The Barsoom Project by Larry Niven and Steven Barnes

Filed under:Adventure,Mystery,Science Fiction,Series — posted by Randolph on May 19, 2017 @ 4:16 pm


The Barsoom Project by Larry Niven and Steven Barnes

This books is a follow-on to Dream Park. In this, the Dream Park business is running a new simulation, an end-of-the world scenario with mythological connections. But things are going on behind the scenes. When a player dies before it should be possible, an investigation begins turning up murder and conspiracy – and a return character operating under an alias and with a hidden past.

The dream story is interesting. It was well-researched and involves some Inuit history and mythology, and we see the players drawn into an interesting culture.

However, I didn’t feel the story was as good as the previous one. The characters are a bit shallow, which is moderately typical for Niven. But the story is very creative, which is also typical. In the end, I didn’t feel as if everything was adequately explained, such as the code modifications which had to get around security and have a very good understanding of their technology. The mystery player seemed to be far to uninteresting in the end, she had a lot of potential and should have been more complex. With the weak ending and the lack of character development I can’t recommend this book.

Ochoco Reach by Jim Stewart

Filed under:Mystery,Series — posted by Randolph on March 20, 2016 @ 8:46 am

Ochoco Reach by Jim Stewart

This is Jim Stewart’s first book, and he is establishing himself among the big names in mystery novels. This novel is in the style of John D. MacDonald with a special forces-trained and capable hero, Mike Ironwood, who has a PI office in Portland, Oregon. Mike has a half-brother, Daniel, who is more spiritual and half Nez Pierce. Daniel, who was trained as a Navy Seal, provides some support.

Here, a green-eyed woman, Willimina Hayes, who has a ranch near Prineville. Someone seems to be trying to gain control of her ranch, by hook or by crook. She came to Mike just to get some answers.

In an adventure taking Mike into Mexico to deal with a drug cartel and a rogue DEA agent, there is a good mixture of suspense and action with a few surprises thrown in.

The book has interesting characters and is well-paced. I’m looking forward to the next installment.

Morning Spy, Evening Spy by Colin MacKinnon

Filed under:Mystery — posted by Randolph on February 22, 2016 @ 6:26 am

Morning Spy, Evening Spy by Colin MacKinnon

In the months leading up to 9/11, an agent is killed in a targeted shooting. The story is about tracking down his killer. The main character, Paul Patterson, is a middle-aged agent in the CIA. He is tracking down the killer in a methodical, research-oriented process. There is very little action in the story, it is more about the CIA and how it operates. As you meet each character, you get a dossier on him. There were too many for me to remember.

The book wasn’t able to make me care much for the murder victim, nor the main character. It wasn’t bad, but I wanted more.

Death Dance: A Novel by Linda Fairstein

Filed under:Mystery,Series — posted by Randolph on January 28, 2016 @ 10:14 am

Death Dance: A Novel by Linda Fairstein

This is another in the series of Alexandra Cooper. She is investigating the apparent suicide of a ballerina at the NY Met. Unfortunately, she isn’t someone the reader cares about, nor are the incidental characters. Most are flat and uninteresting, although there is some interest in a few of the interactions.

The book opened with a drug-rape scene and its ensuing courtroom actions. The judge was a mysogenist, although way over the top. He was too extreme to be believable as a character. Although probably within the realm of reality, he was too much for a book. This plot line was more interesting and more appropriate for Alexandra. Unfortunately it was a subplot and happened in the background and was resolved without much interest.

Overall the story felt flat. It wasn’t a bad mystery, but just barely held my interest.

Dreaming Spies by Laurie R. King

Filed under:Mystery,Series — posted by Randolph on January 12, 2016 @ 5:24 pm

Dreaming Spies by Laurie R. King

This is book 13 of the Mary Russel stories of Sherlock Holmes. This book is more a cultural story of Japan and Japanese culture in the 1920s than a true mystery, I’m not sure there’s enough information for the reader to solve the puzzle.

The story opens on a cruise from India to Japan. Sherlock cannot relax and enjoy the trip, he finds questions to ponder, a suspicious English lord and an odd acrobat are part of a growing mystery that involves royalty and extortion.

The Japanese culture is exposed through two unusual characters. They become closely intertwined in the mystery for most of the book. They present a cultural experience that seems extreme, but can be forgiven due to the nature of these characters.

One of the books minor themes are haiku by Basho. Each chapter begins with a haiku, presumably in the style of Basho. The haiku does relate to events in the chapter and can provide additional meaning. They are well worth reading for content.

Overall, the book has good pacing and is interesting enough to keep the reader involved. Laurie King does not disappoint her audience.

Speaking in Bones by Kathy Reichs

Filed under:Mystery,Series — posted by Randolph on October 3, 2015 @ 8:19 pm

Speaking in Bones by Kathy Reichs

A woman, Lucky Strike, approaches Dr. Brennan with questions about a disappearance, a case that was closed years ago. The woman is a web sleuth, a hobbyist detective who spends a lot of her free time investigating closed cases and discussing them on the internet.

The woman comes across as a nut, but naturally provides Temperance enough to become curious, which leads into twisty passages of an investigation.

Ramsey, a sheriff she has to deal with, is a reluctant partner, and a comes across as a bit of a chauvinist. He contrast a bit with Andrew Ryan, who wants to get married. Then things get complicated with Lucky is killed.

The solution to this one surprised me, and the story was very good, I looked for those moments when I could read a few pages. This is better than some of the more recent books, a very good read.

The Triumph of Caesar: A Novel of Ancient Rome by Steven Saylor

Filed under:Mystery — posted by Randolph on September 22, 2014 @ 8:40 pm

The Triumph of Caesar: A Novel of Ancient Rome by Steven Saylor

The investigation of the murder of a friend, Hieronymous, leads to a plot to Assassinate Caesar. Caesar is preparing to celebrate his conquests, a series of three days celebrating different campaigns. What better setting for an assassination?

The story is interesting, the reader gets an interesting glimpse into Roman life and culture. The writing is good and easy to read. This is the tenth in the series on Gordianus the Finder.

Terra Incognita: A Novel of the Roman Empire by Ruth Downie

Filed under:Mystery — posted by Randolph on June 23, 2014 @ 5:15 pm

Terra Incognita: A Novel of the Roman Empire by Ruth Downie

The first impressions of this book, normal length, short chapters. There is a list of important characters, its organization is interesting, with headings such as ‘hindered by’, ‘assisted by’, ‘endangered by’, ‘not missed by’, and such. Some of the characters have odd names such as Ingenuus, Postumus and Innocens, although if there was some hidden meaning there, I missed it.

Terra Incognita is the second book in the Medicus Ruso series. Gaius Petreius Ruso is a doctor in the Roman military service. The book is set in 118 C.E. Britannia. Ruso has an inquisitive personality and is observant of details. Although not involved in a murder investigation, even asked to keep his distance, he is compelled to study the matter and to seek answers to his questions, especially when they lead where others choose not to look.

The victim, a Roman Centurion, was beheaded, and his head is missing. An antlered man is seen about and hints that the gods are involved abound. The Roman unit’s doctor has claimed to have done it, but it doesn’t fit Ruso’s understanding of events, the military wants to punish one of the locals. Plenty is at stake.

The book is enjoyable and seems well-researched. Bits of culture and history abound through the story making it easy to become immersed. The mystery is good and well as the solution. This is a fun read.

The Monk Who Vanished (Mystery of Ancient Ireland) by Peter Tremayne

Filed under:Fiction,Mystery,Series,Sister Fidelma — posted by Randolph on March 17, 2014 @ 7:34 pm

The Monk Who Vanished (Mystery of Ancient Ireland) by Peter Tremayne

This story begins with an attempted assination of two princes, one being the brother of Sister Fidelma. It appears to be an attempt from a neighboring kingdom, one with which they have poor relations. In another event, a monk disappears with a holy relic. As Fidelma investigates, things get much more complex. In a story full of conspiracies, feints, and hidden agendas, it is difficult to discern exactly what is going on. During a court session, in a classic ending, Sister Fidelma clarifies and explains all the events.

These stories are good at teaching about life and the times of 7th Century Ireland. This story explores life in a small town, a monastery, and a little about courts and legal processes. In addition to being a great story, this is a good book for any mystery lover, and particularly those interested in historical settings.

Sacred clowns. by Tony Hillerman

Filed under:Chee/Leaphorn,Mystery,Series — posted by Randolph on March 4, 2014 @ 7:59 pm

Sacred clowns.
by Tony Hillerman

Joe Leaphorn asked Jim Chee to find a runaway schoolkid. During this investigation, he is on the scene of a murder during a Tano ceremony. This murder had similar characteristics to another murder, but they couldn’t be related. Of course all three threads tie together in a fascinating story.

Side stories include a hit and run accident. A relationship between Jim Chee and Janet Pete in which Jim has trouble resolving a possible clan violation in their seeing each other. At the same time, Joe Leaphorn is planning a trip to China with Louisa Bourebonette.

Tony Hillerman gives the reader excellent insights into the Navajo culture, especially in the way that Jim Chee resolves his personal issues. Through his investigations, we also get a glimpse into the Tano culture, a branch of the Pueblo tribes.

The book is a very good read, it keeps moving forward and has interesting developments in the mysteries.


next page


image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace