Thursday, January 21, 2021

V2 by Robert Harris a Superb Wartime Thriller

Set in 1944 in the later days of World War Two, V2  by Robert Harris chronicles the destructive attacks on London by the V2 rocket program of Nazi Germany. Launched from secret bases in occupied Holland, the V2 rockets flew over the English Channel carrying heavy explosive warheads that would wreck havoc daily on the British capital city. 

The novel follows the stories of two main characters. Rudi Graf is a top German engineer involved in the V2 launches, even as he has to hide his growing disgust with the the brutal Nazi political regime. Kay Caton-Walsh is an intelligence officer with an elite RAF unit, whose job is to locate the V2 launch bases so Allied planes can bomb them.

V2 is an outstanding wartime thriller, written and researched in superb fashion. The opening chapters describing the launch and flight of a V2 rocket until its impact in London are quite thrilling. 

This novel is most highly recommended. For those who haven't read this author before, Robert Harris has written a number of gripping political and historic thrillers including The Ghostwriter, Munich, Fatherland, and Enigma. 

Friday, January 8, 2021

ONE BY ONE a Chilling Murder Mystery

 One By One by Ruth Ware is a gripping murder puzzle with the classic Agatha Christie set-up of a group of clashing characters trapped together in an isolated setting, and one of them is a killer.

The setting is a vacation chalet high up in the snowy French Alps. Eight team members from a popular social media app company are at the chalet for a retreat. Tensions flare over a surprise offer to sell the company's app property. Some people there will make a lot of money from the offer. Some will instead just lose their jobs.

When a sudden avalanche slams into the chalet, everyone is trapped inside, cut off from outside help. Then the deaths begin to occur, one by one.

The plot unfolds in alternating first person chapters as seen from the viewpoints of two main characters: Erin, a hostess employed at the chalet, and Liz, a low level personal assistant with the company. As the two women narrate their thoughts, pieces of the murder puzzle slowly come together.

Careful readers may begin to pick up tell-tale clues and spot the killer before the he/she is unmasked. One complaint with the plot is the withholding of key information by the author, and some readers may feel misled on that account.

Nonetheless, One By One is an addictive read with a nail biting climax and Ruth Ware fans should be well entertained by the book.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Author John LeCarre R.I.P

 British author John Le Carre passed away recently. He is widely recognized for moving the Spy Novel genre from the escapist thrills of Ian Fleming's James Bond into the gray, gritty realities of actual intelligence work.

Le Carre's characters often operated in uneasy situations of moral compromise where the lines of right and wrong were blurred in the name of expedience and national interest. The psychological pressures on LeCarre's spies took their toll over time, corrupting some into personal crisis, others into political betrayal of country.

These are the best of Le Carre's Cold War novels:

The Spy Who Came in From the Cold  (1963)

Tinker, Tailor, Solder, Spy  (1974) - The uncovering of a Soviet mole inside British intelligence.

Smiley's People  (1979) - The defection of a top Soviet spymaster.

The Post-Cold War novels dealt with issues such as arms trading and the threat of Islamic terrorism:

The Night Manager  (1993)

A Most Wanted Man  (2009) - Vicious rivalry among American, British, and German spy agencies for possession of an Islamic defector. An overt example of the latent Anti-American streak that ran through Le Carre's fiction.

Monday, September 7, 2020

A Reporter Tracks a Killer in FAIR WARNING

 Author Michael Connelly brings back crime reporter Jack McEvoy in a new thriller, Fair Warning. McEvoy appeared previously in the best selling novels The Poet and The Scarecrow, where his reporting helped hunt down diabolical serial killers. 

Jack lost his prior newspaper job and is now reporting for a small investigative website magazine called Fair Warning. But when a woman he knew briefly is murdered by an unknown killer, it leads Jack to look into her death. He uncovers a pattern of similar murders of other female victims, all having their necks broken in an identical manner. McEvoy reaches the chilling answer that a serial predator is at work.

The killer is called The Shrike. Jack finds the link between the scattered victims. All of them had sent their DNA samples to an ancestry analysis service. The Shrike used that same service to find his next targets.

The LAPD is also investigating and they don't want McEvoy interfering in the case. But the police don't know about the serial killer pattern yet. Jack is way ahead of the cops and he wants to be the first to publish a story on The Shrike. But the killer is already watching what McEvoy is doing.

Fair Warning is another addictive read from Michael Connelly. The novel follows the methodical work of a crime reporter as it builds toward a wrenching final reckoning for Jack McEvoy.


Tuesday, September 1, 2020

A Hurricane and Murder in CAMINO WINDS

John Grisham returns to the setting of his previous crime novel, Camino Island, in an entertaining new mystery, Camino Winds.

The main character from the first book is back again--- Bruce Cable, the owner of Bay Books, a popular literary hangout on the resort island off the Florida coast. Bruce is enjoying the pleasant tropical life he leads amidst a circle of local writers, when the sudden forecast of a dangerous hurricane headed for the island changes everything.

Panic ensues as the island undergoes emergency evacuation. Bruce Cable is one of a handful of locals who stay behind to ride out the storm. The arrival of Hurricane Leo is quite exciting as the savage winds smash across Camino Island.

Cable survives the storm, with heavy damage to his bookstore. As the locals emerge to survey the destruction, Bruce notices that one friend, writer Nelson Kerr, is missing. When they look for him, Kerr is found dead at his condo. But the storm didn't kill him. Someone else on the island did.

From there, the novel settles into a search for who killed Kerr, and why. Clues point to a new crime novel that Kerr had just finished about criminal abuse at a large chain of nursing homes. But the novel may have been an expose of crimes happening at a real company, and a book that someone powerful didn't want to see published.

Camino Winds is a pleasantly readable mystery that moves along at a leisurely pace. For fans of the author, it's another satisfying entry to add to the John Grisham shelf. 

Saturday, July 18, 2020

MASKED PREY a New John Sanford Crime Thriller

U.S. Marshal Lucas Davenport is back in Masked Prey, a new crime thriller in the popular series by author John Sandford.

A sinister website appears on the internet. Created by an unknown party, the site shows photos of children of prominent political leaders in various normal daily scenes. Posted along with the photos are an array of extremist articles advocating violent political opposition to the U.S. government. A threat to take some kind of action against the kids in the photos is clearly implied.

The website looks dangerous. Concerned senators bring in Lucas Davenport to investigate who is behind the site. Lucas has personal experience with website programming. Working with the FBI, he begins by looking into already established militant political groups. He runs into some angry, surly misfits, but nobody who seems to fit the suspect he's looking for.

Lucas worries he's after the hardest prey to catch --- a ruthless, lone wolf type with no ties to any militant group. Then the worst happens. A kid gets shot and killed by a hidden sniper. Lucas and his team get a lead and race onto the trail of the shooter.

Masked Prey opens slowly, with much material on the threat of dangerous internet websites. It takes a while for the plot to get moving, but the action soon speeds up to finish in the trademark breakneck style of author John Sanford.

Monday, July 13, 2020

LONG RANGE a New Wyoming Crime Thriller for Summer Reading

Wyoming state game warden Joe Pickett returns in Long Range, a new crime thriller from C.J. Box. The popular series is set against a rugged Western landscape as Joe Pickett finds himself involved in often dangerous criminal situations.

An unknown sniper tries to shoot a local judge through the window of his dining room. The rifle shot comes from what seems like an impossible distance, a wooded hillside over a mile away. The shooter uses a high-tech weapon with a computerized sighting system. The trajectory is perfect, finding the window target exactly, but when the judge bends just before the bullet arrives, it strikes his wife instead, grievously wounding her.

Joe Pickett joins the local authorities in the search for the unknown marksman. The arrogant new sheriff doesn't want Joe's help, so Joe follows his own leads. But the trail twists toward hidden motives and surprising suspects in the small town that Pickett would never have believed could be involved in trying to kill a judge. As Joe and a posse close in on the killer in a dangerous mountain hunt, the shooter is already sighting in on Joe himself.

Long Range  is another entertaining offering from author C.J. Box. The this one makes a perfect beach book that readers will gulp down with their iced teas.