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Reviews

June 2007

Michael Connelly - The Overlook

"…for all the legions of Connolly/Bosch fans it will be an essential read."

Synopsis:
In his first case since he left the LAPD's Open Unsolved Unit for the prestigious Homicide Special squad, Harry Bosch is called out to investigate a murder that may have chilling consequences for national security.

A doctor with access to a dangerous radioactive substance is found murdered on the overlook above the Mulholland Dam. Retracing his steps, Harry learns that a large quantity of radioactive cesium was stolen shortly before the doctor's death. With the cesium in unknown hands, Harry fears the murder could be part of a terrorist plot to poison a major American city.

Soon, Bosch is in a race against time, not only against the culprits, but also against the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI (in the form of Harry's one-time lover Rachel Walling), who are convinced that this case is too important for the likes of the LAPD. It is Bosch's job to prove them all wrong…

Review:
Harry Bosch returns, once again, with a new partner. He is still out of retirement and actively working for the Police Department.

Connolly has a very easy-reading style and his main character, Bosch, is your classic maverick detective, working outside of the rules to get the cases solved, regardless of who he upsets in the process.

The Outlook was shorter than average at approximately 270 pages and offers some fairly obvious clues as to who some of the guilty parties are quite early on in the book (though the actual reason for the initial murder is not revealed until the end) and there is, of course, also a nice little 'twist' to surprise the reader.

Aside from the unusual and disappointing brevity of the story, this was still an enjoyable book, though maybe lacking some of the bite evident in Connolly's previous novels. However, for all the legions of Connolly/Bosch fans it will be an essential read.

Reviewed by: H.A.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Robert Gregory Browne - Kiss Her Goodbye

"This story is a classic ‘race against time’ thriller told with the originality of a very different perspective…"

Synopsis:
AFT Agent Jack Donovan has two ambitions in life. First, take down cult leader Alex Gunderson after years of violent mayhem. Second, reconnect with his daughter, Jessie, who has somehow managed to slip out of his life. Unfortunately for Jack, none of his experience as a stellar cop or an absent father has prepared him for the unthinkable way these two parts of his life are about to collide.

In a desperate act of revenge, Gunderson kidnaps Jessie and buries her alive. Then, just as Jack's team is closing in, Gunderson is shot dead and the secret to Jessie's location is lost with him. With only a few precious hours of oxygen to sustain her, and with no single clue pointing in her direction, Jessie is sure to die unless Jack can somehow find her. Armed with a father's love and a new found understanding of the power of family, Jack would trade anything at all to save his daughter - even his own life.

Review:
With more than a little of the supernatural and 'other world' element to this book, it may not appeal to those that who the more traditional crime thrillers. The story is a little messy, featuring a mix of terrorism, crime and the supernatural and perheps it would have fared better had just one of these threads been explored and expanded upon.

A couple of the characters engage in some good interaction and the beginnings of a new relationship which I feel will possibly be further developed in subsequent books. Although the reader is given some background and history to the main characters, I would have preferred a little more in order to have understood what it was in the past that made them into who they are today. However, the characters shown were very solid.

This story is a classic 'race against time' thriller told with the originality of a very different perspective and the author was able to keep me interested to the very end.

Reviewed by: H.A.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Alafair Burke - Dead Connection

"Definitely worth exploring…"

Synopsis:
When two young women are murdered on the streets of Manhattan, exactly one year apart and both after dates arranged through an online dating website, Detective Ellie Hatcher is moved to a special assignment on the elite homicide task force. The killer has left behind a taunting hint connecting the to cases, and Flann McIlroy, an eccentric and publicity-seeking homicide detective, is convinced that Ellie is uniquely situated to help him pursue a terrifying theory that someone is using the lure of the internet - and the promise of love - to launch a killing spree against the women of New York City.

To catch the killer, Ellie must enter an online world of fraudulent and stolen identities where nobody is who they appear to be. In a dangerous game where she is both hunter and prey, Ellie's only choice is to find the killer before he claims his next victim - and Ellie knows very well it could be her.

Review:
Burke has already written three previous novels featuring Deputy DA Samantha Kincaid, but this is my first introduction to both the writer and her newest character, Detective Ellie Hatcher.

Whilst a very easy book to read, featuring some strong characters, I felt the plot tried to be too complex. Sometimes a story with a lot of twists adds to the intrigue but here I felt there were just too many leads coming at the reader from too many angles. I was also a little disappointed that the case Ellie Hatcher's father had been working on when he was alive - the reason for her joining the force - was left slightly open at the end. I am hoping this is because it will be explored further in future books?

Overall, I greatly enjoyed Burke's confident style of writing and her involving characters. Definitely worth exploring…

Reviewed by: H.A.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Michael Robotham - The Night Ferry

"… this book will leave you breathless"

Synopsis:
Alisha Barba is a detective who is mending, both physically and mentally, after a murder suspect broke her back across a brick wall. Some time later, Cate Beaumont, an old school friend who Alisha had fallen out with, contacts her and wishes to see Alisha at a school reunion. On the night, before Cate can tell Alisha what is worrying her, Cate, who is eight months pregnant, and her husband are mown down. Cate's husband is killed outright and Cate is rushed to the hospital where they discover that Cate isn't pregnant but has been deceiving everyone. Why would her friend go through such an elaborate deception?

With the help of her old boss, Ruiz, the two detectives find themselves in Amsterdam where they come across the murky underworld of illegal immigrants, sex trafficking and a big industry where people prey on the needy and the desperate.

Review:
Michael Robotham is one of the most exciting new writers to hit the crime arena within the last few years. I loved The Drowning Man and I was very intrigued to discover which direction this marvellous writer was going to take. I had loved Ruiz and was pleased to see him again in this novel, albeit in a supporting role rather than as the lead character. Ruiz's ex-colleague, Alisha, enlists his help in finding out who killed Cate. This leads them both to Amsterdam where they discover the seedy world of illegal immigrants that Cate had involved herself in. Why had such a law-abiding woman been dealing with such criminals who pedalled people as if they were so much trash? The answer is plausible and horrifying in equal measures.

Even though this is Robotham's third novel, he writes such fluid plots that you might think he has been constructing crime novels for many years. Although The Night Ferry was an exciting read and flowed well, it wasn't a story with many surprises and any revelations could be picked up well before they appeared. It is also difficult for anyone to write from the viewpoint of the opposite sex. To make that opposite sex also Indian is definitely a big job to achieve. Does Robotham make Alisha credible? I believe so, but sometimes I felt that the different protocols and customs were put across as fact without the spiritual understanding that some cultures have for their individual beliefs and practices.

Notwithstanding any minor quibbles, Robotham is still an exciting writer to watch. The Night Ferry is certainly a rollercoaster ride and this book will leave you breathless, as our two protagonists race across Europe after some despicable monsters that leave a pile of bodies in their wake. I will certainly be looking forward to Robotham's next book with anticipation.

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Paul Johnston - The Death List

"Another author to add to the “not to be missed” list! "

Synopsis:
Ever really felt like killing someone? London crime novelist Matt Wells has. Dumped by his agent, his publisher and his wife, he has more revenge fantasies than most…

But when Matt is contacted by a serial killer called the White Devil, he is horrified to discover that this evil force knows everything about him, his family, friends - and his enemies.

Then the slaughter begins - and Matt's idle fantasies are made all too real. If Matt can't stop the White Devil in time, all those people Matt really hates are about to meet a chilling fate.

Review:
In a complete change from the author's previous novels - one series based overseas, the other being set in the future - The Death List brings us squarely back to the present with a huge bang.

The book is impossible to put down and a fantastic read. Whilst, perhaps, one of the interwoven plots is pretty transparent, there is also a twist to it that I guarantee is impossible to guess. Matt Wells is not the most likeable main character, and perhaps that is what makes him more real. I found him to be egotistical, self-righteous, and weak, and I was very surprised he had such a close knit circle of friends!

There are a few unanswered questions at the end of this book, but, on the whole, I thoroughly enjoyed it and will eagerly awaiting the next Matt Wells novel. Another author to add to the “not to be missed” list!

Reviewed by: H.A.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Dean Koontz - The Good Guy

"The Good Guy is not a book to be missed."

Synopsis:
After a hard day's work, Tim Carrier slakes his thirst at the Lamplighter Tavern. But how could he have imagined that the stranger who sits down next to him one evening is about to enmesh him in a web of murder and deceit?

When his wayward sense of humour leads him to let a misconception over his identity stand for a moment, he is drawn into a very dangerous world from which there is no way back. The company of strangers has cost him his peace of mind - and possibly his life.

Review:
It took slightly longer to get into this book than usual for Koontz - page 10 or 11 rather than page 1! From that point on this book was, as usual, impossible to put down.

Koontz has an uncanny knack of making his lead character perfect, with very few flaws, but also immensely likeable. Some other authors struggle with this and the effect is a smug, egotistical person for whom it is impossible to feel any empathy. Koontz' ability to give each of the characters such depth makes the reader want to know what happens to them and really care.

The humour in the book is perfectly placed and the imagination of the plots and scheming of the characters is second to none.

After whizzing through the booking I was slightly disappointed by Koontz using a rather well-worn ending, but even so… The Good Guy is not a book to be missed.

Reviewed by: H.A.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Jean-Francois Parot - The Châtelet Apprentice

"I eagerly await the next instalment."

Synopsis:
In 1761, in pre-revolutionary France, Nicholas Le Floch travels from Brittany to Paris to become a police recruit. Although initially disorientated at being plunged into the carnival atmosphere of the capital, under the guidance of his mentor, Monsieur de Sartine, Nicholas sets about his training. He resides at the house of Guillaume Lardin, a police inspector who shortly afterwards disappears, with his wife, her lover and close friends implicated in the disappearance. Nicholas is given the task of investigating the mystery with the strict instructions to report only to Monsieur de Sartine direct.

His investigations which the king is taking a close interest in, put his life, and those around him in danger as he attempts to unravel the intrigue surrounding the case.

Review:
This is an excellent mystery that will be enjoyed by all those who love period detective stories enmeshed in intrigue and deception. The character of Nicholas Le Floch has all the elements of a classic detective, brave, handsome but vulnerable especially when it comes to dealing with women. The author has clearly done a huge amount of research on the period. Descriptions abound of food that they eat, the means of procuring a suitable wardrobe and the method by which Parisians must cross the city. Paris is vividly brought to life including the stench of the meat quarter, the squalor of certain fauborgs as well as the splendour of the lives of those who are at the periphery of the French court.

French detective fiction is having a renaissance in Britain at the moment and rightly so based on this book. The blurb promises this to be the first in a series of novels featuring Nicholas Le Floch and I eagerly await the next instalment.

Reviewed by: S.W.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Ken Bruen - Cross

"Taylor is a brilliantly conceived, flawed protagonist…"

Synopsis:
Jack Taylor is going about his business, fighting against his arch enemy – drink. He is feeling low after what happened to his new-found partner/adopted son, Cody. Visiting the boy, who is now in a coma, is something that makes sure Taylor feels the pain in every way. It also ensures that his guilt stays alive. Then his other arch enemy, Malachy tells him about a young boy who was nailed to a cross in Galway. Jack has too much already on his plate to pursue this investigation. It isn't until soon after, when the sister is burned alive, that Jack starts to make himself involved.

Taylor learns that a secret from within the family has started off a series of events that cannot be laid to rest until full punishment has been meted out. And with people close to Jack being taken from him, he finds himself in the middle of a very personal war.

Review:
It seems that at long last a strong publisher has decided to give this very dark writer a shot at the mainstream without Bruen having to compromise himself in any way. Cross has the same defeatist tone as the previous Jack Taylor novels but, at the same time, despite the author putting his main character through the mill, you have to admire the sheer guts of Jack Taylor for not giving up. Yet, he is slowly and painfully plodding his was through what can only be called the minefield of life.

In Cross, Bruen enlarges on the pain felt by Taylor through the shooting of Cody at the end of his previous novel, Priest. He also introduces another marvellous character, Ridge to the fore with her own set of troubles. The actual crucifixion of the boy and the death of his sister take a back seat to the daily despair felt by Taylor. The plot never feels like it is something sensational to keep the reader occupied, but appears as yet another cross for Jack to carry along with the set of “crosses” he has collected over the years.

Taylor is a brilliantly conceived, flawed protagonist who is the main driving force of Bruen's novels. He is a fascinating man. Very dark – yet with with the belly of the devil, and the heart of an angel. The ending of Cross is tied up nicely regarding the deaths, but Taylor's possible escape is delayed by yet another call for help which we will no doubt hear about in the next instalment in the lament of Jack Taylor. Cross is a marvellous piece of Irish noir that will certainly have his legions of fans panting for the next Jack Taylor.

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating: