OATH OF OFFICE by Michael Palmer: Michael Palmer, who is himself an M.D., has written 15 books in the genre of medical suspense, all of them well researched and able to grab the reader and bring him or her right into the story. Oath of Office is no exception. Dr Lou Welcome councils doctors who have run into difficulties based largely on the strains and pressures of their medical practices like alcohol abuse, mental problems and other issues that the huge pressures of their practices can cause. A doctor that Lou has worked with previously suddenly launches a shooting spree while working in his practice, killing several patients, his staff and than turning the gun on himself. Lou is blamed for releasing the doctor before he is was cured. In looking at the facts and causes of this sudden snap, Lou is plunged into several cases of mental snaps resulting in both deaths and great injuries. He isolates the apparent cause of these aberrations to one town and begins to narrow down the source of these mental lapses. In a related situation, the president has discharged from office his Secretary of Agriculture and replaced him. The president’s wife is placed in the position of learning that said Secretary was fired in error and starts her own investigation into the causes of the discharge. Her search and Lou’s investigation merge and both are thrown into a scheme to sell vast quantities of an artificially enhanced corn to China, in which the president is involved. Palmer brings in the possibility that seems to be viable for modern science to enhance one product by injecting the DNA of a living creature, and the actuality of such a project making that product bigger, better and much more abundant than it would normally be. Palmer has a talent for bringing his characters to life, imparting normal human strengths and weaknesses. Oath of Office is no exception, and the protagonists are brought to life during the action grabbing the reader. 3/12 Paul Lane
OBEDIENCE by Will Lavender: Students taking Logic and Reasoning 204 at Winchester University have been handed a strange assignment. They must, using logic, solve the hypothetical kidnapping of a girl named Polly. Each week they will be given a new set of clues and if, at the end of the six-week semester, the class has not solved the case, Polly will be murdered – hypothetically, of course. The assignment begins to bleed into their daily lives, consuming the students. They begin to see clues all around them and some even begin to believe that the case may be more than just some classroom assignment. With the clock ticking, can they really solve the case and maybe prevent a real-life murder? Will Lavender’s electrifying debut is brilliantly constructed. The clues are all there for you, the reader, to figure it out, but I guarantee that you won’t. Simply genius. 03/08 Becky Lejeune
OBIT by Anne Emery: This is the second part of a planned trilogy featuring Canadian criminal lawyer Monty Collins and Father Brennan Burke. In 2006’s Sign of the Cross, Collins clears the priest of murder charges and now sets out to explore the history of Burke’s father with the IRA. Brennan, along with Monty, is scheduled to officiate at the wedding of his niece in New York. Before they leave Halifax, Brennan’s brother Patrick sends him a cryptic obituary that appeared in a New York paper. Their father, Declan Burke, who fled Ireland 40 years earlier, understands it as a threat to his life, and sure enough, Declan is shot and wounded at the wedding. Monty is having his own marital problems while the Brennan family is being torn apart as they search for the truth about Declan’s past. Well written and leaves you ready for the promised third part. 12/07 Jack Quick
OBLIVION by Peter Abrahams: Very different and very interesting story about a private detective, Nick Petrov, son of a former KGB agent. Petrov came to fame for solving a serial killer case which was turned into a movie starring Armand Assante, which lent a touch of realism to the novel in a rather unique way. He is hired to find a missing girl but has health issues that affect his memory, turning a good mystery into something much more complex. Very well done. 06/05
OCEAN WAVES by Terri Thayer: Ah, the things I do for the good of the genre. At least there are no talking cats in Thayer’s latest Quilter’s Paridiso cozy. Dewey Pellicano is planning to mix a little pleasure with business at the Sewing-by-the-Sea Symposium in Asilomar, California, but in a rare free moment, as she sneaks a walk on the beach one foggy morning she witnesses a woman disappear into the Pacific Ocean. Unfortunately, when no body subsequently appears, everyone thinks she imagined the entire thing. Soon after an attendee disappears, an antique sewing kit is stolen, and conference coordinator Martha Madsen is found dead. Dewey must piece together the facts from an odd assortment of clues. (Did I really say that?) At least there is no cover up. With that, I’ve got to go. 04/09 Jack Quick
THE OCTOBER LIST by Jeffrey Deaver: Deaver has written a book in reverse, starting with the final chapter and ending with chapter one. It is definitely not a book that will appeal to everyone. It is something that the reader will either enjoy the technique very much, or dislike it and probably toss the book down in disgust. Gabriela Mckenzie is the office manager of a successful investment management company. She finds that her boss has suddenly disappeared and apparently taken all assets. She is approached by a man that demands a large sum of money from her that her boss owed him, and he wants Gabriela to pay him. To force her to do so he has kidnapped her daughter Sarah and indicates that if she does not find the money to pay him he will kill her daughter. Gabriela has met a man in a bar prior to getting the demand who moves to help her in rescuing her daughter. Her thoughts of him are romantic even with the pressures of rescuing her daughter from the kidnapper and the fact that she does not have the money required nor the means to get it since her ex boss has apparently taken everything before disappearing. The plot is well thought out, very well delineated and easily followed in spite of the book being written in reverse. Characters are fleshed out and in spite of changes in them outlined in the succeeding chapters are believable. A completely surprise ending is logical, and in spite of radically changing events as the book winds backwards very rewarding. An experiment by Deaver, and in my view a good one. As indicated the technique will not be satisfying to everyone, but using an open mind could prove very rewarding. 10/13 Paul Lane
ODD MOM OUT by Jane Porter: This former romance-turned-chick-lit writer switch hits for another solid hit in her newest effort after Flirting with Forty. Marta Zimmer, the “odd mom”, has had her heart broken and sworn off men. Determined to be a mom anyway, she goes the sperm donor route, and creates a very comfortable life for herself and her precocious 9 year old daughter in Manhattan. But her mom is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, and an opportunity arises to set up the Seattle office of the advertising agency she works for out in Seattle near her mom, she jumps on it. But the agency is bought out and the west coast office closed shortly thereafter. Determined to not uproot her daughter again, Marta starts up her own company and finds success, but also loneliness. She doesn’t fit in well with the wealthy suburban moms whose days are filled with nail appointments, the country club and the PTA, but her two best friends from high school, very successful working women, convince her that she can make friends if she tries. Instead, she meets a man, the first man she’s had any interest in since her daughter was born. But the daughter and the career come first, can Marta make it work? Odd Mom Out is a fun read, perfect for whiling away a lazy Indian summer afternoon. (I live in south Florida, lucky for me Indian Summer lasts most of the year!) My only negative comment is that if a character is saying “fuck off” then she should say it, not have it represented like this: “F___ off”. That was just adolescent, disingenuous, and the greatest sin of all for any writer – distracting. 09/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
O’FEAR by Peter Corris: Australian “enquiry agent” Cliff Hardy’s old friend, the shady Kevin O’Fearna, is awaiting trial when Hardy learns the last words of another friend Barnes Todd were “O’Fear”, Kevin’s nickname and hence the title. Todd is a trucking entrepreneur, photographer and painter and has left a note with his lawyer engaging Hardy to look into any accident that might befall him. Todd’s widow agrees and O’Fearna persuades Hardy to put up his bail, but is stabbed before his release. Hardy is being tailed and Todd’s widow’s house in ransacked. Is this all about Barnes Todd’s art or is there something else? Another well-paced outing for what I suspect is Australia’s premier Private Eye. 10/07 Jack Quick
OFF THE CHART by James W. Hall: With this one, you may need a scorecard to keep up with the body count. Thorn has a brief fling with Anne Joy, daughter of a Kentucky pirate wannabe family, who has come to the Keys after her parents are murdered in a drug running dispute. Years later her brother Vic, who has become a “land pirate” of sorts, decides he wants Thorn’s land and doesn’t respond well to Thorn’s refusal to sell. Vic then proceeds to kidnap the nine-year-old daughter of Thorn’s best friend which eventually leads Thorn into all out war against Vic, whose complement of U.S. helicopters and a small army of cutthroat international pirates are not nearly an even match for an enraged Thorn. In addition to pirates on land and sea, murder and mayhem, there are few juicy sex scenes and beautiful descriptions of Key West flora and fauna. What else could you ask for in a book, except perhaps a sequel fairly soon. 07/06 Jack Quick
OFF THE GRID by P.J. Tracy: It starts on a sailboat ten miles off the Florida coast. Grace MacBride, partner in Monkeewrench Software, thwarts an assassination attempt on retired FBI agent John Smith. A few hours later, in Minneapolis, a fifteen-year-old girl is discovered in a vacant lot, her throat slashed. Later that day, two young men are found in their home a few blocks away, killed execution-style. The next morning, the dead bodies of three more men turn up, savagely murdered in the same neighborhood. As Minneapolis homicide detectives Leo Magozzi and Gino Rolseth struggle to link the three crimes, they learn that there have been similar murders in other cities around the United States. The magic date appears to be October 31 and the Monkeewrench crew – Grace, Annie, Roadrunner, and Harley Davidson – are in extreme danger. 10/12 Jack Quick
Office of Innocence by Thomas Keneally: After side trips into history-writing and biography with The Great Shame and American Scoundrel, Mr. Keneally has again turned his hand back to fiction with Office of Innocence which should be nominated for several major awards by the end of the year.
Keneally’s story-telling often involves an ordinary man placed in extraordinary circumstances. In To Asmara, it was a journalist heading to battlelines in Eritrea and in Flying Hero Class (my personal favorite and a book ahead of its time) it was the manager of a troupe of indigenous dancers caught up in an air hi-jacking. Schlinder’s List, involving similar issues, became better known because of the movie that was made from it.
In Office of Innocence, the ordinary man is Frank Darragh, a young Australian priest caught up in the turmoil of the Second World War as the Japanese march ever southward through Asia, towards Darwin and Northern Australia.
Frank is a simple man, from a rural family and has not had a lot of experience with life or any great yearning for such experience. In other words, he was prime seminary fodder. Mr. Keneally’s ear as a story teller seems to ring true when he has more jaundiced seminarians translating “Memento homo quia cines es, et ad cinerem reverteris” into “Remember, squirt, that thou are dirt, and unto dirt thou shalt revert.” Frank’s innocence is bemused but not distracted by such by-play.
During his initial assignment as a parish priest, Father Frank finds hearing confessions rewarding and it becomes his forte. While his contemporaries and seniors are hardened to the routine sins they must hear over and over again, Frank responds to those on the other side of the screen and quickly becomes the most popular confessor in the area.
His lack of worldliness presents problems for Frank as he confronts the loneliness and selfishness that reach extreme levels under the stresses of wartime. It also presents problems for his superiors who fear scandal and wish that he would spend more time learning the “business” of the church.
At the heart of the story is the testing of Father Darragh’s faith and his innocence by a variety of parishioners and others – a dying woman in a non-traditional relationship, a trade union rabble-rouser, the lonely wife of a prisoner of war and an aggressive American military policeman. Frank’s background simply does not equip him to understand such people, but his desire to help is such that he must get involved. The core issue is whether he will gain understanding at the cost of his faith.
There is also a late-developing murder mystery contained within the story, the resolution of which costs Father Frank his position and his reputation, but gains him a new knowledge of himself and how he may play a meaningful role in the world.
This is another fine book from an extraordinary author. ~This review contributed by Geoffrey R. Hamlin.
OFFICER DOWN by Theresa Schwegel: This first novel is a police procedural of the best kind – Samantha Mack is a police officer with a future. She drinks too much, picks the wrong men, and appears to have accidentally killed her partner. When the department wants to resolve it quickly and just call it an accident, Smack, as she is affectionately known, just can’t live with that. She can’t let a little thing like suspension from the force and investigation by Internal Affairs deter her from finding out exactly what happened. Lots of good twists and a terrific ending make this debut a winner. 11/05
OFFICER DOWN by Theresa Schwegel: Samantha “Smack” Mack, a chain-smoking, hard-drinking Chicago police officer, and her partner and ex-lover, Fred, storm a pitch-dark tenement house. Smack wakes up later with a nasty concussion, but Fred, shot during the attempted arrest, never does. Police officials decree that Smack’s “friendly fire” killed Fred, but she’s sure there were others in the room with them that night. Smack realizes that the only way to clear her name is to capture the child molester they had gone into the house to arrest, and she will have to do it alone, since all the bureaucracy is against her. Schwegel’s fast-paced action turns out an impressive, gripping first novel. 01/06 Jack Quick
OLD CITY HALL by Robert Rotenberg: Panned by Publishers Weekly and praised by Booklist, I found this to be a pretty good debut thriller, albeit a bit overlong with multiple threads and a few “coincidences” that might have been better handled. The story begins with celebrated radio host Kevin Brace (aka the Voice of Canada) confessing to the murder of his wife, Katherine, in their Toronto apartment. Afterwards, he refuses to say a word to anyone, even his attorney, Nancy Parish. The police presence includes homicide detective Ari Greene and ex-lawyer-turned-cop Daniel Kennicott (Kennicott joined the department after his brother was murdered – Green was the detective investigating that murder) while rookie prosecutor Albert Fernandez gears up for his first murder trial. Fernandez is from Chile and the chief prosecution witness, Mr. Gurdial Singh, who delivers the newspaper to the Toronto penthouse apartment of Brace, is from India. Add in the English French dichotomy of Canada and you have quite a stew for Mr. Rotenberg to stir. I ended up agreeing with Booklist that the good far outweighs the bad and would recommend this to anyone who enjoys a good legal thriller, with all sorts of nuances and international overtones. 09/09 Jack Quick
OLD MAID’S PUZZLE by Terri Thayer: There are two mysteries here. One, why would anyone want to run a quilt shop, and two, who left the dead body in the alley behind the store. Dewey Pellicano has inherited Quilter Paradiso from her mother along with problems with competition and employee relations. The employee is her sister-in-law which makes firing her problematic. Anyway, Dewey hopes the store’s 20th anniversary sale and appearance on national television will help her save the business. In the meantime, the killer better be found or there might not be a business to save. Heavy on the estrogen, but readable. 12/08 Jack Quick
OLD SCHOOL BONES by Randall Peffer: Nice concept but somewhat clumsily executed. A young black student dies in mid-winter at a New England prep school. Is it suicide or a racially motivated crime? The girl’s faculty advisor, Awasha Patterson, is racked with guilt because she turned the young woman away the night she died. There are rumors of secret societies allegedly banned years ago after a hazing death, but which may have simply went “underground.” Patterson will not rest until she gets to the bottom of the matter, even if it kills her. I had problems with the book jumping from scene to scene with minimal transitions making it difficult to stay within the plot. Not nearly as well done, in my opinion as Peffer’s 2005 Provincetown Follies, Bangkok Blues. 08/08 Jack Quick
ON BORROWED TIME by David Rosenfelt: This is the latest standalone thriller from the author of the hugely popular Andy Carpenter series. Rosenfelt has been alternating between standalones and series books and he just keeps stepping up his game. This time out our protagonist, Richard Kilmer, is a young journalist who has finally met the love of his life. They plan on getting married so they drive from their home in New York City, to her parent’s home in upstate New York to share the good news. But suddenly the weather changes, they find themselves in the middle of a storm and Richard ends up running his car off the road. He is knocked out, and when he comes to a few moments later his fiancée is gone. He is frantic and as the skies clear he searches but cannot find her. Even worse, when he drives back to her childhood home, her parents don’t seem to recognize him and deny they even have a daughter. Troubled, he goes back to the city and finds his apartment has gone back to its pre-girlfriend state and his friends, too, deny ever having heard of her. This is a terrific premise for a thriller and Rosenfelt, with his trademark humor, takes us along on Richard’s journey to the truth. This is a fast paced, truly enjoyable read and a real page turner – I couldn’t put it down. 03/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
ON CHESIL BEACH by Ian McEwan: This novella centers around the wedding night of a young couple in the early 1960’s. Unlike their freewheeling, sexually permissive counterparts that were the hallmark of that decade, these two are both shy and sexually inexperienced. However, this is not a book about sex, but rather how one incident, one night, can cataclysmically change lives. McEwan gives us just enough background on each of them to see how and why they reach this point, but nonetheless it is still a heartbreaker. Beautifully written, this compelling yet simple story has the hallmark of a classic. 06/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
ON DEADLY GROUND by Michael Norman: Fairly ordinary tale about conflict between environmentalists and ranchers in Kanab, Utah. Environmentalist David Greenbriar is found dead, and newly appointed Law Enforcement Ranger, J. D. Books is co-opted into the case because he is a native returned home after a stint as a homicide detective in Denver. Books discovers that the victim’s widow has been having an affair with Lance Clayburn, who is tied to the killing with physical evidence. Throw in a corrupt Sheriff’s Deputy, the obligatory mob connected Las Vegas businessman and a very dangerous mob contract killer…. Good guys win in the end, as expected. 03/10 Jack Quick
ON EDGE by Barbara Fister: Konstantin Slovo is a vacationing Chicago cop who gets caught up in the events of the coastal town of Brimsport,. Maine. Initially rousted as a potential suspect in a recent child abduction, Slovo is freed when the local police chief discovers he is a cop. Slove ends up staying in town and makes friends with the chief’s daughter Ruth, who along with Slovo’s Doctor Chakravarty, fill him in on the town’s history of child molestation and abuse. Not the most pleasant subject matter, but well written and while you probably won’t want to invite Slovo to your next dinner party, he is the one you want on your side when things get tough. Well done and recommended. 01/07 Jack Quick
ON, OFF by Colleen McCullough: It is fall, 1965, and the torso of a young woman has been discovered in a storage refrigerator at the Hughlings Jackson Center for Neurological Research, aka the Hug. Detective Carmine Delmonico is convinced that the perp is a member of the Hug faculty. When the body is identified as that of a missing girl from a local high school, Delmonico discovers that this was not an isolated event — there has been a string of missing teenage girls in the area, all matching the same description. Suddenly, Delmonico is up against a shrewd and manipulative serial killer; a killer who is able to move about seemingly undetected. While this was an intriguing read, I had hoped for more details specific to the time period in which the book takes place. With the exception of the lack of DNA testing, this could have been any modern mystery. I expected McCullough, who is best known for her historical fiction, to have made more of an effort to clearly outline the time period in which the book took place. I think that the lack of support for the setting diminishes the overall effect of the story. 09/06 Becky LeJeune
ON THE LINE by S.J. Rozan: Rozan continues her series of alternating mysteries involving sometimes PI partners Lydia China and Bill Smith. Smith is featured in this high paced thriller. It starts with a phone call from Lydia’s cellphone. She has been kidnapped by someone from Bill’s past who tells Bill that Lydia is a hostage and Smith has 12 hours to locate her before she will be killed. Clues to her whereabouts come by phone, delivered by the heckling voice of a man obviously out for vengeance. Bill enlists the aid of Lydia’s nephew, a crackerjack young techie, who brings along his goth girlfriend, a force to be reckoned with all by herself. The trio, aided on the sly by Lydia’s cop-pal Mary, runs a race against the clock, finding little related to Lydia but a lot of kidnapped Chinese prostitutes who need saving, and a vicious pimp who thinks Bill is wrecking his business. This excellently written thriller goes right down to the wire. 02/11 Jack Quick
ON THE ROPES by Tom Schreck: There’s a new superhero in town – Double D – Duffy Dombrowski, mild-mannered social worker by day, Elvis aficionado, boxer, and beer drinker by night. Whatever you want to say about Duffy, he does care for his clients and his pledge to take care of the Muslim basset hound and find the missing daughter of one Walanda, a schizophrenic, crack-addicted prostitute, who is murdered, leads him into all manner of peril and evil doings. Thank goodness Duffy survives because he’s the kind of Robin Hood, supported by a band of drunken friends, whom you want to follow in further adventures. 09/07 Jack Quick
ONCE… by James Herbert: Four months ago, Thom Kindred would have considered himself a healthy young man. That was before the twenty-seven year old suffered an unexplained stroke. After months of physical therapy, Thom decides to leave London and return to his childhood home, Castle Bracken, to recuperate. Thom and his mother, Bethan, lived in a small cottage on the estate until Thom was ten. It has been seventeen years since Thom left for boarding school, seventeen years since his mother died and Sir Russell began sponsoring his education. Upon his return, Thom realizes that things are not as they once were at Castle Bracken. Sir Russell is nearing his own death and the estate has been allowed to fall into disrepair. Something dangerous lurks amongst the halls of Castle Bracken, and something magical has long awaited Thom’s return. Herbert combines both fantasy and horror elements in this very adult fairy tale. 12/07 Becky Lejeune
ONCE A SPY by Keith Thomson: Charlie Clark was bitten by horse fever early on and has spent most of his adult life chasing the ponies and avoiding his creditors. The son of retired appliance salesman Drummond Clark, Charlie is primarily interested in his old man, who at age 64 suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, because of his possible money that Charlie desperately needs to pay off the $23,000 he owes to Russian loan sharks. Soon after Charlie rescues Drummond from the Brooklyn streets, where he’d been wandering, the older man’s house blows up and the two barely escape with their lives. It turns out Clark Senior was, in fact, an agent involved in selling faulty nuclear detonators to would-be terrorists. He definitely knows too much and now is the target of trained CIA killers. When lucid, Drummond can hotwire vehicles and effortlessly deal with multiple assailants. Otherwise, he is liable to wander off in his pajamas. Off beat, exciting, and a worthy nominee for this year’s Dilys Award. 02/11 Jack Quick
ONCE BITTEN, TWICE SHY by Jennifer Rardin: On her last assignment as a Helsinger – a team of elite CIA agents charged with killing vampires – Jasmine Parks lost her fiancé, her sister-in-law, and her best friend in one fell swoop. Now, she suffers from frequent blackouts and has managed to disconnect herself emotionally from almost everyone around her. She’s also discovered that she can sense vampires. Vayle, one of the Company’s most respected and important operatives has requested that Jaz be assigned as his partner, and the Company willingly agrees. Part of his request is due to her new-found talent as a Sensitive, another is due to the fact that she has a death wish that makes her a reckless but effective agent. The two have been sent to spy on a well-known plastic surgeon who is suspected of having terrorist links. While on assignment, they discover that Vayle, or possibly even Jaz, has been targeted. By whom, they aren’t quite sure, but this person – or vampire – is quite possibly one of their very own. Rardin’s debut is compelling to be sure, but seems a bit uneven in the beginning. The story runs straight ahead with the action, but the explanations lag a bit behind giving the reader the sense that they missed something. Thankfully, the story does balance out shortly thereafter. Jaz is a quirky, sometimes goofy, and certainly damaged character and Vayle, the smoldering Romanian vampire, is equally absorbing. I’m interested to see just where Rardin takes this series. Overall, a great read – one that adds Rardin to the ranks of such authors as Kim Harrison and an earlier Laurel K. Hamilton. 10/07 Becky Lejeune
ONCE WE WERE BROTHERS by Ronald Balson: I have read enough self-published books to know that it is rare to find a gem among the rubble; this is definitely one of those gems. The premise of the book is that a Holocaust survivor, Ben Solomon, thinks he recognizes Chicago society kingpin Elliot Rosenzweig as the Nazi “Butcher of Zamość,” Otto Piacek. At first he tries to kill him, but when that plot is foiled Ben decides to hire a lawyer and sue Rosenzweig in civil court instead. Rosenzweig is a big Jewish philanthropist who also claims to be a Holocaust survivor and hires his own private detective to prove that he is not Otto Piacek. Ben also has an investigator who recommends a lawyer, Catherine Lockhart, who has troubles of her own. Catherine reluctantly agrees to listen to Ben’s story, but it is a long story and she has other obligations. Nevertheless she gets drawn in, almost against her will, and her own life starts falling apart. There are a lot of Holocaust books out there, but what makes this book different is that Ben tells this mesmerizing story of growing up in Zamość, Poland, where his family takes in Otto Piacek when his mother deserts him. They grow up as brothers, and as the story unfolds, we learn how someone who has been brought up in one way could then end up a completely different way. That insight makes for fascinating reading; this is simply an unforgettable story. 6/12 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
ONCE WERE COPS by Ken Bruen: Michael O’Shea is an Irish Guard sent to work with the New York Police Department on a sort of exchange program. Shea, as he likes to be called, blackmailed his superior to include him in the program and that’s just your first inkling that this cop is not one of the good guys. Shea is, in fact, a sociopath and a serial killer who is paired up with his NYPD counterpart, a rough street cop nicknamed Kebar. Kebar is under investigation by Internal Affairs with good reason, and things take a violent turn for the worse when these two butt heads with the mob. The writing is noir at its best; sparse and brilliant, and the characters both dark and yet somehow poetic. Graphic, violent and full of despair, this brief book is a hard-boiled triumph. 11/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
ONE DOG NIGHT by David Rosenfelt: This latest entry into the Andy Carpenter series has an interesting twist. Noah Galloway is a recovering drug addict who is arrested for arson and the murder of 26 people who died in the fire. He admits his guilt, but his wife just can’t believe it. She turns to Andy Carpenter, the reluctant defense attorney, with a story he can’t say no to – Noah was the one who put Tara in the shelter when he could not care for her, and knew that Andy adopted her. Anyone who has read a Rosenfelt book knows the special relationship between Andy and Tara, the greatest dog in the world. Andy agrees to defend Noah and starts digging into the fire. This is another terrific story in one of my favorite series. 07/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
ONE FOOT IN THE BLACK by Kurt Kamm: This is somewhat of a “factional coming of age” account of a wild land firefighter. Greg Kowalski is the son of an abusive firefighter in Saginaw, Michigan. As soon as he is old enough he flees to California to become a seasonal firefighter with CDF. In 48 hours he loses both his father to a fire in Saginaw and his mentor and captain to a wildfire they are fighting. Extremely detailed but interesting, the book takes you inside Kowalski’s training and shows how the profession creates bonds that can be even stronger than family. A first rate debut. 08/08 Jack Quick
ONE FOOT IN THE GRAVE by Jeaniene Frost: It’s been four years since the events of Frost’s debut Night Huntress title, Halfway to the Grave. Cat has agreed to work for Homeland Security tracking down and eliminating evil vamps, but she can’t help pining for the man that got away – or the vamp that she let go, in this case. She did it to protect him from her new employers, so she knows that it was for the best, and she’s finally going to attempt to move on. Unfortunately for her, someone has placed a significant bounty on her head and Bones has decided that they’ve been apart long enough. It seems he’d rather stay where he can keep a close eye on her and protect her, especially when his own sire decides that he would like the Red Reaper (the vamp nickname for Cat) for his very own. Course Cat’s boss and coworkers are none too pleased about the new setup, until they realize just what an asset Bones can be. Frost toes the line between the newly minted urban fantasy genre and paranormal romance. The book contains enough steamy sex to earn itself a place firmly in the romance genre, but in my opinion the series will still appeal to readers who aren’t normally too big into the romance aspect. 05/08 Becky Lejeune
One for the Money by Janet Evanovitch: and the rest of that series, I read them all in 2 weeks, then read them again! Her main character is a sexy, smart and sassy 35 year old single with an eccentric bent apparently inherited from her grandmother. Every character is a treasure. These books are laugh out loud funny! Read them in order please… Two for the Money; Three to Get Deadly; Four to Score; High Five; Hot Six; Seven Up
ONE GOOD TURN by Kate Atkinson: This follow-up to Case Histories finds Jackson Brodie and Julia, his girlfriend, in Edinburgh for the premiere of her new play. Left on his own to keep himself busy, Brodie stumbles onto a horrid assault. Mystery author Martin Canning is an unlikely hero in the event, throwing his laptop at a man who has gone after another man with a bat. Canning accompanies the poor victim to the hospital and ends up keeping a watchful eye over the man that evening. But Canning’s reward for being a Good Samaritan is a bit of an unwelcome surprise for the mild-mannered writer. Meanwhile, Brodie is busy finding and losing a dead body and later being accused of assault himself. And how does it all tie in with a local real-estate mogul who had a heart attack while in the company of a dominatrix? You have to read to find out. The intricacies of Atkinson’s plots are wholly entertaining. And even when things get to their most shockingly violent, the whole thing has a nice and proper ring to it. 12/11 Becky Lejeune
One Hot Summer by Carolina Garcia-Aguilera: One Hot Summer is one hot beach read! Happily married Margarita seems to have it all; a wonderful, wealthy husband who adores her, a beautiful son, good friends, a dream job as a partner in a big Miami law firm. But when her husband starts pressuring her to give up her job to have another baby and her college boyfriend blows into town, cracks start showing in that perfect life. This is a new direction for Ms. Garcia-Aguilera, author of the Lupe Solano mystery series, but she pulls it off beautifully, with grace and much good humor.
THE ONE I LEFT BEHIND by Jennifer McMahon: For Reggie, growing up as the daughter of the final victim of a serial killer has left a permanent mark. Neptune plagued her small town in the 80s. He would kidnap an unsuspecting woman, cut off her right hand, and leave the hand boxed in a milk carton for the police to find. Four days later, the woman’s body would be discovered. The pattern never changed, until Reggie’s mother. Her hand was found just as with the others, but her body was not. Now, decades later, Reggie’s mother has turned up alive. She’s ill and not in her right mind, so no one is entirely sure what she remembers about the time since her disappearance. Reggie is determined to be there to care for her in spite of the fact that it means returning to the home she abandoned so many years before. For Reggie, it also means facing the memories she’s so carefully buried. And then Neptune strikes again, taking yet another victim who was once close to Reggie. As with McMahon’s previous releases, The One I Left Behind is masterfully plotted and plays out at an exquisite pace. The narrative is broken into two storylines –1985 and the present – and the characters are all hiding things. I’m not sure I’ve ever been able to figure out one of McMahon’s endings before it’s reveal and this was no exception. Another fantastic thriller from one of my favorites. 1/13 Becky Lejeune
THE ONE MINUTE ASSASSIN by Troy Cook: Someone is killing the candidates for California governor – and that may not be such a bad thing. The race includes such stereotypical candidates as a rap star named Two-Bits and a former movie star named Arnold “The Mountain” Schwarzkov. The frontrunners are a lobbyist for a pharmaceutical giant, a former child actor, and Mayor Eleanor Black, who is a member of a Kennedy-like dynasty. Her brother John is the anti-politician of the family, and spends his time hunting down dead beat dads until Eleanor is almost killed and he’s forced into the ring. Throw into the mix two bumbling assassins (reminiscent of Tim Dorsey’s excellent series) and you get a macabre mixture of murder and dirty politics. After Cook’s terrific, utterly original debut, 47 Rules for Highly Effective Bank Robbers, this sophomore effort is a bit of a disappointment. Although much of the humor is just plain silly, John Black is a very likeable protagonist and the plot is engaging, making this a very entertaining read. 09/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch Copyright © 2006 Cahners Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. Reprinted with permission.
THE ONE MINUTE ASSASSIN by Troy Cook: Think dumb and dumber in the world of assassination. Ex-football player Dennis “Nail” Nalen and his erstwhile partner Barry Jones have been hired by Richard “Tricky Dick” Steel to eliminate Steel’s competition in the race for Governor of California. Steel is a lobbyist for Pfester Pharmaceuticals that has two members of the Russian Mafia on its Board of Directors. His primary opponent is Eleanor Black, mayor of Los Angeles, whose mother is a senator and is known as the barracuda. John Black, Eleanor’s brother, is a PI who specializes in child molestation cases but gets involved when his sister is the target of an assassination attempt. Black calls upon his Crocodile Dundee look alike partner to use all of their quirky and unconventional talents to find out who is trying to put his sister out of commission. In spite of the stereotyped characters, the pace is good and the plot is marvelously twisty. Recommended. 09/07 Jack Quick
ONE MISSISSIPPI by Mark Childress: It’s the early ’70s and Daniel Musgrove’s father moves the family from Indiana to rural Mississippi. Daniel starts the 11th grade with a new best friend, Tim. When they double date for the junior prom, the teens have an accident on the way home and cause the prom queen to fall off her bike and hit her head. The prom queen of the newly integrated high school is black, but the injury leaves her believing that she is white. When I read Crazy In Alabama, I thought it was an unauthorized biography of my family. With One Mississippi, I realize my younger brother is Daniel. Childress captures the essence of growing up in the South during this era better than anyone. The only other book to come close was Bleachers by John Grisham. So if you grew up in this era as I did, this is a must read. If not, it’s still a damn good one. 08/06 Jack Quick
ONE MORE BITE by Jennifer Rardin: Jaz and team are back and this time they’re up against witches, ghosts, and worst yet, Jaz’s dad! When the CIA receives a report that a group of weres has taken a contract out on a Scottish coven leader, Jaz, Vayle, and Cole are sent to find the hit man, or in this case hit woman, and protect the witch. Jaz’s father decides to tag along and it takes all of her effort not to kill the man. Their mission is further complicated by the fact that the witch in need of protecting has some scheme up her sleeve that Jaz is determined to uncover. Problem is that this little plan may directly conflict with official orders to protect the woman. Oh, and one that’s not all. Jaz’s father thinks a ghost may be out to kill him and Jaz has been claimed by a dead Scottish King who wants her to rule the underworld with him. I love that each new installment to this series takes it in a new direction. New revelations about each character and what makes them tick, plus the new and original bad guys are what keep me coming back for more. Well, that and Vayl. 01/09 Becky Lejeune
ONE ROUGH MAN by Brad Taylor: In his first novel, Taylor, a retired Delta Force commander, introduces Pike Logan, a member of a super secret, off-the-grid unit of commandos authorized to work outside the law. Unfortunately, while Taylor has an excellent concept the execution is somewhat lacking. The author appears uncertain whether he wants to write a military action thriller with political overtones, or a political thriller with some military action sequences. The result is a book which never seems to catch hold. Logan leaves the team, called the Taskforce, after his wife and daughter are brutally murdered while he is overseas on a mission. A chance encounter with a woman puts him back in the game, and working without the help of his former team, he attempts to track two rogue terrorists in possession of a powerful weapon. With better editing, hopefully, this can develop into an interesting series, but it has a ways to go. 03/11 Jack Quick
ONE SHOT by Lee Child: Nine books now and each one is better than before. This time Reacher is called in to help solve an Indiana sniper case. The accused, James Barr, claims they have arrested the wrong man and tells them to get Jack Reacher. Reacher hears about the case on television, knows the accused, and comes to Indiana with astounding news. Is Barr guilty? Can Reacher help? How about the fact that the DA’s daughter is Barr’s attorney? Reacher is no friend of Barr’s. In fact he has evidence that could seal Barr’s fate. But did they arrest the right man? Russians in Indiana? There are unresolved issues down to the last two pages and no slow downs or pauses in between. Again, in my opinion, the best Reacher yet. Recommended. 07/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.
ONE SHOT By Lee Child: Another great entry from Lee Child in the Jack Reacher series. Ex-MP Major Jack Reacher is sunning his butt on on a Florida beach with a Norwegian dancer when he sees a tale on TV about an Indiana sniper named James Barr. Reacher heads to Indiana post haste to bury Barr. It turns out that this guy did this before, and because of politics, Reacher had to reluctantly walk away. Now he’s determined to wax this guy. Meanwhile, a young defense attorney, who happens to be the prosecutors daughter, enlists Reacher’s help as an investigator (something he does very well.) The police have a bulletproof case, but the more Reacher looks, the less he likes it. Eventually, Reacher knows that those aren’t the winds that prevail and he reluctantly becomes an advocate for the defense. He gets set up for a beat down in a local bar, which he avoids in typical Reacher fashion, and then realizes that this ain’t the usual sit/rep. One of the great things about these books is that Child maintains Reacher’s “invisible” status – a guy who can float loose in a post 9/11 world, a virtual impossibility by today’s standards. But he still manages to do it, and create major mayhem along the way. This one’s really good. Waiting on the next one breathlessly. A four star good read. 05/06 DOC
ONE SMALL VICTORY by Maryann Miller: Drugs killed her son even though he wasn’t a user. Unfortunately his friend, the driver of the car, was high and as a consequence Michael Jasik is dead. His mother vows revenge and also to protect her two younger children. So the small town Texas single mom becomes a CI – a Confidential Informant, whose activities are known only to Chief Gonzales. Her son and daughter notice Jenny is behaving strangely and report that to their father, who suddenly decides it is better if he has custody of the kids. Jenny is obsessed enough to make it all work, although not without sacrifice. While the war on drugs may not be winnable, there are occasionally small victories. Not bad. 08/08 Jack Quick
ONE SMALL VICTORY by Maryann Miller: Young Michael Jasik is killed in a car accident at the hands of his drug abusing friend, Brad Brennan. His mother, Jenny, a single mom, is destroyed by the news. When she learns that her son’s death was influenced by Brad’s drug addiction, she has to take action. She storms into the local police station and demands to be put on the undercover drug enforcement task force that she heard about on the news. Police Lieutenant Steve Morrity is leading the task force. While civilians aren’t typically involved in this type of police work, Morrity knows Jenny will take action on her own if she isn’t selected. So, after a grueling physical test, Jenny passes and becomes an undercover informant. She is forced to hide this from her two surviving children, Scott and Alicia. They notice a change in her behavior and contact their father, who has never really been a part of their lives. Jenny risks her life, and the custody of her children for this mission. I commend Jenny’s character for her strength, and the fearless acts she performed in an effort to bring down a big time drug pusher. ONE SMALL VICTORY is an amazing, heart pounding, emotional tale about one mother’s love of her children, and the steps she takes to protect them from harm. 09/08 Jennifer Lawrence
One Thousand White Women by Jim Fergus: Thoroughly engrossing fictionalized account of a true historical incident. The Chief of the Cheyenne tried to reach an agreement with President Ulysses S. Grant in an effort to promote peace and integrate the Cheyenne into Christianity; in a secret deal, the U.S. government would trade 1000 white women for 1000 horses. It didn’t get though Congress, but it did ignite the imagination of this author! He found his women, all volunteers, in a variety of places; prostitutes, imprisoned women granted their freedom for this, and women from hospitals for the mentally ill. One of the latter is the voice of this novel that is told in the form of her journal.
Only Child by Andrew Vachss: The newest title in the series finds Burke back where he belongs, in New York – with Max, Mama, the Mole and all the regulars in this realistic portrait of the seamier side of filmmaking. Burke is hired by a member of the Mafia to investigate the murder of his teenage daughter, and has to depend on her friends for help. Some great characters (that I hope will be back again) and flawless description in a story that is so dark and twisted I couldn’t put it down until I turned the last page.
ONLY TIME WILL TELL by Jeffrey Archer: This is the first book of the Clifton Chronicles, a multi-generational family saga, something Archer does better than just about anyone. In this story we are introduced to Harry Clifton, a gifted young boy who lives with his impoverished mother and uncle, a dockworker, in Bristol, and whose father is presumed dead in the first World War. We also meet the Barrington family, a wealthy family who owns the shipyard that employs the Cliftons. There is some interesting history between the families, and the story is told from various character’s points of view, which allows it to unfold bit by tantalizing bit until it ends with a major cliffhanger. Archer is one of the best storytellers of modern literature, and I can’t wait for the next book in the series. 09/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
Open & Shut by David Rosenfelt: This legal thriller is one of the best debut novels I’ve read in a while. I love finding new authors, and last week this book literally dropped into my hands. It immediately caught my eye, so I read the flyleaf and was hooked:
“I hate DNA more than I hate opera. I hate it more than I hate meaningless touchdowns by the underdog that cover the spread when I’m betting the favorite….I hate DNA because it’s boring, because I will never understand it, and because it almost always works against me.”
A legal thriller, humor and sports talk; what more could a girl want? I flew through this book in a few hours, alternating between sitting on the edge of my seat and laughing my head off. This is a legal thriller with enough twists to keep you guessing, and enough humor to keep you laughing, always a terrific combination. The mélange of the outrageous lead character Andy Carpenter, a self-deprecating lawyer with chutzpah, his strong female P.I., and even his whiny wife and her super-rich dad, stir up a terrific story.
Andy’s father, a former District Attorney, asks him to handle a convicted death row murderer’s appeal – one that he himself put away. The overwhelming evidence just seems too perfect, and Andy takes it on. Lots of interesting developments along the way, but it’s really the characters and the humor that will hold you spellbound. The good news is that this is the initial entry of a series; there are more Andy Carpenter books to come. You can read the first chapter online.
Open Season by C. J. Box: Well written suspense set in the wilds of Wyoming. First of a series featuring game warden Joe Pickett, a good guy who screws up occasionally, but gets the job done.
Open Season by Linda Howard: Exceedingly simple story; no words longer than three syllables and not too many of those; sticky sweet romance/suspense genre. I read it because the main character was a librarian and it is a best seller. Complete and utter fluff.
Open Season on Lawyers by Taffy Cannon: A serial killer is on the loose, killing the sleaziest lawyers in town. You’re not sure who to root for in this clever, fast paced thriller.
OPENING MOVES by Steven James: Thus far, each of the Bowers Files novels featuring FBI Special Agent Patrick Bowers have been titled for chess pieces – The Pawn, the Rook, The Bishop, The Queen – and feature Bowers dealing with some of the most vicious serial killers. Now in the fifth installment, author Steven James takes readers back to Bowers’ beginnings in Milwaukee, 1997 where cops are convinced they have a Jeffery Dahmer copycat responsible for a series of gruesome kidnappings and mutilations. Bowers thinks the truth may be even more hideous in an investigation that becomes a nightmare of manipulation, brutality, and terror. Not for the faint of heart, it causes you to wonder if any one can battle such wickedness without losing his own soul. 9/12 Jack Quick
OPERATION NAPOLEON by Arnaldur Indridason: Mr Indridason is an Icelandic author who has written several mysteries centered around a detective based in Reykjavik. Some of these have been translated into English and serve to establish the author’s place as a good writer of mystery novels. Operation Napoleon is a stand alone piece involving an extremely intriguing idea. At the tail end of World War II a plane carrying both Americans and Germans crash lands into a glacier outside of Reykjavik. Snow and drifting ice quickly cover up the plane and the occupants who die of the extreme cold a few days after crash landing.
Over the years several searches are made for the plane and it’s contents by American interests but none bear fruit. Finally in 1999 the plane is spotted somewhat uncovered and the US launches a search for it blatantly bypassing the Icelandic government, and sending in special forces to unearth the wreck. A young skier and his friend spot the plane, but are captured by the American soldiers, the friend killed, and Elias (the skier) thrown into a crevasse by the troops. Elias before passing out manages to call his sister Kristin a young attorney working for the Icelandic government as a commercial consultant via his cell phone. Almost immediately after the phone call is over she is attacked by two killers demanding to know what her brother had told her.
Kristin begins the search for her brother after thwarting the killers, and enlists the help of several people, including her ex boyfriend Steve. The center of the plot is: what was the purpose of the plane manned by soldiers of both sides while the war was still on. Several ideas are brought out during Kristin’s search, and the final one, and the reason for the flight is one that has been presented in other books before but is still a rather interesting one and kept sufficiently illusive by the author to make the book very readable. 12/11 Paul Lane
THE OPPOSITE OF LOVE by Julie Buxbaum: Emily Haxby is a successful young Manhattan attorney. It appears as though she has it all—a successful job, a handsome, wonderful boyfriend, Andrew. But before Andrew has the chance to propose to her, she ends the relationship. Her life begins to fall apart—she’s assigned to work on a law suit she doesn’t believe in, working side by side with an attorney that is known to be overly friendly and her active, loving, Grandpa Jack is suffering from the beginnings of Alzheimer’s. Emily begins on a journey, aided by her close friends, to find herself and soon discovers what is important in life. We begin to learn the motivation for Emily’s choices. This debut novel was comical, but also incredibly raw and emotional. The author’s writing style is right on—she uses the perfect language to describe an emotion, or a setting, which makes the reader feel that they are part of the book. 05/08 Jennifer Lawrence
THE ORCHID SHROUD by Michelle Wan: Mara, Julien and the entire cast return in this follow up to last summer’s Deadly Slipper. While renovating the de Bonford estate, two workers discover the desiccated remains of a baby boy, hidden in the wall. In an attempt to protect the family name from subsequent media fallout, Christophe de Bonford enlists Mara’s help to find out who the child is and clear the de Bonford name. Meanwhile, animals and villagers are being savagely attacked by what is described as a giant beast. On the outset, Wan presents the beauty and tranquility of the Dordogne region. As she draws readers in, however, she scratches away at this façade to reveal the darkness that lurks in the corners of this sleepy French region. Some readers may cringe at the seemingly gimmicky nature of this series but I find that Wan’s titles toe the line of being a true “cozy” mystery. By combining history, mythology and orchidology, Wan is able to create original and interesting stories without falling into the “cute” trap that so many series fall prey to. 09/06 Becky LeJeune
ORDINARY HEROES by Scott Turow: Moving away from legal thrillers (Reversible Errors) and nonfiction (Ultimate Punishment), Turow has penned a searing story of World War II interwoven with personal family drama that is simply mesmerizing. Stewart Dubinsky is not especially close to his father David Dubin, even their names are different, yet his death prompts Stewart to try and find out more about this enigmatic man. He uncovers some startling information: that his father was engaged to another woman before his mother, and that he was court-martialed during the Battle of the Bulge. Dubinsky decides to write a family history, starts digging and uncovers a manuscript his father wrote about his war experiences that is alternately moving and horrifying, vindicating and vilifying and shines light on a side of his father, and mother, that he never knew. While some of the historical facts presented are not one hundred percent accurate, the emotional wallop of the book more than justifies the literary license and should secure its place in the canon of WWII literature. Ordinary Heroes is an extraordinary, unforgettable novel, which Turow notes was inspired by his own father’s military experiences. 11/05 Copyright © 2005 Cahners Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. Reprinted with permission.
ORIGIN by Diana Abu-Jaber: Although I personally found this book disappointing, I suspect many women would like it. The plot – Lena Dawson, a fingerprint specialist in the Syracuse, NY forensics lab gets involved when there is a pike in local SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) cases. Is it an anomaly or is there a more sinister solution? Dawson is a former foster child with an ex-husband and a tenuous current relationship with one of the detectives, all of which are sources of stress as she pursues the mystery. Nicely written, but too slowly paced with too much estrogen content for me to really enjoy. 08/09 Jack Quick
ORIGINAL SIN by Allison Brennan: Moira O’Donnell was raised with one purpose: to serve a specific role in her mother’s coven. You see Moira’s mother, Fiona, is one of the strongest of her kind, but she wants more. Ever since her escape, Moira has been working to help a secret brotherhood of priests whose purpose is to defeat people like Fiona. In spite of the black mark of her heritage, Moira will be an important ally and a secret weapon when the final battle comes. Moira’s mentor knows this and has made sure that she will be prepared when that day arrives, but many of the brotherhood have their doubts, including Anthony Zaccardi. When Moira follows her mother’s trail to the tiny town of Santa Louisa, she finds signs of a terrible ceremony gone wrong. Fiona wanted to trap the demon incarnations of the seven deadly sins. Instead, she unleashed the demons on an unsuspecting world. Now, Moira is the only one who can stop the evil. Brennan’s first paranormal outing is a winner. I love the detail that has gone into this book and can’t wait to learn more as the series develops. 1/10 Becky Lejeune
THE OTHER GUY’S BRIDE by Connie Brockway: This is historical romance set in Egypt yet somehow it has a contemporary feel to it. Ginesse Braxton is a headstrong young woman from a family of archaeologists, determined to prove her worth in the field. By disguising herself as the affianced bride-to-be of a fort commander near where she believes the missing city of Zerzura lies, Ginesse finds herself escorted to the fort by a man she believes to be an American cowboy, Jim Owens. Ginesse is a disaster waiting to happen, and Owens saves her several times, discovering he has strong feelings for the commander’s bride and she has strong romantic ideas about him. This is a fast, fun read with the requisite happy ending, and I learned a bit about Egypt as a bonus. 3/12 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
THE OTHER SIDE OF SILENCE by Bill Pronzini: Rick Fallon is a corporate security office. His marriage became brittle when he lost his son, Timmy. It eventually came apart and he decides to take two weeks vacation in California’s Mohave Desert to get his life back together. Three days into the trip he finds Casey Dunbar, who’s tried and failed to kill herself after months of fruitlessly searching for her young son, who’s been abducted by her ex-husband. Fallon realizes that while there is no hope for his son, perhaps there is for young Kevin Spicer, Casey’s eight and one half year old son. There’s plenty of action in the resulting search-and-rescue. Pronzini once again shows why he is a Grand Master, with his ability to create strong characters, compelling plots, and excitement. Definitely recommended. 10/08 Jack Quick
OTHERS by James Herbert: Nicholas Dismas has been given a second chance to save his soul. This time around, he’s been cursed with deformities and handicaps. He also has no knowledge of his past life or the choice spot in hell his exploits once earned him. In this life, Nick, a private investigator, must make the right choice or suffer eternal consequences. Shelly Ripstone has hired Nick to find a missing person. Not just any missing person, her son. The problem is, Shelly’s son was pronounced dead at the time of his birth eighteen years ago. Recently, Shelly has been told by a psychic that her son is in fact alive and in desperate need of her help. Nick is ready to refuse the case immediately, but something urges him to move forward with the investigation. This brutally shocking and disturbing case will test Nick like no other. Herbert, one of the best in the horror business, brings to life a truly grotesque cast of characters. Probably the most frightening part of this gruesome book is the author’s note at the end, which states that the idea for this story stemmed from actual events in a London hospital. 10/07 Becky Lejeune
OUR LADY OF PAIN by Elena Forbes: A fairly straight forward, but interesting, police procedural featuring the Barnes Murder Squad of West London. The bound and nude body of art dealer Rachel Tenison turns up in Holland Park. In her mouth is a page of verse, eventually identified as an excerpt from Swinburne. When the squad learns of a similar crime a year earlier that claimed the life of university lecturer Catherine Watson, they wonder if a copycat killer might be at work. In the meantime, the Squad, led by Detective Mark Tartaglia uncovers evidence that the ostensibly prim and proper victim did indeed walk on the wild side, and that some people close to her, including her step-brother, an MP, have something to hide relevant to the murder. Solid second outing in this series after 2007’s Die With Me. 01/09 Jack Quick
Our Lady of the Forest by David Guterson: As with his earlier books, Snow Falling on Cedars and East of the Mountains, Mr. Guterson has set his most recent tale in the Pacific Northwest. His portrayal of a depressed logging community is brutally honest, but without judgment. Just as the forests have been logged out without any thought of future consequences, so too have the people of North Fork been depleted of something vital and beautiful.
His story revolves around a young woman, living minimally in a campground and eking out a living by picking mushrooms in the forest. As Guterson is wont to do, she is described in detail, down to her sniffles. On one of her forays, she believes that she has a vision of the Virgin Mary who speaks to her and asks her to build a church on the site. A religious flash mob ensues, to the chagrin of the lumber company which owns the property and the Catholic church in the person of Father Butler who is sent to evaluate the “miracle.”
The honesty and accuracy of Mr. Guterson’s descriptions are one of the strengths of his writing here. However, this honesty seems to dictate a lack of feeling for or commitment to his characters and the forces moving them. That distance interfered with my becoming totally involved in his story.
This is a very good book, but I think that a little more feeling would have made it something more special. ~This review contributed by Geoffrey R. Hamlin.
OUT OF MIND by Catherine Sampson: Robin Ballantyne returns to work at Britain’s largest news corporation and immediately raises hackles with a new documentary series on unsolved missing persons cases. Melanie Jacobs, an experienced combat photographer, has disappeared in Britain and it is obvious no one wants Robin to follow-up. Minding new twins and maintaining a fragile relationship with her policeman gentleman friend add to Robin’s challenges. In the end, solving the mystery becomes a matter of life and death. Before that we are treated to quite a rambling adventure, which seems to involve most of Britain’s adult population. Although I have encountered stronger plotting the descriptive writing is good and the suspense element is maintained throughout the book. 10/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.
OUT OF RANGE by Hank Steinberg: While this is Steinberg’s first novel his background does includes the creation of the hit TV show “Without a Trace. “Out of Range” is filled with the type of excitement and express train forward motion that the TV show included as a matter of course. Charlie Davis is a leading Journalism photographer that met and married Julie a woman that worked with International organizations that dispensed food and other materials to children in third world countries. They were living in Uzbekistan six years prior to the opening of the action in the book with Julie pregnant with their first child, when Charlie, covering a manifestation against the government was wounded by anti Rebel forces moving against that protest. He and Julie escaped with their lives and ended moving back to the US, living in Los Angeles. Moving to the present: Julie takes a four day trip to see her sister in New York and arriving back home takes her two children to Disneyland. She does not come home that evening although the children are safe. Charlie learns that she has been kidnapped and via high tech probing finds that she has been sent back to Uzbekistan. Prior to marrying Charlie, Julie had had an affair with a wealthy man whose father is high up in the Uzbekistan hierarchy but she turned around and left him to marry Charlie. Circumstantial evidence seems to point to Julie spending the four days she claimed she had spent visiting her sister with her former lover in Uzbekistan and while Charlie is understandably devastated he decides that he must try and get her back if only for the sake of their children. There is admittedly a good deal of literary license involved in Steinberg’s moving the book forward, but this does not in any way detract from becoming caught up in the fast moving action depicted. Many novels have such license employed with sequences of somewhat illogical action that does not spoil those books for the reader caught up in the crisp, and captivating prose and just enjoying a good book. The ending is in keeping with the action, and as it is said, “All’s well that ends well.” 6/13 Paul Lane
OUT OF THE BLACK by John Rector: A taut short novel about one man’s battle to save the one thing that he loves most in the world. Matt Caine lost his wife in an auto accident but has his daughter Anna with him after she survived the crash. He is in the midst of a financial crunch and has to work at any job that comes up via a temporary job service. He is also in debt to a loan shark, although that individual is somewhat of a friend to him. An old friend of his is released from jail and immediately begins tempting Matt with a scheme to kidnap a woman and get her obviously rich husband to pay a ransom. Jay, his friend, paints the crime as quick and without any danger of anything going wrong. WRONG – Matt finally agrees to go in with Jay and the world turns crazy. As part of the emerging disaster of the kidnapping going wrong Matt’s daughter Anna is taken and held by the family of the kidnapped woman. Rector keeps the reader immersed in the developing story and problems faced by Matt. Easily a book that lends itself to one sitting and keeps interest focused on the evolving events and their resolution. 9/13 Paul Lane
THE OUTLAWS by W.E.B. Griffin and William E. Butterworth IV: In this sixth presidential agent thriller the U.S. president has ordered Lt. Col. Carlos “Charley” Castillo to disband his secret organization, the Office of Organizational Analysis, and to “fall off the face of the earth.” After the president dies of a ruptured aorta, his successor wants the order to remain in effect. However, there is the no small matter of several kilograms of Congo-X—a very nasty, fatal bioweapon that Charlie supposedly destroyed, which appear in the United States. Castillo and his former colleagues race to find out who sent the stuff and what they intend to do with the rest of it. Oh, and the Russians are after Charlie; so is the American government but for (mostly) different reasons. Some people munch cashew nuts, others indulge in chocolate. Griffin’s military thrillers are my personal vice. I never tire of them. 03/11 Jack Quick
OUTRAGE by Robert K. Tanenbaum: It’s a shame when a series you have enjoyed for many years begins to lose steam. I have followed the adventures of Butch Karp and Marlen Ciampi and the growth of their children, Lucy, Zak, and Ginacarlo, but now its time, I’m afraid, to let them go. The plot revolves around the railroading of a shy Bronx teenager with limited social skills and only a rudimentary education for a series of horrific murders. The real villains, in addition to the dug-addicted psychopath who actually does the killings are, an ambitious young assistant district attorney, a disgruntled police detective who is willing to lie, withhold evidence, and kill to be labeled a hero, and of course, everyone’s favorite whipping boy, the media. The book plods along to its inevitable conclusion. Superman, i.e. Karp, saves the day, Marlene is in danger, and there are various and sundry domestic issues addressed along the way. Who was it who said it doesn’t end with a bang, but a whimper? 07/11 Jack Quick
THE OUTSIDE MAN by Richard North Patterson: The outside man is society lawyer Adam Shaw. First he is a Yankee and second he is in the South, which makes him a Damn Yankee. Then he finds the dead body of his best friend’s wealthy wife, and the friend is missing. No one other than Shaw really wants to open this can of worms, and the further it goes, even Shaw begins to have doubts. Patterson’s books all seem to have an underlying social theme that sometimes can get in the way of the story, but they are still good reads. 07/06 Jack Quick
The Outside World by Tova Mirvis: This captivating novel is really a comparative cultural study of Modern Orthodox and Ultra Orthodox Jews. Over the last century most Jews have slowly shed their strict laws, with modernization as the goal. But then the tide started turning back, and over the past couple of decades younger people seem to be going back to the older, stricter ways. Mirvis does a masterful job of illustrating their differences. Tzippy is 22 years old and unmarried, a very worrisome situation in the Ultra Orthodox world she lives in. Bryan was raised Modern Orthodox, and after he graduates from high school, he spends a year studying at a Yeshiva in Israel before he heads off to Columbia University, his father’s alma mater. But during his time in Israel, he has a spiritual awakening, changes his name to his Hebrew name, Baruch, and dons the black hat and clothes of the Ultra Orthodox. His only goal in life is to immerse himself in the study of the Torah, which causes his family to feel bewildered and inadequate. Meanwhile, Tzippy decides to escape the constant matchmaking of her community and insists on spending a year in Israel herself. And so they become a match made in heaven, or in this case, Israel. Mirvis obviously knows her subject and this is a very enlightening and engaging book. 05/04
OVERKILL by Joseph Teller: If you are a criminal lawyer like Harrison J. Walker – Jaywalker, then you can expect to spend a certain amount of time in court. That’s where Jaywalker was, minding his own business, when he was picked by a judge to take on the defense of seventeen year old Jeremy Estrada. Estrada had killed another boy after a fight over a girl – shot him point-blank between the eyes. Right off the bat, Jaywalker knows the SODDI defense won’t work. The SODDI defense – Some Other Dude Did It. So if Jaywalker is going to preserve his ninety-percent acquittal rate, he needs to cut a deal. It’s the first homicide trial for the prosecuting attorney and she says no deal – at least no reasonable deal. So all Jaywalker has left is the “yesbut” defense, as in: “Did you kill him?” “Yes, but….” Jaywalker is accustomed to bending the rules – this time he must stretch the law to the breaking point and beyond. I am so glad Teller quit lawyering and starting writing. His books are awesome. 08/10 Jack Quick
OVERKILL by Eugenia Lovett West: In this follow up to Without Warning, Emma Street is called to Italy to intervene when her opera singer niece gets involved with a rich playboy. It seems the girl is ready to throw everything away on a romantic whim. When Emma arrives, however, things take a drastic turn and the singer’s accompanist is found dead in her hotel room. Although it appears to be an obvious suicide, further investigation reveals evidence of foul play. Meanwhile, Emma and her niece are allowed to return home, where the girl falls ill as the result of an unknown virus. Emma finds herself once again involved in a grand conspiracy that threatens the safety of the nation. I enjoyed this mystery, though I’m not sure how much of it is entirely plausible. Fortunately, West does a good job of distracting readers with fun characters and an interesting plot. 01/10 Becky Lejeune
THE OVERLOOK by Michael Connelly: If this book looks a little smaller than is typical, that is because this is really a novella based on a serial that was run in the New York Times Magazine. I saw Connelly prior to its publication in that venue, and while he said he enjoyed the process, he felt somewhat stifled by the format of a set number of words each week. He prefers his chapters to have more of a natural flow, so this version of the story has had extensive revision from the original serial.
It is a Harry Bosch story, and it is excellent. As regular readers of the series know, we last saw Harry in Echo Park, which ended with some problems for him. In The Overlook, he has a new assignment, a new partner and a second go at FBI agent Rachel Walling. Bosch is now working the Homicide Special unit of the LAPD, and is basically training his young rookie partner, Ignatio. He prefers to be called Iggy but Harry just can’t bring himself to do that. Their assignment is a dead doctor who had access to radioactive materials. The fear of terrorism brings in the FBI and ratchets up the suspense to an almost unbearable point, especially with the twists it takes, making this short novel a very fast, very satisfying read. 05/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
THE OVERLOOK by Michael Connelly: Harry Bosch’s latest adventure was originally serialized in the New York Times. The expanded book version, although short, still provides plenty of action, and as a bonus, there is an additional chapter available at no cost from http://michaelconnelly.com/. Bosch has a new assignment, with LAPD’s Homicide Special Unit. His first case involves the murder of Dr. Stanley Kent, who had access to radioactive materials stored at hospitals throughout L.A. Bosch has to battle potential terrorists as well as various crime-fighting bureaucracies, including the FBI and Homeland Security, and former lover and FBI agent Rachel Walling, while breaking in new partner and rookie Iggy Ferras. This one may not be the usual Bosch concerto, but it’s a nice little piece to enjoy. 07/07 Jack Quick
THE OXFORD MURDERS by Guillermo Martinez: An unusual read. An Argentinean math student is studying at Oxford when his landlady is murdered. His hero, an Oxford don who has written a text on logical series, receives a note with a symbol. Another murder is committed – another note. The don fears that the killer may be testing him, thanks to a chapter in his book on serial murders. The police work is not very convincing and unless you are a math nut (I am) this one is probably not for you. 08/06 Jack Quick