Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Beyond the Ice Limit

Beyond the Ice Limit by Douglas Preston

Beyond the Ice Limit (Gideon Crew, #4; Ice Limit #2) by Douglas Preston (Goodreads Author), Lincoln Child
Amy Caudill‘s review 

This fourth outing in the Gideon Crew series by the writing team of Preston and Child also fulfills a fervent wish from multiple fans over the years to serve as a sequel to a previous stand-alone story by the duo, called The Ice Limit. 

While this book continues the storyline of the last Gideon Crew novel, it also includes the culmination of years of work for pre-existing characters such as Eli Glinn and Manuel Garza, who we have seen in not only the original solo book, but also in the prior three Gideon Crew novels and in a couple of the authors’ Pendergast series books as well. 

Glinn has apparently spent the intervening years gathering resources and making plans to return to the site of his greatest failure, and with his return to health after The Lost Island and the inclusion of Gideon, is finally ready to attempt to repair the damage done by the alien “seed.”

The nature of this creature, once thought to be a giant meteorite, eludes the explorers as they make their way to where it “planted” itself, in the “Screaming Sixties” latitude between the bottom tip of South America and Antarctica.  Is the creature, nicknamed the Baobab because of its resemblance to the terrestrial tree, plant or animal?  Is it a creature or a machine?  The crew members probe these questions even as the Baobab begins to exert its influence over them in inexplicable and later horrifying ways.

The combined efforts of Gideon, Glinn, Garza, and latecomer Sam McFarlane (from the original book) desperately try to stop a force that seems to undermine them at every turn.  Will they succeed in destroying the creature, or is the Earth doomed to be the breeding ground of more of these “seeds?”  The action and the drama don’t stop until the very end in this book.

I am a big fan of the two authors, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, of both their individual works but especially those they create together.  The two seemingly work seamlessly as one when collaborating, though I suppose after so many joint projects they probably have it down to a science by this point.  Their characters are engaging but flawed, each different but well-developed, and help to drive the story that already has a fantastically complex plot.  This particular book dips more into the sci-fi genre than many of their others, but the result is still well-paced and thrilling.

I award this book 4.5 stars for an exciting read, that those new to the authors and series can enjoy (almost) as much as those who have read any of the previous books.  I recommend it for fans of science fiction and thrillers alike.

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Bloodless

Happy New Year everyone! As you can see, I’m starting off this year by reviewing a book I finished late last year. I have a number of books I plan to read this year, though hopefully I will have some new original material to share in the coming months (cross fingers!) For now, allow me to tell you about the latest book in a series I have been following for years.

Bloodless by Douglas Preston

Bloodless (Pendergast, #20) by Douglas Preston (Goodreads Author), Lincoln Child
Amy Caudill‘s review

It isn’t often that authors can have a character so decidedly return to the roots of what made a book so intriguing in the beginning, but the writing team of Preston and Child have successfully done just this thing.

FBI Agent Aloysius Pendergast began his fictional career by hunting a gigantic monster through the NY Museum of Natural History.  Now, he’s chasing another, even larger monster through the streets and cemeteries of Savannah, Georgia. 

Pendergast has made a career of handling curious cases that often border on paranormal intrigue.  So it is not surprising that though they are still recovering from the ordeal that became their last investigation, Pendergast, along with his recent partner Agent Armstrong Coldmoon, and his ward, Constance Greene, are intercepted by Assistant Director Pickett before they can part ways.  A series of troubling murders has beset Savannah, and rumors of the bodies being found completely drained of blood seems tailor-made to Pendergast’s expertise.

Will the investigators find proof that the legendary Savannah Vampire actually exists?  A group of ghost hunters making a movie certainly hope so, even if part of the crew has to fake the evidence.  Meanwhile, an overbearing Senator seeking re-election causes another complication to an already difficult investigation that includes twists with a device that can see into the future and the true identity/fate of D.B. Cooper from the famed unsolved mystery fifty years earlier.

The authors, as usual, have done a superb job with well-developed plots, enormously well-researched locations and scenarios, and enough twists and turns for a roller coaster.  For long fans of the series, I don’t want to give anything away about the relationship developments between certain characters.  For those who have never read this series before, don’t be afraid to give it a shot.  You will be able to pick up most of the important points, though I suggest after reading this book you go back and start the series from the beginning to see what you may have missed.

I award this novel five stars and recommend Bloodless to fans of detective procedurals, thrillers, and paranormal stories.  It really has something for everyone.  Happy Reading!

Happy Holidays!

It’s Christmas Time! Photo by Lisa on Pexels.com

A very Happy Holiday season to all my friends on social media! I hope you a wonderful Christmas weekend and New Year, no matter how you choose to celebrate (or not!)

I will be taking a few days off of social media sites to decompress and spend time with my family, so I’ll catch up with you next week.

Thanks as always to all my followers, likes Retweets, and mentions. God bless you and yours!

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : The Library of the Dead

The Library of the Dead by T.L. Huchu

The Library of the Dead (Edinburgh Nights, #1) by T.L. Huchu
Amy Caudill‘s review

In a bleak, somewhat dystopian world where magic-users are accepted as part of the landscape, a young girl attempts to earn dubious living carrying messages back and forth between the living and the recently dead.

 The setting is Scotland, but one where law and order have given way to a world divided into those who have wealth and power and those who struggle to survive by whatever means they can.  Civilization is barely hanging on by a thread, and a lot of citizens, including our protagonist, Ropa Moyo, live on the fringes in a “camper city” reminiscent of the tent cities of the 1930s era U.S. depression.  Ropa, a street-smart girl of fourteen, plies her trade take care of her family, her Gran and younger sister, Izwi. 

Ropa’s regular customers are her lifeblood, but they know the score-either pay, or have someone from the living pay, or she doesn’t pass their messages along.  So when one persistent ghost who wants only to have someone find her missing son, Ropa brushes her off, repeatedly.  Finally convinced by Gran to do a good deed and help, Ropa becomes involved in a mystery that involves more than a few missing people, children and indigents, a new drug sweeping Edinburgh’s underground, and a house that seems alive and able to possess its unwilling residents.

During all of this, Ropa reconnects with her old school friend, Jomo, who has a new job that he isn’t supposed to talk about but shares with Ropa he is an apprentice in the magician’s only Library of the Dead.  Ropa, after a death threat, is initiated into this illustrious community and soon makes a new friend, the paraplegic medical doctor Priya, who can make her wheelchair float upside down.

These three unlikely heroes will be the only ones who seemingly care about the missing children, the insidious drug, and the implications the manifest evil have on the city.  Successfully shutting down the operation, there are questions still to be answered; who is the Tall Man that the criminals seem to defer to?  He never makes an appearance, at least in this book, but this is the first book of author H. L. Helchu’s Edinburgh Nights series.  Will Ropa be allowed to study magic, and can her new “mentor” be trusted? 

I both loved and was sometimes irritated by the characters in this book.  I found some of the language used by the fourteen year old character offensive, but I accepted that her circumstances might have exposed her to more vulgarity.  Overall, the character Ropa is written as being mature beyond her years in many respects, but still a young girl with vulnerabilities and insecurities.  She has good friends, and family to steady her, and the ending of the book both gave hope for her future as well as a setup for further problems. 

I am interested in seeing how this series develops and give this book 4.5 stars.  I would recommend it to fans of dystopian fantasy, but caution some of the language and situations are better for mature readers.

Amy Caudill’s Reviews > The Murder on the Links

The Murder on the Links by Agatha Christie

The Murder on the Links (Hercule Poirot, #2) by Agatha Christie
Amy Caudill‘s review

In this classic Agatha Christie novel, we see her most illustrious detective, Hercule Poirot, reunited with his loyal sidekick, Captain Arthur Hastings in a case that involves murder, blackmail, and multiple secret identities.

Poirot is summoned to the home of a millionaire expatriate in France, only to find his intended client has been murdered before he could arrive.  Thanks to his long term of service and contacts with the French police, he is invited to consult on the case, and soon finds obscure clues that elude the current “star” of the police force, Monsieur Girard. 

Girard scoffs at Poirot’s methods, and soon begins his own separate investigation, hunting for clues that fit his theories, and ignoring pieces of evidence that do not appear to tie in with these.  This leads to an arrest of an innocent man, and then the confession of an innocent woman to save the man, before a ruse perpetuated by Poirot in collusion with the widow of the original victim leads the real killer to reveal herself in the final chapter.  (Sorry, spoilers!)

But all is still not what it seems, as multiple personages have hidden pasts and dark secrets that will soon come to light, and there are multiple issues caused by cases of mistaken identity before the whole mess can be sorted.   In the end, Poirot will be triumphant, Hastings will be in love, and the real culprits either caught or on the run.

All in all, this is a very satisfying mystery, with enough twists and turns to satisfy the most diehard fan.  The Murder on the Links shows why Dame Christie is still the queen of mystery a century later.  While the reader must understand that the action takes place in the 1920s and so make allowances for different manners, clothing styles and vocabulary; the crimes are really timeless and could easily have occurred in a more modern setting.   I give this book five stars and recommend it to readers of mystery everywhere.

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Dark in Death

Dark in Death by J.D. Robb

Dark in Death (In Death, #46) by J.D. Robb (Goodreads Author)
Amy Caudill‘s review 

When a delusional aspiring novelist seeks to prove herself a better writer than her idol, she turns the bestselling author’s work into real-life murder.

In this latest book in the In Death series starring a cast of characters headed by Lt. Eve Dallas of the NYPSD in the not-very distant future, the antagonist believes her would-be mentor has stolen her manuscript, and begins a plot of revenge.  Taking the penname of A.E. Strongbow, the murderer, who we see only in shadows for the majority of the book, begins to act out the main scenes in her rival’s series, which is a set of bestselling police procedurals with similarities to J. D. Robb, otherwise known as Nora Roberts, own work.

 The misguided would-be writer plans to conclude her “series” of murders with the innocent author, Blaine Delano, and Dallas herself, as Dallas forces Strongbow to “write” her in by deliberately antagonizing her during a TV interview.

Unfortunately for our antagonist, Dallas and her team begin to figure out the intent of the criminal and alert her planned victims.  Reading, or in the case of some, re-reading the book series that is her inspiration helps the police pinpoint her probable next targets and warn them.  A near miss where Strongbow leaves evidence behind leads to a trail of clues that help pin down her identity, and then location. 

Still, in the end the fate of the killer comes down to a victim that fights back, and the timely arrival of Dallas, her husband Roarke, and her partner Peabody.  Once in interrogation the killer is only too happy to gloat about her success, and can’t comprehend her murder spree is done before she gets to write the final chapter.

Dark in Death, as always with this series, is highly entertaining.  One does not need to have read other novels in the series to enjoy it, but prior exposure does help the reader understand the relationships between the vast cast of secondary characters and situations in the series. The story flows even as events become complicated, and the scenes between the principals, Dallas and Roarke, Dallas and Peabody, and Dallas and her police squad and friends serve as relief from the often gruesome deaths that figure prominently in each book.

 I award this book 4 stars and recommend it to any readers who enjoy a good police procedural with a side of science fiction and romance.

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : The Unsettling Stars

The Unsettling Stars by Alan Dean Foster

The Unsettling Stars (Star Trek: 2020, #1) by Alan Dean Foster
Amy Caudill‘s review

It has been a very long time since I read any books in the Star Trek universe, but when I came across this newer one based in the “reboot” universe; that was authored by Alan Dean Foster, a well-known writer who has crossed multiple sci-fi world; I had to give it a shot.

For those not in the know, the “reboot” series of three movies, etc., starting with the 2009 release of Star Trek;which stars among others Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto; document the events of a divergent universe spawned due to the intervention of a spaceship full of time-travelling Romulans (an alien race.)  These events, and this new crew, lead different lives and have somewhat different missions than those of the long-running series that began on television and also spawned a series of movies and countless other books that follow the “original” timeline.

The intrepid but still inexperienced crew of the Enterprise, after responding to a distress call, find themselves assisting a previously unknown species that refer to themselves as the Perenoreans.  These aliens’ greatest desires are to ingratiate themselves with their saviors, the federation ship, and their hosts on the new world colony they establish.

Unfortunately the actions of the Perenoreans quickly overwhelm their hosts.  Imagine a species whose benevolent desires to “help” leads to them taking control of other, ignorant, less capable species “for their own good.”  What’s even worse, the Perenoreans decide that the crew of the Enterprise fall into this category when Captain Kirk insists that the Perenoreans adhere to the standard restrictions for guests on access to the ship’s computers.

Things look dire for the ship’s crew,  now under the mind-control of the still friendly but insistent insurgents,  and soon only Spock is immune, until he’s not…  What will happen to the crew of the Enterprise, who are unwittingly guiding their captors to visit Earth?

This is an adventure story, in the grand tradition of a good sci-fi plot that has become the hallmark of the Star Trek franchise.  Foster skillfully navigates the differences in the characters of the reboot, while penning a story that stays true to the style of the original. 

I would recommend this novel to any fans of the series, as well as any reader looking for a good science fiction thriller.  I give this story five stars, and hope to see more books in the “reboot” section soon.

Amy Caudill’s Reviews: Armada

Armada by Ernest Cline

Armada by Ernest Cline (Goodreads Author)
Amy Caudill‘s review

When my son gifted me with several of the works of Ernest Cline for Christmas last year, I was definitely pleased and interested.  After all, I had seen the movie based on Cline’s bestseller, Ready Player One, twice, so I was curious about the story behind the story.

I chose to start with his lesser-known novel, Armada, and was quickly captivated.  The basic plot is that of a high school senior, Zach Lightman, who thinks he’s losing his mind because he just happened to see an alien fighter straight out of his favorite videogame flying outside the window of his classroom.

However, from this amusing but inauspicious beginning is a story that combines a coming of age with a classic science fiction/adventure and a sprinkling of romance.  Zach discovers quickly that he is not crazy, his boss at Starbase Ace, a videogame store, is actually a field agent for the “fictional” Earth Defense Alliance, also from the game, and here’s the big one, (spoilers!) video games are training tools developed by world governments to prepare citizens to fight against real aliens.

I was quickly reminded of both Tron and Ender’s Game, as true to nature Cline peppers his text with pop cultural references, though this particular book limits those somewhat to science fiction movies and video games, and classic seventies music, more so than in his other works.

As Zach swiftly finds himself recruited to serve in the EDA due to his record high scores on the game boards, he learns of government cover-ups, conspiracies, and even the mystery of his father’s death when Zach was just a baby.  He will have to decide for himself just who is right and who is of the wrong opinion, and to what extent he’s willing to go to prove his father’s theories.  The fate of the whole world literally hangs in the balance.

I enjoyed the bulk of this book very much.  The pacing was good, the action drove the story but there was plenty of bi-play between the various characters to help further the plot.  The story only really faltered for me near the end; I thought the resolution contained too much of a science fiction cliché.  I think such a good story deserved a more original ending.  Still, overall, I think this novel deserves four stars for creativity and humor, as well as all those references that are like a trivia goldmine to science fiction fans.

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : The Murder at the Vicarage

The Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie

The Murder at the Vicarage (Miss Marple, #1) by Agatha Christie
Amy Caudill‘s review

The Murder at the Vicarage is the first of the Miss Marple books, a series featuring one of author Agatha Christie’s “detectives.”   However, in this novel most of the actual investigative work is not done by the detective in question.  The case involves a murder that takes place at a Vicarage in the small English town of St. Mary Mead, but most of the actual legwork is done by the Vicar himself, Leonard Clement, with assistance of the local doctor, and only marginally the local constable and his superiors. 

The “detective,” Miss Marple, is only mentioned briefly here and there, and appears in the book at only a few points to point out theories and possible suspects until half-way through the story, and then only takes a more prominent role in the final chapters. 

While she takes the role of “armchair detective” to a whole new level, Miss Marple does have some amazing insights gathered from her “hobby” of observing people.  She presents her views in a way that is far less invasive or potentially offensive than some of her fictional male counterparts; she actually keeps up the appearance of a demur, gentle, polite elderly lady while she is lecturing the police on their assumptions and mistakes.

I have long been a fan of Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot, and have read a number of her stories without a “detective” central character, so this book was quite a surprise for me.  Having read a number of Christie’s works featuring Hercule Poirot and The Beresfords, I was at first dismayed to realize how little the series heroine was featured in this story. 

I am uncertain about how much I like this particular detective.  Since this was the first book I have read of the Miss Marple series, I don’t know what to expect from further stories.  I decided to just enjoy the story, which has the usual plethora of twists and turns, false blinds and potential murderers; even if the foot work is done mostly by a bored Vicar who is actually an engaging character in his own right.

 However, the more I think about it perhaps that was the author’s plan all along?  Christie certainly does not present Miss Marple in the same manner she does her other protagonists, but perhaps that is by design?  She does appear to be setting Marple up for a more prominent role that is not apparent here but may be built upon later.  I’m sure that I will give in to curiosity and check out another story in the collection at some point. 

Meanwhile, this book is an engaging mystery, with plenty of action to charm the fans of English mystery stories, and even a strong, independent female detective in the background to appeal to readers.  I give this book four stars.

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : The Lost Island

The Lost Island by Douglas Preston

The Lost Island by Douglas Preston (Goodreads Author), Lincoln Child
Amy Caudill‘s review

 When Gideon is approached by Glinn to steal a page from a famous Illuminated manuscript, on display in New York and in broad daylight from inside an incredibly secure exhibition, he has to think twice before accepting the challenge.  What clinches it for him is when Glinn hints that a secret map with the key to a “miracle cure” is hidden underneath the text.  A mysterious benefactor wants to find and distribute the cure that may possibly save Gideon’s life, as well as heal Glinn’s injuries.

Gideon finds himself summarily teamed with an inhospitable partner and recreating the voyage of Odysseus on the trail of a lost tropical island.  While on the course of this mission, they will encounter the last remnant of a civilization straight out of myth, and face a heartbreaking ethical dilemma.

The authors skillfully tie this latest book into their prior novel The Ice Limit, which introduces Eli Glinn and Effective Engineering Solutions; the mission where Glinn met his first real career failure and received his crippling injuries.  Glinn’s obsession and guilt over repairing the damage done on that mission to himself and others and undoing its consequences have overwhelmed his judgement.  His entire team, not just Gideon and Amiko, as well as the previously lost island come into great risk from his actions and lack of self-control.

Although Glinn’s motives are partially altruistic, as the secret client, a fact not revealed till near the end, his goal to fix his biggest mistake ends up causing another catastrophe.  He learns the hard way, and many pay the price for his hubris, that he is not fallible, and his methodology for preventing failure by mapping out all possible failures cannot conceivable account for every variable. 

Glinn is forced to admit he needs Gideon’s impulsive, instinctive methods to counter and balance his own methods.  Only his admission of his limitations gains Gideon’s continued assistance on the next mission.  While the “cure” seems to be helping Glinn, Gideon does not appear to be so lucky, so the only real thing he has left to live for is the chance to do so good before he dies.

This story, a definite departure from previous books in the series as it takes several fantastical turns, is nevertheless an excellent thrilling adventure.  Gideon’s character continues to grow as he wrestles with his conscience and awareness of his mortality.  It is nice to see other characters are capable of growth and change as well.

I award this book four point five stars for originality and amazing action, as well as depth of character and plots that tie into the authors’ greater universe.  I look forward to reading the next book in the series, but I may have to reread the original The Ice Limit book to refresh my memory before I go forward.  Still, this book and the Gideon Crew series are must-reads for fans of thrillers and mysteries, as well as fans of modern day treasure hunting stories.