Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The First Star In Blue Heaven

Some fans might be wondering if C.J. Box's first standalone thriller, BLUE HEAVEN, will be as good as his popular Joe Pickett series. Fortunately, Booklist's answer that question is a resounding "Hell, yes."

Here's the full text of the starred review:
Taking a break from his terrific Joe Pickett series (Free Fire, 2007), Box offers a stand-alone thriller set in north Idaho, a region called Blue Heaven by the many California cops who have retired there. When two kids witness a campground execution, they have no way of knowing th killers are ex-cops—they just know they have to get away. But when the first man who offers them help turns out to be another bad guy, the kids decide they can’t trust anyone. Their disappearance triggers a manhunt, and when the killers volunteer their services to the beleaguered local sheriff, he puts them in charge. Box deftly juggles a compressed time line and a large cast of characters that includes a good ex-cop who has followed the killers from California, the kids’ single mom, a banker with a bad conscience, and a grizzled rancher who becomes the kids’ protector. In some ways, this isn’t that different from a Pickett novel: set against a New West issue (rampant development), it features likably flawed good guys (the good cop grapples with fear) and springs the noble western archetypes at just the right moment to have us cheering (you just knew the rancher would saddle up his horse). So does this stand-alone stand on its own two feet? Hell, yes. If it’s a bit less introspective than a Pickett, it’s a bit more of a page-turner. And Box builds suspense so brilliantly that Blue Heaven could serve as a textbook of how to do it.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Kirkus Reviews Afterimage

Kirkus Reviews praises Kathleen George's latest novel, AFTERIMAGE, calling it an "excellent procedural" with "skillfully rendered characters." The full text is here.

The book will be available in December from St. Martin's Minotaur.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Gone, Baby, Gone Among Best Crime Films Of Decade!

The Hollywood Reporter praises director Ben Affleck's film, based on the novel of the same name by Dennis Lehane. Calling it "one of the best crime crime of this decade," the Reporter praises its "rich gallery of vivid characters, brought to life by an excellent cast" and says star Casey Affleck gives "the performance of his career."

We've posted the wonderful review in full below, but you can also find it here.

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Ben Affleck seemed like a promising young actor when he starred in "Chasing Amy" a decade ago. A year later, he and Matt Damon won an Oscar for their screenplay for "Good Will Hunting."

But since then, Affleck has been better known for his offscreen romances than for his screen performances, which have been pretty universally derided. So a lot of people will be surprised by his directorial debut, "Gone Baby Gone," though if you caught the glint of intelligence he showed in such movies as "Going All the Way" and "Boiler Room," his achievement here might seem less startling.

Affleck, who also wrote the screenplay with Aaron Stockard, was smart to begin with a novel by Dennis Lehane ("Mystic River"). Like that story, which was made into an award-winning movie by Clint Eastwood, this one takes place in a working-class neighborhood of Boston and centers on the disappearance of a child. Because this film is as uncompromising as "Mystic River," and since the cast is not quite as star-studded, it faces an uphill battle at the box office. But it's going to be remembered as one of the best crime movies of this decade.

Patrick Kenzie (Casey Affleck) is a private investigator who works with his girlfriend (Michelle Monaghan) in a tight-knit Boston neighborhood. They are asked by distraught relatives to help the police locate a missing 4-year-old girl. The search leads to druggies, crime bosses, pedophiles and compromised

The plot is complicated and loaded with twists, but the writers do a fine job of keeping the action lucid. The script boasts a good deal of mordant humor, along with an underlying mood of melancholy. Perhaps what is most impressive is the complex moral vision that permeates the script. When Patrick gives vent to anger and disgust and shoots a pedophile, the cops applaud him, but he is tormented by the killing. That's a sign that the film isn't going to rely on pat moral judgments.

"Gone" also contains a rich gallery of vivid characters, brought to life by an excellent cast. This is one case where nepotism pays off because Affleck's brother Casey gives the strongest performance of his career. He creates a memorable character -- a baby-faced detective who is constantly being mocked for his youthful appearance (a cop tells him to go back to his "Harry Potter" book) but proves to be tougher and smarter than he looks. Actually, it's neither brains nor brawn that makes Patrick a good detective; his chief strength is perseverance, a bullheaded refusal to give up the chase.

Monaghan demonstrates an easy rapport with Casey Affleck. Ed Harris is superb as a cynical cop, and Harris' wife Amy Madigan has a choice cameo as the kidnapped girl's aunt. Morgan Freeman has a small but crucial role as the chief of police and lends an air of gravitas to his few scenes. All of the lowlife supporting characters are sharply etched, and there's an outstanding turn by Amy Ryan as the kidnapped girl's fun-loving, irresponsible mother.

As director Affleck gets strong support from the moody, dark-tinged cinematography of two-time Oscar winner John Toll, William Goldenberg's astute editing and Harry Gregson-Williams' evocative score. Sharon Seymour's production design also plays a role in building the sense of a community, which ultimately has a great deal to do with the film's denouement.

Viewers will argue about Patrick's decision in the final reel and debate whether he acted in the best interests of the kidnapped child. He is motivated by loyalty to the community where he grew up, and the film neither endorses nor criticizes his judgment. The understated, open-ended final scene allows us to sort out the moral implications for ourselves. It's a tribute to this thoughtful, deeply poignant, splendidly executed film that we replay the conclusion in our minds long after the lights come on.

Miramax will release the film nationwide in October.

Without Warning Reviewed In Publishers Weekly

Publishers Weekly reviews Eugenia West's latest novel in the current issue, calling it an "engaging start of a new series" and grieving protagonist Emma Street an "appealing heroine."

St. Martin's Minotaur will publish the book in December.