Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Battle Royale
by Koushun Takami
translated by Yuji Onikj

I'm not obsessed with the Battle Royale books but I spotted the novel on the new book shelf of the library and decided I needed to read the source of manga.

Basic story: 21 male and 21 female students of the Third Year, class B, Shiroiwa Junior High School are transported to an island and equipped with weapons ranging in effectiveness from automatic weapons and hand grenades to a boomerang and a fork. They are released one at a time with only one goal, be the last one alive. The public reason for this game, called The Program, is military research.

Over the next 18 hours, some students try to opt out of the game, some accept it, and most spend the time in absolute panic and despair.The story concentrates on 5 main characters composed of two relative innocents, one weary but basically good person, a cold killer whose lack of emotion is related to a brain injury, and an amoral female who is a victim of her past. The deaths come quickly and graphically. There are acts of heroism, altruism, cowardice, and viciousness.

At the end, we find out that The Program has nothing to do with military research. The supervisor of this program tells a survivor:

Come on, why do you think we have the local news broadcast the image of the winner? Viewers might feel sorry for him or her, thinking the poor student probably didn't even want to play the game, but had no choice but to fight the others. In other words, everyone ends up concluding, you can't trust anyone, right? Which would extinguish any hope of uniting and forming a coup d'etat against the government, hm?
The manga volumes follow the novel closely though the manga give more back-story on the students. The origins of the beautiful, amoral, Mitsuko are described in graphic detail. I won't go into detail about the differences. Wikipedia has several detailed articles that describe the novel, manga, and movie.

I prefer the manga to the novel. The story itself is well suited to a graphic presentation. I am curious how the rest of the manga volumes play out. Volumes 1 to 3 of the manga cover nearly half the novel and there are 15 volumes. I'm expecting a lot more back-story.

I thought that the translation was a bit awkward. It had the odd phrasing that native English-speakers find off-putting. For example, the translator uses the phrases "that's right," "in other words," and "that is" with annoying regularity.

Battle Royals is a provocative book that would make for an interesting discussion on several levels: how would you act in that circumstance, nature vs nurture, would The Program be effective in pacifying the population. It would also be interesting to discuss it alongside Lord of the Flies.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Anthony Awards for Best Mysteries

I just saw the list of nominees for the Anthony Award for best mysteries. The awards will be presented at Bouchercon in Anchorage in September. I'm embarrassed to say that I haven't read any of the nominated books. Well, I did start 47 Rules Of Highly Effective Bank Robbers by Troy Cook (nominated for best paperback original) but skipped to the end and didn't finish it. I don't remember why. Note to self: make sure to write a post on why I don't finish a book. I want to read Baby Shark by Robert Fate (also in the best paperback original category) but none of the local B&N, Borders, or Books-A-Million have it.

I've been checking the titles in Amazon and have added quite a few to my "look for" list.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Why blog about books read?

I read a short description of Nightlife by Thomas Perry on a book blog and got all excited because I enjoy his books. The library has it and it is available. Huzzah! Beer and book in hand I head for the deck and settle down for a nice read in the early evening air. First paragraph - drat, I've read this book.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Battle Royale, vol. 2 & 3

Battle Royale vol. 1 is discussed in this post.

Vol. 2 opens with 5 students dead, two used as examples before the game actually starts. Shuuya and Noriko are idealists who hope to find a way off the island without killing anyone. Over the course of these volumes the major players are sorted out - those who would rather not play the game and those who choose to play either through amorality or weakness. Back-story continues to be added. By the end of vol. 3, 25 of the original 42 remain alive.

Observation: the students are supposed to be classmates in the 9th grade. Some are drawn as if they might actually be 9th graders while others appear to be in their mid-twenties. This adds another layer of weirdness about this series. I was in the 9th grade in 1960 and it would have been unlikely that one of my female classmates would be running a prostitution ring. Still, some of these characters are more advanced than a lot of the college students I see daily.

If you can distance yourself from the ultraviolence, Battle Royale makes for compelling reading. The story line is complex and the back-stories add another dimension to the story.

Battle Royale, vol. 2 on Amazon
Battle Royale, vol. 3 on Amazon

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

First Among Sequals, Jasper Fforde

First Among Sequels is the fourth book in Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next Series. Along with Jeopardy, these books are the best thing to happen to those of us with a liberal arts education. With Fforde's books, having been an English major is a decided advantage. Let me get one thing out of the way first. In previous posts I have suggested that the series be read in sequence. I really mean it this time. No kidding. Go back and read, in order

  • The Eyre affair
  • Lost in a Good Book
  • The Well of Lost Plots
  • Something Rotten
Better yet, buy these books then read them. I want Fforde to keep writing. I also recommend the British editions - better covers.

For those not familiar with the Thursday Next books, they take place in Britain, in an alternate universe. When the series opens, it is 1985 and the Crimean War is still going on. Thursday, a hero from the conflict that also saw the death of her brother, is a member of SO27, the agency in charge of literary investigations. There are 30 Special Operations agencies but everything below 20 is classified. Time travel is a reality, sort of.

In The Erye Affair, Thursday discovers that there is another world behind the covers of a book and that it is possible to "read" oneself into a book and, likewise, for book characters to leave their books. Over the course of this series, Fforde builds and incredibly elaborate structure for how books are delivered to their reader. There is no way to describe this process in a short review. Read the books.

Since books have an actual reality the whole of English literature is open to Fforde's interpretation. You learn, for example, that the characters in Wuthering Heights are in group therapy and Heathcliff has anger management issues. Along the way, you also learn that there are actually only five pianos in all of literature and they have to be shifted from book to book. If you have read all the books it makes sense.

First Among Sequels starts fourteen years after Something Rotten. Brief aside:
You will gain an appreciation for the potential for croquet matches after reading Something Rotten and wish that they were televised on ESPN. Think of croquet with the possibility that someone could be killed.
Back to the story. Most of the SO agencies have been disbanded but Thursday has set up a shadow agency n the guise of a flooring company to continue her activities. She is also continuing her duties as a Jurisfiction Agent. In this role, she is an outlander (i.e. a real person) operating within bookworld and enforcing the rules under which fiction operates. Her adventures have been published and she has to work with two very different, fictional versions of herself. she has two problems to solve. First, the possible end of all time might hinge on whether or not her son Friday joins the ChronoGuard (time enforcement agency). Second, people have stopped reading and reality television shows such as Samaritan Kidney Swap are rising in popularity. How can this be reversed?

None of this makes much sense, does it? I think it is nearly impossible to write a coherent summary of these books. They are full of atrocious literary puns, a look at what characters from books are really like, and fun facts such as there are only five pianos in all of literature and they have to be shifted from book to book. Oh, and each book has special features and upgrades on Fforde's websites. For the special features, you have to answer a question from the book.

I would reluctantly say that First Among Sequels is the weakest of the series. Some of the humor is forced and he includes some thinly veiled references to the political situation in a large nation to the west of the U.K. Fforde also introduces a contemporary fiction character, Temperance Brennan, the forensic anthropologist created by Kathy Reichs. I think this is the first time he has done this.

Still, I have no regrets for having ordered the U.K. edition and will buy whatever Fforde publishes next.

Fforde has another series in the same universe, The Nursery Crimes series. The two books in this series are:
  • The Big Over Easy
  • The Fourth Bear
Jasper Fforde Home Page
Thursday Next Home Page
First Among Sequels on Amazon UK

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Billibub Baddings and the Case of the Singing Sword (podcast)

I just finished Tee Morris' podcast novel about a 4 foot, one inch dwarf in 1929 Chicago. With a dwarf named Billibub Baddings you won't be surprised to learn that it is fantasy. It comes with the some of the tropes you would expect in fantasy: Baddings comes from a universe where magic works; there are seven talismans of great power that must be destroyed; Baddings is sucked through a portal while disposing of one of the objects. He arrives in the public library in Chicago in the 1920s where he teaches himself to read and steals food from the library staff. When he is ready to enter the world, he sells some of his gear and sets himself up as a private detective. Billibub, now calling himself Billy, is a hardboiled detective with a beautiful secretary and a .45 automatic he lovingly calls Beatrice. Billy is ostensibly hired by a beautiful socialite to find out why Al Capone had her boy friend eliminated. He soon discovers that the real reason has less to do with the boy friend and everything to do with a mysterious sword found in an Egyptian tomb that is decidedly not Egyptian. Billy followed the talismans into this world and this is the story of the struggle to find and gain possession of the sword.

If you like fantasy and hardboiled detective stories this is a terrific listen. It has gangsters, G-men, Irish cops, speakeasies, roscoes, snappy dialog, beautiful dames, action, attitude, everything you would want in a story. Morris does most of the narrating but has guest voices that podcast fans will recognize, like Scott Sigler and Christiana Ellis.

If we are lucky, we will have another six Billibub adventures. There are still six more talismans out there, after all.

The podcast novel is available at podiobooks.com.
A print version is available at Amazon.

Note to Self

UPDATE: Wow! According to FeedBurner I have 4 subscribers. Now that I actually have an audience I'll have to work on my writing skills. One reason I started this blog (besides keeping track of books, podcasts, etc.) was to force myself to write something on a regular basis and develop some ability to compose quickly and coherently. Another reason is professional. I'm supposed to be a technology advocate and I figured I should practice what I promote which is why I registered with FeedBurner.

Reminder for next posting - figure out the voice in which I want to write and stick to it. I started this blog to keep track of the books, movies, podcasts I read, watch, and listen to. I seem to be writing rambling reviews, author profiles, in the style of writing for an audience. My main intent is still to keep a personal log of what I read, so, am I trying to get too fancy?

By the way, I have a great admiration for bloggers who can consistently produce great reviews and book summaries. Take a look at what the librarians write at the Williamsburg Regional Library's Blogging for a Good Book.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Invisible Prey, John Sandford

Invisible Prey is the 17th in the Lucas Davenport/Prey series. If you enjoyed the previous stories then you won't be disappointed with this latest addition to the series. The antique market provides the background plot and Sandford works it into the story nicely. A lot of the enjoyment in reading a Lucas Davenport novel is watching how patterns emerge from seemingly minor events with a fair amount of redirection as Lucas sorts things out. We see the action from both sides - the police and the killers - and Sandford skillfully tightens the elements of the story, bringing cops and killers closer and closer together. Adding to the story is the macabre, sometimes obscene, and sometimes humorous dialog between the police officers and other characters as they discuss the cases: one major, serial killings; one politician sex escapade.

Invisible Prey is a very satisfying read and I recommend it. As with other books I discussed, I think it is best to read the previous books in order in order to appreciate Lucas Davenport and the recurring characters that appear throughout the series.

John Sandford's website

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Bad Luck and Trouble by Lee Child

Lee Child worked in British television until he was fired during a reorganization. Needing a source of income, he turned to writing. He created the character of Jack Reacher, a former Army MP officer, now a civilian drifting around the U.S. Child said that he set his first book, Killing Floor, in the U.S. because of his love for the U.S. and because this is where the market is. Child has a website where he describes why he made Reacher an Army MP officer who was rifed (military lingo for "reduction in force"). Click here.

After leaving the Army, Reacher chose to became a drifter rather than looking for a job in private security or a law enforcement agency. Reacher takes his desire to leave mainstream society to an extreme, initially traveling without identification (Child changes this after 9/11) and with only a toothbrush. When he needs a change of clothing he buys something cheap and throws the old clothing away.

Reacher's involvement in a situation means that justice will be served - lethally. These books have a substantial body count. If you are squeamish and think that you might not want to know what "pink mist" refers to you might want to give these books a miss. If, on the other hand, you like fast paced action, interesting plots, and nasty villains then the Reacher series is essential reading. I won't miss one.

Bad Luck and Trouble is the eleventh book in the Jack Reacher series. I recommend that you read the first ten books in order. You could start here and not be lost but you will get a lot more if you read the previous books in the series. I'm also obsessive about reading a series in publishing order. I am generally compelled to read the Reacher novels is as close to one sitting as possible and this latest is no exception. I picked up Bad Luck and Trouble at the library Friday evening and finished it Saturday afternoon.

Bad Luck .. brings former members of Reacher's Special Investigations team together to find out who threw another team member out of an aircraft over the desert. The action is centered mainly in Los Angeles and the surrounding area though there is a side trip to Los Vegas. How the team comes together after 10 years and takes care of business makes for a fun read.

Child does something interesting with Reacher. Reacher looks at his friends and starts to question the way he has been living his life. Don't worry, he doesn't buy a house in the suburbs and settle down but it fits for Reacher question his life. We also get a bit more back-story from Reacher's Army career. Frances Neagley (previously seen in Without Fail) is the one who brings the team together after ten years.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Night Watch

Night Watch
by Sergei Lukyanenko
Translated from Russian by Andrew Bromfield

Night Watch falls into the "shadow world" sub-genre of fantasy. Unknown to normal humans, there are forces outside our perceptions that shape our history and destiny. The Harry Potter books can be placed in this sub-genre. Light vs Dark, good vs Evil. In Lukyanenko's novel, Light and Dark have a treaty and the Night Watch (light/good) and Day Watch (dark/evil) enforce that treaty. The "people" who serve in the watches call themselves Others and do not consider themselves entirely human. Because there is a treaty Light Others and Dark Others might find themselves neighbors. Anton, a member of the Night Watch has a family of vampires living in the same building and he goes to pains to make sure that they don't see any of his tools of the trade when they visit. The forces of light and dark would like for their respective sides to gain the upper hand but they have to do so within the terms of the treaty which makes for some convoluted plotting, attempts to recruit new members, etc. The book also contains an element of moral ambiguity - are the actions of the forces of Light really in the best interests of humanity. Anton is the conscience of the Night Watch and he relates the events in first person.

I can't speak to the accuracy of the translation however you don't encounter the awkward phrasing you see in less skillful translations.

This is the first in a tetralogy and is told from the perspective of the Light. The other books are Day Watch, Twilight Watch, and Last Watch. While I enjoyed Night Watch, I don't know that I will read the books that follow unless I find them in a used book store or the public library buys them. I've read some discussion that the rest of the series was written more th capitalize on the success in Russia of Night Watch the novel and the movie.

Night Watch on Amazon
Night Watch in Wikipedia
Sergei Lukyanenko on Wikipedia

Friday, July 6, 2007

Obligatory Cat Photogrphs

I just realized that I haven't posted any cat photographs since I started this blog. I think there is a rule about that. From left to right: Harley, Oliver, and Harley when he was a kitten, and Pip the Orange.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Battle Royale, Vol. 1

Battle Royale, Book 1
Koushun Takami & Masayuki Taguchi
English adaptation by Keith Giffen

I enjoy graphic novels - especially anything involving Neil Gaiman - but I've never looked at manga. My mental image was of stories involving pre-teen Japanese school girls with eyes the size of saucers.

On a whim, I picked up Battle Royale (BR) because it was sealed in plastic, had a parental advisory notice, and I had read a little about the story a couple of years ago. And I had a discount coupon.

BR takes place in an alternate time line where Japan is ruled by a military dictatorship. The state sponsors a TV "game show" called The Program. A group of ninth graders think they are on a field trip when they are gassed on the bus and transported to an island. They wake up and find that they are now in The Program. The rules of the game are simple. Only one student can leave the island alive and, to survive, each has to be willing to kill their friends and classmates.

This theme of human hunting has appeal in literature and movies. There is, for example, The Running Man, written by Richard Bachman (aka Stephen King). Here, one man volunteers to participate in a game named The Running Man in order to earn money for his daughter's health care. The game lasts 30 days. The contestant is pursued by team of hunters and he earns money for every hour he stays alive and extra for killing pursuers. It was made into a movie with Arnold Schwarzeneger. More recently, there is The Condemned, which is more directly related to BR. Condemned prisoners on an island fight to the death to gain their freedom. Not surprisingly, Wikipedia has an article on "human hunting."

Back to the manga. These comics are read right to left and the book itself is oriented the opposite to what we are used to, i.e. the spine is to the right. On a 5" wide by 7.5" high page, the artists fits up to 10 panels. That's according to the diagram on how to read manga. I think the maximum I saw in this volume was eight. The shape and placement of the panels is adjusted to match the actions of the characters. You will often see a smaller panel inset into a larger one. In a page showing martial arts action you can see a narrow panel extending across the page showing only a leg executing a kick. The page layout is very effective and contributes quite a bit to the readers involvement.

As for the characters, the facial features are very exaggerated. There are some of the large eyes I associated with manga. Tears and sweat are pronounced and copious. Like the page layout, the physical exaggerations go a long way to heighten the impact of the emotions the characters are experiencing. The drawing style isn't what we are used to in the West, but very effective.

What about BR itself? Yikes! This is one brutal story with graphic sex and violence and this is only volume 1 of 15. The Scoobie gang it ain't. Definitely not for the squeamish.

So what do we make of a book like this? Do we write it off as gratuitous sex and violence? I'm sure there are readers who like it only for the sex and violence but there is a bit more to it than that. I defy anyone to read BR without thinking, "How would I act if I was forced to participate?" "How quickly would I succumb to the imperative to kill or die?" One of the main characters Shuuya tries to get everyone to band together against the authorities without initial success. We'll see what happens to him as the series progresses.

"Could a government sponsor such a game?" is another question to consider. Could we find ourselves living in a bread and circuses world today? I'm cynical enough to see it as a possible scenario.

Battle Royale on Amazon

Interesting Wikipedia articles:
Battle Royale (manga)
Battle Royale (novel)

Jack Wakes Up (podcast)

Jack Wakes Up
Seth Harwood
Seth's website
Highly recommended

I used to listen to books on tapes and on CD but I never realized what a junkie I was for listening until my wife gave me a 60 Gb iPod for a milestone birthday. I immediately started exploring podcasts and, a year later, ended up on Seth Harwood's web site. Prior to this, my fiction needs were satisfied with Audible.com and various science fiction, horror, and fantasy podcasts. More about those in later posts. I think it was Scott Sigler on one of his The Rookie podcasts who pointed me in this direction. Whoever got me here, thanks.

The crime story is one of my favorite genres and Seth describes Jack Wakes Up (JWU) as the "world's first crime-noir podcast novel." It fits that description very well. It is written in third person, present tense which I don't think is common but it works quite well. It pushes the story along and gives the listener a feeling of direct involvement in the action, like it is happening in real time. The recording quality and Seth's delivery are both very good.

JWU is the story of Jack Palms, an ex-actor who starred in one police action film, Shake it Down. Jack has been coasting ever since his drug abuse and arrest for hitting his wife (not true) ended his acting career. Jack is off drugs and alcohol and working out regularly when a friend of Jack's gets him involved in what is supposed to be a simple drug deal that will get Jack some much needed cash.

The next thing he knows, his friend is dead and Jack is trying to find out who killed his friend AND carry off the drug deal with some very friendly but volatile and lethal ex-KGB Czech drug dealers. Jack has to manipulate the drug dealing while feeding information to the police officer who arrested him years ago. And not get killed in the process. In the midst of all this action, Jack does indeed wake up and realizes how much he has been missing in life.

Seth is hoping to get JWU published and I wish him luck. It is good enough a story to see paper. When JWU does come out in print it will be interesting to see the changes that will be made under the guidance of an editor. If I was asked to identify a weakness in the story I would have to pick the characterization of Maxine, the only major female character. Seth address this in the Q&A episode that followed the conclusion but I still ... Well, listen for yourself and draw your own conclusion.

The sequel, This is Life, is currently being serialized.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Robert Burdett's Bangkok Books

Bangkok Haunts came out in June 2007 and I just finished reading it. Afterwards, I bought Bangkok 8 and Bangkok Tattoo and as soon as Haunts is out in trade paper I'll get it as well. Yes, I really like these books. I'm not going to do a full-on review since they are readily available on the Internet. I will write a bit about the appeal the Bangkok books have for me.

First, some background. John Burdett was a lawyer in Hong Kong but gave it up to become a writer. Bangkok 8 marks his start as a full-time writer though he had written two books previously. I believe he now lives in Bangkok.

Bangkok 8, Bangkok Tattoo, and Bangkok Haunts are first person narratives by Sonchai Jitleecheep. He directly addresses the reader who he calls farang, a Thai term referring to a western foreigner. Sonchai himself is half western, the product of a Thai prostitute and American G.I. in Bangkok on R&R from the Vietnam War. Sonchai is also an honest police detective in District 8 run by the corrupt Colonel Vikorn.

Sonchai as an honest cop surrounded by corruption is an interesting thread running through the three books. In his youth Sonchai and his best friend Pichai were involved in drug dealing. Pichai killed a dealer and he and Sonchai were sent to a Buddhist monastery for a year. The abbot, who is also the brother of Colonel Vikorn, directed Sonchai and Pichai to become honest police men in order to repair the damage to their karmas resulting from the murder of the drug dealer.

Burdett skillfully weaves Buddhist principles, karma, reincarnation, morality, and the difficulties of balancing the practical necessities of the social environment in which his characters operate with Buddhist requirements. Burdett does this without becoming didactic and preachy. Rather, he has Sonchai use Buddhism to explain why things are as they are otherwise the westerner would not be able to comprehend the events. If you are not interested in reading about Buddhism and how people can be guided by Buddhism, then skip these books. As for me, I'm going to find my copy of What the Buddha Taught and actually read it this time.

Each of these books have one central and horrific event. In Bangkok 8 it involves snakes, in Bangkok Tattoo it is tattoos, removal of, and in Bangkok Haunts it is a snuff film. Burdett structures cracking good stories incorporating these events. Sonchai's drive to find the truth in spite of personal danger is riveting and the second reason these books appeal to me.

Burdett has immersed himself in Thai culture. It is the sleazy side with drugs, prostitution, and police corruption. His books are not Thai cozies with a lovable Buddhist monk solving crimes. This culture is raw, dangerous, and completely fascinating. This is the third reason I like these books - strong sense of place.

Before I forget, in my discussion of The Overlook I asked if anyone has written a story where the FBI and the locals get along. I forgot about Burdett's books. In Bangkok 8 the FBI and Sonchai have a very good working relationship and one of the agents, Kimberly Jones, returns in Bangkok Haunts. His relationship with the CIA in a post-911 world in Bangkok Tattoo, not so much.

I like these books because:

  • written in first person
  • really good plots
  • reader gets a good sense of place and a very different culture
  • Buddhism, morality, effects of decisions, karmic balance woven into the story not imposed on it
You might not like these books if:
  • you are not willing to read that prostitution is not always evil
  • you are squeamish
  • you don't want to hear that western values might not be appropriate everywhere
I recommend a visit to John Burdett's web site.
Bangkok 8 on Amazon
Bangkok Tattoo on Amazon
Bangkok Haunts on Amazon

Monday, July 2, 2007

The Overlook & The Watchman

Michael Connelly, The Overlook (Harry Bosch)
Robert Crais, The Watchman (Joe Pike & Elvis Cole)

WARNING: Thar be spoilers.

Connelly and Crais are two authors writing in the detective genre that I always read and I finished both books last weekend. There are interesting connections between the Bosch and Cole books. Connelly and Crais have referred to each other's characters in their books, though without mentioning names. In previous a book, Crais has Cole leaving the court house and passing Bosch standing outside smoking. From the description it has to be Harry Bosch. Connelly has Cole living in the same neighborhood as Bosch and Bosch waving to the private detective who lives up the hill as he drives by. Not a significant part of the stories but fun Easter eggs for readers of both authors.

In these books we learn that Joe Pike and Harry Bosch both carry Kimber semiautomatics. The last Bosch story was titled Echo Park. Echo Park is one of the settings in The Watchman. I like to think these guys are having fun with each other.

The Overlook was originally serialized in the New York Times Magazine and, according to the dust jacket, it has been expanded and revised. It is still thinner than other books in the series and, in my opinion, not as tightly written. Still, any Bosch is better than no Bosch so I'm not really complaining.

Connelly is doing a good job showing Bosch aging. He needs reading glasses and has to use magnifying glass at times. He isn't up on electronics and only manages the basic functions on his cell phone. His new partner is much younger and Harry isn't too proud to ask him to go through the victim's Blackberry. I like this aspect of Harry.

Basic plot: Harry is called out to a murder scene at the Overlook. It looks like an execution but then the FBI, in the person of Rachal Walling last seen in Echo Park, shows up. Harry and Rachael had a history that didn't end well in Echo Park. The victim, a doctor, was on a Homeland Security watch list because he had access to radioactive materials. Cesium in this case. Guess what, cesium is missing. The wife is found tied up in the house. The wife eventually comes up with a clue that makes everyone believe that this is a case of terrorists stealing radioactive materials.

Now we have the usual FBI vs Locals scenario - FBI doesn't want to tell the locals everything, the locals don't want to get cut out of the case. Has anyone written a book where the FBI and the local police get along and show mutual respect?

The car belonging to the wife of the victim is found in front of the house of someone patterned after Sami Al-Arian, the Florida professor who was accused of raising money for terrorists. Ski masks are found in the trashcans. A raid takes place and the suspect is killed. Harry doesn't believe the guy was involved. Too convenient.

The book rushes toward conclusion when an illegal alien is taken to the hospital with severe radiation burns. Harry and Rachael find the guys' truck with the cesium, the gun, and a yoga poster taken from the doctor's home that turns out to be one of the keys to the case. The Mexican was a dumpster diver and found the stuff in a near-by dumpster that is conveniently located in a straight line from the scene of the crime. Here I have a problem. The murder was not actually a terrorist plot but concocted by a member of the terrorist task force and the victims wife. Don't you think that an experienced FBI agent could do better that dumping ALL the evidence in a dumpster, the same dumpster? Including a paper poster that is a key piece of evidence that they took pains to remove? If it had been me, I would have burned or shredded the poster right away. And putting the cesium container in the dumpster as well! The chances of discovery in a dumpster, as anyone who watches Law & Order knows, is pretty good. I would have left the cesium and the gun in the car they planted in front of the terrorist suspect's house. Let him explain it.

Crais' The Watchman features Joe Pike who is backed up by Elvis Cole this time. A reversal of their usual roles. Pike is guarding a hotel heiress who shows up at the first meeting with a tiny dog in a purse. Gee, I wonder who she could be patterned after. Pike gets to shoot a lot of people and be silent and scary. What's with the sun glasses at night? Is anyone's vision that good? We also learn a bit more about his time on the police force and his work as a mercenary. Elvis helps out and delivers his usual wisecracks. The heiress grows up along the way and you get the idea she might turn out OK.

I wondered if it would be a good idea to reveal more about Pike, that his character might suffer if he is less mysterious. Crais pulls it off and I wasn't disappointed.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like if Crais, Parker, and Evanovich could collaborate on a book that brought Crais' Pike, Parker's Hawk, and Evanovich's Ranger together? It is one of those crossovers that I fantasize about, like Homicide: Life on the Street meets NYPD Blue. It would have been fun to have Sipowicz meet Pembleton.

If you are a loyal reader of Crais and Connelly, I recommend these books. If you are just starting out with these authors, read the earlier books then read these.

Author websites:
Michael Connelly
Robert Crais

On Amazon
The Overlook
The Watchman


I'm not sure what led you to this blog, but welcome. Eventually there may be something of interest to others posted here. I started a blog because I don't seem to be able to keep a print one. It's that whole lousy handwriting, can't edit what you write except with messy strike-outs thing about written journals. I also like the ability to tag posts and insert links and images.

What will you find here? A lot about books I've read, movies/videos I've seen, projects I'm working on, stuff I want to remember.