A strong Chicago-based mystery from Chicago-based writer Walker, who has a knack for capturing both the essence of the city and the suspense that fills its streets.  In this novel, Walker, a former Catholic priest, uses his seminary background as the backdrop for this latest, involving a priest who gets caught up in an international quagmire.  One day, out of the blue, Father Paul Clark’s friend is killed right in front of him.  Barely escaping with own life, Clark soon finds out that his friend was involved in some less than savory dealings with the wrong types of people.  Enter a woman who says she is from the government who has a plan to help Clark. Can she be trusted?  Clark spends much of the novel trying to answer that question, a search which leads him all the way to South America.  In the midst of all of this, a young man enters him life and shakes his beliefs to the core. 

As mysteries go, this is quite strong.  The character of Paul Clark is a believable, convincing protagonist.  All throughout the book, no matter what Clark is going through, we feel his pain and can sympathize with his difficult situations.  As a priest, he might appear as unrelatable, but Walker gives Clark such compassion and conscience and even some faith crises that we can understand what Clark is experiencing. And Walker also makes good use out of Chicago.  Through the pages, I was able to visualize the gritty and dank streets of Chicago where Clark was desperately trying to run for his life. 

This is the second mystery I have read by Walker (Saving Paulo was the other one) and though I liked both, I found myself drawn more this Clark and his set of nerve-wrenching circumstances. 

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From Chicago author Libby Fischer Hellmann, here’s a top-notch mystery with a strong female main character, Georgia Davis.  She’s feisty, proud, confident and able.  She’s a good PI who isn’t a “superhero” type…meaning she get afraid and is not ashamed to show it.  In Doubleback, Davis gets involved with a kidnapping/murder/financial malfeasance plot that takes her from Chicago to the Arizona-Mexico border.  Hellmann’s writing style is good, though I think sometimes she can be a bit choppy.  But, the great character construction and well-laid-out plot make up for this. Though the plot can be a bit far-fetched (as most thrillers and mysteries can be), Davis also seems believable in her role…meaning she doesn’t just happen to “fall” into situations, rather the escapades she finds herself in are essential to the plot.   I would read more tales about Georgia Davis and her sometimes partner-in-crime Ellie Foreman (Hellmann does a series with Foreman as more of a primary character too).

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THE STAFF OF THE ADULT FICTION DEPARTMENT AT NILES PUBLIC LIBRARY HAS CREATED ITS LIST OF THE “BEST NOVELS OF 2009.”

STAFF PICKS—BEST OF 2009

A GATE AT THE STAIRS—MOORE, LORRIE
A SMALL TOWN GIRL WORKS AS A NANNY IN A MIDWEST COLLEGE TOWN

A TRACE OF SMOKE—CANTRELL, REBECCA
SET IN 1931 BERLIN, A CRIME REPORTER SEEKS OUT THE STORY BEHIND HER BROTHER’S DEATH

BEAT THE REAPER—BAZELL, JOSH
A YOUNG HITMAN ENTERS THE WITNESS PROTECTION PROGRAM AS A MEDICAL INTERN

BEST FRIENDS FOREVER—WEINER, JENNIFER
TWO GIRLHHOD PALS RECONNECT FOLLOWING THEIR HIGH SCHOOL REUNION

BLACK FRIDAY– KAVA, ALEX
FBI PROFILER MUST PREVENT A TERRORIST PLOT TO ATTACK THE MALL OF AMERICA ON BLACK FRIDAY

BORDER SONGS–LYNCH, JIM
QUIRKY BORDER PATROL AGENT’S SUCCESSFUL BUSTS ON THE CANADIAN/US BORDER

FEAR THE WORST—BARCLAY, LYNWOOD
CONNECTICUT CAR SALESMAN IN SEARCH FOR HIS DAUGHTER WHO MYSTERIOUSLY DISAPPEARED FROM HER SUMMER JOB

THE HELP—STOCKETT, KATHERINE
A SOCIAL ACTIVIST COLLECTS THE STORIES OF BLACK WOMEN IN JACKSON, MS. RAISING THE CHILDREN OF WHITE FAMILIES

HEROIC MEASURES—CIMENT, JILL
A WEEKEND IN THE LIFE OF AN ELDERLY COUPLE AND THEIR DACHSHUND HOPING TO SELL THEIR EAST VILLAGE APARTMENT AFTER 45 YEARS

HOME SAFE–BERG, ELIZABETH
A POPULAR AND PROLIFIC WRITER HAS LOST THE ABILITY TO WRITE FOLLOWING THE DEATH OF HER HUSBAND

HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET—FORD, JAMIE
A CHINESE AMERICAN IN SEATTLE IN 1986, HAVING LOST HIS WIFE TO CANCER, REFLECTS ON HIS LIFE IN AMERICA DURING WWII

ICE LAND—TOBIN, BETSY
SET IN ICELAND IN A.D. 1000, THE STORY IS A FLIGHT THROUGH SCANDINAVIAN MYTHS

NEW TRICKS—ROSENFELT, DAVID
DEFENSE ATTORNEY ANDY CARPENTER TAKES ON A CANINE CLIENT WHO IS CONNECTED TO THE MURDER OF AN EXEC. IN THE PHARMACEUTICAL INDUSTRY

STARDUST–KANON, JOSEPH
A RECENTLY RETURNED WWII CORPSMAN TRAVELS TO HOLLYWOOD TO INVESTIGATE THE UNEXPLAINED DEATH OF HIS BROTHER

STILL ALICE—GENOVA, LISA
AN ESTEEMED HARVARD PSYCHOLOGIST COPES WITH THE ONSET OF ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE

SWEETNESS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PIE–BRADLEY, C. ALLEN
IN A SLEEPY ENGLISH VILLAGE IN 1950 AN 11-YEAR OLD SCIENCE PRODIGY DISCOVERS A MURDER AND SEEKS TO SOLVE THE CRIME

TWENTIES GIRL—KINSELLA, SOPHIE
A MODERN STORY ABOUT THE FRIENDSHIP BETWEEN TWO GIRLS. HOWEVER, ONE OF THEM IS A GHOST FROM THE 1920’S

VANISHED—FINDER, JOSEPH
A CORPORATE INTELLIGENCE SPECIALIST INVESTIGATES THE DISAPPEARANCE OF HIS OLDER BROTHER

THE VINTAGE CAPER—MAYLE, PETER
A LAWYER INVESTIGATES THE THEFT OF A FAMOUS HOLLYWOOD LAWYER’S TREASURED AND EXPENSIVE WINE COLLECTION

WOLF HALL—MANTEL, HILARY
THE STORY OF HENRY VIII AND HIS CHALLENGE TO THE CHURCH IN HIS DESIRE TO DIVORCE HIS QUEEN AND MARRY ANNE BOLEYN IS TOLD THROUGH THE PERSPECTIVE OF HIS CLOSEST ADVISOR

WORST NIGHTMARES—BRIANT, SHANE
A SUCCESSFUL WRITER FINDS AN UNSOLICITED MANUSCRIPT THAT TELLS THE STORY OF THE HOMICIDAL ‘DREAM HEALER’ WHO SNARES HIS VICTIMS VIA HIS WEBSITE

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I LOVED this book. I couldn’t put it down…literally. Walker’s writing is strong and intense. His story was filled with suspense but not over dramatic. Revolving around a highly flawed main character and set in Chicago, among other locales, this book is a stand-alone thriller, but it has spurred me on to read all of the other book Walker has written, series or not. The relationship between the boy and the main character is highly believable. It never gets too sappy or mushy. And the ending is strong. I was hoping against hope that Walker wouldn’t ruin the ending as many authors do by taking the “Hollywood” way out. But, the ending is as strong as the first pages. I’ve met Mr. Walker on a few occasions and he is, on the surface, a mild, unassuming man. But, he sure writes a WILD, FAST-PACED thriller. A GREAT thriller!

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Berg’s latest is a great, strong piece on not only loss, but on coming to terms with oneself. We meet the main character, Helen, months after she has lost her husband of many years from a sudden heart attack. Her daughter Tessa is on her own and Helen has to find a way to come to terms with being alone. I found the way Berg constructed Helen to be very believable of what a recent widow might go through. I didn’t think Helen’s reactions were too over the top or corny. This is a good summer beach read…it’s short, well-written and uncomplicated.
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