Friday, December 23, 2011

Thrilling stories for the holiday season

The Litigators by John Grisham
Publishers Weekly -
Grisham's entertaining modern-day legal thriller offers a bitingly farcical look at lawyers at the bottom of the food chain. David Zinc, an associate at a Chicago mega-firm who's sick of the sweatshop he's been laboring in for five years, flees the office one morning and ends up spending all day in a bar. Soon after the bartender finally kicks him out, Zinc spots an ad on a city bus for a firm of ambulance-chasers, Finley & Figg, and resolves to join their hapless practice. Meanwhile, Wally Figg, one of Finley & Figg's two partners, thinks he's found a goldmine after learning that a client who died recently was taking an anti-cholesterol drug called Krayoxx. Zinc, who has zero litigation experience, aids Finley & Figg, who likewise lack litigation experience, in filing suit against the huge pharmaceutical company that produces Krayoxx. Grisham (The Confession) makes Zinc's personal transformation more convincing than his professional one. Some readers may feel the fairy tale ending clashes with the dark humor of the opening.




 
The Night Eternal by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan

Kirkus Reviews –

The final book in director del Toro and thriller writer Hogan's (The Killing Moon, 2007, etc.) epic vampire trilogy. Since the end of the previous book, the Master, an ancient being and source of a blood-borne parasitic infestation with vampire-like symptoms, has exerted near total control over the world. His vampire minions and a few human collaborators have set up concentration camps dedicated solely to harvesting blood for vampire consumption, while the rest of humanity scratches out a meager existence, watching re-runs on television and waiting in terror for their turn to be hauled to the camps. Hope for humanity is at a low ebb. Nuclear explosions have left the planet in a state of near-perpetual night. Abraham Setrakian, the old-world vampire hunter who has been trailing the Master for decades, is dead, and Dr. Ephraim Goodweather, the epidemiologist who first understood the nature of the new threat, now spends most of his time in a pill-induced haze, pining for his lost son, who, though still human, is under the Master's thrall. There are still pockets of resistance, though. Gangbanger turned fearless vampire hunter Augustin "Gus" Elizade has set up base in the now-unused Columbia University campus, and exterminator Vasiliy Fet is working to translate an ancient, silver-bound book that Setrakian seemed to think contained the knowledge necessary to destroy the Master for good. When Dr. Nora Martinez, Goodweather's former colleague and lover who is now attached to Fet, is taken to a blood camp, Goodweather, Fet and Elizalde, along with the mysterious half-vampire Mr. Quinlan, must come together to free her, and then to find a way to end the Master's reign once and for all. While one of the principal charms of the series so far has been its unique, near-plausible scientific treatment of vampirism, the third book introduces elements of the supernatural, which is somewhat disappointing. Still, the prose crackles, the plot barrels forward with increasing momentum and the authors' knack for thoughtful horror and striking imagery remains intact. A satisfying conclusion to an intelligent, utterly chilling horror trilogy.


Zero Day by David Baldacci

Kirkus Reviews –

In his 22nd, Baldacci (The Sixth Man, 2011, etc.) introduces a soldier/sleuth who fights like Rambo and thinks like Holmes. Mountain-sized and ├╝ber-brainy, John Puller is about as unconquerable as mere mortals get to be. An ex-warrior--Iraq, Afghanistan and wherever else his country's enemies happened to be entrenched--he's served with unvarying distinction. As a consequence, the fruit salad (Army slang for medals) he pins to his dress uniform tells a glory story already the stuff of legend. These days, however, Warrant Officer Puller fights a somewhat different kind of war--quieter perhaps, but only marginally less dangerous. Employed by the U.S. Army's Criminal Investigations Division, he battles military crime, and he is--it's universally acknowledged--terrific at it. Still, his latest assignment has him scratching his head a bit. In tiny Drake, W.Va., a colonel, his wife and two teenage kids have been murdered, and Puller's been ordered to find out the why and catch the who. A pitiless, carefully staged bloodbath, it's the kind of headline-grabber that ordinarily would have had teams of special agents pell-melling into Drake, yet here's Puller flying solo, offered not much more in terms of guidance than, "play nice with the locals." On the upside, one of the locals turns out to be a smart, remarkably attractive police sergeant named Samantha Cole. Born and Bred in Drake, she's in a position to provide needed insights into her town's power structure and usual suspects list. Four dead bodies on Puller's arrival, a total that almost at once zooms to seven with no real reason to suppose it's reached its limit. What's going on in this small, coal belt community to suddenly transform it into a charnel-house? Another poser for Puller: how to keep from personally adding to the count? Relentlessly formulaic, but Puller is a strong enough protagonist to keep the pages turning.



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