Category Archives: Book Review

Book Review: The Lost Fleet – Valiant, Jack Campbell

This book follows the same template as the other Lost Fleet books that I’ve read. We travel with Captain “Black Jack” Geary on Dauntless, the flag ship of his fleet, as he attempts to steer his people home after a damaging series of battles. This episode is more optimistic, the fleet is performing well in battle and Geary’s efforts to bring a humane change in culture to the personnel is succeeding (they rescue stranded enemy civilians who had been abandoned on an outpost planet). However, he still faces the growing threat of hidden enemies within the leadership who are still trying to overthrow him. Geary confronts the fact that he cannot continue to court Co-President Victoria Rione now that his growing feelings for Captain Tanya Desjani are obvious to everyone in his crew.
Three stars

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Book Review: The Fix, David Baldacci

TheFixI really enjoyed the first in David Baldacci’s Amos Decker series, so was looking forward to this one. Unfortunately, it wasn’t at the same level – a completely implausible plot, combining industrial espionage with an international spy ring, terrorism and family betrayal.
TwoStars

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Book Review: The Closers, Michael Connelly

I bought this book from a charity book shop, so it could have come anywhere in the timeline of the Harry Bosch series. I was quite amused that this one heralds Bosch coming out of retirement to work in the Open-Unsolved Unit of the LAPD – the last book that I read in this series was when he came out of retirement after he’d left the Open-Unsolved Unit!

Bosch and partner Kiz Rider are assigned to investigate the murder of a schoolgirl many years before. The case is being reviewed in the light of DNA evidence – they hope that blood on the murder weapon will lead them to the killer. As might be expected, they witness the devastating effect the crime had on the girl’s mother and father. The mother’s life is on hold years later, waiting for resolution. The father has lost his career and is homeless – but Bosch tracks him down. He finds that the man blames himself for letting his daughter down, having been scared off from asking questions about the investigation by senior members in the LAPD.

Whilst the investigation necessarily follows the car mechanic whose blood was found on the gun, the investigators know that he may not be the killer. They need to link him to the girl somehow – probing attendance at the same school or overlapping social circles in the town. Yet, none of the girl’s friends recognise the man.

Four Stars

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Book Review: The Midnight Line, Lee Child

This is the 22nd book in Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series and it continues where the 20th book, Make Me, finished. Any hope that Reacher’s collaborator in the previous book, Michelle Chang, would feature again were immediately dashed – but Reacher does work with an ad- hoc team in this one, and those tend to be the best of his adventures.

The premise of the book is that Reacher sees a small West Point ring in a pawn shop and decides to track down the (presumed female) owner and return it to her. Being an alumni himself, he feels a duty to help someone down on their luck. He allies himself with a detective, Terry Bramall, who also happens to be looking for the owner of the ring – employed by the beautiful sister of the owner. Finding the woman is only the beginning – the issues causing her to pawn the ring (battlefield injuries and drug addiction) are far harder to solve.

The next book in the series will be called Yesterday.

Four stars

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Book Review: The Right Stuff, Tom Wolfe

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book. The phrase “The Right Stuff” is an established part of pop culture, but I hadn’t seen the film and didn’t realise this was a book based on true stories as told by the original Mercury 7 astronauts. Conversely, The Bonfire of the Vanities by the same author was fictional – yet made a similar impact on pop culture with Tom Wolfe’s portrayal of bond traders as “Masters of the Universe”.

Wolfe is brilliant at telling a story with such vivid description that you can picture yourself in the scene with the characters. He relates the horrors of plane crashes and the impact on the loved ones of the pilot, the endless waiting among the community of test pilot wives who are frantically guessing whose husband died today. And yet he does it with an upbeat style, because the survivors have to believe that it wouldn’t happen to them, and the reader needs to experience the incredible risks taken by the pilots from their point of view. The remaining cohort, by their continuing existence, prove to themselves every day that they would have found a way to avoid the crash – because they have The Right Stuff.

Suffice to say, this historical account changed my perception of the history of manned American space flight. It was fascinating to look back to a time when the astronauts were seen as mere monkeys dispatched into space on top of a rocket, and not as pilots at all. Initially, it was questioned whether the best test pilots would wish to give up their highly skilled and respected military careers. Yet by the end of the book, being an astronaut is to be a national hero, unquestioningly seen as the top of the pyramid, the highest achievement a flyer could reach.
Five Stars

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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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