Blog Posts by Uncle Will

Posted by Uncle Will on 08/26/13
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This is not only the 3rd installment in the "Joona Linna Mystery" series by the married, Swedish, literary couple, Lars Kepler -- it just might be the best.
 
Joona Linna is Sweden's version of Sherlock Holmes. He's fiercely independent, caring, headstrong, "never wrong" and always gets his man (or woman). This was evident in their premier novel, The Hypnotist. These characteristics were further supported in the sequel, The Nightmare. Joona is not only a brilliant investigator, he is a formidable martial artist who's trim, tenacious, and tragic. 
 
Almost 20 years ago, Joona sent his wife and young daughter away to protect them from evil-doers that were seeking revenge.  Joona has had no contact with either and longs for his lost loves. He has a soft spot when children are involved in his investigations. 
 
The Fire Witness is loaded with soft spots. A double-murder is committed at a home for wayward girls. The prime suspect, Vicki, only a child herself, flees the crime scene and while on the run, is suspected of kidnapping another younger child...a boy who is briefly left unattended in a parked car. It is not Joona's case, since he is on suspension for previous traitorous conduct. Joona is able to position himself as an "observer" where he proceeds to get emotionally involved in the hunt for Vicky.
 
Joona also proceeds to get into more trouble with his superiors by not following the conditions of his suspension. He enrolls the aid of a local "medium" who thinks she has seen the true killer. Her visions are discounted immediately by the unimaginative police investigators assigned to the homicide/kidnapping, but not by Joona, who never discounts anything.  
 
There are a load of suspects that are not discounted by Joona. In between his continuing search for his wife and daughter and that of Vicky and the boy hostage, Joona juggles his schedule for his suspension hearing and his ongoing romance with a fellow policewoman.
 
Lars Kepler in reality is Alexander Ahndoril and his wife Alexandra Coelho Ahndoril. They create magic together and have a long, successful career in their future, and one doesn't have to be a seer to know that...just an avid mystery reader. 
 
 
   
Posted by Uncle Will on 08/01/13
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Many think that Spencer Tracy, who starred in "Boy's Town," was the first to coin the phrase: "...There's no such thing as a bad boy..."
Then there's some that credit Tarzan with saying: "...There's no such thing as a bad monkey..."
According to a Bahamian voodoo witch known as the Dragon Queen in Carl Hiaasen's new novel Bad Monkey, who is convinced that the Capuchin monkey she craves to acquire is really a human boy -- there's no such thing as either.
 
One of the most delightful things about Carl Hiaasen's books is that you almost don't have to read further than the cast of kooky characters on the book jacket to be thoroughly entertained. In this latest book, Andrew Yancy is a suspended Miami police detective whose suspension was for molesting his former girlfriend's surgeon husband, in public, with a vacuum cleaner. Yes, there was "Film at 11." Yancy has been forced to accept the position of "Chief of the Monroe County Roach Patrol" -- which is better known as the county's restaurant health inspector. His ex-girlfriend, now the ex-wife of a prominent surgeon, has recaptured the magic she once had over 10 years ago with one of her former AP English high school students. This is the very same student that she was arrested, among other things, for contributing to his delinquency.
 
Yancy just wants to be a cop again. He also wants his backyard view returned; an illegally tall housing unit has been constructed right next door to his home by an over-zealous housing developer. To complicate matters, Yancy is asked to store evidence in his deep-freezer. This evidence is a human arm. It's found floating, hooked to a deep-sea fishing rod that's reeled in by an unsuspecting tourist. This arm might or might not have been detached in a boating accident or by malicious behavior. Yancy's police chief refuses to acknowledge either hypothesis. He just wants the arm to disappear.  He has higher political visions that do not include a grisly murder or freak accident in his county.
 
As bodies start to pile up, Yancy and his kinky new girlfriend, a Miami coroner, travel to the Bahamas where clues are likely to be found in the case of the missing arm. Once in the Bahamas, we find a poor islander, Neville, who has been foreclosed by another overly zealous condo developer (this one being a serial killer). Neville is the not-so-proud owner of the monkey, Tom, who starred in the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie with Johnny Depp. Tom comes from a long-line of famous show-biz monkeys. Unfortunately, Tom does not perform well in front of an audience. The belief is that Tom has never grown out of his adolescence stage. He likes to bite and fling feces when in public. The Dragon Queen seems to overlook Tom's bounty of bad behaviors in her quest to possess this "baby boy."   
 
Will Neville ever reclaim his modest beach home and his pet monkey who is now addicted to pipe smoking? 
Will Yancy solve this case and retain his gold shield -- along with his desire to eat again in a public restaurant?
Will true love, between the convicted child-molester/former-teacher and her once sexy-star-student (who has since gone to seed), overcome all boundaries, restrictions, and federal warrants?
Will Yancy ever again be able to sit in his backyard and watch the sun set slowly on the sea?
Will Tom and Johnny Depp, together again, ever get to skip rocks off the water?

To get the answers to these questions and more, one will have to read this book.

I'll never tell.
It's a case of monkey-see/monkey-no-speak!
Posted by Uncle Will on 06/27/13
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It is no surprise that Stephen King is a master at writing short stories and novellas. His latest work, Joyland, is a coming-of-age suspense story about a college student, Devin Jones, who is hired at a privately owned, seasonal amusement park in North Carolina for the summer.
 
Devin Jones is naive, unexperienced (in most worldly matters), and hopelessly in love with a girl who does not share his same feelings. Devin has to make some hard decisions and chooses to be apart from his beloved Wendy Keegan for their summer break.
 
Devin is hired at Joyland as a general go-fer. His big claim to fame is how well he wears the "fur" which is the hound costume that all the greenies must take turns donning to delight the younger amusement park crowd. Devin rents a room from a local lady who helps him make the adjustment to the carny life. Joyland has a cast of characters that only Stephen King can create.  
Devin quickly makes fast friends with two other college students and the three become inseparable. They learn that there was a young girl murdered at Joyland years ago and that the park is supposedly haunted by her ghost. Devin also befriends a dying boy, his beautiful mother and their cute Facebook-worthy dog, Milo, the Jack Russell terrier. 
 
Needless to say, Devin grows up big-time that summer and even has a hand in solving a murder mystery that predates this 1973 storyline. At less than 300 pages and soft-covered, this book should be atop one's list for a beach read this summer. 
 
Posted by Uncle Will on 05/29/13
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What do Michael Jordan, Ryne Sandberg, Lebron James, Devin Hester, Don Mattingly, David Beckham, and John Sandford's newest Prey series book all have in common? The number 23!
 
Silken Prey is the 23rd novel in this long-standing mystery series. And it is a doozy. Davenport might have met his match in the form of a ruthlessly rich female politician who has the moral standards of Cleopatra. Her name is Taryn Grant and she wants to be the next senator from the great state of Minnesota. Taryn and her security team - comprised of a couple of ex-Black Ops assassins, make formidable foes for Davenport. They devise a pathological scheme to defraud the incumbent senator - hoping to turn the election polls in their favor. Nothing can hurt a campaign more than the accusation that ones opponent is a child pornographer. Taryn's team will stop at nothing to win the senate seat. Multiple murders is an occupational hazard. 
 
There is nothing haphazard to Davenport's investigation. He is well aware that the arena the governor asks him to enter could be a career-breaker. He knows that politics is a dirty game and up until now, Davenport has only dressed for the games and sat on the sidelines. This time around he is put into the line-up and it's winner take all. 
 
Davenport groupies will not be disappointed. He flirts with both danger and femme fatales effortlessly. He even gets to the Mall of America a couple of times to make sure that he is dressed appropriately.
Mystery, Suspense
Posted by Uncle Will on 05/01/13
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This November marks the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination and the cold-blooded killing of Dallas patrolman, J. D. Tippit. What better way to remember it than a new suspense novel by Pulitzer Prize winning author Stephen Hunter? This is the eighth book in the Marine sniper Bob Lee Swagger series. Bob the Nailer is back and this time he is solving the crime of the century, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963.
 
Swagger is asked to investigate the death of journalist Jean Marquez's husband, James Aptapton, who was a well-known "gun guy." Just as Swagger begins to unfold the facts, he becomes the target of an international hit man. Swagger immediately goes from prey to hunter. The book is written in two narratives. One is the voice of Swagger and the other is Hugh Meachum, the CIA agent that manipulated Lee Harvey Oswald. 
 
Although this new novel can stand alone, readers should check out Hunter's previous novels in this series:   
Point of Impact (1993)  adapted to film in "Shooter" (2007) starring Mark Wahlberg
Black Light (1996)
Time to Hunt (1998)
The 47th Samurai (2007)
Night of Thunder (2008)
I, Sniper (2009)
Dead Zero (2010)
 
Anyone who has read Stephen Hunter knows his reputation as a respected author of historic fiction. This book does not disappoint.
Posted by Uncle Will on 03/25/13
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Extra! Extra! Read all about it...three Paul Doiron reviews in one!
During our last snowstorm I was trying to find a new mystery author that I hadn't read. I stumbled upon Bad Little Falls which is the 3rd book in the Mike Bowditch series.  
 
Bowditch is a young rookie game warden in upstate Maine.  He has a troubled past, a new ex-girlfriend, a severe loner complex, and a very large-sized chip on his shoulder. In his relatively short law enforcement career he has managed to get himself exiled to the most remote county in Maine.
 
I didn't have a choice (because of availability) and read the trilogy out of order...knowing full well that this was a major no-no in the "Official Guide to Mystery Readers'" handbook. I'm glad I did.  In retrospect, I learned that by book three, Doiron had smoothed out the sharp edges on his main character, Bowditch, making him a little more likeable. 
 
Hooked on the cold, vast setting of northeastern Maine and the remarkable characters, I then read the second book in this series: Trespasser, which involved a mysterious missing murdered female, who was a car accident victim, and several similar past crimes.  Bowditch, who again has the misfortune of occupying the right space at the wrong time, becomes entrenched in a multiple-murder investigation where he is considered one of the primary suspects. 
 
Consuming these 2 books lead me to the inevitable: reading Doiron's first award-winning novel: The Poacher's Son. In this story, Bowditch's estranged father, Jack, was on the run for multiple-murders.  Against direct orders, and all reason, son Mike sets out to prove his father's innocence. In all three books there are the reoccurring themes of man-against-nature and bitter cold vs. bitter people. Can a damaged man ever find peace within himself?   
Posted by Uncle Will on 02/04/13
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Set in post-war Los Angeles, this new nonfiction book reads like historical fiction.  Lieberman has an easy-going narrative style that keeps his recounting moving fluidly. 
 
Mickey Cohen was the major mob boss in L.A. in 1946.  A certain captain in the LAPD realized that the only way to bring Cohen down was to work outside the law.  It was the old adage of fighting-fire-with-fire. Sgt. Jack O'Mara was selected to lead a team of detectives that would be the firefighters that were to put out Cohen's flames.  This book is the historic account. 
 
Lieberman's book rights were purchased by Hollywood and a major motion-picture was released last month starring Ryan Gosling and Josh Brolin.
 
If L.A. Confidential was to your liking, this book will not displease. 
 
 
 
 
Posted by Uncle Will on 11/26/12
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The book jacket reads:  "...Based on a screenplay by Mario Puzo, award-winning author Ed Falco's thrilling,all-new prequel to The Godfather continues the saga of the Corleone family..."
 
For those of us that have not gotten enough of the family Corleone in either literature nor film, this prequel will be a satisfying read.  The story's set between the years of 1933-1935.  Don Corleone's eldest son, Sonny, is a seventeen-year-old stud.  He is the ringleader of a mixture of Irish and Italian cronies who augment their meager weekly paychecks by ripping-off the most powerful gangster in New York City...Giuseppe Mariposa.  Sonny is not the sharpest blade in the silverware drawer, but he is savy enough to know that his identity as "boss' must never be discovered by Mariposa or more importantly, his father.   So Sonny's gang steals from one mobster and sells these goods to another...Luca Brasi.    
 
We learn that Luca is the most feared "hitter" in all of NYC.  He is not a soldier in any of the families because he's his own boss and swears he'll never answer to anyone.  He takes pleasure knowing that he can do almost anything he wants at anytime.  He also knows that somewhere down the road he will be held accountable, but Luca does not fear God, the reaper, or any mortal man.
 
Readers get the back-stories of Sonny's siblings:   Orphan-college-boy Tom Hagen, slight and sickly Fredo, bookworm Michael, and the little princess, Connie.  The Don is a successful olive oil importer, but the favorite target of Mariposa's mistrust. There is the subplot that details the hate amongst the Irish and Italians and mobsters and how this festers into tragedy and extreme sadness.  
 
Ed Falco has written four previous, independent novels.  Hopefully he will find enough success in this prequel to continue the Corleone saga.    
 
  
Posted by Uncle Will on 11/26/12
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Charles Todd is the American mother-and-son writing team (Caroline and Charles Todd) that has produced fifteen Ian Rutledge and four Bess Crawford mysteries.  
 
I'll be honest.  This was a novel that I had to read since I'll be leading AHML book discussions on it in January and February 2013.  I was pleasantly surprised how well-written and engrossing it was.  
 
Elizabeth Crawford is a British nurse during World War I.  She is the only daughter of a stalwart Colonel and supportive mother.  She is attractive, intelligent, compassionate, and fiercely independent.  She is the "son" that Col. Crawford always longed for.  
 
Bess is aboard the hospital ship, Britannic, when it hits a mine and sinks.  She severely breaks her arm in the process and is fortunate to survive.  Before the ship went down, Bess, was falling in love with a wounded officer in her care...Arthur Graham.
 
On his deathbed, Graham made Bess promise to deliver this message to one of his remaining brothers:  "...Tell Jonathan that I lied.  I did it for Mother's sake.  But it has to be set right..."  Thus Convalescing Bess visits the dysfunctional home of the Grahams to fulfill her promise. What unfolds is a sorted tale of jealousy and betrayal.
 
All the characters were believable and the pacing of this book was marvelous.  The 3-sentence mystery was perfectly composed and will challenge any reader who professes to be able to solve the most challenging of "whodunits."    
 
 
 
 
Posted by Uncle Will on 11/09/12
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This book weighs in at about 15 ounces.  It has about 150 pages.  It takes about 15 minutes to read.  It is the product of a brilliant marketing strategy:  Why not offer, to the millions of fans of fictional character Jack Reacher, a road map of his moral code? 
 
AHML's very own Jon Freier and I have had discussions as to who is the "badest" of fictional characters.  Our short-list usually comes down to Robert Crais' Joe Pike and Lee Child's Jack Reacher.  
 
This book adds new meaning to the words machismo and hubris.   
 
Until Crais copycats Child's brainchild-publishing-ploy and releases a tell-all book like this, my vote goes to Major Jack...hands-down and knuckles-up.
 
Please note:  On December 21, 2012 the film Jack Reacher will open at theaters around the country.  It is based on the 2005 novel One Shot:  A Jack Reacher Novel. This will be the first film adaptation for Lee Child's brainchild.  The 6'5" 250 lbs. part of Jack Reacher will be played by the 5'7" 165 lbs. actor Tom Cruise.  Oh, the magic of Hollywood!     
 
 

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