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.

 

 

Close Your Eyes by Michael Robotham

closeyoureyes

 

Hold on, and don’t close your eyes…..   *****

Some writers who write a series get lazy after a few novels and rely on formula to put out the rest of the series. Lee Child is a good example of this. Michael Robotham is one of the exceptions. His novels have only gotten better as the series featuring Joe O’Loughlin has progressed. His latest, Close Your Eyes, is one of his best.

Once again, using first person for the viewpoint of both the antagonist and the protagonist, Robotham creates a page turner that not only doesn’t let you go, but in the last few chapters had me breathing fast and on the edge of my seat.

The story revolves around two people who were murdered at a farm house and a seemingly unconnected group of women, and men, who have been attacked throughout the city, left alive, with a letter “A” carved in their foreheads. (Yes, Robotham pays homage to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter.)  Finding the connection between the victims becomes O’Loughlin’s task and he recruits Vincent Ruiz, as usual, to help.

While the story of solving the crimes is enough to make this a good read, it is the side story of Joe’s family that cements this as a must read. It has been a while since a book actually made my heart pound and had me completely engrossed in the fate of the characters.

This one gets a full five stars!

Watching You by Michael Robotham

watchingyou

 

Another good one from Robotham….  ****

 

Once again Michael Robotham proves he is at his best when at least one of his characters is written in first person.  This time we are in the head of the protagonist, who Robotham uses to take the reader down a path that has twists, turns, and finally a slight head scratcher. I can’t say who the protagonist is without this being a spoiler.

Marnie Logan’s husband has disappeared and she goes to see Joe O’Loughlin for therapy. This puts Joe and his retired detective sidekick, Vincent Ruiz, in the middle of the story. Someone is eliminating or harassing people in Marnie’s life that have wronged her, and the question of who is doing this drives the plot.

In the middle of the book, a secret about Marnie is revealed and Robotham wants the reader to think this will be the answer to the mystery, but then the twists and turns begin.

In the end, I was left thinking, “Okay, this was possible, but it does stretch believability.”  This is a good read and one of Robotham’s better novels.

This one gets four stars.

 

 

 

Say You’re Sorry by Michael Robotham

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Nothing to be sorry about in this one……   ****

 

Reading Robotham’s novels is like playing Ping Pong. One is good, the next not so good, then good, and on and on. This is a good one!

It seems when he writes the protagonist, in this case Joe O’Loughlin, in first person and adds one other character in first person, Robotham’s writing excels. He did this in Shatter, where the other point of view character was the villain. In this novel the other first person point of view is a teenager, Piper Hadley, who was kidnapped three years ago along with her friend, Tash McBain. Robotham’s ability to get into the heads of these characters makes for an outstanding read.  In this case, he reveals the mind of a teenager in a way that is not only believable but made me forget it was the author writing.

This novel has a great deal of tension, a few scenes that made me cringe, and plenty of twists at the end that kept me guessing. Once the kidnapper is revealed, I had to stop for a minute and think about whether it made sense for that character to be the culprit.  And yes, it did.  There is even a moment when I caught myself saying out loud to the character, Piper, “Don’t do that, don’t you know who that is!?” I will let you figure out when I did that.

My only concern now is since the last book, The Wreckage, was not one of his good ones, and this one is, what will the next one be like in this game of back and forth?

In the meantime this one gets four stars. This one loses a star for a couple of plot points that I can’t point out without this review being a spoiler.

 

 

The Wreckage by Michael Robotham

thewreckage

 

An apt title for this one…..  **

 

This novel starts out well. Somewhat – gripping, interesting characters, multiple viewpoints. Then it begins to drag, the characters multiply a bit too much and become hard to keep straight, and then it just becomes unbelievable in regards to what the characters do.

Michael Robotham has a knack for writing good and not so good novels. This would be one of the not so good. His two main characters, Vincent Ruiz and Joe O’Loughlin, are back and as we expect save the day. It is the how that adds to the unbelievable aspect.

The settings jump between Baghdad, London, Luton, Istanbul, and Washington. The chapters are short and the characters are exposed only a little at a time, making the story somewhat confusing. Fortunately, each chapter heading lets the reader know where they are, otherwise it would be more confusing than it is.

One of the threads that weaves through the story is around a character known only as The Courier. He is a ruthless killer who lets nothing get in his way nor leaves anyone alive in his wake. I realize the heroes Ruiz and O’Loughlin have to survive to continue the series, but for both to encounter The Courier and not die was a bit much. This is not just a weakness in Robotham’s novel, but a problem in most thrillers – when a killer hesitates when confronted by the protagonist or leaves them bound and gagged instead of dead.

The most unbelievable scene, however, is when Ruiz interrupts a dinner meeting between the CIA and the bankers involved in the story. Ruiz would have never been able to even get close to the table, much less sit down as if he belonged.

This one gets two stars as I move on to the next Robotham novel, hoping for a good one.

Bleed For Me by Michael Robotham

bleedformeA dip in the roller coaster ride……  **

Michael Robotham can write a gripping suspense novel. He proved this in Lost and Shatter.  He can also  write a mediocre novel as in The Suspect. He can also miss the mark as in The Night Ferry and this novel, Bleed For Me.  This roller coaster ride is frustrating, makes me want to read every odd book in the sequence. This reminds me of the San Francisco Giants, who can win a World Series only every even numbered year.

Bleed For Me is too cliched. The teenager who is a cutter, the drama teacher who seduces girls, the last minute heroics of the main character, Joe O’Loughlin. The story lacks consistency as one minute Joe can hardly move, then we find him chasing down somebody.  The late revelation of how is daughter is involved nullifies Joe’s supposed ability to figure things out.

The police reluctance to dig as deeply as they should stretches believability, but does allow our hero to do his work.  The cover has a quote from the San Francisco Chronicle that says, “A novel that appeals as both a thriller and a literary read…” The lack of surprises makes it difficult to call this a thriller and while Robotham can write, this is far from being literary.

This one gets two stars, and I can only hope the next novel in the series is a thrill ride.

 

Shatter by Michael Robotham

shatter

 

Stephen King was right…..  ****

 

On the cover of this novel Stephen King is quoted as saying, “The most suspenseful book I read all year.” My first reaction to this was, really? After Robotham’s last book, The Night Ferry, I was skeptical.  Now, having read Shatter, I agree with Stephen King.

Robotham mixes first person viewpoints between psychologist Joe O’Laughlin and the antagonist. This works well and keeps the plot moving at a fast pace.  The mind of the villain is unnerving to say the least.  This is not a book for the squeamish or faint-hearted.

While the twists and turns are fairly predictable, the ride to the end is worth the read. Robotham is able to build tension that keeps you turning the page even though you are sure of were he is heading. It has been a while since a book evoked emotion in this reader.

The basic idea of the story revolves around what you would do if you thought someone had your child. Robotham takes the idea of the phone call where someone says your child needs money to get bailed out of a situation, and pushes it over the top, the situation now life threatening and the request is for more than cash.

This is the most suspenseful book I have read all year, but then it is only February, so hopefully not the last.

This one gets four stars. Four, not five, for being predictable.

Even Dogs In The Wild by Ian Rankin

evendogs

 

Old dogs, old tricks……    **

 

The hero, John Rebus is old and retired, the villain, Big Ger Cafferty, is old and on his way out, and unfortunately, Rankin’s writing is old, repetitive, and cliche. Having read all of the Rebus mysteries to date, I was looking forward to another good read. Sadly, I was disappointed.

This book focuses more on Siobhan Clarke and Malcolm Fox, both of whom are not very dynamic characters and were better as sidekicks. The plot has a few twists and turns but relies on worn out story lines to plod through.  Rankin falls into the Michael Connelly trap of spending too much time giving us turn by turn directions as the characters drive from point A to point B.

The previous Rankin novels had a compelling story and kept me turning pages, this one lost me almost from the beginning, but I kept reading thinking it would get better. There were too many characters and nothing about most of them held my interest.

I can only hope this was a dip in the normal great writing of Ian Rankin and he is not following writers like Connelly, Child, and Patterson who will never darken my bookshelf again.

This one gets two stars with a wish on both.

 

Lost by Michael Robotham

Lost

 

Twisting and turning……    ****

 

In this second novel in the series about Joe O’Loughlin, Robotham gives us the first twist by making DI Ruiz the narrator. It is actually Ruiz’s story with O’Loughlin as a side character.

The novel opens with Ruiz suffering from amnesia after being shot.  As he recovers and slowly regains his memory, the reader discovers what happened along with him.  I liked this device. It made this book a page turner and made it harder to predict where the story was going.

The only flaws are the abundance of characters that were a little difficult to keep straight, and the couple of times the author forgot Ruiz’s condition, having him do things that would have been hard for a man with a wounded leg.

This book kept me gripped and with its fast pace was an easy read. I look forward to the next in the series.

This one gets four stars.

 

 

The Girl In The Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz

girl-in-the-spider-01-435

 

Kudos to Lagercrantz……  ****

Originally I was not going to read this book. The series by Stieg Larsson was so good, I thought there was no way another author could do justice to it. I was wrong.

David Lagercrantz, with his own style, captures the essence of all the characters Larsson created. This is a well crafted novel with a story line that kept me turning the pages. Lisbeth Salander is portrayed as we all know her, and staying true to form, keeps her distance until she is forced to act.

Lagercrantz tells the story through multiple viewpoints, a multitude of characters, and a detailed account of hackers, autism, and security issues. He masterfully weaves all of these together to give us another good look into the world Larsson created.

My only caveat would be to read the other books first before approaching this one.

This one gets four stars.