Friday, June 30, 2006

Just read: "Tilt A Whirl" by Chris Grabenstein

Just read: Tilt A Whirl by Chris Grabenstein, 2005, 0786715847

Good. Good characters (mostly) and plot.

Narrator Danny Boyle is a 24 year old summer cop at the seaside resort town of Sea Haven, NJ. Danny is a partial cop with no gun, daytime hours, a polo shirt with sewn on police logo, and a baseball cap. Boyles primary job is to be the driver for new cop John Ceepak. Ceepak was recently discharged from the Army where he was an MP for 13 years or so. Ceepak joined the Sea Haven department after an invite from an old Army buddy who is now Chief of Police.

One morning, at their daily 7.30 AM pancake shop breakfast, a 12 year old girl walks by the restaurant's front window covered in the blood of her just murdered father. Ceepak and Boyle investigate and are in the thick of the investigation from then on. The murder investigation wraps up early, of course, and carries over to the real mystery over who was framed and what authority figures are behind it all. Not an original plot idea but well done and quite fun to read.

The book has a fair amount of humour from Danny Boyle. Danny only takes the job semi-seriously since hes only a semi-policeman. Hes also intrigued by Ceepak and his personal Code of honesty, patriotism, and kindness. That humour is well balanced with coverage of crime scene forensics and setting description.

The Boyle and Ceepak characters are interesting and well drawn out. The supporting characters are not as well drawn. But, so what? There is a mystery plot to follow and Grabenstein does not blather on and on over philosophical issues like some other authors do.

There is a second novel with Ceepak by Grabenstein called Mad Mouse; Ill read it.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Just read: "The Stalin Front" by Gert Ledig

Just Read: The Stalin Front, by Gert Ledig. 2004 translation of 1955 German novel, 1590171640

Not bad; short at 198 pages. Ledig was a German veteran of the Russian front outside Leningrad.

The novel is set around a Russian attack on a German hilltop position. Story is told by both German and Russian voices. Ledig uses rank rather than names for most characters. I took this as a statement by the author: Why bother learning names when a lifetime at the front can be measured in days or hours?

Stalin Front is a grim book with most of the characters dead at the end, some through stupidity and chance, and one, the Sergeant, through bureaucratic need. Chosen as a scapegoat for the mass panic at the beginning of the Russian attack the Sergeant is chosen by Headquarters to be executed for desertion. Headquarters announces his execution, removes him from the rolls and sends notice to his family. A Captain is left to shoot him - after the decision and public notice - knowing that no trial was given and that any of hundreds of other soldiers could have been charged for the same thing.

For a short novel the several individual characters stand out as real people. Terror, anger, resentment, hope, and other emotions come through clearly. I reckon the translator did a real good job.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Just finished "The Da Vinci Code " by Dan Brown

Just Read Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown, 2003, paperback version 1400079179

Whats the big freakin deal?

Maybe I am overly critical due to the massive press over the past three years but this was not a very good book. Code had some decent moments, but when I can figure out whats going to happen, thats a bad sign.

Also, whats with the constant cliff-hangers? Brown way over uses that technique; and when the cliffhangers are consistently lame or overblown the constant repetition is just annoying. That crap with backwards handwriting really ticked me off, if I can figure it out it is automatically lame.

The characters were dull as well. Lopsided grin is about as much info as Brown said about Langdon to give his main character any character. The rest of the time Langdon is spouting off whatever notes Brown wrote down when he his research in preparation for writing.

I'll have to read The Da Vinci Cod to see if that parody is better than the novel. Since the novel dragged on for 500 pages, the parody should have plenty of fodder.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Never Finished: "Character Studies" by Mark Singer

Never Finished: Character Studies: Encounters with the curiously obsessed by Mark Singer, 2005, 0618197257

Compilation of profiles written by Singer for the New Yorker. I read five of the nine in here. One of those was read in the magazine though, so maybe that doesn't count.

The profile of Ricky Jay was fantastic. Jay is an incredible magician and sleight-of-hand artist, and I don't even like magic acts. The article is on Jay's website.

Good articles, but I've had this book too long and need to return it.

Friday, June 9, 2006

Just Read: "Rain Storm" by Barry Eisler

Just Read: Rain Storm by Barry Eisler, 0451215508, 2005, Paperback edition.

Pretty good book, this novel precedes Killing Rain listed below. A bit far-fetched at times though; killing six dudes, three at the same time, in the space of a couple hours?

Really nice details of Brazil, Macau and Hong Kong. Street life in all the places and the lifestyles in each. Hong Kong sounds more crowded than I realized.

The philosophical thoughts of Rain seem odd in comparison to the ruthless and pitiless work he does. On a quick count from memory Rain kills eight people in this novel, this means his ruminations on a tough life fall on mostly deaf ears. Yes, he kills people who deserve it but his paranoia and violent reactions to actual or perceived threats means that my ears are deaf to his brief tales of woe.

Still, I like the character, mainly because he has character. Eisler draws Rain up pretty well, hes is not one-dimensiol. Rain has personal interests (good coffee and scotch, judo, beaches, etc.), regrets, memories of his family, strong personal ethics and morals, and more rarely love and affection for other people. Rain is also a constant professional, he does not slack off on preparation and planning and he takes his work and his survival very seriously.

For a paranoid guy he sure has a lot of girlfriends. The author has similar interests to the main character and traveled a lot to prep for the novel. Thankfully, Eisler does not seem like a wanna-be, that kind of nonsense could easily come out in the story.

I wonder if my comma usage has been correct.

Monday, June 5, 2006

Just read: "The Enemy" by Lee Child

Just Read: The Enemy by Lee Child, 2004, 0440241014 (pb)

Popular author, so I figured I'd try one out. Continuing character is Jack Reacher and the novel is set in 1990. Not sure if this is a flashback or if all the novels are set a few years back.

Good story. Child uses uses some short quick sentences to effect pace and impact, like James Ellroy, King of Mysteries.

Reacher is an Army Major MP who works for a special unit that has jurisdiction over any Army facility. A two-star general based in Germany dies of a heart attack in a sleazy North Carolina motel. The general's death starts a chain reaction resulting in three murders. Reacher, the hero, searches for the truth against resistance of his superiors, blah, blah, blah. Not a new concept but really well done.

The settings were interesting. A lot of action takes place on Army bases. Child does a good job showing the differences between civilian and military people and the way they work. The fact that Reacher has the authority to search a room or car on base at any time helps the story; Child does not have to slow down or adjust the pace for warrants and probable cause like in other police procedurals.

Ill try another Reacher novel.