Books I’ve Read in 2015

Here are the books I read during 2015. I rate them with 1-5 stars. The book must be truly phenomenal to get 5 stars.

  1. ***The Instant Enemy (Ross MacDonald, 1968). Two young lovers kidnap a millionaire businessman, and Lew Archer is hired to get him back. There is a massive tangle of relationships which doesn’t really get resolved until the end. I wasn’t sure how it was going to end up, but wasn’t surprised at how it did. A good red. 1/2
  2. ***Wild Town (Jim Thompson). Ex-con hard-guy Bugs McKenna is hired as house detective in a hotel where lots of shady stuff goes on. In trying to untangle some shenanigans, things happen, and you don’t know who is good and who is bad. Classic Jim Thompson. 1/12
  3. ***Cropper’s Cabin (Jim Thompson, 1952). Tommy Carver is a rebellious, hot-tempered young man. His father hates him, his stepmom has a thing for him. He’s poor white trash having a fling with the daughter of a rich Indian farmer. Things happen. 1/20
  4. ***A Bomb Made in Hell (Andrews Vachss, 2012). The story of Wesley, the feared and legendary assassin from the Burke books. Oddly, I found Wesley less interesting here than in the sparse appearances he makes in the Burke books. 1/27
  5. ****3:00 (Nick Pirog, 2013). Henry Bins has Henry Bins Syndrome–he wakes up at 3am every day, and falls asleep at 4am every day. He gets a lot done during that one hour a day. One morning, just as the clock was hitting 3:59, he heard a woman scream. Looking out the window, he saw the President of the United States leaving the house next door. The next day, he discovers a dead woman inside the house. It gets real interesting, especially since it’s told in one-hour increments. Other Henry Bins stories are coming. I look forward to them. This one was only 80 pages long. 1/31
  6. ***Snuff the Magic Dragon (Leslie Langtry, 2013). Several stories from the Bombay family of assassins, including how the assassination business got started way back in Greek times. 2/4
  7. ***My Heroes have Always been Hitmen (Leslie Langtry, 2013). More stories from the Bombay family. The final book in the series. 2/9
  8. ****Private: Berlin (James Patterson/Mark Sullivan, 2013). A very interesting plot revolving around mysteries concerning what happened to orphans at a slaughterhouse during the Iron Curtain years. This is the first book about the Berlin office of Private Investigations. Jack Morgan, the founder, takes part in one of several plotlessness. 2/12
  9. ****Private: LA (James Patterson/Mark Sullivan, 2014). A group of bad guys are killing lots of innocent people in LA as they blackmail the city. That’s one of the two main plots. In the other, Thom and Jennifer Harlow, glamour couple actors with multiple Oscars, have disappeared. What happened to them? Their story gets sordid. Then there are minor plotlines involving Jack and his brother Tommy, and Justine and a guy named Paul. Excellent book. 2/15
  10. ***Private: Down Under (James Patterson/Michael White, 2014). Private Worldwide Investigations opens an office in Sidney, Australia, headed by Craig Gist. The book is told from his point of view (most of the time). There are three plots (as is the case with most Private books–Patterson is very formulaic). Chinese triads are going after the family of a former Hong Kong policeman. Someone is murdering women from an upscale neighborhood. And a rock star thinks somebody is trying to kill him. 2/21
  11. **The Crusades, Christianity, and Islam (Jonathan Riley-Smith, 2011). A short book on the Crusades. Wasn’t quite what I wanted. It hit a couple of the Crusades, but didn’t give me the overview I wanted. 2/21
  12. ***This Time Together (Carol Burnett, 2011). A delightful book. It’s somewhat chronological, but not a typical biography. More a collection of short experiences from her life. There are, for instance, short chapter on each person in her TV show. I enjoyed reading it. 3/1
  13. ****A Touch of Death (Charles Williams, 1953). Lee Scarborough, a former college football star gets involved with a search for a missing fortune. There’s the widow, who probably killed her husband and knows where the cash is. There’s the gal who hires Scarborough. Other persons make an appearance. It’s very well done. I’ve read only one other Charles Williams book, and it was excellent, too. Must read more. 3/8
  14. ***Open Minds (Susan Kaye Quinn, 2013). Book one of the Mindjack Trilogy, a dystopian young adult series. Everyone in this society can reads minds…except Kira. She’s 16, and called a Zero because of her inability. But then she learns she can actually CONTROL people’s minds, make them do what she wants. And she’s not alone. It goes from there. She is pitted against the government (of course), and other things happen. Pretty interesting, I must say, though I was able to skim large sections and not lose anything. I’m not sure whether I’ll read more in the series. 3/11
  15. ****Dark Origins (Anthony Zuiker, 2009). The first book in the Level 26 series, with Duane Swierczynski. Murderers are ranked on a scale of 1-25. But there’s another level of mass murderer, Level 26, which this series deals with. In this book, it’s a fellow named Sqweegel, who is a totally unique serial killer. Steve Dark, who almost caught him several years before, is forced out of retirement to find him. But Sqweegel is going after Dark, too. Very interesting. Every few chapters, you’re directed to a website where you can watch a short video of a scene from the book. Those are very well done, with recognizable actors (like Michael Ironsides). 3/17
  16. ***Unknown (Didier Van Cauwelaert, 2004). Originally published as “Out of My Head,” but released in movie form as “Unknown.” A man comes out of a coma and finds his wife living with another man and not even recognizing him. Nobody recognizes him. It’s as if he never existed. So he tries to figure out what happened. A lot of psychology. 3/21
  17. ****Dark Prophecy (Anthony Zuiker, 2010). The second book in the Level 26 series, with Duane Swierczynski. It’s five years after the events of Dark Origins, and Steve Dark has left the special agency which tracks serial killers. But a new killer is on the loose, and Dark gets dragged into it through someone who apparently works for another secret government agency–the sister of a victim from one of Dark’s previous cases. Killings occur around the country, and Dark and Lisa Graysmith flit around after them. Very good book. 3/25
  18. ****Dark Revelations (Anthony Zuiker, 2012). The third book in the Level 26 series, with Duane Swierczynski. A man who calls himself Labyrinth is killing people around the world, always dropping elaborate clues with a riddle and props. Steve Dark joins a super-secret group based in Paris, Global Alliance, to catch Labyrinth. Good book. 4/4
  19. ****Fletch (Gregory MacDonald, 1974). Fletch is undercover, doing a newspaper story about drug-running on a beach. At the same time, a rich guy, thinking Fletch is just another druggie, asks Fletch to kill him. He says he’s dying of cancer, and wants a big insurance payoff to go to his family. These two plots run concurrently, and both are very interesting. The best Fletch book since “Fletch, Too.” 4/10
  20. **Fletch, Confess (Gregory MacDonald, 1976). Fletch flies into Boston to track down a collection of paintings stolen from his finance’s family. Upon entering the apartment where he is staying, he finds a dead woman on the floor. He calls the police, and he becomes the number of suspect. Great repartee between Fletch and Inspector Flynn, around whom MacDonald wrote another series of books. A bit slow moving, though. 4/16
  21. ****Objects of Wrath (Sean T. Smith, 2013). A very plausible apocalyptic thriller. When a Miami man sees what seems to be a nuclear exchange coming, he piles his family into a car and heads to Tennessee, where his father-in-law has been preparing for an end-of-the-world scenario. A large community is built there, amidst a very violent world. The book focuses on the son, who comes of age and becomes a leader. Spiritual themes are woven into the book in a non-overbearing way. I absolutely loved this book. It’s the first part of a trilogy. I’ll definitely be reading th next two books. 4/18.
  22. **The Bat (Jo Nesbo, 1997). Published in English in 2012, the first Harry Hole book. This is set in Australia, where Hole has been sent to observe a a murder case involving a Norwegian woman. A serial killer is at work. 4/25
  23. ****The Cross and the Lynching Tree (James Cone, 2013). An amazing book relating the Jim Crow legacy of lynching with the cross of Christ. I learned so, so much about black history–very disturbing stuff from the Jim Crow years. Cone’s insights really affected me. 4/23
  24. **Cockroaches (Jo Nesbo, 1998). Harry Hole is sent to Thailand to investigate the murder of the Norwegian ambassador. Not a very interesting book. 5/10
  25. *Ravenous (Erica Stevens, 2012). The first book of the Ravening series. Aliens have launched some kind of war against humanity, and most people are simply frozen in place, somewhere between dead and alive. Bethany, Cade, and others remain conscious, and find themselves trying to keep away from the aliens. I’m astonished at how little happens in this book, and how little the reader understands about what is happening. I won’t read any more of the series. 5/17
  26. ****Children of Wrath (Sean T. Smith, 2014). The second book of the trilogy, occurring about ten years after the first book. This time, the battle is against a cult-like leader working out of Salt Lake City. This man, Gideon, kidnaps William’s daughter. The action is non-stop. Love it. 5/28
  27. ****Wrath and Redemption (Sean T. Smith, 2015). The third book of the trilogy. Another ten years have passed. Ryder, William’s son, is now part of the Foxes, the elite commando unit trained by his father, William Fox. In Russia, the Tsar launched a war against America which is now based in Anchorage, Alaska. While Ryder and Chilli find themselves in Europe, William is in Alaska and the Russia. Meanwhile, bandits capture Crystal Fox and take her far away. A superb conclusion to the trilogy. 6/5
  28. **Hothouse Orchid (Stuart Woods, 2009). Holly Barker returns to Orchid Beach for some vacation, and gets involved in a case where women are being raped and killed. Way too many coincidences happen: the officer against whom she filed charges while in the military has become the police chief in Orchid Beach, and the other woman whom the guy assaulted turns up as a state policeman, whom Holly happens upon in Orchid Beach. Too much for me. 6/12
  29. **Kisser (Stuart Woods, 2010). Stone Barrington takes a case in which a young heiress needs to be separated from a shady guy who obviously has designs on her inheritance. Other stuff happens. Way too much sex. 6/18
  30. **Escape Into Daylight (Geoffrey Household, 2015). A novella set in England. A young boy wanders into the wrong place, and is kidnapped by a gang of men who are already holding a young girl, a school classmate, for ransom. They are kept underground in a very dark place. So they have to try to figure out how to get out, and when they do, how to stay free. Nothing particularly interesting happens, though. 6/21
  31. ***Enemy of Mine (Brad Taylor, 2014). The third Pike Logan thriller. I like Taylor, and I like his protagonist, Pike Logan. I also liked the two previous books better, but this one was okay. It’s set in the Middle East–Lebanon and Dubai–where Logan and his somewhat-girlfriend, Jennifer, fellow members of the super-secret TaskForce, are trying to thwart a plot to kill a US Middle East Envoy. An old enemy of Logan’s is involved, along with a new one, an Arab assassin known as the Ghost. It could have moved along a bit faster. 6/27
  32. **No Shelter (Robert Swartwood, 2011). Holly Lin is a government assassin, so she goes out on cases where she’s supposed to kill people. Lots of books have characters like this. This is my first Swartwood book, and enjoyed it, for the most part. 6/30
  33. ****The Serial Killer’s Wife (Robert Swartwood, 2011). Five years ago, Elizabeth’s husband went to prison for killing six people. She secretly relocated in Kansas. But now her son has been kidnapped, and the kidnapper wants her to retrieve her husband’s trophies–the ring fingers he cut off his victim’s hands. She’s given 100 hours, and thus begins a cross-country trek. This is an excellent book, with various twists. 7/1
  34. ****Blue City (Ross MacDonald, 1947). I’ve only read MacDonald’s Lew Archer books. This one is a stand-alone book featuring John Weather, a WW2 vet who comes back to his home city to discover that his father was assassinated two years before. He dives in to figure out what happened, landing amidst small-town gangsters, drug-dealers, prostitutes, crooked cops, crooked politicians, and assorted others. It’s an excellent piece of noir. Wonderfully written. 7/3
  35. **Auschwitz Belongs to Us All (Marta Ascoli). Ascoli was a Jewish child in Italy when she was transported to Auschwitz. This is her story. Some things I hadn’t heard before about the camps. A mere 75 pages. 7/4
  36. ****After Shock (Andrew Vachss, 2013). The first in a new trilogy told by Dell, a former French Foreign Legionnaire and assassin, now living with his wife, Dolly, a former nurse with Doctors Without Borders, on the Oregon coast. Young girls are being raped in their town, and a high school softball star takes matters into her own hands. To protect her younger sister, she walks into school, shoots the head of the gang doing the rapes, and then sits down until police arrive to arrest her. Most of what happens revolves around legal efforts to exonerate the girl. Very interesting story, with interesting characters. 7/11
  37. ****Alone (Robert J. Crane, 2012). Sienna Nealon is raised in solitude by her mother, never leaving the house for 10 years. Then one day, after her mother hasn’t returned for a week, two armed intruders invade the home. Sienna, highly trained in fighting skills, escapes from the house into the world she knows little about. Turns out others are looking for her, because she is a meta–a human with special abilities. She’s very fast, super strong, heals easily…and has other surprises. Which she’ll need against a super-meta named Wolf who is thousands of years old, and wants her very badly. 7/17
  38. ***Untouched (Robert J. Crane, 2013). The second in the series “The Girl in the Box,” featuring Sienna Nealon. She’s a meta, with special powers–including being a succubus, able to kill someone just by touching them. In this book, a meta who can fly and do all kinds of things with fire–like throw fireballs, and cause huge explosions–is looking for his sister, whom he’s convinced is at the Directorate, where Sienna lives. Then there’s a heavily armored meta who is after Sienna. Other stuff happens. 7/20
  39. ***Soulless (Robert J. Crane, 2014). The third “Girl in the Box” book. Sienna, Scott, and Kat are sent out on their first mission–to catch a meta who is stealing people’s memories. The organizations Alpha and Omega make a strong appearance. Sienna’s aunt Charlie also plays a big role. 7/24
  40. ****The Target (David Baldacci, 2014). Will Robie and Jessica Reel, highly trained assassins for the CIA, are back in this third Will Robie book. They are being groomed for a mission involving North Korea, a mission for which things take unexpected turns. There’s a North Korean woman assassin, a very interesting character. So it’s all about North Korea, with further intrigue involving CIA director Evan Turner, who in the previous book tried to have Robie and Reel killed. 7/30
  41. ****Rumble Tumble (Joe Lansdale, 1998). The fifth Hap & Leonard book finds them, along with Bret, Hap’s girlfriend, setting off to free Brett’s daughter, Tillie, from a life of prostitution. She chose to get into it, but is now forced to stay in that life. So they head to Oklahoma City, where Big Jim runs things. A criminal midget named Red plays a big part. Probably my favorite Hap & Leonard book. 7/31
  42. ****Captains Outrageous (Joe Lansdale, 2009). The sixth Hap & Leonard book, and one of the best. Hap stumbles into some money, and he and Leonard go on a cruise…but the ship leaves them behind in Mexico. Thus begins an adventure with a 70-year-old fisherman who’s great at machete fighting, his lovely daughter, some fishing tourists from the US, and a Mexican drug lord. I really really liked this book. 8/3
  43. ****A Martyr’s Grace (Marvin J. Newell, 2006). The stories of 21 missionaries martyred in foreign lands. All of them attended Moody Bible Institute at one time. It’s very humbling to read these stories. 8/8
  44. ****Mad River (John Sandford, 2012). Virgil Flowers, in this 6th installment, goes on the trail of some spree killers–a young man and his girlfriend, and a male friend. All are losers. A very good story, and the plot goes to some interesting places. 8/9
  45. ***Storm Front (John Sandford, 2013). Virgil Flowers gets involved with an ancient stone smuggled out of Israel by a Catholic priest from Minnesota. Various persons descend, wanting to get their hands on the valuable artifact–a Mossad agent, Turkish killer, a TV show host, and others. More humor, less killing than in other Flowers books. I kind of hope this isn’t a new direction Sandford is taking with the Flowers series. 8/22
  46. ****Personal (Lee Child, 2014). For the first time (I’m pretty sure), Jack Reacher leaves the country. He’s tracking an expert sniper, one of the world’s best–a guy he once arrested and sent to prison for 15 years. The guy took a shot at the Prime Minister of France, and seems to be targeting somebody at the G8 summit in England next. Reach is teamed up with a rookie FBI agent, a woman. 8/25
  47. ****Transfer of Power (Vince Flynn, 1999). The first Mitch Rapp book that Flynn wrote, though he later did two prequels. Terrorists have taken over the White House, though the president made it to his bunker. Rapp is inserted into the White House, and the fun begins. 8/27
  48. *****The Road (Carmac McCarthy, 2006). A father and son trek across a devastated, post-apocalyptic American midwest. A fascinating tale. 8/20
  49. ***Night of the Assassin (Russell Blake, 2014). The back-story of El Rey, a deadly Mexican assassin. Prequel to the series. 9/3
  50. *1000 Yards (Mark Dawson, 2014). A prequel novella to the John Milton series. Milton goes into North Korea to assassinate somebody. Pretty much a boring read. 9/6
  51. ****Gun Machine (Warren Ellis, 2014). A room in an apartment is filled with dozens of guns, arranged in a somewhat artistic way. Each gun was used in a murder. Detective John Tallow tries to discover who is behind the guns. 9/11
  52. **I’m Not Scared (Niccolo Ammanniti, 2004). While with some friends in the hills above their Italian city, a boy discovers, in an abandoned house, a boy chained in a hole. The boy is a bit crazy. He makes other visits to see the boy and bring him food and water. The story develops. 9/19
  53. ***Hit and Run (Doug Johnstone, 2012). Three friend outside Edinborough, Scotland, are high on drugs when their car slams into somebody on a remote road. They drag the body off the road. The body is discovered the next day, but not quite where they left it. Turns out the man was a well-known mobster. The driver is assigned to the story by his newspaper. He gets involved with the man’s widow. Lots of other thugs around. Intrigue with the other two persons in the car–the man’s brother and girlfriend. Interesting story. 9/21
  54. ****Backflash (Richard Stark, 1997). Parker puts together a crew to rob a gambling steamship. 10/3
  55. ****The Waystation (Clifford Simak, 1973). A Civil War vet is chosen to man a waystation for aliens traveling through the galaxy. They stop on earth for a bit in his house, which has been specially modified by aliens. He’s also immortal, and has now lived well over 100 years. But things are catching up with him. A fascinating book. 10/15
  56. ****The Insanity of God (Nick Ripken, 2013). A fabulous Christian book in two halves. The first half tells Ripken’s story of ministering in Somalia for six years, including during the Black Hawk Down episode. Utterly fascinating. But his experience there led to questions about persecution and God’s protection over us. In the second half of the book, he visits believers in Russia, Ukraine, China, and other countries to hear their stories of persecution. Again, utterly fascinating. Two superb books in one. 10/28
  57. ***Nightmare in Pink (John MacDonald, 1964). The second Travis McGee book. A war buddy asks him to look into the murder of his daughter’s fiance. 11/2
  58. ****The Third Option (Vince Flynn, 2000). The second Mitch Rapp book written. Rapp is sent to assassinate a German who is supplying arms to terrorists. Things go bad. There’s a shady senator with designs on embarrassing, and eventually replacing the president. 11/3
  59. ****Hope to Die (James Patterson, 2014). The second part of the story of Thierry Mulch, who has kidnapped Cross’s family. 11/8
  60. ***The Widow’s Strike (Brad Taylor, 2013). An Iranian general implements a plan to steal deadly Bird Flu serum and infect the world. Pike Logan and crew, especially Jennifer, are right on top of it. Set mostly in southeast Asia. 11/29
  61. ****Ten Days in a Mad House (Nellie Bly, 1840). Nellie Bly, a newspaper reporter, gets herself committed to a local insane asylum and writes about what she experiences over a ten-day period. Very compelling, and distressing. 11/29
  62. ***Bullet Rain (Robert Swawrtwood, 2014). Nova Bartkowski, former hitman for the US government, finds himself with a broke-down car in a Nevada desert town where something’s not right. Way too many ex-military men around, and something’s happening at an abandoned mine. Then there’s the brunette snooping around the town and getting in trouble. Interesting book. 12/11
  63. ****A Purple Place for Dying (John MacDonald, 1964). Travis McGee (#3) finds himself in Arizona with a disgruntled wife who has a case for him, but as they talk, a high-powered rifle guns her down. Thus begins a great adventure involving the woman’s husband, the boyfriend she intended to run away with, the sister of that boyfriend, and assorted others. The relationship between McGee and the sister, Isobel, is fascinating and very satisfying. She’s a wonderfully drawn character. I loved this book. 12/25
  64. ****The Redeemer (Jo Nesbo, 2005). A Croatian hired assassin, called The Redeemer, come to Oslo to kill a Salvation Army worker. Did he kill the right person? Lots of intrigue in the ranks of the Salvation Army. An excellent plot. 12/28
  65. ***The Shepherd (Frederick Forsyth, 1975). A novella set on Christmas Eve. A British jet pilot, while flying home on Christmas Eve, suffers a complete electrical failure over the North Sea. A sweet story. 12/29
  66. ***The Game of X (Robert Sheckley, 1965). A whimsical spy thriller. An unemployed American living in Paris is recruited to take part in a low-key event for the CIA. That leads to another more dangerous assignment which takes him to Venice. A fun read. 12/31
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