Category Archives: strange

Joseph Wambaugh — Hollywood Hills

Most of this novel is filled with tales of the motley crew of Hollywood Hills cops taking police calls—a mixture of hilarious, sad, heartbreaking, and violent stories. But mixed in with the incidents is a crime plot with many weird twists and turns. Wambaugh writes with such finesse and detailed characterization that you understand all the players’ (good an bad) motivations.

The book keeps you reading to see what crazy action will happen next.

Hank Green — An Absolutely Remarkable Thing

I read #2 in this series, A Beautiful Foolish Endeavor, before #1. That’s not usually a good idea, but in this case, it may have helped. On one side, I knew and appreciated the characters better. On the other side, I already knew how the story would end.

I probably didn’t judge April May as harshly as I might have if I read this book first. She’s quirky, self-centered, and addicted to fame. She’s young and foolish, makes stupid mistakes, and mistreats her friends. But overall, I found her amusing, believable, and somewhat likable. April May believes in humans, and she believes the alien Carl is good, not threatening. Her goal is to convince the world of both. But she gets sidetracked trying to please her huge social media following and stay in the spotlight.

I liked the book, but #2 was better. If I’d read #1 first, I would have been irritated by the ending, which leaves you hanging. The two books are obviously one story. The fact is, I enjoyed this book even knowing the plot in advance.

Candice Fox – Gone by Midnight

In addition to her great characterization, Fox gives us a crocodile-filled picture of the setting in Queensland, Australia, a complex and twisty plot (a locked room mystery), emotions (head, heart, and humor), plus coverage of some themes such as wrongful crime accusations, bad police behavior, parenting, truthfulness (or not), and more.

When I read several books in a series, sometimes the main characters begin to lose their attraction for me. Not so with Candice Fox’s Crystal Lake series. PI partners Ted Conkaffey and Amanda Pharrell, both with dark pasts and quirky personalities (especially Amanda), continue to fascinate. Fox’s coverage of all her characters—villains, suspects, police, extras, etc.—is thorough and entertaining.

Gone by Midnight is my favorite in the series. Looking for #4.

Dean Koontz — Devoted

I’ve read Dean Koontz in the past with mixed feelings. Some are excellent and some I haven’t finished due to lack of interest. This one is somewhere in between. The differences in Koontz’s writing styles makes me wonder if he uses ghostwriters, or if he has multiple personalities.

Devoted is a mix of fantasy, suspense, genetics SF, horror, psychological thriller, paranormal, and maybe a “shaggy dog story” without the humor. It’s the story of an intelligent dog, Kipp, and an autistic eleven-year-old boy, Woody, who has never spoken a word. The boy screams a psychic cry for help that is picked up by “The Wire,” a telepathic communication network for a group of dogs. Kipp comes to the rescue.

My biggest problem with this book is the characters all appear to be seen from the point of view of the dog. All the people are either very bad (haters, liars, greedy, etc.) or unbelievably good (loving, truth-tellers, sympathetic, loyal, etc.). The good people have no bad characteristics, and the bad have no good. And of course, all the dogs are noble.

The best part of the book is the hopeful ending.

Erin Morgenstern — The Starless Sea

The Starless Sea is a story about the love of stories.

The main plot lies mostly underground in a world filled with stories—in books and paintings and sculptures and even in people. Zachary Ezra Rawlings finds an uncatalogued book with no listed author in the library. The book contains a story about him when as a young boy he missed the opportunity of opening a door painted on a wall. But the book is older than Zachary. How could the author know his story? His search for the source of the book leads him to the labyrinth of stories lying under his feet.

Morgenstern’s novel is filled with unrelated stories, fables, fairytales, and myths that intertwine and finally connect at the end of the book. These individual stories contain romance, loss, time and fate, humor…

I’m not usually a fan of fantasy, but I was absorbed in this book and Morgenstern’s excellent writing. She has a fantastic imagination.

Dave Eggers — The Parade

The Parade is a psychological, political, literary novella about two anonymous contractors hired to pave a road in an unknown civil-war-torn country. Two opposite personalities travel from the poor south to the city in the north. The author tells the story from “Four’s” point of view. His goal is to follow the rules, don’t interact with the locals, get the job done on time for the parade, and go home. We only see “Nine” through “Four’s” perspective, as a happy-go-lucky rule-breaker who pays little attention to the job and spends his time mixing with the locals, partying, drinking, sleeping with the women, and giving away company property. “Nine” is interested in what’s happening to the country, its people, and what the road will mean to them.

I would give the book four stars, except that I guessed the twist at the end from the very beginning. Maybe I have a twisted mind.

Candice Fox — Eden

This mystery/thriller/crime novel takes place in the underbelly of Sydney, Australia. The author creates unique descriptions of places and characters, even the minor ones. A dark story filled with dark people—addicts, prostitutes, gangsters, killers, corrupt cops, and more. The second book in a series, I didn’t feel I missed anything by not reading the first, Hades.

Three girls have gone missing, and police detective Eden goes undercover to a farm where all three have lived at different times. Her partner Frank gets involved in a side job for Eden’s father, Hades, to identify a stalker and to solve an old cold case of a missing woman.

Although grim, the story kept my attention to the end. I was surprised by the ending.

Good writing.

Candice Fox — Redemption Point

Fox writes a dark, twisted murder mystery filled with convoluted characters.

Ex-police officer turned PI, Ted Conkaffey, has moved north from Sydney to a small town in the Australian rainforest trying to hide from his past. Although innocent and never prosecuted due to lack of evidence, accusations of child rape plastered his name and face all over the news and the internet and completely disrupted his life—lost job, broken marriage, strangers who react to his familiar face. He lives with a family of geese that he brought into his yard to rescue from the crocodiles.

Ted’s partner, Amanda Pharrell, has no emotions, but strangely possesses the ability to read other people. When she was a teenager, she accidentally killed a girl and spent time in prison, which she refers to as the best time of her life. She’s an upbeat, smiling personality who rides her bike everywhere, refusing to drive a car.

Pip Sweeney, on her first assignment as Detective Inspector, hooks up with Ted and Amanda to investigate the murder of two young people at a rundown bar. She’s fascinated by Amanda. Pip carries guilt from when, as a child, she sat and watched her father die of a heart attack and did nothing to save him. She’s young and naïve and relies heavily on Amanda’s quirky insights.

The author adds excerpts from the diary of the perpetrator of the crime of which Conkaffey was accused. Another weird character, sick and twisted.

There are other off-beat minor characters—the father of the raped girl, who comes after Ted, then turns to looking for the real offender; the owner of the bar where the two bartenders were killed; a crime kingpin in Sydney; some of the neighbors around the bar; the girlfriend of the young man murdered in the bar. Almost every character is quirky, strange, or dark.

This second book in a series about Ted and Amanda covered the previous story thoroughly enough that I don’t feel I need to go back and read it. The plot kept my interest, there was even some humor here and there, and the setting in the rainforest felt real. But I didn’t connect at all with the scenes in Sydney; I couldn’t picture the city. The weird characters kept me reading. Definitely a character-driven book.

Tim Johnston — The Current

The Current is a strange story written in a strange style, and it leaves unanswered questions at the end. It’s closer to real life where everything doesn’t get neatly tied up. There is mystery here, but not your typical “whodunit” mystery, maybe a literary mystery.

I enjoyed the story, but it took a little while to understand the flow. At times Johnston writes stream of consciousness, sometimes he uses second person POV, head-hopping from one character to another, and he skips back and forth between timelines. But he digs deep into the psyches of his characters—love, hate, grief, curiosity, need-to-know, vengeance—and tells all that is going on around them—sights, smells, heat and cold, sounds, skin sensations.

I enjoyed the book but only gave it four stars. It grabbed my attention, my heart, and my mind. But the author could have made it a little easier to follow without losing the grip of the story.

Peter Swanson — Before She Knew Him

We know who the killer is from the beginning of this book, but that doesn’t spoil the story. Hen and her husband Lloyd have moved into a new neighborhood in a small Massachusetts town. She reluctantly attends a party and sees a trophy in neighbor Matthew’s office that she believes is connected to a murder she obsessively researched a few years earlier.

She tells the police, but due to a history of mental problems, they distrust her credibility. Lloyd even doubts her. Hen and Matthew have conversations where he admits he has murdered people.

The novel is a suspenseful psychological thriller. Swanson held my interest throughout, even though I suspected the ending twist.