Sunday, November 4, 2012

Ray's Reviews: John Sandford's "Mad River" and Richard Castle's "Frozen Heat"

     There are dead bodies galore and so much more in two recent fast-paced, highly entertaining best-selling crime novels.
     "Mad River" by John Sandford (Putnam, $27.95) is the sixth book in his series starring Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension agent Virgil Flowers.
     Sandford, who's also written 22 books in his "Prey" series starring Lucas Davenport, doesn't falter, creating a taught, tight thriller that's tough to put down.
     The fast-paced tale opens with a bang in the first chapter, as three teenagers break into a house in a robbery attempt.
     Things go badly wrong when they kill a young woman; they murder another man and steal his car. Soon the body count rises again and Flowers is trying to track the teenagers who have gone on a killing spree.
     As the investigation continues, the case becomes more complex; Flowers gets limited assistance from assorted police departments.
     There's considerable violence, including frustration and anger between the teenagers; Flowers digs deeper, going all out to stop further bloodshed.
     Sandford is in fine form in "Mad River"; a reader unfamiliar with earlier books in the series will still find strong characterization, clever plotting and a thought-provoking conclusion.
     "Frozen Heat" by Richard Castle (Hyperion, $26.99) is the fourth in the series based on the popular ABC television series.
     It stars NYPD detective Nikki Heat and journalist Jameson Rook, thinly veiled characters from the show.
     Heat is investigating the murder of an unidentified woman who was stabbed to death. The frozen body was discovered in a suitcase, inside a freezer truck.
     The detective is startled when she notices that the suitcase containing the body belonged to Heat's mother, who was murdered 10 years earlier in a similar, unsolved case.
     As Heat, Rook and the rest of the squad dig deeper, unnerving facts are discovered, disclosing unusual family secrets.
     A trip to Paris provides more clues and leaves more questions; attempts are made on Heat's life.
     Evidence mysteriously disappears and the other important test results are destroyed. Heat and Rook's diligent efforts involve them in many chase scenes with deadly, unexpected results.
     The convoluted plot ends with a cliffhanger, ideal for a sequel; this is a solid, enjoyable police procedural with a touch of humor thrown in for good measure.
Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing's Curious Book Shop,
has reviewed crime novels and noir thrillers regularly since 1987.

This review was originally published by the
Lansing State Journal on Sunday, November 4, 2012.

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