Book Reviews: Silent Mercy by Linda Fairstein, Live Wire by Harlan Coben, Rizzo’s Fire by Lou Manfredo, Afraid of the Dark by James Grippando, and Started Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson

Silent Mercy
Linda Fairstein
Dutton, March 2011
ISBN: 978-0-525-95202-2

This deeply researched series highlighting New York landmarks featuring Alexandra Cooper and Mike Chapman takes the reader in a somewhat different direction from previous entries.  This time the author tackles religion, albeit in a non-controversial manner.

While New York continues to be the prime real estate, the murderer the duo is chasing has committed the same crime in other states, ending up on Cape Cod.  But various religious institutions set the stage for the chase as the culprit leaves his victims on display at various churches, apparently making a statement.  And Alex and Mike visit a couple of leading teaching institutions undergoing a crash course in various religions and beliefs in an effort to learn what the murderer is attempting to say.

As usual, the reader learns a lot about the streets and history of New York City, always an important part of reading a novel in the series. But equally important is the tightly written mystery and analytical approach to solving it.  This author’s books are always a delight to read and this newest one, as all her prior novels, is recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, May 2011.


Live Wire
Harlan Coben
Dutton, March 2011
ISBN: 978-0-525-95206-0

To paraphrase the Bard: “The mistakes that men make live long after them.”  This thesis governs the plot of this latest Myron Bolitar novel. Except the errors Myron made were the result of deceptions or lies by others.  So what lesson is to be learned?

While there might be a reason to summarize the tale, it ain’t gonna happen here.  The story has been told by others and I see no reason to waste time repeating.  Needless to say, Myron (and his sidekick, Win) find themselves in another messy situation and have to fight their way out with all kinds of wiles and force.  The tale begins many years earlier when Myron and his younger brother, Brad, have a falling out and Brad and his wife disappear from the Bolitars’ lives, traveling and working out of the country.  Now, 16 years later, Myron’s father has a heart attack and asks Myron to find Brad.

The plea leads to various complications, and the author, with his accustomed plot twists, allows the reader to wend his or her way through a series of unrelated side plots until a graphic finale.  The story moves swiftly, and as is customary the wisecracking Myron and enigmatic Win adorn the pages.  Recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, May 2011.


Rizzo’s Fire
Lou Manfredo
Minotaur Books, March 2011
ISBN: 978-0-312-53806-4

There are many police procedurals, but few on the down and dirty street level of veteran detective Joe Rizzo, who has been around long enough to have collected all sorts of favors, seen most of everything possible in Brooklyn and developed his own set of standards, ignoring, often, “the book” but solving “the crime.”

After wandering around for the first part of the novel, in which the characters are established and Rizzo’s new, black, gay, female partner is introduced, and some amusing situations set the stage, the detectives catch a murder of an old recluse.  At first blush, it appears to be a break-in, but nothing seems to be missing.  Meanwhile, across the river in Manhattan, a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright is also murdered.  The MO’s are similar, and the investigation progresses, as Rizzo puts it, by him following his nose.

This entertaining, but serious, book is the second in the series. Rizzo is depicted as a wise-cracking, street-wise cop, but he is very human. Throughout the novel, he faces torment when his youngest daughter decides to join “the cops.”  He is convinced it is a wrong choice for her, but is he man enough to stand by her decision?  The book is well-written and enjoyable, and recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, June 2011.


Afraid of the Dark
James Grippando
Harper, March 2011
ISBN: 978-0-061-84028-9

Contemporary themes are a trademark of a James Grippando novel, and this one is no exception.  It boasts at leas two:  Guantanamo, and data mining, the collection and sale of personal information over the internet.  How these two topics intertwine form the basis of the plot, which is kind of unusual for the Jack Swyteck series, which usually revolves around his defense attorney law practice.

Instead, it begins with Swyteck defending a Gitmo detainee and obtaining his release, only to see the ex-prisoner arrested for murder.  Then Jack becomes involved in investigating not only the murder of his client, but several others as well, while side topics involving pornography, black interrogation centers operated overseas by private CIA contractors, and an undercover FBI operation in which Jack’s fiancée is acting as an undercover agent complicate matters.

Pardon the pun, but it is a gripping tale, full of suspense and twisted characters.  The plot gets a little complicated from time to time, but in the end it all logically comes together, and is recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, June 2011.


Started Early, Took My Dog
Kate Atkinson
Little, Brown, March 2011
ISBN: 978-0-316-06673-0

Be forewarned:  This is not an easy book to read.  It has a complicated plot, filled with a wide assortment of characters, and jumps back and forth both in time and between circumstances.  It flits episodically so that this reader, at least, became confused more than once.  It was work to read, despite some excellent prose.

The main story involves Tracy Waterhouse, a zaftig ex-cop, now chief of security at a mall, who on a whim buys a young girl from a dope-addicted prostitute, and Jackson Brodie, now a PI who is pursuing the quest of a New Zealand woman to find her birth parents, or information about them (she, obviously, was adopted).  Then there are all kinds of other individuals who come and go, and eventually play a part in the mystery, as the story twists and turns.

If you have the stamina and patience to tackle the book, reading and rereading passages, paragraphs and whole sections, as I had to, it is a worthwhile endeavor.  But be prepared.  With this caveat, the novel is recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, June 2011.

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