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Monday, October 5, 2015

Free Fall

Free Fall (#528) is one of Robert Crais' earlier Elvis Cole mysteries.  Even though the language is a bit dated, the story most definitely is not.  I have to admit, though, that my image of mostly silent Joe Pike as Elvis' man of action partner has morphed into John Reese on Person of Interest (without Joe's distinctive shoulder tattoos, of course).  The plot is just as twisted, the threats are real, and the humor is just as tantalizing.

Elvis thinks he has an easy case for a change when an innocent young thing comes into to his office and announces that her policeman boyfriend is in some kind of trouble.  He won't tell her what's wrong, so she asks Elvis to investigate.  Not ten minutes later, Mark Dunham and his partner show up on Elvis' door, telling him it's a personal matter, and to drop the investigation.  Could anything be more likely to absolutely guarantee Elvis' interest, if not this?  What Cole and Pike uncover is a rats' nest of dirty cops, gangs and drugs.  And somehow everyone involved in the case has a target painted on their back...

Since there are later entries in this entertaining mystery series, you know Elvis Cole and Joe Pike will find a way to survive, and even in assure that justice is done.  It's a fun trip.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

East of the Mountains

David Guterson's novel East of the Mountains (#527) is just not my kind of book.  Others in my book club have raved about it, and I do have to admire Mr. Guterson's talent as a writer.  He just doesn't tell a tale I'm interested in reading.  Why this should be so, I don't know.

Ben Givens is a retired cardiac surgeon, a widower, who has been diagnosed with colon cancer.  Rather than sit around and endure the months of suffering he knows it will bring, he arranges to go on a hunting trip.  What his family does not know is that he intends to die on this trip in a "hunting accident".  If his body is never found, so much the better; his daughter and her family will never know about the cancer.  Things happen to Ben on his journey, and his life's story is told through flashbacks.  The Washington state landscape plays a major role in this picaresque tale.

The problem was, I never liked Ben, nor felt any particular sympathy towards his attitudes about life and relationships.  He brought his two hunting dogs with him without any apparent thought as to what would happen to them out in the wild uninhabited countryside after he died .  They seemed to be just a prop for him, until he was directly responsible for death of his old, devoted dog, and the severe injury to his young hound.  Nor did he seem to care what effect his sudden death would have on his daughter and grandson.  They would just have to deal with the neatly tied-up situation after he was gone.  Gone where?  He doesn't know, nor seem to be particularly exercised about that.  The only thing that seems to matter to Ben at this stage is his deceased wife Rachel.   And even there, he is planning a betrayal in what they promised each other after death.  He's been given a death sentence by the doctor, and Ben's response is to go on a killing spree of small birds.  I just couldn't relate to that, nor the lack of a spiritual dimension.  Why hasten the end if that's all there is?

Anyway, some of the descriptions of the Washington landscape are quite beautiful and lyrical, but on the whole, this story left me flat and unsatisfied.  I didn't really care at the end that he decides to go home.  At least Rex will get to sleep in the house from here on.  Just my opinion.