Fiction Reviews 1-7000: 1998-2013

1st To Die by James Patterson: First of a brand new series, set in San Francisco with a woman cop as the main character. Enough twists and turns, gristly murders and nasty sexual stuff to keep me riveted for a few hours until I reluctantly turned the last page.  Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

2nd Chance by James Patterson & Andrew Gross: Patterson’s best book since, well, 1st To Die. The Women’s Murder Club is back and the bullets are flying. This entertaining thriller is a fast, fun read. Only complaint: there is a new chapter every third page, which translates to two pages of text per chapter. Seriously. That’s way too many chapters. There must be some reason for this, but damned if I know what it is.  Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

4TH OF JULY by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro: Detective Lindsay Boxer is in trouble and in danger. Her trouble comes from a shooting incident for which she is being sued. Lindsay tries to get away from it by going to her sister’s home at Half Moon Bay which puts her in danger from following up on a ten year old unsolved murder from her rookie days. The setting is appropriate for what is almost a beach read, albeit an entertaining one. Interestingly the why of the various murders seems to jump out much sooner than the whodunit. While the mystery of who really writes these books remains unsolved, Lindsay does survive the other challenges. Recommended. 06/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

THE 6th TARGET by James Patterson & Maxine Paetro: The latest from Patterson, Inc. starts with a shooting on a San Francisco ferry. Four are killed and Women’s Murder Club member and San Francisco Medical Examiner Clair Washburn is critically injured. Just as fellow Women’s Murder Clubber Lindsay Boxer and her new partner at SFPD get on the trail of the shooter, a news challenge erupts. Someone is kidnapping the children of the rich and their nannies – and they are not demanding ransom. And then there’s even more danger. Either you like these fast paced procedural/thriller/semi-mysteries or you don’t. I do, and I also like an occasional chocolate dipped soft ice cream cone. James Patterson is re-investing a lot in the industry, so grab a copy and be lightly entertained for an hour or so. 07/07 Jack Quick

7 DEADLY WONDERS by Matthew Reilly: The race is on to find the seven pieces of the Golden Capstone that once sat atop the Great Pyramid at Giza. Two millennia ago, Alexander the Great broke the Capstone into seven pieces and hid them in the seven ancient wonders of the world. According to legend, whoever finds and replaces them during a rare solar event called “Tartarus Rotation” (predicted for March 20, 2006) could secure a thousand-year reign of absolute power. Among the contenders are the United States, a coalition of European nations (and the Vatican), an Islamic terrorist group, and a team of smaller nations (including Canada, Ireland and New Zealand) led by Australian Jack West Jr. The Europeans and the U.S. want the Capstone for their own benefit, while West’s noble team believes it’s too potent to belong to any one superpower. Obviously, the date has come and gone, but maybe they didn’t have the right date after all. In the event of stoppage of breathing oxygen masks will drop down. Secure your mask before resuming reading. 07/06 Jack Quick

7th HEAVEN by James Patterson: Remember when reading a James Patterson book was an experience. You hoped for a long weekend so you could enjoy it. Today the books bearing Patterson’s name are like the 100-calorie snack bags – tantalizing but hardly satisfying. Two high profile cases occupy San Francisco homicide inspector Lindsay Boxer and partner Rich Conklin. One involves the disappearance of the teenage son of a former California governor – think Jon Benet Ramsey without a corpse. Also there is a serial arsonist at work responsible for the deaths of a string of wealthy couples. The two cases twist and turn before reaching their appointed end in the required number of pages. Maybe you will want to just catch this one on television – on a slow night. 07/08 Jack Quick

7 SOULS by Barnabas Miller & Jordan Orlando: Mary’s seventeenth birthday is not going down the way she’d expected. She’d thought that she would be inundated with well wishes, showered with gifts, and basically made to feel like the most special girl in the world on “her day.” What she got instead was an embarrassing wake up call: naked and locked inside a Crate & Barrel. Then, when she arrives on campus, her boyfriend dumps her and not one person acknowledges her birthday. Making matters worse is the fact that she’s been having strange episodes paired with visions of a weird house. But it’s when Mary is murdered that she has to admit this has officially been the worst birthday ever. Forced to relive the day of her death through the eyes of seven people, Mary must try and figure out what’s going on if she has any hope of saving herself. To be honest, this was a fascinating concept that didn’t completely work for me. In truth, though, it is a teen thriller that will probably be well received by its intended audience. It’s certainly an original plot, but felt a bit like a paranormal twist onGossip Girl. 07/10 Becky Lejeune

THE 8TH CONFESSION by James Patterson: San Francisco Police Detective. Lindsay Boxer is searching for a killer whose victims are all well-off and have no signs of violence on their bodies. Eventually the trail leads to a perp using a krait, a rare Indian snake, to poison the victims. Meanwhile, journalist Cindy Thomas is pressing the police to devote resources to a low priority murder – that of a homeless man known as Bagman Jesus, whose real name is a mystery. It’s all kind of what you have come to expect from Patterson, Inc. I think I’ll add this series to the other Patterson’s which no longer hold my interest. 07/09 Jack Quick

9 DRAGONS by Michael Connelly: Harry Bosch has a partner he’s not inordinately fond of and a case that he feels is beneath him when a liquor store owner, John Li, is killed during a robbery. Harry’s partner has chained himself to the desk, too scared after recovering from a shooting incident to get back on the streets again. Luckily Harry has help from the Asian Gang Unit to try and solve the murder. But this case turns out to have far reaching implications that Harry never thought possible – especially when his daughter, who lives in Hong Kong, gets involved. 9 Dragons is very gritty, at times heart wrenching, and faster paced than usual. This may be the best Bosch yet. 10/09 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

9 DRAGONS by Michael Connelly: The latest Harry Bosch mystery, 9 Dragons, not only shows the homicide detective at his most irascible, but is also a fine piece of crime fiction. It recalls several formative episodes in his life (tunnel rat in Viet Nam, the Angel’s Flight case, and his romance with Eleanor Wish) and may foreshadow some major changes for him.As the story opens, Harry is assigned to investigate the murder of a Chinese liquor store owner, John Li. One of Harry’s guiding principles is that he believes that every homicide victim deserves justice and it is his job to see that that is done. He is very short with other policemen who feel less strongly – like his partner. That desire is intensified in this case because Harry had taken refuge in this liquor store during a riot many years ago and had been befriended by Mr. Li. The investigation suggests that this was not a “smash and grab” gone wrong, but may have been connected to a regular program of triad shakedowns.As soon as this possibility is revealed, Harry gets a message that he should back off and then is told that his daughter living in Hong Kong with her mother has been kidnapped. He is given leave to fly to Hong Kong to attempt to rescue her. The mother, Eleanor Wish, is a former FBI agent who is now making a very nice living playing cards for the house in an opulent Hong Kong casino. Harry, Eleanor, and her new companion set out to track the daughter down. The resulting drama is tightly drawn, with plenty of surprises and nasty turns along the way.I was initially drawn to this series because Mr. Connelly really gets policemen right. With his ex-reporter’s eye, he is dead on in his descriptions of controlling attitudes and often unpleasant personalities. And he is just as good with his descriptions of police protocol and politicking, criminal behavior and the local neighborhoods in Los Angeles. But it seems to me now that he is giving Harry more of a human side. In other words, I think that Mr. Connelly is morphing from a reporter into a writer concerned with the subtleties of the human heart. I can’t wait for the next book. 1/09 Geoffrey R. Hamlin

9 DRAGONS by Michael Connelly: Imagine Dave Robicheaux in Paris, Stephanie Plum in Ethiopia, or Dragnet’s Sergeant Friday in Oslo. Now think Harry Bosch in Hong Kong. In this 14th Bosch outing, Connelly sends him overseas in a tightly wound thriller that, while interesting, just doesn’t feel totally correct. Bosch is called out to investigate the shooting death of a Chinese liquor store owner and discovers the dead man was paying a weekly protection fee to a man Bosch suspects is part of a Chinese triad. When Bosch doesn’t back off as warned, the triad kidnaps his 13-year-old daughter, Madeline, who lives in Hong Kong with her mother – Bosch’s ex-wife, a former FBI agent. Bosch flies to Hong Kong to try to rescue Madeline in 39 hours and get back to the United States to keep the triad bad guy in jail and while Bosch is Bosch, the pace is more DaVinci Code or Mission Impossible which takes away from some of Connelly’s adept character development. If you are Connelly fan, 9 Dragons is acceptable, but if you are not familiar with Connelly, don’t judge him solely on this outing. 01/10 Jack Quick

11/22/63 by Stephen King: Jake Epping is just your average English teacher until he’s given a chance to go back and change history. Al Templeton has discovered something amazing in the back room of his diner. It’s a door of sorts that leads straight to 1958. In fact, it always leads to 1958 and every new entry is a complete reset. But by the time Al himself has come up with a plan that could change present day for the better, he hasn’t got time left to put it in play. Al is dying and Jake is his only hope. As a local with no ties, a fairly young man, and a friend, Al turns to Jake as his alternate. By showing Jake the door and giving him a taste of what could be, Al convinces him to take on the task: Jake is to go back to 1958 and stop the Kennedy assassination that will occur in 1963. To succeed, Jake will have to live in the past, taking on a new identity, and studying the movements of the key players. Fortunately, Al did his homework well, but it is Jake who will have to come up with—and follow through on—a plan that will alter the course of history. King never ceases to amaze me. In a typical time travel plot, there are always holes if the reader looks close enough. King’s solution and answer to those (which I won’t tell) works great. As a storyteller, he never ceases to amaze me. This is another one to add to my favorites list. 12/11 Becky Lejeune

12 DRUMMERS DRUMMING by Diane Deverell: e-book also available in hardcover. Kathryn Collins is a state Department Foreign Officer who, with lover Stefan, a former Polish agent who defected to the US, broke up a terrorist operation some years ago. Now Global Flight 500 explodes over Scotland in an eerie duplication of the Pan Am flight over Lockerbie. Kathryn is afraid Stefan was on the flight, but when she tries to check into it, the FBI becomes convinced she and possibly Stefan in fact were involved in the bombing. They threaten to subpoena her and have arranged for a suspension of her security clearance. She knows she must get out of the country if she has any hope of finding out what has happened to Stefan. Well written and action packed. 10/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

13 BULLETS by David Wellington: Jameson Arkeley thought he had essentially eliminated vampires when he fought Piter Byron Lares in 1983. He was wrong. Politics prevented him from killing the last vampire, a woman named Justinia Malvern. Due to the increased need for blood as they age, Malvern was unable to kill on her own. As a result, it was determined that killing her would actually be murder. The government has kept her alive all this time, studying her and feeding her. Unfortunately, they also unknowingly allowed her to create a new brood of vamps that are determined to free their master. Pennsylvania State Trooper Laura Caxton was working a routine DUI screening stop when a driver took flight. According to Caxton, this is a rather routine occurrence when a driver fears that they will not pass the sobriety test. What happened next, was not so routine. The trunk of the car was filled with the mutilated dead bodies of a hunter and his family. The driver ran on foot and left behind a still moving arm. Enter US Marshll Arekely, the vampire expert. Much to her dismay, Arekely enlists Caxton as his partner in the investigation. At first, she believes him when he says that this is because she has read up on his past. She soon discovers that Arkeley’s motives are much more self-serving. The vamps have a strange interest in Caxton and Arekely plans on using her as bait to draw them in. Like his zombie trilogy, Wellington’s tales are amped up versions of classic horror subjects. He has a real talent for making them new and refreshing for fans of the genre. It’s Dracula on steroids mixed with a bit of police procedural and enough blood and guts to please today’s horror fans. 06/07 Becky Lejeune

13 DAYS: THE PYTHAGORAS CONSPIRACY by L.A. Starks: Gasoline at $10 per gallon??? Lynn Dayton manages six vast complexes that transform oil into gasoline. Robert Guillard, a suave Parisian intellectual, directs the sabotage of US refineries, one by one. Robert schemes to coerce Lynn into collaborating as he pursues his outwardly humanitarian goal of building refineries in Third World countries. If she refuses, he will hold hostage her sister, Ceil Dayton, whom he has lured to Paris. An industrial accident at Lynn’s troubled Houston refinery arouses her suspicions. Government officials conclude routine negligence caused the accident, but her own investigation leads Lynn to suspect sabotage. Within a few days, explosions and fires at nearby refineries claim victims. The resulting fuel shortage affects the lives of everyone in North America. Then Lynn is kidnapped. She fights for her life on a catwalk above a storage tank of hot, sulfurous oil and escapes. Deciphering the full extent of Robert’s scheme, she flies to Paris. But will she be in time to derail Robert’s plans and save her sister? Kind of a reverse femjep. 10/06 Jack Quick

13 TO LIFE by Shannon Delany: It’s only been a few months since the accident that killed Jessie Gillmansen’s mother. Things have been tough, but she’s been making it: she still crushes on the heartthrob football player, who seems to be paying more attention to her lately, and she’s got her friends for support. But when Pietr Rusakova moves to town, Jessie’s world begins to turn upside down. She tries to deny her feelings for him and control her curiosity about him, but inevitably the two are drawn together. Is their connection strong enough to survive the revelation of Pietr’s family secrets? 13 to Life is a teen read with werewolves and Russian mobsters. It’s also the first in a series and it’s obvious—much of the story is setup, which throws the pacing off a bit in my opinion. The promise of more Russian folklore is intriguing, though, and the action of the last twenty pages should lead directly into book two. 09/11 Becky Lejeune

14 by J.T. Ellison: Lieutenant Taylor Jackson is just days from walking down the aisle when she’s called to the scene of a gruesome murder. Strangely, the MO resembles that of a serial killer who struck Tennessee in the early 80’s. Dubbed the Snow White Killer thanks to his dark haired, pale skinned victims, and his penchant for smearing bright red lipstick across their faces, he left behind ten victims before apparently throwing in the towel; he was never caught. Has Snow White reemerged after such a long break or are they facing a copycat. Then new evidence is found to support the copycat theory and Jackson and her team are faced with uncovering both of the killers’ identities in order to solve the case. With just two titles released, J.T. Ellison has proven herself to be one of the best new thriller authors out there. Her characters are solid and her plots are refreshingly original – and what a great ending. The third title in the series, Judas Kiss, is due out next spring. 09/08 Becky Lejeune

14 by J.T. Ellison: In the mid 1980’s a serial killer, dubbed the Snow White Killer, terrorized Nashville, Tennessee. There were ten victims, each with pale skin and long dark hair, slashed across the throat, with the same red lipstick smeared across their lips. Then the murders stopped. Now as Homicide Lieutenant Taylor Jackson is finalizing her wedding plans four more bodies are found, marked with the same fatal signature. Is the Snow White Killer back, or is it a copycat killer? What about Jackson’s father who has disappeared off his boat? Interesting follow-up to All the Pretty Girls. 07/09 Jack Quick

15 SECONDS by Andrew Gross: It starts out with two seemingly unrelated events. First, 19 year old Amanda Hofer, stoned on prescription drugs, is involved in a traffic accident that kills a mother and her young son, a child never seen by his father who is serving in Afghanistan. Then a Doctor is stopped in Jacksonville, Florida, in a seemingly meaningless traffic stop. Things get ugly when backup cops arrive but eventually everything settles down. Doctor Henry Steadman thinks he is going to get off with a warning. But then a blue sedan drives by and shots ring out. The policeman who stopped Dr. Steadman is dead, and Steadman knows there are a bunch of policemen who think he is the killer, so he runs to the only friend he has in Jacksonville. When he gets there he finds his friend shot to death. From there on, things only get progessively worse for Henry Steadman. On the run and cut off from the help he needs, Steadman’s only hope is a Jacksonville Community Relations officer who seems to be the only one willing to not pass judgment on Steadman’s guilt or innocence. Will that be enough? Andrew Gross cut his teeth co-authoring with James Patterson but has certainly come into his own. This one puts the thrill in thriller as a diabolical plot unfolds trapping the guilty and the innocent in a maze from which there appears to be no exit. Yes there are parts that are “over the top” but isn’t that true of most thrillers? That is part of what makes them so exciting. This one was unputdownable. 5/13 Jack Quick

15 SECONDS by Andrew Gross: Gross came upon the literary scene primarily through several novels written in collaboration with James Patterson. He has currently written several novels under his own name and been able to put together plots and situations that instantly capture the reader’s attention. 15 Seconds, his latest book, continues in the same vein as the previous novels. Suspenseful, riveting and pulling the reader into the story almost upon opening the book. The first section of the novel puts together a sequence of events that, the principal character, Dr. Henry Steadman finds incredulous. A successful Florida plastic surgeon, he is arriving to deliver the keynote address at a conference in the Carolinas. Upon getting off the plane and driving towards his hotel, and a prearranged game of golf, he is pulled over by a policeman and accused of unstated crimes. Several of the officer’s colleagues drive up and continue the browbeating, than drive away. The original officer moves back to his car, and is suddenly shot and killed by person or persons unknown. Henry rightly does not know what has just happened but feeling that he will be blamed for the murder runs away. The remainder of the first part deals with subsequent, unexplained events that seem to involve Henry more and more into criminal activities. The second section of the book explains and provides the reasons for the continuing attacks on Dr. Steadman but rather than allowing the reader some breathing room drives up the pace even more. The approach to the truth is logical and follows section one quite neatly. Along the way, Henry finds an ally in the person of a young woman that has just returned to work at her job as a publicist with the local police department after going through personal tragedies of her own. Via contact on the phone she realizes the truth of the accusations against Henry, and helps him. Dr Steadman is divorced and the developing romance between the two is a logical adjunct of the story. Engrossing, filled with constant action and definitely a book that can’t be put down, 15 Seconds continues Andrew Gross’ steady rise in the literary world. 8/12 Paul Lane

18 SECONDS by George D. Shuman: Blind and beautiful Sherry Moore has an epileptic type condition that gives her an extraordinary talent. Each of us has approximately 18 seconds of short term memory “present” in our brain at all times. At death, those “final” 18 seconds are stored in the brain. Moore, because of her condition, can “see” these final moments by touching the deceased corpse. This is not without pain, however, as she “relives” those moments in her own mind, a debilitating and terrifying experience. Earl Sykes was imprisoned thirty years ago but is now on the streets of Wildwood, New Jersey, abducting and killing young women. Police Lieutenant Kelly O’Shaughnessy is puzzled by the sudden disappearance of several young females from the boardwalk – crimes reminiscent of a series of unsolved disappearances in the seventies. Eventually she enlists the aid of Moore in a desperate attempt to end the bloodshed. Although a bit of “woo-woo,” I found the book to be well written and intriguing, but not for the faint of heart. Hopefully, there will be more from this ex-Washington, DC Metro Police veteran. 06/07 Jack Quick

20TH CENTURY GHOSTS by Joe Hill: A great short story must accomplish in roughly twenty pages what a full-length novel takes time to develop. It’s not an easy task. Many authors refuse to even try their hands at short fiction. Some, however, have truly mastered the effort and Joe Hill falls into this category of talent. This award winning collection features a wide array of stories. Some are bloody and shocking while others are more sweet and sentimental. In “20thCentury Ghost” a haunted theater is celebrated by years of patrons who were touched by its ghostly visitor. In “The Cape” a child’s fantasy becomes a reality that haunts him into adulthood. And, in “Last Breath,” a macabre museum is more than meets the eye. Each story is an absolute gem that proves Joe Hill is new talent to be reckoned with. Not only can he create chilling tales of horror like that of “Best New Horror” – a story that is more than a little reminiscent of the southern gothic trend – but he also brings together long separated lovers for one afternoon of what-ifs in “Bobby Conroy Comes Back From the Dead.” I highly recommend this collection to all readers. Not only is this a perfect introduction to an amazing author, read one at a time, these short tales provide an entertaining break in a busy day. 10/07 Becky Lejeune

THE 25TH HOUR by David Benioff: I don’t think I have ever read a book quite like this one. Monty Brogan is a 27-year-old drug dealer who will enter Otisville Federal Prison tomorrow to do seven years hard time. Monty really wanted to be a fireman, but fell in love with “sway,” the deference afforded a young man with important connections. That led him to selling drugs for Uncle Blue in Manhattan. His buddy, maverick bond trader Frank Slattery, thirsts for serenity, while fighting his covert lust for Monty’s Puerto Rican girlfriend. Despite Monty’s dismal future, shy Jakob Elinsky, an ethical, awkward high school English teacher, envies his friend’s self-assurance with women as he struggles to control his own secret hunger for a talented writing student, 17-year-old Mary D’Annunzio. The three friends spend one last night together dancing and drinking at Uncle Blue’s nightclub. It’s all about lost youth and what might have been, if different paths had been taken. Very well done. 06/10 Jack Quick

31 BOND STREET by Ellen Horan: The murder of Harvey Burdell and the trial that followed captivated New Yorkers in 1857. The murdered dentist, Burdell, shared his home with Emma Cunningham, a widow without means of her own and in search of a husband. Emma was accused and prosecuted for the murder. Now, the case is brought to life once again in Ellen Horan’s masterful debut. Attorney Henry Clinton hears of the case and receives a note from Emma that prompts him to come to her defense. His decision to take on the case, and the popular district attorney, severs his partnership at his law firm. Not one to be that easily deterred, Clinton vows to fight for justice for his client. But the question that Clinton, and the citizens of New York, have to ask themselves is whether Emma Cunningham is really capable of murder or if she’s become an unfortunate victim of the justice system. Much of the mystery is ripped straight from the actual 19th-century headlines. Horan’s impressive twisting of the actual case and politics of the time period makes 31 Bond Street a definite stand out. Historical mystery fans take note, this is one you won’t want to miss. 03/10 Becky Lejeune

47 RULES OF HIGHLY EFFECTIVE BANK ROBBERS by Troy Cook: This debut novel about a father training his 9-year-old daughter in bank robbery is zany black comedy at its best. Wyatt Evans is a brilliant psychopath who has made a career out of robbing banks. Along the way, he killed his wife and taught his daughter the 47 rules of the family business. But by the time Tara is 23, she is chafing under her father’s rigid, psychotic thumb and wondering if it is time to move out on her own. Then she meets Max, who empathizes with Tara as he has a nut of a father himself, although on the other side of the law – his father is the Sheriff. Meanwhile Wyatt is heading the FBI’s ten most wanted list, Tara & Max take off and Wyatt, the Sheriff and the FBI are all on the chase. 47 Rules is well written, original, clever and laugh out loud funny – don’t miss it. 07/06 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

47 RULES OF HIGHLY EFFECTIVE BANK ROBBERS by Troy Cook: As they rehearse a bank robbery, nine year old Tara to her father Wyatt, “How come they don’t make a Bank Robber Barbie?” Wyatt’s response, “It’s that damn Corporate America! They’re trying to warp your fragile little mind.” Further advice from Wyatt Evans to his daughter, “You keep your gun pointed straight at him and say anything you want. The crazier the better…The crazier you are, the more respect you get. This is one of life’s lessons here, so remember it.” With this for a beginning, it’s no wonder that Troy Cook’s debut has created a storm. Tara grows up but doesn’t outgrow her raising, which makes for an interesting story of the two most unlikely bank robbers since Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. You have to love it, even when Tara falls in love with the son of the local sheriff. Like Wyatt says, “It’s always something.” 12/06 Jack Quick

THE 47TH SAMURAI by Stephen Hunter: Retired Marine Corps sniper Bob Lee “The Nailer” Swagger, now in his sixties, returns in this thriller that began some sixty years ago on Iwo Jima when his father Earl won the Medal of Honor. Philip Yato is the son of the Japanese officer who commanded the bunker, which was the basis of that skirmish. He has come to America seeking the family sword taken into battle by his father and brought home by Swagger Senior. It turns out there is more to the sword which leads to a series of terrible crimes with Swagger deeply involved. Another first rate outing from Hunter who has so skillfully told the story of three generations of Swaggers. 07/08 Jack Quick

61 HOURS by Lee Child: Jack Reacher is back and in fine form in this latest outing. This time he’s caught a ride on a tour bus but it spins out on the ice and he lands in Boulton, South Dakota. After helping the senior citizens off the bus, Reacher realizes something is going on in this small town. The local police are trying to deal with guarding a retired librarian turned states witness and there appears to be a huge meth lab on the outskirts of town at an abandoned military installation, run by a motorcycle gang at the behest of a Mexican drug lord. The cops are also on call for the federal penitentiary that employs most of the town; seems the mayor agreed to have every cop in town at the beck and call of the prison warden in the event of an emergency. It doesn’t take Reacher long to get involved with the local police department, using his military connections to help with the meth lab problem and taking his turn guarding the witness. Not quite as action packed as previous Reacher novels, yet nonetheless this is a page turner of the finest kind. 05/10 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

61 HOURS by Lee Child: All the action in this 14th Jack Reacher adventure occurs in just 61 hours, hence the title of the book. Reacher appears early on as a passenger in a tour bus that skids off the road and crashes near Bolton, S.Dak., a tiny burg with big problems. A highly sophisticated methamphetamine lab run by a vicious Mexican drug cartel with bikers as security has begun operating outside town at an abandoned military facility. Additionally they are the site of both a Federal and a State prison facility with a mutual aid compact that requires 100% participation by the Bolton police department in the event of an escape. That would greatly hinder their current top priority, safe guarding the life of a sweet little old lady who is the key to their shutting down the biker meth operation. After figuring out the snow-bound, marooned Reacher’s smart, great with weapons, and capable of tapping military intelligence, the helpless local cops enlist his assistance, and, as always, that get the full measure of our wandering hero. Another great Reacher. If you haven’t begun this series, today would be a great day to start. 07/10 Jack Quick

88 WAYS TO DIE by Johnnie Mitchell: Interesting PI tale self-published by the author earlier this year. Black PI Ellis Mason is a small businessman in Chicago in 1988 who gets caught up in a murder case when the girlfriend of his client is killed. As he is pulled deeper and deeper into the matter he hooks up with Brad Royce, a big time agency owner who numbers among his clients a congressional candidate looking for dirt on a rival. It is Chicago, after all, so, its not surprising that Mason and Royce are soon swimming upstream in a river of murder, greed, and political corruption. As with many self- published efforts, this book could have benefited from some tighter editing, more street time and less “bed time.” I hope Mr. Mitchell does well enough to produce some more, as Mason could potentially be Chicago’s answer to LA’s Eazy Rawlins. 10/07 Jack Quick

172 HOURS ON THE MOON by Johan Harstad: In the years since Apollo 11, NASA has made great effort to return to the moon. That effort has finally become a reality and will be the opportunity of a lifetime for three teens. A new mission has been set and three teens from around the globe will be randomly selected to accompany a team traveling to DARLAH-2, a modular space station built at the site of that original moon landing. The station has been unmanned until now but has always been meant for use during longterm missions. The team, including the teens, will test the facility and make sure everything is set for future use. But the mission isn’t that straightforward. There’s a reason moon missions have been delayed for so long. Is the world ready for the secrets NASA has been hiding all these years? Space horror is something I love, in theory, but have seen very little of. And what’s out there tends to be great or greatly terrible. Fortunately Harstad’s teen moon horror falls into the former category. The characters are a bit formulaic at the outset, but once the story picks up and the uber creepy atmosphere takes over, 172 Hours on the Moon becomes an ultimate win in my opinion. 3/13 Becky Lejeune

212 by Alafair Burke: 212 is the area code for Manhattan and also the “name” of a swanky New York apartment building developed by Donald Trump clone Sam Sparks. When Sparks’ bodyguard, Robert “Robo” Mancini, is found murdered in Sparks’ penthouse apartment, Sparks reaction seems to be too over the top forNYPD Detective Ellie Hatcher. Hatcher’s aggressive pushing of the case ends up costing her a night in jail on a contempt citation, and a stern warning to stay away from Sparks. But when Hatcher and her partner, J.J. Rogan, begin investigating the murder of NYU student Megan Gunther, the target of threatening posts on a college gossip Web site, they discover a link between the student and a recently murdered real estate agent. Are all three connected in some way? Was the real estate agent really moonlighting as a prostitute? Just like her dad, James Lee Burke, you can count on a full book’s worth of excitement from Alafair. Highly recommended. 04/10 Jack Quick

212 by Alafair Burke: In the beginning of 212, the latest Ellie Hatcher thriller, a body is found in a rich real estate mogul’s apartment. Ellie and her partner, J.J. Rogan, are sent to investigate and Ellie promptly arrests the exec for disturbing her scene. The fallout from that action is swift and though Ellie suspects the man may have had a hand in the murder, the man’s become all but off limits. A few months later, the case still open and no concrete leads to speak of, Ellie and Rogan are sent to a new scene. This time, a college coed and her roommate have been brutally attacked, the roommate barely survives and the other girl is pronounced dead on the scene. Turns out, the girl was being harassed on a popular college gossip site. She and her parents approached the police just one day before the murder and were told there was nothing they could do. With two high-profile cases weighing heavy on her, Ellie has her hands full, but she is dead-set on solving them both. Though this is the third in the series, readers who are new to Burke can jump right in without missing a beat. I’m looking forward to going back to Ellie’s beginnings until I can see what’s in store for her next. 03/10 Becky Lejeune

THE 731 LEGACY by Lynn Sholes & Joe Moore: Black Needles is the code name for an ancient virus discovered by an ultra-secret Japanese WWII Unit. Now it is the hands of the North Koreans, specifically a descendent of the original Japanese Unit 731 with a grudge against the world and Americans in particular. A dying man, an early victim of Black Needles, makes his way to SNN headquarters, where he delivers a mysterious message to Cotten Stone with his final breath. As Cotton is trying to decipher the meaning of this, her friend, Cardinal John Tyler is kidnapped while on a diplomatic mission to the Eastern European Republic of Moldova. Cotton rushes to Europe and there she finds that Black Needles and John’s kidnapping are intertwined. While battling the forces of evil, Cotten fights for her soul as the Nephilim attack the person she loves most in the world. A high-speed continuation of The Grail Conspiracy and very nicely done. 12/08 Jack Quick

7,000 CLAMS by Lee Irby: Frank Hearn was all set to go to Florida with the proceeds from his cache of smuggled Canadian scotch, when it gets taken away from him. There is little left for him to do but steal a $7,000 IOU from the one and only Babe Ruth and set out for Florida to cash in. Babe’s IOU is actually a gambling debt owed to a underworld boss, and before it makes front-page news, everyone from crooked cops to rabid henchmen get involved. Throw in a botched kidnap attempt and a few gallons of bathtub gin and you have the roaring twenties down pat. A bit uneven, as most first novels are, but captures the spirit of the times quite nicely. Tighter editing should help his next work. 01/06 Jack Quick

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