Friday, October 16, 2015

Fall Fiction Finds

Duplicity – A Novel – Newt Gingrich with Pete Earley (Center Street)

No matter where you stand on the political spectrum, even if you disagree with his politics, there is no denying that former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich is a smart guy. The consistent bestseller has done it again delivering an intelligent thriller in, Duplicity.

Long time Washington Post reporter Pete Earley lends a hand and may have infused a bit of the ripped from today’s headline quality to the outing. Duplicity is an interesting bit of fact-ion as Gingrich laces not only real world actions and players into the story, but also takes the Koran and Hadith ( a collection of narratives that supposedly quote the Prophet Muhammed verbatim) at face value.

Based on the classic invisible, controlling, hand story model, Duplicity has a chilling, worst fears realized quality that will have you burning through pages.

Patriot – An Alex Hawke Novel - Ted Bell (William Morrow)

Ted Bell serves up the ninth installment in the Alex Hawke series; which finds Hawke at odds with some guys who want to do him harm…in fact they want him dead. While so many thriller writers have moved on from the Cold War, in Patriot Bell heats things up with some bad guys courtesy of Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

While the cognoscenti may scoff at the thought of Russia being one of our most difficult threats (see the reaction to Mitt Romney’s Presidential debate comment to that effect) Bell delivers a convincing fictional case that Putin would dearly love to elevate Russian back to superpower status.

Spies are dying all over the world. Hawke is on the hunt trying to tie these seemingly disparate events together with a common thread. If you are one of those folks who feel the need to latch on with a death grip to reality, the you may find this tale wholly unbelievable. For those that are so tightly bound to reality and just want to be entertained, then release the grip and enjoy the ride.

Mycroft Holmes – Kareem Abdul Jabbar with Anna Waterhouse (Titan Books)

Yes it is that Kareem Abdul Jabbar. Some may forget that the NBA Hall of Famer, multi-time MVP and Champion actually earned his degree in English and history at UCLA; perhaps it was the guidance of legendary coach John Wooden.

Jabbar is a bestselling author of numerous non-fiction books and a lifelong aficionado of Sherlock Holmes, so it’s not such a stretch that he would take a shot at telling the untold tale of Sherlock Holmes older brother Mycroft, in his fiction debut Mycroft Holmes.

Jabbar has a clear grasp on not only the period in history that book is set, but also in the style storytelling and setting of the day in which it takes place. While Mycroft played a role in many of the classic Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes tales, Jabbar adds much more meat to the more bare bones, government official in the Doyle stories.

While it is certainly a daunting task to dip into the realm of one of the most admired fictional characters of all time, Jabbar does an admirable job of spinning an entertaining tale that even Sherlockian purists will find entertaining.

Front Runner – A Dick Francis Novel – Felix Francis (G P Putnam & Sons)

Speaking of daunting tasks…imagine the challenge of taking the reins of one of the most successful mystery/thriller writer’s catalogs and continuing those series. Now add to by ratcheting it up a notch and make that masterful writer your father. That is the task faced by bestselling author Felix Francis who picked up where his father Dick Francis, the author of more than 40 books left off.

The one benefit that Felix had was the opportunity to work side by side with his legendary father, co-authoring several books before his father passed. While they are big shoes, Felix continues to do an admirable job of carrying on the family name.

While Dick Francis developed a very lean approach and spare writing style Felix does a nice job of weaving a nice level of detail into what have become a dependably entertaining series of books. He does a nice job of telling Jeff Hinkley’s story and mixing in some familiar Francis faces along the way.

The Girl in the Spider's Web: A Lisbeth Salander Novel – David Lagercrantz (Knopf)

A few years back, Steig Larsson burst onto or depending on who you believe created the thriving Swedish fiction scene and rocketed to worldwide acclaim first with the book The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and a couple of bestselling follow ups. The wave in his wake included Henning Mankell, Liza Marklund, Ake Edwardson and a handful of others who spun fantastic, intriguing tales.

The Lisabeth Salander trilogy went on to sell a reported 80 million copies worldwide and almost as quickly as he became successful, Larsson died of a heart attack at the age of 50, with a legion of fans hungry for more of adrenaline fueled tales. Into the proverbial breach stepped David Lagencrantz, to take the mantle and carry on the saga.

While many authors have been tasked with continuing storylines and characters by the likes of Robert Ludlum, Robert B. Parker, Clive Cussler, Vince Flynn and many others; those prolific writers had a much larger catalog than three books for a writer to better know the characters and style, which can be an advantage or possibly a disadvantage.
Lagencrantz does a spectacular job of locking into the tone, style and steady pacing of the storyline for The Girl in the Spider’s Web, ala Larsson’s handy work in the trilogy. Like Larsson, Lagencrantz does not grip you by the throat right from the first page, but builds the foundation of the characters and the story until you can’t stop turning pages. He perfectly meshes the new players in the story to the usual suspects from the prior books and just enough twisty turns to keep you guessing.

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