The Boy from the Woods
Grand Central Publishing /Hatchette Book Group, March 2020
The story opens with a young girl, bullied at school and at home, wondering how to get through another day. Then she disappears and the only one who notices is a classmate, himself trying to fit in, who reports the incident to his grandmother. Grandma is Hester Crimstein, a high-powered attorney nobody wants to mess with. Tough, and a TV personality famous for the cases she takes on, she sets in motion a search that has unexpected, and dangerous, results.
Meanwhile, a man called Wilde, a name taken by a boy of unknown identity who simply walked out of the woods one day, is put in charge of discovering the facts behind the girl’s disappearance. Important people may be involved in a case of bullying that turns into something more far-reaching and serious. Hester and Wilde must work their way through an old mystery, even as the fate of the whole country is at stake.
Each of the characters are well-drawn, especially Hester and Wilde. Wilde’s past is an intriguing precept. How could a boy of about six years subsist in the wilderness alone for months—maybe for years? Even he doesn’t know how long he’d been there, nor does he remember his parents or his name. Supposedly, he managed to break into summer homes, find food, clothes, warmth, even watch TV and learn to speak as a tiny child. Frankly, I found the idea a bit unlikely, but hey, I like a good twisty yarn and this is one of them. However, from the first mention of his lost identity, I wondered why Wilde didn’t go the DNA testing route, but not until almost the end did the subject come up. Wilde may have found a clue at last and I can’t wait to read about it.
Reviewed by Carol Crigger, December 2020.
Author of The Woman Who Built A Bridge (Spur Award Winner), Yester’s Ride,
Hometown Burning and Six Dancing Damsels: A China Bohannon Mystery
Scribner, February 2020
Danny, an undocumented Sri Lanken living in Australia, has gradually fashioned for himself a satisfactory life. He has acquaintances with whom he socializes and a woman friend about whom he is serious. And now he has a problem. He may have important information that will help local police solve a nasty murder. If he steps forward as his world view requires, he may be deported because he’s illegally in the country. On the other hand, he may hold the one fact that will solve the case.
The novel is not so much a murder mystery or thriller as a thoughtful if sometimes wandering essay on the life of honest hard-working illegals and the pressures and vicissitudes of that life. There is little overt drama in the story, rather a character-peopled tale in which the author adeptly channels his protagonist Danny into more and more tension as he wrestles with a decision which will, in either path, affect a great many people.
All The Way Down
Down and Out Books, January 2019
This enthralling crime novel starts with a bad cop called on the carpet. Dale Burnett, risen to detective grade, has allowed his need for money to gradually bend his ethics, in a city already badly out of tune with ethics and morality. He assumes the worst but is given one chance at redemption.
It turns out, the Mayor’s daughter has been captured and is being held by one of the city’s most dangerous and brutal gang leaders. Since Burnett is now known to the gang, law enforcement believes an alternative to a frontal assault is a better option. Burnett is tasked with going into gang headquarters and rescuing the young woman.
Of course, Burnett takes this limited opportunity to risk death and retrieve his good standing. What follows is a rousing and ever more dangerous series of encounters with the gang leader and his murderous minions. With the considerable assistance of the mayor’s able daughter, Burnett engages the forces of evil.
The scene is very limited, all the action takes place inside a single large former factory building, so some of the common characteristics of action novels such as weather, are missing. Nevertheless, the pace is relentless, the tension high and the outcome uncertain until the very end.
All The Way Down is a fine thriller of a novel with surprises on almost every page, sustained action and relevant character development. The mayor’s daughter is a strong, important component of the fabric of the story.
Jack Reacher is back. This time the novel is written by Lee Child and his brother Andrew Child, who will be taking over writing Jack Reacher novels. Andrew Child is a successful author in his own right having written nine mystery thrillers.
I was eager as always to catch up with Reacher, and more than a little curious to find out how this joint effort would fare. I’m happy to say I wasn’t disappointed.
Reacher, on the road after helping out a group of four struggling musicians in Nashville, hitches a ride out of town with a young man who is heading to a small town of Pleasantville.
On arriving in Pleasantville, Reacher thanks his companion for the ride, and heads to the nearest diner. As he crosses the street, he quickly senses that something criminal is about to go down. His antenna is telling him that a man, who has just left the diner, is about to be kidnapped.
Reacher stops the potential kidnapping, but the local police aren’t impressed with his efforts. As a result, Reacher and the potential victim are taken to the local precinct. After some questioning, both men are released. Rusty Rutherford, the man he helped, thanks Reacher and together they head to the diner.
Reacher asks Rusty why someone would want to kidnap him. Rusty explains that the town is under a Ransomware attack. A malicious computer program has been used to lock up the entire network in town and everyone blames him for the ongoing disruption. Rusty was in charge of the system but was fired from his job and the whole town blame him for the current situation.
The perpetrators are demanding a huge ransom which is meantime being negotiated, but that doesn’t explain Rusty’s attempted abduction. Reacher believes there has to be more happening here. And of course there is.
There are good guys and bad guys and Reacher, in his inimitable fashion, creates as much chaos and upheaval as he can as he unravels the truth. Suffice it to say there’s lots of action and intrigue along the way.
Check it out….
Reviewed by guest reviewer Moyra Tarling, November 2020.
The Alexandria Link
Cotton Malone #2
Ballantine Books, January 2007
Steve Berry is a celebrated writer of international thrillers and a New York Times bestselling author. He writes long and complicated novels, often with enough characters to fill a small assembly hall. So readers have to pay attention. This is not a criticism, just a comment that you shouldn’t pick up this novel looking for a quick beach read.
This novel concerns good folks and a lot of very bad guys in several of the major combatants of the Twenty-first Century, namely, the U.S., Britain, Palestine, Israel, and Austria. Within each of these nations operate nefarious criminals, secretive organizations, and talented individuals.
Cotton Malone, a former agent for the U.S. has retired to Copenhagen, Denmark, and become a bookseller. Malone has a secret—he is the keeper of a vital link to the location of the greatest, most complete library known to ancient man—the Alexandria Library. That collection of books and scrolls was created nearly two thousand years BCE, making it over four thousand years old and the repository of a great deal of the histories of our major religions and our very civilization.
The Alexandria Library supposedly contains knowledge that would resolve all of the questions and controversy about the Old Testament. People will do almost anything to acquire such knowledge, believing it will give them unlimited power and wealth. Malone’s ex-wife appears in his shop to tell him his son has been kidnapped and will only be returned safely if the kidnapper receives the key to the location of the library.
Malone’s quest to rescue his son, trap the bad guys and solve numerous other fraught problems is thus the substance of this well-written, convoluted, and complicated novel. Malone and the other characters encounter an amazing host of well-thought-out and dangerous situations that will keep readers attention.
There is a good deal of political intrigue and intrigue which may raise some hackles but I found it even-handed and well sorted. Criticism of all the political entities seems to me even-handed and largely accurate. A well-done, thoughtful, and intriguing work.
The Puppet Show
Washington Poe #1
Constable/Little, Brown Book Group, January 2019
Winner of the 2019 CWA Gold Dagger Award
As mentioned above this book is already a winner and after reading it I’m not at all surprised.
Set in the Lake District, someone is burning people alive and leaving the bodies amid one of the many prehistoric stone circles found in the area. On the third charred body a name has been carved. That name is Washington Poe. Poe is a member of a special group of investigators known as The National Crime Agency. Poe is meantime on suspension due to conduct in a previous investigation, but the powers that be are anxious to stop this killer and Poe is called back in, and quickly brought up to speed. The murders are obviously the work of a serial killer.
When a fourth body is discovered, Poe, together with who the book jacket describes as “the brilliant but socially awkward civilian analyst Tilly Bradshaw head out to where the newest victim has been found. Poe’s method of investigating is somewhat unorthodox and often reactionary, and with Tilly’s help they uncover a number of leads that take them slowly but surely closer to identifying this killer.
Poe and Tilly work together well and this working relationship is an interesting aspect of this story. But Poe is beginning to question whether the clues he and Tilly find are specifically meant for him. Is the Killer deliberately enticing Poe into a trap? Is he somehow connected to the killings?
This is a terrific read. Unputdownable! The graphic descriptions of the murders might not be for everyone, but the writing is compelling, as is the twisted plot. I devoured this book over the course of a couple of days and can hardly wait to catch up with the next in the series, Black Summer.
Reviewed by guest reviewer Moyra Tarling, November 2020.
Method 15/33, Book II
Suspense Publishing, May 2020
A taut, high-energy, brutal novel focusing on some of the worst and darkest interests of the human animal. Readers discover early on there is a small but close-knit group of wealthy men (of course) who have developed a small expensive underground sex service. They abduct, abuse and murder young women for the “pleasure” of their clientele. The novel is the story on one young woman who escapes the service and plots and plans her revenge for many years.
There are a number of fascinating characters in the story which begins startlingly with murder and then runs for several months as the well-found protagonist moves forward her long-planned case of revenge. She has targeted the people from whom she escaped as a teen girl, a dark, vicious gang of wealthy and even eminent men who kidnap, rape and torture girls and young women as a service for those who can pay.
The novel moves at a high rate of speed and energy as the well-conceived protagonist enlists an odd and fascinating group of experts to help her wreak her revenge. Tagged as a thriller, the novel is unquestionably dark and not for everyone. The writing is excellent, the plot very well executed, and the continuing success of the writer is apparent from the very first to last page.