Saturday, February 25, 2017

Book Review: THE CONFESSION, by John Grisham

John Grisham
Doubleday, 2010
420 pages
Legal Thriller

I feel THE CONFESSION is John Grisham getting back to John Grisham. After reading THE BROKER I was worried the man had lost his juju. However, THE CONFESSION restored my faith in the legal thriller.

Donte Drumm is on death roll. In less than a week he will be executed in Texas for the abduction, rape, and murder of Nicole Yaber. Without a body, or any physical evidence, the prosecution moved forward getting the black male the death penalty on a forced confession. After over fifteen hours of interrogation by police, Drumm, a high school football player, finally admitted murdering a white cheerleader.

A Dead Body Is Not Required In Texas

In Kansas a vagrant-of-a-man, Travis Boyette visits a small church. He speaks with the pastor, Keith Schroeder and confesses to the killing of Nicole Yaber.

In Texas, Drumm's attorney, Robbie Flak, and the Flak staff work endlessly filing last minute motions for a stay of execution. All along Drumm has insisted on his innocence. Lethal injection is days away. Time is running out. Flak has his work cut out for him!

In a town with a racist police force, and a haphazard district attorney, the gears went in motion years ago, and next to nothing would stop them now. The Execution of Donte Drumm hangs in the balance. Can Flak, Schroeder, and Boyette give the evidence needed to save an innocent man from death?

This emotional novel is fast paced. Lots happening. There are so many moving pieces. Grisham keeps everything in order. Aligned. There is no getting lost in the narrative. The picture painted is clean, clear, concise. The injustice is apparent, blatant, and infuriating. I found my anxiety levels rise through the roof as I read chapter after chapter.

Like all the good Grisham novels, there are unexpected ups, and downs, and constant surprises. Most of the Legal Thriller takes place outside of the courtroom (I do long for a good trial novel, I must say), but the briefs, and filings, and judges, and lawyers . . . they're in there!

A fantastic read. An impacting story. A relevant piece even now, some seven years after it's publication!

Phillip Tomasso
Author of The Severed Empire Series,
and The Vaccination Trilogy

Book Review: THE BROKER, by John Grisham

John Grisham
Doubleday, 2005
448 pages

I will never forget reading THE FIRM. It was decades ago. John Grisham exploded on the scene, a new hero in legal thrillers (on the heels of Scott Turrow's PRESUMED INNOCENT, if I recall correctly).

An instant fan, I followed his work, buying up his books. And then, about ten years ago, I just found myself tired of legal thrillers. Took a break, and moved on to other genres. Back into legal thrillers, I picked up where I left off. And I read THE BROKER.

The synopsis is as follows: In his final hours in office, the outgoing President grants a controversial last-minute pardon to Joel Backman, a notorious Washington power broker who has spent the last six years hidden away in a federal prison. What no one knows is that the President issues the pardon only after receiving enormous pressure from the CIA. It seems that Backman, in his heyday, may have obtained secrets that compromise the world’s most sophisticated satellite surveillance system.

Backman is quietly smuggled out of the country in a military cargo plane, given a new name, a new identity, and a new home in Italy. Eventually, after he has settled into his new life, the CIA will leak his whereabouts to the Israelis, the Russians, the Chinese, and the Saudis. Then the CIA will do what it does best: sit back and watch. The question is not whether Backman will survive—there is no chance of that. The question the CIA needs answered is, Who will kill him?

Sounds good, right? The book was boring as hell. It was more like A tour guide for people visiting Italy. The last fifty pages or so held some excitement. Even then it was blah at best. The thing is, the storytelling is wonderful. The characters are well-crafted. The concept is intriguing. I think when you expect a thriller the reader hopes the tale will be ... thrilling.

I am not giving up on the legendary author. In fact, I am currently reading THE CONFESSION ... and loving it. So. Yeah. THE BROKER, a bit of a disappointment. So much so, I would call it skippable.

Phillip Tomasso
Author of the Severed Empire Series
and The Vaccination Trilogy

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Book Review: THE HANGING CLUB, by Tony Parsons

Tony Parsons
Minotaur Books, 2016
366 pages
Crime / Detective / Police

Well. I have gone and done it. I have read all three Max Wolfe novels in a little over a week. That in and of itself is not the bad thing. The worst part is I now will have to wait nearly a full year before the fourth is released. (And there had so better be a fourth)!

The Max Wolfe series has quickly become my favorite series out there. The writing surpasses any book written by any of the other writers I have been reading. (If that makes sense). And THE HANGING CLUB only further states my case for me.

Do you know why you've been brought to this place of execution?

Public executions begin showing up on YouTube. The world tunes in. Views sky rocket. Tracing the connection back to the criminal(s) is easier said than done. Thing is, maybe more than half the world is okay with the deaths. Applauds them. Supports the killers.

The targeted victims are criminals that the courts treated with kid gloves. Either they victims had received no, or little jail time for heinous crimes committed. The Hanging Club, dubbed by social media, is out righting wrongs; making things black and white. The question is perpetually asked, What would you do if your child was killed and the killer got off scott-free?

DC Max Wolfe has his work cut out for him. The public seems mostly against his investigation. He almost appears as the bad guy, the crook, against vigilantes trying to right all the wrongs the judicial system caused. As more victims are executed on live-stream, and as Max gets closer to the truth, his very life is at risk . . . The Hanging Club has a bone to pick with him for always fighting for the rights of the criminals, and not defending the victims!

Simply an explosive novel. The idea of a Hanging Club is horrific, but . . . do we, in today's society, see this kind of thing more and more? The courts failing to prosecute the criminals? The innocent made to feel more like criminals than victims? Where is the justice in the world? And then there is Max. He has a job to do. It is simple, and clear. Keep everyone safe.

As usual, there is far more than the one story line taking place. We get more of Max's five year old daughter Scout. We meet an old, old friend of Max's, a homeless man, Jackson Rose, who Max takes in, and helps out in his time of need. Additionally, we get some disturbing glimpses into the brutal attack of DCI Whitestone's son, Justin. And for all of these sub-plot story-lines, we get that deeper glimpse into who Max Wolfe is. It makes the novel more real, more authentic, more . . . alive.

Parson's amazes me. I cannot wait for the next novel. Can. Not. Wait. 

Phillip Tomasso
Author of the Severed Empire Series
and The Vaccination Trilogy

Monday, February 20, 2017

Book Review: THE SLAUGHTER MAN, by Tony Parsons

Tony Parsons
Minotaur Books, 2015
373 pages
Crime / Detective / Police

I am truly enjoying everything Tony Parsons. Max Wolfe is back. The second book in the series is even more engrossing than the first.

A horrible murder spree starts on New Year's Eve and finishes on New Year's Day. It seems an entire family has been slaughtered. The crime is committed in a ritzy, wealthy, gated community. The family was taken at night. The brutal killings are going to be a challenge to investigate. The weapon used was a bolt gun, traditionally used for stunning cattle. The weapon punches a hole through a human skull.

Reviewing the scene, Wolfe realizes one body is unaccounted for. The husband and wife were in the bedroom. They found the bodies of the brother and sister teens. Where was the four year old?

Wolfe and his team have their work cut out for them. They need to find the killer, and a missing person. There is a timetable involved. The longer it takes to find a missing child, the more likely it is the child is dead. Or just gone.

They do have a prime suspect in the murders. Someone who had decades ago killed a father, and his two sons with the same weapon.

What I am loving about the Wolfe novels is the family aspect. I cannot help but adore the detective's five-year-old daughter, and the special bond, the relationship between the two of them (and the lovable dog, Stan). The family aspect is important to Wolfe. It is clearly what keeps him grounded, gives him focus, and drive.

Another outstanding novel. Hats off to Pearson and his creation!

Phillip Tomasso
Author of the Severed Empire Series,
and The Vaccination Trilogy

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Book Review: TOOTH & NAIL, by Ian Rankin

Ian Rankin
TOOTH & NAIL (John Rebus #3)
Minotaur Books, 2008
304 pages
Crime / Detective / Inspector

The more I read Ian Rankin, the more I love this guy, and the more I love the fictional lead, Inspector John Rebus. TOOTH & NAIL is the third book a slew of novels, and to date, might be my favorite.

In TOOTH & NAIL, Rebus' recent success has not gone unnoticed. Hailed something of an expert in the arena of Serial Killers, Rebus is called to London. They have a sick serial killer on the loose. They need his help on the case. A fresh set of eyes. A new perspective for looking at the stacking piles of evidence.

The serial killer shows no sign of pattern. Nothing the police can identify, anyway. Each of the victims seems random. The locations where the bodies are found, random. The ages of the victims, random. The only consistency is that the victims are women. The other similarity is the way they are killed. A knife slicing away their life . . . and the a bite taken out of their abdomen.

As always, Rankin includes plenty of Rebus' personal life. The inspector's ex-wife and daughter are living in London. This gives him a chance to catch up with his family. Trouble is, his little girl, Sammy, is dating. Rebus (as any good father) doesn't like the guy. He's too old for her, too wild. And as the plot unfolds, a bit of a lawbreaker. Dealing with family matters only adds additional pressure, and stress as Rebus and his London team hunt for the serial killer known now as The Wolfman.

The city is in panic mode. Rebus calls on psychological tricks to attempt luring the Wolfman out publicly. The ridicule is sure to upset the serial killer. Only the plan backfires when the killer goes after a member of Rebus' team, instead of after Rebus.

With lives on the line, time is running out. If Rebus can't solve the mystery more people are going to die. People he cares about are going to die!

Ian Rankin has a smooth, matter-of-fact writing style. He doesn't bog down his narrative with flowery prose. He keeps the pace with succinct descriptions, and terse, authentic dialogue. The supporting cast is wonderfully filled-in. Each character given plenty of attention, and depth so that they become real on the page. There was a time, back when James Patterson wrote his novels, when I thought Alex Cross was the best detective in the fiction world. I think John Rebus far surpasses that legend.

Phillip Tomasso
Author of the Severed Empire Series
and The Vaccination Trilogy