All posts by jcloose

Dean Koontz — The Crooked Staircase

Even though her cause is just and those she hunts are not, Jane Hawk is becoming as vicious and brutal as the enemy. Koontz keeps the tension and suspense high, with Jane, her son, and her friends in more and more danger. But…

This third book in the series doesn’t really advance the plot, and we need to plow through at least two more very long books to get the climax. Also, Koontz spends a lot of chapters in this one on twins who are victims of the evil, elitist cabal out to control the masses. But there is no connection to Jane and her quest to stop the cabal. I may skip the fourth book and wait for the fifth, which I hope is the last.

Carla Neggers — Keeper’s Reach

The novel has a complex and interesting plot. I didn’t figure out the bad guy until the end. This is somewhat unusual for me. A man is hit on the head and left to die in England. Later on, Emma is kidnapped and left in an old barn in Maine. There appears to be no reason for either event, except possible a package mailed from an art thief in England to Emma in Maine. A large group of suspects are considered—FBI agents, the art thief, a group who knew each other in Afghanistan and are meeting in Maine, Americans spotted in England before the first assault…. Everyone seems to be suspecting and watching someone.

Keeper’s Reach is part of a romantic suspense series. I’m not a big fan of romance, but Neggers keeps it as background noise and not the main plot of the story. Also, this novel jumps into the middle of the series, and it might be better to read the previous adventures first. The author does a reasonable job of filling us in about what happened in earlier books. It’s almost a stand-alone novel.

A few too many characters appear or are mentioned. We don’t need to know about some who aren’t part of the story. The main couple, FBI agents Emma Sharpe and Colin Donovan, were on separate tracks, even in separate countries most of the time. They barely saw each other. The secondary couple, Colin’s brother Mike and agent Naomi MacBride, have a love-hate relationship—typical romance novel stuff.

The characters are interesting and the settings detailed. I could feel the cold of Maine in the winter.

Why I Read (and Write) Fiction

Entertainment: What other medium can pull you into its world like a good book? You can visit places you’ve been or places you’ve never seen, real or imagined. You can identify with characters and experience what they are experiencing, feel what they are feeling. You can join in an adventure, fall in love, laugh, cry, try to solve a mystery, feel  fear, and maybe learn something new.

Education: Even though fiction authors are free to make up a story, the best ones research what they are writing about and venture into real subjects. I often find myself doing my own research after reading a book that talks about a subject that interests me, digging in to learn more or to check to see how much is fact. A good example is the John Grisham novel, The Rooster Bar, which I’m currently reading. It talks about bank fraud, college loans, law school scams, immigrant problems, suicide…and I’m only halfway through.

Imagination: The best books stimulate my imagination, stir my creative juices, piqué my curiosity. None of this is so readily available in a movie or even a game, which paint the pictures for you and don’t allow your brain to create its own images. Hard science fiction is the best genre for my mind. It takes current science and technology and stretches them to future possibilities. In many cases, it takes us to other worlds. Exciting, interesting, and educational.

Solving puzzles: Mysteries and thrillers are all about solving puzzles. Can you figure out “Who dun it?” before the book tells you? Can you find a way for the protagonist to escape in a good thriller?

I try to incorporate some or all the above in my writing. I wrote my first novel, The Janus Code, as science fiction, but by the time I published it, the real world had caught up. I hope it included all the reasons for reading. The second book I published, Mangrove Madness, is a mystery—entertainment and a puzzle to solve.

Go grab a good novel and enjoy the mind trip!

Steven Axelrod — Nantucket Counterfeit

The book is a cross between a cozy mystery and a police procedural. Henry Kennis, Police Chief of Nantucket, is trying to solve the murder of Horst Refn, Artistic Director of the Nantucket Theater Lab. The crime follows the plot of the play the Theater Lab is working on, so of course, the author of the play is a person of interest. But the suspects are numerous, almost everyone who knew or worked with Refn. It appears he’s been scamming half the island. Even Kennis’s girlfriend Jane is identified by a witness as leaving the scene of the crime.

Kennis is a likable, easygoing detective who leads us down several wrong paths before landing the killer. The story is told with wit and warmth, and the setting of Nantucket takes me back to my visits to the island (although it seems a lot more crowded than 30 or so years ago).

Definitely a fun read.

David Baldacci — The Fallen

I like Amos Decker, the protagonist. He’s the Memory Man, afflicted or blessed with a photographic memory. It started when he suffered an extreme injury playing pro football. He has synesthesia, sees colors for numbers and sometimes events. The injury also changed his personality and he has problems with social interactions. But he tries hard to overcome his social awkwardness. Most of all, I like his big heart.

Decker and his FBI partner Alex Jamison are supposed to be on vacation, visiting her sister’s family. But from the backyard Decker spots a flickering light in the neighbor’s house on the next street and goes to investigate. He finds two dead bodies and a fire about to start from an exposed wire. So much for vacation.

The plot is complex. The characters are interesting. The setting makes you feel like you know this failing town. Fast-paced, filled with drugs, murder, insurance scams, family feuds, and more, this book is hard to put down.

Baldacci at his best.

Dean Koontz – The Whispering Room

I haven’t read Dean Koontz for a while, and I haven’t read any of the previous Jane Hawk novels. I’ve been missing out.

Jane is on a quest to find out who caused her husband to commit suicide. Someone or something was controlling him. As she starts to find answers, “they” threaten her five-year-old son. This turns Jane into a rogue FBI agent bent on protecting her boy and destroying those who endanger him and seek power over the masses.

The characters are interesting and believable, even the minor ones. Settings are well done; this novel takes you all over the country. Quite a road trip. There is action and dark adventure, a plot that is believable and scary.

My only problem with the story is the ending. Koontz left loose ends to entice you to read the next installment.

Good read.

p.s. I went back and read the first book of the series, The Silent Corner. It would be better to read them in order. This is definitely a series. You’ll want to read them all to get the full story. Two more books are available, and one is due May, 2019.

Both The Silent Corner and The Whispering Room are excellent writing.

Stuart Woods — Turbulence

I think Stuart Woods has been writing about Stone Barrington too long. Stone has become rather boring. This book is more about the lifestyle of the rich and connected than about the plot. The plot is rather thin as Stone chases the bad guys around the world trying to locate a stolen nuclear device, or the bad guys chase him. There was a hurricane in Key West in the beginning that I liked.

I did read the whole book, which says something was good about it. 🙂

Fern Michaels —Truth or Dare

The book is an easy read, but predictable—not much suspense or mystery. There are too many coincidences and the good guys never seem to have a problem executing their plans. They also have lots of money to throw around to get the job done. Not entirely believable. Most of the story takes place sitting around “the farm” discussing what they’re going to do next.

Far too many characters to follow populate the story. At times their names are almost the same; i.e. Margie and Maggie. Maybe if I had read the previous Men of the Sisterhood novels it would be easier. I also think most of the characters display juvenile behavior. At times it feels like they’re playing a video game. The super-intelligent dogs are my favorite characters.

I stuck with the book to the end because I wanted to learn more about child trafficking. It was an okay read.

Sandra Brown — Tailspin

Tailspin is a romance/thriller. The hero and heroine are being chased by so many people it sometimes feels like a melodrama; i.e. The Perils of Pauline. Rye, the hero, is constantly saving Brynn, the heroine, from disaster. I don’t think it was meant to be humorous, but I found humor in some the situations they encountered. Still, I enjoyed the read.

Rye is a bush pilot who takes extreme risks. The story begins when he flies through extreme fog to deliver a package to a doctor. He crashes (but survives) when someone shines a laser at him while trying to make an impossible landing. Brynn is a cancer doctor who is waiting for the package, a drug she wants to use to save a little girl’s life. Many people want to divert her—an influential senator who wants the drug for himself, Brynn’s doctor partner who wants the money and influence for saving the senator’s life, people who work for the senator and his wife, police, etc. etc.

The novel is complex and fast-paced. I read it to the end.

Dana Ridenour — Behind the Mask

The story follows a growing friendship between two women—Lexie, an FBI agent on her first undercover assignment, and Savannah, a young, naïve animal-rights activist. As the tagline on the back cover says, “You build relationships to betray relationships.” But is Lexie ready to betray her newfound friend to her bosses at the FBI?

Amazon lists this novel as a (Mystery, Thriller & Suspense > Mystery > Cozy > Animals), but there is no mystery to solve and it doesn’t even come close to what I consider a cozy. Thriller & suspense—maybe. More of a crime novel. It’s also listed a women’s fiction, which is probably closer. Not that it matters; it was a good read.