Friday, August 23, 2013

THE BIG CROWD by Kevin Baker

This new novel by Kevin Baker has all the ingredients for a blockbuster novel. There are two Irish brothers who have come to America seeking success with all the perks that come with it. One is middle-aged and jaded by his run to the top in New York City, the other young and full of ambition and naivete. The O'Kane brothers, Charlie and Tom, take similar paths but with radically different moral choices.

Charlie, the elder brother, becomes the District Attorney and then mayor of the city. He must, therefore, deal with the corruption, the mob bosses, the unions, and at the same time face the lingering death of his beloved wife. His second wife, Slim, is a gorgeous model much younger than Charlie and his marriage to her will change his life and his choices in many ways.

Tom also works his way up as an attorney and is always judged by his brother's success. He ends up working for D.A. Hogan investigating an intriguingly suspicious murder that happened when Charlie was mayor. A killer-for-hire is under guard in a seedy motel and telling where the bodies are - literally - when he goes out the window and dies. It looks like an attempted escape.

Meanwhile we are titillated by Tom's affair with Slim, his guilt over said affair knowing that Charlie is besotted with the woman, and Tom's growing love for another woman.

Sounds good, doesn't it? The problem is that the story is told in a jumbled fashion, jumping from 1939 to 1953 to 1945, and from New York to Mexico and back. There are so many characters you need to remember I should have made a list. I would just get used to the brothers being in Mexico in 1953 when the story would jump back in years and to New York City, from the New York docks to a failed resort in Mexico, from Charlie's life to Tom's and back again. It was so confusing that I couldn't really enjoy it.

I consider myself fairly knowledgeable about the city and its history, and I love NYC. However, even though this is based on a true unsolved mystery, I just couldn't follow it.

Recommended for those who love big sagas
Source:  Amazon Vine

Sunday, August 18, 2013


It's only August but already I think I've found my #1 read of the year.  The Butterfly Sister is so beautifully written and the characters so real that I can hardly believe this is Amy Gail Hansen's debut novel.  Others have called it a perfect beach read but it is so much more than that.  I started it one evening but the next day once I picked it up I literally could not put it down.  It's that good.

Ruby Rousseau, native of New Orleans, attended a small women's college in Wisconsin on the shores of Lake Michigan.  For reasons you will learn later, she dropped out one semester shy of her degree.  Then one day a suitcase that belongs to one of her classmates from college, Beth, is delivered to Ruby.  She had borrowed it months earlier and her nametag is still on it.  Supposedly the suitcase was never picked up at Beth's destination and the airline is returning it to the person on the tag.  But where is Beth?

Ruby had written a thesis her last semester involving female writers who committed suicide.  Inside Beth's suitcase is a copy of Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own with a mysterious notation in the text.  This must be a message, so wanting to return the suitcase, Ruby begins to investigate.  She finds that Beth has simply disappeared.  This mystery brings Ruby back to the college and memories she had tried to forget.  It also puts her in danger.

Admittedly I was drawn to this plot by my attachment to women's colleges.  For my last two years of high school I attended a women's prep school and college that I dearly loved.  I did enjoy that aspect of this book, but delving into Ruby's life and mind is what kept me turning pages.  The characters in this book are still alive to me several days after finishing the book and actually kept me from getting into my next read at first. 

This is a great book and I do hope you will read it.

Highly recommended
Source:  William Morrow/HarperCollins publishers

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


I raced through this novel from a few years ago, one of my finds at our book sale.  Anything by C. J. Box is an automatic grab after all, and this one really had my heart pounding.  It begins with two children, Annie and her younger brother William, witnessing a murder.  Then one of the killers sees them and the chase is on.

The setting is a small town in Idaho that is in transition because a large number of retired cops have moved there from Los Angeles.  They've brought money but even as they claim to want a different, less stressful life, they've brought big city habits with them.  Some have built enormous mansions and they drive their SUVs through town like they own the place.  The people who loved their little town and surrounding ranches aren't necessarily happy about the changes or the people who brought them about.  When word gets out that the kids are missing, they take over the investigation from the rather weak police chief who is out of his depth.

Our hero is a rancher who is in financial trouble and about to lose his beloved ranch.  It's been in the family for generations but he has hit hard times.  He's in his early 60s and he's a kind man who suffered when he had to let his last ranch hand go.  I loved Jess Rawlins.  He and the kids make the whole book in my mind.

This is a thriller with a subplot of another retired cop trying to trace money from a robbery at Santa Anita racetrack several years earlier in which a young guard was killed, leaving a wife and kids.  All of the characters, good and evil and somewhere in-between, are skillfully depicted so you get more and more tense as the story plays out.  At times I was breathless when the action heated up and I worried about the good guys.  

One character is a staple in every small town I've ever known.  In this town she's a rural mail carrier but she could be anything.  She's a thoughtless gossip who craves attention and has no compassion for the people she's hurting.  She also thinks she's attractive (not!) and has her eye on Jess Rawlins.  And she's loud, so when she's spreading gossip she lets everyone around her hear what her imagination has come up with. 

I happened to read this at the time the 16 year old California girl and her kidnapper were found in Idaho.  That added even more color to the background as I read, especially when the horse riders who saw and reported them were interviewed.  I could imagine how those two couples would resent the intrusion of city people into their lives.

This is an action-filled thriller with great characters and I hope you'll read it and other C. J. Box novels.

Highly recommended
Source:  book sale 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

THE LAST ALIBI by David Ellis

I have a terrific legal thriller for you today, The Last Alibi by David Ellis.  Since this is the ninth book in the Jason Kolarich series, I'm probably preaching to the choir here, but I've just discovered Kolarich.  Needless to say, I'll be looking for the previous eight books now.  

In this story Kolarich has had knee surgery and unfortunately was given Oxycontin for postop pain.  That's the one piece of the mystery that I found hard to believe.  Oxycontin, the highly addictive pain killer, for this type of pain?  Anyway, Kolarich has become addicted and when the doctor refused to prescribe any more of it, he started buying it illegally on the street.   Meanwhile, his life is in such a downward spiral that even he begins to be aware of it, but he's too addicted to stop.

His legal partner, Shauna Tasker, can see something is very wrong but doesn't know what and he refuses her help.  She is handling a huge civil case with their junior associate so she's really too busy to catch on anyway.  Then a court reporter catches Kolarich's eye and she becomes his lover and his enabler.

During this time a new client enters Kolarich's office.  He says two women he has some connection to have been murdered and he's afraid the police will arrest him but he's innocent.  Sounds fishy but then Kolarich isn't too sharp under the influence of the drugs and he promises to be the guy's lawyer if he is arrested.  From that point on the lawyer's life takes a hinky turn that grows worse and worse.  And I was definitely hooked.  There are so many things for the reader to worry about and work out, twists and turns that defy attempts to solve them, and you just have to keep turning pages.  It's an amazing plot and one that I loved.

Author David Ellis has written a couple books with James Patterson but don't let that influence your decision whether to read this one.  Personally I think Patterson has lost his touch and I don't read his books anymore.  Maybe that's why I never read Ellis before.  Who knows?

Highly recommended
Source:  won from LibraryThing

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

AT ROAD'S END by Zoe Saadia

This is a rarity for me, an ebook.  I don't really like reading on my ereader but this book has been on it for quite a while and I have several others too.  Otherwise the ereader lives in my desk drawer out of sight and out of mind.  Give me print books please.

The story is set in Mexico and, I assume, what is now Arizona back when the Anasazi lived in Arizona and the Mayans were just growing in power and influence in Mexico.  The main character is Tecpatl, a warrior from a tribe who oppose the Mayans.  He is actually funny because he is so strong in his beliefs, such as that women are fairly well useless except to have children, cook, clean, and serve men.  They certainly can't think or fight.  He believes warriors are born superior to the lower classes such as tradesmen and farmers.  He is unable to see that other people might have different beliefs that serve them just as well as  his.

He has been assigned to accompany and protect a small group of tradesmen on a journey to the north where they hope to do business.  When they come across a village where it appears that all of the people have been slaughtered, a young woman is found alive and he saves her from the tradesmen.  Of course, as the story goes on they fall in love despite not being able to understand each other's customs.

This is the first of a series of books labeled The Pre-Aztec Series so I may be wrong about the location but I don't think so.  I was a little confused about the tribes and the locations throughout and if Tecpatl hadn't been so unintentionally funny, I don't think I would have finished the book.  I hate to say this because the writing is actually pretty good.  I just needed more direction in it to set my mind firmly in the story.

There is danger wherever these characters go but the fight sequences were a little confusing as well to me.  Perhaps this just isn't my type of book, but I won't be pursuing this series.  

Source:  free offer from

Saturday, August 3, 2013

AT RISK by Patricia Cornwell

This little novel was originally a serial story for The New York Times Magazine, then published as a hardcover book in 2006.  It was another of the good reads from a huge bag given to me by a good friend.  We met up at a book sale yesterday, each buying more books than we can hope to read very soon, and both grinning from ear to ear.

In a departure from her award-winning series featuring Dr. Kay Scarpetta, this story is set in Boston and Knoxville, and the crime solver is a Massachusetts state investigator.  His sexy lady boss, the district attorney, had sent him to the National Forensic Academy in Knoxville and he was perplexed as to why he was there.  Suddenly he is called back to Boston urgently to meet with her and finds himself in the middle of a rape and homicide.  

Winston Garano is the detective and I was just as confused as he was for quite a while.  I can see where this would be successful  as a serial with people anxious to buy each Sunday newspaper to read the next installment.  Another character involved with the investigation although not always willingly, is another student at the forensic academy who Win has befriended there.  She is an older woman, an experienced investigator, trying her best to move up in her department and thus learning something new.  I get the feeling she is angry with herself for helping Win at the cost of her own prospects, but she becomes so intrigued by the case that she hangs on.

D.A. Monique Lamont, who Garano thinks of as "Money Lamount," is confusing.  She lives the high life, enjoys the fact that men find her sexy, and adores anything glass.  Her office and home are full of decorative glass items that reflect light to make an almost skewed vision.  She is as tough as nails and constantly yells as people in her office.  Is she involved in the case?  Is she what she appears to be?  Why does she order Garano this way and that - to keep him from making sense of anything?

At Risk is a short but excellent book.  It isn't too late for a beach read and this one is perfect for that purpose, although you must pay attention to what you're reading or you won't follow the story and the end will totally surprise you.  

Source:  another book lover