The Expats

Book Jacket  4W, 4H  Audio

Pavone, Chris., (c. 2012).  The Expats.  Read by Mozhan Marno.  Books on Tape. 10 discs (12 hrs, 24 mins), $32.95.

ISBN: 9780307990310

Reviews

NY Times, Kirkus Reviews

Annotation:

Ex CIA agent Kate Moore becomes the picture perfect ex-pat in Luxembourg until a new couple activates her well-honed instincts and she knows their survival is at risk.

Summary:  

Kate Moore is a typical expat mom with two kids supporting her husband in his new job in Luxembourg.  She left her job, her life in Washington D.C. knowing that it was a good move for her family, hoping that her past would finally be behind her.  But she can’t ignore her CIA training when questionable behavior starts coming to her notice.  Who is this couple that has suddenly popped into their lives and what exactly does her husband do and why has he become so evasive?  Soon Kate is traveling around the European continent hoping to find answers through her CIA contacts.  Is she over reacting or is she protecting her family?  This taught tale of intrigue will keep you on the edge of your seat, uncertain as to anyone’s intentions.

Evaluation:

Although the audio book was entertaining, this type of story in audio format can get confusing with all the characters coming in and out of the scenes along with the clandestine behavior that may be easier to follow in print.  Regardless, Pavone has created a wonderful heroine who is more chameleon than mom when it comes down to survival.  The plot is full of twists and turns reminding me of vintage Robert Ludlum.  Taking the reader on a tour of modern Europe, this is a great read for anyone who loves international intrigue along with a heroine who does not just sit by and let the world determine her place in it.  She is definitely a take-action kind of girl.

Author’s Website:

Chris Pavone

Genre/Subgenre:

Fiction/International espionage

Awards:

New York Times Bestseller

Edgar Award Winner

Anthony Award Winner

Readalikes:

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest by Steig Larsson.

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown.

Book Discussion Questions:

1.  Kate’s character is constantly evolving.  Which role seems to fit her best or does she successfully incorporate them all?

2. Kate had led a double life and now is faced with the fact that her husband might be too. Is she setting a double standard or just responding to her well-honed skills?

3. Dexter sites human gullibility as a weakness yet he becomes ultimately gullible.  What makes him gullible?  Is he ultimately blameless?

4. What does this novel say about trust?  What does this novel say about marriage?

Reasons for selection:

I wanted to read something with international intrigue so I found this while on NoveList as a read-a-like for Steig Larsson’s “Dragon Series” and thought I would give it a try.  I’m glad I did.  Pavone definitely packs a punch and has the talent to intertwine multiple plots and characters for a very satisfying read.

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The Keeper of Lost Causes

  4W, 4H

Adler-Olsen, Jussi, (c. 2011). The Keeper of Lost Causes.  Dutton.  395 pages , $28.79.

ISBN:  9780525952480

Reviews:

 Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly

Annotation:

Relegated to cold cases, Chief Detective Morck finds himself intrigued by the five year old disappearance of a prominent politician.

Summary:  

A shooting that paralyzed his partner and should have ended his career has only served to make Chief Detective Morck bitter and unmotivated, a state that is apparent to all in the precinct.  Delegated to the basement, Morck has been assigned to work on the cold cases where he can pretend to stay busy and useful.  However, his recently assigned assistant, Assad, prods him into action and together they take on a five year old case involving a missing politician.  The circumstances surrounding the disappearance are intriguing enough to make Morck shed his aura of indifference and put his detective skills to work to piece together the puzzle.

This dark and gritty narrative successfully shows the detailed workings of a cold case juxtaposed to the victim’s horrific plight and the horror endured while the detectives methodically work there way to the answer.  Interspersed with wit and colorful characterizations, Adler-Ollsen explores the dark side of human nature and leaves us wanting more out of Department Q.  This is the first book in the series.

Evaluation:

For fans of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Keeper of Lost Causes hits the mark.  Set in Denmark, Chief Detective Morck wants to give up on life but circumstances won’t allow him that luxury.  Partnered with the ultimate optimist, Assad, Morck finds himself fascinated with the challenges of solving a relatively recent cold case.  The story is compelling, horrific and humorous which is not an easy mix to accomplish but the author succeeds on all levels.

Genre/Subgenre:

Thriller/Psychological Suspense

Readalikes:

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson.  Alex by Pierre LeMaitre

Book Discussion Questions:

What makes Carl Morck’s character so believable?

Describe the relationship between Morck and Assad?

Despite the horror of the crime, there is comic relief throughout the story.  How big a part in the story does it play?

Reasons for selection:

I found this in NoveList as an Author-Readalike for Stieg Larsson.  It is the first in the Dept Q series and does not disappoint.  I was hooked from the beginning and managed to get through the pretty grisly parts.

The Sisters Brothers

  4W, 4H

deWitt, Patrick,  (c.2011). The Sisters Brothers. Ecco/Harper Collins. 328 pages. $34.99.

ISBN #:  978-00620412865

Reviews:     The BookScore; compiled reviews and scores

Annotation:  

It’s the 1850’s in California. The notorious Sisters’ brothers are on a job to kill Hermann Warm.  But does he really deserve to die?

Summary:  

Eli and Charlie Sisters work for the Commodore, a powerful man in the Oregon territory who has given them the job of killing Hermann Kermit Warm.  But Hermann isn’t so easy to kill and the brothers find themselves traveling to California in the midst of the Gold Rush.  Eli, not as enamored with killing and whiskey as his brother, questions his profession and the reasons they are doing it.  Full of quirky characters, violent exchanges and heartwarming realizations, this western transports the reader onto the trails of the old west and the choices made in a world without many laws.

Evaluation:

This book is wonderfully written in a spare and gritty style from the point of view of the younger brother, Eli Sister who is questioning his purpose in life as he follows his brother Charlie to complete a job.  At times immensely humorous, the narrative captures the thoughts and observations of a young man caught up in a violent world.  This is a fast-paced, action-packed adventure that might leave you a little saddle sore from not being able to put it down.  And hats off to the designer, Suet Yee Chong, who’s unique style adds to overall appeal of this western.

Genre/Subgenre:

Western

Readalikes:

The Outcasts by Kathleen Kent.  True Grit by Charles Portis

Book Discussion Questions:

1. Out of all the offbeat characters that the brothers meet on their travels do you have a favorite, is one more memorable than another?

2. The novel is full of gems of wisdom as “little victories” from Eli’s mother and from Eli.  What is your favorite observation or bit of wisdom in the novel?

3.  Several odd characters have an impact on the story, including the weeping man, the witch, and the poisonous little girl. What is their function in the story?

Reasons for selection:

The novel was chosen as one of our Book Discussion selections.  I’m so glad it was.  A truly great read and I’m looking forward to the discussion.

Favorite line:

“I (Eli) thought of this twitching prospector and the chicken-holding prospector and the dead, headless prospector and said, ‘It would seem to me that the solitude of working in the wilds is not healthy for a man.'” (p. 230)

Purgatory Ridge

  3W, 3H  —  Audio Book

Krueger, William Kent. (p.2001). Purgatory Ridge.  Spokane, WA; Books in Motion. 12 audio discs (13 hr). $69.00.  Read by Jerry Sciarrio.

ISBN #: 1581167733

Reviews:

Publishers Weekly; Kirkus Review

Annotation:  

When Cork O’Connor’s family is kidnapped along with that of wealthy industrialist, Karl Lindstrom’s, Cork must figure out the real motive before more people die.

Summary:  

A bombing and subsequent murder of an Indian elder at the local lumber mill causes even more tension among the people of Aurora, Minnesota.   Due to an environmental uproar over the planned destruction of 300 year old trees sacred to the Anishinaabe/Ojibwe Tribe, Our Grandfathers, the town has been overrun by outside environmental groups, most notably “Echo Warrior” who has claimed responsibility for the bombing.  Karl Lindstrom, the lumber mill owner, has been at the center of the controversy and hires Cork to look into “Echo Warrior” on the side.  Since Cork is part Ojibwe and had been the Sheriff in Aurora a couple years back, Karl knew that Cork could be trusted to straddle the communities to get to the bottom of it.  When both Cork’s and Karl’s families are kidnapped, Cork must rely on his own intuition to determine who is behind the abductions and the true motivations of the criminal.

Evaluation:

Krueger does not disappoint with this third edition in his Cork O’Connor series.  The story starts off with a bang, literally, with the bombing and death of an elder tribe member.  The reader is effectively led into believing certain truths but then the author draws the reader back to take a different view of the surrounding events.   As with Krueger’s first two novels in the series, the wilderness comes alive in Purgatory Ridge as water, trees and weather play a part in the mayhem surrounding Cork’s quest to free his family.  And although the mystery is not so much of a who-done-it, readers will enjoy the twists and turns taken to culminate the tale.

Jerry Sciarrio’s reading is engaging and believable.  The characters are clearly defined and his straightforward delivery helps articulate the honor behind the words spoken by the Ojibwe tribe.

Genre/Subgenre:

Mystery

Readalikes:

Nine Dragons by Michael Connelly

Tularosa by Michael McGarrity

 Awards/Lists:

Minnesota Book Award: Genre Fiction

Dilys Award

Northeast Minnesota Book Award

Book Discussion Questions:

There are a lot of crimes in this story.  How did you feel about their resolution?  Did Krueger do a good job of wrapping things up?

What role did Echo Warrior play in this story?

Krueger’s criminals have different motivations.  Were they clearly delineated?

Reasons for selection:

This is the third book in Krueger’s Corcoran O’Connor mystery series.  The atmosphere of the Minnesota North-west is beautifully described letting the reader envelope themselves in the bleak, cold, crisp settings.  The O’Connor family is simultaneously warm and flawed which develops nicely through the series.  I am always drawn to modern mysteries in natural environments and Krueger’s stories are a bulls-eye.