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Update January 2018

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Book Review

Saturday, January 27, 2018 - February 2, 2018

James Anderson delivers unconventional mystery in new novel


Oline H. Cogdill

The road stretches long — and hard — in a remote area of Utah that trucker Ben Jones has been traveling nearly 20 years.  It’s not exactly a Jack Kerouac road trip as this bleak stretch of road known as Route 117 is filled with treacherous curves, unpredictable weather and people more eccentric and peculiar than any beat poet imagined.

As he did in his 2015 debut, “The Never-Open Desert Diner,” James Anderson delivers an unconventional mystery melding near lyrical prose with a strong sense of atmosphere and an affinity for oddball characters — even the most outlandish are believable. A sense of the menacing hangs over the plot of “Lullaby Road,” and when violence erupts, it’s expected, yet still surprising.

“Lullaby Road” works well as a story about isolation, loss, parenting and predators.

In this story, Ben is putting diesel in his rig when the manager of the Stop ‘n’ Gone Truck Stop tells him that something has been left for him at the eighth fuel island.  The “something” turns out to be a child about 5 or 6 years old with a note pleading for Ben to take the youngster named Juan because of “Bad Trouble.”

The child is accompanied by a large protective white dog.  Ben has no intention of taking the child, and especially not the dog.  But the weather has turned frigid and the seedy truck stop manager isn’t an option.  His next-door neighbor further complicates his passenger list by insisting that he take her infant daughter along; her baby sitter is sick and the new mother has to be at her job at Walmart.

So begins Ben’s most unusual trek, making his deliveries of water, food, mail and supplies to far-flung homes of those who relish the remoteness.  Along the way, Ben comes across his friends, preacher John who drags a life-size crucifix along the highway, a state trooper who’s on duty only if he wears his hat and an ex-coal miner who survives with odd jobs.  But danger rears up as Ben dodges a speeding semi that almost crashes into him and as he eludes people with guns.  The child and the dog hold the key to painful secrets.

Anderson evocatively illustrates the beauty and harshness of Utah’s high desert while also delving deep into the characters and their motives for living where they do.  The product of foster homes, the flawed and fascinating Ben just tries to get by each day, doing the right thing, while relishing the terrain’s vastness, “drawn toward it, into it, like it was some crazy lover forever promising passion and never love.” (AP)

Update January 20, 2018 - January 26, 2018

‘Operator Down’ is page-turning thriller

Jeff Ayers

“Operator Down,” Brad Taylor’s latest in his best-selling Pike Logan series, showcases a few of the best supporting characters in another tale that feels like it’s just ahead of tomorrow’s headlines.

Taylor worked in Special Forces, and previous novels featuring Logan and his counterterrorism unit known as The Taskforce have always felt authentic.  In “Operator Down,” the author showcases the invisible world of the diamond industry.  Aaron Bergman and his partner, Shoshana, work for Mossad and once in a while they find themselves working with Logan and his team.  Since the mission seems somewhat straightforward, Aaron accepts the assignment without telling Shoshana.

With it being officially unsanctioned by his government, Aaron also doesn’t want to get her involved unless it’s absolutely necessary.  He takes another woman with him instead, making Shoshana jealous, but the woman has keen knowledge he can use.  She knows the diamond market, and the case involves following someone in the Israeli Diamond Exchange who might attempt to discredit the government.

What is actually going on is much worse when it’s revealed that an American arms dealer is trying to purchase components that could be used to piece together a successful nuclear weapon.

Logan and his team at first find a reluctant Shoshana who doesn’t want their help, but after an attempt on her life, she finds herself working with The Taskforce again to rescue Aaron and save the day, though her ruthlessness and skills might be more a hindrance than helpful.

Taylor is one of today’s premiere authors writing about the world of special ops and the characters of the team have become familiar and comfortable to long-time fans.  Newcomers shouldn’t be deterred since Taylor knows how to quickly immerse readers in his world. (AP)

Update January 13, 2018 - January 19, 2018

Dave Robicheaux returns in new novel by James Lee Burke

Jeff Ayers

James Lee Burke’s iconic deputy from Louisiana, Dave Robicheaux, must face the past that haunts him while pursuing a murder case that hits too close to home in “Robicheaux.”

Robicheaux still hasn’t gotten over the death of his wife, Molly.  She was killed in a traffic accident, and he wants answers.  He even confronts the driver who rammed into her vehicle, but he swears he was driving the speed limit and she pulled out in front of him and he didn’t have time to stop.  A couple of his friends ask for personal favors, and when he begrudgingly obliges, it ends up being problematic when one of them is accused of a sexual assault.

While trying to learn the truth about what happened that evening, Robicheaux also struggles with staying sober, and it seems that every time he tries to interview a potential witness or just wants to get away for a while, the urge to drink isn’t far behind.  When he finally decides to indulge, he wakes up with no memory of what transpired earlier.  Except the man responsible for killing Molly has been found beaten to death, and the last man to see him was Robicheaux.  It would be against his nature to murder someone for revenge, but since he can’t remember, he is secretly terrified that he’s responsible.

The ending is a bit jumbled with who did what to whom with an ever-increasing body count, and even Robicheaux himself is in a bit of a quandary about the entire adventure.  In the scheme of things, it doesn’t matter.  The poetic writing and depth of the major characters balances out everything.

Reading one of Burke’s novels is truly an immersive experience, with every ache and anguish feeling gut-wrenchingly real.  It has been almost five years since the last Dave Robicheaux novel, and it was absolutely worth the wait. (AP)

Update Saturday, Jan. 6 - Jan. 12, 2018

Robert Crais’ ‘The Wanted’ is rewarding page-turner

Bruce Desilva

Devon Connor is beside herself with worry.  Her teenage son, Tyson, keeps showing up with things that neither of them could possibly afford: New clothes from Barney’s.  High-end electronics.  What appears to be a genuine Rolex.  And his explanations are ludicrous.

Fearing that he might be dealing drugs, she hires private detective Elvis Cole to look into it.  It doesn’t take Cole long to discover that the situation is much worse.  Tyson is part of a three-person teenage gang that’s been breaking into homes in rich neighborhoods around Los Angeles.

So begins “The Wanted,” the latest in Robert Crais’ series of cleverly plotted, stylishly written private-eye novels featuring Cole and his fearsome, taciturn partner Joe Pike.

When Tyson and his friends go on the run, Cole finds himself in a riveting race against time.  The police, of course, are seeking the gang, too.  But so are two quirky, highly resourceful thugs who prove to be the most interesting characters in the tale.  The teens, it seems, have unknowingly stolen a laptop containing a powerful criminal’s darkest secret, and the thugs will stop at nothing to track it down.

As the bodies pile up, and the yarn approaches its climax, the reader begins to wonder if Cole and Pike may finally have met their match.

Carl Riggins, a rude, fat, friendless geek with bad skin who grudgingly helps Cole with his case, is the book’s lone false note-— a character who conforms to every tired stereotype of a teenage computer hacker.

But this is a quibble, because the end result is another rewarding page-turner by one of the most reliable storytellers in modern crime fiction. (AP).



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HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

James Anderson delivers unconventional mystery in new novel

‘Operator Down’ is page-turning thriller

Dave Robicheaux returns in new novel by James Lee Burke

Robert Crais’ ‘The Wanted’ is rewarding page-turner


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