Monday, January 24, 2011

The Neighbor by Lisa Gardner

I picked up The Neighbor thinking I was getting a romantic-suspense novel.  What I got was a very interesting mystery which has left me thinking that we need to take another look at how we treat sex-offenders!  Yes, many sex-offenders should be kept on life-long probation, but there is a possibility that some of them are just caught up in the system.  However, the story of Aidan is a side story in The Neighbor.  He's just a young man who gets caught up in the events because of where he lives.
     The real story is Jason and Sandra Jones and their four-year old daughter.  They seem to be the average young family living a quiet life in South Boston.  Then one night when Jason is at work as a reporter for one of the Boston newspapers, Sandra goes missing leaving behind her four-year old daughter as the only witness. 
     Detective Sergeant D. D. Warren catches the case and immediately senses that all is not as it seems.  Why does this pretty little suburban home in a non-crime area have steel exterior doors with industrial sized locks?  Why are there jams in all the windows?  When she questions Jason, why does he know nothing of his wife's background or daily activities?  For that matter, why does Jason seem to have no background?  The deeper D. D. digs, the deeper the questions become and the longer the list of suspects grows.
     Gardner tells the story by moving between D. D., Jason, Sandra, and the neighbor.  Even though you are privy to Jason's and Sandra's thoughts, Gardner keeps their secrets hidden, revealing clues slowly and letting the reader unravel the characters past for yourself.  Gardner does provide a satisfying ending, but the reader may end with the age-old question, "Does the end justify the means?"
     D. D. Warren is a serial character for Lisa Gardner but this is no serial story.  You don't need to know anything about D. D. to get into The Neighbor.

Other books by Lisa Gardner
D. D. Warren books:
Alone  (c2005)
Hide  (c2007)
The Neighbor (c2009)
Live to Tell (c2010)
Love You More (cMarch, 2011)

FBI Profiler Series:
The Perfect Husband (c1997)
The Third Victim (c2001)
The Next Accident (2001)
The Killing Hour (c2003)
Gone  (c2006)
Say Goodbye (c2008)

Stand Alone Books:
The Other Daughter (c1999)
The Survivor's Club (c2002)
I'd Kill for That (2004)

Saturday, January 22, 2011

No Safe Place by JoAnn Ross

     This is the first time I have written about JoAnn Ross but it is certainly not the first time I have read her.  Whenever you want a high-octane romance, you can count on Joann Ross.  Her stories are fast-paced, the settings are well chosen, and the plots are well constructed.
     No Safe Place is set in New Orleans a year after Katrina.  The city, as we all know, still had many devastated neighborhoods and the police force was still riddled with corruption.  Kate Delaney, a Chicago homicide detective, walks into this nightmare of lies and secrets looking to find who killed her sister.  Kate is appalled at the disinterest of the New Orleans force in finding her sister's killer.  She knows she must find someone to help her who knows the city and its players.
     Nick Broussard returned to his hometown of New Orleans after spending 15 years as a SEAL doing special ops.  He signed on with NOPD but managed to get himself thrown off the force for taking payouts after only six months.  That's okay because Nick has a plan to find out what really happened to his estranged father, also a cop of long standing with the NOPD.  Now a private investigator, Nick knows the minute he sees Kate standing on the dock where he keeps his boat that she is going to be nothing but trouble.
     As Kate and Nick begin to peel away the layers of secrets surrounding both deaths, the dark side of New Orleans becomes more and more apparent.  Friends are not who they seem and enemies are hard to determine.  Many are willing to kill rather than have their secrets uncovered.
     JoAnn Ross has written a great story but she has also laid bare some of New Orleans' worst secrets.  Her careful research into New Orleans post Katrina shows us a city that still has a long way to go on its road to recovery.  Unfortunately, the stories about corruption in New Orleans were, and still are, true.

Other books by JoAnn Ross that I have read and can recommend.

The Homecoming (c2010)
Breakpoint (c2009)
Shattered   (c2009)
Crossfire  (2008)
Freefall (2008)
No Safe Place (2007)
Blaze  (2005)
Out of the Storm (Stewart Sisters Trilogy)  (c2004)
Out of the Blue (Stewart Sisters Trilogy)  (c2004)
Out of the Mist (Stewart Sisters Trilogy)  (c2003)
Magnolia Moon (Callahan Brothers Trilogy)  (c2003)
River Road (Callahan Brothers Trilogy)  (c2002)
Blue Bayou (Callahan Brothers Trilogy)  (c2002)
Far Harbor (Coldwater Cove #2)  (c2000)
Homeplace  (Coldwater Cove #1)  (c1999)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Search by Nora Roberts

     There is a reason why Nora Roberts has 400 million copies of her 190 novels in print and that reason is simple - they are good!  No, not simple in plot or characterization, but simply good to read.  I suppose I have read at least a dozen of her books and I still always pick up the newest one when it comes out.  I also go back to her when I can't find a new author that grabs me.
     The Search (July, 2010) is every bit as compelling as the first Nora Roberts' book I read.  The Search is the story of Fiona Bristow and Simon Doyle.  At first glance they have nothing in common and certainly do not attract each other.  Simon is an artist in wood and Fiona trains dogs and heads a search and rescue team.  Simon's mother has sent him a puppy and Simon is at his wit's end about what to do with the "house-eating" maniac he has named Jaws.  He brings Jaws to Fiona to train but Fiona doesn't just train dogs, she also trains the owner, and, as anyone who has owned a dog knows, that is really what dog training is all about.  Simon relents and agrees to come with Jaws.
     There is more to Fiona than first meets the eye.  She was to be the 13th victim in a serial killer's string of victims.  She escaped and helped put the killer in jail but not before he killed her policeman fiance.  Now someone is copying the jailed killer's operation and Fiona again finds she is on the list of victims.  As Simon gets closer to Fiona, he promises her she will not be caught again and Simon never says anything he doesn't mean.
     One of the great things about reading is how much you can learn when the author has really done the research.  The Search is a great story on its own, but the information about dog training and search and rescue dogs is also worth the read.  Simon didn't know anything about training or S&R until he met Fiona and, since that was her life, he learns about it right along with the reader.  Simon is an artist with wood and as Fiona draws closer to him, she begins to learn about his world.  This information is important and relevant but it isn't presented as "lessons."  It is written into the book as part of the story, helping to advance the characters and the plot. 
     Read The Search on any level that fits you.  Just be sure to read it!

Just the ones I've read by Nora Roberts

The Search (c7/2010)
Black Hills (c5/2010)
Tribute     (c2008)
Angels Fall (c2007)
Blue Smoke (c2005)
Northern Lights (c2005)
Birthright (c2004)
The Villa (2002)
Carolina Moon (c2001)
River's End (c2000)
Homeport  (c1999)
Sanctuary  (c1998)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Proof by Seduction by Courtney Milan

      I usually find authors who are new to me by having them recommended by other readers or I find them on lists that match authors I like with other authors of the same genre.  I stumbled upon Courtney Milan on my own when I was looking at the “new to the library” shelves.  What a find!
     Proof by Seduction is not your ordinary “dark, brooding, handsome lord meets uplifting, beautiful lady” romance set in 1830’s London.  Oh, there is a dark, brooding lord all right, and he is quite handsome, but that is where the similarities to other romance heroes ends.  Gareth Carhart, the Marquis of Blakely, hides behind his responsibilities because he is extremely shy and socially inept.  He has no friends and hasn’t a clue how to make any.  He is busy driving his step-sister and his cousin away from him even though he doesn’t know he is doing it and would not want to if he did realize what he is doing.  Blakely is a man who is so smart intellectually that he has no one to talk to.  His field is science and he is so arrogant that he knows if you can’t prove something scientifically, then it just can’t exist, even, perhaps especially, love.
     Jenny Keeble is introduced into Blakely’s world when his cousin, Ned, hires her, in her disguise as “Madame Esmerelda,” to tell Ned’s fortune.  Jenny is an orphan and certainly not a lady of the ton, but she is well educated.  She has chosen to take on the personae of Madame Esmerelda because she doesn’t want to be a mistress, she can’t be a governess, and she has to make her living somehow.  Blakely is appalled when he learns Ned has put his trust, and some of his coin, into the hands of a fortune teller and he determines to discredit her.  He allows himself one hour for the task. However, it is Blakely who finds himself performing tasks set up by Madame Esmerelda for it is Jenny who sees through Blakely and she is determined to make him human. 
     I don’t know if a story like this could have really happened in 1830’s London but I hope so.  Milan has produced two characters so unique that you hope they were real and that they found each other.  The story is funny in the right places, touching where it should be, and altogether rewarding.  Blakely isn’t lovable as Blakely, but as Gareth, I found myself hoping for his redemption. 
     Be sure to look for Courtney Milan.  You really don’t want to miss her!

Trial by Desire (cSept  2010)
Unveiled  (cJan 2011)
Unclaimed  (cOct 2011)  Watch for this one!