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Throwback Thursday (21) November 29, 2012

Posted by thehypermonkey in Book talk.
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Throwback Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by The Housework Can Wait and Never Too Fond of Books. While the spotlight is always on the new releases, Throwback Thursday features a book published five or more years ago.

Title: The Beekeeper’s Apprentice

Author: Laurie R. King

Original Publication Date: 1994

Available at: Amazon Kindle Barnes and Noble

From Goodreads:

Long retired, Sherlock Holmes quietly pursues his study of honeybee behavior on the Sussex Downs. He never imagines he would encounter anyone whose intellect matched his own, much less an audacious teenage girl with a penchant for detection. Miss Mary Russell becomes Holmes’ pupil and quickly hones her talent for deduction, disguises and danger. But when an elusive villain enters the picture, their partnership is put to a real test.

This was another recommendation by my mother. She was attracted to the books because of the Sherlock Holmes slant. I liked it because it had an “audacious teenage girl.” Mary Russell is just about my favorite female mystery novel character. She’s smart and resourceful. She’s charismatic and she can impress the great Sherlock Holmes.

I also like how King handles the romance between Russell and Holmes. It’s never overly emotional or full of gushing frivolity. There may be a certain twinkle to the eye, but it’s not lewd. It’s handled with dignity and decorum as befits the great Holmes.  It’s also a partnership. Holmes is never a dictator to Russell. He treats her as an equal in intellect. He even teaches her how to disguise herself so she can tail suspects.

There are instances of misunderstanding, as in every relationship. But they’re handled between two thinking adults with conversation and communication after tempers have cooled. Holmes never treats her like an infant despite her youth. That’s what I like the most in this book.

It’s a very good read and because it doesn’t take place in our own time, it’s practically timeless. If you like mysteries this one is worth picking up!


Review – Remote control April 25, 2012

Posted by thehypermonkey in 4 stars, Foreign, Mystery/Thriller.
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Remote Control

by Kotaro Isaka

Masaharu Aoyagi, a former delivery-truck driver in the city of Sendai, is unemployed. Two years ago he achieved brief notoriety for rescuing a local actress from a robbery attempt while making a delivery to her apartment. Now he is back in the spotlight – this time as the main suspect in the assassination of a newly elected prime minster who had come to Sendai for a hometown victory parade.

Set in a near-future Japan modeled on the United States, Remote Control follows Aoyagi on a forty-eight-hour chase, in a dramatic retelling of the Kennedy killing with Aoyagi in the role of a framed Lee Harvey Oswald. A massive manhunt is underway. As Aoyagi runs, he must negotiate trigger-happy law enforcement and Security Pods set up throughout the city to monitor cell-phone and email transmissions and keep a photo record of street traffic. Can he discover why he has been set up and who is responsible? Can he find the real assassin and prove to the world his innocence – amidst media pronouncements of his guilt – before the conspirators take him out?

This book started out slow but the pace picked up a fourth of  the way in. Once the pace picks up you become completely engaged as you wonder what happens next.

The ingenuity of the plot is cunning. Each twist and turn has you guessing at what exactly is going to happen next. I thought I knew how the book ended, but I was wrong.

The way the author presents things as “all is not as it seems” is masterful. I began doubting what I knew about halfway through the book. The first fourth of the book is devoted to the chase as seen through the eyes of the media. The rest of the book is the actual chase as lived by Masaharu Aoyagi.  If anything else, this story proves that the media doesn’t always portray the truth.

This was a very enjoyable cat and mouse romp.

Review – The Devotion of Suspect X March 22, 2012

Posted by thehypermonkey in 5 stars, Foreign, Mystery/Thriller.
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The Devotion of Suspect X

by Keigo Higashino

Yasuko Hanaoka kills her ex-husband. Her next door neighbor and a brilliant mathematician, Ishigami helps her cover up the crime and allude the police. Next comes a cat and mouse game as they try to escape the suspicion of not only Detective Kusanagi but Dr. Manabu Yusawa, a physicist and college friend of Ishigami.

This book was original and it had flair. The characters were real and had flavor. They were all very 3-D.

The plot kept me guessing every which way. I never knew what was going to happen next. Ishigawa was the most brilliant by far. I’ve never come across a character like him in all my reading days.

The climax was by far the most surprising and it tied everything in nicely. It certainly didn’t disappoint me and it left me gasping! If you decide to read a thriller this book will definitely give you thrills!

Review – The Tattoo Murder Case March 15, 2012

Posted by thehypermonkey in 2.5 stars, Foreign, Mystery/Thriller.
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The Tattoo Murder Case

by Akimitsu Takagi

A female’s limbs and head are found in a locked bathroom, and all the doors and windows of the house are locked. The dismembered body is discovered by two admirers, Professor Heishiro Hayakawa, a collector of tattoo skins, and Kenzo Matsushita, the naive, lovestruck younger brother of Detective Chief Inspector Daiyu Matsushita. The police’s problems are compounded by two additional murders. A tattooed man?the brother of the first victim?is found dead and has been skinned, and victim number three, the jealous lover of the woman, is found dead from a gunshot to the head. Frustrated by their inability to solve these crimes, the brothers Matsushita, who have joined forces, enlist the services of Kyosuke Kamizu, the “Boy Genius.” Kamizu methodically analyzes the deaths, interviews the prime suspects, and quietly solves the case. Intermingled among the twisted plot is the Japanese tradition of myth and superstition, ritual, male and female relationships, the strong tradition of family and family honor, and the relationships of younger brothers to older brothers.

This book was hard to read. I bought the Kindle version and it was filled with typographic errors. There were too many to count. It was ridiculous and extremely frustrating. I think it colored my enjoyment of the book itself.

As for what I could make out of the book, it wasn’t a very decent mystery. You have what was supposed to be a perplexing crime that stumps the local crime force. It’s steeped in exotic undercurrents of the forbidden tattoo world. Then along comes the “Boy Genius” Kyoskuke Kamizu who solves it in little under a week or so.

It kind of reeked of a Sherlock Holmesian typecast setting. It just seemed ripped out of the pages of an Sir Ian Doyle novel then placed in a Japanese cultural setting. This might have been refreshing if the characters had been anything but two-dimensional.

The whodunnit was fairly obvious from the get-go. The only question for me was how. So that kept me reading until the end. On the whole though, it was a very unsatisfying read. It had me rolling my eyes and muttering under my breath.

Review – In the Miso Soup March 8, 2012

Posted by thehypermonkey in 5 stars, Mystery/Thriller.
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In the Miso Soup

by Ryu Murakami

Kenji is a tour guide of the steamy Tokyo nightlife. His latest customer is Frank who he suspects to be the killer of a prostitute.

This book is a wild ride into the seamy side of Tokyo’s sex industry. The book takes on a surreal edge once Frank gets a hold of Kenji as a client. Between the nightlife and Frank’s stories of his childhood, things get a little strange. Still, I was enthralled.

Frank is a fascinating antagonist who is at once scary as he is mesmerizing. You want to despise him. You’re terrified of him. Yet at the same time you felt for him and his dark past.

Kenji is sympathetic and is totally realistic as a protagonist. His girlfriend, Jun, helped him regain ground in an increasingly dark world.

Even though you know that Frank is the killer, it doesn’t make this one bit less thrilling. There’s still the element of the unknown as to what Frank’s actions will be, how the story will end.

The story was also masterfully done. The characters were well fleshed out. The plot was well developed. The climax was well done. It wasn’t an American ending by any means, but it was well told nonetheless. You still got the sense of what would happen from what you knew of the characters.

If you’re looking for a good thriller, you don’t have to look far.

Review – The Red Chrysanthemum March 1, 2012

Posted by thehypermonkey in 2 stars, Mystery/Thriller.
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The Red Chrysanthemum

by Laura Joh Rowland

(also available in paperback and on NOOK)

Sano Ichiro’s pregnant wife Lady Reiko has been found next to the mutilated and bloody corpse of Lord Mori. Not only is she accused of his murder, Sano stands accused of treason. The two of them must face these charges together or be executed together.

This book didn’t have much to recommend itself to. I found the characters acting in a manner that was very unlike the Japanese culture in which this book was set in. This may have been the point, but it rankled.

Sano went around accusing all the suspects point blank of killing Lord Mori without any proof in desperation. Only it didn’t come off as desperate really. It came off as blustering and blundering without a clue.  Lady Reiko did some investigating of her own with much the same effect. She did a lot of accusing of her own which made her seems just as clueless.

The dialogue was trite and unbelievable. I heaved great sighs of annoyance throughout the book.

While the climax of the book had an intellectually stimulating satisfying ending, the dialogue! The dialogue killed it!

Finally, the antics of the antagonist in her final moments before the executioner’s block had me in disbelief. It was a sub-par effort for sub-par book. All in all a very disappointing book for what is usually a very good series.

Review – Shadow Family February 28, 2012

Posted by thehypermonkey in 4 stars, Mystery/Thriller.
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Shadow Family

by Miyuki Miyabe

(not available on Kindle)

I don’t normally read paperbacks, but I’ve been drawn to Japanese authors lately. I’ll most likely be reading a lot more paperbacks in the future as a lot of these authors don’t have their titles available on Kindle.

This book focuses on the two murders of a middle-aged man named Ryosuke Tokoroda and a college student named Naoko Imai. Email correspondence from Tokoroda’s computer shows that he’s created a fantasy family on the Internet where he is the father. His real daughter, Kazumi is drawn into the interview process of this “shadow” family and the psychological thriller begins.

What I liked about “Shadow Family” is how believable each and every character was. Takegami is the lead detective in the case and he’s been pulled from his desk job to do the interrogation. He’s a very fallible detective put in this very important role which makes him very human.

Another character I enjoyed was Kazumi’s mother and Ryosuke’s wife, Harue. She was easily over-powered by her daughter and her husband. She wasn’t a strong person, but that made her all the more believable. She had a weak-willed personality and Miyabe portrayed her perfectly.

The only thing I didn’t care for about the book was that it was fairly obvious as to whodunnit. That still didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book as the cat and mouse game between the police and the perpetrator was very entertaining.

It’s a slim volume and a fast-paced story making it a quick read. I enjoyed it so much I’ve already purchased more books by this author.