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Saturday, August 24, 2013


5 stars (out of 5)

Opening a new Peter Decker/Rina Lazarus book always is accompanied by a bit of excitement - I've read them all (this is the 21st), and while some have been better than others, I've enjoyed every single one. This one, IMHO, is one of the best.

Any disappointment, if you can call it that, is that it seems Rina's role has diminished over time (a trend that became noticeable in last year's Gun Games). In the past, she's been more directly involved in her husband's murder investigations, and there's been more interaction between the two of them. Now, her life has taken a back seat, mostly serving as the chief family cook and mediator between Peter, an LAPD detective, and the high-strung musical prodigy they've taken in at least for the short haul. 

Besides that, I've always enjoyed learning more about Orthodox Judaism (Peter came to that party when he married Rina many years ago). But in this book, except for a mention or two of Peter's need to be home by sundown on Friday to observe Shabbat, the subject is virtually nonexistent. Then too, there's the matter of more than a couple of grammatical errors that should have been caught - but that's more on the head of copy editors than the author (and something, unfortunately, that's become quite common in books I've read over the past few years).

As for the story, it involves a particularly gory murder of an old, and extremely eccentric and exceedingly wealthy recluse who keeps an adult tiger in his apartment and apparently enjoys kinky sex with ladies of the evening. Early on, Peter and his LAPD colleagues learn that the tiger's roar is much worse than her bite  - and the chase is on to find the real killer. That leads the crew from a remote wildlife sanctuary to Las Vegas casinos and includes a consult with Dr. Alex Delaware, the lead character in books by Kellerman's husband, Jonathan.

Meanwhile, that teenage child prodigy is having problems all his own, creating tension at home. Everything comes together to present a dilemma (and possible major life change) for Peter and Rina which, I assume, will provide very interesting fodder for the next book.

I'll be waiting!

The Beast by Faye Kellerman (William Morrow, August 2013); 384 pp.

Friday, August 16, 2013


5 stars (out of 5)

When it comes to books, not much thrills me as much as learning Daniel Silva has produced another featuring art restoration expert and Israeli super-spy Gabriel Allon. No surprise, then when I couldn't wait to get my Kindle stylus tapping on the latest adventure. That said, I always open them with a sense of hesitation; I'm always fearful (make that scared to death) that something awful will happen to him and/or his beautiful wife Chiara. 

So, as each chapter begins and Gabriel's always complex, always dangerous adventures unfold, I take a deep breath in anticipation of reading something I hope I never have to read. That is, I think, a complement to Silva, who has managed to tap into my emotions like few authors have done and, simply put, make me care enormously about all of his characters.

This one begins as a young British woman with links to the Prime Minister disappears on the island of Corsica and, in part to avoid a scandal that threatens to topple the English government, Gabriel is called upon to handle negotiations with what is assumed to be a kidnapping. Of course, nothing in the world of espionage is ever as it seems, and just when you think a situation has been resolved, a new and even more potentially dangerous twist appears on the horizon. Along the way are Silva's wonderful insights into his characters -- not many authors do a better job, IMHO -- as well as interesting and informative looks into the history of the countries in which the action takes place (most notably Israel, a country that has long fascinated me).

Much more than that I can't say without revealing too much of the plot, although I will add that the ending brings into question exactly what Gabriel's role will be in future books. But I enjoyed this one from beginning to end and think it's one of Silva's best - were it possible, in fact, I'd have given this one 6 stars. 

The English Girl: A Novel (Gabriel Allon) by Daniel Silva (HarperCollins Publishers July 2013); 490 pp.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013


As I've mentioned in other book reviews, I am so not a fan of history in any size, shape or form. Museums? You've got my attention for half an hour, max. Books? Fuhgettiboutit! So when I say that Hidden Order not only taught me a few things about history but made it interesting in the process, you can be sure that's a compliment to the author's considerable talents.

This book marks, if I'm not mistaken, the 12th in the series featuring Scot Harvath, a covert counter-terrorism operative and former Navy SEAL. The private firm he now works for has been called in to investigate the sudden disappearance of five candidates under consideration to head the U.S. Federal Reserve Board. When the candidates start to turn up dead, the situation takes a more urgent turn in an effort to prevent all from being slaughtered in horrific fashion. Clearly, someone is sending a message, and solving the case means finding out who's doing it and why.

The chase leads Harvath to match wits with CIA officers and Boston detectives, one of whom proves to be a "match" for Harvath in more ways than one. The action moves along quickly and, for the most part, believably - with only a few instances of super-human efforts - and my suspicion of the whodunit didn't come until fairly close to the end. For the record, yes, I was right, but as the TV commercials say, wait, there's more. 

I was also happy that the "rants" the author is fond of making (and which, in his last couple of novels, were a bit over the top), were kept to a mild roar. It's obvious he wants the public to be aware of the absolute power of the Federal Reserve - which, as he points out, is neither federal nor has any reserves yet has almost total and unchallenged control of U.S. monetary policy. But this time the facts, figures and warnings are worked into the plot on a more subtle basis - I didn't feel as if I were being hit over the head with a two-by-four.

Hidden Order: A Thriller by Brad Thor (Stria/Emily Bestler Books, July 2013); 374 pp.