Sunday, September 25, 2011

No Rest for the Dead

No Rest for the Dead

It starts with the execution of Rosemary Thomas for the heinous murder of her art dealer husband, Christopher. We then read about the events leading up to the murder: Christopher's philandering, money problems, and a systematic operation of stealing and selling expensive paintings. We see the obsessed cop bring the guilty party to justice, then have second thoughts.

Maybe he missed something, maybe he didn't fully investigate some of the variables. Ten years after state of California has executed Rosemary, the cast gathers for a memorial. The now ex-cop is still on the trail of a murderer while a shadowy figure lurks in the background, threatening several individuals if the truth is revealed? Will the truth finally be told? What really happened that fateful night so long ago?

The plot is basic and nothing unique. It's a straight rehash of numerous ancestors. There's a twist, but it's not really unexpected or surprising.

Joe Nunn – Investigating officer. The case is his downfall. He drinks, loses his wife, and his job. The case never really leaves his thoughts for over a decade.

Peter Huesen – Rosemary's alcoholic brother who got rich with trust fund money when his sister was executed. Money and booze are his life.

Christopher Thomas – curator at the art museum. Philanderer. Deals in stolen art. All around dirtbag.

Stan Ballard – Lawyer, married Nunn’s ex wife.

Haile Patchett – Cohort of Christopher's. After the murder, she is reduced to being a pickpocket.

Hank Zacharius – Reporter who always believed in rosemary's innocence but was disgraced because his superiors thought he went too far.

Standard characters with their own lives. Each is affected by the death of Rosemary, usually in a depressing way. It's a story full of Shakespearean tragedy with nobody really coming out a winer.

Straightforward. Nothing exciting. A little heat in the action scenes.

I've read a few other multiple author collaborations and they're okay, but not really exciting. The authors do a good job of trying to write a story with one voice. Unfortunately, a lot of the energy is lost. One of the reasons readers enjoy certain authors is they like that person's style. They know what to expect (usually) when they pick up a certain book. Similarly, they won't read specific authors because of the way that person writes his/her stories. This is okay. Everybody has personal tastes. But that's why you choose certain one author over another, to enjoy a particular writing style. When you get a collaboration such as this massive project was (26 authors), you lose the individuality and some of the enjoyment.

My ranking:

Camouflage Belt

Monday, September 19, 2011

Buried Secrets

by Joseph Finder

What secret could be so important it might cost a girl’s life? In Finder’s latest mystery, ex-intelligent operative Nick Heller seeks to answer this question. With a cast of expected characters (the rich man in dire straits with a closet full of skeletons, the terrified innocent teenager, the ruthless bad guy and an array of contacts, each with his or her own specialty) “Buried Secrets” takes you down a path strewn with corruption, lies and mortal danger. Along the way, layer by layer, you discover revelations for which some people will kill.

Nick Heller is hired by billionaire Marcus Marshall to resuce his kidnapped seventeen year old daughter. Right away, Heller knows he isn't being told the entire truth. Marshall, a friend of Heller's family, has gotten into some bad dealings with some very nasty individuals and somebody wants a piece of highly important information apparently only Marshall can provide.
With the assistance of computer gurus and an ex-sorta girlfriend working for the local branch of the FBI, Heller slowly tracks both the location of the girl and the individuals behind the kidnapping. The mystery deepens when Heller uncovers secrets nobody should have and a sociopath starts playing by his own rules.

A pretty good standard plot. The secrets just keep getting bigger and more impactfull as the story moves along. You expect this not to be a typical kidnapping and you're not disappointed.

Nick Heller: Ex intelligence operative. Special Forces training. He is now an advanced private investigator uncovering secrets for individuals and companies. He's witty, logical, determined. He's not computer savvy.

Alexa Marcus:17. Claustrophobic. Rebel teen of wealthy dad.

Marshall Marcus: Alexa's billionaire father. Jewish. Short. Hedge fund manager.

Belinda Marshal: Marshall's wife. 45. Georgian accent.

Dorothy Duval: Black, works computer forensics in heller's office. Direct, no BS, b ut will banter with Heller.

Jillian Alperin: nick's receptionsist and office manager. Vegan. A bit inept.

Gabe Heller: 16. Nick's nephew. Artist.

Diana Madigan: Works in the Boston branch of the FBI in the child abduction/child predator unit. She is Nick's ex sorta-lover.

This is a pretty good variety of expected characters with other supporting people in the mix. Nick, even though he's the main character, doesn't do a lot on his own (although he's no slouch when it comes to doing things on his own), but obtains his knowledge and information from others. Heller's character isn't totally serious and can use humor to diffuse situations when need be. He adapts to different circumstance very well.

Standard. Nothing out of line.

Finder is a graduate of the Patterson school of short chapters. There is a lot going on here. Not necessairly complex, just a lot going on here. Heller utilizes a lot of contacts to obtain technoligcal information. The language is not complex, but not detailed informative either. Very mild profanity which is unexpected, but the lack of it is okay and it works. Good descriptions without going overboard. Just enough information to keep the story moving along. Not a whodunit, but a logical step by step revelation of information and secrets.

My ranking:

Blue Belt

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Inmate 1577

By Alan Jacobson

What connection exists between an incarcerated bank robber in the late 1950's and a present day serial killer? You'll find out in Alan Jacobson's latest novel featuring profiler Karen Vail. This one is combines a clinical procedural investigation with a tragic story of how prison changes a man.

1958 - Three years after being found not guilty of the murder of his wife, Walton McNally and his young son are trying to find a solid life for themselves. McNally goes from job to job because even though he didn't commit the crime, because he was on trial for it, taints him in the eyes of employers. Desperate straits lead him and his accomplice son into robbing banks. After the second robbery, his son escapes, but Walton is caught and imprisoned in Leavenworth penitentiary where he learns all too quickly the realities of prison life. When a couple escape attempts fail he is sent to Alcatraz. There, he finds life even worse.

Present day - FBI profiler Karen Vail is assigned to the heinous homicide of an elderly woman in San Fransisco. Teaming up with the local investigators and a newspaper reporter, she scrambles to put together leads to the killer.
With more bodies discovered on a daily basis, more clues are gathered but Vail is unable to home in on the killer. One of the investigators is kidnapped, and the killer starts playing word games. Can Vail decipher the clues and what connection might they have to a closed prison on a desolate island in the middle of the Bay?

The serial killer angle is nothing new but the back and forth tale of McNally's prison life gives the novel an extra edge. The plot is carefully laid out, keeping the reader interested in discovering the connection between the two stories.

Karen Vail – FBI profiler, mother, at times claustrophobic. She's intelligent, emotional, with a cop's sense of humor

Walton McNally – Single father. Can't catch a break after being found not guilty. Learns quickly about prison life. You see him harden throughout the story.

Henry McNally – Ten year old son of Walton's. Discovered his mother's body. Goes with the flow travelling around with his father.

Lance Burden – SFPD Inspector. Sudoku fan.

Robert Friedburg – Lance's partner. History buff.

Clay Allman – Reporter friend of Lance's.

Except for some background information on Vail and the transformation of McNally, Jacobson doesn't delve too deeply into any characters. They're standard issue cops and criminals (in the case of Walton's prison mates).
It's a nice mixture of character and plot driven. Each character is well defined, however, with separate personalities and abilities.

Clinical. To the point. A few cynical exchanges typical for cops. Some internalizing with Vail.

I was surprised such a lengthy book turned out to be a relatively fast moving story. A by-the-book serial killer investigation is broken up with the life of McNally. Things move fairly quickly near the end. Characters pick up on clues that much faster. After just over 500 pages (at least in my ARC), the reader is ready for the climax. Still, it's an excellent read with the obligatory surprises.

My ranking:

Red Belt

Monday, September 5, 2011

Killer Move

by Michael Marshall

You have a nice, ordered life. For the most part, you control your destiny. You have dreams and seek to fulfill them. Then one day, you wake to find you don’t have control, someone else does.

This is the basic premise to Michael Marshall’s latest novel. Open the cover and step into a world where almost nobody is who he or she seems to be. Where a deranged mind seeks personal gratification by playing a dangerous game and where a man seeks vengeance against those who wronged him.

Bill Moore is a south Florida realtor. Ambitious. Competitive. In control.
Looking to advance up the ladder to become part up the echelon of wealth.
Until he finds pieces of his life slowly going awry. Events occur for which others think he’s responsible. At first they’re small, seemingly unimportant, but soon, they mushroom into a chaos so intense, Moore doesn’t know where to turn next or who to trust…if he can trust anybody.

The basic plot has been done before (Sandra Bullock in The Net, for example) but I don’t think anything has been quite as in depth as this. This reaches a new level of complexity over issues of control. It’s involved with complex angles, but delivers the one-two punch of suspense and intrigue expected.

Bill Moore – Realtor. He has a plan to work his way up to the big time although it is taking a little longer to get there. He is business oriented, in creating his own brand, his own way of how people look at him. He reads positive attitude and motivational blogs, and keeps his social networking current. Very exact and orderly.

Stephanie – Bill’s wife. Works as an editor of a local magazine. Very supportive of Bill. Very happy in her life.

Karren White – Coworker of Bill’s and his competition (at least from his point of view).

Janine – secretary at the realty firm. Inept (at least from Bill’s point of view)

John Hunter – Ex con released after sixteen years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit. He is seeking revenge on the guilty parties.

David Warner – Presented as a wealthy would-be client for Bill, but was involved with Hunter years ago.

Cassandra – Ice cream shop waitress. Dresses in Goth clothes. Befriends Bill.

One thing I’ll mention about these and other characters is: don’t believe anybody. Most everybody is lying and has secrets; some of them hold secrets so deep they’re unforgivable and should never be brought to light.
The ‘falseness’ of the characters work well in showing how Moore’s orderly life heads into left field.

Orderly. Exact. Dialogue is not the main focus of the story. Conversations are almost just filler for what’s going on in the story. Most stories’(unless you’re watching 2001: A Space Odyssey) dialogue moves the action along, provide clues to the plot or the mystery. This one doesn’t, but don’t get the idea that it’s a detriment to the book. Some conversations explain, other just push Moore into the next scene.

Like the dialogue, very exact and orderly. Marshall uses similes and analogies and a few background stories to make points. Once the action gets going, the ‘rest’ gaps are short because Marshall doesn’t want you to stay still. However, this orderliness and exactness and to-the-point logicalness is a veil covering everything and every character and I thought the covering was fine for the first person narrative with Moore, but could have been folded back somewhat to show a difference when the scenes deal with other characters. Near the end, Marshall makes reference to his previous book, “The Straw Men,” (in a slightly tongue in cheek manner on one occasion), but you don’t have to necessarily have read that one first.

My ranking:

Brown Belt