Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “Crime”

taralovesbooks’ #CBR4 Review #44: Freedomland by Richard Price

Cannonball Read IV: Book #44/52
Published: 1998
Pages: 736
Genre: Crime/Thriller

A friend recommended this book to me years ago, but I never got around to picking it up. I found it in a used book store a few weeks ago and decided to give it a try.

The premise is pretty simple for such a long book: A white woman (Brenda) wanders into an emergency room with bloody hands saying that she was carjacked by a black man in a mostly black neighborhood. Then she tells the cops that her four-year-old son was in the back of the car. This sets off a long string of events that causes a huge racial conflict between the black neighborhood (Dempsey) and the neighboring white town (Gannon) that Brenda lives in (and her brother is a cop in).

Read the full review in my blog.

Karo’s #CBR4 Reviews #18, 19, 20: “Der Metzger muss nachsitzen”, “Der Metzger sieht rot” and “Der Metzger bricht das Eis” by Thomas Raab

Since I already reviewed one book of the series, most of the general information is out there, so it makes sense to cram all three books into one review.
Once started on this Austrian detective series, neither me nor my sister could stop reading, and so we spent our summer devouring all the missing titles. I mentioned it before, but it bears repeating: Thomas Raab is a master of language. He’s overdoing it, but in such a clever way that you don’t mind it all. Willibald Adrian Metzger is a loveable anachronism (even in Austria, which in the eyes of a German person generally seems quite eccentric with its funny dialect and odd little words – and there you have your German/Austrian stereotyping in a nutshell, you’re welcome). He takes it slow, works as a restorer, doesn’t own a mobile phone and is still getting used to accomodating the woman of his dreams in his life. But bad things keep getting in his way, and he muddles his way through them.
In Der Metzger muss nachsitzen, the first in the series, Willibald’s best-forgotten past catches up with him, in the shape of his old school bully. While trying to help his detective classmate solve the case, der Metzger needs to confront his past, which he’d rather not, but he comes out stronger and with the woman of his dreams by his side. What sounds like a classic storyline is very funny, sweet and at times critical. All in just the right amount.
Der Metzger sieht rot sees Willibald in a surrounding that is definitely not his cup of tea: As a witness to death and intrigue on the football pitch. Dragged into the underbelly of modern football culture by his beloved, he gets into mortal danger while having to deal with Danjela’s near-death. Once again, there’s a slowness and deliberation to Metzger’s journey that is quite intriguing and sweet. In this novel, though, Raab’s criticism of society, morals and politics is being voiced much more clearly, and the novel makes for a much darker read with an ending that would fit any contemporary thriller.
Raab’s latest offering, Der Metzger bricht das Eis, is set in yet another part of Austrian life: A ski resort. When a homeless person saves a child’s life in front of Willibald’s eyesand is later found murdered, the reluctant hero takes his friends to the ski resort that seems to be connected to the dead man. Much danger and hilarity ensues, a family history is revealed and another one exposed, and der Metzger gets in more trouble than is good for his or his reader’s nerves. All in a day’s work.
It’s probably just as well I’m out of Metzger novels for now, because it is possible to get enough after a few books. They are brilliant in themselves, but any crime series runs the risk of seeming a bit too formulaic after a few books, so it’s a good idea to take a break. Also, and this is something I’ve had to deal with in a few novels before (although everyone I’ve told this assured me it was just me): Willibald Adrian Metzger is just too perfect. He’s not, of course, but Raab does such a good job of making him likeable, I found myself feeling unworthy. This perfect teddy bear of a man is just so good, and he likes just the right things and despises all the bad things that I just can’t help but have in my life (mobile phones, a love of talking and occassional bouts of silliness, and not-so-well-defined political views). After two books, I felt that while I’d love to meet Willibald in real life, he would not choose to hang out with me. And that made me sad. Am I really alone in feeling that way, faced with literary heroes?

Bothari’s #CBR4 Review #45: Open Season by Linda Howard

I’m not a big romance reader, but this book seemed to cover all the clichés I’ve heard of or come across in the few I’ve read. Daisy is a spinster librarian, living with her spinster aunt and mother. She meets the new sheriff in town, who is too big, too forceful, too sure of himself, and instantly dislikes him. She decides to turn over a new leaf after taking stock on her 34th birthday, gets a makeover, and goes on a husband-hunt.

Just from there, you know exactly where the book is going, right? It’s like paint-by-numbers. Daisy gets hottified, Sheriff Jack gets under her skin, and they fall madly in love after the worldly strong man teaches the delicate flower the ways of the world. And all that happens, yes, but the interesting part is the sex trafficking, date-rape murders, and attempted killing of Daisy in the middle of the book.

Jack is going undercover at local dance clubs and bars, looking for suspicious men who might be behind the string of dead young women (overdosed on GHB) in the area. He rescues naïve Daisy, fresh on the prowl after her makeover, from some sketchy characters, and the two start talking. When she witnesses a man’s murder in a bar parking lot, Jack jumps into action to protect her, find the men who are looking for her, and solve the crime before she becomes the next victim.

This was my first Linda Howard book, and I thought it was interesting how she would set up a scene so I thought I knew exactly where it was going, then she’d turn it on its head. The clichés actually worked when she mixed them up with such non-romancey plotlines. The damsel in distress bit seemed to work better when the love interest is ex-SWAT, and she has actual reason to lean on him rather than “I couldn’t possibly, I’m just a girl!” The writing was good, and Daisy and all the supporting characters were very likeable. It was much funnier than I expected, especially considering every other chapter is about a string of criminals who sell young girls into sex slavery. She strikes a good balance between light and serious.

rdoak03’s #CBR4 review 36: Trace by Patricia Cornwell

Medical examiner Kay Scarpetta head back to her old office in Virginia to solve a mystery, or two, or three. The trace evidence tells a story no one can believe, and links three crimes to one creepy dude. Read my full review here.

Karo’s #CBR4 Review #10: The Vault by Ruth Rendell

I’m a creature of habit, and I do need my quick crime fix. Although her last offerings were a bit disappointing, I picked up The Vault in my Lovely Library, looking forward to lazy mornings on the sofa with my book while the washing up waited patiently in the kitchen. It is a quick read, and the quality of the writing is exactly as you would expect from someone who must be a little old lady now, publishing a book each year. It’s hurried, but then that’s how I was reading it.

Based on the happenings in an earlier Rendell novel, A Sight for Sore Eyes, the novel opens with the discovery of four dead bodies in a coal hole of a nice villa in a nice London neighbourhood. Inspector Wexford, now retired, is spending some time in the capital, meets an old colleague and is asked to advise on the mystery. The problem of bringing in Wexford solved, all is back to normal. He walks around town, talks to people, is still very much in love with his wife, struggles with his feelings towards the daughter who’s not his favourite, and is pretty much the same old policeman we know and love (and got ever so slightly bored with). The case itself is not particularly exciting, as always, it’s the characters that make the book interesting, although they, too, have become set pieces. A bit more narrative exploration would have been good.

And there are the usual things that bug me: The fact that each case or problem is mirrored in the behaviour of Wexford’s children or friends. The increasingly embarrassing use of markers to place the novel in time (Do we really need to know what movies were shown in cinemas when this is supposed to take place? Great research there…). And, this time, the way you can trace how and when the author fell out of love with one of her characters: At first, the inspector on the case is portrayed as a great guy, until suddenly Rendell gets increasingly mean in her descriptions of him. It might be a clever way of showing how someone as used to his old ways as Wexford reacts to a new environment and working with new people. Or it might just be a case of Rendell changing her mind about him in the middle of writing. Overall, Rendell’s novels are still a great deal better than most crime fiction, although if you’re new to her books, do start with the older ones. It’s not necessary to have read A Sight For Sore Eyes in order to understand The Vault, but it’s a much better book.

Cfar1′s #CBR4 review #06 of Elmore Leonard’s Raylan

I picked a horrible year to try a Cannonball read, even just a partial one.  I recently started a new, sort of, assignment at work, only due to the state’s weird hiring practices, I have spent the last 2 months, and will spend most of next month, working 2 caseloads.  I’ve done lots of reading, but I doubt many of you would appreciate my reviews of various policy manuals dealing with the supervision of high risk offenders.  Plus I doubt my agency would find my reviewing them very amusing.  I also received my first foster child in February and I am getting on the job parenting training.  Fortunately supervising felons and raising children require a very similar skill set and sense of humor.  Anyway, my pleasure reading has taken a beating but I am too stubborn to give up so here is a belated review.  I should have two others posted soon.

I have somehow avoided reading Mr. Leonard’s books despite having seen many movie and television shows based on them.  How I managed to avoid such a prolific writer for so long, I have no idea.  Recently while in the library, I managed a few seconds between hunting down Pokemon and Dragon Ball Z books to sneak into the adult section.  Based on the fact I like Justified, I felt it was time to give Mr. Leonard a good try so I grabbed 3 books, a western, a Raylan Givens book and another book with a recurring character.  I meant to get Pronto, but grabbed Raylan by accident.  I don’t know whether it is the same in the first two books about Raylan Givens, but this book felt less a novel and more three  short stories that happen to be tied together by sharing some common events and characters.  From researching a little after reading, I wasn’t the only one to feel this way, and other people more familiar with the author say this was not the best introduction to his work.   Despite this opinion, I read the book fairly quickly.  Leonard’s style is very easy to read. Despite the title, Raylan Givens seems almost an afterthought in most of this book.  The first chunk of the book deals with a couple of rather dim-witted drug dealers who branch out, with help, into a weird extortion scheme where they remove a victim’s kidneys, then try to sell them back to him.  From there it moves into a mining company that more or less bullies everyone that disagrees with them, which happens to be most of the community, resulting in a murder, and onto a group or strippers turned bank robbers and a rather sexy poker playing coed who skipped out on a warrant.  The stories are tied together mainly by a few characters appearing in two or more stories.  Raylan isn’t developed as a character at all, but does get to shoot some people.  I am fairly sure this book was probably put out to capitalize on the television series and as such Raylan is portrayed more like the series on television and less like the previous books.  I am glad i picked up a couple of other books though, as I want to see what Mr. Leonard can do.  I like the style,  dialogue and humor enough to want to see what it’s like when there aren’t any restraints on it.

ElCicco#CBR4Review#25: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Gone Girl is a twisted psycho-thriller/mystery that is hard to put down once you start reading. If you have heard anything about this novel, you know that very little about the plot can be told without spoiling the story. In short, this is about Nick Dunne and Amy Elliott Dunne. Both professional writers, they meet in New York in the late ’90s, fall in love, and get married. Amy’s parents are psychologists who have written a series of very popular children’s books featuring the character “Amazing Amy” based on their daughter. Amy is wealthy, intelligent and beautiful. Handsome, witty Nick is from a working class midwestern family. His father, now suffering from Alzheimers in a nursing home, was abusive to his wife and twins Nick and Go (Margo). When Nick and Amy lose their writing jobs in the recession and Go tells Nick that his mother is dying of cancer, the couple moves to Nick’s home town, New Carthage, MO. Go and Nick use Amy’s money to open a bar in the struggling town, where the recession has taken a toll. Then, on their fifth wedding anniversary, Amy disappears. It looks like foul play, but there is no body, no ransom note.

The rest of the story really can’t be explained without spoiling it. The plot gets gritty and disturbing as Flynn takes you inside the minds of critically flawed characters and a genuine sociopath. The resolution to the story is downright creepy but brilliant. I remember feeling the same way after reading some of Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine’s and PD James’ novels, which likewise feature brutal crimes and disturbed but very intelligent perpetrators.

Flynn takes the reader on a roller coaster ride.  You will think you have it figured out, only to be surprised by Flynn’s brilliant plot twists. I like the way she constructs the narrative, alternating between Nick’s point of view in real time and entries from Amy’s diary. One of the side themes in the story is journalism, particularly TV journalism, with its sensationalization of crime stories. Every reporter is trying to get the scoop but brings his/her own prejudices to the story. By the same token, Flynn manipulates her readers’ opinions of characters throughout the book. It can be unsettling, and I loved it. Flynn’s creativity and imagination are stunning. This is an excellent summer book choice.

sunnywithahigh’s #CBR4 Review #7: Sophie’s Legacy, Lesley Elliot

In January 2008, 22-year-old Sophie Elliott was packing up her life. She was preparing to move from her family home in Dunedin, NZ, to the country’s capital of Wellington to take up a post at the Treasury. Sophie’s mother Lesley was helping her get ready for the big move when Sophie’s ex-boyfriend, Clayton Weatherston, showed up. Weatherston was a tutor of Sophie’s at her university, and they had an intense on-off relationship; Sophie had recently disclosed to family and friends that he had assaulted her and it was over.

Weatherston disappeared with Sophie into her room. She returned to her mother within five minutes, saying Clayton was just sitting there, not speaking. It was the last time Lesley Elliott would talk with her daughter. Sophie went back to her room, and was stabbed 216 times by Weatherston.

Written by Lesley Elliott, Sophie’s Legacy recounts the story of Sophie’s brutal murder, and the trial of her killer, Clayton Weatherston, as experienced by Sophie’s family. The book also serves as Elliott’s way of restoring her daughter’s character, which was viciously attacked over the course of the trial in the defence’s efforts to discredit Sophie and minimise – even justify – Weatherston’s actions. Finally, it is a warning to young women like Sophie, who might find themselves caught up in similar situations, to get out before it is too late.

I would say the opening chapters are the hardest to read, but really, the entire book is a struggle. It’s one of those books that is hard to review, a gut-punch of a story that you cannot criticise but merely try to digest. I finished it just under an hour ago, and I’m still struggling. Elliott does not hold back, laying her grief, anger and loss bare, and as a result, any reader would probably be left reeling. Elliott’s honesty in describing what happened to her daughter is admirable – she states that she “wrestled” with how much detail to give but acknowledges that “we have to face reality”. Through her diary entries, photos, and efforts to get contributions from others about her beloved daughter, Elliott has established a clear picture of Sophie and the tragedy of her death.

It is testament to the Elliott family’s strength that they have salvaged something from the horror they have been through. Lesley Elliott writes about creating the Sophie Elliott Foundation, which aims to “raise awareness about the signs of abuse in dating-relationships”. She and her husband also advocate for changes to New Zealand’s justice system, so that other families do not have to go through seeing their murdered loved ones seemingly ‘put on trial’.

This is a harrowing read, but one worth going through.

For more information about the foundation and issues raised in Sophie’s Legacy, go to http://www.sophieelliottfoundation.co.nz

xoxoxoe’s #CBR4 Review #27: The Central Park Five: The Untold Story Behind One of New York City’s Most Infamous Crimes, by Sarah Burns

Author Sarah Burns takes readers through the infamous 1989 Central Park Jogger case in The Central Park Five: The Untold Story Behind One of New York City’s Most Infamous Crimes. Five young men, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, Korey Wise, Yusef Salaam, and Antron McCray, who came to be known as the Central Park Five, were all convicted of the rape of Trisha Meili. Over a decade later, the actual rapist, Matias Reyes, confessed, and the young men’s convictions were overturned, but the case is still surrounded by controversy.

Burns’s main agenda is to underline the racism that contributed to the arrest and conviction of the youths. She digresses into multiple historical accounts of lynchings; of innocent black men who were tortured and hanged after being accused of raping a white woman. They are sobering stories, but don’t completely parallel what was believed at the time to be a gang rape of a young woman. Burns makes a good case for the police forcing confessions and not looking for an alternate suspect, but considering the multiple related crimes perpetrated by the kids that evening, and the severity of Meili’s injuries, their tunnel vision, while unjust, is understandable. “The detectives who interrogated them believed that they were guilty from the start, and the legal – if questionable – tactics used by those detectives to extract the confessions, along with other subterfuges that probably crossed the line, caused a series of reactions in all the young men, and sometimes their families, which eventually led to coerced confessions.”

But not just the police were bent on painting the boys as guilty before they had even been tried, “… Media coverage also employed blatantly racist language and imagery. Animal references abound. When referring to the suspects, the words Wolfpack and Wilding were used hundreds of times and came to be emblems of the case, a shorthand that nearly everyone used and that still elicits memories of the Central Park Jogger’s rape in many minds.”

Burns objects to the terminology, but her description of the night’s events confirms that the group of teens, although not rapists, were a roving group who set out to do some damage. They attacked a man they called “the bum,” a pair of tandem bicyclists, and several male joggers during the course of the evening.

I lived in New York at the time of this case. I don’t remember it as being as depressed and crime-ridden as Burns reports — New York has always been a city where crime happens and people, especially women, are afraid to walk through a dark park at night. But what happened to the Central Park Jogger, the violence of the attack, and the belief that it was part of a larger series of crimes, struck fear in New Yorkers, especially women. There were, as Burns writes, countless sensationalized reports on the television news and in newspapers about “wildings” and “wolfpacks.” She relates all the finger-pointing that went on in the media to keep the story alive and to continue to cast blame on the boys and anything else reporters could think of — it’s the teens’ fault, their parents’, the state of the city, society as a whole.

The trials were a circus, with so many suspects being tried at the same time, and by less than competent lawyers. No DNA or semen samples could be connected to any of the teens in the park that night, or the ones on trial for rape. The media, including the New York Times and Daily News reported as much. A column in Newsday reported, “we are waiting to see if there is any believable evidence that will connect these kids to the crime. So far, we haven’t heard any.” But the weak case that the prosecution put forward didn’t seem to matter.

The detectives lied. The teens lied. Meili had no memory of the attack. But it was still enough for the jury to find them guilty and for the judge to sentence them as adults. Five other teens involved in the park attacks that night all pled to lesser charges. Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, Korey Wise, Yusef Salaam, and Antron McCray were convicted. Because they were juveniles (apart from Korey, who was 16 when he was arrested), their terms were limited to 5-10 years. In a rare show of compassion, hard-as-nails Judge Galligan only imposed a 5-15 year sentence on Korey for assault.

Burns describes the crime spree that the real rapist, Matias Reyes, also known as the Eastside Slasher, went on prior to the attack in Central Park. He attacked and raped several women, usually in their own homes, after following them, or making some excuse to enter their apartment. He raped and killed one young pregnant woman while her three young children were locked in a nearby bedroom. He was eventually caught and covicted and sentenced to 33 years to life in prison.

Amazingly, years later Korey and Reyes found themselves more than once at the same prison facility, and in late 2001, after talking with Korey and feeling guilty, “Reyes confessed to a prison employee that someone else at the prison was serving time for a famous crime that he had in fact committed.”
Although the reader knows in general how the story will come out, Burns still tells a compelling, suspenseful story.

Although the Central Park Five have all been declared innocent, the case, in some ways, is far from over. The NYPD, nervous about how the overturned convictions reflected on how they ran their original investigations, came up with their own report discounting the new findings and Reyes’s confession. There is a civil case against the city, police, and prosecutors still pending. Burns has collaborated with her father, documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, on a theatrical film based on her book. Hopefully this book and the film will help to finally bring to light the innocence of the Central Park Five and what happened on that night in New York all those years ago.

Article first published as Book Review: The Central Park Five: The Untold Story Behind One of New York City’s Most Infamous Crimes by Sarah Burns on Blogcritics.

You can read more of my pop culture reviews on my blog, xoxoxo e

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TylerDFC #CBR4 Review 14 Drive by James Sallis

This book is very short so this review will be, too.

I will start with what I’m sure anyone reading this is wondering. Is the movie better?  Yes. Like Jaws, The Silence of the Lambs, and Fight Club the movie is better than the book. First off, Drive is more of a novella than a book. It is written in very short chapters, the characterization and dialogue is spare, and the entire story is very light.

We meet Driver on the floor of a motel bathroom surrounded by dead bodies and trying to motivate to get the hell out despite losing a massive amount of blood after being shot in the arm. The story then flashes back to how he got in this predicament and keeps bouncing all over the place throughout. James Sallis gives the book a noir feeling and the narration is very hard boiled, almost to the point of parody. Driver works as a stunt driver, but after his friend is killed in a botched job he becomes obsessed with tracking down those responsible and murdering everyone in his path.

That was the sorta gist of the movie, but here it is actually just a sub plot. We learn about Driver’s childhood, his teen years, and how he became the way he is. For those that have seen the movie, the revenge/pay back aspects go down differently. Also, there is no romantic angle in the book like in the movie. There is some great dialogue and it is blackly comic at times, but the story has been told a thousand times and there is nothing new here. It’s a fun crime thriller, but don’t expect it to stick with you. I read it a week ago and can’t remember the names of any characters other than Driver.

For fans of the movie it’s worth reading just to get some back story on Driver and the other characters. For everyone else, just watch the brilliant movie. It tells a better story with more style.

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