After two biblically oriented novels,  reading a novel set in our millennium with all the techno stuff and modern mores was a welcome change.

Author :  Lincoln Child

Publication Date :  October 31, 2006

Publisher :  Anchor

ISBN-10: 0307275566

ISBN-13: 978-0307275561

No. of  Pages :  416


The Story :

Consider this :  a matchmaker that can faultlessly predict your soul mate.   No more senseless dates, no uncomfortable and embarrassing encounters, no more guessing games.  Meet the spouse of your dreams!  For a service worth every penny,  Eden Inc., provides its daily hopefuls with matches made in heaven.  The secret behind this behemoth company’s success is a sentient computer program that can, aside from finding perfect couples,  creatively develop its own problem-solving skills and learn from its mistakes.

But Eden Inc.’s smug confidence cracks  when a very happily matched couple  (with a rare compatibility rating of  a hundred percent) is found dead with what looks like a double suicide.  The company hires a forensic psychologist, Christopher Lash, to investigate the tragedy of such a perfect union.

No motives or inclinations for self destruction nor murder appear to explain the deaths and Lash is stymied. The company seems puzzled as well.  And then, the next super couple is found dead, too, from suicide.  Lash intensifies his hunt; but the perpetrator launches a detrimental campaign against him.  As Lash works obsessively to piece the impossible enigma together,  someone with the clout and technology, changes his personal data so that Lash finds himself in a dangerous mess.  He must solve the riddle of the deaths to save himself as well.

The Review :

The first chapter opens with the neighbour resolving to investigate why the Thorpe baby, who hardly ever cries,  is unendingly squalling next door.  She enters the house and sees that:

“…the infant was strapped tightly into her high chair, facing the living room.  The little face was mottled from crying, and the cheeks were stained with mucus and tears.  Maureen rushed forward.  “Oh you poor thing.”…. she fished for a tissue, cleaned the child’s face.

But the crying did not ease.  The baby was pounding her little fists, staring fixedly ahead, inconsolable.

It took quite some time to wipe the red face clean, and by the time she was done Maureen’s ears were ringing with the noise.  It wasn’t until she was pushing the tissue back into the pocket of her jeans that she thought to follow the child’s line of sight into the living room.

And when she did, the cry of the child, the crash of china as she dropped the cookies, were instantly drowned by the sound of her screams.”

This ends the first chapter after which the reader is hooked and reeled in to read some more and find out : “What did the neighbour see?”.  It isn’t until chapter five that the author reveals what could possibly have frightened the neighbour.  By this time, one is already riveted enough to keep the pages turning.

Here we have death, mystery, impossibilities, and an enigma that seems to defy logical explanations.  The reader is compelled to turn page after page to see how the author resolves the quandary at which he keeps the reader wondering as well.

Unfortunately , the whodunit aspect of the story unravels to a disappointing revelation.  Perhaps this reviewer is simply jaded by the same plot ending as those of numerous science fiction movies on artificial intelligence, which have been popping up for several years now.  The conclusion seems to be a hackneyed modification of many a techno thriller with sentient computers as their focus.

Perhaps, if the A.I. theme were new and less explored, this book would be a blockbuster with a great, surprise ending.  But since this isn’t the case anymore, it’s a “roll-your-eyes”, “aww…not again” story that may make some want to throw the book after having had their anticipation built up most of the way.

This doesn’t take away, though , Child’s superb skill for suspense-thriller writing.  Being half of the great Preston-Child writing partnership of many outstanding suspense-mystery-thrillers, Child is no average author of this genre.  He does know how to grip one’s attention, build incredulity and suspense, and elicit steady page-turning well into the night.  For this novel, he cranks out at full speed all the way through the finish line; although around one-eighth of the way before the end, the effects are diminished considerably by the corny predictability of it all.

Please bear in mind, however, that this review is from a perspective of one who is simply tired of the same themes on artificial intelligence in science fiction stories.  If you have not yet been overly fed with a such a diet, this novel would be a terrific one to lose yourself in.

To Read Or Not To Read :

Since I can’t discuss what I mean by the same A.I. theme without the revealing the spoiler, the reader will just have to find out by himself.  (I’m sure those who’ve had a good share of sci-fi movies, know by now what I’m talking about.)  Again,  if you haven’t watched much on computers and robots, then you’ll thoroughly enjoy this novel to its very end.  Otherwise, be prepared for a mediocre landing.

In A Nutshell :

It’s all about The End.  Here’s wishing that the author, having come up with a very strong beginning and having been able to sustain its pounding plot with irresistibly interesting events, chose his villain more creatively  in order to bring this book to a table-slapping, satisfying conclusion.

Once more, despite its mostly exhilarating eventualities and puzzling “whos”, “hows”, and “whys”, I must rate “Death Match” with the feeling it left me after I’ve turned the last page.

My Mark :  Good (Could have been better…)

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The little blurb promising a creative and unusual “alien” mystery thriller just leaped out at me from the back cover and compelled me to snatch this one up from a book sale.

Author :  Frank M. Robinson

Date of First Publication : April 1999 (Hardcover)

Publisher :  Forge


Date of Publication for This Edition :  April 2000 (Mass Paperback)

Publisher :  Tor Books

ISBN: 0-812-54164-2

No. of Pages :  347

The Story :

Suppose there were a society of aliens whose existence we know nothing about, living among us for over 35,000 years?  What if they look like us, talk like us, and have imbibed all cultural nuances to seem human?  What if they were your best friend, your nice next-door neighbour,  or your teacher at school?

This isn’t your average  UFO invasion/ body-snatcher story.  The creatively original concept here is that the aliens in our midst are hominids but not homo sapiens; rather they are a different species, who almost lost the fight for survival some 35,000 years ago and have learned to assimilate with the dominant species, us, in order to survive, albeit in small clusters, waiting for the time when they, too, shall have dominion over the earth.

Participating in an autopsy of a sixty- plus- year-old male who died in accident,  Dr. Larry Shea makes this exciting but unfortunate discovery.  The victim possess muscles, bones, and inner organs which were as healthy and strong as a those of a thirty year old.  Measurements of the cranium, heart, etc. are also significantly different from humans, so that  he concludes that the man was not a man after all — not within the biological parameters of homo sapiens.  Dr. Shea prepares to share his discovery with his friends in the Suicide Club, an organization among a group of professionals whose  ties go back to their younger, reckless days.  But, he is murdered before he is able to do so.

Artie and Mitch, two friends from the club, decide to investigate his mysterious death.  Soon, they discover the bizarre and terrifying reason and become the next targets while other members are picked off, one by one, as well.  The killer must be part of the club and they must find him before they become victims, themselves.

The Review :

With the aliens assuming an anthropological nature,  Frank Robinson does  a refreshingly clever and original take on the tired and hackneyed aliens theme with “Waiting“.   This time the aliens are of our earth, just a different branch of the homo genus.

With this unique concept, Robinson blends in a whodunit theme and crafts this sci-fi mystery thriller with a deft hand.   He opens the book with a strange murder and proceeds to compel our reading through skillful manipulation of plot events so that,  as one with the main character, Artie, the reader isn’t quite sure whom to trust as well.

Frank Robinson writes like a typical man would — straightforward and decisive.  His characters seem pretty much like his writing, too — not given to much sentimentality and exuding a no-nonsense quality that would appeal to a lot of male readers.

There is a very strong environmental message in this book, being that man and his activities are the prime factors  for various ecological collapses.  Furthermore,  nature has its own way of addressing its own survival and so as prime factors of destruction, it may well serve us to take serious heed.

Robinson concludes the novel with a good twist to render this book, a very enjoyable read.

My Mark  :  Very Good



Author        :  James Rollins

Date of  First Publication : April 26, 2005  (Hardcover)

Publisher    :  William Morrow


Date of  This Edition’s Publication :  May 2006

This Edition’s Publisher  :  Avon Books

ISBN-13:  978-0-06-076524-8

ISBN-10:  0-06-076524-0

No. of pages :   540


The Story :

The story opens with a crash into the year 1152.  Men of the exiled, legitimate  Pope desperately try to defend a holy relic from falling into the hands of the false pope ensconced in Rome.  They succeed.

Fast forward to the present in Cologne :  cold-blooded terrorists garbed in monk’s robes walk into a Catholic mass after the Eucharistic rites, steal the Church’s relic — the bones of the very Magi who had paid homage to the infant Christ at his birth — and leaves behind an entire congregation, dead from electrocution by Communion wafers.

The sacrilegious carnage and theft forces the Vatican to work alongside the Sigma force, an  elite unit of highly educated and specially trained soldiers for organized crime of this magnitude.  Commander Grayson Pierce , three other agents,  a caribinieri lieutenant Rachel Verona, and the Vatican’s own, Monsignor Vigor Verona, form a team to race against time and danger to solve the mystery of the Dragon Court’s deadly interest in the Magi’s bones.

The bones become the first clue which lead the team through an international hunt for clues to a treasure, far greater than anyone had ever known.  To solve the riddles, they must piece historical, religious and scientific knowledge together to unlock ancient secrets, before their adversaries gain the knowledge and purported power of the prize.

The Review :

Whoa!  What a ride!  Shock value and originality in the first few chapters make a strong start with a novel idea for mass murder:  grand scale killing of a Catholic congregation through electrocution with contaminated communion hosts.  A seemingly improbable event but as a beginning, it does grip you to stay with the book and run along with a series of marvelous historical, religious and techno tidbits which the author insists are facts, in his preface.  Such interesting details like Mithraism (an old Roman military religion that has parallels with Christian rites);  existence of the monoatomic state (m-state) of metals;  liquid body armor being developed by the military;  and the Mandylion (the purported true burial shroud of Christ that predates the Shroud of Turin) to name a few,  are dropped like crumbs on a trail for me, the reader, to eagerly lap up and broaden my knowledge on many esoteric matters,  after the story.

In fact,  the book is chock-full of trivia.  The bulging amount is quite distracting and adds more complexity to an already complicated mystery.  On occasion,  I’d wonder how matters came to be from Points A to C.  My attention probably wandered on some detail at point B.  But then, Rollins’ way of incorporating all these factual details keeps one riveted enough to stay on their reading course.

The book is highly driven like one on speed.  The author loves big bangs and surprises and uses these often;  so expect lots of jarring moments from beginning to end.  The hunt’s conclusion, though, seems both rather outrageous and a tad anti-climactic; but since this is escapism, it might do you well to just ride along.

To Read Or Not To Read?

Packing a lot of action, this book may be a good choice to pass the time. Score another for it if you do like books that inform as well as entertain. This is my first Rollins book and it just whetted my appetite for more. It’s quite a rollicking good read, one of those that holds up its end well against books of its type — hunt for ancient artifact adventure / mystery kind of novel.

Oh, there is a bit of romance involved. A weak injection by the author to…? …add more spice?…humanize the lead characters…?… touch on as much elements as he can?…whatever. Although this may annoy some , it doesn’t detract much from the excitement which this book is about.

In A Nutshell :

Map of Bones is quite the speedy suspense slash thriller slash adventure slash mystery it should be, melding the elements of history, religion, and technology, a genre mix that surely must be a James Rollins’ signature.

My Mark : Very Good

Since I’ve been on a voracious path of discovering authors,  Lisa Jackson has been on my list of authors to try.  Her name just  kept popping at me on bookstore shelves;  so finally,  I relented and included her in my growing books-to-read pile.

Author: Lisa Jackson
First Published : 1998
Publisher : Zebra Books
ISBN : 0-8217-7944-3
No. of pages : 451

Synopsis :

Mary Theresa – Marquise – a spoiled, egotistical, only slightly famous actress, suddenly disappears. Maggie McCrae, her identical twin but her total personal opposite, receives a telepathic message from her missing sister, begging for help and warning about Thane Walker.

Thane Walker is one hunky, ruggedly sexy, manly man that Marquise and Maggie have had the hots for, since their teens. The more flamboyant, daring Marquise, predictably,  had snagged the man and had left her twin’s heart in smithereens.

Now, Thane suddenly appears again in Maggie’s life and insists on helping her find Marquise, his ex-wife. Maggie desperately needs to find her twin, who could be in mortal danger. Should Maggie trust the man who had broken her heart?

Finding Marquise will open Maggie up to old hurts and will reveal new secrets about her twin that she’s never known. On top of this she has Thane Walker to deal with…

The Review :

And so goes this suspense-romance that actually reads like a B-movie. And so like one, don’t expect writing that takes pains to develop its characters or convey some dawning life realizations.

The author aims to titillate and she does a very good job with this delectable confection of a romance wrapped in a whodunit-mystery-thriller— the kind of guilty pleasure you don’t want your book-snobbish friends to know you indulge in. 😉

A great companion for the coming summer margaritas and bikinis, Lisa Jackson is another author I wouldn’t mind picking up now and then.

My Mark :  Good; Enjoyable

This book is best read alone, in a cold room under a giant comforter for several hours straight.

Author :  Scott Smith

Copyright: 2006

Publisher: Vintage Books

Published Date :  February 26, 2008

ISBN-10: 0307390276

ISBN-13: 978-0307390271

Paperback:  384 pages

Two young American couples are on their summer vacation in Cancun, Mexico.  They befriend other tourists, one of who plans to make a sidetrip to look for his brother at an archeological site.  Bored by inaction, they volunteer to accompany him for the chance to trek and see the Mayan ruins and the dig.  What starts out as a fun trip transforms into a nightmare from which there seems to be no escape.

As a writer of horror and suspense,  Scott Smith does know his stuff.  He has very good techniques that build up suspense, anticipation, and shock so that you have the strong compulsion to read ’til the very end.

For me, reading this book is like riding a roller coaster.  The first 100 pages is a slow ride to the top with occasional minor jerks to keep you interested.  Once there, the action starts and you get to taste the first belly-flopping fright.  After that there is no let-up, as the ride just gets frightfully worse, without recourse to stopping and you can’t help but grip the book, page after page of unputdownable horror.

As you face each hill and think it can’t be any worse, Smith continues to up the ante until the ride coasts gently to a complete stop and the story reaches a good conclusion.

As an aside, Smith’s real forte here is the psychological aspect of the story.  He involves you in the thinking processes of four characters by getting you inside their heads, allowing you to know how they think; so that you know why they cope the way they do, and why things happen from choices dictated by their personalities.  The author lays out how their individual coping mechanisms largely determines the group’s dynamics as the characters try to solve or adjust to their situation.  This psychological angle combined with the paranormal plus Smith’s eloquent yet graphically vivid style, makes this book a winner.

You finish, shaky but elated that you’ve paid well for an exciting fright.  Indeed, you’ll be back wanting more.  So, when the next Scott Smith ride comes to town, you’ll be the first in line.

My Mark :  One hell of a ride! — Outstanding

Author : Allan Folsom

Release Date : December 26, 2006

Former police detective Nicholas Marten gets an anguished call from an old flame who is wife to a recently dead U.S. Congressman.  She tells him she is dying of an infection, which she believes was purposely injected.  Her death immediately sends Marten off to an investigative hunt that brings him and U.S. President John Henry Harris together on a harrowing trail toward an old, secret Machiavellian brotherhood with a five-century lust for world power.

This, is a novel on adrenaline.  It’s a fast ride…so pumped up that you actually won’t mind the lack of character development.  No time for that, anyway.  With the number of plot surprises, you’ll just want to know: “What next?”.

From the first page to the last, I felt I was running on a literary treadmill, racing through pages as though I were powered on an energy drink. The action was relentless; and I came out breathless in the end.  I need to get my second wind, though, as the story will run on and on…the book is set up for a sequel.

A lot of reviews have commented that Allan Folsom could have done better and that this effort isn’t up to par with his other books.  Perhaps, true, as the only special thing about it is its whirlwind pace.  A pretty routine thriller, as Publishers Weekly would put it, and for others, a really tall tale.  But what it lacks in plausibility, it makes up for in entertainment.  Well, what’s a thriller for, anyway? Ha, ha!  Oh, and I think it’ll be great on the big screen, too.

One teensy note : There  was the “sniper element” that I felt was just extraneous to the plot. No matter, it does make a good thread for a follow-up.

I enjoyed my run with this zippy novel.  If indeed this book is sub-par, then the author must be a very good one.  This is my first Folsom book, and as it is, this novel is quite a thriller—great for those long waits at the airport.

My Mark : In between Good and Outstanding — Great!

Author : Joe Hill

Copyright : 2007

“Jude had a private collection.”

So begins Joe Hill’s first novel of an aging but successful rock star, Judas Coyne, who possesses a black hobby of collecting the bizarre, the eerie, or the perverse.  Naturally, when an obscure internet auction offers a ghost for sale,  Coyne snaps him up for a thousand dollars.  Little does he know that he would be paying more __much, much more.

The original idea of a poltergeist for sale piqued my interest in this book.  The author set a good pace; his modern  writing style made this an easy read.  He wrote with scenes that abruptly changes moods in mid-stride so you’re jolted from time to time — a pretty good technique in a horror novel.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t really feel the fear of the protagonist; so, I couldn’t feel the terror as well.  That is the failure of this book, I think.  I could just perceive anger and fierce determination in the character but not the all important feeling of terror which should be THE element in a horror novel.

I didn’t have the spine-tingling chills. I didn’t close the book in mid-paragraph because I couldn’t bear to be more scared.  And I didn’t cringe nor take to nail-biting.  For a book that wants to scare,  there were just pinpricks of chilling scenes that gave me little goosebumps, but no more…scenes like Judas Coyne finding the ghost next to him in the front seat, with yellow teeth and mad black scribbles for eyes.  Aside from these very few, nothing much gave me the thrill I was looking for from a horror novel.

But because of a well paced plot and smooth writing style, I still enjoyed the book.  I cannot say, though, that Joe Hill wrote a good horror novel.  A Heart-Shaped Box just lacked that bite of fear for it to be so.  Rather, I shall say that Hill penned a good dark fantasy instead.

My Mark : Good