From our reviewers: November 20

01:36, Nov 20 2012

From The Southland Times book reviewers.

Force of Nature
By C J Box (Corvus, RRP $30)

Reviewed by Cassandra Pokoney

The story had all the potential to be a cracking read - an ex-special forces serviceman is targeted by another special-forces expert as part of a cover-up of international proportions.

There's murder, intrigue, suspense. And falcons.

Oddly, the falcons form a fairly significant part of the storyline - and I don't really know why. It is not a facet of the book that I enjoyed.


The story follows ex-special forces serviceman Nate Romanowski who, after leaving his special services group, drops off the radar by moving into the backblocks of Wyoming to look after his falcons.

The story starts with a roar - a fisherman discovers the bodies of three people in a boat - and from there the first part of the book works backwards to explain how the bodies got there.

It's a ripper of a start. But then it just . . . fizzles.

The story is not bad. It is readable, and it is escapism, but it is also a bit confusing. There is no early explanation about why Nate is being hunted by a crazed killer, other than a few vague references to a horrible event from his past. It makes it difficult to like him as a character - you WANT to like him, simply because he is being chased by a team of bad guys, but you cannot really ever quite get there - his gun is too big and his ease at using it just too quick. And then there is his penchant for torture, a tactic apparently developed during his special forces years.

But balancing that is his unending loyalty to his friend Joe, who is the real hero of the story, and Joe's family.

Joe is a game warden who should be a cop. He is intelligent and caring and an overall stand-up guy. It is easy to like him, but his role in the story is secondary to the less likable Nate. Exactly why the pair are such good friends is not explained in the book.

A bit of research reveals there are other books involving these characters, which, if you read those, would possibly help explain some of the background. The problem is, I have not read those books. So I spent much of this book clueless about what was really going on.

On its own, this story is one to pick up on a wet Sunday afternoon. It is not the best book I have read, but nowhere near the worst.

It is escapism pure and simple.

Telling Lies
By Tricia Glensor (Harper Collins, RRP $20)

Reviewed by F Mulligan

A New Zealand airman shot down over enemy occupied France parachutes to safety. His luck holds when he is discovered by 15-year-old Simone whose family bravely takes him in.

Constant German surveillance and the threat of exposure by neighbours mean this is no easy task.

Through Simone's eyes we see the tensions of an occupied country, the role the ordinary French people played in helping the allied effort and, of course, a little of the cost paid by families.

A fictional account of real occurrences during World War II, it is good older reader/teen fiction with a Kiwi flavour.

The inspiration for the story came from the author's father who escaped from occupied Europe in WWII - a little more of this back story in the author's notes would have been of great interest.

Year of the Tiger
By Lisa Brackman (HarperCollins, RRP $25)

Reviewed by F Mulligan

A crook leg, no real future, a Chinese sometimes-boyfriend and living on a stretched budget in modern-day Beijing, Ellie is a lost soul. Her artist boyfriend's activities have attracted attention from the powers that be. When he disappears in order to avoid the authorities, the search for him focuses on Ellie.

Unsure of who to trust, who is after her and even exactly why she is in trouble, Ellie stumbles literally and figuratively along.

Plenty of bad guys, both American and Chinese, provide the impetus for the chase.

The chase is fairly low speed and provides a platform for commentary on the social and political situation of modern-day China.

A nicely written drama/thriller.