After reading the final Cliff Hardy caper, Win, Lose or Draw, I was in the mood for another, and so dipped into my collection of unread Peter Corris novels and grabbed The Washington Club — the nineteenth novel starring the irrepressible private eye.
The usual plaudits apply: The Washington Club is another slickly plotted mystery, which unfolds at breakneck speed. This time, Cliff finds himself drawn into the investigation of a rich developer. His wife, Claudia Fleischman, has been charged with the murder, and Cliff’s tasked with the job of finding the real killer. Easier said than done, of course, and this case turns out to be one of his deadliest.
It was interesting returning to a younger — late forties — Cliff Hardy. The violence is more brutal, and the sex is graphic. That’s not a bad thing; it just gives the novel a harder edge, which had been blunted in later novels, in line with Hardy’s ageing. And while all of these hard-boiled novels follow a formula, this one’s ending is tremendous — real edge-of-your-seat stuff, and if I didn’t know the series would continue, I’d be left wondering about Cliff Hardy’s future in the private enquiry agent business.
Format: Paperback (198mm x 128mm x 23mm)
Imprint: Allen & Unwin
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Publish Date: 1-Dec-2014
Country of Publication: Australia
Review by David Ho
Suzanne Rindell’s Three-Martini Lunch has been in my reading stack since its publication last year, but it was only recently, during the New Year long weekend, when there was less pressure to read a forthcoming release, that I got the chance to dip into it. Honestly, I hadn’t heard much about Rindell’s second novel, but the fact it’s set in the cut-throat world of publishing in late 1950s New York was enough to pique my interest. And as it turns out, it’s more than a homage to the beatnik generation; it’s an incredibly poignant and evocative tale about the price we pay going after our dreams.
The novel revolves around the lives of three young people trying to make their mark in the world of publishing in post-war New York. Miles Tillman is a bright young African American who is graduating from Columbia University, and is is determined to write his first novel when he gets sidetracked into a search for his dead father’s wartime diary. Eden Katz is a Jewish girl from Indiana with dreams of becoming an editor. And Cliff Nelson is the son of a famous publisher, desperate to become the next Hemingway, but easily distracted by, well, everything and anything. Their lives bisect each other’s in various ways throughout the book as their aspirations intersect.
Three-Martini Lunch is a tremendous novel, which captures the lavishness and inhibitions of late-1950s New York. As envious as I am of those times, to a degree, when long, luxurious lunches were a mainstay of the publishing industry, Rindell’s book also serves as a stark reminder of the sexism, casual racism, homophobia and anti-Semitism that was rampant at the time. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…
More importantly, this is a novel in which the main characters feel genuine. Not always likable, but always relatable. I was absolutely enamored and enthralled by their stories.
Format: Paperback (234mm x 153mm x mm)
Imprint: Allison & Busby
Publisher: Allison & Busby
Publish Date: 19-May-2016
Country of Publication: United Kingdom
Review by David Ho
Edited for accuracy Copyright@ on hold
Dennis Lehane is the author of one of my favourite novels of all time — Shutter Island — and as a long-time admirer of his Patrick Kenzie / Angie Gennaro crime series, as well as the stellar Coughlin trilogy, I was very much looking forward to his new standalone book. And Since We Fell, ultimately, doesn’t disappoint. It threatens to, early on, when the plot feels like it’s meandering — like Lehane is taking the scenic route to the novel’s core — but when the moment arrives (which will remain unspoiled in this review, obviously) everything clicks into place, and the novel kicks into Lehane’s trademark high gear.
Since We Fell follows Rachel Childs, a former television journalist, who lives as a virtual shut-in after a mental breakdown she experienced on-air as a result of coverage of the massive earthquake that shattered Haiti in 2010. Despite her struggles, life’s not altogether so bad for Rachel: she lives a wonderful life with her husband, who demonstrates incredible composure and understanding of her situation. Then, as a result of a chance encounter one afternoon, everything changes, and Rachel realises she’s been involved in a massive conspiracy; a deception unlike anything she could’ve possibly anticipated. To face the truth, and to survive it, she must overcome her greatest fears.
Lehane’s latest is a satisfying physiological thriller that takes a little too long to gain traction. The background into Rachel’s past seems excessive at times, even though it’s ultimately necessary information for readers to fully understand her motivations. But once you get through it, when you reach the moment, the plot comes together in exhilarating fashion. The tension is ratcheted up to the nth degree, and readers will be turning the pages as fast as they possibly can to see how the story plays out.
Perhaps not vintage Dennis Lehane, Since We Fell is still a fine addition to his library, and a novel that will surely earn him new fans. And if you haven’t read Shutter Island yet, jump on that immediately.
Imprint: Ecco Press
Publisher: Ecco Press
Publish Date: 16-May-2017
Country of Publication: United States
Review by David Ho
Copyright@ Edited for accuracy
A great premise deserves better than this by-the-numbers rendition of a high-stakes investigation into judicial misconduct. The front cover promises an electrifying thriller, but Grisham’s latest doesn’t even spark.
Lacy Stoltz, an investigator for the Florida Board on Judicial Conduct, is confronted with the possibility that a highly regarded judge may be on the take. According to an enigmatic and indicted lawyer who is representing a clandestine whistle-blower, Claudia McDover is in league with organised crime. If the whistle-blower’s accusations prove correct, that would make McDover the most corrupt judge in US history. As Grisham makes abundantly clear: Stotlz and her colleagues are not cops. They don’t carry guns, they don’t deal with traditional bad guys; they root out corruption. Which means they’re totally unprepared for the dangers that await them.
The Whistler suffers from a distinct lack of thrills and gusto. There is one moment – one – genuinely shocking event, maybe 100 pages into proceedings… and that’s it. Then the novel reverts to form, and plays out just as readers will expect. It’s a little infuriating that Grisham does so little with such a potentially intriguing plot. There are minimal twists – if any – and the prose is so dry it could be sandpaper. Everything is telegraphed, and bizarrely, the novel reads like this was intentional; like Grisham made the stylistic choice. I just don’t understand it. There’s still something enthralling about the plot — a part of me thinks I retained interest because I assumed another dramatic moment was looming, which never eventuated, but kept me turning the pages — but that might be a little harsh. For all my criticism, The Whistler is a book I finished over a couple of nights.
Lacy Stoltz, the protagonist, is impressively fearless, but also rote: we never really understand what drives her, and the few glimpses we have into her life are fairly uninspired. Let me paint you a picture: she’s single, not really interested in a relationship; but is attractive enough to turn heads; lives alone with her dog; very career-focused. None of these traits are bad, you understand; but they’re not nuanced, or massaged into her personality. They are quite literally just stated on the page, and that’s about the limit of her characterisation.
Grisham’s insight into legal proceedings is, as always, highly captivating — but it’s not enough to sustain this tepid thriller. An unfortunate misstep for the multi-million copy bestseller. I’ll be interested to see what his legion of fans think. Am I alone in my reservations? I think I’ll re-read The Client or The Pelican Brief — heck, maybe even my old favourite The Street Lawyer — just to remind myself how good Grisham can be.
Format: Paperback (234mm x 153mm x mm)
Imprint: Hodder & Stoughton Ltd
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton General Division
Publish Date: 25-Oct-2016
Country of Publication: United Kingdom
Another great mystery to resolve with Dr. Alex Cross and his wife Detective Bree Rock. Actually you will have several scenarios running through the novel, enough to maintain anyone guessing and entertained concerning connections, twists, turns and what the final outcome just might be.
There are a series of murders taking place and not only one or two, but at times multiple murders of to twenty people up. They all seem to be by vigilantes attempting to clean up the town of the criminal undercurrent. That is except for the opening murder of Chief of Detectives Tom McGrath and a young lady that he has been seeing.
Who would want to kill the chief of detectives? Better issue, who wouldn’t? But the answer shall be hard to find, or maybe it will not. That’s why is it an interesting section of the plot line.
Next question, who’ll be the brand new Chief of Detectives? Alex Cross? That is the logical choice, but will it be the one that is made?
Last question, what do vigilanty killings, the murder of a chief of detectives and trafficking of individuals and the sale of narcotics all of the have in common?
The novel is engaging and will keep your interest as you try and solve a few of the mystery. The other thing is that it’ll make you take a step back and ask yourself, “What has occurred to the America that I grew up in?” And, “What can we do about any of it.” So, don’t simply read as a novel. Visit times and ask yourself some hard questions, such as, what would I do?
I am a long time lover of Alex Cross and found this reserve to be equally as good as all of the others. I also paid the insane cost of $15 for a kindle! Lots of suspense and action as usual. I read it too quickly and now have to wait permanently until I discover what happened to Sampson as referred to in Cross Eliminate, the bookshot. Cross Kill should come out not before this book now. However, we forgive Mr always. Patterson.
Patterson is the very best and Alex Cross can be an enduring fictional character. I really like this series —- great character types, creative, unique writing, and a plot that’s baffles the reader’s imagination. With Patterson what may appear like a logical ending to the reader is definitely always the exact opposite. I came across myself reading this late in to the night.
Reviewed By Martin Chan
My Highland Rebel by Amanda Forester
Length: Full Length (407 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by David Ho
A conquering hero…
Cormac Maclean would rather read than rampage, but his fearsome warlord father demands that he prove himself in war. Cormac chooses what he thinks is an easy target, only to encounter a fiery Highland lass leading a doomed rebellion and swearing revenge on him.
Meets an unconquerable heroine…
Jyne Cambell is not about to give up her castle without a fight, even though her forces are far outnumbered. She’s proud, hot-blooded and hot-tempered, and Cormac falls for her hard.
It’s going to take all of Cormac’s ingenuity to get Jyne to surrender gracefully-both to his sword and to his heart…
When “The World is too much with…” me, I escape in a book. This time I go to the Highlands of Scotland, where the heroine is lost in a fog and stuck in a bog. I identify with her immediately and go on an amazing adventure. I invite your to do the same.
Jyne Campbell is dragged from the bog by the Rebel who is running from a monk. The errant rescuer holds her close to warm her until her powerful, threatening brother, Laird of the Campbell clan arrives. Jyne never expects to see her unknown rescuer again—how mistaken she is. He shows up at her Kinoch Abbey in a dual way that changes Jyne’s life. She changes from the naïve, sheltered “runt of the litter” of the sixteen Campbell children to a woman claiming her rights against her powerful brother.
This, her very first adventure, is rather like a rite of passage that had me totally involved reading like mad to see what-on-earth would happen next.
Cormac MacLean, the Rebel, has no claim to a title. He is a survivor who has a checkered past that is incredible. His father Red Rex is despicable beyond belief. Cormac feels there is no way to escape him. He knows how evil his father is; yet, with his intelligence, he strives to become someone his father recognizes as worthy. When he is finally forced to make a choice between his father and the life he wants, the reader is favored with an ominous scene that sends the heart racing.
Cormac’s duel relationship with Jyne gives the reader’s senses a feast. Whether in a totally dark, caved in tunnel or working in cahoots to control the actions of Red Rex’s men, these two grow from strength to strength.
The sub plots in the story enrich the main plot and fit in perfectly, with some intriguing surprises.
Amanda Forester’s writing style is so smooth and captivating that one feels as if he or she is in the moment with the characters. A thread of humor runs through the often-scary story; yet she also, quite subtly, offers life lessons that have rung true through the ages, such as “Heaven is not for the good but for the forgiven.” and “God grants grace to the penitent.” Highly recommended.