Tag Archives: murder

A Thriller of a Giveaway

Harry Bosch is back, and this time it’s personal!

Thanks to Hachette Audio, we have two copies of The Reversal by Michael Connelly to give away in unabridged audio book form.   Yes, not one word has been cut from the story and it comes with a bonus.   The Reversal is read on 10 CDs by actor Peter Giles (who narrated Michael Connolly’s prior novel) and the bonus is a 2 CD set containing complete, uncut, copies of The Reversal and The Brass Verdict in MP3 format.   That’s right, this audio book box contains 12 CDs and has a retail value of $39.98!

Here is the official synopsis of this legal thriller from the mega-selling author Michael Connelly:

Longtime defense attorney Mickey Haller never thought he could be persuaded to cross the aisle and work for the prosecution.   Then convicted child killer Jason Jessup, imprisoned for twenty-four years, is granted a retrial based on new DNA evidence.   Haller is convinced Jessup is guilty, and he takes the case on the condition that he gets to choose his investigator, LAPD Detective Harry Bosch, and his second chair, deputy DA Maggie McPherson.

But there’s a serious political taint on the case, and Haller and McPherson must face off against a celebrity defense attorney who has already started trying it in the media.   Borsch searches for the runaway eyewitness who was the key to Jessup’s original conviction, but that trail has long since gone cold.   Jessup, out on bail, grandstands for an eager press by day, but his nocturnal actions make Haller and Bosch fear the worst: this killer may have just gotten started.

“Connelly may be our most versatile crime writer…  Reading this book is like watching a master craftsman build something that holds together exquisitely, form and function in perfect alignment.”   Bill Ott, Booklist.

So how can you win a copy of this audio book with the bonus MP3 discs?   It’s simple, just post a comment below with your name and e-mail address, or send an e-mail with this information to Josephsreviews@gmail.com .   This will count as a first entry.   For a second entry, tell us what you’d like Santa to bring you for Christmas this year (We will keep it a secret, OK?).  

You have until Wednesday, December 22, 2010 at Midnight PST to submit your entry or entries.   In order to be eligible to receive the audio book box, you must live in the continental United States and have a residential mailing address.   Books will not be shipped to P. O. boxes or to business-related addresses.   And, as always, Munchy the cat reserves the right to change the contest rules – including the closing date – at any time.   So check back periodically at this site or risk getting your entry/entries in too late.  

This is it for the complex rules.   Be careful out there; good luck and good reading!  

 

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Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

Book of Nathan: A Novel by Curt Weeden and Richard Marek (Oceanview Publishing; $25.95; 264 pages)

“Dan Brown meets Janet Evanovich…”   Roxanne Black

Co-authors Curt Weeden and Richard Marek have teamed up to create a fascinating novel that is part mystery and part life lesson.   Their main character is Rick Bullock, formerly a successful Madison Avenue advertising man who turned agnostic soul saver when his beloved wife, Anne, died from a brain tumor.   Rick has refocused his life and manages a shelter for men in the inner city.   He knows his clients and when one of them named Zeus is accused of a high-profile murder, Rick makes it his task to prove the accusers wrong.

The first person narrative is an excellent vehicle for combining the disparate elements of the tale.   Rick’s thoughts and actions are consistent with a man of high moral principles.   Fortunately, the authors have resisted portraying him as a saintly type.   He is capable of trickery and a little arm twisting to obtain the resources needed to travel to Florida where Zeus is incarcerated.   Lacking funds for the journey, Rick calls in a favor from a buddy in his advertising past, Doug Kool, who is a fundraiser par excellence for a big nonprofit.

The team Rick takes to Florida is a rag-tag group.   Some of them are helpful for the mission (Doc Waters and Maurice) and one is a genuine bundle of precocious trouble (Twyla Tharp – no, not that one).   This reviewer was reminded of The Wizard of Oz and the pilgrimage that Dorothy made with her band of seekers.   Amazingly, the story line manages to stay reasonably tight and manageable regardless of the wide variety of characters.   Oh, did I mention that an extremely wealthy man also plays a part?   Indeed, the reader will discover more than the identity of the killer by the story’s end.  

The values and moral judgements presented are all too real and not off the scale of everyday issues we all face.   Kudos to Weeden and Marek for delivering their message in such an entertaining way.   Highly recommended.

This review was written by Ruta Arellano.   A review copy was provided by the publisher.

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Hold the Line

On the Line: A Bill Smith/Lydia Chin Novel by S. J. Rozan (St. Martin’s Press; $24.99; 336 pages)

If reading a suspense thriller by David Baldacci is like driving in a new Porsche, reading a private investigator thriller by S. J. Rozan is like riding through the streets of New York City in a turbo-charged go-kart.   You never know what you’re going to bump into!

Rozan writes in a style that is part 1950s detective magazine, part retro (think of Denis Johnson’s Nobody Move), part Miami Vice/Hill Street Blues and more than a bit of Batman and Robin.   In order to follow her story you will need to suspend reality or believe in – as does the main character – miracles.

As the story opens our protagonist P.I. Bill Smith receives a mysterious message on his cell phone telling him that his partner and love interest Lydia Chin has been kidnapped.   Smith doesn’t know who’s behind this but correctly suspects that it’s someone he helped put in prison.   He’s soon provided with a “clue” that leads him to an abandoned building in Manhattan in which he finds a dead girl.   This, naturally, is a set-up.   The NYPD officers arrive just after Smith does and suspect him of murder.   Smith has to fight with and escape from the cops just as he’s about to begin his frantic search for Lydia.

The person who has kidnapped Lydia has set a clock on this “game” of cat and mouse, life and death.   Smith must find Lydia before time runs out, because her kidnapper has promised to kill her once the clock reaches double-zero.   Smith needs to figure out who exactly has taken Lydia, and where she’s been taken while he hides from the police and, oh yes, as new crimes take place and the police suspect him of being the perpetrator.   Smith would have little chance of dealing with all of this by himself, but two young assistants come to his rescue and he’s also got a friend inside the NYPD who performs a few of the miracles he needs.

Rozan’s writing style is rapid and breathless.   As the story begins, the reader will likely feel (as with Nobody Move) that too much is happening too fast.   But if you accept the fact that dramatic events are going to happen every few pages, the read becomes a highly entertaining – and exhilarating – one.   If you’re like this reader, you will begin On the Line wondering if you will be able to finish it.   On doing so, you will be calling a bookstore to order one of the nine previously released Bill Smith/Lydia Chinn novels.

Recommended.

This review was written by Joseph Arellano.   A review copy was received from the publisher.   On the Line was released by St. Martin’s on September 28, 2010.

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Hungry Like the Wolf

The Wolves of Fairmount Park: A Crime Novel by Dennis Tafoya (Minotaur Books, $25.99, 336 pages)

“Somebody out there has turned a gun on two kids.   Whoever did it might be locked up now, and they might not.   If they weren’t locked up, then they were on the street and not far away.   It wasn’t six degrees out here, separating the guilty from the innocent, the living from the dead.   It was two degrees.”

This would have made for a great two-hour made for TV movie – a decade or two or more ago – when people felt they still had the time to watch such things.   Two outstanding males of high school age are shot (and one is killed) in front of  a drug house in Philadelphia, a killing which has shocked the community and the entire city.   The old guard police chief wants the crime solved by yesterday, so he turns to his most on-the-make young detective; a kid with a proven track record (the department’s “boy wonder”), and the best of instincts.

But there are two other individuals who have their own reasons for beating the detective at his own game.   One is the police officer father of the surviving high school students, who feels guilty over his shaming of a son who he viewed as less than masculine.   Then there’s the officer’s troubled and drug-abusing half-brother who sees this as his chance for redemption within the family.

As these protagonists engage in a race to solve the crime in a dangerous environment, things quickly become far more dangerous.   Control of the drug trade in this community already changed hands once in the recent past, and now there’s a full-fledged war to see which adult gang will control the multi-million dollar trade in the future.   This is a war fought with automatic weapons and snipers; a war in which friends betray friends.   The winners will be able to buy anything they want in life, the losers will be dead.

“The city was a box between the two rivers, a couple of miles up and down.   Chances were he really did already know the shooters.   And that they knew him.”

Our fourth major character is the city of Philadelphia, Philly, which is anything but inspiring or glamorous.   This is the tough and downtrodden city seen in the film Invincible, in which most folks are out of work and one’s leisure time is spent in dive bars and strip clubs.   The only job training program available is run by the drug dealers who own “the corners”, and it’s a program that is far from being sanctioned by the federal government.

“He thought about how everyone thought they had the right to do whatever they did.   Everything, no matter what.”   

Author Dennis Tafoya does not easily or readily give up information to the reader, which in this context is a good thing.   The reader will be almost two-thirds of the way through the story before learning the simple reason the two young men were standing in front of a drug house on a dangerous night.   Tafoya makes you work for it, to become invested in his tough and gritty story.   It is an investment that pays off extremely well in the end.

Well recommended.

This review was written by Joseph Arellano.   A review copy was provided by the publisher.

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Over Under Sideways Down

Fragile: A Novel by Lisa Unger (Shaye Areheart Books, August 2010)

“The sins of a family always fall on the daughter.”   P.F. Sloan

“She already knew the hard edges of the world, knew that life disappointed and that most people’s dreams never did come true.”   Lisa Unger

This one is a stunner.   In Fragile, author Lisa Unger tells the story of four fragile lives that are joined together by events separated by twenty years.   Unger’s genius is in plotting the story so that the reader never knows what’s coming next.

The story starts with a look-in at what appears to be a crime being committed, although the facts are not clear.   What is clear is that a young woman, Charlene, has gone missing.   She intended to run away from her sleepy community, The Hollows, in New York State in order to make music in Manhattan.   But she’s suddenly fallen off the face of the earth.

The residents of The Hollows, including the young woman’s mother and her boyfriend Ricky’s parents, are forced to revisit their memories of a high school girl named Sarah who disappeared two decades earlier.   She was found dead, mutilated; a crime to which a male classmate confessed.   But the young man who said he killed her was troubled and perhaps mentally unstable.   He went on to spend years in state prison, before he died by his own hand.

With this background we fear that Charlene has been abducted or murdered by the evil force or forces that killed Sarah.   Charlene’s mother was a classmate of Sarah’s, as was Ricky’s mother, Maggie, and his police detective father.   These adults are all keeping secrets about their lives both now and at the time that Sarah was killed.

Others in the community also know things about the events surrounding the past crime, but they’re not talking.   The residents of The Hollows become frozen with the fear that they are reliving a nightmare and decide to hide rather than speak.   With little information to go on, the local police force begins to suspect Ricky’s involvement in Charlene’s disappearance.   Charlene did, after all, stand him up on the night she left home and had informed her friends about another boyfriend in New York City.

As the tale proceeds, we see that there are no perfect families in The Hollows.   The parents criticize their children for doing the very things they did when they were young, and this simply piques the desire of the young to escape as soon as they can.   The current mystery, the apparent crime that surrounds the disappearance of Charlene, will only be solved by confessions.   Because there may very well be links between what may have happened to Charlene and what happened “twenty years time ago” to Sarah.

“As  she told them all about her buried memory, she felt an awe at how all their separate lives were twisted and tangled, growing over and around one another…  And how the connections between them were as terribly fragile as they were indelible.”

There will be no hints here – no spoiler alerts needed – as to the fates of Charlene and Ricky, except to note that Unger convinces us that everything in life is so well-connected (if hardly explainable).   The past is, indeed, prelude.   This is a read that will stay with you.

Unique, stunning.   Highly recommended.

This review was written by Joseph Arellano.   A review copy was provided by the publisher.   Fragile was released on August 3, 2010.

 

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To the Manor Worn

Grace Under Pressure by Julie Hyzy (Berkley Prime Crime Mystery)

Veteran mystery writer Julie Hyzy moves to a new locale with this her first book in a new series titled Manor House Mysteries.   The setting for these tales is Marshfield Manor.   This stately southern home is more than just the setting for a mystery, it is a character in itself.   It is the centerpiece of a somewhat down-at-the-heels southern estate owned by the elderly billionaire, Bennett Marshfield.   The home is a mystery reader’s delight with a hidden staircase and a secret room.   The estate also includes a hotel, tea room and abundant grounds.   They, too, play parts in the story.

Grace Wheaton, the new assistant curator whose dream it has been to be part of Marshfield Manor, has been a visitor to the mansion since her childhood.   Little  did she think that being a curator would entail murder, extortion and secrets from her own family’s past.   The staff at Marshfield includes a highly opinionated, though thoroughly capable executive assistant named Frances and an earnest, well-trained head of security named Terrence Carr.

When the elderly head curator is brutally murdered, a series of demand letters for money comes to light.   Grace must prove herself trustworthy to Bennett Marshfield if she is to become the next head curator.   The story is quite engaging if not quite intellectually challenging.   Rather than a romance-based mystery, this is the story of several generations whose ability to trust each other comes into question.  

Author Hyzy provides a classic summer vacation read in Grace Under Pressure.   It is a perfect in flight read.   Recommended.

This review was written by Ruta Arellano.   A copy of this book was provided by the publisher, and the cover of this book is exemplary!

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Cut and Paste

Cut, Paste and Kill by Marshall Karp (Minotaur Books, 296 pages, $24.99)

Is nothing sacred?   Take scrapbooking – it is so important to some ladies that they tout their pastime on license plate frames, bumper stickers and even personalized plates.   To Marshall Karp scrapbooking is an easy target for a serial killer’s modus operandi.   This is the fourth Mike Lomax and Terry Biggs book from Karp.   Lomax and Biggs, two of Los Angeles’ finest, ramble around the greater L. A. area forsaking a sumptuous bar-b-que and a quiet weekend with family and friends.   Their mission is to scope out the scene in the first of several quirky murders.

Along the trail of the scrapbooking murderer, the cops cross paths with an assortment of characters guaranteed to be found in L.A. but not necessarily anywhere else!   The chapters in this book are short and chock full of snappy dialogue.   It’s easy for a reader to imagine the scenes using the clues Marshall Karp provides.

Be prepared for false stops and restarts as this story ebbs and flows just like the ocean along L.A.’s Pacific Coast.   Recommended.

This review was written by Ruta Arellano.   Reprinted courtesy of Sacramento Book Review.

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Cloak and Dagger

Dark Deceptions by Dee Davis (Forever Romance)

This book is an attention-grabber with cloak and dagger action!   The general tone, energy and tension between the main characters are very much reminiscent of the television show Remington Steele from the 1980s.   Added to this basic concept is a bit of the spy and good-guys type of team play currently popular on shows like Criminal Minds and the CSI franchise (Las Vegas, Miami and New York).

The premise is a compelling mix of personal betrayal, motherly love and loyalty to the team.   The main characters, Annie and Nash, are thrown together after years of painful silence between them.   What had been a well-tuned action duo suited for espionage of the highest caliber devolved into the worst sort of estrangement.   Annie and Nash each felt that the other had deserted the love and loyalty they shared.

Enter the villains who scoop up Annie’s son from his snug bedroom and whisk him away.   Annie is the target of a kidnapping/murder/extortion plot with a twist.   She has to muster her best spy skills that are somewhat rusty after years away from the espionage game in order to comply with the kidnappers’ demands – kill their target or suffer the loss of her precious son at the hands of the kidnappers who are also terrorists.

There’s nothing like a common goal to create cooperation that supersedes personal loathing.   Annie and Nash are once again on the same team, sort of that is.   As each of them works toward their goal, the action shifts from ultra high-tech surveillance and miniaturized equipment to a softly whistled signal whistled to a former partner from the old days when things were good between them.

The themes explored in this well-written, though graphically specific novel are family, loyalty, head versus heart, and love in many forms that makes the world a better place for everyone.   This book is a summer reading winner.

Recommended.

This review was written by Ruta Arellano.   A review copy was provided by Hachette Book Group USA.

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Moonlight Mile

Moonlight Falls by Vincent Zandri (R. J. Buckley Publishing, $19.00)

Our hero-protagonist, Richard Moonlight, has a bullet fragment lodged in his brain.   This is no ordinary bullet fragment either, it found its way there via a gunshot delivered by Moonlight!   As the story unfolds, there is a sense of urgency that builds.   The quirky premise is somewhat similar to the movie from 2000 named “Momento.”   There has been a crime and it must be solved.   The police chief’s wife, Scarlet, has been murdered, or did she commit suicide?   To make matters worse our hero may have been one of her last visitors.

Moonlight is a human time bomb who has had more than one serious failing of common sense.   Clearly, his filter for right and wrong was damaged by the bullet fragment.   Considering he placed the fragment in its present location during a botched suicide attempt serves to validate the notion that he’s not all there.

The relationships in the story are tightly intermingled.   The charm and peril of living in a small town are well portrayed as Moonlight relies on family and friends to solve the mystery.   The names of the characters serve as double entendres; the adulteress is “Scarlet,” the former cop partner who steals Moonlight’s wife is “Cain” and the painfully simple young cop is “Joy.”   Added to this group are two government agents whose interrogation forms the premise for Moonlight’s recounting of his escapades.   Several more deaths pile up along the way.   All of them tie neatly back to our hero.   It’s up to him to use his faulty brain to clear himself of the charges.

What’s not obvious is when the testimony ends and Moonlight’s thoughts about his situation are being shared with the reader.   Author Zandri has spun a super shaggy dog story that begins a bit haltingly and shifts gears into a powerful pace that holds the reader’s interest.   This book is filled with plenty of action and excellent character development.

Highly recommended.

This review was written by Ruta Arellano.   A review copy was provided by Baker Public Relations.

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A Preview of a True Story

Unbillable Hours: A True Story by Ian Graham will be released by Kaplan Publishing on May 4, 2010 (256 pages, $24.95).   The sub-title of this non-fiction book is:  A Young Lawyer, Big Law and a Murder Case That Saved Two Lives.   Here is the publisher’s synopsis:

The story – part memoir, part hard-hitting expose – of a first-year law associate negotiating the arduous path through a system designed to break those who enter it before it makes them.

Landing a job at a prestigious L.A. law firm, complete with a six-figure income, signaled the beginning of the good life for Ian Graham.   But the harsh reality of life as an associate quickly became evident.   The work was grueling and boring, the days were impossibly long, and Graham’s sole purpose was to rack up billable hours.   But when he took an unpaid pro bono case to escape the drudgery, Graham found the meaning in his work that he’d been looking for.   As he worked to free Mario Rocha, a gifted young Latino who had been wrongly convicted at 16 and sentenced to life without parole, the shocking contrast between the greed and hypocrisy of law firm life and Mario’s desperate struggle for freedom led Graham to look long and hard at his future as a corporate lawyer.

Clear-eyed and moving, written with the drama and speed of a John Grisham novel and the personal appeal of Scott Turow’s account of his law school years, Unbillable Hours is an arresting personal story with implications for all of us.

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