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Ted Feit (Long Beach, NY USA)
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Good As Dead
Good As Dead
by Mark Billingham
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 27.99
33 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hostage, Sept. 26 2011
This review is from: Good As Dead (Hardcover)
This novel is the latest'the 10th'in the Tom Thorne series featuring a British cop of a different stripe. His approach to solving a crime is to achieve a conclusion by any means. And, in this book, he shows no mercy.

It begins when D.S. Helen Weeks enters her local news agent's shop to buy her customary candy bar and ends up, along with another customer, as a hostage to the proprietor, who then demands that Thorne find the murderer of his son. Some months before, Thorne had been the arresting officer when the boy surrendered for killing another lad in self-defense. He received an eight-year sentence, rather an extreme incarceration based on the case. While in prison, he was attacked and taken to the hospital where he was later found dead of an overdose of drugs. His father refuses to accept the verdict that the death was a suicide.

Forced to reopen the case and 'find the truth,' Thorne fights against time and Helen's predicament. The time frame of the novel is three days, which certainly speeds up the action both behind the closed doors of the shop, as well as vis-à-vis Thorne's progress. The psychological aspects of the hostage system: the interchanges between Weeks and her captor, and the uncertainties of the situation, are manifested in the shifting conversations between the two. In contrast are the fears and doubts of the police officials outside who cannot determine what, if any, efforts should be made to free the hostages and apprehend the news agent. Thorne's quick determination that the news agent's belief is correct - - that rather than suicide, his son was murdered - - comes quickly, just as the various pieces of the puzzle are unveiled one by one. Nevertheless, Thorne is really a delightful and intriguing character, and the well-written scenario moves forward briskly. Recommended.

Only Time Will Tell
Only Time Will Tell
by Jeffrey Archer
Edition: Hardcover
51 used & new from CDN$ 0.79

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Prologue, Aug. 30 2011
This review is from: Only Time Will Tell (Hardcover)
This aptly titled novel is the prelude to a series entitled The Clifton Chronicles, covering the lives of several characters over the span of a century. In the hands of the author, Jeffrey Archer, it follows the life of the main character, Harry Clifton, from his birth shortly after World War I to just short of WWII with more curves than a talented big league pitcher.

The story is told in succeeding chapters from the point of view of various persons, each contributing some insight into the questions raised in the last summation. It takes Harry from a fatherless tot to a school truant to a talented choir singer and his education right up to his acceptance at Oxford. Meanwhile his life becomes complicated as he grows up by virtue of his background: the mystery of his father's death, his mother's struggles to support him, his questionable parentage.

No comment is necessary regarding Mr. Archer's ability to write a solid story, and to end it in cliffhanger fashion so readers will look forward to the sequel. It remains to be seen how ingenious he can be in the next book in the series.

Recommended.

No Title Available

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sister Act, Aug. 3 2011
The author is known for writing thrillers, sometimes with horrific plots and graphic details. This novel pales by comparison, with merely an offstage rape scene to occasion a police procedural of somewhat questionable means, and a side story about two sisters who have had virtually no contact for 20 years but are in a sense joined at the hip by the rape victim, and then that thread develops into development of a family relationship.

The story is more about the various characters'the two sisters, their lovers, their own background and history'and how each is affected, rather than the crime and ensuing investigation which seems to be an afterthought to contribute to the main plotline.

Written with verve, the novel seems to drag along except for some more 'exciting' portions. Much of the descriptions of one sister's divorce and subsequent life seem labored, and the ending was to this reader quite unsatisfactory. In fact the title of the book might be a fit description for its conclusion: It seems to just hang without any wrapping up. That notwithstanding, the novel still bears reading, and is recommended.

In Desperation
In Desperation
by Rick Mofina
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 10.82
65 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars In Desperation, Aug. 1 2011
Before the end of the first chapter of 'In Desperation,' Rick Mofina's newest entry in the Jack Gannon series, Tilly, the eleven-year-old daughter of Cora Martin, has been kidnapped by two gunmen, who tell her that her boss has stolen five million dollars from them, and that he has five days to return it or Tilly will be killed, threatening the same fate if the police are called in. In her desperation, Cora calls the only family she has, that person being the brother with whom she has had no contact for over twenty years: Jack Gannon.

Gannon, a 35-year-old loner from blue-collar Buffalo, New York, is also a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist with a national wire service. And the call he receives from Cora is more unsettling to him than anything he can recall. When she was seventeen and he was twelve, she was his hero, his big sister protector, until she left some twenty years ago and never returned, leaving her family to embark on a futile search for her over the ensuing years. Her pleas to Jack to help her find the niece he never knew he had take him from Juarez, Mexico, 'one of the world's most violent cities with a homicide rate greater than any other city on earth, where he has been working on a story dealing with the drug cartels that had taken over every aspect life in that country, and go to the suburbs of Phoenix, Arizona where Cora lives. He insists that the police be notified, despite the kidnappers' threat, which only widens the danger as it appears, as has been widely discussed in the press in the novel as well as the real-life media that surrounds us all, that police agencies in the US have been infiltrated by the cartel members, an acknowledged fact of life in Mexico.

Except for the final few pages, all the ensuing action takes place over a five-day period, hard to believe for all the action that is packed into that time frame. The reader is teased from the first with references to a secret that Cora will not reveal, something from her past that she convinces herself cannot possibly have any connection with her present crisis. Cora's boss, the one who is supposed to have pulled off this rip-off of some very dangerous men, seems to have disappeared, and all attempts to locate him end in failure.

Always engrossing, the book has the high level of suspense typical of Mr. Mofina's writing. One quibble this reader had was that I found it less than credible that Gannon, already suspecting that the investigation may have been compromised, approaches a lead, a man with a very unsavory background, giving him full details of the investigation to that point in order to elicit information from him that will give him further avenues to pursue. But hey, desperate times call for desperate measures. Jack's journalistic instincts push him to proceed, and put him in a difficult position - - he has a job to do, and a story to write, even as he fights to distance himself from the fact that he is writing about his own family. Bodies start showing up, killed in gruesome ways, and they must find Tilly before she becomes just one more. They discover that an assassin, or sicario, has been dispatched to find those missing millions, and to eliminate any loose ends, or witnesses.

Sure to hold the reader's attention to the very end, the book leads the reader to think he or she knows where they are being taken - - but don't be too sure. The author has a very sure hand, and surprises are in store. Recommended.

Drawing Conclusions: A Commissario Guido Brunetti Mystery
Drawing Conclusions: A Commissario Guido Brunetti Mystery
by Donna Leon
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 23.96
51 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Judge and Jury, July 30 2011
Unlike previous novels in the series, this mystery lacks many instances of the refined palate enjoyed by Commissario Guido Brunetti's life. There is some, but not much, of his charming home life. Instead in this, the 20th entry in the series, we have a deep study of the man and his ethics drawn into a mystery he informally investigates.

It all begins when a retired school teacher is found dead of an apparent heart attack by a neighbor who calls the police, and Brunetti and his assistant respond. The medical examiner rules it a natural death, but the detective is disturbed by bruises on the woman's body, so he continues unofficially to look into the circumstances of the death. This leads to a philosophical judgment on his part, quite unlike the stickler for the law that he usually is.

Each book in the series is an enjoyable read, and this one certainly is no exception. The descriptions of Venice, its buildings and churches, continue to warm the heart of one who fell in love with the city years ago (and is about to renew the friendship in September). Let's hope we can continue to recommend the series well into the future.

Body Line
Body Line
by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles
Edition: Hardcover
17 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Body Line, July 18 2011
This review is from: Body Line (Hardcover)
The tone of the book, the newest in the wonderful Bill Slider series, is initially set with the very first line ' in point of fact, the first chapter heading, 'The Wrath of Grapes,' describing as it does a thoroughly hung over D.S. Jim Atherton, as he joins his boss, D.I Bill Slider, both of the Shepherd's Bush police, for just another 'day at the office,' i.e., driving to a murder scene. The day that is just starting is portrayed as follows, in typical lovely fashion: 'Shepherd's Bush was not beautiful, but it had something to be said for it on a bright, breezy March morning. Clouds were running like tumbleweed across a sky of intense, saturated, heraldic azure. The tall, bare planes on the Green swayed solemnly like folkies singing Kumbayah. All around, the residents ' young, old and middling ' were sleeping, getting up, planning their day, thinking about work, school, sex, shopping, footie. Some were perhaps dying. One was dead in what the police called suspicious circumstances, and that, fortunately, was unusual.'

The reader is thereby immediately put into a smiling and receptive mood, the grim destination notwithstanding: When they arrive at the scene, they discover the body of a man very efficiently murdered, with a single gunshot at close range to the back of the head. As the investigation ensues, there are no suspects, no forensics, no obvious motive, and the fact that they cannot find any information as to where the dead man worked or as to the source of his apparently substantial income, only makes matters more puzzling. The police are told he was 'a doctor,' 'a consultant,' but beyond that there is no information. As Slider says, 'it's astonishing what people don't see and hear, even when it's under their eyes and ears.'

The second chapter is headed 'Witless for the Prosecution,' but that's about it for play-on-words - - well, no scratch that, for of course Superintendent Porson, Slider and Atherton's boss, is present in this book, and malapropisms abound, always guaranteed to bring back that smile. Various permutations of relationships between and among the several well-drawn characters become clear as the investigation continues. The novel is immensely enjoyable in this well-written murder mystery [there are other deaths as the tale continues], and it is as highly recommended as were the previous books in the series.

The Devotion of Suspect X: A Detective Galileo Novel
The Devotion of Suspect X: A Detective Galileo Novel
by Keigo Higashino
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 23.19
35 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Logic vs. Gut, July 16 2011
Cleverly pitting the logic of a mathematician against that of a physicist, and then the physicist vs. an intuition-leaning detective, this Japanese novelist has written a clever murder mystery with an innovative ending.

There is no mystery as to the murderer: A single mother, aided by her daughter, strangles her abusive ex-husband. What then follows provides us with a chess match between her next door neighbor, a mathematician, who undertakes to create a scenario to provide the two women with iron-clad alibis, and a detective and his logic-leaning physicist friend, who analyzes each possible clue. It is an interesting technique, and one that works well.

This is the author's first major English publication (he is a big seller in Japan, where more than 2 million copies of the book have been sold), and the translation seems to have been made with the formality of the original language in mind. 'Devotion' won the Naoki Prize for Best Novel, the Japanese equivalent of the National Book Award. Deservedly. And it is, here, heartily recommended.

Thirteen Hours
Thirteen Hours
by Deon Meyer
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 14.40
3 used & new from CDN$ 7.90

5.0 out of 5 stars Race Against Time, July 16 2011
This review is from: Thirteen Hours (Paperback)
Post-Apartheid South Africa has undergone many traumatic changes. But for homicide detective Benny Griessel, nothing much changes except for the murder victims, the politics, unsettled race relations and his own personal problems. Benny is saddled with 'mentoring' newly promoted black, or 'colored,' detectives. Of course, he is the only experienced white.

The plot involves two murders and a kidnapping, each a potential PR disaster for the SA government. It is up to Benny and his untested troops to save a captive American girl who witnessed the murder of her fellow tourist. Meanwhile, a well-known music executive is found shot in his home with his pistol lying at his feet, his alcoholic wife asleep in a chair.

Deon Meyer has written six novels and 'Thirteen Hours' is probably the best (not taking anything away from its predecessors). It is taut, moving and deeply memorable, and is highly recommended.

Bank of the Black Sheep
Bank of the Black Sheep
by Robert Lewis
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 13.51
22 used & new from CDN$ 0.75

3.0 out of 5 stars Plotting, July 13 2011
Robin Llywelyn, ostensibly a private detective, wakes up in a hospice with amnesia, handcuffed to a bed after a week-long infusion of morphine. Such a state gives him a real slow start, along with the reader. Additionally, he is told he has lung cancer with just a couple of months to live. Actually, it seems from what follows that he can go on forever.

It turns out that Llywelyn was involved in some kind of scam, but of course he can't remember what it was. And so, he sets out inadvertently to find out about his past, bumbling his way to make a final score and to atone for his past transgressions before his end. For much of the novel, to this reader, it dragged on with a lot of wearying prose and observations. It is not until near the conclusion that the novel really becomes interesting, and then we are drawn into the real story.

Bank apparently is the last in a trilogy of Llywelyn detective stories and, given the medical prognosis, it would seem to be just that.

So Close the Hand of Death
So Close the Hand of Death
by J.T. Ellison
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
68 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars So Close the Hand of Death, June 22 2011
This is the newest entry in the Taylor Jackson series, and picks up several threads of earlier books. At the end of the prior book, 'The Immortals,' Dr. John Baldwin, Supervisory Special Agent and Taylor's fiancé, was about to attend a hearing into a case from his past, held at FBI headquarters at Quantico. The aftermath of that hearing resulted in his [hopefully temporary] suspension. But the tentacles of that prior case extend well beyond that, to threaten Taylor's career and, indeed, her life and that of those nearest and dearest to her. As the book opens, one of those is immediately apparent as Pete ('Fitz') Fitzgerald, Taylor's dear friend who has been nothing less than a father figure to her, has seen the love of his life, Sue, murdered, and now lies in a hospital bed, grievously wounded [something apparently called 'enucleation,' but you'll have to look that one up yourself]. Taylor, a six-foot tall Metro Homicide Lieutenant in Nashville, Tennessee, vows to prevent further fallout.

A serial killer, the self-styled 'Pretender,' learned his deadly craft at the feet of another character from past books, the Snow White killer, is responsible for 26 known deaths as the tale begins, and has in turn amassed several acolytes of his own, who at his behest have now begun killing sprees across the US mimicking famous, or infamous, serial killers of years past: the Boston Strangler, the NY killer known as the Son of Sam, and the Zodiac Killer. This is all part of a deadly cat-and-mouse game on his part, the ultimate prize being Taylor Jackson. His identity, and the motive behind all this, is the biggest mystery, beyond the fact that it is very, very personal.

In this novel the reader discovers that Baldwin has unsuspected baggage that is about to complicate his and Taylor's lives, but the emphasis is, of course, on identifying and stopping the serial killer who has targeted Taylor and those she loves, with the suspense increasing as the inevitable confrontation comes closer. I felt that the book could have benefited from some judicious editing, but nonetheless found it a very enjoyable summer read.

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