Source: Netgalley

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The Con Men: Hustling in New York City

The Con Men: Hustling in New York City

When I started reading Con Men I was expecting stories about big time cons in New York.  I was thinking about the classic con men like we see in the The Sting, The Grifters, or Catch Me If You Can.  That really isn’t what this book is about.  This book is about the street level hustler.  The guys paying three card monte and running scams on neighborhood stores. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed this book.  If you are looking for a behind the scenes look on how someone can talk tourists out of their money, convince a store to let merchandise walk out the front door, or set up Ponzi schemes, then this book delivers.  The authors spend years with scam artists plying the streets of New York and delivers an amazing view into that world you can’t get from reading news accounts or trial transcripts.  They tell you… Read more »

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Spy for Hire

Spy for Hire

Mark Sava, John Decker and friends must protect a small orphan being used as a pawn in a turf war between governmental agencies.  Spy for Hire is a straight up action thriller and for fans of the genre it ticks off all the boxes you would expect. The story itself is about as cookie cutter spy/action thriller as you get.  It isn’t bad mind you, just a bit ho-hum.  The good guys are clever and often manage to outwit their adversaries and there is some good action with a few plot twists thrown in to keep you on your toes.  The only real problem with the plot twists is that they are completely telegraphed.  You see where the twists are going almost as soon as they are introduced and readers of the genre will find very few surprises.   Additionally there are problems with the sub-plots.  Mayland introduces events and side… Read more »

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Bread and Butter

Bread and Butter

Bread & Butter meshes a restaurant/chef story in the vein of Kitchen Confidential with a more traditional family drama to create a new take on the culinary drama.  While not everything in this book really works I can see what the author was going for and commend her for it. Two things are clear from reading this book.  One is that Michelle Wildgen is a foodie and has a real passion for the subject.  Her descriptions of the food and the cooking of it are the literary version of food porn.  You can almost taste the meals from her descriptions.  Her ability to describe food is what I enjoyed most about the book.  After reading a chapter of Bread & Butter what I really wanted to do is get into the kitchen and cooks something. The other thing that is obvious from reading this book, at least to someone who… Read more »

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Runner

Runner

In Runner, Patrick Lee takes the standard military thriller and manages to add some new twists that elevate the book beyond what is expected from the genre.  Since I am a fan of the thrillers and read a lot of these types of books it is pretty rare that I am surprised by them.  I was really pleased that this one managed to surprise me by the second chapter. This book is an interesting mixture of the standard ex-special forces hero comes out of retirement to save the girl type of story and adds a light sci-fi element giving the plot a nice spin.  What is better is that the twist isn’t held until the end of the book but instead put up front in the first few chapters. The other thing that really helps this book is the pacing.  A lot of thrillers claim to be “fast paced” but… Read more »

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Three Princes

Three Princes

Imagine a world where the Egyptian civilization never fell; a world where the Pharos still maintained power and a legacy going back generation.  That sounds like a pretty good premise for a book, right?  I thought so too.  Unfortunately while Three Princes has that awesome setup and gets the feel of the world right the actual story just doesn’t hold up. This is a book I really wanted to like.  I love Egyptian history and the Egyptian “style” so the idea of bringing that forward into modern times really intrigued me.  And that is the big thing this book gets right. Add to that the fact that in the story the Incans also remain and are the Egyptians main adversary and I am totally on board.  Ramona Wheeler is very good at describing the world in such a way that you can almost feel it.  While the alternate history lover… Read more »

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The Martian

The Martian

This is the obvious analogy, but The Martian by Andy Weir is Robin Caruso in space, on steroids and jacked up on laughing gas.  This book sits in a weird place between straight fiction and science fiction.  Or rather it is science fiction but much closer to the science end then fiction end. This book doesn’t follow the standard narrative structure, and that really works for it.  Three fourths of the story is told through journal entries by the protagonist because, with the exception of a few portions of the book, he has no contacts with anyone else.  Most of the story happens through Watney’s inner monologue which sounds like a bad thing but really works.   When the story does switch to other characters and a more normal story structure all I wanted was for it to get back to Watney and his journal. The character of Mark Watney is… Read more »

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Red Hook

Red Hook

Red Hook takes the police procedural style and switches the genre from focusing on large events and monumental cases to the mystery of one of the little guys so often forgotten.  I commend Cohen for trying to take an area so well-trodden and bring its focus down to a level so often ignored.  This book had the potential of opening up a new front for the detective mystery alongside the chase for serial killers and psychopaths.  Unfortunately it doesn’t live up to that potential. While the crime isn’t something we see in most mystery novels, strangely because it is so mundane as to be ignored, the characters we have seen thousands of times.  A hard bitten detective, disillusioned by the job but drawn to one case everyone else ignores and estranged from his family.  It’s like Lightner and his supporting case were pulled out of some detective fiction mold.  To be… Read more »

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The Janus Legacy

The Janus Legacy

The Janus Legacy explores the ethical landscape between cloning and the push to advance science and medicine.  This book falls in a weird space between medical thriller and science fiction and brings up interesting questions about the future of humanity. I am generally a fan of both science fiction and medical fiction and have spent time reading up on the ethics and science of cloning, so the idea behind this book is something I was into.  While the angle von Biela takes is interesting the execution of this book falls short.  Taking the idea of human cloning, which has been explored by authors before, and giving the main character a motive to push for it yet a personality that fights against it was an interesting angle.  This dichotomy in Jeremy’s motivation allowed for a lot of potential with real possibilities for both external conflicts with the other scientists as well… Read more »

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The Shadow Protocol

The Shadow Protocol

If you were to take any of the “American spy working at the tip of the spear against a major terrorist threat”, and there are a lot of those books in the market, and add some kind of mental transference sci-fi angel, you get The Shadow Protocol.  It does add an interesting twist to the genre but not much additional substance. The book jacket compares this to Robert Ludlum’s Bourne series and there are definite parallels, although the character and the writing are both less interesting then what you find in Ludlum’s original books.   The actual writing of the book, the dialogue, characterizations, etc. are all pretty much on par with the average of this genre so that isn’t a big knock on McDermott’s work.  Ludlum does stand as the gold standard of the spy thriller genre so it isn’t fair to hold McDermott to that level. The added tech/sci-fi… Read more »

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Bad Guys

Bad Guys

Bad Guys is an old-school detective thriller featuring an odd couple like paring of FBI agents out to stop a secret mafia family.  While the book doesn’t give us anything we haven’t seen before at least what it does it does competently. A rouge agent out for justice and his partner trying to bring him back from the brink is about as cookie cutter as you can get.  And while both characters are like a how-to instruction for making cops in a thriller novel they are also both very likeable.  The loyalty Gibbons and Tozzi show each other is endearing and the interplay between them is usually pretty entertaining. The plot itself moves forward at a brisk pace as it checks off the cop vs. mafia checklist.  Plot twists layered on top of each other.  Check.  Tons of New Jersey jokes and references.  Check.  Low-life crooks.  Check.   Once again however,… Read more »

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