NetGalley Top Reviewer

NetGalley Top Reviewer
NetGalley Top Reviewer

Monday, June 27, 2011

Buried Secrets by Joseph Finder

4.0 out of 5 stars  

How deep are your secrets buried?
This book contains all the ingredients necessary for a novel to earn the right to be called a true suspense thriller: enigmatic clever hero, young damsel in distress, horribly evil bad guys, ruthless, manipulative powerful men who like to get what they want, and lots of action.

Nick Heller is called to the home of billionaire financier Marshall Marcus, an old friend of the family who had employed Nick's mom, when his 17 year old daughter Alexa doesn't come home one night. Suspecting that she has been kidnapped for ransom, Nick sets his private investigation in motion using his own employees and calling in favors from all sorts of friends from his former experiences in the military and beyond. Who has taken Alexa? Where is she being held, and what will it take to bring her home alive? Although Nick moves at breakneck speed using all his resources, he's also suspicious that Marcus is keeping secrets from him that might prevent this from being a successful rescue. Will he be able to solve the mystery and uncover the buried secrets in time?

This is the second book in the Nick Heller series (the first one -- I did not read it -- was Vanished (Nick Heller 1)) and it stands well alone. To say that this was hard to put down is an understatement. The short chapters and change in point of view keep the narrative moving forward at a very rapid pace. I really enjoyed this novel and hope there's a third one in the works. Recommend for a great summer read -- but only if you have nothing else to do until you turn the last page!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Healer by Carol Cassella

4.0 out of 5 stars What's left when you've lost it all?
This second novel by medical doctor Carol Cassella explores the answer to the question -- what is left when you've lost all your material possessions, your home, your reputation, and your previous world of friends and social interaction? The answer lies, for these characters, in the rustic, rural former vacation home they never renovated, in a small town in Hallum, Washington. What remains is simple: hard work and love.

Claire is a stay-at-home mom to teen-aged Jory (the only child she can have, born prematurely) when her husband Addison, a wildly successful biochemist who had made them rich by discovering a test to diagnose ovarian cancer early, gambles their entire financial portfolio on a new anti-cancer drug he's trying to bring to market. Almost ready for FDA approval, lab data from clinical trials is suspicious, and the fledgling research venture folds along with Addison's integrity. Gone is all the money they had received from Addison's former triumph, and they have to sell their house and possessions and relocate to Hallum while Addison goes begging at medical conventions for investors in the project he can't give up.

Meanwhile, Claire -- who was almost done with residency when Jory arrived early -- needs a job to feed herself and her daughter. Because she's not board certified, she takes the only job she's offered -- in a free clinic for migrant workers run by an aging physician, Dr. Dan Zalaya. The position pays little, and Claire is nervous and anxious about actually working as a doctor again and has also a little difficulty with translating the patients' complaints from Spanish since she doesn't speak the language. She is forced to be a single parent to Jory and works long hours in the barely funded clinic. This was the best part of the novel for me, watching Claire develop her confidence in the art of practicing medicine, being the "healer" as doctora to these migrant workers. I loved the interactions between her and the patients, and between her and the staff at the clinic. It painted a bleak picture of the life of the illegal immigrants and it felt to me that Claire was getting back some of her self esteem.

A constant irritant in the book was the teenage daughter Jory, whom I could not stand. I realize that many teenagers are self absorbed and narcissistic, but the amount of patience that Claire had to use to deal with her defied my tolerance level. I just couldn't stand Jory's character and in my view she never redeemed herself or grew up any in the book. Addison was shallow and also selfish -- forging ahead with his dream when he should have taken a bench lab job to provide for his family. I saw him, who had basically stolen away the family fortune without ever discussing it with his wife, as a complete failure as husband and father. I also couldn't understand where the money to buy the food and pay the other bills was coming from as they were buying jewelry and food and paying utilities on only Claire's meager salary. Despite these discordant notes, the narrative moved along hopefully as the family tiptoes around each other trying to work their way back to being a unit and the loving trio they once had been.

Then, for some reason, the last part of the book attempts to set up a mystery using a Nicaraguan refugee with a lost daughter. This part of the novel fell flat and seemed tacked on, but other than that - the story moves to a conclusion that is somewhat satisfying. There is redemption of a sort, and the restoration of trust -- though hard won -- and above all, there is love.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Jefferson Key by Steve Berry

4.0 out of 5 stars "Privateers are the nursery for pirates" (Captain Charles Johnson - 1724)

What a rollicking adventure! I really enjoyed this fast-paced historical fiction tale about a secret society of privateers (pirates), the Commonwealth, who joined forces and were spurred to action in defense of the colonies during the American Revolution. With a loose connection to actual events that occurred during the early years of our nation's birth and bringing the Commonwealth to still active status in the present day, author Steve Berry devises a plot that is both plausible and entertaining.

Cotton Malone, previously a Justice Department operative, is called to New York for a meeting with an old friend and his former boss, Stephanie Nelle. He arrives in time to foil an assassination attempt on Danny Daniels, the US President! Discovering that the whole scene was a set-up, he and partner Casseopeia Vitt begin a hunt for the missing Stephanie and an investigation into the Commonwealth to find out who was involved with this plot and why.

This is great cross and double cross mystery adventure that uses some historical facts to create a complex situation that takes the characters from the quiet and secluded estates in Bath, North Carolina, to a deserted crumbling old fort in Nova Scotia. I raced through the pages as the action shifted from one point of view and scene to another. Along the way, the reader learns about the role of privateers in wartime and many interesting facts about early US presidents and a secret code devised for Thomas Jefferson that holds the key to the power the Commonwealth needs. It all makes for a nicely complex novel that readers and fans will find satisfying.

A short writer's note at the end of the book separates fact from fiction. All in all, a fun beach read with lots of action, short chapters, and a compelling story. Although this is part of a series, you don't need to have read the previous Cotton Malone books to enjoy this one -- but you might want to go back and start at the beginning with The Templar Legacy: A Novel, and read the author's other stand alone novels as well!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Pacific Heights by Paul Harper

4 of 5 stars

What a great summer thrill ride -- and a fantastic debut for a new series featuring retired SID detective Marten Kane. Two wives of well-known San Francisco entrepreneurs are seeing a psychotherapist -- they don't know each other, but one man, Ryan Kroll, knows both of them -- very well. In fact, he knows their most intimate secrets, fantasies, hidden horrors and insecurities. AND he intends to use that knowledge against them in the most personal way possible. He seeks them out, contrives to meet them, and begins a love affair with both Elise and Lore and uses the knowledge he has stolen from the therapist's office files to control and manipulate them. What is his goal? Enter Marten Kane -- the ultimate "fix it" man -- he has both the discretion and the intelligence to figure out what Ryan Kroll is doing and to try to stop him before he carries out his plans with the two women.
High recommend this book to all fans of the suspense thriller genre! I am eagerly looking forward to Paul Harper's (a pseudonym for David Lindsey) next installment in the Marten Kane series.

I read this ARC for the Library Thing Early Reviewers program.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Devil's Plaything by Matt Richtel

3.0 out of 5 stars Step away from your computer!, June 17, 2011
This was an OK thriller that has to do with the bad guys using computer technology to secretly mess with peoples' brains and their memories. But why? The main character, a medical blog writer and former doctor named Nat Idle, and his grandmother Lane are running around San Francisco trying to figure out why her dementia is progressing so rapidly and what memories of hers have been tampered with or altered. Nat is detracted from solving the mystery by suspicious characters at every turn. He can't seem to get answers from the caregivers at the nursing home where Lane lives or from her neurologist, nor from a quasi military type venture capitalist named Chuck who appears out of nowhere to save Nat and his grandmother from an attack by a gun toting man in a Prius.

The action scenes are there and the ingredients for a fast paced thriller are in place, but the story and the main plot really don't go anywhere. The narrative seems to be more a social commentary about the danger to human minds because of multitasking and the internet than a real suspense thriller. The revelations about the "big secret" that Grandma Lane has and the resultant case breaking clues that are finally exposed aren't really very exciting and the story sort of limps to a less than compelling or satisfying conclusion. The moral of the story seems to be that humans should stop using computers and have more face-to-face interactions with their loved ones lest we all forget simple things, ruin our long term memories and our brains.

Fine, escapist beach read -- don't expect a high octane thrill ride because it's not found in these pages.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Sister by Rosamund Lupton

4.0 out of 5 stars The bond between sisters can be very strong..., June 15, 2011
It's very difficult to write a review of a book that doesn't allow the reader to discuss particulars that would be spoilers for anyone wanting to know whether or not to buy a book. I will make every effort to avoid giving anything away.

To be honest, however, I must say that I have a pet peeve -- and that is with books that have an ambiguous ending (or a non ending). I don't like them. This is that sort of a book. Despite that aggravation, I must say that if you like a good mystery story with an unusual twist, you will like this book.

Reminiscent of Chevy Stevens' Still Missing and Never Knowing, author Rosamund Lupton has her main character, Beatrice, use both a letter format and a lawyer with the Crown Prosecution Service to tell her story. (Chevy Stevens uses therapy sessions notes and a therapist). The plot is simple -- Beatrice gets a call from her mother that her sister Tess is missing and she leaves New York to go to London to find out what happened. The narrative, in the form of a letter to her sister, describes what Beatrice found when she arrived and her own investigation into her sister's death. The police have ruled it a suicide but Beatrice knows her sister and knows that she would never have done that. Her discoveries about the life her sister was living give her pause; she wonders if she really did know her sister as well as she thought she did. Was the death of Tess really a suicide or was it murder? If so, who did it? Beatrice tells Mr. Wright, the lawyer for CPS, step by step what she finds as she delves into the mystery. Multiple suspects provide Beatrice with many avenues to explore. Lots of red herrings and a few surprising twists as discoveries are made and truths are uncovered.

There is foreshadowing and melodrama as the story comes to a shocking conclusion (you know something is off, but not quite sure what it is) and the reader is left momentarily holding her breath at the end. And then the reader says -- what the heck???

I liked most of the book really well, but I did not like how it concluded. If you like a gripping, dark and gothic type thriller, I think you will enjoy this book.