I'm a sucker for a swastika. Now before you go, "Huh?" let me explain. When I come across a novel with a swastika on the cover, I have to stop and reaI'm a sucker for a swastika. Now before you go, "Huh?" let me explain. When I come across a novel with a swastika on the cover, I have to stop and read the summary. I love fiction set during WWII, especially spy and suspense novels. So when I found this book in a box at a library book sale, I had to pick it up. And after reading the back, I had to buy it. I'd never read Bill Napier before, but it sounded interesting and worth a shot.
I wasn't disappointed. This book was terrific. And if I hadn't had to go to work and perform other real life tasks, I would've sat down and read it all the way through.
The story takes place in both the past and the present. In present day Arizona, a mysterious weapon filled with anthrax explodes in the desert, killing many people. Painted on the remnants of the weapon is a Nazi swatika.
That's where Lewis Sharp comes in. As an expert in Nazi secret weapons, he's needed to determine whether or not this weapon is really of Nazi origin or if it's more modern. The catch is: he doesn't have much time, since a cryptic letter promises another attack, this time in the middle of London, in five days.
Now, the past. Major Max Krafft is plucked from the Eastern Front in 1943 and recruited to join a top secret Nazi project that, if successful, will supposedly win the war for the Reich. The objective? To design and build dirty bombs that will kill millions of Allied citizens, thereby weakening the Allies' resolve to continue fighting. Max is an engineer, and along with other bright young minds, he sets to work on the project.
Are they successful in creating the weapons? Of course. That was never really in doubt, considering that one of them blew up in Arizona sixty years later. What drives the story is the parallel between the desperate drive to develop the weapons in 1944 and the present-day, desperate quest to find the remaining weapons before the bad guys do.
The strongest parts of the book are many. The writing is excellent. It's crisp and concise. His descriptions are vivid, and the fact that he doesn't always use complete sentences adds to the feel of the book, to the suspense, each sentence fragment like a second lost, driving the story towards the climax. Also, Napier's characters, even the villains, are utterly likable. I especially liked Krafft, whose inner battle between his loyalty to Germany and his conscience makes him very sympathetic and relatable. I found myself right there with him in his struggle and rooting for him all the way. (The fact that the 'past' sections were written in first person from Krafft's point of view certainly helped with this.) Also, the plot was taut and suspenseful. Too often suspense novels seem to lose their luster before the climax is even reached. But in this case, it was exciting all the way to the end. Which brings me to the end. The resolution was perfect. Not too easy, not too maudlin. And the weaving together of the past and present plot threads was masterful.
My only beef is that I would have liked to have known more about Max's story. He was the book's most compelling character. Sharp was interesting, too, though we didn't get to learn that much about him despite him being such a prominent character.
A great book. I will definitely be reading more of Napier's work....more
**spoiler alert** You know how sometimes you pick up a book for a buck at a library book sale and it turns out to be a gem? Well, this is not one of t**spoiler alert** You know how sometimes you pick up a book for a buck at a library book sale and it turns out to be a gem? Well, this is not one of those books.
It sounded good: Water tapped from a pristine Antarctic lake is touted to have miraculous healing powers. At the same time, new cases of mad cow disease break out in rural France. Is there a connection? Of course there is. Turns out, the water is more deadly than beneficial. But therapeutic water is a big business and those who stand to profit will go to any lengths to ensure its commercial success.
As far as plots go, it's not bad. Sure, the general premise isn't super original; tons of books deal with a potentially world-altering germ of some sort that needs to be eradicated before it kills millions of people. This one is no different. the problem is, it's not nearly as good as it sets out to be.
Why? The writing. The characters. The eye roll-inducing neatness of it all. The heroes are righteous and smarter than everyone else. The villians are one-dimensional and driven simply by greed. The climax is disappointing and predictable. The only interesting "character" in the book is the deadly prion itself, probably because it doesn't have a speaking part.
There are super smart doctors, a gratuitous car chase or two, tough chicks with guns, and even a sappy romantic side story that seems a bit out of place (the main hero, Dr. Noah Haldane, pines for his Bug Czar ex-girlfriend while trying to solve the mystery of the big bad prion). Gag me.
Other problems: stilted, didactic dialogue, weak and often cheesy metaphors, a predictable pseudo-romantic drunken interlude in an elevator, and a couple red herrings that weren't.
I realize this book is part of a series and perhaps if I'd read the previous installments, the characters would mean more to me. But I didn't and they don't. And I think that's the biggest problem I had with this book: I just didn't care about the characters, good or bad.
Wow, this was a great book. From the standpoint of sheer readability, it was excellent. I simply couldn't put it down.
Leo Demidov is the perfect SovieWow, this was a great book. From the standpoint of sheer readability, it was excellent. I simply couldn't put it down.
Leo Demidov is the perfect Soviet: loyal to the State and unquestioning in his duties, he's a high-ranking officer in the MGB, the State Security branch of Soviet law enforcement.
There's only one problem: His faith is suddenly and irrevocably shattered when he finally realizes that the guilt or innocence of a person doesn't really matter as long as the illusion of efficient control is maintained. And once he comes to this realization, he's instantly transformed into someone seeking redemption for all the terrible things he did and all the people he hurt in the name of the Soviet State.
After he and his wife, Raisa, are sentenced to a life in exile, Leo thinks he's found his chance at redemption. Dozens of children have been found murdered west and south of Moscow, their bodies roughly following the railway line. Officially, all the murders are treated as isolated incidents despite the similar MO, the crimes blamed on the riffraff of society. By doing this, the State accomplishes two things: they rid the pristine Soviet state of several 'undesirables' and they maintain the illusion of control over crime.
But Leo knows in his heart that the murders are the work of one man and despite heavy opposition and at the risk of his own life, he delves into an investigation of his own. He needs to find the killer and stop him - not just for the sake of the children's families, but for his own redemption. With the help of a few brave souls and a wife who despises him, he manages to collect evidence and build a case, all the while defying substantial obstacles, not the least of which is his old nemesis from the MGB. And even when the evidence points him in a shocking direction, he remains relentless in his pursuit of justice.
This novel is tightly plotted and relentless. The prose is sparse, the descriptions spartan, but it drives forward, keeping the reader going all the way until the end. Leo is a compelling character, and his transformation from Soviet automaton to free-thinking and compassionate man really makes him a satisfying protagonist.
If you're a fan of suspense thrillers, I highly recommend this book. And I will definitely be reading Smith's next offering....more
**spoiler alert** The two biggest things I didn't like about this book were: (1) It is written mostly in first person, and (2) the protagonist, Penn C**spoiler alert** The two biggest things I didn't like about this book were: (1) It is written mostly in first person, and (2) the protagonist, Penn Cage. He is my least favorite of all of Iles' characters.
That being said, I knew both of those things were present going in to this book. However, I thought Iles' storytelling talent would prevail and I would manage to push these annoyances to the back of my mind. I, unfortunately, was wrong.
The story seemed promising: Penn is approached by an old high school friend who shows him evidence that heinous and illegal things are occurring on one of Natchez, Mississippi's most popular casino boats, the Magnolia Queen. Being mayor of Natchez and not one to back down from a challenge, he decides to investigate. What happens after that stretches the imagination and elicits more than one eye-roll over the span of 707 pages.
There's dogfighting (the description of which made my skin crawl), there's underage prostitution (which Iles mercifully decides not to describe), there's political corruption, and there's a collection of Irish thugs behind all of it. These Irish baddies ruthlessly kill their enemies and feed them to their fighting dogs to hide the evidence of their murders. And they're threatening Penn and his family. *cue the music of doom*
But Penn has his own allies. Big, powerful, super-awesome ones. And they of course all drop everything to help their buddy Penn with his little problem. One, Daniel Kelly: Lethal Weapon, even comes all the way from Afghanistan to lend a hand. *insert eye roll here* There's also a helicopter pilot, a sniper, and a Texas Ranger (whose entire subplot basically has no point, but which, ironically, is the most interesting one). And don't forget Penn's former flame, Caitlin Masters, the fiery, feisty news woman who still owns Penn's heart (and apparently his balls, too).
Things go from bad to worse. Penn and his crew find themselves embroiled in a conflict that has dangerous and far-reaching consequences. The FBI and Homeland Security are involved and want Penn to butt out. But Penn can't let the bad guy get away with murder in his beloved little town! No way! So of course he finds a way to get his man and the girl, too, in the end. (Caitlin asks him to marry her and music and rainbows fill the air.)
Oh, and the main bad guy's henchman gets fed to alligators. Nice.
For me, the book was too long, the story too convoluted, and the hero too self-righteous. I love Greg Iles, but this book disappointed me....more
**spoiler alert** I got this book from a stack of freebies someone brought to my office. I had read Berry's The Romanov Prophecy a long time ago and r**spoiler alert** I got this book from a stack of freebies someone brought to my office. I had read Berry's The Romanov Prophecy a long time ago and really liked it, so I snatched this one up. But like the 2-star rating says, it was just okay.
It started off good enough. Cotton Malone, former Justice Department agent turned bookseller, goes to a Greco-Roman museum to meet his friend Cassiopeia, who needs his help. He then wakes up locked inside the place, covered in a foul-smelling substance he quickly learns is highly flammable.
He's saved of course -- he is the hero, after all -- and finds himself suddenly in the middle of a plot involving a homicidally ambitious dictator obsessed with Alexander the Great, a ruthless and greedy owner of a pharmaceutical company, a double agent skillfully playing both sides, and the cure for AIDS.
It sounds rather far-fetched and it is. But that's part of the fun for these types of books. The problem comes from how eyeroll-inducing the climax is. Greek fire, a lesbian lover, and a miraculous thermal pool all play key roles.
Of course, it all works out in the end and the United States comes out controlling not only who gets to be the new Supreme Minister of the contentious Central Asian Federation (a ficitional place made up of former Soviet states), but also controlling the cure for AIDS. Not that I'm not a fan of the US -- I mean, Go Team! -- but come on. Too easy.
It was a quick read that showed promise that quickly dissolved into a bit of ridiculousness. And despite the intriguing bits of history/theory about Alexander the Great's tomb, it fell a little short.
It didn't turn me off of Berry's work, though. I'm a huge fan of suspense novels and historical fiction and will definitely give another one of his books a try....more
**spoiler alert** This book took me a while to get through. It just wasn't riveting to me. That being said, there were some genuinely creepy moments.
B**spoiler alert** This book took me a while to get through. It just wasn't riveting to me. That being said, there were some genuinely creepy moments.
Ben and Jean Williams built what they thought was their dream home on a street called Poppet's Way. It wasn't long after moving in, however, that weird things started to happen. Plants died. Freak storms. Moving shadows. Toilets flushed by themselves. The garage door opened by itself.
But then the really weird (and tragic) things started to happen. Several relatives were diagnosed with cancer and then started dying. One of the Williamses' daughter went insane. Previously happy marriages ended in divorce. Pets dropped dead left and right.
When one of the neighbors tried to install a swimming pool, he discovered bodies buried in his yard. Guess what? It turned out, the subdivision had been built over the Black Hope Cemetery.
And someone (or something) was really pissed about it.
The Williamses held on for six years, battling what they finally came to believe was the Devil himself. They couldn't just abandon the house like so many of their neighbors had; they couldn't afford it. But when their daughter Tina died of a massive heart attack while inside the house, that was the last straw. They picked up and moved to Montana and never looked back.
Like I said, this book was okay. A decent story, but not un-put-down-able. Footsteps, cracks in the walls, cold spots, snakes, black ant infestations...creepy, yes. But not creepy enough to hold my attention for more than a few minutes at a time....more
**spoiler alert** I read this book TODAY. Picked it up to skim the first chapter, then found myself unable to put it down. My mom recommended this boo**spoiler alert** I read this book TODAY. Picked it up to skim the first chapter, then found myself unable to put it down. My mom recommended this book to me and loaned me her first-edition copy, so I just want to say...thanks, Mom!
The Snedekers live in New York until their oldest son, Stephen, is diagnosed with lymphatic cancer. When the commute back and forth between NY and CT becomes too much and too costly, the family moves to Connecticut, closer to Stephen's doctors. That's when it begins.
It turns out, their new home is the downstairs apartment in an old Colonial house that used to be a funeral home. In the basement, the Snedekers discover all sorts of macabre tools and rooms. But having exhausted their resources, they decide to stay and not tell the kids. But...
The day they move in, Stephen tells his mom they need to leave the house because the house is evil. She, of course, doesn't believe him. Things progress. Stephen insists he hears a voice calling his name from the basement and sees things moving out of the corner of his eye. But still, no one believes him. When his younger siblings start seeing things too, their parents blame Stephen for scaring them and putting ideas in their head.
Ultimately, Stephen changes. He finally gives in to the demands of the voice and starts to do its bidding. He listens to dark music and draws disturbing images on his sketchpad. He becomes surly and rude to his family and cold and distant. When he molests his cousins, that's the last straw. He is diagnosed as schizophrenic and admitted into a mental hospital. He warns his family that now that he's gone, whatever's in the house will start attacking them.
Things start moving and disappearing. Everyone starts to hear voices. Empty light sockets glow with illumination. Swarms of flies infest the house, then vanish. Terrible smells of rotting meat waft through the house, then are gone. The two oldest females in the house are sexually assaulted and molested by invisible hands. There are cold spots.
Eventually, pushed past the limits of being able to explain it away, the Snedekers call on the Warrens, paranormal investigators of some reknown. They determine that the house is indeed possessed by a powerful demonic presence and appeal to the Catholic Church for permission to perform an exorcism.
Permission is eventually granted, but not before weeks of unspeakable torment is visited upon the Snedeker family.
In the end, the demonic presence is forced from the home, but nothing is ever the same.
Horror stories usually aren't my thing, but this one was fascinating. And creepy. And something I'm glad I read while the sun was still out.
There is some controversy as to whether or not this is actually based on a true story. Some say yes, others no (including, apparently, the author himself). But regardless of whether it's fact or fiction, it is a riveting book....more
**spoiler alert** Gretchen Lowell is back. And so is her obsession, Det. Archie Sheridan.
Sheridan had been her last victim. Well, until now. Turns out**spoiler alert** Gretchen Lowell is back. And so is her obsession, Det. Archie Sheridan.
Sheridan had been her last victim. Well, until now. Turns out, Gretchen, while being transferred to another facility, escapes and kills a few more people along the way.
The codependent relationship Archie and Gretchen have is really rather disturbing. Archie needs her like he needs all the pills he takes. Gretchen, apparently, needs him too. It's a sick, twisted scenario made even more disturbing by what Archie does after Gretchen escapes.
He knows she'll come after him and he also knows he's dying (all the pills are destroying his liver), so feeling he has nothing to lose, he lets her come for him in order to try to trap her.
Of course, along the way, it turns out that he had had a sexual relationship with her before he'd discovered she was a murderer and that relationship continues after he lets Gretchen take him to a remote hideaway in the mountains. This part rather sickened me a little--the fact that he can't even have sex with his (ex-) wife without thinking about Gretchen. Ick.
Then there's journalist Susan Ward--annoyingly earnest Susan with the turquoise hair and flower power mother who also happens to nurture a crush for poor, fucked up Archie Sheridan. I have not, in two books, warmed to this character. I find her utterly devoid of anything to root for. And just like in the first book, the Big Story she's working on manages to be weaved into the main plot.
The most dissatisfying part of this book for me was the ending. Just when you think Gretchen is going to get hers...well, you can guess. This annoyed me because while I like series with continuing characters, it felt to me that the author deliberately left it the way she did just so she could write a third book.
Still, there was enough dark suspense to make it interesting and that's why I gave it three stars.
Not a bad read, but not as good as the first one in the series, Heartsick....more
**spoiler alert** Ninety percent of this book is riveting. The other ten percent is filled with tons of minute details I could have done without. (For**spoiler alert** Ninety percent of this book is riveting. The other ten percent is filled with tons of minute details I could have done without. (Forsyth, like Tom Clancy, loves to show off his expertise about military weapons by beating his readers over the head with the details of how things work. Yeah. Don't care. Just tell me "a really big gun that shoots really big bullets" and that's enough for me.)
Col. Mike Martin is an Englishman who has the looks and linguistc skills of an Arab and in Forsyth's previous novel, The Fist of God, he used those attributes to help stop the bad guys, namely Saddam Hussein.
Fifteen years later, he's retired and living in a fixer-upper in the English countryside. All he wants now, after 25 years of service to his country, is to live a quiet life. Of course, as you can probably guess, this plan goes awry when a laptop containing references to something called "al-Isra" is seized from an Islamic extremist in Pakistan.
Martin's services are once again needed and he is persuaded to infiltrate al Qaeda posing as an Afghan/Taliban leader named Izmat Khan, who is a renowned anti-West fighter and who is currently being detained in Guantanamo Bay.
An intricate plot involving the governments of the US and the UK ensues. As it turns out, Martin knows the man he is impersonating; years before, he had saved the man's life in the mountains of Afghanistan.
Martin, undercover, lives life on a knife edge, fearing discovery while at the same time trying to puzzle out what the threat, al-Isra, is. The plot turns out to be monstrous and terrifying and very well thought out to the tiniest detail. And Martin doesn't discover it until the very last second.
There was one groan-inducing moment for me when an extremely unfortunate and coincidental plane crash just happens to destroy the mountain prison the US has sent the real Izmat Khan to, allowing him to escape. However, the ensuing manhunt through the mountains is compelling enough to make up for it.
This book is amazingly exciting, but most of Forsyth's books are. He's a master at writing suspense and for creating characters that are real and likeable (especially the protagonists). His good guys are flawed but earnest, his bad guys are really bad. Great stuff.
One more thing: The ending made me speechless. And that's saying a lot....more