Friday, April 6, 2012

Body Double, by Tess Gerritsen ****

Pregnant women play key roles in this bone-chilling fourth novel in Gerritsen's edgy, suspenseful series of thrillers featuring Boston Medical Examiner Maura Isles and Homicide Detective Jane Rizzoli. Both of the usually gritty crime fighters are uncharacteristically vulnerable. Rizzoli is carrying her first child, and Isles—divorced and alone at age 40 and suddenly, unsettlingly aware of her biological clock—is experiencing decidedly unspiritual feelings for her priest. As the novel begins, Isles—an adopted child who never knew the identity of her birth parents—is confronted by the corpse of a murdered woman who is apparently her identical twin. Another detective, Rick Ballard, comes forward to say that he knew the victim and is certain her killer is a powerful pharmaceutical baron known to have stalked her. Isles falls for the handsome Ballard, but she isn't convinced by his theory, and she launches an investigation into her sister's past, following the trail to a state correctional facility and a schizophrenic inmate who may be her mother. This opens the cobwebbed pages of a nightmarish family album and leads Isles to a remote cabin in Maine where the long-dead body of a pregnant woman is discovered buried in the woods. The killer, Isles discovers, has been murdering pregnant women for decades, making periodic sweeps of the country. Meanwhile, brief scenes chronicle the diabolical kidnapping of an affluent pregnant housewife who is kept buried in a crude coffin. An electric series of startling twists, the revelation of ghoulishly practical motives and a nail-biting finale make this Gerritsen's best to date. 

I'm reading this series out of order, but that doesn't seem to hurt the main story lines.  

Like the others that I've ready by Tess Gerritsen, this was another straight forward mysteries.  They aren't incredibly deep, and I suspect that anybody who tried very hard could probably solve the mystery without too much trouble before it's spelled out for them.  They work for me, though.  I like to read for an hour or two each evening as a means to relax and let all the thoughts from the day go.  This series as fit the bill for that almost perfectly.

I will say that this one was maybe my least favourite of the series so far, in that so much has been happening to Maura and/or Jane (the two main characters in the series) that I'm already having to suspend some serious disbelief while reading them.  However, I do enjoy them.  I whipped through this one in a couple of evenings.

The Sinner, by Tess Gerritsen ****

I feel like I've started and stopped reading a number of books lately, and if I don't get past the first chapter, I haven't been writing about them here.  (It might be my mood that's the problem, not the books.)  Regardless, I was happy when I found a bunch of Tess Gerritsen books for $5 a pop.  I  knew they'd hold my attention, so I snapped them all up.    I just realized that I'm almost finished the third in the pile and haven't written anything about them here, so here goes:

Tess Gerritsen's The Sinner:

A grisly murder at a convent baffles Medical Examiner Maura Isles and Det. Jane Rizzoli at the start of this assured, richly shaded seventh novel from bestseller Gerritsen (The Apprentice; The Surgeon, etc.). The popular duo are called to Boston's Graystones Abbey when two nuns are discovered in an abandoned chapel, one dead and the other near death, both brutally bludgeoned. Red herrings are everywhere: Isles's discovery that one of the murdered nuns had recently given birth (followed shortly by the discovery of the baby's body in a pond near the convent); the murder of a homeless derelict with her face and extremities removed by her killer; and the lurking menace of a multinational chemical company. Complicating matters further is the sudden arrival of Isles's ex-husband, Victor, a celebrity humanitarian with his own suspicious connection to the case, and Rizzoli's old flame, FBI agent Gabriel Dean, who's responsible for the baby now growing in Rizzoli's belly. The investigation is rather low-key, but Gerritsen gives atmospheric depth to her tale with descriptions of snowbound Boston and an exotic past tragedy. Isles's pleasantly bitchy coldness ("Go ahead and pass me, idiots. I've met too many drivers like you on my slab") gives a welcome edge to the proceedings, and the struggles of both Isles and Rizzoli to balance their tough professional acts with romantic drama are satisfyingly gritty.

Good Book.  It was nothing heavy, but an entertaining, quick read.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Smokin' Seventeen, by Janet Evanovich ***

Dead bodies are showing up in shallow graves on the empty construction lot of Vincent Plum Bail Bonds. No one is sure who the killer is, or why the victims have been offed, but what is clear is that Stephanie’s name is on the killer’s list. Short on time to find the murderer, Stephanie is also under pressure from family and friends to choose between her on-again-off-again boyfriend, Trenton cop Joe Morelli, and the bad boy in her life, security expert Ranger. Stephanie’s mom wants her to dump them both for a former high school football star who’s just returned to town. Stephanie’s sidekick, Lula, suggests a red-hot boudoir “bake-off.” And Joe’s old-world grandmother gives Stephanie “the eye,” which may mean that it’s time to get out of town.
With a cold-blooded killer after her, a handful of hot men, and a capture list that includes a dancing bear and a senior citizen vampire, Stephanie’s life looks like it’s about to go up in smoke

Let's call these books what they are:  The 'By the Numbers' series by Janet Evanovich is purely bubble gum escapism.  There's little to no substance to the books, but they're fun to read.  This one was exactly what I expected after reading the others - a little bit of male fantasy (Will she pick with Joe or Ranger?  Would I pick Joe or Ranger?) and a fair bit of funny.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Reversal, by Michael Connelly ****

Longtime defense attorney Mickey Haller is recruited to change stripes and prosecute the high-profile retrial of a brutal child murder. After 24 years in prison, convicted killer Jason Jessup has been exonerated by new DNA evidence. Haller is convinced Jessup is guilty, and he takes the case on the condition that he gets to choose his investigator, LAPD Detective Harry Bosch. Together, Bosch and Haller set off on a case fraught with political and personal danger. 
Opposing them is Jessup, now out on bail, a defense attorney who excels at manipulating the media, and a runaway eyewitness reluctant to testify after so many years. With the odds and the evidence against them, Bosch and Haller must nail a sadistic killer once and for all. If Bosch is sure of anything, it is that Jason Jessup plans to kill again.
I think I've got a new author on my list of favourites.  I've known about Michael Connelly for some time, but hadn't read his books until this year.  While I enjoyed 'The Lincoln Lawyer', I think The Reversal was even better.

It's a mystery and a legal thriller, all wrapped into one. It was maybe a little bit procedural, but I think court stories have to be by nature.  I thought it was a highly entertaining, easy read, and I'm definitely going to go looking for the next in the series.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, by Jonathan Safran Foer **

Book Description:
Oskar Schell, hero of this brilliant follow-up to Foer's bestselling Everything Is Illuminated, is a nine-year-old amateur inventor, jewelry designer, astrophysicist, tambourine player and pacifist. Like the second-language narrator of Illuminated, Oskar turns his na├»vely precocious vocabulary to the understanding of historical tragedy, as he searches New York for the lock that matches a mysterious key left by his father when he was killed in the September 11 attacks, a quest that intertwines with the story of his grandparents, whose lives were blighted by the firebombing of Dresden. Foer embellishes the narrative with evocative graphics, including photographs, colored highlights and passages of illegibly overwritten text, and takes his unique flair for the poetry of miscommunication to occasionally gimmicky lengths, like a two-page soliloquy written entirely in numerical code. Although not quite the comic tour de force that Illuminated was, the novel is replete with hilarious and appalling passages, as when, during show-and-tell, Oskar plays a harrowing recording by a Hiroshima survivor and then launches into a Poindexterish disquisition on the bomb's "charring effect." It's more of a challenge to play in the same way with the very recent collapse of the towers, but Foer gambles on the power of his protagonist's voice to transform the cataclysm from raw current event to a tragedy at once visceral and mythical. Unafraid to show his traumatized characters' constant groping for emotional catharsis, Foer demonstrates once again that he is one of the few contemporary writers willing to risk sentimentalism in order to address great questions of truth, love and beauty. 

I decided to throw in the towel on this book last night, after a second failed attempt to get through it. The dialogue was hard to follow - whole converstations would occur in one paragraph, and I'd have to jump back and forth to try to figure out who was saying what.  And, I found the characters to be weird... if I encountered them on the street, I'd probably cross the road.  It's too bad, because I thought this one had potential.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Next Accident, by Lisa Gardner ***

This thriller has just the right mix of suspense, intrigue, and murder, topped off with a little romance to make it sizzle. Pierce Quincy, hard-boiled FBI agent, and Rainie Conner, ex-cop turned P.I., team up to catch the perpetrator of several ingenious murders. The psychopath staged the death of Quincy's daughter Amanda, then his ex-wife, and is now going after Quincy's remaining daughter, Kimberly.

I picked up this book because I'd read a few from Gardner's Det. DD Warren series and liked them. This one wasn't part of that series, but it was pretty good - it was an original storyline, I thought. I don't think the mystery was a great shock when it was solved, but the story kept me interested.

The one complaint that I have was the references to a dream that the one character (Raine) was having about a baby elephant... I can't tell you specifics because I flipped past it, but suffice to say that the baby suffered. I don't think that it added anything to the storyline, and I wish it had been left out.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Surgeon, by Tess Gerritsen ****

A serial killer is on the loose in Boston. The victims are killed in a particularly nasty way: cut with a scalpel on the stomach, the intestines and uterus removed, and then the throat slashed. The killer obviously has medical knowledge and has been dubbed "the Surgeon" by the media. Detective Thomas Moore and his partner Rizzoli of the Boston Homicide Unit have discovered something that makes this case even more chilling. Years ago in Savannah a serial killer murdered in exactly the same way. He was finally stopped by his last victim who shot him as he tried to cut her. That last victim is Dr Catherine Cordell, who now works as a cardiac surgeon at one of Boston's prestigious hospitals. As the murders continue, it becomes obvious that the killer is drawing closer and closer to Dr Cordell, who is becoming so frightened that she is virtually unable to function. But she is the only person who can help the police catch this copycat killer. Or is it a copycat? To complicate matters even further, Detective Moore, often referred to as Saint Thomas as he continues to mourn the loss of his wife, is getting emotionally involved with the doctor.
This book has languished at the back of my closet, unread for months.  I thought that it was a mystery-romance, heavier on the romance, so I was in no rush to read it.  The reason why I picked it up is because I just saw the show "Rizzolli and Isles" for the first time and quite liked it - and apparently the show is based on the series of books that started with this one.

This was a good, somewhat procedural, mystery novel.  I whipped through it in a couple of hours.  There were no big surprises, and I felt almost no connection to the main characters.  However, it was an easy, entertaining read.