Sunday, February 27, 2011

Stalking the Angel - Robert Crais

Jack Reacher - Kurt Wallander - Elvis Cole.

What do they have in common?  All are multi-novel crime fighters that I am now loyal to.  The best part, is they are all totally different characters!  Reacher is quiet but deadly.  Wallander is self-deprecating and clumsy.  Cole is witty and self confident.

Stalking the Angel is the second novel in the Elvis Cole series by Robert Crais.  It takes place in Los Angeles (I'm guessing they all do).  This book has even more 80's classic material in it, including Japanese feudal artifacts.  A successful hotelier shows up in Cole's office after a priceless book has been stolen from his house.  He reluctantly hires Cole after his (beautiful) secretary recommends him.

Elvis Cole then gets involved with the yakuza, a cult-like group of kids following around a japanese artist, as well as the LAPD.  I'm beginning to see a formula to these novels forming after reading just two, but I have to admit, I like it!

The book has great pace.  I finished it in two days.  80 pages the first night (I was tired, it was a Friday after a long work week) and the rest of the book Saturday night (11 pm to 1:30 am).  If anything, I would say the books are a little short (288 pages), but the length helps keep the pace up.  In a 500 page Reacher novel, there are usually about 50 slow pages in the middle somewhere, but I have yet to find that in an Elvis Cole novel!

Also, Joe Pike plays a slightly larger role in this novel, and he is great as ever.  Virtually doesn't speak, and takes care of business.  I'd like to see a short story where the two of these meet in a diner for lunch.  I've heard there are a few Joe Pike novels out there.  How does that work if he never talks?  Is it just all inner monologue?

I currently have the next 3 novels on order, so Lullaby Town is likely to be the next review.  My friend is trying to talk me into reading Neal Stephenson's Anathem.  I really like Stephenson, so you never know which book will be next!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Ghost Country - Patrick Lee

Ghost Country is the sequel to The Breach by Patrick Lee.  Every once in a while you read a novel that is so well put together, you can completely believe the alternate reality that is presented in the book, and it totally draws you in.  The first novel I remember that did that to me was Dune by Frank Herbert.

This book is a sci-fi alternate reality action novel that starts with the attack of a motorcade that one of the main characters from The Breach, Paige is in.  Subsequently Travis (another one of the main characters from The Breach) is recruited to help rescue her.  The rest of the novel involves time travel, "outside the box" thinking and some good old fashioned action novel weapons laden assaults.  Without giving too much away, time travel is a part of this book, but it is presented in such a natural way it adds to the story.  There is a really fine line that the author has to walk with these kinds of things, and Patrick Lee did everything right with it.

One thing this novel had in it that The Breach didn't have were a few moments where my heart just sank, because I had no idea how the characters were going to get out of the situation they were in.   I really want to describe one situation that literally had me freaking out, but I can't because it would be too big of a spoiler!

Up next - I have no idea.  I wanted to read Stalking the Angel by Robert Crais, but it isn't on the kindle and they don't have it at my library.  No idea.  Maybe read some of Steve Weddle's short stories involving Oscar Martello.  My wife might kill me if she sees another book show up in the mail.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Monkey's Raincoat - Robert Crais

I think I may have found a match to Reacher.  An online friend suggested that I read The Monkey's Raincoat by Robert Crais.  I'm really glad she did.  The Monkey's Raincoat is the first novel in the Elvis Cole series of crime novels.  According to wikipedia, Robert Crais is a former 80's TV screenwriter a la Miami Vice and Hill Stree Blues!

Elvis Cole is a former Army Ranger who has turned private detective.  He's hired by a woman whose husband and son have disappeared.  During the investigation, he finds out some cocaine goes missing from a retired matador's mansion in southern California (how 80's is that!) and he bends a few rules to get the cocaine and a few hostages back.  There's a great action scene at the end of the book that is worth the wait!  There is some great character development in the book, with some pretty intense descriptions of Elvis' cat, house and office that really add to the character.

Even though Elvis Cole is clearly the star of the book, the character that really steals the show is Joe Pike.  I think he's Reacher's shorter twin.  He's silent, knows his guns, and can definitely take down a few bad guys.  I think there needs to be a short story crossover with Joe Pike and Reacher.  I'm sure this call to action on my widely read blog will make it happen.

Up next:  Ghost Country by Patrick Lee vs. Stalking the Angel by Robert Crais.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Hangman's Daughter - Oliver Pötzsch

I found this book via Amazon crossroads, which is an effort by Amazon to get English speaking people reading foreign books.  I think they might be trying to find the next Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  I can't blame them for trying!

This is a historic crime novel that takes place in the 1600's in the Bavarian town of Schongau.  Basically, a few children are murdered, and the town council wants to blame the local midwife via witchcraft because they are found with a strange marking on their back that looks like the work of witchcraft.  The town Hangman, Jakob Kuisl takes it upon himself to prove the midwife innocent, and thus finds himself in the middle of a somewhat complicated plot involving someone from his past.

I can't go too much into the story without revealing plot twists, but I will say the character development of the Hangman, and his sidekick Simon the itinerant surgeon is excellent.  The plot gets a little tiresome here and there, but overall it is enjoyable.  The quaint town makes a great setting for a crime mystery, and the villain (whom they literally call "The Devil" is a great evil character).  The dark mood in this book is second only to The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón.

The book is translated from German.  I never know if the simplistic language is a function of the translation, or if that is what the author originally intended.  There are several chase scenes in the book, and each time as the person gets tired, the "metallic taste" in the person's mouth is mentioned.  I don't know if "metallic taste" is the German equivalent of sinew/sinewy (my least favorite overused term in American fiction).

Another cool part of this novel is that the author is actually related to the (fictional) main character, Jakob Kuisl.  Apparently the Kuisl's are a long line of hangmen in Bavaria.  One of the author's relatives was an amateur genealogist who traced the family back to the Kuisl's.

For less than $5 on the Kindle, I think this is a great value and a great read!

My next read is The Monkey's Raincoat by Robert Crais - originally published in 1987.  Let's hear it for some old school crime fiction!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Breach - Patrick Lee

Once in a while, you read a book that gives you a breath of fresh air.  The latest one for me is The Breach by Patrick Lee.  While not really a crime novel, I still have to review it because it is that good.

If you've ever read Daemon by Daniel Suarez and liked it, you're probably going to like this book too.  The book is built on the premise that the government tore a hole in space/time, and useful/dangerous objects come out of that tear a few times a day.  An organization is formed to protect it.  Someone breaks off of the organization with a few objects, and crazy stuff starts to happen.

It really is a great thriller, with a heroes named Travis and Paige (and yes, there is some chemistry there).  The beginning of the book takes off as fast as Persuader by Lee Child, and keeps going.  If there is a lull in the book, it is only about 50 pages in the middle, but I got through that pretty quickly.  I picked up the book on Thursday night, and read the first 160 pages in about 90 minutes, which kept me up until about 1:30 am.  I would have finished the book within 24 hours if i wasn't so tired from reading it!

I have to give this book my highest recommendation!  There is a sequel out there too called Ghost Country, which I will be reading shortly.

Next on my list is The Hangman's Daughter, which I found on Amazon's crossroads.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Velocity - Alan Jacobson

Wow, what can I say about Alan Jacobson's latest novel?  Unfortunately, not a lot because it would spoil just about everything that has to do with Crush, the book that precedes this novel.

Basically, it is a continuation of Crush, adding complexity to the story that is started at the end of that novel.  Really, these two books could have been one, but who is going to buy an 800 page thriller?  Well, probably me, but not the masses. (anyone else read the entire Baroque Cycle?)

In this novel, Karen Vail is on the trail of a serial killer, who looks like a copycat of the killer from Crush.  She then finds herself entwined in a DEA operation, which takes over the remainder of the book.  I've read all of the Karen Vail novels on the Kindle, and it was awesome!  The first two were free, and I paid 12.99 for the final novel, which violates my 9.99 Kindle max.  I figure the first two were free, so it evens out.

Once again, I like the character Karen Vail better than the story, but the novel was still worth the read.

Up next, Patrick Lee's The Breach, at the suggestion of Sabrina.