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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Staccato by Deborah J. Ledford - a review

When two young pianists live under the same roof, are carefully groomed for stardom by their ‘uncle’ and share a hard competitive edge jealousy is bound to rear its ugly head. When the more accomplished of the two, Nicholas, appears to have the winning hand then the other, Timothy, takes every pleasure in bring him down a notch.
When this comeuppance involves the death of Nicolas’ lover and his own near murder he has to fake memory loss to get enough time to gather the information he needs to get even with his rival. With the discovery of his father’s secret diary he is able to put together the missing pieces he needs to bring the whole ‘family’ to their knees. With the help of a new found love he forges a bond to get back to a real life again.
If I had not read Ledford’s second novel, Snare, out of sequence and known that the protagonist was to be detective Steven Hawk I would have thought that Nicholas was the hero of the novel and Hawk takes too long of a time before making his appearance in Staccato. Both books can be read as stand-alone novels and the second is much more satisfactory than the first showing the growth that this writer has made in her style between books. I know there is a third in the series due out and I am chomping at the bit to read it too.
Staccato is a fine novel, a thriller that is poignant, suspenseful and written to a broken beat that sets the stage for each successive story line to advance with allegro.

The Night Sky by Maria Sutton - a review

When Maria learned as a middle-aged woman that the man she knew as Father all her life actually wasn’t it devastated her. That she found out by overhearing her mother in conversation with a friend from the old country was purely accidental yet this former federal investigator made it her purpose in life to discover who her real father was.
She found out that like her mother he had been in the camps at Dachau and was with her afterwards in the displaced persons camp, that he was a Polish air force hero and had worked on a farm where she and her sister had been born. The mystery was why this man had then abandoned them and her mother married another. It also explained why her mother had really never shown much affection to her hard-working husband after they had been placed in Denver rather than go back to war-stricken Ukraine after the war.
In a search that took decades Maria travelled all over Germany and Eastern Europe holding out against all hope that her real father had perhaps survived, and although would know be in his eighties, still be thrilled to see her. She craved knowing who he and her extended European family would be and hoped they would accept her. Would the fantasies she had carved out in her mind come to fruition when she finally found him?
Not only did her journey answer her questions but gave her frail aging mother the benefit of seeing her elder brother again after over forty years apart it helped her mother discover the truths about her own father too. A compelling story that left me both weeping, smiling but satisfied by journeys end.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Hard Target - a review

When a meth-mouthed white-supremacist passes on information to US Diplomat, Gideon Davis that he has insider knowledge on a homegrown terrorist plot to take place against a ‘high-value target’, the information is passed on by the FBI as just another nut-job threat. That is, until the informant disappears within twenty-four hours of failing to give additional details to Davis’ inside-FBI contact.

Using his brother Tillman—a former CIA-operative—Davis uses the little information he gained to help infiltrate the organization to see if there was any truth to the situation since the FBI bosses have now ignored, and put on suspension, his FBI source. Now they cannot officially monitor the alleged threat.
The Idaho-trained supremacists and their meth-making boss are soon hunted to their base, and the threat is over with until the real head of the organization—a former military commander with a chip on his shoulder because of his amputee son’s treatment by the government—and his right-hand man are discovered going ahead with the final plan, using poison gas to take out all the attendees of the State of the Union address.
The Davis brothers lead the chase to get to the president before disaster can happen as Gordon, in this sequel to “Gideon’s War,” let’s them go rogue to stop the government from annihilation. A literal ticking time bomb of a thriller that keeps you guessing until the final second. Gordon uses his skills as executive producer and writer of the smash TV hits 24 and The X-Files to keep you turning the pages of this thriller for the ages.

Primacy by J.E. Fishman - a review

Lianne Vinson, a research tech at Pentalon is hiding a secret. In her youth, she was actually arrested as a protester for animal rights, and now here she is working as a researcher and using animals as test subjects.

Her overwhelming guilt finally boils over when twin bonobo chimps are brought to her lab. When she realizes this pair of loveable apes has the amazing power to speak, not just use sign language or mimic sounds, but actually form and pronounce words, she has to break them out. Foiled in her attempt she finally manages to release the female, the Pentalon authorities having already operated on and removed the larynx of the male twin for observation, and so Lianne and Bea have to flee and go underground.
With the help of her veterinarian neighbor, Mickey Farrone—who is harboring a crush on her and would do anything to help—Lianne hooks up with her ex-boyfriend, Corey, who still heads up the secretive organization. Her goal is to get Bea back in the hands of the Congolese government and to place her with her family in the wild.
As implausible as it might be that apes could actually evolve the capability to speak, Fishman does a magnificent job of under-playing this discovery and allows his readers to enjoy the story without heavy-handed application. This debut novel is a marriage of medical thriller, along the lines of Robin Cook, to fear on a scale you have never experienced, as typically brought to readers by Michael Crichton

Started Early, Took my Dog by Kate Atkinson - a review

It all began with a death. Then is when Hope discovers she had been adopted, the day her mother died. Reaching out from down under, she finds private detective Jackson Brodie. Who were her real parents? That is all she wants to know.
Brodie, a former policeman, on his own dark journey, finds kiddies, and so he sets too on a convoluted journey to help this young woman reunite with her past. Wandering tough the mall he inadvertently witnesses a crime involving another child and the two stories collide. The current hunt entangles with the past and with each wave crashing on the beach we are drawn with the smooth ebb and flow as the current pulls us through Leeds in the 70s to the industrial wasteland it has become.
Atkinson superbly builds the plot, plants false hope and innuendo, and leaves us gasping for air as she unfolds the story. Tracy Waterhouse recently retired, built-like-a brick-outhouse, head of security, has not been off the force long enough to let go of the instincts police officers procure after thirty years on the job. When a worthless piece of trash masquerading as a prostitute drags a screaming, bumbling toddler through her mall her ire is raised. In a moment of madness, he buys the child and decides to keep the child. Detective Brodie has picked up his own bag of bones in the form of an abused terrier. The relationships these two characters have missed out on their entire adult lives is gingerly formed with their new companions as their worlds crisscross and the revelations from a past long buried, threaten to interfere with their lives.
With a vein of offbeat black humor, Atkinson keeps the books beat at a high level of anxiety and her character development reminds me of fellow British writer Jim Crace in his urban novel "All That Follows," fair praise indeed. This is the third novel featuring Brodie and I'll be watching for the next one.

The HOA Murders by Leon Robertson, a review

The inner workings of the home owner associations in Green Valley, AZ are exposed like festering wounds under the desert heat.
The suburbs of Tucson have never been laid quite so bare to close scrutiny as Pima County detectives scramble to find clues to a double murder. Two bodies, both men from a nearby housing addition, are found in the hard scrabble of a local shooting range.
With no ground-softening rain, the terrain gives up little evidence. Rumors were banded about that the deaths were related to smugglers, migrants arriving from Mexico, or that the deceased were Minutemen set upon by illegal drug-runners. As the police dig in and question the current and past HOA officers and residents of the community, quite a nest of vipers is uncovered. As all their movements seemed to be tracked from behind curtains, everyone’s motives are questioned.
Robertson, a retired epidemiologist, is no stranger to writing books; this is his debut novel. He uses his expertise, political opinions, and corny jokes to help detectives Caldera and Collins figure out who is DOA in the HOA. Don’t let this rookie’s novel— whose work could have used a decent edit—deter you from reading a surprisingly good who-dun-it. Go to the meetings, take a potluck dish, just be careful about what you eat…some elderly people serve a killer salad.

City of Secretts by Kelli Stanley - a review

It's a man's world. San Francisco in the 1940s. No place for a dame. Yeah, don't tell that to Stanley's hard-boiled female PI, Miranda Corbie, fedora and all.
Two girls are dead, stabbed and left with the word `kike' drawn on their naked body with their own blood. Europe is at war and some factions in the States are dealing with their own anti-Semitic problems. Aryans in America. In this second of a series, following "City of Dragons," Stanley's noir masterpiece takes us into a dark realm of the American historical novel.
With a short, staccato beat, resounding like bullets launched from gangster's machine gun we are led into the world of Miranda Corbie, ex-escort, detective to the stars in the underbelly of the Gayway at The Golden Gate International Exposition of 1940. Corbie breathes in every tune from every juke joint in town, scouring the city with help from a local rag reporter and her Jewish attorney, as they battle to locate evidence to reverse a charge that has led the police to send one of their own to Riker's on a trumped up charge.
Running from an Italian mob boss looking to cut short her charmed life, and one-step ahead of a malevolent police force, Corbie unearths the Nazi's in the backwoods town of Calistoga, just north of town. Lead by an evil dentist, a group of professionals is doing their part to sterilize young Jewish women, by using the guise of abortion clinics.
This book is a blast-from-the-past as Stanley liberally intersperses name brands, musicians, and gangsters from long ago that brings to mind the Humphrey Bogart or Ava Gardner era we have witnessed in the movies. Recently nominated for a Golden Nugget, a special award to be given to the best mystery set in California, I hope this goes on to even more recognition for this very special author.

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