For a while now, I’ve been into detective novels. Here are five more great books available through NetGalley:
- Devil’s Triangle — Nick and Mike must stop a family of criminals so powerful they can control the weather.
- G-Man — Baby Face’s ruthless gunmanship meets a WWI hero’s impassioned perfection. Who wins?
- Little White Lies — Two of my favorite detectives are back with their morality, energy, and sense of humor. Love these two.
- Sherlock Holmes and the Eisendorf Enigma — Another Sherlock Holmes-themed detective story, but in this one, Sherlock is older, wiser, and just as clever
- States Evidence — a traditional PI story set in the late 1900’s; a perfect choice (albeit a bit dark) for Spenser and Hawk fans
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
In Catherine Coulter and J.T. Ellison’s Devil’s Triangle (Simon & Schuster 2017), next in their highly-acclaimed A Brit in the FBI series, Nicholas Drummond, girlfriend Mike, and a newly created FBI team are called on to help Kitsune, a brilliant criminal they befriended on an earlier mission. When her husband is kidnapped as part of a plan to force her to meet with nefarious crooks, she talks Nick into backing her up when she explains that these crooks are responsible for engineering the vicious sandstorm that is blowing half of the Gobi desert into Beijing. To free Kitsune’s husband, Nick and his team of outside-the-box thinkers race through Italy and Egypt and everything in between (after starting in America) in a race to stop two deadly siblings who will spend any money and break any law to achieve their goal. In this case, that’s to recover the Biblical Arc of the Covenant.
Indiana Jones aside, I learned a lot about the history and mythical power of the Arc from this book. It would be a worthy read even if the settings weren’t as engaging, the plot so tightly delivered, with unique characters who always seemed to do the unexpected.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Stephen Hunter’s latest in the Bob Lee Swagger series, G-Man (Penguin Random House 2017) unexpectedly starts in the 1930’s with the death of Bonnie and Clyde at the hands of Bob Lee’s grandfather, Charlie Swagger. Charlie is a small-town sheriff with a big reputation for heroism, bravery, and doing the impossible. Quickly, Hunter moves readers to the present day as the Bob Lee we know is settling into retirement and all the boredom and aches that includes:
“Nothing [to do] meant a three-hour ride on land that was all his, another hour of horse care, then three or four hours in his shop working on this or that rifle project (this year: .375 Chey Tac at over thirty-five hundred yards, and, damn, if he didn’t own over thirty-five hundred yards’ worth of Idaho on which to find out what it could do). Then on to the email thing, for conversations with old friends the world over, including reporters and retired sergeants, Russian gangsters, Japanese Self-Defense Force NCOs, FBI…”
When a Colt 45 and a thousand dollar bill are found under the foundation of the old family house (which is being bulldozed), Bob Lee in his boredom decides to try to unravel the mystery of why they were hidden there. The search takes him back to the ’30s when Dillinger and Baby Face and that entire crew were robbing banks with impunity. In an effort to stop them, the FBI hired gunslingers–like Charlie Swagger–to engage the bandits in gunfights at their skill level.
As with all Bob Lee Swagger novels, this one is imbued with a deep love of firearms:
“His fingers knew it immediately. As a design, the thing was one of many masterpieces that had tumbled from the brain of John M. Browning before World War I, so perfect in conception and execution, such a chord of power and grace and genius of operation that even now, more than a century after its year of adaptation in 1911, it was standard sidearm of many of the world’s elite units.”
One thing I always like about Bob Swagger novels is Bob’s sage wisdom. He’s able to break life and lessons down to their essentials so anyone can get it. Here’s his take on handsome men:
“As an analyst of human strength and weakness, he knew that the handsome ones could be tricky. It’s something an infantry officer and a cop pick up on fast. They get used to being the center of attention. They expect things to go their way. They don’t like to take orders, especially from the many less attractive than they are. They move at their own pace. Sometimes they seem not to hear what is said to them. They are very stubborn, not out of commitment to a certain line of logic but to the idea that their beauty confers on them certain divine rights. The moving pictures and the fancy magazines have only exacerbated these problems, for on-screen the handsomest man is always the best, the champion of the show, the lure of all the gals, the hero of all the guys, and your real-life pretty fellow too often comes to assume the same of himself, except he has yet to do a thing to earn that reputation. So problems—little, knotty difficulties, little spats, grudges, pissing contests, garbled communications, slights too slight to mention but annoying to suffer, a sense of self-importance—all make every transaction with the handsome man more bother than it should be.”
Then there are some of the words he uses. Not a lot but I’m pretty well read and it stopped me when people were ‘palavering’ (chatting).
Overall a good read though a bit more wandering than his usual–which explains the 4/5 stars. I was expecting his traditional action-packed story and got one that is more contemplative, personal, and less intense than what I expected.
by Ace Atkins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I’ve probably read every Spenser and Hawk books out there by Robert Parker and his ghost writers. The characters are always hard charging, moral, and flawed in a way I can relate to. His longtime girlfriend Susan, with the Harvard PhD in psychology, is always there to untangle the confused human brain explaining what is really behind the odd and dangerous actions of Spenser’s unusual clients.
In Little White Lies (G.P. Putnam’s Sons 2017), Spenser is hired to retrieve a jilted woman’s money from the man who swindled her. When Spenser gets close, she changes her mind, but it’s too late for Spenser. He’s already found out this cad has swindled many women and may be involved in murder. Spenser spends the rest of the book going from twist to turn in an effort to figure it who’s cheating whom and how to make the innocent and the families left behind whole again, all with his usual irreverent attitude about the entire process:
“As a communication expert, I figured we might communicate in Morse code. Assuming she could hear me knocking my glass against the bar. And assuming she knew Morse code.”
“When at first you don’t succeed, keep bugging the hell out of people and see what shakes out.”
“…she leaned up on her toes, kissed me on my cheek, and told me it was nice to finally meet an authentically good man. I nearly blushed, had I been the blushing type, and looked for a horse to ride away on.”
There’s nothing wrong with this book at all. Spenser and Hawk are their usually hard-charging, odd selves. The plot is clever and tricky enough to keep my attention. There’s just something different from the original Robert Parker series. I’m not even sure what it is, but it’s why I have the book 4/5 instead of 5/5. If this is your first read in the series, you’ll probably think it’s perfect.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Larry Millett’s Sherlock Holmes and the Eisendorf Enigma (University of Minnesota Press 2017) is one of the many spin-offs of the original Sherlock Holmes series by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. In this one, Holmes is older and calmer, maybe retired. He suffers from typical old age maladies and goes to the Mayo Clinic to find out if what is wrong is more than just getting old. While there, an old nemesis tracks him down and subtlely persuades him to re-engage. The clues lead Holmes to a tiny Minnesota German community with few people and little to recommend it except for the quiet. Since this man–called the Monster–is a rare Holmes failure, Holmes can’t stop himself from following the trail that might finally put this man in jail.
The story is good enough especially if you’re a Holmes fan though this older Holmes lacks the craziness that often made his younger self so enigmatic and addicting.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Stephen Greenleaf’s States Evidence (Mysterious Press/Open Road 2017, first published in 1987), third in the John Marshall Tanner series, puts John Tanner in El Gordo California where he starts the search for a missing woman. This story is set in the late 1900’s so the detecting is done what we would call ‘old school’–some electronics, but not much. He even has to find public phones to make calls! This, surprisingly, I found appealing; so much of Tanner’s success depended upon his ability to connect the dots rather than simply following electronic breadcrumbs.
The story is told through Tanner’s point of view so I was pleased to find him solid, dependable in his observations. Everything he does, we see through his detail-oriented eyes:
“…tall, white-haired though not old, as thin as twine. He wore a striped shirt, his slacks were white, his loafers were burgundy, and he wasn’t wearing socks. A gold chain was snug at his throat…”
The story itself is engaging if a bit dark:
“The woman was middle-aged and thoroughly wearied. Grayed hair leaked down her temples like the detached webs of spiders. Her eyes seemed wary of closing, for fear of what might happen in the darkness.”
“The front yard was bordered by an untamed oleander and was bare in spots and overgrown in others and littered everywhere with children’s toys, most of them broken.”
There were few descriptions of people or places that were uplifting, positive, able to make me smile.
One other point: Greenleaf is one of those writers who often shares dialogue in the narrative:
“…thanked her and gave her the number of my motel and asked her to check out the location and call me back. She said she would. I said I’d be eternally grateful. She said she doubted it, but she’d give me the chance.”
Not good or bad. Just a trait.
Overall, an enjoyable read. I’ll be purchasing the rest of the series.
More detective stories:
Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, and the thriller, To Hunt a Sub. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for TeachHUB, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning. The sequel to To Hunt a Sub, Twenty-four Days, is scheduled for May 2017. Click to follow its progress.