August 2006 Same Vein


Turning Angel by Greg Iles
Hodder Headline

This is the explosive new Southern thriller from Iles, whose star continues to shine. Penn Cage had already given up being a lawyer when he went back to live in his home town of Natchez, Mississippi. At first glance, the historic river town is an idyllic place to bring up a child. Beneath the surface, however, the community is stretched to breaking point by racial tension and civic corruption.

Penn is at his daughter's school board meeting when the news breaks that a beautiful and brilliant seventeen-year-old student has just been found murdered and raped. That same evening, Penn's best friend Drew confesses to Penn that he has been having an affair with the girl and was planning to leave his wife for her. When Drew is accused of the murder he asks Penn to defend him, in the most explosive case the town has ever seen...

Iles has written another edge-of-your-seat thriller. There are plenty of twists and turns to keep things interesting, and the characters are well-drawn and instantly intriguing. All this serves to ramp up to an ending that you won't expect, as the tension and climax prove yet again why he's one of the best thriller writers working today.


Ambler Warning by Robert Ludlum

Allen & Unwin

The Ambler Warning, like many of Robert Ludlum's thrillers, gets much of its sense from our knowledge that intelligence agencies cannot be trusted to play fair even by their own. Hal Ambler is held in a facility for insane agents and is himself being drugged to a point where he cannot trust his own crumbling sanity. Even when he escapes, he is unable to be sure of his own past and identity--his very face is not as he remembers, let alone his fishing cabin and the friends of his youth. Something has been made from the wreckage of his mind, and he is not sure whether every step he takes may not be a part of someone else's plan. By contrast, Caston is the sort of intelligence agent who despises the Hal Amblers of this world--he is an accountant who follows the money of assassination and terror round the world while sitting in front of a monitor. Yet he too starts to get a sense that he is being used.

Part of the originality and strength of Ludlum's new thriller is that he always knows when to pull surprises, like the eventual alliance of Caston and Ambler--two dangerously flawed and partial men in search of knowledge and also of wholeness. The glimpses of the great world of political innovation, and the theories that inform them, also give this rather more thoughtfulness than we saw in, say, Ludlum's recent Bourne books. Well worth the read.

No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy

Pan Macmillan

McCarthy has done what most authors can only dream about: He has created a book that is a thriller on the surface, while criss-crossing literary layers underneath.

At first reading, the novel SEEMS to have some insignificant flaws: a few anachronisms, the gas chamber in Texas that never was, some minor nicks in the plot. However, these are not flaws and this novel is deeper than you may first believe. His latest is a literary and intellectual puzzle for the reader to work out.

It still has all the McCarthy hallmarks, though. It's a thriller with liberal dashings of darkness and violence. But there is also comedy, and a touch of timeless love, and an undercurrent of Nietzche, allusions to the works of Walker Percy, the poetry of John Keats, the vision of William Butler Yeats, and the naturalism of Edward Abbey and Joseph Wood Krutch.

But the novel can also be read as a straight thriller, and you don't have to see any of the symbols to be enthralled with this book. McCarthy's vision is a beautifully realistic correlation between Time and Chance and Death.

This is a brilliant book, and plays with the same themes that McCarthy has dealt with all along. May there be many more to come.

Beautiful Lies by Lisa Unger

Random House

Lisa Unger's first novel, "Beautiful Lies," might just be one of the best books of the year. It is well written, original plot and a quirky, three dimensional protagonist, as well as realistic minor characters. And, oddly enough, there are no real villains in a story where bad things certainly happen. As the main character, Ridley Jones, says "there are no heroes or villains in real life, only good and bad choices."

Our gal Ridley is a thirty-something freelance writer who does work for Vanity Fair, New York Magazine, and The New Yorker, so she is a pretty successful lass. But rents are high in New York City and even successful freelancers are hard pressed at times to come up with the rent. But Ridley does not have this problem. She inherited a healthy sum of money from her uncle, "who wasn't actually an uncle," but her father's best friend. He absolutely adored her. This money cushions her against potential poverty and allows her freedom from financial worries. And "freedom" is a concept of immense importance to her.

Ridley's "fairly uneventful life" is turned upside down one morning...the morning she gains a bit more than her share of 15 minutes of fame. She sees a toddler about to be hit by a speeding truck and leaps into the street to save the boy. Fortuitously...or not, a photographer is on the scene and Ridley, in full action, appears on the cover of the local papers. The story is picked up by the morning talk shows where she and her family bask in the glory of her brief but bright spotlight. They have no idea what her moment of fame will bring an envelope in the mail containing a note and an old photograph. The faded photo is of a young woman - who could be Ridley's double, a man and a little girl who resembles Ridley Jones as a little girl. The note includes a phone number and the question, "Are you my daughter?"

Unhinged, our heroine seeks reassurance from her doting father, a successful pediatrician, and her mother, a controlling, uptight woman. They slough off the incident and tell her that some wacko is having a joke at her expense, insisting that they are her birth parents. Still uncertain, she looks for her older brother, a drug addict who lives on he streets, and when she finds him he makes some disturbing comments which fuel her confusion.

Then she meets her handsome and mysterious new neighbor, Jake, a sculptor and a real hottie... and her life will never be the same.

"Beautiful Lies" is a taut psychological thriller that you'll find hard to put down. A great debut.


Blow Fly by Patricia Cornwell

Penguin Books

"Please don't go there. The past is the past," sighs New York Assistant District Attorney Jaime Berger, who herself was introduced in Cornwell's last Kay Scarpetta novel, The Last Precinct (2000). Alas, many of Cornwell's fans are bound to agree. One appalling non-fiction bestseller (Portrait of a
Killer: Jack the Ripper, Case Closed) later, Cornwell now returns to Scarpetta, formerly Virginia's chief medical examiner.

>From the start, however, the formidable author is up against the
formidable task of getting her charismatic main character off ice and back in action. We encounter Scarpetta languishing in a crumbling little rental house in Florida. She has taken refuge there and become a private forensic consultant after she was driven from her job for her alleged involvement in the murder of a deputy police chief. The violent death of her lover, Benton Wesley, the brilliant FBI psychological profiler, has left her filled with an unappeasable grief. When the coroner in Baton Rouge asks her advice on a cold case concerning an affluent woman found dead of a drug overdose in a seedy hotel, it seems little more than a diversion. Yet it becomes clear that the overdose may be related to a fresh string of serial killings.

Also disturbing Scarpetta's somber peace is a troubling letter from someone out to kill her, the sick and obsessed death-row inmate Jean-Baptiste. When Scarpetta is at last allowed to get back to business, she is a feisty, independent powerhouse whose capacity to concentrate and observe rivals Sherlock Holmes's. But too much of this book is bound up in retrospective musings about events in previous books. The great Scarpetta, her fiery crime-busting niece, Lucy, and a colorful supporting cast deserve better.

Still, it's better than her Jack The Ripper non-fiction outing, which only proved she should stick to fiction, and leave historical crime fighting to the experts.

For the fans only.

Conqueror Worms by Brian Keene

Leisure Books

One day it starts raining and never stops. Along with the rain comes super tornadoes, massive earthquakes and monster tsunamis. Farmlands are submerged and cities are flooded or washed away. Every inch of the planet is affected.
Scientists can't explain what is causing the phenomenon.

The Polar Icecaps eventually melt and soon the only safe places on the planet are on mountain tops. Teddy Garnett and his friend Carl Seaton are two elderly men who live in the mountains of West Virginia. They spend their days trying to stay dry and debating what is causing the global catastrophe.
They soon discover that the rain isn't the only thing that they should be worried about. Weird sounds from outside are waking them at night. An unknown fungus is starting to grow all over the plants and animals that are still alive, and giant slime coated holes are popping up outside Teddy's house. They soon find themselves fighting for their lives against giant man eating Earthworms. The old world is passing away and an ancient evil from deep within the earth is rising to lay claim to the planet.

Brian Keene is one of the best horror authors in the game today and The Conqueror Worms is one of the reasons why. You'll be hooked from the first page. Fast paced and original, and loaded with a colourful cast of characters that make you truly believe in the events as they unfold.

Fans of apocalyptic fiction or horror in general must grab a copy of The Conqueror Worms. It is one heck of a ride that never disappoints. Which is exactly why Keene is positioned to take the mantle from King very very soon.

Off Season by Jack Ketchum

Leisure Books

Carla has been given a plumb editing assignment - one month to finish editing a book on fifties rock `n' roll - which she knows could easily be finished in one week. She rents a cabin outside the tiny town of Dead River up the Maine coastline and invites company up for the first week of her stay. Her younger sister Marjie and her boyfriend Dan, Carla's own current boyfriend Jim, and her ex-boyfriend Nick, who brings along his current girl Laura, are all invited and all five ride up to meet Carla together.

Marjie loves reading the scandalous Evening Post, and eagerly reads the book on Dead River that Carla had sent her, eating up the tales of Catbird island and the mysterious deaths and disappearances that surrounded the lighthouse and island there.

What none of the six vacationers know is that there is a family of wild people living in the caves along the rocky shores. They are not zombies, they are real; but they are not civilized. As dead in the brain as a zombie would be, this hellish clan lives off the land and survives on whatever food happens their way. And their favorite food is people.

And they quickly discover Carla and her friends are staying close-by. And they're hungry. Very hungry indeed.

Off Season is a gore streaked feast for those inclined to gruesome horror.
Practically banned back in 1981 for its "disgusting" content and for its use of children as villains instead of victims, this is a not-to-be-missed early novel by the master, Jack Ketchum.

Buy it, read it and enjoy it. It's a classic.

Bibliophile's Dictionary
Miles Westley
Capricorn Link

The ultimate reference tool for word lovers, The Bibliophile's Dictionary compiles the most challenging words readers are ever likely to encounter in great literature. This invaluable guide shares comprehensive definitions for more than 2,000 words and provides examples of how each word is used by classic and contemporary authors.

It is organized by theme, giving it a light-hearted, browsable feel, and includes an alphabetical index for those looking up words in the more traditional manner. Booksellers, editors and other word-based professionals will welcome having a wealth of words at their fingertips. But it's also quite enjoyable for avid readers as well. A terrific present for the bibliophile in your life... or just to flick through when you feel the urge. Excellent reading.

Return Home