Mark Terry

Friday, April 06, 2012

What I've Been Reading

April 6, 2012
Here's the last 10 books I've read. With comments!

1. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by JK Rowling
I've been slowly re-reading the entire series in order. This is the second to last book (in case you didn't know) and provides most of the setup for the last book. This is a good one, but like I said, it sets up a lot of things, but it also explains an lot of things as well.

2. McGrave by Lee Goldberg
What can I say about this book? It's definitely Lee's love letter to 1970s TV detectives. It's pretty thin - reading it I thought, "I wonder if this started out as a film treatment." Then in the afterword Lee says that yes, indeed, that is the case. Nonetheless, witty, fast-moving, clever, silly, fun. "Tidal Wave" McGrave is an LA cop who finally destroys enough property that he gets fired, and follows the case to Berlin anyway, where he works with a female detective and her boss. She thinks McGrave's a jerk, but her boss thinks he's the reincarnation of John Wayne. Very fun.

3. Gideon's Corpse by Lincoln Child and Douglas Preston
This is the second book in a new series by two of my favorite authors (alone or together). Gideon is completely different than Agent Pendergast, their premier character, but he's enjoyable, for the most part. There's a fair amount of "why the hell did he do that?" in this book as the character makes some fairly odd decisions to keep the story going. Basically he's coerced into dealing with a hostage situation - a former friend from his job at Los Alamos is holding hostages and claiming the government (or "them") is irradiating him to keep him from talking. When that goes horribly wrong, Gideon ends up working with an FBI agent to try and find a possible nuclear weapon somewhere in the U.S.

4. The Mugger by Ed McBain
An early 87th Precinct novel by the master of police procedurals. It's quite good, although it feels more dated than the last one I read. It was published in the last 1950s or early 1960s. As the title would suggest, a mugger is operating in Isola (McBain's stand-in for NYC) and the cops aren't getting anywhere with it. It's possible this was the 2nd in the series and it was McBain's way of introducing a cast of characters. Steve Carella, for instance, who played so prominently in Killer's Wedge (and most McBain novels), is on his honeymoon and only makes an appearance at the end. It introduces Bert Kling primarily. Wonderful writing, fantastic characterizations, an effective plot.

5. Sandstone Spine: Seeking the Anasazi on the First Traverse of the Comb Ridge by David Roberts
Roberts and two friends hike the Comb Ridge, a 100+ mile mountain ridge in Arizona that has an  unusually high number of Anasazi ruins on it. I enjoyed this even though I don't think I would enjoy the hike they were on very much. But in many cases, it's the only way to see some of the Anasazi ruins they saw. And, in its own way, quite illuminating about the Anasazi in a way other books aren't.

6. Victims by Jonathan Kellerman
The latest mystery featuring child psychologist Alex Delaware. It's rock solid.

7. The Spires of Denon by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Science fiction. This is part of Kristine's "diving universe" of books, although it doesn't deal with the character of Boss, like the others do. Again, it deals with archaeology in the way, way, way distant future and on the planet are these complex spires that nobody understands. This book feels a little bit like a set-up for other books within the universe and it's a tiny bit unsatisfying as a result, because there's not a lot going on here and what is going on doesn't really make much sense. It's entertaining, it's interesting, there's a sense of wonder, but you do get to the end of the book and sort of go, "Um, what?"

8. Chasing Midnight by Randy Wayne White
Every time out of the box Randy's Doc Ford novels are different. Sometimes they're straight thrillers, sometimes they're convoluted mysteries, sometimes they're something else entirely. They can be really uneven that way (I hated his last book, the only one I can say that about). This one would seem to have been structured as a straight thriller. Ford and his goofy sidekick Tomlinson are on a private island off the coast of Florida attending a "conference" related to the international caviar trade. The top four (or is it three?, I forget) international caviar distributors are in attendance, who also tend to be international mobsters, as well, as it turns out, as some crazy eco-terrorists who take over the island. It would be quite straightforward in someone else's hands (say, me), but in Randy's hands, a ten minute action scene can go on for pages as Doc reminisces about flashlights and sturgeon and flashes back to conversations with Tomlinson. I enjoyed it a lot, even thought I found some of it very frustrating.

9. Paydirt by Paul Levine
Another of Paul's serio-comic mystery capers. This one about the attorney for the fictional Dallas Mustangs football team. The main character's gotten fed up with bailing and buying thuggish NFL players out of rape and assault charges and has a major fight with his father-in-law, the owner of the team, resulting in his getting fired, disbarred and divorced. A couple years later, working as a pretty bad bookie in Miami, he gets tangled up with mobsters and his ex-wife and ex-father-in-law, custody hearings, and decides that fixing the Super Bowl would get him out of his troubles. It's funny - very; a good mystery. The characters are pretty much vintage Paul Levine, which is to say, usually fatally flawed, lovable losers with hearts of gold who win in the end (complete with precocious tween sons). I would highly recommend this book. Alas, I would also recommend (are you reading this Paul?) that Paul send the manuscript to a copyeditor and re-publish it after the typos have been cleaned up.

10. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling
Might have heard of this one. The final book in the Harry Potter series. I'm more tolerant now of the wandering in the wilderness bits of this book. I'm still somewhat mystified by why Dumbledore made it so difficult for them to do their job (although it does force them into the school schedule, conveniently), and although I think Mrs. Weasley's battle with Bellatrix Lestrange is better in the book than in the movie, I think the final battle between Harry and Voldermort is better in the movie. As is almost everything related to Neville Longbottom. Neville really comes into his own in the movie. Still, enjoyable.

How about you? What have you been reading?


Anonymous Eric Mayer said...

I haven't been reading much the past few months, partly because I've been writing. I've gone through some old sf books like Tau Zero by Poul Anderson, The Voyage of the Space Beagle by A.E. Van Vogt and Hal Clement's Mission of Gravity. I had read so many noir fifties crime novels towards the end of last year I guess I needed a change or worlds.

9:05 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

I don't read much SF, and I have mixed feelings about Rusch's work, but it's a nice change from thrillers and mysteries.

10:00 AM  

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