Review: Tess Gerritsen, Keeper of the Bride

Getting jilted at the altar wasn’t the worst thing that happened to Nina Cormier that day. The church exploded and someone tried to run her off the road. She’s clearly a target, but why …

tess gerritsen keeper brideBest known for her Rizzoli and Isles characters, this novel is from early in Gerritsen’s career as a romance suspense novelist. This is very much in the Karen Rose mould, with the brooding detective, Sam Navarro, assigned to solve the exploding church case.

I’d love to know if it’s common practice for cops to take victims to their own homes overnight for ‘safekeeping’. This is certainly a feature in Rose’s work as well, and here, Navarro and Nina are thrown together increasingly as she becomes pivotal in helping the cops find a serial bomber. If she can stay alive long enough, that it.

Meanwhile, the killer is killing to order, including those who get in the way …

This is a pleasant enough novel, easily digestible in one sitting. Misunderstood daughter, overworked lonely cop, plausible plot. Add in a glass of wine and a chocolate biscuit and you’ll be happy out for a few hours!

Review: Pat Conroy, South of Broad (2009)

Pat Conroy South of BroadAgainst the sumptuous backdrop of Charleston, South Carolina, South of Broad gathers a cast of sinners and saints. Leopold Bloom King, our narrator, is the son of an amiable, loving father who teaches science at the local high school. His mother, an ex-nun, is the high school principal and a well-known Joyce scholar. After Leo’s older brother commits suicide at the age of 13, the family struggles with the shattering effects of his death, and Leo, lonely and isolated, searches for something to sustain him. Eventually, he finds his answer when he becomes part of a tightly knit group of high school seniors that includes Sheba and Trevor Poe, glamorous twins with an alcoholic mother and a prison-escapee father; hardscrabble mountain runaways Niles and Starla Whitehead; socialite Molly Huger and her boyfriend, Chadworth Rutledge X; and an ever-widening circle whose liaisons will ripple across two decades — from 1960s counterculture through the dawn of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s.

This book has been slated by reviewers on Goodreads, but I liked it. Admittedly, there is a point at which you have to decide to stay the course, but I found it well worth hanging in there.

The reason for that is the quality of the language. The story at times is a little ham-fisted, the dialogue slightly unrealistic, but the descriptive passages are a lovely indulgence for wordsmiths. Action-packed, no, but that’s not what you’re here for. But it’s a fabulous tourism vehicle for the city of Charleston, which you can hear, see, smell and almost touch through Conroy’s words.

Though I’ve seen the film, Prince of Tides, this is my first Conroy novel and, honestly, it won’t be my last.

I enjoyed the reflections on the ebb and flow of friendships; how ties bind, stifle, support, and empower all at once.

It’s also an insight into the different – and dysfunctional – shapes that families take: this isn’t an entirely new angle, but it fits in with the overall theme of what and who shapes the characters in the novel.

And it’s an interesting take on how social class is its own prison, with sets of rules and conventions that bind, and are only circumvented by the few.

If you can forgive the author a slow start and a predictable ending, you’ll enjoy this novel for the sheer beauty of his descriptions if for nothing else.

Review: Karin Slaughter, Cop Town, 2014

1974: As a brutal killing and a furious manhunt rock the city’s police department, Kate Murphy wonders if her first daKarin slaughter cop towny on the job will also be her last. She’s determined to defy her privileged background by making her own way—wearing a badge and carrying a gun. But for a beautiful young woman, life will be anything but easy in the macho world of the Atlanta PD, where even the female cops have little mercy for rookies. It’s also the worst day possible to start given that a beloved cop has been gunned down, his brothers in blue are out for blood, and the city is on the edge of war.

Kate isn’t the only woman on the force who’s feeling the heat. Maggie Lawson followed her uncle and brother into the ranks to prove her worth in their cynical eyes. When she and Kate, her new partner, are sidelined in the citywide search for a cop killer, their fury, pain, and pride finally reach the boiling point. With a killer poised to strike again, they will pursue their own line of investigation, risking everything as they venture into the city’s darkest heart.

This book has received mixed reviews but I really liked it. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the Will Trent series so I was a tad concerned about Slaughter going off in a new directions, but I found this to be a great read.

Aside from the plot, which holds up well, I liked the way Slaughter conveyed the casual and embedded discrimination against women and pretty much every other minority in 1970s Atlanta. Whether it was in relation to the uniform, not being able to rent an apartment or get a loan without a male guarantor, or the trauma of running the gauntlet in the station house, this is a read full of atmosphere. You can hear the catcalls, cringe at the innuendo, and wonder at how women lived within the limits that society and their male colleagues foisted on them.

And yet, none of that gets in the way of the story – how the police strive to protect their own, then strive to protect their own reputation through whatever means necessary
.

It’s a cracking read, full of gritty poverty, a nasty but realistic pecking order, lots of laughs (yes, actually), and two believable female characters in the middle whom it would be lovely to see again.

FBI Profiler Series 1997-2008, Lisa Gardner

In this series, we’re introduced to FBI profiler Pierce Quincy, his partner then wife Rainie Connor, and his daughter, Kimberley, who also becomes an FBI profiler.

lisa gardner the perfect husbandIn The Perfect Husband, it’s just Quincy on the trail of a decorated cop who’s escaped from jail after murdering 10 women. And he’s vowed vengeance on the person who put him there, his wife.

lisa gardner the third victimIn The Third Victim, Quincy finds himself in Bakersville, Oregon, where he partners up with local deputy Rainie Conner to investigate a school shooting. Although a boy has confessed to the horrific crime, evidence shows he may not be guilty.

 

lisa gardner the next accidentIn The Next Accident, death comes close to home when a killer targets the people Quincy loves the most. The killer is clever and knows his victims’ secret fears and hidden desires. And how can Quincy live with himself when he’s dedicated his life to solving crimes but is well challenged when crime comes home to him?

lisa gardner the killing hourIn The Killing Hour, rookie FBI agent Kimberly Quincy literally stumbles over a body in the woods. Then, the body count mounts up and time starts to run out.

lisa gardner gone In Gone, Rainie’s demons return and her marriage to Quincy, now retired, is put to the test. When Rainie is kidnapped, Quincy and Kimberly must race against the clock to rescue her.

lisa gardner say goodbyeSay Goodbye is the final in the series so far. Now pregnant, FBI Special Agent Kimberly Quincy takes on the most dangerous case of her career, involving half a dozen missing prostitutes, two kidnapped children, one lying informant, and a villain who is obsessed with spiders.

 

If you like novels that come in a series, Gardner won’t disappoint. Of the two Quincys, I preferred Pierce; I felt he had more depth and life experience to him. His dark silences, a product of his childhood and horrifying work probing sick minds, not surprisingly make relationships difficult. His dealings with his estranged wife, the long silences between him and Kimberley, and the evolution of his relationship with Rainie are all elements easy to empathise with and give him a depth of character that Kimberley’s novels are missing.

As ever with Gardner, her psychopaths will draw you in and her novels are page-turners. Never afraid to have the killer close to home, whether in law enforcement or murdering family members, Gardner plumbs the depths of humanity and, yet, we keep reading.

Do I have a favourite novel? Probably The Next Accident because it merges Quincy’s family and profiling job right on his own door step. Say Goodbye is a very strong novel in terms of showing how children, abused physically, verbally and emotionally by their abductor, become dehumanised by their treatment. And The Next Accident shows how a community – and individual families – are torn apart by that all-too familiar phenomenon, the school shooting. Suspicion doesn’t have to be rooted in fact to do its job, it just needs to be persistent.

Overall, I’d have preferred more novels featuring Quincy and Rainie, with occasional input from Kimberley, as there was definitely more room for character development there. Despite the traumas in Kimberley’s back story, she never became more than one-dimensional for me. Preferred the oldies!

Mark Billingham, Good as Dead (2011)

Mark Billingham Good as DeadPolice officer Helen Weeks walks into her local newsagent’s on her way to work. Little does she know that this simple daily ritual will change her life forever. It’s the last place she expects to be met with violence, but as she waits innocently at the till, she comes face to face with a gunman.

While Helen fights to stay alive, Thorne uncovers a conspiracy as dark and dangerous as any he has ever encountered. As the shocking truth emerges, the body count rises and Thorne must race against time if he is to bring a killer to justice and save a young mother’s life.

This is really a review of the three Tom Thorne novels I’ve read – Scaredy Cat (2002), The Burning Girl ( 2004) and Good as Dead (2011). I read the books out of order but liked the character of Thorne so much in Good as Dead that I sought other titles out.

Mark Billingham The Burning GirlMark Billingham Scaredy CatSet in London, Thorne has one relationship behind him and has as much luck with his relationships at work as he does in his domestic life. Assigned to London’s Serious Crime Group (West), Thorne is unconventional but not universally liked. He’s best friends with the ME, Dr Phil Hendricks, who accumulates tattoos with each failed relationship – and has a propensity for late night beer and takeaways.

In Scaredy Cat, Thorne and colleagues have to deal with what looks like a copycat killer – except both victims seem to have been murdered at the same time. And it’s happened before. In The Burning Girl, gang warfare gets personal when Thorne’s front door is marked with an X, the same symbol turning up on the backs of murder victims. And in Good as Dead, a fellow officer ends up as a hostage in a kidnapping crisis going badly wrong.

Throughout, we come across Thorne’s relationship with his father, who’s sliding into the mists of Alzheimer’s Disease; his sidekick Dave Holland’s new fatherhood; and the trials and tribulations of being Thorne’s boss.

In terms of character development, Scaredy Cat and Good as Dead are rollicking good reads; The Burning Girl doesn’t have the same pace or keep your interest piqued as much as the others. As with all characters set over a series of novels, it’s hard to maintain the momentum, and at the end of Good as Dead, it looks as if Thorne’s life is going to take a very interesting turn indeed. About time …!

Review: David Baldacci, The Target (2014)

The President knows it’s a perilous, high-risk assignment. If he gives the order, he has the opportunity to take down a global menace, once and for all. If the mission fails, he would face certain impeachment, and the threats against the nation would multiply. So the president turns to the one team that can pull off the impossible: Will Robie and his partner, Jessica Reel.David Baldacci The Target

Together, Robie and Reel’s talents as assassins are unmatched. But there are some in power who don’t trust the pair. They doubt their willingness to follow orders. And they will do anything to see that the two assassins succeed, but that they do not survive.

This is Baldacci’s third Robie and Reel novel and, as they say, it’s good but not great. I liked it but found it a little disjointed – there are so many thrills and spills packed in here that it’s a little head-spinning. And it’s helpful to have read the previous novel in the series, The Hit.

There’s Reel and her father, the US president and North Korea, the CIA and Reel, Neo-Nazis, Robie and Reel …

However, there are some interesting themes: the increasing age of the main characters and the physicality of the job is becoming an issue for both of them; the paranoia in North Korea and the strains of blind loyalty to the Supreme Leader; the strains of loyalty in a ‘free’ society such as America where, however, the CIA agents must do as they are told …

Essentially the three plots resolve Reel and her father, her connections to Neo-Nazis, the president and CIA mucking around in North Korean politics, the CIA trying to break Reel and Robie, internal North Korean politics and society, and the very human cost of loyalty in North Korea.

And we meet someone even better at killing than Robie and Reel: Chung-Cha, a survivor of North Korea’s concentration camps who is a Ninja-style assassin par excellence. And, quite likeable, for her quiet internal revolution …

I liked the book… but the amount of action is along the lines of Mission Impossible…

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