05 November 2011

One good read deserves another

I finished the C. J. Box book on a good note. The end of the book was its best section. So I was anxious to read some more. Nancy took the first draft manuscript I was working on to Chicago with her, so I couldn't keep revising that. To keep me off the streets and out of the bars, I read some more.

The other book Mary had left for us was a J. A. Jance book, Fatal Error. This Jance book features Ali Reynolds, former LA news reader and a wanna be cop now living in Arizona on a pile of money she inherited from her late husband. (There's a Jance theme: Reynolds and the star of the Jance book I finished not long ago, J. P. Beaumont, are both rich as Croesus because of what they were left by now-dead spouses.)

The Beaumont book, Betrayal of Trust was a great one for me.

This Ali Reynolds book was nearly as great. I did decide to award it one Heart of Gold for improbabilities and I almost gave it a Green Lantern for superheroics.

But, the stories that Jance tells in this book flow so well and are so integrated, that I enjoyed reading it. It even kept me up past my bedtime last night so I could finish it.

The story begins with a former LA rival of Ali's who was also "let go" by a television station becsause mature women don't attract the right audiences for newscasts. Ali's "friend" starts drinking too much, eating too much, and chasing the wrong men too much.

One of the men she "chases" is online, and when she discovers that the online boyfriend is stringing several women along, she decides to expose the guy and begins interviewing the women he's been virtually involved with. The problem is that one of the names on the list she finds is his employer in a scheme to build and sell drone bombers to really bad guys.

The employer is a no-nonsense, heartless crook who begins offing the people involved with the scheme when they're no longer needed. Ali's friend is down the list, but she is on the list.

The murders involve city and county cops all over east LA and central California, so lots of cops get involved. (I did have fun looking at Salton City in Google Earth since that was one of the settings in the book. Man, what a dump -- even from satellite photos!)

Ali, who has finished police academy training, but is not a cop, works with lots of real cops who are suspicious -- especially when she drops a few thou on a private jet to get an off duty homicide detective from one crime scene to another.

There are lots of complicaitons and lots of nooks and crannies in this story, but they fit together so well. (That is what earns the Heart of Gold award for too many coincidences.) Jance tells the stories well, both through dialogue and narration.

J. A. Jance talks about the origins of two of the stories in Fatal Error.

It's such pure entertainment, that I almost feel guilty enjoying the reading so much.

So, have you read Fatal Error by J. A. Jance? or another of Jance's 43 novels? Write and tell this little bit of the world what you thought of it (them).

02 November 2011

Wilderness adventure

Another book that family pusher Mary left with us was C. J. Box's new book, Back of Beyond.

I approached this book with a fair amount of caution. I've liked some of Box's books and disliked others. I was especially cautious after the enthusiastic pleasure of reading J. A. Jance's Betrayal of Trust. Some of Box's books were so violent and intense that I couldn't read the at bedtime. I do need my beauty sleep, you know. Besides, I was in the midst of a writing project of my own. (Be assured, you won't be interested in reading lesson plans for teaching comparative politics.)

So I began slowly and read a chapter at a time sporadically. I was trying to get a feeling for what was to come later. There was a lot of foreshadowing in the early chapters, and I wondered how far I would get into this story. I began anticipating a suspenseful, long, frightening drama of good guys hunting bad guys in the wilderness of Yellowstone.

The main character (Why is it that I resist using the term "star?") is disgraced Denver detective Cody Hoyt. He got a second chance at his career in a county cop shop in rural Montana. Box has created a character so flawed, that he's almost a parody of the mystery/adventure novel "star." Hoyt goes off the deep end (again) when his AA sponsor is killed and his son heads off on a wilderness pack trip with a man who is to become his step-father. Of course, the killer might also be on that pack trip. And no one knows who that killer might be.

Fortunately, to my little mind, Box exercises his writing skills in complicating the plot rather than creating frightening suspense. Horses and bears and wilderness plus competing evil plots and a couple fathers trying to bond with adolescent children, accompanied by an old codger who knows how to handle horses, make a good mix.

Yes, it's violent and bloody, but I wasn't tempted to quit reading. I actually read the last 100 pages avidly.

I really liked Back of Beyond. The flawed main character actually had some redeeming qualities. I'm sure I wouldn't like the guy, but he was brave and smart (mostly). His efforts to find and protect his son were admirable (mostly). My immediate reaction would be that the ends didn't justify the means, but this story is is like one of those ethical dilemmas that appear regularly in philosophy texts. So, maybe the ends did justify the means in this case. (Philosophers can jump in at any time here and present arguments.)

Have you read Back of Beyond or another of Box's novels? Write and tell this little bit of the world how you reacted?