Category Archives: thriller

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.

Preston & Child — Beyond the Ice Limit

This novel is a science fiction thriller by two authors, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. Gideon Crew has been asked to help destroy an alien who arrived on Earth as an asteroid. The asteroid turned out to be a seed, which has planted itself in the waters off the Antarctic two miles down. If allowed to grow and reproduce it will destroy the planet in order to send more seeds into space.

The plot is good; it keeps you reading. There is a varied cast of characters, but I found them a little flat. I wanted more from them, wanted to get into their heads. Gideon is apparently a returning character from previous books. Maybe we are supposed to know him already and that’s the reason I’m not feeling particularly attached to him.

Still, the story is good and I enjoyed the adventure.

Michael Connelly — The Crossing

One thing about crime novels that bugs me is that you know who the bad guys are from the beginning. But of course, the protagonist doesn’t know. Even though this tale begins with a scene involving the villains, we don’t know how or why they committed the crime. In this case, the crime in the first chapter is not the one that the story is about. As with most police procedurals (although the main character is no longer a cop), the details of how the detective unravels the plot and figures out “who done it” is what keeps you reading. Connelly is a master of the twists and turns.

This novel centers on Harry Bosch, a newly retired police detective. He is talked into investigating a murder for his brother, Mickey Haller, a defense attorney. Haller believes his client, who has been arrested for the crime, is innocent. But Bosch thinks all defense lawyers believe their clients didn’t commit the crimes. Bosch has a problem with working for the defense. His whole life has been about catching the criminals. Working to help the accused get off goes against his deepest instincts. He goes about the investigation as if he were still a policeman—trying to not cross the line where he would be working against law enforcement. He believes if he can catch the real perpetrator(s), he can keep his principals in tact.

It was slow getting started for me. Probably because the book starts with the antagonists’ point of view. But I quickly got into the story and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Curtis C. Chen — Waypoint Kangaroo

Waypoint Kangaroo is a delightful, high-tech, SF thriller with lots of humor thrown in. Kangaroo is the code name for a spy who has the unique ability to open a “pocket” into an alternate universe where he can store all sorts of tools and toys and retrieve them later. Since he’s somewhat of a loose cannon, he has been ordered to go on vacation on a tourist ship to Mars so that he’ll be out of the way while the home office is audited.

Of course, he runs into trouble on his vacation.

The characters are fun and the plot is fast-paced and full of twists and turns. The author has a vivid imagination when it comes to the space ship, the techy stuff, and the weird “pocket.”

Chen wrote a captivating first novel. Try it. You might like it.

John Sandford — Extreme Prey

This novel is the latest in the “Prey” series with Lucas Davenport as protagonist. It takes place in Iowa during a presidential campaign. Lucas is investigating a threat to one of the candidates (Bowden) for the Minnesota governor (Henderson) who is also a candidate, but not the one being threatened. Bowden is not concerned, thinking the governor may be using the threat to get her to leave the campaign trail in Iowa.

The book is listed as a mystery and thriller. Thriller fits, but there isn’t a lot of mystery. We know the bad guys—political extremists—from the beginning and that they are planning to eliminate Bowden, whom they believe is bad for the country. It feels more like police procedural than mystery to me, even though Davenport is no longer a cop and is working as a consultant. But there are plenty of twists and turns as Lucas and Iowa law enforcement try to figure out what we already know and as other connected characters move in and out of the story.

My other complaint (sort of) is that Lucas Davenport’s personality seems a bit flat. Maybe the author has worked with Lucas too long and expects the reader to know all about him.

All of that said, I did enjoy the book.

David Baldacci — The Last Mile

Baldacci is one of my favorite authors and this is my favorite of his novels other than his first—Absolute Power.  In my opinion the two best strengths of Baldacci’s writing are his unusual characters and his intricate plots.

The Last Mile is an Amos Decker novel. I haven’t read the author’s first Amos Decker novel, but intend to read it now. Decker is a very unusual character. He has a condition called Hyperthymesia, caused by an old football injury, which causes him to remember everything. Along with his perfect memory, he has almost autistic social skills. The perfect memory is not always a blessing. He remembers in detail the death of his family.

Amos is working as a contractor for the FBI on unsolved cases. In this case, convicted murderer Melvin Mars is granted his release from death row when another man confesses to the crime. But Decker and his team prove that it was a false confession, even though they believe Mars is innocent. There are many twists and turns in the plot that keep you guessing throughout the novel.

The book is a page turner.