Saturday, June 29, 2013

UNSEEN by Karin Slaughter

Karin Slaughter is one of a few authors whose novels I grab without a second thought. If she wrote it, I'm sure I'll like it. Her plots are always intriguing and she creates characters that are fascinating, either because they're so real or because they're so irredeemably evil.

This is the latest in the Will Trent series. He's an agent with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and he is hopelessly in love with Dr. Sara Linton, now on the staff of an Atlanta hospital.

One character in this story is the mother of Linton's late husband. Nell is so real I swear I'd know her if I met her walking down the street, especially if she were talking. I do realize she's a product of Slaughter's fertile and quirky imagination, but . . . well, read the book to see what I mean.

Having said all that though, this isn't one of my favorite Slaughter books. Trent is working undercover among some of the worst criminals and idiots I've ever read about. Their nonchalance about torture and killing and unthinkable crimes against humanity are just too much for me. It's a testament to Slaughter's skill that I was sickened because I don't usually react so strongly.

Trent is supposed to be Bill Black, an ex-con being pursued for child support by a woman in Tennessee. He's working at a hospital in Macon. I was scared to death for him throughout. And he can't tell Sara a thing so she's very upset.

All troubles seem to originate with police detective Lena Adams and everyone blames her for what happens. I had a feeling who the leader of the criminals was but wasn't sure until it was proven. Meanwhile I was on tenterhooks until nearly the last page.

Recommended reading
Source: Amazon Vine

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


The Philadelphia Quarry is Howard Owen's second Willie Black mystery.  I must go back and read the first one because I love Willie despite myself.  He chain smokes unfiltered cigarettes, drinks way too much, cusses like an old-time sailor, and other assorted sins, i.e. has neglected his only child until she is a grown woman and now he's trying to make it up to her.  And yet you just have to like this guy.  For all his faults, his heart is in the right place and he is (miracle of miracles) a true journalist, a man who actually tries as hard as he can to write the truth regardless of whose toes he steps on.

That last fact is what gets him in trouble in this story.  DNA has freed a black man, Richard Slade, who served 28 years for the rape of a teenage girl from a wealthy white family.  She had identified him, but he didn't do it.  Then a few days after his release, the woman who had been raped is murdered.  Of course everyone believes Slade killed her.  Who else had a better motive?  As Black investigates the story he first believes Slade did it, but comes to see that he might be innocent.

This novel has an excellent plot, some wonderful characters who are either endearing (like Black) or craven cowards, poor folks or snobbish rich people.  Love 'em all.  Willie Black's family will make you laugh.  His mother, for instance, is a pot smoker and alcoholic, but when Black starts to light a cigarette in her living room she makes him go outside to smoke.  Meanwhile, she and a guy who lives with them are sitting on the couch sharing an ashtray and a toke.  Scenes like this just made my day.

If you like offbeat characters, a good story, and a hero who thumbs his nose at pompous bosses, and gets away with it, you must read The Philadelphia Quarry.  

Source:  LibraryThing win.

Saturday, June 22, 2013


I hope this will be my last update about the state of my health, and it's great news.

When I saw my oncologist last week, I received a clean bill of health.  That doesn't mean of course that I'll never have cancer again.  It could return someday, but for now I am cancer free and having the port-a-cath in my chest removed in July.  My last CT scan showed nothing to be concerned about and I feel absolutely wonderful.  I don't even have to see my oncologist again until September.  

So, I hope your summer is as fun-filled and happy as mine is promising to be.  They say attitude is key in beating cancer.  If so, you and my Facebook friends can pat yourselves on the back for being a major force in my getting well.  I don't know what I would have done without all of you and your encouragement.

Thank you, one and all.

Friday, June 21, 2013

SLING SHOT by Matthew Dunn

If you enjoy spy novels or thrillers, you're familiar with MI6, British intelligence service.  I love the novels but tend to take the plot with a grain of salt.  Not this time, though.  Matthew Dunn is a long-time veteran of MI6 himself and has based his hero, Will Cochrane, on himself and his own experiences.  The plot of Sling Shot in fact is based on an actual case.  That got my attention right away.

Cochrane is of course sort of a superspy but he's also human and is vulnerable when the villain threatens his only sister.  Their parents died years ago so she is his only family and he goes to great lengths to keep her safe, despite her resentment of his work and the danger that ensues from it.  Actually his Achilles heel in general is that he cares about people and tries to do the right thing, which is often a hindrance to his mission.  This is a man you can really admire and cheer for.

The plot concerns a secret agreement between six Russian and American military and intelligence people overseen by a German, Kurt Schreiber, who was previously an East German Stasi officer.  Schreiber is devious and the opposite of Cochrane in that he doesn't care about anything or anyone but himself.  His goal is power and control of the major countries of the world.  He'll stop at nothing to achieve his goals, even killing entire families.  He has hired an assassin, a man who he calls Kronos, who has unbelievable skills in entering buildings undetected and in killing.

Cochrane becomes involved in stopping Schreiber when he tries to intercept transfer of a Russian spy.  He knows nothing about the big scheme until much later, but the more he learns, the more horrified he is and the more determined he is to find out who is in charge and how to stop him.  

The characters here are either sympathetic or totally hateful, and both types are skillfully drawn so that they are realistic, except for a few who seem a little over the top, i.e. Schreiber but then this particular character must be completely evil.  I admired the way Dunn created these people so efficiently and yet so fully.  One scene I remember concerns Cochrane and a woman who has become innocently a victim of the plot.  She has a baby girl and when the stroller breaks, she hands the baby to Cochrane.  This man is so tough but holding the baby he turns to mush.  He's so afraid he'll trip and fall and he carries the child inside his coat to keep her warm.  Thankfully she cuddles right up to him and he gets her safely home.  This same man can become a killing machine when necessary.

I'm so glad to have discovered Matthew Dunn's Spycatcher series.  There is one previous novel called Sentinel which I have put on my list of books to read.  I look forward to more Will Cochrane adventures.

Highly recommended
Source:  Partners in Crime Book Tours

Saturday, June 15, 2013

SPLATTERED BLOOD by Michael A. Draper

Once again I'm featuring a debut novel, this time by a writer who lives in Connecticut.  His hero is in insurance and retirement planning, as is Draper himself.  The character may be the writer's alter ego but the character Randy Larkin is a believable sort of guy in this book who gets involved in a murder investigation because the victim was a good friend.  Also Larkin sells insurance to police departments and individuals in the field so he has made friends who help him, and he has absorbed quite a lot of knowledge through his relationships with them.

The victim was chief of internal security for a professional basketball team in Boston, the New England Highlanders.  The death is first ruled a suicide and no one seems interested in challenging that conclusion, except the victim's wife, a friend of Larkin, and her brother.  The three decide to investigate and quickly succeed in having the suicide ruling thrown out.  But then there's the matter of who murdered him and these three amateurs take on the quest with a little, very little, help from the cops.

There are some chapters that strain credulity pretty far, and other organizational and consistency problems with this book but I must point out that Draper has come up with one heck of a story.  He's especially good with action scenes, a shootout in a park for instance, and I like his characters.  The main three characters draw upon their individual skills and learn from each other, and the combination is effective.  The bad guys are really bad so our hero and his friends are frequently in deadly danger.  They are all three extremely brave.

In all fairness, the book could have used more editing, but overall is a good story.  I think it's quite an accomplishment for a first novel.  The essentials, mainly plot and suspense, are there and I hope Draper will continue to write.  I would certainly read a second novel from him.

Source:  I bought it.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


Before I begin this review, I want to apologize for any errors.  This is an excellent book, but I've been very sick since late last night and I may not do it justice.

This is R. Franklin James' debut novel, a fact which I find hard to believe.  She has created a character I love in Hollis Morgan, and a great plot.  Morgan has spent time in prison for her ex-husband's white collar crimes.  While she was in law school and not paying enough attention, he got her to sign some documents.  She sort of knew it was wrong to sign but just did it to get him out of her hair so she could go on studying.  Later in court, when she was convicted of fraud, he just shrugged his shoulders and walked out, leaving her to serve several years in prison.  Now she is out and has finished her parole.  She has worked as a paralegal for five years at a respected law firm.  If she can get certain people to sign a recommendation, she can possibly be judged rehabilitated, the first step in getting back into law school.

Meanwhile, her parole officer had recommended that she and about six other people with white collar crime records form a book club.  They called it The Fallen Angels Book Club.  Since they were all a bit isolated due to their past, this was a social occasion they looked forward to.  That is until the night one of them was murdered after their meeting.  That was the same day Morgan had a phone message from her ex-husband.  Of all the people she never wanted to hear from, he was right at the top of the list.

There follows a plot with interesting characters that I found it hard to believe was a first novel.  Happily it appears to be the first in a series of Hollis Morgan mysteries.  I'm going to follow the series and R. Franklin James.  I've found a winner.

Recommended reading
Source:  Publisher through Partners in Crime book tours

Monday, June 3, 2013


This is a Chief Inspector Armand Gamache novel.  Imagine an old stone monastery at the head of a large lake, surrounded by low bush blueberries and a lonely path through endless woods.  Inside are two dozen monks who adhere to a vow of silence, but sing Gregorian chants so beautifully that listeners are transported to what seems like a new level of sound.  Their order was thought to be completely gone for centuries.  Only this small group remains, undisturbed by any demands from Rome or elsewhere.  Now imagine that one of the monks, the choirmaster, has been murdered and Gamache and his lieutenant, Beauvoir, have intruded into this special place to solve the crime.  The murderer has to be one of the monks.  Which one?

Anyone who has read a Louise Penny novel knows she is in for a real treat, but this mystery is so much more due to the setting and the characters.  I love her books set in the village of Three Pines, but Gamache has changed because of another case.  Still more has Beauvoir changed since he nearly died in that prior case and his love for Gamache's daughter.  The monastery serves as a place for them to be away from everyone and heal.  Unfortunately, Gamache's boss who wants to get rid of him shows up, but that creates more intrigue and another plotline.  

If you've never read Louise Penny, I plead with you to hasten to do so.  She's a Canadian author who, if you start from the first book (Still Life) and I encourage you to do that, will introduce you to Three Pines and her unique characters.  Those characters will be as real to you as your neighbors and you'll never regret making their acquaintance.  Penny's novels have won many awards as they should.

Highly recommended
Source:  my local library