All posts by jcloose

Martha Wells — Fugitive Telemetry

Murderbot Diary #6 follows an almost standard closed room (an isolated section of Preservation Station) murder mystery plot line. Muderbot works as a consulting independent private investigator (SecUnit or security bot) working with the police (security system and space station personnel). But the imaginative SF setting and the grumpy, paranoid, snarky, and protective personality of Murderbot set the story steps above a normal murder mystery.

The story starts with an unidentified victim with unknown who done it, how, why, and even where was the murder committed. Murderbot is limited in his investigation because of an agreement he’s made not to hack the station’s systems.

As always, I’m fascinated with Murderbot, the SecUnit who wants to spend its time absorbed in media and is disgusted by humans but can’t overcome his urge to protect them. Wells is extremely creative with characterization (mainly with Murderbot but also with other characters) and her world-building settings are definitely “out of this world.”

Great SF series. Martha Wells has a terrific imagination. She creates a cyborg character who is more human than some people I know. She’s good at world-building, plotting, characterization, and keeps my attention throughout. She writes with the three H’s — head, heart, and humor.

Having read #1 through #6, I’m looking forward to more. I understand that Wells has at least three more Murderbot books in the pipeline.

Lee Child and Andrew Child — The Sentinel

Browsing through reviews of The Sentinel, I see a number of readers think Reacher has lost some of his personality being co-authored by Lee Child and his brother Andrew. I didn’t feel that way. Reacher might be a little older, a little mellower, but he’s still the same loner with a wanderlust that keeps him traveling throughout the country. He’s still a magnet for people in trouble and can’t resist jumping in to help. He continues to have the unbelievable ability to win every fight no matter how many opponents he faces. And he still travels with only a toothbrush. He did have a phone for a short time in this story, but he gave it back in the end.

I like Reacher’s personality—positive and upbeat, helpful in the extreme, no greed, no depression, no guilt. The two Child brothers have maintained that temperament. And I see humor in the exaggeration of character traits, especially the villains, and in Reacher’s deadpan dialog. It’s not laugh-out-loud humor, but it’s there.

I will keep reading more Reacher books as long as they keep publishing.

Lisa Gardner — Right Behind You

Lisa Gardner is one of my favorite authors. She writes intriguing psychological thrillers with fascinating characters that keep me involved. Right Behind You is no exception. Gardner gives us an in-depth look at thirteen-year-old Sharlah and her seventeen-year-old brother Telly, foster kids living with two different families. They were split up eight years earlier after Telly killed their father to protect them.

There are other interesting characters as well—Sheriff Shelly, Tracker Cal, and of course Quincy and Rainy—all of them working together searching for Telly who they suspect of a “spree” murder of four people, beginning with his foster parents. Besides working with the sheriff, Quincy and Rainy are Sharlah’s foster parents.

Strangely enough, two dead characters also caught my imagination—Telly’s foster mother Sandra, killed along with her husband Frank, and Sandra’s mob boss father who died of cancer. Sandra and her father hadn’t spoken in thirty years until shortly before he died.

Even though I figured out an important plot point early in the book, there were enough twists and turns to keep me involved, and enough unanswered questions to keep me reading.

An underlying theme of this story is family—what makes it work and what tears it apart. Although the parents of both foster kids were idealized to the point they were hard to believe.

Overall a great read.

Chris Hauty — Deep State

“Spoiler Alert”
I suspected from the beginning that a piece of information about Hayley Chill is missing from the story due to a year’s gap between her leaving the army and her internship at the White House. The reveal of how she ends up as an intern at the end of the book also creates some inconsistencies in the plot. We have Hayley discovering an assassination plot during her time at the White House, but we find out that she knew about it before she started the job.

Even with stiff character portrayals plus holes and unnecessary sidetracks in the plot (Who cares about the future of minor characters?), I enjoyed the story and would read another Hauty novel.

Joseph Schneider — One Day You’ll Burn

A middle-of-the-road crime novel.

The good parts:

  • An unusual murder—a man roasted to death and dumped in the middle of the street in front of a Thai shrine.
  • New detective Jarsdel and old-timer Morales building a partner relationship.
  • A clearer picture of LA than most LA novels I’ve read lately (but I’m getting bored with LA).
  • An interesting secondary plot about someone killing pet dogs. (But why are the detectives on this case?)
  • An unusual detective—Tully Jarsdel has left academia to become a cop.

The not so good parts:

  • Jarsdel spends way too much time explaining and thinking about why he left his previous life to join the LAPD—repetitive.
  • Jarsdel’s unsympathetic two dads, who hate that he became a policeman—not an ounce of understanding.
  • The whiny girlfriend.
  • Not very good motives for the murderer or the dog killer.
  • Jarsdel’s “save the world” attitude.
  • The book could probably have been 100 pages shorter, leaving out some of the repetitive information, descriptions about driving routes, Jarsdel’s brooding about his life, etc.

Overall I enjoyed the story enough to keep reading to the end. I might read more of the series.

Martha Wells — Network Effect

I read this as a stand-alone, not having read the first 4 Murderbot novellas. Maybe if I’d read them, I would have given it 5 stars instead of 4, because I was a little confused from time to time.

I love SecUnit Murderbot and the transport AI ART and their quirky “relationship,” full of the dreaded “emotions.” Lots of humor there. Murderbot attempting to learn to be a person while despising humans always gave me a laugh.

Martha Wells writes very well, but her use of parentheses drove me crazy until after a few chapters I learned to ignore them.

Great read. Maybe I’ll read Murderbot 1 through 4 (and then 6?).

Harlan Coben — Win

Winston Horne Lockwood III, Win, is an egotistical jerk, but he knows it. He lives by his own rules because of his wealth and power. He likes few people and few people like him. I dislike his type—violent, above the law, with his own set of morals—but I find I almost like Win at times, especially his connection to his daughter. Mostly he’s the type of character I love to hate.

The plot is complex and interesting and Win’s decisions at the end of what to reveal and what not to reveal make an “almost” satisfying finish.

Elly Griffiths — Postscript Murders

Amazon calls this book a “Editors Pick: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense,” and lists it under “Gothic Mysteries” and “Police Procedurals.” I don’t think any of these genres apply. It’s a cozy mystery with a group of amateur detectives working with DS Harbinder Kaur because they believe their 90-year-old friend Peggy was murdered. It’s not gothic and the police procedurals are mostly about following instincts and vague clues. The story bumps along at a fairly slow pace (even with a few murders thrown in), not a fast-paced action-packed thriller.

The characters in the story are humorous and entertaining—Edwin, an 85-year-old neighbor of Peggy retired from BBC; Benedict, ex-monk, now a café owner; and Natalka, Peggy’s caregiver, an immigrant from Ukraine.

The climax of the novel is like rolling over a gentle hill instead of climbing a peak. And the wrap-up after the murders are solved goes on for a few chapters.

I read this as a stand-alone even though it’s the second book in the Harbinder Kaur series. I read the first book but didn’t connect until after finishing. It was a pleasant read if not all that exciting.

Candice Fox — Gathering Dark

Another good read from Candice Fox, but I prefer her books set in Australia. I read plenty of crime fiction books with LA as a backdrop. I’d much rather read the unknown to me settings in Australia where my imagination can take flight.

As they are in Fox’s other books, the characters are strong but quirky; many are mean and nasty. There are so many “bad guys” in this story it’s sometimes difficult to keep track of who’s who. All the cops are shady and twisted, some even criminal. Even Jessica Sanchez, the protagonist, pulls some very bad stunts in revenge on her partner after he fails to back her up on a call. Blair Harbour, the other main character, is only a year out of prison for killing her neighbor. She tries to be good but doesn’t always succeed. Blair’s friend “Tweat” (Blair is trying to help her find her daughter) is a thief and a liar.

I’m not sure if some of the outrageous and improbably situations the characters found themselves in were meant to be humorous, but they made me laugh.

Ray Bradbury — Dandelion Wine

One of my favorite books of all time.

Dandelion Wine draws you in with all your senses—the smell of cut grass and the sound of the lawnmower, the heat of an August day, the pattern of green leaves against blue sky, the feel of running barefoot and the comfort of new sneakers, the dark earthy aroma of a ravine, the taste of Grandmother’s abundant meals, and on and on… Add the excitement of learning you’re alive and the sadness of the loss of friends and relatives, plus so much more to wrap your mind and feelings around. Bradbury’s elegant prose makes me feel young and alive.

I pulled this book off a back shelf recently to re-read for the fourth or fifth time—the first time I read it as a teen sixty-something years ago. It’s one of very few books I like to re-read. It’s filled with life and death, inquiry and imagination, the delights and sorrows of youth. But what sticks with me over the years is the JOY of being alive.