Posts Tagged ‘quirky secondary characters’

Bloody Mary

August 10, 2011

Author:  J.A. Konrath

Title:  Bloody Mary

Genre:  Audiobook, Suspense

Narrators: Dick Hill, Susie Breck

Publication Date:  2005

Duration:  7 discs/7 hours

Geographical Setting:  Chicago, Illinois

Time Period:  Present day (likely set in the early 2000’s)

Series: Jack Daniels Mysteries, #2

Plot Summary:  Lieutenant Jacqueline “Jack” Daniels has seen some pretty bizarre things during her tenure with the Chicago Police Department, but nothing quite like what the Cook County Morgue is reporting: extra limbs are popping up and no one can account for where they came from.  To make matters more confusing, the limbs seem to be wearing Jack’s accessories.  A psychotic killer has it in for Jack and her partner, Detective Herb Benedict – one who appears to have easy access to Jack’s life.  Jack and Herb find that the killer isn’t as elusive as they were expecting.  However, for the killer, getting caught is only a minor inconvenience.  In addition, Jack is trying to balance out her personal life, and contends with a colorful cast of secondary characters, including her stubborn mother, her mother’s geriatric “lover,” a sadistic cat, and an egocentric ex-partner.  The reader also is allowed short and scary glimpses into the killer’s mind.  Bloody Mary mixes together humor and fear, action and suspense in a fast-paced and gritty – often violent – thrill ride (gentle readers be warned – Konrath can make even a hard-boiled reader squirm).  If you can, listen to the audio version, narrated by the prolific Dick Hill and Susie Breck.  Their characterizations bring the characters and acerbic banter to life, and special sound effects (like muffled voices over the phone) also adds to the listening experience.  (Also included is the short story, “Whelp Wanted” read by the author.)  *Bloody Mary is the second installment in the Jack Daniels series, but can be read as a stand-alone novel.*

Subject Headings:  Women detectives; Serial murderers; Chicago; Murder investigation

Appeal:  fast-paced, funny, sarcastic, suspenseful, gritty, violent, gruesome, menacing, flawed, multiple points of view, uneasy, quirky secondary characters

3 terms that best describe this book:  suspenseful, gruesome, funny

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

Armed and Dangerous: Memoirs of a Chicago Policewoman by Gina Gallo: Gallo’s memoir covers the sixteen years she spent on the Chicago police force, from the police academy, to her time covering a West Side district, and her tenure in a plainclothes unit.  Readers who are interested in what Jack’s experiences as a cop in Chicago will be interested in Gallo’s cases and encounters with gang members, drug dealers, prostitutes, and hustlers as well as her insight on how carrying a badge affects your beliefs and behavior.

Courtroom 302: A Year behind the Scenes in an American Criminal Courthouse by Steve Bogira: Part of the suspense in Bloody
is played out in the courtroom.  For readers who are interested in a what really happens inside the American criminal justice system, there is Courtroom 302.  Chicago-based journalist Bogira presents an insightful and gritty look at the Cook County Criminal Courthouse from the points of view of the prisoners, jury, spectators, and judge.

Serial Killers: the Method and Madness of Monsters by Peter Vronsky: Vronsky (an investigative journalist and documentary film producer) gives readers a compelling and engrossing look into the psychological, investigative, and cultural analysis of serial killers, both historical and modern.  He also includes a section on how to survive an encounter with a serial killer.  As an interesting side note – Serial Killers has been included in reading lists for criminal justice programs.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

Bangkok 8 by John Burdett (#1, Sonchai Jitpleecheep mysteries): Sonchai Jitpleecheep, a mysterious but honest Bangkok cop, investigates the deaths of his partner, Pichai Apiradee and U.S. Embassy Sargent William Bradley, but the investigation grows increasingly complex when unusual details are revealed.  Gritty, fast-paced, and suspenseful, readers who sympathized with the flawed Jack Daniels may be drawn to Burdett’s protagonist.

Mortal Stakes by Robert B. Parker (#3, Spenser series):  Boston P.I. Spenser is hired to see if a Red Sox player has been throwing games.  The investigation brings Spenser deeper than he imagined, into the realm of pimps, madams, and the mob.  Funny, gritty, and suspenseful, fans of Bloody Mary will find themselves drawn into Spenser’s classic case.

One for the Money by Janet Evanovich (#1, Stephanie Plum series): Stephanie Plum is an out-of-work discount lingerie buyer in need of money when she takes on a job as a bounty hunter for her cousin.  Having no previous experience with bounty hunting, hilarity ensues.  Readers who enjoyed the humor and quirky secondary characters in Bloody Mary will be drawn to Stephanie Plum’s misadventures with her family and co-workers.

Name:  Mieko Fujiura

Smoke Screen

May 26, 2010

Author: Sandra Brown

Title: Smoke Screen
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Publication Date: 2008
Number of Pages: 398
Geographical Setting: Charleston, SC
Time Period: Present Day
Series: No
Plot Summary: In this gripping romantic thriller, local newswoman Britt Shelley wakes up to find her friend and occasional lover Jay Burgess dead. Authorities suspect foul play, and Britt suddenly turns from news star into news story. Raley Gannon is Jay’s childhood best friend whose life was derailed in a circumstance similar to Britt’s, when he was found in bed with a dead woman five years before Jay’s death.  The two find themselves in a race to find out what happened to Jay, and just what, if anything, the two deaths have to do with a devastating fire at the Charleston Police Department. Romance and suspense blend together as Raley and Britt encounter a slew of nefarious characters and a major twist that will shock even astute readers.
Subject Headings: Murder, Police Investigations, Charleston, SC, Romantic Suspense, Relationships
Appeal: Plot-centered, fast paced, romantic, suspenseful, action-oriented, racy, edgy, direct, tense, quirky secondary characters, plot twists, conversational style.
Three Terms that Best Describe this Book: fast paced, suspense, racy
Similar Works:
Amber Beach, Elizabeth Lowell (suspense, contemporary romance, adventure scenes)
Mercy, Julie Garwood (suspense, contemporary romance, fast-paced, female protagonist, Southern setting)
Raven on the Wing, Kay Hooper (romantic suspense, contemporary setting, strong female protagonist)
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, John Berendt (murder, Southern setting, eccentric secondary characters)
Devil in the White City, Erik Larson (suspense, murder, fast paced)
My Horizontal Life, Chelsea Handler (racy, adventures, strong female protagonist)

Water For Elephants

October 22, 2009

Title: Water for Elephants

Author: Sara Gruen

Publication Date: 2006

Number of Pages: 335

Playaway: 11.5 hours (unabridged)

Genre: Historical Fiction/Best Seller/Audio Book

Geographical Setting: United States

Time Period: 1931 & Present Day

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: The time period is the Great Depression. Jacob Jankowski, a young man of twenty-three, is about to take his final exams in veterinary medicine and join his father’s veterinary practice when his life falls apart. He learns that his parents have died in a car accident leaving him with nothing. Jacob, suddenly homeless and heartbroken, leaves school and hops a train unaware that it is a circus train. When Uncle Al, the unscrupulous owner of the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth, learns that Jacob studied veterinary medicine, he hires him to be the circus’ vet and Jacob finds himself immersed in the exotic, gritty and often dangerous world of a traveling circus. While Jacob cares for the menagerie of animals that make up the circus’ animal acts, he finds himself falling in love with both a magnificent, intelligent elephant named Rosie and the beautiful circus performer, Marlena , who is married to August, Jacob’s cruel, sadistic boss. Jacob and Marlena manage to fight their growing attraction to each other until one fateful day when there is a horrific incident that involves Jacob, Marlena, August and even Rosie. This engrossing story, told in flashbacks by Jacob who is now in his nineties and living in a nursing home, paints a vivid and accurate picture of circus life while following the circus and its unusual and sometimes freakish inhabitants as it travels from town to town across the United States.

Audio Book Review: In this entertaining audio version of Water for Elephants, two distinct voices bring to life the story of Jacob Jankowski. David LeDoux provides the voice of Jacob as a 23 year old, a voice that is full of passion, enthusiasm, and wonder at all he sees and experiences and John Randolph Jones provides the voice of Jacob at the age of 90 or 93. Jones’ voice, cracked, reedy, and world weary, brings to life the elder Jacob as a man who, at the age of 93,rails against his current surroundings as he reflects on his past, wonders what happened to the young man he used to be and asks the question, who is the old man in the mirror?

Subject Headings: Circus performers; Reminiscing in old age; Depressions –1929-1941; Traffic accident victims; Human/animal relations; Parents — Death; Veterinarians; Men/women relations; Triangles (Interpersonal relations); Women circus performers; Circus animals; Women horse trainers; Elephants; Human-animal communication; Manic-depressive men; Circus.

Appeal: engrossing, page-turner, vivid, quirky secondary characters, authentic, accurate, exotic, circus performers, cinematic, story told through flashbacks, resolved ending, accurate, lush, detailed descriptions of the life of a traveling circus, Great Depression, gritty, nostalgic, romantic, mesmerizing.

Three terms that best describe this book: Exotic, Nostalgic, Circus

Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

The Circus in Winter by Cathy Day – The interconnected short stories that are featured in this book offer readers a glimpse into the lives and relationships between the townspeople of Lima, Indiana and the acrobats, clowns and other circus performers of the Great Porter Circus who spend their winters in Lima during the years 1884-1939. (Circus performers, narrative that shifts across time, circus elephants and trainers).

Embrace Me by Lisa Samson – Valentine who is scarred and disfigured, and Lella, a quadriplegic, become best friends while making a living working in the Roland Wayfaring Marvels and Oddities. (Circus performers, traveling circus).

Waterborne: A Novel by Bruce Murkoff – Engineer Filius Poe,  pretty Lena McCardell, and Jewish outlaw Lew Beck all journey to the Hoover Dam construction site in Nevada during the Great Depression hoping to find work and start their lives over. (Protagonists trying to start their lives over, Great Depression, romance, men/women relationships).

The House at Riverton: A Novel by Kate Morton – In 1924 a tragedy occurs at Riverton House and Grace the Hartford’s family maid is a witness to it. When a filmmaker who is working on a movie about the Hartford family contracts Grace, her long suppressed memories of the event come back and Grace, who is now ninety-eight, recounts through flashbacks what really happened. (Engrossing, story told through flashbacks, authentic recreation of an earlier period).

Relevant Non-fiction Works and Authors:

The Circus Age: Culture and Society under the American Big Top by Janet M. Davis – Fascinating history and examination of the traveling railroad circuses at the turn of the century.

Love, War, and Circuses: The Age-Old Relationship Between Elephants and Humans by Eric Scigliano – Examines the relationships and connections between humans and elephants.

Lions & Tigers & Mares, Oh My! by Gay Louise Balliet –Humorous and touching stories about the daily life of a veterinarian in eastern Pennsylvania  who treats large and exotic animals from farms, exotic game parks, traveling circuses, and horse breeders.

Name: Maggie