Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Persuader by Lee Child

Jack Reacher.

The ultimate loner.

An elite ex-military cop who left the service years ago, he’s moved from place to place…without family…without possessions…without commitments.

And without fear. Which is good, because trouble—big, violent, complicated trouble—finds Reacher wherever he goes. And when trouble finds him, Reacher does not quit, not once…not ever.

But some unfinished business has now found Reacher. And Reacher is a man who hates unfinished business.

Ten years ago, a key investigation went sour and someone got away with murder. Now a chance encounter brings it all back. Now Reacher sees his one last shot. Some would call it vengeance. Some would call it redemption. Reacher would call it…justice.

--Persuader by Lee Child, Copyright ©2003 by Lee Child, published by Delacorte Books

My Review

Persuader is the 7th book in Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series.

Reacher’s back and this time, he’s in the right place at the right time to save a young college student from a kidnapping. He and the boy, Richard Beck, get away, but not before Reacher kills a cop.

A couple weeks earlier, Reacher was in Boston where he saw a dead man named Quinn. At least, he was supposed to be dead. He knows Quinn is supposed to be dead because Reacher was the one that killed him. Guess he missed. In trying to trace Quinn, he comes to the attention of the DEA, specifically Agent Susan Duffy and her team. It seems Quinn—or whatever his name is now—and his possible partner Zachary Beck, Richard’s father, are being watched by the DEA. Reacher wants Quinn, the DEA wants Beck. They team up and devise a scheme to get Reacher in to the Beck estate. Hence, the faked kidnapping.

Oh, and did I mention that Duffy and her team are not officially on the Beck case? Seems Duffy made a big mistake, so she and her team were removed from the Beck case. But they have a missing agent, Theresa Daniels, and they’re determined to get her back, no matter what the cost.

So Reacher’s in and he’s learning as much as he can about Beck’s rug importing business. The rugs, they figure, are a great way to stash incoming drugs, but in searching a shipment, they find nothing. Not even a hint of drugs. So what’s going on?

Meanwhile, it’s obvious Beck’s into some serious dirty dealings as Reacher is recruited to help get rid of a body at the Beck estate, and later on, several more. The house is on the Maine coast and there’s a strong rip tide where “bodies go in and they never come back.” One of the bodies is of the house maid, whom Reacher later finds out was a government agent. But Duffy and her people can’t find any trace of her. Who was she? And who else is after Beck?

Reacher begins to gain Beck’s trust and works his way up in the “organization.” In the process, he learns exactly what Beck and Quinn are into and figures he knows how to take out Quinn and hand Beck over to the DEA. But things never go exactly as planned and before it’s all over, Reacher finds himself within a hair’s breath of “going in and never coming back.”

Another excellent read by Lee Child, and the first one he’s written in first person. At first, I was a little bothered by this but quickly found that I like being a little deeper inside Jack Reacher’s head. It’s an interesting place to be…

** EDIT **
Um...I was wrong. This wasn't the first first-person novel. The very first book, Killing Floor was the first first-person novel...sorry!

I give this story FOUR STARS.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Plague Maker

Plague Maker by Tim Downs

July Fourth: New York City

Hundreds of thousands line the banks of the East and Hudson Rivers awaiting the nation’s largest fireworks display. Soon the sky will explode in cascading showers of silver and gold. Everywhere, faces will turn skyward in wide-eyed wonder.

Then the sky will grow dark again—but it will not be empty. The air will be filled with clouds of smoke and specks of debris will rain down everywhere. Some will pick bits of paper from their children’s hair. Some will brush away still-burning sparks or embers. And some will absentmindedly scratch at the tiny, biting specks that dot their necks and arms.

Will the beginning of the show mark the beginning of the end?

That’s what FBI agent Nathan Donovan must decide. When he is forced to enlist the help of ex-wife Macy Monroe, an expert in the psychology of terrorism, the fireworks really begin—but she may be the only one who can help him stop the Plague Maker in time.

--Plague Maker by Tim Downs, Copyright ©2006 by Tim Downs, published by WestBow Press, a division of Thomas Nelson Publishers

My Review

The story begins with our troubled hero, Nathan Donovan, FBI Agent and loose cannon, having a bad dream and then speaking with a psychiatrist about his “issues.” Take the scenes for what they’re supposed to be, a peek into our protagonist’s state of mind, then we can get started with the story.

Donovan is called to the scene of a murder. It normally wouldn’t be under the realm of an FBI Agent, more like the NYPD, but Donovan is part of the Joint Terrorism Task Force, partnered with an NYPD detective. The murder in question seems common enough, but it’s the presence of thousands of xenopsylla cheopis, or Oriental rat fleas, that elevate the murder to terrorism status. You see, the Oriental rat flea is not common to New York City. It also carries the bubonic plague.

When the story makes the papers, Donovan receives a call from a Mr. Lee in England. The newspaper mentioned the fleas, which caught Mr. Lee’s attention. Donovan agrees to meet with him and he’s mildly surprise to find out Mr. Lee is actually Mr. Zhong Ren Li, born in China but residing in England. Li tells Donovan, thanks to the newspaper article, he knows who’s ultimately responsible for the murder and he needs Donovan’s help to find him. It’s his life’s mission, you see, to track down Mr. Sato Matsushita. Why? Because Matsushita is the man responsible for his wife’s murder. And why is Matsushita sending fleas carrying the bubonic plague to the United States? Because it’s Matsushita’s life’s mission to pay the U.S. back for killing his little sister, Emiko, during the bombing of Hiroshima in World War II. He’s chosen the perfect day and the perfect method for extracting his revenge.

The Fourth of July fireworks display over New York City.

With the help of Dr. Macy Monroe, Nathan’s ex-wife, can the three of them find Sato Matsushita and stop him from carrying out his twisted plan of revenge?

This story is exquisitely researched with an attention to detail that really brings the story alive. I’m amazed at all the research Tim Downs must have done in order to tell the story with so much detail, and to present that information in such a way that doesn’t bore the reader. It’s not difficult to read or understand at all and the pacing is excellent. I enjoyed it so much that when I went to the Green Valley Book Fair yesterday and found another of his books, Ends of the Earth, it went into my shopping basket without hesitation. I’m not exactly sure when I’ll get to it because I have so many books to read, but hopefully it’ll be before the end of the year.

I give this story FOUR STARS.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Without Fail

Without Fail by Lee Child

Only Jack Reacher stands between Vice President-elect Brook Armstrong and his would-be assassins. But that's enough, because taking out bad guys is what highly skilled ex-military policeman Reacher does best. Recruited by M.E. Froelich, new head of the Secret Service VP detail and former lover of Jack's late brother Joe, Reacher enlists the aid of former U.S. Army master sergeant Frances Neagley, who's as pretty as she is potentially deadly. But it is Reacher alone who finds significance in the hyphen in a death threat and checks out the odd oil on a fingerprint as he puts together the pieces and zeroes in on the killers who are after Armstrong.

From Library Journal, Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. Copied from

--Without Fail by Lee Child, Copyright ©2002 by Lee Child, published by Jove Books

My Review

Without Fail is the 6th book in Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series.

It’s November and Jack Reacher has arrived in Atlantic City. He wonders to himself, “What on earth possessed me to leave warm, sunny Southern California for cold, wintry Atlantic City?” He won’t be there long, though, because a lady has a job offer for him. “Would you be willing to try and assassinate the Vice President-elect?”

Reacher’s had a number of unusual jobs since leaving the military, but this one has to take the cake. The offeror is M.E. Froelich, a Secret Service agent and the woman in charge of the team responsible for protecting Brook Armstrong, the current Vice President-elect. She doesn’t tell him, but he quickly surmises that there’s been a threat against Armstrong and she wants him to test her security team. She chose him because he came with a good recommendation. Who recommended me? he asks. Your brother Joe. Seems Froelich was a former co-worker of Joe’s, and a former lover. Reacher says he’ll do it and that he’ll be in touch in ten days.

Five days later, he and Froelich meet again, where Reacher and his partner for this assignment, former Army Sergeant Frances Neagley, tell her they had Armstrong in their kill-sight three definite times and one maybe. She finally breaks down and tells him what’s going on. Armstrong has received several threats against his life. They were credible enough that Froelich wanted to test her security team. Thanks to them, they failed. Will Reacher and Neagley please help her find out who’s behind the threats?

They agree and begin to investigate. Their search quickly focuses in on the office cleaning crew since they had to be the ones to plant one of the threats in Froelich’s boss’s office. But they aren’t talking.

While Reacher and Neagley work on the mystery, Froelich must continue to protect Armstrong as he goes about his pre-inauguration duties. One of those duties, unfortunately, turns deadly. Now Reacher’s mission is personal, and when that happens, there can be only one outcome.

I give this story FOUR STARS.

In case you’re wondering, yes, I am listening to every single Lee Child book written (in order, of course). I became intrigued by this mysterious drifter named Jack Reacher and his creator, Lee Child, a little more than a year ago but it wasn’t until I got a free e-book copy of One Shot that I finally read one of the stories. To say I fell in love with Jack Reacher at that point is a bit of an exaggeration, but not too far from the truth. I went about collecting all of the stories in the series in audio and decided to start listening to them this year. I usually listen while I’m working out and find it’s a great way to focus on something other than the agony the evil elliptical and the suicide stair machine cause—seriously, my trainer told me today he wants me to “walk up the stairs at a comfortable pace” for ten-plus minutes. And I’m paying him for the pleasure of this torture?

But I digress.

IMHO, Jack Reacher is one of the greatest heroes ever created and if I wasn’t before, I am now in love with this man. Lee Child is now firmly in the Number 2 spot of my favorite Mystery/Thriller writer’s list. But the more I read (listen), the more he’s gaining on the Number 1 spot.

Saturday, March 12, 2011


Creepers by David Morrell
The Darkest Secrets Live…

On a cold October night, five people gather in a run-down motel on the Jersey shore and prepare to break into the Paragon Hotel. The once-magnificent structure is now boarded up and marked for demolition.

They are “creepers”: urban explorers with a passion for investigating abandoned buildings and their dying secrets. Reporter Frank Balenger joins them to profile this highly illegal activity for the New York Times. But he isn’t looking for just another story, and soon after they enter the rat-infested tunnel leading to the hotel, he gets more than he bargained for. Danger, fear and death await the creepers in a place ravaged by time and redolent of evil.

…In Places You’re Not Supposed To Be.
--Creepers by David Morrell, Copyright ©2005 by Morrell Enterprises, Inc. published by CDS Books

My Review
The first David Morrell book I read was The Brotherhood of the Rose back in 1985 and I’ve loved his writing for many years afterward. I haven’t read all of his books and in fact, haven’t picked up anything of his for several years. When I stumbled across this book at the store, I had to grab it. One, because I hadn’t read Morrell in several years and two, the subject matter.

T.L. Hines’ The Unseen was my first fictional exposure to urban explorers. I enjoyed that book tremendously and was looking forward to another author’s take on the subject. This isn’t just a story of a group of explorers that stumble onto a mystery in an abandoned luxury hotel. It’s a story of a group of explorers with secrets, meeting others with agendas, meeting others with more secrets, and wondering who will win in the end.

The story starts out innocently enough. Professor Robert Conklin invites New York Times reporter Frank Balenger on an exploration with three of his former students, Cora, Rick and Vinnie. They’re going to check out the Paragon Hotel in Asbury Park on the Jersey shore. Built in 1901, it was abandoned in the early 1970s when its owner died. Now it’s slated for demolition and now would be their only chance to explore this magnificent art deco structure.

The only safe way into the hotel is through the sewers. They make their way through the rat-infested tunnels, finding some interesting animal mutations along the way. Once inside the hotel, they begin their exploration, learning what they can about previous tenants and the mysterious owner, Morgan Carlisle.

But they’re not the only ones exploring the Paragon. A group of thieves, eager to make a quick score, have found their own way inside, and they’re interested in whatever treasures the professor might know about. And it seems he knows a lot…the professor has secrets that he reluctantly shares with the others. Frank, too, has his secrets, and they come out as well. Following the professor’s information, they uncover a treasure in gold…and a terrified woman who had been held captive in the hotel for several months. Her captor is Morgan Carlisle’s son, she says. Impossible, says the professor. He had no children. Then who is her captor? And what connection does and the captor have to Frank’s missing wife, Diane?

Everyone has secrets, and everyone’s playing for keeps. Question is, who will be alive at the end? And who will be sane?

I give this story THREE STARS.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Echo Burning

Echo Burning by Lee Child
Jack Reacher, the vagabond freelance lawman who never hesitates to stick his nose into private business, takes his lively act to Texas, embroiling himself in what starts as a messy domestic dispute before turning far more ominous. The rugged former army cop comes to the aid of Carmen Greer, who picks him up on the side of the road one morning outside Lubbock, then asks him to kill her abusive husband. Sloop Greer is getting out of prison in a few days, and Carmen fears he will start beating her again. Reacher declines, but agrees to protect Carmen, hiring on as a cowhand at the couple's remote ranch in Echo County, Tex., far outside Pecos. Within hours of Sloop's return from prison, where he was serving time for tax evasion, violence strikes. But the victim isn't Carmen; it's Sloop. He's found shot dead, and Carmen is arrested. End of story? Hardly. Most wandering heroes would move on at this point, but not Reacher. He begins taking a hard look at both Carmen and Sloop's past, as well as local history. What he finds—ugly secrets, human suffering, political evil—is repulsive to a man who's been around as many blocks as Reacher.
From Publishers Weekly, Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc. Copied from
--Echo Burning by Lee Child, Copyright ©June 2001 by Lee Child, published by Jove Books

My Review
Echo Burning is the 5th book in Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series.

Jack Reacher is in a hurry to get out of Lubbock, Texas. Seems the nose he broke last night at a bar belongs to a local cop. When the cop arrives at the motel with three of his fellow officers, Reacher ducks out the back window and sticks out his thumb. Luck is on his side when he’s picked up within minutes by Carmen Greer.

Carmen is heading to her home in Echo, just south of Pecos. Carmen paints a pretty nice picture of Pecos, so Reacher decides that should be his next stop before continuing on to…anywhere. But Carmen has a story, and she tells Reacher all about her youth and the abusive man she married. He feels for her, but what can he do? Kill him for me, she answers. He’s in jail and will be released in a couple days.

Of course Reacher refuses, but having worked with abuse victims in the Army, he can sense that Carmen’s telling the truth and needs help. He agrees to be hired on as a ranch hand until he can figure out what to do to help her and her daughter, Ellie, out of their situation.

Before he can settle on a plan, Carmen’s husband is released a day earlier than planned. Now Carmen is trapped. But then, almost as quickly, the trap is sprung and Carmen is arrested for killing her husband. Reacher doesn’t believe she really did it, but the proof is pretty damning. He hires Alice Aaron, a local pro-bono lawyer and together they work to put all the pieces together. They have to work quickly, because even though it looks like Carmen shot her husband, she didn’t, and Reacher is next on the killer’s list.

I had a few issues with the previous story in the series (click here
for that review). Child has definitely redeemed himself in my eyes with this one.

I give this story FOUR STARS.

Sunday, March 6, 2011


Obsessed by Ted Dekker

A deadly tale of ultimate obsession

Stephen Friedman is making a good living in good times. He’s just an ordinary guy.

Or so he thinks.

But one day an extraordinary piece of information tells him differently. It’s a clue from the grave of a Holocaust survivor. A clue that makes him heir to an incredible fortune…a clue that only he and one other man can possibly understand.

That man is Roth Braun, a serial killer who has been waiting for Stephen for thirty years. Roth was stopped once before. This time, nothing will get in his way.

--Obsessed by Ted Dekker, Copyright ©2005 by Ted Dekker, published by WestBow Press, a division of Thomas Nelson, Inc.

My Review
(Although this story was published in 2005, its story line bounces back and forth between 1973 and 1944-1945.)

Rachel Spritzer, a Holocaust survivor, stole a piece of history from her camp’s commandant. She emigrated to the United States, settling in the city of Los Angeles while she searched for the son she birthed and was forced to give up while in the camp. Little did she know that her son, whom she’d named David, lived in the exact same city.

Stephen Friedman had always known he was adopted from a Russian orphanage shortly after the end of World War II. He and his adopted family moved to the United States when he was still very young and Stephen fully embraced his new American home and lifestyle. He’s thirty now, a real estate investor with no clue that his life was about to be turned upside down because of Rachel Spritzer’s death.

Discovering that Rachel may have been his mother sends Stephen on a voyage of discovery about his past, a past he had no idea about, and a quest for his future, where he becomes obsessed about finding a biblical treasure, and the woman destined to be his other half.

But Stephen is not the only one on the hunt for the biblical treasure. Roth Braun is the son of the commandant from whom Rachel stole the treasure and he will do anything…anything…to reclaim the lost piece of his father’s spoils of war.

While intriguing, this story does not contain the frenetic intensity that I’ve come to associate with a Ted Dekker story. Too much of the story is spent on Stephen’s preoccupation with gaining access into Rachel Spritzer’s apartment building to search for the clues to the treasure and not enough on Stephen finding out about his heritage. Forgive me, I’m the daughter of a genealogist and I would find the hunt for the past to be more interesting than spending nearly half of a 382 page book trying to gain access to a building. The vignettes into the past, describing Rachel’s life in the concentration camp were well done and added depth to the story, and I found myself enjoying those more than the “present day” scenes.

If you have an interest in the Holocaust and biblical treasures, you might enjoy this story.

I give this story TWO STARS.