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Big Ice by Chirstopher Bonn Jonnes

America House        ISBN:  1-59286-587-9

Christopher Bonn Jonnes, author of Wake Up Dead, is back with a second, more harrowing novel, Big Ice.  This well-researched thriller is thick with tension and suspense.  Jonnes manages to start the book with action, end it with action, and fill all of the chapters between with action.

Running from his past, Seth Peterson finds himself living and working in the nation's capitol for the National Ice Center (NIC).  The center is a joint venture coupling the Naval Ice Center, NOAA, and the Coast Guard.  Their goal is to accomplish the national mission of providing global ice analyses and forecasts.  When hunks of ice calve off from the Ross Ice Shelf, we are talking about more than a mere iceberg that is being monitored.  Peterson's research may help prepare the world for when a calving sheet of ice the size of Mexico occurs.  Such a calving will displace enough water to bury coastal cities like New York, Tokyo and California under more than 200 feet of water.

Dedicating the last twelve months on intense research, Peterson is finally forced to update the team at the NIC.  He has an acute problem.  He suffers from severe panic attacks.  These attacks keep him from being able to speak to groups of people.  This phobia is what caused him to upset his life before and it is once again threatening to ruin his present.

When his supervisor agrees to let another team member make the presentation, Peterson thinks all is well.  When the presenter is murdered at the convention, it isn't long before Peterson realizes the shooter was hoping to kill him.  A break-in at his apartment confirms the suspicion when his computer disk with all of his research on it is the only thing stolen during the burglary.

Someone does not want Peterson's research brought to light and will stop at nothing to ensure his silence.

This is a smart, hard-hitting thriller.  But I expect no less from Jonnes, who blew me away with his first novel, Wake Up Dead.  His facts are intriguing; to think that a natural disaster, worse than any earthquake is out there waiting to happen is frightening.   Jonnes is skilled at incorporating dialogue, taut chapters and three-dimensional characters to strengthen and solidify this already impressive and unique story line.  Big Ice is easy to get into and hard to put down and will be impossible to forget.

                                                               Reviewed by Phillip Tomasso III
 

Lethal Cure by Kurt Popke

Publisher: Durban House Publishing  ISBN: 1930754345


Lethal Cure, author Kurt Popke's first novel, is a medical thriller.   With strong writing, well-defined characters and plenty of action, Popke's style is as good as any Robin Cook novel.  Popke knows how to create tension and suspense, while pumping in a few cc's of humor to keep it balanced.

Dr. Jake Prescott is finishing his residency as an ER doctor.   Before completing his term, he and fellow resident and friend, Tony Castaic, need to submit a research paper.   While Castaic is working on a complex report, Prescott is merely cataloguing the hazards of smoking.  

While at the hospital, two patients are brought in.  There was a residential break-in.  The burglar and the victim both suffered life-threatening injuries.  While working to save the life of the burglar, Prescott has no idea that his wife was the victim.  

Once he learns the truth, things only get worse.  There were two thugs that broke into his house.  They were looking for him.  When they found he wasn't home, they attacked his wife and kidnapped his daughter.

Calling in a marker, Prescott contacts, Luther, a former patient.  After saving the life of the private investigator, Luther told the doctor to call if he ever needed help.  When he tracks down Luther, Prescott learns that the man has retired, but agrees to help get back his little girl.

Through a twisting turn of events, the police now believe Prescott is somehow involved in murder.   Time is of the essence if Prescott wants to get his daughter back alive.  While trying to track down the crazy person who took his daughter, Luther and Prescott keep out of sight so the police do not catch and detain them.  

Though a little predictable, the fast-paced scenes, creative clues and clever antics make Lethal Cure an exciting read.  In the future, I'll be looking for more works by Kurt Popke.

© 2003 Phillip Tomasso III

 

Stay by Nicola Griffith

In her sequel to The Blue Place, Griffith creates another winner.  We find our heroine, Aud, still reeling with grief from the death of her lover Julia.  She has secluded herself away in the North Carolina mountains, spending her time building a cabin and mourning her loss.  When an old friend tracks her down to find his missing fiancťe, a woman that Aud never liked, she is reluctantly convinced to abandon her self-isolation for her frantic friend.  She finds the woman in New York, oddly silent and obviously broken and frightened.  Together they head back to the woods, and Aud discovers the root of the woman's disintegration.  It's not a pretty story, and Aud eventually finds her violent nature coming to the surface in a stunning confrontation. 

This is a beautifully written novel that somehow manages to find eloquence in violence.  Aud is a deeply sympathetic character, and her motives and means are easy to justify.  Her grief is also stunningly realistic, further endearing her to the reader.  This is not a woman you want to mess with, but her strength and fragility somehow mix to just the right measure.   This is truly a poetic and literary novel of the highest caliber for this genre.  You won't be disappointed.  

 


 

 

A Killing Gift by Leslie Glass

Publisher: Onyx Books  ISBN: 0451410912 

When NYPD detective April Wooís old supervisor is violently attacked and killed shortly after his retirement party, and April herself becomes part of the scene as another victim, the case become hot and heavy.  Did his recent win of the lottery have something to do with it?  When another wealthy player becomes victim to the same killer, itís up to April and her husband Mike Sanchez to connect the dots. 

This is one of the better serials out there, and this latest doesnít disappoint.  Having said that, however, this one was still not quite up to par.  Some of the dialogue seemed a bit stilted, and for those of us who enjoy April and Mikeís battle, Ďer relationship, might be slightly disappointed that this was not more fully explored.  However, Aprilís continued clash with her American and Chinese beliefs was further defined, and this is always a plus. As for the mystery itself, it was well executed, if the final denouement a bit dull.  On a final note, one of the more charming and comic aspects of this series is Aprilís mother, and she has yet to disappoint.  Obviously, the mother-daughter conflict is not cultural, and this is one character I would love to see more of.  Not the best in the series, but still worth the read.             

 

The Emperor of Ocean Park by Stephen L. Carter

Publisher: Knopf; ISBN: 0375413634

    That I enjoyed The Emperor of Ocean Park would be an understatement. That I loved the book would again be not correct. The truth is, I have absolutely enjoyed and been enamored by the powerful tale that Prof. Carter has delivered in his superb debut fiction work.

            The last 1 Ĺ decades has seen many a law professor taking to fiction writing, (not to mention the 200 odd lawyers who have taken to legal thriller writing.) and to mention a few- there was Prof. John Jay Osborn Jr., (author of The Paper Chase), Alan M. Dershowitz (author of the superb Reversal of Fortune) and Prof. Francis M. Nevins (creator of the popular Loren Mensing works). Yale Law Professor, Stephen L. Carter is the latest addition to this growing list and in The Emperor of Ocean Park, the author delivers a powerful story of murder, mayhem and life among upper class African-Americans in the background of the death of a powerful judge. It is natural that a part of the story deals with the nomination of a judge to the Apex Court- for Prof. Carterís pet subject as a legadamician was the law regarding appointment and nomination of judges. As a student of law in Trivandrum, India, my thesis for LL.B. Degree was regarding reforms in the law relating to appointment of judges (in India). As part of my research, while studying about the American legal process, I had occasion to read several of Prof. Carterís articles on the subject and also his authoritative text- The Confirmation Mess: Cleaning up the Federal Appointment Process.

            Those texts were superb, in-depth studies, and it was with a little trepidation that I began reading his first fiction work- would it be as serious as his legal texts, would it be a descriptive analysis of any legal problem? The answer is yes- but at the same time the work is told in a powerful suspense filled and gripping way, engrossing from the first page to the last.

            However, I believe that this work would be more enjoyed by persons having a legal background, or are deeply interested in the legal process than the ordinary reader- for the work tends to be a little over-descriptive. Again this is not a cent percent thriller in the traditional meaning of the term, and by no means is an easy read. With 654 pages, it is a lengthy read, and personally I feel that it could have been cut at least by a 100 pages. But, in the whole, the essence of the work, makes poignant reading, and I believe is one of the best reads of 2002.

            Prof. Carter sure is going to carve a neat niche in the popular fiction genre. Donít just read the book, buy it and read it- it is a real worthy buy.

                                                                     -Narayan Radhakrishnan

       

 

Somebody Elseís Music by Jane Haddam

Thirty two years ago now successful writer Liz Toliver was locked into an outhouse surrounded by snakes because she was an outcast and hated by a female clique of her popular high school classmates. That same evening, a young man was murdered not too far from where she beat herself into a catatonic state attempting to free herself. Gregor Demarkian is called in by Lizís boyfriend, the famous rock star Jimmy Card, to clear her name in the gossip surrounding the murder. Going back to Hollman, the small and ugly town filled with the horrific characters from Lizís past, Gregor must delve into the lives of these petty people while the violence awakens yet again.

Haddam deserves a standing ovation for this most excellent read. With a compassionate and realistic touch she brings back the horrors and pettiness of high school, and the lasting impressions it can leave on us all. Sheís written a beautiful and lyrical novel that highlights the brutality that all too often surrounds those that are different from the rest. Her characters come alive through her adroit and knowledgeable stroke, some of whom many readers may easily identify to those from their own pasts. Far and above her best in her series, this novel deserves much more acclaim than it has gotten. This is a must read for those who appreciate both mystery and a moral to the story. Easily a 5 bolt book that will leave the reader questioning the importance, or hopefully, recognizing the insignificance, of their own high school years.

 

The Truth Hurts by Nancy Pickard

Publisher: Pocket Books; ISBN: 0743412036 

Pickard brings us her third installment in the series featuring Marie Lightfoot, a true-crime writer living in Florida.  In this outing, the crime strikes a little closer to home when Marie begins receiving mysterious and deadly emails engaging her in a game of cat and mouse.  The writer of the emails wants Marie to write a book about her very own life and eventually, her very own murder.  And is so doing, Marie is taken back to her childhood home in Alabama, and to the mysterious deaths of her own parents during the crux of the civil rights movement.   

Though not her best in the series, this latest is still filled with enough chills and thrills to keep the reader turning the pages.  A slightly uneven thriller, it still manages to bring home the tragedy and triumphs of the civil rightís movement in the Deep South during the 60ís.  Marieís struggle with her mysterious emailer, along with her troubling discoveries regarding her parentís death, leads her down a slippery slope filled with intrigue and danger. When the threats to her and her loved ones begin to escalate, Marie must find the truth before it kills her and all she loves.  A thrilling ride, with a touch of meaningful history, this is a satisfying read.  

 

The Wailing Wind by Tony Hillerman

Publisher: HarperCollins; ISBN: 0060194448  May

 Hillermanís latest bring together Sergeant Jim Chee and new Officer Bernadette Manuelito to solve the case of a dead man found in a pick-up.  After consulting with retired Lieutenant Leaphorn, they discover ties to a case thought solved several years back involving a gold mine and murder, along with a missing woman.  With a touch of romance, and a lot of folklore, Hillermanís wonderfully drawn characters untangle clues from the past and the present in order to solve this baffling case.   

Hard to believe, but this is my first Tony Hillerman mystery, and I have to say, I absolutely loved it.  Hillerman graces each page with a profound respect and admiration for the North American Indian, and one canít help but feel the same after reading one of his novels.  Filled with the folklore and the culture of the Southwest American Indian, he brings the land and the people alive with amazing skill.  His portrait of the New Mexico landscape is also to be appreciated, as he brings it to color and light with his vibrant descriptions, making one feel at home amongst its stark and natural beauty.  This one will not disappoint his previous fans, and is sure to make new ones, myself included.    

4 bolts

 

Compulsion by Keith Ablow

 Publisher: St. Martin's Press; ISBN: 0312266413  

Still healing, and left with many scars, Forensic psychiatrist Frank Clevenger has but all given up working with the police on violent cases.  But when heís called in to consult on the case of a dead infant, heís once again drawn into a world of dysfunction and violence.  The suspects include the entire family: a possibly sociopathic teenager, his golden brother, the beautiful socialite mother, or the impossibly rich father.  Clevenger is immediately and viscerally drawn to the beautiful mother, knowing full well that his tendency to rescue damsels in distress arises from his own squalid past.  And the closer he moves towards the truth, the more dangerous things become. 

Clevenger is such a finely drawn character, that itís very easy for the reader to understand and empathize with his motivations.  Itís refreshing as well to have a character who is not perfect and is battling his own demons, thereby making the surrounding plot that much more believable.  And although many times the reader may want to shake him into reality, watching him make his mistakes keeps the tension high.  His vulnerability to his own family dynamics adds much to the story, and pulls the reader in, sometimes against their own better judgment.  This is a tightly woven and suspenseful story in a series that shows constant improvement, and we eagerly await the next. 

4 bolts

   

The Shooting Gallery by Joseph Trigoboff

Publisher: The Lyons Press; ISBN: 1585745472 June

     Joseph Trigoboffís The Shooting Gallery is an enjoyable suspense mystery that is perfect for a weekend read. This is the first Trigoboff I am reading, and I believe definitely this wonít be the last. The blurb informs that this is a sequel to The Bone Orchard. I havenít read that book- however, this sequel is an independent mystery and the fact that I hadnít read the earlier hasnít affected the fun in reading this one.

            NYPD Detective Alvin Yablonsky is called to investigate the murder of a reputed journalist and Pulitzer award winner- Skinny McPherson, a liberal thinker and a staunch leftist. McPherson was a person having more enemies than friends- a list of persons who would have desperately wanted him dead. Yablonskyís investigation takes him to the darker side of the Manhattan City, exposing corruption, murder and mayhem leading to a gripping and exciting climax.

            The theme of the work is one which we have seen in many a whodunit. But the author has a powerful and gripping narrative style that kept me glued to the pages. Yablonsky is an engaging protagonist, at times he reminds of Phillip Marlowe and Sam Spade- but has his own unique style. The novel is also rooted to reality- the vice and corruption among the rich and wealthy is presented as it is. Charming at the same time gripping, thrilling at the same time poignant, The Shooting Gallery is highly recommended read.

                                                                             Narayan Radhakrishnan