Gone, But Not Forgotten by Phillip Margolin – very good thriller

Gone, But Not Forgotten by Phillip Margolin

 

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See it at Amazon 

(4.5/5)

Pros: a good, complex story with multiple layers

Cons: truly horrid depictions of violence

A pretty decent thriller… Definitely a bit different from the usual.

I’m talking about Phillip Margolin’s Gone But Not Forgotten.

Ten years ago, a serial killer haunted a New York town.  A task force was created.  The killer was caught, and subsequently killed.  The case was closed.

Now, a series of eerily similar killings is taking place in Oregon.  The killings are practically identical to the original killings, even though there were details that had been kept from the public.

Copy cat?  Or did the police get the wrong guy, the first time around?  And why did the killings start up again after 10 years absent?

Margolin gives us a mystery.  A story with multiple layers that goes all the way up to the President of the United States.  Along the way, we’re given several clues as to what’s really going on, but the “big reveal” still managed to provide some surprises.

Characters are well-developed and many are likeable.  The protagonists are smart.  No one makes stupid decisions (a problem that has plagued some other Margolin books).

The only negative about Gone, But Not Forgotten would be the level of violence depicted.  It is severe and makes for some difficult reading at times.  Of course, in thrillers like this, you expect there to be some violence but this book goes beyond the norm.

But if you can stomach the violence, Gone, But Not Forgotten is a tight thriller with a very good background story.  Recommended.

Also by Phillip Margolin

Lost Lake

“And if you don’t know”, well it won’t tell you anything you don’t already know.

Notorious

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$9.99 at Amazon 

(2/5)

Pros: Pretty good direction, some good acting by Basset and Luke, the music of cou

Cons: Nothing revealed, rushed feel.

(This review originally appeared in different form on Epinions.com)

When I first saw a trailer for Notorious, my initial thought was “wow they did the Biggie movie pretty quickly. Next up, the Tupac movie”.

Yet I was curious to see it seeing as I own and love both of Biggie Smalls’ albums. Seeing as I like director George Tillman Jr’s work (Soul Food, Men Of Honor) as melodramatic as it can get at times. Seeing as I find myself drawn to bio-pics of musicians I like even as many of them turn out tto e average or bad for every good one.

Yet I missed seeing Notorious during its theatrical run. In fact I more or less forgot about it until about a year ago when I went iinto my local FYE and bought the remastered version of Ready To Die to replace the original (which got stolen from me at a party in the late 90s). After taking the album home and giving it a re-listen for the first time in a couple years, I remembered Notorious. So I rented it from Netflix.

Tillman’s direction is very good here. The film is shot well, there is some good acting and the way he integrates the music into the story is very good. Unfortunately, on the whole, Notorious is a letdown.

First off, this movie doesn’t really tell me anything about Biggie that I didn’t already know or couldn’t just as easily learn from reading his WIkipedia entry. We see him played in a sort of fast-forward fashion. His life is shown and high points are touched on. But we never really get a feel for the man. The movie has a rushed feel, similar to Oliver Stone’s George W Bush movie, although this one is better put together that the Stone film.

As other reviewers have pointed out, the movie doesn’t really show the talent in Christopher Wallace, the drive that made him successful for a brief period in the mid 90s. It depicts what happened to him as being based primarily on luck and while luck did play something of a role, he would not be as well-regarded today if the talent wasn’t there.

On the plus side, there is some good acting here. The best performance is by (the underused nowadays) Angela Basset as Voletta Wallace, Biggie’s mother. There’s also good acting by Derek Luke as Sean “Puffy’Puff Daddy/P Diddy/Diddy/Diddy Whatever He’s Callimg Himself nowadays” Combs and Anthony Mackie as Biggie’s friend turned foe Tupac. This leads to another plus for Notorious: it gets the details of the Biggie-Tupac feud down right as far as I can tell. Jamal Woolard is okay as Biggie. He looks like him. But he never really brings him to life.

In some ways I suspect that the problem might be that Tillman and his screenwriters were not sure how to handle a Biggie bio-pic. It’s easy to forget that Biggie’s time in the spotlight was relatively short. Unlike with a Ray or Walk The Line, there wasn’t a massive wealth of material for the filmmakers to draw from. So in trying to follow the conventional approach, they ended up short-changing their subject.

Notorious is far from the level of a Walk The Line. But it’s ahead of misfires like The Doors and Why Do Fools Fall In Love. But if you want to learn about Biggie Smalls I’d suggest reading the book Unbelievable that this movie was based on. Of course I’d also suggest buying both Ready To Die and Life After Death if you don’t own them already.

Judge & Jury by James Patterson – Don’t read while on jury duty!

Judge & Jury by James Patterson

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See it at Amazon 

(3.5/5)

Pros: thrilling and exciting

Cons: premise quite unrealistic

Judge & Jury by James Patterson and Andrew Gross is the stuff that makes for nightmares in our legal system.  A high-powered mob boss is coming up for trial.  His crimes are numerous and horrific, and there’s a mountain of evidence against him.  Conviction should be a slam dunk.  Just pick 12 jurors and you’re all set.

And therein lies the problem.  12 jurors stand in the way of the mob boss’s freedom.  And if you think he’s going to let that just happen without fighting back, you haven’t read a book or seen a movie that deals with juries and the potential for manipulation.

So we have single Mom Andie who finds herself on the jury.  Sweet Andie and her adorable kid.  What happens to them?  Well, I’m not going to spoil the book for you, but it is the stuff of horror movies.  Let’s just say you shouldn’t read this book while you’re in a jury pool

Like all Patterson books, chapters are short, and the action moves swiftly.  I would even say that the book was hard to put down, as I flipped pages quickly to find out what would happen next.

But upon completion, I’m left with an unsatisfied feeling.  Why?  Because I just don’t buy the whole thing.  I accept that someone can bypass all security measures and get information on the jurors.  I even accept that someone in jail can have far-reaching buddies who act on their behalf.

But the acts that were taken in Judge & Jury just don’t make sense.  I can’t think of a hundred ways to manipulate a jury decision.  Heck, just watch one of the many movies about the subject and you’ll see a bunch of ways.  But what took place in this book wouldn’t really sway a jury.  It’ll cause a mistrial.  It’ll delay things for quite a while.  But I wouldn’t call it a brilliant way to manipulate.  Granted, we have horrible actions, pure evil, all the stuff that makes for a good thriller.  But as for realistic jury manipulation – No.

So, enjoy Judge & Jury for what it is – a fun thriller that had me flying through the pages. But don’t look for realism here or greatnesss – neither is present.

Also by James Patterson:
Four Blind Mice
Invisible
Kill Me If You Can
Mistress

The Cinematic Equivalent of “put a little pep in your step!”

Larry Crowne

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$6.22 at Amazon 

(2/5)

Pros: Likable characters.

Cons: Who are all Mary Sue types.

(This Review Originally Appeared On Epinions.com)

Tom Hanks “Larry Crowne” is what a meal at Hooters would be like if the waitresses wore regular waitress clothing. It goes down easy, much like the food itself at that chain. But it’s bland as hell and instantly forgettable.

“Crowne” is Hanks’ second effort behind the camera after 1996’s “That Thing You Do”. That movie, while also relatively lightweight as far as movies about musicians go, at least had some ambition and conflict to it. It wasn’t the edgiest movie ever. But it worked.

To the extent that “Crowne” does work, it’s on account of the fact that the movie has heart. The titular character (played by Hanks) is a genuinely likable guy. We begin the film feeling sympathy for him. The problem is, he’s also kind of one dimensional.

As the film begins we see Crowne at work at his job as a manager at a Wal-Mart type retail store. It;s a dead end job. But it pays good, Larry’s good at it and he seems to like it. Then he’s called to the break room for what he thinks will be his fourth consecutive selection as employee of the month. Instead he’s informed that his lack of a college degree renders him unfit for advancement within the company and so Crowne is sent packing.

Crowne maintains his sunny demeanor throughout this even as frustration is hinted from time to time. In some ways that can be endearing. In other ways, it gets annoying after a while. There’s time where we wish for Larry to cut loose, tell us how he really feels at being fired for what is at heart a ridiculous reason. Instead we don’t see it.

That’s one of the movies main problems: the characters are all what are commonly referred to as Mary Sue types. For the uninitiated that means “Completely flawless and perky”. The only character in here who could be considered a jerk in any way is Bryan Crnaston and he’s a total jerk. No depth to these characters at all.

The most interesting character in the film is George Takei as an economics professor. Takei plays up his Star Trek past in a way that doesn’t directly reference it. He’s easily the most fun of all the characters in this movie.

Crowne, based upon a recommendation from his neighbor (Cedric The Entertainer), decides to enroll at the local community classes. The classes he takes include the economics one taught by Takei and a public speaking one taught by Julia Roberts. It’s in the public speaking class where the romantic subplot gets introduced. Of course we know that Hanks and Roberts will end up together. Never a doubt as to that.

Roberts does nothing new in her role as the put upon teacher with a husband (Cranston) who spends his days surfing the web for porn while he claims to be writing.

Hanks direction here is workmanlike. He’s not a show-off when it comes to his work behind the camera. He presents the story in an easy to follow way, which is appropriate for it. No, the direction is not the problem with Larry Crowne. The main problems have to do with the script.

The premise of Larry Crowne isn’t a bad one per se. The main problem is that the premise is used in the service of what is at heart filler. Consider that Hanks co-wrote the aforementioned script with Nia Vardalos. Vardalos, who wrote the much overpraised My Big Fat Greek Wedding, specializes in writing cinematic bubblegum (and acting in it as well). It’s hard to tell whether it’s her or Hanks who’s responsible for the screenplays lack of conflict and one-dimensionality. At heart, the movie is fun. But there’s limited personality and no depth at all. I strongly suspect that a director like Cameron Crowe could have given this movie a lot more depth and more developed personality.

Larry Crowne isn’t a disaster. It’s entertaining enough to serve as an alternative to bottom of the barrel claptrap. But at heart it’s like the boss who constantly says “Come on people. Put a little PEP in your step!”. When a movie gets like that, most people will have little desire to see it more than once.

Immortal in Death by J.D. Robb – 3rd One’s Pretty Good

Immortal in Death by J.D. Robb

 

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See it at Amazon 

(3.5/5)

Pros: nice background on Eve’s childhood, interesting investigation

Cons: other characters not too deep at this point in the series

Immortal In Death is the 3rd book in J.D. Robb’s In Death series. Like all of the books, it follows the life the Eve Dallas, in the Homicide division of the New York Police Department. Taking place in the mid-2000’s, the series brings a bit of a futuristic spin to homicide cases that Eve and her trusty coworkers fall into in each book.

In this case, the dead body belongs to a super model. Gorgeous, popular, she was seen fighting with another woman over a man. And that other woman just happens to be Eve’s bff Mavis. So when Pandora is found dead, naturally Mavis is the primary suspect. And as Eve follows the clues, more and more of which point in Mavis’s direction, Eve’s caught in a terrible position. Believing her friend to be innocent and proving it are two different things.

It’s only the third book in the series (of which there are currently close to 40) so it’s fair to say that there’s not the depth and breadth of the characters that appear in later novels. However, Roarke and Eve’s wedding takes place in this book, so it’s good to see how that all went, since Roarke and Eve are married throughout the rest of the books. Also, in this book, Eve first starts working with Peabody who ends up being her constant partner and companion. Mavis, Feeny, Dr. Mira and even Nadine appear. Although they are mere cutouts of characters compared to how well-defined they will end up being over the next 2 decades and 40 novels.

As far as the main murder investigation goes, this one is pretty interesting. It examines just how far a model will go in her quest for beauty and agelessness. In this case, Pandora went about as far as you can imagine it’s possible to go to secure her looks, her livelihood, and her vitality.

By the time all is said and done, there’s a pile of bodies and quite a complex story for Eve to work out, all while leading up to her and Roarke’s wedding.

And, Eve has started to remember her troubled childhood, a theme throughout the entire series.

Overall, Immortal In Death is an interesting addition to the series, although it’s not the strongest in the set. I’m reading the books in random order, but you should try to read them in order, if you can. While Robb does a good job of making them enjoyable in a stand-alone manner, of course, the arcs flow better in order.

Other books in the In Death series

Born In Death
Betrayal In Death
Celebrity In Death
Ceremony In Death
Concealed In Death
Devoted In Death
Divided In Death
Festive In Death
Glory In Death
Haunted In Death
Indulgence In Death
Innocent In Death
Interlude In Death
Judgment In Death
Midnight In Death
Missing In Death
Naked In Death
Obsession In Death
Origin In Death
Rapture In Death
Reunion In Death
Salvation In Death
Strangers In Death
Survivor In Death
Treachery In Death
Vengeance In Death
Visions In Death

“Y’all got cocaine eyes”

Blow

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$4.99 at Amazon 

(4/5)

Pros: Lead performance by Johnny Depp and Ted Demme’s direction

Cons: Penelope Cruz, basic story somewhat familiar.

(This review originally appeared in different form on Epinions.com)

Consider this story: a young man comes from a modest background and aspires to make something of himself as most people do. His father tries to teach him about the value of hard work. But his advice goes unheeded. Instead the young man is attracted to the other side of the law. He soon becomes a focal point in his area of criminal expertise. But this will ultimately lead to his downfall.

That’s the story told in “Blow”, Ted Demme’s 2001 (final) film. It’s an entertaining story. But many experienced moviegoers will note the obvious similarities to works by cinematic masters like Scorsese (Goodfellas), De Palma (Scarface) and Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights).

Similarities to previous masterworks aside, “Blow” is a pretty good film in its own right for a couple reasons. One is superb direction by Demme, The other is a fantastic lead performance by Johnny Depp.

Blow tells the story of George Jung (Depp), who, as the film begins is a teenager living with his parents. His father (Ray Liotta) is a workingman while his mother is very materialistic. Jung sees his father do lots of backbreaking work for little money and does not want to follow in his footsteps. His father tries to tell him that “money doesn’t really matter”. Needless to say, his advice is unheeded.

In 1968, George is a young man who goes to California with his best friend. Out there he takes to lazing on the beach and soon meets some people who introduce him to a new lucrative world, the world of drug dealing.

First off George establishes himself as a mid-level pot dealer. He gets pretty successful at that until 1972 when he gets busted. He attempts to plead innocence with Bob Dylan lyrics and his claim that he “crossed an invisible line with a plant”. His plea fails and he is jailed. It’s in prison where he meets another inmate who introduces him to a more lucrative type of drug dealing, that of cocaine.

After getting out of prison, George attempts to establish himself as a cocaine dealer. And he becomes quite good at it. He has soon built up quite a “respectable” business. This business draws the attention of South American drug lord Pablo Escobar (Cliff Curtis). Escobar and Jung come up with a plan to import cocaine into the US. This is what would gain Jung his infamy, when he helps to establish the cocaine market in the US.

At the time of its release, Blow attracted quite a bit of controversy. Many people, especially those of the social conservative variety, claimed that it was too sympathetic in its portrayal of a drug dealer. I can’t really agree. It shows that Jung did do some bad things. But it never forgot that he was a human being. Plus, let’s not forget that many individual users choose to use the cocaine themselves.

Depp is superb. It’s easy to forget now after all the variations he’s played on Jack Sparrow for the past 12 year or so. But he’s truly an excellent character actor. He plays Jung as neither hero nor villain. But as man with both good and bad points.

Also great in the acting department are Liotta, Cliff Curtis as Pablo Escobar and Paul Reubens as a California drug dealer. However, the film’s weakest link in the acting department is Penelope Cruz. Cruz is pretty to look at. But her character here comes off as shallow and annoying. Maybe that’s how the character was in real life. But her constant screeching grated on my nerves after a while.

Also making the film a cut above is Demme’s direction. Demme, while clearly influenced by Scorsese, manages to make the film his own. He lets the tension in it unfold naturally and the atmosphere perfectly evokes the period it was set in. Also like the Italian American titan, his choice of music selections is well-done.

Blow, while not quite a full-fledged classic on the level of its cinematic forebears, is a well-done cinematic study of a complicated man.

Darkness Coming Down

Taxi Driver

 

$18.46 at Amazon 

(5/5)

Pros: Scorsese’s direction, Schrader’s screenplay, the acting, the cinematography and atmosphere.

Cons: Will get under your skin big time.

(This review originally appeared in somewhat different form on Epinions.com)

It’s a line. It’s one that you’ve doubtlessly heard many times. One that you’ve probably said many times. Sometime when you’re on the phone with a person and they say something and you’re not sure it was directed at you. So what do you say?

You talkin’ to me?

Of course 99% of people will know that line even if they haven’t seen Taxi Driver. That line has joined the likes of “Here’s Looking At You Kid” and “May the force be with you” in cinematic history.

As for the film itself: It would be an understatement to say that it holds up. It did not win any Oscars. Yet it still can be watched and admired (“enjoyed” might be too strong a word to use here) nowadays (I wonder how many people will watch and admire Titanic in 10 years).

Most people familiar with cinematic history will know the background on Taxi Driver. How Paul Schrader wrote the script while going through a time of personal torment living in Los Angeles. How Martin Scorsese ended up with the script after Brian De Palma turned it down. How Taxi Driver became his second collaboration with Robert De Niro after Mean Streets (the movie that put Scorsese on the cinematic map). How the MPAA threatened the film with an X rating for (surprise surprise in this paranoid of sex day and age) graphic violence. How Scorsese desaturated the colors in the scene the MPAA complained about and this made the film even more effective. How Taxi Driver went on to become something of a box office hit (albeit not quite a smash on the level of say Jaws) and a critical favorite. How it got overlooked at the Oscars in favor of a certain boxing movie not named Raging Bull. If not, then that last paragraph was the summary.

De Niro plays Travis Bickle, an insomniac Vietnam vet loner. It’s the insomnia that leads him to apply for a job driving cabs. When we first meet Travis we learn a few minor details about his life. He seems at first like many loners we’ve known, both in the movies and in real life. As the story progresses we see him gradually become unhinged. There have been numerous movies that show the lead character doing just that. Some have done quite well. But few have done it as well as Taxi Driver.

While on one of his runs, Travis sees Betsy (Cybill Shepherd) a campaign worker for Senator Palantine (a senator whose rhetoric mirrors that of then future would be aspirants to public office like Ross Perot and Jesse Ventura). He starts becoming somewhat obsessed with her and starts putting the moves on. At first she rebuffs him. But after a little pushing agrees to accompany him to a movie. Unfortunately, Travis chooses a porno movie and this of course does not go over well. The next woman to figure prominently in Travis’s life is 13-year old prostitute named Iris (Jodie Foster). Travis simultaneously becomes obsessed with rescuing her from her pimp (Harvey Keitel) and taking out Senator Palantine.

Up until the late 1960s, early 1970s, movies had more or less clearly established their heroes and villains. Then with the likes of Bonnie and Clyde in 1968 things began to change. The antihero began to emerge.

Travis Bickle in a way is the perfect big screen antihero. He begins the film as a more or less ordinary guy and gradually goes insane (although the movie does subtly hint there may have been signs of that beforehand). What makes him go crazy? The movie shows how the crime and pollution he witnesses around him is a factor albeit not the sole reason. Part of it is also a desire to leave a mark of some kind on the world. In a way by looking at Travis Bickle we also get a look into the minds of real life disturbed lunatics like John Hinckley and Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold.

Scorsese’s direction helps keep the tension in the film at just the right level. He knows when to underplay it and when to let it boil over. This is an instinct that has served him well throughout his career.

The cinematography works well. New York city is portrayed as neither heaven nor hell. But as a sort of purgatory. We see the demons all around be they Keitel’s pimp or a psychotic passenger in Travis’s cab (played by Scorsese himself) who talks openly about brutally murdering his former wife. Scenes of driving through rain or seeing the high amount of trash resulting from a garbage strike that affected NY at the time this was filmed help us join in Travis’ descent into madness. Bernard Herman’s score is another of the elements that make this film so effective.

As far as the acting goes, what more needs to be said? De Niro has given many a great performance over the years and some of the weak jobs he has taken recently cannot erase that. This may be his definitive performance. He shows Travis evolve from paranoid loner to crazy man to would be assassin to wherever he may be after the credits roll. Jodi Foster is just as good as the should be innocent girl who’s got a certain sense of wisdom beyond her years. Keitel, Peter Boyle and Scorsese himself are good in their supporting roles. Shepherd is a little wooden here and there. But this does not damage the film at all.

Taxi Driver, in addition to being a landmark of the cinema of the 70s, also opened the door for many of the films that would come along later. Movies like Joel Schumacher’s Falling Down and Neil Jordan’s The Brave One (also with Foster) owe a debt in both style and content to Scorsese’s masterpiece. So if you’re looking for a film with great acting, a compelling story and one that does not pull punches at all, then Taxi Driver is the film to see.

The Edge of Sleep by David Wiltse – horrid protagonists

The Edge of Sleep by David Wiltse

 

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See it at Amazon 

(3.5/5)

Pros: intriguing bad guys

Cons: horrid protagonists, slipshod investigative work
A very decent serial killer novel. But one main flaw.

That’s my quickie review of David Wiltse’s The Edge of Sleep.

This book examines a horrible case of serial abuse and murder of young boys. Several young boys have disappeared over the years. They’re gone for a couple months and then, suddenly, their badly beaten bodies turn up in plain view, dead from strangulation.

Becker is an ex-FBI agent, fighting his own demons during his semi-retirement. Karen is his ex-lover, and a current agent. She appeals to Becker for help on this case. Too many boys have met terrible fates and the FBI has scarcely a clue. Karen knows it will hurt Becker to become involved in another terrible case, but she asks, anyway.

Becker and Karen work together to solve the mystery. And, along the way, they renew their old relationship. Meanwhile, Becker grows close to Karen’s young son.

We, the readers, know exactly who’s taking the boys. Half the book is written from the killer’s point of view, so we get to understand what’s driving him. It’s maddening that we are so far ahead of the authorities in the investigation. Especially when they make glaringly wrong assumptions about the case. This was annoying, but not the worst problem in this book.

The worst problem is that Becker isn’t too likeable. But as bad as he is, Karen is ten times worse. She is one of the most unlikeable main characters I’ve ever read. It’s rare that I root for the bad guys to win but in this case, Karen was such a pain in the butt that I found myself hoping for a less than favorable outcome for her.

Not for the boys, of course. I could never root for pain and suffering for the young victims. But as for Karen… she deserves what she gets, frankly. And, put her with Becker, himself unlikeable, and you have a really horrid pair of protagonists.

On the other hand, the bad guys – while they commit horrendous acts – are at least well-developed and, to some extent, likeable. I know that sounds weird – but their evil is, in large part, not their fault. Whereas Karen, she’s just a witch, so I can’t give her a pass.

Still, I enjoyed The Edge of Sleep. Give it a try.

Devoted In Death by J.D. Robb – good old-fashioned investigation

Devoted In Death by J.D. Robb

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See it at Amazon 

(4.5/5)

Pros: solved with good old-fashioned investigative work

Cons: Eve is a bit annoying

Devoted In Death is a 2015 addition to J.D. Robb’s In Death series. Like all books in the series, we’re in the future (mid-2000’s) and watching N.Y. Homicide Lieutenant Eve Dallas as she works with her team to solve murders.

In this book, we meet a couple of killers. Unlike most books in the series, we know exactly who the perps are, we’re introduced to them from the get-to. We know exactly what drove them to the path they’re on, what they’re doing and where they’re doing it. No mystery for us to solve – we just get to watch Eve follow the clues to catch up to us.

Letting us in on the mystery from the very beginning is a different technique. I would say that it worked, it was a refreshing change of pace. However, it comes with one drawback. We are completely privy to the thoughts and actions of the killers. And, in this case, their thoughts and actions are extremely evil. We’re talking a level of violence and depravity and disregard for human life that goes beyond the pale. It takes a lot, sometimes, to read of evil to this degree, and some readers will be put off, for sure.

That aside, if you can stand the violence, Devoted In Death is a very good book. We get very good investigative work. It was refreshing that Eve is helped by a small-town sheriff. And that the sheriff is not a caricature of “small-town folk” but an intelligent man whose help on the case proves invaluable.

I also liked that “the team” solved this difficult case using old-fashioned common sense, logic, and pavement-pounding. Despite the fact that it’s 2061, and there are new-fangled devices, nothing “magic” was used to solve this case. Eve worked it the same as she would in today’s world.

My only complaint is a minor one. Robb likes to infuse Eve with several flaws, and she plays them for comedic relief. In this book, Eve is constantly getting tripped up by time zones, and trying to figure out what time it is in another location, and getting upset when the answers aren’t “logical” to her way of thinking. Things like this are cute, but not when they’re overused. Sadly, by the fourth or fifth time, it was just tiresome. Still, this is a minor complaint.

In general, I enjoy the In Death series, and Devoted In Death is one of the better ones.

Other books in the In Death series

Betrayal In Death
Celebrity In Death
Ceremony In Death
Concealed In Death
Divided In Death
Festive In Death
Glory In Death
Haunted In Death
Immortal In Death
Indulgence In Death
Innocent In Death
Interlude In Death
Judgment In Death
Midnight In Death
Missing In Death
Naked In Death
Obsession In Death
Origin In Death
Rapture In Death
Reunion In Death
Salvation In Death
Strangers In Death
Survivor In Death
Treachery In Death
Vengeance In Death
Visions In Death

Cry Wolf by Tami Hoag: some good, some bad

Cry Wolf by Tami Hoag

 

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See it at Amazon 

(3.5/5)

Pros: intriguing mystery held my interest

Cons: annoying characters who spoke a lot of French

Some very good stuff.  And some very annoying stuff.  That’s my quickie review of Tami Hoag’s Cry Wolf. 

 

 

Our heroine, Laurel, comes back home – to the French villages of Louisiana, after facing a humiliating failure in her professional career.   She just wants to reconnect with her family, and enjoy some relaxing time to herself.

 

But she does not get much of a chance to rest.  Young girls are turning up dead along the Bayou.  At the same time, Laurel finds herself involved with the local ‘bad boy’ – thinking she sees the good man underneath all the bluster.

 

But when you get involved with someone you barely know, bad things can happen.  Is it possible that Laurel’s new love is somehow involved with the girls’ murders?  Or is someone else setting up an elaborate ruse, one designed to bring harm not only to Laurel but to the rest of her family as well?

 

That’s the premise of Cry Wolf and I’ll admit, I was pretty well hooked.  I turned those pages mighty fast to find out what was really going on.  I liked Hoag’s style of bringing lots of possible suspects into the mix.  Each time I was pretty sure I had it figured out, she would add a new twist and send me soaring in another direction.

 

Overall, a fascinating “whodunit” that definitely held my interest.

 

However, the book is far from perfect.  It suffers from a couple of flaws.  The biggest is that the characters were very hard to care about, and very hard to take seriously.  Each is a one-dimensional caricature.  The good girl.  The bad girl.  The good guy.  The bad guy.  The close-minded one.  The evil one.  You see the point – each character had no more depth than my fingernail.

 

And then there was the French.  I’m Ok if an otherwise-English book adds a few foreign phrases here and there.  Especially if you can gather most of the meaning from the context.  But this book incorporates French into nearly every conversation.  And even though I could make out most of it, I found it distracting and, frankly, annoying.  Worst of all – it turns out there’s a glossary at the back of the book to help you out.  When did I discover this fact?  After I read the last page of the story, of course.  Had I known all along that the glossary was hiding back there I might have used it.  But I’m not in the habit of checking out the back pages of a book to see if there’s anything of interest!

 

So – pick up Cry Wolf if you like a good “whodunit” and don’t mind thin characters.  And, if you don’t speak French, at least you’ll have my tip – turn to the back of the book!

 

Also by Tami Hoag

Deeper Than The Dead
Secrets To The Grave
The 9th Girl

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