Monday, April 23, 2007

Dry Ice by Stephen White

In this latest Stephen White novel, psychologist Dr. Alan Gregory has to confront his own personal demons along with the breakdown of his personal and professional life due to nemesis, Michael McClelland introduced in his first novel PRIVELEDGED INFORMATION. McClelland has escaped from a mental institution and seeks to destroy everything Gregory hold near and dear. McClelland is working with other inmates that he has befriended in the State Mental Institution. With the help of the Internet, they have learned of old secrets held by Gregory, his prosecutor wife Lauren, and friend Detective Sam Purdy---all instrumental in McClelland's incarceration. He set on vengeance against them all by torturing them with their secrets.

I was riveted this expertly plotted novel from page one. Gregory has always been somewhat of an enigmatic character. His plight created by his long kept secret humanized the stoic Gregory. While the novel was not action based in the truest sense, I couldn't put the book down. Each scene seem to reveal a new twist. I wanted to see where the story went next. Several references were made to the character in the last Stephen White novel of KILL ME in which Gregory only played a peripheral role. First time readers might be a bit lost with the characters that populate the book since White spends little time with the backstories that have been built over the whole of the series. Fans of the series won't be disappointed in another well written and well executed Dr. Gregory novel.

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Fallen by T. Jefferson Parker

San Diego Homicide Detective Robbie Brownlaw was thrown out of a burning hotel and survived. He does not bear scars from that incident, but he did come away with a neurological condition called synesthesia in which he sees people's voices as colored shapes. Since red squares denote lying, Robbie as a cop has a useful tool with his primitive lie detector. In this instance, Robbie and his partner McKenzie Cortez investigate the death of Garrett Asplundh, former Professional Standards officers for the SDPD now an investigator for the SD Ethics Authority Enforcement Unit. Garrett was an upstanding, moral man with a tragedy in his past. Less than a year ago, his three-year-old daughter was found drowned in his swimming pool during a house party. His marriage to his much beloved wife fell apart and he started drinking heavily. When he was found dead, it was first thought it might be suicide, but soon became apparent that it wasn't. Due to the nature of his job, Garrett had many enemies and it is up to Robbie and McKenzie to find out who felt threatened enough by Garrett to kill him.

Even though Parker could have used the synesthesia angle as a dominant device in the story, it was kept in the background most of the time which made it more powerful. It was an interesting trait that added to the story. I really enjoyed Robbie as a character. He was multi-dimensional with his devotion to his job and to his failing marriage trying to make sense of life. I was hooked into the story from the first page and I had trouble putting the book down. Highly Recommended.

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Monday, April 09, 2007

Hide by Lisa Gardner

Annabelle Granger and her parents have led a somewhat nomadic life since Annabelle was seven years old. She and her parents rarely lived anywhere for more than two years, always a new state, and a new name. She never knew why. Twenty-five years later, her parents are both dead and she has come full circle back to living in Boston where she last felt stability and continuity. In Boston she lives in semi-seclusion and anonymity, still feeling the fear of her childhood. Only the astonishing news report that Annabelle Granger is dead, part of a gruesome crime scene involving six children buried in an underground chamber on the grounds of the now-closed state mental hospital, causes Annabelle come forth. Annabelle, now known as Tanya, tells Detectives Bobby Dodge and D.D. Warren her strange story. Not many facts of her past can be substantiated due to the frequent change of names and address. The investigation of the serial deaths unearths more than one suspect. Annabelle insists on being part of the investigation, and ends up reclaiming her name and her life.

This was an extremely fast-paced, engrossing, and engaging book. The characters were all terrific. Bobby and D.D. are characters that first appeared in the 2005 ALONE. Catherine Gagnon, the central character from ALONE, is also part of the story in HIDE. This is total stand along novel, but I think it would be really worth it to read ALONE first. There were a few problems with the book. Annebelle narrated her part of the story in first person, while the rest of the book was in third person. It made it really confusing. Also there were so many suspects, and so many clues and they all seemed to be involved in the resolution which made it seem too tidy, and far-fetched. Also, since when is a women versed in martial arts bested by a couple of old guys.

The first three-quarters of the book was excellent. The ending is rather a disappointment.

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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The Watchman by Robert Crais

Elvis Cole takes a back seat to Joe Pike in the newest Robert Crais novel. Larkin Connor Barkley, a Paris Hilton-like clone has a traffic accident. In attempting to help the victims she is embroiled in a life-and-death secret federal investigation. Enter Joe Pike. He is called upon by his old mentor Bed Flynn to protect Larkin who has become a target due to her witnessing the accident. Pike and Larkin are on the run, trying to keep her alive while Pike and Elvis try to figure the why's of the situation.

I love the Elvis Cole series. He has evolved as a character since the early books. Pike is more of an unknown quantity. We get to know him a bit better, but part of his lure is his mystique. Know too much and he becomes human. Compared to other Crais novels, this wasn't really one of my favorites. It's still a suspenseful read, but Pike isn't a character that really reaches out and grabs you. He's a distant character for a reason. Larkin was a bit of brat who had some decent moments. My favorite parts included Elvis. Crais is a good writer who knows how to keep readers interested even if working with less than compelling characters.

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