Review – The Stonehenge Legacy

The Stonehenge Legacy

By Sam Christer

The Overlook Press

ISBN: 9781590206768

3.5 stars

Every once in a while I crave a good thriller — the relentless pace, suspense keeping me constantly turning the page. When I finish, I want to feel windswept and out of breath from trying to keep up. For this, I’m willing to suspend all disbelief and go with it. If you’re willing to do just that, Christie spins an entertaining tale.

Nathaniel Chase is a famed treasure hunter and archeologist; though he’s more famous for this treasure hunting than his archeological advances. His sudden death is a shock to his son, Gideon, who has not spoken to him in years. Distraught and confused over the death of a father he hardly knew — Nathaniel withdrew from Gideon’s life after the death of his wife — Gideon doesn’t know what to do with the news of his father’s suicide. With nowhere else to go until he can make funeral arrangements, he decides to go to his father’s home and unexpectedly interrupts a break-in. Injured but not seriously hurt, he returns to the house wondering why anyone would be interested in his father’s home. He was a rich, well-known person but his treasures weren’t kept at his house. To Gideon, it’s more than the simple smash and grab the local police seem to think it is. Curious, he starts looking around the house and finds a hidden room full of his father’s journals written in a code only Gideon understands.

What Gideon uncovers in the journals is a record of a secret society devoted to protecting the gods of Stonehenge. Unsure of what he’s found, Gideon, an archeologist in his own right, decides to investigate and possibly infiltrate the cult. Unfortunately for Gideon, several plans are already in motion and his timing couldn’t be worse.

In thrillers of this nature, death is usually in abundance and time is always lacking. Although, the addition of Stonehenge is a nice touch and good backdrop for a story that includes a kidnapping of a famous American, the death of a British Lord’s son, and the disappearance of several others in a small, English country town. Yes, there are a few moments along the way when you go, “huh?”, but overall the plot surrounding the cult is strong enough to pull you and the plot through. Of course, you have to be willing to go along with conspiracy theories, police procedures, kidnappings, and cult behavior. Once you get there, Christer manages a pace that has you wondering when he’s going to drop the ball. But he never does. He keeps the tension going until the end. I wasn’t completely sold on the ending but things are satisfactorily wrapped up even if it might give you pause to wonder where it came from.

The Stonehenge Legacy is one of those books you want with you when you need a distraction and I mean that in a positive way. Christer does a good job of pulling you in and keeping you there with just enough intrigue, suspense, and mystery to hold you there till the end.

In addition to this blog, I also do reviews for The Book Reporter website. The above review was done for The Book Reporter which can be found here. The book was provided to me by the publisher.

Review – One Way Out: Tommy Pulls the Trigger

One Way Out: Tommy Pulls the Trigger

By Seymon White

Hen House Press

ISBN: 9780983460459

4 stars

Tommy Dushane lives in a small, rural town in Ohio — a place where nothing much ever happens and nothing much ever will. He wants out but doesn’t see a clear path to his big city dreams. His girlfriend, Dusty Jane, waitresses at the only restaurant in town and while she loves him, doesn’t necessarily want a way out the way he does. He wants the big city, excitement, the promise of a new life. For Tommy, there’s only one way to this shiny new life. Soon he finds himself on a would be interview with a small town criminal, get’s blinded by some fast cash, and when he realizes he’s in over his head, it’s already too late.

You can see how the lure of some easy cash can change a person, and it changes Tommy, a person who already wants out so bad he’ll talk to anyone who mentions a big city. He’s a good person who gets pulled in the wrong direction by his hopes and dreams. White does a good job of tugging on some emotions, even if they are fear and loathing — both of which Tommy has in abundance.

I have a soft spot, which seems to be growing, for dark, gritty tales. This one fits neatly in thriller, suspense, and crime fiction but I don’t want to say that’s it and be done. It’s a novella size book, the copy I read was around 80 pages, but I starting reading it at lunch and finished it shortly after walking in the door that night. It’s a fast read surely but a good one too. White is a storyteller. The dialogue was all believable and not once did I look up and wonder what I was reading. Crime fiction sometimes knocks me for a loop when the unbelievable happens but I had none of those moments here. And I powered though hoping the ending I saw coming would not be there. I liked the ending by the way but I’m not saying anything more on that point. For fear of giving away too much, I’ll stop there and say — if you’re looking for an interesting read, this one satisfies.

Hen House Press shared a copy of this book with me for review. This is the second book I’ve reviewed for Hen House Press, the first, Fiction Noir: Thirteen Tales, can be found here.

Review – Heat Wave

Heat Wave

By Richard Castle

Hyperion

EAN: 9781401394769

3.5 stars

Nikki Heat is one of New York’s finest with a new case on her hands — a millionaire real estate developer found dead on the sidewalk in front of his exclusive Manhattan apartment.  Saddled with Jameson Rook, a celebrity journalist who somehow managed to get himself on a ride along, she begins her investigation at the same time a heat wave hits the city.

Sometimes all I want is a good old fashioned crime novel full of clichés, bad dialogue, and a criminal that sticks out from the first time you meet him/her on the page.  I got what I wanted out of this one.  It was all the above and more.  Parts of it made me laugh, cringe, and not once did any of it make me want to stop reading.  I know these books are the basis for the TV show Castle (or the other way around, I don’t know) which I’ve never seen, but now I may watch an episode just to see what it’s like.  It probably would have been helpful to have seen the show before reading this book too but I looked past a few things and went with it when I came to something that a person who watches the show probably would have known.

At its heart, Heat Wave, is a cop book.  It moved fast and entertained and that was what I needed at the time.  I have a soft spot for Lee Child novels but I think I may add a few Castle books to my crime thriller list for when the need strikes.

Review – The Gates

The Gates

By John Connolly

Washington Square Press

ISBN: 978-1-4391-7540-8

4 stars

I love me a little humor with my demons and end of world type books and The Gates delivered on that promise.  This is my first Connolly book but I’ve picked them up before thinking that a fantasy thriller might work for me.  It did, and now I can say it won’t be my last either.

Samuel Johnson is an enterprising 11 year-old.  Instead of waiting for Halloween and having to fight the crowds, he decides to start trick or treating a few days early.  Unfortunately for him, his mildly brilliant plan doesn’t work out the way he intended.  Instead of loads of candy, he sees something in the neighbors’ basement that makes him believe his neighbor, Mrs. Abernathy, is now a demon.  He soon finds himself attempting to convince his mother and friends that not only is Mrs. Abernathy an actual demon but that more demons will be arriving very soon through the portal that now exists in the Abernathy’s basement.  No one wants to believe Samuel the end of the world is nearing which makes for an amusing little apocalypse tale.

Don’t pick up this book and think it’s a dark one; it’s actually a really funny take on the usual end of the world scenario and I enjoyed it quite a lot.  There’s some slapstick here — even the dog gets in on it at times — and random jokes laced throughout reminding you what you’re reading isn’t serious.  And that’s good!  I wanted a break from my normal reading which was starting to feel heavy and this came along at the right time.  One particularly amusing character in the book is a demon named Nurd who was banished to a flat, deserted world with a little annoying fellow as his only company.  Somehow he ends getting sucked into Samuel’s world and befriends him.  You see, Nurd is a nice demon looking for a friend to connect with.  His little adventures, especially his one driving a Porsche, are a good interlude and I do wish there had been more time featuring Nurd.

What can I say, if you’re looking for a small break in your regular reading pattern, pick this one up.  Connolly didn’t disappoint and thanks to this book, I plan to pick up more of his work.

Review – Twice a Spy

Twice a Spy

By Keith Thomson

Doubleday

ISBN: 978-0-385-530-79-8

3.75 stars

I can be a sucker for a thriller/spy novel and when I was contacted about reviewing this one, I agreed.  It has been a good minute since I read a book like this and I do try to step out of my comfort zone when possible.

Charlie Clark is a gambler, a wiz with math but he still can’t win with the horses, so he goes on the run with his girlfriend Alice, who just happens to a NSA agent, and his father Drummond Clark who in fact was a spy but is now suffering from Alzheimer’s.  The interesting thing about Drummond is that when necessary, he can recall his old spy skills which help them get out of a few situations that would have left anyone but Drummond Clark dead.  In Twice a Spy, the plot revolves around a washing machine which is actually a nuclear bomb and a group of terrorists trying to get their hands on it.

This is the second book in an obvious much larger series waiting to happen.  I didn’t read Once a Spy, the precursor, so at times I did feel slightly lost but not because of the story which is easy enough to follow but because I didn’t feel as though I knew these characters well enough.  There’s an interesting camaraderie going on between Charlie and his father but I felt there might have been more about that in the first book.  It transferred well enough but since I’m the type of person that likes to read books in order, it could very well have been my sub-conscience being annoyed at me for not reading the first.

Drummond is a particularly interesting character though and I enjoyed seeing him pull up spy tactics as if he were watching a movie.  The plot, while there, is thin but that’s all right.  It’s a book about terrorist and a bomb so it has all the elements and it moves.  And I mean it moves fast.  The chapters are short.  Dialogue is short.  It’s pretty much non-stop action which is what you expect in a book of this nature.  I don’t know if it’s a series I would continue with, but I thought this installment was a good fast read.

This book was sent to me by the publisher for review.

 

Review – The Hard Way

The Hard Way

By Lee Child

Bantam Dell

ISBN:978-0-440-24103-4

4 stars

I’ve read a number of Lee Child’s books and there is one overriding thing I need to remind myself to do each time I start one — forget reality.  Please don’t take this to mean that I don’t like the books, because I do, it’s just that his characters, Jack Reacher in particular, always end up in the craziest situations that a person, a sane person, would have walked away from or never become involved in to begin with.  But, that is what also makes them interesting, so now I just go with the forget all reality tactic and I find enjoy the books much better.

Jack Reacher is back in New York City and spending time in a café drinking coffee, a favorite pastime of his.  One evening, he sees a man get into a car and drive away.  The next day, he’s approached about the small but rather forgettable event and ends up drawn into a kidnapping case that also involves a handful of rouge mercenaries on call for the U.S. government.  Unsure of how to walk away from the group he’s found himself oddly tied to because he can’t be certain that the kidnapped mother and daughter will be safe, he gets drawn deeper into the case and goes out of his way to help rescue two people he’s never met.

Oh, Reacher, how do you manage to rescue so many people in so short a time?  Also, how is it you manage to always be in the right place when trouble happens?  I want to be annoyed with these books because there is a huge disconnect between what happens and general reality (You know, reality for normal people.) but I can’t be.  Once I let go and fall into these books, I can’t help it, I’m stuck until I find out that Reacher has managed to save someone, stop something from blowing up, or just save the world in general.  I’m not a thriller reader either but these books put me into some sort of catatonic reading mode and I have to finish and find out that everything has worked out fine in the end.  I say that because everything always works out fine in the end.  At least that’s been the case for the books I’ve read in the Reacher series.

A co-worker of mine lends these books to me and I’ll admit there have been a few bombs along the way but for the most part, I enjoy them.  They’re one off books which can be read in one sitting and you don’t have to have read them in any sort of order to understand the plot.  By the way, the plot is pretty much always the same — something bad happens, Reacher shows up, saves the day.  These are books you pull out on a rainy or slow day and you just read.  You’ll be entertained by the end and glad that a co-worker loaned you that book.  You’ll also be tempted to write something nice about their sharing abilities so they loan you more.

Today’s Book with Extra Book Bits

I’m about to finish The Woman in Black by Susan Hill.  It’s a ghost story and while it has it’s conventional parts, it feels more like a slow moving thriller and it works wonderfully.  She dishes out details slowly, building a lot of tension for the ending I know is coming.  The best word to describe it would be atmospheric.  It has long, lush sentences that evoke a foreboding for the horrible ending.  It reminds me a lot of Shirley Jackson whose storytelling has the same feel.  In case, you’re wondering how I know what’s coming — I read the end already.

I haven’t done a library loot in forever so here goes.

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill (See above.)

Time Travelers Never Die by Jack McDevitt (On my list and it fits a challenge, a twofer book.)

Savage Kingdom: The True story of Jamestown, 1607, and the Settlement of America by Benjamin Woolley (I read a book last year about Jamestown and loved it so I’m trying another.  We’ll see if my interest holds up through this one.)

Also new to me but not a library loaner is A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness.  I’ve been craving this one since it came through the door and it’s so my next book.  Admire that cover.  I love, love, love it.  Can’t really say why but the sapphire blue cover is working for me.

Chasing the Night

Chasing the Night

By Iris Johansen

St. Martin’s Press

ISBN: 978031265119-0

4 stars

I read Johansen’s Storm Cycle several months ago and when the opportunity to read this one popped up, I took it. While thrillers and crime fiction are not part of my regular reading, I do enjoy a good one once in a while and Johansen is a writer I feel I can turn too.

Forensic sculptor, Eve Duncan, is preparing for her latest reconstruction — a murdered young girl. With memories of her dead daughter, Bonnie, swirling in her head, she knows it will be a rough case emotionally but believes she can help the girl and her family find peace. At the start of the case, she gets a call from a CIA operative she’s worked with in the past, Venable, who wants her to do him a favor. She declines but soon after finds herself playing host to Catherine Ling.

Catherine is an agent of Venable’s and a woman tormented by the loss of her son. She asked Venable to convince Eve to help her, and when Eve refused, Catherine decides the only way to persuade Eve to help her is by telling her about Luke, her missing son. Catherine’s story breaks Eve’s heart and before she knows what she’s agreed to, Eve tells Catherine that she will do the age progression for her. Eve will never be able to bring back her daughter Bonnie but wants to help Catherine in any way she can. Even if the only help she can reasonably provide is giving her a picture of her son at his current age. Catherine believes her son is alive but knows that the madman who kidnapped Luke when he was only two may have killed him. Her unwavering belief that her son is still alive is what convinces Eve to help her.

What looks like a few days of trying and emotional work turns out to be much more complicated when the man who kidnapped Catherine’s son gets Eve involved. Without knowing what horrors await them, Catherine and Eve leave for Russia, and with a little help from Eve’s friend and lover, Joe Quinn, and some CIA assistance, they set out to find Luke.

There is one thing I always remind myself when reading a book like this one — suspension of disbelief. So much happens in such a short period and most of the time particulars are left out of the picture. And when I start to think about how people manage to cross international borders without the aid of things like passports, I get bothered. Johansen makes you forget all of these things with her story. In fact, she doesn’t give you much time to even think because you’ll be reminding yourself to breathe because her characters and the story move so fast with a million twists and turns.

This is the newest book in the Eve Duncan series and I can see why people are such fans of this character. Eve is a flawed woman with so much emotional baggage you wonder how she makes it through the day but that’s also what makes her interesting. Besides her work, there is nothing clinical about her and you like her for those reasons. The story in this book is heartbreaking — although I can’t imagine how stories about missing children couldn’t be — and that’s what keeps you riveted. Catherine is a high-strung character and very intense. She’s not likable but Eve makes her quest for her son very human, and when she drops the facade she put in place to help her deal with finding her son, she becomes much more relatable. She’s a woman with one thing on her mind and that’s finding her son. Eve knows that feeling only too well and wraps herself up in Catherine’s search.

Not wanting to ruin the ending, I won’t say much more than this — fans of the Eve Duncan series will be left with eager anticipation for the next book as this one leaves off with a bit of a cliff hanger. This was only my second Johansen book and the first foray into the Eve Duncan series, but even I want to know how this story will continue.

In addition to this blog, I also do reviews for The Book Reporter website. The above review was done for the Book Reporter which can be found here. The book was provided to me by the publisher.