Monday, October 27, 2014

Flesh and Blood by Patricia Cornwell

Flesh and Blood: A Scarpetta Novel (Kay Scarpetta, #22)It's Thursday, June 12, 2014 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Dr Kay Scarpetta is physically still at home though her mind has already left for the Florida vacation she had planned along with her FBI profiler husband, Benton Wesley. She's in a celebratory mood as it's her birthday and didn't quickly notice the bright copper coins that flashes like shards of aventurine glass on top of the old brick wall behind their house. Dr Scarpetta feels a chill at the edge of her thoughts. Is it someone merely playing a game with pennies or is there more intent to it than meets the eye? Why would someone leave seven shiny Lincoln pennies, all heads up and all dated 1981? Instantly, she realizes that her birthday plans are about to go off beam.

When a deranged sniper is on the loose, Detective Pete Marino of the Cambridge Police insists Scarpetta to examine the scene of a shooting close to her home, not willing to settle for any of her medical examiners or her deputy chief Luke Zenner. The sniper's victim is identified as a high school music teacher, Jamal Nari, who recently shot into the limelight when he was inadvertently placed on a terrorist watch list.

What is baffling about Jamal's death is the tweet announcing it. It came about 45 minutes before he was actually shot. To add to this weirdness is the admission made by one student to the crime, though no one is willing to believe it. Did Leo Grantz really kill Jamal? What is the motive? As Scarpetta and Marino delved deeper into the case they unearthed startling evidences that established connection between a series of deaths in New Jersey and the killing of Jamal Nari in Cambridge. And it is up to Scarpetta and Marino to find out the killer and bring the case to its logical conclusion.

Flesh and Blood by Patricia Cornwell is the twenty-second book in the long-running Kay Scarpetta series. This installment is a notch better than the twenty-first book, Dust (A Scarpetta Novel), though it is nowhere near the readability of the earlier books in the series. While the plot in itself is engaging and the author's fine writing style keeps one going, there are a lot of unnecessary details forcing me to skip pages and paragraphs at regular intervals. If Flesh and Blood were trimmed down to about three hundred pages or less instead of its present staggering 384, I honestly believe that it would have been one of the best Kay Scarpetta novels Patricia Cornwell has written. Sadly, in her bid to write a heavy tome of a book she has added details that are annoying and frustrating for a reader like me.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Stephen King's Revival Will Rock You to Your Bones

This period piece set in the mid-20th century about faith and addiction is so petrifying that author Stephen King was quoted as saying, "It's too scary. I don't even want to think about that book anymore. It's a nasty, dark piece of work. That's all I can tell you." For fans who have missed his trademark spine-chilling harrowing tales with the sedate Mr. Mercedes: A Novel which was more in the mold of a thriller than a horror novel, Revival marks a triumphant return to a genre which is almost synonymous with his name.

Revival by Stephen King is the story of Jamie Morton and Reverend Charles Jacobs, whose lives disturbingly interlock, with serious consequences, for fifty long years. Jamie was only six years old when the Reverend Charles Jacobs with his beautiful wife Patsy and infant baby first set foot in the sleepy hamlet. Like most people in the small Methodist congregation, Jamie quickly bonds with the Minister and his family. Jamie and Jacobs share a lot of things in common, but electronics was their abiding passion. Things seem to be going great for everyone.

Though the Reverend Jacobs is an affable man: well-loved and adored, everything he stands for crumbles under the weight of grief and fury, transforming even his very own life. A gruesome car accident claimed the lives of his wife Patsy and their child, leaving Jacobs devastated. The horror of the accident left an indelible mark on Jacobs. He begins to question his faith and the very purpose of his existence, and buries himself in the pursuit of his hobby - electrical experimentation to tap into the secrets of the universe which is "one of God's doorways to the infinite." Physically and emotionally exhausted, Jacobs's harsh experience drained him of all his faith and belief in God prompting him to give a fiery sermon which would have made an atheist hang his head in shame. He was sacked and asked to leave town.

At the other end, Jamie grows up to be a rhythm guitarist but in a whirlpool of drugs, sex and rock `n' roll, traveling and performing all over. He's no longer the devoted Methodist youth that he once was. He has matured over the years and has become a skeptic. A chance reunion with Jacobs at his electricity-based carnival act sparks off a chain of events which take both Jamie and Jacobs to the edge. Jacobs too is no longer the amiable minister that he once was. He has been transformed almost beyond recognition - a frenzied man intent on unearthing secrets which are beyond the realms of humanity. Jacobs heals people with the electrical inventions he has made but Jamie discovers that there are more to it than meets the eye.

In Revival, horror master Stephen King crafted a tale of two men brought together by faith, separated by tragedy and reunited by their obstinate passion for the extraordinary. It is an unsettling story of a man driven by an unquenchable passion and a scientific curiosity that borders on madness. It is a spellbinding supernatural thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat with the frightening portrayal of its main characters and the suspenseful plot which will leave even long-time fans gasping for breath. Revival by Stephen King is designed to rock you to your bones.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Escape (John Puller series) by David Baldacci

20767918Bestselling author David Baldacci returns with a thrilling new suspenseful, action-packed story full of mystery with military CID investigator John Puller. Just the third book in the John Puller series following Zero Day (John Puller Series) and The Forgotten (John Puller Series), The Escape is a book that will entertain and enthrall readers from cover to cover, with John Puller heading an eclectic cast of characters. The Escape follows the trail of a war hero and top US army investigator extraordinaire Puller and his partner US intelligence officer, Capt. Veronica Knox, as they are hot in pursuit of an escapee from the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

But for Puller, the assignment is fraught with professional and personal dilemmas. The escaped convict is none other than his brother Robert Puller who is a major in the US Air Force. Robert has been convicted of treason and national security crimes. As John digs deep into the case, he realizes that there are many others pursuing his brother, and will resort to any means to either bring him to justice or silent him permanently. John races against time to find Robert and unearth the truth behind his brother's conviction where nothing is what it seems to be.

And finding a man who doesn't want to be found is a tough proposition. As Puller pieces together the jigsaw puzzle, Robert is also determined to clear his name and hacks into the national database. To throw off his pursuers, he has also changed his appearance, but for how long? Will John find his brother before the others? David Baldacci masterfully weaves an interesting an interesting story full of suspense and surprises. Puller's character has gone from strength to strength, and is likely to become one of the most fascinating fictional characters in recent years. But while the story is enjoyable as whole, it lacks depth and heart, and is burdened with excessive details, and many readers are unlikely to revisit the story again.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Gray Mountain by John Grisham

Gray MountainIn nineteen ninety-three, John Grisham delivers a stunning and suspenseful novel, The Pelican Brief: A Novel, which revolves around the assassination of two Supreme Court justices, and the female protagonist Darby Shaw undeterred by the threats to her life uncovered a deep-rooted presidential conspiracy. Twenty-one years later, Grisham returns with a female protagonist for only the second time in his illustrious career as he crafted another stupefying legal thriller, this time not targeting the highest echelons of government but the deepest pits of the dark and perilous world of coal mining.

Set against the backdrop of the Great Recession of 2008, Gray Mountain by bestselling author John Grisham follows a 29-year-old female Manhattan associate attorney who gets downsized and is forced to leave her Wall Street law firm two weeks after the collapse of Lehman Brothers to work a year in the small-town of Brady, Virginia. Samantha Kofer's journey from New York's largest law firm to a small legal aid clinic in the heart of Appalachia with a population of 2200 as an unpaid intern borders on the ludicrous. Yet, that is the only possible route back to her job in the future.

When Samantha meets Mattie Wyatt, her new boss and the head of the Mountain Legal Aid Clinic, she realizes there's much to learn and that Mattie has a lot to teach her on how to assist people who face genuine problems. It enables her to work on things she had never done during her three-year stay at New York's Scully & Pershing. Apart from actually preparing a lawsuit, Samantha also gets to work her way around courtrooms, topping it with a tongue-lashing from a judge. Samantha's work forces her to get deeper into the problems of her clients Taking up cudgels on their behalf, she begins her own investigation to get to the bottom of their stories without ever realizing that in coal country searching for the truth and standing up for it means putting your life on the line. She also stumbles upon secrets that should have remained buried deep in the mountains forever, and the connection between small-town politics and Big Coal. But Samantha is not discouraged by the numerous threats that she received and is taking the fight into the enemy's camp.

Author John Grisham paints a dark picture of the coal mining industry, the danger it posed to environment and the lives of people. He is scathing in his portrayal of the people involved and how far they are willing to go to have their way, even to the extent of murdering and poisoning streams and wells. Though a dazzling legal thriller, full of suspense and action with its plot twists and surprises, Gray Mountain is primarily an issued-based novel that takes up the cause of defenseless people and the environmental hazard coal mining has brought about by ripping off the tops of hundreds of mountains in Appalachia. It has not only poisoned the ecosystem but is instrumental in the rapidly vanishing wildlife and threatens the very survival of human beings living around coal mining areas. Grisham is brilliant as ever but the central premise of the story may not appeal to some readers.

The Burning Room by Michael Connelly

The Burning Room (Harry Bosch Series #19)The maverick Los Angeles Police Department homicide Detective Harry Bosch has come a long way since he first made his appearance in the 1992 detective mystery thriller, The Black Echo. In that premier book of the series a man found in the drainpipe at Mulholland Dam was just another statistic for the police department. But when Harry Bosch stepped in it became personal because the murdered man was a fellow Vietnam "tunnel rat" who had fought side by side with him in a hellish underground war.

Twenty-two years later in his nineteenth avatar in Edgar-winner Michael Connelly’s superbly crafted The Burning Room, Harry Bosch and his new partner, rookie Detective Lucia Soto, are tasked with an unenviable job of solving a very old case with a lot of twists and impediments. It concerns a case which begins almost ten years earlier with the drive-by shooting of Orlando Merced as he played with his band in Los Angeles's Mariachi Plaza. The bullet that struck him in the spine caused grievous damage leaving him paralyzed.

When Bosch and Lucy get to work they are confronted with lack of evidence which make the investigation all the more difficult. They got a vital lead when an anonymous tipster informed Detective Lucia Soto that the shooting of Orlando Merced is connected to the 1993 devastating fire which took place at the Bonnie Brae apartments that killed nine victims, mostly children. Incidentally, Soto could have been one of the children consumed by that raging fire twenty years ago but survived while some of his friends didn’t. The mariachi musician was a victim of a conspiracy to bury the truth behind the arson as he was believed to have known the people involved. Bosch and Lucy also unearthed connections between the two incidents with the robbery of an EZ Bank.

With powerful people coming into the picture, master storyteller Michael Connelly skillfully maneuvered this compelling police procedural with a lot of unexpected twists and turns. Juggling between suspense, crime and mystery, there is no dull moment as Harry Bosch just simply refused to fade into oblivion and reinvented himself through the deft handling of his character by Connelly. Beautifully written and wonderfully paced, The Burning Room is not only for die-hard fans of the series but also for new readers who want to explore the world of Harry Bosch.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Glassblower by Petra Durst-Benning

Book Cover ImageIn the village of Lauscha in Germany, things have been done the same way for centuries. The men blow the glass, and the women decorate and pack it. But when Joost Steinmann passes away unexpectedly one September night, his three daughters must learn to fend for themselves. While feisty Johanna takes a practical approach to looking for work, Ruth follows her heart, aiming to catch the eye of a handsome young villager. But it is dreamy, quiet Marie who has always been the most captivated by the magic—and sparkling possibilities—of the craft of glassblowing. As the spirited sisters work together to forge a brighter future for themselves on their own terms, they learn not only how to thrive in a man’s world, but how to remain true to themselves—and their hearts—in the process. 
The Glassblower by Petra Durst-Benning is the first book in The Glassblower Trilogy and was originally published in 2003 in German. This astounding work of cultural and historical romance is beautifully rendered into English by Samuel Willcocks, and the novel will be of immense delight to anyone with a bit of interest in German history and culture. There is much more than I anticipated in the book. Apart from the joy of reading it, the book leaves a comforting feeling that everyone can be happy in his own way, if one is brave enough to set one’s priorities right.

In the book author Petra Durst-Benning tells the story of the three young Steinmann sisters who live in the glassblowing village of Lauscha in Germany at the end of the nineteenth century and early years of the twentieth century. Johanna, Ruth and Marie must look after themselves when their father Joost Steinmann passes away unexpectedly one September night. But making a livelihood in the village is easier said than done as glassblowing is a male-dominated craft. The Steinmann sisters are so well-conceived and developed that their characters are so lifelike and believable. As you leaf through the pages, you will laugh and cry with them, and at times feel the need to reprove them.

Beautifully written and well-researched, Petra Durst-Benning painted a sweeping portrait of the fascinating characters that populated the book as well as the profession which they are involved in. The Glassblower is a fascinating lesson in German culture and history, and without ever exceeding the limit of credibility, the author brilliantly crafted a powerful story of women’s emancipation, the ideals and aspiration that is burning within each individual even within the confines of a hopeless situation and how one can be happy and content in one’s condition if one’s heart is in it.


Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Story Behind the Book, Bestseller

I suppose there’s always a story, isn’t there? Best Seller is my fifth novel. When I’d written my first novel, Chocolate for Breakfast, I had high hopes and very na├»ve aspirations about its success. I connected with favorite authors online and sent personal messages when I read and enjoyed their books. I posted reviews, and suggested to my online friends that they read this particular book. I did what I was supposed to do in order to build a platform.
So, when my first book was released, I went to two or three of these favorite authors and asked if they’d be willing to read and review it. And imagine my surprise when they declined! They were always polite about it, or indicated they didn’t have the time, but it hurt. 

I took that tiny piece of reality and created a novel (Best Seller) from it. One where a young woman who doesn’t even realize how talented a writer she is pins all her hopes on the possibility that her favorite author will read her manuscript and love it so much that she’ll open doors for her. Doesn’t every aspiring author (actor, musician) hope for a similar stroke of good fortune?

So that’s where the story originated. That’s the small kernel of truth that blossomed into a novel. But the real story isn’t so much about Robin and her book as it is about Robin’s journey into adulthood, her reconciliation with people she’d pushed away.

ABOUT THE BOOK:  Set in New England at the time of the American Bicentennial, BEST SELLER is the poignant story of a displaced young woman struggling to figure out who she is within the context of her hometown and the carefully masked dysfunction of her family.

"Everything can be fixed by writing a check." Words to live by for Robin Fortune's wealthy father, until he can't buy her way back into college after she's expelled for dealing pot. Now he chooses not to speak to her anymore, but that's just one of the out-of-whack situations Robin's facing. At nineteen, she feels rudderless, working in a diner by day and sleeping with a buddy from high school by night - all so strange for her because she was always the one with the plan. While her college friends plotted how to ensnare husbands, she plotted a novel, which she scratched out into a series of spiral-bound notebooks she hides in the closet. But now, there's nothing. No vision, no future, no point. In fact, the only thing she feels she has to look forward to is that her favorite author, Maryana Capture, is paying a visit to the local Thousand Words bookstore. Robin surmises that if she can convince Maryana to help her get her novel published, she'll finally get herself back on track. Except that life never takes a straight path in this intensely satisfying coming-of-age novel.

ABOUT THE AUTHORMartha Reynolds ended an accomplished career as a fraud investigator and began writing full time in 2011. She is the author of five novels, including the award-winning Chocolate for Breakfast (her debut novel), Chocolate Fondue, Bittersweet Chocolate, and the Amazon #1 bestseller Bits of Broken Glass. Best Seller is her latest release. Her essays have appeared in Magnificat magazine.

She and her husband live in Rhode Island, never far from the ocean.