Book Review: Tropic of Night

Tropic of NightTitle: Tropic of Night

Author: Michael Gruber

Genre: Supernatural Horror Thriller

Read: Spring 2010

Summary: Very good.

I read this book both because it was represented by an agent I was interested in and because it loosely fit the ill-defined cross-genre of my own novel: Supernatural thriller with realistic style and magic. In fact, in this book it’s not even 100% clear that the magic is intended to have actually happened — but I like to think it did. There’s a lot of interesting stuff going on here, particularly to my taste. There are three points of view, and not all are as good. One is the female protagonist, a former anthropologist hiding out in Miami from her murderous African shaman ex-husband. The second is the same character, but told in the format of journals written during her field work in Siberia and Africa. And the third is a Miami Cuban-American police detective investigated a series of horrific murders in Miami (perpetrated by the nasty shaman of course). I loved the detective, his investigations of the ritual crime scenes, and the bit of Cubano Miami flavor . The present action protagonist was okay, and the journals were intermittent. When they got into the magic stuff they were good. What I most loved about this book was the creepy and very realistic feel of the mostly Yoruba based shamanistic magic. Overall I enjoyed reading it, but the book could have benefited from some tightening up. The detective investigating this awful ritual crimes was very good too. If you like murder procedurals, and you like creepy well researched voodoo-esque magic, then give this a read.

Book Review: City of War

City of WarTitle: City of War

Author: Neil Russel

Genre: Contemporary Thriller

Read: First week August 2010

Summary: Extremely fun read.

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I don’t read too many Thrillers without a Horror/Sci-fi/Fantasy/Supernatural element, but I was introduced to the author through a friend of mine and decided to check his book out. I’m glad I did. This is a roller coaster ride I can only describe as Fletch meets James Bond meets The Big Sleep. A billionaire playboy who happens to be ex-special forces happens to rescue a naked (and gorgeous) kidnapping escapee on the freeway, and things snowball into a globe spanning conspiracy of murder, art forgery and more. It’s fast and fun, but what really sells everything is the know-at-all first person voice of the protagonist. The action is often a little over the top, but his snarky attitude makes everything amusing. Perhaps (like Bond and many other action heros) he is a little too good at what he does, too calm under pressure etc. But it doesn’t really matter because he entertains with every paragraph. Great settings and a plot with a few shocking moments and unexpected changes of direction doesn’t hurt either. A director and well cast lead with the talents to capture the voice could turn this into a great action movie.

Book Review: Still Missing

Still MissingTitle: Still Missing

Author: Chevy Stevens

Genre: Thriller

Read: Late Sept 2010

Summary: Ambivalent

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I picked this up because it was edited by the same editor that I use (the amazing Renni Browne), represented by a top WME Agent, and debuted on the NYT best seller list. It’s not normally my cup of tea, even though I am very guilty of reading plenty of chick novels. Essentially, it’s about a woman who’s kidnapped, held for a year, and repeatedly raped, by a creep she can only call “the Freak.” In the present she’s escaped and is attempting to deal with this rather horrific course of events. The flashbacks to her captivity are intense and gripping in the same way that the police reports for serial killer cases are. They certainly feel realistic and whipped by, but they also left me with a kind of “dirty” feeling for enjoying them — not the what was being done mind you, but the reading of it. The present tense “action” however bored the hell out of me, for there was no action, merely interior monologue and brief conversations with her therapist. Obviously getting over such a thing would be HARD, but it doesn’t really make for a fun read, or represent a mental process I really need to work through a fictional telling of. Then in the last third, after the backstory has caught up to the present, the book takes a whacky left turn and the whole thing turns out to be a cockamamy conspiracy and non-coincidence. This, while easy enough to read, just bugged me. The writing was clean and out of the way. You didn’t notice it — which is about right for this sort of thing. So overall a was just left with the sordid tale of her capture, captivity, and escape, which was pretty good, but felt exploitive. The rest I could leave back at the cabin in the woods.