Sunday, May 25, 2008

Buckingham Palace Gardens by Anne Perry

Lust, murder, power, and betrayal at Buckingham Palace sets the stage for the latest in the Thomas Pitt series by Anne Perry. I'm a long-time fan of both the Thomas Pitt and William Monk series. It constantly amazes me that at the rate that Anne Perry has novels published, that each story is so intricately-plotted. It's never a rehash of an earlier novel. BUCKINGHAM PALACE GARDENS featuring Thomas Pitt and as his sidekick, Gracie Phipps (instead of his wife Charlotte in this outing) is no exception. From the first page to the last the story moved at warped speed with never a dull moment. One thing I have always loved about Anne Perry is that she doesn't make it easy to figure out the plot. They enfold at a measured pace, so the suspense stays high. Her characterizations, as always, were excellent, and highlighted the darker side of human nature as she often does. You do have to pay attention while reading. The set-up of the story is often a bit confusing between trying to keep many unfamiliar characters straight, and getting used to the language with the various styles and dialects going on. It's worth it when it all clicks.

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Stalked by Brian Freeman

Sex Clubs, rape fantasies, rape, and serial murder are just the tip of the iceberg in this fast-paced, page-turning third novel by author Brian Freeman. Series regulars Lieutenant Jonathan Stride, his partner Maggie Bei, and his lover, PI Serena Dial are drawn into a world of danger that tests their loyalty to each other.

I read a review on this book, and it sounded like something I would really like, so I went and read the first book in the series because I didn't want to miss the set-up of the characters. While not absolutely necessary for the enjoyment of STALKED, it helped with the history of the characters. Stide's relationship with both his first wife, and with Maggie are more fully explained in IMMORAL. This is one of the best new series I have read in a long time. The characters are fully-fleshed with common human frailties; their imperfections make them more real. They are the kind of characters you root for to overcome their demons. I got scared at the end that something tragic would happen. I couldn't turn the pages fast enough to see the outcome. I can't wait for the next novel.

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Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Buried By Mark Billingham

Detective Inspector Tom Thorne is assigned to investigate the disappearance of the son of former detective Tony Mullen. When evidence lead police to suspect kidnapping rather than a runaway, Thorne digs into Mullen's ex-cases for answers.

BURIED is a all about the human beings, their frailties, and a penchant for secrets, enhanced by characters who come alive through the writing of Mark Billingham. All the characterizations feel real and dimensional. It helps to have a sympathetic everyman protagonist. The slightly taciturn Tom Thorne, grieves for his father, has a love of country music, while is well-respected on the job has made enough enemies to him slightly off-balance. I liked that there while there was a love-interest, the relationship didn't take front and center. The star of the story was a well-plotted storyline with enough twists and turns to keep the pages turning well into the night.

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Friday, October 19, 2007

Dark of the Moon by John Sandford

Virgil Flowers who is working for the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is sent to Bluestem for some investigative work. Virgil's boss, Lucas Davenport the protagonist of Sandford's PREY series only gives Virgil "the hard stuff". Bluestem has some "hard stuff" going on. There's more than one secret, more than one scam, more than one strange character, and maybe more than one killer in the small town. It's hard to know who to trust when every one knows everyone's business. The first third of the book was very compelling. I was instantly drawn into the story. I loved the character of Virgil Flowers. The storyline was suspenseful. I would give that part of the book 5 stars. After the storyline is set up and the characters are introduced the book runs into problems. The story just started dragging. There were not only too many subplots and tangents, there were way too many characters. A big problem for me, though I liked Flowers a lot, I absolutely did not care about any of the secondary characters. There was so little time in developing them how could you really care. By the last quarter of the book, I couldn't wait for it to end. It was a major disappointment. I do hope Sandford uses Virgil Flowers again as a main character, but next time I hope he tightens up the storyline, make a bit more plausible, use less characters, and make us care about more than one of them.


Thursday, August 02, 2007

Secret Hangman by Peter Lovesey

Recovering from the murder of his beloved wife three earlier, gruff Inspector Peter Diamond is slowly starting to emerge from his cocoon of grief. He has a secret admirer, a new relationship, and a murder to investigate -- a series of hangings that first appear to be murder-suicide, but proves to something more evil.

It always feels like a long time between Peter Diamond novels most probably because it is. No matter how long though, it always feels like revisiting an old friend. Peter Diamond is not the most lovable or most tactful fictional detective but he is one of the most real. He's not superhuman or even brilliant most of time. Luck plays a big part in his cases, but nonetheless he gets the job done. THE SECRET HANGMAN is another engaging entry in a very solid series from Peter Lovesey.

Looking Good Dead by Peter James

Tom Bryce decided to do a good deed by trying to return a CD left by a passenger on the commuter train. The CD was unmarked so Tom decides to pop it into his computer to see if he can figure out to whom to return it. Big mistake. Now Tom and his family are in danger by a group of particularly nasty people.

This is a second novel in what seems to be a series. I didn't read the first and felt no need to. All the characters are adequately explained. The main character of Detective Superintendent Roy Grace is an especially intriguing and sympathetic man. Nine years earlier on his thirtieth birthday, his wife Sandy disappeared. He is just now beginning to date again. The object of his affection is the beautiful Cleo Morey who is the Chief Mortician. The scenes leading up to and including his dates with Cleo are some of my favorites in the story. I felt these were particularly strong. The plot was a rather cookie cutter with a bit more graphic violence than usual. I didn't find it particularly suspenseful or thrilling, but where the plot let me down, the characterizations more than made up for it.


Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Jigsaw by Jerry Kennealy

Friends of San Francisco entertainment critic Carroll Quint are being offed by a killer who sends Quint e-mail clues to do with Alfred Hitchcock movies. Unfortunately for Quint with all his ties to the victims, he is a suspect in the eyes of the police. Along with his ex-actress mom and his comely girlfriend, Quint investigates to not only to stop the killer but also to get a big story for his paper.

This is a new series for Jerry Kennealy and a new author for me since I have never read any of his books. I enjoyed the characters very much. In fact, the whole time I was reading, I felt that the style of book, humorous crime fiction, reminiscent to an author I used to read. All I remembered was the character's name was Archie and he lived in West Palm Beach. Google is my friend, and found out I was thinking of the Archie McNally series by Lawrence Sanders. I stopped reading after LS passed away and someone else took over writing the series. It was never the same. I think I might have found another series to take its place.

As in new series the introduction of many new characters can feel overwhelming and there were many, many characters in this relatively short book. It got a bit confusing at times. The plot was didn't exactly scream realism, but when on of the victims is killed with a leg of lamb, you really can't expect that. The antics were a bit over-the-top especially the final chum-bait scenes, but it all made for a rollicking good read. I'm looking forward to the next book in the series.

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Monday, June 25, 2007

Spare Change by Robert B. Parker

A serial killer known as "Spare Change" resumes killing after a thirty year hiatis. The Boston Police Department calls on original task force member, now retired Phil Randall to investigate the new killings. Phil enlists the help of his daughter, Private Detective Sunny Randall to help solve a case that has been haunting him for three decades.

Robert B. Parker writes three series: Spenser, Jesse Stone, and Sunny Randall. Sunny seems to be a female combination of Spenser and Jess Stone. As all of Parker's females, she's beautiful. She tough and a bit of a wiseass like Spenser, and she has relationship issues like Jesse Stone with whom she has had an affair in novels that featured both characters. It all feels a bit incestuous. Parker's characters are a stereotypical and not all that dimensional. The dialogue always seems a bit stiff and unnatural. The plots are usually straightforward. For all the reasons I can think of why I might not really like the Parker novels, I have read almost all of them, and have enjoyed them for the most part. I can't really figure out why. The characters aren't very complex, really they're a bit caricature, but I like them. The stories are simple, but they move along. They are an easy read, and you don't have to invest too much brain power into them. Sometimes they are just what is needed for a lazy afternoon.

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Bad Luck and Trouble by Lee Child

A decade has passed since a Reacher and seven others were members of an elite military team of special investigators. They had a slogan, "You do not mess with the special investigators". When one member of the team turns up dead, thrown out of a helicopter in the desert, Reacher receives a call for help in code from another member of the team. Reacher is on the next plane to avenge his comrades untimely death.

When I pick up a Reacher novel, I can count on action-packed suspense. Reacher has to be one of the most interesting protagonists on the crime fiction scene. He's such a complex human being, it's hard to figure him out. He's a charismatic man who's a bit of an anti-hero, a drifter, a loner, a man of honor and steel. In BAD LUCK AND TROUBLE we get insight into Reacher's past. While in most Reacher novels, he is very much a loner, in this outing he is part of a team. The dynamic is different, but still compelling and still very much Reacher. The characters introduced as part of the team are well written and developed. I hope that Lee Child uses them in a future novel. The plot was well-paced. There was never a dull moment in the unravelling of the story. It's not essential to read the other books in the series to enjoy this one, but the whole series is excellent and I recommend reading them all.

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Monday, June 04, 2007

The Overlook by Michael Connelly

Dr. Stanley Kent is found on an overlook near Mulholland Drive with two bullet holes in the back of his head. Dr. Kent was a medical physicist with access to every hospital in the area. Harry Bosch is called to the scene by as part of LA's Homicide Special Squad where he meets up with his ex-lover, FBI Agent Rachel Walling who also happens to be on the scene. Highly radioactive cesium is missing from a gynecological-cancer laboratory and Dr. Kent is responsible for taking it. What was an execution-style killing has become a matter of national security.

Michael Connelly is one my top 5 favorite authors. I'd rather read an average Michael Connelly then many other author's best work. I enjoyed the story, but this wasn't one of Michael's Connelly's best efforts. The problem might have been expanding a magazine series into a full-length novel. I found the references to Echo Park in the beginning of the book. Not everyone reading THE OVERLOOK read ECHO PARK, or as in my case, I didn't remember the plot of that book. Connelly has a talent for keeping the suspense level high, and I wasn't disappointed on that front. There are some nice twists and turns to keep the reader interested and the story moving forward. I felt a little frustrated at the ending since we are left-hanging as to the state of Harry's health. We'll know as soon as the next Harry Bosch book is written which I hope will be soon.

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