― Jack Kerouac
- member since July 14, 2008
GARY plans to read a book.
“I had some thrills with this one, the 5th in a series of 12. A mysterious death of a hated Manhattan art critic is judged as caused by internal heating, and a cloven hoof print and bit of brimstone at the scene raise the specter of the Devil’s work. FBI agent Prendergast and police liaison...”
“I had some thrills with this one, the 5th in a series of 12. A mysterious death of a hated Manhattan art critic is judged as caused by internal heating, and a cloven hoof print and bit of brimstone at the scene raise the specter of the Devil’s work. FBI agent Prendergast and police liaison Sergeant D’Agosta make a team similar to Holmes and Watson. The victim’s guests and telephone calls made the night of his death have overtones of a man who has made a pact with the Devil fearful of payback time. A second grisly death gets the public worried, fanned by a doomsday preachers. A scholar they contact has identified a temporal pattern in history including the volcanic explosion behind the myth of Atlantis and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah that predicts the end times in this year of 2004.
You know the good guys will deflate all this spooky, mystical fluff and dispel the nightmare in favor of some fiendish, but human, criminal enterprise. And it’s kind of fun to follow the steps they take from small clues. Eventually, after a number of dead ends and narrow escapes, they are led to Florence. I was quite disappointed how our fearless duo never succeed in preventing the deaths that are part of a pattern and how most of the mysteries of the murders are revealed to them by the bad guy when finally cornered. Yet Prendergast claims he knew much about the motivation from a horse hair found at one crime scene.
I liked this one better than its successor, “Dance of Death”, but not quite as well “Cabinet of Curiosities”. For escapist fare, they satisfy my periodic craving for slightly absurd, somewhat Gothic thrillers where heroic brain and brawn are challenged to the max.
Eleanor S reviewed a book.
“Barely 3 stars. More like 2 1/2. Not what I expected. I thought it was going to be more satire but it was more of a young adult book about the trials and tribulations of prep school. My mistake.”
“I liked the dialog and dynamics of small town life in this crime thriller, but those pleasures were inadequate to overcome the seeming stupidity of the plotting. This is the third of this series about an ex-Special Forces man assuming the role of sheriff in his old home town of Jericho,...”
“I liked the dialog and dynamics of small town life in this crime thriller, but those pleasures were inadequate to overcome the seeming stupidity of the plotting. This is the third of this series about an ex-Special Forces man assuming the role of sheriff in his old home town of Jericho, Mississippi (and the first I’ve read). In this one, Colson Quinn spends a lot of time wishing he could divert his sister Caddy from her involvement with an ex-con turned evangelist, Jamey. I was a bit disappointed to experience his largely reactive to the mayhem created by a couple of prison escapees who come to town expecting Jamey to come up with their missing take of an old armored car bank robbery.
Much of the story deals with Jamey trying to start a church in a barn and his and Caddy’s efforts to stand up to the vengeful judgments of town residents over his mysterious role in the death of woman in an alcohol and drug induced haze. The reader never learns enough to draw a conclusion, but we are led to root for his courage and are tempted to believe in the power of redemption and forgiveness. Caddy has a degenerate past she is trying to surmount and is trying to become a good mother for her young child, whose father cannot be identified. Yet they are ineffective to do anything meaningful to foil the bad guys in this tale, no more than the town itself when a massive tornado strikes late in the story.
The bad guys bumble around killing and kidnapping people with little concern about hiding their presence. Atkins tries to give them some trash-talking, humorous flavor in the vein of Elmore Leonard, but the effort didn’t engage me. The corrupt and colorful police chief, Johnny Stagg, plays a major role in this story, but he does not feel very believable to me. Could a bible-thumping town in the South really countenance a policeman who runs a strip club? As Quinn’s permanent nemesis, I suppose we will deal with his downfall on a future date.
I was pleased with the colorful cast of secondary characters that bring some life to the rural community Atkins has created. These include Quinn’s mother Jean, his female chief deputy Lillie, his former army buddy Boon, and the two love interests in Quinn’s life, the town mortician Ophelia and his old high school girlfriend Amelia, now married. I will definitely give Atkins some more chances to find his stride, hungry as I am to find another James Lee Burke or Lee Child.
Julie K rated a book.
“A highly satisfying and timeless tale of a broken hero’s recovery. Those who expect a typical sword-and-sorcery fantasy from the title or cover will be disappointed. Fans of Bujold’s sci fi Vorkosigan Saga should feel right at home with the strengths evident here: character development, world...”
“A highly satisfying and timeless tale of a broken hero’s recovery. Those who expect a typical sword-and-sorcery fantasy from the title or cover will be disappointed. Fans of Bujold’s sci fi Vorkosigan Saga should feel right at home with the strengths evident here: character development, world building, complex enemies, great dialogue, understated romance, and limited but well-framed episodes of violence.
In a Medieval setting of competing kingdoms, the nobleman Cazaril served Chalion well in one of its wars, but was subject to treachery and ended up a galley slave for years. After escaping, he hobbles his way back to Chalion, feeling like an old man at age 35. He is saved from poverty by getting offered the job of tutor to the teenaged princess, Iselle, and older companion and cousin, Betriz. Though Chalion is at peace, Cazaril gets drawn into protecting them from impending dangers. The king is old and sickly, and a pair of evil brothers in the positions of chancellor and top general are plotting ways to make the future succession put them on top. The threat of them corrupting Iselle’s brother/prince or wangling a marriage to Iselle turns Cazaril into a hero again.
There are no dragons or wizards or werewolves in this tale. There are, however, ghosts and living saints, and a special realization of dualism between matter and spirit. So you could call it theological fantasy. The only magic comes through special prayers and incantations made to one of the five gods worshiped in this world-- the Father, the Son, the Mother, the Daughter, and the Bastard, each with their own churches and accolytes. We only deal with one form of magic, the death spell, revealed in the first pages of the book in Carzaril’s discovery of the body of someone who cast one. The main premise of the book is that some inequality of souls taken in a critical use of the death spell in Chalion’s history that has led to a curse on the royal family. How to reverse this curse is Cazaril’s second challenge in this tale.
The reader comes to recognize a third challenge: how can Cazaril fulfill his secret love for Betriz? Because of his health and poverty, Cazaril never believes he is a serious candidate for her hand. This could be suitable grounds for a lot of mushy stuff, but for me Bujold handles romance here in her usual masterly way. By making it more of an underground river, providing a tender refuge for me from his travails and sensitizing my empathetic hopes.
In sum, this fantasy doesn’t have the flash of transporting you to a totally different world like other classics such as Lord of the Rings, but it is great for creating a society close to our own, but different enough to be a parallel universe. In this universe a few human events of mythical or miraculous proportions gain a reality. But none of this overlay is heavy and is well subjugated to the drama of a compelling story. The soul searching and attempts by Cazaril to make meaning of his fate feel like a creative way to lighten his load. I loved the following example, which feels like the story of Job given a Buddhist slant:
If the gods saw people’s souls but not their bodies, in mirror of the way people saw bodies but not souls, it might explain why gods were so careless of such things as appearance, or other bodily functions. Such as pain? Was pain an illusion, from the gods’ point of view? Perhaps heaven was not a place, but merely an angle of view, a vantage, a perspective.
Madelyn C rated a book.
dalenevz rated a book.
“A thrilling delight, as usual, following the trail of tough sweetheart Joe Pickett who as a Wyoming game warden gets involved with solving some serious crime out in the boonies. I eagerly look forward to the new book in the series each year and devour it I eagerly look forward to the new book in...”
“A thrilling delight, as usual, following the trail of tough sweetheart Joe Pickett who as a Wyoming game warden gets involved with solving some serious crime out in the boonies. I eagerly look forward to the new book in the series each year and devour it I eagerly look forward to the new book in this series each year and devour it when it hits my library. Like Tom Sawyer, who felt good from Sunday school almost until Tuesday, I have to live with inhuman urges again soon.
In this one, a landowner gets pushed too far by the Environmental Protection Agency and is believed to be guilty of killing two staff serving him papers. Pickett, who knows him as the father of his daughter’s best friend, wangles it so he is on the team trying to find him in a remote wilderness in the Bighorn Mountains, thus giving him a chance to protect him from getting blown away by the trigger-happy forces marshaled against him. Problems escalate from the mistakes of putting a bounty on the man, sending unprepared people after him, and inappropriate use of drones. Soon there is a hostage situation. Joe doesn’t have the help of his ex-Special Forces friend Nate in this tale. But his business-savvy wife, Marybeth, lends a hand with research to get to the bottom of why a particular EPA administrator was so gung-ho in this case in the first place.
I enjoy rooting for Pickett in his Dudley Do-Right roles which have him courageously outfoxing the forces of corruption or greed that lie behind conflicts over the environment or resource management in the mountain West. He is not a total Boy Scout, as he’s not above bending the law on small things to bag big game of the rogue human type. His righteous anger, once engaged, is always getting him in hot water with the powers that be, often at the cost of putting his job on the line or his family at risk. I like how his typical day calls for work on horseback and appreciate his laconic humor, his devotion for his wife and three daughters, and his stubborn persistence for justice.
The theme in this one is on abuses of power by the Environmental Protection Agency does not indict the whole organization, but the deficiencies in the system that allow Compliance Orders of cease-and-desist, remediation, and huge fines with no legal recourse of judicial review by the accused offender. Such a right of judicial review was restored by a Supreme Court ruling in 2012 in the case of Sackett v. EPA, a case from Idaho which Box models his tale on to some extent. Likely other interventions by federal agencies will be affected by the precedent of this ruling.
dalenevz finished reading a book.
Julie K rated a book.