Tag Archives: fiction

John Sandford’s latest a winner of a summer read

John Sandford is one of my favorite authors. He has several series of cop/crime fiction going and they are all great.

I just finished the latest in his “Prey” series – Buried Prey. It’s slightly different than many of his previous novels, but very good. It is an excellent summer read.

The main character in the “Prey” series is Lucas Davenport. When the series started, nearly 20 years ago, Lucas was a homicide detective in the Minneapolis Police Department. Lucas is smart, urbane, quick-witted and rich. (Not a bad combination. I want to be Lucas when I grow up.) He got all the tough cases. At the present point in the series, Lucas is the head of the Minnesota “Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.” And again, he gets all the tough cases.

In Buried Prey, building excavators unearth the bodies of two young girls, dead for a quarter century. It is a kidnap-murder case that Lucas worked as a young cop. Much of the book is a flash-back, as Lucas recalls the details of the summer the girls disappeared. Lucas is besieged by guilt over the case. The police were quick to close the case and pinned the murders on a homeless man who was killed by the police during his arrest. Lucas knows deep in his heart that the homeless man was innocent, but being a young cop, he went along with his bosses and “caved in.”

Sandford brings out some of Lucas’s personality characteristics that remain hidden in most of his books, including self-doubt, a sense of guilt, and a near-pathological drive for revenge.

As with nearly all of Sandford’s books, Buried Prey gets a thumbs-up. Very good!

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A good book — The Capitol Game

I just finished a pretty good book, The Capitol Game, which is the latest from thriller author Brian Haig. The summary from the fly-leaf describes the plot as well as I can.

“It was the deal of the decade, if not the century. A small, insignificant company on the edge of bankruptcy had discovered an alchemist’s dream; a miraculous polymer, that when coated on any vehicle, was the equivalent of 30 inches of steel…Jack Wiley, a successful Wall Street banker, believes he has a found a dream come true when he mysteriously learns of this miraculous polymer. His plan: enlist the help of the Capitol Group, one of the country’s largest and most powerful corporations in a quick, bloodless takeover of the small company that developed the polymer. It seems like a partnership made in heaven…until the Pentagon’s investigative service begins nosing around, and the deal turns into a nightmare…”

I have been a Brian Haig fan since I read his first novel, Secret Sanction, several years ago. The Capitol Game is Haig’s eighth book. While he has never achieved the acclaim of a Nelson DeMille or John Grisham, his books are just as entertaining. The protagonist in his first several novels is an Army JAG lawyer, Sean Drummond. If you overlooked the books’ covers, you might have thought you were reading Nelson DeMille (who, by the way, is one of my favorites.) Drummond could just as easily have been one of DeMille’s frequent protagonists under a different name — Army CID investigator Paul Brenner (The General’s Daughter and Up Country) or former NYPD detective John Correy (Plum Island, The Lion’s Game, Nightfall, etc.)

In The Capitol Game, Haig breaks away from the Sean Drummond formula and creates an entirely different set of characters and a story type. This book reads an awfully lot like a Grisham novel. The somewhat mysterious main character is obviously working some kind of scheme, but the reader isn’t quite certain what it is. The protagonist, Jack Wiley, is a charismatic, young investment banker, but Haig only reveals his actions, not his inner thoughts. Not until the last few pages does the plot come to light and the motivation become known.

All told, The Capitol Game was a fun book and I recommend it. If you enjoy Grisham and DeMille, you should enjoy this and the rest of Haig’s books.

Clancy’s newest not up to expectations

I just finished Tom Clancy’s latest book, Dead or Alive. I have always been a Tom Clancy fan, but I have to confess, I was not impressed with this latest effort, which was co-authored by Grant Blackwood. Maybe that was the problem.

I have been a big Clancy fan ever since he came out with his first big one, The Hunt for Red October. I have read all his fiction thrillers, and most of his non-fiction. I love his stuff. Maybe that’s why I was disappointed at his latest effort.

Clancy returns to the plot line and characters of his earlier book Teeth of the Tiger. As a matter of fact, I re-read Teeth before starting Dead or Alive, just to bring myself up to speed. The second book simply picks up right where Teeth left off.

The main characters, Brian and Dominic Caruso and Jack Ryan Jr. are back, working for the secretive terrorist-hunting organization known as “The Campus.” They are joined by old friends, John Clark and Ding Chavez.

This time the bad guys are working a complex scheme to launch a series of attacks on the US, and it’s up to the guys at “The Campus” to stop them.

Clancy likes to weave together different story lines — seemingly unrelated, but we all know better. (After all, if they weren’t related, they wouldn’t be in the book.) Then they come together to create the plot. However, the biggest problem with the book is that there are so many plotlines that develop so slowly, it is difficult for the reader to keep track of them all.

At least a couple of plotlines never do develop and apparently were inserted just to introduce characters or set the scene for the next book in the series. In one, an Army ranger, is accused of murder for what he did on the battlefield. This premise could be the basis of an entire novel in itself. Instead, the legal issue is dropped and the character is assumed into The Campus team. There were a lot of pages of narrative, just to introduce a new and not advance the main plot of the novel.

In another, Jack Ryan Sr. decides to run for president once again. This also just sets the scene for the next book because after he makes his decision to run, the authors drop the plot line. Ryan is last seen working on his autobiography.

For a true Clancy fan, it’s a good, but lengthy effort. However, if you would like to read a book with a similar plot, but tighter plot development and more compelling characters, try “The Afghan” by Fredrick Forsyth. It is simply outstanding.

A very good Viet Nam War novel

I finished another book over the weekend that is worth mentioning.

“Matterhorn; A Novel of the Viet Nam War” by Karl Marlantes is just that. It is a very gritty account of a Marine company in combat in 1969. Marlantes wastes no ink on any subtleties or side plots. From the very first page, he places the reader into the “bush,” with the main character, a brand new second lieutenant who is trying to figure out his job while simultaneously trying to keep from getting killed. The reader lives with the Marine company and experiences the mud, the sweat and the fear. The story is involved and detailed.

Marlantes brings out all the absurdities of war — good officers and bad; expert Marines and inept; courage and stupidity; blacks and whites. The story reminds me a lot of “Fields of Fire” by James Webb; “The 13th Valley” by John del Vecchio; and “Better Times Than These” by Winston Groom.

This is not a “chick book” by any stretch of the imagination. Mrs. Poolman would have no interest. However, if you like military fiction, especially of the Viet Nam era, this is a must-read.

A good beach-read

Another book report. Why not? It’s a slow summer and I don’t have a lot else to write about.

As I have mentioned in the past, both Mrs. Poolman and I love to read for pleasure. Her tastes tend to run towards “chicky books” while I like history, mystery, military and adventure. Nelson DeMille is an author whose books just jump off the shelf and into my hands when he releases a new work. I just finished “The Lion,” and I was not disappointed.

If you like adventure novels and are not familiar with DeMille, you need to introduce yourself immediately. He is a great story teller. His works aren’t great literature and there are no deep meanings to his writing. He just writes excellent stories that are compelling to read.

I first “met’ DeMille thorugh his novel, “Charm School,” which is the story of an Air Force air attaché in Moscow during the Cold War who discovers the Soviets have a group of Korean and Viet Nam War POWs who they use to help train Soviet spies how to pass as Americans (hence, the title “Charm School”). Since then, I have read nearly everything else he has written and they all range from very good to excellent.

He has several main characters which appear in multiple novels. Paul Brenner is an Army CIS investigator who appears in The General’s Daughter” (John Travolta played him in the movie.) andUp Country.” Retired NYC police detective John Corey is the main character in Plum Island,”  “Nightfall,” “The Lion’s Game” and “The Lion.” Actually both Brenner and Corey are really the same person. They just have different names and appear in different stories. Both are wise-cracking, sarcastic and iconoclastic criminal investigators.

The Lion is the story of John Corey’s quest to track down a Libyan-Arab Jihadist assassin, aka “The Lion,” who has come to the United States to kill Corey and a bunch of other people. His motive is based on revenge for the death of his family in the US air raids in the mid 1980s. The Lion is ruthless and creative. This is not a book for the squeamish. If it were a movie, it would get an “R” rating for violence.

The Lion is a sequel to an earlier DeMille novel, “The Lion’s Game.” You can read the sequel without reading the initial story first, but you would enjoy both books more if you read them in order.

The book has it faults. DeMille stretches believability with The Lion’s initial attempt to kill Corey’s wife. It is far too bizarre. And at the other end of the novel, when Corey is lured into a final showdown with the assassin, the only person who is clueless to what is coming is Corey himself.

Corey narrates much of the story in the first-person. His wise-cracks and his mental side comments make him fun to hang out with, even if there is someone trying to kill him and everyone around him.

While some of DeMille’s other novels have plot twists and some mystery, The Lion is predictable, straight adventure. You know what is happening and how it will eventually end, but it’s still interesting to be along for the ride.

In summary, it is a fun summer read. Go findThe Lion’s Game” first, and then read “The Lion.” You won’t be disappointed.

A good read

I stayed up too late last night finishing a book. Both Mrs. Poolman and I read for pleasure, she more than I. Mrs. P can knock of a standard paperback book in a single off day.

The book I was reading, The Time Traveler’s Wife, was not my typical fare. I tend to lean more towards action fiction and historical non-fiction. I enjoy authors like John Sandford, James Patterson, W.E.B. Griffin, Tom Clancy, Vince Flynn, John Grisham and Patricia Cornwell. I also have a spot in my heart for Andrew Greely. On the non-fiction side, I consume history, especially military history. And if it flies and shoots, I’m all over it.

Time Travelers WifeAll of that is just a way of setting up that I really enjoyed The Time Traveler’s Wife. I have always been intrigued with the fictional treatments of time travel, starting with HG Wells’ The Time Machine and working on up through Michael Crichton’s Timeline (another really outstanding time-travel book, by the way). Before reading it,  I suspected The Time Traveler’s Wife was a literary version of a “chick flick.” You know what I mean – a movie that deals mostly with relationships and emotions and one of the endearing characters dies at the end, usually of a long lingering illness. (See Steel Magnolias, Terms of Endearment, Fried Green Tomatoes, and others.) While The Time Traveler’s Wife does have many of those characteristics (I won’t spoil it by being more specific.) those are balanced out by the fact that it is still an interesting, well written story that moves along.

The story is about Henry and Clare. Henry has a genetic abnormality that causes him to involuntarily travel in time. One moment he is here, and the next, he is stark naked in another place and time. The author, Audrey Niffengger, avoids the cliché of many time-travel authors by not inserting her  character into any historical settings. This is not a story in which the protagonist performs any great or historical acts. Henry’s time travels are much more personal.

Very early on, Henry and Clare meet. Clare is a stranger to Henry, but Clare has known Henry all her life. An older Henry was repeatedly transported back in time to Clare’s childhood. So when they meet, Henry is Clare’s long-time visitor and friend, while Henry has yet to meet Clare in his “real life.” The book develops their relationship, more or less following the chronological pace of Henry’s “real life.” There are lots of adventures and a couple of mysteries.

All told, it was a good book and I’m really glad I read it. It is definitely worth the effort. We didn’t see the movie when it was at the theaters. I’m looking forward to it’s release on DVD in a few months.