Sunday, April 24, 2011

CBR-III: Book #12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19

Warning: This review (like the Bourne series) covers a large series of books. Because of this it will likely contain numerous spoilers.

I picked up 1st to Die , opened up a beer, and got about four pages in before I said to myself: Wait. I’ve read this before. Have I read this before?. I didn’t know, so I continued reading. Two more paragraphs and I thought: I’ve totally read this. That’s the problem with James Patterson’s Women’s Murder Club, the story falls out of your head right after you read it. They don’t leave a lasting impression. They don’t make you ponder what you’ve just read. It’s like watching Jumper. It’s pretty entertaining, you’ll likely enjoy it, but will you think about it ever again? No.

The Murder Club consists of a key group of ladies:
Lindsay Boxer is a San Francisco homicide detective (a sergeant, who becomes a lieutenant, who busts herself back down to sergeant). She‘s an All-American girl, second generation cop, devoted dog lover, and the only character in the series that is presented in first person. She‘s also, honestly, one of the least interesting characters of the series. She can do no wrong. Well she can, but it always works out in her favor. Plus, her love life is fucking boring.

Cindy Thomas is a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle. Originally a go-getter in the first book she‘s just a hot shot after that. She‘s the cute one of the group, and often used for comic relief.

Claire Washburn is the Chief Medical Examiner for San Francisco. She’s also obese. She’s also married. She’s also the most relatively tame one…you know…being that she’s married. Consider her the mother hen.

Jill Bernhardt (spoiler) survives three books. To round out all of the sides of a police investigation you have to have a lawyer. In this case she is/was the ADA She was also the only other married one. Leaving it a tie: two single ladies, two married ones.

Yuki Castellano takes over for Jill in the 4th book. Originally just a lawyer she eventually has to move up the ranks too…eventually becoming an ADA as well. She’s single. Japanese/Italian. She also never gets laid, a fact we become aware to several times.

The books:
1st to Die: A serial killer targets newlyweds.

2nd Chance: A serial killer targets specific people, and they’re related to cops.

3rd Degree: A terrorist group targets rich people. We also start getting into the subplots here. Sure, the other two books had subplots, but they weren’t as distinct. Subplot: Jill’s got an abusive husband.

4th of July: The main plot this time revolves around a shooting incident that leaves Lindsay under investigation. Subplot: A serial killer (or killers?) targets seemingly random people in a small town.

The 5th Horseman: A serial killer is running loose killing people in a hospital. At the same time the hospital is involved in a court case for malpractice because of the “strange” deaths. Subplot: A serial killer (or killers?) is staging crime scenes. Nicknamed “The Car Girls.”

The 6th Target: A random/bizarre shooting incident injures one of their own, and a large court case ensues. Subplot: Wealthy, savant-like, children and their nannies are being kidnapped. Holy fucking shit! There isn’t a serial killer? Praise fucking god.

7th Heaven: A serial killer (killers?)/arsonist is targeting seemingly random wealthy people. Subplot: An ex-governors teenage son is missing. A woman is being investigated, and tried, for the murder. Did she do it? Is she quilty?

The 8th Confession: A serial killer is targeting wealthy people. Subplot: The death of an apparent homeless hero sends Cindy on the hunt. Because of course cops don’t care about homeless people.

My beefs:
If you were going to write about serial killers…research would be good. My first problem with the stories should be evident, and I just now realized it. Anyone who has even looked at serial killers will notice several things. One, they kill the destitute. People who won’t be missed. In the books they kill rich people. The exact fucking opposite of serial killers. I don’t know if the likely filthy rich Patterson has a problem with rich people, but it certainly appears that way. Two, their victims don’t really fit a pattern (other than all being prostitutes, homeless, etc.). In almost every instance in the stories they do follow a pattern. I.e. the killer is committing…Three, never kill someone you know. Ever.

Tattoos. Patterson apparently feels that every bad guy on the fucking planet has tattoos. Most of them have sleeves! It started to get old. Really old. When every person they brought in to question, every “criminal” was layered with tattoos. Thanks Patterson, for sticking to a stereotype.

How about some new ideas? In both 3rd Degree and 4th of July Lindsay (A Cop) busts into a dangerous situation (with killers) without her cell phone, police radio, backup, or a bulletproof vest. And she’s supposed to be fucking smart? That doesn’t sound very smart to me. I think what really cracked me up is that Patterson used the same situation in back to back books.

Learn a little about police work. In the opening to each one of the books there is a thank you to an assortment of doctors, police officers, lawyers, etc. Yet he left a glaring hole in 2nd Chance. They’re after a suspect, a guy who is actually a former police officer, a guy who is out on parole. They want to hold him, thinking he’s a killer, but they just can’t charge him with anything. *cough*…*cough cough cough* The guy is out on parole? He’s out on parole and he hasn’t checked in with his parole officer, he hasn’t given them a change of address notification, he doesn’t have a job, and he’s even using a false identity. Two words. Two fucking words. Parole. Violation. Guess who the fuck is back in jail? Are you telling me all of these police officers and lawyers would conveniently overlook that? Bullshit.

The…give me a fucking break route.
Yuki is finally ready to give it up for the first time in 2 years? The guy is/was a hermaphrodite? *throws up hands*
Serial arsonists are burning houses all over the fucking place and Lindsay’s house honestly, accidentally, goes up in flames? Is that even statistically possible? *headdesk*
A killer is practically handing you a signed letter of guilt and it still takes you the whole book to figure out it’s them? *headhoneybadger*

LOVE. The little subplots of love are actually fairly interesting. I’m curious to find out who Cindy is dating now, because Cindy has fun. Yuki is just too much of a pain in the ass. The woman doesn’t need a man, not really. What she has is the voice of her mother telling her to be a good woman and to marry a nice man. Kind of plays out the interest in her. There is no love story with Claire, and the brief romantic malfunction of Jill was actually interesting…but way to fucking throw that idea out the window. Who does that leave us with? Lindsay. Why do I hate Lindsay? We find ourselves at the beginning of the first book with her ready to blow her head off. She’s just lost her love. I don’t…maybe I’m just a skeptic about the concept of love, but that love was her brief new partner in the book. It was a brief relationship. Yes, I can understand the circumstances surrounding their romance. Ok. Then how are you going to fuck it so fast? By the 3rd Degree she’s hooking up with another “partner.” This time his name is Joe. He’s not really her partner, he works for Homeland Security, but they were partnered up. I can’t care about her relationship with Joe…a key part in the rest of the books…because I can’t understand it. Anytime they are around each other they fuck like rabbits. Yet, in no time, he’s spouting his love for her and asking her to marry him. How? Why? I know this is weird but I don’t get, or understand, the chemistry. Then, out of nowhere, she hooks up (or almost does anyway) with her actual partner, Richard Conklin. So now she wants Joe, and she wants Rick. Yet, there still isn’t a fucking reason for her to want either of them. Then throw in a little jealously when Rick starts dating Cindy in The 8th Confession, and it’s really fucking retarded. I think whoever is writing the “romance” in these books (Andrew Gross co-wrote the 2nd and 3rd books, Maxine Paetro has co-wrote 4-8) is romantically deficient. Or they are just throwing the romance in there because they feel it’s necessary.

In Conclusion:
So what do I actually think of the series? The books are like candy. I could pick one up and read it in 4 hours cover to cover. They’re fun, they’re entertaining, but don’t expect some profound literary experience from reading them.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Night of the Catfish

My father and I went camping this weekend. Knowing completely well that there were severe thunderstorms issued for Friday night. What did we say to the warnings? Fuck em. The place we went camping is technically my old bosses property. We go out there, rather than a park (or “campground“), for several reasons.
1) We’re not on a concrete pad surrounded by a bunch of other people.
2) We used to not get cell phone reception out there (we do now but turn our phones off).
3) No running water. No bathrooms.
4) No fire limits. I can build a goddamn bonfire if I want to.
5) We can shoot guns.
6) He’s got a stock tank…so we can fish.
7) No children. So I can say “fuck” in as many incarnations and as loud as I want.
8) No problems with alcohol.
So we get there on Friday around 1pm and my dad gets the fire started as I get the tent set up. It was pretty windy (the bitch tried to fly away from me at one point), but everything was set up in about 30 minutes…

I’m losing myself. My goal was not to tell you my entire weekend, but one particular instance. Let me narrow this down for you.

The weekend: A nice hike, big ass fires, sunburn, some gun shooting, lots of reading (I finished 3 books), 48 beers consumed and two small bottles of Jack, rain, lots of rain, water collecting in the tent, a dilapidated cabin, a nap in the sun, cold soup, warm soup…the night of the catfish.

Now for the real story.

The Night of the Catfish:
It’s been raining off and on. Bursts of rain would come, soaking us to the bone, then disappear as quickly as it came. Allowing us brief moments to dry off beside the fire. The there again-gone again, rain has disappeared and become replaced with a steady, slightly heavy, rain. We’ve taken to drinking in the rundown cabin, away from the elements, as the sun slowly declines in the sky.

My father has been fishing most of the day while I’ve read. He’s resorted to his Texas style way of fishing, throwing out the lines and then letting them sit there. Once an hour he goes back to check them, liberally drinking as he does.

It’s during these return visits that he interrupts me reading. My intent to go out there was simply from a point of relaxation. For awhile now I’ve been stuck in my house. My life has become that of a hermit. I sit on the internet from the time I wake up to the time I go to bed. My only foray outside is to smoke the occasional cigarette. In the last two weeks I’ve gone out with friends once, I’ve gone hiking once, but those have been my only lengthy excursions. I wanted to be out in nature, out in the sun. I wanted to go for a walk and be free of my online addiction. I didn’t mind his interruptions…he was like a kid in a candy store, happy to just be away from it all.

The sun is gone, my father goes to check the lines again. I can see the fire still holding on in the rain, flickers of light dancing in the darkness. I brave the elements in my trash bag poncho two sizes too small to get some more beer out of the cooler. I’ve just cracked open another one when I hear it.
“Ty! Come here!” I look around, wondering if I’d actually heard him.
“Dad?” I yell out in return.
“Help!” Comes the reply.

I initially started walking, sipping my beer as I went, but then I started running. I don’t run…ever. Thoughts were running through my head. Did he get hurt? Did he fall in the tank and can’t get out? Did he get attacked by an animal? My dad is getting up there in years. I’ve noticed recently that his equilibrium isn’t that good. When he gets cut he tends to bleed a lot because of blood thinners. When he bruises a small hit turns into something that looks catastrophic. So I ran.

When I get there I don’t see him down on the ground. He’s standing on the side of the tank, a fishing rod in hand. Imagine the scene if you can.

It’s night, but the moon is almost full so there’s that ethereal quality. The rain is coming down not steady now, but pouring. There’s my father. His clothes are soaked to the bone, the rain is sliding off his bald head in sheets, and he’s standing there like a madman holding a fishing pole.
“I just ran.” I told him.
I stood there, pondering if I should slap him.
“Well, help me. I can’t get the line to reel in.”
“Well there’s a fish on the end.”
I grab the line with my bare hand and try to pull…it doesn’t move. I look at him.
“Are you sure you’re not stuck?”

I feel the line jiggle in my hand. He’s not stuck. The line is taunt, tighter than a guitar string. With great effort I manage to pull enough to wrap some line around my hand. Not the brightest idea. I instantly feel it dig into my flesh. I already know it’s going to start bleeding. Fuck it. I keep pulling. My dad has moved up the shore, still trying to get the reel to work again. I grab with my left hand, leading the line in so I can wrap it around my right. Over and over. Slowly I feel that it’s coming close to shore.

Through lightening streaked skies and heavy rain, through giant teardrops of water bouncing off the tanks surface, I see it. It churns in the water not ten feet from me. I take a step back. What the fuck? Through my right hand I feel a giant tug and the line snaps. I quickly grab it again at my feet and wrap it around my hand. I pull, taking small steps back as I do. Slowly, it emerges from the water. No sooner did I have it on the shore that the line snapped again. I grabbed again as the big fish flopped, wrapping it around my hand one more time and pulling it as fast as I could up the shoreline. There it sat, the downed beast. It made one last giant thrash before it didn’t move again.
“Holy shit.” I mouthed.
“Now you know why I yelled for help.”

My dad is smiling like a little kid. Even in the dark I can see how lit up his eyes are. We’ve gone fishing many, many times since we moved from Texas to Georgia 12 years ago…this is the first fish he’s caught since we moved here. I wrap the line around a piece of metal that we use to hold the reels. I lift, and the line snaps again.
“What’s the test on the line?” I ask him.
“20 lbs.”
In my hands I can tell one thing. It weighs more than 15 and less than 45 lbs. We guess at 25 lbs, although we don’t know. We only know that to snap the line on weight alone, it’s gotta be over 20. My dad’s still grinning as he picks up the catfish by its gills and carries it to the truck.

That grin didn’t leave his face the rest of the camping trip.

**That last picture is for a reference. I wear a size 14 wide boot.

Monday, April 4, 2011

CBR-III: Book #5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11

The Bourne Series: From Identity to Deception

I saw The Bourne Identity in theatres with my dad. He’d already read the original trilogy and was excited that they turned it into a movie. During the movie he turned to me and said, “This is nothing like the book, but I like it.” Being poor I was looking through my parents books to find something to read for the Cannonball, lo and behold I came across the original trilogy. I set those to the side and kept looking when I came across The Bourne Legacy. What the fuck? Then Betrayal and Sanction popped up…then I got Deception. My intent was to read the entire series and then write a review not of just the individual books, but the series as a whole (I‘m missing two...fucking Eric Van Lustbader). Why? Basically all of the stories are the same, Jason Bourne gets caught up in some crazy government shit, beats the crap out of some dudes, kills some other dudes, and in turn gets the crap beat out of him. In the end though, he’s going to save the US of A. However, Bourne is like Rambo on steroids. I think, if he got in a fight with Rambo, Rambo would be dead in a second. He would step up to Bourne, fists raised, ready to fight, and he wouldn’t even get to swing before he was dropped to the ground. And to think, they were both born in the jungles of Vietnam. Wait, what?

The original trilogy was created by Robert Ludlum. As someone said to me, Ludlum is the master of ! It’s totally true. Jason Bourne is really a man named David Webb. Once an intellectual his Thai wife and two children are murdered by a strafing plane in Cambodia. Enraged and without hope he goes to Vietnam where he joins a group of misfits and outlaws known as Medusa. Through them is where he learns most of his skills, quickly becoming the best with the code name Delta One. With the war ending Bourne is recruited to join Treadstone (which you should know from the movies…if you’ve seen them). His job there is to become the worlds number one assassin (at least on paper and in minds) so he can hunt down and kill the real number one assassin, Carlos the Jackal. This is where he, essentially, becomes Jason Bourne.

The Bourne Identity is basically what you see in the movie…with a few minor details. Bourne has amnesia. He’s trying to find out who he is while an assassin (Carlos) and the CIA are trying to kill him. Carlos, because he thinks Bourne is after him. The CIA, because they think Bourne has gone rogue. In the film Marie is a poor German woman trying to make her way through life. In the book Marie is an intelligent economist who works for the Canadian government. She helps Bourne, the CIA acknowledges they fucked up, she steals several million from them, they give them a home and Bourne returns to being David Webb…a college professor.

The Bourne Supremacy. Marie is kidnapped. The kidnappers tell Bourne that in order to get Marie back he must go to China and kill an assassin that is claiming to be Jason Bourne. Along the way we discover that it’s not just kidnappers, it’s the American government that took Marie. The assassin he’s after is/was actually trained by another former member of Medusa, and the conspiracy is a lot larger than anyone imagined. How so? One man is trying to take over China. Yeah.

The Bourne Ultimatum. Bourne is now a father. Marie and him have had a boy and a girl (parallels to his original wife and children). Carlos the Jackal comes after Bourne. In response Bourne sends Marie and the children to the Caribbean with her brother. There's a side story of a new Medusa? You can probably get the idea of what happens from there.

Ludlum’s Bourne is a rather complex character. Far from the young and energetic Matt Damon from the movies he’s more Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon 4. Bourne is old. In Ultimatum he is 51. As such he doesn’t beat his enemies by being necessarily faster, or stronger, he beats them by being better. Another thing to note of Ludlum’s Bourne is that he, in essence, has a split personality. That split being David Webb. Throughout the books Bourne almost has waves of sympathy, of guilt, of remorse. These come from Webb and Bourne is constantly having to shut Webb out. Marie is also much stronger than she was portrayed in the films. She fights, she get’s dirty, and she’s generally smarter than any of the other people around her…including Bourne. Ludlum also likes reoccurring characters such as Alex Conklin and Morris Panov. His books also take place in the 80’s. Now, we get to Lustbader.

The Bourne Legacy. So how does Lustbader enter the Bourne world? He’s put Jason back to being David, working at the university again as a professor, he’s still got Marie there with the kids. Then…boom…he not only gets rid of Marie and the kids (figuratively), but he kills off Conklin and Panov. What Lustbader basically does in the first two books is kill off everyone that meant anything in the original trilogy. In essence, he wants to start from scratch. Legacy is basically about an assassin who wants born dead. Through the course of the story he finds out about another terrorist plot that he has to stop and eventually gets the other assassin to help him do it. The key? The other assassin ends up being his son Joshua (the one that died). Joshua is damned good too…better than Bourne.

The Bourne Betrayal. Boom. Marie is dead. The only other remnant from the original trilogy, Martin Lindros, is kidnapped. Was she killed by some nefarious means? Nope…girl got pneumonia. This book once again deals with terrorists, it’s also where Lustbader starts tossing around the word chameleon a lot. Now, Bourne was always able to blend into situations. Ludlum would mention it using clothes, the way he walked/talked/moved, etc. Lustbader one ups that by using prosthetics, makeup, etc. Now Bourne (and other characters) can mimic literal people. Change their appearance to look exactly like someone else, alter their voice so they sound like them too. This is what happens here. Two terrorists brothers want Bourne dead because he killed their sister (at least they think) a long time ago. That’s their main driving motivation. The other is to take down the government from the inside. What better way to do that than to become someone important, thus, one brother becomes Martin Lindros. There’s also a little subplot wherein Bourne is brainwashed…it doesn’t last long…and I think Lustbader pulled it out of his ass. Along the way we are introduced to several new characters. Including Bourne’s new love interest, a woman named Moira who works in private security. Moore, a woman who is half Egyptian, and a protege of Lindros. Tyrone Elkins! Woot! Although he’s a ghetto black guy that befriends Moore (technically he's almost like a replacement for a character that was continued from Ludlums Bourne).

The Bourne Sanction. University professor, blah, blah, going after terrorists, blah, blah, assassin hunting him down, blah, blah. So how is this assassin, Arkadin, different from all of the others? Well, he was Treadstones first attempt. That’s right. Treadstones real goal was to create the perfect killing machine. When Arkadin ran away from them they grabbed Bourne. So how do they meet? While Arkadin is going one way, trying to track down some people…Bourne is going the other way, trying to track down some people. New people? Well, Moore is now head of Typhoon. Hart, a woman, former private security, that is now head of CI. Kendall, LaValle, Halliday are a bunch of government fucks with ties to the NSA that want CI eliminated. Indeed Tyrone is tortured by the Kendall and LaValle as Moore attempts to provide proof to have them taken out.

The Bourne Deception. Guess. No, really, guess. Terrorists. Yup. Only this time. Dum, dum, dum, it’s Americans! There is so much going on in this book…I wouldn’t even really know where to begin. Arkadin almost kills Bourne, then Bourne goes after him. In the meantime Arkadin has taken over a terrorist cell that he’s training for…something. The NSA is trying to swallow up all intelligence agencies, deriving much of their intel from a private company named Black River. Black River, in the mean time, is trying to start an international war, because an international war means more money. It’s just…confusing.

Lustbader’s Bourne is the movie Bourne. Not only does he eliminate everyone from Ludlum’s world (with the exception of Bourne himself), but he does so in two books. Never again is Bourne’s age mentioned, nor is it a factor. We’ve stepped out of the 80’s and moved into modern times. After the death of Marie in Betrayal we don’t even really hear of his children anymore, as if they don’t even matter. David Webb? Other than initial introductions of him in the beginning of each book he doesn’t really exist anymore either. That dual personality? Nope. Only Jason Bourne exists now. Lustbader kills characters off with reckless abandon, almost as if as soon as he gets bored with them he just blows them up. I’m also getting the impression that he doesn’t even like Bourne. More and more his novels are focusing on other characters, other aspects…more on political intrigue. Jason is almost an afterthought to keep the fist fighting and gunplay in the novels. I mean really, how many times can another assassin go after Bourne? Are there even that many high caliber assassins in the world? You would think that after a dude kills a gajillion of them people would quit sending them. Even his new love story between Bourne and Moira is…dull. He’s good at writing action, but he’s not good at developing personalities.

Ludlum took 10 years to write the Bourne Trilogy. Lustbader put out his first Jason Bourne book in 2004. Some 14 years after Ultimatum. His next one came out in 2007 and since then he has popped out a Bourne book every year. Lustbader is much better with action and pacing than Ludlum was, but Ludlum has the story. I think the main problem is that Lustbader is trying to do too much in each novel. Rather than focus on one storyline, or even two, he seems to be trying to fit in as many different plot’s as he can. In many ways it just becomes confusing, in others it’s boring. My advice to him would be to keep a core group of characters. Quit killing people off in every book and introducing more. Stop with the endless roundabout of lies. He mentions that Bourne has a son, Joshua, an assassin, and three books later he hasn’t even mentioned him again. I honestly wish the two of them could have worked on a book together, let Lustbader handle the action and Ludlum stick to the story.