LIT/FILM The folding travel toothbrush is a central element in every Jack Reacher novel. It's his only possession, the only thing the wandering ex-military cop takes with him when he throws away his old clothes and buys new ones, the only thing that ties him directly to his old life in the U.S. Army. It's part of the Reacher formula, one that consistently works through 17 books by Lee Child.
I've been reading as fast as I can, catching up on all of the beach books I can find, looking for the Great Work of Summer, 2012. I still haven't found it. There's plenty worth reading, some decent drivel and distractions. But overall, I can’t say anything had my head spinning.
So here’s the first installment of my rundown, the good, the fair and the total waste cases.Read more »
There's an awful lot of hype around this first novel by Chris Pavone. John Grisham compares it to the early works of Ken Follett, Frederick Forsyth, and Robert Ludlum. The folks at Crown publishing think this is going to be the Next Big Thing in the thriller world. And since I'm such a huge fan of overhyped authors, I decided I'd pour a nice glass of Buffalo Trace and read the first 20 pages.Read more »
I get it: Life in the Soviet Union under Stalin and Krushchev was pretty bad. Food was sometimes scarce, spies were everywhere, people got locked up in jail for disloyalty to the State ... I know all that. I read The Gulag Archipelago when I was in High School. It made me more wary of powerful governments than it did of Communism, but whatever -- I'll stipulate that the Soviet Union of that era was not exactly the great workers paradise it was supposed to be. (We had a few problems with repression here at home, too.)
Janet Evanovich was a moderately successful writer of romance novels before she became the funniest thriller writer in the world, and I figured at some point that side of her would come out. It’s taken 17 books before the glorious madness that is the life of Stephanie Plum would start to take a turn toward the mundane normality of New Jersey polyamory, but that’s where the series is these days. Read more »
I Don’t Want to Kill You, By Dan Wells Tor, 320 pages, $11.95
One of the reviews on the back of this book says that “regardless or your age or your genre preferences, you will find this story both profound and enthralling.” The usual blurb crap, but it did make me think that this could be another series like the Maximum Ride books --stuff my 12-year-old son and I could share.Read more »
Shut Your Eyes Tight By John Verdon Crown, 509 pp, $24
Ever since Thomas Harris created Hannibal Lecter and James Patterson devised the twisted psychokillers who populate the Alex Cross novels, there’s been something of a drive in thriller lit to top even the worst, most grusome stuff imaginable. It’s the Pulp Fiction Syndrome in trash lit -- and although Shut Your Eyes Tight is hardly the worst of the recent offerings, I was only about a third of the way through the book when I took out my notepad and wrote:
There's a CIA agent who has a wife who also works for the CIA, and she's seven months preggers with their kid, and life in the London Station is just dandy. Already a very bad sign: CIA agents with spouses and kids are prime fodder for thriller writers. It never works out. James Bond figured that out early, and since then, everyone else in the genre has fallen in love at his or her peril.Read more »
I’m just going to come right out and say it: Janet Evanovich is the funniest writer to come along on the scene since Carl Hiassen, and in some ways, she’s got Hiassen beat. He writes about Florida, where unreal people do some bizarre stuff; her turf is Jersey, where the characters are pretty close to normal life. Which is to say, totally strange and fucked up. She is my favorite living writer, and after fourteen previous novels, the tales of Stephanie Plum and her cohorts just seem to get better.