Tuesday, March 26, 2019

A very well written "cop novel"

The ForceThe Force by Don Winslow
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Don Winslow is a very good writer. If you've read some of his other books, such as The Power of the Dog, you know that already. You also know that his writing can be of the not-for-the-squeamish variety. He doesn't sugar-coat things, and he isn't shy about showing some very brutal scenes. That's not to say he does so gratuitously. When he does so, it fits with both the story and the apparent reality in some of the terrible settings he's dealing with.

With that preface, I can say that The Force is the kind of book you don't want to put down, and you're sorry when it ends. I stayed up way too late last night (or rather, early this morning) before finally coming to my senses and putting it down, and I took the first opportunity this evening to finish reading this well-written, engrossing tale.

Denny Malone is someone we can condemn for his corruption and brutality while admiring how he's trying to protect the people in his area. He really hates how the drug dealers, violent criminals, and those who profit from them, hurt people who otherwise are just trying to get by and live their lives. But Denny also can't resist the pull of corruption all around him. He and his brother officers are very damaged characters, being both part of the solution and part of the problem.

Don Winslow's writing is so good that you find yourself rooting for Denny and his guys, even when you know they don't deserve to catch a break because they're so far over the line. A good author can take you there.

If you're looking for an uplifting novel that will renew your faith in humanity, this isn't it. Go find something else. But if you want a compelling story of law enforcement, good guys versus bad guys, and lost souls who long ago wandered off the straight and narrow, so that "good guys" and "bad guys" will be hard to define, I suspect you'll love this book!

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Sunday, March 24, 2019

A great story of Cold War spycraft and betrayal

The Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold WarThe Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War by Ben Macintyre
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If I could do half stars, I'd probably go 4.5, since I usually reserve a 5-star rating for books that had me so completely enthralled that I truly couldn't put them down and ached with disappointment when I reached the end. I wouldn't say The Spy and the Traitor was quite there, but still, it was quite good.

This is a well-researched, well-written book, telling a Cold War story of life and death, betrayal and intrigue. Both of the men who are the main subjects of The Spy and the Traitor betrayed their countries, but there's a clear distinction in the reasons each did what he did.

Ben Macintyre is a skillful author who builds a feeling of connection with the more heroic--at least as seen from a western point of view--of these two, and that's what makes for some great suspense and tension as the story unfolds. I would have liked to have known a bit more of the details of the kind of information Mr. Gordievsky shared with MI6, but it's possible such details still can't be shared, even so many years later. In any case, the book remains interesting and an entertaining story!

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Wednesday, March 20, 2019

A disappointing read

The Trident Deception (Trident Deception #1)The Trident Deception by Rick   Campbell
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

As others have noted--with good reason--The Trident Deception reads very much like a mashup of The Hunt for Red October and Crimson Tide, and that's a bit of a problem, since this story has already been done. Yes, there's a bit of a twist to the underlying plot, but it's just a twist instead of being anything original.

Also, as others have noted, there are a fair number of eyeroll-inducing moments. One heroic figure is asked to put love for country above love for family. I won't say more than that, and while that may be possible for someone to do, although I'd find it pretty rare, it's ridiculous to envision any commanding officer deliberately and knowingly asking that of a subordinate as happens here. It was such a contrived stress point that it didn't add to the story; rather, it made that part of the plot ridiculous.

Worse than all of this is that the author doesn't really build characters in a way that will help us connect with them. He's just not a good enough writer. At one point, a key character (who we're clear is a very attractive woman, because Mr. Campbell seems too focused on that) is put very seriously in harm's way, and while I wanted her to overcome the threat, I didn't feel the kind of tension a reader should feel with a key character who has been developed the right way so we feel a connection.

This book was okay, but really not more than that (hence the 2-star "it was ok" rating).

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