Book Review: Left for Dead by J.A. Jance

Left for Dead
J.A. Jance
Touchstone Books, February 2012
ISBN 9781451628586
Hardcover

With a complex plot and enough characters to fill an auditorium, J.A. Jance delivers another winner of a story set in Arizona’s desert. This one has a little bit of everything and you won’t know where you’re going next.

Officer Jose Reyes, making what he thinks is a routine traffic stop, is beaten and shot. His friend from the academy, Ali Reynolds learns of the crime and rushes to the hospital. Soon, she finds Jose and his wife under suspicion as drugs and money are found in both Jose’s car and house. At the hospital, Ali discovers another friend, counselor Sister Anselm, comforting a teenage prostitute who was found in the desert, tortured, beaten, and barely alive. Ali becomes involved with investigating both cases and danger stalks both victims as guilty parties try to cover up their crimes.

This is a character driven story with an intricate plot and plenty of each. The reader will enjoy in depth background on the various players while trying to figure out the connections between everybody. Passive readers need not open up the cover as this one keeps up the intrigue, delivers on the mystery, and keeps everyone trying to piece together the evidence.

Review written by Stephen L. Brayton, December 2011.
Author of Night Shadows and Beta.

Book Reviews x 5 by Ted Feit

Electric Barracuda
Tim Dorsey
Wm. Morrow, January 2011
ISBN: 978-0-061-87689-9
Hardcover

Attempting to review a Serge A. Storm novel is no small chore, it is a monumental task, because there is no possible way to provide even a modicum of a synopsis.  But one can always provide one conclusion, and this 13th novel in the series is no exception to the rule that it is whacky, humorous, different and a delight to read.

The themes in bare essence are as follows: Serge is on his usual tour of Florida’s “attractions” as a “fugitive,” advising those who read his website on how to enjoy themselves while “on the lam.”  Meanwhile, in reality (if such a thing exists in a Serge Storm plot) he is being chased by nemesis Mahoney and a Special State Task Force.  And while he’s at it, Serge has to recover funds fraudulently taken by an unscrupulous attorney from his grandfather’s old gang.

Enough said.  Just read the novel end laugh out loud.  Recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, April 2011.

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The Snowman
Jo Nesbo
Translated by Don Bartlett
Knopf, May 2011
ISBN: 978-0-307-59586-7
Hardcover

The Harry Hole series presents the reader with somewhat of an anomaly. On the one hand, we are informed that Norway is virtually free from serial killers.  On the other hand, Hole is reputed to be the only detective in the nation with experience in catching serial killers, having accomplished his experience in Australia and also attending an FBI course.  And then, serial killers tend to appear in the Harry Hole novels, including this one.

The first of several missing persons is a married mother, and the only clue is a snowman outside her home. Shortly before her disappearance, Hole received a mysterious letter which, in retrospect, leads him to believe there was a link between it and the woman’s vanishing.  In reviewing unsolved cases, Harry and his team find an alarming number of wives and mothers have gone missing over some years.

Once again, Jo Nesbo has written a taut thriller, one that is forceful and gripping and, this time, full of madness.  His novels just keep on getting better and better.  Fast-paced and staggering, always keeping the reader looking ahead to the next shift, keeping one off balance with wonder.  Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, April 2011.

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The Janus Stone
Elly Griffiths
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, January 2011
ISBN: 978-0-547-23744-2
Hardcover

Near the conclusion of the debut novel in this series, The Crossing Places, forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway and DI Harry Nelson enjoy an emotional one-night stand after solving the mystery of discovered bones in the salt marsh in Norwich, England.  In this second installment, we learn that Ruth is now three months pregnant, but that doesn’t prevent her from jumping into the trenches when a skeleton is uncovered during a dig at a development site.  Are the bones ancient or more recent?  Is it a murder case?

Juggling ancient Roman history, classical lore and modern science is the basics of a Ruth Galloway mystery, and The Janus Stone is no exception.  Janus is the God with two heads, looking forward and backward, guardian of “the door.”  And it is under the door to an old mansion, which served for a time as a home for children, that the bones are found.  Whether they are the remains of a little girl who ran away with her brother years before, or is there some other explanation, remains the task of DI Nelson and his associates to discover, especially after Ruth confirms they are of modern, rather than ancient, origin.  [Not a spoiler – this is revealed very early on.]  Other mysteries arise, especially when Ruth’s life is threatened.  Who is the perpetrator?

By combining ancient mythology with a plot involving family secrets, insanity, and two independent and interesting characters, the novel keeps the reader rapt in a flowing tale with multi-level subplots. Written with insight and humor, the book is recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, April 2011.

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Three Seconds
Anders Roslund and Borge Hellstrom
Translated by Kari Dickson
SilverOak (Sterling), January 2011
ISBN: 978-1-4027-8592-4
Hardcover

In the tradition of Swedish noir crime novels, this is a brutal and twisted tale of the cynical use of criminals as informers (“snitches” in prison parlance) and the cover-ups and subterfuge which follow.  It also is a cynical tale of the apparent practice of allowing drug use in Swedish prisons to keep prisoners calm and compliant.  Moreover, it is a look at police and political corruption.  In other words, it is one helluva tale.

The plot follows Piet Hoffman, who has served as an informer for almost a decade, now deeply involved with a Polish drug ring which he has infiltrated to the extent that he has risen to head up an operation to supply all of Sweden’s inmates with drugs.  It is, of course, the police plan that he would help crush the organization in the effort.  Then there is Detective Inspector Ewert Grens, a troubled man investigating a murder at which Hoffman was present.

The five novels which have now been published by the authors are anything but the usual crime genre..  A combination of fact and fiction (one author is an investigative reporter, the other an ex-criminal), written with depth and detail.  The writing is powerful, and the suspense builds from beginning to end.

Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, April 2011.

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Secrets to the Grave
Tami Hoag
Dutton, January 2011
ISBN: 978-0-525-95192-6
Hardcover

While this novel is a sequel to Deeper than the Dead, featuring many of its characters, in what is now a series, the book stands alone as a murder mystery on its own.  It takes place in a small California community in which a young artist, Marissa Fordham, and her four-year-old daughter have settled.  She is supported by a rich dowager who is a control freak.

Marissa is killed by multiple stab wounds and the child nearly murdered by strangulation, with multiple suspects to be sorted by the Sheriff’s Office, and particularly detective Tony Mendez, profiler Vince Leone and his wife, Anne Navarre, who becomes the child’s protector.  Piecing the story together is like peeling an onion, layer by layer.

The author has created the framework of a successful, continuing series, written with developing characters and evolving plots.  No need to add additional praise.

Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, April 2011.