Tag Archives: crime

Review: In the Company of Educated Men

Recap: When three friends graduate from Harvard, they feel like the world is their oyster. Sort of. In reality, they’re clueless about where they want to go and what they want to do. Lennie comes from a wealthy family and can virtually do whatever he wants. Paul is quite the opposite. Louisa is the beautiful brainiac with all the potential and no particular goals. A few weeks after they leave school, Lennie is on a mission; he wants an adventure. So he enlists Paul and Louisa — whether they like it or not — and sets out on a cross-country road trip.

But things get interesting — and frightening — when the trio is held up at a gas station in the middle of nowhere by a man with a gun. The man turns out to be a teenager who then hops into their car, looking for a ride to California. As they ride along, scared they’ll be shot and killed, the group realizes there’s yet another person in the backseat — a little girl who followed them out of a diner and into the car with plans to run away from her parents.

Lennie, Paul and Louisa all have different plans for what they should do next — what’s the safest and most ethical option? But while Lennie continues looking for adventure, everything falls apart in a tragic, horrifying and life-altering way.

Analysis: When I first started reading In the Company of Educated Men, I thought this would be just your average coming-of-age story. But when the three friends got held up at the gas station, I scratched my head wondering where this was going. Suddenly, the story became completely unpredictable to me.

The best way to describe this novel is to call it an “extreme” coming-of-age novel — one that portrays how how an eclectic group of young adults from different socioeconomic backgrounds handles a bizarre, rare and extreme situation. Along with fighting for their lives, the friends fight amongst themselves, leading to betrayals and changing their friendships forever.

For Lennie, the incident does more than just alter his friendships. It changes the entire course of his life, as he realizes he became more focused on having an adventure than taking caring for others. In an effort to avoid hurting others anymore, he goes on to lead a life of solitude and correct his earlier mistakes. The story is written through a series flashes — jumps between the incident and 10 years after the incident until the reader finally learns at the end of the novel what happened and how Lennie resolved it.

In the Company of Educated Men exemplifies that young people make mistakes, but how you deal with those mistakes is what most affects your life. In the Company is dark and frightening, but full of lessons about growing up, growing apart and learning from your erroneous ways.

MVP: Louisa. She’s the only character that truly stays calm and holds herself together both during and after the “incident.”

Get In the Company of Educated Men in paperback for $11.05.

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Review: Dare Me

Recap: Addy and Beth have worked hard to make it to the top of their high school cheerleading squad, with Addy always coming second to Beth. Beth is the girl who rules the school — a beauty, a force to be reckoned with, an angsty problem child with an attitude. But things go sour for Beth, when a new young Coach takes away her “Captain” status and leaves no one but herself in charge. Meanwhile Addy  is fascinated by Coach.

Coach whips the girls into shape, but also enforces strict liquid diets. She invites the team over to drink in her backyard while her husband works late. She has sleepovers with the girls. So while the girls’ bodies tighten and they learn to stunt and tumble, they also develop eating disorders, party hard, have sex, and do drugs. She encourages them to experiment with boys. Addy feeds into all of this, while Beth vehemently dismisses it.

The team is cast under Coach’s spell, especially Addy, who has become Coach’s favorite. She’s the one Coach calls when she finds the dead body of someone close to her. She says it was suicide, but was it? While Coach claims she’s innocent, Beth works to convince Addy that Coach can’t be trusted. But in this dark world, who can?

Analysis: With Dare Me, author Megan Abbott aims to prove there’s more to the world of cheerleading than a mess of lollygagging girls focused on ponytails, sparkles, and miniskirts. This is a dark, twisted story of manipulation, trust, and loyalty. Dare Me is like an unfunny, hyped-up, crime-infused version of Mean Girls.

The prologue sets the creepy, twisted tone of the novel, describing the scene of the mysterious death. One would think that the novel would center around that death. As it turns out, midway through the novel, we’ve already learned who died and have some idea of how. At that point, I thought the remainder would focus on the fallout. But ultimately, the death serves little purpose other than developing relationships between other characters. In the end, it’s the one character that seemed to be the most important, who matters the least.

That’s when it becomes obvious that this isn’t a novel about a crime. It’s a novel about girls becoming women —  how friendships ebb and flow, how quickly loyalties can change, how women at times can be both subtle and dramatic, and how much they manipulate each other because of jealousy and competition. It’s a precautionary tale of three good girls gone bad — two of whom manipulate each other and the third who — in a surprising twist — manages to manipulate the reader.

MVP: Beth. She is the one every guy wants and every girl wants to be. She is both admired and hated. Everyone knows a girl like this. Especially in high school. At the end, her pure evil juxtaposed with her sheer vulnerability makes her the novel’s most complex character.

Get Dare Me in paperback for $12.41.

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Review: The Killing Chase

Recap: When Detective Alan Beach gets called to investigate the case of a serial killer, his own killer instincts kick in. Almost immediately, he — along with his new partner, James Foxx — realizes whoever is murdering these people is a Brian Adler copycat killer. But notorious serial killer Brian Adler — who Beach had previously investigated — died nine months ago, and his case files were kept private. So who is committing these murders? That’s what Beach and Foxx attempt to figure out while Alan Beach’s former partner Jake Riley work on the other side of the world with his own team, on a mission to find and kill the man who murdered Jake’s brother.

A sequel to author Craig Hurren’s The Killing Code, The Killing Chase picks up with the same characters — Alan Beach and Jake Riley — a few months later. Their positions have changed, but their attitudes and determination to get answers remains the same. So does their reliance on companions and teamwork — helping each other to achieve their own individual goals. But will Jake find his brother’s killer? Will Beach solve his own serial murder case? And will they and their friends and colleagues make it out alive?

Analysis: Like The Killing Code before it, The Killing Chase offers just what readers want from a crime/detective novel — some mystery, some bad guys, and some friendship between the crime-fighting detectives. And what the first novel in the series lacked in plot twists and turns, The Killing Chase more than makes up for — seemingly dead characters who are alive! Seemingly trustworthy characters who are anything but!

It must be pointed out, however, that some of the writing in The Killing Chase is hokey, if not lazy. The dialogue between the detectives can be a little gimmicky. I found myself rolling my eyes at their jokes instead of laughing along. And the “love story” that popped up two-thirds of the way through the novel felt forced. On some level, crime and detective novels aren’t necessarily meant to be well-written. They’re plot-driven. So if you’re willing to look past a few rough patches and focus on the story itself, it is enjoyable.

Just keep in mind, too, that The Killing Chase is a true sequel. Its story is heavily reliant on the plot from the first book in the series and could make it difficult for someone to fully understand if they haven’t read The Killing Code.

MVP: Jake Riley continues to be the coolest and most enjoyable character to read about in the series.

Get The Killing Chase in paperback for $10.79

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New James Bond Book Coming in 2015

Most of us book nerds know most good television and movies come from books. Such is the case with one of the most famous spies of all time: Bond, James Bond. And come 2015, there will be plenty more where that came from.

According to Entertainment Weeklywriter Anthony Horowitz will pen a new James Bond novel to be released next year. The novel will be developed from an unpublished story written by the original author of the 007 series, Ian Fleming. The story, entitled Murder on Wheels, will be renamed Project One and will revolve around Bond and race cars — because he always needs a little action, right?

The estate of Ian Fleming gave Horowitz the story to use, and apparently both the estate and Horowitz have done this before. The estate has given several stories to authors to develop into novels and publish, and Horowitz has also written Sherlock Holmes stories, with the permission of Sherlock author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Nothing like rewriting history, huh?

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Movie vs. Book: Gone Girl

The morning of Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth anniversary starts off normally enough. Nick heads to work at the bar he owns in a small Missouri town, leaving his wife, Amy, at home to do whatever it is housewives do. But this day is unlike any other. Nick comes home to find Amy’s missing. The house is in disarray, as if there were a struggle, and no one seems to know where Amy is.

Suddenly, Nick and Amy’s anniversary turns into a police-assisted hunt for Amy. The story about the beautiful missing housewife quickly goes national, and as time passes, the media and people across the country peg Nick as a killer. He smiles when he should appear sad. He’s kind to others, instead of pissed off or upset. Not to mention, his alibi is shoddy, and police determine that the crime scene looks staged.

While all this is going on, we get a glimpse into Amy’s version of the story through flashback scenes dictated by Amy’s diary entries. We see both the happy times Nick and Amy had together (their first kiss! Nick’s proposal!) and the bad times (Nick hit Amy! She wants to buy a gun!). So what happened to Amy? And did Nick have something to do with it?

What I’ve detailed for you is a summary of both the novel and the movie. I say that because the movie stays so true to the book, thanks to the fact that Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn also wrote the film’s screenplay. Not only does the movie follow the book to a T, the casting is also incredibly on point. Ben Affleck is a natural at Nick Dunne’s aloof, smug charm. A relatively unknown Rosamund Pike plays Amy in an exceptionally sharp, twisted, scary way. Neil Patrick Harris as one of Amy’s former lover’s and Tyler Perry as Nick’s lawyer round out the perfectly-casted bunch.

There are a few minor changes, but it’s hard to describe them and not reveal any spoilers about the story. I do, however, think it’s safe to say that one thing the movie does differently is make the viewer hate Amy more than Nick at the end. The movie makes you sympathize with Nick and feel bad for the poor bastard. But when I finished the novel, I hated both Nick and Amy equally by the end. Aside from that, the casting, the direction, the music and sound, and the overall opportunity to see this story rather than picture it your head might make it even more twisted and creepy than the book. And I mean that in a good way.

Get Gone Girl ( Movie Tie-In Edition) for $7.86.

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J.K. Rowling Updates ‘Harry Potter,’ Plans More Detective Novels

rowlingWhen Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling ended her acclaimed children’s book series about the most famous wizard of all time, fans worried that would be the last we’d hear from the bestselling author. But time and time again, she’s proved us wrong.

First, she created Pottermore, a web site with games, stories, and details about the universe of Harry Potter. Then she wrote an adult novel, The Casual Vacancy. She penned a Harry Potter spin-off story collection called “The Tales of Beedle the Bard.” Then came two adult crime detective novels under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. And now there’s more.

Earlier this month, Rowling released on her Pottermore web site a new Harry Potter story, the first she’s written and released since the seventh and final Potter novel was released in 2007. According to Huffington Post, the online story describes Harry Potter and his friends in their 30s. It details what they’re up to now, how they look, and how they’re faring. It’s written in the form of a gossip column, penned by Rita Skeeter, a well-known character from the novels.

The story was such a huge deal for Potter fans that it crashed the Pottermore web site. It’s also led to speculation that J.K. Rowling would write another Potter novel. But so far, that’s just speculation.

In fact, it’s Rowling’s adult crime detective series that she’s more focused on at the moment. She’s already released two novels, The Cuckoo’s Calling and the recently-released The Silkworm, under the Robert Galbraith pseudonym. It was recently reported that she would pen seven novels in the so-called Cormoran Strike series — the same number of books she wrote in the Harry Potter series. But according to Time, she’s changed her mind and now plans to write more than seven Cormoran Strike novels, as Nolan Feeney explains:

“I really love writing these books, so I don’t know that I’ve got an end point in mind,” Rowling said at a crime-writing festival, the BBC reports. “One of the things I absolutely love about this genre is that, unlike Harry, where there was an overarching story, a beginning and an end, you’re talking about discrete stories. So while a detective lives, you can keep giving him cases.”

Rowling is apparently already halfway through the third novel in the series and has ideas for the fourth. Could this be her new legacy? Will Potter fans ever get more than the latest 1,500-word story about it?

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Review: The Cabinetmaker

Screen shot 2014-03-09 at 10.33.03 PMRecap: The beating death of Patrick Hare is one of John McDaid’s first murders to investigate as a cop. In Glasgow, Scotland, the murder doesn’t get much media attention. After all, the case is pretty cut and dry. A gang of young men confesses to the crime. But poor policing and investigating as well as false confessions allow the men to go free. Typically, for an officer, that’s the end of the case. After a trial, there’s not much left to do.

But John McDaid can’t just let it go. And neither can Patrick Hare’s father, Francis. Francis befriends John during the investigation, hoping to have someone who will give him insight into the investigation. But the bond grows much deeper than that. Francis is a cabinetmaker and spends his spare time playing soccer, as does John. Soon the two men are playing on the same soccer team, and Francis is teaching John the art of cabinetmaking.

Over the years, Francis and his wife Deborah seemingly adopt John. John mirrors the Hares’ dead son Patrick even more when he begins to date Patrick’s ex-girlfriend Sarah. Years go by and all of them remain haunted by Patrick’s death. But then Francis and his wife die suddenly, and John starts to wonder if there might be more to the story about the gang that killed Patrick.

AnalysisThe Cabinetmaker is a story that lends itself to the question “How well do you really know someone?” John McDaid has made a friend for life in Francis Hare. They know of each other’s personal crises, of each other’s hobbies, of the people in each other’s lives. But is that everyone you need to know to know a person? Unfortunately, John McDaid starts to question this a little too late.

In fact, a little later than the reader. Foreshadowing allowed me to figure out the basic gist of the twist before the main character did — something I don’t generally like in a story. For the remainder of the novel, I kept waiting and waiting for John to figure it out. When he did, it turned out there was even more of a twist to uncover than I expected. That, I have to admit, was a nice touch.

The Cabinetmaker could have moved along a bit faster. It takes place over decades of time, and at points, it feels that way. But what starts out as a novel about a seemingly closed case with little direction becomes an exciting mystery that proves everyone has a closet full of skeletons.

MVP: Francis. At first, Francis is a sad, but nice and talented man — one who wants to know anything and everything about how his son was killed. But as we later learn, Francis is also an angry man, and very smart. It’s hard to not respect his genius and the way he uses it for power.

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J.K. Rowling To Pen 7-Book Detective Series

rowlingIt’s only been about  a week since I told you the last bit of J.K. Rowling news — that the famed Harry Potter author is penning a sequel to her bestselling detective novel from last year, The Cuckoo’s Calling.

But according to Entertainment Weekly, the sequel, entitled The Silkworm, is not all we can expect from Rowling. Like the Harry Potter series, she plans to write a total of seven novels in the detective series. The series follows Detective Cormoran Strike, his sidekick/secretary/assistant Robin, and whatever crazy case they happen to be investigating.

The Cuckoo’s Calling sets itself up for a sequel, and let’s be honest; most detective novels are just one in a long line of books about the detectives. It’s an easy formula to follow. Plus, considering how much success Rowling has had with the Potter series and the first Cormoran Strike novel, it’s no surprise she plans to write more. The series will be published under her pen name Robert Galbraith.

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J.K. Rowling’s ‘Cuckoo’s Calling’ Sequel Coming Soon

silkwormIt’s been just about a year since Robert Galbraith released the crime novel The Cuckoo’s Calling. But it’s been less than a year since it was revealed that “Robert Galbraith” was a pseudonym for the bestselling author of the Harry Potter series J.K. Rowling. The news then pushed Galbraith’s adult crime novel to the top of bestsellers lists around the world and ended Rowling’s ability to keep any other books a secret.

According to Entertainment Weekly, a sequel to Rowling’s/Galbraith’s The Cuckoo’s Calling is due to be released this June. Entitled The Silkworm — and written under the Galbraith pseudonym — the novel will once again follow detective Cormoran Strike and his sidekick Robin as they, this time, investigate the mysterious disappearance of a novelist. According to a release from Mulholland Books, “The novelist has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits of almost everyone he knows. If the novel were to be published, it would ruin lives—meaning that there are a lot of people who might want him silenced.”

The Silkworm  is set to be released in the U.K. on June 19 and in the U.S. on June 24.

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Review: The Cuckoo’s Calling

Recap: It’s a death that has as much media coverage as the death of a One Direction member would warrant. Lula Landry, one of newest, youngest, and most gorgeous models in Britain has died. Lying on the ground next to her apartment building in London, Lula Landry appears to have fallen from her balcony. But was she pushed or did she jump? Considering her troubled history with drugs and mental instability, it is widely assumed that she jumped. After all, who would want to kill Lula Landry? But with all her fame, money, and beauty, the better question is who wouldn’t want to kill her?

That’s where Detective Cormoran Strike comes in. He’s hired by Lula’s adoptive brother, John Bristow, to delve deeper into Landry’s death. The offer couldn’t come at a better time for Strike, who’s been recently dumped, kicked out of his apartment, and is on the verge of bankruptcy. Considering how long it’s been since he’s had regular work, he’s a bit rusty. But when a new temporary secretary, Robin, starts working for him, she becomes more of an asset than he ever imagined a secretary could be.

Ultimately Strike and Robin unravel the case of Lula Landry, with lots of key players and lots of evidence previously overlooked by police.

Analysis: In one of only two books in her post-Harry Potter days, author J.K. Rowling (under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith) proves yet again that her easy-to-follow writing and complex web of characters with oh-so-many motives makes for a book that’s tough to put down. The more each character is described, the more we want to know what happens.

That being said, The Cuckoo’s Calling is — for the most part — your average detective novel. It also feels quite a bit longer than it needs to be. Written in third-person, the book comes from the perspective of Strike, so as readers, we get to play detective right along with him.

But Rowling/Galbraith does one thing that sets The Cuckoo’s Calling apart from the rest of today’s detective novels: considering Strike’s recent professional misfortune, it’s unclear if he’s actually capable of doing the job. Usually in a mystery like this, the detective is described as being one of the best, so it’s no surprise when he solves the case. Here, there’s some uncertainty – can Strike solve the case? Is there even a case to be solved? Those are the questions that keep the book moving.

MVP: Strike and Robin, collectively. The two make a good team. Even with little history or experience working together, their determination makes for a solid bit of detective work, while a friendship between them blossoms.

Get The Cuckoo’s Calling in hardcover for $15.19.

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