Rising Sun – Michael Crichton

rising sunHow often is it that I read a great ‘who-dunnit’ and it comes with quite an extensive bibliography at the end. I’m sure plenty of people are familiar with the wonderful movie version of this with Wesley Snipes and Sean Connery. If you haven’t seen it… do so! It’s a great cop movie. The book is a bit more rounded, and it focuses more on the threat that the ‘Japanese model’ poses to America. Now, this was written in 1992 and back then it did seem that the Japanese ‘threat’ was real. The 80’s were a time of technological revolution, especially in tangible consular products. The case Crichton makes for caution is well reasoned and, for the most part, compliments the story being told and is presented, mainly through the discourses of Captain Connor.

But I’m getting ahead of myself here. Initially, a murder has taken place in a conference room above a grand opening ceremony for a Japanese corporation. Since this is a sensitive situation, the building’s representative requests a special liaison officer from the LAPD be present. The story is told from the perspective of this officer, Lieutenant Smith… and right from the start, where Officer Smith is directed to pick up retired Captain Connor as a consultant, things are not what they appear. Someone is manipulating events, and people from behind the scene and as Connor points out repeatedly “their way of seeing things is not our way of seeing things”.

As the investigators continue through the obfuscation put in their path, powerful interests put their media agents to work. There is a newspaper reporter in their employ who works to dig up dirt or manufacture negative press, and potential character smears to threaten the investigators. Crichton really paints a compelling picture of how these tactics are actually being used in the current media.

Despite this, with the clock ticking and time running out, solid detective work wins the day. Buy not taking anything for granted, by questioning the underlying assumptions, and mostly by looking a gift horse directly in its mouth… the novel ends with a very Japanese display of ‘justice’.

After reading this, I want to read a couple of Crichton’s earlier novels. He wrote four novels between 1960 and 1970 under the name John Lange. These books have been republished as part of the Hard Crimes line, so I’ll get myself a couple of them…

   Every homicide crime scene has the same energy, and that finality at the center. When you look at the dead person, there is a kind of obviousness, and at the same time there is an impossible mystery. Even in the simplest domestic brawl, where the woman finally decided to shoot the guy, you’d look at her, all covered in scars and cigarette burns, and you had to ask, why tonight? What was it about tonight? It’s always clear what you are seeing, and there’s always something that doesn’t add up. Both things at once.

And at a homicide you have the sense of being right down to the basic truths of existence, the smells and the defecation and the bloating. Usually somebody crying, so you’re listening to that. And the usual bullshit stops; somebody died, and it’s an unavoidable fact, like a rock in the road that makes all the traffic go around it. And in that grim and real setting, this camaraderie springs up, because you’re working late with people you know, and actually know very well because you see them all the time. L.A. has four homicides a day; there’s another one every six hours. And every detective at the crime scene already has ten homicides dragging in his backlog, which makes this new one an intolerable burden, so ho and everybody else is hoping to solve it on the spot, to get it out of the way. There is that kind of finality and tension and energy all mixed together.

And after you do it for a few years, you get so you like it. And to my surprise, as I entered the conference room, I realized that I missed it.

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Last Breath – Robert Bryndza

Last BreathI’ve read the kindle edition of this thrilling British police procedural. This is the forth in the DCI Erika Foster series.

As this story begins, a body has been uncovered in a trash bin in London. DI Peterson is called to the scene. Erika tags along on this snowy evening despite the fact that she is no longer part of the Murder Investigation Team. Peterson reports to DCI Marion Hudson, who though not on the scene, is still in charge of this investigation. Erika in her fashion ‘crashes’ in on the scene. Her current duties have her compiling administrative reports in Bromley. But being at the murder scene, and seeing it run poorly, gets Erika’s inner detective sparked, that, and Superintendent Sparks chasing her off probably had as much to do with her motivations. But a behind the scenes police investigation and an unforeseen circumstance align in such a way as to promote DCI Hudson to Acting Superintendent and DCI Forster can work the investigation.

While investigating this killing, Erik, through her connection with the pathologist Isaac, finds out that sloppy police work caused a killing with the same signature markings from going unnoticed, these are slow killings where the murderer seems to torture his victim a few days before killing them. So, now there are two brutal homicides. The killer has both luck and skill in hiding his identity as well as his crime and a third killing takes place. But as clues turn up and connections are made, Erika and her team get closer to the truth… As news that a third victim has been taken. With an increasing sense of urgency and a ticking clock until this next victim is killed the pace of this story really starts to race. And luck won’t be on the killer’s side for long…

This story certainty has Erika at her most introspective. As a reader of this series we’re starting to see much more growth in Erika, especially in her interactions with her various superiors up the chain of command. She still shows her indignation at police ‘perception’ motivations. When called in by the Assistant Commissioner she stands her ground while not getting much support from Acting Superintendent Hudson. But through her outside interactions with former Assistant Commissioner Marsh and her nemesis Superintendent Sparks, she begins to see things from their perspective. Which is one of those areas we see Erika becoming more forgiving of those around her.

And towards the end of this story, through her interactions with Isaac, Peterson and Hudson, Erika is really starting to take stock of her life. The choices she herself has made, as well as the circumstances that life has dealt to her. It seems that a certain amount of healing is taken place within her, and I look forward to seeing her in the next thrilling case!

   She went on: ‘Getting over the loss, that bit people can sympathize with and understand, but moving on, trying to fill the gap the loss has left, is impossible… You know I’ve been seeing Peterson – James – since before Christmas.’

Isaac nodded. ‘You like him, don’t you?’

Erica nodded and got p, grabbing the box of tissues from the desk opposite.

‘He just wants to be with me, and I keep pushing him away. He’s such a good guy… Like Mark, he was the one everyone loved. I just don’t know why Mark had to die and I’m still here. He was a great guy. I’m just a bitch.’

Isaac laughed.

‘I am, it’s not funny.’

‘You’re not a bitch, but you have to act like one sometimes. It helps you get the job done.’

Erika laughed. ‘No, thank you, but I just want to be alone.’

‘No, you don’t… Every day I have to do post-mortems on people, and so many of them had their hole lives ahead of them. They probably died wishing they could have done things differently, wishing they has been nicer, loved more, not stressed so much. Go and see James. You could be dead tomorrow and lying on that slab in there.’

‘Brutal, but true,’ said Erika. ‘You should give advice more.’

‘I do, but most of the people I see at work can’t do anything with it. They’re dead.’

Dark Water – Robert Bryndza

dark waterI’ve read the kindle edition and found that the third installment of this series is better that the first two, and the first two were great too. I can’t wait to get to the forth Erika Foster novel!

Dredging a flooded quarry for evidence in a drug bust that DCI Erika Foster has overseen, human remain from an unsolved abduction of a seven year old girl 26 years earlier. Currently Erika has been assigned to the Bromley department as part of a special projects team that mostly takes down drug dealers. Erika is dissatisfied with this as it just seems that as soon as they put one dealer away, another pops up to take his place. She does not feel a sense of completion, of a final justice, that she does when she solves homicide cases.

Erika needs to go around her current Superintendent Yale to get an audience with the new Assistant Commissioner Brace-Cosworthy. Erika recruits her former commander Mash to make this happen, and become the Senior Investigating Office (SIO) for the Jessica Collins case.

Once this administrative coupe has been accomplished, Erika is able to recruit two DI’s from her former station, DI Moss and DI Peterson to help her on this case. Together they hit the ground running with boxes and boxes of records from the previous abduction investigation.

The family is interviewed, and Erika gets the rundown from the retired former head of the case DCI Amanda Baker, whose career path nose-dived after her failing on the high profile flawed abduction investigation.

It takes Erika and her team a lot of leg work to get through the muddle and find the right questions to ask before coming to a great climax. Meanwhile, a mysterious figure is shadowing the investigation, and Erika’s sister and her kids drop by quite unexpectedly…

This is a wonderful page-turnning read and in this third installment, Erika seems to be much more comfortable in her investigation and spends less time fighting departmental battles which made reading this third novel better in my opinion. I can see her growing as a character…

But now, lets talk Moss and Peterson. They have appeared with Erika in this her third story and it’s about time that we should really get a more rounded view of these characters . I would really like to know more about them as people… there is a lot of information about their personality and such as it relates to Erika, but I would like to see more of them away from Erika… see what they are like… I’d like to see Peterson order a round of drinks for non work related friends down at the pub.. what does he like what’s his drink of choice… and moss, maybe fiddling with her Playlist as she works out at the gym, what’s on her Playlist what does she do at the gym… does she like the gym?

I’m not one for comparing one author to another too often but I’m currently reading Stuart Kaminsky inspector Rostnikov series, and the way he fleshes out Tkach and Karpo is a really good example of what I’m thinking about. Now I’m sure that Kaminsky does this to also showcase more of Soviet Moscow into his story… but certainly Brydnza could do something along those same lines fleshing out Moss and Peterson while giving us non brits more of scenic London.

Moss and Peterson, what can I say… I’d like to know them better.

Erika couldn’t seem to summon up any feelings of triumph about finding the case of heroin. All she could think about was the tiny skeleton. During her time in the force, she’d spent several years heading up anti-drug squads. The names seemed to change – Central Drug Unit, Drug and Organized Crime Prevention, the Projects Team – but the war on drugs rumbled on, and it would never be won. The moment one supplier was taken out there was another ready and waiting to take his place; filling a vacuum with even more skill and cunning. Jason Tyler had filled a vacuum, and in short space of time someone would take his place. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Murderers, however, were different; you could catch them and lock them up.