Book Review: Dark Sky by C.J. Box @cjboxauthor @PutnamBooks

Dark Sky
A Joe Pickett Novel #21
C. J. Box
G.P. Putnam’s Sons, March 2021
ISBN 978-0-525-53827-1
Hardcover

It is mid-October, snow is on the ground, and game warden Joe Pickett has reluctantly agreed to do a favour for the Wyoming Governor. This favour entails accompanying a high-tech executive on an Elk Hunting trip. Joe and Brock Boedecker, who is supplying the pack horses for this trip, are waiting at the Saddlespring Municipal Airport for their guest to arrive. HIs name is Steven Price or Steve-2, a Silicon Valley billionaire and the brains and money behind ConFab a social media site.

Steve-2 has always wanted to explore nature and live off the land, but as Joe watches the millionaire’s plane being unloaded he begins to wish he’d never agreed to the trip. Steve-2 has brought way too much baggage, that includes camera’s, electronic equipment and some comforts of home that are, to Joe’s mind, totally unnecessary.

Anxious to get underway and set up camp before dark, Joe gets the hunting party moving. The five men, Brock, Joe, Steve-2, his personal assistant Tim and bodyguard, Zsolt Rumy, set off, unaware they are riding into a trap.

A trio of men are out for revenge. They blame Steve-2 for the death of a family member. The threesome have a plan of attack, uncaring for any collateral damage that might ensue.

Meanwhile Joe’s wife, Marybeth, hasn’t heard from her husband since he left on the trip. Worried, she contacts Joe’s best friend, Nate Romanowski who, along with Joe’s eldest daughter Sheridan, head out to locate the hunting party.

I’ve long been a fan of C. J. Box and the Joe Pickett series. The Pickett family have become like old friends. The detail and knowledge the author brings to each of his novels makes for a realistic and often heart stopping ride whenever he ventures into the back country. The descriptions of Joe’s Wyoming home along with the grandeur of the Bighorn Mountains are unforgettable.

In this his twenty-first Pickett novel, Joe has to call on all his skills in his attempts to keep his overbearing and unlikeable client alive. With the weather conditions deteriorating and with no means of summoning help, their future is bleak.

Grab this latest by C. J. Box, you’ll be hard pressed to put it down.

Respectfully submitted,

Reviewed by guest reviewer Moyra Tarling, April 2021.

Book Review: The Breaker by Nick Petrie @_NickPetrie_ @PutnamBooks

The Breaker
A Peter Ash Novel #6
Nick Petrie
G. P. Putman’s Sons, January 2021
ISBN 978-0-525-53547-8
Hard Cover

Peter Ash is back living with his girlfriend June in the Milwaukee area.  After his previous adventure in Iceland, (The Wild One)  he’s  considered a wanted man and he and June his girlfriend are trying to stay under the radar. Together with his best friend Lewis, they are heading to an outdoor market when Peter notices a suspicious man walking through the market.  When Peter glimpses a gun under the man’s jacket, he’s sure this guy is up to no good, a definite threat to the people in attendance but events don’t unfold as expected when the man corners and confronts one person.

Peter attempts to intervene, but after a brief altercation both the attacker and his potential victim escape; one on an electric bike the other on foot, leaving Peter and Lewis to wonder what really went down.  Lewis finds a pair of sunglasses and not wanting to be questioned by the Police, who were summoned to the market, they both slip away.

This is the beginning of what turns into a rather complex and bizarre plot, involving a tech thief, a paid assassin, an inventor out for revenge, and a paranoid man who is a danger not just to the local community but to the entire country.

The next day June, believing she knows the man the attacker confronted, decides to see if she can uncover his identity.  As a journalist meantime working on a book, she’s also snagged a desk at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and heads to the office on her bicycle.  When she is sideswiped by a pickup truck, and the driver seems intent on giving her a ride, she senses the encounter wasn’t accidental and deftly makes her escape.

Meanwhile as Peter and Lewis attempt to find the owner of the sunglasses they are met with polite but steady resistance at every turn, a sure sign that something is afoot.

They aren’t wrong….

Peter Ash is a character not unlike Lee Child’s Jack Reacher.  They were both in the Army, both strong silent types, both willing and more than able to jump in and help someone in trouble or in need.  And they seem to rise to the occasion whenever they meet a dangerous and deadly adversary.

Since the author’s first outing, The Drifter, I’ve been waiting and watching for each new novel.  While the plots and action are at times a little over the top, that is part and parcel of the fun and excitement each of his novels generate. Peter is always on the side of the underdog, the oppressed, and even with problems of his own, he relishes the challenges he faces along the way.

Check him out…. you won’t be disappointed.

Respectfully submitted.

Reviewed by guest reviewer Moyra Tarling, April 2021.

Book Review: The Wild One by Nick Petrie @_NickPetrie_ @PutnamBooks

The Wild One
A Peter Ash Novel #5
Nick Petrie
G.P. Putnam’s Sons, January 2020
ISBN 978-0-525-53544-7
Hardcover

This is Nick Petrie’s fifth novel in the Peter Ash series. Ash has been likened to Lee Child’s character Reacher and there are some similarities. Ash, like Reacher, has a Military background. He was a soldier in Iraq and Afghanistan but suffers from PTSD, which takes the form of what he describes as white static inside his head, along with a bad case of claustrophobia. But like Reacher, Ash’s efforts to help anyone in trouble often result in fistfights, and gunfights.

In this novel we find Ash on a plane bound for Reykjavik, Iceland. Planes are not his favourite form of transportation…and he grows agitated, feeling claustrophobic and panicky. He manages to fight through it, relieved when the plane finally lands. But his ordeal isn’t over, as he is taken to a small interrogation room, where a man from the American Embassy asks him why he has come to Iceland. After a brief exchange Ash is told he is not welcome in Iceland and must return to America on the next plane. The next flight to the USA, however, isn’t scheduled to leave for several days.

Ash leaves the airport wondering why so much attention is being paid to him. While he’d told them he was simply a tourist, in actual fact he’d been hired by Catherine Price in Washington, D.C. to find her son-in-law Erik Grimsson and her 7 year old grandson, Oskar. The police in America believe Erik murdered his wife Sarah a year ago and ran off with Oskar.

Unfazed by the fact that he has been ordered to return to the USA in a day or two, Ash is determined to find and talk to Erik’s cousin, Bjarni Bergsson. Ash visits the local Bar where Bjarni works and enjoys a drink while he waits. Bjarni doesn’t show and Ash, unaware his drink has been drugged, ends up being beaten and left in the snow.

Stubborn and annoyed at being duped, he continues his search and quickly comes to realize he’s not the only one looking for Erik and Oskar. But who is looking for them and why?

The winter weather in Iceland becomes a big part of the plot when a horrendous snow storm forecast for the area makes an appearance. Ash’s stamina and resourcefulness are put to the test in a plot that is both multi-layered and intriguing. You’ll be holding your breath as you turn the pages to its satisfying conclusion.

Respectfully submitted.

Reviewed by guest reviewer Moyra Tarling, May 2020.

Book Review: A Dangerous Man by Robert Crais

A Dangerous Man
An Elvis Cole and Joe Pike Novel #18
Robert Crais
G.P.Putman’s Son, August 2019
ISBN 978-0-525-53568-3
Hardcover

After paying a visit to his Bank, Joe Pike is sitting in his Jeep Cherokee when he notices the young female Bank Teller who’d been helping him was being shoved into the rear of a car. Pike, once a member of the LAPD, decides to follow the car, and when it comes to a halt at a traffic light, he quickly rescues the woman, and together with her kidnappers, they wait for the police.

Isabel Roland, Izzy to her friends, has no idea why the two men tried to kidnap her. She explains to the police what happened and later when she calls Joe to thank him again she mentions that one of the men told her that he knew her secret, but Izzy thinks they must have the wrong person.

A few days later the police appear outside Joe’s house. They tell him that the two kidnappers made bail but they have been found murdered. Joe is worried about Izzy and after the police leave he goes to her house to check on her… She’s missing.

Joe calls on his friend and business partner Elvis Cole to help him find out what or who is behind these troubling events. As Elvis investigates he uncovers a decades old crime involving a whistleblower at a corporate level, and millions of dollars that went missing. But just how Izzy is connected is still a mystery.

This is a fast paced fun read, and if you haven’t been following these two friends then you can jump in here without needing to know too much about their past relationship. As a long-time fan, it’s always a treat to catch up with Elvis and Joe.

Check it out! You won’t regret it.

Reviewed by guest reviewer Moyra Tarling, September 2019.

Book Reviews: Infamy by Robert K. Tanenbaum and Robert B. Parker’s The Hangman’s Sonnet by Reed Farrel Coleman

Infamy
A Butch Karp-Marlene Ciampi Thriller #28
Robert K. Tanenbaum
Pocket Books, March 2017
ISBN 978-1-4767-9321-4
Mass Market Paperback

This novel is not up to the usual standards of the author.  Usually, the first half of the book recounts a situation which sets the stage for the other half, which, ordinarily, few do better than Mr. Tanenbaum: a dramatic courtroom scene.  So it is with Infamy.  Unfortunately, however otherwise well-written the novel is, the courtroom scene is flat and perfunctory.

The novel opens with an intelligence raid by a secret U.S. Army unit in Syria which was supposed to capture at least one suspect.  Instead, they find the suspect had shot and murdered other important enemy subjects and obtained important documents which point to a conspiracy to evade sanctions on ISIS and Iraqi oil.  Butch Karp, the New York DA and protagonist of the series, enters the plot when a U.S. Army Colonel is shot and killed in Central Park, and slowly a conspiracy begins to unfold.

There are all sorts of subplots and side issues which add little to the tale, except to make it more complicated than it really is.  This reader was clearly disappointed, especially when the author decided to vent his own political views, sometimes crudely or bluntly chastising those holding conservative views.  It’s too bad, because basically Infamy began with a solid idea, but lost its way along the way from front cover to back cover.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, December 2017.

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Robert B. Parker’s The Hangman’s Sonnet
A Jesse Stone Novel #16
Reed Farrel Coleman
G. P. Putnam’s Sons, September 2017
ISBN 978-0-3991-7144-4
Hardcover

This is the fourth Jesse Stone novel Reed Farrel Coleman has written in the series begun by the late Robert B. Parker.  And he has kept the faith.  Moreover, he has done something the master never did.  He brings in Spenser to play a minor role in solving the mystery which begins with the death of an old woman, a member of the founding family of Paradise, and the ransacking of her home.

Jesse, still reeling from the death of his beloved Diana in his presence, is slowly drinking himself into oblivion.  But that doesn’t stop him from performing his duty as Police Chief, despite the hindrance of the Mayor and her hatchet woman.  The plot basically revolves around the recovery of a supposedly long lost tape made by a now has-been rock star in time for his 70th birthday party.

Coleman performs up to the standards of the late master, while offering a clever plot of his own, written in a slightly different style (few can duplicate the pithy sentences of a Parker novel).  He gives us a deeper insight into Jesse’s personality and presumably shows the force of his iron will.  Well at least let’s hope so.  Presumably we’ll find out in the next volume in the series.

Recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, December 2017.

Book Reviews: Come Rain or Come Shine by Jan Karon, Need by Joelle Charbonneau, and The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald

Come Rain or Come ShineCome Rain or Come Shine
A Mitford Novel #11
Jan Karon
G. P. Putnam’s Sons, September 2015
ISBN 978-0-399-16745-4
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Over the course of ten Mitford novels, fans have kept a special place in their hearts for Dooley Kavanagh, first seen in At Home in Mitford as a barefoot, freckle-faced boy in filthy overalls.

Now, Father Tim Kavanagh’s adopted son has graduated from vet school and opened his own animal clinic. Since money will be tight for a while, maybe he and Lace Harper, his once and future soul mate, should keep their wedding simple.

So the plan is to eliminate the cost of catering and do potluck. Ought to be fun.

An old friend offers to bring his well-known country band. Gratis.

And once mucked out, the barn works as a perfect venue for seating family and friends.

Piece of cake, right?

In Come Rain or Come Shine, Jan Karon delivers the wedding that millions of Mitford fans have waited for. It’s a June day in the mountains, with more than a few creatures great and small, and you’re invited—because you’re family.

By the way, it’s a pretty casual affair, so come as you are and remember to bring a tissue or two. After all, what’s a good wedding without a good cry?

Like so many others, I’m a longtime fan of Mitford and its wonderfully normal citizens, quirks and all, and I’ve laughed and cried my way through every book in the series. Come Rain or Come Shine fits right into the mix and I loved being back in the center of this delightful place. It’s even better that the story centers on one of my favorite characters, Dooley, adopted son of Father Tim and Cynthia, and his upcoming wedding to Lace Harper.

There’s a lot going on in Dooley’s life all at once—graduation from vet school, starting his clinic, getting married—but that really isn’t so unusual and it’s even less unusual that money could be a little tight at such a time. What’s so heartwarming is the way others in the community come together to make this wedding happen, good evidence of the affection the townspeople have for one another.

I do wish there had been more of Father Tim and Cynthia but this is the way life evolves from one generation to the next, isn’t it? Truthfully, there isn’t any real plot here but that’s not what comfort fiction readers look for and the important things, the characters, just sail off the page and into the readers’ hearts.

Technically, this is not part of the original Mitford series but more like an offshoot. When it’s all said and done, I don’t really care because I love this book as much as the earlier ones. I do think there’s a bit too much headhopping and, because of that, I heartily suggest that readers new to the series start at the beginning because, otherwise, you just won’t get the full effect and you won’t understand the characters. Guaranteed, you’re going to love Mitford and it’s citizens 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, February 2016.

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NeedNeed
Joelle Charbonneau
HMH Books for Young Readers, November 2015
ISBN 978-0-544-41669-7
Hardcover

From the publisher—

“No one gets something for nothing. We all should know better.”

Teenagers at Wisconsin’s Nottawa High School are drawn deeper into a social networking site that promises to grant their every need . . . regardless of the consequences. Soon the site turns sinister, with simple pranks escalating to malicious crimes. The body count rises. In this chilling YA thriller, the author of the best-selling Testing trilogy examines not only the dark side of social media, but the dark side of human nature.

One of the many things that concerns me about today’s society is that we’ve been teaching our children to expect far more than they’ve ever earned, a sort of privilege in which many of them believe that all good things must come their way. Such is the darkness at the heart of the social networking site, NEED. It’s a hopeful sign that Kaylee recognizes the fallacy behind what NEED offers but she joins anyway. She’s a smart girl, though, and it doesn’t take her long to begin to realize the truly awful things happening and the demands that teens are facing in exchange for having their needs met.

The action takes off exponentially and tension continues to build as teen and adult readers alike go along for the rollercoaster ride until a most satisfying ending. If I have any reservations, it’s that I don’t really think that teens, despite their feelings of privilege, are quite this gullible (although they DO tend to behave like sheep and follow the latest fads just because everybody else does). I also think there are way too many narrators but, on the whole, I do recommend this. It’s not Ms. Charbonneau‘s strongest work—she’s one of my favorite authors—but it kept me up at night and that’s a good thing.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, February 2016.

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The Readers of Broken Wheel RecommendThe Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend
Katarina Bivald
Sourcebooks Landmark, January 2016
ISBN 978-1-4926-2344-1
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Once you let a book into your life, the most unexpected things can happen…

Broken Wheel, Iowa, has never seen anyone like Sara, who traveled all the way from Sweden just to meet her book-loving pen pal, Amy. When she arrives, however, she finds Amy’s funeral guests just leaving. The residents of Broken Wheel are happy to look after their bewildered visitor―there’s not much else to do in a dying small town that’s almost beyond repair.

You certainly wouldn’t open a bookstore. And definitely not with the tourist in charge. You’d need a vacant storefront (Main Street is full of them), books (Amy’s house is full of them), and…customers.

The bookstore might be a little quirky. Then again, so is Sara. But Broken Wheel’s own story might be more eccentric and surprising than she thought.

A heartwarming reminder of why we are booklovers, this is a sweet, smart story about how books find us, change us, and connect us.

Being a former bookstore owner and current bookblogger, it’s only natural that I would be drawn to a book about, well, books and the love of books. As it turns out, The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend was not exactly what I thought it was going to be but that didn’t diminish my enjoyment of this quiet yet quirky story.

From the beginning, I had to suspend a lot of disbelief. For instance, I found it hard to credit that Sara would leave Sweden and her life behind just because she lost her job even though her life really was all wrapped up in that job and in her correspondence with Amy. I also found the willingness of the townsfolk to have Sara move into Amy’s house more than a little puzzling.

Putting those issues aside, this is an appealing story and, having had a bookstore myself, I totally get Sara’s desire to share her love of books with the town. There’s something truly uplifting about finding the right book for a person or just in helping them experience the joy of escaping into whatever world a particular book offers. I don’t mean to sound silly about it but being a bookseller is a passion that never goes away and I know that librarians and individual readers lending books to their friends feel the same joy. That goes for today’s book bloggers, too, who simply have to tell people about the books they want others to know about. Because of all that, and Sara’s general aimlessness, I did believe in her idea of having the bookstore.

The other aspect of the tale that I found interesting is the juxtaposition of the dying town, Broken Wheel, with the nearby more prosperous town of Hope. Without knocking the reader over the head with the comparison, Ms. Bivald brings the two towns into the full light of day and watching what happens to Broken Wheel and to Sara when she opens her bookstore is endearing to say the least. Bookstores really can be the heart of a community and that’s why I long to be running one again.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, February 2016.

Book Review: Long Way Down by Michael Sears

Long Way DownLong Way Down
A Jason Stafford Novel #3
Michael Sears
G.P. Putnam’s Sons, February 2015
ISBN: 978-0-399-16671-6
Hardcover

Dark, turbulent and dangerous waters of high finance, inventive genius, and cunning power grabs are all at play in this taut, modern thriller. Well-written crime novels contain at least three important elements: a strong interesting plot, intriguing well-defined characters and persistent forward thrust.

Some display other attributes that keep readers turning pages, such as good dialogue and good descriptive narrative that draws the reader into the story so that we almost experience the action along with the characters. Long Way Down contains all of these as strong, well-written elements.

In addition, the author has achieved an excellent balance between his protagonist’s professional life and attitudes and his need and desire to be a father in close attendance to his autistic son. A widower and an ex-con, former Wall street trader, Jason Stafford is now a free-lance fraud finder. His ability to tease out secrets and point an accurate accusatory finger at perpetrators of various sins against the SEC and American investors is becoming well-known on the Street and he’s making pots of money. His job also allows him the flexibility to help raise his young autistic son. There are several moving, penetrating scenes in the novel which inform and illustrate, not only physical relationships between the two, but psychological as well.

Jack Haley, a brilliant engineer, is nearing a break-through in his development of a cheap and viable biofuel. He is abruptly indicted for insider trading. Naturally he denies it and Stafford, brought in by one of Haley’s investors to root out the truth, believes Haley. Unraveling the complicated plot requires a good deal of computer research, travel around the US and ducking by Stafford a wide-spread net of killers. In between some truly clever ruses, Stafford is desperate to maintain a good relationship with his son and new girlfriend. This becomes more and more hazardous as the net tightens.

Readers will surely ride with Jason Stafford, agonize with him over several moral issues, and be relieved they are not called on to guard Stafford’s back. This novel is a masterful thrilling experience.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, July 2015.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.