Ted Feit's Book Review Roundup

Burn
Nevada Barr
Minotaur Books, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-312-61456-0
Hardcover

It is likely that fans of the Anna Pigeon series might be put off by several aspects of this novel.  To begin with, it takes place in the urban setting of New Orleans rather than the accustomed [for this series] wide open spaces of a national park.  Then there is the topic: not only child abuse, but child sex and white slavery.  Also there is much, if not excessive, violence (which does not mean that there has not been some in previous entries).

With that said, we can turn our attention to Burn.  It is an intriguing work, albeit somewhat heavy-handed.  Anna is on leave to recover from some sort of mental breakdown, visiting a friend in the Big Easy.  Instead she becomes involved in what appears to be a voodoo curse as well as assisting a stranger in recovering her daughters, apparently kidnapped to be imprisoned in a sex emporium.

This reader found the novel slow to read and bogged down in a lot of unnecessary detail.  The plot – – child sex – – certainly is worthy of an important look, and the book does achieve that aim.  Somewhat confusing to this reader were the various descriptions of the “character” changes in the distraught mother, a professional actress, as she takes on each role as the situation arises.  On the whole, however, it is an interesting read, and recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, November 2010.

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The Track of Sand
Andrea Camilleri
Translated by Stephen Sartarelli
Penguin Books, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-14-311793-3
Trade Paperback

Strange dreams and perfect intuition and logic are the keys to solving a mystery in this Inspector Montalbano novel.  It seems that even when he is asleep he can proceed with an investigation with dispatch.

He awakens one day and looks out of his beach house to see a bludgeoned horse lying in the sand.  When his men arrive after his call to investigate, the horse has disappeared.  In short order, Rachele, an equestrian champion rider, and Saverio Lo Duca, one of the richest men in Sicily, each report a missing horse.  Which one was the horse the inspector sighted?

In consultation with Fazio, a colleague, Montalbano learns of a clandestine horse racing scheme operated by the mafia.  Meanwhile, several burglary attempts take place at the inspector’s house, as well as an arson attempt.  What, if any, is the connection to the investigation?  With his customary unorthodox methodology, the inspector proceeds to unravel all the possibilities.

With humor and charm, the author writes a procedural of a different kind:  one which is full of good food, good-looking women and lots of fun.  Eat, drink and read hearty.

Recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, November 2010.

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She Felt No Pain
Lou Allin
RendezVous Crime, 2010
ISBN: 978-1-926607-07-8
Trade Paperback

RCMP Corporal Holly Martin, newly transferred to Vancouver Island, faces adjustment to her new command, along with encountering her own past along the way.  The reader is treated to all kinds of descriptions of the island in all its glory.

Almost incidentally, a mystery unfolds when an apparently homeless man is found dead of what looks like a drug overdose.  An autopsy shows a deadly combination of heroin and a potent synthetic opiate, a deadly combination. Holly soon discovers something the man had hidden near the site of his death, and she struggles to find its meaning. At the same time, Holly is encouraged by her elderly aunt to investigate the disappearance of her mother many years before.

Slowly, Holly begins to look into the background of the homeless man, uncovering his relationship with a sister and aunt still living on the island.  Consequently, Holly is able to begin piecing together the background story and investigate the possibility of murder.  The author concentrates on developing the story against the raw beauty of
nature and environment, which not only provide a truly forceful setting for the plot, but also a powerful conclusion.

Recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, November 2010.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Evidence of Murder
Lisa Black
Harper, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-06-154450-7
Mass Market Paperback

Persistence is a virtue, and Theresa MacLean, a forensic scientist in the M.E.’s office exhibits plenty of that in this novel in which she still has not recovered from the death of her fiancé.  A young woman has been found frozen to death on the shores of Lake Erie in Cleveland and there are almost no clues as to the cause of death.  She left behind a husband of three weeks and a young baby.

Theresa smells a rat and she can’t let go of the case.  She learns that the baby has received a $1.5 million inheritance from its grandparents and Theresa suspects that the baby’s life is in danger because of the money.  But unless she can prove murder, and she can’t seem to find any evidence, there might be another death in the near future.

This reader found the book slow reading, bogged down in minutiae and over-detailed descriptions, especially of forensics procedures.  But for this criticism, it is an interesting and well-drawn plot, with an exciting but rather implausible conclusion.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, November 2010.

Ted Feit’s Book Review Roundup

Burn
Nevada Barr
Minotaur Books, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-312-61456-0
Hardcover

It is likely that fans of the Anna Pigeon series might be put off by several aspects of this novel.  To begin with, it takes place in the urban setting of New Orleans rather than the accustomed [for this series] wide open spaces of a national park.  Then there is the topic: not only child abuse, but child sex and white slavery.  Also there is much, if not excessive, violence (which does not mean that there has not been some in previous entries).

With that said, we can turn our attention to Burn.  It is an intriguing work, albeit somewhat heavy-handed.  Anna is on leave to recover from some sort of mental breakdown, visiting a friend in the Big Easy.  Instead she becomes involved in what appears to be a voodoo curse as well as assisting a stranger in recovering her daughters, apparently kidnapped to be imprisoned in a sex emporium.

This reader found the novel slow to read and bogged down in a lot of unnecessary detail.  The plot – – child sex – – certainly is worthy of an important look, and the book does achieve that aim.  Somewhat confusing to this reader were the various descriptions of the “character” changes in the distraught mother, a professional actress, as she takes on each role as the situation arises.  On the whole, however, it is an interesting read, and recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, November 2010.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Track of Sand
Andrea Camilleri
Translated by Stephen Sartarelli
Penguin Books, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-14-311793-3
Trade Paperback

Strange dreams and perfect intuition and logic are the keys to solving a mystery in this Inspector Montalbano novel.  It seems that even when he is asleep he can proceed with an investigation with dispatch.

He awakens one day and looks out of his beach house to see a bludgeoned horse lying in the sand.  When his men arrive after his call to investigate, the horse has disappeared.  In short order, Rachele, an equestrian champion rider, and Saverio Lo Duca, one of the richest men in Sicily, each report a missing horse.  Which one was the horse the inspector sighted?

In consultation with Fazio, a colleague, Montalbano learns of a clandestine horse racing scheme operated by the mafia.  Meanwhile, several burglary attempts take place at the inspector’s house, as well as an arson attempt.  What, if any, is the connection to the investigation?  With his customary unorthodox methodology, the inspector proceeds to unravel all the possibilities.

With humor and charm, the author writes a procedural of a different kind:  one which is full of good food, good-looking women and lots of fun.  Eat, drink and read hearty.

Recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, November 2010.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

She Felt No Pain
Lou Allin
RendezVous Crime, 2010
ISBN: 978-1-926607-07-8
Trade Paperback

RCMP Corporal Holly Martin, newly transferred to Vancouver Island, faces adjustment to her new command, along with encountering her own past along the way.  The reader is treated to all kinds of descriptions of the island in all its glory.

Almost incidentally, a mystery unfolds when an apparently homeless man is found dead of what looks like a drug overdose.  An autopsy shows a deadly combination of heroin and a potent synthetic opiate, a deadly combination. Holly soon discovers something the man had hidden near the site of his death, and she struggles to find its meaning. At the same time, Holly is encouraged by her elderly aunt to investigate the disappearance of her mother many years before.

Slowly, Holly begins to look into the background of the homeless man, uncovering his relationship with a sister and aunt still living on the island.  Consequently, Holly is able to begin piecing together the background story and investigate the possibility of murder.  The author concentrates on developing the story against the raw beauty of
nature and environment, which not only provide a truly forceful setting for the plot, but also a powerful conclusion.

Recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, November 2010.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Evidence of Murder
Lisa Black
Harper, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-06-154450-7
Mass Market Paperback

Persistence is a virtue, and Theresa MacLean, a forensic scientist in the M.E.’s office exhibits plenty of that in this novel in which she still has not recovered from the death of her fiancé.  A young woman has been found frozen to death on the shores of Lake Erie in Cleveland and there are almost no clues as to the cause of death.  She left behind a husband of three weeks and a young baby.

Theresa smells a rat and she can’t let go of the case.  She learns that the baby has received a $1.5 million inheritance from its grandparents and Theresa suspects that the baby’s life is in danger because of the money.  But unless she can prove murder, and she can’t seem to find any evidence, there might be another death in the near future.

This reader found the book slow reading, bogged down in minutiae and over-detailed descriptions, especially of forensics procedures.  But for this criticism, it is an interesting and well-drawn plot, with an exciting but rather implausible conclusion.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, November 2010.

Book Review: The Terror of Living by Urban Waite

The Terror of Living
Urban Waite
Little, Brown and Company, 2011
ISBN No. 978-0316097895
Hardcover (ARC)

Deputy Bobby Drake has returned to his hometown, Silver Lake, Washington, and is following in the footsteps of his father who was also a lawman.  The difference is that Bobby’s father supplemented his income by dealing with illicit deliveries through the mountain passes near his home. Bobby’s father was caught and is serving time in jail.

While on patrol Bobby finds an abandoned horse trailer that prompted him to think something suspicious was going on.  He decided to go up into the mountains and there he discovered two men who were no doubt participating in the same deliveries that had sent his father to jail.  One of the men was caught but Phil Hunt escaped.

Phil Hunt is an ex-con who runs a horse farm with his wife near Auburn, Washington.  He makes the occasional run for Eddie Vasquez and makes a little money to keep the farm going.  When the latest delivery is messed up by Bobby’s interference the people that hired Vasquez and Hunt decide that they need to recover their losses and they send a hired killer to reclaim what is theirs.

Phil Hunt runs from the killer but Bobby Drake is still on his trail.  When the two finally come together they both find that there are certain lines that neither will cross.

This is one novel where you cannot help but feel some sympathy for Hunt, the criminal while still rooting for Deputy Bobby Drake.  This is a thriller that you will not want to put down until you’ve reached the brilliant conclusion of the book.

The Terror of Living has all the elements for a movie with the beautiful scenery and the conflict between two men on different sides.

This is Urban Waite’s first novel and I hope there will be many more.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, January 2011.

Lag Time

Clea Simon has recently discovered that she is incapable of writing a book without a cat in it. The author of three nonfiction books and, now, three mystery series, she celebrates the release next month of Dogs Don’t Lie (Poisoned Pen Press), her first “pet noir” (which, despite the beleaguered dog of the title, also features a grouchy tabby sidekick), and Grey Zone (Severn House), the third in her Dulcie Schwartz feline series in which the heroine receives suitably enigmatic guidance from the ghost of her late, great cat. She lives with her husband Jon and their tuxedo cat Musetta in Somerville, Mass., in a 100-year-old house that is not, as far as she knows, haunted.

http://www.cleasimon.com

http://www.cleasimon.blogspot.com

Twitter: @Clea_Simon

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Shh! I’m writing again… and I just have to finish this scene.

That’s what I said to the cat – the cat! – as she mewed piteously just now. She’d carried one of her two toy mice up the

Musetta says, "Hey, what's with the dog?"

stairs, and that is always occasion for a certain kind of strangled-sounding cry. It’s usually my queue to toss the toy, and let her knock it back to me. (We call it “volleymouse.”)

But, you see, with one thing and another, I haven’t had a chance to sit down and write until about twenty minutes ago. I’ve been too busy getting ready for the launch of my next two books.

Two? Yes, two – which is another story I’ll get to presently. Right now, though, I’m thinking of the oddity of publishing time. Particularly serial-mystery-publishing time, which decrees that just as you should be re-skimming the soon-to-be-launched book, choosing excerpts to read and recalling funny stories about how that particular character came about, you tend to be knee deep in the next book. At least, you should be.

In two weeks, I have my first bookstore events for my two April mysteries, Dogs Don’t Lie and Grey Zone. The first is the debut of a new series, a character I adore. Pru Marlowe is a bad-girl animal psychic, my cozy-esque response to all the noir I was reading a two or three years ago. The other is the third in my Dulcie Schwartz series, a gentler mystery, with a bookish heroine who just happens to commune with the spirit of her late, great feline, Mr. Grey. And if you ask me any more, I just may be stuck.

You see, these two books came about rather tumultuously and, really, another lifetime ago. Pru first appeared in a short story about three years past, and only after that did she insist on her own book. Once she made her intentions clear, pushy gal that she is, Pru dominated my life for a while, to the point where I think I was even talking like her – a little tougher. Devil may care. But while my agent was shopping that manuscript around, the publisher of my Dulcie series asked if I’d like to extend it – and I jumped at the chance. Pru who? I’d missed my little Dulcie, and I found myself afloat with a boatload of new ideas for her and Mr. Grey. A student would go missing! A professor would fall from a rooftop. No, his office window! As one book faded from my mind, the other came alive. That’s the way it works when the spirit moves you. Your characters get into trouble. If you’re lucky, they’ll show you how to get them out.

And then … the fun is over. They sell, or come due – as both these books did last spring – and while that is certainly cause for celebration, it is also a little death. Your beloved stories become the property of your editors. They’re no longer quite so alive, or quite so yours. It’s not bad, mind you. It’s probably for the best that you wrangle a bit with your editor about what she deems repetitious words or scenes that you adore, but which objective minds find a bit draggy.  But it distances you – the book is less an alternative world, and more of a product. Then production begins. You answer queries from the copy editor (yes, “fug” is a word). And you read proofs, terror-stricken that you’ll miss the one sentence that makes no sense – and that somehow nobody else in the editing process has noticed either.

Finally, when you are almost sick of that story you once adored, the long wait begins… Production. Cover design. Cover copy. Somewhere down the line, your book shows up online. You hear that advance reading copies have gone out. There are rumors of pre-press reviews. Maybe even some buzz.

All the while, though, you’ve been recovering – replenishing the stock of coincidences and ideas. Recuperating from the maddening tug-of-war of the editing process, of production. And because you are human and must do what you do, you start writing again. If you’re lucky, it’s because you have contracts – I have the luxury of knowing that both Pru #2 and Dulcie #4 have homes waiting for them. Basically, though, you do it because, really, it’s what you do. You dive in. The characters start talking, they take over.

Now they’re at it again. Dulcie has been roughhousing with her new kitten, and I cannot wait to hear how this latest bit of fun is going to be disrupted with the news that a friend has been hauled off to jail… Only, I have to stop now, and it’s not just the cat. I have to think about Dulcie’s last adventure. That missing student. The professor’s unhappy landing. And Pru – cynical Pru, whose grouchy tabby Wallis grumbles, rather than howls for her attention.

Will Dulcie, as she was in Grey Zone, win me over again? Will I find Pru as wickedly cool and enchanting? Maybe this lag time is the true test of a book. Maybe I will pick them up and love them, love revisiting these particular adventures. Only let me finish this scene first…

Book Review: Murder in Montmartre by Cara Black

Murder in Montmartre
Cara Black
Soho Press, 2006
ISBN 1569474109
Hardcover (ARC)
Also available in trade paperback

On the wide, shop-lined Boulevard de Clichy by the Moulin Rouge, its garish neon now dark, plumes of bus exhaust spiraled into the air. A straggling demonstration blocked the street as loudspeakers shouted, “Corsica for Corsicans!”

Waiting passengers stood on the pavement with that particular patience of Parisians, the collective shrug of acceptance reserved for slowdowns and strikes. Newspaper banners plastered across the kiosk read STRIKE IN CORSICAN CONTRACT DISPUTE. Another said ASSAULT ON ARMORED CURRENCY TRUCK LINKED TO ARMATA CORSA SEPARATISTS.

She saw a peeling poster on a stone wall bearing a call to action and the Armata Corsa Separatist trademark, the tête de Maure, a black face with white bandanna, in the corner.

The strident Separatist movements in Corsica took center stage these days, elbowing out Bretons demanding school instruction in Gaelic and ETA, Basque Nationalists, car bombings.

Right now Aimée needed to speak with the person in the apartment with geraniums in a window box to discover if he or she had seen anything.

One January night computer security expert and private detective Aimée Leduc attends a retirement party for a former colleague of her father’s. Before the night is through a rookie police detective, a childhood friend of Aimée’s, is accused of murdering her partner. Aimée steps in when her friend is unable to assist in her own defense. One possible lead proves maddingly elusive: a man Aimée spotted near the crime scene, whom she suspects may have seen what unfolded, disappears into the warren of steep and narrow streets of Paris’ Montmartre.

The man Aimée seeks, Lucien Sarti, has good reason to hide. A musician on the verge of his big break, Lucien is in Paris illegally because he is suspected of being a Corsican terrorist. As he and Aimée each discover, however, he is also the ideal scapegoat for a bombing planned by militant Corsican separatists. When Aimée learns that her friend’s murdered partner was himself half Corsican, and subsequently uncovers a link between the murder and a decades-old corruption scandal involving her own father, she begins to wonder if she might be in over her head – or if she’ll be able to clear her friend’s name.

Murder in Montmartre sits about midway in Cara Black’s Aimée Leduc series, though it is the first I have read. Each book in the series focuses on a particular neighborhood in Paris, ranging from the Latin Quarter to the Île Saint-Louis to Montmartre in the present installment, home to the Basilique du Sacre Cœur, an infamous nightclub district, and incubator for many of France’s greatest artists of the 19th and 20th centuries: Matisse, Renoir, Degas, and Toulouse-Lautrec, to name only a few.  Montmartre has a fascinating and eclectic history that suits the neighborhood’s personality, and Black serves as a knowledgeable and enthusiastic tour guide as Aimée pursues the necessary clues to exonerate her friend. At the same time Black touches upon France’s prickly relationship with Corsica and the troubles stemming from its possession and occupation of the Mediterranean island. Although separatist movements in western Europe are not as active as they were 20-30 years ago, they have not completely disappeared, and new movements have emerged elsewhere in the meantime. While Black is not French, she lays out both perspectives – the French side from the point of view of the police, the Corsican from people both supportive and dismissive of the separatist movement – fairly and objectively.

This mélange of local color and separatist politics providing the background context for a murder mystery results in a dense, complex, and enjoyable story. I also have to praise Black for the supporting characters – the residents of Montmartre, in particular, but recurring characters too, such as Aimée’s partner René – who stand out vividly. The one weakness, unfortunately, is Aimée. Perhaps she has more personality in earlier books in the series, or perhaps the story in Murder in Montmartre was so complex Black couldn’t give Aimée the amount of attention she usually does, but I found Aimée to be disappointingly flat and inscrutable. Save this one flaw – a crucial one for me – I would recommend Murder in Montmartre without reservation; I do still recommend it, for the wonderful portrayal of a fascinating neighborhood and a fair presentation of a difficult issue.

Reviewed by Laura Taylor, March 2011.

My Mews

Steve Liskow has published several short stories, and “Stranglehold” appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine after winning the Black Orchid Novella Award for 2009. His first novel, Who Wrote The Book of Death?, came out last spring. A former English teacher, he still conducts writing workshops and is a contributor to Now Write! Mystery, Thrillers and Crime, due from Tarcher/Penguin in 2012. A member of both MWA and SinC, he lives in central Connecticut with his wife Barbara and two rescued cats and claims to be working on several projects. For more, www.steveliskow.com .

Steve is back today to talk about his delightful feline friends.

Ernie, a strawberry-blond Maine coon, was a year old when he was put into a Tennessee animal shelter that would have euthanized him in 48 hours. The people running that shelter called in some huge favors and a volunteer drove him and his playmate, Jewel, a shy Himalayan seven months older than he was, up to another facility in Connecticut. That ride probably traumatized the pair as much as losing their family in the first place.

Ernie

The day they cleared quarantine, my wife saw Ernie’s picture on PetFinder.com in all his fluffy glory. We had spent the previous year—the only one of our twenty-seven together without at least one cat—mourning Persephone, who passed away at age twenty. We agreed that we wanted two young cats because they’d help each other acclimate to a new home.

Happily, the shelter insisted that Ernie and Jewel came as a team, so we called to arrange a meeting. Jewel spent the whole hour hiding under her bunk bed so all we saw was a fluffy gray tail, but Ernie played the perfect host, purring, climbing into our laps, and generally showing what a playful kid he was. Both cats responded to their names, so we knew we wouldn’t change them. That weekend, we returned with our cat carriers.

After another hour drive—experience has taught both cats that cars suck—Ernie approved our condo on sight, but Jewel hid under the coffee table in the basement. She let us pet her and talk to her, but it took a week before we saw her grooming in a living room chair and another week before she let us see her eating in the kitchen. By then, Ernie had figured out how to open our closet doors and how to walk across the armoire to adjust the Venetian blinds in our bedroom. A few weeks later, he knocked a fluffy mouse magnet off the refrigerator. That kill became his favorite toy and he would fetch it for as long as one of us would throw it. It disappeared a few months ago, and I think it got mixed in with the Christmas wrappings. He still knocks magnets off the refrigerator, but none of them have captured his fancy like that mouse.

Jewel

Not quite two years since that drive from the shelter, Jewel sleeps between us on cold nights and Ernie drapes himself over my ankles. He looks like a tiny lion and has the heart of a golden retriever. He eats as much as a college football team, but Jewel, whom the shelter workers described as a “full-figured gal,” could wear a jersey with three digits on it. Himalayans are half Persian and half Siamese, so she also has a vocabulary of at least thirty-five distinct squeaks, yelps, chirps, and burbles. Watching UConn women’s basketball, she even makes a sound that might be “Maya Moore.” When she purrs, it sounds like the dishwasher is running downstairs, and, in spite of her size, she can dance lightly as a ballerina. When I’m writing, she curls up next to my gym bag, which is about the same size and shape. Ernie likes to sit in my lap while I read, and Jewel prefers to snuggle with my wife.

Both cats help me create character.

A character in Jodi Picoult’s novel House Rules claims that all cats have Asperger’s syndrome, and it may be true. If you have a cat, you know it’s always about them. Cats are narcissists at heart, and that fits well with some of my best villains. When they stalk prey, they show a focus that can be truly frightening, but they also convey a calculation that

Jewel

works as well with sleuths as with villains.

Only my daughter has ever seen Jewel—dashing for the basement when that strange woman walked in the front door. She shares her birthday with Hank Williams—which may explain her quirkiness—and likes to sit on freshly-printed love scenes. Ernie, whose body language shouts “Dude!” urges me to write more car chases and gunfights. His joie de vivre shows up in the sidekick of my protagonist, too.

Pets don’t have to just be role models, though. They can help you depict character in other ways. How do you feel about someone who doesn’t like dogs or cats? Worse still, someone who will mistreat them? Several protagonists in long-running mystery series have cats, including Elvis Cole and Carlotta Carlyle.

In my novel Who Wrote The Book of Death?, protagonist Beth Shepard misses her tiger cat, Rufus, because she is living with a man who is allergic to cats. In an unsold series, my female protagonist Megan Traine lives with a tuxedo cat with double paws whom she calls “Clyde” (short for “Clydesdale”) and his calico sister, Bonnie. Meg gauges potential

Ernie

boyfriends by how well the cats react to him and vice versa.

Ernie and Jewel change their favorite places to hang out with the seasons and keep finding new ways to amuse themselves when they don’t want attention or food. Since his mouse disappeared, Ernie has discovered shoe laces, so getting dressed in the morning has become one of my major projects. He also likes to climb into our entertainment unit and push the CDs out of the shelf so he can curl up there. As spring approaches, both cats like to sit on the desk and look out the office window. Ernie rests his forepaws on the sill like a guy bellying up to the bar. Jewel apparently recognizes every squirrel in the evergreen outside that window. She talks to most of them (in Squirrel, of course) just like a good neighbor.

And both cats have a great sense of perspective. No plot problem is so bad you can’t solve it by curling up in a sunbeam and sleeping on it.

Book Review: Gideon's Sword by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

Gideon’s Sword
Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
Grand Central Publishing, February 2011
ISBN No. 978-044656432
Hardcover (ARC)

At the age of twelve, Gideon Crew watched as his father was murdered.  Gideon’s father was accused of treason and gunned down.  A failed intelligence project was blamed on Gideon’s father.  At the age of twenty-four Gideon learned from his dying mother that his father had been set-up.  His mother requested that Gideon avenge his father and her last words were “you’ll figure out a way”.  Gideon did figure out a way and destroyed the man that had destroyed his father.

Once he has accomplished what he set out to do Gideon decides it is time to go fishing but it is not the relaxing fishing trip that he had imagined.  A man named Manuel Garza approaches him with an offer of One Hundred Thousand Dollars for a week’s work.  A job Garza says will benefit the country.  Garza has information regarding the debts that Crew has incurred during the time he spent seeking to avenge his father.  This seems like a job that Crew can’t refuse.

Crew arrives in Manhattan with Garza and is introduced to Eli Glinn of Effective Engineering Solutions, Incorporated, a covert government operation.   Glinn outlines the job that he expects Crew to perform.  A Chinese scientist, Mark Wu, is traveling to the United States and bringing with him the plans for a new high-technology weapon.  It is presumed that the scientist is defecting.

Glinn explains that Crew’s job is to intercept Mark Wu at the airport and get the plans from him and deliver the plans to Effective Engineering Solutions, Incorporated.  The plans could be in any format and could be hidden in his luggage, on his person or most anywhere.   Crew states that it is a crazy assignment that no one could pull off but Glinn states a couple of reasons why he feels Crew is the man for the job and also a reason bordering on blackmail as to why Crew can’t turn down the job.

Crew connects with Mark Wu but just as the scientist is attacked and left for dead.  Crew rushes to him and is able to hear a name obtain a set of numbers. What any of it means Crew doesn’t know.

Crew works to uncover the meaning of the numbers and find the plans.  His methods are anything but orthodox and many times humorous.  Crew will go to great lengths to get the job done.

Gideon’s Sword is the first Gideon Crew novel and I look forward to more Gideon Crew tales.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, January 2011.