Rough Country, by John Sandford

Rough Country (Virgil Flowers Series #3) by John Sandford: Book CoverFinished 10-21-09, rating 3.5/5, mystery, pub. 2009

Book #3 in the Virgil Flowers series.

Walking out to the dock, Johnson said, “The old bag kinda climbed my tree.”

“One rule when you’re dealing with people close to a murder victim,” Virgil said.  “Try not to laugh.”

Chapter 2

Virgil Flowers works with Lucas Davenport (the Prey series) in the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, investigating high profile crimes.  When Lucas sends him to solve a crime at a women’s retreat in northern Minnesota, single and always available Virgil, is happily surrounded by women.  But most of them aren’t looking twice at Virgil, they are too busy eyeing each other. 

A successful businesswoman is shot while canoeing and her love life leads him to an all-girl band with a talented singer going places.  The singer, Wendy, has an active love life and a crazy brother and dad, leading Virgil to link another murder to the one of the businesswoman. 

Virgil is a laid back, good looking man who exudes charm and cool and he is also the most successful closer in the Bureau.  The contrast between his humor and sexuality to his quoting Bible verses when the situation fits makes for an interesting character.  I like Virgil and would love to hang out at a bar listening to music with him (and my husband, of course)

This is another solid mystery by Sandford, but I did have an issue with the heavy handed way he dealt with gay women in this one.  I know people use derogatory language for many different groups and it usually doesn’t bother me if it defines the character, but in this case a few too many characters had issues.  And some of the storylines involving gay women seemed stereotypical. 

And for some reason there were numerous breaks in book, the kind that usually tell you the action has ended and you’re going somewhere else.  Except after the break you were back at the same place, with the same people, and still in the middle of conversation.  This didn’t really take enjoyment away from the story, but it did make me wonder what the point was. 

This was a library book.

The Last Ember, by Daniel Levin

The Last EmberFinished 9-24-09, rating 4.5/5, thriller, pub. 2009

“The Temple Mount was surrounded by fifty thousand Roman soldiers,” he said, turning to the professor, “and the priest escaped through here, along this aqueduct.”

His flashlight revealed a narrow stone aqueduct stretching into the darkness.  It appeared to float across the dark chasm that lay on either side.

“And he took with him the one artifact that brought down a Roman emperor.”

Chapter 7

Jonathan is an archeology scholar and Rome Prize winner turned New York City lawyer.  He is sent to Rome by his firm to help them in a stolen artifacts case and he is almost immediately confronted by his ex-girlfriend and a centuries old mystery involving the world’s  three main religions.  Jonathan past study of the traitor Josephus gives him special insight into the clue this stolen artifact provides, a clue that he thinks could lead him to the Tabernacle menorah that was stolen from Herod’s Temple in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago.  As he travels with his ex Emili to the Colosseum and other hot spots in Rome they follow a series of clues while the police are trying to find them.  Using Emili’s UN credentials the two race back to Jerusalem to stop the Waqf and their destruction of the what is beneath the Temple Mount.

This is a religious thriller that I compare to the da Vinci Code in only the post positive aspects.  The pace, story and setting were top notch and had a hard time putting it down.  Since our vacation to Italy last year I’ve loved reading stories that take place in Italy and this book made me want to go back and take a tour of all places Jonathan visited, but since many of them are under the city that is probably not going to happen.

It was also complicated and loaded with historical and religious facts.  The only thing that slowed down my reading at all was the multitude of knowledge that I tried to take in.  I do not normally read historical fiction, so most of this was new to me as were many of the names.   To make all of this history interesting, the plot is lightning quick and full of fantastic and seemingly far fetched occurences.  And that was okay because I loved it.

I highly recommend this if you love thrillers, historical fiction, The daVinci Code, Italy, Jerusalem, suspense, religious mysteries, or archeology.  That covers a lot of people.  Does it include you?

I attended a book signing with Daniel Levin and he will be featured in one of my 9 in ’09 interview soon.

The Broken Window, by Jeffery Deaver

Cover ImageFinished 8-31-09, rating 4.5/5, mystery, pub. 2008

“But tell me if those benefits are worth somebody knowing every detail about your life.  Maybe you don’t care, provided you save a few bucks.  But do you really want ConsumerChoice lasers scanning your eyes in a movie theater and recording your reactions to those commercials they run before the movie?  Do you want the RFID tag in your car key to be available to the police to know that you hit a hundred miles an hour last week?”

Chapter 23

This is the 8th book in the Lincoln Rhyme series

Quadriplegic forensic specialist Lincoln Rhyme is back with his most personal case to date.  His cousin, Arthur, has been arrested for murder and his wife comes to Lincoln even though the two men haven’t been friends since high school.  Lincoln feels the familial bond and takes a look at the case and discovers that they may be dealing with a serial killer.  As Lincoln and his girlfriend, Amelia Sachs, try to prove the innocence of more than one person in prison, they become immersed in the new world of Big Brother. 

SSD, Strategic Systems Datacorp, is a data mining company that specializes in knowing everything about you.  No really, everything.  And they do know it all.  And it would not be difficult for an employee to commit awful crimes and pin them on someone else or even to steal a person’s life and destroy it piece by piece.

I loved this book.  We learn more about Lincoln’s personal life than in any book since the first one and I enjoyed learning more about his childhood and family.  And Amelia had her own things to deal with involving Pam, the teen from two earlier books who is now in foster care.

This book knocked it out of the park as far as scaring me to the point of paranoia.  I think most people recognize  that many of our individual freedoms are being stripped from us little by little, and some of us are okay with it and some of us aren’t.  But this book takes it to the next level.  Our whole lives are fodder for commercial gain and government dossiers.  It is frightening and although this is a novel, it hits home because it is happening right now. 

This book is a timely novel that will please Lincoln Rhyme fans and fans of fast paced thrillers.  I loved it.

A Circle of Souls, by Preetham Grandhi

A Circle of Souls by Grandhi Grandhi: Book CoverFinished 7-17-09, rating 4/5, fiction, pub. 2009

“I found Naya standing on the second-floor balcony,”  Mrs. Hastings said shakily, “and I think she thought she could fly away.  She was looking at the sky, trying to climb over the balcony wall, and mumbling to herself.”

“What was she saying?”

“It sounded like she was saying, ‘I do want to come!’ “

Chapter 3

Dr. Peter Gram is a child psychiatrist at a Connecticut hospital and is on duty when seven year old Naya is brought in by her parents after she almost kills herself while dreaming.  Peter has never seen anything like it and is concerned enough to keep her in the hospital over the weekend.  To further trouble Peter she begins drawing unsettling photos of a recent murder.  As Peter begins to investigate he crosses paths with FBI agent, Leia Bines.

Leia is tops in her job of tracking down missing children, but the brutal murder of Janet has left her stumped.  She is willing to listen to Peter and his strange suggestions only because the investigation is at a complete standstill.  Why is Naya dreaming of the dead and can her drawings lead them to the killer?

I loved Peter and Naya.  Peter is the doctor you want if you have a kid in trouble.  He was willing to go the extra mile and just seemed so darned nice.  And I loved his warm relationship with Naya.  It was also impossible not to fall in love with Naya.  Her Indian heritage provided an additional layer of interest to the mystery as did her uncle still living nearby. 

This is a great psychological thriller.  It was fast-paced with a compelling story.  There was enough information to tell you who did it and enough doubt to make it interesting.  This was really a fun read and I am very impressed that this is Preetham’s first book.

I want to thank Preetham for sending me a copy of his book.  If you are interested in winning a copy go HERE and enter on his website.  He draws a new winner each month.  Also, come back on Friday for my 9 in ’09 with Preetham.

Wicked Prey, by John Sandford

Wicked Prey (Lucas Davenport Series #19) by Sandford Sandford: Book CoverFinished 5-26-09, rating 3.5/5, thriller, pub. 2009

This is book 19 in the Prey series with Lucas Davenport

“Never done anything to us,” Juliet said, doubtfully.

“Davenport did this to me,” Whitcomb said, whacking his inert legs.  “Set it up.  Started it all.”

“The girl didn’t…”

“Davenport set me up,” Whitcomb said.  He watched the girl disappear into the house.  “I’m gonna get him back.  No fun just shootin’ him.  I want to do him good, and I want him to know what I done, and who done it.”

Chapter 1

 Lucas is back and the 2008 Republican Convention has come to St. Paul.  The police are out in full force trying to keep the politicians and the protesters from hurting each other.  There is a gang of thieves that followed the money to the convention and are planning to rip off these men and women for millions of dollars.  There is also an old nemesis of Lucas that is stalking his teen daughter, Lettie.   

Lucas is still working for the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and his old friends are all back to help him when he is charged with finding the gang before anyone else dies.  Lettie is front and center in this book and gets into quite a bit of trouble for a 14 year old.  Instead of telling her dad about the stalker she decides to handle it herself, in part by befriending a hooker. 

The many storylines of this book keep it moving at a fast pace.  This fast pace also takes some of the focus from Lucas and I was disappointed in that.  Lucas is one of my favorite characters and I want him front and center!  I think that by giving Lettie more time and showing us what kind of messes she gets herself into, we can look forward to more from this precocious teen. 

I liked this latest installment, but it wasn’t one of my favorites.  I wanted more Lucas.  Also, the storyline involving Lettie did seem a bit much for a 14 year old girl on her bike.  But the suspense was good.  The detective work was good. And I will pick up the next installment next May as soon as it comes out.

A note about the language…This is a police novel with many degenerates.  The conversations do have lots of course language.  If you can’t get past it, these are not the books for you.

After some thought I have to say that while you don’t have to read these in order, you would enjoy them more if you at least tried.  The first one in the series is Rules of Prey.  Also here is a link to Sandford’s website which lists them all in order for you.  I love this series and recommend it if you like gritty detective novels.

Blue Smoke, by Nora Roberts

Cover ImageFinished 4-26-09, rating 4/5, romantic thriller, pub. 2005

“Something else I need to talk to you about.”  He set down hos fork, looked into her eyes.  “Pastorelli’s out.”

“He–”  She drew herself in, glanced around to see if any of her family could overhear.  “When?”

“Last week. I just got word.”

Chapter 5

Reena was only 11 years old when she watched her family restaurant burn to the ground.  She had been attacked by a boy in her class and their two fathers had come to blows, causing the other father to take a match to their family livelihood.  Years go by as Reena studies to become a member of the arson unit and she returns home to the Little Italy area of Baltimore.  She is welcomed with open arms by her large Italian family and life settles into family, fires, and the occasional boyfriend.  She is a strong woman who has a hard time finding a man who admires her determination and when she does the relationships end in death or abuse. 

I really liked this book.  I liked Reena, although I didn’t love her.  The secondary characters were fun and lovable and well developed.  I’d love to read another story involving the Hale clan.  I think it is the large family with so much love and loyalty that made this book feel so cozy.  The hero, Bo Goodnight, was a dream and easy to fall for.  Who doesn’t want a well-built, handsome carpenter who fell in love with you at first sight and has spent years trying to find you?

I’m not sure I would classify this as a thriller.  It is more of a family/romantic drama?  There was a mystery, but it really wasn’t that hard to figure out.  Actually, my biggest complaint is that for a smart woman, Reena was a little slow in seeing the obvious.

I’m not a Nora Roberts fan, but I really enjoyed this book and recommend it for a fun, fast-paced read.

The Zero Hour, by Joseph Finder

Cover ImageFinished 3-17-09, rating 3/5, fiction, pub. 1996

“I assume you know who I am.”

Baumann shook his hand and nodded.  “Certainly, Mr. Dyson,” he said.  “I do know a bit about you.

“Glad to hear it.”

“I’ve recently had some spare time to do a little research.”

Dyson chortled, as if to share Baumann’s joke, but Baumann was not smiling.  “Do you know why you’re here?”  Dyson asked.

“No,” Baumann admitted.  “I know that I’m not sitting in Cell Block Ninteen in Pollsmoor Prison.  And I know that you made the arrangements for my jailbreak.  But to be entirely honest, I have no idea why.”

Chapter 8

The Prince of Darkness, aka Baumann, is a terrorist for hire and a fugitive American billionaire has just sprung him from a South African prison .  Mr. Dyson has lost his his family and the use of legs thanks to the U.S. government and he has hired Baumann to plant a bomb that will bring down Wall Street.  Baumann gets to work in making his way from Switzerland to the U.S. and finding all of the pieces to the dangerous and complex mission.

FBI Secial Agent Sarah Cahill finds herself involved in this plot because one of her informants has been murdered and she has asked all the right questions.  She is put in charge of a small task force given the large duty of figuring out not only who, but what is going on.  She also has to relocate to New York City with her eight year old son.

This is a fast-paced thriller and I had a hard time putting it down.  This is a good look at international terrorism and national security before 9-11.  There are many references to the first World Trade Center bombing and what happened in Oklahoma City.  So, the the book isn’t wrong, it’s just that the world, especially the US, has changed.

There are a few negatives.  One of the first chapters in the book is a pretty graphic one with a dominatrix and a submissive.  The excruciating detail was unnecessary, but fed into the very macho point of view of the book.  Sarah’s character was easy to root for, but she did something in the middle of the book that seemed so out of character that it was hard to understand her after that.  I was a little disappointed in the ending.  Baumann is the main character, Sarah is given equal time, but she is not nearly as interesting.  The end fizzles out because all the sudden it turns into Sarah’s story.

It does seem like a lot of complaints, but it was well-written and I was anxious to see how it would end, so it probably evens itself out.  I also think that men would rate this higher than women.

The Stone Monkey, by Jeffery Deaver

Cover ImageFinished 2-5-09, rating 3.5/5, fiction, pub. 2002

Lincoln Rhyme series #4

“We’re staying in Mahattan.”

Leaning closer so that Mah could not hear, Chang whispered, “Don’t be a fool. The Ghost will find you.”

Wu laughed.  Don’t worry about him.”

“Don’t worry?  He just killed a dozen of our friends.”  Gambling with Wu’s own life was one thing but to risk his wife and children was unthinkable.

Quadriplegic Lincoln Rhyme is back in New York awaiting the risky surgery that may grant him limited movement.  His partner in crime and in love, Amelia Sachs, is against the surgery, but is trying to come to terms with it because it is what Lincoln wants.  They are both thrust into an INS investigation trying to locate a snakehead (smuggler of desperate Chinese people into the US unlawfully) in the middle of the ocean.  The Ghost is the most feared of all snakeheads because of his ruthlessness with the human cargo on his ships and because of his high connections which enable him to escape prosecution.

The Coast Guard locate the ship, but before they can board the Ghost blows it up.  He survives and kills anyone else who has lived, but two families escape him.  They escape into New York City where the Ghost hunts them down.  A Chinese detective proves very helpful to Rhyme with insight and friendship and the race is on to find the illegal immigrants before the Ghost does.

This Lincoln Rhyme installment was a different kind of book than the first three.  There was so much information about the Chines and Chinese American cultures that the story moved slower, at least the first half.  It was still really good, but I was able to put it down, which did not happen with the first three.  Also, there was less emphasis on Lincoln, which is okay, but I happen to love watching him outsmart everyone. 

I did like his close  friendship with the Chinese detective.  And Lincoln and Amelia’s relationship keeps moving forward, which I love.  Although you don’t have to read the series in order I think it is rewarding to see this relationship develop from the beginning.

This book has all the twists and turns and surprises that I’ve come to expect from Deaver.  He keeps you guessing-even when you didn’t know there was guessing to be done! 

I recommend this thriller especially if you are interested in the Chinese American culture.

Watchers, by Dean Koontz

Cover ImageFinished 1-8-09, rating 4 1/2, fiction, pub.1987

“We have a responsibility to stand watch over one another, we are watchers, all of us, watchers, guarding against the darkness.  You’ve taught me that we’re all needed, even those who sometimes think we’re worthless, plain, and dull.  If we love and allow ourselves to be loved…well, a person who loves is the most precious thing in the world, worth all the fortunes that ever were.”    -Chapter 9

A top secret lab in California has created two new weapons for the US government – a gentle golden retriever and a savage best, both astonishingly intelligent.  One night they both escape and the NSA mounts a search, but before either can be found one is taken in by a lonely man and one begins killing at will.

Cursed Travis Cornell was looking for some happiness and found the golden retriever, who he named Einstein because of his human-like intelligence.  Through Einstein he found an equally lonely woman, Nora, and the three became inseparable.  The three found happiness together, but danger lurked because not only was the government still looking for Einstein, so was the beast and a crazy assassin. 

This is the ultimate book for dog lovers.  Einstein was nothing short of a miracle and I fell in love with him, just as you will.  He was playful, a protector, a source of comfort, and also possessed the intelligence to communicate fully with Travis and Nora.  The vision of Einstein lounging on the floor reading novels is one that warms this book lovers heart.  I confess that my dog received a lot of extra love and a few extra treats as I was reading this book.

Koontz writes books that move at lightning  speed, but also have heart, three dimensional characters, and a range of storylines that all move together perfectly.  He can do it all and with this book he does.  In the Afterward of my edition Koontz admits that this is probably his favorite book and that should be recommendation enough.

This is a suspenseful thriller, but also addresses some big issues like good vs. evil and the government playing God.  There is DNA mixing going on right now, but this was written 20 years ago!  This book will entertain you, make you think, and definitely encourage you to look at your dog and wonder how much of Einstein is in there.

This a must read for any dog lover!

2nd Chance, by James Patterson

Cover ImageFinished 5-28-08, rating 3.5/5, fiction, pub. 2002

 I read the first of this series, 1st To Die, a few years ago because I had heard so many good things about it.  I did like it, but wasn’t blown away and didn’t read anymore even though my Mom passed them on to me.  I saw the first Women’s Murder Club on TV and didn’t think it was great either, but it grew on me.  So, I decided to see if the books would too.

The girls are all back and ready for murder.  Lindsay is tracking a serial killer whose victims seem to only be connected by race.  Claire uses her reporter smarts to help Lindsay look the right way.  Two of the girls are shot, one shot at, and one has a miscarriage.  This book is full of drama.

This was a very fast read and I enjoyed it more than the first one, but who can know if it because I was picturing the girls from TV in the roles.  My ambivalence with the first book and this one has something to do with the relationship between the four women.  Their interaction and conversation don’t ring quite true for me.  But, I will read more of the series because the action is swift, the mystery is good, and Lindsay is spunky.