HOLIDAY READING: NEW BOOKS BY ROBERT CRAIS, JANET EVANOVICH, JEFFERY DEAVER, LINCOLN CHILD, DAVID GILMAN and TIM WEAVER
With the Christmas and summer holidays quickly approaching, at least here in Australia, I thought I would look at some recent releases that would make for good beach reading, or even Christmas presents. Here are quick reviews of six good, relaxing reads for the holiday season.
Robert Crais is a very reliable purveyor of exciting, fun thrillers, and his Elvis Cole and Joe Pike novels are always a good read.
Racing The Light, (Simon & Schuster, 16 November 2022), does not stray greatly from the formula that has made Crais so popular, but it still packs a punch as the story races around the streets and byways of Los Angeles.
Cole is hired by Adele Schumacher to find her missing adult son, a controversial podcaster named Josh Shoe. It seems a straight forward case of a young man having a good time, but Cole soon realises that beneath the patina of paranoid tales of government conspiracies and mysterious bodyguards that there is actually something serious going on here and that it might just get Josh and him killed.
Crais smoothly takes the reader through the paces of his entertaining story and there are enough twists and turns to keep it interesting. The pace picks up in the second half and the book speedily moves to the obligatory bloody climax. For fans of the series there also some interesting developments in Cole’s personal life. In all, a really enjoyable story that will keep you happily engaged between dips in the pool or surf.
I actually listened to the Audible version of Racing The Light, which was well put together and capably narrated by Luke Daniels.
Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum adventures are always good fun and the twenty-ninth book in the series, Going Rogue: Rise And Shine Twenty-Nine (Headline, 1 November 2022), is no different.
This latest entry about the sassy, car-wrecking bounty hunter Stephanie Plum sticks closely to Evanovich’s successful formula of zany antics, amusing family scenes, shots of excitement and the ongoing romantic tension as to whether Stephanie will stick with her hot policeman boyfriend Morelli, or take up with the extra hot and dangerous Ranger.
The plot is the usual chaos and involves Stephanie and her assorted collection of helpers trying to track down Connie Rosolli, the missing office manager of the bail bonds company where Stephanie works. Connie has been kidnapped and her abductor will only exchange her for a mysterious coin that a recently murdered man left as collateral for his bail. Unfortunately, the coin has also gone missing. As the threats against Connie increase, Stephanie has to throw caution to the wind and go rogue in order to save her friend.
Evanovich is an expert at this sort of chick-lit crime and the book moves seamlessly between laugh-out-loud antics, mild mystery and Stephanie’s indecisive romantic misadventures. As always, Grandma Mazur is a delight and gets most of the best lines. Good fun.
Thanks to the publisher and the Canberra Weekly for a copy of the book for review.
Jeffery Deaver is another author who never disappoints, and his latest Colter Shaw novel, Hunting Time (Harper Collins, 24 November 2022), is his usual action packed read.
Shaw has just completed a tricky retrieval job for a small cutting edge technology company, when he is again hired by the company’s eccentric CEO to track down a missing engineer who is on the run from her abusive and recently released from jail ex-husband. Shaw is good at tracking missing persons, but he may have met his match in Allison Parker, who brings all her skills as a brilliant engineer to the task of evading detection. As Shaw hits the road in pursuit of Allison and her daughter, he realises that several others are also on her trail and that the truth of the situation is not clear.
It has been a few years since I last read a Deaver novel, but Hunting Time has made me keen to go back and catch with some of the ones I missed. Hunting Time reminds me of one of my favourite Deaver novels, The Bodies Left Behind, with its exciting pursuit plot and occasional wilderness setting. There is plenty of clever misdirection by Deaver, and the book certainly powers along at a good pace with an abundance of action, suspense, twists and interesting dollops of seemingly authentic forensic and detecting detail. There are also some dark descriptions of the polluted fictional industrial city where most of the action takes place.
The book heads in different directions from what you expect at the beginning, and Deaver is an experienced hand at keeping the reader interested. The characters are engaging, and occasionally creepy, and the book is peppered with interesting cameo appearances by well-rounded minor characters. In all, a very entertaining read.
Thanks to the publisher and the Canberra Weekly for an advanced copy of the book for review.
Lincoln Child’s Chrysalis (Corsair, August 2022), came out a couple of months ago, but I have only recently caught up with it.
I am big fan of Child’s novels about enigmalogist and investigator of unexplained things, Jeremy Logan, and I tend to prefer them over the Agent Pendergast books he co-writes with Douglas Preston. In Chrysalis Logan is hired by a dominant technology company, Chrysalis, whose groundbreaking virtual reality technology is redefining the way we live. Like millions of people around the world, Logan has grown to rely on his incredible new tech device, which is like Apple and Siri on steroids. The small optical device connects people in a stunning new way, tapping into virtual reality for the first time on a wide scale. When Logan is summoned by the chief of Chrysalis to investigate a disturbing anomaly in the massive new product rollout, he is shocked to see the true scope of the massive company and quickly realizes that something in Chrysalis’s technology is very wrong.
In terms of pure enjoyment, Chrysalis is probably my favourite of the six books. Child is a very smooth writer and he shares Michael Crichton’s ability to convey impressive detail about complex ideas and technology in a very readable manner. The science and the ideas, and some flashes of violence, keeps the reader hooked through the opening sections, and the tension ramps up considerably in the second half. The book did not head in the direction I was expecting, and the ending was an interesting mixture of thrills and speculative science. I was not totally convinced by the conclusion, but greatly enjoyed it anyhow.
A top notch read.
I am also very late getting to Tim Weaver’s The Blackbird (Penguin, 9 June 2022), but I am now glad that I have caught up with it, as it is one of my favourite reads of 2022.
Missing persons investigator David Raker is hired by the family of Cate Gascoigne to find out what really happened to her. Cate and her husband were last seen on CCTV happily driving in their car. Shortly afterwards their car plunges into a ninety-foot ravine and within seconds bursts into flames. When the rescue crew reach the car they find it totally destroyed, but devoid of any sign of Cate and Aiden. As Raker digs into the disappearance he finds links back to an unsolved thirty-year old murder, before the case takes a dramatic and unexpected twist.
The Blackbird is probably the most intricately plotted and best written of the six books, and there is a real depth to the characters. The opening sections may be a little slow, but Weaver is very adept at regularly unveiling unexpected developments to keep the reader interested. The pacing certainly picks up after the startling mid-book twist and the second half bristles with tension and suspense.
This is a very impressive crime novel. The Blackbird can be read as a stand-alone thriller, but those familiar with the earlier David Rake books will derive extra pleasure from it.
Finally, you are going to have wait a little longer for David Gilman’s Resurrection (Head of Zeus), which is not due out until 5 January 2023 (4 April in Australia for some reason), but it will be worth it.
Gilman made a spectacular entry into the action end of British spy writing with his first two novels about ex-Foreign Legion fighter and occasional spy Dan Raglan, and now has followed it up with the just as good Resurrection. The story opens with Raglan reluctantly agreeing to take a mission to retrieve documents from the wreck of an aircraft, which has been lost in the desert on the border of the Central African republic for over thirty years. The aircraft has links to Raglan’s father and the documents in it contain information about a British mole still working in the Russian government. The Russians are aware of the plane and what it may contain, and have also despatched a team to find it.
After the initial set-up, the story moves at a blistering pace as the two teams make their way through the war ravaged and dangerous desert to the site of the aircraft. Meanwhile in Moscow, a rogue member of Russian Intelligence launches a dangerous mission to identify the British spy.
This is a very accomplished spy thriller, with Gilman ably mixing techno-military action on the ground, with equally deadly maneuvering in Moscow. There are some great action set-pieces and plenty of convincing military and spying detail. There are moments when Gilman pushes credibility to the limit, but most people will be busy turning the pages to notice or care.
A great holiday read!
Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for an advanced copy of the book for review.