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Monday, April 28, 2014


2 stars out of 5

If you're looking for a book that reads quickly, this may be the one; I polished it off in spare time in a single day. It also follows the mundane, laid-back pattern I've found in the series featuring filthy rich attorney Stone Barrington; action happens, but nobody gets excited about it. Case in point from a phone conversation between Barrington and a friend:

Friend: "Everything all right?"

Barrington: "Well, let's see. I was at a dinner party on Saturday night when four men with shotguns arrived and took all the available jewelry."

Friend: "How interesting for you."

And so it goes from start to finish. Even Barrington's between-the-sheets adventures - and there seem to be more of them happening here than in past books - are quite ho-hum. I'm sure it's written that way intentionally, but it does seem to me I yawned through more of the pages of this one than usual. 

My interest was piqued at the outset, though, when early on Barrington is visited by a gorgeous blonde insurance adjuster sent to investigate his claim as a result of stolen works of art. Her unusual name is Crane Hart - a reversal of poet Hart Crane, who as it happens was born in Garrettsville, Ohio, not far from where I live (he died in 1932). Other than that reference, however, no more mention is made of the name - leaving me to wonder what the connection is, if any, between the poet and author Woods. 

Not long after Barrington and Hart hit the sack, she reveals that she's being stalked by her hulk of an estranged husband - who also appears to be the ringleader of a gang of thieves (remember the subject of that phone call)? Barrington and his police buddies, of course, try to round them all up; in between, Barrington also gets involved with the campaign of friend Kate - the wife of the outgoing U.S. President who has thrown her hat in the campaign ring to replace her husband. In that process, he meets yet another beauty with whom he jumps into bed almost immediately (proving, I suppose, that he's still got it even though he's old enough to be a grandfather several times over).

Oh yes, I did learn a new word: "Tsuris." It was used several times in the book, so I looked it up and found that it's defined as a Yiddish word for stress or troubles (aha - maybe that's how readers are supposed to know some of the characters really are under a bit of duress). All rightee then, I said to myself as I pondered ways to work it into future conversations.

One thing I won't be talking much about, though, is this book - somewhat entertaining, but certainly not worth paying much for.

Carnal Curiosity by Stuart Woods (Putnam Adult, April 2014); 309 pp.

Saturday, April 19, 2014


5 stars out of 5

After I finished the first book in this series, NYPD Red, I said this is the best of Patterson's works of late (and since he relies heavily on co-authors, I gave the lion's share of the credit to his co-writer on this one, Marshall Karp). I'm delighted to say this one's even better than the first - so my hat's off once again to Mr. Karp.

Almost all of Patterson's books are very easy reads, and this one is no exception; within a couple of hours, I was surprised to find I'd polished off half of it. I was even more surprised to realize I didn't want to put it away so I could get some sleep. Sure enough, a couple more hours the next day did the trick. The best part, though, was that I thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing.

This one follows the elite NYPD Red team of Detective Zach Jordan and his detective partner Kylie MacDonald (the two once were a couple) as they do their thing protecting the rich and famous and try to solve New York City's highest profile crimes. To start, a wealthy woman is murdered, dressed in a Hazmat suit and dumped on a carousel. She's the fourth in a string of similar murders, but since she qualifies for assignment to the Red team, they're called in. 

The case means crossing state lines and offending not a few other police officers as they try to identify and arrest the Hazmat killer - before the city's election in the hope that the current mayor will keep his job. Meantime, Jordan has found a new love, although he continues to struggle with his feelings for MacDonald. The plot takes a couple of relatively unexpected twists and turns, ending with...oh wait, you really didn't expect me to tell all, did you?

NYPD Red 2 by James Patterson and Marshall Karp (Little, Brown and Co., March 2014); 417 pp.

Friday, April 11, 2014


4 stars out of 5

I'm old enough to have accumulated lots of memories of Bing Crosby and Bob Hope, starting when I was very young and my mother walked me a dozen or so blocks to the only movie theater in our small town for Saturday matinees. Crosby, who was rated "the most admired man alive" in 1948 (when I was 7 years old), was starring in movies at that time. "The Bells of St. Mary's," which I remember watching with mom, was made in 1945 but probably didn't make it to my neck of the southwestern Ohio backwoods for a couple of years after that.

We moved to a nearby farm when I was in third grade, and with nothing better to do, I remember putting a couple of my dad's old Crosby 78s on the turntable and singing along at the top of my lungs; my favorite was the "The Iowa Indian Song:/'Way Back Home" with Fred Warning and His Pennsylvanians released in 1949.

When I was in seventh grade, we got a TV set - a tiny black-and-white screen with rabbit ears  - and dad, mom and I watched movies starring Crosby and his buddy, comedian Bob Hope, most notably the "Road" series that started back in 1940 with "The Road to Singapore."

Later in life, when I married and moved to the northeastern part of Ohio, Hope became of more special interest since he grew up in Cleveland, about an hour away. And by then, we had lived through various TV specials and national golf tournaments featuring and/or sponsored by one or the other.

Given all that, when I got the chance to get this book free through eReader IQ, I jumped on it. As I write this, there were only six reviews - mostly good - but I figured what the heck? It's only 84 pages, photos included, so I figured I had little to lose even if it's terrible.

In fact, I enjoyed it and learned plenty. The authors, a group of editors from Harvard University and MIT, do jump around a bit - transition isn't a strong point. But the book is full of interesting facts about both men - some I already knew and many more I did not.

I knew, of course, that both Crosby and Hope were golfers, and both hosted national tournaments that continue to this day. I didn't know that Crosby played his first game somewhere around 1930 while he was filming "King of Jazz" - and subsequently got so good that he entered tournaments with a 2 handicap. I also didn't realize he was part owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates (a little over an hour's drive from where I live), or that he sold an estimated 500 million records in the 20th century. One of his most popular songs, Irving Berlin's "White Christmas," is listed in the Guiness record book as the best-selling single of all time (which may in part be attributed to the fact that it was released in 1942 and re-released every year for the next 16).

And while I'd heard Crosby referred to as "Der Bingle" many times, I had no idea why; after reading this book, I know (but I won't spoil it for you here).

Hope, meanwhile, was born in England under the name of Leslie Townes Hope; he didn't change his first name to Bob until much later. When he reached his milestone 100th birthday, more than half of the U.S. states declared it "Bob Hope Day" in his honor; after all, he had made so many USO tours that Congress named him the "First and only honorary veteran of the U.S. armed forces." In between, he enjoyed a successful career that included everything from vaudeville to radio to motion pictures to television. To put it in perspective time-wise, in 1978 he putted on stage with a then two-year-old Tiger Woods.

This book isn't likely to mean much to those who aren't familiar with these two entertainment legends; but if you remember them as I do, it's well worth the couple of hours it takes to read.

Bing Crosby and Bob Hope: The Golden Era of Hollywood's Most Popular Show Business Stars by Charles River Editors (January 2014); 84 pp.

Saturday, April 5, 2014


4 stars out of 5

In a day when quite a few big-time authors who shall remain nameless are becoming known for quantity rather than quality, it's refreshing to find one who's steady as he goes. Yes, folks, Jonathan Kellerman, who's written more than 30 psychological thrillers including the popular Alex Delaware series, has done it again, keeping him right at the top of my list of favorite authors.

This one begins as Alex, a psychologist who specializes in children and is a frequent police consultant, is called in to provide evaluation when an overly aggressive wealthy female doctor and her flower-child sister go head-to-head in a child custody battle. The good doctor can find no reason to remove the child from her hippy-dippy mother, and the judge concurs. But just as he thinks he's out from under the nasty fighting, the case takes a turn of a different sort when Alex's life is threatened and a major player turns up dead. Enter long-time friend Detective Milo Sturgis, who's now looking for the killer. But then, as other key players bite the dust and the free-spirited sister disappears with her baby, things really start to heat up.

One of the things I love about the Delaware books is following the relationships among Alex, his guitar-making love interest Robin and Milo. But don't hesitate to pick this one (or any other) up because you aren't familiar with the series - they all stand alone quite well.

Killer: An Alex Delaware Novel by Jonathan Kellerman (Ballantine Books, February 2014); 353 pp.