User Reviews

Reviews by Uncle Will
The Fire Witness
»
»

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.
Naoko
»
»

A bestselling author in Japan, Keigo Higashino, has 13 books in publication.  He only has two translated so far into English.   His first is, Devotion of Suspect X, which is a very clever murder mystery that pairs two brilliant minds; each trying to out-think the other. 

This book has a simple factory worker, Heisuke, who tragically loses his wife in a motor accident. His only daughter, Monami, is also injured in the crash, but survives.  Or does she?

When Monami awakes in the hospital after being in a coma, she appears as herself, but her body is inhabited by her mother, Naoko.  This is needless to say, very difficult for Heisuke to accept; however, the person lying in the hospital bed knows facts and information that only Naoko could know.

What grows is an outwardly unique relationship between father and daughter that borders on the bizarre between husband and wife.

This book has a film adaptation that is an international block-buster-box-office hit.  It is not yet available in the USA.  Several of Higashino's books are adapted to TV and film.  He is a very visual and versatile writer.
11/22/63
»
»

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.
The Affair: a Reacher Novel
»
»

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 plot-line.    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.

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.