Thursday, January 29, 2015

Descent by Tim Johnston

Descent by Tim Johnston

The Courtland family takes their annual family vacation in the Rocky Mountains at their 18-year-old daughter Caitlin’s suggestion.  She is an avid runner and wants to train in the high altitude.  One morning she and her brother Sean leave early in the morning: Caitlin in her running shoes, Sean on his bike.  Disaster strikes.  While on a backwoods road (more like a dirt track) a vehicle comes hurtling out of the woods and strikes Sean on his bike. Sean is very badly injured.  The driver of the vehicle offers Caitlin a ride down the mountain to get help since their cell phones don’t work up there.  Caitlin accepts the ride and disappears.

This is a thriller told in many parts following the four members of the family as we learn about family dynamics, the abduction and the aftermath.  It is slow in starting but the build is needed, you really get to know and care for these broken people.  And the ending!  Wow.  It is heartbreaking, gruesome, cheer-worthy and believable all at once.

This book has been compared to TheLovely Bones, but I don’t know why.  We do get Caitlin’s point of view a little over mid-way through the book but she isn’t looking down at her family and how their lives are going on without her.  Yes, we do see how her disappearance destroys the lives of her mother (addiction and separation from reality), her brother (his guilt and physical injuries) and her father (who stays behind in Colorado, refusing to stop searching) but the element that is at the forefront of my mind when someone compares a book to The Lovely Bones is absent.


One more thing, this is the first thriller I would not recommend on audiobook.  I don’t know if it was the pacing of one of the narrator’s voice or if I just didn’t like the voice, but I listened to two discs and found my mind wandering.  Thankfully I had the print book out as well and switched over to it and found myself devouring the book wanting to know what happened next.

The Rosie Effect by Graeme C. Simsion


The Rosie Effect by Graeme C. Simsion

At the end of The Rosie Project Don Tillman and Rosie Jarman were married and moved to Manhattan from Australia.  The couple is happily living in the Big Apple until numerous things start disrupting Don’s universe.  The most important of all: Rosie is pregnant.  How will the man with a plan for everything, who now feels like he doesn’t have a plan for anything, deal with fatherhood?  Not normally, but definitely in a funny way.


Fans of the first book in the series and The Big Bang Theory will thoroughly enjoy this book.  Only Don Tillman can create a perfectly functional office in a bathroom and make friends with a famous rockstar in the course of an evening.  Great fun.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Her by Harriet Lane

Her by Harriet Lane

Emma and Nina seem to have nothing in common.  Emma is a harried mother who has put her career in television on hold for motherhood.  Nina’s one child is a teenager and she has a successful career as a painter.  One day Nina finds Emma’s wallet and returns it to her in her home and an unlikely friendship blossoms.  Or does it?

The book is told in alternating chapters from each of the two main characters point of view.  From the beginning you know that Nina knows Emma, remembers her from her teen years, but that Emma does not recognize Nina.  You also know that Nina loathes Emma and wants to get back at her for something that happened between them as teenagers, but you don’t know what happened until almost the end of the book.  A frightening look at how one person’s actions, even in ignorance, can upend the life of another and how hatred can build into something irrational and evil over time.

Laughing Monsters by Denis Johnson

Laughing Monsters by Denis Johnson

Roland Nair, who has worked (is possibly still working for?), NATO intelligence returns to Africa to meet his well-connected (at least in his own mind) friend Michael Adriko. Sierra Leone hasn’t changed much since his last visit, but Nair has changed.  Nair comes to Africa with an agenda that he keeps hidden from his friend Michael, and it looks like Michael may have a hidden agenda of his own.

If you need to be reminded of how corrupt and alien the workings of Africa are compared to the law and order we are used to this book brings it all right to the fore.  Between illegal border crossings easily come by for a fee, backroom dealings for goods of any kind, the sporadic available electricity, not to mention the colorful characters, the world Nair and Adriko inhabit comes vividly to life.  This is a spy thriller where the goals of each character are revealed in small doses and we don’t know the full extent of the wishes of anyone. 

The reader does a wonderful job with the accents, dialects and characterizations for this story.  I may not have enjoyed the book reading it, I’m not completely sure, but I sure loved listening to it.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Midnight Plan of the Repo Man by W. Bruce Cameron


Midnight Plan of the Repo Man by W. Bruce Cameron

Ruddy McCann is a repo man in Kalkaska, Michigan.  It’s heading into Spring so it’s still freezing and business isn’t so good.  But not having cars to repossess is the least of Ruddy’s worries.  One day he suddenly starts hearing a voice in his head.  Others blame repo madness but Ruddy is beginning to think that the voice in his head isn’t a sign of mental illness; he thinks the voice, which calls itself Alan, is a ghost seeking justice.  Can Ruddy help Alan, save his sister’s bar from bankruptcy and get the girl? 

Ruddy can hear Alan whenever he speaks but Ruddy has to speak out loud for Alan to hear him which plays to good humor.  There are a lot of quirky secondary characters – a scheming couple always wanting to get rich quick; a man with an extensively misused vocabulary; and Jake, Ruddy’s faithful dog to name a few – that really round out the story and bring out the humor.  The story of Alan’s death is serious as are some of the circumstances surrounding his murder, but Ruddy’s day to day is extremely entertaining.  The storyline to watch for is the repossession of a man named Einstein’s truck.  The book starts with Ruddy being tasked with getting the truck away from Einstein and Doris (a cranky goose) and it runs throughout the book.  Great ending to that particular thread!

This was an extremely entertaining audiobook.  The reader has such distinct voices for Ruddy and Alan that fit the characters perfectly. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Fifty Mice by Daniel Pyne

Fifty Mice by Daniel Pyne

Jay Johnson is enjoying his boring life when he is kidnapped on his way home from work and forced into the Witness Protection Program.  The Marshalls who are detaining him are convinced that all of this is for his own good.  He should be thrilled to have a new identity and to leave his old life behind for a new life (complete with a new family) on Catalina Island.  There is one big problem.  Jay doesn’t know why he’s in the program.  As far as he knows he didn’t see anything important and no one will give him a clue about what they think he may have seen. 

The book starts out as a study in absurdity and evolves into a thriller as well as a psychological study.  We see the world through Jay’s eyes, and reside in his brain, and only know what he knows at the moment.  It really makes you wonder how, put in a similar situation, you would convince people that you didn’t know what they thought you know.  Sort of like those institutionalized my family members in the Victorian era – how do you convince others that you are not insane?

A different kind of thriller with a surprising twist ending.

Malice by Keigo Higashino

Malice by Keigo Higashino

A best-selling novelist is found dead inside a locked room in a locked house.  One suspect comes to the forefront in Detective Kaga’s mind, but things aren’t adding up.  The mental acrobatics he performs will finally bring justice to the murdered man and his memory.

This book was translated from Japanese but aside from the names being unfamiliar to an American audience it reads like the best complex mysteries of the noir period.  The book is arranged in chunks, some from the point of view of our detective and some written recollections by the prime suspect.  What I found most interesting was knowing the who, what, where and how early on in the book but being completely baffled by the why. 

Mystery fans looking for a new fresh voice with the devious plotting of the old masters will find something to like here.