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 »

Thursday, November 22, 2012

"Black Skies", by Arnaldur Indridason

Book 8, in the Reykjavik Murder Mysteries

As in the previous installment “Outrage” we have detective Erlendur still missing in action and out of reach on an extended absence leaving all investigations in the expert hands of his trusted colleagues. In this drama, at the helm and taking center stage is Sigurdur Oli, a well-known figure that appeared numerous times in previous novels.

The story is set in 2005 when Iceland was in the middle of an economic boom and opens with Sigurdur attending a high school reunion. During the evening one of his old classmates approaches him with a problem that maybe he could discreetly help with: an influential friend is being blackmailed after he and his wife were unknowingly photographed at a swinger’s party. They desperately need help and don’t know who to turn to. Sigurdur agrees to look into the matter and after a preliminary investigation decides to pay the blackmailer a visit. To his surprise he finds the woman beaten to death in her apartment and wondering how he is going to explain to his superiors why he is on a murder site that doesn’t pertain to an open case. Fortunately he is assigned the case and his strongest lead takes him to the banking world that is now being fuelled by greed during the economic boom. Sigurdur quickly finds himself up to his neck in a world of high finances, money laundering and market manipulation where knowing too much can sometimes get you killed.

In a spin off plot Sigurdur is saddled with another case. A middle- aged alcoholic finally cracks under the burden of childhood memories and decides to take revenge against his step father who made growing up hell on earth.

The story is written with some witty humour and keen comments and has a cast of great characters each with their own personality. It gets off to a slow beginning while it skillfully and diplomatically creates the atmosphere of the different threads building into a suspenseful and satisfying mystery. The story also has an interesting view into how the force handles greed, depravity and murder.

“Black Skies” is a great addition to a terrific series.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

"Crystal White", by David DeLee

Reading “Crystal White” was a pleasant introduction to this author’s repertoire. I accidently stumbled on a promotion some time ago and I thank the author for providing a highly captivating story that entertained me for hours. Needless to say Mr. DeLee has won my heart and I will definitely read more of his work in future.

The reader is thrust into the plot right from the start as we shadow Special Agent Nick Lafferty leading a task force on a dangerous drug raid. With a mix of technical jargon in the narrative we follow his team as they try to bring down the notorious drug lord kingpin, Ruben Nazario. 

During the final stage of the raid Nick gets a call from his wife, he agrees to call her back when he has a free moment. Nick’s wife and daughter are waiting for him on his boat in San Diego harbor and when he calls back he unknowingly triggers a device instantly killing his wife and child. 

It doesn't take long for Nick to realise it was a set up and his emotions take control of him leaving the force with no alternative but to give Nick time to grief and get his life back on track. However while on compassion leave his only focus is on avenging his loss at any cost. 

To compound his grief, Nick is called back to his roots in New York to settle his father’s estate. There he reconnects with a former partner Del Harley and learns Ruben Nazario’s drug “Crystal White” has spread to the east coast. They agree to pool their efforts and we are reeled back into another exciting hunt with no shortage of action and excitement. 

“Crystal White” is a well-written novel that provides a captivating adventure into the crime detective world. The characters are down to earth and quite credible. The plotting is well paced with enough down time to savour the intimate moments and get ready for the next element of surprise. The suspense was quite satisfying and kept me guessing till the very last page.

"Triple Crossing", by Sebastian Rotella

This novel tells the story about the pursuit of justice by law enforcement on both sides of the U.S. and the Mexican border. It explores and dramatizes the violence and corruption in the drug trade and the human smuggling while at the same time honoring the honest Border Patrol agents on both sides who resist the cartels and often pay a heavy price. 

This fast paced thriller has two heroes: working the trenches between San Diego and Tijuana is Valentine Pascatore, a no-nonsense Border Patrol agent of Mexican and Argentine descent. On the side is Leo Mendez, a reformist chief of an elite Mexican police unit known as the Diogenes Group. Most of the narrative alternates between these two protagonists, sometimes it is very tedious and a challenge to follow, some knowledge of Spanish would definitely have been an asset.

Pascatore takes great pride in his position as a border agent, a real pit-bull on the job with of soft side slipping at times as few dollars to illegals to tie them over till they are returned home. His aggressiveness attracts the attention of Isabel Puente, an agent with the U.S. Inspector General’s Office who wants to utilize him as an undercover agent to infiltrate the most powerful Mexican crime syndicate. Pascatore accepts the challenge and things goes well at first till one day a disastrous incident puts him on the run. Wrongly accused of murdering a police officer and not wanting to blow his cover he carries on with his assignment in the Triple Border area of South America, a no man’s land where any wrong move could be fatal.

The plot is intense with plenty of suspense and action while it follows the hair-raising life of a double agent trying to walk the fine line between good and evil. The emotions expressed by the main characters and the secondary ones are quite credible. Although the narrative passages are highly dynamic the fine details I was missing became overwhelming at times and maintaining focus was a challenge

"The Drop", by Michael Connelly

Book 15, in the Harry Bosch series

The novel opens with the aging Harry Bosch three years away from mandatory retirement working full time in the cold case squad with a new partner David Chu. In this latest installment Mr. Connelly has his protagonist eventually working two simultaneous investigations. The first, a cold case sex murder that lead to the discovery of a killer who operated in the city for three decades. The second is a politically charged investigation into the death of city councilman Irvin Irving’s son. Harry’s inquiries bring him back to a darker side of the police department when he and the councilman did not always see eye to eye. 

Mr. Connelly’s prolific mind provides each novel with fresh and entertaining plots, a feat he has managed for decades. His characters have aged with the times and taken on all of the appropriate age related attributes. As Harry nears sixty and fears retirement, we see how he handles cases with more determination and stubbornness… it must be the hormones….Mr. Connelly’s approach to a good mystery is to develop the first plot, gradually introduce the characters and just when things are about to explode he brings in a second plot to magnify and prologue the suspense. Even with the many twists and surprises that are somewhat predictable the drama is engaging and captivating till the very end. 

This series is one of my favourites and I often wonder what Mr. Connelly has up his sleeve for the future.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

"Highball Exit", by Phyllis Smallman

Book 5, in the Sherri Travis mystery series

Ms. Smallman definitely has oodles of ideas to keep her series vibrant and entertaining. You would think that after 5 novels her bartender protagonist, Sherri Travis, would learn she has enough trouble of her own and not get involved in the madness around her, but some people are just not cut out that way…..

The inspiration behind this wonderful series is taken from the numerous headlines we witness in the news, in my opinion, the author is not about to run out of ideas. Local wildlife and weather conditions such as alligators and hurricanes always play an important part in spicing up the action and of course there is always a light touch of romance to titillate the reader’s imagination.

In this saga Sherri is behind on her mortgage and about to lose the Sunset Bar & Grill, her home and source of revenue. To the rescue comes Aunt Kay with a proposition: she is willing to compensate Sherri for help in an investigation as to what really happened to Holly Mitchell and her daughter Angel. Aunt Kay was very fond of Holly and played an important part in her upbringing. They always kept in touch and when Holly was found dead and her baby girl missing, Aunt Kay was devastated. To Sherri this seems like easy money till one day she finds herself over her head in a world of drugs and hard core prostitution.

I have always been partial to the style of writing in this series: it is sharp, funny and the plot keeps a steady pace with plenty of suspenseful moments throughout. “Highball Exit” is a bit more violent than the previous novels however the gruesome details have not been sensationalised.  I love the new addition to the cast. Aunt Kay is a bubbly old lady with a colourful side (shocking pink outfit and all) but don’t let that fool you. In my view she really was the star in this novel and I hope to see her back someday.  Sherri’s beau is still making promises and we are left wondering if he is going to finally settle down and make Sherri’s life a little bit easier. 

"The Jefferson Key", by Steve Berry

Book 7, in the Cotton Malone series

Fans of this series will notice that this latest installment is a departure from the six previous Cotton Malone adventures. In this novel the author brings the action to the North American eastern coast all the way up to Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia Canada. As always he has written an entertaining action –packed fiction that incorporates some historical facts along the way.

“The Jefferson Key” is developed around a connection between pirates and privateers and the main thread has an exciting opening with the bold assassination attempt made against U.S. President Danny Daniels in the heart of Manhattan.

Now with a grave threat against the very foundation of the country, Malone risks his life only to find himself at odds with the Commonwealth, a centuries-old society of privateers, who have operated with impunity since the Revolutionary War. Thrust into the middle of their operations, Malone and his sometime love interest, Cassiopea need to unearth a centuries-old document (The Letter of Marque) and terminate the Commonwealth’s privileges at any cost.

Meanwhile during a subsequent investigation, Stephanie Nelle, Malone’s boss at the “The Magillan Billet” disappears while exploring a link tying Andrea Corbonell, the head of the Intelligence Agency to the recent events. Malone and Cassiopea suddenly find themselves tasked with another important mission: find Stephanie and track down the person who betrayed the president.

This story has a convoluted plot with many characters to keep track of. It is filled with mystery, intrigue and plenty of action throughout. I have always had a soft spot for mystery novels based on some historical content and Mr. Berry blends the two admirably.    

Saturday, November 3, 2012

"Signs of War", by Gerard de Marigny

Book 2 in the Cris de Niro series

Cris de Niro, the protagonist, realises his greatest challenge after a tragic incident is to find the will to go on and to make the decisions that will not only change the course of his life but also those around him. After years protecting Americans from enemies at home and abroad, Cris is starting to have second thoughts about his mandate to do so at any cost. At the end of “The Watchman of Ephraim” (book 1) we witnessed some of Cris’s close colleagues sacrificing their lives in order to save the city of Las Vegas, a price that has taken a heavy toll on Cris’s conscience. “Signs of War” picks up at the funeral of one of these men and this political thriller follows in the same tradition as the 1st with nonstop action cover to cover.

This time we follow Cris and his team from the “Watchman Agency” on three fronts:

1st dealing with Somali pirates
2nd addressing an imminent threat from an Iranian/Venezuelan alliance
3rd attacking head on the infiltration of a Mexican drug cartel into a border Native reservation.

Mr. de Marigny definitely knows how to put together an action packed thriller. This time he has outdone himself with complex multiple plotting that comes to life and incorporates all the technical jargon you can imagine, to some this may be a plus to others an overload of info. I was completely caught up in the web of suspense as I eagerly flipped through the pages, at times my attention span was put to the test with the abundance of the fast moving details. It is easy to relate to each character, they are patriotic and very devoted to their cause. Being a woman I was a little disappointed that Cris’s romantic side was not exploited further. Oh well maybe the sequel will address that side of him.

To sum things up, this is an interesting story that is quite captivating and very exciting. On the negative side, I found the repetitiveness of the reports passed between levels of management and the in-depth description of weapons somewhat overdone

"The Affair", by Lee Child

Book 16, in the Jack Reacher series

“The Affair” is effectively a step back in time to 1997, the single most crucial point in Reacher’s life, when he gave up his structured career as a military cop and decided to become a drifter with skills to offer. In this undercover adventure, he lets his hair grown long, lets his beard grow and adopts a minimalist way to travel. This eventually sets the stage for his new life.

The plot is uncomplicated and exciting, it sends Reacher to Mississippi, where he will impersonate a care free traveller in order to ferret out those responsible for a secret American military mission in Kosovo that was totally botched and covered up by those involved.

While in Carter Crossing, a small town near the military base, Reacher makes friends with the local sheriff, Elizabeth Deveraux and subsequently gets drawn into another mystery hence a sub-plot comes to life. Elizabeth’s concern about the killings of several beautiful young women and the gruesome manner in which they were left to die piqued Reacher’s interest, he felt he could be of assistance and could not resist getting involved even though he had a full plate with his primary mission.

The author skillfully sets the atmosphere with strategically placed crisp strokes of the pen and the dialogue contains just enough slang to fit the scenes. There is no shortage of action, some very gruesome but each case is handled with tack without slowing the momentum. Our intrepid protagonist is definitely in full, over-the-top form, I like the testosterone driven anatomy comments that add a touch of humour while Reacher faces down two red neck tough guys in a pickup truck. The description of Reacher’s amorous side is also a hoot…. I couldn’t help but laugh at times …..

I am a fan of this series and can’t wait to see what will come next.