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Monday, May 22, 2017

Kathy Reichs' new series is a winner





Two Nights by Kathy Reichs (Bantam Books, July 2017) introduces Sunday Night, a traumatized ex-cop on a mission to find a missing girl and save her life.

Although Sunnie Night allegedly lives in Charleston, SC (actually on Goat Island, just offshore), the first half of the story takes place in Chicago. As a Chicago native, I followed Sunny around the city waiting for the author to make an obvious mistake. She didn’t, which means either she was familiar with Chicago from book signings or she did her research.

I love the brilliant images Reichs creates: “Across Lake Shore Drive, the city hummed with all the notes of a midnight symphony.” Made me wonder if she didn’t listen to Gorden Jenkins’ Manhattan Tower while writing this novel.

The action, however, doesn’t remain in Chicago. Sunnie follows the alleged kidnappers to LA, to Washington, DC, and then to Louisville, KY.

Sunnie has a nasty a scar over one eye. Some asshole stabbed her in the eye with a knife, and she had to shoot and kill him in self-defense. That’s why she was forced to leave the Charleston PD: they wanted to stick her on permanent desk duty after she’d killed an unarmed citizen (he had no gun and the knife didn’t seem to count) and she wanted back on the streets but they wouldn’t let her back with only one eye.

So she quit.

Sunnie has other scars, too, though the others aren’t quite so visible. Scars from the military. Scars from her own childhood.

Oh, and did I mention that she’s unusually tall for a woman?

The title refers to Sunnie and her twin brother Gus — Sunday and August Night. Gus is black and Sunnie can pass for white. Although twins, they look as different as day and night. Their mother was a white immigrant from Ireland and their father was an African-American preacherman. There are other meanings to the title, but you’ll need to read the novel to learn what they might be.

Sometimes the tension becomes so taut it’s almost painful, as if there’s literally a ticking timebomb that will explode any minute now. The author doubles the tension by running parallel mysteries that threaten to intersect: the current mystery Sunnie and Gus must unravel and the mystery of what happened to them as children.

Once I started reading, I couldn’t put the book down. Highly recommended for mystery and thriller lovers.

 

 

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Who Are the Hlloween Children?

The Halloween Children by Brian James Freeman and Norman Prentiss (Random House Hydra, June 2017) works by building suspense, by gradually increasing the sense of dread. Readers know from the very first page that something went terribly wrong Halloween night and lots of children either killed or were killed. Dread builds as you discover how really weird and totally dis-functional everyone in the entire Stillbrook apartment complex — especially the entire Naylor family — has become. You know all hell is about to break loose, and you can’t wait for it to happen. But, like waiting for Halloween or for Christmas, wait you must.

Good horror builds expectations. There are a lot of little boos that set the scene, but you know right from the get-go that the big fright comes on Halloween. Everything else is a warm-up or a red-herring.

“I think the environment in our apartment complex had everything to do with what happened,” Harris Naylor admits. “Not just our management policies and our neighbors, but maybe even the issues that had been swimming within our own family.”

Is the apartment complex haunted? Just when you think it is, a logical explanation pops up. But then something else weird happens, and the suspense builds until you’re sure the place is haunted by evil spirits.

Or maybe by crazy people: not just the children but adults, too.

Harris again hits the nail on the head: “If a place is going to be haunted, it’s more likely to be an apartment building, since there’s a high turnaround in tenants and folks from a variety of backgrounds will bring different quirks and neuroses and illnesses with them. Going with the odds, an apartment building simply has more opportunities for crazy, haunted people to live there.”

Or die there.

Heh heh.

So who are the Halloween Children really? Mattie and Amber? Ghosts? Evil spirits?

Read the novel and see with your own eyes.

Heh heh.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Great Characters, Thrilling Read

The Final Hour by Tom Wood (Berkley Books, August 2017) is the seventh novel in the author’s “Victor” series. Victor is a freelance paid assassin who claims he doesn’t care bout anything but the job. That’s a lie, of course. But he’s so religious about protecting his privacy, he refuses to reveal any of his personal weaknesses to his victims. Or even to his friends and allies.

And certainly never to his enemies, of whom there are many. This is brought home to the reader in book 6, The Darkest Day, when Victor meets a female assassin who’s been hired to kill him.

Book seven begins with Victor confessing to a priest that he has killed many men. Plus he may have killed a female assassin, but he gave her an unprecedented opportunity to save herself if she’s strong enough. He returns later and kills the priest. Not only had British Intelligence put out a contract on him, but he had heard Victor’s confession and therefore had to die.

Imagine Tom Wood pitching the Victor novels to an agent or publisher with this elevator speech: I can’t tell you all about my protagonist because then I would have to kill you. Better you learn about him a little at a time as he reveals himself through story and dialog.

Spoiler alert: the female assassin does survive, despite incredible odds, and she becomes stronger. She and Victor become allies of sorts. More than that I can’t tell you without fear Victor will have to kill me.

I can tell you The Final Hour is marvelous. There are more complications than anyone has the right to survive, but Victor and Raven are both professionals and they know how to improvise.

This novel was so well written that I had to buy the previous six novels in the series. I was hooked on the best new series character since Jack Reacher, and I think you will be, too.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Dean Koontz has a new heroine

Dean Koontz combines Richard Condon’s The Manchurian Candidate with Ira Levin’s The Stepford Wives to create his latest pulse-pounding suspense thriller The Silent Corner (Bantam Books, June 2017).

Jane Hawk’s husband commits suicide, but he isn’t the only one to die by his own hand. When Jane, a highly-trained FBI Special Agent, takes bereavement leave and investigates the sudden rash of unexplained deaths, she and her five-year-old son are threatened by mysterious strangers who know all about her. Jane’s only hope to save her son and herself is to go entirely off the grid — to disappear into the silent corner where no one can track her movements or whereabouts.

Because those hunting Jane and her son don’t play nice, Jane can’t either. She becomes a rogue agent, a cold-blooded killer, and a thief.

Like Lee Child’s Jack Reacher, Jane Hawk has skills that allow her to survive against impossible odds. She goes on the offensive and ruthlessly kills people who deserve killing. We cheer her on each time another bad guy bites the dust.

The Silent Corner is only the first of at least three Jane Hawk novels. The Whispering Room will be out next January.

Exciting, thrilling, suspenseful, and well-written, I recommend The Silent Corner to everyone who enjoys a good read.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Girl Who Lived reviewed by Kirkus Reviews



THE GIRL WHO LIVED
 
 
Megan's Story
 
 
Paul Dale Anderson

2AM Publications (306 pp.)

$14.95 paperback, $3.95 e-book

ISBN: 978-0-937491-19-5; January 5, 2017
 
BOOK REVIEW
 
 
 
After spending years in a mental institution, a woman has revenge on her mind in Anderson’s (Claw Hammer, 2016,



etc.) dark thriller.

Megan Williams was institutionalized five years ago after she killed one man and castrated three others who raped and

disfigured her. She earns her freedom by telling her psychiatrist that she knows right from wrong—just what the doctor

wants to hear. However, she still plans to murder the survivors of her last attempt at vengeance, which occurred after

she’d spent one year in a coma and another undergoing reconstructive surgery and physical therapy. Shortly after her

return to Twin Rivers, Illinois, cops find the body of a castrated man and suspect Megan of the crime. Newspaperman

Tim Goodman, however, connects the new murder to five of the dead man’s associates, who are all inexplicably missing.

With police watching her, Megan puts her retribution on the back burner. Meanwhile, she’s leery of her older sister

Susan’s new beau, Harry Berg. The mob-linked drug dealer hopes to launder money in Twin Rivers, and he’s also in the

process of meting out payback to those who’ve wronged him. Soon, the dead bodies are stacking up, and Megan is in

danger of arrest. Anderson rivetingly presents his protagonist from a first-person perspective, which clearly shows her

instability. As she reveals more details of her attack, it seems as if she’s continually reliving it, which gives the book’s

title a sad twist. As a result, readers will initially have sympathy for Megan, but it may subside as the story progresses; at

one point, Megan says that she tortured multiple men, all strangers who picked her up at bars, as practice for her

revenge; after butchering them, she says, she “showed them mercy and slit their throats to make certain they died.” Still,

the story’s intensity rises with each new murder victim, as each puts Megan or someone she knows in potential danger.

Anderson, meanwhile, does add glimmers of hope, as when he shows that Megan regrets at least one of her killings.

A relentlessly gloomy but memorable tale that explores questions of morality.
 
 
 
 
 





 

Thursday, January 19, 2017



Cataclysm by Tim Washburn (Pinnacle Books, November 2016) is the real deal. You know all hell is about to break loose in Yellowstone National Park when underground magma begins to shift in the caldera, causing earthquakes. Yellowstone is home to one of the world’s largest underground volcanoes. As the caldera rises, hydrothermal vents erupt as a precursor to a cataclysmic volcanic eruption that could threaten all life on earth.
What would you do if your own family were staying at the Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone? Is there any way you can get them, and the tens of thousands of others in or near the park, out of harm’s way before the volcano erupts? Doctor Tucker Mayfield is the staff geologist monitoring on-site activity at Yellowstone. His entire family — brother Matt, sister-in-law Jessica, and a young niece and nephew — are vacationing in Yellowstone when the caldera threatens to erupt. The park is filled with families, and Tucker realizes evacuating them all before the volcano blows will be impossible.

First come the earthquakes, minor tremors that escalate into full-scale quakes. Then the geysers erratically spew boiling water high into the air, scalding hundreds of people and inundating acres of land. Volcanic ash from newly-opened fissures clogs automobile engines and brings down aircraft. If the volcano blows its lid, the entire Midwest and west coast of America could be buried beneath billions of tons of hot ash that will make the soil sterile for generations to come.

Without food, water, electricity, or transportation, how will the country survive?

President Drummond, the first female POTUS, declares a national emergency too late to save millions of lives. None of her learned advisers knew when or even if the volcano would erupt after being dormant for 640,000 years.

Author Washburn adds sexual tension to the mix as Rachel and April vie for Tucker’s attention. I wanted to shake or strangle several of the characters for being so selfish or dense that they put loved ones at risk. When pyroclastic flows containing boiling lava and hot acidic ash incinerate thousands of people, I wanted to shout “I told you so” to those who got their comeuppance.

But most of the dead are ordinary people who simply happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The true horror is that this could actually happen to you or me tomorrow, and there’s nothing we can do to prevent it. The only thing we can do is be aware it could possibly happen and be prepared to run for our lives if it does.

Great story, competently told, with believable characters. Highly recommended.