adventures of the Little Detective agency as told by Chet, the partner who happens to be a dog, is the best yet, but I think that about every new entry in this series. I listened to this book (read by Jim Frangione, who does a great job) while walking my own dog, and likely got a reputation around town as a nut because I so often found myself laughing out loud. I think any dog owner will recognize the traits of dogdom in Chet's "voice."
Although the dog tells the story, he has no special powers beyond those any dog of his size and training might have. We have often noticed how much effort our dog puts into trying to communicate with us -- and how often we probably fail to understand him. Chet is the same, so sometimes he "gets it" before Bernie and can't make him understand. And at other times, like any dog, he just gets distracted or confused.
A Fistful of Collars finds Bernie and Chet hired to make sure all goes smoothly on a film shoot in their area of the San Fernando Valley. The star seems to be wrestling with some private demons which turn out to be connected to a cold case which turns into a hot one. The climax is very scary! As usual, the characters and setting measure up to the plot. I hope Chet and Bernie continue catching perps for a long time to come. Highly recommended.(less)
Like Parker’s earlier Edgar winner, Silent Joe, California Girl is set in Orange County and brought home even more than the earlier book that Orange C...moreLike Parker’s earlier Edgar winner, Silent Joe, California Girl is set in Orange County and brought home even more than the earlier book that Orange County is not Los Angeles.
There are a lot of ways one could describe California Girl. It’s a story about two families, the Beckers and the Vonns, and how they intersect and affect each other’s lives. It’s definitely a story of the changes in America, and specifically Orange County, from the 50s through the 60s and onward. Richard Nixon and Charles Manson make brief appearances, as does Timothy Leary. It’s also the story of three brothers – a clergyman, a journalist, and a cop – trying to love and support each other and be honest men in spite of their own human frailties and the compromises they sometimes have to make.
I have a hard time reading Parker’s books. They evoke corruption so well I almost have to hold my nose – even this book, which was not really about corruption, has a character who makes a fortune from a cleaner made of rotten oranges. Parker’s world is not a world I want to visit often. Although his characters enjoy the beauty and good weather of Southern California, they are also surrounded by urban sprawl and commercial ugliness (not to mention some extremely right-wing characters and others who are just generally unpleasant.) In some ways Parker’s books remind me of Donna Leon’s Guido Brunetti novels. But although Brunetti goes on beating his head against the wall of bureaucracy and corruption that confronts him at the end of nearly every book, he has the many compensations of Venice to console him. Parker’s Orange County doesn’t seem like a good place to live, but it’s a place we need to know about, and the stories he tells about it are worth hearing. So even though in many ways I didn’t “like” this book, I would highly recommend it. (less)
I've listed this as "set in California," but I think part of it is set in Nevada. Chet and Bernie are hired to provide escort service (not THAT kind!...moreI've listed this as "set in California," but I think part of it is set in Nevada. Chet and Bernie are hired to provide escort service (not THAT kind! more like moral support)for a divorced woman who will be going to Parents' Weekend at her son's wilderness camp and expects to see her ex there. Not only is the ex not there, her son is missing. Before the happy ending, there will be some tough times for Bernie and still more for Chet, his canine partner. I continue to enjoy this series; the dog thinks and acts like a dog, and Bernie is a pretty engaging character too. Recommended quite highly.(less)
I had meant to read this memoir when it was first published, but somehow never got around to it. I did read Janzen's second volume of memoirs, Does Th...moreI had meant to read this memoir when it was first published, but somehow never got around to it. I did read Janzen's second volume of memoirs, Does This Church Make Me Look Fat?, but it didn't inspire me to rush out looking for Mennonite.... However, the other day there it was at a library book sale, and I am so glad. Not that Janzen doesn't say some very worthwhile serious things in this book, but what I really enjoyed was the humor. I got more good outloud laughs from this book than any since the last Bill Bryson book I read. The nicest thing about Mennonite... is that the humor is not mean-spirited. Janzen clearly loves her parents and the other elderly Mennonites they hang out with. Even as she realizes afresh that she really no longer belongs in their world, she appreciates the good things from her upbringing in the faith. If Rhoda Janzen writes a third volume of memoirs, I'll be sure to read it.(less)
I really wish I had written this review while the book was still fresh in my mind. I actually listened to it on Audible; it was a wonderful experience...moreI really wish I had written this review while the book was still fresh in my mind. I actually listened to it on Audible; it was a wonderful experience.
I've not read very many of what I'd call "Westerns" but this is one, albeit a very different sort of Western. Set during the California Gold Rush, it is the tale of Charley and Eli Sisters, two brothers who work as hired guns for a Godfather-like character in Oregon City. Sent to California to track down and kill a certain man, they are somewhat caught up in the gold fever themselves. One of the key episodes verges on science fiction; there is also plenty of humor in the book. For much of the story, Charley and Eli engage in almost thoughtless violence, so be forewarned and don't read it if you can't bear that sort of thing. But this was one of the best and most memorable books I read in 2012 and I would recommend it most highly.(less)
Mickey Haller, the Lincoln Lawyer (I liked the movie too, by the way), his ex-wife, Maggie McPherson, and his half-brother, Lt. Harry Bosch of the LAP...moreMickey Haller, the Lincoln Lawyer (I liked the movie too, by the way), his ex-wife, Maggie McPherson, and his half-brother, Lt. Harry Bosch of the LAPD, are working together on this case. Haller has been called in to sit on the other side of the aisle as a prosecutor when a convicted child-killer is retried following a high court reversal of his 24-year-old conviction. Even Bosch's old girlfriend Rachel Walling gets involved. The story is riveting and the interactions among the characters well-done. I found the ending somewhat unsatisfying although it was probably a realistic picture of what might really happen in the situation. Still, don't miss this one.(less)
This book flew by much faster for me than the previous one, Shamus in the Green Room. Kandel wove the present-day plot in with the story of Agatha Chr...moreThis book flew by much faster for me than the previous one, Shamus in the Green Room. Kandel wove the present-day plot in with the story of Agatha Christie's famous 11-day disappearance very cleverly. The sections dealing with Cece's friends and family provided relief, comic and otherwise, from the murder plot. However, I'm getting a little tired of Cece's skittishness about marrying her police detective fiance. But I'll keep reading if Kandel keeps writing.(less)
I plodded through Shamus in the Green Room even though I read it in a large-print version, which usually goes faster for me. Whether it was the charac...moreI plodded through Shamus in the Green Room even though I read it in a large-print version, which usually goes faster for me. Whether it was the characters (the film people were just plain annoying and I didn't enjoy spending time with them) or the plot, which involved a shadowy figure -- victim or villain?, I'm not sure. Protagonist Cece Caruso is a mystery-writer biographer and the writer in question in this book is Dashiell Hammett, subject of her first book. Cece is hired to consult on a film about Hammett for a film star who doesn't read much. When he's called to identify a body, real-life crime steps in. I liked the subsequent book much better.(less)
My daughter, who is a minister, is leading a group on spiritual memoirs and has chosen Miles's earlier book, Take This Bread as the first selection. T...moreMy daughter, who is a minister, is leading a group on spiritual memoirs and has chosen Miles's earlier book, Take This Bread as the first selection. That one is a true spiritual memoir and will also give the reader Sara Miles's fascinating "backstory". But it's not strictly necessary to read it first in order to be stirred by Jesus Freak, even though in some ways it's an extended epilogue to Take This Bread.
The subtitle says it all: Feeding, Healing, Raising the Dead. Lest this last phrase scare you off, there is no charlatan here, but rather someone who really ministers to the dying and their families, as well as to the sick and the hungry.
As detailed in Take This Bread, Miles, a middle-aged, middle-class member of the radical intelligentsia, rather suddenly became a Christian and active in St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church [http://www.saintgregorys.org/]. Living in the Mission District of San Francisco, and coming to Christ's teachings with fresh eyes, she took them seriously and got the church to start a free food distribution program. This did not happen without struggle. But as Jesus Freak opens, the food distribution has become a vital part of the church and community, with those who came to receive often staying to give as volunteers. Through her engagement with the diverse people of the food pantry, and with other people in the church, Miles also gets involved in healing ministry and, as a logical corollary when the body cannot be healed even when the soul can, in ministry to the dying.
Not that she makes this seem easy. One of the best things about Miles's books (besides the writing) is that she doesn't sugar-coat the realities of trying to be a Christian. Not only does she have to serve people who are drunk, who stink, who act crazy and can be scary -- she also has to deal with other Christians and fellow church members who may be annoying, fearful, stubborn, resistant to change, or simply don't see things the same way she does. And yet she knows that we are called to love.
Jesus Freak doesn't say much that's new, philosophically or theologically, for those of us who grew up in the church. You can get the same ideas from reading Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. But each generation needs to be recalled, reminded, shaken out of complacency, and Sara Miles gives us that needed wake-up call. Highly recommended.(less)
I had somehow missed hearing of T. Jefferson Parker until I saw that he had won the Edgar for Best Novel not once, but twice. The first, in 2002, was...moreI had somehow missed hearing of T. Jefferson Parker until I saw that he had won the Edgar for Best Novel not once, but twice. The first, in 2002, was for Silent Joe. It's a standalone novel of Orange County, California, and one thing that came immediately to mind as I read it was "No wonder they went bankrupt!" The Orange County of Parker's book (and evidently this is his preferred setting) is rife with political corruption, greedy developers, racial tension, gang violence, and people with secrets.
In a way, this is a coming-of-age novel -- a genre I've grown to dislike immensely. But in Parker's hands, with the added attraction of a mystery to solve, it's more than just bearable. Silent Joe Trona, the narrator and protagonist, is a young man who grew up burdened with a horribly disfigured face, the result of his father throwing acid at him when he was a baby. After spending the first five years of his life in a very nice orphanage, Joe is adopted by Will and Mary Ann Trona and learns what a happy childhood can be. Will was originally a sheriff's deputy (with a wealthy wife) and later becomes a county supervisor. Joe has followed in his footsteps and works in the county jail by day, but nearly every night he acts as a combination chauffeur and bodyguard for his father. There is a lot of moral ambiguity involved here as Joe sees money changing hands, evidence that Will is cheating on Mary Ann, and other odd things -- and yet he still hero-worships his father. One night they are trying to retrieve a kidnapped child and things go horribly wrong; Joe spends the rest of the book trying to solve his father's murder and makes some surprising discoveries along the way.
Plot, setting, and character - this book has it all and was richly deserving of its award. It won't be long in my project to read all the Edgar Best Novel winners till I'll be reading Parker's second winner, California Girl and I am looking forward to it. But I must say that, based on this novel, Parker's Orange County is a place I will visit every now and then, but I wouldn't want to read several of his books in quick succession.(less)
One of my favorites of the Harry Bosch series so far. NOT about a serial killer, a lot of introspection, and a great picture of Los Angeles after the...moreOne of my favorites of the Harry Bosch series so far. NOT about a serial killer, a lot of introspection, and a great picture of Los Angeles after the earthquake. Surprises keep coming right up until the end. Highly recommended. (I've read or listened to several of the series out of order so I'm going back and reading the ones I've missed. This is the fourth in the series.)(less)
Originally I was planning to read the Harry Bosch series in order, but my excursion into audiobooks spoiled that plan. Also, my local library didn't h...moreOriginally I was planning to read the Harry Bosch series in order, but my excursion into audiobooks spoiled that plan. Also, my local library didn't have this particular book until recently and life was too busy for interloan. However, just last month they acquired a large print version -- whoopee! I had to do some mental readjusting to get back to where Bosch was in his life just after the events in Black Ice. Some characters who show up in later books seemed to have quite different personalities in this one. But I'm glad I read it.
As the book opens, Harry Bosch is attending a trial -- the widow of The Dollmaker, a notorious serial killer whom Bosch shot and killed a few years before, is suing the LAPD for wrongful death. Part of her case is that she doesn't believe her husband was the killer, even though evidence found in his secret apartment pointed to him. The widow also has a better lawyer than Harry does. When Harry's boss calls to have him view a newly-discovered body that was buried in concrete, complications arise because the "new" corpse has all the indications of being The Dollmaker's handiwork, but is also too recent to be so. Harry and others in the department must figure out whether he indeed shot the wrong man or whether there are really two "Dollmakers," one still at large. As usual, Bosch breaks a lot of rules, makes some false starts, and eventually gets his man, in a way. In addition, we learn a lot more about Bosch's early life and follow the ups and downs of his relationship with Sylvia Moore, the widow of the police officer whose apparent suicide began Black Ice.
I'm getting pretty darn tired of serial killers in these stories, but the writing is so good I can't resist reading them even when that's the topic. I suppose serial killers are so popular in police procedurals because they are one of the few realistic instances where the police are initially baffled but have some chance of figuring out whodunnit (unlike random gang violence, for example.) So, I'll be reading the rest of the Harry Bosch series, but I really prefer the Mickey Haller books by the same author.(less)
SISTER WIFE is a worthy successor to Ms. Collins' first mystery on the fringes of Mormonism, WIVES AND SISTERS. I actually did read it in one sitting --...moreSISTER WIFE is a worthy successor to Ms. Collins' first mystery on the fringes of Mormonism, WIVES AND SISTERS. I actually did read it in one sitting -- on Kindle for PC in front of my desktop computer. The story is that compelling.
It begins with a kidnapping, continues with the discovery of a murder, and then, as protagonist Kelsey Waite begins the agonizing search for her missing daughter, we learn bit by bit of her shocking past and her fear that it has caught up with her. Kelsey is, in some ways, an average young single mother; she doesn't practice martial arts or have exceptional strength. What she does have are a strong, willful personality and a tigress's instinct to protect her daughter. She also has a firm ally in handsome police officer Quinn Anderson.
Kelsey's search will take her back to a place she never wanted to see again -- to the shadow world of polygamous cults, offshoots of the Mormon religion, repudiated by the LDS church. (We have learned in recent years that Collins' books, which may have seemed far-fetched when first published, are all too sadly true-to-life.) Her journey will also take her somewhere she had wished to be but never expected to reach, as her relationship with Quinn Anderson deepens.
Ms. Collins knows her setting and characters intimately and even relatively minor characters come to life on the page. It's hard to read about bad things happening to children, but Ms. Collins always keeps the emphasis on the inner strength of the victims rather than dwelling on the twisted thoughts of the perpetrator as too many authors seem to do. For thrills, romance, and social relevance, I would strongly recommend this book. (less)
I had thought I'd be done with this project in time for the 2011 Edgars -- and I may yet do it. But the project was on hiatus along with many others, un...moreI had thought I'd be done with this project in time for the 2011 Edgars -- and I may yet do it. But the project was on hiatus along with many others, until recently. So many of the audiobooks we listened to were about serial killers that I was resistant to reading another such, so it took me several tries to get far enough into BONES to get hooked into the story, although I was familiar with Irene Kelly, the protagonist, from several earlier books.
The beginning of the story reminded me a little of Michael Connelly's ECHO PARK because of a similar situation -- a serial killer who's been caught tries to cut a deal with the prosecution by promising to lead them to a victim's grave. There the similarities end. Burke sets her story partly in the southern Sierra Nevada range, and her descriptions of this terrain were detailed and evocative. Although she does take you "inside" the mind of the serial killer, she doesn't belabor it as some authors are wont to do. The emphasis is more on Irene and some of the other characters, and Burke's examination of the role of therapy in helping people deal with post-traumatic stress was both meaningful and fascinating. I also liked the forensic anthropology aspect and the way Burke used the legend of Parzival in the story. I'll need to see if there are any other gaps in my reading of Burke's novels, because this one was so good. It was richly deserving of its Edgar. (less)