Blog Posts by Uncle Will

Posted by Uncle Will on 01/20/12
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The book jacket exclaims:  "...James Bond meets Jason Bourne meets The Da Vinci Code..."  Not a bad comparison for a writer's first published novel.  The book cover goes on to state that this is Mariani's first book in his Ben Hope series.  And what a sensational series kickoff it is.
Ben Hope is a retired Major in an elite British military unit.  He now freelances as a man who solves problems.  His method of problem-solving usually ends in someone's demise.  Indulging in the finer spirits is Hope's way of coping with his job-related stress.
Adding to his stress level is his former love interest, the internationally known opera singer, Leigh Llewellyn.  Oliver, Leigh's brother, and Hope's best friend, is murdered.  Fearing for her life, Leigh begs Hope to become her personal protector.   It appears that Oliver stumbled upon information that might prove that Amadeus Mozart's death 200 years ago was not what the history books profess.   
It is common knowledge that Mozart was a Freemason.  The secret society has a long history and suspected sordid past.  With the newly found evidence that Oliver turns-up, the future of the Freemasons is in jeopardy.
This book has a little of everything...tight story telling, interesting character development, exotic locations, long last love rekindling, evil doers doing evil deeds, a precocious child, a loyal dog, action, suspense and a fragile, tragic hero. 
Posted by Uncle Will on 01/05/12
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What if 12 terrorists, armed to the hilt, commandeer the world's most popular shopping mall, with the intent to just kill and maim?  Such is the plot of Hunter's new novel. 
Minnesota's Mall of America is the target; and the thousands of hostages one hope is inactive, veteran Marine sniper, Ray Cruz, who unfortunately is in the wrong place and the right time.  To make things worse, the entire rescue operation is commanded by a political power-monger whose only concern is his public image and personal political growth.
Stephen Hunter was the Washington Post film critic before he retired.  His series of "sniper" novels have been extremely popular and one was adapted to film starring Mark Wahlberg.  This book is concise and compelling. 
The scenario is not that farfetched.  The United States has always supported a "no negotiation policy" regarding hostage situations.  Terrorism has taken place within our shores.  The FBI has not had great success when breeching heavily guarded compounds.  Politicians do not always have their constituent’s best interests in mind when making decisions. 
All of these facts come rushing to the inevitable conclusion:  innocent lives will once again be sacrificed, but at what price glory?
Posted by Uncle Will on 12/19/11
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#5.  The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino
Cleverly conceived Japanese suspense novel that matches wits between two geniuses…one in math and one in physics.
#4.  Other Kingdoms by Richard Matheson
Post-World War I jaded fantasy dealing with love, loyalty, and loss in an English village that touts humans vs. fairies.  Unique narrative.
#3.  The Ice Princess by Camilla Lackberg
All time best-selling author in Sweden has her first, in a series of seven mystery novels, translated into English.   Gauntlet tossed at Stieg Larsson’s estate!
#2.   11/22/63 by Stephen King
Stephen King vs. The Time Machine.  Travel back in time with reluctant hero, Jake Epping, to 1963 and attempt to stop the assassination of JFK.  But at what price glory?
#1.  The Hypnotist by Lars Kepler
Dark and engrossing psychological, murder mystery by a Swedish husband and wife writing team.  Hypnotic. 
Posted by Uncle Will on 11/29/11
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During the 1950's and '60's, Ernie Banks was a hero to thousands of boys.  They all tried to copy his signature bat grip.  On any rainy Saturday afternoon, whenever asked, the boys on their neighborhood playground would smile and say "let's play two!"   Ernie was the great shortstop who was going to lead all Cubs fans to the Promised Land.
It's been over 40 years since Ernie retired and still no Cub fan has entered that Promised Land.   This book covers the summer of '69, which was Ernie's one and only chance, during his prolific career, to come close to winning a pennant; let alone play in a World Series.  Die-hard Cub fans can count on one hand the times their beloved ever came close to playing in the big game during their lifetimes. 
Phil Rogers, as usual, has done his homework.  He takes his readers back in time to the friendly confines where they can almost smell the Oscar Meyer Smokie Links being sold from an aluminum push-cart behind home plate.  Steam and taste buds rising each time the vendor opens the lid.
During the summer of '69 not even the bleacher beer vendors could help the Cubs.  There was not enough beer brewed to mask the epic breakdown that fans witnessed that summer.  Hordes of Bleacher Bums are still  The Cubs not only blew their considerable league lead, but they surrendered to the upstart New York Mets.  This book answers most of the questions surrounding that collapse.
From Jackie Robinson to Leo 'The Lip" Durocher, Rogers spins a heroic recounting of one of the most controversial and embarrassing times in Cub lore. 
Yes, during the 1950's and '60's, Ernie Banks was a hero to thousands of boys.  He still is even if most of those boys have grown up some. 
Posted by Uncle Will on 11/28/11
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The cool thing about time travel is there are no rules.
Stephen King has been creating his own rules since the early '70's.  His earlier works were unique, visual and engaging.  As a short story writer, he has had many stories adapted to film.  His later works seem to hint that maybe this author had run low on new ideas.  This book refutes that allegation.   
The story opens with a GED English teacher, Jake Epping, whose life is okay, but stagnant.  Nothing seems to be able to stir an emotion.  One day, an older student of his submits  an assignment addressing:  "The Day That Changed My Life."  It is so moving that Jake gives Harry Dunning an A+.  Harry is thunderstruck.  He is a little slow, since when a child his father attacked him with a sledge hammer.  Harry escaped with head injuries.  All the other members of  his family were not as lucky.
As luck has it, Jake takes Harry to Jake's favorite diner on graduation day.  Al, the proprietor, later lets Jake in on a secret.  In Al's storage room is a portal to the past.
This portal takes its time traveler back to a specific date and place.  The year is always 1958.  Any time spent in the past, no matter how long or short, translates to just two minutes of the present.   After a demonstration of its wonders, Jake reluctantly agrees to go back in time and try to stop Lee Oswald from assassinating John Kennedy.
What follows is a compelling trip down memory lane for baby-boomers and a fascinating chronicle of life back in the early 1960's.  This book is nearly 850 pages long, but well worth the time invested in experiencing it.
Posted by Uncle Will on 11/01/11
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Investigator Virgil Flowers is back and in rare form.  He has been sent to a Minnesota river
town that has a mad bomber on the loose. The dead and injured are mounting and Lucas
Davenport, Flower's boss, gives Virgil a week to close the case.

It appears that someone is opposed to the idea that a WalMart-like store (PyeMart) open in
their town.  There is speculation that several of the city council's votes have been bought
to favor the re-zoning and building project.  Even the billionaire Pye has been
unsuccessfully targeted.  Working alongside a team of federal bomb experts, Virgil becomes
despondent with the lack of evidence and growing list of suspects.

They know what the bombs are comprised of and from where the materials were stolen. Virgil
decides to use a marketing tool and mass produce a survey that he has hand-delivered to
selective townfolks.  The survey asks for names of neighbors that might be guilty.  Virgil's
plan is to collect the completed surveys and tally the results.  He will then interview the
names of those most offered as likely candidates in hopes of finding his killer.

This is the 5th installment in Sandford's Virgil Flowers series.  Virgil remains a maverick.  
He still dresses in faded t-shirts, blue jeans, and cowboy boots.  His hair is still long and
disheveled.  He still hates to wear a sidearm and tows his fishing boat behind his pickup to
every crime scene in hopes of getting some "reel time" alone with his thoughts. He's a ladies
man who is a 3-time loser at the altar. Still, he is a lovable character that is enviable and
Posted by Uncle Will on 10/25/11
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This is the 3rd book in the Hackberry Holland series.  To better serve memories, Hack is an octogenarian who's the elected sheriff in a small Texas border town.  He's a former Korean War P.O.W. and multiple medals award winner.  He is a recovering alcoholic/whoremonger.  He was a lawyer when younger and has been a widower for over 10 years. His second in command is 40 years his junior and madly in love with him.  

Pam Tibbs, the dubious deputy, and Hack are once again on the hunt for the machine-gun-toting-serial-killer, Preacher Jack Collins.  The Preacher stumbles upon a government official, Noie Barnum, who was kidnapped and tortured by a crazed Mexican assassin called Krill.  Collins adopts Barnum and offers a strange sort of sanctuary towards the escapee. Barnum has information in his head that makes him also the target of the Russian mob and a rogue U.S. Congressman's hit team.  

If that isn't enough characters, add a Chinese female former CIA agent, who has ties back to the Cambodian Khmer Rouge during the Vietnam Conflict. Anton Ling, nicknamed "La Magdalena" by the refugees she harbors on her ranch, resembles Hack's late wife. Tibbs senses something sensual stirring deep inside Hack and takes an immediate dislike to Ling.  

All the players are desperate to bring closure to their pursuits and this helps make the story fast-paced, not unlike a fire drill.  

Usually a character-rich story with several subplots can get confusing.  Burke's tale unfolds effortlessly.

Posted by Uncle Will on 10/23/11
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Lee Child truly has found his nitch.  He created the perfect modern day cowboy, Jack Reacher, former Military Police Major turned nomad.   The only thing missing in these formulary mysteries is the quirky horse who has a penchant for imported oats, for Reacher to wander on, from town to town.  
In this 16th installment, Reacher's long awaited back-story forms the plotline.    Readers learn a little of why Reacher decides to leave the Army with only his toothbrush in his pocket and his heavy heart.   The story begins back in Mississippi around 1997 when Reacher is ordered to go undercover to investigate a woman's death.  A soldier is suspected.   Unfortunately, this soldier has powerful friends and Reacher's investigation gets complicated. 
Cowboy Jack forms an allegiance with the town's sheriff, but it is obvious from the start that Reacher will be mostly flying solo in order to close this case. 
Dead body.  Check.  Belligerent townies.  Check.  Mysterious female counterpart.  Check.  Insurmountable odds stacking up against hero.  Check.   Brawls with outnumbering bullies.  Check.  Injustice served by money-grubbing power-hungry elitist.  Check.    In the end, after the dust settles, toothbrush still in pocket.  Check. 
Posted by Uncle Will on 10/03/11
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New to our collection, this book is a collection of short fiction stories (some never published in book form) by arguably the greatest mystery write of all time.  It includes Hammett's first ever published work, The Barber and his Wife (1922), Black Mask (1924), and This Little Pig (1934) that includes a recently discovered alternate ending.  It also has the first time published story, Another Perfect Crime.
Besides the fact that previously unpublished stories were discovered and printed, what makes this book a little more interesting is the format.  A great deal of reference work was done by the editor, Vince Emery.  Stories are introduced with background notes that set the table with the why, when, and  the where, Hammett's creations were served. 
These editor notes put into perspective the drive Hammett had to be a writer and the turmoil he had to overcome to feed himself and his family.  He was paid a penny a word for his first published story.   The sum was a whopping $1.13.  Emery goes one step further and lets his readers know what a penny could purchase back in the day.
One of the ways to measure an artist's success is if his work is still in demand long after he passes.  Hammett died in 1961.   Loyal fans still crave his craft.  Just seeing this book on a shelf in AHML brought back memories of nights tucked under the covers, escaping to fantasy worlds made up of hard-bitten private-eyes, leggy molls moaning in distress, and rich, power-hungry elitist forcing their will upon the meek.    
Posted by Uncle Will on 09/26/11
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Dr. Martin Harris is a leading scientist in his field.  A ground-breaker.  He is at the threshold of a major scientific breakthrough.  Plants talk to him.  He has a beautiful wife and promising life.  Or does he?  

Martin wakes one day in a Paris hospital where he finds he has been in a coma for several
days.  He learns that while traveling in a taxi he was involved in an accident resulting in
his hospitalization.  Thankfully his injuries are minor.

His minor injuries soon become a major problem.  It seems that while he was out cold, Martin's
identity was stolen, on a grand scale.  Even Martin's wife denies knowing him; along with the
man she's sharing her bed with who claims to be the real Dr. Harris.  With no passport or
wallet, Martin turns to the cabbie that was driving the taxi during their accident and the
physician who is treating him for some support.

Martin's support circle grows thin, while evidence keeps mounting that Martin might not be
who he claims. Even Martin starts to wonder if he is the brunt of some elaborate hoax or
slowing going insane.  What follows is a tightly constructed suspense story that leads to an surprising ending.

This book is new to our collection; however, it was previously published under the title: Out
of My Head
.  It also was adapted to film with Liam Neeson in the starring role.  It is less than 200 pages and adapted well to the big screen.  Like in most adaptations, reading the book first before viewing the film is the best course.   

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