Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Hamilton's Winter of the Wolf Moon a rewarding thriller

Book 89: Winter of the Wolf Moon by Steve Hamilton

I've now read three books by Steve Hamilton -- the first two entries in his Alex McKnight series and his one-off, The Lock Artist -- and I will admit that I am an unabashed fan.

The setting, the characters, the plots and his fast-moving narratives make Hamilton's thrillers a pleasure to read.  But, perhaps, the best element of the McKnight series -- set in Michigan's Upper Peninsula -- is the humor.

Hamilton's use of humor reminds me of Robert Crais.  Humor is largely absent from many thrillers. You won't find it in the writing of Michael Connelly or Ian Rankin. Not to knock them, I thoroughly enjoy their work.

But Hamilton, like Crais, brings a certain attitude to his novels that seems to say "this isn't rocket science or literary fiction, let's have some fun."  Hamilton's world view is a bubble off center.  He's enjoying himself and wants the reader to do so too.

Book 90: Disturbance by Jan Burke

I've also been a fan of Jan Burke's Irene Kelly series.  As a former newspaper reporter and editor, I've enjoyed Kelly's newsroom antics at the Las Piernas News Express.  But with Disturbance I'm beginning to have my doubts about the continuing viability of the series.

This is Burke's first Irene Kelly novel in five years. In between was the awful, The Messenger, which appears to have been Burke's effort to tap into the hunger for supernatural thrillers among a sizable population of readers. 

The Messenger didn't work and I can only hope that Burke doesn't venture into that territory again.

Yet Burke's commitment to the Irene Kelly series seems lacking.  Disturbance, a sequel to Bones, just doesn't have the same oomph of her past novels.   In the opening of Disturbance the serial killer, who almost dispatched Irene in Bones, is paralyzed and in prison.  It isn't long before his paralysis has been miraculously cured and he escapes from prison.

But wait . . . as they say on all those late-night commercials . . . there's more.  Aiding his escape and inevitable bid to kidnap Irene is a trio of admirers, who, as it happens, are the serial killer's sons.  Burke observes that the killer is known for planning well in advance, but this is taking planning to the extreme.

Irene is kidnapped. It doesn't feel like a spoiler to disclose that plot point. You knew it was coming.  After her kidnapping, events do unfold in a surprising, yet not particularly satisfactory, manner.  Sad to say, it feels as if Burke mailed this one in.

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