‘The Place Where the Desert is Ocean…’

12:45 AM 31 MARCH 2020

Another thrilling book by Michael Connelly, but a departure from the author’s familiar menu of detective novels that I have been voraciously consuming in chronological order. Not that there aren’t crimes perpetrated, murders (quite a number) committed and a host of intriguing rogues to ponder. Yet, without the long, heroic arm of the law to interfere, the book lacks the obvious duel between ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ , ‘good’ and ‘bad’. Instead, the reader is invited to throw his/her loyalties behind a robber/kidnapper (Cassie Black), rather than the ‘security consultant’ and psychopathic killer, with connections to the mob (Jack Karch). Of course, there are complex mitigating circumstances, which become clearer as the story unfolds, making it easier to root for the underdog, but the story, mainly set in Las Vegas is essentially a crime novel wherein the rules of the jungle apply and brazen quick wits may not be enough to overcome ruthless vested interests and well organized muscle.

Cassie is working in car sales following her release from prison in the euphemistically named ‘High Desert’ and keen to avoid a recall. However, with just fourteen months to see out, under the watchful eye of Thelma Kibble, her parole officer, the timeline is suddenly shrunk leaving Cassie needing big money, quickly, if she is to get away as she dreamed and make a fresh start.


On the one hand Cassie knows that the risks are huge, but despite the years of incarceration, the adrenaline of ‘outlaw juice’ has not been purged from Cassie Black’s system. Nor, has the sense of loss following that fateful night six years before, when her lover and charismatic mentor, Max Freeling, had died at The Cleopatra casino in Las Vegas. The book’s pervasive sense of destiny and inevitable symmetry though is encapsulated in the astrological musings of his step-brother Leo Renfro, who identifies potential jobs and has grave misgivings about the harmful influence of the ‘void moon’, which should be avoided at all costs.


For me, the protagonist in this novel, Cassie and her antagonist, Jack Karch, are quite weak characters by Connelly’s standards. Indeed Karch is almost a pastiche of the Las Vegas mobster and yet it is the ‘bit-part’ players that save it. Instead of concentrating on developing the main characters, in Thelma Kibble, Leo Renfro, ‘Jersey’ Palz (kit man) and Vincent Grimaldi (owner of The Cleo’) the author has, perhaps inadvertently, shaped far more interesting characters. That such cameos are more memorable than the key characters suggests a flawed story and yet it carries the hallmark pacy suspense and action associated with Connelly. Still, this diversion from the main course of the Harry Bosch series of novels does lend this book the feel of a ‘light bite’, an entree, ahead of my return to book seven in the series (‘A Darkness More than Night ’, 2001). At least my appetite has been piqued.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Go Wild!

10:25 PM 21 JULY 2017

This was my first experience of work by Canadian author, Jeffrey Moore and perhaps to the author’s credit ‘The Extinction Club” isn’t easily pidgeon-holed. It’s certainly thrilling, but there are also elements of brutal crime, a key character (Celeste) is a teenager, but it’s not really a ‘young adult’ novel, at one point crumbs even seemed to be leading down the path of a ghost/monster story, but no. What does stand out is the use of the book as a brash exposé of the abject capacity of man for cruelty and the depraved abuse of wild animals, as well as their own kind. Designed to be hard-hitting, in parts the book adopts the tenor of a documentary and yet the tension builds from the classic clash of good and evil.

Nile Nightingale is an unlikely hero. Hiding out in the Laurentian mountains of Quebec, from a series of stateside misdemeanors and a litigious ex-partner with designs on his inheritance, the recovering alcoholic is in poor shape. However, when he rescues a discarded burlap sack from sinking into marshland, he discovers inside 14 year-old Celeste, beaten and stabbed. Both damaged by their respective experiences. Nile and Celeste contrive to rehabilitate each other and rediscover the spirit to not be cowed, but rather to find the courage to stand up for what it right.

For Nile especially, the adventure smacks of a chance for redemption, but brimming with challenge, the temptation to take the path of least resistance is palpable. In describing the burgeoning connection of the main characters the book is also touching and ultimately demonstrates that humankind is simultaneously capable of great virtue and altruism, which can set the species apart.

Thus, by casting a light on the dichotomy between the hunted and the hunters, Moore alludes to the possibility that the abuse of power is the greatest weakness of all. Still, for all the uncompromising wildlife protection zeal, Moore’s inclusion of wacky cameos, such as Welshman Myles Llewellyn, at least confers a little lightness to the barbarous gloom. Bore da! 

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.