Tour’s Books Blog

October 31, 2011

New Releases: A Mixed Bag of Genres

Well, I’m still busy reading away, but life does interfere with my plans.  I did enjoy a few good books.  Barry Eisler got close to being back on track with a new John Rain thriller.  Laura Resnick has another chapter in the Esther Diamond series with Vamparazzi – one of the BEST titles this year!  Vicki Lewis Thompson continues her amusing paranormal romance books and .  No, none are stunning blockbuster books, but all were above average and really good reads.

  • Title:  The Detachment
  • Author:  Barry Eisler
  • Type:  Action thriller
  • Genre:  John Rain and Dox get drawn into another adventure
  • Sub-genre:  Manipulation, deception, and the impossible is all too plausible
  • My Grade: B- (3.8*)
  • Rating:  PG-13
  • Length and price:  Novel – about 90,000+ $8.25 to$12
  • Where Available:  Available at most bookstores and online
  • FTC Disclosure:  purchased from an online book seller

The best news, John Rain, one of the BEST characters developed by any author in the past decade, is finally back.  So too is his Dox, his sniper friend and sometimes partner.  Barry Eisler had lost much of the edge that appealed to me with his two Ben Treven books, both of which I found disappointing.  He seems to recapture much of his old magic in The Detachment, though the plot is more obvious than those in his far more twisty and better written early books, and Col ‘Hort’ Horton is not in any way an admirable, or fundamentally honorable person.

Rain has broken up with his girlfriend and Mossad operative, Dehlia.  She refused to leave intelligence agency and he found he could not live with her job – or maybe he was just bored.  As always, he returned to Tokyo, living quietly and going just one place he might be associated with – the Kodokon.  He notices two Americans watching from the stands.  When he catches the them quickly checking the next night, he knows he’s been found.  His response is classic Rain – he leads there where they want to go, lulls them and then kills them both.

But it was a setup and the men pawns that were deliberately sacrificed to catch Rain on camera and blackmail him into doing a job for Col ‘Hort’ Horton.  In LA Hort tells Rain there’s on oligarchy ready to create domestic terrorism in such a way that suspending the Constitution and granting extraordinary powers to the President and Executive Branch of Government seems the only logical course of action.  He uses the very real slow erosion of rights and privacy that the Patriot Act and various government entities – from ICE to TSA to the NSA have already created as a way to get citizens accustomed to a ‘new reality’.

With less reluctance than the ‘old’ Rain would show, he agrees to assassinate the man Hort claims is ‘the sharp point of the spear’.  (dialogue stolen from the Bourne Supremacy)  The cation moves to Vegas with Dox and Rain in an uneasy alliance with Ben Treven and Larison, a man on edge with a massive grudge against Hort.  With surprisingly little difficulty, Rain gets the job done.  Hort wants another one done – this time in Vienna.  It is both easier and more difficult.  Naturally there is a third, but Hort knows Rain and Dox, no women and no children.   And no way were they going to be involved in killing a Supreme Court Justice.  The whole thing smells.

In the midst of this, Ben Treven wimps out – jeeze is this man really that simple?  It’s why I disliked the character from the start in Inside Out.  He calls Hort and tells him where they’re staying in DC.   As the men talk about the job they just refused, they realize DC is a setup.  Better late than never.  Getting out alive comes first.  Getting even is the price Hort will pay for betraying them.

In fact, the general premise is a tad scary in that it seems very real, but – and it’s a big one – Rain was far less paranoid than usual about Hort and and his true intentions.  Even Rain questions why he was willing to buy Hort’s line late in the story.  There are redundancies in the justification, the kind of error that Eisler would never have committed in his earlier books.  In all, The Detachment came off unpolished and in need of a demanding editor.  The preachy bits gave the reader a sense of being bludgeoned with the author’s personal soapbox rhetoric.  Agree or not, stop beating us up with it.  Hort’s justification for his actions were lame at best and the least believable part of the book.  He’s just despicable.

The story switches seamlessly between Rain’s first person narrative (which is where the story seems to work best) and third person.  It lacked the depth in plot and character that the early Rain books had.   The biggest flaw was trying to make the reader believe that John Rain and Dox would fall for Hort’s story without a LOT of supporting information, or that these two highly experienced operatives would trust him enough to actually come to Washington DC after two killing highly placed government officials.  And trusting a weak link like Treven, who even Rain recognizes as man psychologically unsuited for this work as he needs to justify what he does, is again an idiot.  The action also lacked the edge and intensity that gave his early work, and the prose was less polished and refined, lacking the master touch.  The book felt like John Rain Lite.

Is The Detachment worth the discount price of $8-10?  A qualified yes for all Rain fans.  It was nice to see Rain and Dox back in action, but disappointing that author Barry Eisler didn’t do a better job of it.    Contrasting Rain and Ben Treven, something that Rain does at the end of book as he decides whether or not it would be necessary to kill him for betraying them back in DC, puts the fundamental differences between them in context, but it didn’t make me like Treven and I loathed Hort more than ever.  Sorry, the ‘end justifies the means’ does not wash, especially with the lame justification Eisler gives it – way too many times.

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  • Title:  Vamparazzi
  • Author:  Laura Resnick
  • Type:  Contemporary fantasy/urban fantasy
  • Genre:  Esther Diamond book 4
  • Sub-genre:  Actress in vampire play learns there are real ones
  • My Grade: B- (3.8*)
  • Rating:  PG-13
  • Length and price:  Novel – about 100,000+ $7.99; discounts available
  • Where Available:  Available at most bookstores and online
  • FTC Disclosure:  purchased from an online book seller

The Esther Diamond series has been up and down and this latest book is an up moment.  Esther has landed a part in The Vamprye, an off Broadway play based on book ‘Vampyre’ written long before Bram Stoker’s more famous Dracula.  The play, however, is a vehicle for self proclaimed vampire and self-promoting fringe celebrity Daemon Ravel.   The play is drawing the kind of hordes of admirers and ‘true believers’ in vampirism, both good and bad.

Esther has the part of Miss Jane Aubrey, the young English miss who unknowingly agrees to marries ‘Lord Ruthven’ and is killed by him on their wedding night.  Things would be great if she didn’t share a dressing room with completely self adsorbed actress, “Mad Rachel’, playing Ianthe, the wardrobe mistress didn’t hate her, Ravel didn’t ‘improvise’ by grabbing various parts of her person, she didn’t become target of anti-vampire activists, and Ravel’s female fans weren’t trying to kill her.  Who knew acting could be so dangerous?  Getting in and out of the theater had become gauntlet she has to run each surrounded by fans dressed like the play’s characters – fans she calls ‘Vamparazzi‘.

The one bright spot in the whole thing, the job filled the time while she waited to see if her part in the TV cop drama, “Dirty Thirty”, would continue.  She and the handsome young actor, Leischneudel Drysdale, who plays her brother, had taken to going to the theater together for protection.  He’s a self effacing young man who hardly seems like an actor at all, untill he’s on the stage, and then he’s excellent.  ‘Mad Rachel’ might be a shrew and an idiot, but even she does well with Ianthe, but Daemon Ravel his a man of limited talent and unlimited ego.  He lives as a ‘vampire’ and claims to drink blood.  And he a LOT of followers who believe he really is a vampire.  When Ester is attacked by a ‘Jane’ – the name given to Ravel’s fans who dress as Miss Jane Aubrey, the character Esther is playing, is found murdered and drained of blood, she finds none other Detective Connor Lopez back in her life.   Esther goes to her friend Max Zadok, a 350 year old magician and antiquarian bookstore owner.  That’s when she learns that there really are vampires, but they live very quietly.

The lively story includes a tale told by Max about how he came to have such issues with Lithuanians.  He calls in help, in this case the ‘proper authorities’ for vampires.    The ending is well done.  Vamparazzi is interesting, amusing, and after Dopplegrangsters, the best of the series.

Is Vamparazzi worth $7.99?  Yes it was.  Laura Resnick seems to be back on track here with a well paced story that’s got some interesting historical fact and fantasy mixed in, along with the largely unknown ‘underground New York City’.

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  • Title:  Werewolf in the North Woods
  • Author:  Vicki Lewis Thompson
  • Type:  Paranormal Romance
  • Genre:  Human female looks for Sasquatch and finds a werewolf
  • Sub-genre:  How can a werewolf ever be happy with a human?
  • My Grade: C+ to B- (3.5*)
  • Rating:  PG-13
  • Length and price:  Novel – about 80,000+ $7.99; discounts available
  • Where Available:  Available at most bookstores and online
  • FTC Disclosure:  purchased from an online book seller

Vicki Lewis Thompson has made a career of writing light romances of mismatched couples, from her Nerd series, to witches, and now werewolves.  They are pleasant, mildly entertaining, very slightly angsty, and some kind of physical threat that’s defeated to evaded with minimal effort, and mostly forgettable – kind of chick flick in print.

Abby Maddox has taken a vacation from her insurance claims adjuster job in Phoenix to go stay with her grandfather in the Pacific northwest.  Grandpa Earl Dooley claims to have seen Bigfoot and has the blurry pictures to prove it.  Now he has become the object of ridicule and high power Dr Roark Wallace has been brought in by her grandpa’s overbearing neighbor, Cameron Gentry, to publicly humiliate him.  Abby and her family want grandad to move to the Phoenix area so he can be around family, but so far he’s refused.  The way the locals are treating him is just making him dig in his heels.  So Abby agrees to hunt for Bigfoot for 1 week to try and find evidence to support his claim.  On her first excursion in the woods, she finds no sign of Bigfoot, but she sees a large, golden wolf.  Thing is, there are no wolves in this part of Oregon.

When Dr Wallace is the speaker at the Rotary luncheon, Abby, a Rotary member, decides to attend.  Instead of the ridicule she expected, Roark Wallace just neatly, scientifically and dispassionately demolishes the myth of Sasquatch.  He makes many of the same arguments that Abby made herself.  Sadly, she can’t even be mad at the handsome man, but neither can she stand seeing her belved grandfather be an object of ridicule.  She asks him to please meet with her grandpa and talk about what he saw.  Roak refuses, but next morning, he does it anyway.  Early Dooley is not at all what he expects, and the guilt he felt about undermining the man gets worse with each minute.  It isn’t helped by the alluring scent of Abby that’s drawing him like the flame of red hair.

Roark has an argument with Gentry about continuing to make Earl sound like a nutcase, but he has to find the Sasquatch and get them relocated.  These rare, gentle creatures need protection, not hoards of myth hunters stumbling around the woods – and possibly finding something far more dangerous, the Gentry pack of werewolves.  He despises the Gentry alpha, so much so he has to leave the mansion to avoid a confrontation with him.  Out at the edge of the property he takes off his clothes and shifts to his wolf form.  He soon learns that Abby was on the edge of the Dooley property that had the perfect overlook onto Gentry land and had taken a series of telephoto pictures of him shifting to wolf.  With a little judicious blackmail, Abby convinces Roark to hunt Bigfoot with her so she can get a picture to show Grandpa Earl was not imaging things and she’d get the old man to sell his land and move and destroy all the photos of Roark.

In the woods, the attraction gets the better of them – and life gets complicated by timid Bigfoot fanatic Donald Smurtz, who becomes a huge hindrance and ends up helping.

The story arc is well paced, the tension between Roark and Abby is well done as is the internal battle Roark wages with himself over his attraction to a human.  The heavy hand of Gentry adds an edge.  Not intense, deep, or laugh out loud fun, just a pleasant read with a decent story.

Is Werewolf of the North Woods worth $7.99?  If you enjoy the Vicki Lewis Thompson style, yes.

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