Happy Reading

Toni's bookshelf: read

The Godfather of Kathmandu (Sonchai Jitpleecheep, #4)
Ape House
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest
Operation Napoleon
Walking Dead
The Sentimentalists
The Heretic Queen
The Midnight House
Cross Fire
Peony in Love
Finding Nouf: A Novel
City of Veils: A Novel
First Daughter
A Place of Hiding
Peter Pan

Toni Osborne's favorite books »

Friday, December 30, 2011

"Reckless", by Andrew Gross

Book 3, in the Ty Hauck series

As the first chapters unfold, we are slowly introduced to the characters that will take part in this mystery. A major change has Ty Hauck, Mr. Gross’s protagonist, moving on from his former job as police detective to an important post at a corporate security firm. 

The story begins when a close friend from Ty’s past, April Glassman, is found brutally murdered in her home along with her husband and daughter. The firm in a gesture to one of their favourite clients takes on the case and assigns who else but Ty as lead investigator, it is obvious he has a definite interest in finding the reason and those responsible for this tragic incident. Early on into the investigation Ty finds himself in the middle of an ongoing financial conspiracy that has sights set on other targets.

His leads cross those of U.S treasury Agent Naomi Blum and together they follow the money trail, a trail that has them jetting across continents facing danger at every turn, a labyrinth of continuously new information and hazards that all has to be analysed and addressed. What they find at first appears to be a possible terrorist strike against financial managers but later turns out to be something far more sinister involving a much larger scope of the financial community. 

In this latest novel, Mr. Gross has spun his own mystery around 21st century events and seasoned it with plenty of frightening conspiracies and global intrigue, a recipe that will please many readers. Although the plotting is somewhat predictable and quite formulaic, the topic is nevertheless quite interesting and the short and punchy chapters make it an easy read. The characterization is based on two main characters; the intrepid hero and the beautiful female agent as for the rest of the cast they are simply fill-ins. The simplified chemistry is definitely not a mind bender, it left me wishing for more, however all that said and done, this fast paced-thriller was an enjoyable read.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

"The Redbreast", by Jo Nesbo

1st book translated into English but the 3rd in the Harry Hole series.

This is a complex Norwegian thriller, a fabulous modern day mystery influenced by captivating and informative flashbacks from events and roles Norwegians were forced into during WW11.

The story begins with Harry Hole, the protagonist, a gifted policeman, who caused his department a high profile embarrassment and was subsequently relegated to surveillance work monitoring neo-Nazi activities, a punishment Harry quickly turns into a new challenge. 

Harry’s speculative mind and acquired skills are just what is needed when word on the street surfaces that someone in the underworld is looking for a very particular vintage sniper rifle. He knows he is on the right track when a former Nazi sympathiser is found silenced with his throat cut and victims of the vintage sniper rifle start to accumulate. From the very first the reader follows the path that Harry takes and also the path the sniper takes, creating a unique suspense, a proverbial high gear cat and mouse game .

The tale’s WW11 tread slowly interweaves into the main as the pages go by. This is a page-turner at its best with narratives that move between Harry’s present day inquiries and the Eastern front in 1944, where a small group of Norwegian Nazis with their own agenda are fighting alongside the Germans and at some point switch their allegiance to Russia and become part of the Resistance. 

The plot is a gripping tale of political intrigue, love and a serial killer with multiple personalities. This fairly long novel is character driven, a rich creation brilliantly composed with every key stroke. I found it hard to grasp at first there were a lot of seemingly unrelated events happening at a rapid pace, I wondered where all the pieces of the puzzle fit, but gradually the pattern took shape and the confusing flashbacks suddenly became clear as the thrill of the mystery escalated.

This police procedural novel is one of the most captivating and compelling stories I have read in a long time. I am hooked on this series and I am looking forward to reading “Nemesis”.

"The Fifth Witness", by Michael Connelly

Book 4 in the Mickey Haller series

If you are a fan of Hollywood spun down and dirty courtroom scenes, you won’t be disappointed with this one. Michael Connelly’s latest novel is a real blast and one of the best legal dramas I have read in a long time. 

” The Fifth Witness” exploits the scandal in the USA that developed around the sometimes unethical means employed in the bundling and reselling of mortgage loans and the live altering grief it caused some of the homeowners. Lisa Trammel is one of those clients, who should never have been lured into such a deal, but now is faced with losing her house and hope for the future. To make things worse, she is also accused of murdering the ruthless banker who was tasked with forcing the issue. Lucky for her, Haller is up for the challenge and is defending her in court. 

Mr. Connelly is undoubtedly a master of courtroom drama, the main part of this novel describes Lisa’s trial and Mickey’s defence strategy. His writing paints a clear picture of the three way battle of wits between attorneys and the judge. The constant war of words between the attorneys, each one trying to score points but looking at the evidences from completely opposing angles is vividly created and provides all the twists and turns needed to heighten the reader’s interest to the end. Your mind mirrors the adrenaline swings the defendant experiences.

The story is very dynamic, quite suspenseful and character driven. The trial of Lisa Trammel turns into a chess match, with Haller highly skilled at seeing the value of each move. He is a defense lawyer who understands that a trial is not a search for the truth but rather a game of survival where winner takes all. This novel has great characterization. Mickey's team consists of his ex-wife Lorna, his investigator Cisco and an associate Jennifer Aronson. All three of them work alongside Mickey to ensure that Lisa Trammel has the best defense possible. They do not want to be influenced by knowing if she is guilty or not….and Mr. Connelly keeps us wondering and guessing to the very end.

The profound plotting with a touch of humour is absolutely absorbing. This was another memorable experience between the pages.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

"A Trick of the Light", by Louise Penny

Book 7, in the Chief Inspector Gamache series

In this story we are back on board with Inspectors Gamache and Beauvoir who are still on the mend and recovering from the investigation that went terribly wrong in “Bury Your Dead”, this time they are back at a village made famous in previous novels, the fictional and quint village of Three Pines. “A Trick of Light” is more than a murder mystery; it explores the emotions and the inner struggle brought on by success and rejection, something every artistic painter has to deal with in his quest for fame and recognition. 

The suspense begins with the violent death of a nasty art critic whose words have crushed the careers of many inspiring artists. The critic was discovered in artist Clara Morrow’s garden the morning after celebrating the opening of her first solo exhibition at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal. There is no shortage of suspects in this competitive field, the list is endless and is sure to include fellow artists, dealers, curators and critics. The case calls for the Sûreté du Québec’s finest and who else but Inspector Gamache and his trusted team are given the challenge…

With subtle and sparse writing, the plot deepens in complexity when Gamache and Beauvoir assisted by Agent Lacoste delve deeply into the art scene and press to uncover its long-hidden secrets. The in depth investigation leads them to the inner circle of the AA just another layer in the mystery they have to deal with….At this point, Ms. Penny’s smooth words spin the tale with so many twists and turns, the reader is sure to find himself in a game of intense speculation trying to stay one step ahead and guess who could be the guilty one.

Although the pacing may seem slow at first it slowly draws you in and once the story starts to gel you are hooked and will enjoy every bit of it to the last page. Ms. Penny is a master when it comes to developing warm and charming characters with unique personalities and complex relationships. She builds a strong atmosphere of soft suspense, the hard core details are left to the reader’s imagination, however fertile it may be. 

This series is an addiction for me; I follow it faithfully and always look forward to read what Inspector Gamache will be up against in his next case. 

For any newcomers I suggest starting with “Still Life”, that way you will start on the ground floor and develop a rapport with the characters and a better understanding of the culture.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

"Catch", by Sean Quirk

This is Sean Quirk second novel, having read the first; this one is totally different but equally as captivating. I am a fan of thrillers and have read my share, what makes this one stand out is how a tab of supernatural is skilfully mixed into the storyline without losing all sense of realism and readers who are not into hard-core sci-fi . If you realise a thriller novel is not known for its accuracy but rather for action, adventure, hi-tech weaponry, shoot-outs, great heroes and villains (villains that even the reader develops a love to hate), this thriller could be for you. 

The story centers on Catch Harris, a loner and ex-military man that has many skeletons in the closet, is riddled with guilt and just wants to be left alone. One day, Hallie Baker, a waitress, at his favourite diner tries to strike up a friendship; however it is not in his nature to be sociable and automatically rebuffs her. Later, he regrets what he has done and on his way out he wants to apologise but Hallie's shift has finished and is already on her way home. In the parking lot, he witnesses some very menacing men who appear to be forcing Hallie against her will, Catch's military training kicks into high gear and his only objective is to save her. This action proves to be the interlude into a suspense filled read... 

There is never a dull moment once everything starts. We find ourselves shadowing the protagonist into many tense and highly explosive situations, involving a mingled web of villains with futuristic equipment, and of course there is nothing like good old car chases to bring on the adrenaline. The descriptive writing is so vivid you think you are smack into the action, the twists and turns along the way lead to a nicely tied up ending. The intensity of the story and the complexity of the characters make it a very interesting read.

I am looking forward to following Catch Harris on his next adventure.

"The Betrayals of Grim's Peak", by Sean Quirk

Step aside Dean Koontz, Stephen King and J.K Rowling make room for Sean Quirk, a creative writer whose fertile imagination appears to be on the same wave link as yours. If you are of the Harry Potter generation you will love this one. In his first fantasy, Sean Quirk leads his readers, both the young and the mature, into a colourful and entertaining perspective into what life would be at the bottom of the ocean.

The story centers around a boy named Augie who is adopted after being found floating on the ocean surface after a violent under water explosion. After fourteen years of everyday life, Augie's adopted parents bring him back to the site where he was discovered. One day, while standing at the end of the pier and mesmerized by the churning waves he sees nightmarish creatures that follow him back to the safe haven of his parents. This encounter proves to be his first introduction to the magical world of Grim's Peak. When his parents learn the creatures are harmless and have Augie's safety at heart and want to protect him from a menacing force below, they agree to let their son return to a world that appears to be an important part of his past. There he discovers the secrets tying him to this world, the good and the bad, and the hidden dangers that are shadowing him. 

This fantasy is highly imaginative and combines a mix of every weird creature you can think of. The author's vivid descriptions paint a frightening and creepy atmosphere that is so visual I wouldn't be surprise the story will have legs and turn up on a different format and maybe even the big screen someday. The story of course is nonsensical but its great plotting makes it most interesting and intriguing and its fantastic characters make the whole experience refreshing and captivating. Although I am not a die -hard fan of this genre, I nevertheless enjoyed this trip into Mr. Quirk's world.

"A Brewski For the Old Man", by Phyllis Smallman

Book 3, in the Sherri Travis Mystery

This installment is a captivating tale with a serious moral undertone meant to please lovers of soft mysteries and aficionados of female sleuth protagonists. Ms. Smallman's novels are a great escape from hard core detective stories and thrillers, easy and enjoyable to read. 

The compelling plot punctuated with suspenseful moments has restaurateur Sherri Travis returning to her hometown of Jacaranda, Florida. As new owner of the beach front Sunset Bar and Grill she quickly learns the pre-season slump is not all smooth sailing, her hope is to survive till the tourists return and business is in full swing. 

As business begins to pick up, her mother's boyfriend, Ray Leenders, suddenly comes back into the picture. He had taken advantage of her when she was twelve and the memories have haunted her ever since. She kept the secret hidden never telling anyone especially her father, Tully Jenkins, an ex- Vietnam vet with a bad temper and a short fuse. Now years later, Ray reappears dating Rena Cagel, who runs the store below the bar and Sherri suspects he is likely up to his old tricks and abusing her sixteen year old daughter, Lacey. Questioned, Lacey confirms her suspicions and confides that she is also reluctant to tell her mother, she accepts Sherri's offer to stay at her condo to escape the unwanted advances. Sherri confronts Ray and threatens to blow the whistle on him. Things quickly spiral out of control and Tully offers his help and before we know it someone ends up in hospital and Sherri finds herself the prime suspect in a murder case. 

The storyline has a lot of momentum to it especially with Sherri finding herself involved in one crisis after another. Sherri's struggle to untangle everything and stay one step ahead proved to be a touching experience. The threads in this crowded and intriguing plot juggle many themes from domestic abuse, blackmail, greed and even alligator poaching into an expertly written story with a neat conclusion. Several characters are fascinating and well-developed but some are depicted more like loveable caricatures. The storyline is fast paced, has snappy dialogue and is accented with a touch of humour. 

I like this series for its lightness and its down to earth protagonist.