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kehills has commented on (8) products.

Fire and Ice by J A Jance
Fire and Ice

kehills, January 2, 2011

An engaging introduction to two of Jance's characters, Cochise County, Arizona Sheriff Joanna Brady and Washington state investigator JP Beaumont. The story shifts between Beaumont and Brady's perspectives, complete with shifting from the third person omniscient narrator to the first person narration style Brady uses for Beaumont.

The primary mystery slowly brings Beaumont and Brady's stories together, and does so in a manner that is both not immediately obvious and completely obvious once it's revealed. (This is a neat trick.)

My single complaint is that not all of the stories introduced in Brady's half of the novel find completion to the degree that the primary story does, while Beaumont's story is much more contained to the single murder mystery that he is chasing. This results in a novel that feels lopsided and incomplete at the end - and with little indication of where the answers, if any, can be found.
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Spartan Gold (Fargo Adventures) by Clive Cussler
Spartan Gold (Fargo Adventures)

kehills, January 2, 2011

Overall, a disappointing outing from Cussler and Blackwood. In this novel, Remi and Sam Fargo, treasure hunters extraordinaire and generous philanthropists, find themselves up against the forces of a mysterious Ukranian crime boss who traces his ancestry to Persia, and Xerxes the Great. Both are after the secrets of the lost cellar of Napoleon and the potential treasure it will lead them to.

The major issue here is that there is no threat. Remi and Sam repeatedly face down the bad guys, and do so in non-lethal manners that allow the bad guys to escape and the Fargo’s to run free. Once or twice it might work, but after the third or fourth time it becomes repetitive, and the sense of threat and peril to the characters vanishes. You know they’re going to get out of it okay, so there’s no tension. This echoes through to the end of the book, which hits the climax and conclusion inside a handful of pages.

The mystery that the Fargo’s are following requires putting together obscure clues left behind by Napoleon and his chief confidant – an interesting idea, but a difficult one that doesn’t leave much room for the reader to figure out what is happening along with the characters. This lack of involvement, combined with transparent motivation for the stereotypical bad guy and muddled logic for involving the main characters, leads to a thoroughly unsatisfying read.

Cussler’s books are normally better than this. Skip this book; if you’re in the mood for Cussler, pick up a NUMA/Pitt or Isaac Bell book instead.
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The Emperor's Tomb by Steve Berry
The Emperor's Tomb

kehills, January 2, 2011

Cassiopeia Vitt has a problem. She owes ex-pat Russian Lev Sokolov a favour, and he’s come to collect. His young son was kidnapped in China, a growing problem no one will admit exists. In her effort to find Sokolov’s son, she steals an ancient Chinese artifact – a lamp – and then she finds herself kidnapped and being waterboarded. She does the only thing she can think of: she tells her kidnappers and torturers that Cotton Malone has the artifact they so desperately want.

With that, Cotton finds himself pulled back into Cassiopeia’s orbit, and once again running from mercenaries who want him dead. Only, this time, that running takes him through Vietnam, into China, and into the hands of his Russian nemesis, Viktor Tomas.

The Emperor’s Tomb continues Steve Berry’s tradition of mixing historical fact with present-day fiction, and destroying at least one (inter)national treasure while doing so. Those not inclined towards historical detail might find aspects of the novel slow – Berry lovingly details much of China’s dynastic history, scientific legacy, and political systems – but those familiar with Berry’s work will appreciate the fact that goes into his fiction.

This is not the book to start with, if you’ve never read any of the Cotton Malone novels, and that would be my single complaint about this book. It assumes you’ve read the Malone novels, and recently – or that your memory for detail is excellent! Several times, I found myself needing to consult older novels just to remember the relationships between the characters, and it would have been nice to see that history spelled out just slightly more than it was in the book.
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The Templar Salvation by Raymond Khoury
The Templar Salvation

kehills, January 2, 2011

Would the pre-Nicean Council writings from early Christianity disrupt and undermine current religious beliefs? In an age of the Gnostic Gospels being relegated to a small section of any bookstore, it's hard to believe early writings would be much of a threat - but this is the belief that motivates Mansoor Zahed, an Iranian bent on destroying the West through religion. In order to accomplish this goal, Zahed kidnaps Tess Chaykin to achieve cooperation from FBI agent Sean Reilly - and forces him to raid the Vatican Archives. But Zahed under-estimates Reilly and Chaykin, who team up together and with the Vatican once again, in an effort to stop Zahed and once again preserve the history of the Templars.
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The Chase by Clive Cussler
The Chase

kehills, January 2, 2011

I typically stay away from Cussler's non-Pitt/NUMA books, and at first this was no exception. But boredom led me to pick up the sequel to this book, The Wrecker, and it was a rather delightful surprise. I wanted to fill in the backstory, so I grabbed the first of the series to read. While it's not as entertaining as The Wrecker, it's a solid establishing novel for the series that seems to be growing around Isaac Bell.

The technical introduction to Bell and the Van Dorn Detective Agency, The Chase finds Bell hired to stop the Butcher Bandit, a ghost no one can find, and no one can stop. All anyone knows is that he's traveling around the West, robbing banks and killing all witnesses. From a shadowing beginning to a fully developed villain, the Butcher Bandit stays one step ahead of Bell, and Bell has to count on him making a mistake. But will he?

Of particular interest is the early use of forensic sciences and profiling to track the Butcher Bandit - is this historically accurate? To enough of a degree that it's worth giving it a pass - and that's probably the best thing about Cussler's novels. They are, by and large, accurate enough in their details that when things are wrong, it's easy enough to forgive.
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