Category Archives: character

Ben H. Winters — Golden State

In this dark, dystopian novel set in Golden State, a future California, lying is the worst of all crimes. Laszlo Ratesic, an officer in the Speculative Service, is trying to solve anomalies in a case where a roofer fell from the top of a house and died. He can sense lies. His partner, a recruit to the service, is even better at this skill than Laszlo. In following the details of the incident, they uncover a plot to undermine “the truth.”

The story is set in a world of complete surveillance where everyone is required to record all of their actions and add them to the official “Record” each day. The only books allowed are books of fact. Any history before the founding of the Golden State and anything outside its boundaries are “unknown and unknowable.”

Although brainwashed, the main character was interesting. The plot was good, and there were surprises at the end.

Not a bad read.

Carly Buckley — The Liar’s Child

Sara is running from a Hurricane headed for the Outer Banks of North Carolina and also trying to escape witness protection. She rescues two children, Cassie and Boon, who are home alone in the apartment next door. She’s torn between finding someplace to drop the children and staying off the radar, so the agents don’t track her.

All the characters are intense and twisted but interesting. I’m not sure who the title character is supposed to be, since everyone is lying and/or a liar’s child. Hank, a retired sheriff, is almost unnecessary to the plot. He’s haunted by a missing son who disappeared years earlier at age ten. Whit, Cassie and Boon’s father, is dealing with the disappearance of his wife while holding down a demanding job and taking care of the two children. Cassie, age twelve, tries to fit in with the older kids in the neighborhood by dressing Goth. Five-year-old Boon sleeps in his closet.

The story feels repetitive at times, but each time we see the “facts” from a different point of view, we learn a little more of the “truth.” It kept my interest to the end, and I liked the ending.

Erica Ferencik — Into the Jungle

I just returned from an awesome trip into the Amazon rainforest without leaving my home. All my senses are on overload. Erica Ferencik not only excites sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch, she introduces you to a variety of alien cultures and characters, pulls at your emotions, plucks your heart strings, and teaches you about the unique environment of the jungle. She is an extraordinary storyteller.

Into the Jungle is my favorite read this year.

Chris Hammer — Scrublands

Excellent writing.

The author takes us into Riversend, a small dying settlement in Australia’s interior, in the middle of a summer drought. The river running through the town has dried into cracked earth. You can feel the heat and see it rising off the baked land.

A priest shot five men in front of the church and was killed by the local policeman. Martin Scarsden’s editor at the newspaper sends him to visit Riversend a year after the shooting to write a piece about how the locals are coping with the tragedy. At first, Martin is a typical newsman interviewing residents—outside looking in. The town is full of secrets and rumors, which cause Martin to write articles for his paper with incorrect facts, gaining enemies. As he gets to know them, people ask why a priest that many admired and loved did such a terrible act. Martin’s curiosity and desire to find the truth have him looking for the answer. This is the central question in the story.

Hammer’s characters are varied and complicated, not always who or what they appear to be at first meeting. He even gives us insight into the dead priest.

The plot is complicated, with many twists and turns. It kept my interest from beginning to end.

Robert McCaw — Off the Grid

Off the Grid is a murder mystery/police procedural/international thriller set on the big island of Hawai’i.

The story starts with “bang” when a woman’s car is crushed by a dump truck. As the police and firemen close in, there is a massive explosion, which turns out to be a bomb. Chief Detective Koa Kãne leaves the scene to investigate a body found in the volcano Pele’s lava flow. The two victims are a man and woman who have been living off the grid on the island for twenty years with little interaction with other people. Who are they, who murdered them, and why?

Koa meticulously tracks the complicated answers, with his instincts helping to point him in the right direction. His chief, CIA, MIA, and island politics all try to block and interfere with his investigation. He continues to uncover secrets about the two victims, the military, the CIA, the Chinese, and the locals.

Koa Kãne has secrets of his own that he shares with no one, not even his girlfriend. The author paints a picture of Hawaii and its people that is fascinating. You can feel the heat and smell the sulfur of the volcano, sense the lush rainforest, connect with the variety of people who inhabit the island. All of McCaw’s characters are interesting.

A great read by a talented author. Thanks to Oceanview Publishing for sending an advanced reader’s copy of this book.

Tim Johnston — The Current

The Current is a strange story written in a strange style, and it leaves unanswered questions at the end. It’s closer to real life where everything doesn’t get neatly tied up. There is mystery here, but not your typical “whodunit” mystery, maybe a literary mystery.

I enjoyed the story, but it took a little while to understand the flow. At times Johnston writes stream of consciousness, sometimes he uses second person POV, head-hopping from one character to another, and he skips back and forth between timelines. But he digs deep into the psyches of his characters—love, hate, grief, curiosity, need-to-know, vengeance—and tells all that is going on around them—sights, smells, heat and cold, sounds, skin sensations.

I enjoyed the book but only gave it four stars. It grabbed my attention, my heart, and my mind. But the author could have made it a little easier to follow without losing the grip of the story.

Louise Penny — Kingdom of the Blind

I have not read any of the previous books in this series, which may be a disadvantage in reading Kingdom of the Blind, but it reads well as a stand-alone.

The cozy comfort of the small town of Three Pines stands in stark contrast to the back streets of Montreal. Some of the gatherings of Gamache’s family or friends in the village, discussing the murder or just babbling about life, at times seemed confusing or unnecessary, possibly due to my unfamiliarity with the characters. But these gatherings were comfortable, friendly, and humorous. The story is filled with family connections (both relational and families of friends or coworkers), some full of love and understanding and some underlined with distrust.

One unusual thing about Penny’s writing is her use of omniscient point of view. You might even call it “head-hopping.” She often jumps POV from one character to another and back. I found it distracting at times, but overall, she did a reasonable job of making it feel seamless.

The setting in Canadian winter made me feel the chill and the crunch of the snow underfoot. The plot was interesting. Occasionally I was ahead of the story and guessed what would happen, other times I was surprised.

I may go back in time and read other novels in Ms. Penny’s Gamache series.

Barry Eisler — The Killer Collective

Barry Eisler is one of my favorite authors. It feels strange to me that I like his writing, because many violent thrillers completely turn me off. But Eisler gets into his characters’ heads, and we get to know them. He also does a great job with settings.

I won’t go into the storyline here, since it’s readily available in other reviews. I will say that having read other books with these characters was an advantage, but you could probably enjoy it as a stand-alone. The author brought together a large group of characters from previous novels.

Peter Swanson — Before She Knew Him

We know who the killer is from the beginning of this book, but that doesn’t spoil the story. Hen and her husband Lloyd have moved into a new neighborhood in a small Massachusetts town. She reluctantly attends a party and sees a trophy in neighbor Matthew’s office that she believes is connected to a murder she obsessively researched a few years earlier.

She tells the police, but due to a history of mental problems, they distrust her credibility. Lloyd even doubts her. Hen and Matthew have conversations where he admits he has murdered people.

The novel is a suspenseful psychological thriller. Swanson held my interest throughout, even though I suspected the ending twist.

Lisa Gardner — Look for Me

Lisa Gardner creates interesting characters and manages to keep them entertaining through multiple books. I can read them out of order, which I did, and still enjoy each book.

The plot of Look for Me is twisted, with multiple suspects for the murder of a family. One daughter, Roxy Baez, survives because she is walking the dogs. Then she disappears. Boston police detective D.D. Warren looks for her with the help of survivor turned vigilante, Flora Dane. Is Roxy running from fear, or is she the shooter?

Another excellent tale by Ms. Gardner.