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Reviews

June 2006

Patricia Cornwell - At Risk

"This book is a great series opener. "

Synopsis:
Winston Garano has been called back from Tennessee to head a new team called 'At Risk' by his hard faced boss, D.A. Monique Lamont. This new initiative will use the latest in DNA technology to solve cold crime cases. The first case Win looks into is the murder of an old woman called Vivian Finlay who was killed in her house in Tennessee.

The same night Garano is told of his new position, a tragic incident happens at Monique's house. No longer is Garano simply heading an old case, but he is caught up in the machinations of certain high-powered individuals whose sole interest is to progress their own careers, no matter who gets in the way. Soon, the twenty-year murder of an old woman is the least of Garano's problems.

Review:
Cornwell introduces us to a new cast of characters in this short 181 page novel. As with all Cornwell novels, the action gets started more or less straight away and you end up flying through the rest of the chapters. For me, the gem of the novel has to be Special Agent Delma Sykes who more or less deals with the murder case whilst Garano is running around after his boss. Another great newcomer is Garano's psychic Nan who is a class act.

This time there aren't the typical gruesome autopsy details which pepper Cornwell's novels, but that doesn't mean to say Ms. Cornwell has been lax and hasn't done her homework. There is certainly enough information thrown at you to keep you on your toes. This book is a great series opener. I sincerely hope At Risk is a taster of things to come and trust that this set of characters will become a regular fixture.

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Joseph Finder - Killer Instinct

"Finder is a natural storyteller…"

Synopsis:
Jason Steadman is a thirty-year-old sales executive living in Boston working for a huge electronics giant, a competitor to Sony and Panasonic. He's a witty, charismatic guy who's well liked, but lacks the "killer instinct" necessary to move quickly up the corporate ladder. To the chagrin of his ambitious wife, it looks as if his career has hit a ceiling. Jason has been sidelined.

All that changes one evening when Jason meets Kurt Semko, a former Special Forces officer just back from Iraq. Looking for a decent pitcher for the company softball team, Jason gets Kurt - who was once drafted by the majors - a job in Corporate Security. Soon, good things start to happen for Jason - and very bad things start to happen to Jason's rivals. His career suddenly takes off. He's an overnight success.

Jason discovers too late that his friend Kurt has been paving his path to the top by the most efficient means available. After all, Kurt says, "Business is war, right?"

When Jason tries to put a stop to it, he finds that his new best friend has become the most dangerous enemy imaginable, and far more than his career hangs in the balance.

Review:
Although he's been around a while, I'd never read anything by this author before. Reading a book by a new author is always exciting. In this case, I was right to be excited. The story started at a rifle-fast pace and continued in this vein, right through to the very end.

Finder is a natural storyteller who can keep the reader spellbound with gritty storylines and characters that truly come alive. Not only will I be reading all the new books by Joseph Finder, I will also be making sure I read all his previous books at the soonest opportunity.

Reviewed by: H.A.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Mark Billingham - Buried

"Billingham is on top form with Buried."

Synopsis:
Luke Mullen, sixteen-year old son of a former high-ranking police officer, has disappeared, presumed kidnapped. While no one quite dares to voice the fear that he could also be presumed dead, Detective Inspector Tom Thorne is brought in to beef up the squad dedicated to locating the missing boy. The first thing the team looks for is anyone with a grudge against Luke's father. He's a man who'd put a lot of tough villains away in his time.

A list quickly emerges, but Thorne discovers that ex-DCI Tony Mullen has omitted the name of the most obvious suspect; a man, who'd once threatened him and his family, and who, after serving time for his original crime, is now the main suspect in a murder that has remained unsolved for four years. Is this a simple oversight , or is it understandable, considering the trauma of his son's disappearance? Could it be something more telling? Aware that he does not have the luxury of time, Thorne searches desperately for connections and leads, but learns that secrets are as easily buried as bodies and assumptions are the enemy of truth.

Review:
Billingham returns with the irascible Tom Thorne for another tangled case. This time it strikes very close to home.

This storyline is closely entwined with the murder of another teenage boy being investigated by Thorne's colleagues. Billingham uses the usual characters in the forefront of the book, whilst introducing some interesting new faces along the way.

Buried has a much faster pace than Billingham's previous book and I found Thorne still his usual disagreeable and sullen self (one of the things I like about him!). I found his character - and indeed the story - to be lighter and more enjoyable without the presence of his father.

Billingham is on top form with Buried. This is a great read.

Reviewed by: H.A.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Elizabeth Peters - Tomb of the Golden Bird

"…a thoroughly good and entertaining read."

Synopsis:
In 1922 the family of Amelia Peabody and her renowned archaeologist husband, Emerson, are in Egypt. Rumours abound of the existence of an untouched tomb of the young pharaoh Tutankhamon and Lord Carnavon and Howard Carter are close to its discovery.

Emerson is piqued not to be allowed to be included in the excitement, but is soon involved in a mysterious series of events, including his own entrapment, and some rather strange behaviour by his half brother Seth. Amelia Peabody, a fearless and energetic woman, organises her remarkable and talented family to work together to solve the mysteries.

Review:
This is the latest in a long series of Amelia Peabody books. The characters are now well established and continue to behave in their own inimitable ways. The historical detail and research expertise of the author are evident and provide an illuminating background to the story. This book certainly does not disappoint. It is a thoroughly good and entertaining read.

Reviewed by: S.D.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Val McDermid - Cleanskin

"…another brilliant little gem"

Synopsis:
Jack Farrell's daughter has been killed during an arson attack on his house. Devastated by this tragedy, Farrell's clothes are found on a beach a few days later. Has the hard man who has had his fingers in so many criminal 'pies' really done himself in?

Farrell is what Detective Chief Inspector Andy Martin calls a 'cleanskin': a known criminal who is as clean as a whistle when it comes to evidence about their corrupt practices. It is only when Farrell is declared officially dead that everything really starts going to pot. Rival gang leaders, who had each purchased different sections of Farrell's empire, are starting to turn up dead. And their death's are not pretty at all!

Review:
Any story that has Val McDermid driving it forward is sure to be a scary ride!

Even in this short novella form, written specially for the “Quick Reads” series, this starts off at a cracking pace and doesn't let go until the end. The brief for this series was to write simple prose with short, sharp sentences. This style makes this thorny little tale all the better.

As usual, the victims do not die a 'natural' death - no simple gunshots or knives in the back here. With McDermid's usual fertile (warped?) imagination, one poor soul dies from having an explosive device shoved into a very particular orifice. Ouch! You do wince for the poor bloke and have to wonder where the author gets her ideas? Suffice to say, this is another brilliant little gem from the excellent, always moreish, Ms. McD!

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Robert Crais - The Two Minute Rule

"…a spellbinding read."

Synopsis:
Two minutes can be a lifetime.

Ask anyone on the wrong side of the law about the two-minute rule and they'll tell you that's about as long as you can hope for at a robbery before the cops show up. Break the two-minute rule and it's a lifetime in jail. But not everyone plays by the rules…

When ex-con, Max Holman, finally gets out of jail, freedom doesn't taste too sweet. The only thing on his mind is reconciliation with his estranged son, who is, ironically, a cop. But then he hears the devastating news: His son and three other uniformed cops were gunned down in cold blood in Los Angeles the night before Holman's release. When the hit is exposed as a revenge killing and the question of police corruption is raised, it becomes a father's last duty to clear his son's name - and catch the killer.

Review:
The storyline in this book grips you like a vice and just won't let you go until the last page is turned. Unable to rest until he finds out who has killed his child - and why - Max uses his previous criminal connections (together with the former FBI Agent responsible for his previous capture) to investigate his son's murder.

Layer upon layer of tension and suspense is handled deftly by the author. With the probability of police corruption, no one can be trusted. But Max's freedom is very much on the line as his parole could be revoked at any time…

The Two Minute Rule is a thrilling read with plenty of twists and turns to keep the reader guessing right to the end. Crais has an easy style of writing that vividly creates all the interwoven plots and characters, and comes highly recommended. This book had me totally gripped from the start and is definitely a spellbinding read.

Reviewed by: H.A.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Katherine John - The Corpse’s Tale

"This is a great little book…"

Synopsis:
Ten years ago Dai Morgan was sent to prison for the murder of Anna Harris, but an appeal has found the conviction was unsafe. Now it is up to Trevor Joseph and his team to try and find out the truth behind Anna's murder. Simple-minded Dai, has returned to the village of Llan and mobs of villagers are starting to come out in protest against a murderer being back in their village. They know Dai is Anna's murderer, but as Joseph delves into the mystery he finds a conspiracy that has lasted for over a decade.

Review:
This short novella of 115 pages is part of the “Quick Reads” series of books published over the past few months. It was good to see a new story from a crime writer who has been silent for far too long.

I really enjoyed this story and feel that it could easily have been extended into a full-length novel. The characters were well drawn and I hope that Trevor Joseph and his obnoxious sidekick, Peter Collins, will soon be back in a 'proper' novel.

This is a great little book that will keep you thoroughly engrossed and occupied for an hour or so. As a means of encouraging literacy at all levels, the “Quick Read” project is a great cause to support.

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating: