Thursday, July 30, 2009

A Review: Dead Watch by John Sandford

Hardcover: 373 pages
Language: English
Publisher: Putnam Pub Group May 2006
ISBN-10: 0399153543
ISBN-13: 9780399153549

I'm an avid John Sandford fan, especially of his "Prey" series and its main character, Lucas Davenport. In Dead Watch Sandford has created another interesting, though not as complex, main character, Jake Winter. While Winter is smart and diligent, he doesn't have the edge that Davenport has. Still, he is interesting enough to keep you reading. Actually, the most interesting and challenging character in the book is Jake's love interest and estranged wife of a kidnapped politician, Madison Bowe.

Ex-Senator Lincoln Bowe disappears and the White House asks Jake to investigate. Madison is very vocal about her belief that Virginia Governor Arlo Goodman is behind the disappearance. When Bowe's headless corpse is discovered, Jake is under even more pressure to find out what happened. Aided by Madison (and wondering if she may be involved), Jake follows a trail of deception that suggests that the disappearance and murder may be a plot to derail Governor Goodman's ascent to the presidency.

I think Jake has a lot of potential as a main character and hope that Sandford writes another novel featuring him. However, the plot in Dead Watch was rather convoluted, with too many suspects to keep track of. The nature of the murder plot was just too unbelievable and sensational. That said, it still was an interesting read.

Synopsis (from the author's website)

Late afternoon, Virginia, and a woman is on the run. Her husband, a former U.S. Senator named Lincoln Bowe, has been missing for days. Kidnapped? Murdered? She doesn't know, but she thinks she knows who's involved, and why. And that she may be next.

Hours later, a phone rings in the pocket of Jacob Winter. An Army Intelligence veteran, Winter specializes in what he thinks of as forensic bureaucracy. Congress, the Pentagon, the FBI, CIA, Homeland Security – when something goes wrong, Winter kicks over rocks until he finds out what really happened. The White House is his main client, and the chief of staff is on the phone now.

If Bowe isn't located soon, he is told, all hell will break loose.

What Winter doesn't realize is – all hell will break loose anyway. And he will be right in the middle of it. Large forces are at work, men determined to do whatever it takes to achieve unprecedented ends. Before the next few days are out, Winter will discover he has to use every one of his resources not only to prevail... but just to survive.

And so will the nation....

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A Review: Act of Betrayal by Edna Buchanan

Hardcover: 292 pages
Language: English
Publisher: Hyperion Books Feb 1996
ISBN-10: 0786860987
ISBN-13: 9780786860982

Edna Buchanan is a Pulitzer Prize winning crime reporter. In this novel, she writes of Britt Montero, a half Cuban crime reporter in Miami. Plagued as usual by boyfriend problems, Britt reports about the disappearance of a teen-age boy whose investigation by the police has been almost non-existent. During her investigation, Britt finds that there are many more missing boys who share identical physical traits. They are all white, all blond, all blue-eyed, all unsolved.

Interspersed with the investigation is a personal mystery involving Britt's long dead Cuban father; a diary he kept that could expose a man professing to be a Cuban patriot.

This book has it all; kidnapping, murder, political intrigue, a mother/daughter conflict and a massive hurricane. Britt is tough, smart and likable.


A fatal bomb blast propels Mimi News police reporter Britt Montero into the story of her life, as deadly secrets and betrayals from the past sweep into Miami on the winds of a killer storm.

More than one evil prowls the sweltering city. When Britt reports the story of a missing teenager, she uncovers a frightening pattern of identical cases. The lost boys could be brother. All look alike: slender, fair-haired, and blue-eyed. All vanished without a trace.

As Britt probes the baffling case, an old mystery reopens personal wounds. Britt has always felt simpatico with the father she never knew--who was executed by a Castro firing squad when she was only three--and bewildered by her mother's bitter silence about the man who allowed the dream of a free Cuba to become a fatal obsession. Now, as the Castro regime weakens and falters at last, as intrigue and politicking build to a fever pitch throughout Miami's exile community, Britt meets two men who knew her father well. One aims to become the first president of a free Cuba; the other, an aging freedom fighter, still wars against Castro with hit-and-run guerrilla raids. Both know the shocking secret history of her parents' past. Through them, Britt learns that her father left an explosive prison diary naming the traitor who betrayed him. Rumor says the long-sought diary has now arrived in Miami, in the possession of a rafter, a balsero, one of the thousands who risked their lives braving the shark-infested waters of the Florida straits to reach freedom.

Suddenly everyone wants the diary, and everyone who acquires it is marked for murder. As the cold trail of the missing boys heats up and Britt seeks her father's diary in order to find the man responsible for his death, the most destructive hurricane in fifty years bears down on Miami. People flee the Keys, and storm panic spreads as Britt confronts her mother, demanding the long-kept secrets of the past.

Miamians jam the streets and highways to evacuate. Tension mounts as the barometric pressure drips. Just as her father was caught up in the whirlwind of revolution and freedom fighting thirty years earlier, Britt and those around her are caught up by the storm that shatters their lives and changes the face of South Florida forever.

At the height of the storm, as it seems that doomsday has arrived, Britt learns the horrifying truth about the missing boys, her own past and, after more than thirty years, faces the man responsible for her father's death as a betrayal even more devastating is revealed.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

A Review: Twilight by Stephanie Meyer

Paperback: 498 pages
Language: English
Publisher: Little Brown & Co Sep 2006
ISBN-10: 0316015849
ISBN-13: 9780316015844

I was prepared not to like this book...what with teenage vampires and that it targets young adults. But I was pleasantly surprised as it was a good way to escape the everyday hum drum reality we all live in. You can just curl up in a comfy chair and let yourself be mindlessly entertained for a while.

High school senior, Bella Swan moves to Forks, Washington to live with her father while her mother travels with her new husband. She finds herself sitting next to the seriously gorgeous Edward Cullen in her biology class and promptly falls in love. She spurns the attentions of all the other boys who are attracted to her, even though Edward acts as if he hates her. What she doesn't know, is that Edward lusts after her. He really wants to suck her blood but is trying to resist temptation. He doesn't want her to find out he is a vampire, even though he (and his equally gorgeous vampire family) only feed on animals, not humans. Silly? Adolescent? Yes and yes. But still I enjoyed the escape.

Bella is a little bit of a martyr and supremely clumsy, but very likable. A good kid who does well in school and always tries to do the right thing. And Edward, if a vampire can be a good guy is I guess, a good guy. He tries to do the right thing by Bella but fails because of his intense attraction to her.

It's not classic literature but most books aren't anyway. It's just silly fun.


Bella Swan’s move to Forks could have been the most boring move she ever made. But when she meets the mysterious and alluring Edward Cullen, her life takes a thrilling and terrifying turn. Up until now, Edward has managed to keep his vampire identity a secret in the small community he lives in, but now nobody is safe, especially Bella.


I’d never given much thought to how I would die — though I’d had reason enough in the last few months — but even if I had, I would not have imagined it like this.

I stared without breathing across the long room, into the dark eyes of the hunter, and he looked pleasantly back at me.

Surely it was a good way to die, in the place of someone else, someone I loved. Noble, even. That ought to count for something.

I knew that if I’d never gone to Forks, I wouldn’t be facing death now. But, terrified as I was, I couldn’t bring myself to regret the decision. When life offers you a dream so far beyond any of your expectations, it’s not reasonable to grieve when it comes to an end.

The hunter smiled in a friendly way as he sauntered forward to kill me…

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A Review: A is for Alibi by Sue Grafton

Hardcover: 274 pages
Language: English
Publisher: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston Jan 1982
ISBN-10: 0030590485
ISBN-13: 9780030590481

In the first of Grafton's alphabet series, Kinsey Millhone is an ex-cop turned private investigator who prefers to be alone and will stop at nothing to solve her case. There's nothing soft about her.

Kinsey is hired by Nikki Fife to find out who murdered her thoroughly unlikeable husband, Laurence. Nikki was just released from prison after being found guilty of murdering Laurence. Now she wants her name cleared. Along the way, Kinsey finds love and that there is another murder that is certainly connected. But does her new love interest have something to hide also about the murders? As she struggles to put all the pieces together, she comes to realize that someone out there is trying to stop her from learning the truth.

The plot and characters are well formed and there is enough suspense to keep you guessing and turning the pages. You may be a little bored with the lack of modern technology such as cell phones and laptops, but just remember; this book was written in 1982. I had to keep reminding myself of that every time Kinsey had to use a motel phone or drag out her typewriter.

Synopsis (from the author's website)

When Laurence Fife was murdered, few mourned his passing. A prominent divorce attorney with a reputation for single-minded ruthlessness on behalf of his clients, Fife was also rumored to be a dedicated philanderer. Plenty of people in the picturesque Southern California town of Santa Teresa had a reason to want him dead. Including, thought the cops, his young and beautiful wife, Nikki. With motive, access, and opportunity, Nikki was their number one suspect. The jury thought so too.

Eight years later and out on parole, Nikki Fife hires Kinsey Millhone to find out who really killed her late husband.

A trail that is eight years cold. A trail that reaches out to enfold a bitter, wealthy, and foul-mouthed old woman and a young boy, born deaf, whose memory cannot be trusted. A trail that leads to a lawyer defensively loyal to a dead partner -- and disarmingly attractive to Millhone; to an ex-wife, brave, lucid, lovely -- and still angry over Fife's betrayal of her; to a not-so-young secretary with too high a salary for too few skills -- and too many debts left owing: The trail twists to include every turn until it finally twists back on itself with a killer cunning enough to get away with murder.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

A Review: The Front by Patricia Cornwell

Hardcover: 180 pages
Language: English
Publisher: Putnam Pub Group May 2008
ISBN-10: 0399154183
ISBN-13: 9780399154188

This is one of those short, superficial books you can zip right through and not have to think about. The plot wasn't complicated and the characters weren't too deep and complex. It's a weak sequel to At Risk which wasn't all that thought provoking either. I got the impression that Cornwell must have been required to publish a book so she just called this one in. In fact, I think all of her books outside the Kay Scarpetta series just don't measure up. It makes me wonder how she can create such colorful and believable characters for Scarpetta, but fail so miserably with her others. This one isn't as bad as Isle of Dogs (nothing could be worse than that ridiculous novel) but it certainly is near the bottom of the list.

Win Garano is a drop dead gorgeous, half Italian/half black investigator for the Boston District Attorney, Monique LaMont. Monique is selfish, ambitious and ruthless and treats her employees as if she owns them. She assigns Win to investigate a cold case from 1962 in which a young blind woman was raped and murdered in Watertown. She's convinced the murder was committed by the Boston Strangler and sees this as a chance to advance her career. Watertown is also the home base for a loose association of municipal police departments called the FRONT, hence the title.

And then there's Win's grandmother...a tarot card reading, curse wielding, superstitious old woman who has been in trouble more than once for putting curses on a couple of politicians. Another character who is little more than a caricature.

Synopsis (from the author's website)

At Risk featured Massachusetts state investigator Win Garano, a shrewd man of mixed-race background and a notinconsiderable chip on his shoulder; District Attorney Monique Lamont, a hard-charging woman with powerful ambitions and a troubling willingness to cut corners; and Garano's grandmother, who has certain unpredictable talents that you ignore at your peril.

And in The Front, peril is what comes to them all. D.A. Lamont has a special job for Garano. As part of a new public relations campaign about the dangers of declining neighborhoods, she's sending him to Watertown to “come up with a drama,” and she thinks she knows just the case that will serve. Garano is very skeptical, because he knows that Watertown is also the home base for a loose association of municipal police departments called the FRONT, set up in order that they don't have to be so dependent on the state—much to Lamont's anger. He senses a much deeper agenda here—but he has no idea just how deep it goes. In the days that follow, he'll find that Lamont's task, and the places it leads him, will resemble a house of mirrors—everywhere he turns, he's not quite sure if what he's seeing is true.

“Falsehoods rule,” warns his grandmother. And they can also kill.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

A Review: The Bone Collector by Jeffery Deaver

Hardcover: 421 pages
Language: English
Publisher: Penguin Group USA Mar 1997
ISBN-10: 067086871X
ISBN-13: 9780670868711

The first in the Lincoln Rhyme series, The Bone Collector is about a forensic scientist, known to his peers as "the world's foremost criminalist". Injured during a crime scene search, Rhyme is a quadriplegic, confined to a bed in his Manhattan apartment, and cared for by his aide, Thom. He has limited use of the ring finger of his left hand, which he uses to operate some state of the art equipment that enables him to view evidence and assists him in solving crimes.

New York City is experiencing a series of gruesome kidnappings and murders, the first of which is a man buried alive on a train track with his forearm sticking out of the ground. He is discovered by NYPD cop, Amelia Sachs, who stops a train and closes a busy NYC street in order to preserve the crime scene. When Rhyme is asked to assist in the solving the case, he wants Sachs to act as his legs at the crime scenes.

The villain, a serial killer who models his crimes on ones he finds in a book on criminal life in old New York, dispenses of his victims in ways guaranteed to make you cringe. All this takes place in the course of one weekend as the killer leaves clues as to where he's going to strike next.

There is drama and suspense on every page, up to and including the climactic battle to the death at the end.

Synopsis (from the author's website)

Lincoln Rhyme, ex-head of NYPD forensics, was the nation's foremost criminalist, the man who could work a crime scene and come away with a perfect profile of the killer, frozen in time. Now, Lincoln is frozen in place — permanently. An accident on the job left him a quadriplegic who can move just one finger, a great mind strapped to his bed, mulish and sarcastic, hiding from a life he no longer wants to live.

Until he sees the crime-scene report about a corpse found buried on a deserted West Side railroad track, its bloody hand rising from the dirt. It belonged to a man who got into a cab at the airport and never got out. Reluctantly, Lincoln Rhyme abandons retirement to track down a killer whose ingenious clues hold the secret to saving his victims — if Rhyme can decipher them in time. The search leads him to the Bone Collector, whose obsession with old New York colors every scrap of evidence he leaves for Rhyme and his new partner, Amelia Sachs, whom he drafts as his arms and legs. But she's never worked a crime scene in her life — and he can only whisper in her ear as she does the exacting work he loved more than anything else.

A Review: Phantom Prey by John Sandford

Hardcover: 373 pages
Language: English
Publisher: Putnam Pub Group May 2008
ISBN-10: 0399155007
ISBN-13: 9780399155000

In the 18th book of the "Prey" series, Frances Austin, a wealthy young woman who is into the Goth scene, goes missing. Already working on an important case, Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension agent Lucas Davenport becomes involved in this one when his surgeon wife, Weather, asks him to. Weather just happens to be a friend of Frances' mother, Alyssa. Traces of Frances' blood are found on a wall in her mother's home, but with no body, Lucas can't be positive she is dead. When several other members of the Goth community are found murdered, it becomes less likely that Frances will be found alive.

You've heard the term "follow the money"...that is what Lucas does when he discovers that $50,000 was missing from one of Frances' investment accounts. The trail leads him to Frances' killer, but he believes there is a second person who killed the others. We find out who that killer is before Lucas does, and it's quite disturbing.

No one writes a crime thriller better than John Sandford and he doesn't disappoint with Phantom. This 18th entry in the Prey series still shows plenty of the suspense and originality that has made this series last so long. In my opinion, there's no such thing as a bad Lucas Davenport story.

Synopsis (from the author's website)

Lucas Davenport has had disturbing cases before – but never one quite like this, in the shocking new Prey novel from the #1 New York Times-bestselling author.

John Sandford's most recent Davenport novel, Invisible Prey, was hailed as "one of his best books in recent memory" (Washington Post); "as fresh and entertaining as ever" (Chicago Sun-Times); "rivetingly readable" (Richmond Times-Dispatch). But this time, he's got something quite special in store.
A widow comes home to her large house in a wealthy, exclusive suburb to find blood on the walls, no body – and her college-age daughter missing. She's always known that her daughter ran with a bad bunch. What did she call them – Goths? Freaks is more like it, running around with all that makeup and black clothing, listening to that awful music, so attracted to death. And now this.
But the police can't find the girl, alive or dead, and the widow truly panics. There's someone she knows, a surgeon named Weather Davenport, whose husband is a big deal with the police, and she implores Weather to get her husband directly involved. Lucas gets in only reluctantly – but then when a second Goth is slashed to death in Minneapolis, he starts working it hard. The clues don't seem to add up, though. And then there's the young Goth who keeps appearing and disappearing: Who is she? Where does she come from and, more important, where does she vanish to? And why does Lucas keep getting the sneaking suspicion that there is something else going on here... something very, very bad indeed?
Filled with his brilliant trademark suspense and some of the most interesting characters in thriller fiction, Phantom Prey is further proof that "Sandford is in a class of his own" (Orlando Sentinel).

Thursday, July 2, 2009

A Review: I Heard That Song Before by Mary Higgins Clark

Hardcover: 318 pages
Language: English
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Apr 2007
ISBN-10: 0743264916
ISBN-13: 9780743264914

When Kay Lansing was six years old, she sneaked into the mansion where her father worked as the landscaper to see the hidden chapel. While there, she overheard a mysterious conversation between an unknown man and woman. Twenty-two years later she returned to the mansion to ask the owner, Peter Carrington, if he would host a library fundraiser. A month later they were married, even though Peter was under a cloud of suspicion for two murders.

Peter has been a "person of interest" in the murder twenty-two years ago of his neighbor, Susan Althorp, and for the more recent drowning death of his wife, Grace. When the District Attorney finally has enough evidence to arrest Peter, Kay begins to realize how important that conversation was to Peter's defense.

Written in her usual style, short chapters with cliff hanger endings, this novel doesn't disappoint. The characters are well-defined, with the exception of Peter, who I felt was rather one-dimensional. Although there are quite a few characters, they are easy to follow. The plot is fast paced and suspenseful, keeping me interested and not wanting to put the book down. Any Higgins Clark fan will like this book.

Synopsis (from the author's website)

Mary Higgins Clark takes you deep into the mysteries of the human mind, where memories may be the most dangerous things of all.

Kay Lansing grew up in Englewood, New Jersey, daughter of the landscaper to the wealthy and powerful Carrington family. One day, accompanying her father to work, six-year-old Kay overhears a quarrel between a man and a woman that ends with the man's caustic response: "I heard that song before." That same evening, young Peter Carrington drives the nineteen-year-old daughter of neighbors home from a formal dinner dance at the Carrington estate, but she is not in her room the next morning and is never seen or heard from again.

Decades later, a cloud of suspicion hangs over Peter, not only for his neighbor's disappearance but also for the subsequent drowning death of his own pregnant wife in their swimming pool. But when Kay Lansing, now a librarian in Englewood, asks Peter's permission to hold a literary benefit cocktail party on his estate, she comes to see Peter as misunderstood? and when he begins to court her, she falls in love -- and marries him. However, she soon makes a discovery that leads her to question her husband's innocence. She believes that the key to the truth lies in the identities of the man and woman whose quarrel she witnessed as a child. What she does not realize is that uncovering what lies behind these memories may cost Kay her life.