Friday, April 27, 2012

Silent Witness (Rebecca Forster)

Silent Witness pretty much picks up where Hostile Witness left off. Still obsessive-compulsive, Hannah Sheraton is at a new school, albeit a month behind after her trial for the murder of her stepfather, Justice Rayburn. Attorney Josie Baylor-Bates, who defended her, is now her legal guardian.

But now, her ex-cop lover, Archer, is being held for murder. Beaten and close to being broken, he's accused of killing his 17-year-old stepson, Timothy Wren. Mentally challenged and physically disabled, Tim had fallen off a ride at Pacific Park, which buys used, fully depreciated rides from other amusement parks, then repairs and refurbishes them.
Pacific Park Pacific Park is on the verge of being acquired, and the owner doesn't want any complications the deal. He's got his security chief watching out for his interests. Tim's biological father, with the help and advice of personal injury lawyer Jude Getts, wants to get even with the park by helping Archer ... at first. But then, the agenda changes.
Josie is her usual stubborn self. Petulant, even. It takes a long time for logic and reason to break through her personal prejudices. At times she can't even envision or accept reality that even readers can spot. But that's Josie – passionate and stubborn.
The courtroom scenes are pretty hard to read passively and nonchalantly. The questioning and testimony will grate on your nerves and leave you craving a comforting cup of steaming hot chocolate. It's as though you've had a half-dozen mugs of strong black coffee before entering the courtroom.
As for Hannah, she has no real significance in the story, it's as though author Foster kept her in for historical purposes or as a distraction and additional complication for Josie to deal with in her life.
Silent Witness rumbles through at a quick pace, skipping large chunks of time, often at the expense of details. But all in all, it is a good read and hard to break away from once you start. It’s the second book in Rebecca Forster’s “Witness” series.
Silent Witness (2005)
Rebecca Forster
Amazon Digital Edition ($3.99 list)
ISBN-13: 978-0451214249

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Wired (Douglas E. Richards)

Kira Miller, a 28-year-old genius genetic engineer, has developed a process that enhances brain function and makes immortality possible. That’s curious enough, but it also seems that people around, or involved with, her keep dying mysteriously.
David Desh, former Special Forces Operational Detachment Delta and currently an executive bodyguard, is charged with task of finding Kira so someone else can bring her to justice. He's told that her current project is with Jihadist Al-Qaida to manipulate Ebola so it remains dormant until a specific DNA ingested ... a "molecular trigger."
He's helped by Matt, a computer hacker with considerable (perhaps even unequaled) talent, but Kira's a step ahead of Desh before he even takes a step, she's that good. Using her prodigious skills, she tries to convince him of her innocence.
Kira can "enhance herself" – heighten her brain function using gel caps that she created. Unfortunately, some were stolen by someone she calls another "golden goose" (an enhanced human like her) out there. Unlike her, this one is ruthless and has powerful people in his pocket; he's the one behind both the search for her and the Ebola plot.
Although there are those who want her secret to prolonging human life, Kira makes a good case against even doubling a person's life expectancy, much less making us immortal, and I can't say as I disagree.
Those gel caps really work. Just ask David and Matt. As it turns out, there are more players involved in this adventure than we thought, which leads to an intriguing and exciting conclusion.
There's quite a bit of what I assume are the author's philosophies on ethical issues, including a lengthy dialogue on human sociological and intellectual development, religion, and why and how humans do what we do.
David's and Kira's conversations skirt along the boundaries of comprehension, and force the reader to concentrate a bit; but that's okay, for the author avoids becoming too didactic. Instead, it's really quite interesting. Except for the epilogue. It's preachy and goes on and on and on. I suggest you skip it completely. I wish I did.
There's a wrong-word choice that just cracked me up. Author Richards writes: "Suppose YOU were on the lamb." That evoked images of the guy having sex with a sheep, just like the stereotypical jokes one hears about sheepherders. Of course (I hope) he meant to say "lam," right?
Wired (2011)
Douglas E. Richards
Paragon Press, Kindle edition($2.29)

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Last Breath (Michael Prescott)

"If there's a problem, I know what to do," Caitlin Jean "C.J." Osborn told her parents when they let her stay home without a babysitter for the first time at the age of 10. Only thing is, the boogeyman was planning a visit that night. And this boogeyman knew her name.
The boogeyman came, and C.J. faced him down in the dark. The problem was, however, her parents didn't believe her. No one, they told her, had invaded their Midland, California, home. So she kept her mouth shut from then on, for 16 years.
Now a Los Angeles police officer, C.J. spends her time patrolling the streets, busting bad guys, talking to kids in school, serving her community the best she can.
Serial killer Gavin Treat, referred to by LAPD as "The Hourglass Killer" has claimed his second victim. His totem? A black widow spider. His calling card? An hourglass tattoo on his victims, emulating the hourglass on the black widow's belly. And he's found his next victim – Caitlin.
Little does she know that Treat is watching her on his computer via a hidden camera while she works out in her bedroom. Or, that an FBI "hacker tracker" a continent away in Baltimore, and his partner are also watching, unknown not only to her, but to Treat as well.
We do find out Gavin Treat's identity fairly early on. Or so we think. Then everything coalesces – LAPD, Los Angeles County Sheriff and Baltimore FBI come together, thanks to a secret website, and find themselves on the same page. Finally, at last, a break in the Hourglass Killer case.
But, where is C.J.? She's located, thanks to some nifty maneuvering. The action gets hot and furious, and before you know it, we're on a relentless roller coaster ride ... a pursuit that pits wits against wits, a brave woman against a determined psycho, and the law against a serial killer, one who's intimately familiar with Caitlin.
Your respect (or awe, or fear) of what a computer and the Internet can do will grow.
Last Breath (2001)
Michael Prescott
Signet ($39.95 list)
ISBN-13: 978-0739423066

Monday, April 9, 2012

Frankenstein (Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley)

Also known as The Modern Prometheus, Frankenstein was first published anonymously in 1818, then was republished in 1923, crediting Mary Shelley as its author for the first time.
Frankenstein opens with a series of letters written by Captain Robert Walton telling of his North Pole expedition (the first two letters are totally irrelevant to the story) and the discovery of a man named Victor Frankenstein, who was searching for a gigantic man.
The story continues with narration by Frankenstein, and in fact might very well have begun here after a short prologue. But ... Frankenstein is a classic, so who am I to complain over writing published nearly 200 years ago?
Victor's family moves from Switzerland to Italy, and soon adopts Elizabeth as his sister. They return to Switzerland when a brother is born. In ensuing years, Henry Clerval, a merchant's son, becomes a good friend. Natural philosophy become Victor's passion, cast aside when he becomes obsessed with the elixir of life and electricity, only to be reaccepted under the guidance of a respected professor.
One day he has an epiphany, the secret of restoring life to an inanimate human being. So he begins a two-year drive with but a single purpose: to construct a man – an eight-foot-tall, living, breathing human being. He succeeds, only to regret and to face humility at his audacity to such creation, falling into a funk that defies healing.
Victor's worries are thankfully cleared and his relief heightened when his creation flees and his dear friend Clerval arrives to take up study of Oriental languages at Ingolstadt.
The murder of his little brother draws Victor back home to Geneva, fraught with despair and sure that the villain is none other than his horrid creation. Adopted sister Justine Moritz is accused, confesses and is executed, but Victor will not be convinced of her guilt. He blames himself for their deaths.
At last, on Montanvert summit near the village of Chamonix, his creation reveals itself and proves to be quite articulate, promising to leave Victor and his friends and loved ones alone if his demand is met: Create a woman for him, to be his lifelong companion. That's when we hear the creature's tale – the story of what transpired soon after he was created, a tale of being scorned and reviled for his ignorance and deformities, tempered by music and the innocence of youth.
Upon promise to fulfill the creature's wish, Victor and Clerval travel to the British Isles – Victor to find time and space to create the woman, Clerval to expand his experience and knowledge. It is fully expected by everyone that on his return, Victor and Elizabeth will marry.
He settles in Scotland, temporarily removed from his friend, to complete his promise to his creation. But he fails to keep his promise, resulting in the tragic murder of dear friend Clerval, and condemning all else whom he loved to a horrid death at the hands of his creation.
If you read Frankenstein with the movie stereotype images in your mind, you may become confused. There is no Transylvania, just Ingolstadt in Switzerland. There is no hunchbacked Igor. There is no flat-headed Boris Karloff stumbling about with leaden legs and arms stretched forward. There are no electrodes fastened to the sides of the creature's neck.
Shelley's writing style is flowing, yet tedious. That's to be expected, for that's the way the English language was in the early 19th Century. Thoughts are strung together, exactly the polar opposite of the way today's journalists are taught and trained to write to audiences.
There are stories told within stories, within yet more stories that hold the reader spellbound. Frankenstein, in its original form, is not a modern horror story, but one that evokes compassion and introspection before gracefully tumbling us over the edge of the precipice.
Human society, with all its glory and faults, is presented to us through the creature's naiveté, a fresh perspective of who we truly are and what we have become. He surmises that we humans are both kind and loving, and yet, on another level, cruel and heartless, especially in our xenophobic treatment of those who are different from us. He yearns for kindness and sympathy, neither of which is forthcoming.
Frankenstein (1818, 1993)
Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
Public Domain Books, hardcover ($7.95)

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Lion of Babylon (Davis Bunn)

Marc Royce, a government consultant and former operative, is hired to go to Iraq and find missing agent Alex Baird, assistant chief of security in Baghdad’s Green Zone, and Hannah Brimsley, a Green Zone church volunteer, who have gone missing.
Also missing are Taufiq el-Waziri, the eldest son of major date-exporting family that has Coca-Cola franchise in Iraq, who disappeared with Claire Reeves, an American nurse working at Bagram air base. Lawyer Sameh el-Jacobi, an Iraqi-Christian, is hired by The Imam Jaffar to find them.
Sameh is also occupied with finding the kidnapper of a young child, when he receives a call from, and request to meet a senior embassy official, the deputy head of station for the CIA in Iraq, who is also helping Marc Royce.
Putting the missing persons mission aside for a while, Marc plans a detour, leading a rescue mission for the kidnapped child, with help from a sympathetic assistant warden of Qasir Al-Nehaye ("The Palace of All Ends") prison and his men. It turns out the kidnappings and the missing four are connected somehow.
The deputy to America’s Iraq ambassador is known to have had a confrontation with Alex Baird. Marc sees for himself what a difficult snag this can be to his mission, having to listen to a personal threat from the diplomat following a successful rescue of kidnapped Iraqi children.
Someone, or a bunch of someones, does not want the missing Americans found. But why? And to what purpose?
Author Bunn's writing takes you right into the heart of Iraq, into the streets of Baghdad, amongst the crowds of ordinary Iraqi citizens peppered with religious fanatics on a mission. One can almost breathe in the dust, smell the odors and feel the tension.
Lion of Babylon is undeniably a Christian genre book, but that isn't too much a problem. The story would hold its own, no matter what the plot involved, it's that well-written. Davis Bunn goes on my list of authors whose books I might continue reading.
Lion of Babylon (2011)
Davis Bunn
Bethany House Publishers ($22.99 list)
ISBN-13: 978-1441232236