Book Reviews: Nemesis by Jo Nesbo, Quarry's Ex by Max Allan Collins, The Litigators by John Grisham, Defending Jacob by William Landay, and The Lost Years by Mary Higgins Clark

Nemesis
Jo Nesbo
Harper, February 2012
ISBN: 978-0-06-211969-8
Mass Market Paperback

There have now been several Harry Hole novels, but this was only the second to be published in the United States (the first was The Redbreast). Both demonstrate the author’s uncanny ability to continually lead the reader astray with one red herring after another before disclosing, in a final twist, a most unexpected dénouement.

In the present novel, these principles apply to two separate story lines.   One involves a bank robbery in which a woman is shot in the head. The other finds a woman with whom Harry had a short affair shot in her bed the day after Harry had dinner at her home (but he can’t remember a thing about the evening).  In fact, there are clues implicating him in the deed and in fact, the cover asks the question: “How do you catch a killer when you’re the number one suspect?”

The translation by Don Bartlett from the Norwegian flows smoothly. The novel was a number one best-seller in Norway, spending 39 weeks on the best seller list.  Past novels from this author saw Bangkok and Australia as settings, and the next to Hong Kong – Harry certainly gets around!

Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, February 2012.

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Quarry’s Ex
Max Allan Collins
Hard Case Crime, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-08-5768286-4
Trade Paperback

Max Allan Collins writes noir crime novels which read very much like Mickey Spillane, with whom he was a close friend and collaborator [and completed some started by the late author].  This novel is no exception, and is full of sex, violence and hard-boiled prose.  It is a prequel to a long-running series about a hit man who has turned the tables on other assassins by developing a new business: collecting his fees from intended victims by eliminating killers and those who hired them.

This novel takes us back in time, providing the back story for the Quarry series, when he was a young marine, met Joni and married her, returned from Vietnam to find her in bed with another man (who he murders) and then going off the deep end.  After a while, he is contacted by the “broker,” and becomes a paid assassin, until he kills his “employer” in a double-cross and stealing his files which identify other murderers.  With this information, Quarry turns the tables, targeting them for elimination and saving the intended victims.

This brings us to the present story during which, purely by accident, Quarry finds his ex-wife married to a movie director, the latter the target of a pair of killers Quarry knows from the files.  The ex is really incidental to the story, which revolves around Quarry’s efforts to save the director’s life and identifying who retained the killers. It is fast and furious, with colorful characters, entertaining with panache, and is recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, February 2012.

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The Litigators
John Grisham
Doubleday, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-385-53513-7
Hardcover

Early in his career, John Grisham wrote novels that whacked a home run every time.  But even Babe Ruth couldn’t do that every time.  This book is workman-like, perhaps a double.  But then, if you can do even this often enough, you’re an All Star.  And John Grisham certainly is that.

The story is extremely contrived, with sort of caricatures for characters.  It might have been more fun if they were less predictable and more cartoonish, if that’s possible. Attorney David Zinc belongs more in a soap opera than a legal novel.  His two partners, Finley & Figg, are even more unbelievable, other characters even more wooden.

But all this criticism doesn’t negate the fact that Grisham can still write an entertaining novel, albeit somewhat stilted and predictable. About the only interesting character in the book is a 90-year-old Federal judge, presiding over a comical case.  So, despite all this negativism, the novel is recommended with caveats.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, April 2012.

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Defending Jacob
William Landay
Delacorte Press, January 2012
ISBN: 978-0-385-34422-7
Hardcover

Is this novel a courtroom drama, a psychological study of a family, an introspective study of a man, or is it about truth and justice?  Or all of the above?  It’s hard to tell in this rambling book which attempts to keep the reader in suspense and leaves much to the imagination.

Andy Barber, the First Assistant DA in Newton, MA, is the man who faces the questions posed by the story and really doesn’t come to grips with the essential problems raised.  His 14-year-old son is accused of murdering a fellow student and goes to trial for Murder One.  Did he or didn’t he? Andy, who initially ran the original investigation, does not believe his son is capable of doing the deed. The effect of the pressures of the trial on Andy and his wife are weakly described.  The courtroom drama is, to some extent, extremely well done, but, for the most part, drawn out to a great degree.  And the snideness of the comments about Andy’s replacement when he’s taken off the case and during the trial are too often petty.

On the whole, the novel is an interesting presentation, but could have been edited severely, especially the front end which drags on slowly until the book picks up steam toward the middle.  It is no spoiler to note that there is more than one surprise waiting for the reader at the end, some attention-grabbing, others a little far-fetched.  That said, it is an off-beat novel that is recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, June 2012.

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The Lost Years
Mary Higgins Clark
Simon & Schuster, April 2012
ISBN: 978-1-4516-6886-5
Hardcover

A good idea wrapped in a lot of superfluous schmaltz sums up this latest effort by Mary Higgins Clark.  The plot involves the discovery by a Biblical scholar, Dr. Jonathan Lyons, of the only letter supposedly ever written by Jesus, and Lyons’ subsequent murder, presumably as a result. The mystery, of course, is which of his various friends and co-workers wants the manuscript to sell on the black market instead of it being returned to the Vatican library from which it was removed in the 1400’s.

Instead of a straight police procedural, the story becomes bogged down in several side issues:  Dr. Lyons’ daughter’s guilt over her alienation from her father over the issue of his mistress and her own “love life;” a couple of characters, Alvirah and Willy, who outwit the police and the perpetrator; and Lyons’ wife’s dementia, among other things.

The author can still write smoothly, but the novel smacks of a manufactured outline, rather than a carefully developed plot, with each step carefully constructed to fit.  It is unfortunate because the idea for the story is excellent, and if the characters were more deeply drawn, and the irrelevancies omitted, the novel could have been more intriguing.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, August 2012.

Book Reviews: Love Lies Bleeding by Jess McConkey, Where All the Dead Lie by J. T. Ellison, Fever Dream by Dennis Palumbo, Collateral Damage by H. Terrell Griffin, and No Bells by F.M. Meredith

Love Lies Bleeding
Jess McConkey
William Morrow, July 2011
ISBN No. 978-0-06-199968-0
Trade Paperback

Love Lies Bleeding has a little bit of everything to offer.  A bit of mystery, a little bit of woo woo and a good cast of characters.

Samantha Moore has lived a very successful life.  Samantha holds a prominent position in her father’s company and is engaged to Jackson, a man who had presented her with a beautiful diamond and a promise of a wonderful life.

Then  tragedy hit. Samantha is attacked when leaving work and is in a coma for sometime.  When she awakes from the coma, she is quite a different person.  She repeatedly relives the attack and rebels against the medication prescribed for her.  The meds make her sick and forgetful.

Jackson and Samantha’s father decide that Samantha needs to spend some quiet time to recover and rent a cottage for her in a quiet town.  Spirits from the past seem to haunt the cottage and Samantha begins to believe that she is losing all control over her life.

When Anne Weaver decides to take the position as nurse to Samantha, both lives are changed. The two clash but soon find a middle ground and Samantha begins on her road to recovery.  Samantha also bit by bit pieces together the history of the cottage she is living in and reveals a long buried mystery.

The author, Jess McConkey, also writes under the name of Shirley Damsgaard.    I found this book to be a very fast read.  I will be anxious to read more stories by Jess McConkey.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, October 2011.

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Where All the Dead Lie
J.T. Ellison
Mira, September 2011
ISBN No. 978-0778312680
Trade Paperback

This is my first Taylor Jackson novel but it won’t be my last.  The story grabs the reader and doesn’t let go until the entire story is revealed.

Taylor Jackson is a Nashville, Tennessee homicide detective.  Taylor is recovering from a case where she was shot in the head and fellow officers were injured.  Taylor has lost her ability to speak.  It is unclear whether the loss of speech is caused by the injury or by the guilt Taylor is feeling because she didn’t do more to help her best friend who lost her child because of the case that brought about Taylor’s injury.

Against the advice of Taylor’s fiancée, Dr. John Baldwin, she accepts the offer of Memphis Highsmythe, an old friend, for Taylor to recuperate in his family’s estate in Scotland.  Taylor knows that Memphis has romantic feelings towards her but feels that she is strong enough to handle any advances he might possibly make.  Highsmythe is a detective inspector with the Metropolitan Police in London and Taylor and Memphis have a lot in common.

Memphis introduces Taylor to Madeira James, a doctor friend, in the hope that she can be of help to Taylor with the problem with her voice but Taylor begins to believe that Madeira is not to be trusted.

The trip to Scotland turns into a real adventure with even a ghost or two making an appearance.  Even though Taylor’s voice is giving her problems, she is able to sift through all the strange happenings and solve the puzzle presented to her in Scotland.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, November 2011.

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Fever Dream
Dennis Palumbo
Poisoned Pen Press, November 2011
ISBN No. 978-1590589595
Trade Paperback

“Treva Williams, the only hostage to be released, sat on the curb beyond the cordoned-off area, wrapped in an EMT blanket.”  This sentence is the opening line in Fever Dream and immediately captures the reader’s sympathy for Treva.

Meanwhile, Detective Eleanor Lowrey is on the phone to Daniel Rinaldi, psychologist.  Rinaldi is also a trauma expert and consults with the Pittsburgh police.  Detective Lowrey asks Rinaldi to come right away to the scene of a bank robbery that has gone bad.  The criminals are still inside the bank but one hostage, Treva Williams, has been released.   Treva is badly traumatized and Detective Lowrey is hoping that Rinaldi can perform some magic that will calm Treva and help the police in their handling of the standoff situation.

When Rinaldi arrives on the scene he is able to immediately connect with Treva and learn a little more about the situation inside the bank.  Then suddenly everything explodes as shots ring out and police converge on the scene.  Rinaldi promises Treva to ride to the hospital with her in the ambulance, though he is prevented from keeping that promise.

Rinaldi works with Detective Lowrey and Sgt. Harry Polk, another investigating officer, but Polk’s mind seems to be someplace other than the investigation and at times he drops out of sight and doesn’t appear where he is supposed to be.

When District Attorney Leland Sinclair receives a death threat, Rinaldi begins to wonder if there is a connection between the situation at the bank and the DA Sinclair’s current political campaign.  Rinaldi continues to stay in touch with Treva.   She is released from the hospital but Treva is still suffering from the traumatic events of the robbery, including the murder of her boyfriend, Bobby Marks, as she looked on.

The story is complicated but Dennis Palumbo pulls all the pieces together for an exciting and surprise conclusion.  This is the second book in the Daniel Rinaldi series.  I haven’t read Mirror Image, the first book in the series but I do intend to correct that soon.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, December 2011.

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Collateral Damage
Matt Royal Series
H. Terrell Griffin
Oceanview Publishing, December 2011
ISBN No. 978-1608090266
Hardcover

This newest addition to the Matt Royal series manages to keep the reader on pins and needles until the very end of the book.  Matt is an attorney living in Longboat Key, Florida.  Matt has pretty much given up the practice of law and is just enjoying a leisurely life.

Jim Desmond, a young groom,  is killed on the beach in Longboat Key the day following his wedding.  On the same day three other murders occur on a local dinner cruise.  Longboat Key detective and close friend of Matt, Jennifer Diane Duncan (J. D.) isn’t coming up with any answers.  The groom was from Atlanta.  One of the victims killed on the dinner cruise was a lawyer from Jacksonville, Peter Garrison.  Another victim was a twenty-five year old woman from Charlotte, North Carolina.  The third victim was the Captain of the dinner cruise.

Matt is puzzled by the deaths but has no reason to become involved until an old buddy from Matt’s years in VietNam  stops by for a visit.  Charles T. Desmond (“Doc”) reveals that the young man killed was his son.  Doc pressures Matt to file a civil case in order to gather evidence that the police can’t access and hopefully find out who killed Jim.  Doc agrees that any evidence that is turned up from the civil action can be turned over to the prosecutors.  Matt finds it difficult to say no to a man that saved his life so he agrees to take on the case.

Logan Hamilton and Jock Algren, Matt’s friends, join Matt  to help with the investigation and the clues keep Matt on the move.  More and more it seems that the deaths are part of some international plot.  Before Matt and his friends can discover what is really going on there are more unexplained deaths and Matt fears for the life of J. D.

This sixth addition to the Matt Royal series is very good.   It is not necessary to read previous Matt Royal novels prior to reading  Collateral Damage but each book in the series reveals more  about Matt Royal and the crew that usually steps up to help him out.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, April 2012.

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No Bells
F. M. Meredith
Oak Tree Press/Dark Oak Mysteries, March 2012
ISBN No. 978-1610090865
Trade Paperback

Gordon Butler is a member of the Rocky Bluff Police Department.  Nothing ever seems to go Gordon’s way.   He is single and previously lived with another officer on the force, Doug Milligan.  When Doug married Stacey Wilbur, Gordon moved in with Stacey’s parents.  Where relationships are concerned, Doug always seems to be on the outside looking in at other people’s happiness.  Not so in the latest Rocky Bluff mystery.  Doug finally works up the courage to ask Benay Weiss for a date and she accepts.  Now Gordon and Benay are spending a lot of time together.

Gordon receives an early morning phone call from Benay and she is very upset.  Her best friend Geri Rowe has disappeared.  Geri’s husband Philip called Benay to see if she had any information about Geri.

Gordon’s first case of the day takes him to the scene of a murder.  Some teenagers have found the body of a woman and Gordon immediately thinks of Geri.   The body does turn out to be that of Benay’s best friend.  As the investigation goes forward Gordon’s girlfriend, Benay, becomes the number one suspect.  Gordon knows in his heart that Benay couldn’t be guilty and he makes up his mind that he will find out the identity of the real killer.

Risking his reputation as well as his job, Gordon covers the calls assigned to him during working hours and spends his time off attempting to discover everything he can about Geri, her husband and who might have a motive to end Geri’s life.

There are some humorous sections in the book and updates on other members of the Rocky Bluff residents.  You will have to read the book to know if Gordon’s courageous efforts on Benay’s part bring him the respect and appreciation he deserves.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, June 2012.

Book Review Roundup by Gloria Feit

Known to Evil
Walter Mosley
NAL, February 2011
ISBN: 978-0-451-23213-7
Trade Paperback

Leonid Trotter McGill is a 54-year-old African-American man, an amateur boxer known to have had his “finger in every dishonest business in the city” including being a fixer for the mob, who is trying to turn his life around, now working as a private detective. He describes his marriage as “twenty years of unfaithfulness on both sides of the bed;” he has fathered only one of the two sons he has raised with his wife, she of the “gorgeous Scandinavian face.”  At present both his wife and his girlfriend have taken on new boyfriends, and his two sons are involved in some kind of trouble.  And that’s only his personal life.

He is hired [although insisting it will be a ‘favor,’ with no money to change hands other than expenses] by a very powerful man to find a young woman who it seems is being stalked, with no information except for an address; when he goes to that address it quickly becomes apparent that it is a crime scene where two dead bodies have been found.  The ensuing investigation, by McGill and the police, is not a simple one; ‘convoluted’ would be an understatement, but one never loses interest for a minute.   The woman he was sent to find was “a mystery and missing, the object of attention of a man who was as dangerous as any terrorist or government-trained assassin.”

I must admit to only having read one of this author’s prior books, which took place in an LA of earlier times.  I found this novel, which takes place in contemporary New York City, more accessible, which probably says at least as much about me than about the author.  But his evocation of present-day Manhattan is a vibrant one, as are his characters.  His writing is enjoyable on so many levels:  The frequent irony; the depiction of his protagonist as a deeply flawed man but one with his own immutable moral code; the wonderful names he gives his characters:  e.g., a young man who I want to describe as a computer genius except that that wouldn’t do him justice, with the two nicknames of “Tiny” [because he isn’t] and “Bug,” [no idea]; his father was self-named “Tolstoy;” an ex-cop’s middle name is Proteus; an assassin friend is named Hush; his brother is Nikita; he himself has named his sons Twilliam and Dmitri.

The writing is wonderful. When something bothers McGill, he describes it as “a feeling at the back of my mind, something that was burgeoning into consciousness like a vibrating moth pressing out from its cocoon.”  When he turned 49, the man who was a surrogate father to him gives him this wisdom:  “When you hit your fifties life starts comin’ up on ya fast . . .  Before that time life is pretty much a straight climb.  Wife looks up to you and the young kids are small enough, and the older kids smart enough, not to weigh you down.  But then, just when you start puttin’ on the pounds an’ losin’ your wind, the kids’re expecting you to fulfill your promises and the wife all of a sudden sees every one of your flaws.  Your parents, if you still got any, are getting’ old and turnin’ back into kids themselves.  For the first time you realize that the sky does have a limit. You comin’ to a rise, but when you hit the top there’s another life up ahead of you and here you are – – just about spent.”

Mr. Mosley has been called a master of contemporary noir, and I cannot disagree with that assessment.   Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, May 2011.

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Misery Bay
Steve Hamilton
Minotaur, June 2011
ISBN: 978-0-312-38043-4
Hardcover

The first page of the newest book by Steve Hamilton, which brings the welcome return of Alex McKnight, describes a scene wherein the body of a young man is found hanging from a tree branch at the edge of a bay in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  For those new to the series, McKnight is a former Detroit cop and current holder of a p.i. license, although he protests that he ‘doesn’t do that anymore’:  He owns and rents out cabins to ‘the snowmobile people’ in season.

Three months after that first-page event takes place, McKnight is approached by Roy Maven, Chief of Police in “the Soo” [Sault St. Marie], who asks for his help.  This from a man whose relationship with McKnight could at best be described as ‘fraught’ – as the Chief says, ‘just call it a persistent lack of liking each other.”  The dead boy’s father had been Maven’s partner on the police force, and Maven wants McKnight to investigate the circumstances that could have led to what appears to have been a suicide.  Having suffered horrendous personal losses himself – his partner on the Detroit police force, the woman he loved – there is no way this particular man could refuse.  In what is perhaps the unlikeliest of alliances, McKnight agrees.

The place where the body was found is the eponymous Misery Bay, a fitting enough name for the site itself and for what happened there, and a five-hour drive away from McKnight’s home on Lake Superior, in a town called Paradise.  McKnight once again periodically turns to his friend Leon Prudell, the once and perhaps future p.i., for his unerring ability to point him in the right direction.  The investigation takes some unpredictable turns, as more lives are lost and more still endangered.

The writing is wonderful – no surprise here.  The long, long winter of Paradise is once again made palpable by the author:  “The sun went down.  The wind picked up and started howling and I knew the wind chill would be something like thirty below.  Another beautiful April night in Paradise. . . [where] springtime felt like a fairy tale.”  [And I loved that the author tips his hat to fellow mystery writers, both from NYC: Reed Coleman and Jim Fusilli, both police sergeants in this incarnation.]

As dark as the story line is, there is just enough humor injected into the writing and, as usual for this author, it is a sheer pleasure to read, and highly recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, July 2011.

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The Retribution
Val McDermid
Little, Brown, September 2011
ISBN: 978-1-4087-0319-9
Hardcover

[This review is based on the UK edition and the US edition is now available from Atlantic Monthly Press, ISBN 9780802120175]

In her twenty-fifth novel, Val McDermid brings back Jacko Vance, introduced to readers in The Wire in the Blood, and to television viewers in its wonderful series adaptation.  As the book opens, this truly malevolent serial killer, whose resume includes “killer of seventeen teenage girls, murderer of a serving police officer, and a man once voted the sexiest man on British TV” as well as an Olympic athlete and an outwardly charming and charismatic man, has served over 12 years in prison, owing mostly to the efforts of DCI Carol Jordan and psychological profiler Tony Hill.  Vance has spent most of that time meticulously planning his escape, as well as his future after its successful completion:  the revenge suggested by the books title, directed toward those who had caused his imprisonment, first among them Jordan and Hill, as well as his ex-wife whose betrayal he sees as making her equally culpable.  Of course, his plan for vengeance merely begins there.

Carol Jordan, as yet unaware of what is about to happen, is dealing with a shake-up at the Bradfield Metropolitan Police, where the powers that be are disbanding her Major Incident Team.  In an attempt to go out in a ‘blaze of glory,’ they are faced with finding a killer who has been killing street prostitutes in gruesome ways, and branding them with a distinctive tattoo on the wrist of each.   Suddenly, Jordan’s priorities change with Vance’s escape, and its implications.  Tony’s priorities as well must be divided between these investigations.

The relationship between Jordan and Hill has always been difficult to define, becoming more so all the time.  They are not quite lovers, although they share space, and different flats, in Tony’s house.  But their emotional entanglement has always been obvious to all, even if they themselves do not admit to one.  That relationship, both professionally and personally, is about to be threatened now as never before.

The author goes into more of Tony’s background, and the emotional and psychological paths that have shaped him, and caused him to work at “passing for human,” than I remembered having been done in the past.  He tells a colleague “I won’t deny that the people who do this kind of thing fascinate me.  The more disturbed they are, the more I want to figure out what makes them tick.”  It is his empathy and his oft-times brilliant insights that have made him so successful.  But this is a challenge unlike any he has ever faced.

The pace steadily accelerates along with a sense of dread as Vance begins to carry out his plans, and the resultant page-turner is as good as anything this acclaimed author has written.  Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, September 2011.

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Split Second
Catherine Coulter
Putnam, July 2011
ISBN: 978-0-399-15743-1
Hardcover

There are three story lines presented in the newest book by Catherine Coulter.  The first appears on page one, and isn’t resolved until nearly the final page in the book:  The owner of a small convenience store in Washington, D.C. is nearly killed late one night in an apparent robbery gone wrong, the latter not having counted on FBI Agent Dillon Savitch being the customer in the shop at the time.  When the same man is shot in another incident shortly thereafter, leaving him seriously wounded, it would seem there is more going on than a “simple” robbery.

The second, and main, story line deals with a series of crimes involving women in their 20’s and 30’s who are picked up in neighborhood bars, brought back to their own apartments, and strangled with a length of wire, no apparent connection among them, and the crimes occurring in various large cities including Cleveland, Ohio; San Francisco; and Chicago.  Autopsies show the women were drugged with Rohypnol and ketamine.   One of the victims had scratched her attacker before being killed, leaving a nice sample of DNA to be analyzed and run through databases, after which it is determined that the killer is the offspring of none other than Ted Bundy, the man who kidnapped dozens of young women, raped, tortured and then murdered them before he was caught and ultimately electrocuted in Florida in 1989.

The last of the plotlines is a very personal one, having to do with a horrifying family secret just discovered by Lucy Carlyle, another FBI agent in the Washington DC office, and her attempt to put it on the back burner while joining her boss, Savitch, and her partner, Cooper (“Coop”) McKnight, in the investigation of the serial killer, whose victims number five and counting.

I had several problems with the book, starting with the fact that one of the agents, whose name is, disconcertingly, Lacey Sherlock, is never referred to or called Lacey but, always, “Sherlock,” even by her husband.  As well, much of the writing felt stilted, the dialog often not what I felt one or another would be expected to utter or their actions not ringing true, e.g., a 27-year-old FBI agent “bouncing up and down” upon being given news of an important breakthrough in the case; a cup of coffee described as “dark as sin.”  And would a woman who had just been told her niece had lost control of her car and been badly injured, upon seeing that niece, really say to her “Oh, you’ve got a bandage on your head!”  Nor am I enamored with the supernatural in mysteries, as is the case here.

On the other hand, almost in spite of myself, I was caught up in the story, the pages turning quickly, and anxious to find out how each story line was resolved.  I am obviously in the minority with my reservations about the book, since the author consistently makes the bestseller lists.  This is her seventeenth book in what is termed “the FBI Thriller” series.  It made for good reading, on balance, and I’m sure most readers will find it very enjoyable.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, November 2011.

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Very Bad Men
Harry Dolan
Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam, July 2011
ISBN: 978-0-399-15749-3
Hardcover

This new novel from the author of the acclaimed Bad Things Happen, his writing debut, has no ‘sophomore book’ problems.   Very Bad Men immediately engages the reader, and one is quickly drawn into this compelling tale of murder, specifically, the murder of two men who were part of a bank robbery seventeen years ago, and the attempted murder of a third.  All three men had been convicted, and served jail time of varying lengths.  But what could be the motive?  These three men had not seen nor contacted one another in all the intervening years.  And the killer – for his identity is quickly revealed – is not a cool, professional hit man; that is immediately made clear.

David Loogan, the editor-in-chief of a mystery magazine, receives, in a plain, unmarked envelope, what at first glance appears to be a manuscript, only several pages long, bearing no signature, the first line of which reads “I killed Henry Kormoran . . . “   Loogan, who lives with his ‘significant other,’ Elizabeth Waishkey, an Ann Arbor, Michigan, detective, and her precocious 16-year-old daughter, ultimately begins a kind of parallel and unofficial investigation.

Each character in the novel is wonderfully well-drawn.  These include the killer, who suffers from synesthesia, a rare affliction which results in a confusion of the senses, with words taking on dimensions far beyond their ‘normal’ printed appearance, according to his emotional reaction to them; Lucy Navarro, a young and rather endearing reporter, who comes up with a bizarre theory of the motive for the crimes; assorted politicians and their ‘handlers,’ among others.  The writer invokes some wildly disparate images: Occam and his razor, Aristotle, jazz musician Charlie Parker; mystery authors Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly; and a theme:  “We all want to be known.  To be seen for who we really are.” There are carefully placed, and easily missed clues, and startling and unexpected twists in this rather complex and engrossing novel, which is recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, December 2011.