Tag Archives: reviews

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.

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.

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.

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.

Carla Neggers — Keeper’s Reach

The novel has a complex and interesting plot. I didn’t figure out the bad guy until the end. This is somewhat unusual for me. A man is hit on the head and left to die in England. Later on, Emma is kidnapped and left in an old barn in Maine. There appears to be no reason for either event, except possible a package mailed from an art thief in England to Emma in Maine. A large group of suspects are considered—FBI agents, the art thief, a group who knew each other in Afghanistan and are meeting in Maine, Americans spotted in England before the first assault…. Everyone seems to be suspecting and watching someone.

Keeper’s Reach is part of a romantic suspense series. I’m not a big fan of romance, but Neggers keeps it as background noise and not the main plot of the story. Also, this novel jumps into the middle of the series, and it might be better to read the previous adventures first. The author does a reasonable job of filling us in about what happened in earlier books. It’s almost a stand-alone novel.

A few too many characters appear or are mentioned. We don’t need to know about some who aren’t part of the story. The main couple, FBI agents Emma Sharpe and Colin Donovan, were on separate tracks, even in separate countries most of the time. They barely saw each other. The secondary couple, Colin’s brother Mike and agent Naomi MacBride, have a love-hate relationship—typical romance novel stuff.

The characters are interesting and the settings detailed. I could feel the cold of Maine in the winter.

Steven Axelrod — Nantucket Counterfeit

The book is a cross between a cozy mystery and a police procedural. Henry Kennis, Police Chief of Nantucket, is trying to solve the murder of Horst Refn, Artistic Director of the Nantucket Theater Lab. The crime follows the plot of the play the Theater Lab is working on, so of course, the author of the play is a person of interest. But the suspects are numerous, almost everyone who knew or worked with Refn. It appears he’s been scamming half the island. Even Kennis’s girlfriend Jane is identified by a witness as leaving the scene of the crime.

Kennis is a likable, easygoing detective who leads us down several wrong paths before landing the killer. The story is told with wit and warmth, and the setting of Nantucket takes me back to my visits to the island (although it seems a lot more crowded than 30 or so years ago).

Definitely a fun read.

David Baldacci — The Fallen

I like Amos Decker, the protagonist. He’s the Memory Man, afflicted or blessed with a photographic memory. It started when he suffered an extreme injury playing pro football. He has synesthesia, sees colors for numbers and sometimes events. The injury also changed his personality and he has problems with social interactions. But he tries hard to overcome his social awkwardness. Most of all, I like his big heart.

Decker and his FBI partner Alex Jamison are supposed to be on vacation, visiting her sister’s family. But from the backyard Decker spots a flickering light in the neighbor’s house on the next street and goes to investigate. He finds two dead bodies and a fire about to start from an exposed wire. So much for vacation.

The plot is complex. The characters are interesting. The setting makes you feel like you know this failing town. Fast-paced, filled with drugs, murder, insurance scams, family feuds, and more, this book is hard to put down.

Baldacci at his best.