Monday, January 30, 2012

The Girl Who Played with Fire

The Girl Who Played with Fire
by Stieg Larsson

Mikael Blomkvist, crusading publisher of the magazine Millennium, has decided to run a story that will expose an extensive sex trafficking operation. On the eve of its publication, the two reporters responsible for the article are murdered, and the fingerprints found on the murder weapon belong to his friend, the troubled genius hacker Lisbeth Salander. Blomkvist, convinced of Salander’s innocence, plunges into an investigation. Meanwhile, Salander herself is drawn into a murderous game of cat and mouse, which forces her to face her dark past.

--The Girl Who Played with Fire
by Stieg Larsson (translated by Reg Keeland)
Copyright © Stieg Larsson

My Review

The Girl Who Played with Fire finds Lisbeth Salander living nicely in a hotel in the Caribbean. After leaving Sweden, she’s spent the year traveling the world on the money she stole from Wennerström. But the arrival of an off-season hurricane convinces her it’s time to go home. Once back in Stockholm, she sets herself up in a new apartment, and wonders what she’ll do with her life now that things are so different. One thing she knows for certain, she won’t be getting in touch with Mikael Blomkvist, no matter how many times he calls her.

Blomkvist has just about given up on Salander ever getting in touch with him and besides, he has his own life to deal with. He’s looking at publishing a series of exposé articles on the sex trade along with a book that will go into much deeper detail when the author and his partner are killed. And Lisbeth Salander’s fingerprints are on the murder weapon.

Convinced of her innocence, he begins looking for a connection between the sex trade articles and Salander. At the same time, Lisbeth is forced to confront some of the demons of her past, dating back to the time when “all the evil” occurred and her life was torn apart. Can she survive—literally—long enough to put those demons to rest?

I give this story FOUR and a HALF STARS.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Don't Look Back

Don’t Look Back
by Karin Fossum

In an idyllic Norwegian village, neighbors know neighbors and children play happily in the streets. But then the naked body of a teenage girl is found. Annie was strong, intelligent, and loved by everyone. What went wrong? Called to investigate, Inspector Sejer uncovers layer upon later of distrust and lies beneath the town’s seemingly perfect façade.

--Don’t Look Back
by Karin Fossum
Copyright © 2002 Karin Fossum, translated by Felicity David

My Review

I’ve begun developing an affinity for Scandinavian authors--Jussi Adler-Olsen and Stieg Larsson so far are the only two on the list, but there should soon be more. Karin Fossum, however, may not join that list. A quarter of the way through this book, I found I really didn’t care much for the main character, Inspector Sejer, or for the murdered girl who was the subject of the mystery. Rather than forcing myself to read the rest of the story, I just skimmed the remainder to find out “whodunit” so I could put it aside.

I do have a couple more books in the Inspector Sejer series that I purchased at the Green Valley Book Fair and I may try reading another one later on this year, but it will be a while before I do that. I have a lot of other books that I want to read and Inspector Sejer will have to wait.

I give this story TWO STARS.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
by Stieg Larsson

Mikael Blomkvist, a once-respected financial journalist, watches his professional life rapidly crumble around him. Prospects appear bleak until an unexpected (and unsettling) offer to resurrect his name is extended by an old-school titan of Swedish industry. The catch--and there's always a catch--is that Blomkvist must first spend a year researching a mysterious disappearance that has remained unsolved for nearly four decades. With few other options, he accepts and enlists the help of investigator Lisbeth Salander, a misunderstood genius with a cache of authority issues.

--The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
by Stieg Larsson (translated by Reg Keeland)
Copyright © 2008 Stieg Larsson

My Review

Okay, what can I tell you about this book that you haven’t already heard, read about or seen in the movie (either version)?

Mikael Blomkvist has just been convicted of libel and his career as a financial journalist and magazine owner appear to be over, or at least severely decimated. After convincing his business partner that he needs time away, he accepts an offer from Henrik Vanger. Several decades ago, Vanger’s niece, Harriet, disappeared without a trace. He wants to hire Blomkvist to find out what happened to Harriet. He has a year and he’ll receive a hefty salary, no matter the outcome of his investigation. Since Vanger wants the investigation kept secret, Blomkvist’s cover story is that he’s writing a biography of the family.

Lisbeth Salander is getting-by-just-fine-thank-you on the fringes of society. Overly, she works for Milton Securities as an office junior but in reality, she conducts investigations for the firm. She did one on Mikael Blomkvist for Vanger’s lawyer prior to him being hired and she got to know him quite well through her investigation. Her mother lives in a nursing home and she’s under the guardianship of the state because she has been declared mentally incompetent. She’s not insane, just different, and if people would just leave her alone, she could do just fine for herself. But when her guardian suffers a stroke and she’s assigned to a new guardian, things go from okay to worse.

It takes him some time, but Blomkvist finally uncovers a lead that may answer Henrik’s question. He goes so far with the lead, but then come up short. When he asks Henrik’s lawyer if he knows a good investigator, he reluctant admits that a woman for Milton Securities is the best he’s seen. Her name? Lisbeth Salander. She did his background check. Blomkvist demands to see her report. In reading it, he finds one tiny tidbit of information that could only have come from one place…his own personal computer.

Incensed and intrigued, he arranges to meet and hire Salander to be his research assistant. Together, they uncover the mystery of Harriet’s disappearance, which is part of a conspiracy neither could ever have imagined.

Huh…looks like I managed to say something after all!

I have no choice but to join the legions of people who have read the books and seen the movies and loved the story. Yes, it’s hard to read in some spots due to the graphic nature of the crime involved in Harriet’s disappearance, not to mention all those Swedish names, but it’s worth the time and trouble. If you haven’t read the story yet, I strongly recommend it.

I give this story FOUR and a HALF STARS.

The Pawn

The Pawn by Steven James

Special Agent Patrick Bowers never met a killer he couldn’t catch.

Until now.

Called to North Carolina to consult on the case of an area serial killer, Bowers finds himself caught in a deadly game of cat and mouse. Cunning and lethal, the killer is always one step ahead of the law, and he’s about to strike again. It will take all of Bowers’s instincts and training to stop the man who calls himself the Illusionist.

--The Pawn
by Steven James
Copyright © 2007 by Steven James
Published by Revell Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group

My Review

FBI Special Agent Dr. Patrick “Call me Pat” Bowers is an environmental criminologist, which means he “merges the fields of environmental psychology with geospatial investigation.” (Direct quote from the book.) Like a profiler, he works with the geographic details of a killer’s activities to figure out the where—and sometimes the when—of a crime. Recently relocated from New York City to Denver to raise his step-daughter closer to his parents, he’s called Asheville, North Carolina to help out in an investigation.

As he and the team work the case, they discover there are actually two killers, one of which has a tie to one of the most spectacular mass killings of the 1970’s. This killer has never forgotten the government’s response to the massacre and now he means to make the man in charge of that response—now an important elected official—pay, in a way the world will never forget.
~~~~~~ ~~~~~~ ~~~~~~ ~~~~~~
This is Book 1 in the Patrick Bowers mysteries and it didn’t take me long to fall into “like” with this character. I’m not in love with him, but I really do like him.

The bad guy in this story epitomizes a champion chess player. One of the keys to chess is the ability to think several moves ahead, predicting what your opponent will do and making your moves based on that knowledge. The killer knows police tactics and makes his moves based on that knowledge, with amazing results. Bowers is stunned—almost to paralysis at one point—with how clever his opponent is.

He’s so clever that Pat begins to doubt himself and his ability to catch this guy. A tiny misstep with a colleague has him doubting himself even more. Everyone makes these kinds of missteps in life. It’s nice that our hero does as well, but he shows his humanity in the way he reacts to those missteps. He berates himself—mildly—and when he attempts to mend the misstep, we know it through his mental narrative. It’s nice to see this overt kind of vulnerability in a character. It makes him more likable, more real, more like someone we can connect with.

We like to see vulnerabilities in our heroes. That makes them human and we need to see that humanity, otherwise, we can never really connect with them. Bowers is a widow, his wife having died after only five months of marriage, leaving him with a sullen, 16-year-old stepdaughter. Sullen, 16-year-old daughters are hard enough to handle as they are, but a sullen, 16-year-old stepdaughter is ten times harder. Pat genuinely cares about Tessa, but he hardly knows her. The situation is made worse when the killer he’s tracking lets him know he knows all about Tessa. This causes Pat to go into over-protective mode, a move guaranteed to make Tessa resent him even more. By the end of the story, their relationship is resolved and they begin to build a bridge of understanding. Their relationship is one of the reasons I’ll continue to read the series, to see how it eventually works out.

Steven James has five books out in this series. The next is The Rook,, followed by The Knight, The Bishop, and The Queen. Chess pieces, specifically the pawn, made an appearance in The Pawn. Do the other pieces appear in the other books? I’ll find when I read The Rook. Stay tuned!

I give this story FOUR STARS.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Cut

Wo-Hoo!! New Year, new reviews to post!! Okay, got that out of my system. On to the first review of 2012 ~~~

The Cut by George Pelecanos

Spero Lucas has a new line of work. Since he returned home after serving in Iraq, he has been doing special investigations for a defense attorney. He's good at it, and he has carved out a niche: recovering stolen property, no questions asked. His cut is forty percent.

A high-profile crime boss who has heard of Lucas's specialty hires him to find out who has been stealing from his operation. It's the biggest job Lucas has ever been offered, and he quickly gets a sense of what's going on. But before he can close in on what's been taken, he tangles with a world of men whose amorality and violence leave him reeling. Is any cut worth your family, your lover, your life?

--The Cut
by George Pelecanos
Copyright © 2011 by George Pelecanos
Published by Reagan Arthur Books

My Review
Spero Lucas, 29, ex-Marine and Iraq war vet, lives and makes his living in Washington D.C., a city I know well but not nearly as well as Pelecanos. Lucas is happy with is life and makes a good living as a “finder.” When an attorney he works for refers him to a new client, a drug dealer currently in jail, he’s a bit reluctant, but meets with the man. Anwan Hawkins has had a couple packages of his merchandise go missing. He wants Lucas to find them. Lucas doesn’t want to work for a drug dealer, but a job’s a job, so he takes it.

He meets with Hawkins’ #2 men, Tayvon Lynch and Edwin Davis and begins his investigation. Before long, a third package goes missing and Tayvon and Edwin wind up dead. Lucas stays away from that investigation, leaving it to the police, but he knows a police officer is involved in both the killings and in Hawkins’ missing packages, so how far can he stay away really?

And when a young teen goes missing, Lucas must pull out all the stops to rescue him and at the same time put a stop to the men responsible. Without winding up dead himself.

There’s a gritty, earthly feel to this story that’s not quite to my liking, but, despite that, I liked the telling of the tale. When a story makes references to an area or culture that you have to be a part of to really understand, and I am a part of that area or culture, it increases my enjoyment of the story. That’s why The Cut gets four stars from me. It’s a well-written, well told story and I’m looking forward to the next one in the series.

I give this story FOUR STARS.