"Let's start at the very beginning, a very good place to start..." Say you've seen those books over the years, the ones with the little subtitle, "A Jack Reacher Novel", seen they were the 8th in a series, the 12th in a series, and now here comes the 16th, and you've passed them by because who wants to start in the middle? Here is the perfect chance to come on board! With 15 previous novels inspired by this Jack Reacher, you know this has got to be one interesting guy. Why now? Because The Affair is how it all got started (why nomad Jack likes his toothbrush). A brilliant idea by multi award winning author Lee Child; show the reader the etiology of the coffee guzzling, rapier witted, ex-military sleuth as he himself recalls,"I remember the date...the 11th of March 1997..." and thus begins the legend of Jack Reacher as he walks away from the Pentagon. As usual, lots of action, sharp humor, a colorful cast of characters, and a train that speeds through the one-diner town rattling more than the tracks. Dick Hill has been narrating Reacher books for a while and seems to have a great time with this one, particularly some of the scenes involving the train--talk about gusto! Childs has it down to a formula, churning out consistently top rated mystery thrillers, and while it may be predictable--it's never boring to travel along with Reacher. Reacher fans will love this one--newcomers will be jumping on the band wagon--or the train. [Next stop for newbies...#1 in the series, Killing Floor, *Now in movie production: Tom Cruise playing Reacher (some fans are up in arms) #9 in the series, One Shot.]
Two tops in their fields bring their A-game to this production and the result of this perfect union is Creole Belle. Burke is so highly regarded in the literary world that any praise seems redundant and almost cliche; if you've read his works, you know this already. One critic said that "nobody can touch Burke in lyrical expression..." Will Patton, with his smart interpretation skills, is one of the best narrators in the business. With a voice rich in texture and hypnotic appeal, he enhances everything I've heard him read. The two of them together are a match made in audible heaven. I could listen to this collaboration and be lost in words and voice - almost forget to hear the story if it wasn't so explosive.
I'm assuming that readers of this 19th in the Robicheaux series know the basics. This book picks up at The Glass Rainbow's conclusion, and begins a new adventure for the well-seasoned team of Dave Robicheaux and Clete Purcel. A darker and more complex plot than previous books, involving drug runners, human trafficking, art forgery, Nazi war criminals, the Gulf oil *spill,* and as always...a cast of characters as wonderful as their names, and the ruination of Robicheaux's beloved Louisiana wetlands. (With some fascinating, and alarming, insights in to oil rigs - Burke himself having worked on oil rigs in the gulf). Burke has stated that Dave and Clete are "actually one character; they are opposite sides of the same coin," and this time he focuses more sharply on Clete, revealing the differences, and the similarities, in this duo. He also writes more about the forces that shaped the characters in this novel. Creole Belle is comfortably familiar, but not a re-telling of the same story, and Burke somehow manages to add new dimensionality to this already dynamic team with each book.
[* an aside for anyone that might be thinking 19th?! Why jump in now?: Like many book-series, these books can be picked up at any point and enjoyed. Burke often includes backstories; some avid followers might accuse him of repeating portions of previous books, but this practice makes it possible for each novel to be read as its own story. It's more a *pleasurable advantage* to grow-up with the characters, than a *necessity*. I have read several, but not all of the previous 19 novels.]
Some readers say that Burke tends to be too poetic or reflective, that he ruminates and reminisces...my opinion (call me antiquarian)...I love listening to anything he has to say! Burke's poetic style and beautiful atmospheric writing is magical and mesmerizing to me. Just listening to Will Patton read James Lee Burke - I am captivated each time. Highly recommend.
My heart is still thumping as I pull my mind back from the dark recesses where it has been dwelling the past 15 hours...this is the stuff from which nightmares are borne. Karin Slaughter is one of our best. With her crackling originality and vivid details, she once again creates characters and events that you think could be out your own newspaper - and pray they aren't.
Followers of Slaughter will recognize this as part of the Will Trent series, something I did not know; there was no mention of "series" in the publisher's summary. But this story easily stands on its own and should not be passed by if you are worried about sequence. I speak from experience: I noticed that I'd read 2 of the books years ago and had no idea they were a series. With that said, I'm sure there is information that would have been good to have, and I am tinged green with envy of the devout followers of the Will Trent books; I can only imagine the great satisfaction this long awaited tell-all will bring to them. (I'm even considering picking up the between rerads, here's the order: Triptych, Fractured, Undone, Broken, Fallen, & Criminal).
Detective Will is baffled when his hard-nosed boss Amanda restricts him from the case of a missing girl. To Amanda, there is something eerily familiar and threatening with this case, and when the brutalized bodies start to show up, she knows she is on a collision course with Will -- a collision full of dark secrets that has been 40 years in the making --and she isn't sure she wants to reveal the answers. "Sometimes it's criminal what a woman has to do..."
One of the great mechanisms Slaughter uses is starting this book with a quiet prelude of sorts, a reverent requiem. She introduces us to Lucy,we witness her -- the young daughter full of promise, the little sister, the insecurities and drug use to control her adolescent weight -- we watch her downward slide -- the predictable addiction, string of abusive boyfriends, and eventual plunge into prostitution. Slaughter creates a human being; Lucy is a person rather than just another wretched addicted prostitute. This approach creates an emotional bond to the victims, and explains deputy director Amanda's bulldog determination, and humanity.
The story is told in a series of flashbacks, back to the 70's when Amanda was a novice detective, fighting her first case, pitted against a squad of resentful sexist males that don't want the girls around. (Remember "male chauvanist pig"?) The resistance is abussive and hard edged.The men crassly refer to she and her partner as the "slits", and at one point, when the ladies call in for back-up on Cherry Street, the male dispatcher remarks, "What's that? You want to give me your cherry." This treatment, plus the horror she witnesses in her first case bely how tough Amanda will have to become.
One noticeable change in style is Slaughter's handling of the nauseous gore.(Something that kept me from picking up another Slaughter book after I'd read 2.) Instead of her ususal in your face detail, she presents the grossities more like a quick visual spanning of crime scene photos, allowing the listener to fill in the blanks. The change doesn't affect the jolt...the story is still tight and tense with layer upon layer of pulse-pounding apprehension. The edge-of-your-seat anxiety reminded me of The Silence of the Lambs, and the creepiest deviant ever created, Buffalo Bill. The monster in Criminal is reminiscent of Bill (and they share an affinity with needles and thread...). I would have liked to see Slaughter pry into this psycho's sick mind, and think she may have missed a chance for the psychological underpinning that could have made this ghoul memorable and kept this story forever in our minds. (But do we really want that haunting us?)
I couldn't put my earbuds down--the pace was exhilarating, the execution of the narration very very good. Though harsh, I don't recall a lot of foul language, but the intense scenes may have kept my mind from noticing particular words. The flashbacks help build some backstory and character development for those just jumping into this story, but you have to pay close attention or you can lose track of which era you're in. If like me, you've been craving a smart thriller, and you don't mind a few nightmares, this may be your book. Highly recommend to fans of hard- hitting criminal thrillers.