Tag Archives: books

Gregg Hurwitz — Out of the Dark: (Orphan X #4)

This novel would rate five stars except there’s far too much violence.

Evan Smoak is Orphan X. The Orphan program was a deep, dark, black-ops program where children were recruited and trained as assassins. Evan was taken from a group home at age twelve and lived with his trainer/mentor until he was nineteen and went out into the field on his first assignment. The Orphans were never told why their targets were chosen, only that they were enemies of the United States. Later Even left the program and became “The Nowhere Man” who worked for people in desperate need of help.

The U.S. president, who used to run the Orphan program, is now eliminating all the Orphans. When Evan’s mentor is murdered, he decides to go after President Bennett. But Evan is also Bennett’s number one target. Evan’s first assignment as an Orphan is one the president particularly wants to hide.

At the same time, Evan is working a case as The Nowhere Man, helping a young man with autism whose family has been wiped out by a drug cartel.

Evan is violent and indestructible. He has access to all the right people to get the job done. If you can get beyond the unbelievable traits, he’s interesting and likable.

Walter Mosley — John Woman

Strange but captivating—but that’s true of most literary novels that hold my interest (many don’t). The story is philosophical and the plot is complicated, so I won’t try to describe it except to say John Woman has an interesting interpretation of history. If you like to read a book that makes you think, this is a good candidate.

Mosley is known for his mystery/crime/detective stories with Easy Rawlins, Fearless Jones, or others. This is the second standalone literary novel of Mosley’s that I’ve read, and I thoroughly enjoyed both.

Carol Goodman — The Widow’s House

Clare and Jess Martin Move from NYC to a small town in the Hudson River Valley, to hopefully give them a new start on their marriage and their writing. They move into an old crumbling mansion owned by their former professor from a local college where they both attended school. According to local rumor, the house is haunted. Clare sees or imagines a ghost several times in the first few months at the house and begins writing a novel about a woman who left her baby on the back steps to freeze and then drowned in the pond behind the house. As Clare investigates local records for her book, she finds the facts don’t always match the rumors.

I’m not a big fan of ghost stories. I believe they’re meant to frighten the reader, and since I’m not afraid of ghosts, they lose the desired effect. But this was a good mystery plot, and the book left you wondering whether or not the house was truly haunted.

I couldn’t connect with any of the characters—Clare, a psychological mess living with abusive husband Jess; Monty, retired professor with an overblown ego; Katrine, nosey realtor who keeps showing up at the house, and others we don’t get to know well.

Good mystery plot, good setting, but a ghost story.

Sara Paretsky — Shell Game

I enjoyed this book, but I’m not quite sure why.

The characters were not very likeable, even the protagonist, V.I. (Vic) Warshawski, PI and lawyer. If I had read the numerous previous novels about her, maybe I would have connected more with her. She grew on me as the story progressed, but she was scattered, running around acting without thinking, almost always angry at the world and at most people. Many of her questions could have been answered by her “friends” in law enforcement instead of illegally breaking into homes or business offices.

The plot was helter-skelter. Vic had two clients—a friend’s nephew who was a person of interest in a murder because his name and phone number were found on the victim and Vic’s ex-husband’s niece who was looking for her missing sister. Even though the cases appeared to have nothing to do with each other, they became offshoots of the same crime.

Spoiler alert. I’m disappointedwith the ending. Vic’s ex, whom she despised, was one of the bad guys, but she didn’t turn him in.

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.

John Grisham — The Rooster Bar

Four students in their last year at a for-profit law school are in debt to the tune of approximately $200,000 each. One of the student’s does extensive research on the school and finds that not only do half the students fail the bar after graduation, but even less find jobs in the legal profession. He also finds that one person, through various shell corporations, owns several law schools plus interest in financial institutions holding student loans and a corrupt bank. Unstable and seeing no way out of his dilemma, he commits suicide. The remaining three in the group drop out of law school and proceed to find ways to scam the scammers.

This makes it seem to be a depressing story, but it’s not. It’s an entertaining tale about young people trying to beat the system that’s stacked against them.

If you want to know more about the real law school rip-offs, read this story from The Atlantic: The Law-School Scam.

This was a much better story than The Reckoning, which was the last Grisham novel I read.

Jude Deveraux — A Willing Murder

This novel is a cozy murder mystery with a dash of chick flick, some romance, some humor, some family saga, and a lot of small town gossip and rumor. Realtor Kate Medlar moves to Lachlan, Florida and stays in an old mansion with her aunt Sara Medlar, romance novelist, and Sara’s friend Jake Wyatt, builder. When a tree falls over in the back yard of a house Jake is remodeling, the unlikely trio of sleuths find the bones of two women in the roots of the tree.

I did figure out the villains in the story long before the end. And I could see that Deveraux left relationships to be explored in the next book.

The novel is a well-written, quick and easy read with believable, lively characters and small town dynamics.

Walter Mosley — Charcoal Joe

Mosley writes classic hard-boiled PI fiction. We ride along with Easy Rawlins as he tries to prove a young black man’s innocence who was in the wrong place at the wrong time and to help others solve their problems along the way. One of those problems is to hide an African king who has married Easy’s ex-girlfriend in order to immigrate to the States and escape those from his home country who want to kill him.

The excellent writing pulls you into the dark side of LA and the characters are interesting and believable. Charcoal Joe is one of those books that kept me up into the middle of the night.

Jonathan and Jesse Kellerman — A Measure of Darkness

Often when two writers collaborate, I can feel the change of voice between scenes and/or characters. But this father and son team work together so seamlessly, the novel reads as if there is only one author.

A Measure of Darkness is a police procedural with Deputy Coroner Clay Edison following up on the victims of a wild party gone awry. Gunshots killed three people, one a child sleeping in a house across the street from the party. A car trying to escape the chaos runs over and kills a fourth victim. When searching the property, Edison and Detective Nwodo find a woman strangled and stuffed into a gardening shed. The story follows Edison and Nwodo as they try to track down the family of the woman killed by the car and to find the identity of the woman in the shed (and of course, who killed her).

The plot twists and turns around several characters connected through a very strange boarding school. I had no idea who murdered the Jane Doe until the end. The characters involved in the crimes and the members of Edison’s family are varied and interesting, even humorous at times. Settings are detailed and visual in and around Alameda County, California.

The book kept me reading into the wee hours of the night. I’ll look for more books by this duo.

Dean Koontz — The Crooked Staircase

Even though her cause is just and those she hunts are not, Jane Hawk is becoming as vicious and brutal as the enemy. Koontz keeps the tension and suspense high, with Jane, her son, and her friends in more and more danger. But…

This third book in the series doesn’t really advance the plot, and we need to plow through at least two more very long books to get the climax. Also, Koontz spends a lot of chapters in this one on twins who are victims of the evil, elitist cabal out to control the masses. But there is no connection to Jane and her quest to stop the cabal. I may skip the fourth book and wait for the fifth, which I hope is the last.