Trace by Warren Murphy (BR00100)

PLOT OR PREMISE

Devlin Tracy is a claims investigator working for an insurance company. The VP gives him a case to investigate — a friend of the President of the company is in a sanatorium, and one of the other patients changed their beneficiary on their insurance policy before they died, and the doctor at the sanatorium got the winfall. The President is afraid for his friend, that he’ll be pressured to do the same, and wants Trace to make sure there’s nothing weird going on.

WHAT I LIKED

Warren Murphy was also creator of several other series, and while some of those were kind of pulp-style, this one is a full “standard” novel. Wise-cracking, determined, but not always the fastest to figure things out. Trace works hard, keeps poking until something shakes loose, and then grabs on and won’t let go until whatever scheme falls apart. All the elements of the series are here — drinking like a fish, sleeping with suspects, wearing a little frog pin that records conversations, and a bit of a blundering style that worms his way into lots of situations. There are sub-stories with drugs and potential lawsuits, but mostly it is just about Trace shaking things up.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE

He has a girlfriend, of sorts, and her portrayal in this one is more annoying than usual for the series. Plus she comes in near the end as a super-detective to help solve the case, but Trace was doing fine on his own. She helps him out, as she often does, but she was mostly superfluous for this outing.

THE BOTTOM LINE / TWEET

Great intro to a great series


MY RATING

Original: January 14, 2017
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Legend: 1/5 Finished  2/5 Not bad  3/5 Good  4/5 Enjoyable  5/5 Excellent


DISCLOSURE

I received no compensation, not even a free copy, in exchange for this review. I am not personal friends with the author, nor did I follow him on social media.

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PUBLICATION

  • Year of Release: 1981 (PB), 2013 (E)
  • Publisher: Signet (PB), Gere Donovan Press (E)
  • ISBN/ASIN: 978-1628580051 (ISBN), B00E50OKNO (ASIN)
  • Series: Trace (1)
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The Blacklist – Horrible plotting…

As much as I like serialized story-telling, and as much as I do tweet length reviews of episodes, I almost never blog about an individual episode if it’s not a premiere (series or season) or a finale (series). It takes too much time, and while I love the idea of being able to do full recaps and analysis of episodes for maybe a single series, it isn’t in the cards anytime soon.

But last night’s episode of the Blacklist is surprisingly bad. Season 1 was awesome, and James Spader did a great turn as the master criminal turned FBI helper Raymond Reddington. “I will speak only with Elizabeth Keen” was a fantastic premise. Season 2 was weird, as it dealt with Keen getting close to Reddington but on the run from the evil Cabal. They are now in Season 3, they’re pretty much guaranteed a Season 4, and they are gearing up for the new spin-off, Blacklist: Redemption.

And maybe that infamous Season 3 slump has hit, or they’re busy working on the spin-off. But while the acting was fine for the episode, and it bopped along at a good pace, my internal editor couldn’t help but notice some glaring, overarching, beyond-the-pale flaws.

The episode is entitled the Forecaster, and basically it is a double-entendre where someone is “forecasting deaths”, and it works as a nickname for the eventual bad guy who is a stock broker/investor.

The episode opens with the cliché of Liz and Tom setting up house in their new apartment, which by the way, looks a lot like her OLD apartment, with only slightly different layout. It implied in the show it was new and different, but wasn’t entirely clear. Plus last week she was living in a warehouse because there were bad people still out there, this week there are no concerns and she can live anywhere normally. Umm, okay.

They have a scene where basically Liz says the standard lines about having a normal life, and then she opens up the door to find a diorama of a crime scene. It was obvious there was a punchline to her statements of a normal life, and it was telegraphed almost in slow motion.

Now the diorama is the key to the episode — someone has left it on her doorstep, maybe a killer taunting her to catch him. And it is supposed to be uber creepy. Except it looks like a kid’s bad artwork. Dioramas were a bit creepy when it was 10 years ago on the original CSI, now not so much.

Liz takes it into the FBI — carrying it herself into the office. No call for a forensics team to come check it out, she’ll just carry it in. Aram compliments her on her artwork, like it makes any sense for her to be doing a diorama of anything. Stupidest response ever. A second diorama shows up later, and Tom chases the person out of the building. Leaving the baby alone in the apartment. Literally, he gets all the way to the street and is starting to chase them before he thinks, “Oh, right, Alice is alone in the apartment.” 20 minutes after the viewer had the same thought. Actually they had it before he even left the apartment door…if he had stopped at the door, it would have been a good scene. Maybe the stairs. Nope, he went all the way out of the building and started down the street. Okay.

FBI saves the second victim, figures out who left the diorama, goes to confront them. Turns out she isn’t a taunting killer, she’s the mother of a 9yo girl who is having some sort of visions of the crimes. In great detail. Right down to the coffee cup on the table in one scene. Plus of course all the visions going back two years of 42 separate crimes, again in stunning detail, including people hanging out of windows and dropping babies to the ground.

The team investigates and realizes the girl has a special hearing aid, and what is really happening is that she’s hearing the killers on the phone planning the crimes. And she’s drawing it and doing dioramas.

Which is fine. Except she has details that the killers wouldn’t know until it happened — like how they fell, that the victim was carrying a special mug that she sat on a table, that babies would fall out of a building on fire, the way an accident scene would look between a train and a bus. Plus, it turns out the killer is basically doing it on contract — the big baddie is telling the assassin what to do. Again, they wouldn’t be discussing all the basic steps of how exactly to do the kill (not only is it unrealistic, it violates every “suspension of disbelief” for TV too). So the girl wouldn’t have as much detail as she does. No way, no how.

The bad guy has a mole on the inside…so they know the FBI is on to them, and it is a little girl with the info. The story implies they got it from the cops, but the cops wouldn’t know, the FBI wouldn’t tell them that detail. Whatever. The team patches into the frequency the killers are using, the assassin sees Liz looking at him with binoculars and knows Liz must be standing in the apartment of the girl, so he rushes over and kidnaps her. Why? No idea. He should have just killed her and moved on. Nope he’s kidnapping her. How does the FBI stop him? They turn up the volume on their own broadcast so that her hearing aid will hurt her and she’ll end up screaming out where she is. Right…so we hurt the kid to find out where she is, while also risking that the killer will now just kill her rather than kidnap her. Perfectly logical.

Fast-forward to another scene, and the mother is freaking out. She says, “I tried to do this anonymously, etc.”. Except she didn’t. The year before, she went to the POLICE and told them what was happening. So she didn’t try to do it anonymously to protect her daughter from the baddies. That’s why the baddies know who she is. Oh, yeah, they know, but the way the assassin figures it out is by seeing Liz.

Plus, at this point, the assassin appears both Jason Bourne-ruthless and smart, and then entirely dependant upon his boss to tell him what to do.

The denouement comes at a building where the baddie inside is going to crash an elevator and kill someone. So, Liz and Ressler arrive at a building, Liz goes in with the tactical team, and Ressler gets a brilliant idea. He goes to the building across the street and goes up to a floor directly across from where the killer is. Now, bear in mind he had to cross the street, enter a different building having no idea where he’s going, climb to the SAME level as the killer. Liz only had to go up the same distance in a building she had some guidance for. But Ressler beats the team to the same level. Ressler sees someone doing something across the street, through a dirty window, looks like welding or something, so Ressler pulls out his gun, breaks the window and SHOOTS BLINDLY into the other room. And there’s blood splatter back on the window. Why back? No idea. Why a lot of splatter at a pistol shot of over 50 feet? No idea. Why would he shoot having no idea what he’s shooting at, just guessing it’s the bad guy? No idea. But it “saves the day” sort of (actually Liz breaks in and hits the emergency stop on the elevator).

Meanwhile, the boss is getting away, and no one ever mentions the mole. And they got the bonus of hurting a kid, so there’s that. Yet let’s all celebrate.

Elsewhere in the episode, Reddington is doing some sort of complicated dance with a businessman who killed Reddington’s friend. Reddington is pitting the number 2 against the boss, and the boss against the number 2, all leading up to them trying to kill each other. And then Reddington kills the winner of that battle. Why bother? He got nothing out of the dance, it was just stupid theatre, really. And at the end, Liz sees the two new cleaners leaving. Later, Dengbe tells her that they were cleaners…Liz’s reaction? Oh, Reddington is punishing his former cleaner, Mr. Caplan, by using new cleaners. That’s her reaction. Dengbe just told her, and she’s an FBI AGENT AGAIN, that Reddington needed to have cleaners clean the apartment of at least one dead body, one she knows nothing about or why Reddington would have had to kill anyone this time (previous times she wasn’t happy about it but she knew why he was doing certain things), and her only reaction is to ignore that Reddington has killed someone else and ask if he’s punishing the former cleaner?

Good lord. How did I even give it 2 stars? Sure the pace and acting were fine, but blech for the rest.


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Avenger by William Shatner (BR00099)

PLOT OR PREMISE

This is the third in a Star Trek trilogy, with nanites, sentient Borg, and Vulcan terrorists.

WHAT I LIKED

The portrayal of the TNG crew is a little better in this book, perhaps reflecting the better portrayals seen in the TNG movies. It links Kirk, Spock, Picard, and the entire history of the various Enterprises together with Sarek.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE

n/a

THE BOTTOM LINE / TWEET

All about renewal and cycles


MY RATING

Original: October 10, 1999
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Legend: 1/5 Finished  2/5 Not bad  3/5 Good  4/5 Enjoyable  5/5 Excellent


DISCLOSURE

I received no compensation, not even a free copy, in exchange for this review. I am not personal friends with the author, nor do I follow him on social media.

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PUBLICATION

  • Year of Release: 1997
  • Publisher: Star Trek
  • ISBN/ASIN: 978-0671017446
  • Series: Star Trek, ST:TOS, ST:TNG
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The Return by William Shatner (BR00098)

PLOT OR PREMISE

This is the second in a Star Trek trilogy, with renegade Romulans working with the Borg.

WHAT I LIKED

There are some decent scenes with Data, and some interesting interactions between old TOS crew and new TNG crew.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE

Most of the TOS crew are not really much like themselves, except Spock, so not very “believable”. Bones is almost a caricature. Kirk and Worf have a fight that is ridiculous.

THE BOTTOM LINE / TWEET

Worst of the three


MY RATING

Original: October 10, 1999

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Legend: 1/5 Finished  2/5 Not bad  3/5 Good  4/5 Enjoyable  5/5 Excellent


DISCLOSURE

I received no compensation, not even a free copy, in exchange for this review. I am not personal friends with the author, nor do I follow him on social media.

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PUBLICATION

  • Year of Release: 1997
  • Publisher: Star Trek
  • ISBN/ASIN: 978-0671526092
  • Series: Star Trek, ST:TOS, ST:TNG
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The Ashes of Eden by William Shatner (BR00097)

PLOT OR PREMISE

This is the first in a Star Trek trilogy, with Spock reminiscing about Kirk’s last mission, one that took place after retirement and involved an alluring woman.

WHAT I LIKED

The present time takes place just after Kirk’s death in the movie Generations, and is a great story of the old crew. One of the best I have ever read. There’s even a fight between Kirk and the Enterprise against his old crewmates.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE

n/a

THE BOTTOM LINE / TWEET

Almost perfect


MY RATING

Original: October 10, 1999

bookreview_wholebookreview_wholebookreview_wholebookreview_wholebookreview_whole

Legend: 1/5 Finished  2/5 Not bad  3/5 Good  4/5 Enjoyable  5/5 Excellent


DISCLOSURE

I received no compensation, not even a free copy, in exchange for this review. I am not personal friends with the author, nor do I follow him on social media.

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PUBLICATION

  • Year of Release: 1996
  • Publisher: Star Trek
  • ISBN/ASIN: 978-0671520366
  • Series: Star Trek, ST:TOS
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Using HTML 4 (4th edition) by Lee Anne Phillips (BR00096)

PLOT OR PREMISE

Good resource, short on tutorial and long on information.

WHAT I LIKED

Good for syntax and great appendix sections.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE

Not quite as detailed as other books, and not much theory.

THE BOTTOM LINE / TWEET

Good resource


MY RATING

Original: October 10, 1999
bookreview_wholebookreview_wholebookreview_wholebookreview_blankbookreview_blank

Legend: 1/5 Finished  2/5 Not bad  3/5 Good  4/5 Enjoyable  5/5 Excellent


DISCLOSURE

I received no compensation, not even a free copy, in exchange for this review. I am not personal friends with the author, nor do I follow him / her on social media.

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PUBLICATION

  • Year of Release: 1998
  • Publisher: Que Publishing
  • ISBN/ASIN: 978-0789715623
  • Series: Stand-alone
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The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Creating an HTML 4 Web Page (3rd edition) by Paul Mcfedries (BR00095)

PLOT OR PREMISE

Good overview from beginning to end

WHAT I LIKED

A bit dated at the point of reading (1999), with some of the “new features” old hat, and as well, some of the “old features” had changed. However, the approach is light, and easy to follow, from beginning to end, and what makes this such a great resource is the CD-ROM disk that comes with it, containing some great software and sample coding to save the tired typist.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE

n/a

THE BOTTOM LINE / TWEET

Good overview


MY RATING

Original: October 10, 1999
bookreview_wholebookreview_wholebookreview_wholebookreview_wholebookreview_blank

Legend: 1/5 Finished  2/5 Not bad  3/5 Good  4/5 Enjoyable  5/5 Excellent


DISCLOSURE

I received no compensation, not even a free copy, in exchange for this review. I am not personal friends with the author, nor do I follow him / her on social media.

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PUBLICATION

  • Year of Release: 1997
  • Publisher: Alpha
  • ISBN/ASIN: 978-0789714909
  • Series: Stand-alone
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HTML Web Magic (2nd edition) by Raymond Pirouz (BR00094)

PLOT OR PREMISE

Instead of going through all the bits and pieces (which it does very quickly), Pirouz instead has focused on some elements that spice up web pages.

WHAT I LIKED

A programmer wouldn’t necessarily want to use all of them, but a new designer will find some really great tips and tricks here. Definitely a fun read as you can say to yourself, “ah-hah, so THAT’s how they do that!”.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE

n/a

THE BOTTOM LINE / TWEET

Great resource


MY RATING

Original: October 10, 1999
bookreview_wholebookreview_wholebookreview_wholebookreview_wholebookreview_blank

Legend: 1/5 Finished  2/5 Not bad  3/5 Good  4/5 Enjoyable  5/5 Excellent


DISCLOSURE

I received no compensation, not even a free copy, in exchange for this review. I am not personal friends with the author, nor do I follow him / her on social media.

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PUBLICATION

  • Year of Release: 1998
  • Publisher: New Riders
  • ISBN/ASIN: 978-1568304755
  • Series: Stand-alone
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HTML: The Complete Reference by Thomas A. Powell (BR00093)

PLOT OR PREMISE

A reference guide for HTML

WHAT I LIKED

Good as a simple reference / encyclopaedia tool.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE

Not so great for learning the intricacies from the bottom-up, short on tutorial or theory side.

THE BOTTOM LINE / TWEET

Good simple reference


MY RATING

Original: October 10, 1999
bookreview_wholebookreview_wholebookreview_wholebookreview_blankbookreview_blank

Legend: 1/5 Finished  2/5 Not bad  3/5 Good  4/5 Enjoyable  5/5 Excellent


DISCLOSURE

I received no compensation, not even a free copy, in exchange for this review. I am not personal friends with the author, nor do I follow him / her on social media.

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PUBLICATION

  • Year of Release: 1998
  • Publisher: McGraw-Hill Osborne Media
  • ISBN/ASIN: B01JQ7RDLQ
  • Series: Stand-alone
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Rough Stuff by G.H. Stone (BR00092)

PLOT OR PREMISE

This book marks the third in the Crimebusters series, with the Three Investigators in a plane crash with Bob’s father.

WHAT I LIKED

After the plane crash, they are forced to “rough it”, with standard adventure fare. The mystery is classic Three Investigators, and Stone is beginning to somewhat settle into the characters.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE

The adventure side degrades into dealing with polluters with M-16 rifles and there is a “fight” scene that again is very far removed from the Three Investigators world.

THE BOTTOM LINE / TWEET

Not bad, not great


MY RATING

Original: October 10, 1999
bookreview_wholebookreview_wholebookreview_wholebookreview_blankbookreview_blank

Legend: 1/5 Finished  2/5 Not bad  3/5 Good  4/5 Enjoyable  5/5 Excellent


DISCLOSURE

I received no compensation, not even a free copy, in exchange for this review. I am not personal friends with the author, nor do I follow him / her on social media.

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PUBLICATION

  • Year of Release: 1989
  • Publisher: Random House
  • ISBN/ASIN: 978-0394801780
  • Series: Three Investigators (3)
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