January 27

The Sentry by Robert Crais

9781409116004I had not read anything from Robert Crais before, although I have certainly seen many of his TV episodes. And this book is apparently about 12th in his Elvis Cole series, but that doesn’t matter so much because the story is really about sidekick Joe Pike. This book successfully stands alone, and be warned there are a lot more Joe Pike books by now.

Joe is an ex-cop and his instincts tell him that the group of tattooed guys walking into a sandwich shop are after more than just a sandwich. He follows them, and is soon caught up in rescuing an old man from a life-threatening beating. The daughter is grateful, and Joe is captivated by her. Quickly he realises that the father and daughter have upset some very bad people, and it becomes Joe’s quest to protect the girl. As the body count mounts, questions arise about the innocence of Dru and her father. Are they really the Katrina refugees that they appear?

This is definitely an action adventure. You simply have to keep the pages turning, and there is fresh violence in nearly every scene. This book is not going to challenge your thinking, but if you love thrills and action, I suspect you will enjoy the whole series.

August 24

Watching You by Michael Robotham


9781847445278I know that many of you out there are passionate about Robotham’s writing. Many friends are continually promoting his books to each other, and beyond. But I had never taken the time to read one of his books. And generally I don’t like picking up a series in the middle. But sometimes one has to make an exception to the rule.

I don’t think it will be a spoiler if I let everyone know that Watching You is about a stalker. If you didn’t pick it up from the title, the blurb makes it very clear. Stalking is threatening, scary and tense. Fortunately most of us go through life never needing to deal with a stalker. Not so Marnie Logan. She has the feeling that someone is always looking over her shoulder. Once her husband disappears, this feeling gets stronger, but can she convince anyone to believe her.

The reader knows the truth. We occasionally get a chapter written from the stalker’s viewpoint. The police don’t have that advantage. One detective in particular seems determined to put Marnie behind bars for murder. Her friend Joe doesn’t know what to think, the evidence seems to be with the detective, but as a psychologist, somehow Marnie is a very unlikely murder. Then her childhood friend Malcolm enters the scene, and Joe is even more confused.

This is a book that you won’t want to put down. Yes you can predict the end safely, but there are some wonderful twists on the way the the final solution. Some are telegraphed, but there is certainly at least one I never saw. Best advice? Start this book on a wet and boring weekend.

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January 12

Mice by Gordon Reece

Review #11

I was given a copy of this thriller by a bookseller ages ago. He claimed it was one of the best YA novels that he had ever read. I dipped into it at the time and found the writing style a bit ‘in your face’ and decided that it could wait. Now I am trying to clean up my ‘old’ books and decided to push through those first pages…and found a riveting thriller beyond.

Victims for their whole lives Shelley and her mother escape to a quiet place in the country and establish a quiet peaceful home. Finally they can go about their lives without someone else telling them, or forcing them, to do whatever. Then one night their haven is invaded and Shelley  fights back.

This is a debut novel and Reece sometimes appears to have little faith in his readers. OK, we all get the title, even I, who have been accused of misunderstanding literary references. So there is no need for the continual mice references in the first chapters.

I also really did not like Shelley and her mother as people. Sometimes it is difficult to deal with those who wear a ‘victim’ sign, and these two had it painted glow in the dark.

But once the home invasion started, there was no putting it down. This book became a psychological thriller far better than most.

December 29

The Disciple of Las Vegas by Ian Hamilton

A few months ago I reviewed the first book in this series.  Then in November as I was sorting through that month’s arrivals, I suddenly realised that I had in my possession the second book! And one week when work was driving me crazy, I spent a couple evenings delightfully escaping into another fantastic forensic accounting adventure.

This time Ava is on the trail of online gambling fraud. The richest man in the Phillipines has been swindled out of $50 million, apparently by his brother. But Ava quickly discovers that the brother was swindled as well. It is time for this online poker game to stop! But that is easier said than done.

This second book doesn’t have the same sense of imminent danger. Ava is in less physical danger this time, and a good thing too, because this book takes up literally from the end of the last one. She is still bruised and sore at the end of this. But that doesn’t mean the tension is any less. This time she is battling technology and the anonymity of the Internet, and we all know that there is no such thing as privacy there.

Then of course there is the contract out on her life – but Uncle said he would take care of that. Didn’t he?


October 27

The Devil’s Edge by Stephen Booth

OK, so it has been out for a while. And the next book in the series of 12 has been published. But I have just discovered this author, so now is my chance to share my thoughts.

Fans of Stephen Booth will be well aware of the Cooper/Fry series. I entered the story at book 11, so forgive me if I am missing important personal background. In fact it felt the gaps as I was reading. Fry has almost nothing to do with this story, until the very very end. But still the author kept following her activities, which had nothing to do with the murders. It was a little distracting to be suddenly shifted to some police training session.

This is definitely a police procedural novel. The deaths appear to be an unfortunate consequence of house break-ins, so almost everybody is looking for a gang working the area. But Cooper has a hunch, and although only a junior officer, it is his series, so he gets to go off and follow the hunch. His boss keeps saying, bring me some proof…so Cooper keeps hunting. His new partner seems helpful and friendly, but she is still new and he is trying to work out where her loyalties lie.

I loved the setting. The mountains and moors of the district are lovingly described and add so much to the atmosphere of the novel. The moors are a classic setting for fear and dread, look at the Hound of the Baskervilles or Wuthering Heights. But here they are also a welcoming friend for those who take the time to understand their ways. Cooper enjoys the moors and goes there to think. Just sometimes they are willing to share their secrets, and a smart cop knows when to listen.

Someday when I have nothing else to do, I would love to sit down and read this whole series, but until then all I can do is recommend that you start searching out ebook editions.


July 6

Dublin Dead by Gerard O’Donovan

It has been a while since I have read a straight out murder mystery. Looking for a change I opened one of the boxes of books waiting for review and this one jumped into the hand. It has been waiting for nearly a year!

Sioban is a newspaper journalist assigned to follow up a story of a wealthy estate agent’s suicide. What kind of story can you build about that? Not much until the mother of a missing woman recognises her and asks for her help finding her daughter. With not much else to do, she starts digging. In Dublin Inspector Mulcahy is asked about the murder of a Irish drug runner in Spain. With both of them, one question leads to another and soon each story is looking more and more complex. And then they find the missing woman…

I really enjoyed how this story was built. The two deaths were obviously unrelated, but gradually connections appeared. As the reader, I knew both stories, but although Mulcahy and Sioban occasionally contacted each other, neither fully shared information. And what cop would talk freely to a journalist and vice versa. Right down the line this story was believable and the characters stayed true to their professionalism.

Again this is a second book, but mysteries generally stand alone. However, if I had the time I would love to read the first book by this author, not only because of the backstories, but also it is likely to be a good read.


April 13

Defending Jacob by William Landay

Being a parent is among the hardest things most people will ever do. No matter how hard you try, sometimes things just don’t work out the way you expect. Regardless, the parent will remain loyal and fight for the child’s future. Even if that child is suspected of murder.

Andy is an assistant DA, and he always prosecutes the murder cases. When a classmate of his son is killed on the way to school, Andy gets involved in the investigation against the advice of the police. But when suspicion turns towards his son, he is suspended from duty. Convinced of his son’s innocence he puts together a defence team and goes to work to discredit the evidence. No mention is made of the knife found in his son’s possession and disposed of immediately.

Landay has a beautiful way of just dropping in clues that make you doubt your conclusions. Not red herrings exactly, more like uncomfortable details that just don’t fit with the story. And these details are very important when explaining the final chapter of the book. That last twist is good, but as a result of the clues, not totally unexpected.

I will warn you that the middle section of the book does slow down. Chapter after chapter, page after page of trial narration. Personally I found it hard going, but then law is not my passion. Make up your own mind.

On the other hand, this is a book that will make you think about right and wrong. Is the legal system trustworthy? Sometimes is it right to take the law into your own hands?

Can you tell I really don’t know what to think about this book?


April 13

The Deadly Touch of the Tigress by Ian Hamilton

I have read a lot of adventure thrillers over the years. Many are also mysteries with private detectives, police inspectors, medical examiners or even forensic anthropologists. But I don’t think I have ever read a book where the lead investigator is a forensic accountant. Somehow accounting doesn’t conjure up images of adventure. Hamilton has certainly changed that around.

Ava Lee is in the very exclusive business of recovering stolen money. This time 5 million dollars has been borrowed, but never paid back and the borrowers seem to have disappeared. For that amount of money, the holder is willing to do anything including kidnapping, murder or anything else. Ava quickly finds the money, but getting it is harder than she would originally think.

The blurb compares Ava to Lisbeth Salander, and for once I agree. Ava is smart, courageous and able to look after herself. She works for a firm based in Hong Kong, and many of the baddies she encounters just assume that she is linked to Chinese triads. Surely that saves her some trouble, but not always enough. The book also resembles the other series in that it is full of exotic settings and individuals.

I found this book very difficult to put down. Although not read in one sitting, it was certainly close. I think that was the most surprising thing. How can anyone make the story of an accountant just that exciting?

April 8

Victims by Jonathan Kellerman

Regular readers will know that although I am a fan of Kellerman, recently his books have been very much written to formula. He has a formula that works, and both he and his publishers know it. If you think about it hard enough, all crime writing is essentially written to formula. In his early books, though, Kellerman used his understanding of child psychology to anchor his novels in a scary twisted subconscious mind. Well, the old Kellerman is back!

The murder is horrific, and somehow it just keeps going. But are Milo and Alex chasing one killer, or two, because not all have the same MO. And what on earth do the victims have in common? Apparently nothing. Is Milo finally stumped? The final explanation is so dark, so twisted, and yet so logical I am not going to spoil it here.

I do have one objection however. I am very uncomfortable with the new promotion for the Alex Delaware novels. Really, Alex Delaware is the Crime Reader! No the fans are the crime readers. Alex just brings an understanding of psychology to a police force too cheap to pay for consultants. Reading the scene of the crime is far more like CSI, and that is a long way from what these books are about.

Anyway, good to see a much loved author return to form.

February 26

Mystery by Jonathan Kellerman

It is times like these when the reality of my reading backlog hits. Last week I unpacked Kellerman’s next novel, Victoms, that is due for release in March. I am privileged to get best sellers to review, I know that. I also know that there is no way I could afford to keep myself in reading material. I depend on publishers. But when I open a pack, and see a book from a series and know that at least one of the series is still in the backlog, I get a case of the guilts and go digging. So before I will allow myself to read Victims, I found and read Mystery. (By the way, is Kellerman getting sick of thinking up titles? These single word are a bit general.)

On impulse Robin and Alex decide to visit a favourite haunt on its closing night. Amidst an uncomfortable evening, they notice a strange girl dressed in white who appears to be waiting for someone who never shows up. Outside is a man, very obviously a bodyguard. The next morning Milo shows up with crime scene photos of the girl’s mutilated body, and somehow Alex and Robin feel they have to be involved. After all, they were among the last people to see her alive.

And so begins another Alex Delaware thriller.

My last review in this series commented that the plots were all the same. Well, this one strays just a little bit from the norm. Mostly it is about trying to identify the victims. You would think in this world of photo ID to walk down the street, that would be no problem. But when the girl starts calling herself Mystery, and lives not far from the seedy underworld of LA, maybe it can be harder than you would think.

I did enjoy the deliciously sick family at the bottom of the crime. One would hope, only in America. Actually, one would hope, only in Hollywood.