IT IS PURELY MY OPINION - Reviews by L. J. Roberts

EX – Will probably make my top 10 of the year
VG – I probably started and finished the same day.
Good  – Enjoyed very much (Good Plus) or with reservations (Good Minus). 
OK – Had some problems with it.  May read more, but this is probably not an author
I’ll collect.
NR – Didn’t work for me.  May not read more by this author.

JIM BUTCHER - Blood Rites (Roc; paperback, 2004; Harry Dresden; Fantasy Wizard/Detective, Chicago; 6th in series)

     Chicago wizard Harry Dresden has been hired to protect an adult movie set from an entropy curse that has been causing women to die., accepting the job as a favor to vampire Thomas, who turns out to be much more than an acquaintance.

*** With a blend of gore, humor and pathos, we learn more of Harrys background while he fights the monsters.  For those who like woo-woo with their mystery, this is a great series which keeps getting better, but which is best read in order.      Good Plus


QUINTIN JARDINE - Skinner’s Rules (St. Martin
’s Press; hardcover, 2004; Supt. Skinner; Police Procedural, Scotland; 1st in series)

    Scottish Det. Chief Superintendent Robert Skinner leads the investigation into what appears to be a series of gruesome murders by a single killer.  But as the investigation proceeds, he finds the local murders are linked to international political power and intrigue.

*** Skinner is the antithesis of Ian Rankin’s Rebus — tall, lean, no discernable bad habits, a close relationship with his superiors, officers, daughter and girl friend.  (It takes a bit of getting used to.)  I found this a very good police procedural with twists along the way, well done atmosphere and quite good suspense.  I’ve already ordered the next two books in the series, and would definitely recommend giving these a try.      Good Plus.


MICHAEL JECKS - The Last Templar (Headline, UK; paperback; Simon Puttock; Historical Mystery, 14th Cent. England;
1st in series)

    Simon Puttock, newly appointed bailiff of Lydford Castle, is called to investigate a fire and death thought to be accidental.  However, his new friend, Sir Baldwin Furnshill, convinces him it was murder.  When another, much more brutal, death by fire occurs, Simon has to find out whether he’s looking for one or two killers and whether one is his new friend.

*** If you’ve not read Da Vinci code and always wanted to know the history of Friday the 13th or what happened to the Knights Templar, this book will tell you.  But beneath the historical information and setting is an excellent look at life during that period, interesting characters and relationships, and a pretty decent mystery.  I definitely enjoyed this and shall definitely keep following Simon and Sir Baldwin.      Good Plus


JEFF LINDSAY - Darkly Dreaming Dexter (Doubleday; hardcover, 2004; Dexter Morgan; Psychological Thriller-Miami; 1st book)

    The title character, a Miami PD blood splatter expert, is also a sociopathic serial killer.  When his policewoman foster sister, Deb, asks him to come to a crime scene, he’s more than interested as body has been surgically cut into pieces and there is no blood, very much the style of Dexter’s own.

*** Definitely different, having a serial killer as the sympathetic protagonist.  There seems to be a rise of the anti-hero, but at least Dexter knows exactly what he is, and you are so told almost too many times.  Dexter is a fascinating character — I kept thinking of Win, friend of Harlan Coben’s Myron Bolitar.  Unfortunately he’s the only really well drawn character in the book; the others seem flat and stereotypical.  The ending was a bit unsatisfactory but the story was tight and well plotted.  There is a book two in the works and I’m certain I’ll see where the series goes from here.      Good Plus

MARCIA MULLER - The Dangerous Hour (Mysterious Press; hardcover, 2004; Sharon McConer; Private Investigator, San Francisco;
23rd in series)

    Sharon McCone has come a long way in her career, and her agency is growing.  Now it’s all at risk with the arrest of her new street-wise employee Julia Rafael for stealing the credit card of Supervisor Alex Aguilar, whom many expect to be the new mayor.  When it becomes clear that Aguilar is not all he seems and the threat escalates, Sharon and her team kick into high gear.

*** One of the strengths of this series is that McCone is a character who changes and grows over time.  I liked that this book had her looking back to realize those changes.  She’s not so independent that she hasn’t built relationships nor so tough that she has trouble dealing with her diabetic cat.  There are good supporting characters, a tight plot and plenty of suspense.  This may not be her very best book, but it’s a solid installment to an excellent series.      VG


- The Shifting Tide (Headline, UK; hardcover, 2004; Thomas Monk, Private Investigator, Victorian England;
14th Monk series)

    When Thomas Monk is hired by ship owner Clement Louvain to locate and recover stolen ivory tusks, he is also committed to find who killed one of the ship’s crewmembers.  Unknown to Monk, Louvain has also brought a very ill woman to Hester’s clinic for abused and ill prostitutes.  The consequences of these two events could be deadly for millions.

*** This is an exceptional book.  The relationship between Monk and Hester has deepened, and Anne Perry enables the reader to feel that relationship.  There is a sense of place that makes you part of Victorian London, excellent plotting, and wonderful characters including a strong secondary cast of players.  But most of all, you feel the threat and courage of the characters when placed in an overwhelming situation.  I’ve been a fan of Ms. Perry since her first book, but I had to warm up to the Monk series.  This book not only convinced me about the series, but I believe this is the best book she’s written to date.      EX


STEVEN SIDOR - Skin River (St.
Martin’s Press; hardcover; Crime Thriller, Wisconsin; 1st book)

    Buddy Bayes, a man trying to get away from his past with the Chicago underworld, is trying to lead a quite life in small-town Wisconsin.  But when women start disappearing and he becomes a suspect, people around him are attacked and he discovers that his former crime partner is after him, he goes from trying to get by to trying to survive.

*** Maybe I’ve just hit my limit of anti-heroes.  I freely state that I need to feel an affinity to the characters to really like a book.  I know others have really liked this book, but I found myself reading only to get to the end, particularly since it is known, fairly early on, who the killer is.  In fact, I felt more emphasis was spent building the other characters rather than the protagonist.  On the plus side, the book is well written and suspenseful, but I’m going back to ones where there are protagonists I like and maybe even have qualities I can admire.      OK


SHELDON SIEGEL - Criminal Intent (Putnam; hardcover, 2002;
Mike Daley and Rosie Fernandez; Legal Mystery, San Francisco; 3rd in series)

    San Francisco attorneys Mike Daley and Rosie Fernandez are partners in a law firm and ex-partners in marriage.  When they take on the case of Rosie’s niece, an actress named Angel who is accused of murdering her movie director husband, they discover there’s more involved than the silver screen.

*** One thing I like, and which makes Siegel’s books stand out from the normal legal thriller, is how little time is spent in the courtroom.  Siegel, a practicing attorney himself, focuses on the characters involved and the investigation prior to the case going to court.  And living across the Bay from San Francisco myself, I always appreciate his very accurate descriptions of the City.  While not terribly suspenseful, this is a very well done, enjoyable series, and one I continue to follow and recommend.      Good Plus


DANA STABENOW - A Taint in the Blood (St.
Martin’s Press; hardcover, 2004; Kate Shugak; Private Investigator, Alaska; 14th in series)

    Kate Shugak is hired by wealthy Charlotte Muravieff to prove that her mother, Victoria, is innocent of the crime for which she has served 30 years in prison, the arson death of her son.  But Victoria isn’t making it easy when she tries to fire Kate, and no one else in this influential Alaskan family is willing to help.

*** Kate is one of my favorite characters; she’s tough, independent, funny and, with her sights set on Chopper Jim, very sexy.  Excellent dialogue, suspense and wonderful secondary characters are a hallmark of this series.  Any time I open one of Stabenow’s books, I know I’m going to have a great read, and this certainly was no exception.  This is a wonderful book in a great series.      VG


SIMON TOLKIEN - Final Witness (Random House; hardcover, 2002; Legal Thriller, England;
1st book)

    Young Thomas Robinson is alone with his mother in her family’s 16th century home.  Two men break in and murder her after she manages to hide Thomas in a priest’s cupboard, through which he sees one of the killers.  Thomas suspects his father’s assistant, Greta, is involved, particularly when the men come back some time later looking for him, and he hears her name.

*** This was an interesting legal thriller with little time spent in the courtroom, although was interesting to see the English legal system at work.  Even though the characters were a bit stereotypical and the ending predictable, I still found myself turning the pages.  It’s a good first book.        Good Plus


COLLIN WILCOX - The Disappearance (Random House; hardcover, 1970; Frank Hastings; Police Procedural, San Francisco;
3rd in series)

Lieutenant Frank Hastings investigates the disappearance of prominent San Franciscan Carol Connoly.

*** Even though it’s lacking today’s computers and cell phones, this is a solid police procedural with great characters, dialogue, suspense and sense of place.  My greatest regret is that Mr. Wilcox is no longer with us, but reading his books is always a pleasure.      Good


Happy Reading,


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