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Bird Dog (1997) [novel]
Review by michael a draper (2015-11-10)
Most of us have preconceptions of dealing with a car salesman and with "Bird Dog," the actions of one car salesman definitely takes a downward step.

Harold Dodge is familiar with the tricks of a car dealer. He has worked in that industry and written a book about it. although his present job is as an engineer.

He's an overweight man who has a problem with his image. However, he's flattered when a pretty co-worker named Marianna asks for his help. She purchased a car from a dealer and traded in her own car for it. After reading the contract and what was supposed to be included in the purchase price, she feels that she was taken advantage of. Now she wants to reverse the transaction.

When Harold and Marianna get to the return to the dealership, her car is no longer on the lot. The flashy salesman wonders is Harold might be an investigator from the DMV so is careful and asks them to let him research it and return again.

Marianne tries to finish the transaction and returns on her own to unwind the sale. However during this time, she unwittingly takes a document that would incriminate the man who runs the dealership.

During this time, the central office of the dealership sends representatives to examine the operation and take steps in removing the shady manager.

Reed describes the action well as the criminals vie for power and attempt to bluff their way out of the predicament This allows the reader to see the hypocrisy and conniving that goes on..

Harold's heart is won by Marianne and he puts himself in danger in working with the unscrupulous salesman.

The action at the auto dealership and the situations that the characters find themselves in reminded me of the writing of the great Elmore Leonard.

I was drawn to the story and seeing the action unfold even though I wasn't drawn to any of the characters.

(This review refers to the expression titled “Bird Dog”.)

"Silkworm, The" (2014) [novel]
Review by michael a draper (2015-11-03)
In "The Silkworm" private investigator Cormoran Smith and his ambitious assistant, Robin, search for a missing author. Robin is a tall, young woman with a goal of becoming a private investigator herself.
Cormoran is an intelligent, kind hearted investigator who lost part of his leg in a roadside bomb in Afghanistan.
The captivating story begins with a scene that makes the reader root for his success.
When Leonora Quine comes to Strike's office requesting his help. Strike is about to start a meeting with an arrogant client. Strike was a bit late for the meeting and when the client gets huffy, Strike tells Robin to give the man his file. When the client isn't sure of what is transpiring, the client who had been waiting, Leonora gloats, "He's sacking you."
The author paints a picture of how difficult it is to be a successful P.I. It is explained when Strike explains to Robin that dedication to an investigation is more important than financial benefits.
The missing author had written a novel, "Bombyx Mori" which is a parody of man as if they were Quine's compatriots in the literary world.. It's a demeaning novel that gives many of these literary notables enough reason for wanting him, Owen Quine, dead.
Strike's heroic action in Afghanistan included him reaching across the back seat of a military vehicle and pulling another soldier out of the auto as it exploded. The end result cost Strike his lower leg, the man he rescued had some facial scars but the driver was mortally wounded.
I also enjoyed the way the author described the difficulty a person missing part of a leg, would have attempting to get around London in the Snowy surroundings.

(This review refers to the expression titled “"Silkworm, The"”.)

Silken Prey (2014) [novel]
Review by michael a draper (2015-11-02)
Lucas Davenport gets mixed up with politics when he's asked to investigate the accusation of child porn on a wealthy political candidate.

Even though the governor is on the opposing party, something about the convenience of the discovery of the accusation so soon before the election doesn't seem right.

The race for the US Senate is a toss up and one of the participants is a wealthy young woman with a campaign staff that doesn't hesitate when asked to perform dirty tricks.. However one of the characters wants more money for his deeds and then goes missing.

The plot is tight and the story is fresh and since it is election time, the story is very timely.

(This review refers to the expression titled “Silken Prey”.)

Blood Work (1998) [novel]
Review by michael a draper (2015-10-29)
Blood Work" by Michael Connelly is one of my all time favorite books. The plotting is excellent and the central character, retired FBI agent Terrell McCaleb is sympathetic and the story is addictive.

McCaleb is enjoying retirement while living on his fishing boat. A woman approaches him and requests his help to find her sister's murderer.

When he tells her he can't because of his heart transplant, she responses, yes, it is my sister's heart. It is keeping you alive and I think you'd want to find her killer.

He agrees and begins a search putting pieces of an intricate puzzle together that leads to the killer.
Nothing is straight forward in Connelly's novels. Along the way police receive an anonymous call and suddenly McCaleb becomes the main suspect. The evidence he was collecting is viewed as evidence of the crimes.

The book starts off with a bang and continues to a strong conclusion. I also watched the movie made from the book. There were some changes between the book and movie but the movie was highly entertaining.

Highly recommended!

(This review refers to the 1998 version titled “Blood Work”)

Billy Dead (0) [novel]
Review by michael a draper (2015-10-22)
Billy and Ray Johnson were brothers that had the usual brotherly spats but also suffered abuse. The description of their life and the things that Billy does at a young age are uncomfortable to read.
When Billy's body is found, the reader assumes that it was by someone who watched him crawl down the road by Ray's house. The misery is described but Ray's reaction seems cold and matter of fact.
This sorrowful picture and writing style reminded me of Erskine Caldwell's "God's Little Acre." That book chronicles an impoverished family in rural Georgia. "Billy Dead" takes place in the country back roads of small town Michigan.
The Johnson family are unsympathetic to read about their comings and goings. They were hellions and were disliked.
Ray continues with his life as sheriff Keith McCutcheon investigates the murder. We see the reaction of other family members to Billy's death but there isn't any display of sorrow.

(This review refers to the expression titled “Billy Dead”.)

Red Rain (2002) [novel]
Review by michael a draper (2015-10-19)
Luther Ewing, aka, Five O brings his unique b background to his job as a cop on the Baltimore County P.D. narcotics division. This is a contemporary location with the controversy in Baltimore recently after the shooting of a black man by the police.
Luther an ex-Special Forces sharpshooter with experience in Bosnia. In "Red Rain" Luther is working with his crew in narcotics and he comes across evidence that something is different on the streets. It's a feeling that experienced agents tend to get.
Vasilly is a Russian who is bringing vast amounts of drugs into the Baltimore area and ready to begin selling the drugs on the street. His drug cartel begins making headway and Luther's life and routine changes.
There is good dialogue in the story in what the reader can imagine taking place. There is also realistic descriptions of what life must be like on the streets.
It might be the way things are but many of the characters had nicknames and with this I had difficulty in determining who was who and what side they characters were on.
The bodies mount up and there are a number of plot twists that keep things unpredictable. I liked the suspense in a story of people at the edge of society-many who have little to redeem them.

(This review refers to the expression titled “Red Rain”.)

Brooklyn on Fire (0) [novel]
Review by michael a draper (2015-10-15)
Once again, the reader has the enjoyment of seeing Mary rub shoulders with such notables as John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie. She attends a lecture by Benjamin Franklin and shares experiences with John D. Rockefeller and George Vanderbilt.

There are discussions of the political events of the time, concerning New York and Brooklyn. In this regard, I was impressed that at this time, Brooklyn was one of the largest municipalities in the United States.

A woman is murdered and Mary investigates this case which became personal to her when her brother was accused of the crime.

There are lots of historical references and a gutsy protagonist in Mary. As I read the story I considered what some of the TV female detectives like Beckett on Castle or the female detectives on shows like Law and Order owed to a character like Mary, who started it all.

I enjoyed the story and reading about a protagonist like Mary.


Redeye Fulda Cold (2015) [novel]
Review by michael a draper (2015-10-12)
Redeye Fulda Cold - "Right on the mark, this war novel is hot!"
TBR Review - March 2015

Redeye Fulda Cold by Bill Fortin is a different type of war novel. It's reality takes one back to 1969 West Germany. What you will be reading could very well have happened in the Cold War at the border between the opposing forces of East and West This is a great novel; it's an important part of our military history.

Rick Fontain, the main character, is working for Bell Systems in the USA when he is drafted. During the induction period he has to take an aptitude test. The test results change the path of his life forever. He is encouraged to become an officer but the extra time, in addition to his two years, is a no go for Rick. He opts for training on the Redeye, the first ever hand held surface to air missile system for the infantry. What Rick doesn't know is that he is being watched from afar. His progress is being scrutinized and he is being tested.

The style of the author, Fortin is written in the first person. We travel with Bill on a journey that follows the army life of Rick though short snippets of his, at times, humorous journey. The style of headers detailing where and when things were taking place are unique and are provided to entice the reader to find out what would happen next to Rick and where.

His journey from boot camp continues when he is stationed near the Fulda Gap. Not a well known place, but its importance to the free world was a post that safeguarded Europe during those tense 30 plus years.

Rick and his team would become one of the greatest deterrents to an invasion from Mother Russia. Fortin brings all the key elements together to make a fabulous story: mystery; intrigue; love; suspense; bravery and reality. It is a snap shot in history back to when the world was at the brink. Redeye Fulda Cold is a historical expression of our military tradition. The story ends leaving the reader wanting to see a sequel novel to find out where Rick goes next.

(This review refers to the expression titled “Redeye Fulda Cold”.)

tell no one (2009) [novel]
Review by michael a draper (2015-10-11)
Dr. David Beck lost his wife eight years ago. Her body was discovered by the roadside and serial killer Elroy Kellroy was arrested for her murder.
During the following eight years, Beck tried to get on with his life and his medical practice. Then, officials reopened the case and Beck became the main suspect.
Harlan Coben does a fine job in setting the scenario and creating believable characters. Beck is a good man and we want to root for him but he's faced with some very evil opponents.
Beck takes some steps during the story that result in previous supporters turning against him. Eventually, he's left with few people totally supporting him.
It is easy for the reader to imagine what they would do in similar circumstances as Beck was faced with. There is also a secondary story being told at the same time. Then, just when it seems the reader can figure out what is happening, there is a surprise that Coben adds to increase the interest and keep us guessing.
This is an excellent story that was also made into a movie.

(This review refers to the expression titled “tell no one”.)

Murder with Peacocks (1999) [novel]
Review by michael a draper (2015-10-09)
Meg Langslow's summer plans are filled with summer engagements. She returned to her small Virginia hometown to be a bridesmaid for three weddings: her mother, her brother and for her best friend.
Early on she meets Michael Walterson, Professor of Theater, at a nearby college. He was managing his mother's dress making shop. Michael and Meg hit it off immediately.
There's not much controversy in the story except dealing with Meg's best friend Eileen complaints that her fiance Steven complains about including the Native American heritage purification ceremony in the wedding. I can just imagine reacting to something like this in Virginia.
Then one of the characters if found dead and the sheriff comes to investigate and suspicion spreads.
The family relationships were interesting to view and how their personal connections can become upset.
Meg was resilient and interesting as a main character who can be respected.
The murder is a minor detail and the character who murdered is a bit obnoxious and unlikable. Not much of an affect on the main part of the story or the three weddings.

(This review refers to the 1999 version titled “Murder with Peacocks”)

Playing With Fire (2015) [novel]
Review by michael a draper (2015-10-05)
In a change in literary direction Tess Gerritsen has written an enchanting historical novel.
The story is wrapped with the kind of characters who are interesting, and have a tale to tell, one that the reader will enjoy.
Julia Ansdell is a beautiful woman, she is an accomplished musician and purchases a piece of music at an antique store in Rome.
While playing the music at her home, there is an incident between her 3 year old daughter and the family cat. This puts a scare in Julia and sets the tone for the remainder of the story.
Thereafter, the story is told in two parts, in current time and around WWII in Italy.
In Italy there is a family of musicians with a love of music, and of Italy. There is a competition upcoming and they are preparing for it, but are concerned if they will be allowed to perform due to questions about their heritage.
Julia feels drawn to the music of the composer. She begins investigating the origin of the music and the family.
We follow the Brownshirts and the family encounters with them and a particular Colonel who has a private agenda.
Gerritsen writes with an intimate flourish as if revealing parts of her own family.

(This review refers to the expression titled “Playing With Fire”.)

Cypress Trap, The (2015) [novella]
Review by michael a draper (2015-09-24)
As I've been going through some medical procedures, I've been looking for a book to get my mine off health and bury myself (figuratively) in a good novel.

In this well written, gripping story, a wife and husband are having difficulty with their marriage. He is about to go on a fishing trip and she persuades him to go with her. What she didn't know is that he had already asked to bring one of his buddies, so there is a threesome.

The story moves right along and something about the husband's past catches up with him. The party is crashed by a group of murderous teenagers who claim that Owen, the husband, has something of theirs and want it back.

There is no help to be found and things get dict fast.

Not to give away plot but just imagine a Florida waterway where an innocent party of people who have gone fishing is stalked.

The characters are well described and find themselves in a dire predicament. The reader becomes engrossed and will have difficulty putting down the book.


(This review refers to the expression titled “Cypress Trap, The”.)

Taking Lives (1999) [novel]
Review by michael a draper (2015-09-21)
Taking Lives" by Michael Pye is a complex story of a serial killer who murders people and then assumes their identity.

The story begins slowly as Martin Arkenhout kills his first victim, finds it's an easy thing and gives him an appetite for murder..

John Costa is the story's narrator. He's a keeper at a museum and is searching for a Professor John Heart.concerning some missing papers. By the time this portion of the story gets under way, John Heart has become Martin Arkenhout's victim and Arkenhout has taken over Hart's identity. Arkenhout has had a narrow escape from one of his false identities and thinks that pretending to be a professor would be easy.

As a museum keeper, what was so important about why he was searching for Heart wasn't very well explained. I would have enjoyed knowing what was so important and why it was stolen. I've enjoyed the novels of Preston & Child and their descriptions of the goings on at the New York Museum of Natural Art.

The reader does get to know about John Costa while dealing with Costa's father's demise. The story takes the reader to many places and much is set in Portugal which is interesting.

Another point I was interested in is that the book has been made into a movie, starring Ethan Hawke; Angelina Jolie, Kiefer Sutherland and Gina Rowland. Imagining those stars acting out their roles in the movie added a fun element to my reading experience. I also feel that the victims of the killer could have been described more thoroughly so the reader might come to be interested or sympathetic to them.

There were times when I was reading the story and didn't know if the character was one of the serial killer's victim or the actual character.

(This review refers to the expression titled “Taking Lives”.)

Victim, The (2015) [novel]
Review by michael a draper (2015-09-19)
Anton Mackey is a man on a path to success. He has a lovely wife and child and he has a promising career in the legal industry. But something occurred in his past and a person is attempting to bring his past into light in a manner that will change his life forever.

Eric Matheny ensnares his readers in an intricate web of mystery that will have the reader turning the pages anxiously to see if Anton is innocent.

Matheny does a diligent job in defending other people accused of crimes and it is difficult to imagine that he did what a woman is accusing him of doing.

Mackey is a character who could be taken from one of John Girsham's excellent novels. He stands out in the world of those attempting to bring justice into a world packed with people who have been wronged.

Overall, the book is a fast paced read and recommended. It's a thrill to find a new author who stands out and Eric Matheny is an author with a bright future.

(This review refers to the expression titled “Victim, The”.)

Finders Keepers: A Novel (0) [novel]
Review by michael a draper (2015-09-15)
"Finders Keepers" is the second book in a planned trilogy Stephen King began with "Mr Mercedes"

John Rothstein is a famous writer who has created the character Jimmy Gold. John hasn't written anything in a long time and lives a secluded life in rural New England.

Morris Bellamy is a deranged fan of Rothstein's character, Jimmy Gold. Bellamy feels that Rothstein let his fans down when he had Jimmy Gold sell out to the adverting industry.

We learn that Bellamy is going to be released from prison after 35 years for the rape of a woman. The woman had attended his parole hearing for years and helped convince officials to leave him in prison.

Prior to his imprisonment, Bellamy and two of his goons robbed Rothstein and stole a large amount of money and number of his handwritten, unpublished manuscripts. Then Bellamy hid the money stolen and the manuscripts. The story to this point reminded me of the reclusive J.D. Salinger and a premise if someone had robbed him and stolen his unpublished manuscripts.

During the time Bellamy was in jail, one of the victims of Mr. Mercedes is having a hard time, being forced with his family to a home in a poorer area and living a life of constant struggle. His son, Pete, happens to stumble on the hidden notebooks and cash and gradually diminishes the money, sending in anonymously to his parents. He hopes to easy his parents life and have a happier home with his sister.

As Pete continues his schooling, he is interested in English literature and studies the works of Rothstein. The money has run out and he's told he wouldn't qualify for a grant so he gets the manuscripts out and begins dealing with an rare book dealer to sell the manuscripts.

The story moves swiftly as, Pete is dealing with the book store owner, Bellamy is out of jail and is looking for the money and manuscripts, while Pete's sister, Tina, mentions to a friend that Pete might be in trouble, Bill Hodges, Jerome Robinson and Holly Gibney who works as Hodges secretary tries to find Pete before Bellamy reaches him.

The characters are well drawn so we know what motivates them. Hodges and Pete are the kind of character who the reader hopes for their success and worries about their failure. Well done, a fast and suspense filled read.

(This review refers to the expression titled “Finders Keepers”.)

Radiant Angel (2015) [novel]
Review by michael a draper (2015-09-15)
John Corey is with the Diplomatic Surveillance Group as a kind of break after his harrowing experiences in Yemen.
He's monitoring the activities of Col. Vasily Petrov who is with the Russian U.N. Mission. As Corey and his team of anti-terrorists follow Petrov and a group of Russians to a party thrown by a wealthy Russian in Southampton, Long Island, Petrov disappears.
Corey has the feeling that there is something up and set out to find Petrov and discover what he's up to.
The reader learns that Petrov is an ego maniac and his plot is to strike a major blow against New York and America. Not to reveal plot, the item he's shipping is a bomb and he uses a luxury yacht to get the bomb to New York.
There is a race to save New York and as the second tick by, suspense mounts which culminates in a chilling confrontation.
What was of particular interest to me is that the last book I've read was "Finders Keepers" by Stephen King. The protagonist of that book is Bill Hodges who was in action in the "Mr. Mercedes" murder. Comparing Hodges to John Corey, I found that King provided more background so the reader learned more of the antagonist's motivation and that of Hodges. Both heroes were in a life or death situation but there was more to lose in 'Radiant Angel."
Stephen King and Nelson DeMille are tow of our best mystery writers. There is a bit more edge-of-seat action in "Finders Keepers" but both books are excellent stories, the books have realistic action scenes and excellent dialogue with a damsel in distress.

(This review refers to the expression titled “Radiant Angel”.)

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