Monday, May 31, 2021

#30: Northern Spy by Flynn Berry

A BBC radio producer in Belfast sees on television that her sister appears to be part of an IRA terrorist cell, and ends up in extreme danger learning how and why, in Flynn Berry's Northern Spy.

The latest from Berry has all of her hallmarks; it's a high-octane thriller set against the backdrop of family dynamics, with a sudden, explosive climax.  

I have liked all three of Berry's novels, which I read this year almost back to back, but the political background adds value to the storytelling in this case.  

And the words "page turning" is thrown around a lot, but this one genuinely is, as the last chapters really kept me glued to the fate of the protagonist, a single mom trying to help her sister while keeping her son and her mother out of harm's way.

Reese Witherspoon and I both recommend this one.  I checked it out from the New Castle-Henry County Public Library in New Castle, Indiana and read it very quickly.

Thursday, May 20, 2021

#29: Still Lives by Maria Hummel

 A failing art museum is pinning its hopes on a challenging art show featuring paintings of murdered LA women; but when the artist disappears on the night of the opening, the stakes become even higher in Maria Hummel's Still Lives.

Hummel writes a highly literary thriller that is as much a searing indictment on the California art scene as it is a mystery.  In fact, our protagonist--a writer/editor at the museum with a background in investigative journalism, which she left after a traumatic experience--doesn't really knuckle down and get into finding the artist until about halfway through.

Hummel's background seems to be literary fiction, and she is a professor of English, but even though there are highly interesting characters and relationships and vivid writing,  it is in the end just a crackling good thriller.  It's rare that I have trouble putting a book down, but the last fifty pages or so had me locked in.

I really enjoyed this book and will recommend it readily.

I checked this out from the New Castle-Henry County Public Library in New Castle, Indiana, and read it very quickly.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

#28: Pursuit of the Eagle by Nick Carter

 Killmaster Nick Carter is tracking an intelligent dog (!) when he finds what looks to be a missing American plane, and is soon on the trail of a kidnapped scientist in Pursuit of the Eagle.

This novel is part of my careful re-read of a favorite series as a youth, before I knew that Nick Carter wasn't a real person but a full slate of authors of various abilities.  I selected this one because it was written by Gayle Lynds, a thriller writer whose work I also read steadily--under her own name--as a young man.

This is a meat-and-potatoes thriller, but feels kind of low-stakes, with Carter being chased by Bulgarian spies and a not particularly adept German terrorist group while being helped by a Macedonian freedom fighter and a jolly French spy.

The mid-80s Eastern European politics seems about right, and the action comes steadily, so a solid entry for fans of the series.  Lynds wrote a handful of these--as did her husband, Dennis Lynds--and I would read another if I found one.

I've been steadily picking these Nick Carter books up here and there and read this one quickly.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

#27: A Double Life by Flynn Berry

A child survives a murderous night in her own home, and her affluent father disappears afterwards and becomes the prime suspect; as an adult, she tries to find out if he is dead or alive, and uncovers a wide-ranging connection to his upper-crust friends in Flynn Berry's A Double Life.

This is Berry's follow-up to the superb Under the Harrow, and I picked this one up quickly thereafter because I enjoyed the first so much.  I think this novel suffers a bit from such close comparison; both feature a troubled protagonist, and a close family member with hidden motives.  The denouement here unravels very quickly, and is not quite as satisfying.

But A Double Life is still a cut above the standard thriller fare, and I am sure I will continue to read Berry's work.

I checked this out from the New Castle-Henry County Public Library in New Castle, Indiana and read it quickly.

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

#26: Northern Heist by Richard O'Rawe

A gang of robbers knock over a Belfast bank, and soon have the cops and the IRA out hunting them, in Richard O'Rawe's Northern Heist.

This is O'Rawe's first foray into fiction after writing several nonfiction accounts based around his own experiences in the IRA.  Northern Heist is a bit of both, fictionalized but based on a true-life large-scale bank robbery in Belfast in the early 2000s.

Of course, there is almost immediately double-crossings, close calls, and other shenanigans, otherwise it would be a short story and not a novel.

O'Rawe writes a very hard-boiled heist novel, and hits all the right beats on par with a Donald Westlake outing.  

I thought the biggest shortcoming is O'Rawe invites the reader to root for the main characters, which I struggled with when they kidnapped two families and terrorized them, forcing two bank employees to carry out the biggest aspect of the heist (called a "tiger kidnapping").

A good heist novel overall, for fans of this type of fiction.

I checked this out from the New Castle-Henry County Public Library in New Castle, Indiana.