Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Maze by Catherine Coulter

The String Killer is a serial killer who walks his victims through a maze and kills them when they reach the center.  Seven years ago, he killed seven women in San Francisco, then stopped.  Now he has struck again, but in Boston this time.

New FBI Agent Lacey Sherlock has a special interest in The String Killer.  His last victim in San Francisco was her beloved half-sister, Belinda, and she is determined to track him down and make him pay for her crimes.  Although she was a budding concert pianist, she changed her major and took degrees in criminal psychology and forensics, readying herself for the task of tracking the killer.  She joins the FBI and catches the eye of the chief of a new computer division that focuses on using technology to discern patterns to catch serial killers.  She is assigned to the new division, and uses it to continue her research into the man who changed her life forever.

When the killer returns to killing, Lacey has a chance to track him down.  But this is a wily killer.  Will she be able to capture him before he captures and kills her?

Catherine Coulter has written an engaging mystery that keeps the reader interested.  The killer is diabolical, the plot fast-paced.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Friday, November 28, 2014

The French Executioner by C. C. Humphreys

Jean Rombaud is renowned for his skill as an executioner.  His services are called in when the person to be executed is shown some mercy, for his stroke is sure and strong and there is no suffering as in the many botched executions.  He is called to England to serve as the executioner for the English queen, Anne Boleyn.

Jean goes to visit Anne the night before the execution to reassure her.  He finds her stoic and ready for her death, but she has one request.  She asks that he take her hand with its famous six fingers at the same time he takes her head.  She wants him to take it to Europe and bury it at a sacred crossroads in France.  Jean agrees and with his oath, starts a journey that will take months and more from him than he ever imagined.

For this is no easy mission.  There are other forces who want the hand for themselves and the magical powers they believe it contains.  Jean assembles a group of friends who bind to each other and fight together to reach the goal.  There is Fuggar, the son of a famous German banking family, exiled from them in disgrace.  Haakon is a Norse mercenary who has fought with Jean on other battlegrounds.  Januc is a Muslim fighter who has survived many battles.  Beck is a Jewish youth who is determined to rescue her father from the courts of the evil religious Cardinal, Cibo.  Cibo wants the hand for its magical powers and is determined to do anything to capture it.

C. C. Humphreys never disappoints.  His tales are always full of great characters and tons of action.  He is a storyteller who sweeps the reader up and takes them on a magical ride.  The reader visits debauched religious courts, a town under the curse of Saint Anthony's fire, a siege, the galley on a pirate ship and many other adventures.  The action is underwritten by the love between the group that Jean assembles.  This is absolutely one of my favorite books of 2014.  This book is recommended for readers of fantasy and those who enjoy historical action literature.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Rule Of Nine by Steve Martini

San Diego lawyer Paul Madriani seems to draw trouble.  Months ago, he was drawn into the hunt for a near-miss nuclear device at a naval base.  The authorities weren't convinced Madriani wasn't involved and the time afterwards put him and his law practice into limbo as he was interviewed over and over again.  He was finally exonerated, but not before the media got his name and his life became media hell with reporters staked out at his home and work.  He was forced to suspend his law practice and live in a safe house provided by the federal authorities.  He also drew the attention of a hitman known as Liquidia, who knows Madriani saw him and could identify him.

Finally, things are settling down.  Madriani is able to return home and reopen his practice.  His daughter is living with him rather than out on her own as many girls her age do.  Then things start up again.  An intern in Washington is killed and his father comes to see Madriani as his name turned up in the investigation.  As Madriani puts the pieces together with the help of his investigator, he starts to hear the name Thorn.  Thorn is a weapons dealer, willing and able to sell his goods to the highest bidder regardless of what they plan to do with them.  He is connected with Liquidia and it becomes clear that Madriani is again a target.

The lawyer sends his daughter away to a safe place and then hits the road with Herman, his investigator.  They join forces with Jocelyn, a weapons control expert, who has the political connections to get information the lawyer can't get on his own.  The three uncover a plot that will rattle the entire country if successful.  It's a race against time to thwart the plot, while trying to evade the sure death that Liquidia is determined to mete out.

This is the eleventh novel in the Paul Madriani series, and thriller readers will be glad to read it and anxious for the twelfth.  Martini's legal background makes the action and research realistic.  He has practiced law in both state and federal courts as well as serving as an administrative law judge.  The plot is readily followed yet sophisticated and connected to recent events to add another level of suspense.  This book is recommended for readers of thrillers. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Mortom by Erik Therme

Andy Crowl hasn't been to Mortom for years.  His aunt Mary and cousin Craig live there, but the small town doesn't have anything to attract a young man, and he isn't really close with his relatives.  Craig used to spend time in the summers with Andy's family, but about the only thing they had in common was their attraction to puzzles and their skill in unraveling them. 

It's a shock when Craig is found drowned in the lake surrounding Mortom.  It's even more of a shock when Andy finds out that Craig left everything he owned, his house, his belongings, his bank accounts to Andy.  Why would he do that?  Why cut his mother out of his will?

Andy and his sister Kate come to town to settle the estate and sign all the necessary papers.  When he does, Andy discovers that his cousin Craig has left one more thing, a puzzle for Andy that seems to promise a treasure at the end of the hunt.  A puzzle that has a timeline; four days, and a suggestion that bad things will occur if the puzzle isn't solved in time.  Has Craig left a blessing or a curse?

Mortom is Erik Therme's debut novel and readers will be interested to follow his career and see what he does next.  He has created a chilling atmosphere that delves beneath the secrets a small town harbors; recreating a place where everyone knows everyone's business and no one tells an outsider anything.  The story has the timeline of the puzzle to propel the action and the reader can't help but wonder if Andy and his sister will solve the mystery in time.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Booksie's Shelves, November 16, 2014

The calendar may say fall, but cold weather has arrived in North Carolina.  Our temps yesterday morning were in the mid-20's and that's very cold for us.  It felt even colder as my husband was running his first 5K and we were outside for about three hours.  He did great and I'm so proud of him?  Now we're home and with nothing but cold weather it's time for reading.  Here's what's come through the door lately:

1.  Flesh And Blood, Patricia Cornwell, mystery, sent by publisher
2,  One Step Too Far, Tina Seskis, mystery, sent by publisher
3.  The Pocket Wife, Susan Crawford, mystery, sent by publisher
4.  Wildalone, Krassi Zourkova, mystery, sent by publisher
5.  Those Who Remain, Ruth Crocker, historical fiction, sent by publisher
6.  A Tree Born Crooked, Steph Post, mystery, sent by author
7.  A Certain Justice, P.D. James, mystery, from bring-one, take-one shelves at Sports Center
8.  Blue Labyrinth, Preston & Child, mystery, sent by publisher
9.  The Maruaders, Tom Cooper, suspense, Shelf Awareness win
10.  Murder At The Book Group, Maggie King, mystery, sent by publisher
11.  The Shadow Of His Wings, Bruce Fergusson, fantasy, bought
12.  The Mace Of Souls, Bruce Fergusson, fantasy, sent by author
13.  Custer's Gold, John Lubetkin, historical fiction, sent by author
14.  Neurotic November, Barbara Levenson, mystery, sent by publisher
15.  Palm Beach Nasty, Tom Turner, mystery, sent by publisher

Here's what I'm currently reading:

1.  The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of The Year, Volume 6, various, Kindle
2.  Beautiful Ruins, Jess Walter, paperback
3.  The Rule Of Nine, Steve Martini, hardback
4.  The Flamethrowers, Rachel Kushner, Kindle Fire
5.  Sold For Endless Rue, Madeleine Robins, hardback
6.  New York, Edward Rutherfurd, paperback
7.  The Rise And Fall Of Great Powers, Tom Rachman, paperback
8.  The Paying Guests, Sarah Waters, Kindle Fire
9.  Bittersweet, Miranda Beverly-Whitemore, paperback
10.  The Hidden Ones, Nancy Madore, paperback
11.  The Queen's Executioner, C.C. Humphries, paperback

Happy Reading!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Perfidia by James Ellroy

The time is December 1941.  Specifically, December 6th, the day before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor to December 29th.  The place is Los Angeles, a city built on diverse populations, Tinseltown, law enforcement and criminal schemes. 

A Japanese family has been murdered.  Husband, wife, son and daughter, all killed and made to appear as a ritual Japanese suicide.  The police investigate but much more than a murder is involved.  There are land grabs, Japanese internments, patriotism, Fifth Column traitors, the world of boxing, fascists and criminals, tong wars, opium, movie stars, religion and eugenic manipulation.

The main characters are these:  William Parker and Dudley Smith are both policemen.  They are rivals to replace the chief when he retires in a few years.  Hideo Ashida is a Japanese policeman who has insights into the crime and switches allegiances between the two men depending on who can protect him and his family from arrest and internment.  Ashida is Dr. Ashida and is one of the first forensic policeman who can solve crimes from the evidence left.  Kay Lake is a twenty-one year old Midwestern girl who came to Los Angeles to act but found herself acting roles in men's fantasies instead. 

James Ellroy has written a compelling novel that outlines the city right after the start of World War II.  This is not a city and a police force to be glorified.  It is a city and police force mired in crime and double-dealing and betrayal.  Nothing is too sacred to be sacrificed on the alter of greed and self-aggrandizement.  The book seems to spin out of control but Ellroy keeps a master's hand on the narrative, bringing it to a conclusion that few readers will see coming.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction and those who enjoy noir literature. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Us by David Nicholls

Douglas Petersen is doing fine for a man in his early fifties.  He is married to his beautiful Connie, the woman he never thought he would be able to even date, much less marry and have children with.  He loves her as much as the day they married.  He has one son, Albie, who is about to go off to college.  He has a job he likes in his field of biochemistry.

Of course, nothing is perfect.  His job isn't as much fun now that he is in management rather than down in the trenches.  He loves Albie immeasurably, but can't seem to get along with him.  They seem to argue a lot about Albie's choices, or nonchoices, as Douglas sees them.  Connie seems a bit distant but he knows she is worried about the empty nest next year.

So Douglas is blindsided when Connie wakes him up one night to tell him she is thinking of leaving him.  She's not sure yet and it won't happen tomorrow, but she might leave him once Albie takes off to college.  In the meantime, they should use their last summer as a family to go on a Grand Tour, to take Albie to all the spots in Europe everyone should see.  Reeling, Douglas agrees.  Secretly, he thinks this can be his last chance, to make a connection with Albie and to win Connie back.

Off the family goes to explore and find themselves.  They are the typical tourists.  Douglas has planned everything down to the last detail and has the guidebooks memorized.  Connie is insistent on having fun and being spontaneous.  Albie is the sullen teenager accompanying parents that is a common sight on family vacations.  Will it go well?  Can Douglas prove that his family should stay together and that their love is more important than life circumstances?

David Nicholls has written a charming novel that will strike home with readers.  His attempts to deal with changing life circumstances is a journey that each of us will make.  His is the story of the one in the relationship who loves more.  In every partnership, there is one who was the pursued and one who did the chasing.  Most marriages are built on the hidden premise that one is loved more and the other spends time spoiling and catering to them.  The reader can't help but feel along with Douglas and his dogged determination to do whatever it takes to keep his family intact.  His steady love and reserved humor makes an impact that will not be soon forgotten.  This book is longlisted for the Mann Booker prize this year and it is easy to see why.  Nicholls has gotten the mix just right as he delves into relationships with characters that everyone will recognize.  I loved this book and it is definitely in my personal top ten for the year.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction and those interested in changing relationships and the nature of love.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Night Film by Marisha Pessl

Stanislas Cordova is an enigmatic, celebrated movie director.  His films reach into the minds and psyches of those who watch them, leaving them forever changed.  In fact, his movies have such unsettling aftereffects that they are banned from general release.  The films are shown at secret screenings, with only a select few fans as their audience. But the talk of what is seen is always present and always leaves those hearing about it uneasy.

Scott McGrath is a respected investigative reporter.  When he becomes obsessed with Cordova and makes a public accusation about him that he cannot prove, his career is tarnished and he sees that he was caught in a trap where the rumor was fed to him. There were always rumors of dark deeds that were the basis for the Cordova movie success.   Unfortunately, McGrath took the bait of a rumor he had no proof about and now has no job and his marriage is over.

Then the news hits.  Cordova's daughter, Ashley, is found dead, an apparent suicide at age 24.  Ashley grew up with her reclusive father, tucked away on his upstate New York estate where he spends all his time, even making his films there.  Ashley is a child prodigy, making a piano debut at twelve that stunned the musical world.  She gave it all up at sixteen as she was poised for a world tour and became as reclusive as her father.  Now she is dead.

Scott McGrath feels the same tug as he did before.  He feels the need to discover what would make Ashley do this deed.  Can the fault be laid at her father's door?  As he starts to investigate, he encounters two unlikely helpers.  Hopper met Ashley at sixteen and fell in love with her, although he hasn't seen her for years.  Nora came to New York to be an actress, and moves in with Scott to help him in his research.  Together, they start to uncover layer after layer of secrecy and intrigue.  Can they solve the mystery of what went wrong and if it is related to Cordova's career?

Marisha Pessl has written a heart stopping thriller that compels the reader to enter the mysterious world of Stanislas Cordova.  As each layer of intrigue is uncovered, what the reader believes has happened is twisted and when seen in a new light, leaves them reeling at the realization of how wrong their earlier interpretation was.  This book will be remembered long after the last page is read.  It is recommended for readers of literary fiction and mystery readers.