Category Archives: Book Review

Book Review: The Escape, David Baldacci

The premise of this book is that the brilliant Robert Puller has been convicted of treason against the USA and is being held in a maximum security military prison. His brother, the gifted investigator John Puller, still believes in him, even when he escapes during a storm. John Puller works with the intrepid Veronica Knox to investigate the escape and to clear his brother’s name. They focus on the witnesses who gave testimony against Robert Puller. If he is innocent, they can’t be, so the investigators have to uncover the truth behind their lies.

This book made a good holiday read – if you have the impression that recent Baldacci books are a bit lightweight, this one won’t change your mind, but it is quite entertaining.
Three Stars

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Book Review: Nine Dragons, Michael Connelly

This Harry Bosch thriller starts with an investigation into the murder of a Chinese convenience store owner. It happens that this very man gave shelter to Harry in his shop during a riot, so he resolves to do everything he can to track down the culprit. During the investigation, the author answers a lingering question – how did Harry suddenly find himself looking after his teenage daughter, in later books in the series? The daughter, Madeline, was living with her mother Eleanor Wish in Hong Kong – they become an integral part of this story when a Triad gang decide to ward off Harry’s murder investigation by kidnapping Maddie.

The book has plenty of plot twists to keep the reader’s interest, but I found it too far-fetched. Identify the location of the kidnapping from a fleeting, blurred view out of the window in the ransom video? Find Maddie in the middle of Hong Kong, a city Bosch hardly knows, given just 24 hours? No problem, and why not leave a trail of destruction behind when Bosch catches a flight home with Maddie? A nice touch is when another of the author’s characters, lawyer Micky Haller, steps in to defend Bosch from any awkward charges from the Hong Kong police.

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Book Review: The Visitor/Running Blind, Lee Child

A friend sent me a link to some Jack Reacher quotes and I was delighted to discover that it listed a book in the series that I hadn’t read – “Running Blind”. I ordered it immediately – alas when it arrived, it turned out to be “The visitor”, a book I had already read, just published under another name in the U.S.

This book sees Jack Reacher in a relationship with Jodie, the high-flying daughter of his old boss, General Garber. It’s the closest he’s got to settling down – he inherited Garber’s old house (which sounds great by the way), he loves Jodie – all is well. Except that he cannot escape the nagging voice that tells him to move on – and eventually, he will.

The book centres on a series of macabre murders, where army women are found dead in a bath of green paint – cause of death, motive and method all unknown. In a side plot, Reacher sees that his favourite restaurant is being threatened by a protection racket – so he steps in, fearlessly as ever, to take on the thugs. Unfortunately, his brand of rough justice is witnessed by a couple of FBI agents, and Reacher is forcibly recruited by them to help investigate the bath tub murders. It turns out he knew a couple of the women involved, and was being followed as a suspect. He satisfies his yearning for travel by flying around the country investigating, accompanied by the lovely Special Agent Lisa Harper.

The book finishes with Reacher solving the case and his girlfriend’s career really taking off as she is made partner by her law firm. It’s clear their days together are numbered and by the next book, he’ll be a loner again.
Four Stars

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Book Review: The Absence of Guilt, Mark Gimenez

This is the third novel by Mark Gimenez that features A. Scott Fenney, a brilliant Dallas lawyer. His way of life was changed dramatically when forced to defend a young woman against a murder charge in The Color of Law, and we saw his sense of duty come to the fore when he defended his ex-wife against another murder charge in Accused.

It’s fair to say, then, that Mark Gimenez gives Fenney a pretty hard time. The dilemmas that are set for him remind me of Dick Barton, Special Agent, a radio play from the 1940s. One team of writers was tasked with setting Dick Barton the most impossible challenges, then another set of writers had to devise a way out – the competitiveness between the teams adding to the tension. The difference here is that A. Scott Fenney is not a man that would take an easy way out – his sense of duty is so profound that he faces impossible moral dilemmas head on, regardless of the consequences to his personal life.

In this story, we see Fenney installed as a federal judge. He has to rule on whether the President has broken constitutional law by issuing an order to allow illegal immigrants to become citizens of America. He also has to consider whether to free a terrorist accused of plotting to blow up a stadium in Dallas during the Super Bowl. The attorney general and the president are counting on him to detain the suspect – the only problem is the absence of any evidence against him.

I think Gimenez is at his best with this character, especially because we continue to hear about his family life as his teenage daughters grow up and become a key part of the plot in this book. He also gives a sly reference to Bookman, the main character in his earlier book, Con Law.

Five Stars

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Book Review: Night School, Lee Child

For me, there’s a lot of suspense before I read a Jack Reacher thriller. A recent tradition is that Lee Child is interviewed by Phil Williamson Radio 5Live, discusses the book that’s just been published, and reveals the first line of the next book. So in September 2015, we knew the title was Night School and the first line would be: “In the morning they gave Reacher a medal, and in the afternoon they sent him back to school”. And in September 2016, he talked more about the plot. Then I received a lovely hardback edition of the book for Christmas and finally picked it up to read a week ago.  A long build-up, plenty of suspense – would the book be up to the usual standard?

Yes, of course it is.  It’s a flashback to the 1990’s, the days that Reacher was still in the army, at the top of his game, sent on a special investigation to find and destroy a terrorist cell in Germany.  The book features the enigmatic Frances Neagley as well, his top sergeant from the 110th Military Police.  It has all the hallmarks of a classic Jack Reacher thriller, even cheekily putting the standard description of him as “six feet five and two hundred fifty pounds”, even though Tom Cruise is probably picturing himself playing the role in the next movie as  I write this.  The book starts with the premise of an overheard conversation: “The American wants 100 million dollars” – Lee Child doesn’t disappoint.

Here’s the first line of the next book, which carries on from Make Me: “Jack Reacher and Michelle Chang spent three days in Milwaukee.  On the fourth morning, she was gone.”

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Book Review: Con Law, Mark Gimenez

I’ve read several books by Mark Gimenez before and really enjoyed them, so I was surprised to look back and see that I hadn’t read one for over 2 years! Gimenez’ best work are the novels featuring A. Scott Fenney, but in this novel he introduces a new character, John Bookman (known as ‘Book’).

By profession, Book is a professor of constitutional law – he is apparently sort after for his views on media shows and has published widely. Yet, as well as being a celebrity by today’s standards, he is also known for pursuing legal cases on a pro-bono basis, often getting himself and his interns into trouble (they get to come along for the ride, literally, on his Harley). And in another quirk of fate, Book can look after himself – he’s highly proficient in Tae Kwon Do.

Although I enjoyed this book, I didn’t buy into the main character as much as other characters imagined by Gimenez. Book has many similarities to Lee Child’s Jack Reacher – including the womanising, the fights, the investigations and the maverick attitude. I’d rather read Jack Reacher any day – and the latest thriller, Night School, is next on my reading list.

Four stars

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Book Review: Ancestral Machines, Michael Cobley

ancestralmachinesThis is the first book that I’ve read from Michael Cobley. I was drawn to it by reviews such as “An absolute cracker of a space opera” and “Here is a space opera which unashamedly honours the roots of the genre”. Also, it’s good to know that there are other related books by the same author in the Humanity’s Fire trilogy.

That said, I found the book overly complex, with a vast array of characters and numerous distinct plot lines that took hundreds of pages to come together. Too often, we were introduced to characters who then seemed to disappear completely. For example, two women in Captain Pyke’s close-knit crew, Dervla and Win, were introduced as integral members of his team. Once captured, the team took on impossible challenges to save them – but unfortunately, we never heard about Win again!

The most memorable character(s) of the book was the drone Rensik Estemil. Hugely intelligent and an effective fighting machine, he somehow got trapped in a mesh box (Faraday cage?!) – but escaped by casting off a mini-Rensik drone which saved the day.
Four stars

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