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Friday, March 14, 2014


4 stars out of 5

There are so many books waiting to be read on my Kindle (or on my to-read list) that I don't pay much attention to the freebies offered through a number of services to which I subscribe, like But for some strange reason, this one got my attention back on Feb. 24, 2014. It had enough 5- and 4-star reviews at that I figured the author - once CEO of a General Motors Corp. division - couldn't have that many friends willing to boost the ratings whether or not it was any good. Since the book description was interesting as well, I decided to give it a shot.

For the most part, I'm glad I did. I finished it in a few days with limited time available to read, and by the time I was done, I found it had accumulated 102 reviews at Amazon, 93 of them 4 stars or higher - so my 4-star rating is on target.

The book skillfully brings together high technology (in the form of artificial intelligence) and low (people still get killed by strangling, bullets and swimming with fishes), and more than once the late Mario Puzo's Godfather series came to mind. At the start, a Mafia-style guy named Alex Nicholas is murdered, leaving as his next-of-kin a third wife of questionable morals and a financial corporation CEO and straight-arrow brother Michael, who takes on the responsibility of settling Alex's affairs. Things get murky when Michael is contacted by his "deceased" brother via a computer software program as yet unknown by the rest of the world.

Slowly, Michael becomes absorbed in the shady world Alex knew (another nod to The Godfather, as expressed in Part III by Michael Corleone: "Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.") And slowly, just as did Corleone, Michael Nicholas begins to enjoy the power of running a high-stakes business and the danger that comes with it. 

But if Alex is really dead, how is he able to communicate so effectively with his brother? After all, IBM's Watson was able to beat two very intelligent former winning contestants on "Jeopardy!" rather handily, but being able to make meaningful conversation with a human being and have a pretty good handle on what the future holds goes beyond anything that's available to man at this point - as far as anyone knows.

The book ends a bit abruptly and with no real resolution to how Alex has pulled all that off nor an answer to the question of the physical safety of Michael and his beautiful wife, Samantha. That was, no doubt, to ensure that everyone who bought this book will rush to get the next one, Death Logs In. I've seen nothing to indicate when that will be forthcoming, but I do know that if it takes very long I'll have forgotten what this one was all about - one of the pitfalls of those "cliff-hanger" kinds of novels (this one was published in December 2013). In comparison, every Godfather book left me wanting more, but each was an end unto itself. Hopefully, Simon will get his sequel out before I still care about what's to come. 

Death Never Sleeps by E.J. Simon (Simon/Zef, December 2013); 389 pp.

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