Thursday, November 26, 2009

206 Bones-Kathy Reichs

I love me some David Boreanaz.  Way before there was Team Edward, there was Angel, the tortured vampire with a soul from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  What does David Boreanaz have to do with a Kathy Reichs novel, you ask?  Nothing-except that he now plays a characters on Bones, a television show VERY loosely based on Kathy Reichs character Temperance Brennan.  I give you this background on DB as an explanation for my love of said show, despite the fact that the only things that the show and Kathy Reich's actual books have in common is the name of the main character and her profession.  If you want the REAL Temperance Brennan, you have to read the books.


Like her latest book, 206 Bones.  There's a lot going on in this one, even though it is one of her shorter books.  There is a sabotage plot, a serial murderer, and a 40 year old missing person's case.  The best part-Andrew Ryan, the hot Quebecois police officer, is back.  He's done with the mother of the child he just found about about, and he is ready to get back to business with Tempe. Question is, is she ready for him?  (I for one am rooting for them to get back together-hot guys that speak French are quite a catch!)

As usual, the story is fast paced, and there is lots of really interesting forensic anthropological goodness.  The title of the book, of course, refers to the number of bones in the human body.  One thing of interest for Chicago-dwellers is that the setting for the first part of the book is Elmhurst.  Tempe, who's originally from Illinois, comes back to visit her former in-laws, and while here she gets sucked into a missing persons case.  I so enjoyed reading that part of the book-the body is found at the Thornton Quarry, just below the bridge that take Interstates 294 and 80 over the large hole in the ground where my daughter thought the Flintstones lived when she was little.  This is, oh, about five minutes from my house.  I drive over that bridge so often it doesn't even trigger my bridge phobia.  Every step of their time in Chicago was recognizable to me...I love it when an author takes the time to get the details right.

I have to admit, I've felt let down by the last couple Reichs books.  It seemed like she was phoning it in, and I thought that maybe concentrating on the show was taking away from her writing.  But this book gives me hope that we are going to get out of the doldrums and get back to the fascinating exploration of forensic anthropology that is a Temperance Brennan novel.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Long Lost-Harlan Coben

So I was supposed to be reading The Story of Edgar Sawtelle for my book club this month, and I started it, I really did...but apparently work plus grad school plus youth group plus family equals limited cognitive effort left for meaningful literature.  As a result, I'm only 100 pages or so into poor Edgar's story...but, I was able to fly through the latest book by one of my favorite mystery/suspense writers, Harlen Coben.

If you are a mystery lover and you have not yet read Coben you should consider yourself scolded.  His Myron Bolitar books, such as his latest, Long Lost, are fun, action-packed stories filled with the most eccentric group of recurring characters in the genre.  The main character is a former college basketball star who was drafted by the Celtics, only to have his knee blown out in pre-season.  His best friend is Win, an ultra-rich, ultra-connected prep school grad with a questionable sense of morality who uses his privilege to act as a lethal vigilante.  Myron's partner, Esperanza, is a former female wrestler known as Little Pocahontas, and their office help is her former wrestling partner-a behemoth of a woman named Big Cyndi.  Somehow this band of odd characters manages to get involved in very private detectivey kinds of situations without actually being private detectives.

This particular story revolves around a woman that Myron had a short, torrid affair with when both were at particular low points in their lives.  Now, several years later, she has called and asked him for help. Her ex-husband has gone missing, and she needs Myron's unique skill set to find him.  What starts out as a simple missing persons case soon turns into something much more sinister, and Myron and his gang are drawn into the very darkest side of the global political landscape.  The story is fast-paced, and while it occasionally stretches the boundaries of the believable, you can't help but be carried along as Myron and Win take on their biggest adversaries to date.

This novel, in fact all of Coben's novels, is the perfect popcorn book.  It's short enough that you can finish it fairly quickly, yet the characters and story are well-developed.  Coben's stories-like his characters-are deep but not subtle.  He describes the motivations of the characters and the events in such a way that you don't have to think too hard to follow what's happening, but the story still feels smart.  Myron as narrator is sarcastic and funny in a self-deprecating way that makes him extremely likeable because of his faults, rather than in spite of them.  Coben's books may not delve deeply into the human condition, but for entertainment value you'd be hard pressed to find a better read.

If you haven't read him before, I suggest you start at the beginning-while his series books have enough exposition for you to understand and enjoy the stories in any order, the development of the characters through time is worth starting with the first book in the series, Deal Breaker.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

No, I didn't fall off the planet...

...it just took me forever to read the first book in Diana Gabaldon's epic Scottish time-travel series, Outlander.  While this is at least partly due to the fact that I have homework again for the first time since 2004, it may also have something to do with the breadth of the novel.  Outlander is nearly 700 pages of rather genre-defying goodness.

Outlander is part fantasy novel, part sci fi, part historical fiction, and all romance.  The story revolves around Claire Randall, an strong and independent spirit living with her husband in post-war England.  While on a second honeymoon in Scotland, she touches a singing boulder in a ring of standing stones and finds herself 200 years in the past.  There she is swept up into clan politics, a dangerous encounter with an English captain, and a love affair that leaves her breathless.

I love it when friends recommend books to me-especially when I enjoy them.  A very dear friend told me about this book, and I am happy to report to her that the story is everything she said it would be.  First of all, the real main character of this book is the Scottish countryside.  Amazingly, Gabaldon had never been to Scotland when she wrote the first book in the series.  Her research skills must rock, because I would never have guessed that she was not a frequent visitor.  She also does an excellent job describing the frustration and ambivalence that characterizes Claire's arrival and subsequent decision to fall in love with Jamie, a charming outlaw who also happens to be a laird with his own lands.

It is hard to describe this book without making it sound like a glorified Gothic romance novel.  But as mentioned above, this book seriously defies definition.  So instead of trying to do it's multi-faceted, 600+ page story justice here, I'm going to tell you to just read it, already!  There's history enough for lovers of historical fiction, there's the whole time-travel thing for the fantasy/sci fi geeks out there, and there is a good old fashioned love story with a new-fangled twist for the romantics out there.  But be prepared-Outlander is but the first in a series of epic novels about Claire and Jamie-none less than 600 pages that I can see.  You're gonna want them all.