Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Bone Labyrinth

by James Rollins
471 pgs  (Sigma series #11)

Having read the previous 10 books in James Rollins' Sigma series, I know what I'm getting when I pick one of them up. The backstory is going to have something to do with a long-forgotten ancient myth or curse; one that has surfaced again and threatens to destroy the planet in modern times. The elite group of highly-intelligent, highly-skilled, and superbly-equipped government operatives known as Sigma Force will be called upon to save the day. The action will be over the top, the sex scene will make my eyes roll (and not in a good way), and I will finish the book with a smile on my face and ready for the next one to come out.

In The Bone Labyrinth Rollins starts with the premise that tens of thousands of years ago, some Neanderthals mated with homo sapiens and produced a highly-intelligent offspring--the ancestors of modern man. He then takes us to Rome, in 1969, and reveals the existence of a map that could reveal the location of Adam and Eve's bones. Then it's on to current day and a research facility in Atlanta, where Maria Crandall, a geneticist, is doing remarkable work with a hybrid gorilla named Baako. Baako is extremely intelligent and can speak fluent sign language.

The action begins when Maria and Baako are kidnapped by Chinese forces and taken back to a research facility in Beijing. The Chinese--in true Chinese fashion--are close to creating a race of superhumans, but need to unlock the mysteries behind why human intelligence increased so dramatically all those thousands of years ago.

Part of me feels like I should be embarrassed to admit to reading books like these. But I'm not. I'm owning my guilty pleasure. I like this series. There's nothing wrong with checking your brain at the door and suspending disbelief occasionally while you read a story that's just fun and exiting. The Bone Labyrinth is a worthy addition to the series. I enjoyed it and am looking forward to picking up The Seventh Plague next month.


Monday, November 28, 2016

Lost and Gone Forever

by Alex Grecian
375 pgs  (Scotland Yard's Murder Squad series #5)

Inspector Walter Day of Scotland Yard's Murder Squad has been missing for over a year now. He disappeared mysteriously at the end of The Harvest Man and many believe it was at the hands of Jack the Ripper, who he had been hunting. Since that time, his partner Nevil Hammersmith has left Scotland Yard and started his own detective agency in order to focus all his energies on finding Day.

Day, was taken by Jack, and who has been held captive and abused mentally and physically for the past year, has recently been released from his captivity. He's wandering around London without any memory of who he is, where he lives, and even the existence of his wife Claire and their young children. He also has no idea why his captor left his cell door unlocked one day and allowed him to leave.

Jack has spent the past year mesmerizing Day. He's caused Day to forget all about his past life and has plans for Day. He intends to use him to get to someone he himself can't get close to. Jack is no longer interested in killing prostitutes. He's now after the men who captured him over a year ago and kept him and tortured him in the tunnels under London for the crimes he had committed. It was Day who unknowingly freed Jack, and now he's being used by him to exact his revenge.

Lost and Gone Forever is one of those books I couldn't put down. I've enjoyed each of the four previous books in Grecian's series, but this one was especially entertaining and captivating. I'm looking forward to the next book and will move it to the top of my to-be-read stack as soon as it's out.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Sunday, November 20, 2016


by Jo Nesbø
374 pgs  (Harry Hole series #2)

Cockroaches is Jo Nesbø's second novel featuring detective Harry Hole (pronounced "Ho-leh"). He introduced his severely-flawed protagonist in The Bat, and has since written several more in the series (which I'm looking forward to reading).

This time Harry is sent to Bangkok to investigate the murder of the Norwegian ambassador to Thailand. The ambassador had been found stabbed to death in a seedy motel by a prostitute who was planning to meet him there. Harry was sent from Norway to try to quietly investigate the ambassador's death while avoiding any scandalous news coverage. As Harry begins his investigation, he quickly learns that he's been sent there to simply whitewash over the crime, and that no one is interested in uncovering why the ambassador was killed, and by whom.

Bangkok has a pretty well-known reputation for catering to criminal activity; child prostitution, opium dens, and organized crime just to name a few. Which makes it a great location for Nesbø to send Harry. Harry has his vices, and while he periodically seems to get his act together long enough to complete an investigation, Nesbø makes it clear that he's always on the edge of a relapse.

But what makes Harry such a fantastic character, is the fact that it's clear that at his core he's a good person, and will go to great lengths, even sacrificing himself if needed, to protect the innocent and uncover the truth.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Hell's Bounty

by Joe R. & John L. Lansdale
190 pgs

Hell's Bounty is a book that turned out to be exactly what I was hoping it would be. It's a Western-Faustian-Zombie mashup, and really, how could I not like that? I also appreciated the fact that it didn't take itself very seriously.

It's a story about Smith, a dynamite-loving bounty hunter in the Old West, who blows himself all to hell--literally. He meets the Devil, who's a bartender named Snappy in a saloon and makes a deal that would spare him from spending eternity in Hell. Snappy tells Smith about Quill, a demon who has escaped from Hell and who is now preparing to open a portal to earth through which the Old Ones, an ancient group whom even the devil fears and would be subject to, could arrive through and take over the Earth.

Smith is sent back in order to stop Quill and save the Earth. Upon arriving in the town of Falling Rock, where quill is operating, he finds that Quill has been killing the townspeople and changing them into zombie-like creatures, who Smith will have to deal with before he can get to Quill.

I'm not embarrassed to say that I enjoyed this book. I was not aware that Joe Lansdale had a brother, not that the brother was a writer as well, but I was familiar enough with Joe to know that He's a fantastic author, who has written books in a wide variety of genres, and for a long time. I wasn't disappointed. The story is entertaining and fun. It's genuinely funny and clearly a tribute to some of the masters of horror like Lovecraft and George Romero.


Sunday, November 6, 2016

Steel Kiss

by Jeffery Deaver
482 pgs  (Lincoln Rhyme series #12)

We live in a time when many of the items we buy and use can be accessed and controlled remotely. Through an app on our phone, we can control the lights, temperature, locks, and a variety of other systems in our homes. Our appliances come with microchips that enable technicians and repair agents to diagnose problems and control them without ever setting foot in our home. Even our cars can be started, unlocked, and to a degree, driven without us having to be near them. We are quickly getting to the point where everything we buy will include technology of this kind.

In Deaver’s latest book The Steel Kiss, Deaver creates a killer capable of hacking into any of these systems and taking them over. He then uses them to target those who have upset him or who consequently try to stop him. And as the body count begins to climb, and as people are killed by their ovens, cars, microwaves, and cars, it’s up to Lincoln Rhyme and his team to find out who he is and stop him.

There’s nothing special about this installment to the Lincoln Rhyme series. It’s what you expect to get from Deaver. He does a good job of keeping you on your toes, lulling you into the false sense that you know what is going to happen next, and then throwing in one of his trademark plot twists. But after reading enough of them, I’m starting to feel like the surprises are no longer surprises. I know they’re approaching, I just don’t know exactly what they’re going to be. Still for a fan of the series, it’s a worthwhile read. 


Thursday, November 3, 2016

Summer of Night

by Dan Simmons
555 pgs

It's the beginning of summer break in 1960 in the small Illinois town of Elm Haven, and a small group of young boys are looking forward to long days of riding their bikes, playing baseball, and generally doing whatever they want to do for the next three months. They'll never again have to enter the huge old elementary school, which was shuttered up for good at the end of the school year. When school starts again in the fall, they'll be going to another, newer school. They have no idea that the Old Central School will play a central role in their summer, forever changing some of their lives, and ending the lives of the others.

It begins with the ringing of an ancient bell in the middle of the night. Some of the oldest of the town's inhabitants know that the ringing of the bell means an ancient debt has come due. But the boys have no idea what it means. But one by one, each of them becomes aware of sinister forces now at work in their town. Tubby is the first. He discovers a hole in the basement, crawls in, and is essentially eaten alive. Harlen is next. Seeing one of his teachers at Old Central entering the boarded-up building one night, he scales the outside and through a window, sees her talking to the ghost of her recently-deceased friend. There's the ghost of a WWI soldier that keeps appearing to one of the boys at night, and all the boys keep finding these mysterious holes throughout town. Holes large enough for a young boy to crawl in and disappear forever, or from which evil and deadly creatures can crawl out.

Based on the popularity of Stranger Things recently on Netflix, there's clearly an appetite for nostalgic horror stories featuring children, and Summer of Night would be a great reading choice for those who enjoyed it. It was written a few years after Stephen King wrote IT, and it's likely that Simmons received some of his inspiration from King's story. But he also received a great blurb on the back of the book from King (so there obviously weren't any hurt feelings).

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆