August (2020) reads

August has come and gone and it’s time for another list. This catalogue includes the usual trio of reads. I start off with a cracking good recommendation from Aussie Michael Robotham. I proceed to dissect the mamba’s biography. I finish with a familiar name to my reading lists.

  1. When she was good (Robotham). This mystery novel represents the second instalment in the author’s Cyrus Haven series. I read the first one last year and I was hooked. In Good Girl Bad Girl, we get introduced to Evie Cormac, a teener who refuses to talk about her dark past. She also has the uncanny gift of knowing when someone’s lying. We likewise meet Haven, the forensic psychologist who rises above his tragic background to adopt Evie. Like the initial salvo, this one shifts between Evie and Cyrus’s perspectives. This instalment is more of a road movie, with Evie becoming a fugitive. At the end of Good Girl, she stays at Langford Hall. This time, she dodges the cops and bad guys and uses her street smarts to outrun them. Robotham creates a believable universe complete with cats, an old man in a narrowboat, and a secluded Scottish grand hotel.

This is a top-notch murder mystery that has enough subplots and twists. You will be in attention from beginning till the end. This instalment is more of an origin book, with emphasis placed on Evie’s recollections. Expect flashbacks, not only from Cormac but also from Haven. The novel has a way of flipping the script: people are not who they seem. Evie has good memories of the late Terry Boland, though he was painted as an antagonist in the prior book. Redheaded Sacha is a great addition. She was the officer who found Cormac hiding beneath the wardrobe; here, she gets a major role. Sacha becomes Cyrus’s partner in the investigation by default. Though it took him much convincing, she becomes an invaluable part of the case. On the flip side, Cyrus’s surrogate mother, Lenny Parvel, has her role reduced. However, she remains a key player on the team.

I have to commend Robotham for his use of language. He always finds the perfect expression. For instance, he uses ‘a battered-looking hippopotamus’ to describe a teen’s stuffed toy. The narrowboat oldie was also a clever turn. He’s the ideal literary device to employ when there’s a damsel in distress. Towards the end, there was mention of a tabby who curls at the foot of Evie’s bed. Said feline also places his paw on her pillow to rouse her. Hey, I’m all for travelling in first-class. Sometimes it’s not just the metaphors and characters, but the exact words he uses. I thoroughly enjoyed this Robotham layover and I agree that it provided a welcome respite from the coronavirus.

Rating: 5/5

  • Showboat: The Life of Kobe Bryant. (Roland Lazenby) Released in 2016, I first glimpsed this ambitious biography while browsing at Big W (a department store). The book in question was a paperback with coloured photos. I decided to borrow it from the lib instead. The loan from the repository was a thick trade paperback that had 574 pages. Showboat was very detailed, filled with interviews from a multitude of personas. Serious Kobe basketball is not tackled till 200 pages in. His father’s hoops career, Kobe’s family history, and his childhood in Italy (where his dad played professionally), are all anatomised. In particular, his exploits on foreign soil and Kobe’s close family ties, were a joy to read.

Even as a kid in suburban Philadelphia, Kobe always had a chip on his shoulder. It was not until his junior year in school that scouts started recognising his game. Though he had the obvious skill set, NBA teams were wary of drafting him. The LA Lakers eventually got him by punking other teams. Even before stepping on an NBA court, Kobe was already an endorser of Adidas. As a prep-to-pro, Kobe barely got any playing time under coach Del Harris. Thrust unexpectedly to the spotlight, he shot four air balls in the win-or-go-home playoff game. Showboat analyses the rise of the Lakers to be crowned NBA champs. The read likewise explores Kobe’s disengagement of his family, choosing his wife over them. Lazenby also offers an unflattering portrait of Vanessa, Kobe’s spouse. The book considers his early playoff exits and his time as a most reviled athlete.

Showboat’s issue is its use of language. The book throws around a few themes which get recycled throughout the text. For instance, whether Kobe should ball hog or trust his teammates. Showboat carries an unhealthy preoccupation with Kobe’s being The Man. Likewise, whether he should defer to Shaq or trust Coach Phil. I believe the book could be shortened by 200 pages and be a much enjoyable read. Though it is already a thick book, the constant interviews and dense language make it an even thicker read. Lazenby spends excessive time on Kobe’s dynamic with coaches and teammates but we don’t hear nearly enough from these entities. He also glazes over whole playoff series while spending twelve pages on Kobe’s beef with a reporter. In the end, this is not really a basketball book. It’s more of a detailed background story on Kobe. However, this is a timely read that coincides with the late mamba’s birth month.

Rating: 3.9/5

The Last Widow (Slaughter). The novel represents my sixth Slaughter of the year, which accounts for more than any other author. I have to admit that by this turn, reader fatigue sets in. There is little variety in Slaughter’s universe, although she writes at the top of her class. Widow is another action-driven thriller that is so typical of Slaughter. There’s the dramatic opening salvo, where Michelle, a diseases expert, is dramatically snatched off. A month later, Dr Sara Linton is abducted while being a Good Samaritan near Emory University. Will Trent tries his best to save her, but his valiant effort comes short. There is a hodgepodge of medical terms in this one, as the profession takes a central part in the plot.

While Trent and his Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) workmates do all they can, the big guns get involved. However, for the most part, all these suits have no clue as to Dr Linton’s location. They retrace her steps and find clues, but her captors sure know how to lie low. Apart from the health profession, white supremacist groups are likewise key to the story. Attention then turns to a mysterious cult, the Invisible Patriots Army (IPA) that ultimately links to Sara. Turns out that they abducted her because of her credentials. They have been planning a big event for years. Slaughter takes great effort to portray the cult in a negative light. Deception, abuse, and manipulation are all normalised in the wayward setting.  

The novel does not shy from the abject, with cadavers, disturbing behaviour, unbridled wrath, and xenophobia. The author knows her trade, as there is no shortage of gore. In case you’re wondering, the title refers to Dr Linton. Dash, who heads the IPA, uses the phrase in championing her cause. Meanwhile, Sara’s parents blame Will for not doing enough and endangering their daughter. The parents to inspire Will to open up about his feelings and cement his resolve. Though the characters are mostly the same, Karin does have a few tricks up her sleeve. However, Angie, Will’s ex is missing here, and her absence is palpable. I enjoyed the previous one more than Widow. Regardless, this work is still a step up from Showboat.  

 

Rating: 4.15/5

As usual, my three books are comprised of two novels and a nonfiction title. Both novels were instalments to a series while the remainder celebrates the life of a basketball icon. Robotham’s work was the finest and smoothest read while Lazenby, the most detailed. Robotham is quite early into his series so his novelty is understandable. As for Slaughter, I have one more left to read (her latest) before I complete the sequence. Since summiting Last Widow, I am going through The Snowman (Nesbo). Being my fifth Nesbo of the year, I hope that I won’t suffer the same reader fatigue. So far, so good.

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