Book Review: Covert

Book Review:

Covert: My Years Infiltrating the Mob

By Bob Delaney with Dave Scheiber

*******

“There are three groups of people you don’t mess with in this world – the FBI, the Mafia, and NBA refs.” Mike Schuler, NBA head coach, p. 223

*******

My husband asked Santa for Covert this past Christmas, and I immediately knew I wanted to steal it from him. It is the story of Bob Delaney, aka Bobby Covert, a New Jersey state trooper who is asked to go undercover just shortly after he joins the state troopers. In this new assignment, Delaney teams with other state troopers and the FBI (cooperation that was almost unheard of at the time) in Project Alpha, an effort better understand the inner workings of the mob and to make a serious dent in NJ’s organized crime. Over three years, Delaney starts and becomes president of a Jersey-based trucking company while wearing a wire and gathering evidence against the mobsters that plague the Jersey Shore.

Covert stands out not because it is a true crime novel, but because you can see, as you’re reading, the battles Delaney/Covert undergoes as he swings between his identity as a trooper and a mobster. He suffers from guilt at prosecuting mobsters who had become friends. He is unable to express his emotions after so long of suppressing them.

It was difficult for Delaney to readjust to ordinary life after his undercover left, but a few choice confidants and his “hoops therapy” (p. 185) allow him to get back to normal life. For several years, Delaney splits his time with the state troopers and reffing all levels of basketball, eventually becoming a full-time NBA ref.

Recommendation: While I was drawn to the book when my husband got it, I was a little doubtful I would enjoy it. It ended up being a great book. Delaney’s undercover assignment and his life after the assignment wasn’t romanticized like so many stories today. Delaney’s story was fascinating and well-told. I’d definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in true crime or memoirs.

Grade: B+

Genre: True Crime, Biography, Sports

Book Review: In The Woods

Book Review: In The Woods

Tana French

WARNING: This review contains spoilers!!

I read In the Woods because it was chosen as a book club book. I had high hopes for it, as it was an Edgar Award finalist. Indeed, the book had a lot of potential, but I very disappointed in it.

The Story: In The Woods consists of two parallel mysteries, both centered around Detective Rob Ryan. The first was when he was a young boy – Ryan was found with bloody shoes, clutching a tree. He had no recollection of what happened to the two friends he was with; they simply disappeared.

Now fast-forward 20 years. Ryan is assigned as the detective of a present-day murder, back in his home town. Working the case brings back memories for the detective, enough memories to leave him unsettled, but he never remembers what happened the day his friends disappeared.

Praise: The first thing I was struck with when reading In The Woods was that it is really beautifully written. The descriptions are outstanding. It’s rare that I find a mystery that uses such imagery.

As the book progressed, I also grew very attached to the two plot-lines, very curious to find out what happened to Ryan as a child and whether (and how) the two mysteries would come together.

However… this never happened. The mystery of Ryan’s childhood was never solved. While I realize that not every book can / should wrap up everything, I felt like I put up with Ryan’s annoying personality (he’s whiny and na├»ve) to find out what happened. Instead, one of the two mysteries is left unsolved, and Ryan ends up going backwards in life – alone, no friends, and actually went backward in his career. Clearly Ryan was having a hard time, given the circumstances, but he was just not likable. As much as I wanted to, I couldn’t feel sympathetic for him.

To Sum Up: What could have been a great book ended up being just so-so. It had a lot of potential but I was just disappointed and irritated at the end of it.

But what did you think?

Book Review: Life As We Knew It

Book Review:

Life As We Knew It

By Susan Beth Pfeffer

Life As We Knew It was the latest book for our little book club. A young adult book, once I started reading it, I couldn’t put it down.

This book was about the life of a 16-year old girl and her family living in Pennsylvania after a meteor hits the moon and knocks it out of orbit. This spurs off a series of natural disasters – tsunamis, storms, droughts, blizzards, effecting the lives of everyone. Ordinary life shifts rapidly to a life with spotty or no electricity, little to no news about the present circumstances or predictions for the future, and limited food supplies (whatever you have stocked up on). The family struggles to cope with these challenges and prepare for an uncertain future, sacrificing so much for each other.

This book really makes you realize just how quickly things can change, and how we should remind ourselves how lucky we are. There are so many things most people today take for granted – a never-ending supply of food and gas; electricity; heat and air conditioning; telephones; etc. Life As We Knew It takes away all of these things, and reminds us of what is important – family.

I found Life As We Knew It to be a quick read but highly recommended.

If you liked this book… there is one other in the “series.” The Dead and the Gone has a similar storyline but is written from the perspective of a cityboy, and of what life is like in a city at this time. I have not read it, but have been told that it is a bit more graphic and darker than Life As We Knew It.

A third related book, This World We Life In, is also expected to be published on March 31, 2010.

Pfeffer’s Blog

Book Review: The Dirty Secrets Club

Book Review:

The Dirty Secrets Club

By Meg Gardiner

This was my first book read by Meg Gardiner, and I think its safe to say that I’ll getting the rest of her books from the library. The Dirty Secrets Club was full of twists, turns and unexpected surprises – I never would have guessed the ending, which makes a mystery/suspense book a winner for me.

So what is the Dirty Secrets Club? I don’t want to give away too much, so I’ll just say that it’s a group of fairly high-powered public figures with secrets to hide, both from their past and present. When a member of the Dirty Secrets Club is killed, the Boston police launch an investigation into the club, revealing more deaths, scandals, and the secret lives of some of Boston’s most well-known citizens.

If you enjoy mysteries and suspense novels, read The Dirty Secrets Club. Can you figure out who is in the club and who is threatening its members?

January 2010 Update: This review was spotlighted on Mysteries and My Musings’ January Mystery & Crime Fiction Blog Carnival. Check it out for more mystery reviews.

Book Review: The Keepsake

Book Review: The Keepsake

By Tess Gerritsen

Tess Gerritsen is another of the mystery authors that I really enjoy, with most of her books centered around the same cast of characters – Boston cops. While I don’t normally post reviews of all my mysteries (I just read them way too fast!) but this one was particularly enjoyable so I wanted to leave a little something.

The Keepsake is the story of the “anthropology killer,” a murderer who is killing women and preserving them according to ancient methods (think of the mummies…). The murder investigation was intertwined with historical facts and antidotes. What I most enjoyed about the story was its unpredictability – even up until the last few pages there were twists that made me second-guess what we already knew and what we expected to happen.

If you enjoy James Patterson, Alex Kava, or other mystery & suspense authors (authors of “murder mysteries,” as I like to call them), then I would definitely recommend The Keepsake, or any other book by Gerritsen.

January 2010 Update: This review was spotlighted on Mysteries and My Musings’ January Mystery & Crime Fiction Blog Carnival. Check it out for more mystery reviews.