Thursday, February 21, 2013

Mad River - by John Sandford

Mad River is book #6 in John Sandford's Virgil Flowers series.  In southwest Minnesota, not far from Virgil's hometown, a trio of youngsters is terrorizing the community.  As part of an apparent armed robbery, they kill a young woman in her parents home.  Their attempts to run result in a crime spree with innocent victims piling up rather quickly.  Virgil is a somewhat unorthodox state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) investigator who joins in the hunt.

If you are unfamiliar with the series, Flowers is a rather unconventional super-cop.  Although he doesn't shy away from dangerous situations, he is not a macho mercenary type and does not like carrying a gun.  While very intelligent and often innovative, he's a talented but normal guy who employs effective police work and just gets the job done.  He's very likable and loves the outdoors (his fishing boat is probably his most prized possession).  He enjoys beer, women, burgers, and conversation, but also spends a good amount of time pondering God (though he is the son of a Lutheran minister).  He is a kind and thoughtful person, but has had problems with long-term relationships (he's already been divorced three times).  Like most of Sandford's characters, he is an interesting, somewhat quirky, and well-developed personality.

This book is not a mystery.  While Virgil is a good investigator, this is about a case where Virigil is, for the most part, forced to deal with events as they play out.  This is a criminal thriller, of sorts, and the plot has a number of suspenseful moments.  The storyline, however, is also about Virgil's rationalization and handling of the situations and emotions that surround the case as it plays out beyond his control and he must deal with the ethics of improper and unattainable justice.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Litigators - by John Grisham

David Zinc is a 31-year-old Harvard Law graduate who is burnt out from working long hours underwriting bonds for the high-powered law-firm of Rogan Rothberg. This story starts with his anxiety attack, causing him to flee his lucrative job, escaping to an all-day bender that indirectly lands him with the "boutique" firm of Finley and Figg.  Showing up drunk on their doorstep, he ultimately convinces them to take him into their firm as an almost unpaid associate.  David is refreshed by the change, but shocked by the often questionable ethics of his new firm.  When Wally Fig, the junior partner, stumbles across the possibility that Krayoxx, an anti-cholesterol drug, might lead to heart attacks and strokes, he sees a chance to move beyond the divorce, personal injury, and other "street law" staples of his ambulance chasing firm.  Partnering with highly profitable tort firms, the plan is to accumulate clients for the almost guaranteed settlement.  With a title of "The Litigators," you can easily speculate how that turned out for this set of lawyers with almost zero trial experience and a lawsuit that turns out to be pretty shaky.

While this was not my favorite Grisham book, that's not necessarily a bad review.  Grisham is the king of the legal thriller.  Although I would consider this less of a thriller, I really enjoyed this book and found much of it humorous.  While the underlying plot was pretty predictable, the story was told in a way that really engaged me and kept my interest.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Hostage - by Robert Crais

Jeff Talley used to be a negotiator for the LAPD SWAT team. After the death of a young hostage, however, he left the LAPD and opted for a position as the Chief of Police for a small California town with little to no violent crime.  Now, however, three punks rob a grocery store, kill its owner, and in the process of fleeing, end up taking Walter Smith and his two children hostage in their own home.  This was the nightmare that Talley had run from.  It turns out to be even more personal than he could imagine.

I love Rober Crais' Elvis Cole and Joe Pike series.  This was similarly a very enjoyable thriller that kept me turning pages.  I have since discovered that this book was turned into a 2005 Bruce Willis action movie that I now plan to watch.