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Showing posts from August, 2011

CR3 #69: Wicked Autumn by G.M. Malliet

(St. Martin's Press was kind enough to send me an advance copy of this book via a giveaway at Goodreads.com. Fear not--my scathingly honest criticism cannot be swayed by free gifties.)

Wicked Autumn reminds me very strongly of an Agatha Christie mystery. It takes place in a small English village in the countryside, the protagonist is somewhat unlikely (a MI5 spy-turned-vicar), the murder victim is almost universally disliked, and there is no sex, no swearing, and nothing even the slightest bit provocative.

I don't mean to imply that the book was bad. On the contrary, it was a very serviceable mystery story. Max Tudor--former spy and now the vicar of Nether Monkslip--finds himself at the center of a mystery when the town's pushiest, most unpleasant society matron turns up murdered during the local harvest festival. There's no dearth of suspects, since Wanda Batton-Smythe had a wonderful way of making people hate her with very little effort. Although Max wants to stay out…

CR3 #68: The Throat

The Throat is the third novel in Straub's "Blue Rose" trilogy, and I'm still not entirely sure how I felt about it.

First of all, unlike the other two books, The Throat is not a stand-alone work. Without having read both Koko and Mystery, you will be totally lost. The main character in The Throat is Tim Underhill, the free-spirited writer from Koko. He explains that the previous two books were works of fiction that he wrote based on true experiences. Therefore, you need to know the events related in the previous two novels, but they are now somewhat unreliable, since Underhill explains that he definitely changed some things. This work begins when Tim receives a call from a long-lost army buddy, whose wife has been attacked. John Ransom wants Tim to come back to their hometown of Millhaven to look into the case, since it appears to be connected with a series of murders from fifty years before. The Blue Rose murders (mentioned briefly in the other two books) are though…

CR3 #67: Koko by Peter Straub

Koko is the first book in Peter Straub's "Blue Rose" trilogy, but it stands alone quite well.

Dr. Michael Poole and three of his friends--all former members of his unit in Vietnam--travel to Washington D.C. for the opening of the Vietnam War Memorial. While there, they discuss a spree of grisly murders in East Asian cities that are reminiscent of something they witnessed during the war. They suspect that the murderer is another former member of their unit, so they decide to travel overseas to hunt him down before it's too late. Unfortunately, for some of them it's already too late. Their collective past has come back to haunt them, and it becomes a race against time to save themselves.

This was a great book. Dr. Poole and the other main characters were very well-written, and I was definitely captivated by their hunt for the killer Koko. The secondary characters were also really great, including the mystical Maggie Lah and the psychotically arrogant Henry Beevers.…

CR3 #66: Flesh Eaters by Joe McKinney

I have read a surprisingly high number of zombie books for someone who had--up until relatively recently--a fairly strong phobia about zombies. There is something about them that just bothers me. Perhaps it's the mindlessness--unlike vampires, ghosts, werewolves, and other classic literary/movie monsters, the zombie has no motivation. It has no feeling except hunger, and it can't be reasoned with, cajoled, convinced, or threatened. There's no conscious thought, only a need to feed. A zombie is more closely related to an alligator than a human, but it's nearly unstoppable. An alligator can be trapped, injured, slowed down. A zombie is like an eating machine, except it looks like your family, friends, and neighbors. I'm not sure I can think of anything more horrifying.

Unfortunately for me, I've been rather badly spoiled as far as zombie books go. World War Z may be the definitive work on the subject, and all the others I've read since have paled in compariso…

CR3 #65: Mystery by Peter Straub

This is the second book in Peter Straub's "Blue Rose"  trilogy, but I read it first and didn't find myself having any problems (the first book is Koko, which I am reading now).

Tom Pasmore is the only grandchild in one of the ruling families on a small Caribbean island. Unfortunately, that's not enough to protect him from suffering an accident that nearly kills him. He was an odd child to begin with, but his near-death experience changes him in ways he can't understand. Years later, when he's a teenager, he gets involved with a mysterious neighbor, who points him in the direction of crime-solving. Soon, Tom finds himself investigating a decades-old murder and trying to figure out how it connects to his family and to the richest family on the island, the Redwings. Tom's grandfather sends him to the family's summer compound in Wisconsin, and from there things just get more suspicious...and dangerous.

This was a long book, and it started off a bit sl…

CR3 #64: Summer of Night by Dan Simmons

Summer of Night by Dan Simmons desperately wants to be IT by Stephen King. I'm not saying that's necessarily a bad thing, but then again IT is probably one of my very favorite books of all time. However, the influence--to me--was extremely obvious, right down to some of the character descriptions, plot points, and peripheral events. I'm not saying the books are total duplicates--there aren't any clowns, thank goodness--but the similarities are enough that a Stephen King fan may find him or herself suffering a strange deja vu feeling while reading.

The plot consists of a group of boys between eight and thirteen (and later one girl), who notice that things in their small rural town aren't quite right. There are disappearances, some of the adults are acting very strange, and some of the places around town have become downright disturbing. Each boy starts to experience spooky events, and soon they realize they will need to band together to save themselves and their tow…

CR3 #63: Nightmare in Pink by John D. Macdonald

Nightmare in Pink is the sequel to Macdonald's first Travis McGee novel, The Deep Blue Good-by. In this adventure, Trav finds himself doing a favor for an old friend's sister, investigating the circumstances of a suspicious death and accusations of embezzlement. Unfortunately for Trav, it turns out the situation is significantly more complex (and more dangerous) than he ever would have guessed. He gets himself wound up with some unsavory characters while investigating the circumstances of an eccentric New York businessman, as well as finding himself forming romantic entanglements with his client.

This book is a solid mystery story, but nothing especially exciting. The character of Trav is all right, but I think the series suffers from a lack of repeat secondary characters. Some of the best series are good specifically because of quirky, interesting sidekicks, villains, or peripheral characters. After all, what would Sherlock Holmes be without Watson, Moriarty, and Mrs. Hudson?…