Monthly Archives: September 2015

Play Dead by Harlan Coben

Play DeadPlay Dead by Harlan Coben
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

It’s never a good sign when the author begins with a foreword apologizing for the quality of the book. Coben’s re-release of his first novel was apparently some sort of eye-opener for him. Until he went back to review it he didn’t realize how amateurish it was. That said, it was pretty typical Coben, in my opinion. He didn’t get much less amateurish in his later books.

The lead character, Laura Ayers, is apparently the most beautiful woman in the world, a supermodel and business/fashion whiz. Virtually every man, and most of the women, are dumbstruck or driven to overwhelming lust upon laying eyes on her. Her body is mentioned about 4,000 times (although not graphically described, so voyeurs need not bother). Her love interest, David Baskin, a Boston Celtics forward, is the best basketball player in the history of the game. Laura’s sister, mother, aunt, and lead model are the 2nd through 5th most beautiful women in the world. Just your routine everyday group of pals and family, right? Baskin’s brother Stan is also handsome, but a sleazy con man and gambler. On Laura’s and David’s honeymoon in Australia David goes missing, apparently drowned in the surf. Or was it suicide? Or homicide? Or is he really dead? (Hint: did you notice the title? That’s how obvious his “mysteries” are.)

The book is horribly overwritten, but as I said, that’s typical Coben. He seems to have a thing for basketball players, or at least really tall people. His main characters in his later books are also very tall men. I’m guessing the author played some B-Ball or at least is a big fan.

The convoluted plot sets up several mysteries, all tied somehow to what happened 30 years earlier. There’s something going on between Laura’s mother and aunt and the Baskin men. David’s money goes missing. His best friend, a cop, seems loyal but a bit shady. Mysterious threats and break-ins occur. It’s all resolved in what is supposed to be a shocking twist ending, but it’s all rather predictable because the author telegraphs the twists so far in advance. Still, the action moves along fairly smartly and if you’re a high-school dropout you won’t have any trouble with the vocabulary or style. If you dislike the pottymouth style, avoid this one. I listened to the audiobook, and Scott Brick’s overacting didn’t help it any. I can’t recommend it, but it was okay to play solitaire by.

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Fatal Dose is free today!

Fatal Dose is free today on Amazon! There was such a positive response to the free day of Cached Out that I have done the same for Fatal Dose, the third book in the Cliff Knowles Mysteries series.  Please spread the word. Share or repost the link to this page, or to the Amazon page: click for free copy of Fatal Dose.

Today’s the only day! I ask one favor: Please write a review on when you’re done reading it. Authors make books free primarily to get reviews (which help get the book noticed and open up more promotional opportunities). Just a short “Really enjoyed it” is fine if you don’t like to write long reviews.  Even if you don’t think you’ll read it, download it anyway. It’s free, and the more downloads, the higher “sales” ranking it gets, which helps get it more visibility. You don’t have to have a Kindle. Android, Apple, and Microsoft devices all have free Kindle apps.

Free today, 9/26/15

Here’s the book description:

X-rays can kill cancer cells and save lives when administered properly. They can also kill people when things go wrong – a fact learned the hard way by retired FBI agent Cliff Knowles. Hired to unravel the cause of some mysterious overdoses, he gets too close to the truth and finds his own life on the line.

Inspired by actual cases he worked as an FBI agent in Silicon Valley, the author weaves an absorbing tale of greed, technology, and terrorism in this high-tech legal thriller. After reading Fatal Dose you’ll never look at an X-ray machine the same way.

This is a book that should appeal to mystery fans and also to science fiction fans who enjoy medical mysteries like Coma or The Andromeda Strain.

Big Bills Only – hilarious, shocking, and a total must read

Big Bills OnlyBig Bills Only by Jerry Webb
My rating: 6 of 5 stars

This non-fiction account of a horrendous crime that occurred in Dallas, Texas, by the FBI case agent who led the investigation is an absolute must read. It is neither politically nor stylistically correct, and thank God for that. It is, instead, at times hilarious, gut-wrenchingly shocking, frightening, unbelievable, and at all times both true and thoroughly entertaining. It is written in the inimitable and indescribable voice of one of those guys who for 22 years kept your father from being beaten to death and your daughter from being raped and all the other things street agents do in the FBI. This is no gloss-over love-me from a suit. The author has never wanted more than to throw bad guys in jail and he succeeded admirably. He could also be a stand-up comedian, but thank heavens that he chose to protect us instead.

Fair disclosure: I’m a retired FBI agent, too, so I’m thoroughly biased, but I’m not exaggerating when I say I absolutely loved this book. I literally could not put it down. Okay, that’s a lie. I did put it down when I got to the end of the story and reached the copy of the appellate court opinion appended onto it. Even that is entertaining, but I’m a retired lawyer, too, so take that with a grain of salt. So I ate dinner and cleaned up the dishes in the break and then read the appellate opinion, but considering that the book came in the mail at 4:00 o’clock and I’m writing this at 7:30 PM, you can see that I totally devoured this. If I could give it six stars, I would. It’s not polished. The font is wrong, the page justification is wrong, and the photos are almost useless. It’s raw and disrespectful and did I mention politically incorrect? It is also absolutely, totally, wonderful. Read it. You’re an idiot if you don’t. In fact, you should read it at least twice. The stuff at the beginning is twice as funny after you’ve read what happens at the end.

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Congressman Brad Sherman behaves like a boor

Reposted from a facebook post by a friend:

Rant of the weekend. On this edition we’ll not address “professional” behavior at lounges, but on aircrafts.

Last night I had the pleasure of sitting across this gentleman. (I will not even discuss his demeanor towards the flight attendants). As a productive man, he spent half the flight going through his 3-ring binder and highlighting important parts. Those pages that were not that important, he just ripped and threw on the floor/aisle. I had plans to take a photo of the aftermath of his seat once he deplaned. However, he deplaned and forgot his large briefcase on the floor (karma). Between that and the blanket that he also threw on the ground, it covered most of the carnage he left behind.

Of course you are expecting this to be an uneducated person flying for the first time. Nope. This person has a UCLA undergrad (sorry Bruins!) and a Harvard law degree. His name is Bradley in “Honorable” Brad Sherman, US Representative for California’s 30th District.

I’m still in shock by his disrespect to those around him..and specially for the cleaning crew coming after our flight. It’s common to see trash that has fallen unnoticed to the floor after a long flight. But this intentional behavior is reprehensible from any civilized human being – specially from one of our elected officials.

On a side note, I watched the look of disbelief on the old Scottish couple sitting next to me. I’m just glad they didn’t know that this rude man was a Representative of the USA. Because as an American, I was embarrassed.

Armada by Ernest Cline

ArmadaArmada by Ernest Cline
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Most of the reviews on Amazon marked as most useful are in the 2 and 3 star range. There’s a reason for that. This book is just okay, but more than that, it is a huge disappointment to fans of Ready Player One, which I gave five stars.

If RPO was a lovefest for vintage video games, Armada is an orgy. It’s really more of a storyboard for a huge pure CGI movie than a novel. Eventually a plot of sorts oozes out, but it barely makes comic book grade. The characters could be right from Archie and Veronica except with F- and S-bombs every other sentence.

The plot can be summarized as: aliens invade earth and the main character, a dweebish first person shooter expert, is inducted into the heretofore secret Earth Defense Alliance to shoot down their spacecraft. Along the way he meets a hot, counterculture girl gamer. Battles ensue accompanied by a bunch of mixed tapes of noxious bands that came after my time. The author makes shameless and rather offensive use of the names of many famous scientists such as Carl Sagan. Still, the author writes reasonably well and the action moves along smartly.

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Sneaky People by Thomas Berger

Sneaky PeopleSneaky People by Thomas Berger
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

What a disappointment. I can’t say I hated it, but I certainly wouldn’t have finished it had it not been chosen for a mystery book group I intended to join. It’s so crude as to qualify as soft-core porn. I realize it’s intended as satire but it just plain fails at that. I haven’t been to this discussion group before but I’ll be very interested to see how this book got chosen. If future books are like this one, I won’t be staying. I don’t think of myself as easily offended, but this book managed to offend me pretty much all the way through.

The book is set in the 1930s somewhere in Bigotsville, USA. Racist terms abound along with the F-bombs and graphic descriptions of the crudest teenage boy sex fantasies. The characters are all cartoons and repulsive ones at that, except for a few pitiable ones. There were a couple of amusing scenes near the end, but that’s as close to a plot as I was able to find. There is no mystery, no murder, no action scene, no detective, and no ending to speak of. I turned the last page expecting to find that the last few pages must have been ripped out since the story just came to an abrupt halt. I suppose Berger just ran out of metaphors and slang terms for erections and gave up.

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Cached Out to be an audiobook!

Cliff Knowles fans, you have something new to be excited about. Cached Out, the second Cliff Knowles mystery, will soon be an audiobook, available from, Amazon, and iTunes, read by experienced voice actor Joe Hempel. Stay tuned here for the progress.

You found it, now go get it.

Cached Out, the first geocaching mystery