Recent Reading - 2007


Jeffery Deaver
The Devil's Teardrop

This is the first book I have read by Jeffery Deaver. I was impressed.

The characters are well developed, both the heroes and the villains. The author succeeds in developing and maintaining suspense.

The book has a driving story line. There is a plan for a series of mass murders in our nation's capital, Washington, D.C. The mayor gets an extortion letter asking for $20 million. He calls in the FBI to find the killer, called The Digger in the extortion letter. The problem is, though he is a merciless killing machine, he is too much like you and me. He just blends into a crowd. The Digger just follows his schedule, and the FBI scrambles to find out where he will strike next. It is New Year's Eve, 1999, and there are hundreds of crowded parties, every one a potential target.

Peter Kincaid, a retired document analyst, is enlisted by Special Agent Margaret Lucas to dissect and interpret any available clues from a ransom demand. $20 million for the security of Washington, D.C. Shouldn't that be a simple solution? Pay and the problem goes away. As is common in these situations, nothing is as simple as it seems. Though the note is hand written and the writing is distinctive, there are strange details that confound simple analysis. In addition to Peter Kincaid, every available resource is called in.

The characters have real lives beyond the solving of crime, and their lives demand attention. Some "suspense" novels cannot pull off the interludes, but these work. There is no way to put off the personal issues, but they add to the suspense, as they should. They don't just delay the plot.

Jeffery Deaver has caught my attention with The Devil's Teardrop. This is a well written book, and I look forward to reading many more.

Highly recommended

Lake, Jay
Hethor, a clocksmith's apprentice, lives in a gear-driven world. The glint of sunlight actually reflects from the gears and tracks of the planet. Hethor hears the grind of the earth and the angel Gabriel visits him to give him a task. Save the world. The mainspring is winding down and needs to be fixed. The story leads to adventure, betrayal and the help of many on his way to the magical southern hemisphere...separated from the north by the main gear of earth. Maintains good logic, mostly, though the book does bridge into fantasy. Watch for a typo on page 257 re: location of Africa.
Recommended lightly

Koontz, Dean
Odd Thomas
Introduces a young man who encounters dead people, who, though they cannot speak, help him to resolve their deaths so they can move on. Many good characters, an intriguing concept, but not as suspenseful as I thought it should be.
Neutral recommendation (fans of Koontz will like it, I think.)

Niven, Larry and Edward M. Lerner
The Fleet of Worlds
The Known Space universe continues to expand with this collaboration. Niven certainly has a fertile mind, no matter what his age, and collaboration with others seems totally natural.This well-told story fills in detail to a time before the discovery of Ringworld and involves a Pierson's Puppeteer who, I think, was also in in some other novels.

Sawyer, Robert
Written with the simplicity of style that I associate with "juvenile" science fiction, this is a story of first contact by way of SETI messages and a twist. Canadian author of the Neaderthal series which I liked, Sawyer keeps going straight ahead with the story, leaving out the side issues and potential complications that could have had impacts.

Boujold, Lois McMaster
The Sharing Knife: Beguilement
The Sharing Knife: Legacy
A combined two volume SFBC book. Fantasy/Romance according to the author. Good character development and a good writing style make Bujold's work worth reading, even thought I don't really appreciate the genre of fantasy. Bujold does a good job of grounding the fantasy, though. Her "world" is consistent and seems somehow like a science fiction world because there is a hint of a past in which a civilization with technology was destroyed and the current people are the survivors. I believe that these two volumes are the first of several to come.

Konrath, J. A.
Dirty Martini
Fourth in the series of Jaqueline "Jack" Daniels novels about a female homicide detective leutenant in Chicago. She is tough. She catches killers who are really spectacular in their violent deeds. Good characters all around and full of humor in spite of the violence.

Husseini, Khaled
A Thousand Splendid Suns
Kabul, in all its gritty horror is the backdrop for this story of two Afghani women and the lives they endure from the beginning of the Soviet occupation to the end of the Bush bombing of the Taliban. This is Husseini's second book, and it reinforces my sense of his muted style of writing. What he says isn't a whisper, but it definitely doesn't shout.
Highly recommended - tops!

Baker, Kage
Sky Coyote
Somewhat tongue in cheek story of time travel and the cyborgs recruited from primitive, and off the track of history, tribes. They work for a 23rd century company called Dr. Zeus. Interesting concept, but not fully realized.
Not very good.

Watts, Peter
Too difficult to follow the character identities for me. Stopped reading after 50 pages.
Not recommended

Scalzi, John
The Ghost Brigades
A sequel to Old Man's War, focussing on the Special Forces and a new "recruit" who may carry the personality of a traitor.
Started this one last year and didn't finish it, but enjoyed it the second time I tried.
Recommended, especially after reading Old Man's War first.

Scalzi, John
Old Man's War
The colonies of Earth need soldiers, and the old get the chance to be young again by volunteering to fight. Of course there are side effects to being young again, and you might die before the enlistment is up, but who says war is fair.
Reminicent of the Heinlein book, Starship Troopers
Highly recommended

McCullough, Colleen
Set in 1960 Sydney, Australia. Love and a mix of interesting, strong characters.
Tarot cards and a crystal globe can change your life.
Highly recommended

Twelve Hawks, John.
The Dark River
This book continues the story started in "The Traveler", and has the same kind of flaws. I abandoned this book when the hero went off on his own, searching for his long-lost father, leaving his protector behind. Of course, a whole bunch of people are close behind, trying to kill him. He ignores the danger. Poor plot trick.
Skip it

Scalzi, John
Android's Dream
Very well crafted book running the edges of humor, hard Science Fiction and Space Opera. Earth, a new member of the CC, is a close ally of the Nidu, a race/nation with need of a special genetically modified sheep, found only on Earth. It takes Harry Creek, a special kind of diplomat, to meet the needs of both Earth and Nidu. Computer hackers play a big role.
Very Recommended

Blunt, Giles
Forty Words for Sorrow
The first of Blunt's books about Detective John Cardinal in Algonquin Bay, a fictional town north of Toronto.
Highly Recommended

Mortimer, John
Quite Honestly
Love and reformation of criminals combine in a well crafted story.

Goonan, Kathleen
In War Times
Alternative History with our actual history as the "alternate". Quantum computers and DNA play an interesting role.

Mortimer, John
Rumpole and the Reign of Terror
Even an accusation of terrorism doesn't ultimately phase Rumpole who shares the writing of his memoirs with those of his wife, Hilda, She Who Must Be Obeyed.
Highly Recommended

Blunt, Giles
By the Time you Read This
Sucide, Pedophilia, and Murder challenge Detective John Cardinal to his limits in this third novel of Algonquin Bay, Canada by Giles Blunt. Excellent writing.
Highly recommended.

Schroeder, Karl
Sun of Suns
Wooden or metal clad ships rocketing through the air, it is a story of a young man stiving to avenge his parents' death. His world is inside out, literally; Virga, a large bubble in space with manufactured suns providing floating towns and cities with light and warmth. A new science fiction universe, believably developed in this first chapter of Virga's story.

Green, Tim
American Outrage
Story of a TV personality trying to solve a murder. Misses the mark.
Skip this one.

Sandford, John
Invisible Prey
Murder and art theft mingle as Lucas Davenport tries to glimpse the connections among the victims.
Recommended, as always.

Hogan, James P.
The Legend that was Earth
What happens when it isn't quite an alien invasion. Are the visitors too helpful?
Not his best.

Perry, Thomas
Vanising Act
The first volume of Jane Whitfield's story. Maybe too many stories trying to set up her character.
Later novels of the series are better. This may be best read after later ones, to fill in the gaps.
Recommended with reservations.

Perry, Thomas
Metzger's Dog
How do you get the CIA to pay you ransom for potentially terrorist documents? Can you do it without being caught? How smart do you have to be to not outsmart yourself?

McDevitt, Jack
A Talent for War
History in the future. Can the hero separate the facts from the legend?
Not his best.

Moon, Elizabeth
Command Decision
The best in Space Opera

Conolly, Michael
Trunk Music
Police Procedure...follow it, carefully.

Asher, Neil
Prador Moon
Skip it.

Stirling, S.M.
Meeting at Corvallis
The third volume of the "Change" Part 2
Takes too long to get the story told. Maybe this series is becoming stale. All these books have been long, but this one seems to be a filler until something else happens later in the series. Though one part of the extended story is resolved, it seems anticlimactic.
Skip it.