Category Archives: Book Review

Book Review: The Hard Way, Lee Child

In a recent interview on BBC Radio 4, Lee Child was asked why Jack Reacher gets into so many tricky situations. The answer was simple – he keeps to himself pretty much all of the time, but a couple of times a year, trouble comes his way and he can’t leave it alone. Child has had no luck selling the idea of Reacher sitting drinking coffee all day to a publisher – so only the exceptional days get told in his books.

This book starts with Reacher drinking coffee in New York, minding his own business. A short time later, he’s in a swanky apartment helping to investigate the kidnap of a man’s wife and daughter. The first 24 hours are vital to the hunt – and Reacher is a witness who can help track down the mercenaries who took them.

Quickly, though, we find that all is not as it seems. The husband searching for his family is himself a shady character; a mysterious woman in an apartment opposite is keenly watching the comings/goings from the flat; the ransom demands jump up in multiples of millions, yet are paid in cash with little thought. As ever, it’s the details that matter – Jack Reacher misses little and is on hand to exact appropriate retribution.
Four stars

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Book Review: The Third Option, Vince Flynn

This implausible thriller features Mitch Rapp, an assassin who works undercover for the US government, but wishes to retire and settle down with Anna. Anna is the love of his life, a TV news reporter whom he met whilst saving the life of the President, in a previous adventure.

Mitch is assigned one last job – to assassinate an arms dealer who has broken sanctions by selling to terrorists. Mitch (aka “Iron Man” because he’s invincible) is the Third Option – when the government sees that diplomacy has failed and military action is not viable, they turn to him. The job goes smoothly – that is, until Mitch is shot by one of his own team, a double agent working for a shadowy figure who wishes to discredit the President. Apparently, an undercover operation like this blowing up in a foreign country would be enough to destabilise the leadership of the CIA, leaving the door open for a Presidential bid.

Mitch hooks up with a team to track down the traitor and exact revenge. A counter-team is also assigned by the shadowy figure to track down the traitors and eliminate them before Mitch finds them (otherwise, they might talk, you see). And another lone assassin (a top European model no less) is engaged to terminate the leader of the counter-team. Seriously.

Three stars

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Book Review: No Middle Name, Lee Child

This is a collection of short stories featuring Jack Reacher. Despite reading a few negative reviews, I found this book pretty good. I’m sure a lot of Jack Reacher fans will be interested to read about Reacher’s childhood – but I can imagine it would have been hard to explore that in a complete novel.

“Second Son” is set when Reacher is 13 and newly arrived at a military base. Whilst his upbringing is mentioned in other books, the relocation from one base to another is shown to be a big part of his life. He has to find his feet pretty quickly when surrounded by openly hostile kids – and his loathing for running means that in a fight-or-flight situation, the choice is already made.

“High Heat” is set a few years later – Reacher goes to the city at 16, purely to look around before visiting his brother. As a man, we see that he gets involved whenever he witnesses an injustice – as a young man, he was already inserting himself into adult conflicts, and somehow coming out on top despite tough odds.

“James Penney’s new Identity” stands out because Jack Reacher is really incidental to the main plot – I don’t think Lee Child has written many books without Reacher (any?), but this shows that he has more than enough ideas if he wanted to invent another character. But Reacher is so popular, you can’t blame him for giving the public what they want.

The best stories are at the start – the last few are shorter too, but by then I’d had a great time reading the book anyway.
Four stars

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Book Review: The Lost Fleet – Dauntless, Jack Campbell

This is the first book in the “Lost Fleet” series, featuring Captain Jack Geary. I read “Guardian”, a book from later in the series earlier this year, and was hoping that this book would describe the moment that Jack Geary’s survival capsule was found in space. However, this book goes back to a period just a few weeks after he has thawed out (!) and is adjusting to life in the future. It’s 100 years after he’d famously escaped his last stand in a battle against the Syndicate Worlds, but he has no recollection of the passing of a century. Moreover, he was promoted to Captain upon his supposed death, and soon finds himself running the entire fleet due to his length of service and the ensuing legends that have built over the years.

The book covers a number of space battles, as well as describing the difficulty Geary faces in retraining his team in the lost arts of combat at near light speed. He faces opposition in the boardroom too – not everyone is happy to be shown the error of their methods. It’s an enjoyable read and highly similar to Guardian – it will be interesting to read a third from the series to see if the author follows the same template throughout.
Four stars

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Book Review: Memory Man, David Baldacci

Memory Man is the first book by David Baldacci to introduce Amos Decker. As a professional American footballer, Decker suffered a massive trauma to the head, changing his mental state forever – he now has hyperthymesia, he never forgets anything. Indeed, he can review any events from his life in full colour, even from before the injury. This, of course, is massively useful for someone whose job is analytical – Decker uses his new skills, becoming a gifted detective in the local police force.

Scroll forwards, and Decker’s life is interrupted by another shocking event – his wife and young daughter are brutally murdered in his home (as well as the wife’s brother – this was glossed over in the book and the plot didn’t seem to require the additional murder). After that, his life goes quickly downhill – he loses his home and job, living out on the streets. Only belatedly, he finds the resolve to get some Private Investigator work to pay for temporary accommodation.

So much for the back story. The plot for this book is that a serial killer is on the loose, massacring students and teachers at a high school and then proceeding to kill an FBI agent assigned to the case. The killer leaves personal messages to Decker, but ironically he cannot remember anything connected to this case that would help to identify the culprit.

I gather there is going to be a series of thrillers featuring Amos Decker and he’s a much more complex and sympathetic character than, say, Agent John Puller in another of Baldacci’s series. If the others are as readable as this one, then they’ll be worth following.
Four stars

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Book Review: The Wrong Side of Goodbye, Michael Connelly

This book is from the Harry Bosch series by Connelly and comes at a critical time. Detective Bosch has left the cold crimes unit in the LAPD, so how can the author continue to provide him with a stream of crimes to investigate? Take on some private investigator work and volunteer for the San Fernando Police Department – that’s how. This gives an interesting mix and new dilemmas – Bosch is forbidden from using police resources (such as databases) for his private work, but will he abide by the rules?

In this thriller, Bosch investigates whether a billionaire industrialist has an heir to his fortune (a private assignment) and is hot on the tracks of a serial rapist he calls ‘The Screen Cutter’ (police work). Meanwhile, his daughter Maddie has started at university, giving a glimpse of Bosch ‘the man’ as well as the detective. I loved his attempts to improve her security by putting a dog bowl (full of water) outside the kitchen door. There’s also a cameo for Bosch’s half-brother, Micky Haller, on the inheritance case.

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Book Review: The Lost Fleet – Beyond the Frontier – Guardian, Jack Campbell

This book was a lucky, random find in a charity book shop. I hadn’t read anything by this author before, but the book was thoroughly enjoyable. It’s primarily a Science Fiction book – the hero, Admiral Jack Geary, guides his fleet of starships across the galaxy back to the home system, Varandal, encountering numerous enemies (some human, some alien) on the way. But he also has to overcome political challenges and man-management issues within the fleet and in the government back home.

This one is a spin-off from a series of books, so I’ve ordered the first (“Dauntless”) to fill in the background.

Four stars

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