A penny saved is ridiculous.

A penny saved is ridiculous.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Decent thriller out of Europe

I acquired Gabi Kreslehner's Rain Girl on my Kindle via Amazon's Kindle First program, and found it to be a satisfying, moody reading experience. A beautiful young woman is assaulted and left for dead on the high-speed Autobahn (the novel, recently translated into English, is set in Austria), where she eventually awakens, wanders into traffic, and is fatally hit by a car. 

Detectives Franza and Felix are assigned the case and try to piece together the final hours of the woman's life: Why was she dressed so beautifully? Who assaulted her and left her by the side of the highway? What strange scene played out at a nearby rest stop prior to the woman's roadside abandonment?

Adding texture and nuance are the detectives' own daily problems: Franza is having an affair behind the back of her dentist husband Max, and Felix is experiencing stress because he and his wife are expecting twins, which will shortly give them a total of four kids to care for. Franza and her husband are also estranged from their grown son Ben, which bothers Franza a lot, though her husband thinks the son is just going through a phase. Adding more stress to everything is the eventual revelation that Franza and Max's son had a connection to the dead woman.

The book moves along nicely, yet also manages to take its time and deliver some nice imagery and thoughtful literary asides, resulting in a story that works as both a thriller and a graceful straight-up novel. Author Gabi Kreslehner and translator Lee Chadeayne both deserve recognition and kudos for a fine, engaging book.

Crouch sticks the landing

The Wayward Pines trilogy (the first book is Pines and the second book is Wayward, with reviews of both appearing a few posts down in this blog) comes to a satisfying conclusion in The Last Town, as Blake Crouch's uneasy hero Ethan Burke presides over all-out war amid the crumbling infrastructure of the world's weirdest town.

Because we're now far into the story, there's not much mystery or fanciful strangeness left to discover as The Last Town gets underway, but there's tons of strategy, action, battles, confrontations, and- most importantly- satisfying resolution. Oh, and scares-- there are lots of scares. In many ways, this is the horror story of the trilogy.

Author Crouch worked hard to give us a bang-up conclusion to his offbeat tale, and he certainly succeeded. Throughout the book, he makes the reader go "Wow!" quite frequently-- right up to the last sentence, in fact (which is a doozy, by the way).

When the upcoming television series based on these books (it'll be on the FX network) eventually gets around to adapting this big closing installment, I hope they just stick to the book. The story's all here, man.

I know this is a sketchy review, but at this point if what I've written about these books seems at all interesting to you, just pick 'em up, grab 'em on your Kindle, or download the audios from Audible. Discover some of the books' pleasures and surprises on your own.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Odd but okay Jesse Stone adventure

Michael Brandman's third and final Jesse Stone novel, Robert B. Parker's Damned If You Do (yes, they now use the late writer Robert Parker's name in all the titles when they release a new entry in the various series he created over his long career) almost seemed like an experiment, as the story was 100% police-thriller plot, straight no chaser. That is, there was nothing about Jesse's personal issues: his drinking, his needy ex-wife, whoever he's dating, etc. Only the two offered plotlines- about a murdered girl found in a seedy hotel room, and a shady assisted living facility that abused its residents- were advanced as I moved through the book. Even when Jesse visited his shrink, they only discussed the two cases and not anything going on in Jesse's life.

If this turns out to be a new direction for the series- all cop stuff all the time- I'd be horrified. But this one time, it was sort of interesting. The two thriller plots are pretty good and are developed nicely, with each giving Jesse some entertaining "tough cop" moments. But, yeah, it was pretty weird not seeing Jesse struggle with something going on his personal life, or having a heart-to-heart talk with his assistant Molly about same. Actually, the Jesse/Molly friendship has been mostly bland since Robert Parker stopped writing the series, but that's another topic.

So, yeah, I enjoyed this quick, fast read, which reasonably suggests that Jesse sometimes works cases while not being distracted by personal issues. But when this series' next assigned writer- mystery author Reed Farrel Coleman- picks up Jesse's adventures with the next book, Robert B. Parker's Blind Spot (which will be coming out shortly), I'll be happy if we get back to the nice layered plotting that's been the hallmark of this series. In other words, I hope it features Jesse both chasing suspects and his personal demons... or at least a new girlfriend.