Monday, August 26, 2013

Book Review: Billy Straight by Jonathan Kellerman

Billy Straight (Petra Connor #1) 
Author: Jonathan Kellerman
Released Date: 1999
Publisher: Warner Books

Kellerman isn't just an Edgar Award-winning thriller writer, he's a prominent child psychologist, and it shows in Billy Straight. The hero is a 12-year-old runaway whose sharp mind and straitlaced moral sense make him fit to survive the lurid jungles of Hollywood. One night hiding in Griffith Park, Billy witnesses the butchering of Lisa Ramsey, the cokehead ex-wife of Cart Ramsey, a crummy actor-golfer once busted for pummeling Lisa. Did Cart knife Lisa, or was it his pathetic old football sidekick Greg Balch?

When O.J. was on trial, Kellerman said, "This wouldn't make a good novel," but some of Kellerman's toughest critics say this funhouse-mirror version of an O.J.-like case is his best, better than his famous Alex Delaware series. Psychologist Dr. Delaware has a bit part here, but the heroine is Detective Petra Connor, his distaff equivalent. Kellerman's main strength is his vivid invention of secondary characters and his skill at juggling subplots. When Petra's media-whore boss puts Billy's police sketch in the paper with a $25,000 reward, two marvelously sub-simian bounty hunters join the chase: a vicious Russian ex-cop and the vile biker boyfriend of Billy's stoned-out, trailer-park mom.
*Goodreads Blurb*


My fifth Jonathan Kellerman read. As usual, I wasn’t disappointed.

When Billy Straight, a twelve-year-old runaway witnesses a gory murder at a park, he must do everything he can to protect himself from the unknown killer. The deceased is Lisa Boehlinger, a former model and ex-wife of Cart Ramsey, a TV star. Suspicion falls on Ramsey because Lisa had once publicly revealed how he beat her up. Detective Petra Connor and her partner Bishop Stu are called to investigate the case. When the case gets more complicated than they expect, and with Stu’s wife undergoing a mastectomy, Wil Fourrier joins them in the investigation.

A good mystery, fast-paced, and it pulls the emotional strings. Kellerman’s writing is superb. This book has a large cast of characters and the story is told from different point-of-views. The author does a good job of entering his characters’ head and telling the story the way they would tell it, using the kind of diction they’d use. Thus, you won’t encounter a twelve-year-old speaking like a detective, or a street hustler talking like a murderer. The whole California setting paints a solid image in the head. What’s more, Alex Delaware makes an appearance at the end of the book.

This is first book in the Petra Connor series, though I first encountered Petra in Twisted, my favorite Kellerman novel. I got to learn more about her background and her personality. I connected with her because she’s instinctive, caring, and she’s tough.  A good detective, but not a perfect one. Here, she tackles one of her major cases.

As a result of being tormented severally by his mother’s boyfriend, Billy Straight, the titular character leaves home. He moves to Hollywood and lives in the streets and parks for four months before he witnesses the murder. Jonathan Kellerman does well in capturing this kid’s voice. Billy steals book from the library to read, though he says it’s not stealing because he always returns the books he takes from the library.

Billy Straight is just one amazing book. A five Star read.

Check it out if you like mysteries. You won’t be disappointed.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Book Review: Necroscope by Brian Lumley

Author: Brian Lumley
Released Date: September 15th 1986
Publisher: Tor Books

Except to Harry Keogh, Necroscope. And what they tell him is horrifying.

In the Balkan mountains of Rumania, a terrible evil is growing. Long buried in hallowed ground, bound by earth and silver, the master vampire schemes and plots. Trapped in unlife, neither dead nor living, Thibor Ferenczy hungers for freedom and revenge.

The vampire's human tool is Boris Dragosani, part of a super-secret Soviet spy agency. Dragosani is an avid pupil, eager to plumb the depthless evil of the vampire's mind. Ferenczy teaches Dragosani the awful skills of the necromancer, gives him the ability to rip secrets from the mind and bodies of the dead. 

Dragosani works not for Ferenczy's freedom but world domination. he will rule the world with knowledge raped from the dead.

His only opponent: Harry Koegh, champion of the dead and the living.

To protect Harry, the dead will do anything--even rise from their graves!
*Goodreads Blurb*

I read Necroscope a long time ago (2003 or 2004, I think) I loved it. Recently, I stumbled across the novel and decided to read it again.

I still loved it.

Necroscope is one of the earliest paranormal/horror novels I read. It’s set during the Cold War era. It introduces a secret branch of a British espionage agency simply called E-branch. The Russians, too, have their own equivalent of the E-branch. These agencies, unlike other espionage agencies, use psychic investigators and spies to achieve their aims. And their agents are referred to as ESPers.

Harry Keogh is the Necroscope, a term he uses in describing his gift. He communicates with the dead; they freely tell him their secrets. They’re lonely, they need someone to talk to, so they enjoy talking with him. We follow Harry through his teenage years until he’s grown and learns of his mother’s death. Before then, his ambition had been to avenge her death but he soon discovers another bigger threat, a threat to the whole world.

Boris Dragosani.

Boris Dragosani is the Necromancer. He’s entirely different from Harry Keogh. Whereas the dead freely tell Harry their secret, Dragosani rips it from them, tears it from their guts and bones. The dead don’t feel pain, but when Dragosani works on them, they feel it. This gift had been passed to him from an undead vampire, Thibor Ferenzcy, also referred to as “The Thing in the ground” because for he’d for years been buried under the earth with his head intact.

Although Thibor Ferenzcy lies in the ground throughout most of the book, he remains a terrifying presence. He plans to use Dragosani to raise himself up. But unknown to him, Dragosani has different plans—world domination.

Can he dominate the world with Harry Keogh, champion of the dead, standing on his way?

You have to find out by reading this cool book.

I loved the book for its originality. It felt good seeing the vampires in a different light again. Here, the vampire is an evil creature. He’s not cool at all. He has no mercy on the humans. He doesn’t go to high school. He isn’t sexy, so you won’t even consider falling in love with him.

While I’ve read many books in which the story is told from the point of view of the protagonist only, Nescroscope is one of those few where we get the see the antagonist as much as we see the protagonist. And because I felt both characters had enough depth, I could connect with them.

In Nescrospe, there are other cool stuffs such as time travel. Using a technique called the Möbius Strip, Harry learns that he can use supernatural doors to move between time and space. He also learns how to summon a dead army. The last part of the book reminded me so much of Evil Dead and Army of Darkness, where we get to see the dead rise from their graves and march on to battle.

The book has a large cast of characters, but I didn’t get lost at all. Most of them were gifted people, and I was reminded of X-Men. I liked Harry Keogh and his cool gifts. I even liked some of the bad guys like Boris Dragosani, Gregor Borowitz. I liked “The Thing in the ground” because of his cunning nature, and I always enjoyed his conversation with Dragosani.

The first part of the book is slow-paced. It covers Harry’s early years and gives details about the Russian E-Branch. Thus making it different from the fast-paced books one reads nowadays. But it serves as a good background for the rest of the book, as well as the series. I hope to read the next book in the series soon.

You might enjoy this book if you don’t mind the wordiness. Just remember it was published during the late eighties; I think some readers didn’t mind wordiness or slow-pacing then, as much as they do now.

Necroscope is a five star read! (*****)

WARNING: Not for the light-hearted. There’s too much BLOOD, GORE and some GRAPHIC SEX here.