Category suspense

2011: #20 – Merciless (Mary Burton)

merciless Book #20 was Merciless by Mary Burton, the follow-up to her previous book, Senseless. The back of the book reads:

Each skeleton is flawless – gleaming white and perfectly preserved, a testament to his skill. Every scrap of flesh has been removed to reveal the glistening bone beneath. And the collection is growing. When bleached human bones are identified as belonging to a former patient of Dr. Dillon Dixon, Detective Malcolm Kier suspects the worst. Dixon was recently acquitted of attempted murder, thanks to defense attorney Angie Carlson. But as the body count rises, Kier is convinced that Angie is now the target of a brutal, brilliant psychopath. Angie is no stranger to the dark side of human nature. But nothing has prepared her for the decades-long legacy of madness and murder about to be revealed – or a killer ready to claim her as his ultimate trophy.

Everything I said about Senseless I could repeat about Merciless. The romance happens very late in the book, though in this one there is much more of a cat and mouse game between Malcolm and Angie. There’s very much a "boy likes girl so he dips her pigtails in the ink" vibe about it. I haven’t read enough of Burton’s work to know if this late-in-the-game romance is a signature of hers or if it has just worked that way in these books. The crime in this one is a little less personal than the previous book, or at least it starts out that way. And again, the book is missing that sense of place I was looking for — I didn’t even remember that it was supposed to be taking place in Alexandria, Virginia. But overall, it’s still an entertaining story.  Burton is capable of dreaming up some pretty sadistic killers.

This book was a review copy.

Other reviews:

Book Review: Merciless by Mary Burton « Rundpinne
Minding Spot: Merciless by Mary Burton
Merciless — Mary Burton | Writings of a Wicked Book Addict

Page count: 416 (’11 total: 5,364) | Approximate word count: 104,000 (’11 total: 1,882,552)

2010: Gossip of the Starlings (Nina de Gramont)
2009: The Prey (Allison Brennan)
2008: Sad Cypress (Agatha Christie)
2007: The Brotherhood of the Holy Shroud (Julia Navarro)
2006: Kill the Messenger (Tami Hoag)
2005: G is for Gumshoe (Sue Grafton)

Used in these Challenges: Countdown Challenge 2011; ARC Reading Challenge 2011; Outdo Yourself Reading Challenge 2011;

2011: #10 – Deeper Than The Dead (Tami Hoag)

tamihoag Book #10 was Deeper Than The Dead, the first book in Tami Hoag’s Deeper Than The Dead series.  The back of the book reads:

California, 1985-Four children and young teacher Anne Navarre make a gruesome discovery: a partially buried female body, her eyes and mouth glued shut. A serial killer is at large, and the very bonds that hold their idyllic town together are about to be tested. Tasked with finding the killer, FBI investigator Vince Leone employs a new and controversial FBI technique called "profiling", which plunges him into the lives of the four children-and the young teacher whose need to uncover the truth is as intense as his own. But as new victims are found, Vince and Anne find themselves circling the same small group of local suspects, blissfully unaware that someone very near to them is a murderous psychopath…

Tami Hoag and I go way back.  In the early/mid-90s, she was one of the first authors I poached from my parents’ bookshelf. She introduced me to romantic suspense long before I even knew what romantic suspense was. And then I read Kill the Messenger, which didn’t connect with me at all, and she fell further down my list of go-to authors. Thankfully, with Deeper Than The Dead, she is back.

First of all, I think the title and the meaning behind it is genius.  It refers to the location of the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit in its early days;  the office is in the bowels of the building, and therefore its inhabitants are deeper than the dead. But really, the book has very little to do with the BSU as a unit. The focus is Vince Leone, a profiler who takes it upon himself to go help a promising young detective who thinks he’s found a serial killer.

Also involved in the case is 5th grade teacher Anne Navarre, who is sucked in when her students find the latest body. One of the things I think worked really well in this book was the way Hoag used the children to show us some of what was happening behind the scenes.  I think she captured each one of them perfectly, especially the troubled bully, Dennis.  It helps us remember that even the most disturbed child was probably a victim.

Vince and Anne make an unexpected and unusual team, but I liked them together. I actually wild-guessed who the bad guy was quite early in the story, but I think it comes from the sheer amount of these sorts of books I read — you eventually learn how things work. Hoag does a good job of making me doubt my guess on more than one occasion.

Beneath all this effusive praise, I do have a few nits to pick. 1) I didn’t see the point of Anne’s despicable father, except to serve as yet another example of bad parenting in a story in which crappy parents abound. 2) Anne’s best friend Franny was a little too flaming, especially for a kindergarten teacher in 1985. And 3) Hoag uses the term "person of interest" on several occasions, and this was a term that wasn’t widely used, even amongst law enforcement, until at least the mid-90s. But none of this was enough to pull me away from the story, and I look forward to not only reading the sequel, but to bumping Tami Hoag back up a few spots on my "must-read" list.

This book was a review copy.

Other reviews:

Lesa’s Book Critiques: Deeper Than the Dead by Tami Hoag
From the TBR Pile: Deeper Than the Dead
Musings of a Bookish Kitty: Reviews: Deeper Than the Dead
Book Review: Deeper Than The Dead by Tami Hoag « Rundpinne

Page count: 560 (’11 total: 2,630) | Approximate word count: 140,000 (’11 total: 974,873)

2010: What to Expect Before You’re Expecting (Heidi Murkoff)
2009: Claus: A Christmas Incarnation: Vol I (C. John Coombes)
2008: Dead Aim (Iris Johansen)
2007: Maisie Dobbs (Jacqueline Winspear)
2006: K is for Killer (Sue Grafton)
2005: Immortal in Death (J.D. Robb)

Used in these Challenges: ARC Reading Challenge 2011; Outdo Yourself Reading Challenge 2011; What’s in a Name 4 Challenge;

2011: #8 – Crazy Hot (Tara Janzen)

crazyhot Book #8 was Crazy Hot, the first book in Tara Janzen’s Steele Street series.  The back of the book reads:

Tara Janzen makes a dazzling debut with this roller-coaster ride of romantic suspense. Crazy Hot is the first in a four-book series of romantic thrillers that feature some of the hottest men in contemporary fiction: bad-boys-turned-American-heroes from a highly irregular, highly secretive "Special Forces" team. Their adventures – romantic and otherwise – turbocharge Janzen’s new series with unstoppable action and breathtaking romance. Meet Crazy Hot’s sexy, smoldering hero: ex-fighter pilot Quinn Younger, who crashes onto the scene just in time to save the day for heroine Regan McKinney, a paleontologist mixed up in a deadly plot. The action is relentless. The romance sizzles. And Tara Janzen keeps it coming with three more books in quick succession: Crazy Cool, Crazy Wild, and Crazy Kisses.

This is billed as romantic suspense, but it’s pretty light on the suspense part.  I would view it more as a romantic adventure. We have a nice mix of handsome, bad-boy, secret agent military men; beautiful, quirky, damsels-in-distress; and lovely, powerful cars. As expected, sparks will fly. Having some dinosaur fossils thrown into the mix was an unusual twist that I appreciated. All of the characters are essentially one-note, and sometimes contradictory. For instance, buttoned-up and proper Regan has no problem with several exhibitionist trysts, and doesn’t even have any regrets about it. But, when the rubber hits the road, the reason we pick up these books isn’t plot or character depth.  We read books like this for the fantasy, and in this, the book succeeds.  It’s a nice quick read, and I’ll surely read more in the series.

Other reviews:

Passion for the Page: Review: Crazy Hot by Tara Janzen

Page count: 432 (’11 total: 2,070) | Approximate word count: 108,000 (’11 total: 754,873)

2010: Tongue in Chic (Christina Dodd)
2009: The Stupidest Angel (Christopher Moore)
2008: Loyalty in Death (J.D. Robb)
2007: Tokyo Woes (Bruce Jay Friedman)
2006: The Surgeon (Tess Gerritsen)
2005: One for the Money (Janet Evanovich)

Used in these Challenges: Countdown Challenge 2011; 2011 E-book Reading Challenge; New Author Challenge 2011; Outdo Yourself Reading Challenge 2011;

2011: #1 – Senseless (Mary Burton)

senselessBook #1 of 2011 is Senseless by Mary Burton.  The back of the book reads:

The vicious burns scarring the victims’ flesh reveal the agony of their last moments. Each woman was branded with a star, then stabbed through the heart. With every death, a vengeful killer finds a brief, blissful moment of calm. But soon it’s time for the bloodshed to start again. Ten years ago, Eva Rayburn and her sorority sisters were celebrating the end of the school year. That party turned into a nightmare Eva can’t forget. Now she’s trying to start over in her Virginia hometown, but a new nightmare has begun. Every victim is linked to her. And Detective Deacon Garrison isn’t sure whether this mysterious woman needs investigating – or protecting. Only Eva’s death will bring peace. Only her tortured screams will silence the rage that has been building for ten long years. Because what started that night at the sorority can never be stopped – not until the last victim has been marked for death.

I was pleased with this.  It’s labeled as a romantic suspense, but the romance happens fairly late in the book. That being said, I think it made it more believable, because we get the time to know Eva and Garrison and root for them to get together. Burton gives us a plot that’s thorough without being overly complicated. She’s also able to make us wonder about the true motives of almost every character, even those that should be solidly on the good side of things. I actually was unable to guess the true culprit, and that’s a rarity for me. The only thing missing is a good sense of the setting.  We know it’s in Alexandria, since a great deal is made of it, but I can’t say that I learned anything about Alexandria.  It really could have happened anywhere.  But overall, if you enjoy suspense this is a great read.

This was a review copy.

Page count: 416 (’11 total: 416) | Approx. word count: 104,000 (’11 total: 104,000)

2010: The First Rule (Robert Crais)
2009: Eclipse (Richard North Patterson)
2008: Innocent in Death (J.D. Robb)
2007: Acceptable Risk (Robin Cook)
2006: Conspiracy in Death (J.D. Robb)
2005: The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)

Used in these Challenges: Countdown Challenge 2011; ARC Reading Challenge 2011; Outdo Yourself Reading Challenge 2011;

2010: #103 – Charley's Web (Joy Fielding)

charley Book #103 was Charley’s Web by Joy Fielding.  The back of the book reads:

Charley Webb is a beautiful single mother who writes a successful and controversial column for the Palm Beach Post. She’s spent years building an emotional wall against scathing critics, snooty neighbors, and her disapproving family. But when she receives a letter from Jill Rohmer, a young woman serving time on death row for the murders of three small children, her boundaries slowly begin to fade. Jill wants Charley to write her biography so that she can share the many hidden truths about the case that failed to surface during her trial. Seeing this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, Charley begins her journey into the mind of this deeply troubled woman.

Her path takes a twisted turn, however, when the anonymous letters she’s recently received from an angry reader evolve into threats, targeting her son and daughter. As Charley races against time to save her family, she begins to understand the value of her seemingly intrusive neighbors, friends, and relatives. As she discovers, this network of flawed but loving people might just be her only hope of getting out alive.

Filled with complex characters and a plot rich with intrigue, Charley’s Web is Joy Fielding at her heart-skipping, mesmerizing best.

I thought this was a good read. Charley is very independent, and uses her independence to build up a wall that protects her from getting emotionally involved with other people, whether they be her neighbors, the mother who was gone for most of her life, her sisters, or even the fathers of her children. When she begins to dig into Jill Rohmer’s damaged world, cracks appear in her own wall. Despite the tweeness of the title of her newspaper column ("Webb Site", which the author tries painfully hard to make us believe is clever), I also enjoyed that side of Charley.  Actually, I kinda wish she had spent more time in the office and less time driving around.

The plot builds well, and there are enough possible outcomes that when the twist occurs, you are surprised but find it believable. And then the second twist hits you and blows all of that out of the water.  It’s hard to surprise me, but Fielding did it well.  Charley’s Web is a little bit mystery, a little bit suspense, and a little bit family drama, and it all works quite well.

Other reviews:

Charley’s Web by Joy Fielding – book review » Curious Book Fans
A Bookworm’s World: Charly’s Web – Joy Fielding

Page count: 608 | Approximate word count: 152,000

2009: Silence of the Grave (Arnaldur Indridason)
2008: The Quickie (James Patterson)
2007: Callander Square (Anne Perry)
2006: Velocity (Dean Koontz)

Used in these Challenges: 2010 100+ Reading Challenge; Pages Read Challenge Season 2; Countdown Challenge 2011;

2010: #95 – Abandon (Carla Neggers)

abandonBook #95 was Abandon by Carla Neggers.  The back of the book reads:

A missing federal judge. A fugitive on the loose. And a deputy marshal who’s already broken her own rules.

On what is supposed to be a quiet long weekend in New Hampshire, Deputy U.S. Marshal Mackenzie Stewart is viciously attacked at the lakefront cottage of her friend, federal judge Bernadette Peacham. Mac fends off her attacker, but he manages to escape. Everything suggests he’s a deranged drifter — until FBI special agent Andrew Rook arrives.

With Rook, Mac broke her own rule not to get involved with anyone in law enforcement, but she knows he isn’t up from Washington, D.C., to set things straight between them. He’s on a case.

As the hunt for the mysterious attacker continues, the case takes an unexpected turn when Mac and Rook return to Washington and find Bernadette’s ex-husband, a powerful attorney, shot to death. Then Bernadette disappears, and Mac and Rook realize the stakes are higher than either had imagined, and a master criminal with nothing left to lose is prepared to gamble everything.

Something about this just didn’t work for me.  It started out with some promise, and I thought we were heading into some big conspiracy story.  Instead, we get a mostly crazy guy who conveniently has past ties to our main character.  A master criminal, he definitely was not. Also, since Mac and Rook already know each other when the story opens, we miss out on the chase that is often the best part of a romantic suspense. It’s only a matter of time before they fall together again, especially since the reason why they were apart isn’t particularly harsh. And to add insult to injury, their reunion happens way too soon.  Took all the fun out of the suspense.  I’m starting to think that maybe Neggers isn’t my cup of tea.

Page count: 336 | Approximate word count: 84,000

2009: Rising Tides (Nora Roberts)
2008: Sweetheart (Chelsea Cain)
2007: The Spellman Files (Lisa Lutz)
2006: The Lost Boy (Dave Pelzer)

Used in these Challenges: 2010 100+ Reading Challenge; 2010 Reading From My Shelves Project; 2nd Reading Challenge; Pages Read Challenge Season 2; Four Month Challenge – Part 5; Countdown Challenge 2011;

2010: #91 – Without Mercy (Lisa Jackson)

withoutmercyBook #91 was Without Mercy by Lisa Jackson. The back of the book reads:

Ever since her father was stabbed to death in a home invasion, Julia “Jules” Farentino has been plagued by nightmares. Her half-sister, Shaylee, now seventeen, has had her own difficulties since the tragedy, earning a rap sheet for drug use, theft, and vandalism. Still, when Jules learns of her mother’s decision to send Shay to an elite boarding school in Oregon, she’s skeptical. Blue Rock Academy has a reputation for turning wayward kids around — but one of its students went missing a few months earlier and her body has never been found.

On impulse, Jules applies for a teaching job at the Academy. Shortly before Jules arrives, a student is found hanged, another near death, and a hysterical Shay believes it’s murder. Then another girl is found dead. There’s no doubt something sinister is at hand. And Jules has become the next target of a bloodthirsty killer without limits, without remorse, without mercy…

I thought this was just okay.  It’s hard to like Shaylee, who is really a little brat at the beginning, and therefore it’s a little difficult to understand why Jules would go to the lengths she does, and why she’s so quick to suspect the school of wrongdoing.  One missing student doesn’t really seem to be enough. Not to mention how quickly she gets hired as a teacher at such a specialty school, with a seemingly minimal background check and no experience with troubled kids. Not to mention the cowboy cop/P.I. who is suddenly qualified as well.  There’s a little bit of heat between Jules and Cooper, but nothing special.  And you’re just supposed to take for granted that they’ve never gotten over each other.

I’ve seen other reviews that refer to the story as a "mish mash", and they’re pretty spot on.  The problems at the school end up being so out there that they’re unbelievable. And frankly, the surprise ending wasn’t much of a surprise.

This book was a review copy.

Page count: 432 | Approximate word count: 108,000

2009: Engleby (Sebastian Faulks)
2008: Dark of the Moon (P.J. Parrish)
2007: Black Creek Crossing (John Saul)
2006: Year Zero (Jeff Long)

Used in these Challenges: ARC Reading Challenge 2010; 2010 100+ Reading Challenge; Pages Read Challenge Season 2;

2010: #89 – Black Hills (Nora Roberts)

blackhillsBook #89 was Black Hills by Nora Roberts.  The back of the book reads:

Lil Chance fell in love with Cooper Sullivan pretty much the first time she saw him, an awkward teenager staying with his grandparents on their cattle ranch in Montana while his parents went through a messy divorce. They spent every summer together, trekking in the Black Hills, tracking cougar and falling in love. Then Cooper broke her heart and moved back to New York City. Ten years later and Cooper has given up his job in the police force to run the ranch after his grandfather is injured in a fall. Lil has stayed true to her love of cougars and of the Black Hills and opened an animal sanctuary. She has been targeted by animal rights campaigners in the past but this time someone seems intent on murder. As hikers are killed, animals mutilated and a family member goes missing, Lil knows that she has no choice but to turn to Cooper for help in her fight for survival …

This was alright, but not the best Nora Roberts I’ve read.  Lil holds on to her broken heart a little too long to be truly likable.  I wanted to tell her to just suck it up and get on with things, either forgive Coop or get off the pot.  So to speak. The setting is good, and as always, Roberts does a great job of making a place come alive.  I also liked the concept of the animal sanctuary.  It’s nice to have a character with a job that’s a little out of the norm.  We read about so many cops, investigators, lawyers, journalists, and ranchers.  The formula here is a little different — we find out "whodunit" quite early on in the story — and I’m not sure how I feel about that.  The bad guy’s reasons for doing what he’s doing seem a little forced, and I’m not sure it all holds together in the end.  Still, Roberts manages to give us at least a few characters we care about, and an interesting climax.

Other reviews:

REVIEW: Black Hills by Nora Roberts | Dear Author

Audiobook length: 16hrs 51min | Approximate word count: 116,000

2009: The Memory Collector (Meg Gardiner)
2008: Nefertiti (Michelle Moran)
2007: The Road (Cormac McCarthy)
2006: Dangerous Tides (Christine Feehan)

Used in these Challenges: 2010 100+ Reading Challenge; Audiobook Challenge;

2010: #88 – The Eye of the Needle (Ken Follett)

eyeofneedle Book #88 was The Eye of the Needle by Ken Follett.  The back of the book reads:

One enemy spy knows the secret of the Allies’ greatest deception, a brilliant aristocrat and ruthless assassin—code name: "The Needle"—who holds the key to the ultimate Nazi victory. Only one person stands in his way: a lonely Englishwoman on an isolated island, who is coming to love the killer who has mysteriously entered her life.

Ken Follett’s unsurpassed and unforgettable masterwork of suspense, intrigue, and the dangerous machinations of the human heart—Eye of the Needle

Eye of the Needle was Follet’s first book published in the U.S., and it’s no surprise that it’s sold somewhere around 10 million copies worldwide. I consider Follett’s WWII books to be his best. He is able to put us smack dab in the middle of the war, usually in a situation we wouldn’t expect. Here, he takes a single question — What if the Germans knew the Allies were attacking Normandy? — and turns it into a thrilling cross-country chase that culminates in an unexpected showdown on a tiny island. He gives us characters that are three-dimensional and complex, even if they aren’t major characters in the story.  Perhaps most interesting was Follett’s fictional Third Reich.

I was fortunate enough to see Ken Follett speak at the National Book Festival this year, and now I’m a bigger fan than ever.  How can you not like a man who tops off every writing day with a glass of champagne?

Other reviews:

The Eye of the Needle – Ken Follett « A Book Sanctuary

Page count: 464 | Approximate word count: 116,000

2009: Unnatural Exposure (Patricia Cornwell)
2008: I’m Watching You (Mary Burton)
2007: The Ritual Bath (Faye Kellerman)
2006: You Belong To Me (Mary Higgins Clark)

Used in these Challenges: 2010 100+ Reading Challenge; 2010 Reading From My Shelves Project; Historical Fiction Reading Challenge; Pages Read Challenge Season 2;

2010: #86 – The Sands of Time (Sidney Sheldon)

sandsoftime Book #86 was The Sands of Time by Sidney Sheldon.  The back of the book reads:

Spain. A land of eternal passion and unceasing bloodshed. From the vengeance of a pitiless tyrant, four women flee the sacred, once-safe walls of a convent: LUCIA, the proud survivor harboring a murderous secret from the savage clan wars of Sicily…GRACIELLA, the beauty still unpurged of guilt from one reckless, youthful sin…MEGAN, the orphan seeking perilous refuge in the arms of a defiant Basque rebel…and TERESA, the believer haunted by a faith that mocks her with silence. Leaving innocence but not hope behind, they venture into an alien, dazzling world, where each will encounter an unexpected destiny — and the truth about herself.

I enjoyed this, despite the ease with which a few of the nuns gave up their cause for more earthly desires. You get a little taste of the Basque guerilla movement, a little taste of romance, and a big taste of adventure.  A fun read.

Page count: 427 | Approximate word count: 106,750

2009: A Secret Rage (Charlaine Harris)
2008: Before I Wake (Dee Henderson)
2007: Angels Fall (Nora Roberts)
2006: Polar Shift (Clive Cussler)

Used in these Challenges: 2010 100+ Reading Challenge; 2010 Reading From My Shelves Project; Pages Read Challenge Season 2;

2010: #85 – Saving Max (Antoinette van Heugten)

max Book #85 was Saving Max by Antoinette van Heugten.  The back of the book reads:

Max Parkman—autistic and whip-smart, emotionally fragile and aggressive—is perfect in his mother’s eyes. Until he’s accused of murder.

Attorney Danielle Parkman knows her teenage son Max’s behavior has been getting worse—using drugs and lashing out. But she can’t accept the diagnosis she receives at a top-notch adolescent psychiatric facility that her son is deeply disturbed. Dangerous.

Until she finds Max, unconscious and bloodied, beside a patient who has been brutally stabbed to death.

Trapped in a world of doubt and fear, barred from contacting Max, Danielle clings to the belief that her son is innocent. But has she, too, lost touch with reality? Is her son really a killer?

With the justice system bearing down on them, Danielle steels herself to discover the truth, no matter what it is. She’ll do whatever it takes to find the killer and to save her son from being destroyed by a system that’s all too eager to convict him.

I had mixed feelings about this book.  It did have its good points: the concept is interesting, and the writing wasn’t bad.  I did read to the end, after all, and my patience with books this year is very short. But it definitely had its weak points.  We don’t really get to know Max, despite him being at the center of the book. And for being a lawyer, Danielle is awful flippant about jumping bail and breaking the law.  I just didn’t find that part of her character believable.  Yes, a mother will do whatever she can to help her son, but you can argue that if she was unsuccessful, she would be in a position worse than before. Should a mother take that risk? And because we are never able to connect to Max, her arguments about his mental state sound more like blind denial than an informed opinion. All in all, she just goes about things the wrong way, coming off as hysterical and rigid even to the reader who is supposed to be on her side.

This book was a review copy.

Other reviews:

Guest Review: Saving Max, by Antoinette van Heugten | Only The Best Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Socrates’ Book Reviews: Saving Max by Antoinette van Heugten
A Garden Carried in the Pocket: Saving Max
Saving Max by Antoinette Van Heugten « One Persons Journey through Books

Page count: 375 | Approximate word count: 93,750

2009: Megan’s Mate (Nora Roberts)
2008: Every Which Way But Dead (Kim Harrison)
2007: Raise the Titanic! (Clive Cussler)
2006: Glory in Death (J.D. Robb)

Used in these Challenges: ARC Reading Challenge 2010; 2010 100+ Reading Challenge; Pages Read Challenge Season 2; Thriller & Suspense Reading Challenge 2010;

2010: #84 – The Clinic (Jonathan Kellerman)

clinicBook #84 was The Clinic, the 11th book in Jonathan Kellerman’s Alex Delaware series.  The back of the book reads:

Upon his return to Los Angeles from a harrowing adventure in the South Pacific, Alex is called upon by his friend Milo Sturgis to help solve the murder of a celebrity author.

For three months the police found no clues to the murder of Hope Devane, psychology professor and controversial author of a pop-psych bestseller about men. She was found stabbed to death on a quiet, shaded street in one of L.A.’s best neighborhoods. The evidence suggested not random slaughter, but cold, calculated stalking. And the list of potential suspects was as extensive as the audience for her book and her talk show appearances.

Newly assigned to the cold case, homicide detective Milo Sturgis calls on his friend, Dr. Alex Delaware to seek out insights into the victim’s high-profile life. What Alex uncovers is a series of troubling inconsistencies about Hope, including her contradictory personas: the sensational, anti-male bestselling author versus the low-key scholarly university professor.

But it is when Alex delves into Hope’s childhood that he begins to understand the forces that made her the formidable woman she was–and the ties that entangled her life until the horrifying act of betrayal that ended it.

I have a real soft spot for this series; it was one of the first suspense series I ever started.  I’ve been reading books in this series for almost 20 years, and in nowhere near the intended order.  And that’s the nice thing about it — I may not know what house Delaware is living in or what the status of his relationship with Robin is when I start the book, but each stands alone so well that it doesn’t matter. In The Clinic, Kellerman gives us yet another solid mystery, with a touch of questionable moralities and more than a little psychology. When you start an Alex Delaware novel, rarely do you know where it’s going to end up. If you’re a suspense fan and you haven’t started this series, what are you waiting for?

Page count: 496 | Approximate word count: 124,000

2009: The Girl With the White Flag (Tomiko Higa)
2008: From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (E.L. Konigsburg)
2007: In This Mountain (Jan Karon)
2006: N is for Noose (Sue Grafton)

Used in these Challenges: 2010 100+ Reading Challenge; 2010 Reading From My Shelves Project; Pages Read Challenge Season 2; Thriller & Suspense Reading Challenge 2010;

2010: #83 – Baltimore Blues (Laura Lippman)

baltimoreblues Book #83 was Baltimore Blues, the first book in Laura Lippman’s Tess Monaghan series.  The back of the book reads:

Until her paper, the BALTIMORE STAR, crashed and burned, Tess Monaghan was a damn good reporter who knew her hometown intimately–from historic Fort McHenry to the crumbling projects of Cherry Hill. Now gainfully unemployed at twenty-nine, she’s willing to take any freelance job to pay the rent–including a bit of unorthodox snooping for her rowing buddy, Darryl "Rock" Paxton.

In a city where someone is murdered almost everyday, attorney Michael Abramowitz’s death should be just another statistic. But the slain lawyer’s notoriety–and his noontime trysts with Rock’s fiancée–make the case front page news…and points to Rock as the likely murderer. But trying to prove her friend’s innocence could prove costly to Tess–and add her name to that infamous ever-growing list.

This is a series I’m glad I started.  Tess is a little bit lost in her life, seemingly content to get by working here and there and rowing every morning. She finally finds her purpose again when her rowing friend, Rock, asks her to follow his fiancée. This is one of those mysteries that starts out looking like it will go in one direction, but ends up somewhere completely different.  We also find out that Lippman isn’t an author who’s afraid to make some hard decisions. The setting adds a little bit of extra charm for me personally, because my husband is from the Baltimore area and we go there often. I listened to it on audio, and narrator Deborah Hazlett did a great job of illustrating the native Baltimore accent without being cartoonish about it. I can’t believe this is my first Laura Lippman book! She writes right up my alley.

Other reviews:

S. Krishna’s Books: Book Review: Baltimore Blues – Laura Lippman
Beth Fish Reads: Review: Baltimore Blues by Laura Lippman

Audiobook length: 9 hrs 55 min | Word count: 91,483

2009: Suzanna’s Surrender (Nora Roberts)
2008: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (Mark Haddon)
2007: The Legacy (Steven Frey)
2006: The Eighth Commandment (Lawrence Sanders)

Used in these Challenges: 2010 100+ Reading Challenge; 2010 Reading From My Shelves Project; 1st in a Series Challenge; Audiobook Challenge;

2010: #79 – Banker (Dick Francis)

bankerBook #79 was Banker by Dick Francis.  The back of the book reads:

When young investment banker Tim Ekaterin becomes involved in the cutthroat world of thoroughbred racing, he finds his life in business blown to smithereens. For suddenly the multimillion-dollar loan he arranges to finance the purchase of a champion racehorse is threatened by an apparent defect in the animal. Then, as Tim desperately searches for answers, he falls headlong into a deadly deal of violence and murder.

In Banker, Dick Francis is able to take two things I know very little about — merchant banking and thoroughbred breeding — and twist them together in such a way that I can’t put the book down.  I always find reading Francis to be effortless.  He pulls me in from the start with an unusual situation. Young banker Tim Ekaterin finds his boss standing in the fountain in front of the bank with his clothes on. This situation is what leads to Tim being responsible for deciding whether or not the finance the purchase of Sandcastle, a star racehorse.  He becomes quite close to Sandcastle’s owner and his young daughter after birth defects begin to appear in the horse’s progeny — they all have too much to lose. Francis tends to set his main characters up in almost-but-not-quite inappropriate relationships with young (17, in this case) girls, which is a little weird, but things never cross the line. Regardless, I know when I pick up a Dick Francis book that I’m going to be sucked in until the last page.

Page count: 352 | Approximate word count: 105,600

2009: Ms. Taken Identity (Dan Begley)
2008: Dance with the Devil (Sherrilyn Kenyon)
2007: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (J.K. Rowling)
2006: The Mermaid Chair (Sue Monk Kidd)

Used in these Challenges: 2010 100+ Reading Challenge; 2010 Reading From My Shelves Project; Pages Read Challenge Season 2;

2010: #75 – Heat Lightning (John Sandford)

heatlightningBook #75 was Heat Lightning, the 2nd book in John Sandford’s Virgil Flowers series.  The back of the book reads:

John Sandford’s introduction of Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigator Virgil Flowers was an immediate critical and popular success: “laser-sharp characters and a plot that’s fast and surprising” (Cleveland Plain Dealer); “an idiosyncratic, thoroughly ingratiating hero” (Booklist). Flowers is only in his late thirties, but he’s been around the block a few times, and he doesn’t think much can surprise him anymore. He’s wrong.

It’s a hot, humid summer night in Minnesota, and Flowers is in bed with one of his ex-wives (the second one, if you’re keeping count), when the phone rings. It’s Lucas Davenport. There’s a body in Stillwater—two shots to the head, found near a veteran’s memorial. And the victim has a lemon in his mouth.

Exactly like the body they found last week.

The more Flowers works the murders, the more convinced he is that someone’s keeping a list, and that the list could have a lot more names on it. If he could only find out what connects them all . . . and then he does, and he’s almost sorry he did.

Because if it’s true, then this whole thing leads down a lot more trails than he thought—and every one of them is booby-trapped.

Filled with the audacious plotting, rich characters, and brilliant suspense that have always made his books “compulsively readable” (Los Angeles Times), this is vintage Sandford.

I am a fan of Virgil Flowers, maybe even more than I am a fan of Lucas Davenport.  Davenport can come off as a bit uptight and serious, while Flowers has more of a laissez-faire style, and a good deal of recklessness. When we join him in this story, he is investigating a series of murders where the victims are left at Veterans’ memorials with lemons in their mouths. Soon, a connection to the Vietnam War emerges, and Flowers travels the state of Minnesota chasing down leads.  Along the way, we see his trademark affinity for troubled women, and he finds himself fooled on more than one occasion.  And that’s why we love Virgil… He’s not perfect. The state of Minnesota is also the perfect backdrop for this outdoorsman, and I feel like I know the state after seeing it through his eyes.

Other reviews:

Heat Lightning – A Book Review « Nishita’s Rants and Raves

Page count: 400 | Approximate word count: 120,000

2009: Courting Catherine (Nora Roberts)
2008: A Paragon of Virtue (Christian von Ditfurth)
2007: The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid (Bill Bryson)
2006: Cruel and Unusual (Patricia Cornwell)
2005: Under the Banner of Heaven (Jon Krakauer)

Used in these Challenges: Countdown Challenge 2010; 2010 100+ Reading Challenge; Second Reading Challenge; E-book Reading Challenge; Pages Read Challenge Season 2; Thriller & Suspense Reading Challenge 2010;

2010: #74 – Smoke Screen (Sandra Brown)

smokescreen Book #74 was Smoke Screen by Sandra Brown. The back of the book reads:

When newswoman Britt Shelley wakes up to find herself in bed with Jay Burgess, a rising star detective in the Charleston PD, she remembers nothing of how she got there…or of how Jay wound up dead.

Handsome and hard-partying, Jay was a hero of the disastrous fire that five years earlier had destroyed Charleston’s police headquarters. The blaze left seven people dead, but the death toll would have been much higher if not for the bravery of Jay and three other city officials who risked their lives to lead others to safety.

Firefighter Raley Gannon, Jay’s lifelong friend, was off-duty that day. Though he might not have been a front-line hero, he was assigned to lead the investigation into the cause of the fire. It was an investigation he never got to complete. Because on one calamitous night, Raley’s world was shattered.

Scandalized, wronged by the people he trusted most, Raley was forced to surrender the woman he loved and the work to which he’d dedicated his life. For five years his resentment against the men who exploited their hero status to further their careers — and ruin his — had festered, but he was helpless to set things right.

That changes when he learns of Jay Burgess’s shocking death and Britt Shelley’s claim that she has no memory of her night with him. As the investigation into Jay’s death intensifies, and suspicion against Britt Shelley mounts, Raley realizes that the newswoman, Jay’s last sexual conquest, might be his only chance to get personal vindication — and justice for the seven victims of the police station fire.

But there are powerful men who don’t want to address unanswered questions about the fire and who will go to any lengths to protect their reputations. As Raley and Britt discover more about what happened that fateful day, the more perilous their situation becomes, until they’re not only chasing after the truth but running for their lives.

Friends are exposed as foes, heroes take on the taint of criminals, and no one can be trusted completely. A tale about audacious corruption — and those with the courage to expose it — Smoke Screen is Sandra Brown’s most searing and intense novel yet.

Another pretty good one from Sandra Brown, though I made the mistake of reading this too closely to the poorly done Standoff, which also featured a reporter and the man she (inadvertently?) harmed. There’s generally not a lot to be surprised about in these sorts of books — you know the male and female leads (Raley and Britt, in this case) are going to eventually join together both for their crusade and for their libidos — but I still enjoy the journey we’re taken on.  Though I had some suspicions about what was really going on, I was still surprised by what exactly happened and who exactly was in charge. There was just one detail that bugged me. At one point, Britt decides to waylay the men who are chasing them by removing the valve covers from their tires, which then go flat as soon as the men try to go anywhere.  Maybe tires were made differently (ahem) two (ahem) years ago, but I recently (inadvertently) drove for a few months with no valve cover on one of my tires, and it did not go flat. That seems like one of those details that a veteran writer and her editor should have picked up on.  Sloppy!

Other reviews:


Audiobook length: 14 hrs 16 min | Approximate word count: 140,000

2009: Fluke (Christopher Moore)
2008: The Face of a Stranger (Anne Perry)
2007: Love and War (John Jakes)
2006: Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)
2005: Hornet Flight (Ken Follett)

Used in these Challenges: Countdown Challenge 2010; 2010 100+ Reading Challenge; Audiobook Challenge;

2010: #71 – The Black Ice (Michael Connelly)

blackice Book #72 was The Black Ice, the second book in Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch series.  The back of the book reads:

Narcotics officer Cal Moore’s orders were to look into the city’s latest drug killing. Instead, he ends up in a motel room with a fatal bullet wound to the head and a suicide note stuffed in his back pocket. Working the case, LAPD detective Harry Bosch is reminded of the primal police rule he learned long ago: Don’t look for the facts, but the glue that holds them together. Soon Harry’s making some very dangerous connections, starting with a dead cop and leading to a bloody string of murders that wind from Hollywood Boulevard to the back alleys south of the border. Now this battle-scarred veteran will find himself in the center of a complex and deadly game-one in which he may be the next and likeliest victim.

If you like straight-forward police procedurals with no quirks, Michael Connelly is the man for you.  Bosch may have a bit of an independent streak and a penchant for lonely, sad women, but he’s surprisingly normal. When a fellow officer is found dead in a motel room, and Bosch doesn’t get the call, he knows something is hinky.  He eventually finds himself embroiled in drugs, murder, and family matters — on both sides of the border. This series reflects the best of Michael Connelly.

Other reviews:

Ace and Hoser Blook: The Black Ice by Michael Connelly

Page count: 448 | Word count: 111,581

2009: Do Not Deny Me (Jean Thompson)
2008: Hold Tight (Harlan Coben)
2007: Mr. Perfect (Linda Howard)
2006: Just One Look (Harlan Coben)
2005: Secret Prey (John Sandford)

Used in these Challenges: Four Month Challenge – Part 4; 2010 100+ Reading Challenge; 2nd Reading Challenge; E-book Reading Challenge; Pages Read Challenge Season 2; Thriller & Suspense Reading Challenge 2010;

2010: #69 – Broken (Karin Slaughter)

broken Book #69 was Broken, the 7th book in Karin Slaughter’s Grant County series.  The back of the book reads:

Karin Slaughter’s internationally bestselling novels are as notable for their vivid portraits of lives shadowed by loss and heartbreak as they are for their dramatic criminal investigations. Her latest offering features the return of her most compelling characters and introduces memorable new ones in a tale of corruption, murder, and confrontation that will leave more than one life . . .

When Special Agent Will Trent arrives in Grant County, he finds a police department determined to protect its own and far too many unanswered questions about a prisoner’s death. He doesn’t understand why Officer Lena Adams is hiding secrets from him. He doesn’t understand her role in the death of Grant County’s popular police chief. He doesn’t understand why that man’s widow, Dr. Sara Linton, needs him now more than ever to help her crack this case.

While the police force investigates the murder of a young woman pulled from a frigid lake, Trent investigates the police force, putting pressure on Adams just when she’s already about to crack. Caught between two complicated and determined women, trying to understand Linton’s passionate distrust of Adams, the facts surrounding Chief Tolliver’s death, and the complexities of this insular town, Trent will unleash a case filled with explosive secrets—and encounter a thin blue line that could be murderous if crossed.

Spellbinding and keenly paced, Broken is Karin Slaughter at her best. Here is an unforgettable story of raw emotions, dangerous assumptions, the deadly and layered game of betrayal, and a man’s determination to expose the most painful of human truths—no matter how deeply they’re hidden . . . or how devastating.

This is considered to be the 7th book in the Grant County series, which I have not read.  I prefer to think of it as the 3rd book in the Will Trent series, which I *have* read. Will Trent is one of my favorite lead detectives (dyslexia, trust issues, and all), and I enjoyed being introduced to Grant County through his eyes.

A lot happens in this book to change the course of future events in the county.  The dead are primarily outsiders, but the motive is 100% rooted in the local community. I found Sara Linton a little hard to like, but we meet her at a difficult time in her life.  Lena is also difficult, if not impossible, to like, though I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to like her.  She does have a few redeeming qualities, but it’s very few. It’s funny, but I’ve noticed that difficult women are a trend in Karin Slaughter’s books, at least in her Will Trent books. Even Faith, Will’s partner and the most likable woman in Will’s life, has her share of rough edges. I’m curious to see if I pick up on the same theme when I get around to the rest of the Grant County series.

I probably would have understood the relationships more completely if I’d read the previous Sara Linton books, but if all you’ve read is Will Trent, you’ll do just fine.

Other reviews:

a lovely shore breeze….: a review of "Broken" [35]
Cheryl’s Book Nook: Broken by Karin Slaughter
Broken (Nicola)

Page count: 416 | Approximate word count: 104,000

2009: The Intimate Adventures of a London Call Girl (Belle de Jour)
2008: The Good, the Bad, and the Undead (Kim Harrison)
2007: Death on the Nile (Agatha Christie)
2006: The Deep (Peter Benchley)
2005: Charleston (John Jakes)

Used in these Challenges: ARC Reading Challenge 2010; 2010 100+ Reading Challenge; Pages Read Challenge Season 2; Thriller & Suspense Reading Challenge 2010;

2010: #66 – Standoff (Sandra Brown)

standoff Book #66 was Standoff by Sandra Brown.  The back of the book reads:

Ambitious TV reporter Tiel McCoy is driving through New Mexico when she hears over the radio that Sabra Dendy, the 17 year-old daughter of Fort Worth multimillionaire Russell Dendy, has been kidnapped.  Tiel calls her editor and learns that Sara was "kidnapped" by her boyfriend Ronnie and is pregnant.  Tiel is at a gas station store when an armed couple robs the cashier and orders all the customers to the floor.  The girl goes into labor and Tiel realizes that she has a huge story on her hands.

A tense standoff begins as the FBI and Russell Dendy wait outside.  Tiel learns that Sabra and Ronnie are more afraid of her father-who plans to put the baby up for adoption-than of the FBI and would rather die together than surrender and be kept apart.  Now it is more than just a story to Tiel as she fights to prevent these two kids from becoming a tragedy.

This was more a novella than a usual Sandra Brown novel, and as such, was pretty blah.  The story never fully develops beyond the actual standoff situation, and we’re never given a chance to really connect with our main characters.  Brown also uses a main character combo (a successful tv reporter and the man she has mistakenly wronged) that she returns to in a later novel, Smoke Screen. We get the obligatory sexual tension between Tiel and Doc, followed by the obligatory sex scene, but it all feels very… obligatory. Step 1: Woman finds herself in life-threatening situation with mysterious, handsome man. Step 2: Woman and Man band together to escape situation and bring it to a happy ending. Step 3: Woman and Man have life-affirming sex to cope with traumatic situation. This could have been great if it had been written with the complexity you usually find in a Brown novel.  Instead, it just left me wanting more.

Page count: 261 | Word count: 55,535

2009: I Smile Back (Amy Koppelman)
2008: Homeport (Nora Roberts)
2007: The Double Bind (Chris Bohjalian)
2006: Plain Truth (Jodi Picoult)
2005: Bridge of Birds (Barry Hughart)

Used in these Challenges: The Four Month Challenge – Part 4; 2010 100+ Reading Challenge; Pages Read Challenge Season 2;

2010: #58 – Just Before Sunrise (Carla Neggers)

sunrise Book #58 was Just Before Sunrise by Carla Neggers.  The back of the book reads:

Carla Neggers’ sizzling novels are loved for their deliciously funny dialogue, electrifying suspense, and heart-stopping romance. Here, the New York Times bestselling author presents a fast-paced, scintillating tale of love, art, and danger….


Annie Payne realizes her dream when she moves to San Francisco and opens an art gallery. But when she accepts a secret commission to bid for a painting going on the auction block, she finds herself thrown into a haunting swirl of events linked to a five-year-old unsolved murder. Who is this secret client?

Marina owner Garvin MacCrae was determined to have the portrait of his late wife, and knows of only one person who would want it enough to outbid him. Could the intriguing art dealer who represented the auction winner hold the key to the mystery of his wife’s death? Working together to untangle a murderer’s clues, Garvin and Annie strike so many sparks off each other that they could start another San Francisco fire — a four-alarmer fueled by an explosive mix of suspicion, attraction, and love.

This was no Nora Roberts or Sandra Brown romantic suspense, but it wasn’t all bad. I liked Annie Payne, and could connect with her tough New England pragmatism (being from Maine myself).  I also appreciated the contrast between her old life and her new.  Garvin wasn’t a bad leading male, though for the entire book I wanted his name to be Gavin. Unfortunately, the fire between them just wasn’t there.  Their initial attractions to each other were well written, but there was no growth and no heat to their later meetings. The mystery wasn’t all that complex — I figured out the bad guy rather easily.  There’s actually a pretty limited cast of characters to choose from. So, not my favorite, but good enough that I’ll read another by the author.

Page count: 320 | Word count: 83,694

2009: April & Oliver (Tess Callahan)
2008: In the Midst of Death (Lawrence Block)
2007: O is for Outlaw (Sue Grafton)
2006: Fatal (Michael Palmer)
2005: Ten Big Ones (Janet Evanovich)

Used in these Challenges: 2010 100+ Reading Challenge; Contemporary Romance Reading Challenge 2010; New Author Challenge; Pages Read Challenge Season 2;

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