Category Archives: character

Lee Child — Make Me

I’m not sure why I love the Jack Reacher books. There is so much violence, unbelievable plots (Child makes you believe them), always a woman for Reacher to connect with. It’s probably because Lee Child is a great writer.

This book is more like his earlier novels. He lands in a small town in the middle of the country, finds trouble, and takes care of it — or I should say “wipes it out.”

As always with Child’s book, I breezed right through it and enjoyed every minute.

Kathleen Alcott — Infinite Home

I believe there are different kinds of families — the ones we are born into or marry and those we connect with throughout life, at work or play or by chance. The people in this novel are a “family” who live in an apartment house in NYC.

The tenants are all misfits in one way or another. An artist who had a stroke at an early age; he has given up painting. A bipolar woman is afraid to leave her apartment. A thirty-three-year-old man has the mind of a child. His sister, with her need to care for him, has ruined her marriage. A stand-up comic has lost his touch and is no longer funny. The landlady has dementia. They all try to care for each other in their own ways. To me they feel like a family.

The story is funny, touching, and sad. Ms. Alcott’s characters are vivid and entertaining. She kept my interest from beginning to end.

Donna Leon — Falling in Love

It occurred to me that most of my reviews on this blog are more about the authors and their writing style than the novels. Maybe that’s true of most reviews.

Donna Leon’s writing fascinates me. She writes about Commissario Guido Brunetti and his police cases in Venice, Italy. I have read several of her books and feel as if from her writing I could visit Venice and feel at home. I also feel I know Guido Brunetti and several of the other characters in her stories.

The laid-back atmosphere of the Venice police permeates the book, interwoven and contrasting with a chilling plot. Brunetti takes long lunches at home with his family. He sits in his office contemplated the case he is working on, wanders the streets (or canals) of Venice not always knowing what he is looking for, and appears to socialize with others in his department as much as working. He has an appreciation of old Venice, its art, architecture, culture, people…and at times bemoans that it is becoming too much of a tourist destination.

The name of this book is misleading. It is a crime novel, a mystery, not a love story. The plot involves an opera singer who is being stalked. I won’t go into details about the book, but will tell you it ends with a powerful climax. Very unusual. Most novels give us at least one chapter of wrap-up after the climax. But none was needed.

S. J. Gazan – The Arc of the Swallow

I like reading authors from other countries. It gives me a glimpse into unfamiliar cultures and settings. Of course, some of them are good and some are not, like writers anywhere. Gazan, from Denmark, is one of the good ones. His style is different than what I’m used to, whether that is because he is Danish, or just his personal style. His pace is slower and he covers more detail than many of the US authors I’ve read recently.

Gazan weaves a story with multiple points of view and multiple timelines, jumping back and forth in time to cover a different POV of the same event. Marie Skow, PhD candidate in biology, is faced with two apparent suicides: her mother and her professor and mentor, Kristian Storm. Police detective Soren Marhaunge is not only connected to Skow because of the suicides, but finds that they were neighbors as children. There are other POVs, woven through past and present, family, friends, and colleagues. Gazan even feeds us part of the story through deceased Dr. Storm.

It is an interesting and complex mystery and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Matthew Quick — Love May Fail

This book is interesting to me as a writer because it is character driven with multiple first person point of view (POV). Very unusual. I tried writing a novel that way, years ago, but it didn’t work too well. Maybe I’ll try it again.

Each section of the book is a different POV, returning to the first POV for the last section.

First we meet Portia Kane (first POV), a woman leaving a twenty-year, unhappy marriage. She returns to her hometown where she hears that her high school teacher, Nate Vernon (second POV) —“Mr. Vernon,” Portia’s mentor— has left teaching and disappeared after being beaten by a student. She searches for him, wanting to save him and bring him back to teaching.

She crosses paths with Chuck Bass (third POV), who was also a student of the same teacher. He carries a card Mr. Vernon gave his students on the last day of his class, which reads “Official Member of the Human Race.” Chuck is a recovered drug addict who has turned his life around and is studying to be a teacher.

There is even a fourth POV slipped in between Nate Vernon and Chuck Bass. The late Sister Mauve Smith’s section is written in the form of letters to her son, Nate.

The story is full of coincidences or “God’s will” as Sister Mauve calls them. It was a good read, although I almost didn’t finish it after the first chapter.

Michael Perry — The Jesus Cow

This book is FUN! It’s full of wonderful, quirky characters and situations. It all takes place in a tiny town at the off-ramp of the interstate somewhere in Wisconsin. You have a quiet, unassuming farmer, Harley, left with only 15 acres of his father’s farm. There is a literary professor turned environmentalist, living at the bottom of an old water tower on Harley’s land. A greedy developer is trying to buy up Harley’s property so that he can take advantage of the location off the interstate. A woman who is a hard working scrap metal yard owner shares the intersection. Harley’s best friend, Billy, lives in a trailer on a corner of Harley’s land with a multitude of cats. And there is this woman who shows up in a red pickup truck that turns Harley’s head.

One of Harley’s cows has a calf on Christmas Eve at midnight with an image of Jesus on its side. You can only imagine the kind of stir this causes.

The book is a romp. It’s Michael Perry’s fist novel, although he’s a bestselling author of nonfiction books. I hope he writes more fiction.

W. Bruce Cameron — The Midnight Plan of the Repo Man

I love a book that can make me laugh and this is one of them. Ruddy McCann, the repo man, is an ex-jock, grumpy, big-hearted man. Besides spending his nights chasing down automobiles for the banks, he also helps his sister run a bar, which is about to fail.

Ruddy has a strange and vivid dream about being shot and dying followed by a voice in his head that won’t leave, who turns out to be the man who was killed in the dream. Of course, he has to find out who did it and why. But it’s not easy when the murder happened eight years earlier. To complicate things, Ruddy meets his mind-visitor’s daughter and falls for her.

The story is full of imagination, action, and laughter. The characters range from tough yet gentle, guilt-ridden Ruddy, who bounces through life with his dog, not caring about appearances or keeping his home tidy, to Alan Lotimer who literally occupies his mind. Lotimer is almost obsessively neat and not inclined to confrontation, of which Ruddy’s life is full. There are other interesting and quirky characters —Ruddy’s sister, who is trying to keep the bar afloat and make it into a family restaurant, Ruddy’s boss, who thinks Ruddy is suffering from “repo madness,” Kermit, who Ruddy is trying to teach the repo business and who is probably smart but doesn’t have much common sense… and more.

It’s a fun read with a good plot, good characters, lots of laughs, and even a lovable if lazy dog. I will look for more books by this author.

Lou Berney — The Long and Faraway Gone

This novel is two separate stories about two separate people in the same time and place (Oklahoma City, 2012), who are on torturous journeys into their past lives.

Julianna received word that “a person of interest” in her sister’s disappearance is in town. Julianna was twelve when her sister disappeared. It starts her down the path she thought she had abandoned of trying to find out what became of her sister 25 years earlier.

Wyatt, a private investigator from Las Vegas returns to his hometown on a case. He left 25 years ago at the age of fifteen. Returning to Oklahoma City stirs memories and questions about an incident which still haunts him. Six people were murdered in a robbery of the movie theater where he worked. He was the only person in the theater left alive that night.

The book alternates between the two characters and two times (1986 and 2012). It’s almost two novels wrapped into one with various plots and subplots. Very unusual and very well written, it kept my interest from beginning to end.

M.P. Cooley — Ice Shear

ice

Upstate New York is cold in winter, and Ms. Cooley makes you feel it. It makes me want to go curl up in a blanket in front of a fireplace to warm up, even though I’m reading here in sunny Florida. The story begins with the discovery of a body impaled on the ice at the bottom of a frozen waterfall. Ice Shear is a mystery that keeps you interested from beginning to end. The protagonist, June Lyons, is a local police officer, ex FBI, and single mother in a small town. Cooley’s characters are diverse and interesting, her plot twists and turns, and her settings make you believe you are there.

This is a first novel by Ms. Cooley. I can’t wait for her next.

Christopher Fowler — The Invisible Code

How many times have you read a novel with a pair of police detectives as protagonists? I must have read hundreds. But these two are old men who should have been retired from the police years ago. One is well dressed and organized and follows the facts. The other is beat-up, rumpled, intuitive, and he consults with psychics, historians, museum curators… He’s more of a historian than a detective. They work out of the Peculiar Crimes Unit in London.

Author Fowler brings us the English culture, atmosphere, history, social mores, foibles, superstitions, and more. His characters are humorous, interesting, quirky, and intelligent. His plot twists and turns. The two detectives, Bryant and May, start with their boss requesting an investigation of his wife who is behaving strangely and circles into investigating the boss for murder and more.

The Invisible Code is a delightful read.