Thursday, November 28, 2002

Review - Traps by Paul Lindsay

Banter between lead characters, a look at office politics and FBI procedures and the discovery of an unlikely hero all make Traps, the latest novel by FBI veteran Paul Lindsay, an enjoyable read.

FBI explosives expert Jack Kincade is a loser in many respects, but there is a sense of decency about him. Ben Alton, an agent on light duty, lives for the FBI, working to prove himself worthy each day.

Kincade and Alton rub each other the wrong way, yet each finds something admirable in the other.

Conrad Ziven's daughter Leah was kidnapped three years ago. The FBI let the case get cold. Ziven devises and executes a plan to get the FBI's attention: he is the only one with the code to the 800-pound bomb he planted under a jail that houses 15,000 prisoners.

His demands to the Feds are simple: find Leah and the bomb will be disarmed.

Kincade becomes the central agent in the Ziven case. Kincade supports his poker and drinking habit by "trapping" bank night depository slots. He is now the agent in charge of the recent flurry of bank robberies, and isn't concerned with getting caught.

Alton, an amputee due to cancer, is assigned the bank robbery cases that have gone nowhere, while Kincade moves to the Ziven case. Alton is sent to the seedy motel where Kincade lives with his border collie to get some background on the depository robberies.

Before either of them knows it, they are working together on the Ziven case.

Kincade and Alton solve the cold Ziven case quickly and the bomb is disarmed. It turns out Leah died three years ago, and her killer was murdered a few months later. Kincade is thrilled to go back to his bank trapping and poker games, but Alton has a nagging thought that the Ziven case couldn't have been one man working alone.

Together with Kincade, Alton discovers that Leah's psychopathic killer is still very much alive and has an enormous grudge against the FBI.

Kincade and Alton know who the psychopath is, but he has covered his tracks well and forcing him into a corner leads to a suspenseful, nail-biting countdown to save one of their daughters, who is now the latest kidnapping victim.

Paul Lindsay has written four previous books subtitled "A Novel of the FBI:" Witness to the Truth, Codename: Gentkill and Freedom to Kill feature Detroit FBI Agent Mike Devlin. The Fuhrer's Reserve and Traps are breaks from the series character.

Lindsay lives on the New Hampshire seacoast with his wife.

Title: Traps
Author: Paul Lindsay
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
ISBN: 978-0743215060
Pages: 272
Price: $24.00

Thursday, November 7, 2002

Review - Bubbles in Trouble by Sarah Strohmeyer

If I hadn't been asked to review Bubbles in Trouble I wouldn't have considered reading it. The title alone turned me off. The book jacket is pink, blue and yellow with a pair of spike-heeled leopard print shoes and a water pistol emitting yellow bubbles. My first thought was that it was a book about a monkey. When I ran the title by two male friends they assumed it was about a stripper.

As it turns out, Bubbles in Trouble is good for laughs, entertaining characters and well-worked story lines. Vermont novelist Sarah Strohmeyer weaves a good mystery. The whodunits, all three of them, had me guessing until the very end.

But the character names distracted me from the mysteries. Bubbles Yablonsky? Who would name a child Bubbles? Bubbles has dealings with Nimrod Oggledorp, a store clerk. Bubbles' man of the hour is Steve Stiletto. Her ex-husband is Dan the Man, who now goes by the name Chip. Her mother is LuLu, who lusts after Fast Car.

There is a definite Janet Evanovich feel to Bubbles in Trouble, right down to the prominence of TastyKakes. Strohmeyer mentions on her Web site that she once interviewed Evanovich and said she'd like to write similar books. The title for the first Bubbles novel, Bubbles Unbound, came from Evanovich.

Bubbles is a life-loving character with a big heart and determination to get the job done. She is beautician extraordinaire at the House of Beauty in Lehigh, Pa. She is very proud of her bleached-blonde big hair and her ability to gossip with the best of them. Bubbles is also supremely dedicated to makeup, high heels, a Valentine-red Super Wonderbra, and Saran-Wrap-tight tank tops and sweaters. She drives an old Camaro, her dream car.

Bubbles works part time as a newspaper reporter, which is what sends her off in search of answers in Bubbles in Trouble. The story is set mostly in Amish country. To read about Bubbles giving up her clothes, makeup, electricity and running water for undercover work is entertaining to the point of out-loud laughter. Furthermore, she is the first character I have come across whose IQ increases to genius level after ingesting marijuana.

At the least, I expected the book would be a quick read and mildly entertaining. At the most I hoped that I was completely wrong with my first impressions and I would be turned on to a new novelist.

I'm not persuaded to go back and read the first "Bubbles" book, but I'll keep it in mind if my library runs short.

Sarah Strohmeyer is a former journalist who grew up in Pennsylvania and now lives near Montpelier, Vt., with her family. Her first Bubbles book, Bubbles Unbound, won the Agatha Award.

Title: Bubbles in Trouble
Author: Sarah Strohmeyer
Publisher: Dutton
ISBN: 978-0451208507
Pages: 336
Price: $7.99