Thursday, May 28, 2009

Listened to: "Tripwire" by Lee Child.

Listened to: Tripwire by Lee Child, downloaded from

There is nothing unusual here. Reacher is still a big dude, still wicked smart, still screwing hot chicks. What's also usual is that Child expertly sets everything up. Even though Reacher is always the star you still worry about the outcome and the bad guys are vicious and vile. No matter what, Reacher is tougher and meaner. Nice pacing and build-up with two storylines converging at the end.

Reacher is working under a false name in Key West when a private investigator comes looking for him. The PI is murdered at the same time two NY accented thugs show up. Reacher makes the connection and backtracks through what he knows about the PI to find out who is looking for him. At the same time the bad guys keep looking for Reacher because the PI's investigation tripped a wire somewhere.

Reacher finds out his former commanding officer's daughter, who Reacher lusted after for many years, is the one looking for him. The former CO wanted Reacher's help in an investigation when the CO was too sickened by cancer to continue. Reacher visits the elderly Hobies who want to find the fate of their Army son, Victor, who went missing in Vietnam.

Reacher finds out the Hobies were scammed and, using his Army experience, tracks down Hobies military records and visits the Army's body identification place in Hawaii. Meanwhile he is joined by the CO's daughter who the bad guys are trying to kill, is hunted by bad guys - led by sadistic Victor Hobie, bangs the CO's daughter a bunch of times, tracks down Hobie's true history, kills some guys, gets shot, drinks coffee, etc.

Problems: Not so good narration. Some good some bad but narrator makes the women characters mostly whiny and annoying. I'll have to check the narrator for the next in the series and just read the book if it is the same guy.

Neat stuff: Does Child have a hard-on for the Steyr GB? This is the second appearance in four or five of the Reacher books I have read.

Good stuff: Child succinctly draws a very minor character. It's a neat little description of a law firm driver who knows he was partly hired out of charity. He maintains a formal bearing and deals formally with the firm's riders "insist[ing] passengers take the rear seat" rather than ride in front. The driver always wears a dark suit and chaffeur's cap thinking that "to act very properly would raise his perceived status".

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Finished: "The Dawn Patrol by Don Winslow

Finished: The Dawn Patrol by Don Winslow, 2008, 9780307266200.

Damn good. Effortlessly good. I was distracted at times by wondering how much work Winslow may have done to learn all the surfing lore and history he weaves into the story.

Boone Daniels was a born surfer. His parents were big time surfers and had him on a board before he could walk. Boone was good enough to go pro in his teens but saw surfing as a love and life, not commerce. Boone has lived his whole life by the San Diego beach and after college got a great outdoor job, as a San Diego cop.

But, when Boone and his senior patrol partner picked-up a suspected pedophile kidnapper Boone called the arrest in rather than let his partner torture the suspect to find a missing girl. Boone got the silent treatment and worse from his colleagues and ended up resigning. Boone is pushing thirty now, has a struggling surf shop, and does some occasional PI work for local law firms.

Boone's life is still surfing and an important part of that life is morning surf sessions with The Dawn Patrol. The Patrol numbers just six, but they are all very tight friends. A big swell, a very big swell, the kind of swell that produces monster waves and only comes around every four years is expected in a couple days. But, Boone gets corralled by local, hot-bodied lawyer Petra to find a missing witness. The story goes on.

Good stuff: 1- Lots of neat and well rounded characters by Winslow who sometime uses quick chapters to overlap stories in the timeline. 2- There are no stereotyped surfers, lawyers or bad guys; everyone is believable and real. 3- Great set-ups by Winslow to place doubt in my mind about how characters may act. Example: the importance of extended family to Samoans is brilliantly summarized by Winslow at one point and then brought back to keep you guessing on whether a Dawn Patrol member will stand by Boone or not.

Bad stuff: 1- The ending fifth of the novel - featuring a forced prostitution plotline - did not quite fit. Most of the novel has Boone chasing the witness who is in peril. The prostitution and child abuse angle fit into everything that came before but felt tacked on at the end.

Found and Read:"A Cold Red Sunrise" by Stuart Kaminsky

Found and Red (no pun intended): A Cold Red Sunrise by Stuart Kaminsky, 1988, 0684189054.

A few days ago I ran out of novels from the Library.  I hunted through the bookcase in Boy Number One's room where there are several older novels and withdrawn library books I never read.  I picked out this former Litchfield Park item.

I'll rate this as average.  This is one of Kaminsky's Porfiry Petrovich novels.  I have read one or two others in the series and liked them better.  This one was good but didn't grab me.  Maybe I'm just too whiny about wanting more guts and gore and noir.  This is not quite a cozy either though.

(What the hell?!  I was just looking Kaminsky up and Red received the '89 Edgar Award.  I'll be darned.  I wonder if part of that is the Soviet setting and its importance, mystery and relevance at the time.)

Petrovich no longer works for the Procurator General but has been transferred to the cops, the MVD.  He gets sent out to Siberia to investigate the murder of a Commissar who was, in turn, investigating the death of a dissident's young daughter.  To find the Commissar's murderer among the small village's few inhabitants Petrovich also has to figure out the daughter's killer.  A second plotline follows one of Petrovich's men left behind in Moscow who is trying to catch strong-arm thieves preying on tourists.

Petrovich, and his almost emotionless subordinate, Karpo, investigate while a political hanger-on obviously spies on Petrovich.  Great use of setting and Siberian history by Kaminsky.  Petrovich worries for his wife who has a brain tumor diagnosed during his absence, and for his son deployed to Afghanistan.

Gratuitous Ed McBain references by Kaminsky.  Who can blame him?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Read: "Paper Towns" by John Green

Read: Paper Towns by John Green, 2008, 9780525478188.

Decent. First half was good, second half not as good. I read this for Cafe Library at the High School.

Quentin is a HS senior in Orlando and has been in love/infatuation with his next door neighbor Margo for ten years or so. Margo is the amazing, adventurous, beautiful and mysterious girl of the high school. Margo crafts amazing plans like a 200 house toilet papering, a secret, solo, road trip to Mississippi, adventurous late-night break-ins to amusement parks, etc.

Quentin has barely spoken to Margo in the past four years but one evening at midnight she knocks at his bedroom window. She takes him along to fulfill an 11 item list of revenge against her friends - plus a 4 AM stop at SeaWorld. Qunetin hopes this signals a major change with Margo who will now talk to him at school, maybe join him and a pal for lunch, or - please God, please - swap spit with him. Margo disappears instead.

Margo has disappeared before and always came back. But, this time feels different and her parents have had enough. Margo is eighteen and her asshole parents change the house locks and figure to hell with her. But, Margo has always left cryptic clues pointing to her destinations and Quentin takes up the challenge to find her.

Quentin enlists his two pals and, along with one of Margo's pals, they try and hunt Margo down. At first Quentin is convinced Margo has killed herself. But, as they finally track her down he changes his mind and learns a hell of a lot more about Margo than anyone else knew. Her teen angst dissatisfaction with Orlando, her loneliness, her private likes, her hate of her expected life path, dislike of other people, so on, so forth. Cue multiple discussions of personality and perceptions.

I agree with one of the Mulligan kids at the book club that the first half of the novel was better than the second. The meeting up of Margo and Quentin at the end was realistic but anti-climatic. You could see the result coming and when you got there it was not all that exciting.

I dislike when authors reference music and musicians and make them important to the story. I think you need to hear the music to have that reference and I cannot hear it from a book. I also hate when the author seems to be looking for a way to promote his favorite band of the moment. Example: Quentin and friends driving around playing music by The Mountain Goats. Who gives a fuck?

The mystery aspect of tracking Margo down was very well done.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Read: "The Oxford Murders" by Guillermo Martinez

Read: The Oxford Murders by Guillermo Martinez, 2005, 1596921501.

Pretty neat, a murder mystery with math and number/symbols series theory. I read a reference to this and reserved it. Apparently a movie or tv series was produced off this.

Argentine grad student (I cannot recall if his name was ever listed) goes to England to attend Oxford in 1993. He rents a basement apartment from an elderly lady. A month or so after arriving in England he goes to the lady's front door to pay his rent. He rings the bell and waits. At the same time a famous mathematician named Seldom arrives at the front door. When the lady does not answer her door they enter out of concern for her health. They need not have worried, she was already dead.

The death is ruled a murder and a local police inspector investigates. The local cop is well-known for past success and while investigating the scene either he or Seldom notice a symbol. Seldom is well known outside of math circles for a recent book that gained mass appeal. Part of that fame generated attention because a book chapter addressed serial killers and their connections with series. Concerned that a serial killer has decided to show-up the great mathematician Seldom both Seldom and the Argentine are both drawn into the investigation. Two more murders follow until a resolution.

This is mostly a cozy mystery and a neat read. The plotting is well done and the killer was a surprise. But, as in most stuff I like, the characters take more center stage. Seldom is a neat guy: a long-time widower, a genius, a mentor of sorts for the Argentine, mysterious background and associations. The Argentine is smart but in a new environment, starting to date a redhead, pre-occupied with academic requirements, and slightly enthralled by the famous Seldom.

Nice observations by Martinez on English weather and behavior. He obviously paid attention when he himself attend Oxford. This was a translation from the Spanish and I'm not sure what else Martinez has done and if the work has been translated.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Read: "Retirement Homes are Murder" by Mike Befeler

Read: Retirement Homes Are Murder by Mike Befeler, 2007, 9781594145155.

I rarely read cozies. I was attracted to this one by a reviewer's comparison to the flick Memento. This was well done but not great.

Paul Jacobson wakes up in a strange room in a strange building. The room is filled with his furniture and belongings but he has no idea how he got there. He recognizes he is in Hawaii and remembers he retired there several years ago. A young lady enters and gives him some medication. She lets him know he is a new resident at a multi-story retirement building. Paul finds out his memory is faulty, he makes his way down to the breakfast room, meets a couple guys, comes upstairs, empties his garbage in the trash chute, finds a body in the chute.

Paul's memory "resets" whenever he falls asleep. He cannot remember anything from the past five years. Each new day is a total mystery to him. He begins a nightly journal and has to reread it every morning to relearn everything. He makes friends with one of his mealtime companions, Meyer, becomes a murder suspect, gets a girlfriend, gets a visit from his family from the mainland, is attacked by the murderer, eventually kidnapped by murderer and left to drown, escapes and finds the cops.

The mystery plotting was not so great but the journey of Paul is the real story. Paul is really fit for his age (about 80), his mental acuity is sharp, and he has a good sense of humor. But, his memory is crap. It's neat to see him advance from clueless to catching on. He has a few problems along the way that make you worry for his independence. If he takes a nap he has to start all over with all the confusion that comes with it.

Paul finds out that he can forestall a "reset" by having sex. Banging his girlfriend gives him a couple days reprieve but leaves him incredibly sore for a couple days as well. He is under heavy suspicion by a local cop and starts investigating the murder himself by hunting for the missing stamp collection owned by the dead guy.

Befeler does a good job showing older characters. He talks about different health problems and give a good perspective on how people have to deal with them. The aspect of making and losing friends in the retirement building is interesting - many residents don't stay very long (they die or move out). Meyer decides to go to a care facility and the girlfriend moves to the mainland to be closer to her family.

I searched the catalog and found a sequel came out this year, Living With Your Kids is Murder: a Paul Jacobsen Geezer-Lit mystery. That should be worth checking out.

Finished: "The Nimrod Flipout" by Etgar Keret

Finished: The Nimrod Flipout by Etgar Keret, 2006 (first US edition), 0374222436.

Short stories by an Israeli dude. Most are pretty brief at 4-6 pages. I reserved this after seeing a mention online or in Booklist of Library Journal. When I placed the hold I knew I would not remember it and would think, "Why the hell did I get this?" I was right.

Many stories have a fantastical aspect to them and the stories are usually focused on a single male protagonist. Failed relationships and dogs are common themes. Decent amount of humor and a neat look into Israeli life. Nice amount of humor. I saw an undercurrent of depression in many of the stories.

Good stories, this was well above average. I'll look for more by the guy.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Finally Finished: "Hogdoggin'" by Anthony Neil Smith

Finally Finished: Hogdoggin' by Anthony Neil Smith, promotional copy from Bleak House

This book would have been a hell of a lot better if I had the proper time to finish the damn thing.  I had two weeks of interruptions preventing me from finishing the freaking book until now.  Yeah, I could have read a few pages here and there, but I wanted to actually read the damn thing.  I didn't want bits and pieces at a time.  Anyway, I think Smith overdid himself on this one.  I was about halfway through the book when I realized what a fantastic job he did.  

Smith did real well here.  He deals with several different characters and sharply details each one.  Jumping the first person perspective from character to character was well done and kept things moving real well.  

I would write more but have a headache and do not want to be bothered.