Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Lethal People and Lethal Experiment - John Locke

John Locke is an internet sensation, selling tons of Donovan Creed novels for $0.99 on While waiting for the next Elvis Cole novel to show up at my library, I decided to check out the first two Donovan Creed novels. I'm reviewing them together because I read them a day apart while waiting for and riding on airplanes from RDU to MCO via CLT.

First off, Donovan Creed is no Jack Reacher or Elvis Cole replacement. He might be able to beat up Nick Heller, but he lacks some finesse. The first novel starts out with Donovan being tortured by his CIA assassin partner. They are testing out some sort of microwave device that cooks you from the inside out. Yeah, the books are that over the top!

It turns out Donovan Creed works for the CIA in a black ops type role as a government assassin. Since the CIA doesn't really provide that much business, he has a bunch of assassination side jobs for the mob. Interestingly, these are tolerated by the CIA because they want him to keep his skills sharp. The premise of the novel is that he takes a job from a new employer, and everything shortly goes to pot. It turnes out his new employer is a quadriplegic little person with dreadlocks who controls a vast army of little people (as if testing out microwave torture equipment wasn't enough).

The second novel continues the insanity, while keeping the reading light. The titular Lethal Experiment is a social experiment where people in need of cash are offered $100,000 in a briefcase, with the stipulation that they know a criminal will be killed if they take the cash.

Both of these books were quick reads that were perfect for the airport. I didn't have to use too many neurons to keep the story straight, and it easily survived frequent interruptions. If you're bored and don't want to spend too much cash, these books will be great for you, but you'd be much better off spending your time reading some Henning Mankell or Robert Crais!

I'm currently about 25% through Anathem by Neal Stephenson. It's not a crime novel, but it is something I've been wanting to read for a while. I think it is about 900 pages long, so it may be a while before I send out another update!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Expiration Date - Duane Swierczynski

I'm only writing the author's name once because it is too long! I found this book via the author on twitter. Also, it is randomly the second novel in a row that I read taking place in Philadelphia. Philly is a really nice town, by the way. You can stay in the middle of town and pretty much walk anywhere in 20 minutes. Last weekend I took a short trip to Florida to visit friends and read 3 novels during the plane ride/layover time, so I'm currently in catch up mode.

This is a pretty interesting novel. When I first purchased it, I thought I was getting a crime novel (naturally), but ended up reading a sci-fi/thriller crime mystery. The way the story goes, a beat reporter loses his job and takes up the offer of staying in his grandfather's apartment for free. He ends up taking some expired acetaminophen which is actually a drug that lets you have out of body experiences in a different time - the year you were born.

The concept is interesting, the character background is complete, and the story/ending are perfect for the buildup. I have to say this was a pleasant SURPRISE novel, and I would definitely recommend it. The only negative thing I have to say is it was kind of short for the $9.99 kindle price!

Up next, the first two Donovan Creed novels. If you haven't heard of him, he's the $0.99 kindle sensation written by John Locke. I read the two novels in 3 days on vacation, so I may include them in one review.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Wolves of Fairmount Park - Dennis Tafoya

After spending several weeks in sunny Los Angeles with Elvis Cole, we have moved into darker Philadelphia with an ensemble cast including a cop (Brendan), his heroin addict brother (Orlando), the brother’s girlfriend, and a host of members of organized drug trade.

I have been to Philadelphia once, but I didn’t have a car, so I was pretty much forced to stay around City Hall. This book mostly takes place in Roxborough, which is on the Northwest side of town (at least according to google maps and Wikipedia). Interestingly, according to Wikipedia, this is a pretty nice part of town. However, there is definitely a seedy element in this novel.

The book starts out pretty quickly. We are introduced to the ensemble cast in rapid succession, and the book alternatively tells the story through the eyes of several of the characters. You have to stay vigilant about the perspective, or things can get confusing pretty quickly. I caught myself once or twice getting tired (I mostly read at night after everyone has gone to bed) and having to re-read a few paragraphs because I got the point of view mixed up.

In all, it is a pretty good crime story, which doesn’t have a surprise ending, but more of an unexpected villain. Dennis Tafoya’s depiction of the inner monologue and sensory input of a heroin addict (Orlando) are chilling, and make you feel a little sorry for the addict’s state of life. The amount of violence surrounding the drug trade in the novel is well done - not too over the top. Personally, I prefer getting to know one character really well, but Tafoya’s choice of an ensemble cast was refreshing given what I’ve been reading lately.

Strangely enough, and completely unintentionally, the next book I’m reading is Expiration date by Duane Swiercczynski is set in Philadelphia as well.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Justice Volumes 1-3

Once in a great while, I try out something new to expand my horizons. Past versions of this include: Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (awesome) and Lee Child (even better). I have also read one graphic novel in the past (Watchmen) which was mostly fueled by the movie. I had never read comic books before, so it was a real stretch to get through it. I only really started to understand it the second time I read it.

I randomly walked into the local comic book store, Ultimate Comics and asked the guys at the counter for a graphic novel recommendation. It came down to V for Vendetta and Justice. I had already seen the movie, so I opted for Justice.

Justice takes place in the DC Comics universe, and involves the Justice League of America (Batman, Superman, etc). What seems to be going on is all of the bad guys have started doing good things in the world (healing the sick, feeding the poor) while simultaneously taking down the Justice League. The basics of the story were pretty easy to understand, but I think you are supposed to know a lot of basic stuff about the DC universe such as character backstories to really understand this novel. It was an interesting read, with comic book art that basically looks like artwork. I think I'm going to have to read this one again before I understand it.

File this under I blogged it because I read it, not because I understood it.

Up next - The Wolves of Fairmount Park for the Do Some Damage book reading club.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Voodoo River - Robert Crais

Drugs? Check.  Corrupt cops?  Check.  Human Trafficking?  Check.

I finished Voodoo River last night, which was a great Elvis Cole novel.  Robert Crais seems to be stepping through the standard themes of crime novels with the Elvis Cole series.  Of course, the only other long series that I have read is the Reacher series by Lee Child, which was technically started after the Elvis Cole series.  Maybe Lee Child is going through the standard series, and Robert Crais invented it!

Either way, there are a few firsts in this novel.  Elvis meets his client out to lunch instead of at his office!  This was a refreshing beginning to the novel, because things were getting a bit formulaic.  Also, Elvis starts on what I think is is first long-term (a few weeks) relationship detailed in a novel.

This novel takes place in Louisiana, in and around Baton Rouge.  Great details include descriptions of the food including the rice and sausage they serve down there.  Another great detail is the extensive descriptions of the pavement, which apparently is largely made of crushed oyster shells down there.  If you have read my reviews before, you know I appreciate details in the story, as long as they are not too overbearing.

I don't like ruining the story, so I'll just say the plot revolves around Elvis Cole going to Baton Rouge, LA to track down the birth parents of an actress on a wildly popular Christian themed show on a major network.  Once he gets there, he quickly finds the birth parents, but gets involved in a crime ring that illegally brings foreign people over the border.  Elvis has a moral dilemma between protecting his clients identity and reporting a murder that he witnesses.

Also, Joe "best slack man in the world" Pike makes a great appearance in this book.  Elvis would have been TOAST without him!

I currently have the next two Cole novels on hold at the local library, but someone has them checked out!  I'm switching genres and reading the Justice graphic novel trio.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Free Fall - Robert Crais

Yes... I am in a rut of Elvis Cole, but it is anything but a rut.  I have finished Free Fall, I'm currently reading Voodoo River, and I'm looking at a pile of 4 more unread Elvis Cole (and Joe Pike!) novels sitting on top of my bookshelf.

Free Fall takes place in Los Angeles again, and this time Elvis Cole takes on an elite crime fighting unit at the request of the fiance of the junior member of the group.  He soon finds out they are tied into some illegal activity, and I'll just say it's pretty complicated.  Along the way, Elvis and Joe get arrested, which is TOTALLY AWESOME in the novel.    They handle it pretty well, and it is definitely a new twist in the series.

Joe Pike is extensively involved in this novel, and I love it.  I don't think I've mentioned this before, but there is a lot of gun talk in these novels, and it ranks in seamlessness with Lee Child's gun talk.  Interestingly enough, Elvis carries a firearm that I've never heard of, a Dan Wesson.

Right now, I'm halfway through Voodoo River, which takes place in Baton Rough, LA.  It is awesome too!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Lullaby Town - Robert Crais

I'm working my way through the Elvis Cole novels because they are awesome.  I highly recommend you start with The Monkey's Raincoat and work your way through the series.

Lullaby Town Elvis Cole leaves the comfortable climate of Los Angeles for wintry New York City and Connecticut. He's tracking down the long lost wife and kid of a blockbuster film director.  He eventually finds himself teamed up with Joe Pike going against a fictional New York Crime Family.

Aside from the sunny weather and lack of the Classic Corvette with the top down, this is classic Elvis Cole and Joe Pike.  This is a little more violent than the typical Cole novel, but it is not gratuitous.  This novel has pretty much solidified Elvis Cole on my list of classic crime characters.

I have the next two Elvis Cole novels in my possession, and will be reading them in rapid succession.