Category Archives: setting

Stieg Larsson — The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

I intended to read this book years ago and finally got to it. I won’t go into great detail. There are plenty of reviews available with so much detail you almost don’t need to read the book.

There are two plots. The story begins with Mikael Blomkvist’s conviction for libel for an article he wrote about billionaire businessman Wennerström. This plot line stays in the background until late in the book. Mikael is then hired by Vander, another rich man, to write a family history as a cover to find out what happened to his granddaughter, Harriet, who disappeared almost forty years earlier. This is the plot that consumes most of the book.

The book covers many subjects including business greed and crime, abuse of women, twisted family relationships, journalism ethics, Swedish Nazism, computer hacking, and more.

There are also two main characters: Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander, (the girl with the dragon tattoo). Lisbeth doesn’t get involved with the investigation until about halfway through the story, but we follow what she is doing before that. Larsson gives us great detail about both of these very different characters.

I enjoyed the book from the beginning, even though the first half was rather slow with too much detail about clothes, meals, and day-to-day minutia. Mikael spends a lot of time on the family history and very little on the missing girl until way into the book.

The climax of the story occurs about three-quarters of the way through. The rest of the book ties up all the loose ends, including the first plot.

Larsson’s writing kept me interested from beginning to end.

James Lee Burke — The New Iberia Blues

Burke writes vivid settings. He brings you into the bayous of Louisiana and activates all your senses—sight, sound, smell, taste, touch—and more. He laments what greed and politics is doing to his beloved land.

His characters (good guys and bad guys) have depth. But protagonist, Dave Robicheaux, has to be in his eighties and is still playing cop and lusting after women in their twenties. Dream on, Burke. A bit less of Robicheaux’s anger and feeling sorry for himself would make him more likable and move the story along.

The plot keeps you guessing about the villain, who is ritualistically killing members of the community using a tarot theme. But I did suspect the killer early on.

Dennis Lehane — The Drop

A very dark tale set in the underbelly of Boston. Lehane paints very vivid portraits of his characters, some of whom you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley. There is a nice story of a man and his dog woven through the novel plus the building of a romance between two lonely people.

The author is an excellent writer holding my interest in the story and all the unsavory characters.

Haylen Beck — Here and Gone

Here and Gone kept me on the edge of my seat throughout the whole book. What would you do if a sheriff in the middle of nowhere pulled you over with a trumped-up charge and took your children away? Then he claims there were no children in your car. No one believes you—state police, FBI, media all think you have killed your children.

Unlike many of today’s thrillers that are filled with violence and farfetched scenarios, this is an intense, believable psychological thriller.

Kim Stanley Robinson — Red Moon

Excellent book!
Red Moon is combination of speculative fiction, near-future, environmental, political, hard and soft science fiction, moon colonization, and a little space opera thrown in. Even though it’s called Red Moon, much of the story takes place in China. All the main characters but one are Chinese.

The amount of knowledge and research required for this book is mind-boggling—China’s history, geography, present day culture, technology, and politics; moon geology; quantum mechanics; artificial intelligence; space travel; cryptocurrency; global economics; moon exploration; and more.

Robinson paints images of the moon and China in such detail that you feel you are there, from earthrise on the moon to crowds of millions of protestors in Beijing. He also depicts various contrasting possibilities for communities on the moon.

He extends the unrest in today’s world into a political and economic crisis in China and the United States (and the world) of the near future, with a hopeful outcome.

The characters are varied, interesting, and believable. Fred Frederickson, an American delivering a quantum phone to the moon, is accused of murdering his client. Chan Qi, the daughter of China’s Minister of Finance and a leader in the opposition to the current government, is hiding on the moon and is pregnant. Poet and celebrity travel reporter Ta Shu helps Fred and Qi evade their pursuers. There is even an AI who matures throughout the book. Even the less major characters are interesting.

The story kept me involved from beginning to end.

Preston & Child — The Pharaoh Key

Gideon Crew and Manuel Garza have been dumped by their boss as he shuts down his company without notice. On their way out the door, they discover a computer has solved the translation to an ancient disk. But the translation is in code. When they finally break the code, it turns out to be a map to a remote corner of the Egyptian desert. With only a few months to live, Gideon has nothing to lose, and Garza is hoping to find lost treasure as payment for the years he has given his employer. A lack of guides who are willing to travel to the prohibited region forces them to join a camel caravan with archeologist/geologist/Egyptologist Imogen Blackburn.

Their journey is full of pitfalls and perils, from escaping a sinking ferry in the Red Sea, to being abandoned in the desert without supplies or camels, to the threat of beheading by a tribe of natives…

Reading this made me feel like I was living through an Indiana Jones movie. A true action/adventure book.

Dean Koontz – The Whispering Room

I haven’t read Dean Koontz for a while, and I haven’t read any of the previous Jane Hawk novels. I’ve been missing out.

Jane is on a quest to find out who caused her husband to commit suicide. Someone or something was controlling him. As she starts to find answers, “they” threaten her five-year-old son. This turns Jane into a rogue FBI agent bent on protecting her boy and destroying those who endanger him and seek power over the masses.

The characters are interesting and believable, even the minor ones. Settings are well done; this novel takes you all over the country. Quite a road trip. There is action and dark adventure, a plot that is believable and scary.

My only problem with the story is the ending. Koontz left loose ends to entice you to read the next installment.

Good read.

p.s. I went back and read the first book of the series, The Silent Corner. It would be better to read them in order. This is definitely a series. You’ll want to read them all to get the full story. Two more books are available, and one is due May, 2019.

Both The Silent Corner and The Whispering Room are excellent writing.

Anne Hillerman — Cave of Bones

Anne Hillerman is Tony Hillerman’s daughter. Father Tony started a series of novels about Leaphorn and Chee, two Navaho tribal policemen in the four corners area of New Mexico. Anne continued the series adding Tribal Police Officer Bernadette (Bernie) Manuelito, who married Chee.

Many incidents keep Bernie occupied:

  • A young girl, Annie, wanders off from an outreach program on the lava fields. Her instructor/trail guide goes looking for her. Even though Annie returns the next morning, the guide is unexpectedly missing. He is very familiar with the area.
  • Annie found ancient bones in a cave. When Bernie later checks the cave, she finds the site has been disturbed. It appears someone has been illegally stealing artifacts from a sacred Navajo site.
  • Bernie finds a wrecked pickup truck with the driver still inside, apparently hallucinating. He dies in the hospital.
  • A blizzard shuts down the highway and Bernie’s car slides off the road.
  • A box that Bernie took from the pickup to deliver for the driver is stolen from her car.
  • And more…

Many of these incidents end up being related in the end.

Chee is in Santa Fe taking some courses for his job. He is asked to check on a woman’s son who has quit communicating with her. The son also ends up missing. He also checks on Bernie’s sister who is taking a class at an art school. He doesn’t trust her boyfriend.

The plot is intricate with many hints about what is happening throughout the story. At times, I felt Bernie brushed aside her instincts and ignored what could have led her to a quick conclusion.

Author Anne Hillerman obviously loves the land of New Mexico. Her descriptions are beautiful. She also has a great interest in the Navaho customs and traditions.

In the past, I’ve read some of Tony Hillerman’s books. This is the first I’ve read by Anne Hillerman.

I enjoyed the trip through New Mexico, the Navajo background information, the characters, and the story.

Nora Roberts — Shelter in Place

This month my library “books-by-mail” service sent two books by romance writers—Shelter in Place by Nora Roberts and Shattered Mirror by Iris Johansen. I’m not a fan of romance novels and had both authors categorized in my brain as a romance writers. But I read both, and neither were romance novels. I wasn’t thrilled with Johansen’s book. The characters felt flat to me. But Robert’s book was a different story.

I haven’t read anything by Nora Roberts in many years. Shelter in Place was a very pleasant surprise. The plot was intriguing, the characters pulled me in, and I enjoyed the visit to the Maine coast.

The story starts with a mass shooting at a Mall in Portland. We see this horrible event from several characters points of view. Robert’s follows some of the survivors through the next few years, all dealing with the shock to their lives in different ways. Then a serial killer starts murdering survivors.

In the last third of the book there is a romance blossoming. But that’s forgivable. Many good thrillers and mysteries serve up a side dish of romance.

I thoroughly enjoyed Shelter in Place.

Lee Child — The Midnight Line: A Jack Reacher Novel

A few days ago I watched a video of Stephen King interviewing Lee Child. Two of my favorite authors talking about writing—I loved it. In the interview, Lee Child talked about his lack of plotting. He said he asks a question at the beginning of the book and answers it by the end.

A friend had dropped off a copy of Child’s The Midnight Line and it was at the bottom of my “to read” pile next to my bed. I moved it to the top of the pile and quickly consumed it. I found that not only is there an unanswered question at the beginning, but there are more questions cropping up throughout the book. Each question needs to be answered, not necessarily in the order they appear in the story. The original question is answered long before the end of the book, but there are so many more that need answers, which kept me reading to the end.

In The Midnight Line Reacher finds a woman’s West Point class ring in a pawn shop in Wisconsin. His curiosity about why someone would pawn a ring that is so difficult to earn leads him to track her down and find out why. Reacher smells trouble and in his usual vigilante style sets out to solve the mystery and save the damsel in distress. His trek takes him through South Dakota into a sparsely populated corner of Wyoming.

Pronghorn in Wyoming

I read some reviews on Amazon and found a number who were not happy with this book. (Many more gave it high ratings.) The low raters all seemed to think it didn’t have enough action and violence. To me, there is much more to a Reacher novel than violence, and this one had plenty of action even though he wasn’t killing a lot of people.

I find Child’s unique writing style fascinating. I’m not sure I can describe it. Rhythmic, quick, and precise are words that come to mind. This book has an underlying theme about the current opiate addiction crisis and the government’s poor treatment of veterans. He gives in-depth pictures of characters and lets us follow Reacher’s calculation and planning. We even get a look at the possible thoughts and behaviors of addicts. Child took me on a journey through the back-country of Southern Wyoming.

The book has all of my three H’s—head, heart, and humor. I feel he’s an excellent writer and storyteller. He doesn’t follow the rules, but that makes the reading more interesting. You never know what to expect.