The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

November 28, 2010

Patty Crane, Book Review: Three books offer depth for recurring characters

By Patty Crane
Globe Columnist

JOPLIN, Mo. — I love to read books with recurring characters, especially in the mystery and suspense genres. I like characters with depth and a great plot, and these three authors do it well.

~ John Sandford’s “Bad Blood” is the fourth novel in a series centered on BCA agent Virgil Flowers.

Virgil, who is with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, is called to a small farm community in Warren County. The local sheriff suspects that the apparent suicide of an inmate is actually murder and the chief suspect is one of her deputies.

Teenager Bobby Tripp killed a local farmer and was jailed when his attempts to make the death look like an accident failed. His death while in the custody of the deputy prompts the call to the BCA.

Not long after Virgil is dispatched to town the deputy is found dead and Virgil must determine what secrets this small town is hiding. Sandford doesn’t keep you in suspense about who the bad guys are and you know or suspect early on the secret.

The fun of this novel is Virgil himself. He has good instincts plus insight into the criminal mind and the minds of small town citizens. He sets in motion a chain of events that bring this novel to a breath-taking finish.

~ ”The Reversal” by Michael Connelly not only continues the story of Mickey Haller but also Harry Bosch, the detective that stars in many Connelly novels.

Mickey Haller is an unconventional defense lawyer whose office is the back seat of his Lincoln Town Car. He was first introduced in the novel “The Lincoln Lawyer” and this is the third in the series.

When the prosecuting attorney offers Haller a chance to sit on the other side of the courtroom as a special prosecutor he accepts as long as his ex-wife will be his co-counsel and Bosch his investigator.  

The case is to retry Jacob Jessup, who was convicted of murdering a 12-year-old girl 24 years ago, but was released when DNA evidence in the case is found not to be his. It is Haller’s job to find what that DNA evidence means and to send Jessup back to prison.

While Bosch tracks down witnesses and re-examines evidence Haller’s ex-wife, Maggie McPherson, schools him on what it is like to prosecute, not defend. The story alternates between Haller and Bosch and has many twists and turns leading to an unforgettable conclusion.

~ Lee Child (“Worth Dying For”) has created an unforgettable character in Jack Reacher. Ex-military cop Reacher is big (6-foot-5-inches, 250 pounds), strong and smart, and he lives by his own moral code.

The last novel in the series, “61 Hours,” left us wondering how Reacher escaped from a harrowing position. You can read the latest novel without reading “61 Hours,” but I suggest reading it for the background as well as entertainment.

Having left South Dakota, the scene of “61 Hours,” Reacher is hitchhiking through Nebraska on his way to Virginia. His latest ride drops him at a place with nothing but a motel and farms. Drinking coffee in the motel bar he meets and then persuades the local doctor to answer a call for help from a woman with a nosebleed.

The woman, Eleanor Duncan, is often in need of medical attention because of her husband Seth. In an attempt to right this wrong Reacher finds Seth and demonstrates how much a punch to the nose hurts.

That punch involves Reacher in a war with the whole Duncan clan. The Duncans own a trucking business and rule the county with intimidation and their own army of ex-University of Nebraska football players. Their trucks haul not only the local farm crops but also smuggled cargo from Canada.

While dealing with the army of football players sent to dispatch him, Reacher learns of and begins to investigate the disappearance of a little girl 25 years ago. As their army of football players dwindles the Duncans are determined to keep Reacher from finding out about their smuggling operation and what happened 25 years ago.

The action is almost non-stop as Reacher seeks answers and makes sure justice (at least his own brand) prevails.