logo
Wrong email address or username
Wrong email address or username
Incorrect verification code
back to top
Search tags: Police-procedural
Load new posts () and activity
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-07-19 23:01
Recommended to those who enjoy action novels, spy novels, thrillers, and definitely to Baldacci fans.
Zero Day - David Baldacci

Thanks to NetGalley and to the publisher, MacMillan, for offering me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

David Baldacci is one of these authors whose names a reader (and even a non-reader) cannot escape. His books are widely distributed and he always seems to have a volume or two in the bestsellers list (no, not the Amazon one on a little-known genre, but the real thing). Despite all that (or perhaps because of it, as sometimes some names seem so familiar that I feel as if I had already read/watched or whatever it is they do, them before) I had never read any of his books. I saw that coinciding with a book launch, NetGalley was offering a copy of the first book in the John Puller series, and I decided perhaps it was time I read him. (I don’t have any specific opinions on best sellers as such and I don’t necessarily avoid them as a matter of principle but I do prefer to discover them early on, so I can make my own mind up).

The story, narrated in the third person, mostly follows John Puller, a military investigator that is all you probably would wish for in such a character. He has complex family relations (including a genius brother imprisoned for life for treason), he has seen his share of combat and has the medals and the scars to prove them, he is as skilled at fighting as he is at investigating, and although usually he works as part of a team, he can be a one-man-band when required (as is the case here).  There are some moments (like the first chapter) when we follow other characters, but this is for a very good reason, and we, by and far, experience the events from Puller’s perspective. Of course, that does not mean we know everything he knows, because the book hides information at times and that means there are some surprises (the number of surprises might depend on how close your attention and on how many books of the genre you have read).  The story is a combination of a spy story with highly skilled military investigator/hero in charge, and a more standard police procedural, with big secrets, conspiracies, and environmental issues thrown in for good measure. There are hints of a possible romance, but nobody is up to the task, and the time frame is very tight for such developments.

The investigation is very detailed, and we get to know quite a few of the characters in the small West Virginian town of Drake, a coal mining place that has become almost a ghost town due to the environmental and economic consequences of the exploitation and depletion of its resources by the sole industry in the area. Baldacci shares as much loving detail on the way the coal industry works (or at least some far-from-exemplary companies), as he does on everything else: the way the military works, the different roles of the investigating and security agencies and how they interact, the equipment used, the weaponry… This might be too much for some readers, but I am sure it will make others very happy. I did enjoy more the discussions of the environmental issues and the socio-economic effects of the coal-extracting industry than the details about the equipment, but there is plenty of action and intrigue to keep readers of mystery, and also spy novels, entertained.

My favourite character is Sam Cole, the female police officer in charge of the investigation. She has problems of her own and also a difficult relationship with her family, and seems the perfect match for Puller. I would probably have preferred the novel to be about her, but that is not the genre or the focus of it. In many ways, her character is the one that makes us see Puller as something more than a perfect fighting and investigating machine, all professional, and efficient. Yes, he has a cat, some sort of relationships with his father, and an interesting dynamic with his brother, but she is the only person who is not a relative he seems to relate to at a level beyond the casual, and it is not only because it is helpful to his mission.  

I agree with comments that the novel is formulaic in many ways (Puller survives several attempts on his life, has to subvert orders and get inventive to save the day and manages to pull an incredible feat at the end), although as I haven’t read other Baldacci’s books, I cannot comment on how much better or worse Puller is compared to some of his other heroes (Reacher is mentioned often in the reviews, sometimes agreeing he’s as good, others denying it). I imagine once you have such a following as an author, you know what your public wants and expects, so it is perhaps disingenuous to accuse him of writing to a formula. It is not a genre I read often, and I prefer something more distinctive, less heroic, and with a bit of humour.

The book is well paced, the writing supports the story rather than calling attention to itself (as I said, some readers might find there is too much detail, but I doubt his fans will, and after reading the acknowledgements, it is clear that he is well-informed and has had access to first-hand information not many would have), and if you like lone heroes with a conscience, John Puller makes a pretty decent one. Recommended to those who enjoy action novels, spy novels, thrillers, and definitely to Baldacci fans. I am not sure I’d say I’ve become one of them, but I might try another one of his stories at some point.

 

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-07-09 19:57
good story and characters
Hidden, The: A British police procedural set in the 1970s (Monika Panitowski Mystery) - Sally Spencer

Chief Constable Ronald Pickering was going to the Backend Woods area. He was only acting as the Chief Constable until George Baxter let go of the position. He was perpetually auditioning for the job he was already doing. So every new crisis was a test and it was more than possible losing one of his Senior Officers might be regarded as careless. A roadblock had been set up about a half a mile from the gate leading in. Beyond the roadblock there was evidence of a serious criminal investigation already underway. There were patrol cars, an ambulance, and a Land Rover which belonged to Dr. Shastri - the police surgeon already there. So it was probable that Monika Paniatowski was still there- Pickering’s Senior Officer. What had Monika been doing there and where were her kids? But the kids were accounted for. Monika was still breathing but was in a coma so she couldn’t say anything as she had brutally attacked. Pickering asked if all the people leaving had been questioned Beresford said they were taking names and addresses as they didn’t have the manpower to question everyone leaving. Pickering said when DCI Dixon got there Beresford and the other officers there were to leave and Beresford felt it would be better if he stayed  but he was told that that the decision had already been made but then Beresford said he and two others would resign and do their own investigation so Pickering decided to reassign three of the officers to DCI Dixon’s team.. Beresford and the other officers said Monika had been their boss. DCI Dixon was known for getting results. Monika could hear everything and knew who her attacker was and that her daughter was in the killer’s sights but being in a coma she couldn’t say a word or do anything about the knowledge she had. Beresford, Meadows, and Crane didn’t agree with Dixon and his team. There seems to be a sinister cult operating in Whitebridge but the police need to uncover this cult. Nearby where Monika had been found the body of a teenage female was also found. Monika wonders what her team and family would do as they always came to her for advice.

This was a well written story that definitely kept my my attention. I really liked this and it had a good plot and pace. This cult was definitely evil. I liked that the officers under Monika were willing to do whatever they had to do as long as they found the person/people who attacked their boss even resign and ruin their career if that’s what it took. It was frustrating that all the information Monika had and could not give. All and all a good read and I recommend.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-04-30 20:29
Against the Paw by Diane Kelly
Against the Paw - Diane Kelly

This was an impulse buy. I saw it at the grocery store and was immediately drawn in by the dog on the cover. Even though I knew it wasn’t the first book in the series, it sounded like something a newbie should be able to jump into fairly easily.

Against the Paw is set in Fort Worth, Texas and stars police officer Megan Luz. Megan used to be partnered with Derek Mackey until he made one crude and sexist comment too many and she tased him. Megan was assigned a K-9 partner named Brigit, and Derek’s job was saved by his friendship with the chief of police. In this entry in the series, Megan and Brigit are investigating reports of a peeping tom at Berkeley Place. There’s a possibility these incidents may be connected to Ralph Hurley, a parolee who recently cut off his ankle monitor.

My latest Booklikes-opoly game roll asked that I read something tagged as a “cozy mystery” on Goodreads or elsewhere. Soon after I started reading, I double-checked that this was indeed marketed as a cozy mystery (Amazon lists it as such), because it had a few features that made me skeptical.

The big one was that one of the book’s three POVs was the peeping tom. I couldn’t recall if I’d ever read a cozy mystery that included the villain’s POV, and I found it to be an unpleasant surprise here (there are things I’m okay with in other mysteries or thrillers that I don’t particularly expect or want in cozy mysteries). Thankfully, for the most part it wasn’t quite as bad as I feared. The peeping tom’s efforts often went awry in some way. Unfortunately, there were a few more distasteful scenes later in the book - for example, one in which the peeping tom spied on a hijabi and got off on seeing her brush her hair, and one in which the peeping tom spied on a woman having sex.

The book’s other two POVs were Megan (first person POV) and Brigit (third person POV). The Brigit POV parts tended to be on the cutesy side but were usually too brief to be annoying, only a page or two long. They were kind of pointless, though. There were only a couple times when Brigit’s POV contributed a little extra information, and it was never anything that wasn’t covered by another POV later in the book. I suppose Brigit’s POV added a bit of extra humor to the book, but I only really laughed at one part.

Megan’s POV wasn’t bad, but she had some blind spots that bugged me. Some examples:

“Anyone who’d served his or her country couldn’t be all bad, right?” (95)

“[Derek Mackey] and Garrett Hawke were cut from the same cloth. Arrogant. Unreasonable. Uncompromising. Still, they worked to protect others. I had to give them that, even if I thought their reasons were less about concern for others and more about basking in hero worship.” (136)

Megan seemed to be prone to the belief that cops and soldiers were unlikely (or less likely?) to be bad people, even if she had evidence to the contrary. Sure, Derek Mackey was a disgusting sexist pig who apparently couldn’t go more than a few minutes without saying something horrible, but hey, he was also a brave cop. Personally, I couldn’t help but shudder at the thought of how Derek probably handled rape victims (female or male) or, hell, female victims in general.

I did really like the partnership between Megan and Brigit, and the parts that dealt with Megan’s efforts to understand what Brigit was telling her were really interesting. There were a couple times when Brigit correctly identified the peeping tom and Megan misinterpreted her actions, but Megan did eventually catch on.

The characters were okay. In addition to Megan and Brigit, there was Seth, Megan’s boyfriend (still working through some personal issues involving his mother), and Frankie, Megan’s friend and roommate. I could tell I’d missed out on some relationship info by starting this series with the fifth book, but the author provided enough background that I didn’t feel lost.

I don’t feel particularly inclined to hunt down the rest of the series, but this was an okay read overall.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-04-17 21:08
Police-procedural with touches of domestic noir and many stories to keep the intrigue going.
Cleaved: Grafton County Series, book 2 - Sue Coletta

I’m writing this review as part of Rosie’s Book Review Team and I was provided with a copy of the book that I freely chose to review.

I have just finished reading Sue Coletta’s Marred and I wanted to see what happened next. Reading the two books back-to-back allowed me to think a bit more about the genre, the characters and the style.

Here we have again the married couple of Niko Quintano, now sheriff in Alexandria, Grafton County, New Hampshire, and his wife, crime novelist Sage. They moved trying to leave behind a tragedy but it seems it followed them, and in Marred there was more heartache and family loses for the Quintanos. Now, the couple has a child, their two kids (their beloved dogs, Rugger and Colt, which I didn’t mention in my last review although they play an important role), and they are enjoying life. The book doesn’t allow us to relax though, quite the opposite, as it opens with a terrifying scene, narrated in the first person from Sage’s perspective. She is locked up somewhere, small, dark and cold, floating in water, and can’t recall how she got there. And we, the readers, share in her anguish and fear and are thrown in at the deep end from the beginning. The book then goes back and we get to know how Sage ended up there. Her plight is linked to a new bizarre wave of murders that befall the county but there are several interrelated plots and all of them touch the different characters personally. What should have been a happy time for Sage and Niko turns into another nightmare and nobody is safe.

The story is told from several of the characters’ points of view, as was the case with Marred. Sage, the writer, narrates her story in the first person and is good at observing events, but especially at talking about feelings and analysing the impact their horrific experiences might have on all of them (including her 13 months’ old baby son, Noah, and their two dogs). Her husband Niko and Frankie, the deputy sheriff with attitude, wit and a fashionable sense of dress, also have their own stories, but these are told in the third-person.

I talked about genre in the previous review but I have to come back to it. Whilst the book works as police-procedural, due to the details about murder scenes and also to the lectures on the subject (the deputies in training come handy as a justification and a stand-in for the readers, and this time even Frankie gets to explain some aspects of forensic science), there is a lot of content that relates to family relationships and also to the effects of crime and trauma on the survivors, that put me in mind of what these days is called domestic-noir (although in standard cases, the guilty party tends to be part of the family. Not so here…). Although this aspect is more evident in the fragments narrated by Sage, Frankie also gets confronted with her own relationship and how it can be a source of conflict with one’s profession and moral stance (she’s still one of my favourite characters but she behaves in a more reckless manner that I had ever imagined she would and shows less concern for the law than I expected), and Niko also struggles to try to maintain his professional demeanour when faced with attacks on his beloved family.

There are several story strands and a variety of crimes, and readers will be kept on their toes trying to decide how they related to each other (if they do), how many criminals there are and what their motives are. Although the sheriff notes the difficulties and the limitations of law enforcement in the area as it is not a high-crime place, I couldn’t help but think of series like Murder, She Wrote or Midsomer Murders where a seemingly sleepy town is attacked by an epidemic of crime, courtesy of it being the setting of a series. Also, like in most stories where both members of a couple investigate crimes (professionally or not), at some point, one or both of them end up becoming victims, and this has been Sage’s lot from the beginning, perhaps more so in this book, as she has even more to lose now. This novel might cross over several genres but it does live up to the expectations of the readers and it will keep them turning pages.

The characters keep stumbling on the same stone over and over. If in the previous book they got into serious trouble for not completely trusting each other and lying (with the best of intentions at heart), they still do it here (perhaps not to the same extent) and there is a price to be paid for it. I felt like I do sometimes when watching a horror movie when you see the characters keep getting themselves into trouble, and you want to shout at them: ‘Don’t do that! Don’t be stupid!’ but they don’t listen. The murders are as gruesome as in the previous book and varied; we get a better glimpse at Frankie’s life and some of her connections, but there is more of the personal point of view and dramatic side of the story, at least in my opinion. The book has humorous scenes and the witty dialogue that’s one of the author’s trademarks, but it is also scary and tense, and even more terrifying if you’re an author yourself. (Beware of book signings is all I’ll say.)

Once again, the ending is satisfying (as a psychiatrist I’ll keep my peace rather than discuss the details) but has a hook and leaves readers with an eerie feeling. I wasn’t sure I was totally clear in my mind as to how the different strands fitted in, especially with so many things being hidden and not fully knowing who knew what.  I wouldn’t have minded one of those scenes à la Poirot or Sherlock Holmes, where the detective gives an explanation and everything is tied up with a nice ribbon. Although, perhaps it just shows that the rhythm of the novel is quite fast and if you blink, you’ve missed it.

Another novel by Sue Coletta with an irresistible story that requires a strong stomach but will be of interest to readers who like to dig into the character’s psyche and are after more than just a well-plotted book. Oh, and readers must like dogs too. Especially scary for writers.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-04-15 18:10
For police procedural lovers looking for characters they can relate to. And some great secondary players.
Marred - Sue Coletta

I’m reviewing this book as part of Rosie’s Book Review Team and was provided with a copy of the book that I freely chose to review.

I read and reviewed Sue Coletta’s Wings of Mayhem, book one in The Mayhem Series (check the review here), and was impressed and intrigued. Now, on the occasion of the launch of the second book in the Grafton County Series, Cleaved (yes, I’m reading and reviewing that too, try and stop me!) I managed to catch up with the author’s first book in that series, that chronicles the lives of Sage and Niko Quintano, a couple who now live in Grafton County, New Hampshire, where they took refuge after something horrific happened to Sage. Niko is the new sheriff and Sage is a successful author of crime novels, although, unfortunately, she ends up playing the part of the victim in real life more than once.

Sage and Niko are trying to recover from their personal tragedy, as Sage lost a baby she was carrying when she was assaulted but they are both keeping things from each other, in an attempt at protecting the other. During the book, they’ll realise they are stronger together and the best way to beat evil is to be honest with each other and to share the truth, however hard it might be to hear.

The novel has strong elements of the police procedural genre. Niko is an accomplished detective, although sometimes hindered by his personal feelings and his inability to see and accept the unacceptable, and as there are not as many crime fighting means in a small town, he gets to share his expertise (his training one of the deputies gives the reader the perfect opportunity to eavesdrop and learn, although it might be a bit too much detail for those with no appetite for the grosser things in the art of detecting) on issues such as blood spatter and how to process a crime scene. Frankie, his fiery and fashion conscious deputy, is a fabulous character who takes no prisoners and tolerates no fools. Sadly, that means she has little opportunity for career advancement, as tact is not her strong suit, but through the novel, we get to understand her better, see her softer side, and she’s great at one-liners and gritty and witty repartees. Although Niko might complain about Frankie’s evident disdain for authority, he enjoys the banter and their relationship is one of the fun and lighter elements in the novel. The crimes are gruesome, bizarre and puzzling, as it appears the killer is trying to send a message but nobody knows what it is or who the intended recipient might be. There are red herrings and confusion, as it becomes clear that these crimes relate to what happened to Sage years back, in Boston, but we don’t know how or why. Lies and withholding of information don’t help and Sage does a fair deal of amateur investigating too.

Apart from the police procedural aspect, there are also other elements that give the novel a distinct flavour. The strong relationship between the couple and their shared (at least in part) trauma plays a big part in the action and also in the reactions and behaviours of the characters, that at times might stretch reader’s suspension of disbelief but would fit in with somebody trying to survive to a horrible ordeal. This is not the typical novel about the lone detective, who lives only for his work and solving cases but is totally unable to have a meaningful relationship. Thanks to Sage’s memories we share some of the couple’s high and low points. Pet names, real pets and home life (including thoughts about the laundry) ground the characters and their relationship making them more relatable and real, rather than just case-solving automatons. Sage’s otherworldly encounters (she consults a spiritual guide and has a very special experience during the investigation, but I won’t spoil the story) are also outside the norm for a book otherwise very realistic and detailed.

The story is told from the points of view of several characters. Sage’s point of view is narrated in the first person and that makes the reader identify with her more closely. She is also a writer through and through and observes everybody around her, everything that happens and analyses her own thoughts and feelings in detail. Niko and Frankie are also given a narrative, although theirs is in the third person but still manages to make us see their different perspectives, helps us understand their behaviours and thought processes, and provides more information the readers can try and use to put together the jigsaw puzzle.

The book has a great sense of rhythm, and alternates very tense and dark scenes with moments of light relief (Frankie and the other deputies are always at hand with some strenuous comment or mishap, Sage and Niko also have their humorous moments and the novel is tongue-in-cheek about possible comparisons, including comments about Castle) and is particularly effective at dropping the readers right into the action and making them share the experiences and emotions of the characters.  The ending manages to be satisfyingly upbeat while also introducing a final disquieting note.

A recommended reading for those who love detailed police procedural novels (and TV series like CSI, Criminal Minds and yes, Castle), with characters who carry a heavy baggage, in a backwoods/small-town setting and with less down-to-earth elements thrown in too. A strong stomach is a necessary requirement. I’d also recommend it to writers keen on the genre as there’s much to be learned from the author.

More posts
Your Dashboard view:
Need help?