HelenEdith's Blog

The minutiae of my life, plus website updates and book reviews

Archive for the ‘Thriller’ Category

Book Review: Nora Roberts – Birthright

Posted by HelenEdith on September 9, 2009

This is the fascinating tale of Callie Dunbrook and her ex-husband Jake Graystone.

The book starts with a prologue in Santa’s Grotto, where a baby disappears without a trace. Then we fast-forward to where prehistoric bones have been dug up on a building site in Woodsboro, the town where the snatched baby lived. Callie is an archaeologist, and she gets called in. When she appears on local television, the mother of the snatched baby, who has never given up hope that she will find her child, is convinced that Callie is that long-lost child.

Callie denies that she could be, but when she checks into her background, she discovers that she isn’t the natural child of her parents after all. As she continues to dig, both archaeologically and personally, it becomes apparent that she has stirred up a number of topics which other people would prefer to remain buried. The builder wants her gone, as he wants to continue building. However, he turns up dead before long. It seems that her delving into her past is attracting the wrong sort of attention, and the story of her adoption becomes murkier and murkier the more she looks into it.

This is a good book because there is the archaeological interest which gives the book its cornerstones; then there is the dangerous story of baby snatching and havey-cavey adoptions; and finally there is the chemistry between Callie and Jake, who married in haste, divorced in haste, and are now thrown back together.

I thoroughly enjoyed this one.

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Book Review: Clive Cussler with Paul Kemprecos – Blue Gold

Posted by HelenEdith on July 26, 2008

This is the second “NUMA Files” offering featuring Kurt Austin, Joe Zavala, Paul Trout and his wife Gamay Morgan-Trout – plus a few familiar NUMA characters from the Dirk Pitt books – although in this book, Pitt himself does not make even a cameo appearance.

I do have to speculate with collaboration books as to who writes what, and my guess is that Austin and Zavala are Cussler’s characters; while the Trouts are the province of Kemprecos. They do all get together at times, but there are often multiple threads going in the book, and I just think I see the signature of Cussler behind Austin and Zavala, who are somewhat similar to Pitt and Giordino; and when that’s carried to its logical conclusion, it points to the Trouts being the creation of Kemprecos.

This book is about water, or rather, the lack of water, and how unscrupulous people try and gain control over limited resources to gain power. It starts with a plane crash in the Prologue. The meaning of the plane crash to the rest of the story remains a mystery for a long time, as it isn’t even referred to, but the story gets around to it later on.

Austin and Zavala start out in a power boat race, which they end up losing in spectacular fashion while averting disaster when a competitor’s boat goes out of control. However, it doesn’t take them long to get down to business – business prompted by the cause of the competitor’s boat going out of control. That leads them to Mexico and gets them into deep water.

The Trouts start out in the jungles of the Amazon. They encounter a canoe carrying a dead tribesman from a tribe feared by all the locals. They get thoroughly embroiled in goings-on in the Amazon, and have to call on Austin and Zavala, who bail them out in the nick of time.

They all realise eventually that they’re working different sides of the same puzzle, and that a very secretive company has been buying up water rights and is almost to the point of having a monopoly over the water supply.

As it’s that sort of a book, you know that somehow Austin, Zavala and the Trouts are going to save the World from this menace, and you wouldn’t be wrong, but you’ll have to read the book to find out how they do it.

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Book Review: Clive Cussler with Paul Kemprecos – Serpent

Posted by HelenEdith on March 22, 2008

I hadn’t come across this collaboration before. This novel is set against the background of NUMA operations, as are Clive Cusslers solo novels featuring Dirk Pitt and Al Giordino. Characters such as Admiral Sandecker and the computer expert Hiram Yaeger pop up, but the main characters are Kurt Austin and Joe Zavala. They’re a little different from Dirk and Al, but come out of much the same mould.

The book starts with the sinking of the Andrea Doria off the coast of Nantucket in 1956.

It then fast-forwards to the year 2000, when Nina Kirov, a marine archaeologist, narrowly escapes being murdered when the rest of her expedition is killed in the middle of the night. She manages to escape by jumping in the sea and swimming through the underwater ruins she has been working on. The bad guys follow in a hovercraft and she’s just about to tire and get caught when she gets pulled down to safety by a diver who just happens to show up at the right moment. It’s Kurt Austin, and he shares his air with her and takes her underwater to his NUMA ship, which is nearby.

That’s only the start of the killings, as the bad guys board the NUMA ship to try and take out Nina. Kurt and Joe just happen to hear the first of the grappling hooks when the boarding party arrive, and they improvise and manage to repel them.

However, everyone then starts taking an interest in why Nina’s expedition was wiped out, and discover a number of other expeditions which have also been wiped out. All share one thing in common: they include people who have paid to join the dig as a holiday activity, and those people all came via the same charitable organisation. One starts to suspect that it isn’t quite as charitable as it seems!

We do eventually get back to the Andrea Doria, which turns out to contain a vital artefact. The bad guys want it, too, and they pop up where Kurt and Joe are several times.

All comes to a fitting conclusion at the end of the book, with Kurt and Joe saving the day and the bad guys getting their come-uppance.

I don’t think I “know” Kurt and Joe as well as Dirk and Al, but maybe if I read another book or two from the Cussler/Kemprecos collaboration, I will do so. To date, there are already seven, so there’s plenty of scope!

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Book Review: Clive Cussler – Dragon

Posted by HelenEdith on March 22, 2008

Stephen brought home a whole pile of Clive Cussler’s books from the charity shop, and I’ve been working my way through them.

Dragon starts off with a B-29 bomber taking off for Japan with a nuclear bomb as its payload. It never makes it, but is shot down by the Japanese, who have no idea what they’ve shot down, so the B-29 sinks into the Pacific off the coast of Japan and lies forgotten.

Then the story proper starts, and the reader is left wondering where on earth the missing B-29 is going to feature, as we start out with a deserted Japanese car-carrier bound for the US being boarded by a Norwegian crew who hope to salvage her. Unfortunately, it turns out that she has a nuclear bomb on board and it is causing radiation sickness, which accounts for the disappearance of her original crew. The radiation sickness drives one of the boarding party mad and he shoots a car in the hold, setting off the nuclear bomb it contains. The car carrier is instantly vaporised, and the other two boats in the vicintiy, the Norwegian boat that supplied the boarding party, and a British oceanographic vessel, are also sunk, although they go down intact.

It turns out that there’s more going on under the sea that you would think: a submersible launched from the British vessel was underwater at the time of the explosion, and with the destruction of their support ship, the personnel in the submersible are in dire danger. Who should pop up at this point but Dirk Pitt, who just happens to be on-site carrying out an undersea mining trial which nobody knows about! He rescues the crew of the submersible in the nick of time and takes them back to his hush-hush underwater habitat, but the nuclear explosion has set off an undersea earthquake which is likely to wreck their habitat, so they have to evacuate in rather a hurry. The additional personnel mean that there aren’t enough places for everybody in the evacuation, so Dirk volunteers to stay down and wait for someone to come back for him. By this time, people from NUMA have arrived at surface level, and those escaping from the undersea habitat go on board a Chinese sailing ship which just happens to have friends of Admiral Sandecker on-board. Their submersibles can’t go down and rescue Pitt, who has to formulate his own escape plan. He’s an ingenious man, and his plan works and Pitt is eventually recovered from under the sea.

Then people turn their attention to the nuclear explosion and figure out that there are nuclear bombs hidden in cars being exported all over the World from Japan. Naturally, Dirk Pitt and his friend and colleague Al Giordino get involved in figuring out where the cars are and how they are going to be used.

We do eventually get back to that missing B-29 bomber on the sea floor near Japan, and it does play a part near the end of the story.

Oh, and one other thing I enjoyed in this book: Dirk Pitt gets to meet Clive Cussler and they have a classic “Do we know each other?” moment at a classic car meet!

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Book review: Elizabeth Moon – Speed of Dark

Posted by HelenEdith on September 24, 2007

Unlike the other books of Elizabeth Moon that I have read, this one is neither part of a series nor is it a collaboration with Anne McCaffrey. The back cover describes it as a near-future thriller. I might not go quite so far as to describe it as a thriller, but it is heading in that direction.

Lou, the main character, is autistic, but he has had the benefit of treatments which were not available during the 20th Century, and he is able to live an independent life and hold down a job. He analyses patterns for a living. He also attends a fencing group once a week, and has become a very good fencer.

His employer, who manufactures pharmaceuticals, has just bought up a treatment for autism and wants some humans to trial it on. Somebody has come up with the idea of using the team of autistic people who do pattern analysis, and just to encourage them, they have all had a letter telling them that the company needs to cut costs, but those who are involved in product trials have job security.

We spend most of the book following the efforts of the company to get the autistics to participate in the trial; and the efforts of the autistics to find out more about the trial without committing themselves, but also without losing their jobs. We also get to know Lou as a person, and see some of the problems he encounters in day-to-day life because of his autism. Lou emerges as a very clever man despite his disability, and he studies and understands books about the human brain in an effort to understand the treatment he may be “volunteering” for.

There is a time near the end of the book when the reader must wonder whether Lou has lost everything, but he does emerge triumphant although not unscathed eventually.

This is a book that will probably remain in my mind for a long time. It transcends mere entertainment.

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Book Review: Clive Cussler – Treasure

Posted by HelenEdith on August 26, 2007

I hadn’t read a Clive Cussler thriller for years, but Stephen recently brought a stack of them home from the charity shop when I said that I liked Clive Cussler.

I enjoyed getting reacquainted with Dirk Pitt, Al Giordino and the rest of them, and found this book a good read, despite it’s futuristic early 1990s setting now being well in the past.

The premise of the book is that the treasures from the library at Alexandria were spirited away prior to the library’s destruction, but those who did the spiriting away didn’t make it back to their part of the World to let anybody know.

When Roman coins start turning up where no Romans were ever supposed to have been, Dirk Pitt, who is conveniently handy, gets interested and pulls in resources from NUMA to try and locate the hidden treasures. As the US government are interested in the ancient maps of mineral deposits which may be stored with the treasure, they are behind Dirk’s use of NUMA resources.

Meanwhile, there’s a second thread to the story, which concerns a terrorist plot to crash a plane full of UN delegates. Very conveniently, the crash happens quite close to the Roman coins, where Dirk already happens to be, so Dirk gets well involved in the skullduggery which ensues from the air crash.

Dirk manages to come out on top of both problems, and although the book was 600 pages long, I think I got through it rather faster than the preceding book I read, which was only about a third the length.

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