Monthly Archives: May 2012

Open Season

By Maryann Miller

http://maryannwrites.com/

Plot

Dallas Detective Sarah Kingsley is up against a review board and protesters after she shoots and kills a black child during a case in which her partner also ends up dead. Coming back to the job after some leave time, she’s paired with Angel Johnson, a new detective to the department. Neither is happy with the situation. First up for the pair is the murder of a mall employee. However, one murder turns into two as a security guard at another mall is found dead, followed days later by a window display worker. Both detectives have to deal with almost nonexistent clues, pressure from above to catch the killer, changes in their personal lives, and constant racial issues driving a wedge between them.

Nothing too unique here. As the plot unfolds there is more to the story and the characters which keep it interesting. This isn’t all mystery as there is romance and other subplots.

Characters

Sarah Kingsley: White, lost her partner when a drug operation went bad. Stays fit by running. FromTennessee. Lost her mother as a teen. Sometime smoker. Owns a stray kitten. Loner with few friends.

Angel Johnson: Black, new to homicide. Has a brother. Her dad is racist against white cops. Stays fit through taekwondo.

Good dichotomy between the two main characters. There are some supporting players brought in to provide tension and conflict – the accountant who hooks up with Sarah, a handsome narcotics officer who’d like to hook up with Angel, the understanding but tough Lieutenant. Both Sarah and Angel receive their fair share of personal story and background. Sometimes, character aspects aren’t used by the author and one wonders why they’re included. However, I like the fact Angel uses her martial arts and Sarah’s fitness routine is interrupted but never forgotten.

Dialogue

Fairly straightforward. There is a lot of non-dialogue, by which I mean there are conversations that start, but don’t finish. I was hoping for more of a blow up between Sarah and Angel. Conversations about the case are succinct and don’t wander.

Writing

There are not any technical or scientific details. This is a police procedural with some subplots. A few point of view problems in some chapters, but not enough to completely throw off the reader. A little profanity. The scenes are tight with not a lot of detail. This is a story where clues and leads are sporadic so there are a lot of scenes that don’t go anywhere other than to keep up the tension and continue some of the subplots. Still, a very nicely written book. I’ll keep an eye out for the next in the series.

My ranking:

Purple Belt

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The Affair

By Lee Child

www.LeeChild.com

Plot

It’s 1997. Major Jack Reacher is assigned to go undercover in a small northeastern Mississippi town where a woman has been raped and murdered. Reacher is to make nice with the local police to monitor the investigation, especially in relation to the nearby military base where there is no shortage of suspects. Almost immediately upon arriving in town, Reacher meets the county sheriff, Elizabeth Deveraux, former Marine and beautiful woman. She understands Reacher’s role because she’s familiar with how the military operates. With no word from the investigator on the base, Reacher and Deveraux begin sifting through anomalies and clues in the case. Soon, Reacher must deal with not one dead woman, but three, all murdered in the last nine months. While military personnel do everything to cover their backsides, Reacher uses logic, his subtle but steady investigative process and his contacts inWashington,D.C.to ferret out the truth.

This is the case that separates the man from the military. The story is basic but well plotted. The murder case that is only the tip of the iceberg.

Characters

Jack Reacher: 36, Army military police, Major, tall, well built, logical, precise, determined, ruggedly handsome, an former Army brat whose personal military experience had him a world traveler even to some of the remotest places.

Elizabeth Deveraux: 36,Mississippicounty sheriff, beautiful, former Marine. Lives in the small hotel in Carter Crossing.

Leon Garber: Reacher’s superior and friend. Military man but respects Reacher and his position in life and station.

There are more characters, of course, but all are very well defined with enough background to them you understand each. Some of their background is revealed throughout the book, but you have no doubt who and what they are and/or represent.

Dialogue

Every conversation is basic, no nonsense and to the point. What needs to be said is said. There is no floating out to left field. Nothing is unnecessary or frivolous.

Writing

I enjoy Child’s style. It is logical, clinical, precise. Child’s portrayal of the military is truthful, unabashed, and his humor is well-timed. He knows how to create intrigue, to draw you in, present the facts, then explain them. He knows how to slowly peel back the layers revealing a little at a time. Details are provided in a basic, military fashion. If you’re a veteran to Child you know what to expect and you get it. If you’re new to Child, then be prepared to set aside large chunks of time to read. The Affair is one of those types of stories (as are the other Reacher novels) where you’ll want to continue nonstop to the end, then blank your memory and start over again. I have never been disappointed by any of Child’s novels and this one is no exception.

My ranking:

Black Belt

On The Street Where You Die

By Al Stevens

http://www.alstevens.com

Plot

Stanley Bentworth, private investigator.  Buford Overbee, former employee of the mob, now in witness protection. Who’s blackmailing Overbee? That’s what he hires Bentworth to discover. However, when Bentworth finds the criminal, the man subsequently turns up dead. Who killed him? The police arrest Overbee and it’s up to Bentoworth to clear him. Meanwhile, Bentworth has other problems on his plate: dealing with his sister’s psychotic boyfriend, an Army intelligence man, and his on again off again girlfriend who keeps breaking his heart.

Recognize the plot? Of course you do. It’s a typical story of a hard drinking, chain smoking, world weary, cynical, private investigator from countless movies from the noir era to sixties Mitchum. You love them and so do I. It’s standard schtick with the added modern technology. But you know what? Sometimes, the good ol’ reliable is what you need. I was a bit disappointed in the endings of the murder case and the stalker boyfriend (I hoped for more punch), but otherwise this was a pretty decent story.

Characters

StanleyBentworth: Private investigator in Delbert Falls, Maryland. Former homicide investigator. Divorced. Wears a Mickey Mouse watch. Likes bourbon but swears to quit drinking. Smokes but keeps swearing to quit. Witty repartee. Named his gun Roscoe.

Buford Overbee: huge build but with a cultured voice. Former mob collections man, now a financier to the high profile people. No sense of humor. Smokes cigars. Divorced and remarried. Wealthy. Rides in a Rolls Royce. In Witness Protection. Likes to stay under the radar.

Willa: Stan’s secretary. Fifites, very thin, gray hair, wears square rimmed glasses. Efficient worker. Likes to razz Stan about his problems. Widow.

Rodney: Stan’s nephew. Computer whiz. Tall, gangly, hair is spiked and orange. Smokes marijuana.

And of course the cast of supporting characters and suspects. The sexy young wife. The belligerent daughter. The enigmatic lawyer. The servant. The detective’s former police partner.  Bunny, the on/off girlfriend is very well portrayed. Standard fare for a story like this. However, this is not criticism and I’m not trashing the characters. They’re what you’d expect and Stevens delivers very nicely. I also liked Sanford and wanted to know more about him. Not much, just a little bit.

Dialogue

I loved Bentworth’s humor and wisecracking one liners. Most of the characters had individual voices and spoke like you’d expect them to. I especially liked Willa. When she’s introduced I saw her to be hard-nosed and unsympathetic and in ways she is. However, she also whips out the humor at times.

Writing

First person narrative from Stan’s POV. Very good wry/cynical humor. Some of Rodney’s electronic wizardry strays a bit into unbelievable as I would think the Witness Protection Program would be more secure than what is shown here and Stevens does not go into to much details about how Rodney finagles the cyberworld (although Rodney keeps wanting to explain). However, it’s not a major point of contention and doesn’t distract from the enjoyment of the story. There are several instances of profanity, a few of which were unnecessary, but again, nothing over the top. Ditto with a few misspells. As mentioned before, I don’t mind a good old fashioned type detective story. This was a very well written piece, good for a temporary escape into fiction. I wouldn’t mind reading another of Stevens’ mysteries and I hope Bentworth sticks around.

My ranking:

Blue Belt

Phoenix Rising

By Pip Ballantine & Tee Morris

http://www.ministryofpeculiaroccurrences.com/

Britain’s Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences investigates…well, exactly as its title suggests. The strange, the weird, and the supernatural all fall under its auspices. With two new heroes on the scene, let the adventure begin! This one will blow your knickers off with movie quality action scenes and technology to spur the imagination. Set in the latter years of QueenVictoria, this is a fantastic book filled with suspense, humor, and a dose of steampunk.

 Plot

After rescuing Agent Wellington Books from a stronghold inAntarcticawith a little too much excessive force (specifically, she blew the place to smithereens), Agent Eliza D. Braun (a one woman armory) is penalized by being banished to the Ministry’s archives…with Books himself. Books, a rigid, by-the-rules gentleman with a knack for inventions, can barely tolerate the un-ladylike behavior of his new charge. However, Braun is not content to stay cooped up in the lower levels. When she finds a ‘cold case’ regarding her former partner, Braun decides to investigate. The case involves corpses in strange conditions, a secret society…and something much worse. Soon Braun and Books find themselves up against an organization set upon controlling the government ofEngland.

 I like it! This is a grand introduction for me of these two characters. Yes, some of the action was anticipated and expected, but a very well conceived plot. I’m not a steampunk fan, but this was a fine adventure.

 Characters

Eliza D. Braun: From New Zealand with a penchant for weapons and explosives, redhead, can imbibe but does get tipsy. Came from refinement but wears trousers. Passionate, caring, mischievous.

Wellington Thornhill Books, Esquire: Gentleman, the Ministry’s Archivist, inventor, refined, constantly hears his father’s voice in head judging his actions or non-actions.

 Doctor Basil Sound: the Ministry’s Director, portly, short

 Bruce Campbell: agent, Australian, womanizer, married with children, looking to advance beyond the Ministry and into the aristocracy

Wonderful characters. Well defined. Typical bad guys but very well written personalities. The characters’ emotions, strengths and weaknesses (especially of Books and Braun) are very well explored.

 Dialogue

Witty, typically British. No wandering, stays on point

 Writing

This is a fairly lengthy book (402 pages) but it doesn’t drag. At first I was wanting them to get on with the case investigation, but the way it played out, I was satisfied. This was a fun book to read. A few misspellings and missing words, but nothing to distract. Very well written for the culture portrayed. Some good science fun. In the actions scenes you can imagine the special effects on a movie screen. I so want to read the next in the series. If it’s as much of an adventure as “Phoenix Rising,” I will not be disappointed. 

My ranking:

Red Belt