Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Hostage by Robert Crais

Title: Hostage
Author: Robert Crais
Publisher: Doubleday (2001)

No stranger to Crais' back list, I was happy to delve in for this month's pick... but then saddened to see that it's the last of his back list that I hadn't read. So hats off to Michael for getting us back to one of our favorite authors (and, if memory serves, the author that drew us together in the first place oh so many moons ago). Now I join the rest of his fans in having no choice but to wait for each year's new release. One other sad note in an otherwise very positive month is that I was unable to attend this year's Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. I missed the books but I missed the comradery most of all and I hope all my book buddies had a wonderful time.

For those that are new to our monthly series, this is when Michael reviews a film adapted from a book which gets a review here.

Click here for Michael's film review of Hostage

From the author's website: "Jeff Talley was a good husband, a fine father, and a front line negotiator with LAPD's SWAT unit. But the high-stress, unforgiving job took an irreparable toll on his psyche. Unable to talk down a despondent father before he murders his wife and son and takes his own life, Talley plummets into a downward spiral. His marriage ends, he resigns from SWAT, and he struggles to escape from his former life by taking the chief-of-police job in a sleepy, affluent bedroom community far from the chaos and crime of Los Angeles."

Escape turns out to be impossible when a trio trying to flee a crime scene end up invading a local home and taking the family hostage.

The set-up seems straight-forward but becomes more complicated with each chapter. I find the complications enjoyable and so don't want to spoil them here. I only mention them because RC never allows the reader to get lost in the tangles. His signature snappy pace is also on display here which results in an involved plot with lots of characters reading like his usual page turners.

The POV shifts throughout the novel but predominately remains with Talley. He's a good character to spend the novel with but not great. He has a lot of depth but not many layers making it difficult to become really attached to him. As in, I was never really that worried about him or his outcome (or the outcome of his family). It's probably a weird thing to complain about but he was just too good and in this type of book Good rarely gets punished. It's not that I want good people to be punished but when, as a reader, you're not even concerned it sets a distance between you and the character. (I realize this view probably has a nonsensical component to it when I'm talking about a book in which multiple people get taken hostage but I hope my perspective makes sense in a narrative way.)

As I mentioned above, this book has a large cast of characters and they are handled deftly as the action proceeds but I found it heavy-handed in the back story department. Around 3/4 of the way through I really didn't care anymore whose mom/dad/guardian had done what resulting in weird behavior. And [MILD SPOILER] I continue to assert that RC does not like our courts muddled up with trials for Bad People. Has anyone else noticed his downright Shakespearean endings?

Despite not being particularly worried about our main character the dramatic tension was held throughout. Even though I was 99.9% sure who would survive and who wouldn't the pace of the novel kept me extremely interested in how it would all unfold. I'll take that in a thriller any day.

So about the movie... well, let's leave that for Michael's post.

rating: 3 of 5 stars

Click here for an index of the joint post series

Monday, April 29, 2013

Dead Spy Running by Jon Stock

Title: Dead Spy Running
Author: Jon Stock
Narrator: Paul Panting
Audiobook Publisher: W.F. Howes Ltd. (2009)

This review is really more in the light of forewarned is forearmed so, if this is a title you like, here's my polite heads up that I don't have anything good to say about this book. I'm going to keep this short because I don't like to spend a lot of time on books I don't like and I couldn't even make it through the second (of nine) CDs.

Dr Musacha and I had a bit of a drive over the weekend so I browsed the audiobook section at the library for some entertainment. We both like spy thrillers which is how I ended up with this title. Suspended MI6 agent, Daniel Marchant is running the London Marathon with his girlfriend (Leyla, a current MI6 agent). He encounters and thwarts a suicide bomber also running the marathon. Shortly thereafter he's taken into MI5 custody and aggressively questioned. MI6 finally gets him into a safe house but pretty quickly gives him to the CIA for questioning which immediately becomes torture porn. It was at this point that Dr M was so disgusted he asked me to turn it off.

A few comments made by us whilst listening:

This dialogue is terrible.
This guy [author] is obviously not a physiologist. There's no way [insert character here] would respond in this way to the physical stress.
Are there any characters in this book that aren't cliches?
Why is it that whenever Daniel talks about why he loves Leyla he's always referring to her body and when she talks about why she loves him she's always listing his qualities as a capable human/agent?
Did he just imply that every human with a vagina is suspect?
Seriously! Is Leyla nothing more than a pair of legs with tits or what? Can any character see her as an agent and not as a sexual object?
Actually, it's hard to see Leyla as an agent because she never gets to do anything agent-y. I mean, she's a fucking secret agent and yet she can't figure out if her mom is being mistreated in a full-care home?
Is this a flashback within a flashback?
Have you noticed that nothing has happened since the opening action sequence? Almost all the subsequent scenes have been flashbacks and meetings.

More derogatory comments were made but I think you get the point: bad dialogue, bad characters, nonsensical plot, offensive and boring. Not exactly a spy thriller if you ask me.

rating: 1 of 5 stars