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Hollywood turned The Lincoln Lawyer, the first Haller novel, into a solid movie with inspired casting, and no doubt there are plans to film more installments in the series. The cliché, however, holds: Read the book, don’t wait for the movie.
Those in Peril
by Wilbur Smith
St. Martin’s, $27.99, 400 pp.
Wilbur Smith has spent 50 years on international bestseller lists, and he’s been one of my half-dozen favorite authors since I discovered him about the same time I discovered girls more than 35 years ago. Smith’s wildly adventurous sagas have chronicled larger-than-life pioneers and entrepreneurs making their way through wars and rumors of wars in Africa — from the Boers and the African National Congress to the Mahdi’s jihadist hordes and Robert Mugabe’s communist guerillas.
So what could be better than a Smith book about Somali pirates? Well, unfortunately, just about anything else he has ever written.
Those in Peril is a great, almost too obvious and perfect idea, but its execution smells like an proposal insisted upon by the publisher, rather than something Smith was inspired to write. One gets the impression the author was as bored with the project as the reader will be for lonnnggg stretches even though, by Smith’s standards, it’s a pretty short book. It’s really too bad.
But I wouldn’t write this off as a sign of a writer in decline just yet. His last novel, Assegai, showed Smith at the peak of his powers with a wild yarn about German spies and Boer collaborators, big-game hunting with Teddy Roosevelt and a spymaster who fought the Muslim hordes with Chinese Gordon in Sudan. I’m still looking forward to his next book.
by Steve Hamilton
Minotaur, $27.99, 304 pp.
For lovers of the traditional mystery series hero, the book of the year so far is Steve Hamilton’sMisery Bay, which features the return of Alex McKnight, a retired Detroit cop and baseball player who is now an Upper Peninsula hotel owner and sometime private investigator.
The local police chief, usually a thorn in Alex’s side, recruits him to look into every parent’s nightmare — the suicide of the son of the chief’s former partner. Other than the notion that no one thought the young college student was an outwardly happy kid, there is no reason to find the death suspicious, and Alex is reluctant to wallow in such misery.
But he is struck by the cinematic desolation of the suicide spot, a lonely tree overlooking the desolate Misery Bay. But upon his return to the U.P. hamlet of Paradise, Alex finds the father of the dead boy murdered in the chief’s house, which sets him on a course to encounter perhaps the cruelest scheme for revenge he has ever encountered.
This is not one of the more violent or action packed entries in the series, but it’s possibly the most chilling. The emotional resonance lasts long after the book is set aside.
Hamilton’s non-McKnight mystery, The Lock Artist, won the Edgar Award for the best novel pf 2011. His return to more familiar territory undoubtedly will earn him more awards and accolades.
The Final Hour
by Andrew Klavan
Nelson, $14.99, 352 pp.
Finally, we end with something you can give your exhausted child after the soccer game is over, instead of just letting him or her plop in front of the tube — that is, after you read it yourself during the course of one game.
Friend of Frontpage Andew Klavan wraps up his terrific young adult Homelanders Series with The Final Hour, a slam-bang finale that has his young hero, Charlie West, racing to stop a terrorist strike with WMDs in Times Square on New Year’s Eve.
Think 24 meets The Fugitive meets The Hardy Boys, and you won’t be far off.
Charlie spent the first three books of the series on the run, falsely accused of murder and unable to remember how he got in this mess except that it has something to do with a homegrown group of Islamist terrorists. Now he’s getting his memory back — and remembering the details of a plot to kill millions of Americans.
The problem is, Charlie is in a maximum security prison, with Black Muslims trying to kill him and neo-Nazis trying to recruit him for their own ends — a fix Frank and Joe never had to deal with. The unflaggingly patriotic and Christian Charlie provides the young adult market with a great role model — and a foundation for why America is worth defending — but Klavan is far too deft a writer to let that slow the plot or get too heavy handed. Despite its high-minded undertones, The Final Hour is just plain great fun.
The Final Hour is an immensely satisfying ending to the best current series written for the youth market by a big-name adult fiction writer. The only disappointment is that Klavan didn’t draw this out through a couple more books; but knowing this superb writer, it’s because he’s got something even better in store.
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