Tag Archives: cults

Mondays are murder

Until recently, I was completely uninterested in the Jack Reacher series by Lee Child.  Oh sure, I would see the books on the Fast Track and New Books displays.  I could even bring myself to read the summaries and praise on the book jackets.  But nothing ever really compelled me to actually read one until I read this article in Maclean’s recently.

I mean, really?  First of all, I completely agree with the Reacher Creatures who are incensed that Tom Cruise might be called upon to play their 6-foot 5-inch hero.  But second of all, there are legions of fans out there who are so committed to this character, Jack Reacher, that they call themselves “Reacher Creatures?!”  At that moment, I decided that I had to find out what the big deal is.

We have a number of Jack Reacher titles in the digital collection, so I was able to start near to the beginning – with #2, Die Trying.  You know me by now, I will not let not starting at the beginning stop me from starting a series.  (Whew, that was an exhausting sentence!)  So I checked it out, transferred it to my Kobo and got to reading.

Die Trying

The title comes from assurances somewhere mid-book that Reacher will save Holly Johnson, abducted FBI agent, or he will die trying.  But who is Jack Reacher, and how did he come to be collateral damage in a federal-level abduction scheme in the first place?

Jack Reacher is a lone wolf, retired Army drifter.  With the Military Police until he got out, Reacher has learned basically all he needs to know about protecting himself and others from imminent threat.  He also has a courteous streak.  It’s this streak that leads him to offer assistance to a woman on a crutch who is trying to make her way out of a dry cleaner’s with nine hangers of clean clothes.  Next thing Reacher and the woman know, they are surrounded by armed men and forced into a car.  And with that inauspicious start, Jack Reacher gets to know Holly Johnson.  Johnson is a newly-minted FBI agent, specializing in high-end corporate crime.  but she is also much more than that. 

If Reacher is to save them both from the clutches of the the madman that nabbed them both, he is going to have to pry as much information as he can out of the recalcitrant FBI’er.  And he is going to have to draw on every single iota of what he learned in his military career.

I will be the first to admit that the plot of Die Trying hangs together pretty loosely.  But it hangs on the strength of Jack Reacher and his ability to be infinitely compelling.  There might be unanswered questions and insufficient explanations, but none of them is enough to turn me off from reading more!  Now, to go pick up Killing Floor and get this party started right – from the beginning!

Mondays are murder

There has been enough frivolity around here lately.  I almost wish that I had read this week’s pick alongside Jan Merete Weiss’ These Dark Things.  There are parallels in tone that I think would complement each other well.  Then again, we have a nice segue from last week’s delightful wordplay as well.

I first read Don DeLillo’s The Names back during my undergraduate days, and I have re-read it periodically since then.  I had a couple of professors in the English department who were very much mentors of mine.  They were DeLillo devotees.  Now that I think about it, they were also mystery devotees.  Granted, most of what they read was of the noir and hard-boiled variety (Hammett, Chandler, anything about the dark underbelly of postwar US cities).  But their interest in mysteries led me around as an adult to literary murder.  So, thank you, Dennis and Nina!

Back to DeLillo.

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James Axton is an American adrift.  He lives in Athens, traveling here and there throughout the Middle East gathering data in his role as a risk analyst.  His estranged wife and their son are living on Kouros, a Greek island many hours distant. Kathryn is a devoted amateur on an archaeological dig, and Tap is writing a novel.

Nothing much happens.  James travels for work.  He dines with his fellow expatriates and their associates.  He visits his family.  He talks late into the night over wine in candlelight, buffeted by warm, honey-scented winds.  (Or donkey-scented, exhaust-scented, market-scented – so much depends on the where.)  The Namesat times reads like a eulogy to every philosophically-minded adult’s dreams of what adulthood could have been like.  (This is part of the reason I love it so much – Delillo wrote my dreams, and he did it in 1982.)

But where, you might be asking, is the murder?  The murder is there.  Faded far into the backdrop of the story.  It appears that a mysterious group, a cult, a shadowy collection of filthy people who turned up on Kouros only to depart again, is murdering people at locations scattered throughout the Middle East.  There is not so much solving to be done here as there is understanding.  There is a why buried in the shifting sands and crumbling tablets.

Perhaps the most unsettling thing about this book is it’s timeliness.  Despite the fact that DeLillo wrote The Names in 1982, his observations remain prescient.  Air-travel, risk analysis, the relationship of the US to the rest of the world.  It is a surprising reminder of just how much the post-9/11 world really does resemble the pre-9/11 world.  Give James a Blackberry, have Tap write his novel on a netbook, watch Kathryn record find details on a tablet - it could all be happening now.

Mondays are murder

I had never heard of Rizzoli & Isles until I saw a commercial for the new cable series.  And more’s the pity for me, now that I have started reading the series at book #8!

Ice Cold by Tess Gerritsen was everything a thriller should be.  Taught, fast-paced, utterly believable and surprising to the last page.  Dr. Maura Isles, a medical examiner in Boston, has flown to Wyoming for a professional conference.  Her trip is both a work necessity and a chance to escape the complicated turn her personal life has taken.  Determined to forget, even if just for a moment, her ill-fated love affair with a Catholic priest, Dr. Isles agrees to go on a cross-country ski trip with an old med school acquaintance and his crew.

It doesn’t take long, of course, for the weather to get the best of them – this is Wyoming, after all.  And once their rental truck ends up on its side in a ditch on a seemingly abandoned road, things quickly spiral downhill.  Seeking shelter in a deserted home, their predicament reaches horror film proportions quickly.  Gerritsen pushes the narrative forward unrelentingly.  Find shelter? Also find abandoned meals and a dead dog.  Find a truck to get you out? The tire chains nearly amputate someone. Get to the road to ski out? Dodge a murderous snow plow.

While Dr. Isles and company are scrambling for their lives in the Wyoming wilderness against all foes – natural, human and imaginary – Detective Jane Rizzoli begins to worry that she can’t get Maura on her cell phone.  And when Maura’s lover calls to let her know that Dr. Isles was not on her return flight, Rizzoli can no longer shake the feeling that something more is going on than her friend just avoiding her unattainable love.

Off to Jackson, then with Rizzoli and her FBI agent husband.  Thus begins a blind pursuit in which no one is quite sure who is the hunter and who is the prey.  Ice Cold is a breathless read – complicated and exciting.  I will be adding this to my ongoing list of series to catch up on now that I have started them in the middle…  And to that end, dear blog readers, I wanted to point you to a new tool that recently came to my attention.  There is a website called FictFact that is “dedicated to helping you read fiction book series in order.”  This website finally helped me figure out the order in which I should have read Jo Nesbø’s Harry Hole books.  Check it out!

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Random aside: All this talk of murder getting you down?  Just need a general autumn pick-me-up?  I highly recommend that every human being in the world who is at all interested in the pursuit of a life full of verve and wonder, spirit and fascination, read a series of all-ages (i.e. kid-friendly) manga by Kiyohiko Azuma called Yotsuba&! .  We have the first eight volumes in the system (that link will take you to the first), and they are a complete delight.  Yotsuba is a five-year-old girl with green hair, a mysterious family structure and a tendency to live life with total abandon.  And Azuma is an artist of consumate skill, both visually and narratively.  I challenge you to read any of Yotsuba’s antics and not come away feeling at least a little bit better about the world.

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