Monday, June 19, 2017

The Hall of Heroes by John Jackson Miller

The Hall of Heroes brings to a conclusion the trilogy, Star Trek: Prey, and it is every bit as entertaining as the first two volumes. Events in the first two books have left the Klingon Empire in turmoil and its alliance with the Federation hanging by a thread. Korgh continues his manipulation of events aimed at toppling Chancellor Martok’s leadership and ending the Empire’s relationship with the Federation. But what remains of the Unsung have slipped from Korgh’s grasp. And other enemies of the Empire may have found an opportunity to exploit.

John Jackson Miller has created one of the most entertaining forays into the Star Trek universe that I’ve read. Each book advances the main plot while introducing new sub plots and elevating different characters to prominence. In Hall of Heroes, it’s the Breen and the Kinshaya who play a larger role as they seek to capitalize on chaos among the Klingons. Captain Picard and the Enterprise, Admiral Riker and the Titan, and even Dax commanding Aventine play prominent roles. Even con artist Ardra shows up with a significant role to play. Miller’s ability to juggle this large cast of characters without giving any of them short shrift or slowing the story down is impressive.

Along with the main events, a conspiracy engineered by Korgh to extract revenge for the death of his mentor, Miller also weaves an interesting philosophical discussion about the Klingon tradition of discommendation. Klingon emperor Kahless has been drifting, but his time among the dishonored Unsung, initially as their prisoner, has left him reflective.

The Hall of Heroes, and the entire series, doesn’t lack for action. Space battles, ground battles, conspiracies, murder and explosions run throughout. The events kicked off in Hell’s Heart are brought to a satisfying conclusion in The Hall of Heroes as Korgh’s century-long plan begins to unravel. Along the way, Miller allows you to spend time with a lot of series favorites and introduces several entertaining new characters. This is a highly entertaining book and series written by an author with a firm grasp on the Star Trek universe and a love of the characters.

The audio version of the book is narrated by Robert Petkoff who is nothing short of spectacular. He voices a dizzying array of characters, making each distinct and easily identifiable. His command of the most well-known characters captures their essence and sometimes borders on impersonation of the actors who played them. His pacing and intonation propel the story along and complement the writing. Audio awards should be in his future for his work here.

This is an outstanding series and lovingly handles classic characters while telling a story that is entertaining for both Star Trek novices and veterans. Highly recommended.

I was fortunate to receive a copy of this audiobook from the publisher.

Description: The Klingon Empire stands on the precipice. In the wake of violence from the cult known as the Unsung, paranoia threatens to break Chancellor Martok's regime. Klingons increasingly call for a stronger hand to take that Lord Korgh, master manipulator, is only too willing to offer.
But other forces are now in motion. Assisted by a wily agent, the empire's enemies secretly conspire to take full advantage of the situation. Aboard the USS Titan, Admiral William T. Riker realizes far more than the Federation's alliance with the Klingons is in danger. With the empire a wounded animal, it could become either an attacker - or a target.
Yet even as hostilities increase, Commander Worf returns to the USS Enterprise and Captain Jean-Luc Picard with a daring plan of his own. The preservation of both the empire and the Federation alliance may hinge on an improbable savior leading a most unlikely force....

Sunday, June 18, 2017

The Book of Mirrors by E. O. Chirovici

The Book of Mirrors is a complex but intriguing slow boil of a noir thriller by E. O. Chirovici. Richard Flynn, a journalist and failed novelist sends the first part of his manuscript to literary agent Peter Katz. By the time Katz gets around to reading the manuscript about Flynn’s time at Princeton and the unsolved murder of a famous professor, Flynn himself has passed away. Convinced there is a book worth publishing there, Katz hires a journalist, John Keller, to either track down the missing manuscript or solve the crime and finish the story. Keller in turn enlists the help of the original detective on the case, Roy Freeman.

The Book of Mirrors is as much about the fallibility of memory as it is about the solving of the crime. Flynn’s recollection of events as recounted in the manuscript differ jarringly from his roommate and fellow student, Laura Baines. Other witnesses have still different accounts. How much of this is due to faulty memories versus lying? One of the witnesses suffers from a specific form of amnesia and Detective Freeman is in the early stages of Alzheimers.

The story is broken up into four parts, each narrated from a different perspective. The murder itself is quite interesting and leads to questions about what the professor was working on what if any role his work played in his death. The perspectives and recollections are so jarringly different at times that you can’t tell which is more frightening; that someone is lying or that people truthfully remember things in such vastly different ways.

The story never builds a true sense of urgency as it moves along at a steady pace. The crime and the investigation, however are very intriguing, almost mesmerizing as it pulls you along to a satisfying conclusion.

The audio version is narrated by Jonathan Todd Ross, George Newbern, Corey Brill and Pete Simonelli. Each narrates a different section of the book. All four do a great job with the narration. Their pace and intonation match the tension in the book. A book like this is heavily dependent on atmosphere, and all four do a great job of conveying the pervasive sense of foreboding and uncertainty. E.O. Chirovici is not a native English speaker, and it shows at times with certain expressions (served on a silver plate rather than platter). This can be slightly jarring, but not enough to take you out of the story.

The Book of Mirrors is a steady-paced, noirish mystery that will hold your attention from beginning to end. Recommended read (and listen).

I was fortunate to be provided a copy of this audiobook by the publisher.

Description: When literary agent Peter Katz receives a partial book submission entitled The Book of Mirrors, he is intrigued by its promise and original voice. The author, Richard Flynn, has written a memoir about his time as an English student at Princeton in the late 1980s, documenting his relationship with the protégée of the famous Professor Joseph Wieder. One night just before Christmas 1987, Wieder was brutally murdered in his home. The case was never solved. Now, twenty-five years later, Katz suspects that Richard Flynn is either using his book to confess to the murder, or to finally reveal who committed the violent crime.

But the manuscript ends abruptly—and its author is dying in the hospital with the missing pages nowhere to be found. Hell-bent on getting to the bottom of the story, Katz hires investigative journalist John Keller to research the murder and reconstruct the events for a true crime version of the memoir. Keller tracks down several of the mysterious key players, including retired police detective Roy Freeman, one of the original investigators assigned to the murder case, but he has just been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. Inspired by John Keller’s investigation, he decides to try and solve the case once and for all, before he starts losing control of his mind. A trip to the Potosi Correctional Centre in Missouri, several interviews, and some ingenious police work finally lead him to a truth that has been buried for over two decades...or has it?

Stylishly plotted, elegantly written, and packed with thrilling suspense until the final page, The Book of Mirrors is a book within a book like you’ve never read before.

The Force by Don Winslow

How do lines get crossed? One step at a time.

The definitive cop novel has now been written. The Force by Don Winslow is it. Winslow has always had a knack for no holds barred, in your face narratives that don’t pull any punches. That style has reached new heights with The Force.

Denny Malone is a hero cop. Malone rules Manhattan North. He and his squad are “Da Force” and they will do whatever it takes to keep order in his part of the city. That might mean bending some laws. Bending leads to breaking and soon it becomes harder to spot the differences between you and what you are fighting. When the Feds catch Malone breaking the law, Malone’s options start to shrink until they completely disappear.

Winslow does a masterful job of bringing you inside the mind of a cop. What it is to walk in their shoes, to see what they see and to know what they know. What it’s like to have people calling you a hero one day and calling for your head the next. He gives you a front row view of a system that’s corrupt from the street all the way to the top of city hall and beyond. He shows you how each indiscretion is justified, until morals are compromised and lines have been crossed that can’t be uncrossed. Winslow shows you how a corrupt system that seems rigged against justice leads to unorthodox methods in the name of justice.

The narrative structure here is brilliant. The story starts with Malone in federal custody. It then jumps back in time with the long buildup to how he wound up there. Along the way Winslow takes you through twists and turns and manages to surprise you at every step. He conveys mood and attitude through sentences and language that alternately massage you and punch you in the face. The story grabs you on page one and holds onto you until the last, gut-wrenching sentence. They don’t get any better than this. Highly recommended.

I was fortunate to receive an advance copy of this book.

Description: Our ends know our beginnings, but the reverse isn’t true . . .
All Denny Malone wants is to be a good cop.
He is “the King of Manhattan North,” a, highly decorated NYPD detective sergeant and the real leader of “Da Force.” Malone and his crew are the smartest, the toughest, the quickest, the bravest, and the baddest, an elite special unit given unrestricted authority to wage war on gangs, drugs and guns. Every day and every night for the eighteen years he’s spent on the Job, Malone has served on the front lines, witnessing the hurt, the dead, the victims, the perps. He’s done whatever it takes to serve and protect in a city built by ambition and corruption, where no one is clean—including Malone himself.

What only a few know is that Denny Malone is dirty: he and his partners have stolen millions of dollars in drugs and cash in the wake of the biggest heroin bust in the city’s history. Now Malone is caught in a trap and being squeezed by the Feds, and he must walk the thin line between betraying his brothers and partners, the Job, his family, and the woman he loves, trying to survive, body and soul, while the city teeters on the brink of a racial conflagration that could destroy them all.