Steve's Reviews

I first met Nancy when she was the manager of the highest grossing (per square foot) B. Dalton store in the country and I was still in the midst of a 40+ year banking and investments career. She introduced me to many authors that rekindled my love of reading. Spending a lot of time on airplanes (or waiting for them) was made a lot easier with my new "friends." I am now retired and split time between Florida and Indiana with reading and golf competing for my time. I have nine grandchildren and most of them are readers as well - one of my favorite things to do is take them to our local bookstore and turn them loose!

The Silver Star                                   

 Author:  Jeannette Walls                 Fiction                     

The story begins in 1970 in California. The story is told from the viewpoint of “Bean” Holladay, a precocious 12 year old. She lives with her half- sister, Liz, age 15, and her mother, Charlotte. One day, Charlotte decides to go off and find her self in her music career, which really isn’t a career at all. The girls have a large supply of chicken pot pies to eat, but when their mother doesn’t return in a few days as has happened before, the girls decide to take what money they have left and head cross country to Virginia, which is where Charlotte is originally from. After an arduous bus trip, with plenty of bumps along the way, they wind up at the home of their uncle, Tinsley. He is a bit of an eccentric himself, but he reluctantly takes the girls in where they are safe for the time being. When mom figures out where the girls are, she drives cross country, but her idiosyncrasies soon finding her moving on again. The girls, in the meantime, wind up working for the foreman of the mill, Jerry Maddox, doing babysitting, housework, and other odd jobs. There is a family history with Maddox that the girls do not know of which eventually leads to problems for them. This is a well-written tale of two girls triumphing over adversity, with underlying themes of abuse of adult power and family love. This is Walls’ third novel, departing from the earlier novels that were based upon her own life. It is well worth your time.

Heads You Win                                  

 Author:  Jeffrey Archer                          Fiction

My first impression of this book: typical Jeffrey Archer - a rambling story with lots of characters (think Clifton Chronicles - and I loved the references to the Barringtons and the Clifton novels) and lots of references to real people in history. But is also quite different. Beginning in 1968, the book opens in Leningrad. Alexander Karpenko lives with his mother and father, Elena and Konstantin, both of whom work at the Leningrad docks. Konstantin is not a member of the party but is surrounded by members who will do anything to gain favor. When Alexander’s best friend, Vladimir, overhears a conversation, he goes to the KGB and the tip results in an “accident” that kills Konstantin. Alexander and Elena are then assisted in escaping on a cargo ship that drops its cargo and leaves empty. There are two ships at the dock, one heading to England and the other to America. Which one should they get on? They decide to flip a coin. And then two stories ensue - one from each viewpoint in alternating chapters for the most part. The ship to the US is told from the eyes of Alexander while the ship to England is told from the standpoint of Sasha (Alexander’s nickname). Both are quite successful, one as a businessman and one as a member of government. And, while I had guessed the ending before finishing the book, it was an interesting way to end the story. Is this world class literature - no. Is it fun to read - absolutely. Thanks to St. Martins Press and NetGalley for the opportunity to review this book.

The Guilty                                                       

 Author:  David Baldacci                                   Fiction

This is the 4th book in Baldacci’s Will Robie series. Robie is the government’s most lethal assassin, taking on some of its most dangerous assignments. But then an assignment goes horribly wrong - he kills his intended target but a young girl is also killed even though all intelligence said the target would be alone. He asks to go back out as quickly as possible, and this time he cannot pull the trigger as he “sees” a young boy with the intended target. But there is no boy and a backup team completes the assignment. He is put on leave from the agency, and his director, known as Blue Man, brings him news that his father, who he has not seen or talked to in over 20 years, has been arrested for murder in Cantrell, Mississippi. Robie left as a teenager and never returned, but now goes back to find out what has happened. As we learn of Robie’s backstory in Mississippi, he sets out to determine why his father has been accused and if he is guilty. There is obviously a lot going on as more and more killings occur. His partner, Jessica Reel, is sent by Blue Man to help and the two of them dig deep into the past in this small town to find out who is and is not guilty. As always, Baldacci is one of the better storytellers of his genre. He builds the tension to a conclusion (which I had guessed as he did drop a clue or two along the way). Another writer that is fun to read.

The Button Man                                         

 Author:  Mark Pryor                              Fiction

This is the fourth Hugo Marston book by Pryor, although the cover notes that it is a prequel. Having read the first three, I am not quite sure why this is considered a prequel other than the time in which it is set. Nonetheless, Marston is a former FBI profiler who has moved to London to be head of security for the U.S. Embassy. One of his first assignments is to act as security for Ginny Ferro and Dayton Harper, famous movie stars from the US. The couple winds up in jail for killing a local farmer in a hit and run accident. Ginny is released from jail and is found dead, and Dayton is released into Hugo’s custody, but manages to escape. Thus begins a pursuit to first find Dayton, and then to find the killer of the other bodies that are piling up. Marston partners with a local detective, a member of parliament, and Merlyn, an interesting young lady who has information about Ginny and Dayton as well as others who are part of an interesting “hobby.” Moving from England to Paris and back, Hugo uses his deductive skills as well as his former military training to figure out whodunit. I have become a fan of Pryor and this series - well written and suspenseful, and while the protagonist is identified relatively early, his motives and the chase are fun. Looking forward to #5 in the series early next year.

Fugitive Red                                                 

 Author:  Jason Starr                             Fiction             

Jack and Maria live in a one bedroom apartment in Manhattan with their son, Jonah. Their marriage is strained to say the least. Jack is struggling in his job as a real estate agent. Their finances are shaky at best. When an old music friend comes to New York City, he tells Jack about an extramarital dating app. Looking for something, Jack signs on and meets Sophia, who uses Fugitive Red as her on-line name. They have a steamy on-line relationship ultimately agreeing to meet in person at her townhouse in the city. But when Jack arrives, he finds Sophia dead. He is convinced that Sophia’s husband is responsible, but soon finds himself in deep water with the police. I struggled to like this book as Jack is not the brightest light on the block, making one bad decision after another. And much of the action seems contrived. But I hung in there and the ending let me give the book an average rating. My thanks to Oceanview Publishing and Edelweiss for the ARC of this book.



 Author:  Michael Robotham               Fiction

This is the second book in Robotham’s Professor Joe O’Loughlin series. Although O’Loughlin is featured in the book, this is really a story of Detective Inspector Vincent Ruiz (who was featured in the first book in the series). Ruiz wakes up having been shot in the leg and hand, but with no memory of how he wound up on a boat on the Thames River. The only clue is a picture in his pocket of Mickey Carlisle, a young girl who went missing three years earlier, and whose suspected killer has been convicted and is in jail. With O’Loughlin’s help, he is trying to remember the events surrounding the gunfight, simultaneously being dogged by an internal affairs investigator who is convinced that Ruiz is hiding something and a boss who has wanted him gone for several years. Slowly but surely, Ruiz’s memories return uncovering plenty of murder, deception, family conflict, and, in the end, a complex resolution. Robotham, an Australian author, has struck again in my opinion.

Broken Ground                                                 

 Author:  Val McDermid                             Fiction             

This is the 5th book in McDermid’s DCI Karen Pirie series (although the first that I have read). Pirie is the head of the HCU (Historic Cases Unit, or cold cases in American terms). When DI Gerry McCartney is added to her small unit (he is the third member), she suspects that her boss, Annie Markie, has planted him in order to force her out. And when she becomes involved other cases, Markie is moving ahead, her plan based on personal history. While investigating one cold case, a second current case arises, and Pirie is convinced she had some responsibility for the death of a woman. And a third case, which appears to be a current case, draws her in as the murdered man had been killed over 20 years earlier. Sound confusing? Not really. McDermid does a good job of blending the three stories together, and Pirie is a worthy lead character. While there was clearly some history to Pirie from the earlier editions, I don’t feel that it affected the read of this book at all. Worth your time. Thanks to Atlantic Monthly Press and NetGalley for the ARC of this book.