January 31, 2012 by Reader's Connection
Thanks as always to Cheryl Holtsclaw of the West Indianapolis Branch
The Winter of Frankie Machine by Don Winslow
Frank Machianno has a routine; it’s how he gets through the day. Up at 3:45 to open his bait shop, then hit a couple of waves on his surfboard, off to check on his linen delivery service, a couple of stops to see if restaurants are satisfied with the fish he’s had delivered—chat ‘em up, suggest the shrimp—then on to check on his rental properties. Along the way he’s got to fix the garbage disposal for his ex-wife before heading off to wine and dine his girlfriend. He’s getting up there in age, but still doing pretty well maintaining, he thinks—until somebody tries to kill him. And so begins the winter that Frank Machianno, aka Frankie Machine, finds himself fighting for his life. Winslow makes excellent use of flashbacks to let us know who Frank is, who he’s been. And even though Frank is not exactly who we thought he was, Winslow is such a talented writer that we’re still rooting for Frankie Machine to come out okay.
Due Diligence by Jonathan Rush
Mike Wilson is the CEO of Louisiana Light and he has decided that buying BritEnergy will be the deal of a lifetime for him. To do the deal, he turns to Dyson Whitney, an investment banking firm; it will be up to them to raise the money for the purchase. Wilson wants the deal done in an incredibly short time and everyone at Dyson Whitney, which stands to make tens of millions of dollars in fees, is pushing hard to make the deal happen. When Rob Holding, a very junior analyst is put on the team to analyze the financials, he begins to see red flags telling him that there’s something not right. But everybody wants the deal to go through and nobody is listening to Rob. Worse than that, he may be putting himself in danger if he continues to speak out about his suspicions. The book jacket says “Jonathan Rush is the pseudonym of a strategy consultant who has worked with some of the world’s largest corporations.” If this story was based on his experience, we all might need to be worried.
A Conflict of Interest by Adam Mitzner
If you’re a lawyer, there’s never a bad time to talk business with a prospective client. Alex Miller is the youngest partner with one of the top law firms in New York City and on the fast track to success. So even though he’s at his father’s funeral when Michael Ohlig, his father’s long-time friend, asks him for help, Alex listens. Ohlig’s brokerage firm is being investigated for scamming investors; in short, doing a pump and dump scheme. Ohlig doesn’t blink when Alex tells him he’ll need a million dollar retainer. Ohlig offers to double that amount and they have a deal. But it’s not long before Alex begins to wonder if it’s a deal with the devil. Ohlig is complex at best, by turns charming and domineering. As the trial progresses, Alex finds himself having to deal not only with Ohlig and the trial demands, but also with his own personal weaknesses and failings. Much like Rusty Sabich in Presumed Innocent, Alex Miller is a flawed human being trying to find his way. Mitzner’s writing style is reminiscent of Scott Turow’s as well.
Flipping Out by Marshall Karp
For my money, nobody can top John Sandford when it comes to cop dialogue, but Marshall Karp comes close. Lomax and Biggs are homicide detectives in California. Lomax has his own sad story to tell, but it doesn’t interfere with his tenacity when it comes to finding killers. Biggs is equally tenacious, but since his dream is to retire from the LAPD and then become a stand-up comic, he gets all the fun lines. Karp’s debut novel featuring Lomax and Biggs, The Rabbit Factory, may have frightened potential readers off due to its length–632 pages for a mystery? Still, it was a great read and entertaining enough to make the pages fly by. Flipping Out is pared down considerably and shows that Karp’s just getting better and better. Oh yes, the plot line: someone is killing cop’s wives. But really, even though Karp plays fair and follows the rules for mysteries, his books are all about the dialogue. And with dialogue that good, the plot line is just a bonus.
Sister by Rosamund Lupton
This is sooo not my kind of book. In spite of its being a mystery, it was one of those “girly” books, in the form of a letter that one sister is writing to another. Yech! And yet …. When I found myself on page 144 and still reading, I was totally appalled and thinking about wrapping the book in a brown paper wrapper so people wouldn’t think I’d sneaked into the “literary” camp of readers. The story itself was standard fare: young woman is murdered, police don’t investigate thoroughly, grieving relative keeps digging and solves the case. Lupton’s style was more poetry than hardboiled detective, and yet it worked. It was a story about love, and finding oneself, and hearing the songs in the world, and accepting people for who they are even though they might travel in swoopy lines while your path tends more toward straight and narrow. And, for me, it was about finding a gem of a story where I’d least expected it. Dare I say it? Sometimes you really can’t judge a book by its cover.
The Informationist by Taylor Stevens
I’m not sure which is more interesting reading, the book or the Taylor Stevens bio. Well, here’s a tidbit from her website: “Cut off from personal family, at times under the care of sadistic individuals and without access to books or television from the outside world, imagination became a survival mechanism.” Sounds a lot like the character in her book. Like Stevens, Vanessa Munroe was exposed early in life to sadistic people; thus the survival skills. Munroe is tormented by her past and the extent to which it influences the path her life has taken. She specializes in gathering information—for a price—but this time around, her mission is to find a young woman who disappeared while in Africa. Stevens, having lived in a cult there for 4 years, writes with incredible knowledge of the landscape and culture. And, I suspect, she also writes with incredible knowledge about the horrors that her main character experienced.
Never Knowing by Chevy Stevens
I would not want to live inside this writer’s head. Her first book, Still Missing, was scary enough. Now comes Never Knowing and Stevens has creeped me out again. Sara Gallagher grew up adopted, with a less-than caring father and daydreams of what her real mother and father are like. Now Sara’s all grown up, with a family of her own and life is good. Still, she can’t resist tracking down her birth mother who, sadly, wants no part of Sara. Why? Turns out Sara’s father is a serial killer and Sara’s mother is his only victim who managed to escape. Sara is justifiably horrified, but soon begins to wonder if she has inherited some of his violent tendencies. Events begin to spiral out of control as “John” learns of her existence and begins calling her. If she talks with him, she risks endangering her family, but if she doesn’t take his calls, people can die. Stevens manages to pull you in with a story that keeps you reading, but stays just short of the line where you decide the story isn’t worth the nightmares that are sure to follow.