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!


 Author:  Mark Pryor                     Fiction                     

When a book by Mark Pryor came available for review prior to publication, I jumped at the chance (having read the first three in Pryor’s Hugo Marston series and rating them highly). This is the second in a series featuring Dominic, an Englishman living in Austin, Texas where he works in the prosecutor’s office as well as as a part-time musician. Oh, and did I mention that he is a psychopath. He apparently committed, and got away with, a murder (probably in the first book featuring this unlikeable character), and only two people know about it - his girlfriend and her brother. He is also dealing with another prosecutor, Brian, whom he barely tolerates and who is trying to be appointed to a judgeship that Dominic also wants. What transpires is a confusing, if not improbable, tale of the workings of a strange, unlikeable person making sure that he can continue to live the life he has grown to like in Austin. The book is told in the first person of both Dominic and Brian, which often had me going back to figure out who was who. I am going back to finish the Hugo Marston series and will pass on any future books featuring this lead character. Thanks to Edelweiss and Penguin Random House for the opportunity to read and review this book.

The Bomb Maker                                           

 Author:  Thomas Perry                                   Fiction

Bang! That’s how this book opens. While you never learn who the bomb maker is, you learn that he is very talented at what he does. His complex devices are designed with specific goals in mind - and the first blast kills half of the bomb squad of the Los Angeles Police Department. The LAPD turns to Dick Stahl, a former member of the bomb squad but also with experience in disposal of explosives in the military. And his first day on his temporary job finds another sophisticated bomb which leads him to conclude that whoever he is dealing with is a mastermind. Disarming the first explosive is never the end with this guy. But who is he? And what is the end game? With millions of dollars promised the bomb maker pushes forward with even greater plans This book grabbed my attention in chapter 1 and held it all the way to the end. Stahl makes a very likable protagonist. Thanks to Edelweiss and The Mysterious Press for providing a copy to me in advance of production.

The Last Mile                                            

 Author:  David Baldacci                     Fiction             

This is the second book in Baldacci’s Amos Decker series (with a fourth due out early next year). I read the third in the series first, but I recommend starting at the beginning as the facts and the characters are developed from the beginning. Decker, and journalist Alexandra Jamison, are going to work for Ross Bogart of the FBI on a civilian task force. Decker decides to drive to Washington, DC and on the way hears about the imminent execution of Melvin Mars, an ex-college football star who was convicted for the murders of his mother and father. The circumstances are all to reminiscent of Decker’s own situation - someone has come forward at the last minute and confessed to the murders just as happened to Decker with respect to the deaths of his wife and daughter. Decker convinces the task force to take on this case. Who, after 20 years on death row, wants Mars free? And why? Decker uses his special skills to investigate and finds a complex scheme is underfoot to stop some information from decades earlier becoming public. The conspiracy reaches into the police department, the world of business, and the government as Decker and team race to find out the truth. Baldacci is one of the best storytellers today. I highly recommend this series.


Butchers Hill                                           

 Author:  Laura Lippman                    Fiction                     

This is the third book in Lippman’s Tess Monaghan series (for those of you who follow my reviews, you know I usually go back to square one - but this was an experiment - listening to an audio book as we drove from Florida to Indiana and this was available!). Tess Monaghan has left her old job and opened an office as a private detective with an office in one of the seedier neighborhoods of Baltimore - Butchers Hill. Her first client is Luther Beale, known as the neighborhood vigilante, and recently released from prison after serving a five year term following the shooting of an 11-year old boy who was participating in some vandalizing with 4 of his foster home siblings. He wants Tess to find the other four kids so that he can make reparations. But once she starts investigating, the others start dying. When her second client appears, wanting to find her sister who was put up for adoption many years earlier, Tess finds herself in a somewhat related case. As Tess unravels the two cases, both examine the foster care system which destroys the lives of the children it is meant to serve. As always, I suspect that if you start at the beginning of a series, you get all the background. But this book was very readable (listenable?).



 Author:  Dan Brown                     Fiction                     

This is 5th book featuring Professor Robert Langdon (he first appeared in The DaVinci Code). Langdon is a professor of symbology and religious iconology at Harvard. He has travelled to Spain to attend the announcement of a major discovery that will change the face of the religion vs. science debate forever. The announcement is coming from his former student, Edmond Kirsch, now a billionaire from his high-tech inventions. Kirsch is well-known for his outspoken views on many topics, not the least of which is that science trumps religion. And this announcement promises to answer the two fundamental questions of our existence once and for all - where did we come from and where are we going. The announcement event is being held at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao where Ambra Vidal, fiancee to the next King of Spain, is the director. Just as the announcement is about to be made, the meticulously planned event in thrown into chaos. Langdon and Vidal find themselves in a frantic race to locate the announcement that Kirsch had intended to make, pursued to Barcelona (and the infamous Sagrada Familia basilica) by the Royal Guardia as well as others who do not want the discovery to become public. Enough spoilers. At times, Brown’s descriptions of landmarks becomes tedious (especially Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia - but if you have been there, you can appreciate all that he describes) and his descriptions of symbols and iconology are occasionally difficult to wade through. I confess that for a while, I was concerned about what Brown’s agenda might be vis a vis religion and science, but my concerns were unfounded. The book is well-paced and in the end, an excellent addition to this series. And you really don’t have to have read the earlier books in the Langdon series - this one stands well on its own.


The Light in the Ruins                          

 Author:  Chris Bohjalian                    Fiction                     

The Rosati family, Italian nobility, live in an idyllic hillside villa between Florence and Rome. It is 1943, and the Axis powers are losing the war, so the family feels they will avoid so much of the carnage that has befallen so many as the German troops leave and the Allied troops arrive. But it is not to be. Two soldiers, one German and one Italian, arrive at the villa and ask to see an ancient Etruscan burial site located on the property, ostensibly to inventory, and actually to pillage, the valuable artifacts. And thus begins an occupation of the property which also brings with it moral questions about the relationships between the owners and the occupying Germans as well as the Blackshirts (Italian Nazis) and the Partisans (Italian resistance). Fast forward to 1955. The Rosati family is suddenly the target of a gruesome murderer. Serafina Bertini, an investigator from the Florence Police Department, is assigned to the case. She is still beautiful despite having been seriously wounded and disfigured during the war. As she digs into the murders, she is faced with the past that involves not just the victims, but also herself. Told in alternating chapters between 1943/44 and 1955, Bohjalian has created a gem. Well-written and captivating, this is a book that should be on your reading list, whether you enjoy historical (WWII) novels or just a good mystery.

The Wife Between Us                                

 Author: G. Hendricks & S. Pekkanen   Fiction                     

Nellie is the nickname given to Vanessa Thompson by her husband, Richard. She has a lot of issues. Her marriage has fallen apart, but why? As her husband plans to marry his next wife, Emma, she tries to come to grips with it. But don’t believe all that you read. It’s hard to say too much about the story line as there would be too many spoilers. This is a well-written psychological thriller, which I honestly was going to rate 3 stars until the last 10% of the book when everything that had happened began to become clear. There are enough twists to keep you guessing to the very end. Thanks to St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for an advance copy of this book for my review.