October 19

Prayers for the Dead by Faye Kellerman

9780061477461It is sad, very sad when only a few pages into a murder mystery you discover that you have not only read it before, but even remember who-dun-it, well, kind of. What is even sadder is that I kept reading regardless. My excuse? I remembered a few of the highlights then how much I enjoyed it the first time.

A famous heart surgeon is found shot in the alley behind an expensive restaurant. Who on earth would want him dead? This man was a humanitatian in every sense of the word, active in his church, on the verge of announcing the successful development of a drug that would save the lives of vast numbers of transplant patients and so forth and so on. But instead he is dead, the drug development will die with him and his family is literally torn apart by the disaster. All anyone can ask is ‘Why?’

Decker is on the case. However, Rina knows the victim and his family. Can he remain objective? Or is jealousy going to get in the way?

OK, so a murder mystery isn’t nearly as good the second time around. But sometimes it is nice to be just ahead of the resolution.

October 19

Scarpetta by Patricia Cornwell

sc1Thank goodness for my ebook reader. This book has been out for nearly a year now and so far it has lived with the Scarpetta fans instead  of the library. The queue is still horrible, so this was one of the first books I downloaded. And then it didn’t wait very long.

There is no need for a plot summary. This series has long since exhausted any originality. There are just so many serial killer – stalker stories that can be told, and this is another one. But what is wrong with a a comfortable pair of slippers? Nowadays I read this series for the recurrent characters. How are Kaye and Marino going to resolve their differences after the violence? And what is Lucy up to now? This book provides this news and even gives an engaging plot as bonus.

By now you must have realised that I am a crime fiction tragic. All my life I have loved getting involved in a long series of books and once there, it is really hard to say ‘No More!’  So here is one more person who will spend the money on the latest Patricia Cornwell, just now I will save some money by ordering it in electronic form.

October 19

Living Dead in Dallas by Charlaine Harris

livingdeadI know, I know. I have absolutely panned Charlaine Harris before. But maybe skipping from book 1 to book 9 in the series was a mistake. And a friend whose reading taste I trust said that the first 5 books in the series were great. So it was cheap to download, and quick to read, and it gave me another reason to play with my new toy.

Eric and Sookie, young lovers,(well one of them is young) are hired out to a neighboring vampire ‘family’ to investigate the disappearance of one of their group. Sookie’s telepathic abilities soon locate the missing vamp, but then the rescue is a little more difficult. And then there is the maenad loose in the woods around Bon Temps.

Anyway, like any good soap opera, this builds tension but never really hurts the regulars. They all need to come back for the next book.

I am finding these books strangely addictive. The series is certainly not going to present any intellectual challenges, but as entertainment, I can think of a lot worse. Certainly I finish one book and immediately download the next.

October 13

Justice by Faye Kellerman

9780380724987Before I start the review, I have to admit that this is the first book that was read on my new toy. A few weeks ago I purchased an ebook reader, very uncommon in Australia, and I have been using it almost constantly since then. Years ago I was reading my way through the Faye Kellerman -Peter Decker series, and honestly I forgot where I was up to. So while downloading books for the reader, I picked one that had an unfamiliar plot.

And what a story. The opening pages hint that Decker is off to New York to find a serial killer frightening college students. But no, murders closer to home distract him and keep him thinking. Besides, he is a new lieutenant and has to learn to delegate and trust. And then there is this strange romance between two young musicians. What does that have to do with anything?

This book has more red herrings than most Kellerman novels. But strangely I worked out who-dun-it long before the end. I never work this stuff out. Hmm…

As soon as I opened the next book in the series, it was obvious. I had read it before. That makes it very unfair for me to offer a review. Murder mysteries do not stand rereading, at least not judgement on the second time around

October 3

White Star by Beth Vaughn

Remember Red Gloves? Well, at the end of that book Evie was taken through a portal and disappears. White Star provides the explanation for that disappearance and lets the reader know what Evie got up to while she was away.

Evie was captured and imprisoned. The captain of the guard rescues her from the dungeon without explanation and is seen regularly in her company. Then word arrives that his Queen has been killed on the battlefield, and he and all his garrison are on their own. And the problem is? The Queen had raised an army of walking dead, and now that they are leaderless, there are problems.

Orin has to provide for his men, and yet he needs to return Evie to safety. He can safely assume that if he makes it to her home, he will be captured and executed as a war criminal. But Evie saves his life, gaining her exile and him a Herculean task.

When is a fantasy not a fantasy? When it is a romance novel dressed up in magic and adventure. Well White Star is certainly a romance novel, but I am not at all sure of the magic and adventure. This book spent far more time on the romantic relationship or lack of between Evie and Orin than anything else. Really it wasn’t worth the time required for the 250 pages

October 3

The Doomsday Key by James Rollins

Ah yes, there had to be an Indiana Jones novel somewhere in the pile. This is it. And just like the movies, suspend logic, buckle seat belt, and go along for a ride.

Three murders, one in Rome, one in Africa and one in a genetics lab at Princeton University. Nothing apparently connects them, except for a strange cross burned into their skin. Enter Sigma Force to solve the mystery. And the ancient source of power that will destroy or save the world? Is it really the reason that the Domesday Book listed some towns in Anglo-Saxon England as wasted? And how does St Malachy fit into the whole mystery? Sorry, I can’t tell you because that would spoil the story. I will just say that Rollins has certainly put together a fascinating tale that links these various ideas into a wonderfully suspenseful adventure.

Apparently the Sigma Force novels have been around for years. I just haven’t read any before. But I firmly believe that fans of the action adventure novel that won’t make you think too hard will love this book, and probably many others in the series.

October 3

The Grave Thief by Tom Lloyd

I hate picking up a story in the middle! I hate starting to watch a movie after it has started. I am not one of these people who is quite content to watch a film 10 minutes at a time. So picking up a fantasy series in book three is going to be difficult. And it was. It took real discipline to get through the first hundred pages, but once I worked out who was who and what was what, this became a most interesting fantasy tale.

The story opens after the destructive battle of Scree. Thousands of men lost their lives in the battle and the city was wiped from the face of the earth. The victors have retreated to their home cities in the north and are now trying to put their lives back into some normality. However, another army has formed in the south and they are marching north.

Isak is now king of his region, a young man learning the responsibilities of leadership while trying to come to terms with what he saw and did at Scree. His kingdom is fractured by a wide variety of cults and religions. And the Gods are getting involved in the fight. Each God is gathering converts and negotiating with humans to gain some advantage over the others. As a result the society is torn apart by cults and religious factions. Isak must somehow gather all these forces together in order to stop the army invading from the south.

As with many middle books in a fantasy series, this book is filled with details that seem irrelevant to the story being told. But you just know that the significants of the Mortal Aspects will become more important in book 4 and it is important to know why the decisions were made. And it was fairly obvious that the Crystal Skulls were important sources of magical power, but little details like how many and where were glossed over in this book.

Admittedly Lloyd provided an extensive introduction, but at that stage of the book I was overwhelmed by the odd names and could make very little sense of it. It was easier to go with the blurb and dive into the story, with frequent references to the who’s who in the final pages.

This book was hard work to read. But I found indications of a wonderful maturity in fantasy writing. This is far more than the average good and evil fantasy. The cover notes compared Lloyd to Feist, one of my favourite fantasy authors. I suspect that may be a valid comparison. I would have hated to pick up Darkness at Sethanon without reading Magician. So someday when I have nothing better to do, I will pick up the complete series of The Twilight Reign read it properly, one end to the other. But as individual books? Don’t bother.

October 3

Cemetery Dance by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

One book, two authors. Yeah right, tell me that works. It can be done if the plot involves telling a story from two different points of view, but a murder mystery? Not likely.

When a New York Times reporter is brutally murdered in his apartment, NYPD is under pressure to solve the crime. Vincent D’Agosta thinks that he has everything under control, when FBI Special Agent Pendergast shows up to ‘help’. But is his help only a distraction into voodoo and black magic? Quickly the investigation leads to a hidden cult deep in the heart of Manhattan.

This book is an interesting mix of crime thriller and horror. There are zombies mixed right in with the forensic police work. Most surprising, it works. The plot is convincing and the characters ring true. The two authors successfully blend their writing style to tell one story. OK so it isn’t totally realistic. That is very obvious from the entrance of the first zombie. But the story is engaging and generally an entertaining read, just switch off the logic functions and go along for the ride.

October 3

Wounds of Honour by Anthony Riches

9780340920312One of the most common bits of advice given to young authors is to write what you know about. Well obviously Riches lives near Hadrian’s Wall and he has spent many years coming to understand the live of the Roman legions stationed there. Now he has shared this knowledge and understanding with all of us in this most entertaining novel.

But first a little Roman history. Everyone knows about Julius Caesar, and maybe even his nephew Augustus. But how many have actually looked any further into the Roman emperors? Well, for the novices, many emperors were very paranoid, and as a result would frequently eliminate anyone who disagreed with them along with their whole household, family, servants and slaves. Young Praetorian Guard Marcus Aquila is escaping Emperor Commodus who has destroyed the rest of his family by fleeing to the most remote province of Britannia. There he changes his name and joins a legion stationed on Hadrian’s Wall.

But his experience and intelligence cannot be hidden. He becomes a centurion, and under his leadership his century shines. This is not always a good thing when you are trying to hide from a vindictive emperor.

I loved the detail about life in the Roman army. By this time in history, the legions have very few Romans in their ranks. Riches demonstrates an excellent understanding of the officers and the men of the legions and how they lived, adapting some Roman customs while clinging to their native culture. He has also written a wonderful tale about military life and the loyalties that can be formed within that routine.

Riches is obviously very familiar with Northern England. According to the media release, he began writing this novel after a visit to Housesteads Roman fort on Hadrian’s Wall. His understanding of the geography has made the battles very credible. The media release also mentions his passion for military history, and this is very obvious from the accurate detail in the accounts of everyday life for the legion.

Wounds of Honour is book one in a planned series called Empire. This first volume hinted that Marcus may be forced to flee to other distant provinces in order to escape the death sentence that has been pronounced. I hope that Riches is equally familiar with these other provinces, or he has the budget to enable him to do the research required to maintain the quality of his historical detail.

October 3

Jasmyn by Alex Bell

I very rarely get the chance to read a book in one sitting, but once I started this one, there was no choice.

Jasmyn is a young woman whose life is in chaos. She has recently been married, but one day her husband Liam suddenly dies. In her grief, Jasmyn isolates herself from everyone and everything. But there seems to be some mystery involving his twin brother Ben. As she begins to restore order to her life, Jasmyn starts to investigate this undefined strangeness. The investigation leads her to Europe, and the land of fairy tales and enchantments. She uncovers a tale of murder, stolen love and deception. But who can be trusted?

Bell is very skilled at interweaving myth and reality. In his previous novel, he mingled the mythology of angels with the reality of life in a city. Here he is mixing the cultural icons of magic and mythology with the reality of modern life and love. His craftsmanship is superb. The characters remain true and yet when the end is revealed, the reader wonders how on earth they missed all the clues. Probably they were missed because the story itself is so engaging that there isn’t time to stop and wonder about the meaning of all the little inconsistencies of life.

Jasmyn is simply one of the best books that I have read in a very long time.