Monthly Archives: December 2012

Vulture Peak

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By John Burdett

Burdett

http://www.john-burdett.com/

 Plot

It’s election time and Colonel Vikorn of the Royal Thai Police Department wants to slide into office being a hero by eliminating human organ trafficking in the city. He assigns Detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep to look into the problem. Unsure what the game is, Sonchai is soon whisked away to Dubai where he meets a pair of enigmatic Chinese twins who are big players in the human organ game…and both crazier than a loon. Back in Bangkok, he is sent to investigate a triple murder in a mansion on top of a heralded mountain, named Vulture Peak. Sonchai discovers the organ trafficking business is much bigger than he imagined, with ties close to home. There’s also a rapist wandering his home neighborhood…and Sonchai’s wife might be having an affair. What’s a man who wants only to be a good cop and a faithful Buddhist to do?

There is a lot going on here and I found it difficult to keep everything straight. There is a lot of weirdness with a few subplots to break up things. How Burdett kept everything in order only shows how complex some authors’ minds can be.

Characters

Sonchai Jitpleecheep: Royal Thai Police Detective, Buddhist, American father, speaks English, son died in traffic accident, mother owns a prostitution bar, smokes marijuana now and then

Chanya: Former prostitute and Sonchai’s ‘wife’. Has a masters in sociology and working on her Doctor’s

Vikorn: Police Colonel and Sonchai’s boss. Not gung ho about enforcing the law, gray short hair, average height, multiple wives

Lek: Sonchai’s assistant, going through a gender change to become a woman

Lilly and Polly Yip: Human organ traffickers, have a mansion in Hong Kong, early 30s, Chinese, tall, exquisite personas, fluent in several languages, rich, very attractive, and, in the minds of many, insane. Will gamble huge amounts of money on small contests

Freddie Monroe: Aging British rock star, owns a yacht, spends time with a transgender, had two liver transplants, uses a walker and wheelchair because of breathlessness

Most of the characters are crazy, either humorously or genuinely. It’s no wonder Sonchai retreats from the world through drugs. There’s no other way to deal with the nuttiness and the horror around him.

Dialogue

Fairly definitive voices. Lek’s comes through pretty well. There’s a heavy dose of Western influence with conversations even with Thai and Chinese terminology and I didn’t get the feel of some of the Asian characters’ voices. I couldn’t see these people speaking in my mind and see them as Thai or Chinese.

Writing

First person from Sonchai’s POV and presented as if he’s speaking to you, acknowledging the reader. Mostly present tense. There are many levels of complexity to this story, almost too complex. Graphic depictions are tempered with humorous scenes but the humor is almost surreal. I don’t know if I want to spend too much time trying to make all of the connections between the subplots and the culture; that’s just not my cup of tea. Still, a fine piece of writing and Burdett knows his stuff.

My ranking:

Blue Belt

Blue

No One Kows You’re Here

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By Rachell Howzell

Howzell

 http://www.amazon.com/One-Knows-Youre-Here-ebook/dp/B006BDROK4

Plot

Freelance writer Syeeda Mckay is still recovering from breast cancer surgery when she receives a text from someone who claims to have information regarding a serial killer who has been shooting black prostitutes in Los Angeles for twenty years. McKay, who has been investigating these slayings for another book, agrees to meet the woman but discovers her murdered in a manner similar to the other victims. This woman, Tamar Haist, however, was a minister’s daughter and McKay soon discovers she was far from being a holy preacher’s child. While McKay discovers the life Haist led before her death, a college classmate shows up. Toni Fortune had dated and finally married a man who continually was unfaithful. Soon another college buddy, Krystal, shows up to try to put McKay ‘on the straight and narrow’. Krystal was a drunk and prostituted herself through college. As the days pass and more victims are discovered, McKay starts uncovering complex connections between Haist, Toni, and Krystal. The killer of Haist may not have killed the previous prostitutes. Syeeda soon finds herself target by the man she has named the Phanton Slayer.

This plot was inspired by true events. It’s a little bit different from some of the other serial killer mysteries or thrillers in regards to setting and characters.

Characters

Syeeda  McKay: 38, black, barely 5’4”, not muscular, freelance writer, former reporter for the Los Angeles Times, has two published novels including one that was made into a movie, father dead from smoking, brother is a movie director, sister is an FBI profiler, trying to quit smoking, recently had breast cancer surgery, drives a Mercedes

Adam Sherwood: LA detective, mixed race parents, has a law degree, green eyes, 6’3”, boyfriend of McKay’s even though they’re having issues.

Spencer Brooks: Black, coroner, 6’, 140 pounds, strong-willed, bourbon colored eyes, doesn’t talk much

There are some pretty well defined characters and I liked them. I wasn’t sure about McKay attitude toward her college buddies based on how they acted. It seemed a little off. I felt the characters expressed the black culture very well, both from attitudes within and without. I wanted to see more from Spencer because I liked his character.

Dialogue

There are instances of ‘black’ slang and inflections. McKay can be soft-hearted and empathetic when speaking to family members and no-nonsense when dealing with those she feels wronged her. Many attitudes and characters are defined by conversations. Nothing seemed forced.

Writing

First person from Syeeda’s POV and present tense third person from the killer’s POV. Some profanity but not overly used. Chapters are of various lengths. Action scenes are quick. As mentioned above, this story was conceived from actual events in Los Angeles and Howzell does a fine job of showing the people, attitudes, emotions, and culture that are beyond the Hollywood glitz. McKay is determined but shows emotion and horror at the crime scenes. The ending was abrupt and my eyes tripped over the laptop when I clicked the next page and found the Afterword. I thought I had missed something. Fairly tight writing, a bit slow in places but the story doesn’t drag. Howzell presents the clues in a logical manner and puts together a complex puzzle and I was surprised when the picture was finally revealed.

My ranking:

Purple Belt

 

KBL: Kill Bin Laden

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By John Weisman

Weisman

http://authors.simonandschuster.com/John-Weisman/699397

Plot

Charlie Becker, former Ranger and amputee is currently in Abbottabad, Pakistan, spying for the CIA. He’s trying to keep tabs on any attention being given to the finding of a CIA secret safe house. Said safe house is, in turn, spying on a compound where Usama Bin Laden’s two trusted cohorts are living with their families. It’s suspected UBL is also on site. Back in Washington, the politicians play their games while the CIA Director, Vince Mercaldi puts together an operation designed to infiltrate the compound. Troy Roberts, a Navy SEAL is recovering, along with the rest of his team, from an operation gone bad. Back on the job, the team starts training for a mission into a secure compound and speculation is it might hold the number one target. The CIA executes a plan to divert attention away from Abbottabad and everyone waits with anticipation for the United States President to make a decision whether attack on the compound will commence.

This book starts just over six months before the actual operation. Weisman conducted a lot of research to write this book. Even though some things he had to create, the story is very well laid out. It’s an interesting story to read – a fictionalized account of actual events.

Characters

Charlie Becker: Retired and very decorated Army Airborne Ranger. Lost his legs and four fingers in Iraq in 2004 from suicide bombers. Proficient with his prosthetics. Works undercover for CIA as a beggar in Pakistan. Fluent in a few of the Arabic languages

Anthony Vincent Mercaldi: CIA Director, lawyer in Nixon’s administration, former Chief of Staff, 8 term democrat representative, runs five miles on his treadmill daily

Troy Roberts: 24, SEAL, married with one child and another on the way. Regularly attends church. Trying to recover from an operation gone bad

Ty Weaver: 36, former Delta Force operator, currently working for the CIA as instructor of evasion and defensive driving, has a pregnant wife

There are a lot of people in this book. Again, we’re talking about fictional people representing actual individuals. Some references are easy to spot. There is a lot of background to many characters. I really enjoyed Charlie Becker’s portrayal. The story goes a little in depth on emotions and thoughts of some of the characters. Sometimes, though I had trouble remembering who was who.

Dialogue

Relatively limited but direct, to the point.

Writing

Long complex sentences, lots of information, military and government abbreviations. I noticed several editing errors, but not enough to distract me. It is written in a disciplined, military fashion. Things are planned, analyzed, and executed. Chapters are headed with date, location, and local time. The action is quick and precise. I was going to take off points for the editing errors, but this time I’ll let them slide.

My ranking:

Blue Belt

Blue

Endangered

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By Pamela Beason

Beason

www.pamelabeason.com

If you’re looking for a novel with some bite, look no further. I’m talking cougars (and I don’t mean middle-aged women after young studs). I’m talking coyotes and wilderness and mountains and scenery and don’t forget about a missing child. With enough animals to fill a zoo, enough suspects to complete a line up, and enough suspense to keep your nails short, Endangered is part of a great new series sure to please animal and mysteries lovers alike.

Plot

Free lance writer and wildlife biologist Summer ‘Sam’ Westin is checking on the progress of recently released cougars at Heritage National Monument in Utah. Arriving at the park a day later than expected she helps a lost three year old boy return to his father. Later, she learns the child has gone missing and the man she saw may not have been the infant’s parent. The situation becomes chaotic as search teams scour the park and Westin must contend with not only a contingency of people out to destroy the cougars believed to have killed the boy, but a pesky FBI agent whose suspects are of the two legged variety. Who might have taken the child? A weird man with children’s toys in his RV? A hunting fanatic? An unseen mountain man who howls at the moon? Teenagers after ransom? The boy’s own father? Or was the child taken, as feared, by roving cougars? Westin and her friends are against time, nature, wildlife in various forms to save not only the child but the furry beasts of the park.

This plot has all of the necessary elements for a good story. A lot of suspense, well rounded characters, trivia, and the requisite wildlife for an novel set in the outdoors.

Characters

Summer ‘Sam’ Alicia Westin: 37, wildlife geologist, freelance writer, silver blonde hair, gray eyes, short, father is Methodist minister, mother dies when Sam was nine, drives a Civic, former zookeeper, seasonal ranger with the national Park Service, and environmental consultant, grew up in Kansas

Buck Ferguson: silver hair and mustache, runs Eagle Tours which involved in eco-tourism and hunting expeditions, pale blue eyes, against wildlife protection

Chase J. Perez: FBI Special Agent out of Salt Lake City, tall, lean, black hair, tea brown eyes, serious with a subtle wry sense of humor, his quirk is his constant notepad, former accountant, mother is full blood Lakota

There are a couple more good characters with some fine support cast. They are very well presented with plenty of information. They all work well together.

Dialogue

Westin is cynical and shoots off her mouth at times. Perez is serious, clinical but with dry humor, Ferguson and a few others are blustery. All have distinctive voices.

Writing

I really enjoyed the many animals mentioned as well as the knowledge shown about nature, the Anasazis, and rappelling, etc. This is one of those books where the imagination soars and I found myself camping and climbing right along with the characters. This has solid writing, excellent character development, little profanity, and is a very good story.

My ranking:

Brown Belt

Brown

Cut And Run

By Matt Hilton

http://www.matthiltonbooks.com/

Plot

Joe Hunter, ex Special Operations assassin, is living in Tampa after the death of a loved one. On this particular day, he spots two cops tailing him. Soon after confronting them, they are both killed by sniper bullets. Hunter is now on the run, contacting friends, including ex agents, who might help figure out who wants him dead. His old boss pops into the picture, showing him photos of recently murdered team members from a botched Columbian job seven years previous. He also shows Joe their equally dead families. Joe quickly jumps on the trail of a merciless professional killer and the man’s employer. But who is behind the killings is a surprise Joe may not survive.

This is good versus evil at its most basic level. You know going into it the bullets will fly and the blood will flow. It’s a good down to earth plot with the obligatory surprise.

Characters

Joe Hunter: Used to work Special Operations (usually assassinations) with the CIA, now works as a ‘vigilante’ taking care of bad guys, has lived in Tmapa for a year, drives an Audi A6, won’t wage war on women, brother is in witness protection, parents live in England, British accent, likes a P226 Sig Sauer

Jared ‘Rink’ Rington: Joe’s ‘official boss who runs a private investigations business, scar on his jaw from a serial killer, worked with Joe in Spec Ops, black hair, Japanese mother, Arkansas drawl, ex Army Ranger

Luke Rickard: professional killer, married, likes to terrorize his wife and women, blue eyes, wavy hair, athletic build, wants women to see his inner serpent, had reconstructive surgery

Bryce Lang: CIA agent, brown hair, brown eyes, medium build, medium height

Fairly well rounded characters, with each of the good guys almost a clone of the others except for differing quirks and looks. Everyone is adept at weaponry and escaping danger and planning infiltrations. Not too much emotion. Rickard is a crazy killer other killers avoid.

Dialogue

Nothing exciting. What needs to be said gets said. No long discussions, no lengthy soliloquies. Rickard’s voice comes through the best because he’s the craziest.

Writing

Relatively short chapters. The POV flips between first person (Joe) and third person (Luke). A few bits of profanity. The violence is not too graphically depicted but the body count rivals any Schwarzenegger movie. It’s a fast read and never does it drag. I would have liked to have delved into the characters a bit more, but, really, this isn’t that type of book. It’s about blood and bullets and action. If you want heartfelt conversations and gushing emotion, read something else.

My ranking:

Blue Belt