October 10, 2010 · 3:07 pm
The Insider by Reece Hirsch (Berkley Books; $7.99; 330 pages)
Reece Hirsch employs a confident narrator’s voice to draw in the reader in this, his debut mystery novel. What seems to be a nice change of pace with opening scenes devoid of terror, soon shifts as a startling event culminates in a gruesome death.
The main character is Will Connelly, an aspiring fourth-year associate with a prestigious San Francisco law firm. Will’s gullibility may be alarming to the reader. He has a very promising future with the firm; however, for a fellow being considered for an equity partnership, Will’s short on street smarts. Perhaps that failing can be attributed to four 2,400 plus billable hour years? His dedication to work has left him without a steady girlfriend. Will’s decision to go out and, on a whim, fall into a barroom pickup may just be a way to let off steam. Questionable actions like this create not-so-subtle plot turns and complications.
The shifting story tempo continues as two Russian gangster-wannabes and the negotiations for a super-big Silicone Valley acquisition vie for the reader’s attention. The notions of lurking threats, pain and criminal charges keep Will off-balance for the duration of the story.
Hirsch makes the city of San Francisco serve as the backdrop for the book’s action. A trip to Silicone Valley and an outing on the bay round out the list of locations visited. There is rarely a moment of downtime as the plot ensnares more characters. Ironically, the Russian gangsters and the attorneys are portrayed as complex folks who want to climb the ladder of success and enjoy the fruits of their labors.
“With his immaculate gray suit and perfectly coiffed salt-and-pepper hair, he looked as if he had been genetically engineered to make board presentations.”
The Insider joins a group of this reviewer’s favorite novels that make San Francisco their home. The other two books are Death in North Beach by Ronald Tierney and Jessica Z by Shawn Klomparens.
This book is highly recommended as an entertaining Grisham-like look at the pressures of corporate law practice. Let’s hope most mergers and acquisitions are not as painful!
This review was written by Ruta Arellano. A review copy was provided by the author.
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Tagged as action stories, Berkley Books, book review, books, confident narrator, crime dramas, criminal justice, Death in North Beach, debut novel, fiction, gullible characters, Jessica Z, John Grisham, Joseph's Reviews, law firms, legal associate, legal drama, legal thriller, Martha and the Vandellas, mergers and acquisitions, Motown, music, mystery novel, new authors, Nowhere to Run, paperback, recommended books, Reece Hirsch, Ronald Tierney, Russians, Ruta Arellano, San Francisco, Scott Turow, Shawn Klomparens, Silicone Valley, soul music, street smarts, The Insider, Will Connelly
July 18, 2010 · 11:43 am
Jessica Z by Shawn Klomparens (Delta Trade Paperbacks)
This debut novel by Shawn Klomparens became a must read when I finished his second novel, Two Years, No Rain. The location and protagonist are quite different – this story being set in San Francisco rather than San Diego, and the main character a woman (Jessica Zorich) rather than a man (Andy Dunne). What permeates both books is the slightly unnerving sense of impending danger. There is an undercurrent that lurks in the background which the reader cannot ignore.
Jessica is an attractive red-headed advertising copywriter with a hesitant, non-committal approach to life that is not serving her best interests or desires. She begins her tale by bemoaning the relationship rules she has invoked with her upstairs neighbor/sometime boyfriend Patrick McAvoy. Their interactions could be labeled “Push Me, Pull You” after the Dr. Doolittle character.
Patrick is not at all exciting for Jessica because he is stable, trustworthy and reliable. The story picks up its pace when a tall mysterious artist named Josh Hadden fixates on Jessica at a party that Patrick arranged. Sensing the attraction, Jessica enjoys feeling like the center of someone’s attention. Josh is lusty, aggressive and deeply committed to his political beliefs!
Although Jessica has had difficulty with her romantic ties with Patrick, she makes easy transitions to a new job and a quirky semi-relationship with Josh, a lithographer who is intent on melding modern technology with the age-old art. Her one life-long relationship is with her sister Katie. These two sisters are portrayed as each other’s bedrock.
In Jessica Z, Klomparens dazzles the reader with his cinema verite style that brings the reader along while Jessica narrates her actions and thoughts. Jessica oddly stifles her modesty, comfort and privacy when she is with Josh. She becomes prey – her mouse to his cat.
Jessica’s lack of self-protection is truly naive and shocking. Klomparens exploits the humanity that becomes apparent when we spend time with others – time enough to break through their public faces and expose the vulnerability that resides deep inside every person.
This novel is insightful and persistent in its explorations of relationships. It offers lessons about life that are both true and troubling. Highly recommended although it is not light reading.
This review was written by Ruta Arellano. A copy of the book was received from the publisher. Jessica Z is also available as a Kindle Edition download.
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Tagged as advertising, Andy Dunne, book review, books, California, cinema verite, copywriter, debut novel, Delta Trade Paperbacks, Dr. Doolittle, Eric Burdon, female protagonist, fiction, Heavy Cloud No Rain, human vulnerabilities, impending danger, Jessica Z, Jessica Zorich, Joseph's Reviews, Kindle Edition, lithographer, No Rain, novel, paperback, political beliefs, popular fiction, recommended books, relationships, Ruta Arellano, San Diego, San Francisco, San Francisco Nights, Shawn Klomparens, sisters, sophomore novel, southern California, Sting, The Animals, trade paperback, Two Years, weatherman
September 10, 2009 · 8:46 am
San Diego’s two-year drought serves as a metaphor for the life of the main character, Andy Dunne. Author Shawn Klomparens is a master at dialogue. He is able to delve into suppressed feelings and expectations through the exchanges between the characters that populate Andy’s world. An underlying theme of betrayal and loss is also woven throughout the fast-paced story.
There are many types of love, friendship and respect that Andy demonstrates in his interactions with his sister Leigh Anne, niece Hannah, best friend Rich and most of all with Hillary Hsing, his two-year (married) infatuation. The story takes place in the context of satellite radio weathercasts and a children’s TV show complete with a magic flying carpet.The book is nearly the male counterpart of Easy on the Eyes, the story of a TV news magazine host who is urged to undergo plastic surgery to keep her career alive. Redundancy and the economy rather than aging beauty provide the impetus that launches our hero on his quest to become New Andy, as Hillary calls him, or finally Real Andy, as he describes himself.
This book is ideal as a vacation read with equal parts of humor and soul-searching.
Delta, $15.00, 370 pages
Reprinted courtesy of Sacramento Book Review.
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Tagged as book review, books, Easy on the Eyes, fiction, Jane Porter, No Rain, novel, San Diego, Shawn Klomparens, television, TV, Two Years, vacation