Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The King's Deception

by Steve Berry
409 pgs  (Cotton Malone series #8)

I always buy Steve Berry's books as soon as they come out, but I rarely read them right away. It's not that I don't enjoy them--I've enjoyed all of them. They're always entertaining and they involve some sort of little-known historical mystery or deception that Malone ends up getting dragged into at the risk of his life. Unfortunately, they're all fairly formulaic and so I don't find myself getting overly excited to read them. Instead, I get around to them when I feel like it.

This time around Malone finds himself enlisted by the CIA to investigate an historical mystery concerning Queen Elizabeth I. The CIA wants to blackmail the British government into stopping Scotland from releasing a Libyan terrorist who decades ago bombed a Pan Am flight over Lockerbie. The man is in the final stages of terminal cancer and is being released as a show of humanitarianism. The CIA is determined to prevent his release and only sees one way to do it--they need to prove that the reason the last monarch of the Tudor dynasty became known as "The Virgin Queen," was because she was secretly a man.

I know how it sounds. I laughed out loud when the theory was first presented in the book. But to Berry's credit, he's a master researcher, and does an excellent job of converting his readers to the idea before he finishes. I don't know that I'll ever be able to look at a portrait of her/him again without considering the idea.

In his usual fashion, Berry combines historical locales and mysteries with fairly fast-paced action and in the end produces a book that is entertaining, but expected. I'm hoping that he mixes things up a little soon. Maybe he could kill off a vital character (his son Gary?) and send Malone into a rage-induced revenge crusade or something; anything to add a little unpredictability to the series and keep me on my toes.

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


by Scott Sigler
582 pgs

Five years ago I came across a book at the bookstore that had a creepy eye on the cover with a triangular iris. I had never heard of the author before, but I had to buy the book. I'll admit that the plot of Infected sounds a little campy -- an alien virus enters the earth's atmosphere, infects only human beings, takes over their brains, and turns them into murderous psychopaths, but I thoroughly enjoyed the book and its sequel Contagious. Finally, after five long years of waiting on Sigler to finish what he started, he concludes his sci fi/horror trilogy with Pandemic.

I'll try not to spoil the other two books for those who haven't read them, but at the end of Contagious the U.S. military erroneously believes that they've eliminated the alien threat. Pandemic begins five years later and there's one final source of the infection on the planet. It has learned from its previous failures and is ready to try one final time to wipe out the human population. 

This time the virus escapes on a global scale, infecting millions of people. The virus converts some of the infected into incubators to further spread the virus. With others it alters their DNA and converts them into an army of monstrous hulk-like creatures. Others it doesn't change physically, but instead takes control of their minds and joins them all into a hive-like entity, all sharing the common goal of eliminating the uninfected.

It's obvious that Sigler has evolved as an author since writing Infected. Pandemic is a much different book, both in feel and in scope. Infected was memorable because it made my skin crawl and made my stomach turn -- both good things in a horror book. And while Pandemic doesn't entirely abandon that method of success -- there's still violence on a tremendously entertaining level, this time around there's more depth to the characters and the story.

The series as a whole is fantastic! Each book is better than the last one. But it's not for the squeamish or the faint of heart.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Kill Room

by Jeffery Deaver
477 pgs  (Lincoln Rhyme series #10)

In each of the previous books featuring Lincoln Rhyme, Jeffery Deaver pitted the quadriplegic criminalist against ingenious criminals, whom Rhyme and his partner Amelia Sachs had to call on all their training and resources in order to bring down. In The Kill Room, it's not necessarily a criminal Rhyme is pursuing, it's an operative of an NSA-like agency of the U.S government who killed an American citizen in the Bahamas.

The man killed was Robert Moreno, an outspoken critic of U.S. foreign policy. While in the Bahamas organizing a protest of a large oil company, Moreno was killed by a sniper bullet that went through his hotel window. The operative that killed him was operating under the false information that Moreno was planning a terrorist attack.

When an attorney brings information about the killing to Lincoln and Sachs, they quickly realize that things are not as they appear on the surface. Lincoln, faced with a crime scene thousands of miles away and a foreign police agency reluctant to cooperate and share evidence, must find a way to investigate the killing and determine why the operative was given false information.

The Kill Room was a nice change of pace in the Rhyme series. It didn't follow the pattern all of the other did of having Lincoln confined to his residence while Amelia acted remotely as his eyes, and legs, gathering information to bring back to him to analyze. This time Deaver gets Lincoln out of his townhouse and doing some of his own legwork for a change while investigating the killing.

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

May Contain Traces of Magic

by Tom Holt
339 pgs

It's been awhile since I read a Tom Holt book. I don't know why I don't read them more often. But for some reason I don't seem to get around to reading his books till they've sat on my shelf for months or sometimes even years. He's a British author highly skilled in writing ridiculous comic fantasy books--and I mean that in the nicest way possible.

May Contain Traces of Magic is about a man named Chris. Chris is a sales rep who sells magical goods, things like portable parking spaces that store your car in a parallel universe until you need it again, and instant water (just add water). Chris also has a minor case of infatuation for the female voice of his car's satellite navigation system. Fortunately for him, that voice belongs to a small demon who's been imprisoned in the GPS system, so there's at least a small chance something could one day work out between them.

Chris's life is one day turned upside down when he pays a visit to the shop of one of his clients and finds him dead on the floor with a demon sitting on one of the shelves staring directly at him. That day begins a series of events involving time travel, shape shifting, demon possession, bathroom redecorating, and multiple instances of being flushed down the toilet into alternate realities.

I'll admit to feeling more than a little disoriented through much of the book. But the ridiculousness of the story kept me going. Fortunately, the payoff at the end was well worth it and left me looking forward to one day pulling the next book by him off my shelf.

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆