Saturday, September 24, 2011

Bad Things Happen

Bad Things Happen by Harry Dolan

The man who calls himself David Loogan is hoping to escape a violent past by living a quiet, anonymous life in Ann Arbor, Michigan. But when he's hired as an editor at a mystery magazine, he is drawn into an affair with the sleek blond wife of the publisher, Tom Kristoll-a man who soon turns up dead.

Elizabeth Waishkey is the most talented detective in the Ann Arbor Police Department, but even she doesn't know if Loogan is a killer or an ally who might help her find the truth. As more deaths start mounting up-some of them echoing stories published in the magazine-it's up to Elizabeth to solve both the murders and the mystery of Loogan himself.

--Bad Things Happen
by Harry Dolan
Copyright © 2009 by Harry Dolan
Published by Penguin Group

My Review
The story starts slowly, introducing the reader to David Loogan and the quiet life he’s living in Ann Arbor, Michigan. But his quiet life isn’t quiet for very long. Tom Kristoll, his boss and owner of Gray Streets literary magazine, needs a favor. He needs to bury a body. Not long afterward, Tom Kristoll is dead.

From there, David’s life begins to change, and his quiet, peaceful, anonymous world slowly begins to unravel. The lead investigator, Detective Elizabeth Waishkey, is suspicious of him because he seems to be completely open and honest, and yet also seems to be hiding something. Who exactly is the man calling himself David Loogan? What’s he hiding in his past and why does he seem to know too much about how a murder investigation is conducted?

When a man is found in David’s home, stabbed with one of David’s own knives, David goes on the run. He needs to find out who’s behind all the deaths and why. He doesn’t quite trust the cops to do the job, but he trusts Elizabeth. Can they unravel the twisted web of lives and deaths before any more Bad Things Happen?

The story really does start a bit slow, even though the opening chapter starts with the burying of a body, but if you invest your time in the beginning, it will pay off by the end.

After the initial start, the tension gradually starts to build, like climbing the first hill of the world’s largest roller coaster. There you are, sitting in the front seat, watching that far-off curl of track that’ll rocket you down the rest of the ride. You’re waiting, your heart picking up speed, your breath growing short, listening to each and every click of the track, watching that curl grow closer and closer. And with each and every click of the track, with each page that you turn, the tension grows stronger and stronger until you finally reach that moment when you go over that smooth curl of track. You’re off and rolling, screaming down that first hill, climbing the next, going through an unexpected tunnel and rocketing up around a double loop. A helix spins you round and round and you have to hold on tight, because you’re being pulled one way and pushed the other. You’re thrown back in your seat and pressed forward. You’re going through twist and turns, bumps and jerks, going up and down until finally, blessedly finally, you come to the end and you think to yourself, “now that was a ride!”.

Yeah. It’s like that.

I give this story FOUR STARS.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Worth Dying For

Worth Dying For by Lee Child

There’s deadly trouble in the corn country of Nebraska…and Jack Reacher walks right into it. First he falls foul of the Duncans, a local clan that has terrified an entire county into submission. But it’s the unsolved, decades-old case of a missing child that Reacher can’t let go.

The Duncans want Reacher gone—and it’s not just past secrets they’re trying to hide. For as dangerous as the Duncans are, they’re just the bottom of a criminal food chain stretching halfway around the world. For Reacher, it would have made much more sense to put some distance between himself and the hard-core trouble that’s bearing down on him. For Reacher, that was also impossible.

--Worth Dying For
by Lee Child
Copyright © 2010 by Lee Child
Published by Dell

My Review

All he wanted was a cup of coffee and a place to stay for the night. (Isn’t that what he always wants?) Instead, while trying to do the right thing for a woman in trouble, Jack Reacher manages to make an enemy out of the most powerful family in the county. (Isn’t that what he always does?)

The Duncans rule their corner of Nebraska with an iron fist. They own the only produce trucking company in the area, so if you’re a farmer with produce to get hauled, you call the Duncans or you don’t get your produce hauled. But shipping corn and alfalfa isn’t the company’s only business and if anyone in the area finds out what else they’re shipping, they could find themselves in a world of trouble.

So it’s in their best interest if Reacher would get out of town.

Problem is, he won’t.

He could walk away, head south toward the highway which will take him to Virginia, his intended destination and several times he’s on the verge of doing just that, but it’s the story of an eight year old girl, missing for twenty-five years, that keeps drawing him back. Children and women in trouble are two of his soft spots, and mysteries that remain unsolved bother him. So Reacher is going to stay until he gets to the bottom of the mystery, and he will get to the bottom of it, no matter who gets in his way.

In most of the previous novels in this series, Reacher always has a compelling reason to stay and figure out the mystery he’s presented with. In The Killing Floor, Reacher stays in Margrave, GA because that’s where his brother was killed, and he’s determined to find out who did it. In Die Trying, he was kidnapped and needs to get himself and his fellow kidnappee to safety. In Tripwire, the woman he loves is in danger. Et cetera, et cetera. In Worth Dying For, the reason isn’t quite so compelling. This time, it’s his own personal sense of justice that keeps him in town until the mystery is solved. And while that can be a very strong reason to stay and fight, somehow, it just didn’t feel like enough to me.

Granted, this is a good story with an interest cast of supporting characters with ulterior motives. I love the scenes with Reacher at the Courtyard Marriott and the almost-comically crossed wires the supporting characters get tangled up in. But for all its good points, it fell a little short for me.

I give this story THREE STARS.

The Best American Mystery Stories 2011

The Best American Mystery Stories 2011 Edited by Harlan Coben & Otto Penzler

Best-selling novelist Harlan Coben, a master of suspense and creator of the critically-acclaimed Myron Bolitar series, edits this latest collection of the must-reads in mysteries from the past year.

-- The Best American Mystery Stories 2011
Edited by Harlan Coben & Otto Penzler
Copyright ©October 2011
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing

My Review
This is a good collection of stories featuring a variety of styles under the mystery genre. Some made me laugh while others made me scratch my head, trying to figure out exactly what the mystery in the story was. Like any collection of short stories, some tales hit the mark while other missed. It’s all a matter of personal taste. Overall, I liked this collection and would definitely recommend it to mystery lovers.

I give this book THREE and a HALF STARS.

I received an Advance Uncorrected Proof from NetGalley.

Available for pre-order at

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Guardian

The Guardian by Robbie Cheuvront and Erik Reed
A Mysterious Scroll Holds the Key to Mankind's Destiny

A young woman thrust into a world of power and corruption...
The sold-out follower of Christ who vows to defend her...
And the scroll that links them both together...

Anna Riley has just stumbled across a family secret--her ancestors have been keepers of an ancient scroll that God gave to John the Disciple. And now it's hers. But Anna will soon discover that being the keeper of the Scroll comes at a price, for there are those inside the Church who would have the scroll and its secrets at any cost. Sucked into a world of corruption and deceit, Anna is thrust into a journey that leads her half way around the world. And the only person she can trust is a stranger named Jason Lang who, she's told, was appointed by God to help her with the task.

As Anna and Jason race against the clock, Anna's own journey of faith may very well be the thing that unlocks the scroll's secrets. And her decisions will determine whether the man she's grown to love will live or die, as a mystery that's eluded the world since the time of Adam and Eve is finally revealed.

--The Guardian
by Robbie Cheuvront and Erik Reed
Copyright ©2011 by Robbie Cheuvront and Erik Reed
Published by Barbour Publishing

My Review
When the grandfather she never knew passes away, Anna becomes the keeper of a vitally important Christian artifact. In the book of Revelation, an angel of Christ gave John the Disciple a scroll containing a riddle that would reveal the answer to a centuries-old mystery. The problem is, she has to find the scroll and then find the answer to the mystery.

Assisting her on this quest is Father Vincent Marcella, her grandfather Thomas’s friend and guardian. The clues her grandfather left her lead them first to Venezuela, then to France, to the church where her grandparents were married.

Unfortunately, such quests are rarely solitary adventures. The Vatican is aware of her grandfather’s—and now her—quest and while she has the blessing and backing of the pope, not everyone in the papacy is on her side. A certain cardinal with more earthly aims will do whatever it takes to possess the scroll and its secrets. His hired gun is following Anna and Father Vin from Venezuela to France to the church.

At the church, Anna and Father Vin follow her grandfather’s clues and discover the hidden location of the scroll, along with Thomas’s notes regarding his work in deciphering the riddle. But leaving the church with the treasure is not easy, because Jason Lang, an American Baptist missionary, stands in their way. So does the cardinal’s hired gun.

When the smoke clears, Father Vin is dead, the hired gun is wounded and Jason has become Anna’s new guardian. Together, they flee France to a London safe house. Together they must solve the mystery of the scroll before the key to the temple falls into the hands of evil.

I enjoyed this story because it concerns an event in the Bible, specifically in the book of Revelation that most people probably just skip right over and keep reading (kind of like the Prayer of Jabez). I like stories that delve into those little-realized mysteries and give them the exploration that they deserve.

I feel that the authors could have gone a bit deeper into the characters and into Anna’s slowly growing faith. Their motivations are genuine and not exaggerated as some over-done stories play out, but I came away feeling as if I wanted more. I never felt as if Anna fully grasped the importance of the mission she’s been given, although she never wavers in her determination to see it through. Jason’s motivations are clear, as are the supporting characters, but Anna is the protagonist of this tale. Her motivations and development of her faith need to be clearest, and to me, that goal wasn’t quite achieved.

This is a very good story and I would recommend it to Christian book study groups (there are even helpful discussion questions at the end).

I give this story THREE and a HALF STARS.

I received an Advance Uncorrected Proof from NetGalley.

This book is now available for purchase through popular online retailers (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million and Borders) as well as Christian,, Family and

For more information, check out the book’s web site, Unlock the Scroll

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Third Circle

The Third Circle by Amanda Quick

Leona Hewitt, a gifted crystal worker, isn't the only one sneaking into Lord Delbridge's private museum to recover a relic. Thaddeus Ware, a mesmerist with psychic gifts, is on a similar mission. Neither one of them has any idea that this relic—a rare ancient crystal—will lead them in a deadly chase where danger and desire await.

--The Third Circle (An Arcane Society Novel, Book 4)
by Amanda Quick
Copyright © by Jayne Ann Krentz
Published by Putnam Adult, 2008 (Hardback) and Jove Books 2009 (paperback)

My Review

Leona Hewitt has been hunting for the Aurora Stone ever since it was stolen from her family when she was sixteen years old. Now that she’s finally found it, she’s found she has a rival for possession of the stone, one Thaddeus Ware. They manage to steal it from the man who stole it (who stole it from yet another thief), but Thaddeus is unfortunately poisoned in the endeavor. Only Leona, wielding the power to use the Aurora Stone to its full potential, is able to cure him. Leona, with the aid of her friend Adam Harrow, leaves Thaddeus in the care of an innkeeper and disappears into the night.

Thaddeus, however, is not about to be denied the woman who saved his life. He tracks her down and convinces her that the man they stole the Aurora Stone from can find her just as easily. His words prove to be true when she finds the Aurora Stone is not where she hid it in her home.

Reluctantly accepting his offer of protection, Leona and her dog, Fog, move in with Thaddeus and his aunt, Victoria Melton. Together, they plot to find out who took the stone and get it back.

Meanwhile, Thaddeus is conducting an investigation on the behest of the Arcane Society into a series of murders attributed to a man the press calls the Midnight Monster. The Aurora Stone, the Monster and a mysterious cabal called The Third Circle are connected and Thaddeus and Leona must tread carefully to expose the members of The Third Circle before they end up like the victims of the Midnight Monster.

I found the pacing in parts of this story to be long, hard and tedious. Part of that, I suppose, is due to the verbiage Amanda Quick employs to give the story the proper Victorian-era atmosphere that, if one were to be honest, it so rightly deserves as the style of speaking in that time was quite formal.


That being said, I did enjoy this story as it gave the background into two more Arcane Society entities, Jones and Jones Investigations and (though I’m sure it had a different name before the internet era).

Thaddeus and Leona’s search for the Aurora Stone took some predictable turns and the romantic entanglement between them was a given (it is a romance, after all) but it was an enjoyable read.

I’ve read the next two novels in the Arcane Society series, Running Hot and Perfect Poison but will have to re-read them in order to give a review. They may wait, however, as I have several other new books to read and would like to get to them before doing any re-reads.

I give this story THREE STARS.

Calling Mr. King

Calling Mr. King by Ronald de Feo

Long considered cool, distant, and absolutely reliable, an American-born hit man, working throughout Europe, grows increasingly distracted and begins to develop an unexpected passion for architecture and art while engaged in his deadly profession. Although he welcomes this energizing break from his routine, he comes to realize that it is an unwise trajectory for a man in his business, particularly when he is sent on the most difficult job of his career.

Set in London, Paris, New York, and Barcelona, Calling Mr. King is at once a colorful suspense tale, laced with dark humor, and a psychological self-portrait of a character who is attempting, against the odds, to become someone else.

--Calling Mr. King
by Ronald de Feo
Copyright © August 30, 2011 by Ronald de Feo
Published by Other Press, New York

My Review
“Mr. King,” as he is called, is an assassin, one of the best in his field. He has a job in Paris, but is having a hard time finishing it. He’s uncharacteristically distracted, following his target around the city for days, wondering exactly what the target is doing. He’s had several opportunities to finish the job, but keeps delaying until finally, after a call from his superiors, gets the job done and returns to his base in London.

While he’s waiting for another assignment, he begins to explore his adopted home city. He becomes fascinated by the architecture, specifically Georgian, and begins to research it. Perhaps some day he’ll own a Georgian home. But in the midst of his exploration, he’s given another assignment in Derbyshire. He’s reluctant—he’s really getting into his research—but does as they order. Unfortunately, again, he’s distracted. He completes the job, but is forced to take out a witness. His superiors are not pleased with this and decide to send him to New York City for a while until things calm down.

“Sir Peter Chilton,” as he’s now calling himself, finds himself on vacation in New York City and has no idea what to do with himself. He begins to explore the city, much as he did London, and continues his research into Georgian architecture. He likes his new identity as “Sir Peter Chilton,” gentleman, researcher, explorer, art lover, but when called, he obediently flies to Barcelona. There he waits and, true to form, begins exploring and researching Spanish architecture and the city of Barcelona itself. But when it comes time to finally do the job he’s been sent to do, can he bring himself to complete his mission?

The story started off interesting, a dedicated “best in his field” assassin being given an assignment to take a man out. By the end of the story, he’s fighting off the assassins who were sent to take him out.

Everything written between these two events was a waste of words.

There are long, long, long narrative passages with very little action, just details about the narrator’s wanderings around Paris, London, New York City and Barcelona that, quite frankly, were boring. While he’s wandering around these cities, he begins to rethink his life, and about what he could make of himself if given the opportunity, but these reflections are buried so deep within the narrative/travelogue that they’re hard to find.

When he was sent to New York to lay low after the assignment turned bad, I expected him to be on alert for a possible hit on himself—an assassin that’s losing his touch becomes a liability to his employers and those employers don’t have very nice retirement packages—but no one comes after him. There is one moment where he spies a suspicious black van, but it amounts to nothing. He meets a woman, but aside from a phone call late in the story, that potential relationship goes nowhere and serves no purpose.

When the narrator (which by now, if you haven’t guessed, goes unnamed until the very end of the story) is sent to Barcelona to do a job there, he’s not happy because he wants to go back to London, but obediently goes to Spain. When he fails to do the job there, his employer sends assassins after him. This is the point where the story finally hints that it may be getting to some action, but aside from taking out the first couple assassins, nothing really happens and the story is over.

Given the main character's profession, I was expecting more of a plot/action oriented novel. I was very hard-pressed to find a plot and there was very little action. If you're looking for plot, look elsewhere. If you're looking for a travelogue and deep introspection, this is your book.

At the very end, there’s a nod back to the man the narrator was hunting in Paris, which I found to be an interesting little move on the author’s part, but I found very little else in this story interesting.

I give this story ONE STAR.

I received an Advance Uncorrected Proof from NetGalley.