Monthly Archives: December 2016

Review: Burning Man by Alan Russell

4 Stars

Michael Gideon is a LAPD cop who became a reluctant hero and celebrity along side his K-9 partner, Sirius, when they shot to fame by capturing a notorious serial killer in the midst of a raging wildfire.  For their heroism, and continued PR appearances for the LAPD, they are chosen to head up the new Special Cases Unit.  They are picked to take on the more unusual and unexplained cases.  Given almost full autonomy, Gideon can’t pass up the chance to work together with his partner without all the red tape and bosses breathing down your neck.  Perfect job for someone who is still trying to fight his own inner demons that have been haunting him since the night he and Sirius captured the serial killer known as the Weatherman, a man still haunting his dreams.

Those dreams that haunt Gideon also provide him unexplained information.  He will wake from his dreams where he is walking through fire again, actually feeling the flames and the pain of the fire.  He will also wake with unusual and unexplained insights into the cases that he is working on.  A skill that he and Sirius need to learn to trust in so they can not only solve this case, but also save a bit of themselves in the process.

In their first Special Case, a teenager is found crucified in a city park.  There are few clues and a whole lot of questions.  Who would go to such lengths to not only kill this young man, but to give further insult by crucification?  At the same time, another case appears that is close to Gideon’s heart.  An infant is found dead, left in a box by what seems to be an uncaring mother.  This discovery plays havok on Gideon’s PTSD and hits very close to home, as he was a foundling, dropped off as an infant in the parking lot of a church.  Gideon must face his own inner demons as he unravels the threads of these cases.

While the dialog is a little sophomoric at times, the wit and sarcasm of Michael Gideon does make up for it at times.  He reminds me a bit of Harry Bosch or even Harry Dresden.  His sarcasm is biting and his wit is quick.  His jokes and sarcasm hide the insecurity and the PTSD, you can see the defense mechanism at work and it makes him all the more human.  I wish the interaction with Sirius was a little more pronounced, he seems to spend an awful lot of time in the car.

The connection that he has with the serial killer called the Weatherman is never fully explained and it more than a little creepy.  It reminds me at times of the relationships that Hannibal Lecter had with his victims and those who brought him down.  Definitely a bit of a creep factor there.  I’m hoping that this gets fleshed out and explained in subsequent novels.

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Review: The King’s Traitor by Jeff Wheeler

4 Stars

This is the third installment in the Kingfountain series and picks up seven years after The Thief’s Daughter.  Owen has gone from a frightened child, cowering in the kitchen to one of the most trusted confidants of King Severn Augustine.  He has watched his King grow ever more ruthless and mad with power.  Owen knows that it’s just a matter of time the King will fail, someone will come to topple this man he has loyally served yet come to fear and revile.  This man who has taken so much from Owen and still demands more.

Owen is ordered by his King to incite war with a neighboring kingdom.  His appetite for power has taken over his reason, Owen sees this but feels he has no choice but to obey.  Or at least appear to do so.  It seems that Owen has an agenda of his own.  It seems that there is a limit to Owen’s loyalty.  He’s been robbed of everything that he has held dear.  His protector, his mentor, his safe haven and his true love.  As Owen’s understanding of his fountain-blessed powers grows, he begins to understand the role that he must play.

Watching Owen grow over these three books has been a treat.  He has gone from a scared little boy into one of the most formidable men in the realm.  His presence and power is only enhanced by his humanity and his internal struggle with what is truly right and what is wrong.  He is taken through a gauntlet of trials and tests, each one harder than the one before.  You spend much of the book wondering if Owen will truly do the right thing or will he fall into the same trap that his King fell into before him.  Will he take the power for himself or will he allow it to transfer to its rightful owner?

There is even more magic in this book and while we are only introduced to a couple new characters, they have a huge impact on Owen and the story as a whole.  There are times where the prophesy and the powers of the fountain threaten to take over the entire narrative, but the author skillfully brings everything back together again as the story runs its course.

I was dreading the end of the book, but only because I didn’t want the story to end.  I didn’t want to leave Owen and his world.  It was bittersweet to see the story end.  I was happy and sad at the same time.  I truly enjoyed how the saga unfolded and how it concluded.  But all the same, I would really love to see Owen and his friends again.

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Review: Exhume by Danielle Girard

3 Stars

Dr. Annabelle Schwartzman has started to get comfortable.  She has found a new home and a place where she feel she finally belongs.  She is the Medical Examiner for the San Francisco Police Department and she enjoys her work, her calling, helping the dead find their voice.  Her job is a safe haven from her past, a former life she left seven years ago.  A life that included an abusive husband.  A life that still has her looking over her shoulder to make sure there’s no one there.

Schwartzman’s latest case threatens to shatter her feelings of safety.  A woman is found murdered in her home.  As she begins her initial examination, she’s struck by the striking resemblance this woman has to Schwartzman.  The colors and the layout of the apartment remind her of a life that was left behind, a life she fled.  The necklace the young woman is wearing is an exact match to the one that Schwartzman wears around her own neck.  Is this just a coincidence or is someone sending Annabelle Schwartzman a message?

I did enjoy this novel.  It was fast paced and very well written.  I know that some people took issue with how Annabelle Schwartzman was portrayed.  I thought she was a little flat, but I can definitely understand why she could appear so strong and then so fragile.  She had an abusive husband who nearly killed her, what woman wouldn’t be afraid?  She is a damaged woman who still has some steel in her spine.  Now that she has a new life and people who care about her, she doesn’t want to let them go and she’s willing to face the past and the man she ran away from years ago.

There are a lot of twists and turns in the beginning and the middle of the book, which make for a very satisfying read and it really does keep you turning the pages.  But the story definitely loses steam at the end.  What looked like a very carefully woven plan completely unravels and becomes nearly incoherent and unbelievable.  I don’t mind a nice, tidy ending.  But I think that the climax and end need to at least make sense.  I don’t think we’ve seen the end of Dr. Annabelle Schwartzman and I’m looking forward to see if the next installment will improve.

 

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