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E. Bukowsky (NY United States)

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The Last Days
The Last Days
by Joel C. Rosenberg
Edition: Hardcover
32 used & new from CDN$ 3.45

4.0 out of 5 stars Armageddon in the Middle East., Nov. 16 2003
This review is from: The Last Days (Hardcover)
The year is 2010. Osama Bin-Laden and Saddam Hussein are dead. Al Qaeda and the Taliban have been neutralized. However, the war on terror is far from over in Joel Rosenberg's new political thriller, "The Last Days," a sequel to the author's successful debut novel, "The Last Jihad." Most of the characters who survived the carnage in the earlier book are back, including Jonathan Bennett and Erin McCoy. Bennett is a tremendously successful Wall Street strategist who gave up the good life to join the staff of his old friend, James MacPherson, the President of the United States. Erin McCoy, a gorgeous CIA operations officer, is Bennett's partner. Bennett and McCoy care romantically for one another, but they never seem to have the time or energy to act on their mutual attraction.
President MacPherson has dispatched Jon Bennett to the Middle East to convince the Israelis and Palestinians to sign a peace treaty. It seems that there are tremendous oil and natural gas reserves off the coast of Israel and Gaza. The United States is willing to help turn these reserves into a multi-billion dollar enterprise if the warring factions decide that it is in their best interests to stop the violence.
Before Bennett can get his "oil for peace" plan off the ground, a shocking act of violence throws the region into turmoil. Jonathan's mission appears to be dead on arrival. Furthermore, he and his comrades find themselves in the middle of a bloody civil war with no obvious means of escape.
Rosenberg's staccato writing style is very effective. "The Last Days" is packed with crisp dialogue, fierce battles, fanatical terrorists, and lots of high tech gizmos and weaponry. Although the characters are rather one-dimensional and the plot is only occasionally realistic, the exciting story barrels along so quickly that the reader gets caught up in the adrenaline rush. In addition, Rosenberg's insights on the geopolitical situation in the Middle East add a valuable dimension to this well-researched book. "The Last Days" will certainly satisfy fans of fast-paced action-adventure novels with a political twist.

Now May You Weep
Now May You Weep
by Deborah Crombie
Edition: Hardcover
35 used & new from CDN$ 1.76

3.0 out of 5 stars Jealousy and passion lead to murder., Nov. 8 2003
This review is from: Now May You Weep (Hardcover)
"Now May You Weep" is Deborah Crombie's latest mystery featuring Gemma James and Duncan Kincaid. Since Gemma left Scotland Yard, she no longer has a working relationship with her lover and housemate, Superintendent Duncan Kincaid. Gemma decides to take a few days off from her job as a detective inspector with the Metropolitan Police to enjoy a cookery weekend in the Scottish Highlands. She is traveling with Hazel Cavendish, her landlord and good friend.
Much to Gemma's surprise, she finds that Hazel had an ulterior motive when she suggested this trip to Scotland, which was her childhood home. It seems that Hazel has been keeping secrets about her past not only from her friend, but also from her husband, Tim. These secrets lead to an unanticipated series of events that end in murder.
"Now May You Weep" features a nice change of scenery. Crombie makes the most of the beautiful Scottish countryside where the story is set. She describes the heather-clad moors, the rolling hills, and granite cliffs of the Highlands in vivid detail. A number of the characters speak in a colorful Scottish dialect, which adds to the book's atmosphere. Since some of the characters are whiskey distillers, Crombie takes the time to explore the history and manufacture of Scotch whiskey, which may be interesting for those who care about how fine whiskey is made.
The problem arises with Crombie's plot, which turns out to be a bit of a potboiler. Love triangles abound, and the melodrama is piled on fairly heavily by the time Crombie comes to her climactic conclusion. She uses the same device that worked well in her previous book, namely a series of flashbacks that supposedly explain the events of the present day. Unfortunately, this time around, the flashbacks are distracting rather than illuminating. It is also too bad that Gemma and Duncan spend less time than usual together, and the story suffers for it. The mystery is a little too forced, and the characters lack the psychological depth that we have come to expect from Crombie. "Now May You Weep" is a disappointing installment is an otherwise above-average mystery series.

Blow Fly
Blow Fly
by Patricia Cornwell
Edition: Hardcover
81 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars Strange and somber Scarpetta novel., Nov. 1 2003
This review is from: Blow Fly (Hardcover)
For those readers who know and love the brilliant forensic pathologist, Kay Scarpetta, "Blow Fly" will be a major disappointment. Scarpetta plays an insignificant role in the plot, which centers on the two murderous Chandonne brothers. These brothers belong to a family that runs a crime cartel, and we first encountered them in the Cornwell novel, "Black Notice." One of the brothers, Jean-Baptise, is on death row in Texas. The other, who goes by the name Jay Talley, is a serial killer who has been butchering women for years. Scarpetta is called in to consult on a cold case in Louisiana that may be related to the Chandonnes' crimes.
Cornwell flits from place to place in this book, as she tries to cover too much ground. Kay Scarpetta is living a subdued life in Florida. She has never recovered from the loss of her job as Chief Medical Examiner of Virginia and the loss of her lover, FBI Profiler Benton Wesley. Another troubled soul is Pete Marino, Scarpetta's close friend. Marino is self-destructive in the extreme, although he has always been a great cop. He has issues of his own that make his life a living hell. Meanwhile, Kay's brilliant niece, Lucy, is busy with clandestine activities in Europe that could get her into very hot water. In one way or another, all of these characters get involved with the deadly Chandonnes.
The problem with "Blow Fly" is that none of the plot elements coalesce. The narrative does not flow and the characters do not engage the reader. "Blow Fly" is little more than a dreary and depressing wallow in the misery that serial killers bring to the world. The early Scarpetta books were rich with meaning and excitement. How sad that Cornwell has to turn to old plot lines that no longer hold our interest when she could have shown Kay moving on with her life, meeting new people, and becoming engrossed in new and intriguing cases.

Dream House
Dream House
by Rochelle Krich
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 35.95
14 used & new from CDN$ 1.44

3.0 out of 5 stars A reporter investigates an old man's death., Oct. 26 2003
This review is from: Dream House (Hardcover)
"Dream House," Rochelle Krich's latest suspense novel, features crime reporter Molly Blume. Since Molly writes a weekly "Crime Sheet" column, she pays close attention to the assorted mischief and mayhem occurring in the Wilshire Division of Los Angeles. Molly is a twenty-nine-year-old Orthodox Jew, one of seven children in the close-knit Blume family. She is dating Zach, a local rabbi and former high-school boyfriend, but Molly is not sure that she is cut out to be a rabbi's wife.
Molly is also a free-lance reporter and an author of true crime books. Therefore, she is very much attuned to any trouble that is brewing in her neck of the woods. Molly has heard that local neighborhoods are being torn apart by a group called HARP, which stands for Historical Architectural Restoration and Preservation. HARP groups are springing up in different areas of Los Angeles, and these groups prevent homeowners from remodeling their properties without prior approval. As a result, vandals have started to target HARP board members and things are getting ugly. When an old man, Oscar Linney, who had been vehemently in favor of HARP is murdered, Molly decides to investigate. She also is curious about the fate of Linney's daughter, Margaret, who has been missing for months.
"Dream House" falls short in many areas. The plot is way too complicated, with red herrings galore, and endless discussions about architecture that will bore anyone who has no interest in light fixtures, parquet floors, and French doors. Molly Blume is a bit irritating. She is always poking her nose into everyone else's business and she endlessly pumps people for information. She also clashes with the local detectives who wish that she would keep her nose out of police business. Molly Blume is too much like an Orthodox Nancy Drew.
At almost four hundred pages, the book is tedious and talky. I have a problem with novels that consist mostly of the protagonist interviewing people. In addition, the subplot about Molly's romance with Zach does not fit in comfortably with the rest of the book. "Dream House" is, at best, an average mystery that is a little too bland for my taste.

Every Step You Take
Every Step You Take
by Judith Kelman
Edition: Hardcover
21 used & new from CDN$ 0.69

2.0 out of 5 stars A confusing mishmash with a very weird ending., Oct. 20 2003
This review is from: Every Step You Take (Hardcover)
The only good thing that I can say about "Every Step You Take," the new thriller by Judith Kelman, is that the author had the germ of a good idea at the beginning of the novel. The heroine, Claire Barrow, becomes a widow after her police officer husband, Noah, apparently takes his life. It seems that Noah was despondent after being accused of witness tampering and obstructing justice while investigating an important case involving a vicious serial killer.
Claire's life subsequently goes from bad to worse. Her teenaged stepdaughter, Rainey, becomes increasingly rebellious, and Claire, who is under contract to write a new novel, gets a new editor who resembles Attila the Hun. So far, so good.
Unfortunately, Kelman is not content to explore the themes of Noah's death, Claire's struggle to be a competent single parent, and her efforts to write a new novel. The author brings in a host of other plotlines, including one about a scraggly dog that Claire takes in, another about the theft of Claire's identity, still another about a club of forensic experts who are looking into the same murders that Noah had been investigating, another about a disreputable boyfriend of Claire's stepdaughter, and yet another about an aunt who tries to civilize Rainey.
This book becomes increasingly busy until it reaches an ending that is so outlandish that it left me scratching my head in bewilderment. I have nothing against surprise endings, as long as they flow logically from previous events. That is not the case here. "Every Step You Take" loses its way after a promising beginning and never recovers.

Split Second
Split Second
by David Baldacci
Edition: Hardcover
48 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars Disgraced Secret Service agents seek vindication., Oct. 19 2003
This review is from: Split Second (Hardcover)
In David Baldacci's new thriller, "Split Second," Sean King and Michelle Maxwell are Secret Service agents who failed in their jobs to protect the presidential candidates entrusted to their care. After he was drummed out of the Service, King started a new life in rural Virginia as a country lawyer and volunteer deputy. Maxwell is placed on administrative leave, and she decides to do some sleuthing of her own. Soon, she begins to believe that her case and King's may be connected somehow. Maxwell and King join forces to get to the bottom of the events that wrecked their careers.
Baldacci has stumbled badly with this novel. The setup is intriguing enough. Maxwell and King are two attractive and capable individuals who gain the reader's sympathy immediately. However, before long, the plot slowly but surely unravels. The novel ends up preposterously, and even the most gullible reader is forced to groan at the convoluted and irrational events that explain Maxwell's and King's downfall.
No one expects thrillers to be models of logic. However, one would expect that a writer of Baldacci's stature would have enough respect for his loyal readership to come up with a story line that has some basis in reality. In addition, at four hundred pages, "Split Second" is too long and lumbering. As appealing as the main characters are, they cannot make up for the unbelievable and far-fetched narrative that left me shaking my head in disbelief.

A Blind Eye: A Novel
A Blind Eye: A Novel
by G.M. Ford
Edition: Hardcover
16 used & new from CDN$ 1.44

5.0 out of 5 stars On the trail of a twisted killer., Oct. 12 2003
This review is from: A Blind Eye: A Novel (Hardcover)
"A Blind Eye," by G. M. Ford, features the tough and taciturn Frank Corso, a true crime writer who is on the lam. Corso is wanted in Texas as a material witness, and he decides to lie low until the warrant for his arrest expires. Along with his former lover, photojournalist Meg Dougherty, Frank gets into an accident on a Wisconsin highway during a heavy blizzard. When Dougherty and Corso take shelter in an abandoned house, they discover the grisly remains of a murdered family.
Corso is manipulated by the local sheriff into investigating this crime, which leads him to several states in his pursuit of a very unusual serial killer. "A Blind Eye" explores the pathological side of human nature, especially the way in which horribly abused children sometimes grow into deeply disturbed and violent adults.
Corso is a terrific character. He is strong, courageous, and eerily intuitive, and his girlfriend, Meg Dougherty, is gutsy and tenacious. The secondary characters are also well-drawn. G. M. Ford's plot is intricate and engrossing, and he ratchets up the tension to an agonizing level prior to the hair-raising and electrifying finale. "A Blind Eye" is a powerful and unsettling thriller that may give you nightmares.

Daughter's Keeper
Daughter's Keeper
by Ayelet Waldman
Edition: Hardcover
23 used & new from CDN$ 2.54

5.0 out of 5 stars Poignant story of a family in crisis., Oct. 12 2003
This review is from: Daughter's Keeper (Hardcover)
Ayelet Waldman, in a startling departure from her Mommy-Track Mysteries, has written a serious novel called "Daughter's Keeper". It is about a middle-aged woman named Elaine Goodman who owns her own pharmacy, lives with a man she loves, and is contentedly looking forward to a restful retirement.
Elaine's happiness would be complete were it not for her contentious daughter, Olivia. Olivia is a college dropout and a political activist. She was jailed briefly on several occasions for participating in various protests, and she works as a waitress to support herself and her boyfriend, Jorge, an illegal immigrant. Olivia never knew her father, and her relationship with her mother has always been thorny.
This uneasy mother-daughter relationship is tested when Olivia faces a series of legal and personal crises that threaten to destroy her future. Suddenly, Elaine must make some tough decisions. Should she concentrate on keeping her own life on track, or should she sacrifice her plans to help Olivia?
Waldman slowly and deliberately sets up her story and she fleshes out her characters carefully. We get to know Elaine as a person who has suffered and struggled to get where she is, and who admits that mothering Olivia has never been easy for her. Olivia is a caring and compassionate individual who is too brash, naive, and impulsive for her own good. A particularly fascinating character in this novel is Izaya Feingold-Upchurch, a passionate defense attorney who helps Olivia when she gets into serious legal trouble.
Waldman explores many themes in "Daughter's Keeper". How much do we owe our children, especially when they reach their twenties and act irresponsibly? What is the statute of limitations for parents when it comes to rescuing their adult children? While telling the story of Elaine and Olivia Goodman, Waldman also discusses the legal and social ramifications of the often unfair and draconian federal mandatory minimum sentencing laws. This part of the book is both instructive and extremely disturbing.
"Daughter's Keeper" is a beautifully written and heartrending account of one family's wrenching journey towards understanding and reconciliation. Although it is a sad journey, it is one well worth taking.

Quantico Rules: A Novel
Quantico Rules: A Novel
by Gene Riehl
Edition: Hardcover
17 used & new from CDN$ 2.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Skullduggery in the FBI., Oct. 7 2003
FBI agent Puller Monk, the Washington-based protagonist of Gene Riehl's thriller, "Quantico Rules," has been around the block a few times. He has worked both in the field and behind a desk, and he knows how the system works. He also knows how to work outside of the system when necessary. Monk's latest and most urgent assignment is to dig out background information about a Supreme Court nominee. With the help of his beautiful assistant, Lisa Sands, Monk discovers that the nominee may have some embarrassing skeletons in her closet. Furthermore, there are some powerful people who are willing to kill to make sure that these skeletons remain hidden.
Monk is an intriguing character. He is an excellent agent, but his personal life is a mess. He is a compulsive gambler who bets money that he cannot afford to lose, and he harbors a bitter grudge against his elderly father who abused him as a child. In addition, Monk's love life is nothing to write home about. However, his biggest concerns are keeping his job and staying alive, not necessarily in that order.
Riehl, a former FBI agent himself, knows this territory well, and he provides fascinating information about the history and culture of the FBI. I loved the details about the sophisticated gadgetry that agents use these days to catch the bad guys. The only downside is that, as often happens in thrillers of this type, the villains are nasty stereotypes instead of real people. Overall, however, "Quantico Rules" is entertaining, action-packed, and well worth your time.

Mystic River
Mystic River
by Dennis Lehane
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
61 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars An American tragedy., Oct. 6 2003
If you decide to read Dennis Lehane's "Mystic River," be sure that you have no pressing appointments. I stayed up late into the night finishing this nearly five-hundred-page novel. Lehane tells a story so compelling that I blocked out my surroundings and was completely drawn into the the author's fictional world.
"Mystic River" takes place on the mean streets of Boston. It starts in 1975 with three eleven-year-old boys named Sean Devine, Jimmy Marcus, and Dave Boyle, who occasionally hang out together. Suddenly, a terrible event occurs that marks one of the boys for life and that will have far-reaching consequences for all of them.
Lehane fast-forwards to the year 2000. The three boys are now men, and one of them, Sean Devine, is a homicide detective. When a young woman is brutally murdered, Devine investigates the crime, and once again, the lives of the three boyhood friends intersect under tragic circumstances.
Lehane masterfully crafts every character in this book. We get to know Jimmy Marcus as a volatile individual, a loose cannon who loves and hates with equal intensity. Dave Boyle is a wounded and vulnerable man, as brittle as glass. Sean is a lonely and arrogant workaholic. All of the secondary characters, including the men's wives and children, are also well-drawn. In "Mystic River," Lehane explores the dark side of people's psyches that they rarely show to the outside world. The civilized facade that some people present to their friends and neighbors may mask deep and poisonous feelings. When provoked, a person who seems perfectly ordinary and sane may suddenly turn into a monster.
This novel is also noteworthy for Lehane's meticulous and atmospheric description of the Irish-American neighborhoods where the action takes place. He constructs the intricate plot expertly and consistently maintains a high level of suspense. I recommend "Mystic River" unreservedly. It is a shattering and unforgettable reading experience.

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