Saturday, May 09, 2009

Mystery Writers

When I come across a book review or even a reference to a book that whets my appetite, I often jot the title down on a piece of paper or note card or tear out the article from the magazine or newspaper, and throw these bits of someday into my desk drawer or on the current "opportunity" pile on the desktop. Then, every month or so, I go through the drawer and the piles and attempt to straighten up, with the emphasis on "attempt."

This morning I did that and came across a Dear Book Lover column, clipped from the WSJ's Weekend section sometime last year, and there was a letter to its editor Cynthia Crossen looking for a "good mystery, action, and intrigue novel." Well, me too. I'll tell you about the answers Crossen gives in a minute, but the clipping brings to mind two mysteries that I read recently and which I would recommend, though only as mind candy.

One is Rain Fall by Barry Eisler. Eisler's hero is a contract assassin who lives in Tokyo, a Viet-Nam vet of mixed Japanese/American parentage, who, with a little plastic surgery, manages to pass for a native Japanese. Eisler appears to know modern Japanese culture well, and that makes up for whatever credibility problems one might have with the lead character. It reads fast. It's fun. It's a guy book, I think. I also think its a dead-end series, because the next one in Eisler's line, Hard Rain, didn't sing for me.

Transfer of Power by Vince Flynn is about another assassin, although this one works for the CIA. This also moves fast and is even more gripping than the Eisler book. More mind candy here. And, like Eisler's Rain Fall, the next one in Flynn's series, The Third Option, is not nearly as good. So I think I'm through with both Eisler and Flynn, but thanks guys.

The book lover whose letter of inquiry made Cynthia Crossen's column lists his own favorite authors, Lee Childs, Harlan Coben, Gayle Lynds, David Baldacci, Vince Flynn and Bernard Cornwell. I've read David Baldacci and, as I already indicated, Vince Flynn. But I don't know the others.

Crossen, in response, mentions Helen MacInnes, and says she has read of all of hers, as did I years ago. Crossen refers to Helen MacInnes as "maybe the Gayle Lynds of her time." If that's true, then hand me one of Gayle's.

She also mentions "Michael Connelly [read a bunch of his], Robert Crais [nope], the Kellermans (John and Faye)[heard of them, but don't remember reading either], George Pelecanos [nope], to name just a few." She goes on:

Responding to an earlier question about thrillers that didn't feature serial-killers of women, readers suggested Lawrence Block's Matt Scudder mysteries and Donna Leon's Inspector Brunetti series (start with "Death at La Fenice"). My mystery-mad friend Jean likes Laurie King.

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I prefer mystery, action or intrigue books to be well written, and fortunately, that's not a problem. I like Dennis Lehane, Martin Cruz Smith, John Burdett and Ian Rankin - polished storytellers who don't always make the airport racks. I also enjoy Elizabeth George's Inspector Lynley series. Ms. George should put all her books on diets, but her characters make excellent company. Also, look for the just published "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" by Steig Larsson. That will keep you awake, and it's the first volume of a trilogy.

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