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Book Nook - 08-10-2018

Monday, October 08, 2018
By Deepa Gahlot

There are Lit Fests taking place all over the country, but the community of readers is dwindling. Still, passionate book lovers would like to know what others like themselves are reading. This Book Nook suggests some books, but would also like to connect with serious readers, or even casual airport book browsers. Do write in about books you have loved or hated and why. The best entries will be shared on this page. Please send your recommendations to adc.booknook@gmail.com

Dead Man Walking
Vince Flynn wrote popular political thrillers (American Assassin being the best known, turned into a movie) with Mitch Rapp, a CIA counter-terrorist operative, as his protagonist ; after his death in 2013, Kyle Mills continued to write them, under the current publishing trend of keeping characters alive ever their creators have passed way to continue a profitable franchise.

Mills, a bestselling writer himself, has done a fine job with Mitch Rapp, his Russian frenemy Grisha Azarov and CIA boss Irene Kennedy appearing in great form, along with some other regulars like Scott Coleman, Mitch’s partner Claudia Gould and her daughter Anna (his girlfriend died in an earlier book).

Red War, the seventeenth Mitch Rapp novel, has as the villain, a Vladimir Putin-like Russian autocrat Maxim Krupin. When he finds that he has brain cancer and will probably not live too long, he is quite willing to start World War III to keep up his image as a strongman in the eyes of the people.  Facing protests in the streets for the poor conditions in the country and unable to trust anyone in his inner circle, he springs out of retirement, the psychopathic General Andrei Sokolov, who will stop at nothing to bring back the glory of Mother Russia.

Krupin and Sokolov plan to destroy NATO, attack Baltic countries and engage the west in a war that would benefit nobody but himself—and as a man with nothing lose, he is a tough adversary.

He is the kind of tyrant, who would mess with the power grid of Costa Rica to have his former hitman Grisha Azarov killed. Azarov has quit the madness periodically unleashed by power-hungry leaders, and is living peacefully with his girlfriend Cara, when the Russians attack. Rapp and Coleman happen to arrive in the nick of time to pull him out of his burning house, but Cara is badly wounded. Azarov is furious enough to consider mounting a hit on Krupin.

Meanwhile, Krupin hides out in the back of beyond, where medical personnel he has kidnapped conduct ghastly experiments on innocent civilians who have the same symptoms as Krupin, in the hope of finding a cure.  The CIA wonders why Krupin is behaving so erratically, and correctly conclude that he is terminally ill.

As the threat of nuclear war looms, it is up to Rapp and his new ally Azarov (who had tried to kill him in the past and had badly wounded Coleman) to find a way to stop the two Russian madmen.

Mills gets his politics right and the reader gets a worrisome look at the precarious state the world is in—for a change, the enemies are not middle-Eastern terrorists, but Russians with a death wish. The book is action-packed, pulse-pounding and scary for how realistic it is, even within the incredible two-man-army scenario.  Even if Mitch Rapp’s perfectly-timed appearances, hair-trigger escapes and way of getting out of every violent encounter unscathed seem exaggerated, and the CIA’s protector-of-the-world stance ridiculous, Red War is a hugely enjoyable read.

Red War
By Kyle Mills for Vince Flynn
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Pages: 400

 

Excerpt of Red War
MITCH Rapp slowed, letting Scott Coleman’s lead extend to ten feet.

They were running on a poorly defined dirt track that switchbacked up a mountain to the west of the one he’d built his house on. By design, it was late afternoon and they were in full sun. Temperatures were in the high eighties with humidity around the same level, covering Rapp in a film of perspiration that was beginning to soak through his shirt.

Coleman, on the other hand, looked like he’d just climbed out of a swimming pool. He was pouring so much sweat that the trail of mud he left behind him would be visible from space. His breathing was coming in random, wheezing gasps that made him sound like the soon-to-be victim in a slasher flick. On the brighter side, his pace was steady and he wasn’t tripping over the roots and loose rocks beneath his feet.

So, three quarters of the way to the summit, he was moving about as well as anybody could expect under the circumstances. Rapp wasn’t anybody, though. It was time to see what the former navy SEAL could do.

He crashed through some low branches to Coleman’s left, pulling back onto the trail a few feet ahead. After about a minute of matching his old friend’s pace, he started to slowly accelerate. Behind him, the rhythm of footfalls rose in defiance. Like they always did.

Coleman had just spent more than a year focused entirely on recovering from a run-in with Grisha Azarov, the nearly superhuman enforcer who worked for Russia’s president. Azarov had finally walked away from his country and employer, but unfortunately not in time to save Coleman a wrecked shoulder, a knife blade broken off in his ribs, and multiple gunshot wounds. The blood loss alone would have killed a man half his age, but the former SEAL managed to beat the odds and stay above ground.

That had turned out to be the easy part. When he’d finally been hoisted out of bed, it had taken him almost a month just to relearn how to walk. And then there was the mental side. Going from being stronger, tougher, and faster than almost everyone around him to someone who needed a motorized cart to navigate the grocery store had been a tough blow. Even worse was coming to terms with the fact that Azarov had torn through him like he wasn’t there. Coleman was still struggling to regain the confidence he’d always possessed in well-deserved abundance.

Built his house on. By design, it was late afternoon and they were in full sun. Temperatures were in the high eighties with humidity around the same level, covering Rapp in a film of perspiration that was beginning to soak through his shirt.

Coleman, on the other hand, looked like he’d just climbed out of a swimming pool. He was pouring so much sweat that the trail of mud he left behind him would be visible from space. His breathing was coming in random, wheezing gasps that made him sound like the soon-to-be victim in a slasher flick. On the brighter side, his pace was steady and he wasn’t tripping over the roots and loose rocks beneath his feet. So, three quarters of the way to the summit, he was moving about as well as anybody could expect under the confidence he’d always possessed in well-deserved abundance.

So it had been a surprise—of the rare good kind—when he’d showed up on Rapp’s doorstep and invited him on a trail run. It was good to see a hint of the old swagger. He’d been Rapp’s backup for a long time and the truth was that the year without him could have gone better. In this business, you were only as good as the people you surrounded yourself with.

Rapp glanced at the heart rate monitor strapped to his wrist. One sixty-five—a hard but comfortable pace that he could hold for around three hours before blowing up. Behind him, Coleman’s breathing was becoming desperate and his footfalls were losing their steady tempo. Stumbles, followed by awkward saves, were increasingly frequent as his thigh muscles began to give up. But no falls. Not yet.

 

Psycho Alert
Two of Nora Roberts books have psychopathic villains—the kind with dangerously devious minds and the means to wreak havoc.

The gun control debate in the US comes up every time there is a mass shooting. In Nora Roberts’s Shelter in Place, three young men enter a mall in Portland, and start firing randomly. Many people are killed, and some in moments of heroism that automatically emerge when there’s a crisis, manage to save lives.

Simone Knox, who just happened to go out of the movie theatre to the washroom when the attacks took place, manages to call the emergency number 911, for which she is hailed as a heroine—without her presence of mind, more lives would have been lost.  Knox loses one of her best friends, and suffers from survivor’s guilt, leading her to go live on Tranquility Island, with her bohemian grandmother, CiCi, who is an artist, and seek solace in clay art herself.

Another survivor, Reed Quartermaine, befriends a young cop, Essie McVee, who had shot one of the killers, and becomes a cop too. All of them try to cope with the nightmarish memories, when suddenly, someone starts to target the survivors and kills them in horrible ways. The murderer, an expert with disguises and fake ids, stays several steps ahead of the cops; only Reed sees the connection, between the mall massacre in the past, and the current spate of killings. The novel is part thriller, part romance and very readable.

Shelter In Place
By Nora Roberts
Publisher: St. Martin's; Pages: 448


 
Come Sundown by Nora Roberts takes a germ of an idea from Emma Donoghue terrifying Room, in which a man abducts a young woman and imprisons her in a basement.

Alice Bodine, a rebellious young woman, on her way home, is kidnapped by a religious psychopath, who shackles her in a room, beats and rapes her and takes away the children she gives birth to. He forces Alice to call him “Sir” and believes a woman’s place is to serve men and give him sons. Alice is so brutalized that she loses her sanity.

The discomfiting horror of Alice’s plight, is juxtaposed with the life of ambitious Bodine Longbow, who runs her family’s Montana resort and has made a success of it. Her father and brothers run a ranch and they all live happily in a close-knit family, with grandmother and great grandmother around.  Bodine is even happier when her childhood crush Callen Skinner, returns to town and starts working with the family enterprise.

Then, two women are found murdered on ranch property and a vengeful cop tries to pin the blame on Callen. But that is the least of the family’s problems—a mentally traumatized and severely battered Alice is found on the road, and getting her back to normal is a challenge.

Callen and his beloved horse Sundown are shot at, and suddenly the Longbows have more problems than they are used to dealing with.

Roberts successful thriller-romance formula seems to work quite well here too, even though many readers could be put off by the violence inflicted on Alice. There is also some kind of judgment here, unintended though it may be-- women who don’t stay within the protective ring of their families, are risking Alice’s fate.

Come Sundown
By Nora Roberts
Publisher: St Martin’s
Pages: 480

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