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Friday, February 28, 2014


5 stars out of 5

Talk about grabbing your attention in the first couple of pages - my mouth dropped open about a foot when I read that the first murder victim in the latest in the series featuring Boston Detective D.D. Warren was Christine Ryan. Why was I taken aback, you ask? Because that happens to be our daughter's name!

That jolt, of course, wouldn't be enough to keep me hanging on - or for me to award this book 5 stars. But trust me, what followed made me reluctant to put it down (to the point of my casting longing sideways glances at my Kindle as I was fixing dinner or dusting the coffee table). And head games? Wow! If you're looking for psychological drama accompanied by no shortage of gruesome murders, this one definitely falls into the don't-miss category.

As the book opens, Warren is off the job recuperating from a devastatingly painful injury she incurred when an unknown assailant pushed her down a flight of stairs at an earlier crime scene. When a second woman is murdered in a virtually identical fashion - including leaving a red rose and a bottle of champagne and a particularly distasteful post-mortem action - it's clear they're dealing with a serial killer. 

When Warren consults with psychiatrist and pain specialist Adeline Glen who, ironically, suffers from the total ability to feel physical pain, and the discussion turns to the murders, both women realize aspects of the murders are strikingly similar to the MO of the doctor's sister, Shana, who's been in prison since her teenage years after being convicted of killing a teenage boy (and, while in prison, has killed again at least twice). Both Adeline and Shana, as it turns out, are daughters of a deceased and well-known serial torturer, murderer and child abuser - from whom, apparently, Shana has "inherited" her killing tendencies. But did Adeline inherit them as well?

Unraveling the connections and finding the new killer takes on many twists, turns and suspects - and provides an experience this reader didn't want to end. One of Gardner's best efforts - and one of the best books I've read in a while.

Fear Nothing: A Detective D.D. Warren Novel by Lisa Gardner (Dutton Adult, January 2014); 400 pp.

Friday, February 14, 2014


My primary knowledge of Mitch Albom as come through his gig as a panelist on the ESPN series "The Sports Reporters," and I must say I've been a fan for years. When his book, Tuesdays with Morrie became a best-seller, I admit to being a bit surprised. What on earth, I asked myself, does this have to do with sports?

I also admit I didn't read it - nor have I read any of the other non-sports books he's written including The Five People You Meet in Heaven, another one that was wildly popular. But this time, I decided it's past time to let go of my hang-up on the sports aspect and give one of his books a try. And now, I'm an even bigger fan.

This one takes place in small-town Coldwater, Michigan, where nothing much of note ever happens until a handful of residents start getting phone calls from dead people they've known and (in most instances) loved. Of course, they're both skeptical and overwhelmed with joy, but their skepticism is put to rest when the callers use words and phrases that are familiar, making them believe they must be real. The calls also are most welcome because the callers make it clear there's a wonderful life somewhere in the hereafter; in fact, the reasons for the calls is to let people know they needn't worry about dying and to ask that they spread the word.

As you might expect, those who already believe quickly are turned into zealots, and those who don't step up their protests that the whole thing is some kind of hoax. Woven in between are backstories of the folks who are getting the calls (and one notable guy who isn't) as well as history lessons about Alexander Graham Bell's invention of the telephone.

At just 336 pages, this one easily can be read in a few hours - and it's so well written and the story so intriguing that I wanted to do just that. But because I didn't start it till late in the evening, exhaustion set in and I had to call it a night. The next morning, I almost resented the fact that a handful of family members would be spending most of the day with us - that's how much I wanted to get back to my reading. The minute we left and I hit the "on" button on the dishwasher, I grabbed my Kindle and told my husband not to interrupt me unless the house caught fire.

In short, this is a wonderful "feel good" story that centers on human behavior and is almost guaranteed to leave a smile on your face in the end no matter which side of the hereafter debate you're on. And as you might expect, I've put Albom's earlier books on my must-read list.

Saturday, February 8, 2014


4 stars out of 5

Despite being a huge fan of the late Robert B. Parker's work - I've read all the Spenser and Jesse Stone books - I've never read any of his series featuring Marshal Virgil Cole and Deputy Marshal Everett Hitch. When a friend happened to mention this one, the second written by actor, writer and producer Robert Knott after Parker's death (Ironhorse was his first) - I was surprised that the books even existed. But it didn't take me long to find a copy and give it a whirl.

Never having read any of Parker's Cole and Hitch novels, I can't say whether or not Knott does a good imitation. But knowing Parker's style, I'm betting they're pretty close. Set in the Old West, this one from the start reminded me of a cross between a Zane Grey character and Parker's Jesse Stone, with saddles and six-guns interspersed with "Nope," "Yup" and "Sure."

The book opens as the two relatively uneducated lawmen return a notorious outlaw to San Cristobal to stand trial. Before he can be arraigned, a bank robbery happens that requires investigation by the pair. The man who supposedly did the deed is a bank employee and town resident who is later found after being beaten almost to a pulp and his beautiful wife kidnapped. It's then discovered he's not who he's been claiming to be - and in fact, he's got ties to that outlaw they just brought in. What's more, the outlaw is the only one who knows who kidnapped the wife (who just happens to be the daughter of a St. Louis millionaire) and where Cole and Hitch need to go to track the culprit and his gang down.

I won't say this is anywhere near the most engrossing novel I've ever read, but if you like cowboys who speak mostly in monosyllables and lots of horsing around, it's pretty darned good reading. 

Robert B. Parker's Bull River by Robert Knott (Putnam Adult, January 2014); 353 pp.