Saturday, August 10, 2013

Lee Child's Never Go Back: A Jack Reacher Novel

If you're reading this review, you're likely a fan of Lee Child's Jack Reacher series and trying to decide whether to pre-order Never Go Back.  GalleyCat reported that Lee Child and Rick Riordan top Amazon's  preordered books this Fall of 2013.   Since I tend to pre-order Lee Child's novels, I did want to say that the latest one is definitely worth getting as soon as possible.

Never Go Back continues the story that began with 61 Hours, The Affair, and A Wanted Man.  Reacher's last conflict introduced him to the current head of the 110th Special Unit, Major Susan Turner.  She had been a voice on the phone to him, attractive, intelligent, witty.  On the strength of their interaction, Reacher headed back to D.C. intending to invite Major Turner to dinner.  But when he arrives, he walks into several ugly surprises.  Certainly, the twists in Never Go Back had me wondering if this was to be the last Jack Reacher novel.  

Much has been said about how Jack Reacher is a present day nomad, roaming the world with no ties and somehow able to remain unchanged by the world.  But in Never Go Back, Reacher is recommissioned into the Army, back into his old unit.  The freedom that allowed for his old life seems to have been irreversibly curtailed.  I can't say anything else except that if you have enjoyed the earlier Jack Reacher novels, you have to read this latest one.  

ISBN-10: 0385344341 - Hardcover $28.00
Publisher: Delacorte Press (September 3, 2013), 416 pages.
Review copy courtesy of the Amazon Vine Reviewers Program.

About the Author:
Lee Child is the author of eighteen New York Times bestselling Jack Reacher thrillers, with eight having reached the #1 position.  All have been optioned for major movie pictures the first of which, Jack Reacher, was based on One Shot.  Foreign rights in the Reacher series have been sold in almost a hundred territories.  A native of England and a former television director, Child lives in New York City.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Friday 56: The Absence of Mercy by John Burley

 Welcome to this week's Friday 56 - this Friday 56 comes from debut author John Burley's The Absence of Mercy.  John Burley was one of the panelists at ThrillerFest VIII's talk "Silent, Snappy or Soliloquy?: Dialogue in Fiction".   The Absence of Mercy comes out on Nov. 19, 2013 but I was fortunate enough to pick up a signed copy during ThrillerFest VIII.   I'll post a review closer to the book's release date but I can't resist giving the book a shout out.  I stayed up all night reading it. 

The Absence of Mercy by John Burley
ISBN-10: 0062227378 - Paperback $14.99
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (November 19, 2013), 352 pages.
Review copy courtesy of the author and publisher.

* Grab the book nearest you. Right now.
* Turn to page 56 or 56% on your e-reader/
* Find the fifth sentence.
* Post that sentence (plus one or two others if you like) along with these instructions 
on your blog or (if you do not have your own blog) in the comments section of this blog.
Post a link along with your post back to this blog in the section below.
* Don't dig for your favorite book, the coolest, the most intellectual. Use the CLOSEST.

Here's my Friday 56 from The Absence of Mercy by John Burley.
The CO was old, erected at least eighty years ago, and had served as county post office for many distinguished decades before its eventual reassignment.  
The blurb:
Just west of the Ohio River, lays the peaceful town of Wintersville. Safe from the crime and congestion of city life, it is the perfect place to raise a family. . .  or so they thought.

Life as the town medical examiner is relatively unhurried for Dr. Ben Stevenson. With only a smattering of cases here and there -- car accident victims, death by natural causes -- he has plenty of time to spend with his loving wife and two sons.  That is until a teenager's body is discovered in the woods and Ben, as the only coroner in the area, is assigned to the case.  But as the increasingly animalistic attacks continue, the case challenges Ben in ways he never suspects.

With its eerie portrait of suburban life and nerve-fraying plot twists, this is psychological suspense at its best--an extraordinary debut that challenges as much as it thrills.

About the Author:
John Burley grew up in Maryland near the Chesapeake Bay.  He worked as a paramedic and volunteer firefighter before attending medical school in Chicago and completing an emergency medical residency program at University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore.  He currently serves as an emergency medicine physician in Santa Cruz, California, where he lives with his wife, his daughter, Great Dane, and English bulldog.  This is his first novel.

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Monday, August 5, 2013

The Caretaker by A.X. Ahmad

The blurb:

Ranjit Singh, a former Indian Army Captain trying to escape a shameful past and working as a caretaker on Martha's Vineyard, moves his family into an empty Senator's home.  But one night, their idyll is shattered when mysterious armed men break into the house.  Forced to flee, Ranjit is pursued and hunted by unknown forces and becomes drawn into the Senator's shadowy world.  As the past and present collide, Ranjit must finally confront the hidden event that destroyed his Army career and forced him to leave India before it costs him his family as well.

A.X. Ahmad has given us an unusual and fascinating lead character in this debut thriller.  On the most basic level,  we learn about the military conflict between India and Pakistan and about the Sikh religion and we travel to the wealthy pockets of Martha's Vineyard and the working class parts of urban Boston.   But The Caretaker stands out because former Indian Army Captain Ranjit Singh is so real.  Singh suffers from PTSD and his conversations with the men that he's lost gives us an idea of the demons that he carries. The PTSD and appearance of these presences reminded me of Charles Todd's Detective Inspector Ian Rutledge series set in England after WWI, but Singh's problems are particular to a dark skinned man with a turban living and working in the US today.  Singh doesn't have the skills or a US degree.  He's overstayed on his tourist visa and must find a way to support his family as an undocumented worker.  

He's tried working at his wife's uncle's Asian goods store as a clerk and all around handyman.  Sorting insects from the ice, ringing up purchases, unpacking spices and lentils for below minimum wage and having to act grateful for the job has taken its toll on his spirits.  On a tip from one of the Latino cooks, Singh moves his family to Martha's Vineyard and tries to make a living as a handyman/caretaker.  

Ahmad captured the feeling of being an outsider, of missing one's home country, of being evaluated and labeled that many foreign nationals feel when they emigrate.  With his turban, Singh is regarded with more than the usual wariness and hostility.  He undertakes his tasks with the same meticulousness and attention to detail that won the respect of his men and the higher ups in the Indian Army.  A Senator and his wife are impressed with his work and agree to hire him as a caretaker for their summer home.  

But just as Singh seems to be getting toehold, his furnace breaks and he must find shelter for his family for the winter.  He makes the decision - and my stomach turns - to move his wife and daughter into the Senator's beautiful summer home and claims that "a friend has offered to lend them the house".   His wife's depression seems to lift at this improvement in their living situation and she makes herself very much at home.   As Ahmad described how Singh's wife enjoyed the shampoos, lotions, etc in the Senator's wife's bathroom, I started to dread the inevitable.

Ahmad is a riveting storyteller and his hero, Rajit Singh, quickly won my respect and my sympathy as he faced one awful situation after another.  His skills, moral core, and willingness to face the demons all help to make Rajit Singh someone to care about.   I hope that Mr. A.X. Ahmad is working on book two of Rajit Singh's story.

ISBN-10: 1250016843 - Hardcover $28.99
Publisher: Minotaur Books (May 21, 2013), 304 pages.
Review copy courtesy of the Amazon Vine Reviewers Program.

About the Author:
A. X. AHMAD was raised in India, educated at Vassar College and M.I.T., and has worked as an international architect. As Amin Ahmad, his short stories and essays on immigrant life have been published in The Missouri Review, The Harvard Review, The New England Review, Narrative Magazine and The Good Men Project. He was a finalist for Glimmertrain's Short Story Award, and has been listed in Best American Essays. He lives in Washington, D.C, where he teaches writing.