I have gone through a bit of a dry spell lately when it comes to finding fiction reads that have held my attention. I have picked up and put down a pile of books, searching for one that would keep me turning pages. Well that drought has broken…in a big way, with three new books all hitting the mark.
Robert B. Parker’s Slow Burn – Ace Atkins (G. P. Putnam Books)
Veteran writer Ace Atkins continues to helm the ongoing continuation of the Robert B. Parker Boston P I, Spenser series of books. Atkins has steadily honed in on Parker’s timeless characters and continues to not only deliver great stories, but also evolve one of Parker’s final character creations Zebulon Sixkill. It would be easy to see that evolution continue, with Z getting his one stand alone series.
In Robert B. Parker’s Slow Burn Atkins has Spenser taking on finding answers for a series of arson fires that is plaguing Boston. The first arson involved an abandoned Catholic church and left three firefighters dead. The torch is part of a trio of near-do-wells who on one hand desperately wannabe firefighters and who think they are “helping” Boston’s bravest to get the assets and appreciation they deserve.
That justification starts to when more firefighters and victims start to get hurt and the torch becomes unglued. Atkins mixes in some of the usual suspects with new players and ends up with another winning effort.
The Second Life of Nick Mason (A Nick Mason Novel) – Steve Hamilton (G. P. Putnam)
Sometimes the concept just isn’t enough; it’s the execution that matters. Multi-award winning novelist Steve Hamilton has launched a new series featuring lead character Nick Mason. In The Second Life of Nick Mason, here is the concept; Mason is five years into knocking down a 25 year sentence the old-fashioned way, one day at a time. Then out of the blue a locked up crime kingpin requests a meeting. After a time, Mason gets an offer he can’t refuse; if he plays along, the kingpin can make things happen and get Mason set free.
It’s a great concept, at what cost freedom? Mason is willing to strike the deal, with strings attached. It doesn’t take long to find out what those strings involve. Mason is forced to confront not only his new “arrangement” but ghosts from his past. The conflict and inner turmoil are compounded by one of the cops who put him behind bars who can’t quite reconcile Mason’s new found freedom and puts him squarely in the crosshairs.
Hamilton executes on the concept and sets the table for the Mason series to be a winner going forward as he ratchets up the tension not only within the lead character, but also with the players he is forced to deal with.
The Fireman: A Novel – Joe Hill (William Morrow)
Award winning, bestselling author Joe Hill serves up a novel, The Fireman that details a devastating, worldwide pandemic of a plague dubbed Dragonscale, that causes it’s victims to self-combust and threatens to reduce the world to a pile of ashes.
While some may draw a comparison to The Walking Dead, but they would be off base. While unlikely heroes emerge during the story, Hill creates an imaginative tale that given his experience writing graphic novels (Locke and Key) are strikingly visual, but wildly different than the Dead. There is a level of desperation that propels the story forward and keeps you locked in.My only quibble with The Fireman, is Hill’s need to make snarky, off hand comments that don’t seem to fit the story. Conservative, talk show host Glenn Beck self-combusts early on in the book and when a hospital security guard wrestles the Fireman to the ground with a chokehold, Hill references Eric Garner. Okay we get it; Hill, like his father Stephen King, a liberal douche bag. I have never understood why writers and other artists feel the need to turn off potentially half of their audience.