Wednesday, 30 December 2009


A new year, a new beginning, a new book...
But so many old ones still to read!

Welcome 2010!


Saturday, 31 October 2009


Published in 2002

Boston Detective Jane Rizzoli hunts for a serial killer whose gruesome method is disturbingly similar to that of imprisoned murderer The Surgeon. (pub'd 2001)

Rizzoli works hard to act as tough as her male colleagues, despite being haunted by the terror-filled moments she spent at the hands of the Surgeon before she captured him. Showing the weakness and vulnerability she often feels is not an option.

Complications arise when Rizzoli must work with FBI agent Gabriel Dean, and she battles both her belief he will usurp her role in the investigation as well as her burgeoning attraction to him.

A further complication-- and horror-- occurs when the crafty Surgeon escapes prison and it becomes apparent the two serial killers have become a team

When Rizzoli is captured by the unholy duo, I confess I almost expected the white knight (Gabriel Dean) to save her.

I'm so glad I was wrong. Rizzoli is the hero of her deadly predicament and she disposes of the vermin in a beautiful manner. I cheered!

Gerritsen is a superb writer. She has created a complex, easy-to-identify-with character in Jane Rizzoli. Forensic methods, investigative instruments, medical exams, are realistically presented in a thorough and interesting manner.

Conclusion: Compelling characters, a well-executed taut, suspenseful thriller


Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Quick Review - UNSPEAKABLE

Published in 1999

The Players:

Two convicts, one E-V-I-L personified, the other a sad mental deficient, break out of prison and go on a vicious crime spree.

The slightly smarter brother of E-V-I-L, who joins in on the crimefest.

A small-town sheriff forced to retire, obsessed with the case he couldn't solve thirty years ago.

A gruff rancher who harbors a secret love for his widowed daughter-in-law.

Said daughter-in-law, a beautiful deaf woman, accomplished and self-sufficient, who has put her ambitions on hold and with her five year old son remains at the ranch from a sense of duty.

A rugged drifter with painful secrets

A slick banker who covets the rancher's land

Stereotypical characters aside, this is a suspenseful thriller with graphic violence and sex, remorseless cruelty and murder aplenty. Amidst the mayhem a tender love story emerges.

I had a slight problem with Brown's tendency to insert comprehensive past histories of minor characters, and the two-steps-forward-one-back approach as movement halts to detail a character's morning. Did some skimming, which is a shame as the book is well written.

And I can't define why, but I felt the drifter's big secret was, for want of a better word, bogus.

Conclusion: Not for the gentle reader. Stock characters in stock situations, redeemed by Brown's powerful writing.


Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Quick Review - BLOWOUT

When I read BLOWOUT I didn't realize it was the ninth book of Coulter's FBI Series. (She's at thirteen now. Maybe more, she's so prolific!)

An intriguing start: FBI agent blows a tire on a snowy country road. After changing the tire he's accosted by a frantic young woman who insists she's about to be murdered. He follows her to a big house, she vanishes, and when he reports to the local police he learns she died thirty years ago.

Before he can investigate however, he and his wife/ partner agent are called to Washington DC to investigate the murder of a Supreme Court Justice. Off we go with the agents, who are joined by a Metro detective and the judge's journalist stepdaughter.

We do not revisit the first case until well past the middle of the book, and then only in a token manner. The FBI agents and the cop and journalist alternately interview everyone (and their dog) connected to the judge, clues are drawn out s-l-o-w-l-y, two more murders occur, there's a race to protect a law clerk who's become the killer's next target.

Much of what happens makes some sense to me when it happens, but when I learned the reason, the who and why, I stopped believing.

Oh, and the original intriguing case is also resolved, but again in an unbelievable, to me, way.

Coulter is an experienced writer, but this book could have been better edited. The story solutions simply lack plausibility. I later learned her FBI stories generally have two cases for the agents to solve. Had I known that before I started reading, my take may have been slightly different.

Conclusion: A mishmash of two unconnected cases, sometimes confusing, repetitive in places. For her fans.


Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Quick Review - HONEYMOON

Chosen 2005 International Thriller of the Year by the International Thriller Writers

The same organization named Patterson Thriller Master of 2007.

HONEYMOON follows an oft used plot, the beautiful Black Widow who marries rich then offs the husbands for their millions. An equally common plot addition is the handsome FBI agent who, while investigating the Widow, falls in lust with her, placing both his job and his life in jeopardy.

The chapters are short, two to three pages long, ensuring a fast pace, a fast read.

Patterson/Roughan give us the viewpoints of several different characters. The FBI agent, working undercover, is shown in both first person POV, and third. An interesting device to reveal character.

The beautiful villain is well drawn, and because of her traumatic childhood becomes an almost sympathetic character despite her deadly activities. She starts truly falling for the agent, but when she discovers she's been played no one seems safe. A black widow scorned...

An odd character, a killer identified as The Tourist appears in the book and his scenes seem unrelated to the Black Widow mystery. Later it becomes clear he is the hero/FBI agent working on another case at the same time.

There's also an unidentified female character following the Black Widow. My first guess as to her identity proved correct.

I expected a big showdown at the end between the agent and the widow, perhaps on a sailboat (per the cover). No such showdown. No sailboat, either. Sure, the widow is dispatched in the same gruesome manner she killed her men. But the end was a wee bit anticlimactic for me.

Conclusion: a good quick summer read. All's well that ends well.


Monday, 23 March 2009

Chapter One -- continued

Because I've been neglecting this blog, I thought I'd post the balance of chapter one of my mystery novel, HB.

Do remember, this is a work in progress, far from a finished scene.


Grant had a face of stone. “One of our detectives was murdered today.” He signaled to Breckenridge.

The television screen at the front of the room erupted in a kaleidoscope of colors and settled into a black and white picture: a vinyl booth, a scarred and scratched formica table, a cheap fringed lamp shade above. Plastic ferns in phony planters separated it from the booth behind. Darius recognized the setting: Scott's Lunch Room on East 45th. He sat forward in his chair.

Someone in the briefing room shuffled his feet, someone else shuffled papers. Someone’s sweat added pungency to the mix. Darius tried not to breathe too deeply.

In the video, the empty booth spelled some kind of ominous truth. It wasn't long before a blonde woman in dark glasses, jeans and t-shirt, carrying an armful of papers, slid into the booth. She opened a big Mexican style purse, pulled out a couple of pens, and an iPod, which she immediately plugged it into her ears. She pushed her sunglasses to the top of her head and began flipping through her papers.

This wasn't the subject Darius was expecting to see.

"The camera was focused on the wrong booth," Grant said, his voice as stony as his looks. “Our undercover detective sat in the booth behind this one, behind the ferns."

The woman pored over a stack of pages, fully engrossed in her studies. Every once in a while she made a mark on one of the pages. A teacher grading her students? She was so focused a plane could have crashed in the street outside the coffee shop and she would not have noticed. In profile, she had a straight nose, thin lips that she chewed as she worked, and blonde hair cut straight just above her shoulders, that swung forward onto her cheeks as she bent over the papers. She used her left hand to push it back behind her ears; she wore a ring on her index finger, a wide band sprinkled with stones, and a watch with an intricately-tooled leather strap.

Grant continued, "The camera was set to run for five hours as we had no firm time when the meeting was taking place. It was a routine surveillance; information gathering, and so unmonitored."

Armand said, “ Breckenridge, fast forward at this point. Nothing happens for some twenty-five minutes."

Speeding up the tape did not seem to alter the events transpiring on screen. The blonde flipped the pages a little bit faster, her left hand went up a little more often to smooth her hair. At a signal from Inspector Armand, Breckenridge returned the tape to normal speed. Something was finally happening. The blonde gave a small forward start.

“This could be when our detective got shot. No one heard a shot, so a silencer was used. She’s probably reacting to the body hitting the booth behind her.” She pulled the ipod from her ears; it hung about her neck as she stared ahead, her lower lip dropping. She was frozen that way for a good ten-twelve seconds, then swung into action, gathering her papers together with feverish haste, picking them up and hugging them to her chest as if they were in danger, and scrambling out of the booth. At that point she turned to face the camera and the shot showed her eyes, wide, light irises with round black pupils. A split-second later, she lowered her sunglasses and was gone, running.

"She saw it," Warren said.

Medson smiled smugly. "She saw it, all right. I checked out the table, the exact place she was sitting. And you know what? She was staring into a great big mirror. She saw the murderer.”

“Bravo, Medson.” Armand clapped his hands. “But who she? Do we know her name?"

"Well, no. The restaurant staff couldn't tell me. They were all pretty upset about what had happened. And you can't blame them, that was some mess they’ll have to clean up."

"So what do we do now?” Warren said. “Do we have to go out and start combing the area looking for this girl?"

"No. I know who she is." Armand handed a book to Warren.

Warren examined it, mystified. "Fall Down in Flames," he read the title. "A Novel by Helena Becker." He turned it over. "Aha! She's a writer."

"My wife had this on her night table," Armand said. "I don't usually pay attention to what she reads, but that's the woman. And according to Louise she's had a string of best sellers."

"Romance novels, huh?"

"As a matter of fact, no. Psychological suspense, Louise calls it."

"She looks a tame sort," Warren said doubtfully.

"Nothing tame about the passages I've read."

"No kidding? Maybe I'll read it..."

"Give the book to Scarlett. It's going to be his and Doane’s job to find the woman, find out what she saw, what she knows. You and Medson go to the restaurant, interview the staff again. canvas the neighborhood. We need to get a description of the killer." He took a breath. “He killed Dean Haskins, undercover detective trying to set up an arms buy. One of our own. And her life may be in danger.”

Warren grudgingly thrust the book at Darius.

Darius checked the picture on the back. It was a black and white head shot, the writer looking into the far distance, lips curved in a faint smile. He said, “The killer must have made Haskins. Wasn’t the booth wired for sound?”

“It came out unintelligible. We have technicians working on it, but they aren’t optimistic.”

He handed the book to Doane. She ave it a quick study. “Any description on the killer?

Medson glanced at his notes. “The three waitresses were so rattled they couldn’t say the sky was blue. The guy was tall, short, black, white, blond, brunette. But the bus boy seemed more together–he remembered the guy wore a red baseball cap, black stringy hair, mustache.”

“Bright kid. Your classic disguise.”

“When you go to the restaurant,” Armand said, “ask the busboy to come in, we’ll do a sketch.”

Breckenridge came with some notes written in his meticulous hand. “Contact addresses for Ms. Becker. Her home, her ex-husband, her ex-lover...”

“Thanks.” Darius accepted the list. “I want everything you can find on her. We’ll need to find her before the bad guy does.”


Kim Doane had wispy red hair, an ultra-feminine topper to her tough-as-nails demeanor. As they headed for the car, she said, with a slight shake of her head, “It was that kid, again, right? You aren’t his father.“

Darius stared into the distance, ”Yeah, Nicky took it hard when his mother and I called it quits. He was looking for a father. And what Joan was looking for, I couldn’t provide. She said it herself, she has an urban neurotic syndrome.”

“She likes to sleep around.”

Kim was blunt, as always. “Well, that, too. But I told Nicky to call me whenever. Can’t let a wounded ten year old down.”

She put on her sunglasses. “You driving, or me? You’d have made a good dad for him.”