Tag Archives: Suspense Magazine

Have you read this one? Killer Ambition by Marcia Clark

8 Jul

     Besides writing my own books, I read constantly, both because I have had a life-long love affair with books, and because I like to see what other writers are saying. I review books for Suspense Magazine, which gives me an opportunity to dip into titles that I might not have picked up otherwise. In this process I have discovered some new favorite novelists.

One of my recent favorites is Marcia Clark, best known for her role as a prosecutor in the O.J. Simpson trial. Ms. Clark has authored three legal suspense novels that show not only her legal experience, but also a talent for tense, intriguing suspense dramas.

The following is the review I wrote for her latest, Killer Ambition:

Marcia Clark scores once again with a taut, suspenseful and intelligent legal thriller. In the third Rachel Knight novel, the teenage daughter of wealthy Hollywood director Russell Antonovich is kidnapped. After he delivers the ransom money, one million dollars in cash, the girl is found dead in the trunk of a car at the Los Angeles airport. DA Rachel Knight and her friend Bailey Keller, a detective from the LAPD, believe the case to be a kidnapping gone wrong, until the suspected kidnapper is also found dead in a shallow grave on a remote mountain road.

As the investigation proceeds, the prosecution’s evidence points toward Ian Powers, a former child star, now high profile manager and close family friend of the dead girl, Hayley Antonovich. Although the police find strong forensic evidence, they are unable to identify a motive for the killing, until Rachel and her associates dig deeper into the backgrounds of Antonovich and Powers, as well as the would-be kidnapper and Hayley’s boy friend, Brian Maher.

The criminal trial begins, and Rachel is pitted against a defense attorney who does not hesitate to use any dirty trick available to discredit the prosecution’s evidence. And as well as proving her case, Rachel must deal with the members of the press who hone in on a great celebrity story, no matter who is guilty or innocent. Eventually the truth comes out, illustrating the lengths to which will go in order to achieve success in a cut-throat industry.

Ms. Clark’s strong female characters and insight into both the motivations of the criminals and those who surround them, as well as the lawyers and police who search for the truth, make this an exceptional novel. Her personal experience as a prosecutor make her uniquely qualified to write about the investigations and courtroom proceedings, but her strong writing makes the novel entertaining and satisfying.

 

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Reading Outside the Box

26 Oct

I read mostly mysteries and suspense novels, because that is what I write and because I review books for Suspense Magazine. But occasionally I read something outside of those genres. I find that a different type of book and writing style can spark my own writing and stretch my creativity.

Last night I downloaded The Book Thief to my Kindle, as a borrowed book from my library. I have only read a few chapters, but I was struck by the originality of the writing. The first person narrator is Death. He (or she?) tells the story of a young girl, the book thief, who manages to cheat Death more than once.

The story is set in Nazi Germany, so it is clear in what direction this book is headed. But I know that although the story may have been told before, it has not been told in this way.

As a reader or a writer, it is good to move out of the familiar and try something new. I would never have thought of writing from the point of view of Death, but it would be a good writing exercise to write from the point of view of an inanimate object — the cave where the body was found, or the diaries that held the words of Lydia, the main character in my book Lydia’s Story.

As a reader or a writer, what do you do to climb out of the box of familiarity and try something new?

Life Gets in the Way

7 Aug

My week suddenly became very busy and blogging time cut down to zero. I am posting a review of The Lost Ones by Ace Atkins that I wrote for Suspense Magazine. I am always happy to celebrate another author’s writing.

The principal characters in The Lost Ones are soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan to rural Mississippi, soldiers who have not yet learned to put their guns down. One of them, Sheriff Quinn Colson, has become the chief law enforcement officer of Tebbehah County. Another, Donnie Varner, runs a gun shop and shooting range, and is not averse to making a sale to buyers on the wrong side of the law, a dangerous business, especially when he becomes involved with members of a Mexican drug cartel.

At the same time, Quinn and his deputy, Lillie Virgil, are on the trail of another group of unsavory characters who are in the business of selling Mexican babies.  Their crimes become even more serious when one of the babies dies, and the couple last seen with the child have disappeared along with several other children. They have left a filthy trailer, clear evidence of the treatment the children received, as well as abused dogs penned outside in even worse filth. The sheriff seems to just miss this notorious group every time they reach a new hideout.

The characters in The Lost Ones are as real as your next door neighbors. They live in an economically depressed region of the South, where poverty and political corruption are a way of life. But a novel populated with as many unsavory characters as this one only becomes a great novel when it is clear that even the best characters have their weaknesses, and the worst just may have a “good” quality or two.

Author Ace Atkins takes the reader through many twists and turns as the plot barrels to its dramatic conclusion. The Lost Ones will keep you up until the last page is turned, and leave you satisfied and waiting for the next novel in the Quinn Colson series.

Book Review and Other Thoughts

10 Mar

Now that both my parents have passed away, I find myself increasingly interested in the World War II era. And now that The Gate House is scheduled for re-release in May, I am almost ready to submit the sequel to The Gate House, which has a working title of Lydia’s Story.

Lydia is the great-grandmother of Nara, the main character in The Gate HouseShe left diaries that Nara has found, and she learns of her life during World War II in London.

I recently reviewed a novel for Suspense magazine that is set at the end of World War II in Berlin. It is one of a series, and I have not read the preceding one, but I found it an excellent story.

Review of Lehrter Station

Lehrter Station is David Downing’s fifth book in his John Russell series, all named after railroad stations in Berlin which each has a special significance to the story.

Set against the devastation of Berlin in 1945, Lehrter Station is a spy story whose characters struggle to reclaim their lives after World War II. The city has been divided into British, American, French and Soviet sectors, and it is becoming clear that the lines are being redrawn with the Soviet Union as the new enemy for the Western powers.

John Russell is a double agent, spying for the Soviet Union and the United States, not because he wants to, but because he owes a debt to the Soviets for his son’s life. When Soviet agent Yevgeny Shchepkin “requests” that Russell move back to Berlin from London to spy for the Soviets, he has no choice.

Russell and his girl friend Effie, a film actress, return to Berlin and are witnesses to the fragmented lives of the survivors of war. Human life is cheap after the bombings, rapes and mass exterminations of the concentration camps. Since Russell is a journalist by profession, he is on the look-out of a good story as a cover for his espionage activities. He finds a story in the exodus of Jews from Europe to Palestine. But on his return to Berlin, he finds that Effie has been involved in some risky clandestine operations of her own.

Author David Downing portrays an incomprehensibly tragic time and place in history in a manner that shows us the humanity of each character, as well as pointing us in the direction of the world political situation today. He weaves history and fiction together in a way that entertains and makes the reader think at the same time. It is an intelligent and powerful book.