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Tag: "mystery"

Review: The Intercept by Dick Wolf

[ 7 ] December 25, 2012

15755279Reviewed by A.D. Cole

What’s a New York cop, whose name isn’t John McClane, doing at the center of an international terrorist plot? Turns out that, after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, New York decided to take matters of national security into its own hands by forming the Intelligence Division of the New York Police Department…it’s own, mini-CIA. Therein operates Jeremy Fisk, hero of Dick Wolf’s debut novel and first in the Jeremy Fisk series, The Intercept.

The Intelligence Community is lukewarm, at best, in welcoming Fisk into its ranks. But at the novel’s outset, he quickly validates the existence of NYPD’s Intel Division. When a terrorist slips past the FBI’s surveillance, Fisk immediately declares the situation NYPD jurisdiction and brings the bad guy to a dramatic and decisive end.

Two years later, following the Bin-Laden takedown, a would-be terrorist claiming to have a bomb attempts to hijack SAS Flight 903 flying from Sweden into Newark. Six brave civilians attack and thwart the terrorist, foiling his plot and making national heroes of themselves in the process. Jeremy Fisk, along with his partner and lover Krina Gersten, go to interview the attacker, who has already had his dose of truth serum and spilled his guts to the FBI. The ease with which the terrorist is broken is Fisk’s first cause for concern. And after speaking with the six heroes, as the dust starts to settle, Fisk becomes increasingly convinced that this “lone-wolf” attacker isn’t alone after all.

“The Six,” as the heroes are referred to in the media, are immediately swept up in a storm of public relations and televised media events. They swiftly rise to the status of icons. Symbols of America’s never ending fight for freedom. Symbols almost as powerful as the One World Trade Center tower which is set to be dedicated two days from now, following New York’s grand Fourth of July Celebration. An event, in Fisk’s view, just tailor-made for an ambitious terrorist looking to strike a blow into the heart of America. Because the most important thing Fisk has learned about Bin-laden following his death, is that the goal of the next attack won’t be body count, but emotional impact.

Meanwhile, Intel Division is looking for another passenger from Flight 903, Baada Bin-Hezam. All Fisk has to go on is profiling–Bin-Hezam is Muslim–and the fact that Bin-Hezam has vanished. It’s little more than a hunch, yet Fisk manages to convince his superiors to let him quietly track the guy. But the chase ends up revealing more questions than answers. Was the foiled hijacking just a diversion? Why is Bin-Hezam so easy to track? What is the real target for the plot that Fisk is uncovering piece by piece? Once the chase begins, the story twists and turns, building momentum toward an explosive ending that will forever change Fisk personally and professionally.

The writing is crisp. The story is tight, with brief scenes that propel the plot forward toward a very satisfying ending. I know Fisk well enough to want to read more about him in the future. I found the most unique quality of the novel to be the fact that it occurs out of an Intelligence Division in the NYPD. I wasn’t sure, initially, how well this would play. But after the first chapter, the division had been totally validated and justified in my mind, and Fisk presented as a totally competent and awesome protagonist. I think we’ll see more spy novels using New York cops as their heroes after this.

It was also interesting to see a spy novel explore the idea that ideology-based terrorism is spreading beyond ethnic boundaries. How effective can profiling be, if this is the case? And how much more frightening is it when you can’t recognize your enemy by the color of his skin? When your enemy has become invisible? For me, this novel opened the door to those ideas and I look forward to reading more from Dick Wolf.

Bottom line, I recommend this book to fellow thriller readers. It was awesome and I couldn’t put it down.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

A.D. Cole is a homeschooling mother and aspiring romance novelist. She lives in the Ozark foothills and spends her free time reading, writing, baking and pondering life’s little mysteries.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by William Morrow. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: The Twelve Clues of Christmas by Rhys Bowen

[ 3 ] December 21, 2012

twelve-cluesReviewed by Caleb Shadis

The Twelve Clues of Christmas has introduced me to a great mystery storyteller! I haven’t read anything by Rhys Bowen before, but I am glad I’ve rectified that situation. The Twelve Clues of Christmas is the 6th book in the A Royal Spyness Mystery series, so I now have 5 books I need to go back to and read. Good thing I didn’t need to read any of the previous books to enjoy this one.

Lady Georgiana Rannoch, 35th in line to the British throne, is staying in her ancestral castle for the Christmas season, in the middle of no place in Scotland. After her father’s death, the castle now belongs to her brother, along with the rest of the diminished family fortune. Her brother, his wife and child and his mother-in-law are all there with her and the rest of her sister-in-law’s family will be arriving any day. It is not looking like a very Merry Christmas for Georgie this year.

As luck would have it, Georgie finds an ad in a magazine looking for a hostess for an old fashioned Christmas house party. She applies and is accepted immediately. Hurrah! Christmas is saved, and best of all the party is in the same sleepy little town that her mother and grandfather will spending Christmas in as well. Things are looking up!

When Georgie gets to the manor the local police are just leaving. Turns out the neighbor accidentally shot himself climbing a pear tree, supposedly to play a prank on her hosts. The next morning she hears about a local man who fell off a bridge on his way home from the pub. Before the first guests even arrive one of the old ladies next door dies when the gas is left on in her room without being lit. It’s starting to look like the local ‘Luvy Curse’ is working in full swing this year. Or is it?

Georgie is a wonderful protagonist. I enjoyed reading this book immensely. I would put this well into the cozy mysteries category, and if you like English mysteries from the likes of Agatha Christie you’re likely to enjoy this series as well. Georgie and her bumbling maid Queenie are a hoot together. The mystery was very well done and I was partially thrown off on the who, so I can’t complain there. Excellent read in my opinion.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Caleb is a software engineer and amateur woodworker living in southern Minnesota. He has more hobbies than he has time or money for, and enjoys his quiet time reading.

MP3 file was provided free of any obligation by Berkley Hardcover. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Exposure by Kim Askew & Amy Helmes

[ 2 ] December 21, 2012

phpoaSjz7PMReviewed by Krystal Larson

Luckily, I’ve read Macbeth; but, it’s been awhile. Since I didn’t read the summary before starting to read Exposure, I made it all the way to Beth’s obsession with guilt and the blood before thinking…hey, she’s Lady Macbeth! I belatedly realized the three witches were Kat, Kaya, and Tess. Then, other characters fell into place for me as I continued to read this “twisted lit” young adult story.

Initially, the characters reminded me of a teen drama, like Gossip Girl or Pretty Little Liars – although I’ve never finished an episode. The female characters are fully revealed through their dialogue and social situations. The awkward high school scene feels so real with the whole range of personalities from regular kids to geeks to jocks. Craig and Duncan sound dreamy; they even sound like they could be okay guys as long as their psycho girlfriends were away at cheerleading camp. Uncertainty about the sudden, mysterious death blends in so perfectly with the story flow.

Introduction of the flashback sets the stage for a riveting tale of friendship, teen pressures and angst, deceit, and love. I liked the sense I got of living in Alaska from Skye’s description of being “stranded here on the edge of nowhere”. Flashlight tag and the annual Running of the Reindeer sound fun! Even some brief native history and descriptions of the oil business are included.

One last thought…how can people, like writers Askew and Helmes, be so amazingly quick and witty? As Skye says, I also think up snappy replies hours, even days later. The dialogue is just so clever and fast; I kept thinking – why can’t I come up with anything like that? Even the Chapter titles are cool qoutes from Shakespeare!

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Krystal is a young college student who loves meeting new authors and finding great books! Her favorite place to read is the Botanic Gardens.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by FSB Associates. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Fleeting Glance by Sherban Young

[ 3 ] December 16, 2012

IMG_1105Reviewed by Shannon Trenton

John Hathaway has a lot going on: an upcoming wedding, meeting his future in-laws for the first time, and the arrival of a strange postcard that threatens to unravel his plans for the entire weekend. To solve the mystery, save their own lives and impress the very British Darlingtons, Hath and his best friend Hutton must rely on renowned Romanian, (semi)retired detective Enescu Fleet.

Sherban Young’s Fleeting Glance seems at first to be more farce than intrigue, its two protagonists more akin to Laurel and Hardy than to Alex Cross. Hutton’s pseudo-analytical bravado and Hath’s total confusion about nearly everything create a continuous chain of amusing errors and missteps as they try to find some answers. However, the pair is a fantastic foil for Fleet’s understated brilliance, and as the story builds to its surprising climax the reader must stop and wonder if their bumbling is more by accident or design.

Characters shrouded in secrets and rumors provide levity to the story even as they heighten the mystery. Who are the artists in the colony, and what do they know about Hath’s cryptic postcard? What does a crime boss want with Hath, and why does Lesley’s father look so familiar?

Unlike a traditional, formulaic mystery, Fleeting Glance consistently delivered moments of surprise. Plot twists and new information kept the story from growing predictable, while the conclusion neatly knotted every loose thread. Some plot points bordered on the ridiculous; fortunately, most ultimately served a greater purpose to the narrative. (I still don’t really understand the dog.)

Young’s writing style made it difficult initially to get into the story. Hath’s first-person narration alternates between long, rambling sentences and short fragments. That being said, now that I have finished the book I see the storytelling as more stream of consciousness, and as another angle from which to understand Hath’s responses to everything going on around him. It may certainly take some effort to get into the flow, but the experience is well worth it.

Fleeting Glance is a fun-filled book that will keep you hooked and guessing until the end. I recommend it to anybody who likes art, comedy, or a mystery that doesn’t take itself too seriously. I also recommend reading Young’s earlier books, Fleeting Memory and Five Star Detour, if you’re a fan of starting a series from the beginning.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Shannon lives in Cleveland, Ohio with her husband and two cats. In her free time she enjoys reading, house hunting, and building her own Web site. She blogs at C’est que c’est.

Review copy was provided by Sherban Young. Compensation was received but in no way influenced the thoughts and opinions expressed in this review.

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Review: Mr. Churchill’s Secretary by Susan Elia MacNeal

[ 5 ] December 9, 2012

Reviewed by Colleen Turner

Having been raised in America by her Aunt Edith after her parents died in a car crash when she was a baby, Maggie Hope found herself in London to sell the house of a grandmother she didn’t even know she had. Confused and angry at her aunt for keeping such a big secret from her, Maggie was surprised to find she loved Britain, the nation of her birth, and decided to stay on. Taking in a group of women for roommates and making some wonderful male friends as well, Maggie was elated to find she had created a sort of family among her new friends, something she never really had growing up.

With Britain at war with Germany, Maggie hoped she could put her intellect and vast mathematical and code breaking skills to work for her country. However, after being turned down for a private secretary position for the newly appointed Prime Minister Winston Churchill because she was a woman, Maggie must swallow her disappointment when offered a position as a typist, considered a more appropriate job for a female. Hating this stereotypical viewpoint but knowing this is her best chance to make a difference, she accepts.

It doesn’t take long for Maggie to discover that war and all its machinations is much more complicated and terrifying than she imagined. Used to the order and rationale inherent in her beloved numbers, the randomness and madness of the nightly bombings and various other forms of anxiety gripping the country, along with the top secret information she comes into contact with that most citizens will never know, is almost too much. Adding to the chaos swirling around her, a close friend turns out not to be who they say, German and Irish spies are seeking to bring down the British war machine and Maggie learns that she might not have been told the whole truth when it comes to what happened to her parents. Plucky, intelligent and determined, Maggie must find a way to make sense of all the volatile and shifting factors around her to form some solid answers. Her very life, and the lives of those around her, might depend on it.

I just love Maggie Hope! It is so refreshing to find a brilliant, determined and funny female protagonist. While she is kind and feminine she is in no way a shrinking violet and she doesn’t need anyone’s help in finding the answers she seeks. In fact she is smarter and sharper than most of the men she works with. Her biggest downfall is not realizing that just about everyone is hiding something, but part of the excitement for the reader is discovering these hidden truths along with Maggie.

Having read the second book in the series, Princess Elizabeth’s Spy, before reading Mr. Churchill’s Secretary, I would definitely recommend reading the books in order. Already knowing the outcome of at least part of the mysteries of this book, it made for less climactic drama. Also, I was somewhat disappointed when the romance between Maggie and a coworker, John Sterling, wasn’t better developed in this book as it seemed to play an important, while secondary, part in Princess Elizabeth’s Spy. Reading the books in order would help make for a more linear timeline and less disappointment with plot spoilers.

I appreciate the fact that the author did not sugar coat the actions expressed in the book. War is messy and terrifying and MacNeal does not hold back in describing this. The book is funny, touching and terrifying in turns but at all times it feels real, even as the author points out that while certain people and places are factual the book at its core is a work of fiction. I have become a devoted fan of both MacNeal and Maggie Hope and I, for one, will have the next book in the series in hand as soon as it comes out.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Also by Susan Elia MacNeal: Princess Elizabeth’s Spy

Colleen lives in Tampa, Florida with her husband, son, their dog Oliver and their fish Finn. When not working or taking care of her family she has her nose stuck in a book (and, let’s face it, often when she is working or taking care of her family as well). Nothing excites her more than discovering a new author to obsess over or a hidden jewel of a book to worship.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Bantam. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: The Cutting Season by Attica Locke

[ 3 ] December 5, 2012

Reviewed by Krista Castner

The Cutting Season, Attica Locke’s second book, successfully combines the Southern-Lit and Crime/Thriller genres in a well-crafted read. Set on a Louisiana plantation called “Belle Vie” the plantation is one of the centerpieces of this story. It was once a thriving sugar cane operation made prosperous by slave labor. It’s now open for tourists as an open-air museum and a special occasion rental location. The main protagonist, Caren Gray, finds refuge for herself and her now 11 year-old daughter, Morgan, at Belle Vie when fleeing Hurricane Katrina’s path through New Orleans.

Caren was raised at Belle Vie. Her estranged mother was the cook on the plantation until her unexpected death. The plantation was only supposed to provide a temporary refuge, but four years have passed and single mom Caren is still managing the day-to-day operations at Belle Vie.

After a particularly rainy week, she discovers the partially buried body of a migrant worker just inside the plantation’s fence line. What ensues is a hunt for the murderer which involves delving into the history of the plantation, and into the background of the current set of plantation employees and local residents.

The book’s title refers to the sugar cane cutting season. The plantation is surrounded by sugar cane fields that have been leased by the large farming corporation called the Groveland Corporation. The current farm foreman has a sinister past. Could he be the murder? As local family oral tradition holds, the sugar cane fields were also the last place Caren’s great-great grandfather Jason was seen alive in 1872. Was he cut down there in the prime of his life?

When Caren and her daughter are threatened after the murder of the migrant worker, Ines; she calls Morgan’s father, Eric, a well-connected attorney who now lives in Washington DC. He flies out to try and help sort things out, and to protect Morgan. There are quite a few twists and turns in the plot line  There are also marked similarities between the lives that migrant workers live now and how the newly freed slaves lived after the end of the Civil War. I found the parallels to be compelling. Ultimately all anybody wants is the means to make life better for themselves and their families. While I thought that Caren’s decision about how to move forward in her life was a bit of a letdown at the end of the book; I can see that she did what she thought was best to make a better life for her daughter.

The Cutting Season was a finely plotted mystery mixed with historical fiction; Locke did an excellent job addressing the issues facing the modern South, and the South immediately following the end of the Civil War. It was a good solid read that had me quickly turning pages and guessing about the identity of the killer most of the way through the book.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Krista lives just outside the urban sprawl of Portland, Oregon. Lamentably, her work as a technical writer and business analyst often interferes with her reading which is a true passion.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Harper. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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