Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Judas Kiss

A Taylor Jackson novel by J. T. Ellison
© 2009, Published by MIRA Books
395 pp.

From the book cover: “SEX, LIES AND VIDEOTAPE. It was a murder made for TV: a trail of tiny bloody footprints. An innocent toddler playing beside her mother’s bludgeoned body. Pretty young Corinne Wolff, seven months pregnant, brutally murdered in her own home.

Cameras and questions don’t usually faze Nashville homicide lieutenant Taylor Jackson, but the media frenzy surrounding the Wolff case is particularly nasty….and thorough. When the seemingly model mommy is linked to an amateur porn Web site with underage actresses and unwitting players, the sharks begin to circle.

The shock is magnified when an old adversary uses the sexy secret footage to implicate Taylor in a murder – an accusation that threatens her career, her reputation and her relationship.

Both cases hinge on the evidence – real or manufactured – of crimes that go beyond passion, into the realm of obsessive vengeance and shocking betrayal. Just what the networks love.”

Lieutenant Taylor Jackson finds her hands full with the murder of a young, pregnant mother. Who beat the woman to death and then left her baby daughter alone with the body for 2 days? The husband/father was supposed to be working out of town but his alibi doesn’t add up. A secret room is discovered in the basement where home movies have been made – but not the ones you would show your friends and family. And to top it off, secretly filmed sex videos of the Lieutenant and an ex-lover show up on the internet. Someone is out to destroy her. How is she supposed to do her job if she’s suspended? She’s also being stalked by an international assassin who wants to kill her in order to hurt her boyfriend. She’d better keep looking over her shoulder!

Great story that kept me guessing until right close to the end of the book. Jackson was a likeable person who just tried to do her job the best she could despite all the obstacles thrown at her. She has a great team working with her and they do a good job solving the murder. The deeper they dig, the more involved the crime becomes. Well-written, good dialog and interesting characters.

The story continues in the next Ellison book, Edge of Black.

I bought this book at a garage sale.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Prayers for Rain

Dennis Lehane
© 1999 by Harper Torch
375 pp.

From the book cover: “ Private investigator Patrick Kenzie wants to know why a former client, a perky woman in love with life, could, within six months, jump naked from a Boston landmark – the final fall in a spiral of self-destruction. What he finds is a sadistic stalker who targeted the young woman and methodically drove her to her death. A monster the law can’t touch. But Kenzie can. He and his former partner, Angela Gennaro, will fight a mind-twisting battle against this psychopath even as he turns his tricks on them.”

Prayers for Rain is Lehane’s fifth book featuring the Boston investigative duo of Kenzie and Gennaro. The book opens with Karen Nichols hiring Kenzie to make a stalker leave her alone. He roughs the guy up and threatens him and things seem to be under control. A few weeks later there is a message from Karen on Kenzie’s answering machine but he’s too busy to return the call and later forgets about it. The next thing he knows she’s jumped off the top of a building. He feels somewhat guilty for not getting back to her and wonders if he could have done anything to prevent her death. When he starts investigating, he finds there’s more to her suicide then people think. Someone made her life so miserable that she couldn’t stand it any longer but who and why?

Patrick Kenzie puts television PI’s to shame. He doesn’t hesitate to put a criminal in his place using (sometimes) unorthodox methods. His buddy Bubba isn't too smart but he has a collection of illegal weapons and is built like a tank. His sometime-partner Angela has mob connections which can come in very handy. The main villain has a VERY sick mind. There's quite a bit of violence and some bad language so I guess you could say this would be an 'R' rated book. Good story, interesting characters, and psychological twists and thrills. What more could you want?

I picked this book up at a garage sale. Can’t wait to read more Lehane novels.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

A Painted House

John Grisham
©2000 Published by Bantam Dell
465 pp.

From the cover: “Until that summer of 1952, Luke Chandler had never kept a secret or told a single lie. But in the long, hot summer of his seventh year, two groups of migrant workers – and two very dangerous men – came through the Arkansas Delta to work the Chandler cotton farm. And suddenly mysteries are flooding Luke’s world. A brutal murder leaves the town seething in gossip and suspicion. A beautiful young woman ignites forbidden passions. A fatherless baby is born…and someone has begun furtively painting the bare clapboards of the Chandler farmhouse, slowly, painstakingly bathing the run-down structure in gleaming white. And as young Luke watches the world around him, he unravels secrets that could shatter lives – and change his family and his town forever.”

John Grisham does a wonderful job telling the story of a poor cotton farmer’s family from the viewpoint of a 7-year-old boy. The Chandler’s are poor, barely making a living from their rented 40 acres of cotton. The family is made up of Pappy and Gran, their son, his wife, and their grandson Luke. They hire migrant workers each year to help pick the cotton by hand. In 1952 those workers include 10 Mexican men and the Spruill family from the Ozarks who pick cotton to supplement their income - Mr. and Mrs. Spruill, oldest son Hank who's a mean S.O. B., daugher Tally who's cute and 17, teen sons Bo and Dale, and the youngest, Trot, who's 'not right'. The Mexican men are housed in the barn loft and the Spruill family of 7 sleep in tents in the Chandler’s yard. Life is hard for all of them as they work sun-up to sundown 6 ½ days a week. Even Luke is expected to do his share in the field, as well as helping his mother in her large garden and doing chores. Their main recreations are going to town on Saturday afternoons to shop and catch up on local gossip and to church on Sundays.

Luke learns a lot as he watches the actions of others on the cotton farm and in town. He sees things he shouldn’t and is told to keep quiet. He has to decide to tell about them or keep secrets for the good of his family. Any trouble could cause the migrant workers to leave, the cotton wouldn’t get picked, and the family wouldn’t have any income. People are killed, others disappear, a baby is born, and the crop is threatened by bad weather. Things aren’t easy on the farm but you’ll enjoy getting to know the Chandlers and learning about their lives.

A short while after I started reading this book, I realized I had read it before. I went ahead and read it again and I enjoyed it just as much the second time. I bought this book at a garage sale.

Divine Justice

David Baldacci
©2008 by Columbus Rose, Ltd., Hachette Book Group
523 pp.

From the book: “Known by his alias, “Oliver Stone,” John Carr is the most wanted man in American. With two pulls of the trigger, the men who destroyed Stone’s life and kept him in the shadows were finally silenced.

But his freedom comes at a steep price. The assassinations he carried out prompt the highest levels of the U. S. government to unleash a massive manhunt. Yet behind the scenes, master spy Macklin Hayes is playing a very personal game of cat and mouse. With their friend and unofficial leader in hiding, the members of the Camel Club risk everything to save him. Now as the hunters close in, Stone’s flight from the demons of his past will take him from the power corridors of Washington, D. C., to the coal-mining town of Divine, Virginia – and into a world every bit as bloody and lethal as the one he left behind.”

This book is a sequel to previously written books about Oliver Stone and the Camel Club which I didn’t know when I picked it up. Mr. Baldacci evidently expected his readers to have read the previous books because parts of this plot weren’t clear until quite far into the book. I did enjoy the story and the characters who reminded me of a good TV drama or movie. Lots of action, different story lines, and interesting characters. A little too much violence for my taste but that goes along with this type of story, I guess.

Oliver Stone, AKA John Carr, is a heroic Vietnam vet later drafted by the government for undercover work, mainly carrying out assassinations. When he gets married and has a child, he wants out but finds out it’s not that easy….he knows too much. His wife is killed and his young daughter disappears. He goes into hiding but finally seeks revenge. This is where the book starts and it continues as he goes further into hiding and ends up in a little town in Virginia. Things go downhill from there for Oliver.

I picked up this book at a garage sale.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Fear Nothing

by Dean Koontz
©1998 by Bantam Books
ISBN: 0-553-57975-4
432 pp.

From the book cover: “Christopher Snow is different from all the other residents of Moonlight Bay, different from anyone you’ve ever met. For Christopher Snow has made his peace with a very rare genetic disorder that leaves him dangerously vulnerable to light. His life is filled with the fascinating rituals of one who must embrace the dark. He knows the night as no one else can – its mystery, its beauty, its terrors, and the eerie silken rhythms that seduce one into believing anything – even freedom – is possible.

Until the night Christopher Snow witnesses a series of disturbing incidents that sweep him into a violent mystery only he can solve, a mystery that will force him to rise above all fears and confront the many-layered secrets of Moonlight Bay and its strange inhabitants. A place, like all places, that looks a lot different after dark.”

Christopher Snow suffers from xeroderma pigmentosum which is a rare genetic disorder that leaves him vulnerable to even brief exposure to the sun or any ultraviolet rays from other light sources. His body lacks the ability to repair any damage from UV rays which will cause cancer, blindness, etc. Any time he leaves the house, it has to be between sundown and sun up, fully dressed, with sunscreen and a hat. Taking these precautions, he has already out-lived all expectations at the age of 28. His skin is extremely white as you might expect but he is not an albino.  His nickname is 'Snowman'.

When the story starts, Christopher’s mother, a scientist, has been dead for 2 years following an auto accident. His father lays dying of cancer in the hospital. Shortly after his father’s death, Christopher’s life changes forever. This is the type of book you don’t want to read alone on a dark night. The people Christopher grew up around are not who he thought. Animals are acting strangely. He doesn’t know who he can trust anymore. Everything seems to lead back to the closed military base where his mother worked. It was truly a frightening book when you think of what genetic testing might entail. I definitely recommend it to any fan of Koontz and others who like a good scary tale.

This is an older book but I buy a lot at flea markets where they’re affordable. I’m sure a lot of other people do, too. Or you can probably find this book at your library.

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Remains of War

Surviving the Other Concentration Camps of World War II

Written by G. Pauline Kok-Schurgers
©2011 iUniverse
ISBN: 978-1-4502-9671-7
186 pp.

From the book cover: “When the Dutch army surrenders to Japan in 1942, nine-year-old Sophia is imprisoned with her mother, younger brother, and two baby sisters in different concentration camps on Sumatra, Indonesia. Her father is sent to work on the Burma-Siam railroad, and the family doesn’t know if he is dead or alive. In this memoir, author G. Pauline Kok-Schurgers narrates a story of hate and torture, starvation and disease, and physical and psychological abuse experiences during her internment.

The Remains of War tells of Sofia’s toils through those years, taking care of her younger siblings and trying to prevent her mother from sinking deeper into depression. Sofia longs for her father’s return and her mother’s attention and love. The gruesome years in those camps, the loneliness, and the loss of dear friends transform Sofia into a silent, inward person, scarred for the rest of her life.

Written from the perspective of a young child, The Remains of War touches the core of human suffering caused by the senselessness and evil of war. The voices of all who died and were left behind without a name or a cross on their graves will be forever silent. This memoir testifies to their courage.”

I hate saying I enjoyed reading this book because it sounds bad to enjoy reading about other’s troubles, but I did enjoy it. I enjoyed it in the way I enjoyed reading Anne Frank’s Diary. I think people need to know these things that happened, good and bad. I was amazed that any of the prisoners survived the terrible living conditions and treatment they received. It hurt to read of what they went through. I had no idea there were other concentration camps during the war besides those in Europe. The ones ran by the Japanese in Indonesia were every bit as evil as those ran by Hitler and these Dutch settlers would have been exterminated if the war hadn’t ended when it did. This is definitely a book that everyone should read even if just to improve your knowledge of WWII. It was brave of Ms. Kok-Schurgers to write the book and relive all thos horrible memories.

I was provided with a copy of the book to read and review.