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Reviews

February 2007

Lisa Gardner - Hide

"This is dazzling crime writing at its nerve-jarring best."

Synopsis:
Do you have good reason to be afraid?

It was a case that haunts Bobby Dodge to this day; the case that nearly killed him and changed his life forever. Now, in an underground chamber on the grounds of an abandoned Massachusetts mental hospital, the gruesome discovery of six mummified corpses resurrects his worst nightmare – signifying the return of a killer he thought dead and buried.

There's no place to run?

Bobby's only lead is wrapped around a dead woman's neck. Annabelle Granger has been in hiding for as long as she can remember. Her childhood was a blur of new cities and assumed identities. But what or who her family was running from, she never knew. Now, a body is unearthed from a grave, wearing a necklace bearing Annabelle's name, and the danger is too close to escape. This time, she's not going to run.

You know he will find you…

The new threat could be the dead psychopath's copycat, his protégé or something far more terrifying. Dodge knows the only way to find him is to solve the mystery of Annabelle Granger, and to do that he must team up with his former lover, partner, and friend D. D. Warren from the Boston P.D. But the trail leads back to a woman from Bobby's past who may be every bit as dangerous as the new killer. A beautiful survivor-turned-avenger with an eerie link to Annabelle...

Review:
Leaving behind her original characters of Ranie Connor and Quincy Pierce,
Garner has successfully moved on to Bobby Dodgy. No longer a sniper in the police force, he is now working as a Detective. Following on from the first book when Dodge was introduced, (Alone), Hide reintroduces some of the previous characters and builds on existing relationships. Although it is not essential to have read the previous book, it does make references to an earlier case easier to follow if you know the story.

There's not much to say about this book other than rush out and read it. This is dazzling crime writing at its nerve-jarring best. Not only is this the best book I have read by Gardner to date, but also one of the best books I have read for quite some time.

Reviewed by: H.A.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Christopher Goffard - Snitch Jacket

"The language is in turns evocative and inventive…"

Synopsis:
Based in Southern California, this is a story about Benny, the snitch, grass or stool pigeon - who spends most of his time in a bar obtaining information on criminals and their activity to pass on to the police for money. Into the bar one day walks Gus “Mad Dog” Miller, a massive, tattooed biker who gradually becomes Benny's friend and confidant, but also starts off a chain of events that leads to Benny being charged, six months later, for double murder. Which is where the story really starts...

Review:
An excellent read, especially as this is the author's first novel.

The language is in turns evocative and inventive, and cracks along at a great pace. The plot twists and turns but never loses touch with you as a result of its cleverness, while the ending is conclusive, final and very poignant.

So why not 5 out of 5? Well, the novel is written in the first person, with Benny narrating, and, for me, this always raises the question: “why does a bar fly low life write like a clever English Lit post graduate?” The author cannot resist writing well (and he does write well!) but this means that he has to give Benny a history that explains this (was this notion suggested by an editor?). For me this passage is lame, out of place, and frankly unnecessary.

Apart from that, a great read and I hope the start of a great writing career. I shall be looking forward to his next book very much.

Reviewed by: S.M.W.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Mark Gimenez - The Abduction

"… impossible to put down."

Synopsis:
Ten-year-old Gracie Ann Brice is the ultimate tomboy and she knows how to take care of herself. When her mother comes to collect her from soccer practice one day, she is told that Gracie has already left with her uncle.

The only trouble is, Grace has no uncle.

The nightmare has become a reality for her parents, John and Elizabeth Brice. But it's Ben Brice, Grace's tough, ex-soldier grandfather, who's hit hardest by her disappearance - and it's he who goes with John to get her back. And if he needs to break some bones along the way, then that's just what he'll do.

Review:
Since reading Gimenez's debut novel, the Colour of Law, I was eagerly awaiting his latest book, the Abduction. And, whilst it was not the legal thriller
I was expecting, Gimenez has proved that he can move effortlessly from the Courtroom to the war fields of Vietnam and the high tech world of computers to put together yet another explosive thriller that is impossible to put down.

Again, Gimenez has a strong lead character in the form of a child, who is both witty and intelligent, with humorous dialogue being played out. Whilst the ending may be a tad 'happy ever after' don't for one minute be fooled into thinking there aren't plenty of twists and turns, and a plot that keeps you guessing right until the end. Definitely not one to miss.

Reviewed by: H.A.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Lindsey Davis - Saturnalia

"… familiar and highly entertaining stuff."

Synopsis:
It is Rome during the reign of the Emperor Vespasian and it is the holiday of Saturnalia when the normal rules are abandoned and parties and feasting are the order of the day. Marcus Didius Falco and his family are no exception to the rule and are in the midst of preparation for many entertainments involving all their relations. Marcus' wife, Helena Justina, shows her usual aplomb when a number of soldiers are billeted with them in order to assist Marcus in his latest task to find a missing German captive.

It is vital that she is found as her presence at large could embarrass the government and put Marcus' fee at risk. Many complications arise as this Veleda has connections with Helena's brother. In the end it is, as always, sorted out satisfactorily.

Review:
This is another fast moving and witty tale of intrigue in Rome. Marcus Didius Falco is maturing and, as a happily married man, should be settling down. He is still, however, prepared to be rash and inventive in his pursuit of the truth.

Falco's wife, Helena, brings a modicum of sense but is an able and courageous ally in his task. The many members of their extended family are often both exasperating and amusing.

Picking up this book is like receiving a long letter from a friend who tells you the latest news. It is both familiar and highly entertaining stuff.

The quick laconic wit of Falco contributes to the enjoyment of the book. Falco has his own individual style of speech and uses some “new “ words to explain his feelings. I agree with Lindsay Davis' notes that this is a perfectly acceptable device, which adds to the development of Falco's character.

Reviewed by: S.D.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Faye and Jonathan Kellerman - Capital Crimes

"… a highly enjoyable read and a worthy addition to the Kellerman collaboration."

Synopsis:
Following a similar format to their previous collaboration, Double Homicide, this new book from Faye and Jonathan Kellerman consists of two discrete stories set in the US cities of Berkeley and Nashville. The thriller set in the university city of Berkeley involves the murder of Davida Grayson, a lesbian politician who has been campaigning to open up research on aborted foetuses. Despite being in a steady relationship it is clear that the politician has a hidden life far more complex than any of her family or friends are aware of. What seems, at first, to be a politically motivated killing looks like it has its origins closer to home.

In contrast, the second story takes us to Nashville, where a legendary country musician, Jack Jeffries, is found murdered before a comeback concert. Having recently overcome his fear of flying, it is cruel twist of fate, which sees him murdered in a deserted street. However Jeffries convoluted past means that there is an array of suspects that detectives Southerby and Van Gundy have to investigate to explain the brutal killing.

Review:
As a fan of both Faye and Jonathan Kellerman, I enjoyed this new collaboration immensely.

The stories are best approached as two separate novellas as the common thematic device of setting the stories in two US cities is, in effect, peripheral to the plots. The style of the stories will be familiar to Kellerman readers. A feeling that is reinforced by the presence in the two stories of familiar characters in the two authors' work - namely Pete Decker and Alex Delaware.

Both authors play to their respective strengths, Faye Kellerman in the excellent and complex plotting style of her novels and Jonathan Kellerman in the strong psychological development of the characters.

The book is neither author's best work but is nevertheless a highly enjoyable read and a worthy addition to the Kellerman collaboration.

Reviewed by: S.W.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Lesley Horton - The Hollow Core

"… displays a deft touch with the interplay of characters and clever development of the plot…"

Synopsis:
Diane Ingleby, wife of a local property developer, and an enthusiastic and sympathetic volunteer with Victim Support, is shot dead in a car park. A local petty criminal witnesses the killing and reports what he has seen to the police. Detective Inspector John Handford and Detective Sergeant Kahlid Ali are called in to head the investigation.



At the outset it is not clear whether Diane Ingleby was the intended victim, or whether her husband or daughter had provoked someone into murder. Investigations have to look at the backgrounds of all involved and several murky stories are revealed. Family tensions cause great strain and affect the progress of the investigation. Finally the killer is revealed and family wounds begin to heal.

Review:
This is a good story with undertones that reflect the reality of multicultural life today. I particularly enjoyed reading about the characters of the Asian police officers who were faced with the dilemma of deciding on loyalty to family or the police service.



The pressures involved and the different views of different family members made for interesting reading. Family tensions and secrets were also rife in the family of the victim. Lesley Horton displays a deft touch with the interplay of characters and clever development of the plot that made this a book that held my attention to the end.

Reviewed by: S.D.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Judith Cutler - Cold Pursuit

"… this book continues in the excellent tradition of the previous stories in the series."

Synopsis:
Chief Superintendent Frances Harman is about to retire when the illness of a senior officer persuades her to defer the date of her leaving. She is to oversee an investigation of some “happy slapping” incidents and other more serious sexual assault cases. Her involvement is largely the result of the media interest in the cases and the lead reporter involved turns out to have more than an impartial interest in finding the perpetrators of the crimes. The DCI with direct responsibility for the investigation does not seem to have her mind completely on the job and Fran, as an old friend, becomes more involved with the direct investigation.



Fran and the Assistant Chief Constable, Mark Turner, are still happily together and are looking to buy a house. The seriousness of the assaults increase and it takes all Fran's tenacity and skill to finally track down the criminal.

Review:
The latest from Chief Superintendent Frances Harman, this book continues in the excellent tradition of the previous stories in the series.



The chief characters are well drawn and sympathetic. Frances Harman continues to be supremely efficient. Balancing her experience and knowledge of humanity with the realisation that, as she nears retirement, others sometimes overlook her because of her age. Judith Cutler writes sympathetically of the frustration this engenders.



The plot is detailed and the several strands are cleverly interlinked to provide the final solution. This is an entertaining book that holds attention right to the end.

Reviewed by: S.D.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Daniel Silva - Prince of Fire

"Many reviewers have compared Daniel Silva to Graham Greene and John Le Carre. In this book Silva’s detailed evocation of atmosphere and fast moving, intelligently written plot justify the claim."

Synopsis:
The story starts with a violent explosion in the Israeli embassy in Rome involving many casualties. As a result of this it is discovered that the enemy have a detailed dossier unmasking Gabriel Allon, a gifted and expert art restorer working in Venice, as a longstanding and talented member of the Israeli Secret Service. He is immediately recalled to Israel and given the task of unmasking the plotters behind the bomb plot.



The trail leads across several countries and has historical roots. By the end of the story you are not sure who has been tracking who…

Review:
Not strictly a crime novel, more of a spy thriller, this story is riveting and moves at a fast pace. At the same time it sheds light on some of the complex political and historical details of the Palestinian question. The hero, Allon, is sympathetic in many ways whilst also capable of committing horrendous acts in the name of freedom. He is, however, aware of what he has become. At a time when an ex KGB man is murdered in London, this story has a frightening ring of truth.



Many reviewers have compared Daniel Silva to Graham Greene and John Le Carre. In this book Silva's detailed evocation of atmosphere and fast moving, intelligently written plot justify the claim. This was a good read and highly thought provoking.

Reviewed by: S.D.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Tony Hillerman - The Shape Shifter

"… a tense and exciting thriller."

Synopsis:
Joe Leaphorn, now retired from the Navarro Tribal Police, is drawn back into a case that is decades old and which has remained tantalisingly unsolved.

When a private detective spots a rare Navarro rug, which was supposedly burned in a fire, he contacts Leaphorn, suspecting an insurance fraud. However, when the detective's body is found following an unexplained car accident, it becomes clear to Leaphorn that they have uncovered a past crime more serious than insurance fraud.

The detective's death is related to a complex cover-up following a violent murder, which allowed the perpetrator to flee and continue his life of crime. Joe Leaphorn, at last, has the opportunity to make amends and allow justice to be done.

Review:
The previous Tony Hillerman offering 'Skeleton Man' ended with the impending nuptials of Navarro Police Officers Jim Chee and Bernie Manuelito. Rather than pick up the threads of their story, in this novel Hillerman returns to the character of Joe Leaphorn to investigate a case, which is narrated to Jim and Bernie in retrospect. This narrative device is initially confusing, and I struggled somewhat to work out the order of events.

However, after the first few chapters the story settles down and develops into a tense and exciting thriller. Joe Leaphorn is a reassuringly solid detective who lets nothing unsettle him. This contrasts well with Jim Chee's impetuous nature. I personally prefer the Hillerman novels where both Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn are both involved in a case, as their respective personalities tend to balance out the story.

Here, there is solidity about the plot, which reflects Leaphorn's investigative style. Nevertheless, the book is a very enjoyable read.

Reviewed by: S.W.

CrimeSquad Rating:

John Le Carre - The Mission Song

"… it is certainly well done."

Synopsis:
A multi-lingual interpreter, Salvo, specialising in central African languages is drafted in to do security work for the British government. He is the husband of a glamorous features reporter for a national newspaper and is on his way to a successful career and life in the British establishment until two events coincide to turn his life upside down.

He meets Hannah, a Congolese nurse working in a hospital and he is commissioned to do interpreting for an ultra secret project with a classified syndicate connected, at arms length, to the British government. Both events question and stretch Salvo's conscience and beliefs and lead him deeper and deeper into highly dangerous territory…

Review:
Many assumed that at the end of the Cold War John Le Carre, one of its best fiction writers, would find it difficult to move on. Indeed his non-spy novels of the Cold War period were not his best.

Since 1990, however, he has carved out a new niche as the world has changed, and a steady stream of novels has produced some assured pieces of work, especially The Tailor of Panama and The Constant Gardener. The latter, also dealing with Africa, showed that Le Carre had found a suitable subject matter for his skills – being able to combine the moral outrage and paradoxes of political complexity with personal lives stretched and turned out of kilter.

This novel, however, is more of an extended lecture on Central African politics with a narrative and plot attached to it. This does not mean it is not suitable material for a novel and - being Le Carre - it is certainly well done. Indeed, if it weren't for the long (and perhaps necessary) explanatory historical and political passages it would be a thriller of class. But because of this stilted delivery and a slightly inconclusive ending the novel does not rank as one of his greatest.

Reviewed by: S.M.W.

CrimeSquad Rating: