Staff Picks: Books
Staff-recommended reading from the
Stephanie Plum and Lula are at it again. It’s a formula that works, Stephanie Plum is a cute, bumbling bounty hunter. She is torn between the two men in her life, Morelli and Ranger. Morelli is a former bad boy turned cop and Ranger is a mysterious man who runs a security company, can open any locked door and shows up just in time to save Stephanie over and over, mostly because he has trackers in her purses, cars etc. In Takedown Twenty Stephanie is after Salvatore "Uncle Sunny" Sunucchi who ran over a guy twice. Finding Sunny is problematic. Bella puts the evil eye on Stephanie. Stephanie, as she does in every book, needs Rangers help and wreaks and loses cars. Janet Evanovich, the author, in this book changed up the animal from a monkey, which we have seen in a couple of previous books to a Giraffe which Lula keeps trying to find and feed. The fun is in the reading, not the solving or capturing of the criminal. If you look at the back cover I think Stephanie Plum is Janet Evonovich’s alter ego.
Today while maintaining the shelves to the high standard of orderliness to which you have become accustomed, I found this book: Killer librarian by Mary Lou Kirwin, and I immediately wanted to read it. However, duty called (sadly, my duties do not include dropping everything to read every fun book I run across while at work) and I am adding yet another title to the list. This happens a lot, and the list is long. I plan to check this out some day when I want a quick and easy read, as it looks to be the sort of cozy mystery to curl up with on a lazy afternoon, and finish by bedtime with no fear of nightmares.
I’m very much enjoying a mystery by a new (to me) author, that a work colleague recommended. The title is “The Dogs of Rome” by Conor Fitzgerald. Actually, this is the first book in the series featuring Commissario Alec Blume. Set in Rome, Blume is an ex-pat American who’s lived in Italy for 22 years, long enough to understand its inner workings. When he and his department investigate the murder of an animal rights activist, it opens up possible connections to the Mob.
What I like best about this book is the setting, and the characters. Blume is something of a world weary loner, but he hasn’t entirely given up on the human race. If you like police novels, especially ones set in European locales, this provides a new series to look forward to. I’ll be reading the others when this one is finished, for sure.
The Dogs of Rome
Eoin Colfer is best known for his teen books the Artemis Fowl series. InPluggedhe is targeting the adult audience and as it is an adult audience he lets the language get foul. Not Fowl as in Atemis Fowl but Foul as in let’s let the cuss words fly. Personally I could do without the cussing but if your main character is an Irish bouncer/ ex-army type of guy, I guess some language will come with that. Daniel McEvoy is an ex-army most recently Lebanon. He is a big guy and is an expert killer especially with a knife but also with a gun. Daniel McEvoy is a bouncer at a club called Slots. He used to be a “Protection” guy and a friend for Zeb. Daniel is a very macho guy and can kill you in a dozen of ways but he is going bald and is very vain about it. Zeb, a very unsavory character and is giving Daniel hair plugs. When I first heard the title I thought plugged referred to being killed by bullets not hair plugs. But indeed Daniel and a mob type boss are both vain enough about their hair, hence the title of the book. This book was a little too flash back and now present but I really liked Daniel talking to Ghost Zeb. Daniel goes to Zeb for another treatment and a mob henchman is there and as mob hence men tend to be he tries to kill Daniel. Daniel being OUR hero kills the bad guy. Then the mystery ensues of why is the bad guy here. Ghost Zeb keeps coming to Daniel and talking to him. I listened to the audio book version and loved listening to Zeb talking to Daniel. Daniel has to figure out who killed Connie (a hostess he liked), and what happened to Zeb.
Looking for a great audio book? I loved the audio version of “Dodger” by Terry Pratchett. On a dark and stormy night (what else) in Victorian London, a young 17 year old man named Dodger happens upon a young woman who is being kidnapped. He rescues her, and being a young man who makes his living from the streets, knows how to survive and protect her. It fast becomes apparent that some very bad men are trying to get Felicity back. Whirlwind action, mystery and history combine to make great listening. I’ve listened to lots of audio books over the years, and the reader can make or break a story. The reader here does a great job, and sounds as though he’s thoroughly enjoying himself.
Pratchett has some real life people make appearances, such as Charles Dickens as a sharp newspaper reporter, and also Sweeney Todd, the famous barber murderer. Dodger interacts with them, in what Pratchett calls “historical fantasy.” It’s so well done that it seems perfectly natural.
I really enjoyed this audio version from start to finish, and hope Pratchett does a sequel, preferably soon!
The Drop by Michael Connelly is a good classic police work mystery. Detective Harry Bosch who works cold cases has been requested by a councilman to investigate the death of his son. Bosh is also working a cold case. We get a lot of insight to police work and what they have to do to make sure that their case is ready for court and the scrutiny of the defense lawyer. In some ways they spend way too much time on telling the protocols the whys and wherefores of proper police procedure. The two mysteries that Bosh has to solve; one is the councilman’s son is found splat on the concrete and had apparently jumped from the seventh floor of a hotel (or was he pushed or tossed) the other is a twenty year old cold case of a 19 year old female who was raped and murdered. I listened to this as an audio book downloaded from KPL’s overdrive, so flipping a page and scooting ahead through the boring detail parts of police work was not an option but I was kind of glad I was forced to listen. It gave me a better feel for how tedious the plodding along and building a case was and how crucial it was or your work is all for naught as a defense lawyer gets the bad guy off on a technicality. If you like true crime, you might like this. Michael Connelly is a well know famous author and has many other books for you to choose from also.
The Striker is a book by Clive Cussler and Justin Scott. You can interpret that as by Justin Scott with Clive Cussler taking credit and providing guidance. This is another Isaac Bell Adventure and takes place in 1902. In this book Isaac Bell is just starting out with the Van Dorn Detective agency. This story takes place in Pittsburgh in the coal mines. The Van Dorn agency is hired to find out who has been sabotaging the operations. I could relate to the geographical area of this book. I went to college not too many miles outside of Pittsburgh and used to hitchhike in to town for a weekend. When they described the area they wanted to move their tent city to, they talked about the area where the three rivers came together and then they said just imagine a baseball diamond here. Well, since this book was written in 2013 we know that the famous Three Rivers Stadium home to the Pittsburgh Pirates was built there. I know the area well. I spent the night sleeping in a phone booth just outside of the stadium. I was a college kid with no money, it was snowing and the phone booth offered protection from the wind. The police did make me vacate and find another place, the bus terminal offered warmth. These Pittsburgh police were nice, the ones in book took easily to swinging clubs, cracking heads and putting people in jail or the hospital. In this book they develop the Isaac Bell character. He is young and has a hard time being viewed as a lead detective of a team due to his youthful looks. It is suggested he grow a mustache. In the other Isaac Bell books his mustache is constantly referred to when describing him. Archie, his best friend is an apprentice in this book and just learning the ropes. It seemed odd to have the great Archie being subservient. In the books I have already read, we have experienced Isaac’s and Archie’s love interests and their marriage, their getting shot, they are seasoned professionals. So to now discover them as neophytes was interesting. In this book we are introduced to why Isaac carries a derringer in his hat. We read of him buying the derringer, and the hat and of the many many hours he spent perfecting his drawing the gun, all the time knowing that he has used this trick of a hidden gun to save his bacon later in his life. I think what I liked best about this book was the development of Isaac’s character and the description of what it was like in 1902; the living conditions, the unions, coal and our dependence on it for fuel. This could make a good movie, steam boats blow up, people get shot all the elements of a good movie.
Private Berlin is another James Patterson, Mark Sullivan novel. This one takes place in place in Germany, bet you could tell that from the title. This mystery revolves around six children who were in an orphanage pre the Berlin wall coming down. Chris, who works for Private in the Berlin branch, see where they cleverly got the name for the book, goes missing. As Mattie and the rest of Private try to find out what happened to Chris they find that it is about these six children now grown up and getting murdered. They are one step behind this mystery man who calls himself the invisible man. Some of the chapters have us following Private and some of the chapters are told by the murderer. We learn that this man likes masks and has many disguises which make it hard to find him. Everyone they talk with describes him differently but he does make a unique clicking noise in his throat when he gets excited. Most of the book has us with the murderer, describing how he gets access to an apartment and kills his victim and then we flip and follow Private on his trail and discovering the aftermath. I don’t want to give too many details as this is a who could this be type novel. Enough people do get killed, usually with a screw driver to the neck and there is enough hot on the trail to keep you interested. They also dredge up the past atrocities that occurred behind the Berlin wall as this excerpt shows “They used torture and execution at Hoshenschonhausen Prison to make family members testify against one another. Starvation, sleep deprivation, mock drowning” I did find it a little difficult with some of the German names and was glad to be reading to myself and not having to read out loud and trying to pronounce these words.
James Patterson books are what you call quick reads, nice big print, short chapters and it is engaging. Alex Cross, Run is written by James Patterson alone, none of that plastering his name on a book with another author and you know James Patterson read it, gave guidance but really the other author wrote it. This book is chucked full of killings. It spends more time on describing killing after killing than sharing the hunt for the killer. Usually I complain that we have to hear about the detective’s theory of what is happening, he thinks it, he tells someone, he sums it up for someone who is helping him determine if the criminal was really putting his full weight on his steps and aha he has a limp. Its filler for the book, nothing new just hammering home a summary for those of you who put down the book and are now picking it up again a week later and you forgot what had happened.
This starts out rather abruptly with Alex and Samson busting up a party that a wealthy plastic surgeon Elijah Creem and his buddy Bergman, who owns a modeling agent are having complete with drugs, underage girls and lots of naked people. It seemed to me to just toss you in the deep end bang lets arrest some slimy people. It was a way to introduce these two guys. For the rest of the book these two have a competition killing people. Creem kills young perfect looking blonde females and Bergman kills young attractive gay guys. There is not a lot of build up to the killings, no long chapters on stalking the victim. It’s just bang Bergman killed and now Creem has to kill to keep up. Creem will keep his phone turned on so Bergman can listen.
The other running story is of a young man, Ron Guidice, who blames Alex Cross for the death of his wife. It doesn’t matter that it was the bullet from another officer’s gun that actually killed her. This guy is a blogger and he writes edgy pieces about Alex painting him to be a bad policeman. And of course any one who had read the Alex Cross books knows that Alex is the best, greatest policeman ever, at least according to Alex Cross. I find him a bit pompous. Ron Guidice does come up with some interesting ways to tweak Alex Cross. I especially like when at a crime scene Ron calls out to Alex Are you high, you look like you are high. Of course Alex doesn’t just walk away, just the opposite, he walks to Ron. Ron sticks him with a needle quickly and with no one else seeing injecting him with a high getting drug. Alex enraged punches Ron several times. Everyone in the crowd is filming it with their camera phones. Alex tests positive for drugs, gets desk duty, his foster kid is taken away and Ron blogs away happily complaining about police brutality and how Alex is a menace. Nicely played Ron. It is not that hard to enrage Alex Cross. Another good one was when Ron keeps shoving his recording device in Alex’s face. Of course Alex does not do the Gandhi and just walk away, he grabs the device and chucks it into the woods. Ron is tickled pink because he now has more fodder for his blog.
The book alternates between Ron’s antics and Creem and Bergmans killings . Truth be told I was rooting for Ron. I like it when Alex gets his comeuppances.
Alex Cross, Run
A co-worker recommended the book A Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie to me. What a great suggestion! In 1950’s era England, eleven year old Flavia de Luce finds a body in the family’s cucumber patch. “I wish I could say I was afraid, but I wasn’t. Quite the contrary. This was by far the most interesting thing that had ever happened in my entire life.” She attempts to solve the mystery ( sometimes to the consternation of the local police) using her intelligence, advanced knowledge of chemistry, and just plain persistence. A quirky family- two older, literary sisters and a widowed father who is an avid stamp collector-also figure in the story. Canadian author C. Alan Bradley won the Agatha Award for Best First Novel for this delightful mystery, the first in a series featuring memorable Flavia.
Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie