Monday, March 26, 2012

Live Wire - by Harlan Coben

Live Wire is Harlan Coben's tenth Myron Bolitar novel.  If the series is new to you, Myron is a former basketball star, whose professional career was ended by injury before it really began.  Now he is an an agent with amazingly trouble prone clients.  His friend and partner, Win (Windsor Horne Lockwood III) is wealthy, preppy, and deceptively lethal.  His other partner, Esperanza, is a former lady wrestler (Little Pocahontas) and her former partner, Big Cindy (Big Chief Mama), also works for the firm.

In this installment of the series, pregnant former tennis star and client Suzze T. comes to Myron for help investigating an anonymous Facebook post claiming that her rock star husband Lex is not the father.  In classic fashion, Myron meddles with the best of intentions, but uncovers much more than he expected, including the sighting of his sister-in-law Kitty, married to his estranged brother.

For me, this quick-paced thriller was an enjoyable page turner.  This book includes a number of different story lines.  While, in my opinion, such an approach often detracts, Coben masterfully weaves and intertwines them to wonderful effect.  At the end of this book, he also drops on the reader what appears to signal a bold shift in the direction of this series.  Make sure you don't miss it.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Killing Lincoln - by Bill O'Reilly & Martin Dugard

In Killing Lincoln, TV political analyst Bill O'Reilly presents the historical story of the assassination of our 16th President, Abraham Lincoln, in the format of a page turning thriller.  It takes the reader back to the final days of the Civil War in April, 1865.  It provides the background to understand why Lincoln's quest to reunite and heal a wounded nation was unpopular on many fronts.  It tells a story about one of the most complicated plots ever carried out against U.S. leaders and about the efforts, after the events on the evening of April 14, 1865, to bring all those responsible to justice.

Not the normally a history buff, I really enjoyed this book.  I must point out, however, that it is somewhat controversial.  Many historians have no tolerance for factual errors they identified in early editions.  For instance, there were mistaken references to Lincoln in the Oval Office, when the Oval Office didn’t exist until 1909.  Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth was credited with carving a “peephole in the back of the state box” when the theater’s acting manager, Harry Clay Ford, in actuality did so.  It was stated that Union General Ulysses Grant and Confederate General Robert E. Lee would not meet a second time, when in fact they did on April 10, 1865.  Some claim that the description of how assassination conspirator Mary Surratt was imprisoned, the spelling of the last name of the Ford’s Theater carpenter, and the number of times that “Our American Cousin” was staged at Ford’s Theater before Lincoln was shot were not entirely factual.  Others point out that a lot of the authors' supposed resources are not footnoted.  That said, in response, some corrections have been made to Killing Lincoln, including the references to the Oval Office, Grant and Lee’s meeting at Appomattox and the spelling of the Ford’s Theater carpenter’s last name.”

As with most non-fiction works, lots of critical praise for this book can be found, as can opposing subjective criticisms like political spin, stereotypical and cliche viewpoints, etc.  I'm not smart enough to debate the  historical accuracy or analyze political tendencies of a book like this.  For me it was a good read.  I learned a lot about the history and events related to Lincoln's assassination and really enjoyed doing so.  National Geographic has recently announced that they will be filming a documentary based on this book.  I certainly will try to watch it.

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Drop - by Michael Connelly

The Drop is Michael Connelly's 24th novel overall and his 18th featuring Harry Bosch.  In this book, Harry is a detective in the Los Angeles Police Department's Open-Unsolved Unit.  It opens with his assignment to a "cold-case" murder investigation dating back to 1989 with  problematic evidence.  Hardly out of the gate, Bosch and his partner David Chu are re-directed to a "high jingo" live case.  Councilman Irvin Irving, a old nemesis of Bosch, is both a powerful politician and an ex-cop out to make his former employer, the LAPD, pay for forcing him out.  Now his son has mysteriously fallen to his death from the seventh floor of the Chateau Marmont Hotel and he is requesting Harry by name to lead the investigation.

The story is full of interesting misdirection and plot twists.  Bosch is a cagey veteran investigator who struggles with two difficult and high impact cases, being a single father, complex relationships with former and current partners, career decisions (e.g., DROP is an acronym for the Deferred Retirement Option Plan limiting his future with the LAPD) and even a few issues arising from exploratory steps with a romantic interest.  If you like Harry Bosch story lines like I do, you'll enjoy The Drop.  If you haven't yet experienced one of his crime novels, it wouldn't be a bad one to start with.

As an interesting trivia fact, Connelly auctioned off the naming of a character in this book. The winning bid of $2917 paid for a medical examiner being named Dr. Borja Toron Antons and benefited the DeKalb County (Decatur, Georgia) Public Library Foundation.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Zero Day - by David Baldacci

David Baldacci introduces John Puller, a decorated combat veteran now serving as a top Army CID investigator.  His father is an aging former general who's grip on reality is fading.  His brother is a former military scientist incarcerated at Fort Leavenworth for treason.  Understandably, Puller is somewhat of a loner.  His remarkable combat and deductive skills, however, place him as one of the best within his elite unit of federal agents.

In this novel, Puller is sent to investigate the murder of a Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) employee and his family in West Virginia coal mining country. He finds a community facing hard financial times, health hazards, and the destruction of their environment by current surface mining efforts.  Almost everything in the area is owned by Roger Trent, whose energy company conducts local mining operations.  He discovers a mysterious concrete bunker and housing development that was abandoned by the federal government in the 1960's.  He works with local police sergeant Samantha Cole, to solve the mystery and identify the people and motives behind the recent murders and violence that have unusually plagued this small town.

Puller digs through deception after deception.  The story is expertly unfolded for the reader and it kept my interest throughout.  Arguably, the story-line is somewhat unbelievable, at times, but the plot twists are well devised and characters are very interesting.  I fully expect this to be the first of a series of "John Puller" novels.  All in all, I enjoyed this book and am glad that I spent the time to read it.