Book Review- The Night Fire by Michael Connelly

December 11, 2019 Leave a comment

Night FireI wasn’t there at the beginning, but I started there and since then I’ve read all the novels Michael Connelly has written. So I’ve been with characters like Harry Bosch, Mickey Haller, and Renee Ballard since the beginning. I’ve also seen Connelly go from being a great crime fiction writer to one of the best in the business. The past few years his work has been especially interesting because there’s a sense that the saga of Harry Bosch is winding down and the ongoing story of Detective Renee Ballard is ramping up. That feeling of passing the torch continues in Connelly’s latest novel featuring both Ballard and Bosch, The Night Fire. It’s a solid, exciting read, and leaves both characters in fascinating places.

The Night Fire once again finds Ballard and Bosch uniting on a cold case while they actively work on their own separate murder investigations as well. Having read all of the books with both characters there’s a sense of payoff here. You see Harry Bosch trying to continue his life’s calling, but without the armor of youth or a badge. He’s still sharp, but he has to deal with many things he’s not used to. Having Bosch deal with these things refreshes his story. It also give him a sense of vulnerability that’s interesting to see. Plus, there’s a real feeling that time is running out on his days as a detective. It’s bittersweet in that I’ll miss Harry when his murder solving days are done, but it makes the time spent with him so much more powerful.

With Ballard there’s a wonderful sense of her growing into her own skin. When we met connelly1222her in her first novel her life had been turned upside down and she was still making sense of things. In The Night Fire it’s clear she’s starting to realize how good a cop she is and what she can do with the unique position she’s in as a “Late Show” detective. I also really like the dynamic between her and Bosch. They help each other grow. Their relationship as partners may be unofficial but they perfectly compliment each other’s detective styles.

The Night Fire also gives some prominent scenes to another favorite Connelly character we haven’t seen a lot of in a while, Mickey Haller. In the book he’s in action as both a lawyer and a trusted confidant of his brother. So, he’s a supporting character here, but he’s probably the best supporting player in the novel. I hope Connelly has another Lincoln Lawyer novel in him.

I don’t want to say too much about the plot because there’s a lot of interesting twists there. I can say when the book begins Ballard is looking into the death of a homeless man, Bosch is investigating the murder of a judge, and together they’re looking at a cold case that Bosch’s old, and now deceased, mentor had been sitting on. All of these cases have some interesting twists and angles. They also lead to some face to face encounters with interesting characters. My favorite is a mysterious hitwoman.

So, The Night Fire is another example of Michael Connelly doing what he does best. You get the familiar trappings of detectives working cases and cases working them, but there’s plenty of new things there that makes me appreciate his work even more. I can’t wait to see where he takes Ballard and Bosch next.

Categories: Book Review, Harry Bosch

Book Review- Rage by Jonathan Maberry

November 27, 2019 Leave a comment

RageI’ve said this before, but if all you’ve read of Jonathan Maberry’s work is his amazing Joe Ledger series there might be times where you forget that the man is an incredible horror writer. He’s also a fantastic writer of action, and the supernatural and sci-fi elements in the Ledger series are always well done too. Plus, the books have genuine laugh out loud, funny moments. So, the Ledger books are always expertly mixed cocktails of mood and tone, and horror is usually part of the mix. Every once in awhile though Maberry does a Ledger novel where horror is at the forefront. Rage, his latest Ledger novel, and the start of a whole new chapter for the series is just such a novel. It’s brutal, harrowing, and incredibly powerful.

Rage is both the title of the book and the major theme. Because in it Joe, Mr. Church, Top, Bunny, and the other members of the newly formed Rogue Team International are out to stop a terrorist organization with a bioweapon that transforms normal people into angry, homicidal, monsters. So, the scenes where the bio-weapon goes to work are brutal, horrific, and very visceral. Maberry takes his talent for incredibly kinetic action scenes and gives them a dark twist. You experience all the horrible things people can do to each other and the fragility of the human body.

That’s the point though. Because Rage is also a meditation on violence and anger. It’s a 250px-JonathanMaberrystory about the fragile bonds between human beings and how important it to work to keep them vital and strong. It’s also a story about what happens when you answer violence with violence. So, it’s a book with no easy answers, but it takes the “those who hunt monsters should work not to become them” element that have always been a part of the Ledger novels to a whole fascinating new level.

So, Rage, is one of most hard hitting Ledger novels to date, but it’s still also really fun. You get to see Joe, Top, Bunny, Mr. Church , and Bug in a new worldwide status quo. So all the dynamics you love about the series are there, but there’s plenty of other cool stuff like Rogue Team’s new headquarters, and it’s new members; an Italian man named Andrea and a Mauritanian woman named Belle. By the end of the novel I loved them both.

You also get to check in with lots of familiar faces. I won’t say who because catching up with these characters is part of the fun for long time readers and might spoil things. I will say though this is a novel that makes the most of the new “International” era and status quo for Joe. It’s fast paced, exciting, and leaps across the globe.

So, if you’re a long term fan of Ledger’s adventures, like me, or someone jumping on board for this new era (If so, welcome, but go back and read the other Ledger books! You’ll be so glad you did!) prepare yourself. This novel will hurt in some spots. I openly sobbed after reading some scenes. With that hurt comes reward though because Rage, is also incredibly moving. And it leaves its characters in fascinating places. If I could time travel and grab the next Ledger book I would. That’s how excited I am for what comes next.

Categories: Book Review, Joe Ledger

Book Review- The House of Night and Chain by David Annandale

November 21, 2019 Leave a comment

House of Night and ChainI fell in love with the world of Warhammer 40,000 because of how rich it is. It’s a universe that’s a mishmash of so many cool things I love; science fiction, fantasy, horror, a noirish morality, and the visual aesthetic of heavy metal. Last year, Black Library, the imprint of Games Workshop that publishes 40K fiction, began a new line of books that featured all the things that make 40K what it is, but the horror aspects would be focused on and emphasized. I was excited to hear that news, but the initial books in the Warhammer Horror line didn’t really have a title that piqued my interest.

That all changed this year when I saw the announcement for The House of Night and Chain by David Annandale. I’ve loved Annandale’s previous 40K work, and the book appeared to be one of my favorite types of horror tales; a haunted house story. So, I was pretty excited to read the book. I just finished it, and I’m happy to report that it was everything I was hoping it would be and more.

Essentially, The House of Night and Chain feels like if you took all the fascinating trappings of 40K and used them to tell a story like The Haunting of Hill House or The Shining It’s that good! It’s clear that Annandale had a blast writing it.

The House of Night and Chain is about a wounded Imperial Guard officer called back to david_annandalehis ancestral home planet. While he’s there he must suss out some political intrigue for the good of the Imperium. He also must piece back together the familial bonds between him and his children that were shattered years ago after his wife took her own life. To do that, he has to venture back to and explore, Malveil, his family’s sprawling and ancient estate.

Maeson Strock, Annandale’s protagonist, is a pretty fascinating character. The grief he feels over not being there for his wife and family gives the book an extra sense of pathos and poignancy. Annandale expertly weaves together Strock’s grief with the madness and mystery of what’s going on in a way that’s reminiscent of the films of writer/director, Mike Flanagan. Plus he populates the tale with a number of fascinating characters like Strock’s political rival, his two children, and members of the Adeptus Arbites and Ecclesiarchy.

I can’t really say too much more about The House of Night and Chain without spoiling things. So, I’ll finish by saying it truly lives up the intention of the Warhammer Horror line. In it, Annandale tells a wonderfully creepy and disturbing haunted house tale that is made extra enjoyable by all the signature elements of Warhammer 40,000

Book Review- A Dangerous Man by Robert Crais

October 12, 2019 Leave a comment

Dangerous ManThere are a few examples of series fiction that I read, which are so consistently good and entertaining that it’s easy to take them for granted. Robert Crais’ crime novels starring L.A. based private eye Elvis Cole and his best friend, military operator Joe Pike, is just such a series. The last few entries have all been filled with great characters, exciting action, and powerful and poignant moments. So, spending time with Elvis and Joe feels like catching up with old friends. Crais’ new novel A Dangerous Man is no exception.

The novel thrusts Pike and Cole into a middle of an attempted kidnapping. The target is an innocent teller that works at Pike’s bank, who has no idea why people are after her. So Pike and Cole dig into the matter and find themselves caught up in a web of intrigue that has ensnared a heist crew, mysterious criminals from out of town, the local cops, and some angry Federal Marshals.

No spoilers, but the action is great, the mystery surrounding the teller is fun and interesting, and Crais’ dialogue is crackling like always. So I sped through A Dangerous Man.

The chapters which follow Elvis and Joe’s perspectives are great. It’s interesting to see Crais no longer write Cole’s P.O.V. chapters in first person. I feel like that’s the first time he’s done this, but I could be wrong. I thought it might be jarring, but it’s not. It actually works with the novel. Another old favorite that appears in A Dangerous man is Elvis and Joe’s contact in the LAPD’s forensic sciences’ division, John Chen. John is both a gross and not very nice person. He’s hard to like, but to Crais’ credit he gives Chen some humanity. So you can both hate and feel sorry for Chen. That makes him a nuanced and very interesting character.

A Dangerous Man also features a number of new and very interesting characters. Somerobert_crais of them even get their own P.O.V. chapters. My favorite new characters were probably Isabel Roland, the teller I mentioned earlier, and her best friend Carly. They’re women in their 20s who live normal lives that don’t usually intersect with the dangerous worlds of Elvis and Joe. So they added some real heart to the story. You could tell Crais enjoyed writing Izzy and Carly.

I also really enjoyed the Federal Marshals that were part of the story. I would read a separate novel series starring their leader, Pryor Gregg.

I should also mention that, like Michael Connelly, Crais is a master at bringing L.A. crime stories to life. You really get a sense of place that enlivens every facet of the story, especially the action packed climax.

So, A Dangerous Man was another fun, well written entry in one of the longest running and most consistently entertaining Private Eye series in crime fiction. Like I said at the start, that’s something you can easily take for granted. Elvis and Joe have been around since the late 80s though, and their latest adventure still feels as fresh, fascinating, and fun as some of their exploits decades ago. That’s a huge accomplishment and a testament to both Crais’ skill and growth as a writer.

Book Review- Tiamat’s Wrath by James SA Corey

October 6, 2019 Leave a comment

Tiamat's WrathThe series finale of my favorite television show of all time, Deep Space Nine, is titled “All Good Things . . .” That tells you how I feel about endings and sci-fi. They’re scary and bittersweet, but they’re also filled with emotional payoffs. Endings are the time where your investment in a story and its characters are rewarded.

My current favorite sci-fi novel series, The Expanse by the two writers known as James S.A. Corey isn’t quite at its end yet, but I just finished the penultimate novel in the series, Tiamat’s Wrath and there was a heck of a lot of payoff there. It was a rollercoaster full of many different things and it just might be my favorite novel in the series so far.

When the novel picks up some time has passed and the crew of the Rocinante has split up. That’s something that makes Tiamat’s Wrath fascinating and emotionally charged. You get to see these characters who have been through so much, go through even more. It’s both hard and inspiring. I love Holden, Naomi, Alex, Amos, and Bobbie And most of all I love them together. So a lot of Tiamat’s Wrath is cheering them on as they deal with the changed circumstances of the galaxy and hoping they all come back together. Not going to spoil whether they do or not. All I’ll say is the character arcs in Tiamat’s Wrath had me smiling, cheering, laughing, and yes . . . sobbing.

This book also had some great moments for newer characters as well. Elvi Okoye and her husband Fayaz have a lot of great, fun, and emotionally powerful point of view chapters. The standout newer P.O.V. character for me though was Teresa Duarte. Her story was many things; the tale of teenage girl wrestling with difficult truths, the story of a girl realizing how lonely and angry she is, and a tour through the fascinating political and geographical landscape of the planet Laconia.

Tiamat’s Wrath also had a variety of different moods and tones and all of them were JamesSACoreyeffective. There’s a ton of action both in space and between rival combatants. There’s also a lot of really cool speculative fiction moments. The most effective mood and tone though came from the moments of pure cosmic horror. That’s because Tiamat’s Wrath gives you some more clues about the mysterious aliens that wiped out the society that made the Protomolecule. They’re still shrouded in mystery though. So when they lash out and show humanity just how powerful they are its utterly chilling.

So, a combination of excellent character arcs, genres, and payoff made Tiamat’s Wrath a fun and fantastic read. Sure, I’m sad that my journey with the crew of the Rocinante will come to an end in the next book, but with this novel the authors set the stage for a powerful and exciting climax that I eagerly await.

Categories: Book Review

Book Review: “Stranger Things: Suspicious Minds” by Gwenda Bond

September 2, 2019 Leave a comment

Suspicious MindsWhen fans pick up a tie-in fiction book they often wonder how or where a story fits into the established cannon? But if a writer is doing their job properly those questions ultimately don’t matter all that much. Because what makes a good tie-in story is what makes any good story; a solid cast of characters that you can invest in and compelling situations. What makes tie-ins a bit trickier though is a lot of the characters, conventions, and situations are already established and familiar. So they have to feel familiar. In her “Stranger Things” tie-in novel “Suspicious Minds” Gwenda Bond does a fantastic job telling a story that evokes the spirit and some of the trappings of the show, but it is also decidedly it’s own thing.

The trappings that “Stranger Things” fans will find familiar about “Suspicious Minds?” Psychic powers, Hawkins Indiana, the villainous Dr Brenner, and a younger version of Kali AKA Number 8 (from season two). There’s also nostalgia since this is a period piece (set earlier though in the years 1969-1970) What really makes “Suspicious Minds” a true “Stranger Things” novel though is the fact that it’s a story about how the power of friendship can take on and beat even the most daunting of foes.

That’s why I watch “Stranger Things,” and the friendship between Bond’s four Gwenda Bondprotagonists, Terry, Ken, Alice, and Gloria is what “Suspicious Minds” such a breezy and fun read. They even have a familiar love of fantasy that links them together. Since Bond’s story takes place before the creation of “Dungeons & Dragons” her cast bonds over Tolkein’s “Lord of the Rings,” which was very popular at that time. I also enjoyed the fact that Gloria was a fan of what was one of Marvel Comics’s lowest selling titles at the time, the X-Men.

So who are Terry, Alice, Gloria, and Ken and how do they become embroiled in the world of “Stranger Things?” They’re four very likable college age kids in Indiana who answer an ad about an experiment and are plunged into the clandestine and surreal world of the MK Ultra experiments. That also lands them in the nightmarish world of Dr Brenner’s Hawkins Laboratory.

The scenes with the laboratory and experiments are both compelling and freaky fun. They allow Bond to play with some familiar elements of the series, but also create a sense of peril for these characters. Because we as readers know what happens. And we know these characters that you come to really love don’t play a larger role in the future. At least not what we’ve seen so far.

Bond also really captures the voice of Matthew Modine’s Dr. Brenner. He comes off as truly a cruel and petty man who firmly believes what he’s doing. He makes a nice foil for the cast and is villain you can root against and be horrified by.

Ultimately, “Suspicious Minds” was a really fun read that made the most of it’s settings and characters. It made me both want to check out some of Bond’s other work and the other “Stranger Things” tie-in books.

Categories: Uncategorized

Book Review- “Miami Midnight”by Alex Segura

June 27, 2019 1 comment

Miami MidnightPrivate Investigators and superheroes share a number of traits. They help people find justice outside the law, readers experience their lives on a case by case or arc by arc basis, and their adventures often continue well past the deaths of the creators who dreamed them up. The best superheroes and private detectives though are human. Legendary comic creators like Stan Lee and Jack Kirby proved that when they built the Marvel Universe, and prose writer Alex Segura has been demonstrating that for the past several years with a book series starring Miami based, incredibly flawed, but charismatic P.I. Pete Fernandez.

What made the Pete Fernandez series especially interesting was the fact that, unlike most gumshoes, when we met him he wasn’t a P.I. yet. Readers got to go on a journey with him as he discovered his true calling and battled personal demons like rage and alcohol addiction. We’ve been there for his victories both Pyrrhic and triumphant and his soul crushing defeats. Along the way, we’ve also gotten to know quite a bit about him because the last several Pete novels have taken deep dives into his family and personal history. So it was especially exciting and perhaps a little bittersweet to learn that Segura’s latest Pete novel, “Miami Midnight” (Available this August) will be the last one .

I was lucky enough to get a chance to read an ARC of “Miami Midnight” and I’m happy to report that if this is indeed the end for Pete Fernandez and company it’s a fitting and grand conclusion to their adventures. Because “Miami Midnight” is a novel that’s powerful and exciting, but it’s also a story that brings everything full circle. By the end of the novel you see seamless connections to the other Pete books that make you realize that this novel series was both episodic and one grand tale about a family’s tragic history. That kind of reader payout is not something you usually get in this type of series fiction, and it made “Miami Midnight” especially rewarding.

So what’s the book about, you ask? I’m going to let you discover that on your own. Here’s Segurawhat I will say. The book picks up after the huge conclusion to the previous Pete novel, “Blackout.” So when we me catch up with Segura’s protagonist he’s very much a changed man. Seeing how those changes impact Pete’s life is part of the fun of “Miami Midnight.” Don’t worry about a lack of drama though. Pete is still a flawed guy and very much capable of making poor choices.

We also get a chance to catch up with Pete’s group of associates like his partner Kathy, ex FBI Agent Harris, and his best friend Dave. They too are dealing with some interesting and difficult things in the aftermath of “Blackout.” Things only get more interesting and exciting as Pete is drawn into two seemingly separate cases.

One of those cases is very personal. And we get some pretty powerful and poignant flashback segments that illustrate just how personal it is. The present day action is just intense because it’s filled with revelations that impact major players from Pete’s past and sends him on a dangerous trip to a locale that, if you have read the previous books, know it’s inevitable he’d have to eventually visit.

When you add that all together it makes for the best and most rewarding Pete novel to date. “Miami Midnight” is Segura’s gift to all the readers who’ve screamed at and rooted for Pete while he’s been on this epic journey of self discovery.

Categories: Book Review