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Friday, September 30, 2022

NO PLAN B

4.5 stars out of 5

Every loyal reader of this series knows nobody messes with Jack Reacher - he can take down half a dozen very big, very angry men in the blink of an eye. In this one, he proves he can give MacGyver a run for his skills as well.
 

The plot has four "legs," if you will - and that made it a little tough for me to follow, at least for the first half or so of the book, just because of the number of characters and switchbacks from one to the other. There's a guy who wants revenge, another looking for a long-lost someone, some very bad guys who don't want to get caught doing what they're doing and, of course, raison d'etre that puts Reacher, at first inadvertently and then intentionally, in the middle of the whole mess.

The whole thing begins as Reacher sees a man throw a woman under the bus - quite literally - after which he steals her purse and runs. Something Reacher saw seems to have triggered feelings of ill will, so to speak, from some folks who would rather it not be seen - what was there threatens the good thing they want to keep going. Reacher, doing his Reacher thing, smells a rat (and we all know he doesn't react well to threats), so he vows to get to the bottom of it even if it takes him halfway across the country. While this is going on, those other folks begin to converge at the same place - the Minerva Correctional Facility in Winson, Mississippi.

The details, of course, I can't reveal, except to say there's never a dull moment; all points converge at the end, and readers learn what happens to all the people who started off as strangers but end up as, well, you'll have to read it for yourself to find that out. It's fast-paced, fun and another adventure I'm sure Reacher fans will enjoy. I heartily thank the publisher, via NetGalley, for allowing me to read and review a pre-release copy. Well done!

No Plan B by Lee Child and Andrew Child (Delacorte Press, October 2022); 368 pp.

Sunday, September 25, 2022

IT'S NEWS TO ME

4 stars out of 5

My own experience as a journalist prompted me to read the first book in this series, but I've kept on reading them just because they're so darned entertaining. This is the fourth, and after finishing it, I remain a devoted fan.

It's not so much that I identify with New York TV editor and hotshot journalist Clare Carlson; she says and does things far beyond my pay grade (too much of the former, in fact, made me lose a bit of respect for her in this story). And, this one has a little too much repetition. But overall, the plot and all the twists (some expected, others not) had me hanging on every page and not wanting to put it down.

As Clare is dealing with a cantankerous, ratings-hungry new boss, a beautiful and popular college student named Riley Hunt is murdered not far from the school. At first blush, it's thought to be a random attack. Led by her well-honed instincts, Clare isn't so sure - so she starts digging around and finds that Riley's perfect image may have a few flaws. Among them are a reported stalker, an unreported missing laptop and connections to a couple of well-connected young men and an escort service. Riley's mother's behavior, too, arouses Clare's Spidey senses; what, if anything, is she trying to hide?

When a local homeless veteran is charged with the murder and is too psychologically messed up to resist, Clare is even more sure there's more to Riley's story. Ferreting out the truth brings her in contact with some seedy, dangerous characters as well as her ex-husband, Homicide Detective Sam Markham. In between, a blind date with a Princeton professor leads to another, and another, and thoughts of a more permanent relationship (sometimes, when there's a will, there's a way). 

But as Clare ignores warnings to back off, the situation heats up; one murder puts an untimely end to what might have been an enlightening interview, and other murders follow. There's plenty of action right up to the end both on the case and in the studio, keeping me glued to the story. Thanks once again to the publisher, via NetGalley, for the opportunity to read and review a pre-release copy. Another one well done!

It's News to Me by R.G. Belsky (Oceanview Publishing, October 2022); 349 pp.

Friday, September 23, 2022

DISTANT THUNDER

4 stars out of 5

As uber-rich New York attorney Stone Barrington enjoys an, um, relaxing time at his Dark Harbor, Maine, home accompanied by none other than U.S. President Holly Barker, he gets some disturbing news: there's a dead guy on his property. When it turns out to be CIA agent John Collins and he was murdered, the whole thing turns into a chase to the finish line that Stone just might not live long enough to win.

Well, don't be silly; of course he'll live to see another day - he's the star of this now 63-book series, after all - but there's no shortage of action that brings his life into question. Playing a Central role here, so to speak, is old friend and CIA chief Lance Cabot, who enters the subsequent investigation but is surprisingly tight-lipped about the details. Soon thereafter, the victim's ex-wife, Vanessa, pays a visit, wanting details of his death and how she can claim her rightful share of what may be a small fortune. One discussion leads to another and, as luck would have it, Holly has already left to run the country from Washington, D.C., so naturally Stone is happy to have a relaxation buddy once again. 

Back in New York, Stone meets up with good friend and NYPD chief Dino Bacchetti and his wife Viv for dinner - a regular happening - and to share the case's perplexing details. Surprise - here comes Vanessa again, in the mood to relax once again. A new detail is added to the investigation, though, that takes it to a whole 'nother level and prompts Stone to head back to Maine with Vanessa in tow. That changes quickly when it becomes apparent that Stone himself is slated for victimhood, prompting him to head for his property in London, Vanessa once again in tow. There, too, Stone's presence is detected by the bad guys, prompting yet another move to his Palm Springs yacht (yes, with Vanessa in tow). This time, though, the conflict gets very real, with an exciting chase that blows out all the stops. 

Of course, plenty happens in between all these relocations, including a ton more food and relaxation and progress in the investigation. All in all, it's another fun romp and a quick read (I finished it in roughly four hours). Thanks to the publisher, via NetGalley, for the pre-release copy to be read and reviewed.

Distant Thunder by Stuart Woods (G.P. Putnam's Sons, October 2022); 272 pp.

Thursday, September 22, 2022

RIGHTEOUS PREY

5 stars out of 5

I love Virgil Flowers. I love Lucas Davenport less, but only a titch. Put 'em together and my heart is all a-flutter; tie the action to the timely topic of  cybercurrency and well, you've hooked me from the git-go.

It's about, you see, a group of uber-wealthy Bitcoin investors dubbed the "Five" who have concluded that it's their responsibility to rid the world of deplorables. The first one to go down gets a "1" on his forehead, a hint that there may be more to come. An anonymously issued press release makes that a certainty by announcing the group's intentions as well as their huge Bitcoin donation to a charitable organization (should they choose to accept it) that's related to how the victim earned his deplorable status.

Law enforcement powers-that-be are flummoxed until there's a No. 2 and a  No. 3, pretty much cementing the notion that this pattern will continue unless someone puts a stop to it. Enter Lucas, a U.S. Marshal living in frigid Minnesota with his surgeon wife Weather, and Virgil, an agent with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, who leaves partner Frankie and their twins at home). For the most part, they and the rest of the investigative team are pretty much flying blind; the killers leave no trace, so connecting any of them to a potential killer seems impossible.

That's frustrating for the characters in the story, of course, but less so for readers, who get the benefit of seeing what's happening through the eyes of the Five (and their choreographer) plus the always entertaining repartee between Virgil and Lucas. Revealing details would spoil it for everyone except me, so I'll say only that the whole adventure is fast-paced right up to the end, making for a book you won't want to put down. Many thanks to the publisher, via NetGalley, for giving me the pleasure of reading a pre-release copy. Loved it!

Righteous Prey by John Sandford (G.P. Putnam's Sons, October 2022); 412 pp.

Monday, September 19, 2022

SUSPECT

4 stars out of 5

Characters that are several degrees off center can go either way in my book - either I can't relate to them at all or I want to hug them when I've finished. Clarice "Pinky" Granum, happily, falls into the latter category; parts of her mind and body are a little bit nuts, but clearly there's more than a little sharp cookie mixed in.

This is the twelfth in the Kindle County Legal series, and while this isn't the first book I've read by this talented author, it's my series first. For the record, I had no trouble following the story, so it stands alone well (and I definitely plan to read more). Ever her own person, self-described bisexual Pinky lives alone and prefers the formally unattached life as she works for attorney Rik Dudek as a licensed private investigator. They just got a new case defending Highland Isle Police Chief Lucia Gomez, who's been accused of demanding sex from her staff in exchange for promotions. 

Meanwhile, Pinky is curious, to say the least, about her next-door neighbor - a mysterious and (to her) weird guy she dubs TWO. He comes and goes at strange hours wearing strange clothing; when he's home, no sounds can be heard inside his apartment save the occasional sneeze. As the trial for Chief Gomez begins, Pinky begins to follow her building mate to see what he's up to. Finally, she reaches a conclusion as to what he's doing, but the question now is why and on behalf of whom. Since he's not the most sociable of guys, she's got her work cut out for her; but then, she never been known as a shrinking violet.

As details of the charges against the chief come to light, it appears a maniacal former police colleague and now wealthy real estate mogul may be trying to settle a score. And could it be there's a connection to what Pinky's building mate is up to? Whatever that is, it can't be good for Pinky's mental or physical health. In the end, it's a fast-paced romp that's strong on relationships and kept me turning the pages all the way to the end. Many thanks to the publisher, via NetGalley, for providing me with a pre-release copy to read and review. Recommended!

Suspect by Scott Turow (Grand Central Publishing, September 2022); 449 pp.

Friday, September 16, 2022

TREASURE STATE

4 stars out of 5

The sixth in the series featuring private investigator Cassie Dewell puts her in the middle of two very different cases and pulls in a tie with the author's other popular series about Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett. The tie-in is simply this: Cassie hires April Pickett, the daughter of Joe and his wife Marybeth, as an intern at her office in Bozeman, Montana, much to the annoyance of Cassie's hippy dippy blabbermouth mother, Isabel. April isn't seen much, although she and Cassie's son, Ben, do play roles in helping to solve one of the cases.

One of the cases involves a poem left in a restaurant that alludes to an alleged $3.5 million in gold known as Sir Scott's Treasure. It's quite the mystery, both as to who sneaked in and wrote the poem and where the treasure is hidden (if, in fact, it exists at all). Cassie remains uncertain even after she receives a call from the person who claims to be the author - not only can she not tell whether it was a man or woman, the caller challenges Cassie to find not the treasure itself, but the person who hid the treasure and wrote the poem. If she does, the caller says, she'll get a reward of $25,000.

Not long thereafter, Cassie gets a call from an older woman who's been taken to the financial cleaners by a charming con artist; the previous private eye she hired has gone missing, she says, and she still needs someone to try and get her money back. Since she's still got enough money to pay Cassie's retainer, they seal the deal - and Cassie ends up in the old mining town of Anaconda. Right away, she bumps heads with local law enforcement jerks who don't like outsiders (especially female) poking their nose in their business.

But she persists, even if getting to the bottom of things takes her all over Montana - with readers getting an extensive look at the lay of the land. Her investigation also puts her back in touch with a character who should be familiar to readers of previous books and, of course, smack dab in the middle of liars, cheaters and murderers (nope, no details - read the book for yourself). I'll just end with thanks to the publisher, via NetGalley, for providing me with a pre-release copy to read and review. Another good one!

Treasure State by C.J. Box (Minotaur Books, September 2022); 280 pp.

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

NEXT IN LINE

4 stars out of 5

This is the second book I've read - and thoroughly enjoyed - in this series (this is the fifth), and the same thing happened both times: I found them difficult to "get into" for the first several chapters. They're very well written, so it must be that I'm just not used to the style (and the number of characters to keep straight). But when the lightbulb of understanding finally turns on, from that point in both books I didn't want to put them down.

One of the themes of this one, as it turns out, is kind of sad because it focuses on England's Royal Family, more specifically the late Princess Diana (it's set around 1988, when she was one of the most recognized and loved women on earth). Needless to say, her life must be protected at all times; but the detail of officers charged with that responsibility are thought to be corrupt. Enter Scotland Yard Detective Chief Inspector William Warwick and his capable team - most notably Inspector Ross Hogan - who get assigned to the protection detail not only to do that job but unearth the illegal activities of the existing detail. It gets quite exciting, but I daresay the real Royal Family may not be too fond of the details (nope, can't explain - you'll just have to read it for yourself).

There's a concurrent theme as well, this one set in the art world; Warwick's wife, Beth, works in a prominent art gallery. But a prisoner they've put in jail has a duplicitous attorney, Booth Watson (who for whatever reason is always referred to by both his first and last name) more intent on stealing his client's money than defending him and an ex-wife, Christina, who doesn't care about the money but wants the artwork he's accumulated over the years. She's also friends with Beth - or so she's trying to make Beth believe. This one's not a case of determining which one is the "bad guy," but rather which one will end up outfoxing the others.

Both plots are quite complex, woven with detail and, on occasion, a bit of humor. As always, an interesting, entertaining read that makes me eager for the next installment. Many thanks to the publisher, via NetGalley, for providing me with a pre-release copy to read and review. Excellent!

Next in Line by Jeffrey Archer (HarperCollins, September 2022); 385 pp.