BOOK REVIEW: The Fallen by David Baldacci

35959808._SX318_ (1)Title: The Fallen

Author: David Baldacci

Book Length (Audiobook): 11 hours 56 mins

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Thriller, Mystery, Crime

Read Start Date: October 10, 2019

Read Finish Date: October 14, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Something sinister is going on in Baronville. The rust belt town has seen four bizarre murders in the space of two weeks. Cryptic clues left at the scenes–obscure bible verses, odd symbols–have the police stumped.

Amos Decker and his FBI colleague Alex Jamison are in Baronville visiting Alex’s sister and her family. It’s a bleak place: a former mill and mining town with a crumbling economy and rampant opioid addiction. Decker has only been there a few hours when he stumbles on a horrific double murder scene.

Then the next killing hits sickeningly close to home. And with the lives of people he cares about suddenly hanging in the balance, Decker begins to realize that the recent string of deaths may be only one small piece of a much larger scheme–with consequences that will reach far beyond Baronville.

Decker, with his singular talents, may be the only one who can crack this bizarre case. Only this time–when one mistake could cost him everything–Decker finds that his previously infallible memory may not be so trustworthy after all…

My Past Review(s)The Fallen is the 4th book in the Amos Decker series.

You can read my review of the 1st book in the series, Memory Man, here.

You can read my review of the 2nd book in the series, The Last Mile, here.

You can read my review of the 3rd book in the series, The Fix, here.

My Review: Like the first three books, I am giving the fourth book 3 stars out of 5 because I liked it, but didn’t love it. Each book can be read as a standalone — there are enough hints to the plot of the first books that it does not ruin the book if you haven’t the first ones in the series.

Amos Decker, the main character and former police detective, stumbles upon this case when he is visiting the family of his friend and partner Alex Jamison. Although Amos is supposed to be on vacation (a fact that we hear a lot throughout the book), Amos being Amos, dives right in to solve the case — he of course makes some pretty obvious deductions along the way (e.g. even I know about blow flies, but the county coroner does not(?)).

Anyway, I do not feel that there is anything unique I can really saw about this book, except to echo my other reviews (which you can read by clicking on the links above). The following blog, Books and Strips, also shares my opinion, that basically the story line is fast paced, and that Amos is a know-it-all. This book was written to entertain, which it certainly does.

 

 

 

 

 

BOOK REVIEW: The Fix by David Baldacci

31562247Title: The Fix

Author: David Baldacci

Book Length (Audiobook): 11 hours 54 mins

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Thriller, Mystery, Crime

Read Start Date: September 16, 2019

Read Finish Date: September 21, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Amos Decker witnesses a murder just outside FBI headquarters. A man shoots a woman execution style on a crowded sidewalk, then turns the gun on himself.

Even with Decker’s extraordinary powers of observation and deduction, the killing is baffling. Decker and his team can find absolutely no connection between the shooter – a family man with a successful consulting business – and his victim, a schoolteacher. Nor is there a hint of any possible motive for the attack.

Enter Harper Brown. An agent of the Defense Intelligence Agency, she orders Decker to back off the case. The murder is part of an open DIA investigation, one so classified that Decker and his team aren’t cleared for it.

But they learn that the DIA believes solving the murder is now a matter of urgent national security. Critical information may have been leaked to a hostile government – or, worse, an international terrorist group – and an attack may be imminent.

Decker’s never been one to follow the rules, especially with the stakes so high. Forced into an uneasy alliance with Agent Brown, Decker remains laser focused on only one goal: solving the case before it’s too late.

My Past Review(s): The Fix is the 3rd book in the Amos Decker series.

You can read my review of the 1st book in the series, Memory Man, here.

You can read my review of the 2nd book in the series, The Last Mile, here.

My Review: Like the first and second book, I am giving the third book 3 stars out of 5 because I liked it, but didn’t love it. Each book can be read as a standalone — there are enough hints to the plot of the first and second book that it does not ruin the book if you haven’t read Memory Man or The Last Mile.

Amos Decker, the main character and former police detective, stumbles upon this case when he witnesses the shooting death of Anne Berkshire.

My biggest critique about this series (which holds true for this book) is that everyone around Decker idolizes him as a super cool and smart magical unicorn. His colleagues and friends follow him around waiting for him to make some seriously obvious deduction about the case (because they are too stupid(?)) and Decker’s rude social habits are somehow adorable because its Decker. Like when your little puppy pees on the rug, but you are like, but look at that cute puppy face, how can I stay mad at you?

That being said, the plot was engaging (although drawn out) and I was totally surprised by the plot twist at the end. I was never bored while reading this book. Another solid airport / beach read.

 

 

 

BOOK REVIEW: The Last Mile by David Baldacci

26245853Title: The Last Mile

Author: David Baldacci

Book Length (Audiobook): 11 hours 49 mins

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Thriller, Mystery, Crime

Read Start Date: September 9, 2019

Read Finish Date: September 14, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Convicted murderer Melvin Mars is counting down the last hours before his execution–for the violent killing of his parents twenty years earlier–when he’s granted an unexpected reprieve. Another man has confessed to the crime.

Amos Decker, newly hired on an FBI special task force, takes an interest in Mars’s case after discovering the striking similarities to his own life: Both men were talented football players with promising careers cut short by tragedy. Both men’s families were brutally murdered. And in both cases, another suspect came forward, years after the killing, to confess to the crime. A suspect who may or may not have been telling the truth.

The confession has the potential to make Melvin Mars–guilty or not–a free man. Who wants Mars out of prison? And why now?

But when a member of Decker’s team disappears, it becomes clear that something much larger–and more sinister–than just one convicted criminal’s life hangs in the balance. Decker will need all of his extraordinary brainpower to stop an innocent man from being executed.

My Past Review(s): The Last Mile is the 2nd book in the Amos Decker series.

You can read my review of the 1st book in the series, Memory Man, here.

My Review: Like the first book, I am giving the second book 3 stars out of 5 because I liked it, but didn’t love it. The plot was a bit better in this book, but still somewhat unbelievable. The second book can be read as a standalone — there are enough hints to the plot of the first book that it does not ruin the book if you haven’t read Memory Man.

Amos Decker, the main character and former police detective, has been hired by the FBI due to his role in solving the case in the previous book. Alex Jameson, former journalist and Decker’s unlikely partner, has been hired as well. Their job is to solve cold case files, and their first pick is the case involving Melvin Mars, who has been in prison for 20 years on what seems now to be bogus charges. Or are they? There are a lot of twists and turns before getting to the final conclusion.

Like Decker, Melvin Mars was a football star who, had he not gone to prison, could have been one of the best football players of his time. Overall, I find the character to be bit unbelievable as well. How is he so…normal? The guy spent 20 years in prison. Wouldn’t that have changed his personality as least a little bit?

Anyway, while this book won’t be winning any awards, I think that it is an entertaining way to pass the time, if you have time to kill.

 

 

 

BOOK REVIEW: Memory Man by David Baldacci

23153154Title: Memory Man

Author: David Baldacci

Book Length (Audiobook): 13 hours 17 mins

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Thriller, Mystery, Crime

Read Start Date: August 30, 2019

Read Finish Date: September 7, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Amos Decker’s life changed forever–twice.

The first time was on the gridiron. A big, towering athlete, he was the only person from his hometown of Burlington ever to go pro. But his career ended before it had a chance to begin. On his very first play, a violent helmet-to-helmet collision knocked him off the field for good, and left him with an improbable side effect–he can never forget anything.

The second time was at home nearly two decades later. Now a police detective, Decker returned from a stakeout one evening and entered a nightmare–his wife, young daughter, and brother-in-law had been murdered.

His family destroyed, their killer’s identity as mysterious as the motive behind the crime, and unable to forget a single detail from that horrible night, Decker finds his world collapsing around him. He leaves the police force, loses his home, and winds up on the street, taking piecemeal jobs as a private investigator when he can.

But over a year later, a man turns himself in to the police and confesses to the murders. At the same time a horrific event nearly brings Burlington to its knees, and Decker is called back in to help with this investigation. Decker also seizes his chance to learn what really happened to his family that night. To uncover the stunning truth, he must use his remarkable gifts and confront the burdens that go along with them. He must endure the memories he would much rather forget. And he may have to make the ultimate sacrifice.

My Review: I am giving this book 3 stars out of 5 because I liked it, but didn’t love it. I haven’t read really anything by Baldacci before, but as an author he reminds me somewhat of James Patterson, except that Baldacci’s books are about twice as long.

Amos Decker as a main character is interesting — he is overweight (about 350 lbs) and has Synesthesia and Hyperthymesia, which basically gives him perfect memory and picture perfect recall. Amos uses his perfect recall to help him solve the cases — because I guess it makes him so much smarter than everyone else in life ever (that is purely sarcastic by the way). Baldacci tries to portray Amos Decker as a modern day Sherlock Holmes, but fails because Sherlock Holmes is much more likeable. Basically, the only thing that Decker seems to have going for him is his picture perfect memory — otherwise it seems like he would be a terrible detective.

The female protagonist, Alex Jamison, is a journalist who at first did not like Decker, but by the end of the book becomes his unlikely partner.

The plot kept me interested enough to keep reading, but I wouldn’t say it was enthralling or anything. The ending (and the motive for the crime) was a bit of a head scratcher — seemed really far fetched and a bit unrealistic.

The audiobook production was not so great, and this book is probably better as an actual book the audiobook. I found it really distracting that they had a female reader who only read the dialogue of the female characters (and children) in the story and a male reader for everything else (including narrative about the female characters).

This book would be good to read on the beach or in an airplane.

 

 

BOOK REVIEW: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

36809135Title: Where the Crawdads Sing

Author: Delia Owens

Book Length (Audiobook): 12 hours 12 mins

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Mystery

Read Start Date: August 22, 2019

Read Finish Date: August 25, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life–until the unthinkable happens.

Perfect for fans of Barbara Kingsolver and Karen Russell, Where the Crawdads Sing is at once an exquisite ode to the natural world, a heartbreaking coming-of-age story, and a surprising tale of possible murder. Owens reminds us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were, and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.

My Review: I did not know anything about this book before reading it, but added it to the waitlist at the library simply because it seemed to be pretty popular. I was not disappointed. We first meet Kya when she is just a young girl living in the marsh with her family. Very early on in the book, her mother and older siblings abandon her, and she is left all alone with her abusive, alcoholic father. Instead of leaving herself (because she was only a child), she stays in the marsh, skipping school to earn a living (basically just surviving) by selling muscles that she had caught herself.

The book follows Kya as she grows up, and alternates between that and “present day” when the police have discovered the murdered body of the town’s Golden Boy. The two plot lines are brilliantly weaved together, leaving you sitting on pins and needles to know what will happen next. Did Kya do it, or is she just a victim of public prejudice?

I normally do not love characters as much as I loved Kya. Although she never had a day of formal education, she is smart and resourceful. As she grows up, she blossoms into a mature (yet innocent) young woman, ready to explore her sexuality, but not quite knowing how. The tragic events in her life do not define her, but rather make her stronger and more resilient.

Rarely does a book stay with me after I put it down, but I thought about this one for many days after finishing it. If you read any historical fiction this year, this one should top the list.

 

BOOK REVIEW: Pieces of Her by Karin Slaughter

35887251Title: Pieces of Her

Author: Karin Slaughter

Book Length (Audiobook): 16 hours 25 mins

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Thriller, Mystery, Crime

Read Start Date: July 13, 2019

Read Finish Date: July 19, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Andrea Oliver’s mother, Laura, is the perfect small-town mum. Laura lives a quiet but happy life in sleepy beachside Belle Isle. She’s a pillar of the community: a speech therapist, business owner and everybody’s friend. And she’s never kept a secret from anyone. Or so Andrea thinks.

When Andrea is caught in a random violent attack at a shopping mall, Laura intervenes and acts in a way that is unrecognisable to her daughter. It’s like Laura is a completely different person – and that’s because she was. Thirty years ago. Before Andrea. Before Belle Isle.

Laura is hailed as a hero for her actions at the mall but 24 hours later she is in hospital, shot by an intruder, who’s spent decades trying to track her down.

What is Andrea’s mother trying to hide? As elements of the past return and put them both in danger, Andrea is left to piece together Laura’s former identity and discover the truth – for better or worse – about her mother. Is the gentle, loving woman who raised her also a violent killer?

My Review: So I gave the book 4 stars because I really did like the overall story, but it wasn’t all good. So the book started off good, a shoot out at the diner, Laura saving the day, but then it started to go a little off track. Why was everyone so worried that Laura had committed “murder”? I don’t get it. They live in Georgia for crying out loud. Does anyone really think that a person would be arrested for murder when that person killed an armed gunman who had just shot up a diner? I think not.

But anyway, okay, so because Laura “murdered” the guy, Laura forces Andrea to move out, but before she can do that a guy breaks in and ties up Laura and starts torturing her. Andrea kills him with a frying pan to the head, which is again, “murder” WTF????? No it is not!! It is self defense of a 3rd person! So okay, ugh, Andrea has to leave town (instead of calling the police like normal people), which sparks the whole series of events. Like who is Laura chick, and why is this trying to kill her? Why can’t they call the police when some guy breaks in? Etc.

After these beginning scenes, the book starts shifting between 1986 and 2018. In 1986 we see the “pieces” of Laura, which essentially tells the backstory of the what/why  of the event transpiring in 2018. This part I found okay, except for a few things. Slaughter seems to repeat herself a lot. How many times did we need to hear that certain people cannot abide things? 5 times. I counted. What I cannot abide is repeating phrases! How many times did we need to hear that Laura was a “yo-yo”? Too many. I also found it irritating that the female characters were either portrayed as meak victims or crazy bitches.

Anyway, if you can get past the writing style issues mentioned above, then the story is actually a pretty good one. It had me on the edge of my seat, waiting to see what would happen next. It is fast paced, and I found myself getting into it, even though I had to roll my eyes several times, as mentioned above. I can’t really say anymore without giving the story away, so you will just have to read it and judge for yourself!

 

 

BOOK REVIEW:Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann

29496076Title: Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI

Author: David Grann

Book Length (Audiobook): 9 hours 11 mins

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Nonfiction, History, Crime, True Crime, Mystery

Read Start Date: July 8, 2019

Read Finish Date: July 13, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Indian Nation in Oklahoma. After oil was discovered beneath their land, the Osage rode in chauffeured automobiles, built mansions, and sent their children to study in Europe.

Then, one by one, they began to be killed off. One Osage woman, Mollie Burkhart, watched as her family was murdered. Her older sister was shot. Her mother was then slowly poisoned. And it was just the beginning, as more Osage began to die under mysterious circumstances.

In this last remnant of the Wild West—where oilmen like J. P. Getty made their fortunes and where desperadoes such as Al Spencer, “the Phantom Terror,” roamed – virtually anyone who dared to investigate the killings were themselves murdered. As the death toll surpassed more than twenty-four Osage, the newly created F.B.I. took up the case, in what became one of the organization’s first major homicide investigations. But the bureau was then notoriously corrupt and initially bungled the case. Eventually the young director, J. Edgar Hoover, turned to a former Texas Ranger named Tom White to try to unravel the mystery. White put together an undercover team, including one of the only Native American agents in the bureau. They infiltrated the region, struggling to adopt the latest modern techniques of detection. Together with the Osage they began to expose one of the most sinister conspiracies in American history.

A true-life murder mystery about one of the most monstrous crimes in American history.

My Review: I had never heard of this story before, but I guess at some point I must have put it on hold at the library. I was really shocked to read what happened to the Native Americans at the early part of the 1900’s. The Osage Indians were put onto a reservation by the US government in Oklahoma. Luckily, or maybe unluckily, for the Osage people, their reservation was rich with oil deposits. The Osage themselves became rich, and of course, non-Native Americans became jealous.

Thus began another exploitation of the Native American.

This book was really good, but also really sad — another shameful event in a list of shameful events. I watch a lot of true crime shows, and read a lot of true crime novels, but it never ceases to amaze me how greedy people can be — how people would be willing to kill someone, or multiple people, over money. Don’t  get me wrong, I would prefer to have money than not have money, but I’m not about to take someone’s life to get it.

The writing (narrated by the author) was good, and although the subject matter was not dry, the author really brought the reader into the story, and made the story engaging.

If you are into history, this is definitely worth the time to read.

 

MOVIE REVIEW: Murder on the Orient Express

iBlfxlw8qwtUS0R8YjIU7JtM6LM-0-230-0-345-cropTitle: Murder on the Orient Express

Year: 2017

Genre: Mystery, Drama, Crime

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Watch Time: 114 minutes

Platform: Lufthansa

Date Watched: June 24, 2019

Recognized Actors: This movie has a star studded cast, which includes Penelope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, and Michelle Pfeiffer.

Brief Summary of Plot from LetterboxdEVERYONE IS A SUSPECT. Genius Belgian detective Hercule Poirot investigates the murder of an American tycoon aboard the Orient Express train.

My Review: This movie is based on the book by Agatha Christie. I have never read the book though, so I can’t make any comments on the comparison between the two. Poirot is like the Belgian version of Sherlock Holmes, finding clues in the most innocent / ordinary of details. As the title of the movie suggests, there was a murder on the Orient Express (Johnny Depp), and Poirot (who is supposedly the greatest detective in the world), must figure out who did it.

I watched this movie on the plane back to the States from Austria and it kept my attention. This movie is smart, and very well done and I would definitely recommend to watch it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BOOK REVIEW: The Whistler by John Grisham

29354916Title: The Whistler

Author: John Grisham

Book Length (Audiobook): 13 hours 10 mins

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, Crime

Read Start Date: April 25, 2019

Read Finish Date: May 2, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: “We expect our judges to be honest and wise. Their integrity and impartiality are the bedrock of the entire judicial system. We trust them to ensure fair trials, to protect the rights of all litigants, to punish those who do wrong, and to oversee the orderly and efficient flow of justice.

But what happens when a judge bends the law or takes a bribe? It’s rare, but it happens.

Lacy Stoltz is an investigator for the Florida Board on Judicial Conduct. She is a lawyer, not a cop, and it is her job to respond to complaints dealing with judicial misconduct. After nine years with the Board, she knows that most problems are caused by incompetence, not corruption.

But a corruption case eventually crosses her desk. A previously disbarred lawyer is back in business with a new identity. He now goes by the name Greg Myers, and he claims to know of a Florida judge who has stolen more money than all other crooked judges combined. And not just crooked judges in Florida. All judges, from all states, and throughout U.S. history.

What’s the source of the ill-gotten gains? It seems the judge was secretly involved with the construction of a large casino on Native American land. The Coast Mafia financed the casino and is now helping itself to a sizable skim of each month’s cash. The judge is getting a cut and looking the other way. It’s a sweet deal: Everyone is making money.

But now Greg wants to put a stop to it. His only client is a person who knows the truth and wants to blow the whistle and collect millions under Florida law. Greg files a complaint with the Board on Judicial Conduct, and the case is assigned to Lacy Stoltz, who immediately suspects that this one could be dangerous.

Dangerous is one thing. Deadly is something else.

My Review: I am a big fan of John Grisham. I have read a few other books of his recently; you can find a review of one of them, The Rooster Bar, here. I have read a few other reviews where the feedback of this book was a bit negative, but I disagree. While I agree that the story does progress rather slowly, I think that it gives the reader a chance to get to know the characters and to develop the plot in a way where the reader can see the evolution of the case against the Judge. There are a lot of moving pieces in this book, and it takes time to spell it out effectively, and in a way that doesn’t create confusion in the reader. Had this book been shorter or less complicated, I think that it would have taken away from the overall story.

I am only giving it a 3 instead of a 4 because the book didn’t compare to some other books that I have recently and given 4 stars i.e., When Life Gives You Lulu Lemons (review is here).  I liked it well enough, but I won’t give a second thought to it tomorrow. Don’t get me wrong, I also didn’t really give a second thought to When Life Gives You Lulu Lemons either, but that book was more fun to read. Now that I mention it, I guess I would consider this book to be a little dry — but that sometimes happens when the subject matter is predominantly about the law.

In any event, this book is for when you are looking to be entertained for 13 hours (audiobook) and don’t want to read anything thought provoking, and don’t mind that the book is about a legal topic. I mostly listened to it on the way to work in the car, while out walking, around the house while doing chores, etc.

MOVIE REVIEW: Slender Man

371792-slender-man-0-230-0-345-cropTitle: Slender Man

Year: 2018

Genre: Thriller, Horror, Mystery

My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Watch Time: 1 hours 33 minutes

Platform: Netflix

Date Watched: May 1, 2019

Recognized Actors: The only actor I recognized was Jaz Sinclair. I recognized her from The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (which is a really good show that I would recommend).

Brief Summary of Plot from LetterboxdCAN YOU SEE HIM? In a small town in Massachusetts, four high school girls perform a ritual in an attempt to debunk the lore of Slender Man. When one of the girls goes mysteriously missing, they begin to suspect that she is, in fact, his latest victim.

My Review: My impression after the first 15 minutes of the movie: So far the movie seems to be very similar to the plot of The Ring, i.e., watch a video and within seven days something terrible happens to you. All that is missing is the phone call with Samara’s creepy voice whispering “Seven days”. I have failed to jump or be scared in anyway so far, although there is some tension beginning to build.

As the movie progressed, the “attempted” scares were obvious, and you knew that they were coming. Music would build up and then there was a music explosion at the point where you are supposed to be scared, etc. This style of scare tactic plagues most modern horror movies, and in my opinion detracts from the scare affect. Most of the time it was hard to see the Slender Man himself or the scenes of the movie that took place in the dark, but this might have had something to do with watching it on the ipad during the daytime.

Will this movie win any awards? Of course not, but it’s not supposed to. The goal of this movie is to entertain, and it certainly entertained me.

Despite the fact that the ending was totally lame “ya know?”, I still give it a solid 3 out of 5 stars.