Sunday, November 28, 2010

Three Seconds

Roslund & Hellstrom
Silver Oak
Sterling Publishing Co.
January 2011
ISBN: 978-1-4027-8592-4
486 pages

Do all life threatening events come down to the three seconds it takes most of us to make a decision? Do those who do not hesitate have an advantage over those who think through their choices?

Informants can’t have an easy life while literally living in two worlds with the constant threat of death from one wrong move.

Piet Hoffman has worked for years as a police informant infiltrating the Polish mafia. As an ex-con, this opportunity actually put his real life back on track and allowed him to be successful financially while establishing a family including having two sons, who he truly loves. Even though he knows that his life is dangerous, Piet feels fortunate with his life until the incident.

In his role as an informant, Piet is placed in an awkward situation, either he is exposed or a policeman is killed during an illegal drug transaction. Even though many of the upper echelon of the police department are involved with the scenario, there are too many questions by those not directly involved. The questions cause the upper echelon to make a decision. Piet is to be permanently unavailable. The logical method is to have him arrested and to become the main drug supplier for the Polish mafia inside the prison system. Piet is guaranteed safety for this assignment.

Unfortunately, Ewert Grens, a Detective Inspector, will not let go of the investigation of the dead police officer. He decides to question Piet inside the prison. However, it is determined that Piet cannot be questioned and a burn notice is placed on him immediately.

This is an intense novel in which the action never stops. Granted that few of us are police informants, but the realism and the situations make this novel very genuine. The characters are logical and believable.

Rosland and Hellstrom are really Anders Roslund and Börge Hellström. Anders is a journalist and Börge has worked is an expert on the Swedish correctional system. Together they made their debut with THE BEAST in 2004. Their books are translated into German, English, and the Nordic languages.

With the recent interest in Stieg Larsson’s trilogy and The Wallander series on PBS, this Nordic twosome are obviously looking to the world of English for expanding their audience. Personally with a story this dark and intense, they will have a new welcome readership for their future novels.

Teri Davis November 28, 2010

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Grove

John Rector
Amazon Encore
November 2, 2010
ISBN: 978-1-935597131
254 pages

What would you do if you found that your tractor was stuck in a ditch on your property and there was the dead body of a teenager in your grove? Most people would have called law enforcement, but being that Dexter McCray had already spent time in prison for assault and has a history of alcoholic blackouts, he chooses to investigate himself. He figures that the best way to prove that he is not guilty is to really find out who killed Jessica.

Added to this is the fact that Dexter is not taking his medicine to help him with self-control and alcohol. He is not certain about his own actions. Could he have blacked out and killed the girl without any memory of the incident? He has no memory of anything last night. What could you do?

This story is haunting. Dexter’s choices are limited and his decisions are not always the wise thing to do. Also in his past is the horrendous death of his own daughter that now causes heartache for both his wife and himself. It is disturbing to witness Dexter’s frequent conversations with his hallucinations of the deceased teenager. While the body is rotting, Dexter has a personal affection for the dead victim. For someone who knows that he has mental issues, the story really does allow the reader to view this disturbed person from their own point of view.

The characterization in THE GROVE is superb. Each character is believable and is motivated by their personal issues. The story is gripping in that your thoughts never leave this tale.

John Rector lives in Omaha, Nebraska. He has had an eclectic work history with working as a musician, a record store clerk, a cemetery worker, and a telephone psychic. His previous book, THE COLD KISS, is currently in development for a film production.

I did have one problem with THE GROVE. The publisher erroneously printed part of another novel in place of the last seventy pages of the book. Please check your copy of this book carefully so that the entire story is concluded for you.

THE GROVE is a haunting novel that you will not soon forget.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Secret Eleanor

Cecelia Holt
The Berkley Publishing Group
Penguin Group
ISBN: 978-0-425-23450-1
362 pages
$ 15.00

When someone lived almost a millennium ago, that is in the 1100s, how can we know what really happened in a person’s life? We know about their major events, but the actual details are left to the imagination.

THE SECRET ELEANOR begins with Eleanor of Aquitaine as being the Queen of France and being married to Louis VII. She is unhappy with this marital relationship even though they have two daughters. This novel is about what might have happened when she first met Henry of Anjou, her soon to be second husband and the future king of England.

Having read many books regarding Eleanor, this one took a slightly different approach. The involvement of Petronella, her younger sister, is interesting bys turning the divorce and marriage into a romance novel with hunky muscular males and curvaceously sultry females. While this drama is occurring, there are also the constant battles for more castles and land between Eleanor, her husband, her husband to be, and also his brother.

THE SECRET ELEANOR is quick and easy to read. The fictionalizing of minor events revolving around the documented actions is definitely a unique approach. Since no one from the time period actually wrote down the little details, all that we are left with is the skeleton of the puzzle without all the pieces. How Cecelia Holland created these details was masterful.

The characters are believable and human in their decisions. Eleanor’s intelligence and slyness made her a legend and continues with her many dangerous and risky escapades that became a part of her everyday life. The story is well-organized and engaging. Even though I was aware of what the outcome of the events would be, THE SECRET ELEANOR made we want to keep turning pages to find out the resolutions of various situations.

Cecelia Holland is known for writing in many genres including historical romance in which this book would be categorized. She has written numerous books and currently resides in California.

Personally, though I am not a fan of romance novels, I plan to read more by Cecelia Holland. She turns a predictable storyline into an unpredictable adventure.

Teri Davis November 14, 2010

Saturday, November 13, 2010

On Target

Mark Greaney
A Jove Book
The Berkley Publishing Group
Penguin Group
October 2010
ISBN: 978-0-515-14845-9
534 pages
$ 9.99

What happens to former operatives of the C.I.A.? Their job skills don’t always match the needs of today’s job market for reemployment.

Court Gentry found out four years ago that the C.I.A. was not a loyal employer when a particular job was compromised and he ended up being a wanted man. Since then, he has chosen to lay low and to work as a mercenary soldier. He also needs to avoid his former comrades and only chooses those jobs where he feels a need to level the scales of justice.

The Russian mafia has assigned Court the job of assassinating the leader of Sudan. Though complicated, Court reluctantly agrees to this. However, the entire job is slightly altered by his former employer, the C.I.A., when they also contact Court with the challenge of kidnapping this same leader instead of killing him. The plan is for Court to act and to follow the Russian instructions and to alter the plan with the kidnapping at the last minute. In return, the C.I.A. will not attempt to eliminate him if he succeeds.

Interwoven through this is a woman who is also looking for justice throughout the world and naively joins and opposes Court as he flounders from one misstep to another.

ON TARGET is your typical action-adventure novel. There is the damsel-in-distress for the predictable romantic tendency. The underdog hero, Court, who possesses superior athletic skills, abilities, intelligence, and luck to those chasing him who greatly outnumber him and seem to have unlimited resources race through every page.

ON TARGET is fun to read. Yes, much of the story is predictable, but it is a well-organized story. Court lacks a bit realism. No matter who or what is the challenge, he always finagles his way around the problem. However, the flawed characters, especially when dealing with former friendships and loyalties demonstrate a side of these operatives that is distinctly human. It also makes the reader wonder about what really happens to former operatives? Are they all dysfunctional and can never assimilate back into normal society?

Mark Greaney currently resides in Tennessee. He has studied international relations, political science, and criminal intelligence. THE GRAY MAN was the first book in this series featuring Court Gentry.

I enjoyed ON TARGET. This fast-paced page turner is an exciting adventure into a lifestyle that none of us probably would want to live. Live dangerously and read ON TARGET.

Teri Davis November 13, 2010

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Land of Mountains

Jinx Schwartz
Treble Heart Books
322 pages
$13.95 U.S. and Canada

“Gooey tarmac oozed around my brand new patent leather shoes, and damp heat wilted the Shirley Temple curls my mother forced my hair into earlier in the day. I could practically feel the ringlets springing back to their natural orange frizz. I began to glow. Southern girls don’t sweat, they glow. Rivers of glow ran through my scalp, down my neck.”

How can a ten-year-old girl cause so much trouble?

When your father works in the construction business of building dams, you find that this gives you the opportunity to explore the world. Texas born and raised, Lizbuthann finds that relocating to Haiti in the early 1950s is quite an educational experience.

Unfortunately, Haiti is in the tropics and for a redhead, the sweat, the humidity as it frizzes the hair, and the touchy and highly reactive skin that tends to show every blemish don’t always agree with the move.
Not to mention, the unladylike behavior that upsets the perfectionist in your mother.

In Haiti, during the early 1950s, this is a third-world country. The governmental leadership wants to develop the country and sees the future through the restriction of the water system by building a dam. This requires foreign expertise, so Lizbuthann’s father is part of this enclosed community temporarily living in the country at a base camp. Life within the camp is much different from her life in Texas and the community has many privileges and riches that are not even imagined in the general population of Haiti.

This time period is prior to living under a dictatorship. The current leader wants a democracy, just not elections. The country has its own language and still has the religious influences of voodoo mixed with Catholicism. For a Southern Baptist family from Texas, this is quite an adjustment.

Adopting a baby parrot is intended to keep Lizbuthann distracted and hopefully out of a little trouble, but Pee Wee manages to cause plenty of awkward and hilarious situations all by him.

Jinx Schwarz, the author, actually based this series on her life in Haiti during this time period. The sense of time and place superbly transports the reader back into the early 1950s and living in Haiti. Having read many of Jinx’s other mysteries, this book does not let me done. Everything Jinx writes is outstanding.

LAND OF MOUNTAINS is fun to read. The character Lizbuthann is delightfully troublesome and just the type of person who questions life and makes every normal day laughable. The story is extremely well-organized, and has a personal voice that makes a true connection with each of the characters.

For being categorized as a young adult mystery, there is more everyday adventure than there is a mystery. Even though the intended audience is young adult, everyone can have quite a few laughs by reading LAND OF MOUNTAINS. Personally, I think that the targeted audience should be toward middle-aged women who have an understanding of the changes in societal standards since the 1950s. This book is an humorous adventure into a different setting and time period.

LAND OF MOUNTAINS is fun to read. It’s memorable and vividly explains life in a different time and place in a fun and humorous manner.

The biggest problem I see with LAND OF MOUNTAINS is where to buy it. Because it is printed through a small press publication, our local Barnes & Noble will not carry it, nor order it. If you don’t have an Amazon account, either call or contact MYSTERY BOOKSTORE on South 13th by the Bohemian Café or THE BOOKWORM which is also in Omaha. Either store will be thrilled to order it for you.