Monday, August 30, 2010

Review : The Death Artist

The Death Artist by Jonathan Santlofer. William Morrow, 2002.

The Death Artist is the first in a series of three books featuring Kate McKinnon, former police officer turned art world darling. After marrying, Kate left the force to return to her first love, art history. Now a well-known figure in the New York art scene, Kate finds herself sucked back into the police world when an art-related pattern emerges in a series of murders that seemed to be aimed at Kate. It takes her vast knowledge of art to reveal the pattern and find the truth behind the murders before she becomes the death artist's next victim.

Though the concept is interesting, the execution leaves a little to be desired. Kate is sometimes a little slow on the uptake. As a reader, I was frustrated when she seemed unable to work out the seemingly obvious clues set before her. I also expected a higher quality of writing to convey this high-minded concept, but I suppose an artist can't be expected to be a great writer as well. That's right, Jonathan Santlofer's first creative outlet was art. You can see some of his pieces on the Pavel Zoubok Gallery website.

Despite my criticisms, I still found The Death Artist an enjoyable read overall. The mystery was good enough to make me keep reading. I wanted to know how it turned out even if it wasn't the most well-constructed narrative I've ever read. I also continued on to the other two Kate McKinnon books since I already had them.

Bottom line? I wouldn't rush out to get the Kate McKinnon series, but I also wouldn't turn it down if someone offered to let me borrow it. If you are intrigued by Jonathan Santlofer and the concept of integrating art into murder mysteries, you might want to bypass his early efforts and start with Anatomy of Fear, the first in the Nate Rodriguez series. From the reviews I've seen, it is here that Santlofer really begins to hit his stride.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Review : Stone Cold

Stone Cold by David Baldacci. Grand Central Publishing, 2007.

There is so much I can't say about this book for fear of giving too much away! Suffice it to say, Stone Cold picks up right where The Collectors left off. Oliver Stone, the leader of the Camel Club, is determined to help con artist Annabelle Conroy out of a jam. Unfortunately, he finds himself in a dangerous predicament of his own, making things far more complicated.

At its core, Stone Cold is a story of revenge. While all the Camel Club books have a theme of seeking justice, the events that unfold in Stone Cold are even more personal and require a large measure of personal sacrifice in order to exact revenge - no matter how well deserved that revenge is. Through it all, you will laugh, gasp and maybe even cry.

I was turned on to the Camel Club two years ago by an advance reading copy of Divine Justice, the fourth book in the series. I hadn't planned to reread it, but it has taken me so long to get back to the series that I don't remember what happens. The books of the Camel Club series flow one into the next making it difficult to stop yourself from picking up the next one. I just started Divine Justice last night, but don't plan to review it again. My 2008 review is here.

The next installment of the Camel Club series, Hell's Corner, is due for publication on November 9, 2010. I can't wait to read what happens next!

Related Posts:
Review : The Camel Club
Review : The Collectors
Review : Divine Justice

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Review : The Collectors

The Collectors by David Baldacci. Warner Books, 2006.

The Collectors is the second book in the Camel Club series. The mystery involves the selling of U.S. secrets; and the Camel Club becomes involved following the mysterious death of Caleb Shaw's supervisor in the Library of Congress' Rare Books Division. The increased focus on Caleb Shaw and Milton Farb, the less danger savvy members of the club, made for some amusing moments. Their eccentricities had me laughing out loud at times. This sense of humor plus the element of bibliomystery made for a very enjoyable read. The Collectors also introduces a new character to the Club, con artist Annabelle Conroy. A good portion of the book follows her in a separate, though enjoyable, storyline, and I found myself wondering what the connection could be. If you have the same feeling, don't worry. The connection will reveal itself, and it's a good one. In my estimation, The Collectors meets and exceeds the expectations set by the first book in the series.

Related Posts:
Review : The Camel Club
Review : Stone Cold
Review : Divine Justice

Monday, August 23, 2010

Review : Stieg Larsson's Final Works

In Stieg Larsson's trilogy, he tackles political, cultural, and psychological issues in a way that few mystery series do. The trilogy features a number of wonderful characters, but focuses primarily on Mikael Blomkvist, a dedicated journalist, and Lisbeth Salander, a strange yet brilliant young woman. The series begins with the two on the trail of a murder mystery and financial corruption in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. In the second book, The Girl Who Played with Fire, it is up to Mikael to save Lisbeth from allegations that she herself is a murder while also working on a huge story on sex trafficking. The trilogy culminates with The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest where Lisbeth finds herself still under suspicion. Mikael joins forces with the police against the legal system and an unknown group within the Secret Police to finally save his friend Lisbeth from her past. While all share the element of murder, the focus of the thrillers shift from financial to police procedural to political and legal.

All three books are superbly written and make the reader think about the wrongs some suffer in this world. While I felt the first book was slow to reach the crux of the story, I felt rewarded at the end of each. I enjoyed them so much that I was a bit sad to finish the final book knowing there will be no more.

If you're interested in the opinions of others, I recommend Maureen Corrigan's Fresh Air review and Diane Rehm's Readers' Review segment of July 21, 2010.

in case you didn't notice...

In case you didn't notice, I recently did a revamp of my blog design. Blogger has some fun new backgrounds, and this one really struck my fancy. I mean, it's books, right? Anyway, I hope you enjoy.

Review : The Camel Club

The Camel Club by David Baldacci. Warner Books, 2005.

The Camel Club is the first in a series of the same name. The Camel Club is a group of misfit men who, for the most part, are retired government employees. They make an interesting group: "Oliver Stone," the former CIA assassin; Reuben Rhodes, the Vietnam vet who washed out of his intelligence job; Milton Farb, the former NIH employee whose OCD got the best of him; and Caleb Shaw, the only one to survive the government mill as an employee at the Library of Congress' rare books division. This bookish gentleman of course adds another fun twist for a bibliophile like me. The Camel Club's purpose is to search for government conspiracy and, in The Camel Club, they find one, which quickly becomes a matter of life and death for them and others. David Baldacci's Camel Club series of political thrillers definitely gets off on the right foot. The characters are intriguing and the story tightly woven. I look forward to reading the rest of the series, and I think you will too.

Previous review of Divine Justice (Book 4)