Tag Archives: setting

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.

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.

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.

Dean Koontz – The Whispering Room

I haven’t read Dean Koontz for a while, and I haven’t read any of the previous Jane Hawk novels. I’ve been missing out.

Jane is on a quest to find out who caused her husband to commit suicide. Someone or something was controlling him. As she starts to find answers, “they” threaten her five-year-old son. This turns Jane into a rogue FBI agent bent on protecting her boy and destroying those who endanger him and seek power over the masses.

The characters are interesting and believable, even the minor ones. Settings are well done; this novel takes you all over the country. Quite a road trip. There is action and dark adventure, a plot that is believable and scary.

My only problem with the story is the ending. Koontz left loose ends to entice you to read the next installment.

Good read.

p.s. I went back and read the first book of the series, The Silent Corner. It would be better to read them in order. This is definitely a series. You’ll want to read them all to get the full story. Two more books are available, and one is due May, 2019.

Both The Silent Corner and The Whispering Room are excellent writing.

Anne Hillerman — Cave of Bones

Anne Hillerman is Tony Hillerman’s daughter. Father Tony started a series of novels about Leaphorn and Chee, two Navaho tribal policemen in the four corners area of New Mexico. Anne continued the series adding Tribal Police Officer Bernadette (Bernie) Manuelito, who married Chee.

Many incidents keep Bernie occupied:

  • A young girl, Annie, wanders off from an outreach program on the lava fields. Her instructor/trail guide goes looking for her. Even though Annie returns the next morning, the guide is unexpectedly missing. He is very familiar with the area.
  • Annie found ancient bones in a cave. When Bernie later checks the cave, she finds the site has been disturbed. It appears someone has been illegally stealing artifacts from a sacred Navajo site.
  • Bernie finds a wrecked pickup truck with the driver still inside, apparently hallucinating. He dies in the hospital.
  • A blizzard shuts down the highway and Bernie’s car slides off the road.
  • A box that Bernie took from the pickup to deliver for the driver is stolen from her car.
  • And more…

Many of these incidents end up being related in the end.

Chee is in Santa Fe taking some courses for his job. He is asked to check on a woman’s son who has quit communicating with her. The son also ends up missing. He also checks on Bernie’s sister who is taking a class at an art school. He doesn’t trust her boyfriend.

The plot is intricate with many hints about what is happening throughout the story. At times, I felt Bernie brushed aside her instincts and ignored what could have led her to a quick conclusion.

Author Anne Hillerman obviously loves the land of New Mexico. Her descriptions are beautiful. She also has a great interest in the Navaho customs and traditions.

In the past, I’ve read some of Tony Hillerman’s books. This is the first I’ve read by Anne Hillerman.

I enjoyed the trip through New Mexico, the Navajo background information, the characters, and the story.

Nora Roberts — Shelter in Place

This month my library “books-by-mail” service sent two books by romance writers—Shelter in Place by Nora Roberts and Shattered Mirror by Iris Johansen. I’m not a fan of romance novels and had both authors categorized in my brain as a romance writers. But I read both, and neither were romance novels. I wasn’t thrilled with Johansen’s book. The characters felt flat to me. But Robert’s book was a different story.

I haven’t read anything by Nora Roberts in many years. Shelter in Place was a very pleasant surprise. The plot was intriguing, the characters pulled me in, and I enjoyed the visit to the Maine coast.

The story starts with a mass shooting at a Mall in Portland. We see this horrible event from several characters points of view. Robert’s follows some of the survivors through the next few years, all dealing with the shock to their lives in different ways. Then a serial killer starts murdering survivors.

In the last third of the book there is a romance blossoming. But that’s forgivable. Many good thrillers and mysteries serve up a side dish of romance.

I thoroughly enjoyed Shelter in Place.

Lee Child — The Midnight Line: A Jack Reacher Novel

A few days ago I watched a video of Stephen King interviewing Lee Child. Two of my favorite authors talking about writing—I loved it. In the interview, Lee Child talked about his lack of plotting. He said he asks a question at the beginning of the book and answers it by the end.

A friend had dropped off a copy of Child’s The Midnight Line and it was at the bottom of my “to read” pile next to my bed. I moved it to the top of the pile and quickly consumed it. I found that not only is there an unanswered question at the beginning, but there are more questions cropping up throughout the book. Each question needs to be answered, not necessarily in the order they appear in the story. The original question is answered long before the end of the book, but there are so many more that need answers, which kept me reading to the end.

In The Midnight Line Reacher finds a woman’s West Point class ring in a pawn shop in Wisconsin. His curiosity about why someone would pawn a ring that is so difficult to earn leads him to track her down and find out why. Reacher smells trouble and in his usual vigilante style sets out to solve the mystery and save the damsel in distress. His trek takes him through South Dakota into a sparsely populated corner of Wyoming.

Pronghorn in Wyoming

I read some reviews on Amazon and found a number who were not happy with this book. (Many more gave it high ratings.) The low raters all seemed to think it didn’t have enough action and violence. To me, there is much more to a Reacher novel than violence, and this one had plenty of action even though he wasn’t killing a lot of people.

I find Child’s unique writing style fascinating. I’m not sure I can describe it. Rhythmic, quick, and precise are words that come to mind. This book has an underlying theme about the current opiate addiction crisis and the government’s poor treatment of veterans. He gives in-depth pictures of characters and lets us follow Reacher’s calculation and planning. We even get a look at the possible thoughts and behaviors of addicts. Child took me on a journey through the back-country of Southern Wyoming.

The book has all of my three H’s—head, heart, and humor. I feel he’s an excellent writer and storyteller. He doesn’t follow the rules, but that makes the reading more interesting. You never know what to expect.

C.J. Tudor — The Chalk Man

This thriller/murder mystery jumps between 2016 and 1986. In 2016, Ed Adams is a small town school teacher haunted by events from 30 years past. In 1986, Eddie and his group of 12-year-old friends’ lives were interrupted by a terrible accident at the fair, two unsolved murders, a suicide, and a beating that left a man in an almost vegetative state.

Eddie’s father always told him “Never assume, Eddie. Question everything. Always look beyond the obvious.” But the whole town has made assumptions about what happened in 1986. When bad things start happening again in 2016, people once more make assumptions.

The Chalk Man, Tudor’s first novel, has an intriguing plot, great characters (young, middle-aged, and old), a setting that makes you feel you are there, and twists and turns that keep you hooked.

Excellent writing!