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Now personally, I'd have preferred to see another Queen & Country novel or another Atticus Kodiak novel, but instead Greg Rucka decided to start another series, starring Jad Bell, an aging military kickass.

Despite my preferences, this was a terrific book. Totally action-adventure, without a lot of depth to it, but very compelling action-adventure. It kept me reading at a very quick pace and I'll definitely pick up the sequel which is obviously coming (assuming the book does well enough, one presumes). Well, read it from the library, that is.

Rucka doesn't just have a gift for the action and adventure, however, he also engages in a terrific act of creation in this book, with "Wilsonville" and the Disney-like empire that surrounds the theme park. He makes it very believable, such that it actually becomes a character in the book.

If I have one complaint about Jad, it's that he's perhaps too superhuman in his special-force-edness. Atticus and Tara both seemed much more fallible (and even when Atticus headed toward invincibility it was only after some pretty hard work).

Still, a terrific book, and one that makes me want to pick up the couple of (licensed) Rucka books that I haven't read. 

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Finished this mystery novel on the plane yesterday. It's been quite a while since I've read one of the Sharon McCone mysteries, mainly because my local library didn't have this particular book, so I could never pull it off the shelf spontaneously.

This was somewhat of a transition book in the metaplot, as it features McCone setting up her own agency and trying to come to terms with her relationship with her beau, Hy. I was afraid that the latter plot wasn't going to be finalized, but it came to a good end (if a cliffhanger, as Hy offers to talk about his secret background just as the book ends).

The actual mystery concerns a college chum who looks McCone up and asks for her help dealing with harassment he's been experiencing. It starts off really slowly, as McCone just treads water dealing with new harassment as it appears. I wasn't loving it much. Then there's an explosive conclusion to the first part of the book and suddenly McCone is on her own and investigating and all is at it should be.

This book was rather interesting for the fact that it sent McCone across the United States, which I think was a first, though it was still bookended with plenty of good San Francisco background. There was also quite a nice investigatory thread once things got going.

Overall, a good book, as I've found generally is the case for Muller.
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I just finished reading The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, by Stieg Larsson, the third and (very sadly) last book in his Millennium trilogy.

It was an excellent book, better than the second, which was in turn better than the first. I was impressed by how carefully crafted the book was, opening up new viewpoints full of new info as the book went on, but still maintaining a wonderful balance with all the characters we were already following.

Looking back, I was somewhat surprised to see that Hornet's Nest was the only book of the three that wasn't really a mystery. We knew most of the facts beforehand, and the suspense was instead in whether our characters would be able to fend off the forces arrayed against them. There was, fortunately, considerable suspense in that regard, and it (along with the great characters) kept the book pushing forward.

One of the things I loved about the book was how it brought so many people together. When we opened with the first book, Salander was totally a loner, but here we had person after person lining up behind her. It was really ... uplifting.

As I said, the very careful construction of Hornet's Nest was one of the things that appealed to me. That's something it had in common with the writings of Gene Wolfe, who remains my favorite writer. However, if Larsson had had the time to write more books, I think he might have eclipsed Wolfe in my personal pantheon. That's because he went beyond the carefully constructed books. He wrote vivid and likable characters that far surpassed most other authors. And he did all of that with a real social conscience. It was really wonderful to see an author who wasn't afraid to put out such progressive views be so widely read.

I'm very sad now that I'm at the end of his very short completed corpus. 

(But I was also happy to see that Hornet's Nest was a good stopping point.)
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Events of recent weeks led me to look for some light reading, thus I picked up the next Nameless Detective novel, Jackpot.

It was a pretty good detective story. Nameless sets out to discover why someone committed suicide right after earning a $200,000 jackpot and ends up scouring California for clues. There's enough good detective work in here, with Nameless finding different info from different people and putting it all together, that I was tempted to steal the framework for an RPG adventure. However, Kingmaker, my current campaign, doesn't really call for that sort of thing, so I let it be.

The most interesting element of the book was that Nameless realizes that he's really changed after the ordeal of his last book (where he was taken captive for 3 months and left for dead). He's more paranoid and angrier, but perhaps more notably, he's willing to cut corners and go outside the law, which he never has before. Pronzini correctly makes that change the crux of the book's plotting, and I found it very interesting to read. 

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After reading To Say Nothing of the Dog, I was somewhat interested in more Victoriana, so while at the library on Saturday, I somewhat randomly picked up this Sherlock Holmes pastiche by Barrie Roberts. He did 8 or 9 of them.

Overall, it was a perfectly adequate pastiche. Its most interesting element is that it places Holmes very clearly in historical Victorian times, so we have the Queen's Diamond Jubilee going on and Holmes' client turns out to be Anna Leonowens of The King and I.

Beyond that, the sleuthing was interesting, and the book read quickly. I might randomly pick up another of these, but I won't hunt hard for them.
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I'm currently reading the extremely dense Midnight Tides by Steven Erikson, so I needed something lighter to read simultaneously. As a result I picked up Shackles, by Bill Pronzini, from the library.

It's the next Nameless Detective book in the series, and it's pretty unique book. The first third is about Nameless being held in captivity by a faceless villain. Afterward, he escapes and hunts said villain down using some nice detective work.

Much of this book is really a psychological thriller centering on our protagonist, and it's very well presented. As I said, though, the detective work that comes in the middle really works too. It's all around a strong book, and I'm very happy to see Pronzini continue to move away from those closed-door mysteries that he was (briefly?) obsessed with.

There was also some vary nice use of northern California background in this one, away from Nameless' typical stomping grounds, but still an interesting and iconic part of the state.

I'm more enthusiastic to read more Nameless books after this one.
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I just finished the second book in Larsson's "Millennium Trilogy", and I have to say I'm even more impressed with it than the first book.

Dragon Tattoo was a somewhat claustrophobic and tight book about a complex mystery spanning generations. Played with Fire instead puts the well-detailed characters of the previous book front and center and weaves its mysteries around them more directly.

I was extremely impressed with the characters, especially as revelations cast new light on their behavior back through the first novel. I also thought the mystery was well-plotted, with its revelations still ... revelatory. However, I was the most impressed by Larsson's ability to surprise me. Several of the plot twists were shocking, as was his decision to take one of the main characters off-screen for something like 200 pages. One of the revelations near the end (the big one) actually made me gasp. I love it when an author is actually able to surprise me, but in a fair way.

I'm rarely willing to put in the effort for a book of Played with Fire's length (723 pages in our paperback edition), but here it was entirely worthwhile. It's likely the best book I've read this year, and also one that kept me totally enthralled, though a little less right at the end (when mystery turned to action).

Overall the ending was the one thing that I wasn't entirely happy with. It concluded many major points (and shocked me again), but left a lot up the air, with the next book picking up just hours later as a result. I would have preferred a better conclusion, as with Dragon Tattoo.

I would happily pick up the paperback of the Hornet's Nest, Larsson's final book, right away but the greedy publisher is still maintaining it only in hardcovers and trade paperbacks over a year after it's first publication in the US, so I'll just borrow it from the library instead, when I'm ready to read it in 3 or 6 months (before the facts of Played with Fire slip from my head ... though I might watch the movies beforehand to remind myself).
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The end of the last Spenser novel, not really a spoiler )

That's the end Robert Parker's last Spenser novel: a baptism and a trip to the Undying Lands, if you believe life is mostly metaphor, anyway.

Not his best work, as the theme of rehabilitating someone has been done before in the Spenser novels, most notably with Paul in Early Autumn, which was one of his best.

I get the impression that Parker was working on the 41st(?) Spenser novel when he died. If so, we'll probably see that work, as a new author has already been picked to write the Spenser novels (and the Stone novels as well).

Life goes on for the rest of us. I'm glad Parker's Joan decided to keep his heroes alive.
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Been a while since I read any mystery/action/cop books. I got to this one via the TV show Justified, which Kimberly and I have been watching the first season of. That show was based on two novels and a short story by Elmore Leonard, of which Pronto was the first (though only the short story is credited for some reason).

I found Pronto ... adequate. The problem may be that I already had the TV show as a model, and the TV show is excellent, a well-characterized southern Pulp Fiction, where half the time you're just shaking your head at the beautiful criminal stupidity. The book isn't nearly as good.

What I found most interesting in the book was the bits that were lifted straight from the book to the TV show: a couple of scenes here and there. Most notably the big stepping-off scene that leads off the TV show (where Raylan gives a crook an ultimatum to get out of town) is the climax to the novel. Which is a pretty interesting difference.

I also found two character details interesting. In the book, Rayland's ex- is referred to constantly as fat. In addition, they have two kids. Neither of these facts is true in the TV show.

Though I enjoyed seeing the things moving from one medium to the other, I'm not particularly enthused to read the other novel at this point.
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This is what I now presume will be the penultimate Spenser novel by the late Mr. Parker.

Overall, I thought it was quite a good story. A lot of recent Spensers have been more action-adventure than mystery, but this returns to the classic formula. We have an intertwined theft and murder that spin out into a wide network of people. It was nicely done.

I was also struck by the ending. The novel pretty much ends on an exclamation of unbounded love. I've more than once felt that Parker seemed to have a love in his life that could move mountains--and an appreciation of the same.

In the end, that's about all we could expect or demand from this world.
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Just finished The Last Run, Greg Rucka's newest novel, what he calls the end of volume one of Queen & Country. It was an obsessively readable novel. I rarely read a single book for more than a chapter or two at a sitting, but I wooshed right through the last half of the book--as an increasing number of cats gravitated to the bed, laying upon or against me.

(They're all sadly bereft now.)

Rucka has increasingly become my favorite thriller/action/espionage author. I loved all three of his Q&C novels (and in fact need to get myself copies of the first two, so that I can sit down and read through all the comics and novels again, now that I know how the story ends) and I've also been very fond of all of his later Atticus Kodiak novels. I'm pretty shocked that I don't seem to have any tags for him here. I guess I've just been tagging them generically under 'mystery books', using an overbroad definition.

I find it very interesting to contrast Kodiak and Q&C, because the Kodiak books are generally very small, personal books, while the Q&C books really do a good job of feeling like internationally important events. And Rucka does them both well.

I'm very hopefully that this conclusion of 'volume one' means that a new Q&C comic book series in in the offing, especially now that Rucka had ended his relationship with DC to return to his own work (not that I haven't loved some of his DC work, especially Gotham Central and Checkmate, both of which I should reread too).
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I hadn't read a "Nameless Detective" book for about a year, but I thought Deadfall, the next in the series, would be a good, light book to read on the train up to Sacramento (and I indeed read the first several chapters then and the next several while K. napped that evening).

I was very pleased to see that this was a good old fashioned mystery with lots of characters and lots of clues to what was going. Almost too many in some cases, as I figured out the first murder almost as soon as it was introduced, but fortunately there were other murders and disappearances to keep me going.

This was all a very nice change from Pronzini's locked-room mysteries of other recent books.

As I've said before, Pronzini isn't nearly as good of a writer as his wife, Marcia Muller, but this one did have some interesting character development: particularly in the fact that Nameless is considering retiring at the end of the book. That's always been a problem that Pronzini was going to face, in making his protagonist 20 years older than himself. I'll be interested in seeing where he goes with it ... probably next year.

Edit: But he can't be thinking about it too seriously, as there are another 21 books after this one!
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Of all of the detective novels that I've started reading over the last few years, the Sharon McCone mysteries remain my favorites. She combines fair & interesting mystery crafting with great characterization and wonderful local feel.

This one was about McCone's latest love interest going missing. The initial investigation as McCone tracks him down through San Diego was one of those mysteries that was so well laid out that it made me want to base an RPG adventure on it. It was really nice seeing the pieces come together by book end.

The San Diego (and later) Mexico background was all presented extremely well. I truly feel like I know a lot more about the area from having read this fictional account.

I also found it interesting that this book felt very much like a transition novel, with McCone left with a few options for where her life could go at book's end. Coincidentally one of the other books that I recently read, Phoenix by Steven Brust, had the exact same messaging. In both series, I'll look forward to where they go next.
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Just finished Saturnalia, the fifth of the SPQR books by John Maddox Roberts. I checked it out from the library and, alas, it had the faint smell of Lysol on all its pages. The trials and travails of library books!

Back to Rome! And some variety in the series. Our hero, Decius, is starting to get some respect from his peers. His father actually calls him in to look into this murder, the apparent poisoning of one of his kinsmen. Though we do get some of the same 'ole "we can't prosecute because of politics", when Decius actually figures out what's going on in the end ... he takes things into his own hands. It's good to see both the evolution of Decius' character and his relation with others.

There's also a surprising amount of continuity. A lot of the situation and the mystery comes out of setup in earlier books. I kinda wished I remember them better ...
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So a few weeks ago I discovered that the Siffy ("SyFy") channel had a new summer offering called Haven. I got excited when I discovered it was based on a Stephen King novella called The Colorado Kid and that the TV show was being produced by the novella's publisher, Hard Case Crime editor Charles Ardai. I'd previously read three of the very pulpy Hard Case Crime novels, the three written by Charles Ardai, and two of those were superb (and the third intriguing and clever).

So, I ordered a copy of The Colorado Kid from the library and finished it a couple of days ago.

It's a nice little story, definitely one of the strong King works from the last few decades. It's a very quiet piece, set on an island near Maine that centers on three people talking about an old unsolved crime. It's really a story about questions, not answers, that sets up an intriguing situation and then invites you to think about it yourself.

And it doesn't have a bit of science-fiction in it (as for whether it contains "syfy", who can say)--though the TV show is said to be a supernatural drama.

In anyc ase, the novella was definitely worth reading. I don't know how much mileage the TV show will get out of it, except as a snapshot of a rural Maine community, but I'm still interested in the show too, based largely on Ardai's involvement.
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I'm usually a contrarian. If something is getting particular focus in the public eye, that lowers its interest to me, rather than the contrary, because I see it as a Modern-Art-like mooing-herd mentality, rather than actual recognition that something is good. However Kimberly listened to the audio book of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo--which was the second best-selling book internationally a few years ago, and has been gaining attention again recently due to the movie--and she said it was good, and I was willing to listen to that.

She was right.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is something that's pretty rare in the American market: a mystery with some heft to it. It's also beautifully plotted and entirely fair. Some things clicked into place very early for me, and others became suddenly obvious only though Larsson's prose.

Though the mystery was great, the characters in the book are even better. I entirely adore both of the protagonists, finding them interesting, compelling, and real people.

I'm quite sad that Larsson died before any of his books were published, not because there are only three-and-three-quarters books total (and that most of a fourth book tied up amidst legal wrangling), but because he didn't get to see how successful they've been--success that is entirely well earned IMO.

I'll definitely be reading the other two books, though not immediately. Given the heft of the books, one would probably make good airplane fare next year when I go to Hawaii--though given how much demand the books are in, I may not be able to time that such; I had to wait a month or so to get this one from they library.
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The Sharon McCone mysteries are the ones that I've most loyally read, since starting up with some non-Parker mysteries a couple of years ago. And this newest book (well, newest in that I'm up to 1992) really shows me why.

First up, Muller offers a deftly crafted and multi-faceted mystery. We have murder, blackmail, and petty revenge all in the picture, with a couple of different predators preying on victims in a couple of different ways. It's a lot of fun to read, and this book is another one that I'd consider adapting to an RPG mystery from, like I did with a Jack Vance mystery last year.

Second, Muller offers great Bay Area color. There were a couple of areas, particular some rich suburbs around Land's Eye, that Muller really brought to life.

Third, Muller fills her book with interesting characters with many different motives.

Fourth, Muller continues to develop her main character, Sharon McCone.

Much to my surprise, Muller ends this book on a bit of a cliffhanger. It looks like we may get to learn some of the secrets of McCone's newest beau in the next volume.
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Robert B. Parker died about a month before the publication of what will presumably be his final Jesse Stone novel, Split Image. Readers immediately bemoaned the fact that they'd never get to know the final fate of Jesse and of Sunny Randall, not understanding that in publishing-world there are inevitably a few books in the pipeline--including this one, which was then already running off printing presses, here in the US.

The mystery is of Split Image is OK. The characters are great. Pretty much standard for both.

I was also really pleased to see that despite the fact that the book is labeled "A Jesse Stone Novel", it's really "A Jesse Stone & Sunny Randall Novel". They each have their own mystery to solve, and though Stone's gets a bit more attention, Randall's is more emotionally true.

Even better, Stone & Randall make some pretty definitive decisions on their on-again, off-again relationship.

I'm sad that Parker isn't writing any more, that this is probably the final story of Stone and of Randall. But, I'm very pleased with its ending, which is Jesse saying, "What an auspicious start." I don't think you could have had a better ending for Parker's other detective.

And word is that there are two more Spenser novels in the pipeline, plus one more western. I haven't read any of Parker's westerns yet, but I expect I'll start soon, as they now lie among the scant dozen novels by Parker (most of them standalones) that I have not read.
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I started off the next Sharon McCone book on the plane back from Hawaii and just finished it.

As in a few of the McCone books preceding this one, Muller decides to move much of the action out of San Francisco, here to "Tufa" Lake. I say "Tufa" because it's a made-up lake which is at least partially based on Mono Lake. There's similarly a made-up town, "Promiseville", which is based on Bodie. I don't particularly like it when authors make up locales that are meant to be stand-ins for real locales, but maybe Muller decided that she needed to muck with the history of Mono & Bodie enough that she wasn't willing to attach the real names.

In any case, it's another fine McCone case, with lots of mystery, but even more focus on McCone's personal growth as she starts to come to grips with who she really is.

We're also ever so slowly lurching into the future, with this 1991 book making a few references to "The Big Quake". I suspect they were entered at the last minute in the draft, since Muller doesn't even use the term "Loma Prieta", which has been attached to "The Big Quake" (of '89) for as long as I can remember.
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My last book of the year (with 7.5 hours to spare) was Trophies and Dead Things, the 11th Sharon McCone mystery by Marcia Muller.

This was one of my favorites, because it centered around two mysteries born of the 1960s, one involving Vietnam vets and the others involve Free Speech and peace protesters from the UC Berkeley campus. I quite enjoyed the focus on history and on Berkeley (even though Muller twists the occasional detail of the latter enough to make it obvious that she's less familiar with the city than her protagonist, who went to school here, is supposed to be).

Muller also places a lot of emphasis on McCone's circle of friends, perhaps moreso than in any of the other books, and in doing so reveals that they're a vivid part of McCone's mythology too.

Overall, a good book, both for the local color that I was looking for when I started this series and for the mystery. I'm pretty sure I'll plan to bring another McCone book with me to Hawaii, as they're great plane reading.

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