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Don Ellis (Hong Kong)

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Hanged Mans Song
Hanged Mans Song
by John Sandford
Edition: Hardcover
66 used & new from CDN$ 1.94

1.0 out of 5 stars You must be Kidd-ing, May 16 2004
This review is from: Hanged Mans Song (Hardcover)
I finished The Hanged Man's Song last week and remember only enough of it this week to suggest that it's not worth the time. I know everyone loves it, and I gave it a chance after the equally disappointing The Empress File, another Kidd novel, but neither was worth the time and money.
I like John Sandford a lot -- I've read all the Prey novels, including the two starring Clara Rinker twice -- so I picked up the Kidd novels because I read John's novels faster than he can write them. Both were a disappointment. Carl Hiassen's blurbed suggestion that Kidd is "a hero who's impossible to resist" is wrong. And his suggestion that Kidd is "the Travis McGee of microchips" would suggest he can't do comparison studies. I've read all the McGee books at least three times over the decades and the two heroes are nothing alike, nor is the writing.
Sandford causes himself some credibility problems with such stultifying techno-inanities as "The laptop was no lightweight -- it was a desktop replacement model from IBM with maximum RAM, a fat hard drive, built-in CD/DVD burner, three USB ports, a variety of memory-card slots." Omigod, THREE USB PORTS?! This man/machine combo is going to be invincible, assuming he can get his fat hard drive into gear.
Unfortunately, this passage is in a book published in 2004 and it appears on page 3 of my edition, causing a few micro-alarms to go off in my already skeptical brain. It just gets worse on page 42 when Kidd talks about putting the Encyclopedia Britannica on his laptop, where it "sucked up about 1.2 gigs. That means you could put about, uh... -- I did some quick calculation -- something like thirteen Encyclopedia Britannicas on one DVD."
Uh, better slow down, Kidd. My DVDs hold 4.7 gigabytes, meaning you could maybe squeeze four on a disk, not 13 -- and that's assuming he has the cracking skills necessary to get the encyclopedia in the first place and that 1.2GB is an accurate figure, never safe assumptions in this book.
Clever lines throughout number fewer than ten and dialogue and plot are weak. The back of the book tells us that "Sandford's charismatic hero, Kidd, returns in an electrifying novel of murder and Machiavellian intrigue." Every adjective wrong. As for charismatic, if you can remember the last Coke you had, you might have a chance of remembering Kidd after you finishing reading this.
If you need a John Sandford fix -- and don't we all -- reread one of his Alex Davenport books. The two Clara Rinkers are lovely the second time around.

Chasing the Dime
Chasing the Dime
by Michael Connelly
Edition: Hardcover
71 used & new from CDN$ 0.76

1.0 out of 5 stars I think he must have been..., Dec 4 2002
This review is from: Chasing the Dime (Hardcover)
...Chasing the Dollar to write this book. I dragged myself just past the 100-page mark in this 308-page novel before tossing it. I have read all of Michael Connelly's books and have liked every one of them. I can imagine rereading them all when I'm on the nursing home porch. But if you gave me this novel without an author's name, I would never have guessed Michael Connelly.
It is unfortunate that my first Michael Connelly review is negative, so just take my first paragraph as how I really feel about this author. He is one of the great authors in this genre and I advise you to pick up any one of his other books. You'll love it.
If you've already read them all, I would recommend reading more reviews here before buying this book.

Up Country: A Novel
Up Country: A Novel
by Nelson Demille
Edition: Hardcover
78 used & new from CDN$ 1.24

3.0 out of 5 stars On drugs, Feb. 1 2002
This review is from: Up Country: A Novel (Hardcover)
Unfortunately, I have to give a star rating to this addendum, wildly skewing the curve unless another hundred of you jump in with reviews of your own.
After posting my comments, I noticed that the American hardback edition is 576 pages. The large-format British paperback edition, same cover, that I read is 654 pages. So the 50 pages of that edition that I said was devoted to plot would be 44 pages in the hardback copy. I knew you'd want to know.
On another subject, have you read the two lines of commentary on "Up Country" from the Library Journal under the Editorial Reviews link?
To quote in its entirety: "In DeMille's latest, Paul Brenner is drug back into the army's Criminal Investigative Division to check out a murder committed 30 years ago in Vietnam. People probably won't have to be drug into the theaters to see the film version, due out from Paramount with John Travolta possibly reprising the role of Paul Brenner, whom he played in The General's Daughter."
I know America has a drug problem, but have I been away so long that the word has replaced "dragged"? Perhaps it was just an error -- you would have to be on drugs to use it twice in two sentences.

Up Country: A Novel
Up Country: A Novel
by Nelson Demille
Edition: Hardcover
78 used & new from CDN$ 1.24

3.0 out of 5 stars ...A hump down memory trail, Jan. 31 2002
This review is from: Up Country: A Novel (Hardcover)
For my tastes, Nelson DeMille writes good books and marginal ones. Thanks to "Up Country" arriving in Hong Kong a month or so before its U.S. release date, I've read the book and thought I would offer a few observations to fans and new readers alike.
"Up Country" is billed in the blurb as a military murder mystery that took place 30 years ago in Vietnam. Paul Brenner, of "General's Daughter" fame, is back, called upon by his old commanding officer to return to Vietnam and investigate the killing of a U.S. lieutenant by his captain during the Tet Offensive.
The reason I say "billed as a murder mystery" is because the action of that plot line takes up only about fifty pages of this 654-page novel. The rest is travelogue, war history and personal reminiscence.
DeMille at his best does description and dialogue well. The fact that Paul Brenner of "Up Country" is indistinguishable in attitude and conversation from John Corey in "The Lion's Game" doesn't detract too much. I like cynical, sarcastic characters, and I suspect that it is DeMille's personality coming through, which makes me like him more. And since the author was in Vietnam at the same time as his protagonist, I'm even more convinced that we're listening to Nelson DeMille strolling down memory lane. That is not necessarily a bad thing if you approach the book from this angle.
What was troublesome for me, having read many of his other books, was turning the pages looking for a little action. Don't hold your breath. It's a travel book - good for those who never served and want to know how it was, or for those who served and never returned but would like to from the comfort of their sofas. But it was a let-down for someone who was there and imagined that when he finally went back it would be by plane rather than by book.
I spent the same time in the same places and saw many of the same paddy fields (they mostly look alike) as Paul Brenner, but rather than experiencing camaraderie with this character, I felt he had taken me hostage for a returning-veterans tour. To paraphrase one of the statements in the book -- Been there. Three times. Done that. Six times - and I hadn't planned on doing it again.
If you'll forget you just read "The Lion's Game" and get in the mood for in-country musings and meanderings, you just may enjoy the trip. After all, the man can still write.
On a nitpicking level, his two main characters are always smiling. They say things followed by: "He smiled." or "She smiled." Smiled, smiled, smiled... but then they're in love, or are they just good enemies? It got a bit old, but that's just personal taste because the author is doing it deliberately. And I noticed that "none" is too often used with a plural verb, as in "None of them are going...."
I like Nelson DeMille and I look forward to his books. And he's certainly allowed to change the pace. But in this case, forwarned would have been forearmed.
So that you can gauge my taste in "DeMilles," I've read "The Charm School" three times, "The Lion's Game" twice, "Word of Honor" twice and enjoyed the "The General's Daughter." Even in a foxhole with nothing else at hand, however, I wouldn't reread "Plum Island" or "Spencerville." "Gold Coast" is somewhere in the middle, now joined by "Up Country."

The Answer Man
The Answer Man
by Roy Johansen
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 35.95
20 used & new from CDN$ 2.06

1.0 out of 5 stars The question is why..., July 11 2000
This review is from: The Answer Man (Hardcover)
Contrary to one reviewer's comment that techniques to beat a lie detector were revealed in this book, they weren't. Which is a shame because then it might have been worth reading. I managed to drag myself to page 185 where my interest finally died. It wasn't an unexpected death, however; it had been bed-ridden for some time.
It's rare to come across such two-dimensional characters in a multiple-star book. I had to keep reminding myself what good old Ken's name was and "Ken" is just not that hard.
I tend to read in cycles and I've been in my mystery period for a few months now. If you must read "The Answer Man" (which provides no answer to the question of why so many reviewers found it interesting), I would suggest you do so after you've exhausted Robert Crais (all of the Elvis Cole books in order), Dennis Lehane (all five Patrick Kenzie books in order), Michael Connelly's "Void Moon" (and perhaps his others, which I haven't read yet), Robert Ferrigno's "Heartbreaker" and perhaps all of the Janet Evanovich and Lee Child books.
"The Answer Man" was written by a screenwriter and this is a straight-to-video effort.

The Lion's Game
The Lion's Game
by Nelson DeMille
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 42.99
87 used & new from CDN$ 2.04

4.0 out of 5 stars One of DeMille's better books, Jan. 20 2000
This review is from: The Lion's Game (Hardcover)
Nelson DeMille has written good books -- The Charm School, Word of Honor, The General's Daughter, maybe The Gold Coast -- and bad books -- Spencerville, By the Rivers of Babylon and Plum Island, which was plum awful. So I wavered a bit before buying...then they announced boarding and I bought it.
It took me 100 pages to get over the fact that this book featured John Corey from Plum Island, but once I finally put that out of my mind, I thoroughly enjoyed the book. You've got to like banter to like this book, but the dialogue was fast and clever. I thought the plot was good and I didn't have the same problems with the ending that other readers had. Under the circumstances and considering the skill of the terrorist Asad Kahlil, it was one of several plausible endings. The nearly 700-page journey was very enjoyable and I would put this in the top three of DeMille's books -- his best being The Charm School and I'll let everyone choose their own number two.
For me, DeMille is a hit-or-miss author. This one hits.

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