Friday, January 16, 2009

Thrillers Again . . . reviewed by Suzanne

The Black Tower by Louis Bayard
The only son of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, the guillotined king and queen of France, was locked in the Temple Prison where he languished for years, an innocent victim of the revolutionaries' hatred of the French monarchy. History tells us he died there . . . or did he? In this historical thriller, Dr. Hector Carpentier is contacted by the great Vidocq, former convict, police spy and "scourge of criminals". Carpentier's name and address were found on the body ("Never let your name be found in a dead man's trousers.") of a murder victim. The story is told by Hector and through the entries in his late father, Dr. Hector Carpentier's, journal. The older physician recounts how he treated a young patient in the Temple Prison when Hector Jr. was just a child. The tone is witty, and there is just the right amount of pathos in the appropriate places. The characters travel around 19th century Paris, which is dirty, dangerous and rat-infested, not the City of Light it is today. Great fun and a book with heart!
Louis Bayard's Web Site

The Legal Limit by Martin Clark
Mason and Gates Hunt are brothers. While Mason went to law school, married and went on to a successful law career, Gates drank too much, did drugs and was eventually arrested and convicted for selling them. Instead of taking a plea, Gates insisted on going to trial, where he lied on the stand. Even after years in prison, he continues to cast blame, not on himself, but on his brother, who he insists could "pull strings" and shorten his sentence if he tried. Flash back to their youth, while Mason was in law school and long before Gates's conviction, when an event occurred that Mason thinks is long behind them. One night, during a confrontation with a rival over a woman, a drunken Gates killed a man. It was senseless and indefensible act of brutality. Mason helped his brother cover up the crime, and neither of them has mentioned it since that night. Now it comes back to threaten Mason. This is a top-notch legal thriller. I recommend it for fans of James Lee Burke.
Martin Clark's Web Site

The Last Patriot by Brad Thor
"At the end of the day, Harvath always did the right thing." In spite of his bravery and dedication, Scott Harvath, the hero of Thor's series, lacks the humor of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher and the sex appeal of Daniel Silva’s Gabriel Allon. The attempt to create a love life for Harvath is not convincing. He's just too serious to have fun! I’m convinced Scott would rather sleep with his gun. The books are competently written, and this one has an interesting story that hinges on a discovery about the Koran made by Thomas Jefferson. The good guys (Harvath & Co.) are trying to find an unknown document that will shed a new light on Islam, and the bad guys (Islamic extremists) are trying to find it and destroy it. I liked that this book had less graphic violence than some of the other books in the series. And it has a satisfying twist at the end. Recommended for thriller fans.
Brad Thor's Web Site

Le Crime by Peter Steiner
I picked up a copy of this book in my local independent bookstore because it's a thriller and it's set in France. The protagonist is a former CIA operative who left the agency in disgrace years previously. He also left his wife and children. When the book opens, he's living in a small town in France. One morning, sitting on his patio eating his croissant, he sees a body in his front yard. He interprets this as a warning that he is targeted for assassination. I liked that the narrator describes himself as an "old man" and contemplates his aging and sagging body in unflattering terms. There's a flashback to a pilgrimage he took through France, which is how he found the village he lives in. The plotline is thin, the reason he's being pursued by bad guys is - if I understood it correctly - ridiculous, and there are some details about other murders that were not cleared up, unless I missed something. Still and all, I was drawn to the narrator and his French comrades-in-arms, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, and I'll pick up the sequel, "L'Assassin" when I get a chance.

Reviewed by Suzanne

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