Book Review: The Price of Vengeance by James R. Scarantino

The Price of Vengeance
A Denise Aragon Novel #3
James R. Scarantino
Midnight Ink, February 2018
ISBN 978-0-7387-5067-5
Trade Paperback

In this third book in the Denise Aragon series, the tough-as-nails Santa Fe police detective runs up against an unscrupulous United States Senator Sam Baca Valles. His family is being held hostage by Peter Cervantes, a contractor who blames the senator for the death of his two sons, by supporting political schemes.  Cervantes believes Valles is one of those people who make decisions other people pay for while he lives a comfortable life at a safe distance. Aragon had dinner with Cervantes and was overheard saying “take him out,” regarding the senator. She meant that Valles should be ousted in the next election, but that comment brought her to the attention of the FBI. The federal agents believe she is withholding information about Cervantes, and she is considered an accomplice to the kidnapping.

Aragon’s dislike of the senator goes back twenty years.  She knew Valles and his wife Patricia in college—Valles raped her friend who died shortly thereafter in a suspicious hiking accident. She has always blamed him for her death.

Valles, an opportunist who never misses a chance to make himself look good, has gathered a team around him to manipulate the kidnapping to fashion himself as a hero. He plans to rush to the house in an effort to save his family, only to be turned back. He considers having an FBI agent shoot him to add veracity to his effort, while leaving his wife and two sons to the kidnapper.

While Aragon is on another case, hunting for the killer of a Boy Scout, she discovers a meth lab, and she is seriously hurt while arresting the killers—she has no feeling in her legs. When she discovers that the FBI considers her a suspect in the Valles case, she starts her own investigation from her hospital bed.

The Santa Fe setting of this series is spectacular and is the perfect backdrop for the tough detective. Readers who enjoy a main character with nerves of steel and hidden depths, like J.D. Robb’s Eve Dallas or Ann Cleeve’s Vera Stanhope, should meet up with Denise Aragon.

Reviewed by Susan Belsky, May 2018.

Advertisements

Book Review: Cost of Life by Joshua Corin

Cost of LifeCost of Life
Joshua Corin
Alibi, March 2015
ISBN 9781101882610
Ebook

From the publisher—

Happy Independence Day. You’re all going to die.
 
Life can’t be better for veteran pilot Larry Walder. He has a great job, a terrific kid, a gorgeous wife—and no inkling that tonight will be the end of the world as he knows it. In the early hours before the Fourth of July, three men break into Larry’s home. And as the day lurches on to its terrifying course, a life is taken, and Flight 816 from Atlanta to Cozumel, Mexico, vanishes off the radar.
 
In the air, Larry must find a way to save his family, his crew, and his passengers. On the ground, disgraced FBI agent Xanadu Marx goes rogue, making it her mission to track down the missing flight before the hijackers reach their diabolical endgame. With the casualties racking up and the world’s busiest airport under lockdown, a message arrives: This is no ordinary hijacking, no typical hostage crisis. This ransom is a totally different beast—the first hint of a conspiracy that might bring America to its knees.

I’m drawn to thrillers involving airplanes in jeopardy for some reason so, when offered the chance to participate in this blog tour, I jumped right on it. Once I started reading, and all through the book, I was delighted to find that Cost of Life is really, really good.

From the first sentences, I bonded with Larry Walder and his family with just a simple scenario of a little boy and his parents having fun together. I did not, of course, bond with the bad guys who show up on the scene early on and are, indeed, very bad guys. It’s apparent that they will have no reluctance to harm Marie and Sean so Larry is left with a terrible choice—which lives matter more, Marie’s and Sean’s or the 174 people on board the airplane that should be heading to Cozumel?

I don’t know about anyone else here but, once past the initial moderate unease during takeoff, I find most flights to be excruciatingly boring. Believe me when I say Flight 816 to Cozumel is anything but boring and Mr. Corin manages to ratchet up the tension every time he shows us certain passengers.

Then there’s Special Agent Xana Marx, a woman who has made a mess of her life. She may not make it back into the FBI but she has talents the authorities need if they’re going to find the missing plane and a waif of a girl named Hayley O’Leary just may be the person to bring Xana the redemption she so sorely needs. Both are severely damaged, each in her own way, but it’s hard for me to say which of these two very different people I liked the most.

There are just a few authors who reside on my list of favorite thriller writers but I think I’ve found one to add to that list, Joshua Corin. After this rollercoaster of a tale, I can barely wait to see what he’ll give us next.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2015.

************

Goodreads

Purchase Links:

Barnes & Noble Buy Button     Kobo Buy Button     Amazon Buy Button

************

About the Author

Joshua CorinJoshua Corin is the author of Nuclear Winter Wonderland, While Galileo Preysand Before Cain Strikes. He holds an M.A. in English and an M.A. in theater from Binghamton University, and currently teaches college in Atlanta, Georgia.

Author Links:

 

Website Button     Twitter Button     Facebook Button     Goodreads Button 2

************

Follow the tour here.

************

TLC Book Tours Button

Book Reviews: County Line by Bill Cameron, The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes by Marcus Sakey, Camouflage by Bill Pronzini, Tigerlily’s Orchids by Ruth Rendell, and Hell Is Empty by Craig Johnson

County Line
Bill Cameron
Tyrus Books, June 2011
ISBN: 978-1-935562-52-8
Trade Paperback

Before even attempting to evaluate this novel, it must be pointed out that at the beginning and end of the book as well as in between segments there are QR barcodes, purportedly featuring bonus material and extras.  To do so, of course, one must own a smartphone and download an app to view the material.  Since I have no need or desire to own such an instrument (what’s wrong, am I anti-American?), I don’t know how much, if anything, I am missing, especially what the barcode at the end of and within the novel provides.   Since I had a feeling of incompleteness after finishing the book, I wonder.  And if that is information I need to judge the novel, then it not only is a disservice to the reader who chooses not to utilize it, but a poor gimmick to sell smartphones and cellular service.  As it is, I found it only a distraction, as well as questioning whether it was necessary for a full appreciation of the book.

As far as the novel is concerned, it is incisively written, with good character development.  It begins when go-getter Ruby Jane Whittaker, founder and owner of a three-store chain of coffee shops in Portland, Oregon, goes off on what is to be a two-week trip.  When she doesn’t return, two of her boyfriends take heed, and undertake to find her. The effort takes them to San Francisco to see her brother (who becomes a hit-and-run victim before their eyes), then to a small Ohio town where Ruby Jane grew up and then back to Oregon.  The effort raises more questions than it does answers.

Another section of the novel retraces Ruby Jane’s earlier life in Ohio, and provides some background to the mystery, which is finally brought to a violent finish, albeit leaving this reader wondering whether or not that really is the conclusion, or just laying the groundwork for the next book in this series.  If you own a smartphone, OK, you can take this as a recommendation.  If not – – well, the choice is yours.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, October 2011.

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

The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes
Marcus Sakey
Dutton, June 2011
ISBN: 978-0-525-95211-4
Hardcover

Daniel Hayes wakes up on a beach in Maine, half drowned and with a loss of memory.  This sets the stage for a slow, dramatic tale as he attempts to reconstruct his life.  He finds a car nearby which is apparently owned by someone named Daniel Hayes from Malibu, CA.  Is that him?

Then he decides to cross the country in an effort to find out who he is, after fleeing a cop attempting to arrest him in Maine. Dan is a scriptwriter, and his efforts are like episodes on a TV show.  When he gets to Malibu, he sneaks in to what turns out is his home.  So he has a name.  And a home.  Then he finds out a female character on a television show is his wife who apparently was killed when her car went over a cliff.  While he searches for answers, the plot thickens.

And quite a plot it is.  Interspersed with fairly crisp prose are simulated scripts, sometimes fantasy, others integral to the story line.  The reader is kept off-balance with the question of whether Dan fled to Maine because he killed his wife.  And when that question is answered, a whole new mystery arises to keep one turning pages.

Recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, October 2011.

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

Camouflage
Bill Pronzini
Forge, June 2011
ISBN: 978-0-7653-2564-8
Hardcover

The Nameless Detective in this long-running series is supposed to have semi-retired.  It just isn’t so.  He’s still working four or five days a week, and it’s a good thing, because it makes for good reading.  In the first of two cases described in this novel, he takes on a new client with what at first appears to be a simple ‘trace’ case.  The oft-married client asks Nameless to locate his ex-wife so he can get her to sign a Catholic Church form to pave the way for an annulment, so he can marry the next, an apparently well-to-do prospect.  Tamara, who is now running the agency in wake of Nameless’ “semi-retirement,” locates the ex-wiife, and after she refuses to sign the papers the client visits her, after which he storms into the office saying that it’s the wrong person.  This leads to the ensuing mystery to be solved.

The second plot line involves Jake Runyon, Nameless’ partner, who has finally developed a relationship with a woman, Bryn, who has a nine-year-old son who is in her ex-husband’s custody.  It appears that the boy is being abused, but by whom?  The father, or his fiancée, who is living with him and the child?  The complication of the girl’s murder and the subsequent admission by Bryn of having committed the deed lays the groundwork for some detective work by Jake to find the real culprit.

As in the previous more than two score books in the series, the tightly written novel, accompanied by terse dialogue and seamless transitions, take the reader forward effortlessly.  The author’s eye for detail is penetrating, and the novel is recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, October 2011.

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

Tigerlily’s Orchids
Ruth Rendell
Scribner, June 2011
ISBN: 978-4391-5034-4
Hardcover

Ruth Rendell novels are a study in human relationships, and this book is no exception.  It takes a look at an assortment of tenants living in an apartment house block in London, particularly one building, but also a couple of homes across the way.

An inordinate amount of space is devoted to one tenant, a young, handsome youth, Stuart Font, who recently inherited some money and bought his apartment.  He decides to have a housewarming and invite all the other tenants.  His married lover forces him to invite her, setting the stage for her husband to invade the apartment and harm Stuart, who is later found murdered in a nearby park.

The mystery, of course, is who the murderer is.  But it is almost superfluous since the interaction of the various characters is the prime focus of the novel:  One woman who is determined to drink herself to death; three young girls, students of a sort, one of whom falls in love with Stuart, who in turn is obsessed with a beautiful young Asian in the house across the street after discarding his married lover; an elderly couple who once had a one-night stand in their youth and find each other again; the caretaker couple, the husband of which enjoys spying on young girls and watching pornography on his computer.  Among others.

The author’s eye for detail is sharp, and the personality descriptions vivid.  For a crime novel, the mystery is virtually irrelevant, but certainly the character studies are vital.  For that reason alone, the book is recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, October 2011.

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

Hell Is Empty
Craig Johnson
Viking, June 2011
ISBN: 978-0-670-02277-9
Hardcover

This, the seventh novel in the Walt Longmire series, is perhaps the most harrowing.  It starts out simply enough, with Walt, the Sheriff of a Wyoming county, and his deputies transporting three murderers to a rendezvous with two other local Sheriffs and Federal officials.  One of the felons, a psychopath who says he hears supernatural voices, has indicated he killed a young Indian boy years before, and offers to locate the bones for the officials.  There is a rumor, also, that he has secreted $1.4 million, perhaps in the grave.

This sets the stage for a harrowing experience for Walt, as the convicts escape, killing FBI agents and taking two hostages with them as they climbed Bighorn Mountain.  A determined Walt follows under blizzard conditions, which almost kills him.

As in previous entries in the series, the geographical and environmental descriptions are awesome.  The reader can feel the cold and ice as they penetrate Walt’s body and inundate the mountain peak in glasslike cover and snow-filled mounds.  Another excellent book, full of Indian lore and supernatural phenomena.

Recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, October 2011.

Book Reviews: County Line by Bill Cameron, The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes by Marcus Sakey, Camouflage by Bill Pronzini, Tigerlily's Orchids by Ruth Rendell, and Hell Is Empty by Craig Johnson

County Line
Bill Cameron
Tyrus Books, June 2011
ISBN: 978-1-935562-52-8
Trade Paperback

Before even attempting to evaluate this novel, it must be pointed out that at the beginning and end of the book as well as in between segments there are QR barcodes, purportedly featuring bonus material and extras.  To do so, of course, one must own a smartphone and download an app to view the material.  Since I have no need or desire to own such an instrument (what’s wrong, am I anti-American?), I don’t know how much, if anything, I am missing, especially what the barcode at the end of and within the novel provides.   Since I had a feeling of incompleteness after finishing the book, I wonder.  And if that is information I need to judge the novel, then it not only is a disservice to the reader who chooses not to utilize it, but a poor gimmick to sell smartphones and cellular service.  As it is, I found it only a distraction, as well as questioning whether it was necessary for a full appreciation of the book.

As far as the novel is concerned, it is incisively written, with good character development.  It begins when go-getter Ruby Jane Whittaker, founder and owner of a three-store chain of coffee shops in Portland, Oregon, goes off on what is to be a two-week trip.  When she doesn’t return, two of her boyfriends take heed, and undertake to find her. The effort takes them to San Francisco to see her brother (who becomes a hit-and-run victim before their eyes), then to a small Ohio town where Ruby Jane grew up and then back to Oregon.  The effort raises more questions than it does answers.

Another section of the novel retraces Ruby Jane’s earlier life in Ohio, and provides some background to the mystery, which is finally brought to a violent finish, albeit leaving this reader wondering whether or not that really is the conclusion, or just laying the groundwork for the next book in this series.  If you own a smartphone, OK, you can take this as a recommendation.  If not – – well, the choice is yours.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, October 2011.

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

The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes
Marcus Sakey
Dutton, June 2011
ISBN: 978-0-525-95211-4
Hardcover

Daniel Hayes wakes up on a beach in Maine, half drowned and with a loss of memory.  This sets the stage for a slow, dramatic tale as he attempts to reconstruct his life.  He finds a car nearby which is apparently owned by someone named Daniel Hayes from Malibu, CA.  Is that him?

Then he decides to cross the country in an effort to find out who he is, after fleeing a cop attempting to arrest him in Maine. Dan is a scriptwriter, and his efforts are like episodes on a TV show.  When he gets to Malibu, he sneaks in to what turns out is his home.  So he has a name.  And a home.  Then he finds out a female character on a television show is his wife who apparently was killed when her car went over a cliff.  While he searches for answers, the plot thickens.

And quite a plot it is.  Interspersed with fairly crisp prose are simulated scripts, sometimes fantasy, others integral to the story line.  The reader is kept off-balance with the question of whether Dan fled to Maine because he killed his wife.  And when that question is answered, a whole new mystery arises to keep one turning pages.

Recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, October 2011.

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

Camouflage
Bill Pronzini
Forge, June 2011
ISBN: 978-0-7653-2564-8
Hardcover

The Nameless Detective in this long-running series is supposed to have semi-retired.  It just isn’t so.  He’s still working four or five days a week, and it’s a good thing, because it makes for good reading.  In the first of two cases described in this novel, he takes on a new client with what at first appears to be a simple ‘trace’ case.  The oft-married client asks Nameless to locate his ex-wife so he can get her to sign a Catholic Church form to pave the way for an annulment, so he can marry the next, an apparently well-to-do prospect.  Tamara, who is now running the agency in wake of Nameless’ “semi-retirement,” locates the ex-wiife, and after she refuses to sign the papers the client visits her, after which he storms into the office saying that it’s the wrong person.  This leads to the ensuing mystery to be solved.

The second plot line involves Jake Runyon, Nameless’ partner, who has finally developed a relationship with a woman, Bryn, who has a nine-year-old son who is in her ex-husband’s custody.  It appears that the boy is being abused, but by whom?  The father, or his fiancée, who is living with him and the child?  The complication of the girl’s murder and the subsequent admission by Bryn of having committed the deed lays the groundwork for some detective work by Jake to find the real culprit.

As in the previous more than two score books in the series, the tightly written novel, accompanied by terse dialogue and seamless transitions, take the reader forward effortlessly.  The author’s eye for detail is penetrating, and the novel is recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, October 2011.

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

Tigerlily’s Orchids
Ruth Rendell
Scribner, June 2011
ISBN: 978-4391-5034-4
Hardcover

Ruth Rendell novels are a study in human relationships, and this book is no exception.  It takes a look at an assortment of tenants living in an apartment house block in London, particularly one building, but also a couple of homes across the way.

An inordinate amount of space is devoted to one tenant, a young, handsome youth, Stuart Font, who recently inherited some money and bought his apartment.  He decides to have a housewarming and invite all the other tenants.  His married lover forces him to invite her, setting the stage for her husband to invade the apartment and harm Stuart, who is later found murdered in a nearby park.

The mystery, of course, is who the murderer is.  But it is almost superfluous since the interaction of the various characters is the prime focus of the novel:  One woman who is determined to drink herself to death; three young girls, students of a sort, one of whom falls in love with Stuart, who in turn is obsessed with a beautiful young Asian in the house across the street after discarding his married lover; an elderly couple who once had a one-night stand in their youth and find each other again; the caretaker couple, the husband of which enjoys spying on young girls and watching pornography on his computer.  Among others.

The author’s eye for detail is sharp, and the personality descriptions vivid.  For a crime novel, the mystery is virtually irrelevant, but certainly the character studies are vital.  For that reason alone, the book is recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, October 2011.

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

Hell Is Empty
Craig Johnson
Viking, June 2011
ISBN: 978-0-670-02277-9
Hardcover

This, the seventh novel in the Walt Longmire series, is perhaps the most harrowing.  It starts out simply enough, with Walt, the Sheriff of a Wyoming county, and his deputies transporting three murderers to a rendezvous with two other local Sheriffs and Federal officials.  One of the felons, a psychopath who says he hears supernatural voices, has indicated he killed a young Indian boy years before, and offers to locate the bones for the officials.  There is a rumor, also, that he has secreted $1.4 million, perhaps in the grave.

This sets the stage for a harrowing experience for Walt, as the convicts escape, killing FBI agents and taking two hostages with them as they climbed Bighorn Mountain.  A determined Walt follows under blizzard conditions, which almost kills him.

As in previous entries in the series, the geographical and environmental descriptions are awesome.  The reader can feel the cold and ice as they penetrate Walt’s body and inundate the mountain peak in glasslike cover and snow-filled mounds.  Another excellent book, full of Indian lore and supernatural phenomena.

Recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, October 2011.

Book Review: Soft Target by Stephen Hunter

Soft Target
Stephen Hunter
Simon & Schuster, December 2011
ISBN 9781439138700
Hardcover

This book represents your worst fears realized. In many ways and from many angles. It is the stereotypical sensationalism and attitudes of a variety of memorable characters. It’s a modern tale full of irony, humor, and grisly reality.

Ray Cruz, former Marine sniper, is shopping with his girlfriend at the premier shopping center: America, the mall, a building designed, to somewhat resemble the shape of the United States. The date is the day after Thanksgiving, Black Friday. The mid-afternoon trek is suddenly thrown into chaos as terrorists congregate from every ground floor hall, shooting and herding hostages. Thus begins a standoff between Islamist jihadists, the Minnesota State Police commander, and Ray Cruz. With the assistance of people inside and outside the mall, Ray fights his way toward the one man behind the siege and gets the surprise of his life.

You have to finish this book before you realize just what Hunter has accomplished. He’s brought together a host of characters, all who contribute, in their own ways, to the outcome. Included in the cast are: the glory hound commander, the ratings seeking news reporter, the gung-ho SWAT team leader, the protective mother, and a pair of supposed innocents who reveal themselves near the end. The overblown nature of each character is what makes this book so enjoyable. You’ll laugh, you’ll cringe, and you’ll recognize human nature at its best and worst.

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