Saturday, April 5, 2008

Two Smooth Operators

Did you check out Harlan Coben's trailer video for his book, Hold Tight, coming out April 15th? Looks like a pretty time-appropriate thriller, doesn't it? I keep saying that we need to throw his books in a time capsule because they truly are imitations of life as we know it now. I mean, come on, his first seven books are Myron the sports agent, and this culture is definitely obsessed with professional sports! In Back Spin, my latest read by Coben, Myron and Esperanza are watching Wheel of Fortune. And Myron ponders the question, "why do people who obviously know the answer to a puzzle buy a vowel?" I've always wondered that myself. I had to laugh and cheer during that part because when I use to watch the show I'd yell at the TV when people did that! Definitely imitating life!

So, in Back Spin, Myron is making the rounds on the golf course this time. If nothing else, he's a well sports-rounded agent, isn't he? He's at the U.S. Open when the leader's son is kidnapped. Now of course, the leader is NOT Tiger Woods. The leader is Jack Coldren, who happens to be married to a cousin of Win, a cousin Win will have nothing to do with. So, while Myron agrees to try to help find the boy, Win refuses to be involved.

Back Spin is the fourth installment of the Myron Bolitar series, and again here we see a focus on family relationships. These relationships revolve more around Win's family this time, and some interesting background on his character is revealed. This just adds to the depth and dynamics of Win. Despite all the dysfunction throughout the various family links, those links count for something in the end.

As is par for the course (pardon the pun), Coben leads you in circles before the mystery is solved. He always give you just enough to start making hypotheses, and then a new detail throws a hitch in the whole guess. You often find yourself coming back to possible culprits only to question your theory yet again. It's so much fun. And it's a load of laughs.

I wasn't laughing quite as much in the fifth Spenser novel, The Judas Goat. Which is not to say it wasn't good. It was excellent, but Parker changed the tone of the novel a bit this time. It's nice to see an author throwing some changes in and not becoming formulaic.

In The Judas Goat, Spenser travels to London to track down the people who killed a wealthy businessman's family. When the heat is turned up, Spenser calls on Hawk to join him and the two of them track down the vigilante group.

Besides having a change of scenery, as I previously mentioned, there seems to be a change of tone in this novel. It's a more solemn, more introspective novel. I really enjoyed this novel because it reflected the sincerity of Spenser. I appreciate that he battles with his use of violence in his job. It isn't an "easy answer" for him and he doesn't easily resort to it. The Spenser vs. himself conflict is often the more intriguing plot to follow in Parker's books.

The interaction of Hawk and Spenser continues to add depth and dimension to both characters. They seem to be complements to one another, and at the same time function as each other's foil as well. The use of the character Kathie created some questions for me about Hawk. I look forward to seeing how his character develops and if I'm able to answer those questions about Hawk...or is he just meant to be an enigma?

The one criticism I had with Judas Goat was that I didn't feel the whole plot was resolved for me. I wanted to know WHO they were trying to assassinate and WHY. Was it just an arbitrary person? If not, how did they know the person would be a medal winner? And what was the ultimate point? Just to cause chaos? Why? I needed some strings tied together on that one. But overall, it was another great caper with Spenser.


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