Monday, March 30, 2020
As soon as Lucas Davenport got the call, he knew this case was going to be trouble. Alie'e Maison is one of the top ten models in the world. When she is killed at a party after a photographic shoot the media went wild. When another woman's body is discovered at the same crime scene stuffed in a closet, the tension and expectations on the police racket up even more. As with all top crimes, Lucas and his team are called to head up the investigation.
None of the things they discover cool down the media storm. There's the fact that Alie'e's body is full of drugs. There is evidence that she has had sex shortly before her murder. The fact that the party was full of rich, connected people just makes things even more difficult.
But the killings don't stop there. As the days go by, others around Alie'e or connected to her are also killed. The main suspect is an evangelical preacher who was in Alie'e's world but Lucas isn't convinced. In fact, he isn't even convinced that Alie'e was the real target that started off the murders that keep spiraling outward.
In his personal life, Lucas is busy balancing women. His college girlfriend has shown up after all these years, in a midlife crisis and wondering if she is still attractive to men. Another model connected to the investigation has her sights on Lucas and he can't help looking back. Then there is Weather. He also married her but that blew up when she got in the sightline of one of his cases and was almost killed. Now she seems to be recovered a bit and perhaps interested in seeing Lucas again.
This is the eleventh book in the Prey series centered around Lucas Davenport. Fans know what they are getting when they open the book. They will be reading a solid mystery with twists and turns, told from the viewpoint of a unique investigator. Lucas has the ability to step back from the chaos of a murder investigation and see through all the extraneous material to the heart of the motive. This book is recommended for mystery readers.
Friday, March 27, 2020
When word gets back that Dr. Marina Singh's office mate has died in the jungles of the Amazon, everyone is shocked. Anders Eckman had gone to make contact with Dr. Swenson who had been investigating a drug for over a decade. Anders and Marina's company was sponsoring her but reports from the field had been almost nonexistent and the head of the company wonders what he is doing paying her with no idea if she is making any progress.
Dr. Swenson gave almost no details, just a note that said Anders had died from a fever and she had buried him there. Anders wife is left with three small sons and she wants someone from the company to go find out what has happened and perhaps to bring him home. Marina knew him best and his wife thinks Marina should be the one to go. The CIO, who Marina is secretly in a relationship with, also wants Marina to be the one as he trusts her to find out about the drug and if it is a reality. Marina reluctantly agrees. She was a former student of Dr. Swenson and does not have positive memories of the experience.
When Marina gets to the Amazon, she spends days trying to find someone who can take her to Dr. Swenson's camp. When she finally gets there, she is shocked by many things. The reason for the potential drug is that the local tribe, buried deep in the jungle, has an astonishing characteristic. The women remain fertile most of their lives, having babies in their sixties and seventies. If the company can develop a drug that will extend fertility for older women, it will be a breakthrough drug financially.
But Dr. Swenson hasn't changed. She is still the remote, take no nonsense, never listen to an excuse woman Marina knew decades before. Swenson is now in her own seventies but hasn't slowed down and feels no compulsion to share her results or even progress with the company funding her. Marina is lost at first but as the days and weeks go by, adjusts to the very different life she finds. She still doesn't know much about Ander's end, but makes discoveries about the drug and another hidden secret. Can Marina successfully complete her mission?
This book feels like a departure for Patchett. It does have the relationship component most of her novels do, but it is set in a very different landscape and raises several moral questions the reader will ponder. What do we owe our friends? What do we owe the companies that employ us? If a scientific discovery will change the world, is it always right to pursue it in the name of knowledge? Readers will come to different conclusions but all will find much to like in this novel. This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.
Wednesday, March 25, 2020
Mike Engleby is a lucky man. He grew up in a working class family in England, his father dying young and leaving his mother to scratch out a living and support two children. Engleby is smart and is able to do so well in school that he wins a place at an exclusive boarding school and then at one of the top English universities. All is not lucky though. The boarding school is a prime example of the routinized brutality that boys can adopt toward those that do not seem the same or who do not fall into line. Engleby's time there is miserable, his nickname Toilet.
When he gets to university, things are better. He is admired for his intelligence and since the social setup is new, he is able to join clubs and go to pubs with his peers. As he tells his story, we hear that he is fairly happy, the work easy for him and he feels accepted. Yet he tells of petty thefts he does without conscience and he is fairly dismissive of many of his fellow students.
There is one student he is never dismissive of. Jennifer Arkland is a young woman, vibrant in her youth and friendly to all those around her. She has a boyfriend but Engleby is not put off by that. He is fiercely attracted to Jennifer and manages to work his way into her social circle by joining the same clubs she does and always being around to help the group in any way possible. When Jennifer disappears his senior year, Engleby, as her other friends, is dismayed and realizes this event is what tears away the last of the student veneer and makes him an adult.
But what is Engleby to do in life? He drifts into being a journalist and is as surprised as anyone to find that he is good at it and that it pays well. He acquires some of the things he never had in his early life such as a flat and a nice car. He meets influential people as he interviews them for feature pieces and starts a relationship with a woman he meets at work. He realizes that he is happy but that happiness is shattered when after eight years, Jennifer's body is found.
This book is a departure for Faulks, who is known more for his historical novels. The novel is written in first person narrative and the reader is introduced to Engleby and sees the world through his eyes. A slow realization becomes certainty that he is an unreliable narrator and that the world that Engleby sees is not a true representation of reality. The true Engleby that is slowly revealed is miles from his own perception and the reader ends up horrified at how different reality is when seen from outside Engleby's world. This book is recommended for literary fiction readers.
Sunday, March 22, 2020
Cassie Hanwell is doing just fine, thank you very much. She is a rising star in the Austin, Texas, fire department. She is tough and creative and energetic. Quite a turnaround for someone who had a horrific teenage life. On her sixteenth birthday, her mother left Cassie and her father to start life with another man. She wasn't around when the worst thing in Cassie's life occurred and she had no one to talk to about it. Cassie has no love life but she thinks love is highly overrated and doesn't care.
So when her mother asks her to give up her job and move in with her for a year in Massachusetts, Cassie's first instinct is to say no. But when she punches out a councilman at a big citywide event, it's take a transfer or give up firefighting. Firefighting is in Cassie's blood and it's the foundation of her life. She can't give it up so she takes the transfer.
Her immediate impression is that it won't work. She moves from an enlightened fire department with many female employees to a small, out of date firehouse that has never had a woman on board. She comes in the same day as a rookie, and he is everything she is not. He looks like a firefighter; plenty of muscles and a clean cut appearance. He is the son of a lifetime fire fighter and he knows everyone in the house already. Cassie has one advantage over him; she is experienced and much better at everything. Her new chief assigns her to train him and that is a problem. For some reason, Cassie finds herself attracted to the rookie even though she would never admit it to him or anyone else. She doesn't want an attraction, she just wants to do her job, put in her time and move back to Austin.
When the city decides it needs to cut back personnel, the rivalry between Cassie and the rookie becomes more heated. One of them will be cut as they are the newest and started on the same day. Will the department go for the picture perfect firefighter or for Cassie with her clear advantage in knowledge and skillsets? Will the sexism that is rampant in the firehouse ruin her career path?
Katherine Center has written an engaging love story that fits in perfectly in the modern workplace where women now are represented in every occupation. It highlights sexism, the need for inclusion and attachment to others, sexual harassment and the freedom that forgiveness gives one to pursue a healthier life. The characters are realistic as are the situations Cassie faces. Her life isn't perfect but maybe she can learn to make it better. This book is recommended for readers of women's fiction.
Saturday, March 21, 2020
Hackberry Holland had his entire life set out as soon as he was born. Youngest son of a state Senator and esteemed lawyer, Holland was to follow in his footsteps, be a partner in the family law firm along with his brother and when the time is right, run for the Senate himself. He lives on the family ranch, a pristine estate with rolling lawns and a gorgeous mansion. He is married to the prestigious and elegant Verisa, the epitome of a prized Southern belle.
But somewhere along the way, Hackberry realized he didn't want any of it. He served as a corpsman in the Korean War and was captured and imprisoned as a POW for three years. That experience and the torture and inhumanity he experienced there changed him forever and made the riches and prestige seem like nothing more than a thin paper veneer. He spends his time drinking, cruising in his Cadillac, spending time with other women and looking for something that seems to make a damn.
Holland gets a call from one of his old war buddies who has been imprisoned. Ramos has been imprisoned due to his activities attempting to organize the migrant workers who harvest all the Texas crops. When Ramos is railroaded and sent for five years to the worst penitentiary in the state, Holland finds his new mission. Working with the migrants, he falls in love with Rie, who has come from the North to help with their fight. Now he has a mission and a fight he can believe in. But can Hackberry escape his past and its obligations?
James Lee Burke is a legend in the mystery genre. He has won two Edgar Awards and was named a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America. This is an early work of Burke's and he goes on later to write other novels about Hackberry. It may be difficult for readers to get past the initial impression of Hackberry, when he is flailing about in a drunken state, hurting those around him as he tries desperately to find something he can believe in and build his life around. Yet ultimately, Holland's determination to help those who society has ignored makes him an admirable figure. This book is recommended for mystery readers.
Friday, March 20, 2020
When an injury ended Clay Edison's dream of a career in the NBA, he had to find another path for his life. He ends up as a deputy coroner, his job to attend suspicious deaths and then pronounce the cause of death, accident, suicide, murder. When he gets the call to a death of an elderly man at the bottom of a staircase, he assumes it will be an accident call. Walter Rennert, the victim, lived alone and had little human contact. A stair fall is a common home accident and it is easy for it to end in a death depending on how the victim falls and whether there is help available.
But the victim's daughter, Tatiana, is there, and she insists it is no accident. She says her father was a psychologist but was forced out of his profession after a study he was working on ended up with bad publicity after a subject in the study was accused and jailed for killing a young woman. The implication was that the study was in some way responsible for her death and Rennert was left unemployed and bitter. Edison thinks that is unusual but when Tatiana tells him that another person associated with the study died some years before in the exact same way he starts to wonder.
Edison leaves the case open, even though his supervisor is unhappy about it. He starts to investigate the case more deeply and he gets drawn into the lives of Walter, the other death victim, and the man who went to prison for the murder associated with the study. Although most of what Clay uncovers is in line with an accidental death, some of it keeps him searching deeper and deeper. Can he uncover the truth?
This book is a collaboration between Jonathan Kellerman and his son, Jesse. The book works well with no disjointed narrative as can sometimes happen in a collaboration. The main character, Edison, is likable and I'd be interested to read another novel about his work. This book is recommended for mystery readers.
Wednesday, March 18, 2020
New York DA Butch Karp is recovering from his last case where he ended up taking an assassin's bullet. He is still determined to find out and put behind bars the terrorists who targeted him, killed several schoolchildren and are determined to cause the downfall of the American government. Butch is out of work while recuperating but he's far from not being busy.
An old friend comes to him with a legal case based in Idaho. The man was a college baseball coach. He lost his job and his reputation when he dismissed a rich man's son from the team after hearing about sexual predatory moves by the son at a party for recruits that should never have happened. In retaliation, those outraged by the dismissal start rumors that the coach set up the party in the first place and that everything that happened there is his fault. The college, under pressure from the father, use the rumors to dismiss the coach and get him banned from coaching for ten years. He needs Butch's help to fight the case and get his job and reputation back.
The rest of the family aren't idle either. Karp's wife befriends a man in Idaho whose daughter has been missing. It's been long enough that he feels she is dead but he needs to find her so he can get closure and bury her with his wife. Marlene gets involved in the case, hoping to help him find what peace he can. In the meantime, Marlene and Butch's daughter is caught up in New York with the terrorist investigation; her ability to see things in the future giving insights into what needs to be done. Can all these cases be resolved?
This is a long-standing series by Tanenbaum. This particular novel is the nineteenth in the series and long time fans will find much to love here. Those who haven't read the series will find that it can be read successfully as a stand alone. Butch is always at the forefront of any fight he gets involved in and the reader will get insight into legal procedures and court cases as well as the machinations that go on behind the scene. This book is recommended for legal thriller readers.
Monday, March 16, 2020
They were the perfect couple. Lotto (short for Lancelot) was the light in every room, the person everyone turned toward. He was an actor and then later a playwright. Mathilde was his queen; a tall pretty girl who never interacted with anyone until the night he saw her across a crowded room at a party and said 'Marry me'. Two weeks later they did.
From the start, they were everything to each other. Lotto came from money but his mother disowned him when she heard he had married without her permission. Mathilde had nothing, no family, no money. Yet they knew their lives were going to be golden and jumped into the future. For years, they were poor. Lotto didn't make it in the acting world; getting just enough roles to keep his dreams alive but not to support them. Mathilde was the one who went out to work and kept them going. Then one night, drunken, Lotto sat down at the computer and poured out his soul. The resulting play was a resounding success, as was the ones that followed every year. Soon the two were rich in their own right.
Then we read the other side of the fairy tale. This was the story from Mathilde's perspective. We saw how she spent her life living the dream Lotto wanted to see and that she was very different from how he saw her. She spent her life behind the scenes, altering and manipulating life so that it fit the dreams Lotto had. The reality he perceived was totally false and he was instead a player in the spider webs Mathilde wove.
This book was a tour de force for Groff. It was a finalist for the National Book Award and an Amazon Best Book of the Year. It was a NPR Morning Edition Book Club Pick and a best book by various newspapers, Kirkus, Library Journal and many more. The first half of the book from Lotto's perspective is amazing; then the second half leaves the reader stunned as they realize that they had also bought into the manipulated reality that Mathilde created. This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.
Friday, March 13, 2020
Along with everyone else, our routines are being affected by the covid-19 virus. We're probably less affected than others as being retired, it's easier to self-quarantine which we are doing. For me, it means giving up going to the gym, book club meetings and lunch with friends but since I'm in a group higher in risk, it's what is needed. My son got tickets to the first round of March Madness for me and him for a Christmas present but that isn't happening. I went yesterday and stocked up at the grocery so that we don't need to eat out for several weeks. Of course, staying home equals more reading time. Here's what has come through the door lately:
1. Tombstone, Tom Clavin, nonfiction, won in contest
2. The Sisters Grim, Meena van Praag, fantasy, sent by publisher
3. The Hidden Things, Jamie Mason, mystery, won in contest
4. Hello, Summer, Mary Kay Andrews, women's lit, sent by publisher
5. Deep As Death, Katja Ivar, mystery, sent by publisher
6. The Knockout Queen, Rufi Thorpe, literary fiction, sent by publisher
7. Grown Ups, Emma Jane Unsworth, literary fiction, won in contest
8. Crush The King, Jennifer Estep, fantasy, sent by publisher
9. The Last Day, Andrew Murray, science fiction, sent by publisher
10. In A Strange Room, Damon Galgut, literary fiction, purchased
11. Blame The Dead, Ed Ruggero, mystery, sent by publisher
12. 13 Billion To One, Randy Rush, memoir, sent by publisher
13. A Registry Of My Passage Upon The Earth, Daniel Mason, anthology, won in contest
14. Victim 2117, Jussi Adler Olsen, mystery, sent by publisher
Here's what I'm reading:
1. Rattle, Fiona Cummins, Kindle Fire
2. What You Save From The Fire, Katherine Center, Kindle Fire
3. Crime Scene, Jonathan and Jesse Kellerman, hardback
4. Underland, Robert McFarland, audio
5. The Cold, Cold Ground, Adrian McKinty, audio
6. Lay Down My Sword And Shield, James Lee Burke, paperback
7. Frankisstein, Jeanette Winterson, Kindle Fire
Dr. Edward Jenner is a pathologist. He worked for the city of New York until after 9-11, which left him emotionally scarred. Now he makes his living consulting and occasionally lecturing. His latest case is that of a young girl who has been horrifically murdered; tortured and her body nailed to the wall. Her parents have hired him to use his expertise in addition to that of the forensic office to find out what happened.
When the killer left, he didn't realize that the girl's roommate was also in the apartment. Ana De Jong, managed to flee by the fire escape; the killer saw her too late once she was on the ground. She saw him and is able to give the police a description, although she is traumatized and feels that he will come after her as well.
Jenner has problems from the start. Although he still has many friends in the medical examiner's office from his time there, the head of the office dislikes him intensely and fired him a year ago. Any help given him has to be done under the radar. The policeman in charge of the case, Roggetti, is willing to work with him. Soon, it is apparent that this is not a singular murder but one in a series. Each features a young woman brutally tortured before her death.
Jenner has the insight that the killer is following the deaths of various saints and kills on that saint's day. Ana has come to him for help and he is protecting her, although there seems to be a romantic relationship starting there as well. That fact gives Jenner a personal stake in finding the killer before he can strike again.
This is the debut novel of an author who is a pathologist himself. His expertise with the procedures gives the book more authority but there are issues as well. It is fairly unbelievable that the police would decide to work hand in hand with an man who is not associated with either the police or the medical examiner's office. It is also unlikely that the experience of being a pathologist would make one able to carry out a high stakes murder investigation. That was the biggest problem I found with the book. Otherwise, it was an impressive debut. The ending is particularly suspenseful and the reader will be affected by this killer. This book is recommended for mystery readers.
Tuesday, March 10, 2020
When Dr. Alex Delaware gets a call from help from his friend, LAPD detective Milo Sturgis, he isn't surprised. The LAPD has used him before to provide psychological input into the criminals that commit murder. But this case will be different. One of the suspects has a connection to Delaware.
The victim is famous for what he does. Dr. Eldon Mate is a proponent of helping terminal patients die when they want to and he has had lots of publicity for his cases. That's where the connection comes in. One of Mate's clients left behind a husband and children. The husband had come to Alex to provide help to his daughter in the aftermath of losing her mother. Patient confidentiality means that Alex can't tell Milo things he knows from that case.
The police are busy investigating the families of Mate's clients. They begin to investigate the family that Alex counseled. At the same time, Milo is contacted by an FBI agent that believes there is a connection to a serial killer that he has been tracking for years. Which is more likely, that there is a connection to this killer or that Mate has been killed by a survivor? Can Alex and Milo's friendship survive a strain caused by the rules of each individual's job?
This is the sixteenth Alex Delaware novel. Fans will be familiar with Alex and Milo's friendship and their lives. The new twists in this book add something more to the partnership. An exploration of doctors who use their medical training to kill patients is also found in the novel. This book is recommended for mystery readers.
Saturday, March 7, 2020
Jack Till after his retirement as a LAPD moved on to become a private investigator. Most of his cases are routine and don't need his homicide investigation skills. But now parents of a murdered young woman have come to him to try to find out more about her death. The LAPD has written it off as a home robbery gone wrong as she was found shot in her home.
Till reluctantly takes the case. He soon discovers that the woman was a high priced call girl, something her parents never knew. There aren't many clues about the case but something tells Till there is more to the story than the police found. He continues to work the case and finds other women who fit the same pattern, call girls, shot at home, with strawberry blonde hair, and most tellingly, all wearing the same necklace. He realizes there is a serial killer at work.
But this isn't a typical serial killer at work. Instead, Till has uncovered the pattern of a man who uses escorts as his hiding place while he sets up high price assassinations in different cities. The women all think that he is in love with them but his main interest is having a place to live during his weeks of investigation of his targets, a place the police won't uncover when he kills his high publicity targets. The women are killed as an afterthought to keep from leaving witnesses.
Now Till and the killer are in a cat and mouse game as Till looks for new escorts that the killer might use in different cities. His former work as an LAPD buys him some cooperation from the various police forces as he moves from city to city following the killer. Can he find the man and stop him before more women and targets are killed?
Perry is always a satisfying read for mystery lovers. His plots aren't so fantastic that the reader can easily see where things just wouldn't work that way which is a common failing in mysteries. His knowledge of police procedure rings true and his plots have enough twists and turns to keep the reader involved. This book is recommended for mystery readers.
Thursday, March 5, 2020
Tara Westover grew up in Idaho in a fundamentalist religious family. She was one of seven children, the second from the last. They lived in a rural area and as much off the grid as her father could make them. They didn't register the children at birth, her father made his living in a marginal cash business and the family had no use for doctors and modern medicine. The mother was a midwife and an herbalist and she had her babies at home and when someone was hurt or ill, she used her herbal knowledge to care for them.
The children were schooled at home. Or what passed for education as little formal effort was made. Tara tells of one incident where she flipped through 50 pages in her math book and told her mother she had done 50 pages. Rather than quizzing her to see if she had understanding, her mother just praised her telling her that's why they home schooled because Tara could never work at her fast pace in the public schools. Her father ruled the household and was a survivalist; he took stories such as Ruby Ridge and the Weaver family to heart as it fed into his paranoid tendencies.
Tara not only wasn't supported in getting an education but there were other consequences. She was raised doing dangerous work, stripping parts in a junkyard or driving large pieces of equipment as her father and brothers worked on building things. When one of her brothers started acting out his anger on Tara, she tried to hide it. She got no protection or acknowledgement of what was happening from her family.
But something in Tara wanted more. When one of her elder brothers rebelled and went off to college, it stirred that impulse in Tara. She studied and studied until she could pass the ACT test and even made a high enough score to obtain a scholarship. She moved off to college and found a society there that was different from her home and its beliefs in every manner possible. As she studied and discovered the truths about the world that she had no idea of, she determined that she would live in the educated world. She went on to get a degree, a master's and even a doctorate from Cambridge in England.
This is a memoir and as such, is written by Westover from her memories. Her family disputes her version of events and she is estranged from most of them at this point. Her feeling that they did not support her or help her can not be reconciled in their view of this period. Westover documents her events with diary entries and letters from her siblings as best she can, but there is always a difference in how different family members remember events. Regardless of the truth, it is a remarkable achievement to have three children from such a background go on to get doctorates as the Westover family did. This book is recommended for nonfiction readers.
Tuesday, March 3, 2020
They've all come home to support their mother through an illness and because each is at a juncture in their lives where they are struggling. The father of the family is a Shakespeare professor at the local university and the girls were brought up in a house without tv, everyone reading instead. Each sister left and struck out on their own but now are back, to help their mother and to try to patch their own lives together.
Rose is the eldest. She had been a professor herself but has been informed that she wasn't on the tenure track and wouldn't have a job the next year. Rose has always felt like she was the second mother, trying her best to keep everyone in line and on the straight and narrow. She is engaged but her fiance is overseas for a year. He wants Rose to join him but she quails at the thought. Bianca or Bean as everyone calls her is the sister who men are attracted to. She couldn't wait to get out of town and went to New York where she landed a high-paying job. Now, after a scandal, she has come home crestfallen, without either a man or a career. Cordy is the youngest and everyone knows she was spoiled. When she left, it was to roam the country, never staying anywhere long and depending on the generosity of others to make her way. Now she is back and is pregnant.
Each of the sisters use this time to try to put their lives together. Will Cordy keep the baby? Can Bean find happiness in the small town she couldn't wait to leave? Should Rose take a professorship at her hometown university or leave everything familiar behind and join her fiance overseas? Eleanor Brown has written a novel that touches on the uncertainty most people face in their own lives and that illustrates the relationship between parents and their grown children and the sibling relationships that are forever in place. This novel is recommended for readers of women's fiction.
Sunday, March 1, 2020
The time is 1939 and the location is London, England. Vivian Smith is one of the many children who are being moved out of London into the countryside in order to escape the nightly bombings that are occurring. In Vivian's case, she is on the train along with lots of other children, her destination a cousin of her mother's who has grudgingly agreed to take her in for a while.
But Vivian doesn't get there. She is time traveled to a location far in the future by two boys around her age, Jonathan and Sam. They live in Time City and there is trouble there as well. The area is about to become unstable with consequences for all eras going back into the past. The boys believe that Vivian holds the keys to fixing the future so that Time City will be saved and the past will remain as it is commonly accepted to be.
Vivian isn't sure that she is up to the task but realizes that it is the only method she can use in order to get back to her own time and back to her parents. She agrees to help. The three children start to travel to various time periods, hoping to capture all the caskets that are necessary to save Time City. They aren't very successful since there are powerful forces working against them. All appears lost but is it?
This is a young adult book and the story is much simpler than the intertwined texts and plot lines that most science fiction/fantasy readers are used to. The characters are fairly flat and the explanation of how things work is simple. This novel is recommended for young adults interested in fantasy reading.