A Time of Torment by John Connolly

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A Charlie Parker thriller, almost…..    ****

 

John Connolly writes novels that make me wish they would never end. His style is mesmerizing and can chill me to the bone. This one is no exception.

As with any good series, if you haven’t read the earlier books, you will not fully appreciate this one. As this is the fourteenth (fifteenth if you count his novella) Charlie Parker novel, Connolly does not spend time recapping, which is a good thing.

While this story includes Parker, and his sidekicks Angel and Louis, they are almost insignificant. The majority of the novel revolves around a group called the Cut, and Sheriff Henkel, who is determined to rid his county of this cult-like group..

This novel, more than some of Connolly’s others, has a significant amount of supernatural elements. The beauty of Connolly’s writing is that he makes these elements not only believable, but made me wish some of it were true.

Parker has two daughters. One who was killed, and one with special talents. So as not to give anything away, I will just say it is the sister’s interactions that make this novel unique.

This one gets four stars. I usually give five for Connolly’s novels but Parker’s small role caused me to drop one.  Hopefully, this is not a trend.

Breakdown by Jonathan Kellerman

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Apt title, almost had one trying to finish this….  *

 

Jonathan Kellerman has the distinction of joining Lee Child, Michael Connelly, and James Patterson, as authors I will no longer read. His recent books have gone downhill from the intriguing earlier novels that I enjoyed. This one is at the bottom of the abyss.

There is no real mystery, no twist, no compelling reason to keep turning pages. The plot is weak and Kellerman’s usually interesting asides into psychology are absent. More time is spent telling the reader how to go from point A to B than any attempt at story development. Alex Delaware’s girlfriend, Robin, is sadly absent except for some minor scenes, and detective Milo Sturgis is so dull I almost forgot how sharp he used to be.

The solving of the supposed mystery is like a bad script from “Murder She Wrote”, or in this case Murder He Wrote.  The majority of the book revolves around Delaware and Sturgis sitting in Alex’s office, or driving around, speculating on what happened. The leaps in logic and revelations are almost laughable. It always fascinates me when information is  needed and one of them just happens to know someone to call who can help. Why anyone would call this a good mystery is beyond me.

The ending falls flat, and was so contrived it made me glad I had finished the book, so I could hopefully do something to make up for the time I have lost reading it.

This one gets one star, which is one too many.

Crime On the Fens by Joy Ellis

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A good read, worthy of one’s time…..   ***

Every good detective story has the same key elements – a detective who is great at their job yet is often at odds with the higher ups, a personal life that is in disarray for whatever reason, a good team of co-workers who admire the detective and will do what is necessary to help, and sometimes a pairing with a partner that is either strained or was forced on them.

Joy Ellis has written a novel that includes all of the above with just enough differences to make Crime On the Fens a good read. The female detective, Nikki Galena, is a hard driving, focused DI bent on avenging her daughter who is lying in a hospital, and bringing those responsible to justice. She is being forced to work with DS Joseph Easter, whose reputation is as questionable as her own. The team she assembles to solve the disappearance of a young girl consists of misfits in their own right.

Ellis wove the threads of the story with just enough twists to keep me turning the page, not so much as to what was going to happen but in how she was going to bring things together. As with any good series the ending leaves a teaser that does make you want to read the next book. It also suffers from the series weakness of when the main character is in jeopardy you know she will somehow survive because there is a next book.

Ellis has been compared to writers Rachel Abbott, Mel Sherratt, and Ruth Rendell. This last one may be stretching it, but I would add Ian Rankin to the list. Her DI Galena could be the female version of John Rebus, even down to the suspicious relationship with an underworld figure. Rebus had “Big Ger” Cafferty and Galena has Archie Leonard.

This is a good book, maybe not outstanding, but an average read worthy of one’s time.

This one gets three stars.

End of Watch by Stephen King

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More like end of good writing….   *

Prior to this novel, I thought Duma Key was King’s most boring novel. Having read and praised the first two novels in this series, I was anxious to see how King finished the trilogy. What a disappointment!

My first reaction was, did King actually write this or did he hire a ghost writer who was just learning the craft? For the first sixty-five percent of the book, up to Chapter 14 of the section called BadConcert.com to be exact, I was totally bored. The writing was amateurish and filled with cliches. Maybe a sign was in the first sentence of the book – “It’s always darkest before the dawn.” To be more accurate, he should have said, “It gets worse after page one.”

Sadly, once the book starts to pick up, it only lasts for twenty-seven pages. Then for whatever reason, King chooses to take us back in time to fill in some of the gaps. This can work, but not here. The gaps he wants to fill in are insignificant, and any intelligent reader has already done so.

The plot line of the antagonist, Brady Hartsfield, using out of date “gameboys” stretched the bounds of believability and King had to scramble to connect all the dots as to how this was even possible.

The ending is predictable, and like so many bad detective novels – insert Michael Connelly here – is not believable.

King is a great writer, as he has proven time and again, but this one slipped by his creative skills.

This one gets one star. Usually I can’t put a King novel down until I finish it, this, I just couldn’t wait to put down.

Life or Death by Michael Robotham

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More like life, then dull…..   ***

 

Having read all of Robotham’s Joe O’Loughlin series, I was curious to read one of his stand alone novels.

Life or Death is a unique story that grips you from the beginning. Just the premise of a character breaking out of prison one day before his release is enough to make you want to read the book. Weaving the present with the past, Robotham reveals the motivation behind the escape, saving the twist to near the end. I do have to admit I had not figured things out until the author revealed the full story. Up to that point the novel is well written.

Robotham even manages to take what could have been a cliche –  prisoner on the run connects with down and out mother and child – and gives it a twist that was surprising.

It is not until the climax that this novel falls apart. The confrontation between the good guys and bad guys is so full of holes, I was expecting the pages to fall apart. The rest is tied into a neat little package and left me with a feeling of being let down.

This one gets three stars.  Actually it is a four star read up to chapter 64, then it becomes a three star read.

The Check by Clair Wm. Harmony

best    Great idea, devil in the details……  **

 

What a great idea!  Someone is putting money in Ronald Sizemore’s bank account and is then sending checks out to people in need. The money is being drained from every imaginable drug dealer, terrorist, or criminal’s account and is being used for good. This sounds reminiscent of a story one might have seen on Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone.

The idea is good and the novel holds together for about the first third of the book.  Unfortunately, it then deteriorates from cliche to unbelievable.

Harmony does a good job of setting  up the plot and brings the reader in deep. I found myself turning pages anxious to see where this was going and who was causing the money transfers. The story begins to fall apart after Sizemore hires a security firm to protect him from threats on his life. Without giving anything away, the decisions made for his protection soon become unbelievable.

The novel could use a rewrite. Harmony mixes up the names of his characters. Sid Madras is the man Sizemore rescued as a marine but is called Sgt Pollock in a TV interview. There are inconsistencies that throw the reader out of the story. For example, when the head of the security team calls to set up a meeting, he says he will be bringing egg McMuffins and coffee in the morning. When he gets there he has egg McMuffins and says he didn’t have time to get anything better as if it was never said before. There are more plot holes here than potholes on a California highway.

This good idea just needed a good editor to flesh out the details that would have made this a thought provoking read, as opposed to a read that ended with me saying, “Really?”

This one gets two stars.

 

 

The Steel Kiss by Jeffery Deaver

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More like stole my time….  **

 

Jeffery Deaver is at his best when writing a Lincoln Rhyme novel. Unfortunately, his best, lately, is not great. Relying on the same tension between characters and a formuliac style can get boring to read. In The Steel Kiss, Deaver takes this approach and produces a mediocre novel.

Sadly, he also brings one of his threads to a close by essentially tricking the reader, which is a Writing 101 mistake. If this were not bad enough, the side story (can’t divulge or this would be a spoiler) and motivation of Ron Pulaski, a side character, is completely unbelievable.

To Deaver’s credit there is one twist I did not see coming and that kept this novel from getting a one star. The only fresh aspect to this story was the introduction of Juliette Archer, who becomes an intern to Rhyme and is a character I would like to see in future novels.

The forensic skills accredited to Lincoln Rhyme have usually been the highlight of books in this series, this time his deductions stretch believability and I am sure made Sherlock Holmes roll over in his grave.

This one gets two stars.