Category Archives: thriller

Mark de Castrique — The Singularity Race

Not too far into our future, several companies and governments are on the verge of creating the Singularity, the ultimate in Artificial Intelligence (AI). What if they create a machine mind that can surpass human intelligence, can control all of our communications, and has no moral values?

Scientists from around the world are meeting at a conference in Washington, DC. Prime Protection, a private security company, has the job of protecting the scientists who are being threatened by an anti-technology terrorist group. Ted Lewiston, the head of Prime Protection, asks Ex-Secret Service agent Rusty Mullins, to protect Chinese scientist Dr. Li and her nephew—one last job before he retires. A team of assassins storms the conference, killing top scientists and Lewiston. Mullins manages to save Dr. Li and nephew Peter.

Lewiston’s wife convinces Mullins to investigate who is responsible for her husband’s death and scientist/genius/billionaire Robert Brentwood wants Mullins to protect Dr. Li who is starting work at his company working on Apollo, his company’s AI. Brentwood’s goal, and the reason he hired Dr. Li, is to create a subconscious and morality for Apollo.

The plot twists and turns, leaving you trying to figure out who are the good guys and bad guys. Are Mullins, Dr. Li, and Peter protected or prisoners? Murder, kidnappings, missing scientists, Mullins’ family threatened…

Fast-paced and intriguing, the book kept me reading. I have to admit there were a couple of places where I thought Mullins missed the obvious or came to a realization a little late. I enjoyed the ride and will go back for more from author de Castrique.

Amy Gentry — Good as Gone

Thirteen-year-old Julie is abducted from her home in the middle of the night as her ten-year-old sister Jane looks on in fear from the closet. Eight years later, Julie shows up at her family’s door. That’s the beginning and the end of two stories. The current story moves forward through mother Anna’s eyes as she begins to doubt that the girl who appeared on her doorstep is her daughter. And the story of Julie moves backward through the eight years as Julie takes on one persona then another to the time when she left her home.

This thriller is about the two women and how they deal with tragedy. A mother who drinks and hides from life, ignoring the daughter and husband who are still with her, cannot except that the returning daughter is lying and might not be who she says. The daughter who does whatever it takes to survive—changing names and life stories as she moves from one situation to another— is always running, always lying to herself as well as others.

As a writer, I found the point of view (POV) in this novel interesting, The Prologue is the only place the author uses sister Jane’s POV—third person past. In Chapter 1 we jump to the mother Anna’s POV—first person present. When the story shifts to Julie and her various role’s POV it’s third person past, until the last part of the book where it’s Julie’s POV—first person past. It sounds confusing but it works.

The book grabbed my attention and held it to the end.

Ridley Pearson — White Bone

What a delight! I was transported back to East Africa—the sights, smells, sounds, the dry air, some of the same plants and animals. In my mind, I was there. Even though my two years were in Asmara, Ethiopia (now Eritrea) and surrounding area, and this novel takes place in Kenya, it all felt very familiar. Granted, the atmosphere and politics of Ethiopia in the early 1960s was much different than those of current Kenya. Asmara at the time of my two-year stay was fairly clean, peaceful, and civilized. The present day Nairobi, as described in Pearson’s book, is dirty, poor, corrupt, and violent. I could still feel the similarities.

Getting to the story, Grace Chu is sent to Kenya to find out what happened at a client’s clinic where a vaccine is making people sick, even killing children. She discovers connections between poachers of elephants and rhinos, the illegal ivory trade to China and elsewhere, the theft of a vaccine for cattle, and missing ivory from the Kenyan treasury. She hasn’t been heard from for two days, and her partner John Knox goes to find her.

The characters in the book are varied. Pearson takes you into the heads and hearts two main characters, Grace and John. Both have unique, strong personalities. I was especially fascinated by Grace and her ability to survive the bush of Kenya. The author also gives us insight into others’ motivations, including the leader of a band of poachers and a man who hunts poachers and kills them to protect the animals he loves.

White Bone is the latest in a series about Knox and Chu. I will definitely read some of the earlier novels. If you’ve ever wanted to visit the area, read this international thriller and let your imagination run wild.

J. D. Robb — Apprentice in Death

This review is more about the author (J. D. Robb, aka Nora Roberts) and her writing style than the story. First, let me say I am in awe of a woman who can publish over 200 novels in 36 years. That’s an average of almost six a year. And she writes well!

I haven’t read a book from the “in Death” series for many years. Long enough that I wasn’t at all familiar with the series protagonist, Lieutenant Eve Dallas. I imagine she’s changed over the years. In this story, she is a driven, very smart cop. She was in control of the investigation from beginning to end. She kept everyone moving in the right direction. She is also in a loving relationship with her husband, Roarke. He is rich, brilliant, and of course handsome. He treats her unbelievably well, and he even helps with the case with his money, ideas, and inventions. But Robb pulls this off without making it feel “over the top.”

This is a crime novel or a police procedural, and you know who the villains are very early.  But tracking them and preventing more killings keep the pace hard and fast. The author doesn’t let you pause for breath except for a few short breaks with Dallas and Roarke at home.

Two things about the writing were strange to me. First is the point of view. Robb uses omniscient POV. She knows what everyone is thinking…more or less. At times she seems to be using third person for long passages, especially with Dallas. Other times she switches back and forth rapidly between characters. This would normally drive me crazy. But Robb does it almost seamlessly.

The second strange idea in the novel is the time frame, 2061. True there are some tools, weapons, etc. that don’t exist today. But the story could be written in today’s world losing nothing. If I were to pick a time without knowing the date, I would guess ten years from now. Many of the special tools are available now or will be in a few years. Transportation was strange. Even in 2061, they weren’t using self-driving vehicles. The one thing we probably won’t have soon is off-planet prisons.

I enjoyed Apprentice in Death. It kept my attention, I liked all the characters, and the setting brought me back to New York City. Mainly, it was a good story. I’ll probably go back and read some of the previous books in the series.

Lisa Gardner — Find Her

Gardner writes excellent psychological mystery/thrillers. This one gets into the head of a kidnap survivor, Flora Dane. She is not the same person as she was before her abduction five years earlier. She deals with her trauma by chasing down villains who have abused or murdered other women.  She puts herself in harm’s way.

At the beginning of the story, she is attacked and left in a garage where she rummages through the abuser’s trash to find the tools to kill him when he returns.

Other interesting characters in the story are Boston Police Detective D.D. Warren, Flora’s victim advocate, and her mother who never stops loving her. D.D. is supposed to be on restricted duty due to an injury, but she needs to be in control of the situation and keeps going off on her own without informing her team. She doesn’t know whether Flora is a victim or a vigilante. Flora’s victim advocate is always there for her and joins forces with D.D. when Flora is kidnapped again.

A complex plot and the interesting characters kept me reading late into the night.

Barry Eisler — Livia Lone

Barry Eisler writes assassins as protagonists. I’ve read several of his John Rain, assassin, novels. Now he has created a new assassin or vigilante, Livia Lone. She is a Seattle police detective dedicated to bringing predators to justice. But at times when the system doesn’t do the job, she executes her own form of justice.

The story tells how Livia became what she is, both detective and killer. She was sold by her parents at age thirteen along with her eleven-year-old sister and was shipped from Thailand to the States with a group of people in a container. The men who controlled them abused Livia and she allowed it to protect her sister. After she attacked one of her captors, they took her sister, who was then returned to the container in a near catatonic state. Livia was separated from her sister in Portland, Oregon, and was “rescued” by a powerful man who adopted her and abused her. Her driving goal throughout her life was to find her sister.

Probably classified as thriller/mystery, this is truly a horror story—not in the horror genre, but the horror of human trafficking, the horror of the abuse that drives Livia to become what she is, and the horror of what she does to the predators. You need a strong stomach to read this, but it kept my attention and I was rooting for Livia.

David Baldacci — The Guilty

I always enjoy David Baldacci’s novels. I enjoyed this one too, even though it was too macho and filled with too much killing by both the bad guys and the good. I guess that’s to be expected when the two main characters are government assassins—Will Robie and partner Jessica Reel.

The plot twists and turns, interesting but at times unbelievable. I like that Robie goes back to his hometown to help his father, who he hasn’t seen or spoken to in over twenty years. I felt as if the first two or three chapters explaining why he did this could have been condensed into a couple of pages or left out altogether.

Not my favorite of Baldacci’s books, but interesting enough to keep me reading to the end.

Steve Hamilton — The Second Life of Nick Mason

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There is no fun or laughter in this story, but it gripped me and kept me reading into the wee small hours of the morning. I’m not even sure how to classify this book—thriller, crime fiction—but from the point of view of the crook, not the cop.

Nick Mason is a small time criminal in Chicago. Caught in a bad situation, he is sent to prison for 25 to life. He makes a deal with mob boss Cole who is running the crime world from prison. Cole manages to get Mason’s conviction overturned and his release after five years’ time. The condition is that when his phone rings, he will answer and do whatever is asked.

Mason fascinated me. He hates what he is doing but is extremely good at it. His ex-wife has remarried and won’t allow him to see his daughter. He hangs around her soccer games in the shadows to watch her play. He buys a dog and starts dating the woman at the pet store. He shares a luxury apartment, supplied by Cole, with the woman who runs the restaurant where his “official job” is assistant manager. They barely speak to each other.

Tense, well written, many good characters, a great picture of the underside of Chicago.

Robert Crais — Suspect

I! Love! This! Book!

I don’t usually read two books in a row by the same author, but after reading The Promise, I went looking for Suspect. I wanted to read more about LAPD K-9 cop, Scott James, and his German shepard partner, Maggie.

Scott and Maggie are both suffering from PTSD. Five hooded men shot Scott and killed his partner and two civilians almost ten months earlier. He refused to take medical leave and opted to join the canine corp. He finds Maggie cowering in a crate. Scott’s sergeant, Dominic Leland, has scheduled her to be sent home due to problems adjusting to training. Scott and Maggie connect. The sergeant reluctantly lets him take the dog home, giving them (man and dog) two weeks before another evaluation. Leland doesn’t believe either will make the grade.

New detectives assigned to the case where Scott was injured invite him to help. Frustration and anger keep leading him into trouble.

The best part of this book is the growing relationship between Scott and Maggie—how they help each other recover. Excellent writing. Possibly Crais’ best novel.

Robert Crais — The Promise

Elvis Cole and Joe Pike are PI partners in LA that Robert Crais has been writing about through a long series of novels. Cole is a somewhat flaky, flippant character with a hard core and a good heart. Pike is a tough, silent ex-marine. In this story Jon Stone, a black-ops contractor and friend of Pike’s, joins them. The three of them are out to save a woman from herself who is seeking revenge for the death of her son.

Hard-bitten characters fill the novel. Most are not what or whom they appear to be when we meet them. But my favorite characters in this story are LAPD K-9 cop, Scott James, and his German Shepard partner, Maggie. Crais writes in multiple points of view, including the bad guys. He even gives us Maggie’s POV and does it very well. He doesn’t try to make her human. I’m planning to read The Suspect, which is Crais’ previous book about Scott and Maggie.

Crais wrote for television before he began to publish crime novels and has won many awards for his writing. He’s one of my favorite authors.