Friday, April 18, 2008

SUNSET EXPRESS by Robert Crais

By Robert Crais
ISBN: 0786860960
Hardback, 274 pages, $21.95
Genre: Mystery

Wealthy entrepreneur Teddy Martin is accused of murdering his estranged wife, but Martin’s defense attorney, Jonathan Green, is alleging the arresting officer, Angela Rossi, planted evidence against his client. Green hires private investigator Elvis Cole to check into Rossi’s background concerning another case in which she was accused of planting evidence, as well as the present one. Cole’s investigation clears Rossi, yet Green announces to the media that Cole has cleared his client of the wrongful death of his wife. This puts Cole on the defensive and he begins to look into the attorneys surrounding Martin and their suspicious undertakings, all under the guise of proving their client innocent.

The Elvis Cole books are good reading, some better than others. This is one of the more mundane of the series, with a mystery that’s pretty simple to resolve, amidst commentary on the LA police department and their efforts to get past unsavory events. Cole is involved with Louisiana attorney Lucy Chenier, who seems distant and less involved in the relationship than Cole. All in all, a good read.

CHARM CITY by Laura Lippman

By Laura Lippman
William Morrow/Harper Collins
ISBN: 9780061210037
Hardback, 308 pages, $19.95
Genre: Mystery

In the second installment of the Tess Monaghan series, Tess, a former newspaper reporter, is working for an attorney while applying for her license as a private investigator. After business tycoon Wink Wynkowski announces he is going to bring pro basketball back to Baltimore, an article about his troubled financial situation appears in the Beacon-Light. The managing editor of the Beacon-Light hires Tess to find out who placed this article in the paper, since it was rejected until sources could be confirmed. But before Tess can fully investigate, Wynkowski is found in his garage, dead of carbon monoxide poisoning, which is attributed to suicide. When the reporter Tess suspects planted the story is found dead, also ruled as a suicide, Tess becomes convinced the two have been murdered and extends her investigation further to find out who is behind these deaths.

Charm City was initially released as a paperback by Avon Books in 1997, followed by the hardback edition by William Morrow in 2007. As a reviewer who has read and reviewed and enjoyed later books in the Tess Monaghan series, this was a somewhat disappointing read. The plot is slow and laboring, and Tess does not come across as a very likeable person. She seems immature and irritable and at odds with what to do with her life. Tess’s best friend Whitney Talbot is superficial and annoying. Tess’s boyfriend Crow adds much-needed warmth, but the saving grace is Esskay, the greyhound Tess’s uncle adopted, who ends up under Tess’s somewhat negligent, resentful care. As with each book, Lippman’s love for Baltimore shines through via her visual descriptions and narrative.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon

By Diana Gabaldon
Bantam Dell/Random House
ISBN 9780440221661
Paperback, 1443 pages, $7.99
Genre: Historical Romance

In the fifth installment of the Outlander series, time-traveler Claire Beauchamp Randall Fraser and her eighteenth century husband, Jamie, have established their homestead on Fraser’s Ridge in the mountains of Western North Carolina. Grumblings among colonists against British tyranny have begun, and Jamie and Claire are resigned to the fact that the American Revolution will take place and there is nothing they can to do stop it. Although Jamie sympathizes with the colonists, his allegiance, for the time being, lies with William Tryon, Governor of North Carolina, who gave Jamie a land grant of 5000 acres in North Carolina, although Jamie is Catholic and this was forbidden at the time. When Governor Tryon appoints Jamie Colonel and asks he put down a forthcoming rebellion by the colonists (called Regulators) at Alamance, Jamie follows Highland tradition and calls together his fellow clansmen by burning a large cross, referred to as the Fiery Cross. Accompanied by Claire (acting as field surgeon) and Roger Wakefield, Jamie’s son-in-law, they journey to Alamance, where a brief but brutal skirmish takes place.

This installment addresses interesting issues of the eighteenth century, including everyday mundane activities, medicinal herbs and treatments, Highland superstitions, and a wide array of characters, savory and otherwise, made all the more intriguing by the time period. The love story between Claire and Jamie, is, as always, in the forefront and continues forward as they age with each book. Recommended.