JET 7: SANCTUARY by Russell Blake

10 03 2015


No point in posting a full review – if you haven’t read the others in the series, don’t read this: start with JET, the first one, or with the prequel, JET: Ops Files.(Click for my reviews of these.)

Here, I want simply to say that in JET 7 the author and Maya (Jet) are back on top form after the not-quite-so-good (but still dazzling) JET 6.

BE STILL, MY LOVE by Deborah Hughes

25 02 2015

Be Still My LoveThis is a difficult book to review without spoilers. At the very beginning something occurs that it is better the reader knows nothing about when she opens the book for the first time. However … as what occurs is stated explicitly in the blurb, I feel justified (albeit reluctantly!) in telling you that  when Tess’s husband goes down the road in his car, with their dog, to pick up one or two things they need for the barbecue they are preparing, he never returns. A drunk driver smashed into his car killing him and the dog instantly.

But Tess is a medium. She has an angel guide whom she trusts completely. Or did. Now, suddenly, she loses her faith in her guide, and her faith in God. Or at least her belief that God is good, blaming Him for the death of her husband and her dog. (She seems just as upset about the dog as the husband!) And as a result of all this anger, she loses her ability to function as a medium.

A year later, still in deep mourning, and still raging at God, she is persuaded by her psychiatrist to go on vacation, and finds herself in a seriously haunted hotel.

The building had previously been the mansion home of a wealthy man and his daughter. This daughter, who had committed suicide following the death of her lover, is one of the ghosts. But there are others, and the others are dangerous. Ghosts are not dangerous, she protests. These are, however, as she soon learns from bitter experience. But are there living men, also, intent on causing further grief?

An enthralling ghost-story/love-story (yes, there is a man at the hotel – an artist – and her dead husband popping up in the background – hence the title); fascinating for anyone who, like me, is intrigued by the whole notion of ghosts and mediums. I shall definitely be reading the sequel.

Two More JET Stories – JET: Justice and JET: Ops Files

24 02 2015

It was when JET IV: Reckoning first came out that I discovered Maya and this series, and read JET I, II, III and IV straight off, back to back. Then, later, came JET V: Legacy, another 5-star thriller if ever there was one.

After that I took a break.

Jet Justice

I have just read JET VI: Justice. Which was bit disappointing judged by the high standard set in this series; four stars rather than five. Because, in a nutshell, there is less Maya: there is more hopping to other (frequently depressing, extremely bad guy) points of view, when all the reader wants (or at least all this reader wants) is to stay with Maya throughout the story. I mean, it is the identification with Maya – the ultimate kick-ass super-woman – that makes each book so unputdownable and the series so addictive.

Jet Ops

JET: Ops Files has no number because it is the much-needed and long-awaited prequel to the original story JET, which kind of started off in mid-air. And it is perfect. If you have read any of the JET books, read Ops Files next. If you haven’t read any of the JET books, read it first. Forget your TBR list. Read it now.

DIE AGAIN by Tess Gerritsen

18 01 2015

Die Again cover

We start in Africa – Botswana, the Kalahari – a safari, a wilderness trip – then suddenly it is six years later and we are in Boston, where a particularly gruesome murder has been commited, and in the company of homicide detective Jane Rizzoli and medical examiner Maura Isles. An apparently famous pair (with their own TV series!) though this is the first time I have come across them.

Normally I wouldn’t have liked the time jumps back and forth. I wanted to know what happened next in Africa. Then, by the time we were whisked back to Africa, I had forgotten about that story and wanted to know what happened next in Boston.

However, I have to say that in this case it worked. By the time I reached the end of the book and began to think about this review, I knew that I had been in the hands of a master story-teller and that there was no other way she could have told this story. What happens in Africa and what happens in Boston are equally engrossing – equally horrifying! – and the way the two strands of the plot are brought together in the final chapters could not be bettered.

And there is a love story here (no spoilers, but it is in the Africa strand) that is very moving and finally very, very sad. “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader,” said Robert Frost. I think I could paraphrase that as “No tears in the reader, no stars for the writer.” Tears were pouring down my face. Five stars.

Oh, and it has just occurred to me that the Frost quotation continues: “No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader”. The denoument was a complete surprise. I’ve always liked the idea of writers being taken by surprise by characters they created – and I’d love to know whether Tess Gerritsen planned this ending or was taken by surprise here.

 I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley
in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!

IF ANGELS FALL by Rick Mofina

16 01 2015

If Angels Fall coverA year after a girl of two was abducted and horribly murdered, another, a three-year-old boy this time, is snatched from under his father’s nose in the San Francisco subway. A few days later, a girl of six is kidnapped while at her friend’s birthday party.

There are frequent switches of point of view, but apart from the children themselves and their fathers, the main focus is on two men, one a crime writer and the other a detective inspector with the SFPD. The reporter, Tom Reed, has been under a cloud ever since the time when, a year earlier, while investigating the first kidnapping and murder, he pointed a finger at a known paedophile, only to find he was wrong and that his story had led to the man’s committing suicide.

The detective, Walt Sydowski, an “arrogant Pollack”, is another who failed first time round and is haunted by the memory of that dead baby and the thought that her murderer is still out there. Now, a year later, it looks like he will be getting another shot at the case – if the kidnapper is the same man.

But is he?

This time there are no bodies, nothing … but then there is a third kidnapping: a boy of nine. Every parent in San Francisco starts panicking.

The story is well written, with many rounded characters, and, though perhaps overlong and a little slow at times, definitely one that grabs you and keeps you reading till the very last page.

HOWEVER … Now for a little amateur psychology.

I said “many rounded characters”, but failed to mention that those rounded characters are all male. I also said that there are many changes of point of view – again all male.

It is not that there are no women in the story. There are – wives and mothers, secretaries and – I was going to say girlfriends, but there are no girlfriends. And the other women are all in the background, part of the furniture, of no importance. Scenery, if you will. But not – and I want to emphasis this – not decoration.

I know nothing about the author of this book. Except that he is a man. And not a woman using a male pen-name. This book could only have been written by a man.

But what kind of man?

In my experience (!) men can be broadly classified into three types according to their attitude to women.

First, the ordinary straight male who enjoys the company of women, including, and perhaps especially, that of his wife, but notices the women first when he walks into a room, flirts, and probably has the occasional affair.

Then there are the gays, who also enjoy the company of women, are relaxed with women in a way that they never can be among straight men.

The third group, and it comprises a surprisingly large proportion of men, are the ones who prefer the company of men. I am not talking about gays now, I am talking about real men, macho men, who are only happy and relaxed among other real men, on the football field, at the gym, in the changing room, in the pub or club, fishing, playing golf, whatever. Men for whom women are little more than furniture, necessary but certainly not exciting and really, if the truth be told, of no particular interest.

It was Byron who wrote “Love is of man’s life a thing apart; ’tis woman’s whole existence.” And that is how it would have seemed to him, for Byron was of course one of the third group and had absolutely no idea about women.

But what has all this to do with If Angels Fall?

Both Tom Reed and Walt Sydowski are men among men doing a man’s job. That job is their life. Their families rarely see them. And if a woman becomes part of that man-among-men life, as one does in both cases – a junior journalist and a younger detective – they are addressed by their surnames and generally treated as honorary men. If she shows signs of wanting more than that, as Tom Reed’s assistant does, he seems blissfully unaware of it, and when he does catch on, he shows no interest whatsoever. Likewise, it is the fathers of the kidnapped children we are told all about and are expected to identify with; not the mothers. There is a retired policeman who appears in just one scene; in that one scene we learn all about his life, his sufferings, his dreams, his pleasures. In contrast, by the end of the book we know little or nothing about any of the female characters although they have been there in the background – part of the scenery – throughout.

But enough of that. Time for another book.

DEATH OF A GURU by Doug Greenall

1 01 2015

Death of a Guru coverThis is the story of two men who could not, at first sight, be more different, but whose lives seem to have become – perhaps always have been? – intertwined.

The protagonist, and narrator for much of the book, is Magnus Larson, an American expatriate living what is generally imagined to be the typical life of an expat in Thailand. He opens the story in “A Brief Word” – a kind of prologue:

I first set eyes on Devon Clarke on May 10, 1992 in Ao Lai,  small town on the Andaman coast of Thailand. Had someone told me then that I would spend two years of my life hunting this man down for the purpose of killing him, I would have found it absurd.

Then we switch straight to the first chapter of the “Book of Devon”, the name given to those sections of the book where Magnus is not the narrator and the Third Person focus is all on Devon Clarke. It begins here with several chapters of Devon’s backstory, and continues in occasional chapters throughout the book, a device for a Point of View other than that of the narrator, Magnus.

Devon Clarke is a brilliant pediatric surgeon and, as it happens, also a billionaire who, following the death of his son and what is viewed by many as some sort of breakdown, reinvents himself as the revered leader of a cult, The Children of a Living God. The guru of the book’s title.

What could these two men possibly have in common? No, Magnus does not join the cult. On the contrary, he is the ultimate cynic. In fact he has never heard of Devon Clarke or the cult when he is commissioned (as one who knows his way around in Thailand) to go to the rescue of two women, members of the cult, who have been arrested and imprisoned in Bangkok.

It is not an easy book to discuss without spoiling it. Let me simply say that although it is very long, and could have doen with some pruning (especially in the final 25%, when Magnus is hunting Devon all over the Far East), it nevertheless held my attention. Both Magnus and Devon, the protagonist and antagonist, are well-drawn and convincing. Devon is an original, and Magnus, though much more a stereotype, is sympathetic and easy to root for. Then there are the two women Magnus rescues, Anna, the guru-worshipping beauty he falls desperately in love with, and her sister, Amy: they have much smaller parts than Magnus and Devon, but they, too, are unforgettable.

And when I say unforgettable I mean just that.   

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher
via Netgalley 
in exchange for an honest review.
Thank you!

HILL OF SECRETS by Michal Hartstein

30 12 2014

Hill of Secrets coverSet in contemporary Israel, but not the usual Mossad thriller. This is a straight crime story, a police procedural, featuring Hadas Levinger, a secularist rebel from a traditionally religious family – and also, to compound her parents’ disappointment, a brilliant young lawyer who gave all that up to become a detective with the Israel Police Force.

This case is the first time she has headed an investigation, presumably given to her because at first it seems straightforward. A horrible crime – father, mother and three small children, one still a baby, all shot dead – but it seems clear that the father murdered the others then shot himself. Nothing really to do, except make quite certain that is what happened, that there was no outside murderer still on the loose, and also try to establish what possible motive the father might have had for such an appalling act.

But one thing leads to another, especially when you are investigating a crime like this in a neighbourhood like that …

The best things about this book are the protagonist herself – I was her, from the word go – and the almost soap-opera way we come to know everyone in that neighbourhood and how differently lives are led in the various strata of Israeli society. Fascinating stuff. But sometimes a little overdone when one was dying to get on with the story, to know what happened next.

Still, a very good read for crime novel enthusiasts (I am one), especially if you are interested in life as it is really lived in modern Israel (I am).

Oh, and I forgot to mention the cover. I love that cover!


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