Category Archives: character

C.J. Tudor — The Chalk Man

This thriller/murder mystery jumps between 2016 and 1986. In 2016, Ed Adams is a small town school teacher haunted by events from 30 years past. In 1986, Eddie and his group of 12-year-old friends’ lives were interrupted by a terrible accident at the fair, two unsolved murders, a suicide, and a beating that left a man in an almost vegetative state.

Eddie’s father always told him “Never assume, Eddie. Question everything. Always look beyond the obvious.” But the whole town has made assumptions about what happened in 1986. When bad things start happening again in 2016, people once more make assumptions.

The Chalk Man, Tudor’s first novel, has an intriguing plot, great characters (young, middle-aged, and old), a setting that makes you feel you are there, and twists and turns that keep you hooked.

Excellent writing!

Catherine Steadman — Something in the Water

This is a different book, but I like different. It starts at the end with protagonist Erin digging a grave to bury her husband. Then the story goes back to tell us how she got there. But the ending isn’t quite what it seems in that first chapter.

I enjoyed the progression of the events in Erin’s mind in this psychological thriller. She is a bright young upper middle class women getting married to the man she loves, creating a documentary, living what seems to be the almost perfect life. But she is also self-centered, naïve, greedy, and blind to the flaws of people she likes or loves. Although she worries too much at times and plans her steps to accomplish her goal, she doesn’t always look at the possibilities of what might happen as she proceeds.

To me the premise of this book is: “What would you do if you found an illegal treasure that appears to be untraceable?”

Erin irritated me at times, but I found her story intriguing. A good read, good first novel.

Robert Crais — The Wanted

Devon Conner’s teenage son Tyson has run off and she’s worried that he’s into something illegal with new friends that she doesn’t approve of. She hires Elvis Cole to find him and to find out what kind of trouble he’s in. Cole finds that Tyson and his friends have been robbing homes of the very rich around Los Angeles. When Tyson’s friend Alec is murdered, Tyson and friend Amber don’t believe it. They continue to live the high life and hide from his mother.

Not only does Crais write good plots, he writes with humor and his characters are always interesting. Elvis Cole and his sidekick muscle Joe Pike have been around for many of Crais’s novels, yet they haven’t become boring. The young thieves in The Wanted have individual and credible personalities. Even the bad guys who are killing people have interests other than murder.

I’ve given up on many of the prolific authors who write series novels, but not Robert Crais. He still holds my attention.

Lisa Genova — Every Note Played

Lisa Geneva captures your mind and your emotions. This is a sad, sad story. It’s a different kind of “horror” story, but the monsters aren’t aliens, werewolves, or ghosts. Instead they are a disabling disease and a dysfunctional family.

Richard and Karina are both talented pianists who met and married when they were studying classical piano in NYC. They were competitive, with Karina probably the more talented, until Karina fell in love with jazz. Early in their marriage Richard took a job in Boston where the jazz world was almost nonexistent. Karina followed and lost her connection to her new love—jazz. Then their daughter Grace was born. Karina gave up her career as a pianist to become wife, mother, and piano teacher at home. Richard became a renowned pianist, touring the world. Richard wanted more children; Karina wanted no more.

Resentment grew between them from early in the marriage. Deception and blame ruled. They divorced when Grace was a teenager.

Now, at the age of forty-five, Richard develops ALS. His arms and hands go first, leaving him divorced from his one true love, the piano.

Genova takes you on a trip through every emotion; there is even a little humor thrown in. She follows Richard’s thoughts and details of the disease as the ALS progresses. She gives us the emotional upheavals of ex-wife Karina as she takes Richard back into her home to care for him. She examines the disconnection between father and daughter and the regret that he wasn’t there for her as she grew up.

Every Note Played is a powerful and exquisitely written novel.

M.C. Beaton — Death of an Honest Man

Scottish Police Sergeant Hamish Macbeth is an offbeat character, and so are all the others in this murder mystery. Even a wildcat is a character in the story. A newcomer insults all the people he comes into contact with, so when his body turns up in the heath bog, Hamish’s list of suspects includes most everyone in the area.

This is a fun read full of unbelievable happenings and Hamish breaking the rules again and again. He also manages to lose every assistant his superiors send him—some to become chefs and sheep herders, one to marriage.

I will look for more of Beaton’s books.

Kristin Hannah — The Nightingale

The Nightingale grabs you in the gut—powerful writing!

Hannah takes you on an emotional journey through the German occupation of France in World War II. She follows two sisters with contrasting personalities through horrible events and upheavals in their lives and the world around them. Vianne tries to accept the hardships and follow the rules to protect her daughter. Isabelle resists in every way that she can. She creates an escape route through the Pyrenees, leading numerous downed Allied airmen to safety in Spain.

Usually when I enjoy a book, I read into the wee, small hours of the night. With The Nightingale, I found I needed to stop often to escape the pull of this story. Hannah is an excellent storyteller. She does everything right—the historical research, the characters, the setting, the reactions of the women living through this terrifying time.

Hannah’s novel is probably the best writing I’ve found in a very long time.

An interview with Kristin Hannah about The Nightingale.

Robert K. Tanenbaum — Fatal Conceit

In Chechnya, Americans are meeting at a remote outpost with a rebel leader. In the US, the president’s top security advisor and campaign manager watch live via NSA drone as the compound is attacked by Al-Qaeda terrorist overrun the compound, doing nothing to stop the attack. When the fight is over and the two men in the US see that two Americans are taken as hostages, the men order the drone to wipe out the compound before the hostages are safe.

Of course, there is a big cover-up, plus blackmail and murder. This where the protagonist, New York DA Karp, gets involved.

This was a good read. The only problem I had with the book was long narratives explaining connections between characters from past times, apparently from previous novels in the series. I don’t think you need that much explaining if people have read the other stories, or even for those like me who haven’t.

I did enjoy the novel, staying up into the wee hours to finish it.

John Keyse-Walker — Beach, Breeze, Bloodshed

BVI Constable Teddy Creque is called on to capture a shark that has attacked and killed a woman off Virgin Gorda. But sharks don’t usually attack humans unless they are dead or wounded, and Teddy sees a cut on the woman’s neck that doesn’t appear to be caused by shark’s teeth.

The story unfolds around unique characters, including a brilliant boy who almost never speaks, a parrot who repeats everything he hears, a Russian ex-spy, “De White Rasta” Teddy’s cohort from the previous story, and various other fascinating participants.

bananaquits
Bananaquits

For me, the setting draws me back to the islands. I can picture the people, the shops and houses, the tropical flowers, the warm humid air, the beautiful clear water—even the birds are familiar. I haven’t seen or heard of a bananaquit since I lived in the Bahamas where they would join me for breakfast on the veranda, stealing my food.

I also appreciate that the author didn’t drag us through the protagonist’s depression as many crime novels do. Teddy apparently went through a period of moping over his mistakes and his affair with a not-so-nice woman between novels. But he mostly has his act together by the time this story happens, although he doubts his policing skills from time to time.

Keyse-Walker’s second novel is as engaging as his first. He again captures the spirit of Caribbean island life. This time on Virgin Gorda, a tiny bit faster-paced than Anegada where his first book took place, due to more people, more tourists, etc.

I’m delighted that I went back for seconds.

Peter Cawdron —Retrograde

The scientific settlement on Mars receives word that nuclear war has broken out on Earth, then communications are cut. The community on Mars consists of four modules — U.S., Chinese, Russian, and Eurasians (from various countries). They start pointing fingers and blaming each other’s countries for starting the war. It appears that the module leaders are lying to each other. Then things begin to go wrong in the settlement. But Liz is determined to get everyone working together.

Cawdron paints a fantastic picture of Mars, both topside and in the tunnels where the scientists have built their settlement. His characters are believable, and their reactions to the disaster at home and the hardships imposed by the red planet are realistic.

For those who like hard science fiction, this is a good one. As stated by SpaceX engineer Dr. Andrew Rader in the Afterword of the novel, “…there are no scientific breakthroughs required for the human exploration of or settlement on Mars — only engineering effort and widespread dedication to the goal.” With a few exceptions, all of the technology and science in Retrograde is possible, if not now, in the near future.

Mars

Lisa Black — That Darkness

Maggie Gardiner, forensic scientist with Cleveland police, sees a connection between three recent homicides. Jack Renner is a Cleveland police detective working on the same crimes. But Jack is also a killer—a vigilante. Some of the dead are his victims. This makes an interesting plot, with Maggie putting together clues and Jack trying to mislead her.

I enjoyed the book—the characters, the plot, the police work, and the different ending. It kept me reading into the wee small hours.