February 2003
Book Reviews by Meg Wood

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  • (2/20) The Apprentice by Tess Gerritsen.

    Sequel to "The Surgeon," this mystery starts with a copycat murder following "The Surgeon's" (serial killer Warren Hoyt) m.o. to a tee. Of course, Detective Jane Rizzoli is brought in on the case. After all, nobody knows more about Hoyt than her -- she was nearly killed by him and was the cop who ultimately took him down. But when Hoyt escapes from prison and the murders escalate, it's clear that this isn't just your every day normal copycat killer. It's a team of two dangerous men -- and they're coming after Jane next.

    This was a fairly entertaining thriller. Better written than "The Surgeon," but still not exactly what you'd call literature. Gerritsen still has an annoying tendency to overuse catchy phrases (okay, enough with "coup de grace," already!). But hey, I was entertained and that's all I was really lookin' for with this one.
    [MYSTERY]

  • (2/14) Falling Angels by Tracy Chevalier.

    As this novel opens, it is January 1901, the day after Queen Victoria's death. As was the tradition at that time, fashionable British citizens like the Waterhouses and the Colemans got dressed up in mourning clothes and went to visit their family graves -- to pay respect to their ancestors, as well as the Queen. Because of this tradition, the Waterhouses and Colemans finally meet. They have had neighboring graves for years, but never have happened to be visiting them at the same time before.

    Almost immediately, the young girls in both families, Maude and Livy, become best friends. The husbands bond over cricket. But the wives, Kitty and Gertrude, find they have little in common. And, as time goes on, their personalities and interest grow even more disparate. Gertrude is a traditionalist, clinging to old-fashioned values and ways. But Kitty has become obsessed with the suffragette movement, a cause for which she ultimately gives up everything -- first her family, and then her life.

    This novel of friends, daughters, mothers, and early 20th century British culture is told by each of the main characters, with chapters alternating in narrator. Because of this, we really get to know these women -- and we get to see what they do not: how similar they actually all are. Set against a gaslit backdrop of social and political upheaval, this is a dazzling, elegant, and compelling picture of family life. Highly recommended!
    [FICTION]

  • (2/10) Ghost Image by Joshua Gilder.

    Fairly decent thriller about a plastic surgeon called to the ER one night when a severely burned and beaten woman is brought in. Though her face is mangled, he quickly realizes she is Allie, his lover. He manages to save her, but she is left in a coma for months while the police department searches for clues about what might have happened to her.

    When she finally wakes, she doesn't remember what happened. And though Jackson stays by her side, his love for her never faltering, Allie soon becomes obsessed about her appearance -- and about the fact her boyfriend and his boss have the tools and the skills to fix her face. Her obsession turns deadly -- and so does, in some ways, Jackson's own obsession. With her.

    All in all, a pretty original medical thriller. But this is Gilder's first novel and it really shows. The writing is good -- solid and well-developed. But, to put it simply, there's just too much of it. Which isn't the same thing as saying the novel is too long (although, that too). But more that sometimes sentences, paragraphs, or even whole chapters are superfluous. And, after awhile, I started skimming a bit. I wanted to find out what happened next, but was quickly becoming bogged down by the unnecessary parts. Still, ten times better than anything Robin Cook has put out in the last decade. Fans of the genre won't be disappointed.
    [FICTION]

  • (2/7) Tough Cookie by Diane Mott Davidson.

    Another in the fabulously entertaining mystery series featuring chef-turned-sleuth Goldy Schulz. In this one, Goldy has been offered a gig hosting a cooking show for PBS. Since her catering business is in a shambles (long story), she jumps at the chance to snag some free publicity AND, since the show will be taping at Colorado's posh Killdeer Ski Resort, a little free skiing as well.

    During one of the shows, however, everything goes wrong from the moment she leaves home for the resort. First, she has to drive through a blizzard to get there, then she screws up several times during the live broadcast (egg shells in the batter, frozen butter in the mixer, etc.). Afterwards, she goes off to ski with an old friend and they end up getting separated on the slopes. When Goldy finally catches up to him, she finds him dead from an unexplainable skiing accident, and surrounded by $8000 in cash.

    As if that weren't bad enough, when the police finally let her leave the crime scene and head for home, she is nearly killed in a traffic accident. An accident that may not have actually been accidental.

    What the heck is going on? The answer involves an amazing combination of wine, art, bribery, and the chairman of the State Parole Board. Oh, and, of course, lots of snooping around on Goldy's part. Once again, this is a hilarious romp full of intrigue and suspense, with a liberal dash of mouth-watering recipes ta boot (the Skier's Swiss Cereal has already become my favorite Sunday morning breakfast). An absolute pleasure from start to finish. Recommended!
    [MYSTERY]

  • (2/1) Durable Goods by Elizabeth Berg.

    Short novel, the first in a series I think, about a little girl named Katie and her life on a Texan army base. Since their mother died, Katie and her older sister Diane have been struggling to grow up with only their distant, sometimes violent father to guide them. Diane escapes into the arms of her boyfriend Dickie, while Katie hides in her room or flees to her best friend Cherylanne's house. And they're managing, they're growing up, they're reasonably happy. Until the inevitable news comes once again -- it's time for another transfer to another base. Only this time, the strong-willed Diane has had enough. She won't move again -- she won't start all over again. She can't. So she and Dickie pack Katie up and take off for Mexico, for an adventure that changes Katie's life forever.

    Even though I only spent about two hours with Katie, the narrator of this 200 page novel, as a military kid myself, I related to a lot of her emotions. Though my father wasn't violent like hers, they had other things in common. And other elements of military life, particularly the mixture of emotions you feel every time you have to start all over -- again. I feel in love with Katie and her resilience and will be looking for the next book in this series right away. Recommended!
    [FICTION]


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    Email -- meg@megwood.com
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