Category Archives: reviews

Bryan Reardon — The Real Michael Swann

Michael Swann is in Penn Station when a bomb goes off. His wife Julia believes he’s alive and is obsessed with finding him.

I have mixed feelings about this book. The plot was good and characters were interesting. I read some reviews and some readers were surprised at the twist at the end. But I had it figured out early, maybe by the middle of the book.

The point of view switched back and forth between Julia and an unknown man with no memory who escaped the bombing. Scenes with Julia trying to find Michael with no idea of where she was going or how to find him alternated with her memories—good and bad—of their marriage. Sometimes this was easy to follow and sometimes  disjointed. I became irritated with Julia’s wild search as the story progressed. There was no logic to what she was doing; she acted in panic mode throughout the book.

Overall this was a good read. What would you do if a member of your family was caught in a terror attack, and you didn’t know if he or she was alive or dead? What would you do if the police and media started accusing that family member of being connected to the attack?

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.

Thomas Perry — The Bomb Maker

I have mixed feelings about The Bomb Maker. I found the technical information about bomb making and disarming interesting—more than I would ever need or want to know. The characters weren’t very well developed and we never found out who the bomb maker was or why he was doing it. The ending was abrupt.

The book is classified as suspense/thriller on Amazon. I thought it was more a police procedural.

All that said, I enjoyed it enough to finish it.

Steve Berry — Bishop’s Pawn

With appropriate timing—fifty years after MLK died, Steve Berry gives a fictional version of how and why the assassination took place.

The bulk of the story takes place 18 years ago when old paperwork from FBI files resurface about an operation called Bishop’s Pawn. An ex-FBI agent living in Cuba wants to trade the documents for a rare coin. Cotton Malone’s first assignment with the Justice Department is to recover the coin and the files.

Justice and FBI agents, active and retired want to get their hands on the secret files. Some want to destroy them, and others want to make them public. All parties want to know what they contain, what they might reveal about the assassination.

This was a good read, bouncing around Florida, more secrets uncovered at every turn. I think it could have been told in a shorter version without losing anything. I also wonder how Malone could have people dying all around him without getting arrested or killed—not always believable. But the story was interesting enough to keep me reading to the end and the end revealed one more twist.

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.

Gregg Hurwitz — Hellbent

What I enjoyed about this novel was not the overabundance of killing, or the “Superhero” abilities of the protagonist, or the cycle of vengeance. Evan Smoak, involved in all of the above, was also learning to live with other people. He rescued a young teenage girl. At first he had no idea what to do with her and kept trying to find a safe place to dump her. But with time he learned to appreciate her, and they developed a relationship like father/daughter or mentor/student. Sometimes she was the teacher and he learned from her.

I enjoyed the underlying story about the growing friendship and about Evan trying to connect with a mother and son who lived in his building. But there was far too much violence, and the bad guys were just bad guys.

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.