Monday, October 3, 2022
(expected publication: October 4, 2022)
In Righteous Prey, the thirty-second installment in John Sandford's Lucas Davenport series, we are introduced to The Five, a group of billionaire bitcoin investors who decide to kill off some of the worst members of society, those whom they deem need to be murdered. The Five plan and train; after each murder, the group issues a press release and a substantial bitcoin donation to a charity.
The one mistake that The Five made was in selecting a victim who lived in Minnesota. As such, Virgil Flowers, an agent with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA), was assigned to the case. In addition, one of the Minnesota senators, Porter Smalls, made sure that Lucas Davenport, a former BCA agent and current U.S. Marshal, was also assigned to the case.
So, once again, Sandford has given us a Prey novel where Davenport and Flowers, the stars of two of his series, are working together. And it is a doozy!
As I have been a longtime fan of both Lucas Davenport and Virgil Flowers, the idea of another novel where these two team up is very exciting. And Righteous Prey does not disappoint. The plot is complex and fast paced, and the crimes seem unsolvable. But, Sandford masterfully moves Davenport and Flowers through the disparate crimes - and all around the country - seemingly seamlessly and with his trademark humor. As with most of his novels, in Righteous Prey, Sandford takes the reader along for the investigation (it sort of feels like the reader is on a ride-along). I always appreciate how Sandford's books do not make leaps of logic or skip steps and do not spring pertinent facts on the reader at the end. Righteous Prey methodically lays out the investigation and shows how Davenport and Flowers crack the case.
Sandford has developed a winning combination with his two topnotch main characters. Righteous Prey is a wonderful, welcome addition to the Prey books!
Sunday, March 20, 2022
THE MISSING PIECE
The Missing Piece is the nineteenth installment in John Lescroart's Dismas Hardy series. The expected publication date for this book is March 29, 2022.
Paul Riley had been convicted of the rape and murder of Dana Rush. After serving eleven years for the crimes, and with the help of the Exoneration Initiative, Riley was cleared of the crimes and released.
When Riley was murdered four months after his release, police arrested Dana's father, Doug Rush. And Doug hired Wes Farrell, the former district attorney and current partner of Dismas Hardy.
Hardy's longtime friend, Abe Glitsky, had been an inspector in charge of homicide with the San Francisco Police Department; he was now retired and doing some work for Hardy's firm as a private investigator. When Doug failed to show for a court appearance, Hardy asked Abe to locate him.
And, Abe investigates with the dogged determination that we have come to expect from him. But, as Doug had failed to appear, there was no client and, hence, no case. Nonetheless, this doesn't stop Abe. We accompany Abe as he follows the convoluted twists and turns that arise in this complex plot. There are multiple suspects, multiple motives.
Although The Missing Piece is a Dismas Hardy novel, it feels a bit more like an Abe Glitsky novel. Hardy's role doesn't feel as "front and center" as we are accustomed to in Lescroart's previous Hardy books, and this is a refreshing change. Regardless of how it is categorized, The Missing Piece is another great addition to the continuing Hardy/Glitsky saga. It remains one of my favorite series.
Wednesday, January 12, 2022
(anticipated publication April 12, 2022)
The Investigator, by John Sandford, is the first Letty Davenport novel. Readers familiar with Sandford's work know Lucas Davenport, the protagonist in Sandford's Prey series; Letty is Lucas's adopted daughter.
Now twenty-four years old and having recently completed graduate work at Stanford, Letty is offered a unique position as an investigator with the U.S. Senate and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Although she works for Senator Colles, she is a liaison with DHS, works in the field with a DHS investigator (although her position is entitled "researcher"), and is issued a carry permit.
Her first assignment pairs her with DHS agent John Kaiser and takes them to Texas, on the trail of some missing oil. What they land in is a lot more complicated and sinister than mere missing oil. Along the way, we learn how much Letty resembles Lucas - from the love of nice clothes to the knowledge of, and proficiency with, guns. And like Lucas, Letty is similarly smart and resourceful.
I love Lucas Davenport and have always thought that Letty was an interesting addition to the Prey series. So, I was very excited to learn of Sandford's new Letty Davenport novel. But for two small issues that gave me momentary pause, I loved The Investigator. First, the plot at times felt a little fantastical. Even though we are aware of Letty's history and her proficiency with weapons and survival, it seemed a tad extreme for a 24 year old, with no official special training, on her first assignment. And second, even though we know that Letty is a lot like Lucas, there were a few parts at the beginning where Letty came across as disrespectful and bratty (for example, sitting sideways in the senator's nice leather chair, throwing her leg over the arm, and telling the senator that he was boring her). Lucas might be a no-nonsense, cut-to-the-chase kind of guy, but I do not see him as being this disrespectful.
Nonetheless, The Investigator is quintessential Sandford; the writing is good, the plot is complex, and the process of resolution was logical and methodical. Letty is a great character, and there is plenty of room for her to grow and develop as an investigator. I greatly enjoyed this reading experience, and I look forward to accompanying Letty on many investigations in the future.
Saturday, November 13, 2021
THE ADDRESS BOOK
What Street Addresses Reveal About Identity, Race, Wealth, and Power
The Address Book: What Street Addresses Reveal About Identity, Race, Wealth, and Power, by Deirdre Mask, is a 2021 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award Nominee for Nonfiction, a Finalist for the 2020 Kirkus Prize for Nonfiction, One of Time Magazine's 100 Must-Read Books of 2020, and Longlisted for the 2020 Porchlight Business Book Awards. Mask considers how streets are named and the effect that having (or not having) a street address has on a person. Many of us think that we have addresses so that we can receive mail; but their purpose, Mask tells us, instead is so that we can be found.
The Address Book deals with addresses across the world and touches on some fascinating issues. Mask considers the more mundane - for example, the difficulty for emergency vehicles responding in a rural area without street addresses, and the need for an address to complete an application for government benefits - as well as the more obscure - for example, purchasing addresses in Trump's Manhattan for a building that is not located on that street, and differences with addresses in Japan and Korea that may be linked to language differences.
Although each of the disparate areas and issues is interesting, there does not seem to be one theme throughout the book. In my opinion, this makes it feel disjointed, like a collection of short pieces rather than a fluid work addressing one issue. Despite the lack of a unifying thread, the material is interesting. There is more to addresses than the superficial, like the mundane mail delivery, and I never considered the complexities involved in having or issuing an address. This was a thought provoking read, and I recommend it.
Sunday, October 17, 2021
THE MADNESS OF CROWDS
In The Madness of Crowds, the seventeenth book in Louise Penny's Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series, Gamache and Three Pines, like the rest of us, are trying to return to a post pandemic "normal". Gamache was spending the winter holiday/New Year at home in Three Pines with his family when he was asked to oversee security while an academic statistician, Abigail Robinson, spoke at the local university. Robinson's position was that statistics mandate the genocide of the weak, infirm, and disabled. Although Gamache detested the position she was espousing, he was required to see to her safety when there was an attempt on her life. And then there was another murder in Three Pines, with multiple suspects.
Louise Penny is a master at character study, and her work in The Madness of Crowds is no exception. In fact, she may have outdone herself, as this book considers both the more superficial look at Robinson's proposal and the deeper underlying reactions of the suspects and others repulsed by Robinson's arguments. Gamache was not excepted from this, and I found it interesting how his reactions influenced the investigation.
As is usual when I finish a Gamache novel, I am saddened that my friends in Three Pines are gone again. Like many other fans, I would love to live in Three Pines, with the Gamaches and the others. It is interesting how many people want to move to this village, despite spotty internet connectivity and a very high (for its size) murder rate.
Meanwhile, I will anxiously await the next installment and the return of my friends. But, The Madness of Crowds is a quality addition to this exceptional series, and I highly recommend it.
Thursday, October 7, 2021
THE BOOKMAN'S TALE
In The Bookman's Tale, by Charlie Lovett, we meet Peter Byerly, a bookseller from North Carolina who is living in Kingham, Oxfordshire. He moved to Kingham after the recent death of his wife, Amanda. While browsing in a bookstore one day, Peter was surprised to find a Victorian era painting of Amanda that had been inserted into a book on Shakespeare forgeries. We accompany Peter as he tries to unravel the mysteries surrounding the painting. Along the way, we learn about a longtime feud between two neighboring families and about Shakespeare forgeries. Resolving the mystery even requires that Peter authenticate a book that allegedly formed the basis for Shakespeare's A Winter's Tale.
The Bookman's Tale is a lovely book. The complex plot meanders through three different time periods, leaving me wishing that I had paid more attention to the dates in the chapter headings. I am a book collector wanna be and always love books about books and book people. But Lovett's book included more detail than others that I have read, including a description of the process of repairing/rebinding a book that I found fascinating.
I thoroughly enjoyed The Bookman's Tale, and I highly recommend it.
Saturday, October 2, 2021
BETTER OFF DEAD
Lee Child and Andrew Child
Better Off Dead, by Lee Child and Andrew Child, is the 26th installment in the Jack Reacher series. Its anticipated publication date is October 26, 2021.
In Better Off Dead, Reacher is heading west and entering a small border town in Arizona. He meets another army veteran, Michaela Fenton. She is looking for her twin brother, Michael, who has gone missing. Naturally, Reacher offers to help.
I am a long time fan of Jack Reacher, having followed each of his adventures, wherever his wondering has taken him. But after I began reading Better Off Dead, I was taken aback; this was not the Jack Reacher whom I know and love. For example, Reacher is described as scruffy and unkempt, like a hobo. Although the quirky Reacher buys, wears, and tosses cheap clothes, he is rarely scruffy and unkempt. It is mentioned about Reacher being a civilian. Reacher might be "separated" from the army, but I do not think that he sees himself as a civilian; his entire life has been the military, and his entire being is military. There does not appear to be a military presence in this Reacher, not in his demeanor or in his thinking. And, although Reacher has no qualms about using force, he does so only if needed, only if there is no other way, and even then, only to the level required; much of the violence I was reading about in Better Off Dead felt gratuitous.
Both the character and the writing were unsettling. They seemed flat, lacking the usual depth found in Reacher books. Facts about Reacher seemed to be thrown out there, almost as a second thought rather than incorporated within the plot. And, the plot of Better Off Dead also felt linear and flat, lacking the usual robustness and complexity I recall from prior Reacher adventures.Yet the conclusion to this book felt overly complicated; I still do not understand the resolution, and it does not seem to fit nicely together like prior Reacher books.
Near the end of my reading Better Off Dead, I read that Andrew Child has taken over writing the Reacher books. I don't know whether this is true or, if so, whether it is the reason for my discomfort with this book, but I do not like this incarnation of Reacher. Better Off Dead was a nice experience with a new character, but as another adventure with Reacher, I was disappointed.