Category Archives: head

David Carlson — Let the Dead Bury the Dead

A Christopher Worthy and Father Fortis Mystery. The story feels a bit like a “cozy” mystery to me — amateur sleuth solving crime in a small town. Father Fortis, a Greek Orthodox monk, is the amateur sleuth who helps his friend, Police Lieutenant Christopher Worthy, solve the murder of a priest. The church community, even though in the city of Detroit, functions as a small town.

Worthy believes the killer is someone in the congregation. His nemesis on the police force, who continually interferes in the case, believes it‘s some punk from the projects close to the church—a robbery gone bad. Worthy and Father Fortis track down and interview several parishioners who appear to have motives for killing the priest. They are also searching for the priest’s journal, which they believe may hold clues.

At the same time, Worthy is trying to reestablish ties with his teenage daughter and attempting to understand his surly new police partner. The characters and interactions between them are interesting and add to the story.

The novel keeps a slower pace than many of the mysteries and thrillers in today’s market. But I enjoyed the story and kept reading.

Cassandra Rose Clark — Star’s End

Star’s End is the ultimate in corporate control. A science fiction story about the Four Sisters, four planets terraformed by Phillip Coromina. He not only owns the planets, he owns the people who inhabit them. Any person who doesn’t follow company rules disappears. Exiled or killed? The family business manufactures weapons. One product of the company is manufactured humans who are programmed in their DNA to be soldiers. They fight wars across the galaxy alongside normal human mercenaries hired by the corporations.  The manufactured soldiers are programmed to be loyal to each other and the corporations.

The protagonist in Star’s End is Phillip’s oldest daughter, Esme. Her mother is a soldier who left her to be raised by Phillip when she was born. Esme’s three-hundred-year-old father is dying. He has a disease which kills even those taking rejuvenation treatments. She is taken by surprise, but she has been waiting a long time. Esme will become CEO of Coromina Group. She wants to change the path of the company and no longer manufacture weapons.

There are also aliens living on the planets. Philip isolated them long ago and they have no contact with the humans. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Fear the aliens; fear anyone different from you instead of learning to live together; creating wars for profit.

Esme’s three younger half-sisters have all disappeared. She is trying to track them down and bring them home before her father dies. Each sister chose to leave when they found out how cruel their father was and what he had done to Isabel, the youngest. But Esme has stayed to work from inside to improve the system.

The novel jumps between present and past. The past POV is Esme, first person past, and the present is Esme, third person past. There are many secrets that we don’t learn until events occur in the past chapters or until Esme reaches a level in the corporation to learn them. Phillip is all about secrets. You are privy to more of what’s happening as you go up the ranks of the company. At the end of the story, Esme is one of the few Ninety-Nines, the highest level who can know all the secrets.

An interesting novel, obviously anti-corporate. I enjoyed it, even if I found Esme reluctantly following her father’s orders hard to take.

Joanne Harris — Different Class

Something bad happened at St. Oswald’s boys’ school twenty-four years ago. What was it and who was responsible? Different Class is a British literary, psychological suspense story, which takes place in 1981 and 2005. This novel reveals many secrets slowly. More than once, you think you know what happened, only to find out you’re wrong.

Roy Straightly has been the school’s Latin master for thirty years. One of his least favorite students from 1981 returns to the school as headmaster to bring the old institution into the 21st century. Straightly resists in every possible way.

The point of view in 2005 is mostly Straightly’s, and we see the events of 1981 mainly through a journal of an unknown student. The novel started a bit slow, and I almost stopped reading. But the unanswered questions and suspense kept me reading, and the more I read, the more I enjoyed it. In addition to the twists and turns and suspense, Harris throws in dark humor, murder, and underlying themes about class differences, friendships,  revenge, and acceptance of others.

A very good read.

Barry Eisler — Zero Sum

I’m not sure why I keep reading Eisler’s John Rain novels. Rain is a brutal assassin and the author delves into his mind, examining the details when Rain thinks about killing. And the sex scenes are heavy-duty, much more than I need to read. I didn’t finish the last two books I started because they were too “macho mail.” Yet Eisler keeps me reading to the end. He’s an excellent writer.Tokyo

Rain is half Japanese, half American. His childhood was split between Japan and the States, and he doesn’t feel accepted in either country. In Zero Sum, Rain has returned to Tokyo in 1982 after a few years in the Philippines. Even though I’ve never been there, his descriptions of Tokyo are so vivid that I feel as if I would recognize it if I visited the city.

If you like well-written psychological thrillers and anti-heroes, read this book.

Annalee Newitz — Atonomous

This novel is speculative or science fiction; exploring robotics, pharmaceuticals, biotech, and artificial intelligence. The characters and POV include a human biotech pirate, an “indentured” human, a free robot scientist, an indentured android, other humans and bots. Newitz does a good job of getting into the “minds” of the bots as well as the humans.

Many underlying themes weave through this story—property rights, patents, pharmaceuticals, indenture/slavery, what is human. The plot revolves around the female biotech pirate, Jack, reverse-engineering a drug the makes people love their work. The patented version is very expensive and only available to the rich. Her version is cheap and available. It’s very addictive and some people work themselves to death or cause catastrophes that kill others. She goes to work finding a cure.

Other characters are Eliasz, human, and his indentured robotic partner, Paladin, who are working for Big Pharma tracking the pirate. Jack rescues and frees an indentured human. An autonomous robot comes into the story, working with Jack on the cure. Other characters, mostly from Jack’s past, pass through.

I enjoyed the ideas about our future more than the main plot of the story. I also liked the various points of view. Newitz did well poking into the thoughts of robots.

Michael Chabon — Moonglow

Moonglow is a very different book—a fictionalized memoir or autobiographical novel. We don’t know how much of the novel is true (or true as remembered) and how much is Michael’s imagination.

Michael visits his dying grandfather, a man who has never talked about his life. But whether because he is dying or the effects of medication, the grandfather pours out stories of love, war, prison, of working as an engineer in the space industry, and stories of Michael’s grandmother and mother. Mixed in with the stories told by the grandfather are Michael’s own memories and stories told by his mother. The events are in no particular order, but they weave a picture of a family.

I enjoyed the read and came to admire the grandfather, even though he was not always likeable. I recommend this book for someone who likes a book off the beaten path.

Lee Child — Night School

Night School is the twenty-first Jack Reacher novel. Not the usual lone wolf story with our hero wandering the Midwest, finding small towns with trouble to solve. The story takes place in 1996 when Reacher is still in the army. After quietly receiving a medal for a black ops assignment, he is sent off to school. But the school is a cover for an assignment with two others, FBI and CIA. They not only need to find a traitor who is selling something for $100 million but what he’s selling.

I’ve seen mediocre to bad reviews of Night School (good ones too). Some readers don’t like the change of pace with Reacher working on a team. To me, it makes perfect sense that a younger man still in the service will be different. He still has the same personality, and I enjoyed the variety of story line. I devoured the book. For me it rates five stars.

Night School is like a musical work. It has a rhythm, a cadence. It builds to a crescendo.

Anne Corlett — The Space Between the Stars

Humans have expanded throughout the galaxy before a virus wipes out nearly all the population on every planet. Jamie Allenby wakes up alone on a remote planet she escaped to when her marriage was failing and she wanted “some space.” Zero point zero zero zero one percent survival rate, she had heard before her planet fell to the virus. After three days alone she finds two other people. They are rescued by two others in a small spacecraft looking for fuel. Their little band of survivors gathers two more as they bounce from planet to planet toward Earth.

This is not hard science fiction. I would call it “literary” or maybe “psychological” — a study in human behavior. Jamie isn’t sure what she’s searching for, maybe home. The small group includes an ex-priest, a prostitute, an ex-scientist who believes God has caused the apocalypse in order to start over, a young man with autism, the spaceship captain, and his engineer.

Corlette, with her first novel, has written an intriguing story that covers many issues that are relevant today, in the past, or our future.

This one kept me awake until 3AM to finish it. I look forward to more from Anne Corlette.

Dennis Lehane — Since We Fell

I met Dennis Lehane once at a book signing in Boston and I’ve seen him on television a few times. He seems like an easygoing likeable person with a twinkle of humor in his eyes. But Lehane writes dark stories. His characters are twisted. He examines his characters minds good and bad—their delights, doubts, and demons. Great stuff!

The first part of Since We Fell follows Rachel Childs from a childhood with a dominating mother and no father, through a successful career as a journalist in Boston and an unsuccessful marriage, to a breakdown on camera in Haiti while covering the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake. Her husband leaves her, she’s fired from her job, and she becomes a virtual shut-in.

Enter second husband, Brian Delacroix, who understands her (unlike first husband), treats her with loving kindness, and helps her overcome her phobias. Perfect husband…or is he?

The story is filled with questions, conspiracies, murder, and surprises. Is it a psychological thriller, a literary novel, crime novel, or something that doesn’t fall into any genre or category? It fits all three of my classifications of head, heart, and even some humor.

Charles River, Boston
Charles River, Boston

The setting is mostly in Boston, my favorite city in the world. It made me feel at home.

In my opinion, Dennis Lehane is one of the today’s best authors.

Stephen King — Duma Key

Duma Key is the first Stephen King novel I’ve read in many years. Even though he is an excellent writer, I’m not a fan of horror. You usually find his books classified as horror, but they could also fall into thriller, suspense, fantasy, psychological, supernatural, paranormal, ghost story, and mystery genres. Duma Key is all of these.

I’m not sure why I decided to read this book; maybe because the setting is in Southwest Florida where I live. I found the story intriguing from the beginning. Edgar Freemantle, builder and contractor, is almost killed in an accident that damages his right hip and leg, crushes his skull, and he loses his right arm. Due to his unpredictable behavior while recovering, his wife leaves him.

His shrink suggests Edgar should take up a hobby and go on sabbatical. He leases “Big Pink,” a house hanging over the water at the edge of the Gulf of Mexico on Duma Key. Here he begins to draw and then paint, learning at a furious pace. His ghost arm drives him.

Walking the beach, Edgar meets Wireman, and they become friends. Wireman is caretaker for an old woman, Elizabeth Eastlake, who floats in and out of dementia. Elizabeth owns the habitable part of Duma Key, including Big Pink, and she is an integral part of the story.

The story begins as psychological and/or supernatural thriller, moving on to become a ghost story. It doesn’t become a “horror story/monster movie” until about three-quarters of the way through. By that time it had me hooked, and I had to keep reading to see what would happen. Edgar, Wireman, and Jack (who was hired to help Edgar and became his friend) join forces to battle the monsters.

As I said at the beginning, Stephen King is an excellent writer.