Sunday, July 1, 2012

3 Reviews of Books Recommended by My Buddy Phil

My friend Phil is an avid reader (along with a bunch of others, too numerous to mention).  He has recently recommended 2 books, Defending Jacob by William Landay and The Innocent by David Baldacci.  Quite a few months ago, he strongly urged me to read The Lock Artist by Steve Hamilton.  I kept telling him "Sure," went out and bought it, but kept it in my queue.  After reading The Innocent and Defending Jacob back-to-back, I immediately started The Lock Artist.  For those keeping score, that means I read Phil's suggestions back-to-back-to-back (see how that works?).

I will never put Phil off again.  They were all really good, with The Innocent being one of Baldacci's best.  Baldacci has written 24 novels, and I have read them all.  I would have read this one eventually, but Phil's push got me there sooner.  I really loved this book.  All of his books have been good, but 3, including this one, have been outstanding.  My favorite of his is Wish You Well.  It's the story of 2 young children who lost their parents and end up living with their backwoods grandma in a very rural area of West Virginia (WARNING:  Some people love this book, and others don't like it at all).  My second favorite of his is The Camel Club.  This is about a homeless guy who lives across the street from The White House in a tent.  He also works as a caretaker in a cemetery.  Of course, he is not as he appears to be.  He and his cohorts are extremely colorful.  Baldacci wrote 4 books in this series.  All of them are entertaining, but The Camel Club is the best.

Now we have The Innocent.  This is the story of an American assassin who gets caught up in a power struggle among very highly placed American spymasters.  He spends much of his time on the run with a 14-year old girl who recently became an orphan (this comes out at the beginning of the book, so no SPOILER ALERT was necessary).  This is a very good story, a la so many like it.  What separates this from most of the others is the 14-year old.  Their very unlikely relationship definitely heightened my interest.  You don't normally get teenagers who are integral to a plotline when you have assassins in the mix.  Very cool.  This actually is going into my Fiction for the Non-Fiction Reader (FFTNFR), volume IV.

The 2nd book of this threesome is Landay's Defending Jacob.  It's the story of another 14-year old, this time a boy, who is accused of murdering a classmate.  This is Landay's 3rd book, and I admit that I had never heard of him prior to Phil reading and recommending it.  The story is told in the first person by Jacob's father, Andy, who is a long-time district attorney in a suburb in Massachusetts.  I enjoyed this a lot.  Much of the book is the chronological history of what led to the indictment and the trial and, of course, what happens afterwards.  Landay intersperses Andy's storytelling with transcripts of the assistant district attorney questioning Andy a year after the murder.  To Landay's credit, the transcripts never give anything away.  At least I couldn't figure any of it out.  P.S.  The ending is crazy.

The 3rd book is The Lock Artist.  It's a very unusual story about a teenager who, due to a trauma when he was 8, can't speak.  But he learns early on that he has a unique gift - he can open locks; doors, padlocks, safes, doesn't matter.  This skill, and other circumstances, lead him to working with nefarious (I love that word) characters.  There are a number of "jobs" that he does, which lead to unexpected results.  On top of all that, there's a pretty satisfying love story.

I certainly have not read another book like this one.  I will admit that the book split into 2 parts for me,  and it was right at the half-way point (304 pages total).  The first half of the book was good.  I was enjoying it.  Then, right in the middle, something happened that elevated it for me.  Of course I'm not going to tell you what that was.  Suffice it to say that I was even more engaged in the story for the second half of the book.  Steve Hamilton has written 11 novels.  9 of them are with the same character, and the other 2, including The Lock Artist, are stand-alones.  I will definitely read more of his stuff.

There you have it.  I have gotten recommendations from many people (Bob and Rich come to mind immediately), but this is the first time I've read 3 in a row from the same recommender.  I'm glad I did.


  1. Phil seems like a great friend :) I want to read all of these.

  2. I've read The Innocent and Defending Jacob and liked them. I will have to check out The Lock Artist.