The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Globe Life

August 6, 2012

Patty Crane: Action, suspense novels great for summer reading

JOPLIN, Mo. — The heat this summer has made it a great time to catch up on some reading. Who wants to do anything else on these 100 degree-plus days? I’ve caught up with some favorite characters and discovered new ones.

In the favorite character category, I read Linda Fairstein’s 14th Alexandra Cooper novel, “Night Watch.” For those unfamiliar with the series, Alexandra is a prosecutor in the New York City district attorney’s special victims unit. She works with two of her closest friends, investigator Mercer Wallace and homicide detective Mike Chapman.

Along with murder and suspense, Fairstein incorporates historical research focused on New York City into her novels. Past novels have included the Edgar Allen Poe Cottage, the New York Public Library, and different parts of the city, such as the theater district and Lincoln Center. Alex’s current love interest is French restaurateur Luc Rouget, and this latest novel imparts some intriguing details about restaurants and food.

Alex is in France to visit Luc. Within two days of her arrival, she’s discovered ancient bones from the Paris catacombs left at Luc’s home and restaurant, consulted on the case of a woman found floating in a pond, and been chased by gun-wielding strangers on motorcycles.

What message is being sent with the bones? Who’s chasing Alex and Luc through the French countryside? And why does the murdered woman in the pond have a matchbook advertising the new restaurant Luc is opening in New York? But before Alex can begin to find answers, her “vacation” is cut short. She is called home to oversee a high-profile rape case.

The rape case involves the head of the World Economic Bureau and a hotel maid. Sound familiar? Fairstein claims to have no inside knowledge of last year’s case involving the head of the International Monetary Fund and a hotel housekeeper. She does, however, have knowledge about how such a case is handled and gives us an insider’s view of what could happen.

As the rape case becomes more complicated, another dead body with a matchbook is found in New York City. Alex, with the help of Mercer and Mike, have to find out what really happened to the hotel maid and how the events in France connect to the latest murder victim and Luc.

This is another great read in the series. It is a seven-day book but I didn’t need near that much time, as I didn’t want to put it down.

As for new characters, I discovered Steve Vail in “The Bricklayer.” Even though this book and the next one, “Agent X,” by Noah Boyd didn’t get great reviews, I like this character. He reminds me of Lee Child’s character, Jack Reacher, which is one of my favorites.

Steve is a former FBI agent, full-time bricklayer and part-time sculptor. He doesn’t use his FBI training (or a master’s degree in Soviet history) for employment because he has a pathological need to answer to no one. He also has no problem (and seems to prefer) operating outside the lines to get the job done.

We first meet him lying on the floor of a bank, vowing to use the drive-through from now on. However, two inept bank robbers are no match for the bricklayer’s skill and training. Within minutes both are disarmed and unconscious, the hostages are freed, and the bricklayer has disappeared in the crowd.

Even though he wants to remain anonymous, Vail’s heroics were noted by the FBI, and Deputy Assistant Director Kate Bannon recognizes him from the bank footage. The FBI is blackmailed and high-profile targets are executed. They need help.

The Rubaco Pentad, as the blackmailers call themselves, seem more interested in discrediting the bureau than the money they extort. After $2 million and three murders, the FBI has no suspects and is getting hammered by the press. Bannon knows they need someone with Vail’s skills to uncover the Rubaco Pentad. Now all she has to do is convince the bricklayer.

If you like action, suspense, a likable character and aren’t looking to read an Edgar Award winner, “The Bricklayer” will entertain as you avoid the summer heat.

Patty Crane is the reference librarian at the Joplin Public Library.



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