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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Unconquered - a review

Perhaps our last frontier is still here on earth with tribes that have yet to have contact with others humans. Scott Wallace, attached to the National Geographic, went on one such excursion into the Amazon jungle in search of a lost tribe, trying to find the inner sanctum of the mysterious People of the Arrow, the flecheiros; Wild Indians.
An ancient tribe of Brazil, it was rumored they had not made offical contact with the outside world. Sydney Pussuelo, president of Brazil's Indian affairs agency, known under the Portuguese acronym of FUNAI led an expedition, not to contact these people; an encounter would mean a disatrous end to a way of life thousands of years old. In fact they where there to protect the Indians, to ensure the land they lived in was saved from the destructive activity in the Amazon, logging and gold mining, both of which are causing awful destruction to the land and forcing the natives to move from their tribal areas. Many tribes had been close to wiped out with white man's disease and subsequent way of life. Nature needed to be left alone.
In a harrowing journey, half of which was conducted on foot, a group of over thirty men helped map out the land area to conserve, while fending off attacks by snakes, piranha, and the potential of a curare-tipped arrow, eating monkeys that reminded them of cannibalism just to survive. This rugged group of men where bought to their knees, scourged with disease and hunger, willing to give of their lives in order that others might maintain theirs.
A magnificant story ripely told in colorful language that delves into the politics of South American countries and the rape of the Amazon forest that will leave you aghast and full of wonder of what men will do the harm and help others. A most impressive report.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Secret Soldier - a review

The Saudi government is in trouble. One of the princes of the kingdom is undermining the King in an effort to seize the throne. So, who do the King and his trusted henchmen turn to? Former CIA operative John Wells. This demonstrates the fiction in this incredulous turn of events; as the prince says “You think this pleases us? To ask an American we don’t know for help.” What else would you do though when your own secret service is compromised?

Once Wells gets his head in the game, he and his partner Brett Gaffan go deep undercover, with literally a king’s ransom at their disposal, to race to find out who the secret operatives are, where they are and what diabolical plot they’re hatching against the government. From New Hampshire to Montego Bay, South of France to Milan, or Lebanon to Cyprus the pair race against time to discover the truth.

When the leader of the rebel force goes rogue and inflicts pain not only on the king, but on ‘the American infidels,’ the CIA gives it’s blessing to send in the secret soldier while government red tape holds up any involvement from a Delta Force unit confined to the embassy grounds. Using the latest satellite technology they are able to pinpoint the location of the missing Ambassador. Since a video of impossible demands has already been broadcast over the airways through Al Jazeera, it is a race against time before a video of his decapitation is shown next, leading to the scenario of an American invasion and the downfall of aging King Abdullah.

Berensen takes his time establishing his characters credentials in an effort to make this a fine stand-alone novel for those not already introduced to his protagonist John Wells. His work is as much a historical and political fact finding tour of the Middle East as is it a spellbinding page turner and espionage thriller, one that his hard to put down.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Target - A Review

When a dirty-bomb explodes at Chicago’s Union Station killing hundreds of commuters taking the train home from work, Maggie Curran is one of the deceased. Her husband, Mike, an Iraqi war veteran, disillusioned in the government’s ability to protect its citizens confers with a group of like-minded ex-military types and scientists who decide to do something about it themselves.

Starting with the revenge for his wife’s death Curran arranges for the one living bomber to be assassinated, brings into his confidence the money-men and the group decide to strike back at the Muslim world during Ramadan, and launch a nuclear missile near Mecca to show that the Western world also has the opportunity to strike deep in the homeland of it’s perceived enemies.

One member of the inner circle has other plans for the bomb, deciding to strike at Mecca itself and the groups plan gets unraveled as the seat of power changes at the last moment. Will the conscience of the bombers win out or will the dissent member wreak havoc in the Middle East.

In a thought provoking counterpoint from both sides of the world that leaves us with eye-opening propositions, Bowen shows his expertise in the fields of military intelligence and international security. The political philosophies expressed appear to be meant as what is needed to force both sides to give consideration to the final option but also shows what could happen if that same solution was left to the well-meaning but ignorant masses disenchanted with what our government is doing. As the suspense builds I found myself with just as many questions as the book leaves answers, and I think they could have been addressed in the portions of the book that cried out for more dialogue. It is used effectively in places, but to delve more deeply into the family situations, into what makes each of the characters act the way they do, I would like to have read a little more discourse. This lack of dialogue in key places does not distract from the melodrama of this thriller however I felt it would have enhanced the storyline if we read what they said rather than being told how the characters felt.

The Sherlockian

Having been steeped in the writings of Sir Author Conan Doyle as a boy from The Lost World to Sherlock Holmes immediately seeing this book’s title prickled the hair on the back of my neck. How could someone think they can emulate or worse still try to copy one of the greats.  So I was pleasantly surprised to find Moore’s version of events quite within the realms of possibility.
A well thought through approach, obvious research in the private life of Doyle, and information only a Sherlockian would be aware of are self-evident throughout. A Sherlockian is a member of a group that devotes themselves to the study of Sherlock Holmes, quoting passages  as some folks quote famous movie lines, and holding occasional meetings to study and discuss the famous detective. Doyle would have been disgusted at such loyalty to his creation, after all, as the books points out, Doyle killed Holmes off because he had become bigger than Doyle. The author was playing second-fiddle to the character he wrote about.
The Sherlockian starts with a meeting of the devotees, whose organizer claims to have discovered the missing diary of Doyle; the one that has had everyone talking for months. Doyle apparently kept a very detailed accounting of his life and the missing chapter would be of great interest to historians, let alone this group of readers. Unaccountably the diary is stolen and the finder apparently murdered before he can bring to light his findings. Smelling a rat, Harold White, an ardent student of Holmes’ techniques, and Sarah Lindsay, the journalist who was to report on the findings of the diary, pair up to track down who killed their esteemed leader and to find out where the missing diary might be now. If this mystery wasn’t enough to keep one turning the pages, Moore switches back and forth between current times and the nineteen hundreds, every other chapter, so the reader is finding out for himself exactly what is transpiring that Doyle wrote about so ardently that will make the discovery of these lost months so important to his fans of today.
The back-and-forth ploy is a tremendous asset to the novel and it kept me up late into the night unable to stop reading until I turned the file pages to discover the final ending to this astutely written historical thriller.

Missing Persons - a review

O’Donohue puts her journalistic skills to work building her new character, Kate Conway, a Chicago television reporter and begins her second series with a rollicking good start.
Conway produces one of those true crime local cable shows and is used to dealing with dead bodies and missing people but when the dead body is her soon-to-be divorced husband who just happens to die while she is starting up a fledgling new show on finding missing people then local homicide detectives find cause to question her motives and alibi.
Throw into the mix the husband’s new fiancĂ©, who all of a sudden wants to be Kat’s new ‘best friend’,  a old high school jock friend and unhappy in-laws Kate finds her personal life as much as a juggling act as the new television show. When the body of the girl she is reporting on as missing shows up and Kate starts to receive death threats of her own she has to figure out is the hidden danger from the results of her reporting or from someone a little closer to her personal life.
O’Donohue exhibits a masterful approach with her classic red-herrings and carefully placed foreshadowing as she drags us through the muck-racking of yellow journalism but still finds a way to keep as close as family when worrying about her protagonist. This novel kept me interested and still left room for unexpected twist in the end. This will be a series worth collecting.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Consequences: The Criminal Case of David Parker Ray - a review of a True Crime

When a young woman is found running naked down a country road in Elephant Butte NM with nothing but a collar and a chain fastened around her neck the killing and torture spree of David Parker Ray came to a halt.
Cindy Vigil, was one of the lucky ones. Only a few had survived at the hands of the criminal sexual sadist and those that had where so drugged on ametriptoline as to not remember little to anything of their experience. When authorities followed their leads back to the home of DPR they were all flabbergasted at the extent of the crimes committed.
Along with his torture chamber, labeled The Toy Box, they also found extensive diaries describing in great detail all the gruesome tortures and murders he had committed over a forty-four year span starting when he turned fifteen
This true life crime saga is told in clinical detail covering all the known facts, as horrific as they are, and the subsequent trials of DPR, his girlfriend, daughter and other known associates. It makes for a gruesome read and a look at a little slice of America that we all would prefer to forget existed.
Hard to rate it, cant say I liked it but found it fascinating, well told and a good research avenue for novelists who are writing abut aspects of S&M  or BDSM

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Bourne Dominion - A review

One assumed with Robert Ludlum’s untimely passing that Jason Bourne passed on with him, however the character is alive and well and in the capable hands of Van Lustbader.
From South America to Europe and back to the Middle East, Bourne helps track down and kill the worst bad guys in the world while apparently being marked for death by the Russian spymasters, FSB-2, who send the one man Bourne has ever trusted, Boris Karpov as his assassin.
Meanwhile, Severus Domina, an underground secret terrorist group, is out to attack America again in her homeland. This multi-faceted group has agents in every part of the world, imbedded in government and business, all with one goal in mind, world domination.
As usual nothing in Bourne’s life is as it appears. From the diabolical female triplets to the Mossad agent masquerading as an airline stewardess there are obstacles and assistance placed in his path at every turn. And let’s not forget the murderous Columbian drug dealer that just won’t let matters rest either. I don’t think Bourne ever has a restful night, but then again who needs sleep when the country’s sole survival is on your shoulders.
There are so many interwoven complex plots, secret organizations, inter lapping characters, and dead people who really aren’t that the reading of this novel about scrambles the brain. I already had a hard enough time truly understanding the twists and turns that Ludlum took us through with Bourne and so I was interested in seeing where Van Lustbader would take the character. Would he simplify matters and allow us to see inside Bourne for who he really is or use the same mad-scramble style of storytelling of his predecessor? If you liked Ludlum’s Bourne then you are in luck, you will love this new edition of Jason Bourne too.

Faces of the Gone - A review

Even in notorious drug–infested cities such as Newark, NJ four bodies, killed gang-land style and stacked like cordwood, still pulls headlines for the local press. Carter Ross, investigative journalist for the Newark Eagle-Examiner catches a break when he feels that the local police have drawn a hasty conclusion to the reason for the killing and his leads take him to the dark under-belly of the city.

Making a connection with all four dead gang members through a special kind of heroin, almost pure and the best on the street, leads to dire consequences for not only the families and friends of the people he interviewed to get the story correct, but for himself too. A lucky rendezvous with a horny editor finds Carter not sleeping in his home when it is blown to smithereens.
Rather than be warned off, Carter takes aim with both barrels while being helped by his gay, Cuban side-kick intern, a plucky local stripper with nothing to lose. With a nudge from local gang members wanting to help keep their name out of the police blotter for being involved with selling drugs, manages to outwit the Federal Drug Bureau and the local police by getting to the source to get the real story on the front page as an exclusive.
Parks, drawing on his experience as a journalist, takes us on a page-turning, stomach-churning race across Newark. The humor dispersed through the sarcastic vein that Ross expels had me chuckling aloud and reading paragraphs to whoever would listen within the first three or four pages, and continues throughout in rich fashion. This debut novel has a plot that is solid and well developed. For lack of a better word, the story rocks! A page turner that I finished the same day I started, I just couldn’t put it down.

The Devil's Star - A Review

After writing half-dozen best sellers in Scandinavia and Europe, Norway’s answer to the next rising star of Scandinavian thrillers is Jo Nesbo and he brings the pounding beat of “The Devil’s Star” to take America by storm.

Detective Harry Hole, is climbing out of the wrong side of the drunk-tank trying to recover from his partner’s murder and the demise of his long term relationship with Rakel. To make matters worse, Hole suspects the detective he is forced to partner with now, as being implicated in his partner’s death and is generally a crooked cop.

When the initial investigation unearths a dead woman with a missing finger and a small, red, star-shaped diamond under her eyelid, the crew is stumped. With no leads and no new information, they are surprised when five days later the finger of a missing woman shows up with a red diamond ring. Correctly, they surmise a serial killer is on the loose. By the time the third woman shows up dead with a missing finger and a red diamond, they have pin-pointed evidence to who they refer to as the Courier Killer. A man on a bicycle is acting as a deliveryman to gain access. Hole has to determine whether these are random killings, or where these woman chosen for a special reason.

It all centers on the diamond, a red pentagram that when diagrammed and placed on a map, leads them to the time sequence and the place where the final killing while take place. With no PD support, Hole has to strike out on his own. As we peel through each layer of witnesses and suspects the tension builds. With the killer closing in and his partner trying to kill him, too, Hole is on his own. By the time he finally unmasks the sociopathic murderer, we have been treated to a story like never before. This is a police procedural for the ages.

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