Tuesday, September 29, 2009


"FEAR THE WORST" by Linwood Barclay.

Those Brits always have the best names! Anyhoo, Barclay, the #1 bestselling crime novelist in Britain, brings us his third novel.

Timothy Blake, a salesman at a Honda dealership in Connecticut, is an ordinary man. He's middle-aged, has an ex-wife who is living with a car dealer rival, and has a 17-year old daughter, Syd, who might toss him a "Good Morning" on a GOOD day.

Syd is staying with Blake for the summer and has taken a job at Just Inn Time, a local hotel. Syd fails to return home from work one evening and Blake drives to the hotel to find that no one there has ever heard of her. The nightmare begins.....

This compelling and fast paced thriller follows Blake through the fright, fantasies and rage of a parent whose child faces uncertain danger. The plot is plausible and deals with the timely social issue of human trafficking. Several subplot twists in the book that are never resolved in the end may leave the reader a bit disappointed.

All in all, a good and suspenseful read.

Monday, September 21, 2009


RELENTLESS by Dean Koontz

Bestselling novelist Cullen "Cubby" Greenwich's new book has just been reviewed by reclusive and much feared critic, Shearman Waxx. Waxx has utilized the "poison pen" on other authors who have mysteriously vanished following his negative reviews.
Cubby needs to find out more about this guy.
Oh, no, Cubby, do you REALLY need to?
With his wife Penny, a children's book illustrator, his precocious and brilliant son Milo, and dog (or is he) Lassie, Cubby embarks on a wild and horror-filled search for the relentless, sociopathic critic.
Koontz, as usual, is brilliant in shocking his readers. Verbal repartee between Cubby and Penny is delightful to read. Unfortunately, the "comic book" ending is disappointing after over 300 pages of great and evocative suspense.

Saturday, September 19, 2009


Saturday, September 19, 2009


From the author of "The Tattoo Artist" this is a poignant novel of resignation, hope and resiliency.

I was captured immediately by the sparse prose in this short but unforgettable novel about two days in the lives of an elderly married couple and their dog living in the East Village of New York.

Ruth, a retired school teacher and Alex, an artist, prepare to put their fifth-floor walk-up on the market. The time has come to find a new home in a building with an elevator for them and their beloved aged dachshund, Dorothy. Due to the post-911 housing market, and an aggressive realtor, Ruth and Alex are asking a million dollars for the apartment they had purchased for five thousand dollars forty years prior.

As they get ready for an open-house, a gas tanker driven by one Abdul Pamir overturns and becomes lodged in the Midtown tunnel. Pamir runs and remains missing. Residents panic in fear that another 9/11 is occurring, and the media has a field day with non-stop television reporting on the "Danger in the Tunnel" implying imminent terrorist attacks.

In the meantime, poor Dorothy has done something to render her back legs paralyzed. In a funny, yet endearing, description, the couple place Dorothy on a bread cutting board and holding either end of the board walk gingerly down five flights of stairs and five blocks to the vet hospital.

With each chapter, the story's perspective changes from Ruth's to Alex's to Dorothy's vantage point. With hearts overturning as they await the outcome of Dorothy's needed surgery, Ruth and Alex also have to deal with the numerous quirky potential buyers who have engaged in a bidding war for their apartment while market prices fluctuate hourly as the "terrorist" remains on the loose.

The book has an abrupt ending that might be unsatisfying for some, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Posted by bp at 1:06 PM

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

"Restless" by William Boyd

The narrative begins the summer of 1976 when Ruth Gilmartin, a single mother living in Oxford England, discovers that her mother, Sally, is really a Russian émigrée called Eva Delectorskaya. Sally, after decades of concealing her past, but now fearing her life is in danger, reveals her recruitment and involvement in espionage work during WWII.

Ruth learns that Sally had been enlisted to work as an undercover agent for the British Intelligence Services, where she was trained in various covert operations as a spy, and where the number one rule was “to trust no one”. Working in France, England and Scotland she eventually is transferred to New York, and was assigned as an undercover news reporter for the TransOceanic News Agency where she works to plant pro-British propaganda in newspapers to spur the United States government into joining the war effort. When a field operation goes wrong, Sally is forced to cover her tracks and goes into hiding. She has maintained a low profile for thirty years, but now believes she is being watched and that someone from the past has come back to silence her.

Skeptical at first, Ruth is gradually drawn into her mother’s story and sets out to hunt down Sally’s former mentor, Lucas Fromer, hoping to alleviate her mother's fears.

While Ruth’s life as a teacher of English takes a back seat to her mother’s spy tale, the author presents a vivid account of Sally’s life of ciphers and double agents, detailing the mounting tension of each mission.

Overall, “Restless” is an absorbing spy thriller set against a largely unknown episode in U.S.-British relations.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Queen of Creepy? Not So Much.

Portobello by Ruth Rendell

Ruth Rendell has the reputation, deserved I might add, for being the creepiest of crime writers. Apart from her Inspector Wexford police procedural series, she specializes in psychological suspense. She does the same under a pseudonym, Barbara Vine, but the Vines tend to be less crime and suspense oriented. As Ruth Rendell she has written some very scary stories.

However, if you prefer your thrills on the mild side, I recommend Rendell's latest, Portobello. This atypical thriller gets off to a slow start, but persistence pays. Once I got into it, I couldn't put it down. The title refers to the Portobello Road in London, the colorful shopping bazaar around which the action is centered.

Four disparate main characters come together over the loss and retrieval of an envelope in the street containing over 100 pounds. Eugene Wren, a slightly effete middle-aged art dealer, finds the money, and posts an ad to alert the owner. The ad attracts Lance, a pathetic young slacker, who hopes to con Eugene out of the money while at the same time casing his house for robbery. The real owner of the cash turns out to be Joel Roseman, a disturbed loner who becomes the patient of Eugene's girlfriend, Ella, a GP. The interactions of these four with each other and with additional eccentrics in the cast of characters makes a compelling read.

While limiting the violence (there is some), Rendell manages to create a sense of impending explosion. The ending ties up all the loose ends in a satisfying way. All in all, a good read.

Another Kellerman

The Genius by Jesse Kellerman

The 31 year old son of best selling author duo Jonathan and Faye Kellerman recently published his third novel. The Genius (2008) centers around the serial killer of young boys, but it is as much a family saga as a crime novel.

Ethan Muller, a young art dealer, discovers a massive collection of drawings by an eccentric loner who has disappeared, leaving his artwork behind. Based on the content of the drawings, it appears that the artist may have also been a serial killer. Ethan decides to investigate the unsolved crimes and finally uncovers a deeply buried family secret. Set in New York City, the story is narrated alternately by Ethan in the present and from the past using the viewpoint of various family members over four decades. The family history details the rise from poverty to great wealth and power.

Jesse Kellerman may be a better writer than either of his parents. This novel is very well done. It has poignant and poetic passages, but also a light touch. And he keeps the suspense going.

PS: Do you remember Henry Darger, an outsider artist whose Lincoln Park apartment was discovered to be filled with fantastical drawings after he died? The artist character in this story is clearly based on Darger, who, as far as I know, was not a serial killer.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Saving Paulo by David J. Walker

I LOVED this book. I couldn't put it down...literally. Walker's writing is strong and intense. His story was filled with suspense but not over dramatic. Revolving around a highly flawed main character and set in Chicago, among other locales, this book is a stand-alone thriller, but it has spurred me on to read all of the other book Walker has written, series or not. The relationship between the boy and the main character is highly believable. It never gets too sappy or mushy. And the ending is strong. I was hoping against hope that Walker wouldn't ruin the ending as many authors do by taking the "Hollywood" way out. But, the ending is as strong as the first pages. I've met Mr. Walker on a few occasions and he is, on the surface, a mild, unassuming man. But, he sure writes a WILD, FAST-PACED thriller. A GREAT thriller!