Fiction Reviews V: 1998-2013

V by Thomas Pynchon: I kept reading and reading, waiting for some semblance of a plot to emerge but it never did. I didn’t care about the characters either. My guess is with Pynchon you either you love him or you hate him. I forced myself to finish it, drudging though every page. Sorry to disappoint all the literati, but did I mention I hated this book?

V IS FOR VENGEANCE by Sue Grafton: An ex cop and a private investigator, Kinsey Millhone is not the kind of person who can witness a crime and let it go. When she sees a shoplifter in action at a local department store, she reports it. Simple. The shoplifter is caught, but her partner gets away. Then, the arrested woman dies in a reported suicide after being released on bail. Her fiancé hires Kinsey to find out why—why was his wife-to-be shoplifting in the first place and why would she have killed herself. Kinsey’s investigation soon leads to an apparent shoplifting ring and a number of secrets that certain people would kill to keep. As a long-time fan of the series, I go into each new installment with great anticipation. Unfortunately, I thought this latest was a little dry and Kinsey was kind of off putting for the first time that I can recall. She seemed to be very self-righteous, not something I remember from past books. Overall, V Is For Vengeance is ok, but it wasn’t a favorite. 11/11 Becky Lejeune

V IS FOR VENGEANCE by Sue Grafton: Kinsey Millhone is trying to find out who a shoplifter was working for prior to her being killed. Was it murder or suicide. In the process she attracts the attention of the bad guys as well as getting involved in various sundry details of other lives. Somehow this one just didn’t work for me. Too many threads and not enough substance. But I still look forward to the “W” book. 5/12 Jack Quick
VACATION by Matthew Costello: After the water ran out and the crops began to fail, a new breed of predator emerged. They call then Can Heads—vicious cannibals that attack and eat people. No one knows what caused it but the Can Heads are an increasing threat to what remains of society. Jack Murphy, a cop with the NYPD, barely survives an attack in the line of duty and is immediately ordered to take a vacation. But vacations these days aren’t what you might think. In upstate New York there is a place that is heavily guarded and surrounded by electric fences. It’s expensive, but the Paterville Camp offers families a chance to relax. There’s boating and swimming, games, and even locally grown fresh food. But there’s something strange about Paterville and Jack isn’t certain that his family is safe. Vacation is great fun. It’s creepy, post-apocalyptic, non-zombie (but zombie-esque) fabulousness. The story is so simple—a family vacation goes south in the most horrific way—and that’s exactly what makes it so great. 10/12 Becky Lejeune

THE VALHALLA EXCHANGE by Jack Higgins: One of the best of Jack Higgins’ thrillers is now available as an ebook from Open Road Publishing. The year is 1976, thirty one years after the Allies closed in on war-ravaged Berlin, and Hitler’s personal secretary, Martin Bormann, made his escape. A journalist has begun to finally piece together Bormann’s cunning getaway. The trail has led to La Heurta, Bolivia where a stranger with considerable cash and multiple passports has died. Could this be Bormann? Five allied POW’s played an unwitting role in Bormann’s escape and the one survivor now a retired General, helps the journalist uncover the truth. One of the best, from an author who has sold over 250 million copies of his 60 plus thrillers worldwide. 09/10 Jack Quick

THE VALLEY OF FEAR by A.C. Doyle: Number 63 in the Hardcase Crime series was the last of the Sherlock Holmes novels published by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and originally appeared in “Strand Magazine” serially between September 1914 and May 1915. The novel concerns the real-life activities of the secret Irish organization, the “Molly Maguires”, and of Pinkerton agent James McParland who investigated them. The two part novel is first concerned with Holmes investigation of an apparent murder victim whose identity is mistaken and secondly with the story of the man originally thought to be the murder victim. Notable for its involvement of Professor Moriarty, which seems to contradict the timeline of the other Sherlock stories, “The Valley of Fear” was one of the last great chapters in the literary legacy of Doyle’s most famous creation, Sherlock Holmes. 01/10 Jack Quick

THE VALLEY OF JEWELS by Mary Saums: Is there anything more southern than homemade biscuits and country ham? How about a for real killing in the midst of a civil war reenactment? Willi Taft has returned to north Alabama for a summer job teaching at Faulkner College but it turns out to be music and mayhem as first her department head is stabbed to death during a reenactment and a singer who Willi has always admired receives threatening notes. Mix in the KKK, a romantic interest, and the still wet behind the ears former singer and now part-time private eye has her hands full. Think Southern Fried Kinsey Millhone or an early Sharon McCone on a treasure hunt and in peril. Recommended. 05/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick, Alabama boy and connoisseur of the South.

THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOWS by Mark Terry: Derek Stillwater, troubleshooter for the Department of Homeland Security, is facing a security nightmare. Two laptops recovered from a raid on a Pakistan al-Qaeda cell indicate that al-Qaeda has planned a series of simultaneous attacks in five U.S. cites involving potential dirty bombs, biological weapons, and maybe even a nuclear weapon – on Election Day. Stillwater is assigned to one of the multijurisdictional Special Terrorism Activity Response Teams (START) tasked with locating the weapons and terrorists in Los Angeles and preventing the attack. They have only two days and as they close in on their targets, Derek begins to think that the intelligence they gathered is a sideshow to distract them from the real target – one of the two candidates for president of the United States. Almost prescient with the news that computer files were recovered during the mission to kill Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. Let us hope it is all a flight of Mr. Terry’s imagination. 06/11 Jack Quick

THE VALLEY OF SHADOWS by Mark Terry: This is a fast moving action novel about a plot by AL-Qaeda to launch several attacks on the United States. To fully enjoy the book the reader has to suspend logical thinking about cause and effect of physical violence while reading it. Mark Terry’s protagonist is a Homeland Security operative named Derek Stillwater who has appeared in three additional books by the author. Derek holds a PhD, is an ex-army officer, is completely anti-social, does not work or play well with others, recovers from beatings and shootings without benefit of hospital care and seems to come up with solutions out of thin air. Evidence is found in Pakistan that indicates five attacks on different U. S. cities will be launched in just two days time from the finding of the documentation. Several teams consisting of agents from different US government departments are formed to find and stop the attacks. Derek is put on one team which is headed by an ex-girlfriend of his who he dumped in the past due to the slight problem of her being married. They hate each other with a passion but cooperate in order to catch up to the enemy.
In arriving at answers in the two days given Derek has physical altercations with the body guards of several “persons of interest” who inflict physical damage on him; he is also shot but continues on with his quest for the truth without stopping or resting. Several of the actual attacks on the US fail due to bad luck or poor planning on the part of the terrorists, but the main objective seems about to be accomplished and the pace of the action revs up several notches. Derek, in addition to fighting the enemy, also is involved with thwarting the desires of all of the friendly agencies helping in the search who seem to want to arrest him for various and sundry crimes.
Valley of the Shadows is a good read if one is looking for a lot of very fast paced action without really fleshing out the characters. The only individual that seems real is the chief villain called Kalakar, who experiences obstacles just like he would have in real life and drives on to his objective. Don’t look for anything other than fast paced, more than slightly incredulous action but read it to just sit back and be pulled along. Oh yes – Derek and his ex girlfriend do manage to recuperate from their respective injuries together on the boat that he lives on. So there! 10/11 Paul Lane
VAMPYRES OF HOLLYWOOD by Adrienne Barbeau and Michael Scott: Scream queen Ovsanna Moore is a Hollywood film legend – in more ways than her fans could ever imagine. Ovsanna is one of the vampires of Hollywood. She is also the top vamp in LA. Lately, though, someone has been using her creations for vampire target practice. Enter Detective Peter King. He was raised on celluloid dreams, but in spite of his mother’s hopes he followed in his father’s footsteps and became a cop instead. Now he serves and protects Hollywood and its denizens and the case of the Cinema Slayer has landed smack dab in his lap. When the pieces all come together, Ovsanna seems to be the most common link between the victims, especially when one of her special effects crew is killed next. Peter knows something is up, but he’s in for a real surprise when he discovers what it is. It seems someone has declared war on Ovsanna and she must team up with Peter to discover who or this role may turn out to be her very last. Fun and entirely original! Barbeau, a scream queen in her own right, teams up with Michael Scott to create a smart and amusing mystery that is addictive reading. Vampyres is unlike anything else I’ve read of late. 07/08 Becky Lejeune

VANILLA RIDE by Joe R. Lansdale: It has been eight years since Joe Lansdale has written a “Hap and Leonard” novel. The daring duo are back, taking names and kicking ass. For those unfamiliar with the series, these two East Texans find themselves in situations that require a lot of fighting and, in Vanilla Ride, a lot of killing. In this installment, Hap and Leonard take on some cracker drug lords known as the Dixie Mafia. Lansdale brings back Jim Bob and Marvin while introducing a new character, Tonto. What makes this series shine is the dialog–it crackles right off the page. Hap is a reformed drinker; Leonard, a flaming homosexual. Together, they trade witty banter while watching one another’s backs. Don’t mess with either…unless you want a knuckle sandwich. Vanilla Ride is, at times, crude, juvenile, and sophomoric, but beneath the non-stop cartoon violence, Lansdale poses the unanswerable question: can murder be justified? Highly recommended for fans of Carl Hiaasen and Tim Dorsey. 08/09 Dan Cawley

VANISH by Tess Gerritsen: A group of young girls smuggled into the U.S. for a sexual slavery ring are massacred. Thus opens the newest thriller from Gerritsen and the action doesn’t stop until the last page is turned. Dr. Maura Isles has the dubious distinction of finding a living body in the cooler of her morgue. “Jane Doe” is moved to the hospital where she proves to be one tough patient to keep in a bed; she manages to take several people hostage. Detective Jane Rizzoli is also a patient in the hospital because her baby is over due, and she won’t stay in her bed either. While she goes wandering, looking for her doctor, she ends up as one of the hostages. The Boston police and the FBI get involved, including Rizzoli’s husband, FBI agent Gabriel Dean, and the tension just continues to mount as Rizzoli goes into labor during the hostage negotiations. Then the word “terrorist” is uttered, National Security starts pulling strings and Agent Dean, feeling supremely frustrated, decides to do his own investigation and uncovers a conspiracy that he wasn’t supposed to find. Vanish is a very topical, very tense, top drawer thriller, summer reading at its finest. Don’t miss it! 08/05

VANISHED by Joseph Finder: It’s been almost two years since Finder’s last book, and I’m happy to report that Vanished was worth the wait. Lauren and Roger Heller are enjoying a rare dinner out in Georgetown, in upscale Washington DC. After dinner, Lauren is attacked by what appears to be a mugger, but Roger simply vanishes. Their son Gabe calls his uncle Nick, an ex-Special Forces private investigator, who isn’t really on speaking turns with his brother but nonetheless, agrees to help find him. Thus begins this superbly written, startling tale of intrigue, violence, and greed. This one kept me turning pages through the night, and as an added bonus, Nick Heller is coming back – this is the excellent first book of an exciting new series. 08/09 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

VANISHED by Joseph Finder: After penning s number of excellent stand-alone thrillers, Finder has undertaken a series featuring Nick Heller, an elite corporate intelligence specialist and former Special Services badass. This one starts with Heller returning home to Washington, D.C., from a job in California to find his sister-in-law in a coma his older brother Roger vanished without a trace. Heller’s normal high energy approach is revved up even higher as family is involved. He soon learns that not all is at is seems with his brother, from home he has been estranged. A Blackwater type private military company is involved and the stakes are obviously enormous. If you are looking for a good adrenalin fix, and something to keep you awake at night, do like I did, climb aboard, fasten your seat belt and open up a large Red Bull. This one rocks. 09/10 Jack Quick

THE VANISHING ACT OF ESME LENNOX by Maggie O’Farrell: Imagine being locked in an asylum for most of your life. Imagine if the reason for this imprisonment is nothing more than being a headstrong teenager in a time when women were supposed to be submissive creatures bred to please their husbands. Now, imagine that your whole family has forgotten about you. This is what happens to Esme Lennox. At sixteen, Esme was committed to Cauldstone, a psychiatric facility that is on now on its last leg. Esme has two remaining relatives, her sister Kitty, and Kitty’s granddaughter Iris. When her grandmother is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, Iris Lockhart is assigned power of attorney making her the primary contact now that Cauldstone’s closure is imminent. Iris is reluctant to take on the burden of a certifiable relative especially considering the fact that she had no idea Esme even existed. Is she a danger to others? Is she a danger to herself? Why would Kitty have kept her only sister a secret from her entire family? The story unfolds from three points of view. Iris is a constant and reliable narrator, but she has her own personal demons and will never know the full extent of the story. Kitty’s choppy memories reveal the ultimate of betrayals. Esme’s own version bridges the gaps between the two as she herself discovers the real reason she was erased from her family’s history. I loved this book – it’s a sort of family drama with a taste of gothic undertones. O’Farrell’s prose will rouse in readers an almost desperate need to know the truth. 12/07 Becky Lejeune

VANISHING ACTS by Jodi Picoult: A story that is literally about finding oneself. Delia, along with her bloodhound, Greta, does search and rescue work. She lives in a small town in New Hampshire with her four year old daughter, Sophie and her father, Andrew. One night she has an odd dream about planting a lemon tree, and mentions it to her best friend, a journalist. He starts doing a little digging and the next thing you know, Delia’s whole world is turned up side down. Her father is arrested, and she finds out the mother she thought dead is very much alive. The story istold in the alternating voices of half a dozen of the main characters, a format that mostly works here. The story does get bogged down a bit with Native American folklore and tales of prison, but all in all this is what Picoult does best; another compelling story ripped from the headlines. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE VANISHING OF KATHARINA LINDEN by Helen Grant: The disappearance of Katharina Linden is the beginning of an adventure young Pia has craved for ages. Her small town of Bad Münstereifel is nice, but boring, until Pia’s own grandmother combusts in a terrible holiday accident. All eyes have been on Pia since and she’s been fodder for horrible school jokes and gossip. But when fellow classmate Katharina Linden vanishes, seemingly into thin air, Pia is convinced that there are strange forces behind it. And as a distraction from the everyday, Pia and her friend Stefan begin their own investigation. A teen mystery in the UK, The Vanishing of Katharina Linden is really a wonderful read for all ages. Pia is a charming and intelligent lead that allows the reader to see the happenings through her young eyes, while still getting insight into the views and fears of the adults around her. Grant’s debut release includes elements of mystery and folklore, a fabulous combination that makes for an atmospheric and entrancing read. 08/10 Becky Lejeune

VANISHING POINT by Marcia Muller: Sharon McCone and boyfriend Hy Ripinksy finally take a few days to go to Reno for a tasteful (no Elvis impersonators) wedding but its quickly back to work for both. McCone is hired to follow up on a cold case of a woman missing over 20 years. The initial evidence she and her team turn up indicates the woman may not have been the devoted wife and mother that her daughter remembers. Another excellent McCone outing, which reads easily and continues the string of McCone successes. It’s probably not all coincidence that Muller’s real life husband is Bill Pronzini and that both are among the best for contemporary mystery fiction. 08/06 Jack Quick

VANITY FARE: A NOVEL OF LATTES, LITERATURE AND LOVE by Megan Caldwell: Molly Hagan is in a precarious position—she’s just learned that her ex has been laid off. Not only can he no longer provide child support, but Molly will be losing her insurance benefits as well. She needs to find a job and quick. Fortunately an old friend comes through with a temporary solution: copywriting for a new bakery being launched by a celebrity chef. Since the bakery is to be located near the New York City Library, the investors are looking for something that combines literature and baked goods. With her English Lit background, Molly is the perfect person for the job. But when she meets chef Simon and his business partner Nick, things start to get complicated for the newly single Molly. Caldwell’s debut is heartwarming and laugh-out-loud funny and it combines two of the things I love most: books and pastries. Definitely recommended for readers looking to lose themselves in a quick and adorable tale. 1/13 Becky Lejeune

VELOCITY by Alan Jacobson: FBI profiler Karen Vail is barely hanging on in this follow-on to CRUSH. Her lover, Detective Robby Hernandez, has disappeared in California’s Napa Valley while she’s busy catching John Wayne Mayfield, the notorious Crush Killer. Vail is convinved Mansfield knows what has happened to him but Mansfield is in a medically induced coma after being shot by fellow officer Ray Lugo, who himself took a fatal shot in the neck during the operation Then Karen learns that. Robby had been investigating drug cartel kingpin Carlos Cortez and his associates, including the CFO of a mobile wine bottling company, César Guevara. The action is non-stop with a heroine reminiscent of Catherine Coulter’s FBI series. A little touchy-feely, but overall a nice written procedural. 08/11 Jack Quick

VELVETEEN by Danny Marks: For Velveteen Monroe, death was not the end. After being murdered by a neighborhood psychopath nicknamed Bonesaw, Velvet landed in the City of the Dead, an inbetween place for spirits with unresolved issues. Now she works as a Salvager, tracking down lost souls and punishing those who aren’t where they belong. In her spare time, she returns topside to haunt her killer, a big no-no as far as the City powers are concerned. And the City is suffering – cracks are appearing in their world and a riot is brewing. It’s up to Velvet and her team to find the cause and hopefully prevent the destruction of their world. With Velveteen Danny Marks has created not only a uniquely imagined world but a wholly original premise and a cast of characters any fan of dark fantasy will love. This is Marks’s teen debut, but it definitely has huge cross over appeal for adults. 10/12 Becky Lejeune

VENDETTA’S VICTIM by Alex Matthews: I am not anti-cat. I am anti-psychological animals with extraordinary powers that make us humans look really dumb. Matthews’ cats have no super powers, but they are everywhere, to the point of interfering with what otherwise is a well-written mystery. Chicago psychotherapist Cassidy McCabe learns that a man using her name is going around injecting HIV positive blood into at least two women. After Cassidy is unable to get the victims to go to the police, she and boyfriend reporter Zach Moran set out to find the perp who calls himself Cliff Connors. Crisp pacing and realistic Chicago ambience remind you of Sara Paretsky and Robert Campbell. Unfortunately Cassidy is not as hard-boiled as V.I. Warshawski, or as laugh out loud funny as Jimmy Flannery. Still, all in all, an excellent effort, recommend for anyone without cat allergies. (Third in the series). 10/06 Jack Quick

THE VENETIAN BETRAYAL by Steve Berry: All the characters we met before when secret agent-turned-bookseller Cotton Malone was chasing the Templars are back in The Venetian Betrayal. This time they’re after the long lost tomb (and body) of Alexander the Great. And it’s as much of a tour de force as we’ve come to expect from Berry, though he manages here to one-up himself in terms of spectacular scenery and exotic locale, as everyone ends up somewhere to the Northeast of Samarkand.
My favorite character is the bad guy, who in this case is a woman, and whatta woman! Described as a sort of cross between Genghis Khan (a possible ancestor) and Rosie O’Donnell, Irina Zovastina heads up a Central Asian Federation that makes so much sense, I wish we really had one. Maps are provided, a thoughtful touch since the fictional federation covers countries that have been so troubled for so long that hardly anyone goes there, i.e. countries ending in -stan, such as Uzbekistan etc. Since I adore Venice and its complex history, I had hoped for more of that. But no matter, Steve Berry has given us another winner. For someone who tells us he tried for 12 years, with 85 rejections of 5 different manuscripts before selling his first book, his persistence is being rewarded. As are we, the readers, who get to come along on his fast, historically fascinating rides. 12/07 Dianne Day

THE VENETIAN BETRAYAL by Steve Berry: The latest release by the master of action and suspense finds Cotton Malone and company on a desperate search for the lost tomb of Alexander. Legend has it that Alexander may have discovered an ancient cure-all, a draught whose secret followed him to his grave. The leader of the Asian Federation, Supreme Ministre Irina Zovastina, has plans for Alexander’s draught that do not include saving the world. She and her cohorts have been working to develop the ultimate virus to be used in biological warfare and secure her place and the helm of this new empire. Her efforts would have impressed the great Alexander himself. Malone, along with Cassiopeia Vitt, Henrik Thorvaldsen, and Stephanie Nelle must discover Alexander’s final resting place before Zovastina gets her hands on it and succeeds in becoming the world’s most powerful dictator. Berry never disappoints. His use of important modern day issues and the mystique of unexplained and strange historical events are the secrets to his success as a great novelist. Readers who pay close attention just might catch Berry’s nod to fellow author James Rollins and his own Sigma series. 12/07 Becky Lejeune

VENETIAN HOLIDAY by David Campbell: Cat burglar and art thief Kate Fujimori is in trouble at two levels. Her attempt to steal a phony Mona Lisa from a gallery in Venice is interrupted by two other thieves after the same painting. Kate blames her planner, Freddy Doloreux. Although he had nothing to do with this debacle he has sold her out to a mobster who wants payback for a theft she committed earlier. Throw in a police inspector with a voodoo-practicing ex-girlfriend, a pair of monks looking for the corpse of their abbot and all you’re lacking are a couple of animal acts. A fast and fairly pleasant read. Too violent to be considered a cozy, it brings to mind the 1999 Sean Connery, Catherine Zeta-Jones movie – Entrapment, but not as slickly done. Overall, a bit gimmicky. 09/06 Jack Quick

VENGEANCE by A.J. Scudiere: FBI agent Owen Dunham is following the trail of the ‘Grudge Ninja’. What he doesn’t realize is that all his evidence is false. The profilers can’t get their heads around anything except the obvious fact that the Ninja is extracting a deadly revenge for an old wrong. As the Ninja gets bolder and far more dangerous, Owen begins to question whether the Ninja may be a force for good that he, Owen, should not attempt to stop. On the other hand, he knows this case will make his career. No shortage of mayhem and mishap in this bloody but interesting outing. 01/09 Jack Quick

VENGEANCE ROAD by Rick Mofina: Reporter Jack Gannon is the first to respond for a call regarding the discovery of a body in a local park. He thinks it might lead to a story, but he can’t even imagine how big it’s going to get. Gannon stumbles on a lead that his bosses are none to pleased to see in print, however, and soon he finds that he must solve this one in order to save his own reputation. Meanwhile, Jack has also been approached by a mother whose daughter is gone missing. As Jack digs deeper into the murder, he finds that the missing girl may be connected and if she’s still alive, the time to find her is running out. This first in a new series from Mofina is a fast-paced read with a superb plot. True edge-of-your-seat material. I’ll definitely be looking forward to the next installment of Gannon’s story. 09/09 Becky Lejeune

THE VENGEFUL VIRGIN by Gil Brewer: Hard Case Crime #30 is a reprint of a 1958 classic. Bill Pronzini calls it one of his favorites, so how could it not be good. Shirley Angela is 18, but far from sweet and innocent. What she wants to be is rich, and she has a plan for that – all it takes is bringing in the right man. Jack Ruxton had his eyes open as well as….well, lets just say he and Shirley Angela worked very closely on how to rob the old man of his life and his money. At least that was their intention. Thank you, Hard Case Crime, for another golden oldie. 04/07 Jack Quick

THE VENICE CONSPIRACY by Sam Christer: Suspend your disbelief and immerse yourself in Venetian history, secret societies, Satanism, symbolism, art and the Estrucans. Since this purports to be a thriller, there are also lots of gruesome ritualistic killings as well as plenty of short chapters. The main protagonist is a former priest, Tom Shaman, whose very name is a symbol. After accidentally killing a man while defending a woman’s honor, Tom feels the need to get away and goes to Venice. There he finds the body of a young woman who was ritualistically murdered, and the local police want his priestly help in solving the case. Despite the fact that Tom speaks no Italian, and the Italian cop he spends the most time with freely admits that her English is sub-par, they communicate beautifully. The story constantly jumps back and forth in time from the symbolically important 666 BC to 1777-1778 to present day, with the dramatic ending neatly tying up all the loose ends. Fans of Dan Brown and Steve Berry will be enamored. 11/12 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch Copyright © 2012 Booklist, a division of the American Library Association. Reprinted with permission.

THE VENONA CABLE by Brent Ghelfi: In this third outing, contemporary Russian criminal and spy Alexei Volk Volkovoy has been told all his life that he is an orphan. His mother died giving him birth, and his father was an Air Force Officer, who disappeared in 1974. The body of Everett Walker, an elderly U.S. cinematographer who was blacklisted by Hollywood, turns up in a Moscow warehouse where Volk used to make pornographic videos, and Volk gets charged with Walker’s murder. Walker, who came to Russia to look for Volk, was carrying a microdot copy of the Venona cable as well as a photo of himself with Volk’s disgraced father. To clear himself, Volk must go to the U.S. to determine whether Stepan was a bona fide agent of the GRU (military intelligence) or a defector and traitor. Neither the Russians nor the Americans are sure which agents are real and which are double, and the doubt goes all the way back to WWII. The partially decoded Venona cable from 1943 appears to be relevant to the search if Volk can only figure out who the missing parties are not named in the cable. Nicely done in a series that begs to be read in order. 11/11 Jack Quick

THE VENUS FIX by M. J. Rose: Dr. Morgan Snow, a sex therapist with a list of clients drawn to mayhem and murder, is back in her third outing in this terrific series. Morgan is treating clients with Internet porn addiction to live web cam performances. One is a powerful judge who has been hiding his identity, until he ends up being a suspect when the girls he is watching start dying live on camera, one after another. Patient confidentiality puts Morgan at odds once again with Detective Noah Jordain, and their relationship is feeling the strain. Creepy letters from the serial killer are interspersed throughout the book, escalating the tension to the riveting finale. The Venus Fix is one twisted, terrific thriller. 07/06 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

Vernon God Little: A 21st Century Comedy in the Presence of Death by D. B. C. Pierre: I suppose that it is hard to argue with a book that won the Man Booker Prize, but here goes. VGL is a teenage Benny Hill TV episode set in an Englishman’s idea of Texas. If you like that sort of thing, fine. But it ought not to be winning prestigious awards. Particularly in a year when The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time should be winning everything in sight. Read that first.
That out of the way, VGL is the story of a teenager, living in small town Texas, whose best friend has gone on a shooting spree at their high school and then killed himself. Anxious to blame somebody besides themselves, the locals arrest young Little. As he struggles to prove his innocence, circumstances and a cable TV news guy who is sleeping with his mother conspire to make matters much worse for Vernon. Like death penalty worse. The book is amusing, but no classic. Its real value is that behind the cheap and silly humor, it does an excellent job of capturing teenage angst, suffering beneath the lethal smothering of southern women and small town life. And it does have a happy ending.
Probably a good idea to rent “Bowling for Columbine” after reading this, just to regain a little perspective. ~This review contributed by Geoffrey R. Hamlin.

A VERY SIMPLE CRIME by Grant Jerkins: Brothers Adam and Monty Lee have overcome a troubled past to become successful adults—or so it seems. Monty is a criminal attorney and the town’s most eligible bachelor. Adam is unhappily married to a mentally unstable heiress. Their son, Albert, has never developed past the emotional age of a five-year-old. When a teenaged Albert viciously attacks his mother, he is placed in an expensive, private institution where he ends up killing his roommate. Meanwhile, Adam and Rachel are barely getting along, and in addition to her other problems, she has become agoraphobic. After Rachel begs Adam to bring Albert home for a visit, Adam goes off for the weekend with his mistress. Rachel is murdered, and Albert is assumed to be her killer. But a rogue attorney in the D.A.’s office isn’t so sure. Soon, Adam is arrested, and Monty defends him, with startling results. Verdict: No one in this novel is as they appear to be, and the twists and turns never let up until the very last page. This dark, chilling debut, which has been optioned for film by screenwriter Nicholas Kazan (Reversal of Fortune) is a real page-turner in the best sense of the term, and should especially appeal to legal thriller fans. 11/10 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch Copyright © 2010 Library Journal, a division of Media Source Inc. Reprinted with permission.

THE VERY THOUGHT OF YOU by Rosie Alison: WWII saw thousands of children evacuated from London. They were placed in homes around the country, to keep them safe from the impending attack on the city. Anna Sands was one of these children. Sent to Yorkshire, the eight-year-old ends up at Ashton Park as part of a larger group of children who will be housed and schooled there for as long as necessary. Thomas Ashton, the last in the Ashton line, and his wife Elizabeth, have longed for children of their own. Their marriage is on the rocks and the evacuees offer a welcome distraction. Anna is fascinated by them—Thomas in particular—and the things she sees and experiences while at Ashton Park will stay with her for the rest of her of her life. The Very Thought of You starts out promising, probably because at eight, a child’s own life is full of promise. What comes later, however, just made me sad. People dissatisfied with life and marriage… maybe not what every reader will come away with, but definitely the points that stuck with me. Critically, Alison’s book has been praised, even earning her a coveted nomination for the Orange Prize. 07/11 Becky Lejeune

VERY VALENTINE by Adriana Trigiani: One of my favorite authors starts a new trilogy with this book introducing our heroine, Valentine Roncalli. Valentine is an apprentice to her grandmother, a cobbler in New York City. The Angelini Shoe Company was started by her grandfather in 1903 (sort of) and upon his death, her grandmother, Teodora, took it over. They make custom wedding shoes, a very specialized niche for sure, but unfortunately the most successful part of their business is the prime real estate in Greenwich Village that they work and live in. The women are a part of a large Italian-American family, with all the love, chaos and good food that implies. Valentine’s older brother wants his grandmother to retire by selling the building, but that will make Valentine homeless and jobless. She’s fallen in love with the business, and when an opportunity comes up to compete for Bergdorf Goodman’s window display, she’s determined to win and keep her business. Meanwhile, she’s met a man, Roman Falconi, who’s the hot new chef in Little Italy but they are both a bit too career driven for much romance. Introducing all the characters and setting makes this book a slow starter, but then it takes off like a rocket, bringing laughter, tears, and best of all, a trip through Italy. Another fabulous read from Trigiani, and personally I can’t wait for the next installment. 03/09 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE VIADUCT by Grace F. Edwards: Harlem, 1972. Marin Taylor is an African-American Vietnam veteran trying to put his war experience behind him and start a new life. Then he has a very bad day. The owner of the print shop in which he works has a heart attack and closes down the business. On his way home to his pregnant wife Margaret, he is accosted by two men, brothers, wearing stockings over their face. He tries to defend himself and the severance money in his pocket. In the ensuing melee, he manages to push one over the ten story viaduct, but the other one stabs him several times. Marin wakes up in hospital, no money, but still alive. Marin slowly recovers and is relatively well when his wife gives birth to a baby daughter. In the meantime Conroy, the surviving brother, who has been hiding out, learns from his mother that she has borrowed the money from a local loan shark to bury his brother and that it will be up to him to repay the loan and vig. Conroy hatches a misguided scheme, partly for revenge and partly as means of satisfying his loan shark debt, to kidnap Marin and Margaret’s new born child. Although I can’t attest to the accuracy of the depiction of Harlem, I would say, as one who lived through this time period that Edwards has nailed the era perfectly in this stand-alone from the author of the popular Mali Anderson mystery series, which I definitely want to try soon. Somewhat different from James Ellroy and Walter Mosley, but equally well done. 06/10 Jack Quick

THE VICIOUS DEEP by Zoraida Córdova: Tristan Hart is your everyday, average teenage boy. He’s a star swimmer and a lifeguard at Coney Island alongside his best friend, Layla—a girl he wishes was more than just a friend. But when a sudden storm strikes Coney Island, everything in Tristan’s life changes. He thought he saw a girl in the midst of the sudden churning waves, and without thinking twice he jumped in to save her. Three days later, Tristan washed up on shore with no memory of where he’d been. The Vicious Deep is mermaids like you’ve never seen then Córdova’s debut is a fresh spin on the paranormal teen trend. Her characters are unique and her writing is fun and snarky, making The Vicious Deep just as much fun for adult paranormal fans as it is for it’s intended audience. 5/12 Becky Lejeune

VICTORY AND HONOR by W.E.B. Griffin and William E. Butterworth IV: World War II in Germany is over, except for some few people like Colonel Cletus Frade and his colleagues in the OSS who find themselves up to their necks in battles every bit as fierce as the ones just ended. The first is political as every department from Treasury to War to the FBI are campaigning for its being dismantled and their agents and assets turned over to them. The second is preparing for the possible next world war, against Joe Stalin and his voracious ambitions. To get a jump on the latter, Frade has been conducting a secret operation, one of great daring-and great danger. If it is discovered, he and his men may all become a casualties of war. 09/11 Jack Quick

VICTORY AT YORKTOWN by Newt Gingrich & William R Forstchen: This is the third in a trilogy about the Revolutionary War, culminating with the siege of Yorktown and the emergence of The United States of America as an independent nation. The authors have done a considerable amount of research in presenting their interpretation of events and people of those times. The books are set as novels with historical and fictional characters shown as real people with both the strengths and weaknesses of all individuals. George Washington is central and is readily portrayed as a man placed by circumstances into a position that requires the fortitude to overcome normal human doubts, leading a rag tag army of volunteers against the mightiest army in the world. It is obvious the authors admired him as a great patriot and leader in the fight for freedom and liberty. Washington is beset by a Congress that vacillates back and forth in helping the army, as well as desertions by many soldiers, an incompetent general (Gates) who plots to take command away from him and the treason of his once friend Benedict Arnold. There is a sympathetic treatment of the capture and execution of Major John Andre, a British officer caught behind the American lines out of uniform. He is portrayed as a gallant foe and in actuality caused the military court that convicted him of spying to petition Washington for clemency. Faced with the rules of war Washington must have the death sentence carried out in spite of his own feelings of sympathy for Andre. The authors underscore the feelings of the Americans in attempting to win liberty and freedom for themselves and their new country. These are our founding fathers and the people they surrounded themselves with. The reader is made to feel the pride in their achievements and their overcoming of adversity in founding our nation. 12/12 Paul Lane

THE VIGILANTES by W.E.B. Griffin: The latest Griffin returns to the Philadelphia police force where Homicide Sergeant Matthew Payne is involved in a way of murders that involve local low lifes. Things get much more complicated when several so called vigilante groups begin claiming credit for the killings. The targets keep getting bigger and Payne realizes that soon the entire situation will be completely out of control unless he and his fellow officers can’t get to the bottom of the matter. With Griffin, there are never any major surprises, and you can almost predict the dialogue and the outcome, but like a well worn pair of shoes, that threadbare sweatshirt, or the “favorite” pair of jeans, a Griffin book always comforts and provides an outlet from your everyday turn of the mill frustrations. I am glad that his son is involved in these books so that hopefully there will always be one in the works. 09/10 Jack Quick

VINNIE’S HEAD by Marc Lecard: When you are having a bad time, and Johnnie LoDuco is definitely having a bad time, sometimes it helps to go fishing. But if your fishing line hangs up on a severed head, and when the head is (was) that of your good friend – no former friend – Vinnie, well a bad day just got worse. Not only for Vinnie McCloskey-Schmidt, a computer-savvy con artist who had recently promised to bring LoDuco into his business, but said friend LoDuco and Vinnie’s girlfriend Jennifer. Arguably this book contains some of the funniest violence ever as well as a complicated plot and some first rate writing like this exchange between Vinnie and Johnnie:
Whatever happened to that screenplay you were writing?
Oh that, I discovered a problem with it.
What was the problem?
It was a piece of shit.
Complete with mobsters, shysters, bounty hunters, serial killers, and who knows what else, this one rocks. 07/08 Jack Quick

THE VINTAGE CAPER by Peter Mayle: Peter Mayle’s latest wining and dining romp, The Vintage Caper, begins in Hollywood, but inevitably moves to the South of France as former corporate lawyer, gourmand and lively bachelor Sam Levitt seeks to track down 45 cases of very expensive wine stolen from the cellar of exceedingly obnoxious Hollywood entertainment lawyer, Danny Roth.
As always, the story is light and charming, but the real appeal of this book is the language. You can savor it just like the characters savor their wine and their food. Describing Danny’s choosing what to wear, Mayle writes “Something conservative (he was, after all, a lawyer) but with a devil-may-care touch of informality – he was, after all, an entertainment lawyer.” And even better is his description of Marseilles – “Sam had never been to Marseille, but he’d seen the French Connection and read one or two breathless articles by travel writers, and he thought he knew what to expect. There would be villainous characters-undoubtedly trainee Mafia executives – lurking on every street corner…In every respect, it would echo Somerset Maugham’s summing up of the Cote d’Azur – ‘a sunny place for shady people.’ It sounded interesting.”
In summary, this is one happy read. Think The Thomas Crown Affair – either version. 12/09 Geoffrey R. Hamlin
VIOLENT SATURDAY by W. L. Heath: Even if you miss the 1955 publication date, the language tells you quickly that this one has been around for a while. Morgan, Alabama is like most small towns on Friday night – a little innocent flirting, some outright adultery, drinking both legal and illegal, even a little larceny. All this gets swept aside on Saturday afternoon when three strangers carry out their intentions of robbing the Bank of Morgan. Some altered plans yield violent death, unusual heroism, and profound change for the sleepy little town. An easy read. 08/06 Jack Quick

VIOLET ON THE RUNWAY by Melissa Walker: Thoroughly enjoyable if implausible fairy tale about Violet, the 6’1″ high school senior who’s embarrassed about her height and naturally thin body. That is, until she is “discovered” while working in the local movie theater by a high powered New York agent who’s always looking for the next IT girl. Shy, wallflower Violet is whisked away to New York City, given a makeover and hits the runway, finding that popularity she’s always wanted, not to mention free Prada boots. But while success brings its rewards, it also brings a snarky bitch of a bulimic roommate with a coke addiction, difficulty in dealing with her two best friends back home, and a sharp dose of reality. Geared toward the teen crowd, so buy it for your teen, then borrow it for yourself. 10/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

VIRTUALLY DEAD by Peter May: An over the top state of the art thriller. Michael Kapinksy enjoyed his job as a crime-scene photographer, but his wealthy wife convinced him to give it up so they could have more “play time”. Now she is dead and Michael Kapinsky is at loose ends personally and financially. As he struggles to come to terms with Mora’s death, he decides to return to his old job, although it doesn’t seem to make a difference. Then his psychologist persuades him to enter a virtual world called Second Life to participate in a new kind of group therapy. Once there, his persona, Chas Chesnokov, discovers that victims whose crime scenes Michael has attended in the wealthy Southern California resort of Newport Beach have had their avatars clinically executed in the virtual world. Co-opted into the Twist of Fate Detective Agency, Chas embarks on an investigation with an exotic dancer and escort girl. They uncover a series of killings and a financial scam that is netting the murderer millions of dollars. When Michael is tempted by money that mysteriously appears in Chas’s Second Life account, both his real and his virtual lives are in danger. A mind stretcher and quite entertaining. 03/10 Jack Quick

VIRUS THIRTEEN by Joshua Alan Parry: In a future where science and medicine have made great progress, James and Linda Logan are about to announce a massive breakthrough. Until now, the cancer resistant genes implanted into each newborn could not be passed down generation to generation. James and Linda have solved that problem. Before they can finish their announcement, however, James collapses and has to be rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery and the removal of an impossible brain tumor. James, like everyone these days, has the cancer resistant gene. Or so his records say. A quick test proves otherwise and a confused James must find out why. Meanwhile, a strange flu epidemic threatens the nation’s safety and Linda is tagged as part of the team responsible for finding a cure. Parry’s debut shows great promise—the science is intriguing and the setting is excellent. The overall execution of the story left a bit to be desired, though. The action is quick but without much detail and the characters are somewhat flat and predictable. 3/13 Jack Quick

VISIBILITY by Boris Starling: Its 1952 and the Cold War plus the Korean conflict are keeping everyone jittery. Herbert Smith, “once of the British Army, latterly of MI5” and now a detective with “the Metropolitan Police’s Murder Squad,” draws the case of a drowned man found in a Hyde Park pond in the thick London fog. The victim, a young biochemist and son of a highly placed government official, in the hours before his death had claimed to be in possession of a discovery that could change the world. Smith soon discovers that his inquiries are creating a panic in the covert world as agents from his own MI5 as well as the Soviet Union and U.S. (along with a renegade Nazi mad scientist) surface. Reminiscent of le Carre and Forsyth, Starling stands equal to them with this great period English police procedural. 06/09 Jack Quick

A VISIBLE DARKNESS by Jonathon King: In this second outing, former Philadelphia cop Max Freeman spends much of his days and nights driving his pickup truck down the seedier streets of West Palm Beach, instead of the Everglades. He is looking for whoever is knocking off a bunch of very old African-American ladies who sold off their insurance policies early. Freeman’s lawyer chum, Billy Manchester, a genius who stutters in public, is back along with a new love interest, a sad-eyed lady cop. It is interesting to see the subtle evolution of Freeman as he transitions from a policeman, whose life was shattered by a shootout that left him wounded and a young man killed by one of his bullets, into someone who has found at least some peace with himself. 05/07 Jack Quick

Visions of Sugar Plums by Janet Evanovich: If you haven’t read Evanovich, I beg you not to start with this one; if you don’t know the characters, you will be lost. Stephanie’s latest bail jumper has the unlikely name of Sandy Claws, and he owns a toy factory. There’s no Ranger, but there is a mysterious hunk named Diesel who appears at will, adding additional havoc to the already over-wrought love life of our heroine. Grandma Mazur has a new “studmuffin” who emits electrical charges and Valerie is throwing up regularly, courtesy of Albert Kloughn. I read this on my lunch hour – there’s not much of a plot, no real laughs and an overload of cavity inducing sticky-sweet-cuteness. I hate to say it, but bah humbug. What a disappointment.

VISITATION STREET by Ivy Pochoda: If you’re the type that only reads one book each summer, look no further. This latest from the Dennis Lehane imprint at HarperCollins is a tour de force, an unputdownable, powerful read, garnering starred reviews from Kirkus, Publisher’s Weekly, Library Journal and Booklist, as well as being the pick of week at People magazine and Entertainment Weekly and An Amazon Best Book of the Month, July 2013. Usually when there is this much hype about a book, it is almost impossible for it to live up to it, but Pochoda manages to pull it off. Set in Red Hook, Brooklyn, an area divided into the projects and the “neighborhood”, with some crossover bound to happen, especially with school age kids, this waterfront community takes a hit one hot summer night. June and Val are best friends, fifteen years old and in that gray area between childhood and adulthood, looking for some fun. They have a pink inflatable raft and decide to take it out on the bay, but that decision has devastating consequences. Jonathan, their music teacher, finds Val unconscious, washed up on the shore, but June has disappeared. Chief suspect is Cree, a young black man from the projects that was seen in the area that night. Cree has a guardian angel, of sorts – a young, homeless graffiti artist has decided to befriend him and protect him. Jonathan is a Julliard drop out, drinking too much and spending all his free time in the neighborhood bar. Fadi is a Lebanese shop owner trying to assimilate into the community, and wants his store to become the center for information on the missing girl. All of these characters are fully brought to life, and Red Hook itself becomes yet another character in this tightly written and moving story. This is ostensibly a mystery, but the story revolves around the characters, and they are wondrous. This is a memorable read, beautifully written and imaginatively conceived. Don’t miss it. 7/13 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

VIXEN by Ken Bruen: In this follow-up to The White Trilogy Inspector Brant must match wits with Angie James, “the Vixen”, a female psychopath who gets her jollies from setting off bombs and ruthlessly manipulating men and women. Brant is on a tear and it is a race to determine which implodes first – Brant, the Squad, or Ms. James. With each outing, Bruen just gets better and better and if his prose becomes any more spare and stark, he will be producing single page novellas. 10/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

VOICES OF THE DEAD by Peter Leonard: Peter Leonard is Elmore Leonard’s son, and an accomplished writer in his own behalf. Elmore Leonard writes the introduction for the book but this does not take attention away from Peter’s skill. This is Peter’s third book, and while I haven’t had the opportunity to read the first two I am certainly a fan of his now.
Harry Levin is a survivor of the Holocaust, due to his escape from a forced march of 600 people to an area where they are to be shot. Harry witnesses the massacre, and then over time makes his way to Detroit where he enters a scrap metal business with an uncle that took him in after the war. His wife passed away before the action of the story begins in 1971 and Harry, raising their daughter sends her to college in Washington DC. She is killed by a drunken driver and Harry learns that the man driving is a diplomat with the German embassy and entitled to diplomatic immunity. In seeking justice for what is really vehicular homicide Harry learns his identity and travels to Munich to look for him. Munich was Harry and his parent’s home prior to the Holocaust and scenes of the past run through his mind while there.
Peter’s writing is almost stream of consciousness in its pace. The reader is grabbed immediately and dragged full force into the continuous action. It is a book that is almost impossible to put down before finishing it. Some of the changing situations are a bit disjointed, but this in no way detracts from the full force of the book. Harry and the German diplomat are fully fleshed out and the back and forth descriptions of their thoughts and actions are quite true to form. Read this one when you have an evening to devote to it because you are not going to fall asleep without finishing it. 1/12 Paul Lane
VOLK’S GAME by Brent Ghelfi: Alexei “Volk” Volkovoy is a brutal killer maimed in Russia’s war against Chechnya, who is both a powerful gangster with a hand in virtually all underworld rackets, as well as a covert military operative. Although a stone-cold killer, Volk is, in the context of his world, not that bad a guy. He refuses to use children under 14 years of age in his pornography operations, stays away from arms sales and slavery, and only kills those who deserve killing. In this initial outing Volk gets the chance to steal a previously unknown Da Vinci painting, Leda and the Swan, which has been concealed beneath another painting in a St. Petersburg museum. It turns out to be a delightfully twisty adventure of betrayals and counter betrayals. Lee Childs “highly recommends” this series and so do I. 10/11 Jack Quick
VOLK’S SHADOW by Brent Ghelfi: Ghelfi’s second Russian thriller (after Volk’s Game), featuring Alexei Volk Vokovoy, an ex-army colonel with a prosthetic leg who does the dirty work for a paranoid Kremlin official known as the General, involves something old and something new. The old – a missing Fabergé egg; the new – control over Russia’s immense oil reserves. Volk is your basic Russian Rambo with nothing left to lose other than his self respect. He steals, he kills, he works for the Army, and he supports widows and former soldiers. You may not have much sympathy for Volk, but you better not cross him. Dark prose reminiscent of Andrew Vacchs with a lot of the same sexual ugliness. You will either enjoy it or hate it. If you are going to try it, read in series order for maximum enjoyment. 10/11 Jack Quick
VOODOO LAWS by Jim Hansen: Do you read mysteries for the characters or for the plot? Coffee drinking serial womanizing Denver homicide detective Bryson Coventry is back with all his quirks and talents. He is frantically searching for a missing woman after finding the second member of a local law firm dead with implications of voodooism and death curses. At the same time local attorney and budding author Mackenzie Lee has her own challenge. Her newest client, Erin Asher, is convinced that she was being stalked. A man who looked like a pirate followed her during an evening of in downtown on Saturday. The same man is apparently the primary suspect in one of Coventry’s murder cases that occurred across town at the same time. Lee’s client is the suspect’s alibi, but if Lee allows her to come forward, will they be clearing the man from one murder so that he can commit a different one – that of Asher. Then there is the missing woman and the fact the Coventry has had a voodoo death curse placed on him. Oh, did I mention that Lee formerly worked with the same law firm as the two victims that are the object of Coventry’s efforts? How are they all interconnected? Bottom line – great characters in a wild plot that somehow all comes together. The Laws series just keeps getting better and better. 03/09 Jack Quick

VOWS, VENDETTAS & A LITTLE BLACK DRESS by Kyra Davis: The fifth Sophie Katz novel opens with an engagement, and a shooting. Mary Ann is getting married. Her boyfriend proposed with a ring set inside a Tinkerbell box and the two are planning a fabulous fairy tale event at Disneyland, something she’s about to reveal to friends Sophie and Dena when Dena goes down like a brick. Not sure what’s happened at first, the girls quickly realize that Dena’s been shot. Now it’s uncertain whether the dominatrix will even walk again and Sophie’s determined to use her own detective skills to find the person responsible and make them pay. Of course this causes problems with Sophie’s boyfriend, PI Anatoly Darinsky, who’s well aware that Sophie’s nosing about usually lands her in a heap of trouble. Funny and suspenseful as ever, Kyra Davis delivers yet another entertaining addition to her fabulous mystery series. Be warned, these are highly addicting and this one comes with a cliffhanger of a revelation in the end. 06/10 Becky Lejeune

VULTURE CAPITAL by Mark Coggins: Venture Capitalist Ted Valmont is informed that the brains behind a biotechnology start-up he’s funded called NeuroStimix is missing. Valmont engages PI August Riordan to help find the missing man and we soon learn that the disappearance is part of a larger conspiracy to use NeuroStimix technology for dastardly purposes. To complicate matters, the missing man is Valmont’s buddy and Valmont’s own brother, as a spinal injury patient, would benefit from the NeuroStimix discovery. Co-founder of a failed Internet start-up, Mark Coggins injects lots of local color into his work, even dedicating the book to the Pets.com Sock Puppet. 12/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

VULTURE PEAK by John Burdett: Royal Thai Police Detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep may be the only honest policeman in Bangkok. Thus far, he has kept his Buddhist soul intact—more or less—despite the fact that his job shoves him face-to-face with some of the most vile and outrageous crimes and criminals in Bangkok. But for his newest assignment, everything he knows about his city—and himself—will be a mere starting point. He’s put in charge of the highest-profile criminal case in Thailand—an attempt to bring an end to trafficking in human organs. He sets in motion a massive sting operation and stays at its center, traveling to Phuket, Hong Kong, Dubai, Shanghai, and Monte Carlo. Each succeeding character seems even more bizarre, particularly the mysterious, diabolical, albeit gorgeous co-queenpins of the international body-parts trade: the Chinese twins known as the Vultures. Mordant, funny, propulsive, entertaining. Not an easy read but one that will stay with you long after the final pages. 3/12 Jack Quick

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