Monday, August 11, 2014

Detective Danny Beckett Anchors This Excellent Police Prodedural

Reviewed by James L. Thane
Four out of five stars

On a hot late summer night in Long Beach, California, three teenage gang members chase down a homeless man, douse him with gasoline and burn him to death. They're captured within minutes of committing the crime and the case against them seems open and shut, especially since one of the three recorded the horrific crime on video.

Homicide detective Danny Beckett leads the investigation and is determined to build as strong a case as possible. The three young killers have lawyered up and refuse to offer any explanation for their action. Even when each of them is offered the possibility of a lighter sentence for giving evidence against the other two, they all refuse. What could they be hiding? An even more likely question: Who could they be so afraid of that they would maintain their wall of silence?

Beyond determining the motive for the crime, Danny is driven even more by the desire to identify the victim, who is known only by the street name, "Bishop," and to flesh out the events of his life. This will help personalize the victim for a jury and increase the chances of a conviction. But before long the quest to know "Bishop" becomes something of an obsession for Danny who will not rest until he has the answers he now feels compelled to seek. And the deeper he delves into the case, the more complex--and dangerous--it becomes.

This is a very well done police procedural, with authentic and sympathetic characters in an expertly-drawn setting. Dilts is a very good writer, and what sets this book apart from so many others is his--and Beckett's--concern for the victim. In so many crime novels, the victim is often the least important character in the story and is often virtually forgotten once the book is under way. But Dilts reminds us here that the victims may be the most important characters of all and that they need to be understood and respected, perhaps even more so than any of the rest of us.

Conan The Politician

The Hour of the Dragon: ConanThe Hour of the Dragon: Conan by Robert E. Howard
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When you think of Conan you think of this...


Then you think of the screaming barbarian...


Whoops, sorry, I meant this...


But if you read one of Robert Howard's original Conan the Barbarian stories what you get is something that should be titled Conan the Part-Time Barbarian, Part-Time Diplomat, because there is WAY more talk and politics than expected.

What did I expect? I thought I'd get more fighting, more monsters and just more action in general. What I got was a whole lotta this *makes talking motion with hand*.

I expected bad writing and I got some of that. In fact, it was laughingly bad in places. However, on the whole, it wasn't bad as I feared. And I have to hand it to Howard, who may not go down in the annals as the best historical fiction writer of all time, but it's obvious he did do some research and included some nice little details about mythology, ancient tribes, past strategical war practices, and other old timey crap.

In The Hour of the Dragon (Spoiler/Warning-->) (view spoiler) Conan is pitted against a trio of power-hungry baddies who elicit the help of an evil sorcerer from the past in order to take over the land. Conan must fight to regain his kingdom.

Here's something I didn't expect: a lot of world-building by Howard. He names this and that, populating the aforementioned "land" with kingdoms and peoples, valleys and rivers, cities and castles, and yet, it somehow all feels false, tossed off somehow. I wasn't buying into it.

Because so much time is wasted with what feels like inconsequential world-building, in exposition, with characters talking about so-and-so and whosits, the story and action bogs down. I was able and willing to put this book down numerous times in order to take up others. That's not a good sign. I'm giving this 3 stars, because I didn't hate it. I just felt let down by it.