Thursday, February 4, 2010

RELENTLESS by Dean Koontz

by Dean Koontz
Bantam Dell/Random House
New York, NY
ISBN: 9780553807141

Bestselling author Cullen “Cubby” Greenwich, having survived a traumatic experience as a child, considers himself a lucky man. He’s married to the love of his life, has a six-year-old son who’s a genius, and a dog named Lassie Cubby suspects may have supernatural abilities. When Cubby’s latest novel is given a scorching review by acclaimed reviewer Shearman Waxx, everyone advises Cubby to let it go. But Cubby’s curious about the man whose review is filled with misstated facts about his book. Cubby manages to lunch where the reviewer has a reservation, and from that point on, finds himself and his family targeted by Waxx, inexplicably intent on ending their lives. After researching Waxx and learning other authors and their families have met torturous demise at the hands of Waxx and his minions, Cubby and his family flee from a demented sociopath who is relentless in his efforts to find them.

Koontz excels at providing exciting thrillers involving wholesome, very likeable characters pursued by evil. This book is reminiscent of Koontz’s earlier works, filled with breath-taking suspense and gripping scenes. Characterization is in-depth and revealing, and the plot fast-paced and intriguing.

SCARPETTA by Patricia Cornwell

by Patricia Cornwell
375 Hudson Street
New York New York 10014
ISBN: 978-0425230169

This 16th installment of Cornwell’s series featuring forensic pathologist Kay Scarpetta finds Scarpetta living in Massachusetts with an apartment in New York, both shared with her husband, former FBI forensic profiler Benton Wesley. Scarpetta’s called to Bellevue, where Oscar Bane, a man suspected of killing his girlfriend, is being held. Bane insists he will talk to no one but Scarpetta and is adamant that he did not murder his girlfriend, although all evidence points to him. Bane also claims he is being stalked by the actual killer. As Scarpetta collects DNA from Bane and listens to his declarations, she suspects he is infatuated with her. But Scarpetta is limited by doctor-patient confidentiality and cannot relay to Benton or the police her conversation with or suspicions about Bane. Pete Marino, once Scarpetta’s right-hand investigator, now employed by the NYPD, is pulled into the investigation by the prosecutor, as is Scarpetta’s niece, Lucy, due to her computer expertise. Someone claiming to be Scarpetta had been corresponding with the deceased via email and Scarpetta is being attacked by an online gossip column, all of which tie into the murder, linked to others of a similar nature.

This series started strong, seemed to lag, and is, with this installment, on its way back. The reason: Scarpetta, Wesley, Marino and Lucy are together again, using their unique talents and collective intelligence in investigating cases that are twisting and complex. Although the revelation of the killer is unexpected, there are loose ends left dangling as to his ability to move around so easily without being detected and his motivation as to Scarpetta. However, this is a very good read, and this reviewer is happy to see the old crowd back together.


by Janet Evanovich
St. Martin’s Press
175 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10010
ISBN: 9780312383282

Bounty hunter Stephanie Plum’s back for another wacky adventure in this 15th outing of the Plum series. Former hooker, now file clerk, bounty hunter wannabe Lula witnesses the decapitation of celebrity chef Stanley Chipotle and insists the only cop she’ll talk to is Joe Morelli, Stephanie’s on-again, off-again boyfriend. (At this point, they’re off-again.) Stephanie’s working part-time for the mysterious Ranger, trying to figure out how someone is accessing his clients’ alarm systems long enough to disarm them and burglarize. She’s also tracking felons for her cousin Vinnie but proves as inept as usual in this regard. Morelli figures the murder was a professional hit, but the killers have now targeted Lula, who manages to evade them, leaving blown up cars and buildings behind. When a million dollar reward is offered for the killers, Lula persuades Stephanie and her Grandma Mazur to help find them and split the reward.

With each book, Evanovich delivers humor, a zany plot, and outside-the-box characters. The teasing, triangular relationship between Stephanie, Morelli and Ranger continues with no end in sight. Characters are familiar and entrenched in personas and situations that do not change, although remain fun to read.

FACES OF FEAR by John Saul

by John Saul
Ballantine Books/Random House
New York, NY
ISBN: 9780345487056

15-year-old Alison Shaw enjoys her middle-class life with her parents, a real estate agent and a TV production manager. However, her world is turned upside down when her parents’ marriage dissolves after her father reveals he is gay. Alison’s mother marries acclaimed plastic surgeon Conrad Dunn, whose wife committed suicide after a boating accident left her perfect (albeit surgery-enhanced) face permanently scarred. Alison moves with her mother to Dunn’s mansion and has trouble adjusting to an affluent lifestyle with friends who think nothing of paying thousands of dollars for clothes and indulging in plastic surgery to fix perceived flaws. Meanwhile, a demented murderer named the Frankenstein Killer is harvesting parts of women’s faces, as well as their adrenal and thymus glands, leaving behind mutilated corpses. As the killer picks up the pace, Alison and her mother are peripherally aware of the frantic search by the police, although unaware that Alison may be the motive behind the killings.

Faces of Fear, Saul’s 35th novel, has mystery, suspense, characters wholesome and likable and those adroitly portrayed as evil and maniacal. Although slow to start, the book does pick up speed, yet savvy readers will figure out the mystery well before it is revealed.

DEAD ON ARRIVAL by Jackie Griffey

by Jackie Griffey
Five Star Publishing
295 Kennedy Memorial Drive
Waterville, ME 04901
ISBN: 9781594148460

Maggie Murphy finds herself adrift after her husband dies in a motorcycle accident. Their finances weren’t in the best of shape and Maggie needs to find a job. Maggie’s offered temporary employment at her cousin Hank’s newspaper, replacing an advice columnist who hasn’t shown up for work in a couple of days, and she takes it, hoping to find a real job in the interim. When Maggie discovers the columnist’s dead body behind the office dumpster, she meets Patrolman Joe Driver, who agrees to provide Maggie the police report of her husband’s death. Hank offers Maggie the columnist job full-time and things are looking up for her financially and personally as her relationship with Joe begins to blossom. After Maggie learns her husband may have been drugged before his accident, she begins receiving mysterious phone calls and her former house is bombed. As their relationship moves forward, Maggie and Joe sort out clues as to the deaths of her husband and the newspaper columnist, unaware her husband’s spirit is hanging around, looking out for Maggie, who is in more danger than she and Joe realize.

Griffey provides her readers with a fun romp in book one of her Joe and Maggie Mystery series. This cozy mystery is filled with humor and suspense enmeshed within a plot peppered with suspicious characters and plenty of twists and turns. Characters are warm and engaging and the plot interesting and fresh and viable.