Tag Archives: fiction

Review: Code of Conduct

Code of conductCode of Conduct: A Thriller (Scot Harvath Book 14) by Brad Thor.  This is a NY Times best seller in the Paperback Mass-Market Fiction Category.  Brad Thor is a well known bestselling author of the Scot Harvath Thriller series.  His next book, entitled Foreign Agent, debuts June 14th.

What I liked.

The thriller genre is not as attractive to me as others I prefer to read more often.  So I tend to be more demanding.  I’ll often judge this type based on whether I feel compelled to skip ahead while reading (a bad sign).  However, some would argue that the death knell for similar stories is when you put the book down and awhile later discover you haven’t picked it back up.  Phrases like ‘page turner’ are key to separating the wheat from the chaff in this regard.  Needless to say, Thor definitely does pass muster with this book.  What need I say?  There is a broad, ambitious story, involving the fate of mankind.  Thor has mastered the art of maintaining tension and interest as characters navigate through conflicts that challenge their morality, their determination, and their intelligence.

Because of an epic scale that spans the globe, multiple groups of characters are introduced and reintroduced.  Thor weaves these stories at a pace that allows you to keep track of who’s who, without bogging down the action. And there is plenty of action.  As is typical of the genre, the violence ramps up towards the final climactic ending, and you will be ready when the time comes.

One perceived weakness of the genre is the balance of substance.  Here we’re found wanting if it appears to be ‘all action, no talk’.  Thor adds meat to the prose by interspersing political philosophy: it isn’t just good verses evil, but government bureaucracy verses individual liberty.  So the conflict between ideas is just as entertaining as the cage fight spectacle.

What I didn’t like.

A story of this scope and style often treads lightly on character development.  While there is enough there to like the good guys, and dislike the bad guys, I was still left wanting.  Scot Harvath is a very well developed protagonist and you’re left with no doubt about his reasons why or raison d’etre, s’il vous plait.  Not so much for the people around him.  They are more or less two dimensional.  For example the two prominent female characters are stereotypical archetypes.  But that probably won’t bother the target demographic.

I had a similar issue with the villain.  He had to be the nicest serial killer you ever met.  What’s up with that!  He leads a great life until he suffers a bad loss.  Then he reads a bad book?  So he goes crazy?  Thor has quite the cautionary tale about being careful with your bedside reading choices!

What you should know.

For thriller and suspense lovers, this is definitely the ticket.  With respect to the amount of violence, think early Schwarzenegger, if you want a movie comparison.  Warning:  know that these series can be highly addictive.  You may find yourself up late at night and suddenly sleep deprived (and neglecting significant others a la Harvath).  Take your time.  There are plenty more where this came from if you haven’t read any of his novels before.  If you have, don’t worry, you can buy a copy of Foreign Agent and get your fix this summer.

Recommendation:  Must Read

 

Review: Blood Defense

Blood Defense by Marcia Clark.

This is the author’s first novel of a series involving a criminal defense attorney named Samantha Brinkman.  You can read her Rachel Knight prosecutor series here.

What I liked:

The protagonist.  Samantha’s not so law abiding approach to the world was so refreshing. I also appreciated her professional approach to her vocation, it wasn’t about money, it was about doing the right thing the right way.  This is also a no nonsense, courageous protagonist.  That is the way I prefer them to be when I see them as the ‘hero’.  The interesting aspect of Samantha is that her personal life is non-existent.  Under the circumstances her work absorbs all of her life.  The intriguing part is that this missing piece does not detract from the story.  I imagine later tomes will add that dimension.  She is unmarried, and as such the only personal interaction she has is with her parents, and those are priceless.

The plot twist.  I found the twist to be unique and compelling – no spoiler though, find out for yourself, it is worth it.  I will say this, the description of the emotional impact of the revelation pulls the reader into the story and holds you.  That’s a major reason why we read novels, and this one delivers.  Could you imagine yourself in that situation?  What would you think?  How would you react under the circumstances?

The mystery.  This, of course like many of the genre, is a who done it.  There is a very delicate balance every mystery author must maintain in order for the mystery to both drive the story and keep up a plausible enough level of suspense to engage readers. And this works only to the degree that there is an investment of interest made validating the notion that anyone cares what happens.  This is not an easy task.  It is in my opinion the element that separates the real mystery authors from the pretenders.  Clark demonstrates her chops in this regard.

What I didn’t like:

I am one of those nitpickers.  I confess!  So I’ll ask.  How does a violent crime victim who has never gotten justice become a criminal defense attorney?  Why?  So she can sandbag all her cases and get her clients convicted?  I think not.  I just cannot reconcile the contradiction.  There is more to be mined on this subject but that the author only skims the surface.  I say ‘no go’.  Why touch so lightly on something so worthy of proper focus?  Samantha has nightmares.  Well?  I don’t think it can be mentioned, as often as it is, without going into detail about the cause and effect.

What you should know:

Amateur psychologists will revel in this smorgasbord of mental disorders – narcissism, sociopaths, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, while seeing them play out in the lives of the people who are forced to live with them.  The scene is Los Angeles, and pop culture is a main character.  Kudos to making reference to the current political upheaval involving the presidential election.

Recommendation:  Must Read

 

Review: Dragon Day

Dragon Day by Lisa Brackmann.

This is the author’s third novel with heroine Ellie McEnroe and although it is my least favorite, I still regard it as good read.

What I liked:

The setting.  For those of us who travel less, it is a treat to see exotic places like China through the eyes of a gifted storyteller.  This setting is very much a prominent character, making the experience even more enjoyable.

The family.  How people relate to family in a novel can often be as important as the plot.  It provides readers with a safe place to address their own familial challenges without the requisite emotional baggage.  It doesn’t just make characters more real and relatable.  Because when a reader engages with a character vicariously, another level of interaction arises, leaving a lingering impact in the mind, one that germinates upon further reflection, such that ideas fully form and take hold, allowing for the possibility of personal growth.  Brackmann’s fictional family is an entertaining gift for readers to treat with surrogate care.

The departure.   This adventure introduces an entirely new set of players into Ellie’s world.  While some favorites return, others fade into the background.  It is a fresh, if not completely independent sequel to the previous two tales.  Getting to know the new faces raises the mystery quotient I’m happy to say.

What I didn’t like:

Ellie has a slight personality change.  She remains the damaged PTSD combat casualty, struggling to find herself and her place in the world.  However this version is so fraught with uncertainty about whom she should trust and what the consequences of her choices might be, her paralysis of analysis becomes off putting.  She still doesn’t heed the advice of those who care for her as always.  Which makes me wonder, why all the kvetching if she’s going to do things her way in the end?

What you should know:

This is adults only fare in my opinion. The threat of violence permeates throughout.  There are mature themes, however the language is moderately colorful.

Recommendation: Good Read

Bev’s Cat

ARE YOU TALKING TO ME? …, I asked. Bev’s Cat Micah, held my gaze.

“No. I’m not talking to you. I’m having a conversation with the white elephant on the kitchen counter, you moron.”

“Hey,” I said. Then I stopped. Turning slowly I scanned the room. We were alone. So where was the voice coming from? Bev had dropped Micah off late last night before catching a red-eye to Australia. No worries. I assured her. Micah had always been lovely whenever I’d visited. But now the impulsive drive up to my cabin on Walker Lake was looking like a bad idea. Desperate for a nap, I’d just fed Micah before seeking some much needed rest. I’d heard sleep deprivation had risks, but hearing voices?

“Hey!” Startled, I dropped the milk bottle, shattering pieces of glass everywhere. I reached for the broom and glanced back at Micah.

“Forgive me, James. I didn’t mean to frighten you. My sarcastic streak got the better of me, but I didn’t think you would mind that.”

“Are you,” I began, pausing at a loss for words.

“Talking to you? No. Cats can’t talk.”

“Then I have lost my mind.” I don’t believe I just said that, to a cat.

“You don’t see my lips moving do you?”

I fumbled for my cell phone, not knowing who I was calling, somebody, and anybody who could talk me down from wherever it was I had gone.

“Listen James, you seem upset. I’m afraid there isn’t a cellphone signal for miles around. So why don’t I go for a walk while you clean up this mess. I’ll come check on you later and we can finish our conversation.” Micah jumped up onto the chair, climbed over the sink and perched on the sill below the open window. He tilted his head down at me and, winked, before disappearing into the darkness outside.

AWAKENING

I’d slept, fitfully. Unsure if I’d dreamed, imagined, or experienced the bizarre event earlier. I didn’t know what time it was. I had no watch and my phone was off, the battery spent, with no charger in sight. There was no sight of Micah either. I rose slowly. I found myself checking the premises, finding nothing suspicious. Eventually I relaxed, fixed myself a sandwich and ate it quietly. I even chuckled a bit, with my sanity somewhat restored. Sitting on the balcony, I stared out over the treetops, the glimpse of barren shoreline below caught my eye. I could hike down, go for a swim. It would do me good. Not having a day off in months must be getting to me.

“Psst.” I looked down at my feet to find Micah sprawled out, grooming his black velvety pelt into a high gloss.

“I see you’re better now. Let’s do this, shall we?”

“Do…what?” I stammered.

“Communicate. Yes. I am in your head. But don’t worry. You aren’t going crazy.”

“I’m hearing voices. They call that schizophrenia where I come from.”

“They call it telepathy where I come from.”

“The mission district?”

“Not exactly. Not 21st century San Francisco, anyway. When I come from, your future, telepathy is the primary language used, for those of us fluent in it.”

“I don’t believe this.”

“The sooner you do, the better, bud, and we don’t have much time so do you think you can get over it?”

“I’m talking to a cat.”

“Yeah, so? Who doesn’t? It’s not like I can read your mind. So please, do talk. It will go much better that way.” Micah ran into the cabin.

“Where are you going?”

“I’m starved. Got any sardines? That kibble was a bit dry for my tastes.” I watched him jump into a chair and curl up on the cushion, he was licking his paws and yawning.

“Okay, I give up. Let’s say for argument’s sake you’re a telepathic cat from the future. You are here, why?”

“Time travel is neither simple nor easy, James. I was fortunate enough to make the trip. The future of our existence depends on it.”

“How so?”

“I’m here to help repopulate the species. I need to mate with as many of the locals as possible in the time I have. And I have to tell you. This idea of yours to drive out to the boonies is killing my action. Can you help a dude out?” I started to laugh. Beginning with a mild chortle, it grew, uncontrollably, until I was doubled over on the sofa, and bordering on hysterical. I noticed a scowl on Micah’s face and tried to compose myself to no avail. Finally, after several failed attempts at speech, I was able to sit up and look at him.

“Are you done? You seem to find the situation all too amusing.”

“Wouldn’t you if you were in my position?”

“I don’t know, James. I’m not in your position. And quite frankly I wouldn’t trade places with you either.”

“Oh. And why is that?” I asked.

“The earth…let’s just say that cats are better suited to the environment than humans.”

“In the future, you mean.”

“In the past, the present, and definitely the future. Take your pick.”

“That may be true, Micah. But since we’re speaking frankly, I never cared for cats much myself. Why should I help you indulge your agenda? We have enough stray felines already, in my opinion.”

“If only I could say the same for you, James.”

“Convince me,” I dared.

“James. You’re 30 years old. You were born on the Island of Antillia. And you’re an orphan, both your parents died in a shipwreck off the coast of Spain.” Micah paused, watching my reaction. He had my attention now. Either I had fallen back into a state of utter delusion, or something far less believable was happening.

“I guess I am supposed to ask you how you know all of this.”

“James,” Micah said, glaring at me with iridescent blue eyes, “I am you.”

New Mystery by Walter Mosley

Cover
Photo By: LAnthony

Having read the first four Leonid McGill Mysteries; All I Did Was Shoot My Man, When the Thrill is Gone, Known to Evil, and The Long Fall, I was excited to see this new entry in print.

If you aren’t familiar with New York City Private Detective McGill or haven’t tried any of Mosley’s 49 works, you are in for a treat.  While his genre repertoire tends towards the hard-boiled, there are plenty of diverse offerings for the casual reader.

For more about the author you can check out his Facebook page

https://www.facebook.com/WalterMosleyAuthor?ref=ts&fref=ts

LAnthony