Friday, December 6, 2013
Nick Thorneycroft is a headhunter for a firm in Luxembourg. Security is tight in the company because they deal with the financial secrets of many high powered clients. There is tension at the work place as well because there is a larger firm seeking to acquire them. Those employees who have been there awhile and own company stock stand to gain substantial money if the company is bought out. At the same time they can make the company look even more attractive to a buyer if they can acquire the right candidate to handle their Russian and Eastern European clients.
The pressure is on Nick to land the right candidate, but he begins to suspect that the candidate who responds so quickly to his online inquiries just might have been his mysterious companion of the previous night. She is beautiful, she is Russian, and seems to have an exceptionally strong resume. She apparently has strong interviews with the two supervising employees that must decide on the potential hire, but before Nick can visit with her again, she has disappeared, and the Russia Mafia seems to be very interested in Nick...but why?
Lots of mysterious clues, surprising twists and turns, and too soon the book is ending with a surprise I did not see coming. The story is told from Nick's perspective. Luxembourg itself becomes an interesting part of the story. Author Daniel Pembrey describes the old buildings, the architecture of the new and the old, even the snow and the old bridges and roads become an integral part of the setting as seen through the eyes of ex-pat Nick. He is familiar with the city, but not like a native born citizen would be. An interesting and likable protagonist, a mystery with a definite element of danger and the sense that time is running out makes this book worth taking the time to read.
I got the opportunity to read this courtesy of the folks at NetGalley...and I am pleased to recommend it.
Saturday, November 30, 2013
Amanda Kyle Williams is an author with a knack for witty dialog and an ability to create characters who are smart, in some cases odd-balls, and always worth getting to know. Keye for one, is ethnically Chinese, still carrying the baggage associated with the trauma of watching her grandparents be killed by a grocery store robber when she was very young. Adopted by an older Southern white couple, she grew up loving all things Southern, including the food, the culture and the sporty fast cars of her youth. She loves her parents while simultaneously being exasperated, particularly with her mother, every time mom opens her mouth.
Keye's office assistant Neil is a nerdy techno-geek who never saw a password he couldn't get past when he needs to enter a website or database. He also enjoys the occasional recreational drug, and sometimes the occasions come a little too frequently. But he always comes through when Keye needs information that only Neil can succeed at getting.
It appears that Keye's high strung but successful photographer cousin has acquired a stalker and she calls on Keye for help. But Miki also has a drug problem and a flair for the dramatic, so maybe she is imagining some of the drama in her life. In the meantime, Keye's boyfriend, Homicide Lieutenant Aaron Rauser of the Atlanta PD, has a case involving a death by strangulation of a young teen that has some nagging irregularities to it.
All too soon Miki's home becomes a crime scene when a dead body of an old man is found hanging in her home. Keye begins to see possible relationships between the two seemingly disparate murders, and before much time at all has elapsed, even more murders are uncovered. Keye is off and running, analyzing clues and behavior patterns that has her believing they may have a serial killer on their hands. A sense of dread develops as one ominous event after another occurs; Keye begins to think more and more about the pleasure and courage she drew from alcohol, coming perilously close several times to retreating back into that life.
Keye narrates the book and we are thus treated to her thoughts on all things Southern, such as race relations, the weather and green living. In one hilarious thought progression, Williams entertains us through her protagonist Keye with this delightful prose:
Folks with real winters and heavy snows think it's funny that we complain about winter down here, but let me tell you, when the windchill hits you on a little scooter doing thirty-five in a business suit in January, your friggin' lips will freeze to your teeth. I lost five pounds just by shivering. My concern with America's dependency on foreign oil stopped there. (p. 233)
This is fast paced, with lots of twists, lots of great, richly drawn characters, and an ominous and scary villain that seems to stay one step ahead right up to the heart stopping conclusion. Keye Street is a top notch investigator that you will certainly want to see more of, and Amanda Kyle Williams is definitely an author to seek out over and over! Block out some reading time, get your copy of Stranger in the Room and get started now!
I also have a review of Williams' highly acclaimed thriller featuring Keye Street, The Stranger You Seek, so check it out as well. http://vickicgoode.blogspot.com/2011/10/stranger-you-seek-by-amanda-kyle.html
Monday, November 25, 2013
The citizens of the Republic fall into two categories: the elite, which includes the military, and the poor underclass. All children go to school until their 10th birthday. At that point they go through extensive physical and mental testing. Those who pass go on to advanced education and probably a placement in the privileged class. Those who fail are sent to labor camps or low paying jobs with no possibility of upward mobility.
Day is a 15 year old criminal who, though he apparently fails the Trials, which the aptitude tests are called, has managed to rob a bank, destroy some military equipment and get away before being apprehended by the military. The elite leaders would really like to put an end to his forays because of the bad example he sets for the masses, but they don't know exactly what he looks like or what his true identity is.
But Day is not "just" a thief; he is trying to get money to pay for the expensive vaccines his younger brother must have to survive the virus he has contracted, and his family rarely has enough to eat.
June is a 15 year old girl who is a prodigy among the elite class. She made a perfect score at the Trials and is placed in a prestigious college at a young age, making her a college senior at age 15. She is destined to a leadership role in the military unit where her older brother already serves. But she is thrust into leadership in a sudden and shocking manner. A soldier is murdered; Day is the accused murderer, and June is given the assignment of tracking him down. She is eager to take on the assignment so that she can avenge the unfair death of someone she loves.
Their paths do cross; they are attracted to one another without knowing who the other is at first. By the time they realize that they should be enemies, objects of hate, they already admire the outstanding good qualities of the other.
But what will happen when June must choose where her loyalties lie? Is there a chance that what she "knows," is not the truth at all? Legend is the first of three in this series by Marie Lu, and you will definitely want to read them all...
Friday, November 22, 2013
So when Scott is told that Cordova's daughter has apparently committed suicide, he ought to have steered way clear of asking any questions. But he can't help but remember the mysterious phone call of several years prior that had started his ruinous pursuit of Cordova. The caller, who identified himself as an employee of Cordova, had said, "There is something he does to the children..."
Was it really suicide, or was Ashley the victim of a powerful family who dealt with her independence by eliminating her completely in an effort to protect their precious but mysterious privacy? And what appalling secrets may have died with Ashley? McGrath is drawn into the mystery the way movie fans are drawn into a Cordova film.
Soon the reader, not to mention McGrath, is pondering what is real, what is a lie, and what is imagined. There are plenty of frightening moments and the urge to read more slowly so as not to miss any of the myriad of clues from old photos, old newspapers and the elusive interviews with people who have spent time with the Cordovas is always there. Some of these people acted in Cordova movies, but are forever changed by the experience, and usually have left the movie business behind.
This is long, absorbing, and leaves the reader pondering the rich and intricate plotting, and the unexpected (by me, at least) ending. There is closure, but still a desire to remain in the story, thinking even more about those mysterious Cordovas. You'll be glad you read it, especially if you like a thriller that makes you think, even when it is scaring you just a little bit, too.
Saturday, November 9, 2013
In a future time set in a bomb-damaged Chicago, the survivors have rebuilt society in an effort to preserve peace. All citizens must join one of five community groups based on a particular character trait. The traits are Candor (truthfulness,) Abnegation (selflessness,) Erudite (Knowledge acquisition,) Amity (peaceful, helpful,) and Dauntless (bravery.) For the most part the groups work together, sharing their strengths while contributing to the good of the whole. At age 16 the children have a chance to select a community other than that of their parents if they feel it is a better fit for them.
Aptitude tests precede the selection ceremony, and much to her distress, Beatrice Prior gets no clear cut signal from the tests to join a particular group, and the test administrator warns her that revealing her status as Divergent will endanger her, and it is a secret that she must keep, even from her parents.
Beatrice chooses a group with a culture much different from the one in which she was raised.
The initiation/training period is incredibly stressful both physically and emotionally, but the newly self-named Tris finds a way to meet the challenge. There is a darker side to this transition as Tris comes to realize quickly that not everyone wants her to succeed. And as she learns more about her new "family," and the prevailing attitudes toward the other groups, she realizes that the peace that their forefathers sought to preserve with this division of strengths, is a very fragile thing indeed. Will she be able to bring people together or become part of a force that drives them apart?
Wednesday, November 6, 2013
The book club I belong to does a great job of selecting from a fairly wide sampling of genres. This month we return to the classics with what many see as the definitive example of the Great American Novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. It really is a classic and it really is a great read and I enjoyed it so much more than I thought I would. It is so much more satisfying to read "just because," rather than to analyze and look for support for the thesis of the paper one has to write.
Huck is the son of the town drunk in a small Missouri community in the pre-Civil War era. His character, prominent in a previous Twain novel, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, now gets a chance to tell his own story, and what a story it is. Huck has lived with and without his abusive father, and is pretty philosophical about taking the lickings that his dad is prone to give when he is drinking. When his father disappears for awhile at the end of the Tom Sawyer novel, Huck is informally adopted by a local Christian woman who sees her mission as civilizing the boy. As Huck's adventures begin, dad reappears and "kidnaps" Huck, with a plan to take Huck's part of the money which Huck and Tom received at the end of Tom's adventure, and the drunken abusive cycle begins again.
Huck's philosophy of life is thus shaped, not only by his father's self-serving jaded attitude, but by the principles of his adoptive family, and the cultural mores of the times. Huck is an independent thinker and has become very adept at stretching the truth (lying), to deal with his day to day life. He has also learned to read people, identifying the genuine good people as well as the frauds and con artists that he meets.
Circumstances bring him and the runaway slave Jim together when Huck orchestrates his "death" so that he can escape from his father. At the same time, Jim overhears that the widow lady who owns him is planning to sell him, thus separating him from his family. The two, both intent on escaping oppression/finding freedom, float down the Mississippi on a raft where Huck comes to see what a loyal and good man Jim is, and struggles with the cultural attitude of his time which is that he should do what he can to aid Jim's rightful owner in getting her property back.
Twain is a master at capturing the life and the characters that inhabit the towns along the river as well as spinning a mesmerizing tale, as seen through the eyes and told with the voice and the perspective of a young boy, haphazardly educated, thankfully, so that his native wisdom overrules what he believes society requires of him when the really hard choices have to be made.
Twain's satirical take on humanity and his incredible ear for dialect make this wonderful discussion group fodder and I am eager to participate in the upcoming discussion. This is a classic you should not miss!.
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
Sam Dryden is former military with Delta Force and significant experience in several black ops since retiring. He has recently taken up midnight jogs on the beach near his California home. On this particular night a child comes running out of the night and right into him. She is obviously terrified and begs Sam to help her; to hide her. Without knowing what is going on, he can tell the terror is real, and when he sees the men with flashlights coming over the dunes, he grabs her hand and runs.
When they reach a place where the girl can talk, she reveals to Sam what she knows, which isn't much. Her name is Rachel, her memory goes back only two months; the length of her confinement and drug enhanced questioning by her captors. But the exceptional characteristic that is the cause of the government's interest in her is her ability to read minds, which she is easily able to demonstrate to Sam. And she knows they were planning to kill her tonight.
Sam's skills at protecting the girl and eluding the pursuers are way above average, but the technology and tools he was trained on have had five years of refinement and updates that the pursuers are privy to. They are watching via satellite, listening to phones, and have all the tools of the military and Homeland Security at their beck and call.
This is exciting stuff, the characters are believable, and the plot is fascinating. Sam Dryden's affection for Rachel is sweet and touching to the point of tears. I highly recommend that you get this read before they make the movie, which I am sure they will!
I reviewed an electronic copy courtesy of NetGalley. The book is due to be published in February 2014.