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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Sand - A review

An epic sweeping family drama of the South African veldt; I kept thinking what a great movie this could be, similar in style and focus as Australia – featuring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman – back in 2008.
Sand takes place about one hundred and fifty years ago when in defiance to the church and their family three young people flee from their Dutch heritage to escape and build a live in the Transvaal, the plains of South Africa. Bartering with Kora, the last tribal chief of the Korana clans, Claes and his best friend Baptiste take enough land to farm and build a small ranch house on while waiting for Catherine to arrive on the next ship. They are some of the first migrants from Holland that helped establish a strong Dutch hold in South Africa.
By the time the book ends Catherine has had a half-dozen children, Baptiste is dead and several out of wedlock children from both men inhabit the tribes and her home. She had taken her husband’s best friend as her lover and both their Baster children as her own. Life is a lot different than the staunch upbringing they had back in Europe. They raise ostriches, horses, run a diamond mind and face many dangerous excursions’ with local tribesmen over poaching and water.
The river banks that have provided shelter and resources for their agriculture over the generations now become the last stand as the natives rise up against the whites and the British Colonial troops get involved in the melee. Will the family survive and if so at what cost?
Sadler – no relative, we share happen to share a family name – has presented us with a factually historic view of the settling of South Africa by Europeans and a peek into the little known Korana tribe who had their last-stand in 1879, so vividly displayed and woven into a fantastic tale in this gem of a novel.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Fly By Night - a review

Jammer Davis is just an investigator with the NTSB, but you wouldn’t know it. Once again, he finds himself up to his eyeballs in another fine mess somewhere remote, the Sudanese desert. When the call comes from a two-star general at the Pentagon, he finds himself  on a mission sponsored by the CIA in an attempt to recover a UAV, the unmanned drone Blackstar that is believed to have fallen into the hands of unscrupulous, private parties at an airport in Khartoum. A Moslem cleric, Rafiq Khoury supposedly has the drone squirreled away in a hangar belonging to his recently formed transportation airline FBN Aviation.
Under the guise of investigating a plane belonging to FBN Aviation reported to have gone down in a recent flight over the Red Sea, Davis is sent to find out the truth. The chief pilot at this airline is an old nemesis from his military days, a fellow pilot he helped drum out of the air force on corruption charges, Bob Schmitt. On his arrival in Sudan, Davis is greeted with threats of death from the get go, almost as if his cover has been blown before he even starts. By the time he discovers the two pilots from the ‘crashed’ plane in a shallow grave with bullet holes in their skulls, he knows he is up against the odds.
He’s surprised with help from three, unlikely sources: the cleric’s own followers, a ‘mystery’ CIA contact, and the beautiful Italian doctor, Regina Antonelli who is on a volunteer mercy mission in the desert region. Davis is able to unearth the dastardly plans to assassinate an Arab leader at a national conference and deflect all blame being fabricated against the US government meanwhile ridding the world of another set of bad guys.
In a James Bondesque performance Davis charges on ahead, no cavalry in sight, on a thrilling journey of espionage at its finest—where the guy in the white hat wins again.

Sweet Money - a review

When Mole Miranda is released from jail he pledges to never again rob banks and to go home to his wife and child. After all, his cohort in the crime has been keeping the money safe, right? When it is revealed that the lovely young daughter of his friend has been diagnosed with cancer and all the money has been used for her treatment Mole decides one last job is in order.
Mallo brings us in to the dubious character painting him at once wretched and loveable, and in fact by the time you think that he is the protagonist along comes former superintendent Lascano, a man left for dead and who has even been replaced on the police force so that he has become persona non grata. Not a bad place he surmises, since it is the corrupt cops on the force that had originally done him in anyway.
Like Orwell before him, Mallo is one that believes to be successful you don’t follow the norm, in fact, break any of these regular rules. All dialogue takes place is a separate paragraph, all run together, and written in italics. For a speed reader like me it takes an immense amount of concentration to read each sentence and figure out when the other party is talking. More than a little confusing. Luckily for Mallo is does not detract from either the plot or the eloquent language that this fine work of art is written in.
When female problems and money become a common denominator the former criminal and the former cop find their paths crossing at every occasion possible to the point that they cannot deny the bond that has developed and the liking they have for each other. With the final scene you find yourself whistling the theme song “The Girl from Ipanema” and visions from an old Bogart movie dance before your eyes.
All in all, a most satisfying read.

The Devil's Puzzle - a review

Another beautifully written, well thought, and plotted cozy.
I went into this wondering how I was going to stay awake reading about the obviously boring subject of quilting in New England. I was already stifling a yawn when suddenly the skeleton showed up and suddenly no one in the town of Archers Rest was boring anymore.
O'Donohue carefully manipulates the small town folklore with the modern day gossips, and using the cliff-hanger approach leaves us at the end of each chapter with a little tidbit of new information that makes you have to read just one more chapter.
Nell, grand-daughter of the towns quilting shop owner, Eleanor, is the town's nosy snoop. She gains a little insider information into the curious goings on in town through pillow talk; her boy-friend in the town's police chief. When the skeleton is discovered in the grandmother's rose garden she has to fight to defend Eleanor from the rumors that she was the murderer. It turns out that everyone in town is harboring a secret and one-by-one Nell overturns the rock that everyone has hidden that secret under.
When she receives written threats on her own safety, and discovers that someone is secretly following her around town Nell turns up the heat. Not known for her tact, she treads on more than one person's toes on her way to the undeniable truth. When an attack on the niece of the dead man leaves her unconscious, lying in a pool of blood, the amateur sleuth realizes that the murderer is still alive.
In the fashion of a modern day Jane Marple on steroids, Nell puts together the final piece of the puzzle just in time to stage the quilting display for the town carnival and have the suspect arrested simultaneously.

The Snowman - a review

The seventh installment featuring Nesbo’s antihero police detective, Harry Hole, shows us again why he is the current reigning Scandinavian author writing for American audiences.
By using the US presidential elections to establish a timeline for his latest novel Nesbo immediately establishes a rapport with his American audience and makes this a truly international novel, so much that we forget he has us running around the streets of Oslo not New York, so we can concentrate more on the storyline.
And what a story! Hole, the recovering alcoholic, as usual strikes out on his own, following a path of investigation that only he seems to understand, a veritable Norwegian Colombo, with the exception that he is tall, blonde energetic, he does however have the subtle power to interpret the clues that others squander. Hole is the dragon-chaser, seeing serial-killers where Norway never has. Serial-killers are an American phenomena in the police world and Hole is considered quite barmy for even considering Oslo could entertain one of their own.
For several years women have gone missing in Norway, and now both bodies and snowmen are showing up in Oslo. When Hole is assigned a new female partner, Katrine Bratt, a transfer from another department, the two of them discover a link between the snowmen Hole is chasing to one that appeared in case of a missing police detective a decade before and the clues start to fall into place. The fast paced action never stops in the this police procedural that takes you down and around so many thrills, chills and false leads that your head spins.
Nesbo’s style is persuasive, irreverent and hard-boiled. He takes you places you thought you’d never go and then ties you up and leaves you there alone! Be prepared to wowed.

Headstone - a review

What is a former cop to do when he gets a medical discharge off the force? Become a private investigator, of course. Jack Taylor is one of the best, always was, but his gimpy leg and hearing aid have left him with a thirst for adventure and a bottle of Jameson.
Taylor seems to have annoyed everyone he ever came in contact with, from the clergy and the nuns to his former employers, to the criminals he helped put behind bars, all who seem to go out of their way to great him as maliciously as possible. It’s enough to drive one to drink. This being Galway, Ireland drinking is as much the national sport as curling is.
One of the malfeasant characters that he arrested as a teenager has rousted a small group of hoodlums and preached to them his twisted version of Darwin’s evolutionary theories, one that includes ridding the world, or at least Galway of misfits, retards, gays and parasites. Christening his band of warriors “Headstone,” he leads them on a killing spree. Taylor is not only on the case he is also on the list for extermination and so the plot builds as one by one those in his community are attacked, molested, and killed all in the name of saving the purity of the human species.
Bruen has written a plethora of novels and his style slips easily across the eyes and the tongue. I found myself repeating his dialogue out loud to hear the brogue in which it needs to be read. The technique instantly reminded me of the master of dialogue, Charlie Huston in the form of the paragraphing and I too was drawn to the prose, simple two and three word sentences that just pop on the page.
I was totally entranced with the originality of the plot, the humor, and the grit in this novel of the dark side.

Cemetery Girl - A review

Our children always leave us. It is especially hard when it is a girl that leaves home or worse gets married, so that they in essence now belong to someone else too. It is even harder when they leave home unexpectedly and not of their own accord.
Caitlin was twelve when she disappeared, presumably kidnapped. Her parents were so sure she would never have run away. The police tried, but nothing ever came of it. The parents searched high and low, but after four years not only did they take for granted they would never see Caitlin, but the stresses their fragile relationship had gone through cracked and Abby moved out leaving Tom. He couldn’t leave just in case, you know, she came back. Her bedroom was the same as she left it.
On the eve of the memorial service Abby has planned, a lead surfaces from an unlikely source: a local stripper saw Caitlin in the club with a man six months ago. News headlines, police involvement and the girl’s age—she is after all now sixteen—all encourage the kidnapper to turn Caitlin lose and she is picked up wandering the streets. The tension that Bell builds in the story up until this point are high-strung, taut, but tempered somewhat by our knowledge that Caitlin is coming home, after all the author tells us this on the cover blurb.
Similar to Emma Donoghue’s “Room,” a recent novel featuring abduction, the book now takes us on the second journey. Since Caitlin refuses to discuss anything that has happened to her in the years she was away, and will not testify against a man she professes to still want to be with, the homecoming is postponed. Tom makes it his personal mission to find out what has happened to his little girl, but will he be prepared to face the reality that is waiting for him?
“Cemetery Girl” is a parent’s worst nightmare, one steeped in reality in today’s world. It is altogether disturbing, brilliantly engaging, and a must-read for thriller fans.

Collecting Cooper - a review

Now an ex-cop and fresh out of Christchurch Prison after four months on a drinking charge, Tate is dragged into an ongoing investigation. The last killer he chased ended up with Tate’s daughter dead and his wife brain-dead, hence the drinking that got him in the slammer in the first place. Now they want his expertise again. There’s a new serial killer on the loose.
Adrian just finished burning his pseudo-mother to death. She was the head nurse at Grover Hills, the institution he was raised in after he got his own back on those bullies in junior high. When the government ran out of money, the patients were all let out on the street, Adrian wants back in. He tasers criminal psychologist, Dr. Cooper, a college professor, and part-time serial killer, and imprisons him in ‘The Screaming Room’ where Adrian and others where punished all those years ago. He’s added Cooper to his collection of serial killer souvenirs. What’s better that an actual killer himself.
Meanwhile Emma Green has gone missing, the daughter of Tate’s former lawyer, who just happens to be the same girl he hit and injured while drunk. The lawyer feels he is owed one and Tate is set loose to find the young lady. The paths of the ex-cop and the serial killers cross as it comes to light that the missing girl has also been kidnapped and is being presented as a victim for Cooper by Adrian.
Stumbling across clues at ongoing police investigations, Tate is at least given a little bit of a glad-hand by his former partners since he is also helping them track down the elusive Melissa X, New Zealand’s most elusive serial killer, who’s connected to the missing Dr. Cooper.
Cleave leads us on a tantalizing, mouth-watering specter of horror, never knowing what will be revealed around the next corner, or turning of a page. This is one in a series of novels centered on Detective Tate and he withholds just enough to make you want to get that next book now

Before I Go To Sleep - a review

Christine wakes in a strange bed, doesn’t recognize the room or the man snoring next to her. He has grey-flecked hair and she surmises she must have had a one-night stand with an older man. When she makes it down the corridor to the bathroom and looks in the mirror she has no recollection of ever seeing the middle-aged woman reflected back at her.
In answer to her screams her husband Ben shows up and tells her—as he does every day—who she is and how she has amnesia. The photographs surrounding the bathroom mirror show her each day a history of her life so far, and as she relaxes into the day, all is well. She just knows that as soon as she goes to sleep it will start all over again.
After Ben has left for his teaching job, the phone rings and a Dr. Nash reminds her to look in the shoebox in her closet. Apparently she has a journal she writes in every day that she keeps hidden from her husband. The first note in the journal is DONT TRUST BEN! As the novel progresses day by day and we get used to her routine, Christine’s life unfolds to us and to her. Gradually her memory increases until she no longer needs a daily reminder of the hidden journal and she begins to have flashbacks of her prior life. When she confronts Ben as to why he never told her of the novel she published or the son she bore, his answers are not glib, they make sense in order to protect her daily fragility.
When her flashbacks are of a man in her bed with a beard and a scarred face—definitely not Ben—and memories of a brutal assault, not of the automobile accident she has been told caused her head injuries, Christine begins to question Ben’s trust again. Nothing is as it appears and as the reader you should question everything you see and then never go to sleep again!

SoWest So Wild, A Desert Sleuths Sisters in Crime Anthology - a review

These twenty tales of the American South West are brought to us by a chapter of the Sisters in Crime organization based out of Phoenix, AZ and are stories linking our past to our present through charlatans and sheriffs, housewives and trail hands. Regular readers of Suspense Magazine will already be familiar with a couple of the authors whose work has been highlighted in the pages of the magazine previously: Deborah Ledford and Leslie Kohler.
From the streets of Tombstone in the south, to the far reaches of Arizona’s Canyon de Chelly, we are treated to stories of murder and mayhem, myth and malice. Old Indian tales of the spirit world, Pinkerton agents and family squabbles make up the entertaining stories in this anthology of the Wild West.
The Southwest has seen its share of troubles and violence, stories we have seen documented in the movies on the silver screen to the current news headlines on our televisions, and these twenty authors have managed to fan the flame to keep alive in an anecdotal way, the stories that have helped fashion the South West.
“So West, So Wild” takes us from the comedic to the noir, modern day methodology to the past’s practicality, and shows us why many Arizonans still find a reason to strap on a six-shooter in this desolate and wild part of the United States.

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