Friday, January 28, 2011

Crush - Alan Jacobson

I just finished Crush by Alan Jacobson, and wow, what an ending!

This is the second novel in the Karen Vail series (now three books).  Karen Vail is a top profiler for the FBI, who gets a (little too) involved in her cases.  In this book, she is on vacation in Napa Valley, when she and her boyfriend find a dead body inside a wine cave.  Karen then inserts herself into the team to find what turns out to be a serial killer that has been operating for quite some time.

The best part of this novel is the character of Karen Vail.  She's smart, intense and a little bit confrontational.  She makes a few mistakes in the novel, but recognizes them and takes them in stride.  I thought the first Karen Vail novel (The Seventh Victim) was a little over the top, but I really liked the character, so I gave the second novel a try.  The fact that both of the novels were free on Amazon for the Kindle helped out a bit too!

The book is also a quick tour of Napa Valley, and mentions several famous vineyards.  My only criticism of the novel is that it may be a little TOO researched, meaning there are a few too many brand names thrown in there.  I know some people think this adds authenticity, but for me, when it is a constant lineup of brand names, it feels a little too commercial for me.

The ending of this book makes me want to pick up the third Karen Vail novel ASAP, but I think I'm going to take a friend's advice and read The Monkey's Raincoat by Robert Crais next.  circa 1992!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Killing Floor - Lee Child

This is a review/re-read that I have been looking forward to since I started this blog!

Killing Floor is the first Jack Reacher novel written by Lee Child.  This was originally recommended to me by a mentor at work.  After reading this book, I subsequently read all of the Jack Reacher novels, pretty much in a row.

The book takes place in Margrave, Georgia, which is a fictional town about an hour outside of Atlanta (I looked it up, it doesn't exist!).  It is a perfect town, where everything is not what it seems.  Jack Reacher is quickly accused of murder.  Once he comes up with an unshakable alibi, he finds a few reasons to stay in town to help the police department solve the murder.  I am being intentionally vague.  I don't want to give away any of the early twists in the book!  I originally read the novel in March 2009, so I didn't remember all of the plot details.  The book has a lot of plot twists, several of which I did not remember.  I'm not going to give them away, but they are totally reasonable, and make the book really exciting.

The best thing about the book is re-reading the character development of Reacher at the beginning of the novel.  If it's your first read, pay attention!  It will serve you well throughout the rest of the novels.  This is one of the novels written in the first person, so it really lets you get inside Reacher's head and listen to Reacher's inner monologue.  There is a lot of tactical talk about how to engage enemies which is totally reasonable.  There is also a fair amount of gun talk in the book.  This is one of Lee Child's strong points.  He can talk military without sounding cheesy.

The climax scene is classic Reacher too. Of course, it takes place at 4am, which he took from the KGB.  This is a recurring theme in the books.

Overall, this is a MUST read.

Up next - I don't know quite yet.  I'm taking suggestions.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Art of the Re-Read

I'm currently about two-thirds of the way through my re-read of Lee Child's original Reacher novel Killing Floor.  It is taking a little longer than I expected, since we have our new baby girl Elizabeth at home.  Since I've been re-reading lots of my favorite novels lately, I thought I would pass on what I have learned.

1.  Take your time.  One thing I am guilty of when reading a novel for the first time is racing to the finish.  This is the part of the book that is usually about two thirds of the way through that you just can't stop reading.  I think i read two out of three words at this point when I'm trying to get to the end.

2.  Pay attention at the beginning.  Authors take a lot of time developing characters, and are very careful about how they do it.  If you're re-reading the first in a long series of books, pay attention!  One of Jack Reacher's major traits is his silence.  He only speaks if it helps him.  This took me a while to pick up on, but it's right there in the beginning of the novel!

3.  Read critically.  Authors write, revise, read, and re-read their novels several times getting them just right.    Take a little bit of extra time to see where you would have taken the story.

I'm hoping to put up a proper re-read review of Killing Floor in the next few days.  Stay tuned.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

CRASHERS - Dana Haynes

The baby is just over a week old and doing well.  Back to her birth weight already!

I've been meaning to read CRASHERS by Dana Hayes (he's a guy)  for about a year.  My mentor who recommended Lee Child recommended this novel too, so I knew it was going to be good.  I kept waiting for the Kindle version to go under $10, but it never did.  Eventually i just bit the bullet and bought it at $11.99.  Thank goodness for the Kindle.  I have to say it is the best reading experience available.  I'm not a paid spokesperson!

CRASHERS is a novel that surrounds the fictitious crash of a wide body airliner in the Pacific Northwest.  It follows the story of the NTSB crew that shows up to figure out why the plane crashed.  The main characters are an Israeli ex-pat/former spy now living in the US who infiltrates a terrorist cell (hot chick), the NTSB investigator in charge (strong male lead) and his love interest (another hot chick), another member of the team.

This is one of those novels where everything is laid out at the beginning; the good guys, the bad guys, and even mostly how the bad guy pulled off the crime.  The rest of the novel is devoted to character development, technical details, and filling out how exactly everything happened.  I actually like this style of novel, because it lets you think about the details (is that a recurring theme in my blog?)

There is a forthcoming sequel, which I will definitely be reading!

I only have 2 criticisms of the book.

1.  There is mention of flipping of the safety on a Glock (Glocks don't have safeties - any Reacher fan will know this).

2. There is a bit too much detail in the fashion/clothes side of things.

I have the next week off for paternity leave, so expect another novel review sooner than later!  I'm thinking about a re-read of Killing Floor, one of my top 2 Reacher novels!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Casino Royale - Ian Fleming

This is a real VINTAGE crime blog, since today I'm reviewing Casino Royale by Ian Fleming.  This was first published in Great Britain in 1953, and I read a 2006 paperback edition that was actually published after the release of the film starring Daniel Craig.

First of all, I read this book in the labor and delivery suite and postpartum unit before and after my second daughter was born!  There is a significant amount of down time after the delivery, and I thought a re-read would be perfect for the setting.

This is the original James Bond novel, and I have to say if you are a fan of the films, this is a MUST READ!  Going into this book, you have to completely throw out preconceived notions based on the Daniel Craig film.  For starters, they play baccarat, not poker, and the ending is completely different.  Come to think of it, so is the beginning and middle!  I think of this book as classic bond, and can imagine the character being played only by Sean Connery.

The basic story is Le Chiffre is a bad Russian spy who lost a whole bunch of Russian money, and tries to win it back playing baccarat at the Casino Royale.  Bond is sent in to bankrupt him and expose him.  This is the novel where the Bond Martini is made, Bond's Bentley motorcar is described in painstaking detail, and Bond displays his extensive knowledge of wine and food.  In the middle of that, there are numerous assassination attempts on Bond, a whole lot of sexual tension, and a few great hands of baccarat being played.   If you don't know how to play baccarat, don't worry!  The game is explained in detail!

The great thing about this book is the atmosphere created by Ian Fleming.  Every room and situation is described in great detail without becoming tiring.  Fleming clearly knows his brand names, and he chose timeless ones in the book (Bentley, Hermes) that do not sound out of place in the Casino Royale.  The opening paragraph of the book illustrates that perfectly; "The scent and smoke and sweat of a casino are nauseating at three in the morning.  The the soul-erosion produced by high gambling - a compost of fear and greed and nervous tension - becomes unbearable and the senses awake and revolt from it."