Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Two for the Dough by Janet Evanovich

Stephanie Plum #2

            You just gotta love Grandma Mazer. I want to be her when I grow up!

            That having been said, this was another example of Evanovich's rollicking humor. Stephanie Plum is back as New Jersey's newest bounty hunter. This time she hot on the trail of Kenny Mancuso who is out on bail after shooting his friend Moogey in the knee. Sounds like a Saturday night in the burg got a little out of hand, but as Stephanie attempts to track him down, she starts to realize there is more to the story.

            Joe Morelli, local cop and all round hottie, is also on Kenny's trail. It seems the gun Kenny used to shoot Moogey is part of a large cache of weapons stolen from a nearby military base. Morelli follows Stephanie who is following Kenny who keeps circling around trying to intimidate her.

            Kenny goes so far as to accost Grandma Mazur coming out of the bakery, stabbing her through the hand with an ice pick. Stephanie is not happy about this, but Grandma Mazur knows what to do. Next time she sees Kenny she is prepared with a .45 caliber surprise!

            Stephanie and Morelli discover that Kenny, Moogey and apprentice undertaker Spiro stole the guns, but they need to find them for Joe to make his case and Stephanie to earn her bounty.

            This was a quick fun read. And, I know from experience that the stories get better as they go along. Definitely read this one

Also see my reviews of other Stephanie Plum books: One For the Money, Smokin’ Seventeen, and Explosive Eighteen.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Witness by Nora Roberts

The fly leaf indicates this is Nora's 200th book. And, she certainly has her craft well honed. She does characters as well as anybody in the business. Even as the main character in The Witness repeatedly changes her appearance and name throughout the story, I feel like I know her. I am never confused about who she is, nor am I confused about the people (and dogs) around her. They are all crystal clear both visually and emotionally. Needless to say, I liked this book a lot.

            The story starts with an initial bout of teenaged rebellion. A sixteen year old girl whose entire life has been regimented like the most rigorous of science experiments finally has had enough. She heads for the mall to buy her first pair of jeans. While there she runs into a girl who knows her from school. They decide to create fake IDs and get into a night club. Elizabeth is in charge of ID, her friend chooses the club. Elizabeth is having the time of her life until it all goes horribly wrong. The club her friend has chosen is run by the Russian mob. The men they are with work for the mob. The evening ends with Elizabeth witnessing the executions of a mobster and her friend. She runs. Escapes.

            She finally gets to the police and is placed in a safe house. But the mob has a mole. Her guards are killed and the house blown up. Her US Marshall's last act is to insist she escape out the window. She runs. Escapes.

            Fast forward twelve years and Elizabeth, now known as Abigail, has just bought a cabin on wooded acreage in the Ozark Mountains. She, her mastiff, Bert, and her large collection of weapons are trying to settle in. She just wants to live quietly, unobtrusively on the edge of town. But Brooks, the police chief, has other ideas.

            Resistance is futile. He gets past her defenses, makes friends with her dog, and finally wiggles his way into her heart. She finally trusts him enough to share her past, and they devise a plan to bring this group of Russian mobsters to justice so Abigail and Brooks can live happily ever after.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Zoo by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge

            I did not like this book. There were a few moments when I thought I glimpsed some potential, but mostly I just shook my head in disbelief that James Patterson allowed his name to be associated with it.

            The story revolves around Jack Oz. He is so passionately convinced that unprovoked animal attacks against humans are increasing world-wide he drops out of grad school to study the phenomenon and try to inform society. And yet, he chooses to keep a several hundred pound chimpanzee in his New York apartment. Not only that, but he has an elderly woman and his girlfriend come in to the apartment to care for the animal when he travels. Seriously? Seriously?? Does he not listen to his own information???

            Eventually, the global animal attack situation becomes so severe it cannot be ignored any longer. The federal government takes steps to handle the situation and Oz is brought in to consult. At one point a federal officer tells him that the operation has been code named Zoo, but doesn't know what it's supposed to stand for. Seriously? You are going to use the operation's code name for the book title, but you lack the imagination to think up what it stands for??

            And for my last gripe, the problem is never resolved. Human leaders move to Greenland where there are very few animals to worry about and there they sit. No resolution. Neither the humans nor the animals win. No potential solution is found. The story just peters out.

            Animals gone wild is a fine premise, and a convincing reason for their altered behavior is determined, but nothing is resolved. This is just a sad piece of work that needs some heavy editing and revising. Don't bother to read it.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Lost Years by Mary Higgins Clark

          I think I've mentioned before I am not a big MHC fan. Every once in a while she comes up with a story I like, but this is not one of them. I am glad it was short, but that may have been one of its problems. I never did get the characters straight in my head. There is a basic cast of 15 - 20 characters. Not enough to have me still confused about who's who through the last chapter. The characters are not sharply defined enough. I also felt very little drama or tension. The story was a bit flat. The premise was a good one, though.

            The story revolves around a two millennia old letter, allegedly written by Jesus to Joseph of Arimathea. The parchment was lost some time in the fifth century, but has turned up recently. An archeologist and biblical scholar discovered it, and started quietly confirming its authenticity. The man is murdered in his home office one night, and the parchment cannot be found.

            Detectives immediately assume it is the man's wife, suffering from late stage Alzheimer's who killed him. Her daughter knows this is not possible. So she and her father's friends begin the hunt for the parchment and the real killer.

            MHC fans will surely want to read this one, but I'm glad it only took me one day to get through it.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Sacre Bleu by Christopher Moore

           Moore has created an entertaining, ribald mythology surrounding the color blue. It explains everything from why Picasso cut off his ear to why Pictish warriors painted themselves to where Oscar Wilde got the idea for The Picture of Dorian Gray.

            Most of the story takes place in 1890's Paris, and tells tales of the Impressionist painters of that time and place with a great deal of poetic license. There is a small, twisted man known as The Colorman, and he produces a very special type of blue paint. He is closely associated with a Muse who is going about Paris in various guises inspiring the painters to greatness.

            While I found this book to be quite entertaining, it also required a bit of mental effort on my part. I'm sure I missed about half the jokes because I am not familiar enough with the art and artists involved. I know who Picasso is and know he cut his ear off. I recognize most of the artists' names from a couple of art appreciations classes I've taken. I am aware of the Moulin Rouge because of a Nicole Kidman film I saw many years ago. My tastes in art are somewhat more sophisticated than the dogs playing poker level, but not sophisticated enough to believe Whistler's Mother is actually a good painting. With all that in mind I do recommend this book, with the caveat that is not going to be for everyone.

Friday, January 4, 2013

I, Michael Bennett by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge

Michael Bennett #5

          Michael Bennett is a New York police detective. He is invited to join a task force planning to bring down a notoriously violent Columbian drug lord when he comes to the city. Things don't go quite as planned; a running gun battle ensues moving from Madison Square Garden through Macy's department store. Bennett finally runs down and arrests the drug lord, but not before both civilians and cops are gunned down.

          The drug lord starts ordering retribution hits from his jail cell, starting with the people who knew about his impending visit and continuing with having the judge hearing his case assassinated in her own courtroom. Among others, he targets two of Michael Bennett's ten children. The boys are shot but not killed, and the would-be assassin is killed instead for missing his targets.

          Since trying to kill Bennett's kids did not get him to back off, the drug lord then tries a multimillion dollar bribe, which Bennett turns down flat. Then during the second day of Bennett's testimony at trial, an incredible, but successful, escape attempt is made. Shortly thereafter, a truck bomb is discovered outside Bennett's apartment building, one powerful enough to destroy the entire block. The decision is made to put Bennett's family in Witness Protection.

          The story ends as they are headed off to begin their new lives.

          This was not a bad story, but a couple of points strained my credulity. First, it apparently never occurs to Bennett that his family might become a target for the drug lord. Even after his kids are shot, he doesn't put it together. I'd think a detective, who should be suspicious and paranoid by nature, would not have needed that explained to him. Also, how are you going to put a single father with ten children - children of varying ethnicities - into witness protection effectively? I'm having trouble imagining that. I also had trouble throughout the story with the idea that Bennett did not move his brood out of the family home, except to go to the family vacation home, which is a yearly event. He arrested a guy who has a reputation for not just killing his enemies, but killing their families as well. There again, lack of suspicion and paranoia.

          Other than that, though, it was an entertaining read.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Deep Down by Lee Child

Jack Reacher #16.5

            Deep Down is a short story about the early days of Jack Reacher's clandestine career. I really enjoy the Jack Reacher novels, and the glimpses of his past I’ve gotten from the two short stories are fascinating.

            In this story, Reacher is asked to impersonate an army sniper sitting in on meetings between congressmen and military representatives to discuss a new sniper rifle. His mission is to determine which of four female army officers is leaking the details of the rifle to a European arms maker. When one of the women is killed prior to Reacher’s arrival at the meeting, he is deprived of the ability to observe all four women at work. Instead he follows the remaining three out of the meeting and manages to get himself invited for drinks with them.

            Reacher accomplishes his mission in his usual smart and savvy style. Basing his conclusions on the reactions of the three women to the news of the fourth’s death, and the questions they ask in the meeting, he both narrowly avoids his own death and uncovers a traitor to his country.

            I recommend this story to Jack Reacher fans. If you are unfamiliar with Reacher, start with one of his other books, but definitely get around to this one.