Book Reviews: Afterlife, The Force, The Late Show, The Destroyers, The Switch

By | October 31, 2017

As if you needed any more thrillers or mysteries to get you through Halloween, but if you did…

Afterlife by Marcus Sakey…Fantastic. Seek this book—about an electricity and fire-free afterlife called “The Echo” populated by “eaters” who can consume the energy of others—out now. Sakey does something incredible here: weaving together a compelling romance, tense action thriller, a historical gothic horror tale, and an elaborate fantasy world that actually feels believable. This relatively-slim work sets up an entire universe that is already being mined for a movie adaptation, but you really, really should read this book before Hollywood messes it up. Grade: A

The Force by Don Winslow…I’m a Winslow fan (not just his best work “The Cartel,” reading him for years before that), but this might be his worst book, following the head detective in a corrupt NYC task force. It’ll seem all too familiar to anyone familiar with the work of Sidney Lumet, viewers of “The Shield,” readers of James Ellroy, “Brooklyn’s Finest,” and literally dozens of other works. Derivative is not a word I would usually ascribe to Winslow, but something just doesn’t fully connect here, as much as I wish I could say this is a great contemporary update of all those classic 70’s cop noirs. It would be interesting to see just how different the relatively safe, “War on Terror” NYC is compared to its 70’s counter-part but Winslow—writing some of his most ridiculously terse tough-guy dialogue—barely acknowledges that that era is over. Grade: C

The Switch by Joseph Finder…A coffee store owner on the cusp of an important business deal accidentally switches laptops with a U.S. senator (who, natch, has Presidential aspirations in her mind’s eye) in the airport security line. What starts off as an intriguing premise is slightly undermined by the Age of Trump (the senator bares a striking resemblance to Hillary Clinton), a thin-protagonist characterization, and that the central duel is between the unlucky coffee guru and the senator’s chief of staff, shuffling the senator too far into the background. But Finder knows how to expertly find the realism in all this, and his story never strays too far outside the realm of possibility. Grade: B-

The Destroyers by Christopher Bolden…A wealthy young man’s father dies but leaves him nothing, and his last hope at a reconciliation with wealth is to reconnect with a shady old friend living a mysterious life on a Greek island. Bolden has excellent prose, and the recently-bankrupt Greek setting is a nice one to explore the shadier side of capitalism, but he doesn’t fully trust his intriguing premise. Too much of the book sardonically explains and pulls back when it should rev up and really explore its thriller roots. [As written, the book isn’t nearly suspenseful enough, and makes poor use of its title game where-in people think of how they’d survive in their immediate situation if black-masked destroyers burst in and started killing people.] Grade: B+

The Late Show by Michael Connelly…This is the first Michael Connelly book I’ve read, although you’ll know him as the author of the “Bosch” books and “Lincoln Lawyer” series. Here he introduces another franchise character, the winning Renee Ballard, a part-Hawaiin detective working L.A.’s “late show” which are crimes in the wee hours before the morning team shows up. Connelly has a talent for making the mundane details of police work pop, but I wish the two main mysteries explored here were more compelling or original (wouldn’t you know that Ballard gets entangled with a threatening suspect who likes to hurt women of a different race and a dirty cop might be involved in the other case?). Still, this is a character that would be worth following into a second round. Grade: B

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