Monday, September 22, 2014

The Circular Staircase by Mary Roberts Rinehart

The Circular Staircase is an entertaining introduction to Mary Robers Rinehart
Had I but known how good a Mary Roberts Rinehart story was, I would have read one sooner. At least, that would probably be the logic of a Rinehart heroine. Rinehart came from Pittsburgh, and her mysteries fall in the category of the "have I but known" plot that Elizabeth Peter used to such good effect in her Amelia Peabody mysteries. I downloaded The Circular Staircase onto my Kindle and had an enjoyable read.

The Circular Staircase was one of Rinehart's first books, written in 1908. Rachel, a spinster, raised her nephew and niece, making sure to safeguard the siblings money. As they got older, they started to live lives away from Rachel, so as one of the last flings for the family, Rachel rented a house from the Armstrongs in the country for the summer while her house in the city was being renovated. That's when things take a turn for the eerie. Rachel starts to hear knocking noises, and she thinks that she sees people hanging out, maybe trying to get into the house. When Rachel's charges, Halsey and Gertrude show up, things take a turn for the worse. The son of the man who owns the house gets shot entering the house. Halsey and his friend, who left earlier in the evening, are suspects, and the friend, Jack Bailey, gets arrested when the bank that the Bailey worked at had funds stolen from it. Bailey is suspected, but so is Paul Armstrong, who owned the house that Rachel rented. Armstrong is now in California, but he turns up dead. The incursions into the house seem to be ongoing, and the mystery around the Armstrongs, the house, and the missing money deepens.

I really enjoyed reading The Circular Staircase. Humor abounded. My favorite interactions were being Rachel and her life-long maid, Liddy, were constantly bickering with Liddy threatening to quit while Rachel threatens to fire her. The mystery is a puzzle, and I have to admit that there were several times I wanted to shake Rachel and say "don't keep quiet about what you just learned." all in all, the book was very enjoyable, and I look forward to reading more Rinehart.

Friday, September 19, 2014

The Heist by Daniel Silva

The Heist by Daniel Silva is a good, if slow-moving, addition to the Gabriel Allon series
The latest Gabriel Allon, The Heist by Daniel Silva, was released in July, but I was just able to get it from the library this week. I've enjoyed the Gabriel Allon series, although I have to admit I was starting to get tired of Allon getting into near death situations in every book. Yes, I understand that he is a spy and risking his life, but having it happen in every book was straining credulity.

The Heist is different from some of the other Allons is that there isn't a terror attack behind the action in the book. Instead, Allon is pulled into an investigation of a former diplomat's death because Allon's friend, Julian Isherwood finds the body. The diplomat turned out to be a former spy, turned rogue, who was now in the business of selling stolen masterpieces. Allon's role is to find the Caravaggio that was rumored to be in the possession of the dead man. What Allon finds is that the man was onto the Syrian president hiding away funds for his future use. Allon is determined to track down the funds and remove them. Also, he wants to find the Caravaggio. In order to gain access to the money, Allon recruits a girl who works for the investment officer who is hiding the fund for the Syrian president. The girl is a Syrian whose family was massacred in Hama as threats to the president of Syria.

As I mentioned, this book is different from the others because Allon isn't being tortured to near death. At times though, the story just seemed to drag along. The overall plot was interesting, but I think there could have been more action and less repetition. I think Silva needs to take a break from Allon, especially since Allon is moving into more of a managerial role in the Israeli secret services. Perhaps, he can revisit the Michael Osbourne character.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Lost Island by Preston & Child

The Lost Island by Preston & Child is a great thriller!
I have enjoyed the books by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, both together and separately. However, I haven't had a chance yet to read anything in their Gideon Crew series. This is a new series that just started a few years ago. Well, when I went into the library the other day, I saw their latest book, The Lost Island on the new books shelf. I figured that I would give the book a try, and boy, am I glad that I did.

Gideon Crew is a master thief, who is also a physicist. He also has a medical condition, tangled blood vessels in his brain, that leaves him with only ten months to live. Preston and Child love to have characters appear in multiple series, and it's no different here. Eli Glinn, who is the person behind EES, Effective Engineering Solutions, appears in The Lost Island. Glinn's EES was the group behind the meteorite recovery in The Ice Limit.

Glinn asks Gideon Crew to steal a page from the Book of Kells while it is on tour in New York City. The task appears to be an impossible one because the security is so high, but we are talking about Gideon Crew, and he manages to come up with a way to steal the page. Imagine Gideon's shock when Glinn takes the beautiful illuminated page and removes the paint! But there is a reason. Hidden under the illumination is an ancient map. This map shows the route to the lotus, which can cure bodily ills and injuries, and give the consumer of it longer life. Glinn has a mysterious client who wants the plant because it would be an amazing discovery that could cure so many illnesses. Why, it might even cure Gideon's problem! The map appears to led to the Caribbean, where the ancient Irish monks were the first to reach the Americas. Glinn partners Gideon with Amy, who is an expert in classical languages and boating. Of course, the voyage is more difficult that Gideon imagines, and what they find is beyond his wildest imagination.

The Lost Island is a thrilling adventure story. Preston and Child throw in some Greek history, and the Odyssey. Is it believable? Well, of course it is. Preston and Child do such a great job of weaving high adventure into a fast moving plot that you find yourself caught up in the action. I really enjoyed this book so much that I have to get the two earlier Gideon Crews!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Grave Sight by Charlaine Harris

Grave Sight by Charlaine Harris has an interesting idea behind it, but poor writing and research
I happened to be shelf browsing at the library, and I saw the Harper Connelly series by Charlaine Harris. I liked the earlier Sookie Stackhouse books, so I thought I would give this series a try. Harper was struck by lightning as a teen, and this has given her the ability to find dead bodies and to see the person's final moments. She uses this talent to find missing people who are dead, as long as she knows the general location of the body. Also, she can see what the person experiences in the last moments, so she can explain the death. If it was murder, she can't see the murderer, but she knows the person was murdered. Harper's step-brother Tolliver Lang, acts as manager/bodyguard when Harper does her work for money. It seems that people don't like that Harper can find the dead, even though it helps them find the missing loved one. People tend to want to hurt her.

Grave Sight is the first book in the series, and Harper is called in to find a missing teenage girl, named Teenie, in Sarne, Arkansas. It seems that everyone in power in the town is related to everyone else, and after Harper finds the body, and discovers that not only was the girl murdered, but her boyfriend, who was found dead in the general area of supposed suicide, was also murdered. This doesn't go down well with the townsfolk, who make Harper's life miserable. Then Harper discovers that the Teenie's sister was murdered earlier. Then after Teenie's mom talks to Harper, she winds up dead. Obviously something is going on, and Harper and Tolliver are stuck in the town. Harper decides that while she is stuck there, she might as well figure out why everyone in Teenie's family was murdered. However, someone in the town is determined to stop Harper at any cost.

The plot was interesting. I mean who would think of a person being struck by lightning then being able to discover dead bodies. Harris does come up with some interesting ideas, but she really does need to work on her mechanics. First, her grammar is atrocious. This is an example of one of her poorly written sentences from page 10: "The waitress filled my coffee cup and taken my first swallow before the sheriff spoke." Wow! So the waitress took the sip for Harper. With the number of grammar errors, it's obvious that Harris isn't an English major, and it's also obvious that her editor sucks. Then there's the matter of common sense and research. On page 46, Harris talks about an approaching thunderstorm: "A boom of thunder was followed by a brilliant bolt of lightning." Anyone who has any common sense, or lived, knows that light travels faster than sound, and that you see the lightning and then hear the thunder. The errors in the book really detracted from my enjoyment of the story.

The book was okay. Harper is a stupid and sloppy detective. Harper finds out from Hollis, cop and former husband of Sally, Teenie's murdered sister, that right before her death, Sally had been cleaning the house of Dick Teaque, father of Teenie's boyfriend, after Dick died. She then came home in a bemused mood and looked through one of her high school textbooks. Well, Harper lumbers in, grabs the biology textbook, and shakes a paper out. Duh! Idiot! She should have flipped through so she could see where the paper was placed because that would have been a clue. However, Harper ain't known for her smarts. She can just find dead people. I may give the second book a chance just to see if Grave Sight was an aberration. It it's not better, I would suggest skipping the series because the first book is not that good.