Monday, December 4, 2017

TWO KINDS OF TRUTH a new Harry Bosch Case from Michael Connelly

Two Kinds of Truth by Michael Connelly is new police procedural in the series that features former LAPD detective Harry Bosch. After being run out of the LAPD, Harry now works for the small city police force of San Fernando. He's a valuable addition with his long years of police experience.

Bosch is called into a new double homicide case, where a father and son team of pharmacists are coldly shot to death inside their store. It's soon apparent that the execution-style murders are about more than a random robbery. The investigation leads toward a prescription drug fraud operation with a ruthless and violent reach.

At the same time, an old LAPD case comes back to entangle Bosch. A murderer he once put in prison petitions for a new trial, based on newly discovered evidence that will show he is innocent, and that Bosch planted material to frame him. This new charge puts Harry's whole police record into question.

Bosch must find a way to show this accusation against him is baseless and the supposed new evidence is a fraud. Meanwhile, the pharmacy homicide case leads him to go undercover, where things go wrong in a deadly way.

Two Kinds of Truth is slowed at times by a complicated plot and stretches of background material and over-explanation. But it's still a solid read for fans of Michael Connelly and his obsessive, hard nosed detective, Harry Bosch.

Monday, November 20, 2017

WIND RIVER a Powerful Western Crime Drama

Wind River is a gripping crime movie that is newly released on DVD. Set in the rugged, winter mountain terrain of Wyoming, the movie follows a storyline as harsh and unforgiving as the backdrop of its spectacular landscape.

The body of a young Indian woman is found frozen in the middle of a snowy wilderness. She is barefoot, her feet blackened by frostbite, as if she had been running from something for miles until her lungs burst from the below zero air and she dropped dead.

Because the death happened on Indian reservation land, an FBI agent is sent in to investigate. She is out of her depth in that country and she quickly asks for the aid of a local state game warden tracker. As they follow leads, a second body is found deep in the icy backwoods. This new body is a white male who worked at a nearby oil drilling site.

Things move from there toward events that are shocking in their unforeseen, suddenly explosive violence. Wind River is a powerful drama whose spare, tersely written screenplay reflects the hard realities of reservation life and Western self-reliance to survive.

This movie deserves to be on Best Picture lists this year.

Monday, October 30, 2017

DEEP FREEZE a Quirky New John Sandford Crime Novel

Deep Freeze by John Sandford is a new crime novel in the series featuring Virgil Flowers, an investigator for the Minnesota State Police. The Flowers novels are an entertaining blend of offbeat crimes, quirky violence, and sardonic humor.

It's the middle of a Minnesota winter and there's a murder in the small town of Trippton, where everybody knows everybody else's business. The victim had attended a high school reunion committee meeting, just before she was later clobbered in her home with a heavy wine bottle. But when Flowers arrives at the crime scene, the body of the presumed murder victim is now missing.

As Virgil tries to unravel that mystery, he runs afoul of another town secret and winds up getting seriously bloodied in a surprise assault by unknown attackers. Things get worse when another murder takes place that seems to connect to the first death, and it's clear there's a mystery killer on the loose in the town.

Deep Freeze is a fast reading crime escapade full of wild plot twists and turns, and livened with Virgil Flowers' country boy charm. Once again, popular author John Sandford does not disappoint.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Cold War Betrayal in A LEGACY OF SPIES

A Legacy of Spies by John LeCarre revisits the uneasy days of the Cold War when British Intelligence mounted an operation in East Germany that went cruelly wrong.

In LeCarre's fictional world, the British spy agency is called the Circus. The novel follows a newly opened investigation by present day authorities into an early 1960s Circus operation with the code name Windfall. The events of Windfall were famously portrayed in the author's early novel The Spy Who Came in From the Cold.

In this retrospective look back at what really happened in Windfall, old buried secrets are exposed. The novel is narrated by retired former spy Peter Guillam, who is called back to London to answer tough questions. Files about Windfall are missing. Things have been covered up. Lives were lost during the execution of Windfall. How much does Guillam know?

The novel moves between flashback events of the past spy operation and the current interrogation of Guillam. What is revealed are the cold blooded decisions that were made to sacrifice lesser British agents in order to protect a more highly placed undercover spy within East German intelligence. This is the author's sour commentary on the amoral compromises and personal betrayals that are always at the heart of any intelligence work.

A Legacy of Spies is a slow, thoughtful read, not a spy thriller. The novel will be appreciated most by long time John LeCarre readers, especially for the reappearance of familiar characters like spymaster George Smiley and Peter Guillam.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

TWIN PEAKS Finale: What Does it All Mean?

The Twin Peaks revival series has ended, fittingly with a final scream of horror from Laura Palmer, just as the original series began with another scream.

The new series was uneven, with striking moments at times, and other scenes that seemed to add little and go nowhere. The series was overlong at eighteen episodes, where a tighter run of ten episodes could have been more compelling. Most enjoyable was the chance to return again to the town of Twin Peaks itself and reconnect with familiar characters, much older now, from the original series.

Key to understanding the storyline are some basic themes from director David Lynch:

1. The fluidity of time between past and future.

2. The link between conscious reality and dream world reality.

3. The existence of a transcendent evil force beneath the surface of the normal world.

4. The idea that individual selves may exist in multiple different time streams.

Twin Peaks is a surrealist narrative, driven by psychological/emotional meaning, not literal, conventional plot structure. This has the effect of floating through a disjointed, fragmented nightmare with no logical anchor.

The series ends with FBI Agent Dale Cooper returning to one happy time stream self as Douglass Jones with his family in Las Vegas. In another variation, Cooper finds Laura Palmer living as a different self in another time stream life and he tries to undo the events of her murder in Twin Peaks. The result is Laura's terrifying vision back to her murder that began the original TV series.

That final brilliant sequence was a fitting jolt back to the sinister mystery coiled beneath the placid, quirky surface of Twin Peaks.

Monday, August 14, 2017

PARADISE VALLEY a Chilling Western Crime Thriller

Paradise Valley by C.J. Box is the author's third Western-set crime novel to feature sheriff's investigator Cassie Dewell, who appeared previously in The Highway and Badlands. Cassie is mid-thirties, not very tall, and somewhat overweight. But she's a sharp investigator and a good shot when she has to be. This combination makes her character both realistic and appealing.

Cassie began her police career in Montana, where she first got onto the track of an elusive serial killer called the Lizard King, a long haul trucker who abducts and murders his female victims across the country. She moved to a new sheriff's department in North Dakota, but has stayed alert for any new traces of the Lizard King. When her new lead on the killer leads to a disastrous police operation, it costs Cassie her job.

She doesn't give up and returns to Montana to continue her obsessive hunt on her own. Paradise Valley is a chilling cat-and-mouse contest between a determined investigator and a cunning predator set against a landscape of rugged mountain terrain. It's another great read from C.J. Box, who's one of the best writers in the regional crime thriller genre.

Monday, July 24, 2017

THE LATE SHOW a New Police Thriller from Michael Connelly

The Late Show is a gripping police procedural that introduces a new main character from author Michael Connelly. Renee Ballard is an LAPD detective who works the overnight shift, dubbed the "late show." She and her partner respond to crime scenes that occur during the night hours. Ballard is stuck on the night shift because of a past clash with a supervisor who still holds a grudge against her.

Ballard's job is to do initial crime reports, then turn cases over to the regular day shift detectives to follow up. She's not supposed to be involved in the cases after that. But she responds to two crime scenes during one shift that she can't let go of. One is the vicious beating of a transgender hooker by an unknown assailant. The other case is a multiple homicide shooting inside a sketchy nightclub, where a young waitress is killed.

Ballard begins to run her own investigation of these crimes without her supervisor's knowledge. She has to cut corners and hide her actions within the LAPD, even from her partner. But as she gets closer to a suspect in the beating case, and the full truth behind the nightclub shooting, Ballard's lone wolf act leads her into imminent personal danger.

The Late Show is another superb police procedural by Michael Connelly, with an interesting new character in Renee Ballard, who shares the same rogue cop traits with another Connelly character, Harry Bosch.