Thursday, April 30, 2009

A Review: The Cold Moon by Jeffery Deaver

Hardcover: 416 pages
Publisher : Simon & Schuster
Language: English
ISBN : 0743260937 2006-05-30
EAN : 9780743260930

Although this book is one in the Lincoln Rhyme series, it introduces us to Kathryn Dance, the character in a new series by Deaver, beginning with The Sleeping Doll. Thus, the book is listed under the 2009 First in Series challenge.

Kathryn is is an agent with the California Bureau of Investigation, which is a bit like a state version of the FBI. She's operating out of their fictional Monterey, California, office. A young widow, whose FBI agent husband died several years ago, and the mother of two children, she's operating out of their fictional Monterey, California office.

Kathryn's law enforcement specialty is one I find quite fascinating. She's an expert at kinesics (body language) and more broadly in interrogation and interviewing witnesses and suspects. She is brought into the investigation of a series of gruesome murders in New York City, and although Rhyme is skeptical about her techniques, he eventually forms an alliance with her and asks that she stay to see the investigation through to the end.

Description (from the author's website)

Lincoln Rhyme returns in The Cold Moon, a roller coaster of a thriller that pits Lincoln and Amelia Sachs against time itself.

On a freezing December night, with a full moon hovering in the black skies over New York City, two people are brutally murdered—their prolonged deaths marked by eerie calling-cards: moon-faced clocks ticking away the victims' last minutes on earth. More murders are planned, and Rhyme and his team have only hours to stop the icy-cold, brilliant Watchmaker, whose obsession with time drives him to plan his carnage with the precision of a fine timepiece. While the cat-and-mouse search for the killer proceeds, Amelia Sachs must balance her efforts to catch the Watchmaker with her job as lead detective on the first homicide case of her own, in which she unearths shocking revelations from the past that threaten to undermine her very relationship with Lincoln Rhyme.

An unlikely ally appears on the scene in the form of California Bureau of Investigation special agent Kathryn Dance, one of the nation's leading experts in interrogation and kinesics—body language. Despite Lincoln's skepticism about witnesses, and her distrust of physical evidence, the two form a curious alliance in the heart-stopping quest to find the Watchmaker.

The rest of the team is present too—tech-minded Mel Cooper, dogged Lon Sellitto, hip Fred Dellray, and the newest addition: rookie Ron Pulaski.

Deaver's lightning-fast prose keeps the two cases racing along in almost real time, with more plot twists and surprises than in any previous book of his, as we realize that the Watchmaker may not be simply a murderous lunatic, but a far more cunning villain than anyone could guess, and the most terrifying and mesmerizing bad guy to ever come from the mind of Jeffery Deaver.


Bestseller Deaver's twisty seventh Lincoln Rhyme novel pits Rhyme, the quadriplegic NYPD detective, against a brilliant criminal mastermind called the Watchmaker. Assisted by his longtime partner, Det. Amelia Sachs, an expert at forensic analysis, Rhyme probes two bizarre murders linked by the killer's calling card—a clock left at the scene. The Watchmaker, as an ominous poem also left at the scene suggests, is bent on executing eight more people in a variety of ways intended to prolong their suffering. Deaver cleverly alternates between the Rhyme/Sachs team and the Watchmaker and his assistant, heightening tension by introducing the next targets and humanizing them. Sachs loses some focus when she also has to probe a suicide that she suspects is connected with some corrupt brother officers. Deaver fans won't be surprised that the investigations overlap, or that the several apparent climaxes are building to something more, but even they will be hard-pressed to peel back all the layers of the cunning plot at work beneath the surface.
— Publishers Weekly

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Review: Rules of Prey by John Sandford

Hardcover: 317 pages
Publisher: Putnam Adult (July 24, 1989)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0399134654
ISBN-13: 978-0399134654

Rules of Prey is the first in the "Prey" series featuring Minneapolis police detective Lucas Davenport and is also on my list in the 2009 First in a Series challenge. Lucas is brilliant and rich, having earned a good sum of money developing computer games. He's cocky and rather cold, but when you scratch his surface you find that underneath his cold exterior lies some sensitivity and warmth. Sandford has created a character who is likable and intriguing.

In Rules, Lucas is hunting a killer who has a list of well-thought out rules he follows in order to avoid capture. He leaves a note at each crime scene with one of his rules on it. Sort of an in your face taunt to those pursuing him.

Never kill anyone you know.
Never have a motive.
Never follow a discernible pattern.
Never carry a weapon after it has been used.
Isolate yourself from random discovery.
Beware of leaving physical evidence.
There were more. He built them into a challenge.

We are introduced to the killer at the beginning of the story, which allows us to follow him around to each crime scene and to know his thought processes. We also get to know a ladies man, a crime solver, video game inventor and all around tough guy. A hero you will love in spite of his flaws, and he does have a few. That's what makes him believable.

Synopsis (from the author's website)
The murderer was intelligent. He was a member of the bar. He derived rules based on professional examination of actual cases: Never kill anyone you know. Never have a motive. Never follow a discernible pattern. Never carry a weapon after it has been used. Beware of leaving physical evidence. There were more. He built them into a challenge. He was mad, of course . . .
The killer's name is Louis Vullion, a low-key young attorney who, under the camouflage of normalcy, researches his next female victim until the pressure within him forces him to reach out and "collect" her. Plying his secret craft with the tactics of a games master, he has gripped the Twin Cities in a storm of terror more fierce than any Minnesota winter.
It is after the third murder that Lucas Davenport is called in. It is the opinion of his colleagues that everything about the lieutenant is a little different, and they are right – in the computer games he invents and sells, in the Porsche he drives to work, in the quality of the women he attracts, in his single-minded pursuit of justice. The only member of the department's Office of Special Intelligence, Davenport prefers to work alone, parallel with Homicide, and there is something about this serial killer that he quickly understands. The man who signs himself "maddog" in taunting notes to the police is no textbook sociopath; he has a perverse playfulness that makes him kill for the sheer contest of it. He is a player.
Which means that Davenport will have to put all his mental strength – and physical courage – on the line to learn to think like the killer. For the only way to beat the maddog is at his own hellish game. . .

A Review: Along Came a Spider by James Patterson

Hardcover: 435 pages
Publisher: Little Brown & Co Oct 1999
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0785734783
ISBN-13: 9780785734789

Along Came a Spider is the first book in the Alex Cross series and is included on my list in the 2009 First in a Series challenge. I read this book many years ago, and then saw the movie starring Morgan Freeman as Cross. It's funny because as I was reading it again, the story line seemed completely unfamiliar to me because I was remembering it they way the movie told the story. was like reading it for the first time.

Alex Cross is one of my favorite characters, not just of James Patterson's books, but of any author. He's a police detective and a psychologist so we get to view the villain from the psychological angle also. Patterson delivers what the reader wants...a likeable good guy, a diabolical villain who relates his crimes to the Lindbergh baby kidnapping and enough intensity and suspense to keep you turning the pages. It's a 5 Star thriller.

Description (from the author's website)

A missing little girl named Maggie Rose.

A family of three brutally murdered in the projects of Washington, D.C.

The thrill-killing of a beautiful elementary school teacher.

A psychopathic serial kidnapper/murderer who calls himself the Son of Lindbergh. He is so terrifying that the FBI, the Secret Service, and the police cannot outsmart him — even after he's been captured.

Gary Soneji is a mild-mannered mathematics teacher at a Washington, D.C., private school for the children of the political and social elite. He's so popular that the kids all call him "Mr. Chips." And he's very, very smart. Growing up, he always knew he was smarter than the rest of them — he knew that the Great Ones always fooled everybody. He kidnaps Maggie Rose, the golden-haired daughter of a famous movie actress, and her best friend, Shrimpie Goldberg, the son of the secretary of the treasury, right out from under the noses of their two Secret Service agents. But Gary Soneji is not surprised at his skill. He's done it before. Hundreds of times before.

Alex Cross is a homicide detective with a Ph.D. in psychology. He looks like Muhammad Ali in his prime. Cross works and lives in the ghettos of D.C. He's a tough guy from a tough part of town who wears Harris Tweed jackets and likes to relax by banging out Gershwin tunes on his baby grand piano. He has two adorable kids of his own. They are his own special vulnerabilities.

Jezzie Flanagan is the first woman ever to hold the highly sensitive job as supervisor of the Secret Service in Washington. Blond, mysterious, seductive, she's got an outer shell that's as tough s it is beautiful. She rides her black BMW motorcycle at speeds of no less than 100 mph. What is she running from? What is her secret?

Alex Cross and Jezzie Flanagan are about to have a forbidden love affair-at the worst possible time for both of them. Because Gary Soneji, who wants to commit the "crime of the century," is playing at the top of his game. The latest of the unspeakable crimes happened in Alex Cross's precinct. They happened under the protection of Jezzie Flanagan's men. Now Soneji is at large again, still wreaking havoc.

Alex Cross must face the ultimate test as a psychologist: how do you outmaneuver a brilliant psychopath? Especially one who appears to have a split personality — one who won't let the other half remember those horrific acts?

Soneji has outsmarted the FBI, the Secret Service, and the police. Who will be his next victim?

Gary Soneji is every parent's worst nightmare. He has become Alex Cross's nightmare. And now, reader, he's about to become yours.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A Review: Against Medical Advice: A True Story by James Patterson & Hal Friedman

Hardcover: 283 pages
Publisher: Little Brown & Co Oct 2008
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0316024759
ISBN-13: 9780316024754

To say this book was inspirational would be an understatement. This is a fascinating and ultimately hopeful story about Cory Friedman's battle with Tourette's syndrome, obsessive-compulsive disorder and anxiety disorder. It describes the sometimes ill treatment received by the medical and education establishments in Cory's and his parent's attempts to find help and treatment, often coming up against arrogance and a lack of understanding from the very people who should understand.

This story is a valuable lesson on a medical condition that remains a mystery. The writing is personal, written in Cory's own voice. It outlines the courage, heartbreak, sacrifice and ultimate victory of Cory and his family by the sheer strength of the human spirit.

Description (from the author's website)

The dramatic true account of one family's struggle with a tormenting medical mystery.

One morning when he was almost five years old, Cory Friedman woke up with the uncontrollable urge to shake his head. From that day forward his life became an agony of irrepressible tics and involuntary utterances. Cory embarked on a fifteen-year odyssey of medication upon medication, treatment upon treatment–a constantly changing regimen that left him and his family feeling like guinea pigs in an out-of-control experiment. It soon became unclear which tics were symptoms of his condition and which were side effects of the countless combinations of drugs. The only certainty was that it kept getting worse. Simply put: Cory Friedman's life was a living hell.

Subjected to debilitating treatments and continuous ridicule, Cory became devastatingly aware of how he appeared to others. With the love of his family and the support of a few steadfast teachers and medical professionals, he fought for his very life, and you will cheer his amazing successes.

Against Medical Advice is the true story of Cory's battle for survival in the face of extraordinary difficulties and a sometimes maddening medical establishment. Written by James Patterson and Cory's father, Hal, and with the relentless pace of a Patterson thriller, this is a heartrending story of one family's courage, determination, and ultimate triumph.

Monday, April 20, 2009

A Review: Speaking in Tongues by Jeffery Deaver

Hardcover: 333 pages
Publisher: Highbridge Co Dec 2000
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0684871262
ISBN-13: 9780684871264

Although I liked this book, it isn't one of his best. The characters lack the dimension of other Deaver characters such as Lincoln Rhyme and Amelia Sachs. Deaver weaves his usual complex web of suspense with plenty of twists and turns to keep you turning the page.

I didn't care at first for Tate Collier or his ex-wife Bett, the parents of a kidnapped teenage girl. Tate considered Megan to be an "inconvenient child" and Bett was more interested in her looks and her love life than caring for her daughter. Megan's emotional issues were completely ignored by both her parents as she filled the void left by their neglect with alcohol and sex. The self-centeredness of these parents really put me off. But as the story evolved, I saw a change in Tate's and Bett's attitudes toward Megan. They risked a lot in their attempts to track down Megan's kidnapper and save her. However, with all of the attempts made by Tate and Bett, it's Megan who is the real hero of this story.

All in all, a good read with a satisfying ending.

Description (from the author's website)

Tate Collier, once one of the country's finest trial lawyers, is trying to forget his past. Now a divorced gentleman farmer, land developer, and community advocate in rural Virginia, he's regrouping from some disastrous mistakes in the realms of love and the law. But controversy — and danger — seem to have an unerring hold on Tate. Even as he struggles to rebuild his life, his alter ego is plotting his demise.

Aaron Matthews, a brilliant psychologist, has turned his talents away from curing patients to far deadlier goals. He's targeted Tate, Tate's ex-wife, Bett, and their estranged daughter, Megan, for unspeakable revenge. Matthews, ruthless and hell-bent, will destroy anything that inhibits his plans. When their daughter disappears, Tate and Bett reunite in a desperate, heart-pounding attempt to find her and to stop Matthews, a psychopath whose gift of a glib tongue and talent for coercion are as dangerous as knives and guns. Featuring an urgent race against the clock, gripping details of psychological manipulation, and the brilliant twists and turns that are trademark Deaver.

Monday, April 13, 2009

A Review: Scarpetta by Patricia Cornwell

Hardcover: 500 pages
Publisher: Putnam Pub Group Dec 2008
Language: English
ISBN-13: 9780399155161

If you asked me if I liked this book I would probably reply, "You tell me...I stayed in bed until noon today so I could finish it". I loved it! But then, I have enjoyed every one of the Scarpetta series. Were Dr. Kay Scarpetta real, she would be my heroine. Smart, confident, courageous, loyal, but still human enough to be imperfect.

In the previous book, Book of the Dead, Scarpetta and her long time partner, Pete Marino, had a terrible falling out which ultimately resulted in Pete's disappearance. I wasn't sure if this novel would be as good as all those before it because the dynamics between those two made for very interesting reading. But without giving away any of the plot, I can assure you that it was. Pete returned to Scarpetta's life and they were able to move beyond what happened in their past.

If you decide to read this, I would suggest reading Book of the Dead first so you have an insight into the emotions behind their reunion and the actions of those around them.

Synopsis from the author's website:

From America’s #1 bestselling crime writers comes the extraordinary new Kay Scarpetta novel.

Leaving behind her private forensic pathology practice in Charleston, South Carolina, Kay Scarpetta accepts an assignment in New York City, where the NYPD has asked her to examine an injured man on Bellevue Hospital’s psychiatric prison ward. The handcuffed and chained patient, Oscar Bane, has specifically asked for her, and when she literally has her gloved hands on him, he begins to talk—and the story he has to tell turns out to be one of the most bizarre she has ever heard.

The injuries, he says, were sustained in the course of a murder . . . that he did not commit. Is Bane a criminally insane stalker who has fixed on Scarpetta? Or is his paranoid tale true, and it is he who is being spied on, followed and stalked by the actual killer? The one thing Scarpetta knows for certain is that a woman has been tortured and murdered—and more violent deaths will follow. Gradually, an inexplicable and horrifying truth emerges: Whoever is committing the crimes knows where his prey is at all times. Is it a person, a government? And what is the connection between the victims?

In the days that follow, Scarpetta; her forensic psychologist husband, Benton Wesley; and her niece, Lucy, who has recently formed her own forensic computer investigation firm in New York, will undertake a harrowing chase through cyberspace and the all-too-real streets of the city—an odyssey that will take them at once to places they never knew, and much, much too close to home.

Throughout, Cornwell delivers shocking twists and turns, and the kind of cutting-edge technology that only she can provide. Once again, she proves her exceptional ability to entertain and enthrall.

Friday, April 10, 2009

A Review: Naked Prey by John Sandford

Hardcover: 359 pages
Publisher: Putnam Pub Group May 2004
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1417801670
ISBN-13: 9781417801671

Naked Prey is the fourteenth Prey novel in as many years. I’ve read each one and have not been disappointed yet. Lucas Davenport, now a Director with the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, continues to be a fascinating character. Tall and handsome, he’s not perfect. Prior to his marriage, he had his fair share of women, occasionally must deal with clinical depression and isn’t above manipulating the media to advance his cause. On the other side, he is brilliant, rich (from a computer software business he sold for big bucks), and supremely determined. He always gets his man (or woman).

Description from the author’s website:

Lucas Davenport finds some changes – and some nasty surprises – in store, in the chilling new novel by the number-one-bestselling author.

After thirteen years and thirteen Prey novels, John Sandford's writing is as fresh as ever. His last book, Mortal Prey, was "a model of the genre" (People) and "the cop novel of the year" (Kirkus Reviews). In the words of the Washington Post: "John Sandford does everything right."

Now, in Naked Prey, he puts Lucas Davenport through some changes. His old boss, Rose Marie Roux, has moved up to the state level and taken Lucas with her, creating a special troubleshooter job for him for the cases that are too complicated or politically touchy for others to handle. In addition, Lucas is married now, and a new father, all of which is fine with him: he doesn't mind being a family man. But he is a little worried. For every bit of peace you get, you have to pay – and he's waiting for the bill.

It comes in the form of two people found hanging from a tree in the woods of northern Minnesota. What makes the situation particularly sensitive is that the bodies are of a black man and a white woman, and they're naked. "Lynching" is the word that everybody's trying not to say – but, as Lucas begins to discover, in fact the murders are nothing like what they appear to be, and they are not the end of it. There is worse to come – much, much worse.

Filled with rich characterization and exceptional drama that are his hallmarks, this is Sandford's most suspenseful novel yet. "You know life is good when you have a new Lucas Davenport thriller to escape into," writes the Chicago Tribune, and Naked Prey proves it again.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A Review: The Stone Monkey by Jeffery Deaver

Hardcover: 432 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster (March 12, 2002)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0743221990

The Stone Monkey is the fourth book in the Lincoln Rhyme series, the first three being The Bone Collector, The Coffin dancer and The Empty Chair. Rhyme is brilliant forensic scientist who happens to be a quadriplegic. Along with a team of law enforcement personnel and his partner and lover, Amelia Sachs, he is working to apprehend a murderous human smuggler. Amelia has a talent for finding evidence and acts as Rhyme's legs as she "walks the grid" at crime scenes.

When a vicious smuggler known as the Ghost blows up a ship filled with undocumented Chinese immigrants less than a mile from New York harbor, only a handful of survivors--and the Ghost himself--manage to escape the burning vessel. Rhyme and Amelia must stop the Ghost before he murders the two families who made it to shore. The families have gone to ground in the all but impenetrable world of Manhattan's Chinatown, a fact that makes the pair's two allies--Sonny Li, a Chinese cop, and Dr. John Sung-- invaluable partners.

Description (from the author's website)

Recruited to help the FBI and the Immigration and Naturalization Service perform the nearly impossible, Lincoln Rhyme and his partner, Amelia Sachs, manage to track down a cargo ship headed for New York City carrying two dozen illegal Chinese immigrants, as well as the notorious human smuggler and killer known as "the Ghost."

But when the Ghost's capture goes disastrously wrong, Lincoln and Amelia find themselves in a race against time: to stop the Ghost before he can track down and murder the two surviving families who have escaped from the ship and vanished deep into the labyrinthine world of New York City's Chinese community.

Over the next harrowing forty-eight hours, the Ghost brilliantly and ruthlessly hunts for the families, while Rhyme, aided by a quirky policeman from mainland China, struggles to find them before they die, and Amelia Sachs pursues a very different kind of police work — forming a connection with one of the immigrants that may affect her relationship with her partner and lover, Lincoln Rhyme.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

A Review: The General's Daughter by Nelson DeMille

Hardcover: 454 pages
Grand Central Publishing; 1st edition (November 16, 1992)

Throughout this book you are very aware of the underlying attitudes of the Army towards women and cover-ups. Every bad thing that happened in the life of Captain Ann Campbell resulted from these attitudes. She entered West Point, beautiful and bright, and as her career progressed, became the "golden girl" of the Army. However, the appearance of perfection hid an ugly and sordid life. Her need to wreak vengeance against the person who betrayed her so painfully eventually results in her death. Paul Brenner and Cynthia Sunhill investigate her brutal murder, and along the way, learn about why Ann's life went from virtuous to sordid.

I guess if I had to voice a complaint about this book it would be that there were a few too many suspects. It was sometimes a little difficult to keep track of them. It also was not too difficult to determine who the killer was. I figured it out early on so the ending was a little anti-climatic.

Description from the author's website:

Captain Ann Campbell is a West Point graduate, the daughter of legendary General "Fighting Joe" Campbell. She is the pride of Fort Hadley until, one morning, her body is found, naked and bound, on the firing range.

Paul Brenner is a member of the army's elite undercover investigative unit and the man in charge of this politically explosive case. Teamed with rape specialist Cynthia Sunhill, with whom he once had a tempestuous, doomed affair, Brenner is about to learn just how many people were sexually, emotionally, and dangerously involved with the army's "golden girl." And how the neatly pressed uniforms and honor codes of the military hide a corruption as rank as Ann Campbell's shocking secret life.