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April 8, 2009 / C.T. Henry

February and March Readings

HOLY COW BATMAN! (Translation: Highly Recommended!)

sovereignSovereign by C.J. Sansom

This is now my favorite book in the Matthew Shardlake series.  Like no other historical mystery writer, C.J. Sansom brings the sights, sounds, and even smells of 16th century England to life.  Unlike his other traditional mysteries, Sansom’s third book in the series is a heart-pounding political thriller with eerie assassination attempts and a centuries old secret.  In the end, you come away totally believing Sansom’s narrative actually happened and the story of King Henry VIII’s ancestry is absolutely true. (Which it is.)

Synopsis: It was autumn, 1541. Following the uncovering of a plot against his throne in Yorkshire, King Henry VIII has set out on a spectacular Progress to the North to overawe his rebellious subjects there. Accompanied by a thousand soldiers, the cream of the nobility, and his fifth wife Catherine Howard, the King is to attend an extravagant submission of the local gentry at York. Already in the city are lawyer Matthew Shardlake and his assistant Jack Barak. As well as assisting with legal work processing petitions to the King, Shardlake has reluctantly undertaken a special mission – to ensure the welfare of an important but dangerous conspirator being returned to London for interrogation. But the murder of a local glazier involves Shardlake in deeper mysteries, connected not only to the prisoner in York Castle but to the royal family itself. As the Great Progress arrives in the city, Shardlake and Barak stumble upon a cache of secret papers that holds danger for the King’s throne, and a chain of events unfolds that will lead Shardlake facing the most terrifying fate of the age.

GOOD BUT NOT GREAT (Translation: Recommended with some reservations)

every-last-dropEvery Last Drop by Charlie Huston

Joe Pitt reemerges from his exile in the Bronx to do what he does best: stir up trouble.  With a new clan, the so-called Cure, disturbing the delicate peace between the other Vampire clans, Pitt makes a deal with the Coalition to find out if the new clan is actually close to discovering a cure for the Vyrus.  But the plot takes an unexpected turn, when Pitt ventures to Queens to look for the source of the Coalition’s blood supply.  What he learns there changes him.  And if people know what he knows, it will definitely lead to an all-out war.  But can Joe keep a secret?

After a slow and confusing start, Huston finds his rhythm when familiar characters, like Predo, Amanda Horde, and Terry, appear in the story.  This fourth book in the series doesn’t wrap up as nicely as the first two, but damning secrets are revealed, which have stark implications for the future.  Huston’s writing is hypnotic, and I just love the world Huston has created.  I look forward to the next installment.

Synopsis: It’s like this: a series of bullet-riddled bad breaks has seen rogue Vampyre and terminal tough guy Joe Pitt go from PI for hire to Clan-connected enforcer to dead man walking in a New York minute. And after burning all his bridges, the only one left to cross leads to the Bronx, where Joe’s brass knuckles and straight razor can’t keep him from running afoul of a sadistic old bloodsucker with a bad bark and a worse bite. Even if every Clan in Manhattan is hollering for Joe’s head on a stick, it’s got to be better than trying to survive in the outer-borough wilderness. So it’s a no-brainer when Clan boss Dexter Predo comes looking to make a deal. All Joe has to do to win back breathing privileges on his old turf is infiltrate an upstart Clan whose plan to cure the Vyrus could expose the secret Vampyre world to mortal eyes and set off a panic-driven massacre. Not cool. But Joe’s all over it. To save the Undead future, he just has to wade neck-deep through all the archenemies, former friends, and assorted heavy hitters he’s crossed in the past. No sweat? Maybe not, but definitely more blood than he’s ever seen or hungered for. And maybe even some tears–over the horror and heartbreaking truth about the evil men do no matter who or what they are.

DON’T WASTE YOUR TIME (Translation: Not recommended)

la-outlawsL.A. Outlaws by T. Jefferson Parker

Parker gives us a great heroine in Alison Murrieta, who loves to steal cars and stick-up fast-food joints.  In the great tradition of bandits, she even gives some of her take to poor charities, but there ends my love-affair with the book.  What remains is a struggling plot, which ultimately fails to deliver.  The Latino hit man is borrowed right out of the pages of No Country for Old Men.  One caveat though: the way Parker has Murrieta dispose of her relentless, psychopathic pursuer is quite brilliant and deservingly brutal.  Often authors make female characters superhuman, capable of incapacitating hardened criminals in the most unbelievable ways.  Here, Alison Murrieta dispatches the Latino hit man with style.  Loved the character, but it didn’t make up for an awfully boring story.

Synopsis: Allison is an L.A. celebrity, a folk hero, and a modern-day Jesse James who loves a good armed robbery. She has a compulsion to steal, a knack for publicity, and the conscience to give it all to charity. In fact, one of her biggest fans is a cop. And no one’s ever been hurt—until last night. Now she and the rookie deputy are on the run for their lives.

deceivedThe Deceived by Brett Battles

In the same league as Barry Eisler and Lee Child, Brett Battles is one of today’s best writers of action-packed thrillers.  Every single action sequence in the book is pitch-perfect.  Nevertheless, despite a rousing ending, The Deceived doesn’t have enough breadcrumbs throughout to sustain interest.  Battles should have slowly unveiled pieces to the puzzle, but instead, readers are kept in the dark up until the last 150 pages.  At which point, everything is revealed all at once.  Great ending, but it took awhile to get there. The Deceived isn’t up to the standard set in his first book: The Cleaner.

Synopsis: A freelance operative and professional “cleaner,” Quinn knows better than to get emotionally involved in any of his jobs. But in this superb powerhouse of suspense, Quinn’s latest job is different. A friend and old colleague has been murdered. A woman has gone missing. And for Jonathan Quinn, this time it’s personal.


Leave a Comment
  1. john sheridan / Apr 9 2009 2:20 pm

    strangely it will be the 3 less highly rated ones that I will be reading. I’ve already mooched T.Jefferson Parker as I had read good reviews of the renegades and want to have read the introduction to those characters. That said the only thing I’ve read by TJP is a short story “Skinhead Central” and I didn’t think much of that.
    With the other books as they are part of a series I want to continue the series. This actually raises a good questions – if you’re invested into a series (or an author) and the quality drops when do you stop reading i.e. after 1, 2, 3 poor books?
    For Sovereign, maybe I will get into historical fiction at some point but I’m not there yet – I’ve even had to put aside “The Big Sleep” for the moment as I just couldn’t get into it though I will pick it up again – just don’t know when as I’ve got probably 200 books to be read.

  2. henryct / Apr 10 2009 3:01 pm

    I don’t think the quality drops, once you start a series. One would hope that the author’s writing improves. However, the first book you read influences you greatly, no matter where you start a new series. That said, I enjoyed Sansom’s third book (Sovereign) best, John Connelly’s third book (The Killing Kind), and Dennis Lehane’s fourth book (Gone, Baby, Gone). The best writers keep getting better.


  1. Best Reads of 2009 (so far) « The Mystery Bookshelf

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