Fiction Reviews Q: 1998-2013

QUANTICO by Greg Bear: It’s the not too distant future and the FBI and other assorted alphabet agencies are on the track of gene-keyed anthrax (Remember 2001?). The focus of the book is on two classmates at the FBI Training Academy. One is William Griffin, son a legendary FBI agent, who ends up following a case in which his father is almost killed. The other is Fouad Al-Husam, who ends up on super-secret missions to the Middle East. Bear does an excellent job of interweaving their stories with that of the terrorists in a very believable scenario. At the end it’s up to Griffin, Al-Husam, and veteran agent Rebecca Rose to pull the plug on this potentially devastating group. Well done. I want to go back and read his previous, Dead Lines. 05/08 Jack Quick

Quantico Rules by Gene Riehl: F.B.I. agent Puller Monk is the damaged protagonist of this first novel by a former F.B.I. agent, whose experience shines through every page. Monk is a gambler, barely managing to keep on the right side of a bad habit. He is assigned to the SPIN unit, short for Special Inquiries, and his inquiry is into a Supreme Court Judge nominee. An almost insignificant discrepancy is on her security paperwork, a missing week during her college days, but that turns into something considerably more sinister. This is a page turner for sure, but for some reason, nothing really surprised me here. A decent first effort, but I’m hoping for more in the next installment – more tension, more twists, more suspense. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

QUANTICO RULES by Gene Riehl: Puller Monk, FBI agent, compulsive gambler, and accomplished liar is head of the SPIN squad; i.e. Special Inquiries. Right now he is checking out Judge Brenda Thompson to make sure she’s squeaky clean before the confirmation hearings begin for her nomination to the Supreme Court. When a minor discrepancy shows up in Thompson’s record, Monk’s boss wants the investigation shut down. This is akin to waving a red flag in Monk’s face and away we go. Monk is a strong but believable character full of contradictions and obsessions. This could be the start of something good. 06/06 Jack Quick

QUARRY IN THE MIDDLE by Max Allan Collins: Hardcase crime number 61 brings back Quarry, the contract killer featured in, among other titles The First Quarry which detailed the start of his career and The Last Quarry which covered the ending. Not surprisingly Quarry in the Middle, set in the mid 1980’s bridges the two. The Broker is dead and Quarry has taken his files. Using them he gets hired killer’s targets to hire him to kill the killers. Still with me? So Quarry goes to Haydee’s Port, Illinois (locally known as Hades) following a fellow contract killer named Monahan who is gunning for Richard Cornell, owner of the Paddlewheel Casino. Monahan’s employer is one Jerry G, son of mob-connected Gigi Giovanni, owner of Cornell’s main competition, the less-classy Lucky Devil. So now it is up to Quarry to eliminate the Giovanni’s. Actually it is a much better read than my explanation. Try it. 11/09 Jack Quick

QUARRY’S LIST by Max Allan Collins: A thirty year old effort from Collins but still imminently readable. Quarry is a hit man. All you need to know about him is that he has a job to do and he does it, professionally – unless someone else gets him first. Reads a lot like a Mickey Spillane, or maybe just everyone is thinking about Mickey these days. Another one of this finish in one setting shoot ‘em ups. 08/06 Jack Quick

QUEEN OF BABBLE by Meg Cabot: The first in this new series for adults by Princess Diaries author, Meg Cabot, finds Lizzie Nichols in a bind. Lizzie has an awful habit – she can’t keep a secret. That’s the least of her problems when she finds herself broke and sleeping above the washing machine in her English boyfriend’s parents’ house. She quickly realizes that this relationship is not meant to be. Could it be the hideous Michael Jackson style jacket he insists on wearing? Or maybe it’s the fact that he lied about his job, lives with his parents and expects Lizzie to loan him money to pay his debts! Lizzie hops a train to France where she spills her own mortifying secrets the hottie sitting next to her. Normally, this would not be a problem. What are the chances that she’ll run into him again, right? Unfortunately, the hottie just happens to be her best friend’s boss! This hilariously sweet and cute novel is a refreshingly light and easy read. 10/06 Becky LeJeune

QUEEN OF BABBLE GETS HITCHED by Meg Cabot: Lizzie Nichols is confused, and rightly so. When we last left Lizzie at the end of Queen of Babble in the Big City she had just spent the night with Chaz, her best friend’s ex, and discovered that Luke, her own ex, was down on one knee on her doorstep. After accepting Luke’s proposal though, she begins to get nauseated and break out in hives at the thought of the actual wedding. Plus, what are all these confusing feelings she has about Chaz all of the sudden? Luke is a prince, for real, and he’s perfect. Chaz, on the other hand, has no fashion sense and has sworn off marriage. But it’s Chaz, not Luke, who remembers that Lizzie likes a glass of ice on the side with her wine and it’s Chaz, not Luke, who is there for Lizzie when she really needs him. Then Luke drops the big one on Lizzie and tells her he’s going to France for the summer. And what, does he expect her to just up and leave what with her newfound success in the New York wedding gown scene? It’s enough to drive a girl insane. Poor Lizzie, her adventures do make for some pretty amusing reading, though. I absolutely love Meg Cabot’s books, she never lets me down. They’re light and funny and they just always make you smile. 06/08 Becky Lejeune

QUEEN OF BABBLE IN THE BIG CITY by Meg Cabot: Lizzie Nichols is back. Following the events of her last tale, Queen of Babble, Lizzie has relocated to the Big Apple with her boyfriend Luke (the Prince). At first, she and her best friend Shari are supposed to find a place together but then Luke asks her to move in and Lizzie can’t help but say yes. This leaves Shari living with her boyfriend Chaz. Everything should be perfect, but it’s far from it. Lizzie is having trouble finding her dream job, restoring vintage clothing, until a neighbor turns her onto Monsieur Henri and his wedding restoration business. One problem, Lizzie is so desperate that she offers to work for free. Chaz is there to bail her out and lands Lizzie a part time job with his father’s law firm. Things are still not quite rosy for Lizzie and her pals. Chaz and Shari’s relationship is on the rocks and Lizzie thinks her boyfriend’s mother may be having an affair. She’s doing her very best to keep her mouth shut this time, the results of which are nothing short of hilarious. If you haven’t tried Cabot’s adult titles, I highly recommend them. They’re light, easy, and just plain fun. 07/07 Becky Lejeune

THE QUEEN OF PATPONG by Tim Hallinan: Hallinan’s fourth Poke Rafferty thriller focuses primarily on his wife/girlfriend Rose, who was once an innocent country girl named Kwan who was persuaded to come to Bangkok to prevent her father from selling her. There she met American Howard Horner who charmed her and led her to the dark side. Now Horner, whom Rose thought was dead, has returned to Bangkok and is stalking Rose and all who are dear to her. Hallinan paints a grim but non-judgmental picture of the life of Bangkok’s sex workers who often have to choose the least bad of all the unappealing options available to them. You sense that in some ways this may have been a painful book for Hallinan to write as it seems in some places to provide a catharsis for his hero Poke who is caught in the middle of violent emotions with potentially dire consequences and perhaps, even an end to the life he has made with Rose and adopted street daughter Mia. All in all, this one lives up to all the praise from fellow authors Gregg Hurwitz, Ken Bruen, Brett Battles, John Lescroart, Lou Berney and Jay Schwartz who blurb the book. Definitely recommended as the best Poke yet. 10/10 Jack Quick

QUEEN OF DIAMONDS by R. O. Palmer: Ngoc Soan is a Vietnamese refugee who, following in her father’s footsteps, has built a thriving diamond company in Philadelphia. She decides to defy the De Beers diamond cartel which controls the world supply, by seeking to exploit a revolutionary mining discovery – a discovery that De Beers will do anything to suppress. Other characters include a sinister Russian, a brilliant geologist, a rival tycoon and Ngoc’s own ambitious niece. Add in Paul Weeks, master of surveillance can disguise and you have the makings of a great read. Enjoyable. 02/07 Jack Quick

QUEENE OF LIGHT by Jennifer Armintrout: The world has been split. After discovering magic folk around them, humans banish them underground. Now, there is the Lightworld and the Darkworld. Lightworld, where Queene Mab and her fae court live, is home for Ayla, a half human, half faery assassin. When an assignment takes her to the Darkworld, Ayla makes what could be a fatal mistake. Her human side gives her an advantage over Malachi, an angel of death who has followed her into that realm. One touch leaves him mortal and desperate for revenge. Ayla should have killed him then, but she spared him, breaking her vow to the assassins’ guild. Broken and left by his own kind, Malachi becomes obsessed with finding Ayla and the unlikely pair become undeniably drawn to one another. Their union could mean terrible consequences, especially when Ayla is drawn into a conflict that has severe ramifications for the Lightworld and its occupants. Queene of Light is the first in a new trilogy that will appeal to readers of paranormal romance, high fantasy, and urban fantasy as well. A great and imaginative tale and the start of a story that will no doubt be amazing in scope. 09/09 Becky Lejeune

QUEENPIN by Megan Abbott: I don’t know if its noir or not, but I like it. In this short but sharp tale, the unnamed 22-year-old female narrator becomes the protégé of Gloria Denton, the hard as nails long legged collector for the mob. Gloria recognizes the same hardness in her, takes her under her wing and teaches her how to dress, move, behave and act as she begins to assist her in the pick up, transport, and distribution of payoffs and winnings. But then love or lust enters the picture in the form of smooth talking Vic Riordan. The result is inevitable and suddenly you find yourself in the middle of a tawdry ness that was there all along under the glitz and glitter. Eagerly awaiting her next book. 08/07 Jack Quick

THE QUEEN’S BASTARD by C. E. Murphy: Belinda Primrose has been raised to believe that her parents died years ago in an accident. Just before her twelfth birthday, the truth about her birth is finally revealed. Her mother is none other than Queen Lorraine and her father is the man she believed to be her uncle. She can never reveal the truth of her heritage, and she must help to ensure that her mother’s seat on the throne remains unthreatened, at all costs. After spending ten years training and acting as an assassin securing the Aulunian queen’s interests, Belinda is given a new task. She is to infiltrate the royal family of a neighboring kingdom and find out if there are plans against Lorraine. Belinda seduces the prince and discovers that they share a common bond. The two have special abilities, powers that have lain hidden in Belinda until now. With these abilities becoming more and more powerful each day, Belinda finds herself in a position of power and possibility that has remained unattainable to the bastard child. The question is whether she can overcome the evil and greed that has begun to taint her and stay loyal to her mother, or if she will be the instrument that will bring the Titian Queen down. Belinda’s dilemma is an interesting one that elicits many emotions from readers. At times she is not at all a likeable heroine, at others it is impossible not to sympathize with her. With so many aspects left to explain and a cliffhanger of an ending fantasy readers are sure to be on edge until the next installment of the story hits shelves. 05/08 Becky Lejeune

THE QUEST by Nelson Demille: In 1975, two Journalists and a photographer, covering the Ethiopian Civil war get lost in the jungle, and while bedded down for the evening meet an old priest that wanders into their camp. He is sick, dying, and advises that he just escaped from a prison where he was held prisoner for 40 years, or since the days when the Italian army came to Ethiopia to conquer the country. He relates an incredible story of having found the Holy Grail, the cup that Jesus drank from at the last supper before his crucifixion. The priest indicates that it is being held for safe keeping in a monastery in the jungle near to the site that the four are currently at. The monks, afraid that he would reveal what he has seen give him over to the army that holds him in a cell for 40 years without any communication at all. The next day, the priest passes away and the trio resolve to find the grail. Their plans are stopped when they are captured by elements of the rebel forces. Once freed they decide that they will mount an expedition to find the monastery and take the holy grail. They ally themselves with a British officer who had also been held by the rebels and all four set out to find the monastery and recover the grail. The photographer, a beautiful girl, had originally been traveling with the elder of the Journalists, and was actually his lover. Along the way the love interests change and she and the other Journalist find themselves in love. A well constructed book that covers 40 years of warfare in Ethiopia, paints a picture of a land covered with jungle, and ends with a surprise set of true events that bring the reader into a country in the midst of transition. Another memorable achievement for Demille who has never failed to keep his readers glued to the pages. 9/13 Paul Lane

A QUESTION OF BLOOD by Ian Rankin: John Rebus and his younger partner, Detective Sergeant Siobhan Clarke, are trying to close the case of a withdrawn ex-soldier named Lee Herdman, who apparently shot three teenage boys at a Scottish private school, leaving two of them dead, before turning the pistol on himself. But is the case that straight forward or is there more to the story? Rebus is handicapped because of badly burned hands, an injury he insists has no connection to the burning death of a small-time crook who’d been stalking Siobhan. Like a fine wine, Rebus only gets better with age and in his 14th outing he comes very close to going over the edge and losing his police position. At 525 pages, it’s not a “short read” but it is a good one. 10/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

THE QUESTORY OF ROOT KARBUNKULUS by Kamilla Read: Root Karbunkulus’s life sucks. Really. She’s fourteen and being raised by her two disgusting aunts who she’s expected to wait on hand and foot. In fact, at one point she’d all but given up on any sort of different life. All that is about to change for Root. She’s about to discover that everything she’s ever known about herself is absolutely wrong. For one, she’s not related to her yucky aunts in any way. In fact, she’s not even from this world. She hails from a world called DréAmm and she and just over one hundred other kids are about to embark on a treasure quest that will change their lives forever. This is just the beginning, though. First in an ambitious new series, Questory will appeal to young Harry Potter and fantasy fans everywhere. Parents will get a kick out of reading it, but I’m not sure if it will have the same universal appeal as HP. We’ll just have to see. 07/08 Becky Lejeune

THE QUICKIE by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge: Okay, I admit I picked this one this up based on the title and the fact that Patterson’s output is like potato chips – not necessarily satisfying, but still hard to resist picking one up on occasion. This one is quite simple. NYPD cop Lauren Stillwell decides to exact revenge on her husband after seeing him leaving a hotel with another woman. However, in the process she witnesses a shocking crime. Now it’s not only her marriage that’s in jeopardy but also her job and perhaps even her life. A quickie read, hardly more than a couple of beers, and oh, could you pass me over that bowl of potato chips. 08/07 Jack Quick

A QUIET BELIEF IN ANGELS by R.J. Ellory: This literary mystery and coming-of-age tale is an absolutely amazing read. Eleven-year-old Joseph Vaughan could have lived out an unassuming life in his small rural Georgia town. But over the years, Joseph faced events that many would never experience; events that shaped his life in unexpected ways. It is 1939 when his father dies. Joseph, a bright student, is encouraged by both his mother and his teacher to develop his promising writing skills. When a girl in his class is kidnapped and murdered, Joseph takes a special interest, collecting facts about the murder and even forming his own band of Guardians to track the killer. As more girls are found, Joseph becomes entangled in the case, eventually discovering one of the bodies himself. For decades, the girls would haunt him, until he is faced once again with the death of someone close to him, someone whose murder resembles those of so long ago. Joseph’s pursuit of the truth sends him down a path that will change him forever. As he struggles with growing up, with prison, and even with fame, Joseph never forgets the murders that plagued his hometown or the body that he found. Ellory’s American debut is a brilliant read—enthralling and lyrical prose paired with a smart mystery that will literally leave you guessing until the very last page. 09/09 Becky Lejeune

A QUIET BELIEF IN ANGELS by R.J. Ellory: Whenever a grandchild is misbehaving, sweet wife also asks – Where is the parent? With this American debut from British author Ellory, the question is where is the editor? The plot is fairly straightforward. . In 1939, in rural Augusta Falls, Ga., someone brutally rapes and murders a classmate of 12-year-old Joseph Vaughn, the first in what will become more than 30 similar crimes over decades. Vaughan gathers together a group of local boys and forms the Guardians in the hope of preventing more attacks, but the failure of the group eventually drives Vaughan to Brooklyn, where he gets caught up in another murder linked to the killings back home. The problem is the basic story tends get lost in the subplots and among the huge cast of characters Ellroy has included. Bottom line – well written, but poorly edited. 08/10 Jack Quick

QUINCANNON’S GAME by Bill Pronzini: Former Secret Service agent turned detective John Quincannon is featured in this collection of four short stories. The first, involves a serial burglar, and the others feature a fraudulent rainmaker, a bogus psychic, and a couple of con artists. Combining two genres–detective story and western, in this case–is always tricky but Pronzini, a veteran of both, blends the two seamlessly but isn’t that what you would expect? 04/06 Jack Quick

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