September 4, 2008
Daniel Silva Rules With Thriller Moscow Rules
By Oline H. Cogdill
"Moscow Rules," by Daniel Silva; read by Phil Gigante; Brilliance Audio; abridged, 10 hours; 9 CDs; $36.95
Daniel Silva's espionage thrillers have plenty of high-concept plot twists such as terrorists, bombings, national security and the world in chaos.
But one of the real reasons that Silva's novels have found a resonance with readers - and a secure place on best-sellers lists - is the author's ability to put a human face on these big-picture themes.
This is especially true in Silva's 11th novel, "Moscow Rules." All those worldwide issues come down to a brave woman, married to a monster, who is just trying to do the right thing for her country and protect her children; a journalist trying to practice her craft and show the world the injustice she sees; and, most of all, Gabriel Allon, an art restorer whose secret life as an Israeli intelligence agent is at the heart of Silva's fascinating series.
Allon's double life takes him to Moscow where its new capitalism, its oil wealth and power brokers have put a new spin on the country. But there's a dark side to this new vision - a new generation of Stalinists ready to show the world its power. On the surface, former KGB colonel Ivan Kharkov represents that new Russia, having amassed unspeakable wealth through his global investments.
But Kharkov also is an arms dealer and that's where his real money comes from and Allon is making it his mission to stop Kharkov.
Brilliance Audio has done an excellent job of abridging "Moscow Rules," but Silva's novel is one that readers will want to actually read - or at least get the unabridged version.
The plot twists that are left out won't be overly missed, but they certainly were clever and unique.
Silva keeps the suspense high in "Moscow Rules" as he also gives us realistic characters. Actor Phil Gigante enhances Silva's story with his nuanced performance. Gigante masters the Russian and Israeli accents and his energized performance fits well with Silva's breathless plot.
"Odd Hours," by Dean Koontz, read by David Aaron Baker; Brilliance Audio; unabridged, 7 CDs, $44.95
Of all the characters that Dean Koontz has created - and with more than 50 novels to his credit, he's created a lot - Odd Thomas has become one of his most endearing.
Odd, now making his fourth most welcome appearance, is "just a fry cook" with the extraordinary talent of being able to see the dead and have an unusual connection with them. So it's pretty common for Odd to be accompanied by a ghost dog or the spirit of Elvis or Frank Sinatra.
Odd wants only a quiet life, but his destiny is to be much more. It's to save the world.
"Odd Hours" proves that Koontz has no limitations with this character.
As usual, evil slithers into Odd's life, this time a group of people in a small, charming coastal town who want to ruin the world.
Koontz's writing in the Odd Thomas novels is among his most crisp as he imbues these novels with bits of philosophy about identity and destiny. There also is a stunningly accurate and heartfelt passage about love.
Character actor David Aaron Baker delivers a perfectly nuanced performance, showing Odd's naivete and humility as well as his steely resolve. Baker, who often shows up in the "Law & Order" episodes and on Broadway (he was terrific in "A Raisin in the Sun"), shows the true colors of this likable character. But Baker doesn't stop with Odd Thomas; he also gives a tour de force performance of every character.
"The Finder," by Colin Harrison; read by Jason Culp; Macmillian Audio; unabridged, 10 CDs, 121/2 hours, $39.95
Colin Harrison's eye for social details and the intricacies of New York City have never been stronger than in his sixth novel. At its heart, "The Finder" is a thriller of the highest caliber with ruthless thugs, a vile mastermind, an appealing hero and a breathless plot. Add the themes of greed, revenge and power and "The Finder" is a rip-roaring thriller.
But "The Finder" is as much as a story about New York City, from the Upper East Side's poshest apartments to the abandoned buildings where squatters hide out.
A young Chinese woman, Jin Li, is on the run when workers for the cleaning company she manages are killed. Jin has been running a scheme in which she can steal sensitive paperwork related to a new pharmaceutical company that could mean billions of dollars in profit - or loss. Her former boyfriend, Ray Grant, is pulled into the action when thugs threaten his critically ill father, a former brilliant NYPD detective who tries to help Ray from his death bed.
Harrison maintains an ensemble cast of characters with ease as well as the many plot threads. Actor Jason Culp pulls "The Finder" into a cohesive story with aplomb. His inspired reading gives each character his or her own nuances.
Originally published by South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
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