Meet Keller. He’s a hitman who has built a new identity for himself. So why does he accept one last job? Because it promises a chance to play private eye for a bit. Keller is tasked with taking out the lover of a cheating wife, but it’s up to him to find out just who is schtupping the wife. Keller’s back…but does he still have what it takes to get the job done?
Lawrence Block resurrects Keller after three years away, adding a wrinkle to the man’s life by making his new case a mystery. It allows Block to dive headfirst into all the noir trappings he so enjoys, from the classic fedora to an old-school investigation straight out of the ’30s.
One of Block’s greatest strengths is his ability to imbue those little twists and turns that keep the story interesting with a real-world feeling. The bad luck isn’t contrived, it’s convincing, and you never feel like he’s rigging the game in favor of his characters. That’s rarer than you’d expect, and it adds tension and style to Keller’s mission. (Though, admittedly, the ending feels a bit tidy.)
Keller’s Fedora is all too short but fun while it lasts.
Wake Me Up
Four students from Chris Bullet’s Middleton, Montana, high school viciously beat him up because they earmark Chris to be gay. It is 2004, an election year. As “the Presidential cycle warps into full-blooded hatred of anyone gay, anyone different, and fills political campaign war chests,” Chris lies comatose at a children’s hospital. In an out-of-body experience, Chris views various people and their situations, such as the goings on in his school and also the fictional story loosely based on Chris’ demise written by Deepika, his father’s lover. While the affair is disconcerting to Chris, this is only the beginning of the drama that unfolds within his dysfunctional family, especially when his dad attempts suicide.
Justin Bog punctuates the sexual stigmatization that results from a bigoted societal mindset in Wake Me Up. Divided into four sections, Bog uses the Greek Chorus in parts one and four to present the collective voice of the many characters of whom Chris observes during his astral travel. Narrated by Chris, Bog’s first-person plot constantly alternates between Chris’ observances, character scenes, Chris’ childhood and school recollections, and the moments leading up to Chris’ attack. Key to many of Bog’s character scenes, which function like substories, is how he highlights sexual bondage. Good examples include the student who runs out of Chris’ mom’s English Literature class with no explanation after being harassed by other students, Deepika’s personal and familial lives, specific characters in her story based on Chris, and Chris’ dad’s past.
Bog’s attractive writing style, set to present tense, combines storytelling via the narrator and engaging dialogue. Although homosexuality is a top theme, Bog focuses much of his attention on relationship building: Chris’ dad’s issues with depression and suicide, his mom’s MS diagnosis, and Deepika’s decisions to move on with her life. As the story builds, so does Chris’ case, because all four boys are identified as his attackers. Wake Me Up is well written, thought-provoking, and a definite must-read by all!
A mysterious man on a motorcycle weaves his way through the northernmost parts of Alaska, dropping packages along a determined route. A young boy finds one of the packages and claims it as his own as it looks similar to a toy. A coordinated set of explosions rips apart the Trans Alaska pipeline, shocking the foundation of Washington to its core, and setting off financial shock waves as well. Washington looks at a terrorist act while spinning an accident to calm fears in a pending election year. General Billy Williams is on an elevated career track, and is assigned to investigate, while his intuitive girlfriend, Corporal (and Sharpshooter) Claire Ferreti hitches a ride on the trail of a villain known as “Daemon.” Williams sees a connection between previous acts of terror. With the use of a canny informant, he believes he has led Daemon into an ambush, with Claire as lead executioner in a team of shooters. The execution of the plan goes flawlessly, until another explosion changes everything. That’s when this roller coaster ride of a narrative speeds up through the hallways of Washington, where the evolution of warfare is changing, and power plays are being made to China, where a game of survival involves ever changing rules. The story itself becomes a puzzle as everyone looks to find the hidden pieces that might uncover the truth.
Joe Klingler’s novel is an intelligent, non-stop page turner. The characters are well written and believable, the technology detailed always engrossing, the story moves along almost effortlessly. The ramifications of the evolving technology is explored, whether through drone use or Artificial Intelligence. Klingler knows his technology, but also knows how to bring out depth in characters, major or not. This author has a vast potential future that is waiting to be unleashed.
Death by Romance
Gordon Taylor is murdered right before Christmas, and right before his company makes its initial public offering. His wife, Jessica, is devastated, but alarmed that her partnership with Romance, Ltd., makes her a suspect in her husbands murder, along with many other supporting characters.
Years before the murder, Jessica’s friend, Mavis, concocts a business plan for a lucrative, investor-driven matchmaking service. She calls it Romance, Ltd. Mavis uses Jessica as her investment, using her resources to school her in philanthropy and high culture, with the aim of putting Jessica in Gordon Taylors path. The company’s goal is that the investment marries for money, and the investors get a cut of the spoils when the marriage eventually sours. But what if the investors are impatient, and the marriage isnt souring fast enough? It just might be a motive for murder.
Jessicas clear-eyed earnestness is admirable, if only a bit naïve. Jessica knows that Mavis makes money through their partnership after Gordon Taylors estate is settled, but doesn’t see this as a reason to suspect her. Jessica blames herself for her husbands murder, and continues to forgive Mavis over and over again for being a single-minded, greedy hag the whole time.
A shady lawyer and some investors with mob ties kept me guessing, and threw Ryan, the cop on the case, off the trail. Like many crime novels, the evidence points to multiple characters as being the murderer, but it was almost the one you least expected.
Death by Romance is short, simple and straightforward. The characters are deep and interesting. Jessica’s grief is the readers grief. Maviss anxiety is the readers anxiety. Ryan, the cop with whom readers will spend the most time, loves his cat and loves to cook, has a dismal relationship with his son, and can’t seem to let go of his late wife, Mary. Ryan’s vibrant personality will make readers feel like theyre solving the mystery right alongside him. While there wasn’t a ton of action, some excellent sleuthing made the ride entertaining.
Upon discovering new evidence, a retired detective with months to live races to catch a high school track stars killer. Garnering the support of a PI firm, on-duty cops, and loved ones, the detective and allies face off against a ruthless manipulative psychopath to bring young Sydney Adams case to a successful close.
Cold-Blooded continues the trials and tribulations of Lisa Regans previous heroine last seen in Hold Still. Jocelyn Rush barely survived a horrific attack that left her, and her partner Anita, scarred. Rush left the force to focus on her daughter, but opening a PI firm to continue helping Philadelphias underserved citizens. A case is dropped in her lap by the nearly dead Augustus Knox. Knox lost everything he loved in the pursuit of Sydney Adams murderer. Discovering pictures that link Adams to the beloved Coach Cash Rigo, Knox implores Rush to help him solve the case before he dies. With just a theory and some weak evidence, Rush and Knox hound Coach Rigo in the hopes of forcing a confession. Between flashbacks and investigating, its soon made clear that there is a more sinister killer waiting in the wings for a time to strike.
Lisa Regan is clearly at the top of her game as a suspense novelist. The plotting is impeccable. Its difficult to determine the actual killer until nearly the last page. For instance, no spoilers, Coach Rigo had repeated affairs with underage girls. Everyone believes he must have been the killer, but just as evidence begins to mount the rug is ripped out from under everyone. Flashbacks to Rigos and other characters pasts help flesh out the story and add dramatic irony. The characters are dynamic and worn in, with strong backstories. Rush and her partner are carry-overs from a previous book, but Knox is such an interesting and tragic figure. He gave everything he had to find Adams killer and lost it all. Drunk, dying of various illnesses, he clings to life. With the dark and disturbing plot, the strong characters, and engaging prose, Cold-Blooded is not just a page-turner, the pages fly by on their own and you just have to hold on as it races to a stunning conclusion.
The Paris Protection
The Secret Service is in some ways like the NSA, CIA or some other government lesser known acronym group: just about everyone knows who they are, but they dont really know exactly how they operate or what they do. The Secret Services job is to protect the President of the United States 24/7, no matter what it takes. Their lives are always on the line for this one person. But what does this truly unique job entail?
The premise for The Paris Protection seems somewhat mundane and ordinary: a terrorist group has infiltrated the hotel where the United States President is staying and plans to assassinate her. They are fully confident in their success, while the Secret Service knows the job they have to do.
Abigail Clarke has done a lot of work – as a state prosecutor, US Senator, and governor of Virginia – and sacrificed much to become one of the most powerful and important people on the planet; many say THE most important. President Clarke does not take her job lightly and has very little free time. She is now in Paris for a summit meeting as she hopes to bring the prickly subject of organized crime to the international stage and address it as a terrorist attack. For now, the days work is done and she is at her hotel carrying out various conference calls with important people back on US soil and around the world.
Maximillian Wolff, who once served on the Israeli Security Protection team when Yitzak Rabin was assassinated, has suffered much during his life and holds the United States accountable for its world domination, and with a huge and highly trained team of mercenaries, his plan is to remove the head of power and bring the US to its knees. His right hand man, Kazim Aslan, has spent his time as an insurgent soldier in Iraq who has lost loved ones because of the United States policies and wants their assassination plan to be just as successful. Maximillian also has a hero: Hannibal Barca who once brought Rome to its knees.
The Paris Protection is three-hundred-and-fifty-odd pages that is anything but ordinary and mundane. Devore skillfully takes the reader step by step through the attack, giving POVs from both sides and plenty of detail of tactics, weaponry, and skill. It is a gripping thriller at its best. Here and there, he provides some back story to his characters–again on both sides–that help the reader understand what is fueling their desire and drive. Maximillian goes into numerous contemplations of how Hannibal handled certain situations to help them in their current one, which is juxtaposed with Secret Service Agents contemplating their skill and training and what past agents have done in similar situations.
It is the ideal blend of action and story with plenty of well-researched details that keep the reader glued to the page. The story passes throughout the hotel with some impressive battles, eventually leading down deep into the haunting Paris catacombs that serves as a terrifying arena for a chase scene. The Paris Protection is one of those books where you dont know who will make it out alive and how its really going to end; a perfect example of the thriller genre.