The Scam by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg

The ScamThe Scam

by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg
Series: Fox and O’Hare, #4
Hardcover, 286 pg.

Bantam, 2015

Read: September 24 – 24, 2015

“You can never have too many weapons,” Jake said.
“Does that mean you brought your rocket launcher?”
“It’s in the trunk of my car in case of a roadside emergency.”
“What kind of roadside emergency would require a rocket launcher?” she asked.
“You don’t want to find out and not have one hand,” Jake said. “It’s also why you should always have a paper clip in your pocket. You can do just about anything with a paper clip.”

I was prepared — even half-way expected — for this to underwhelm me. There wasn’t anything driving me to that expectation, maybe it was just my mood. Thankfully, this surpassed my expectations/fears — not for one second. This was another breezy, fun, adventure for Nick, Kate and the crew.

From page 1, The Scam was firing on all cylinders. The main mission was a lot of fun, with a believable target, just dangerous enough. The side missions were interesting and did a good job pushing the plot forward, not just being B stories.

There was even some tie-ins to previous cases — up to and including a recurring character that’s not part of the team.

Boyd is pretty much the most annoying character in the series, but this time, they struck the right one with him. He was insufferable as always, but he didn’t get on my nerves at all. Which means the book probably deserves a bonus 1/2 star rating just for that. The rest of the team was used only minimally — just little tastes of them all. I don’t think I’d want that all the time, but it worked here. Kate and Nick were…well, Kate and Nick. I think Kate was a bit more honest with herself about her motivations — both professional and personal — than we’re used to seeing her. Maybe the same could be said for Nick, too.

The ending (always the trickiest part of a con story) worked — Kate’s improvised weaponry was just great. Even if we didn’t get to see either the roadside emergency rocket launcher or pocket paper clip (which doesn’t mean it wasn’t a great line), sorry Chekhov.

There were a couple of things in the closing pages that floored me. I didn’t think Evanovich would do either of them, just doesn’t seem her style. I like the fact that she can surprise me (maybe it’s Goldberg’s influence — maybe not, but I like the guy, let’s give him the credit). Anyway, there were things in these pages I never expected that I’d get out of Fox and O’Hare. Bravo.

Book five needs to arrive soon. I realize my saying so isn’t going to make it happen. But just in case I’m wrong about that, I should get it on the record.

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4 Stars

The Job by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg

The Job (Fox and O'Hare, #3)The Job

by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg
Series: Fox and O’Hare, #3

Hardcover, 304 pg.
Bantam, 2014
Read: November 29 – December 1, 2014How is this only the third in the series? It’s a testament to the professionalism and craft of Evanovich and Goldberg that this feels like a series that’s been around for at least a half-dozen books, a well-oiled machine.

The hook to this particular case — someone posing as Nick Fox pulling off some major heists — was pretty fun, and a great excuse for Kate to go jet-setting around the world. That lasted just long enough to set up the major target for this novel: one of the biggest, baddest, most mysterious Drug Lords in the world. Thankfully, he has a pretty major Achilles’ heel that Nick and Kate were able to take advantage of. In just about any other series, I’d cry “foul” about someone like Lester Menendez falling for this implausible con. But it totally worked in this world — and would probably have worked if Nate Ford and the crew had tried it, too. Slick talking, fast work and a hint of danger (more from the psychotic bodyguard Reyna Socorro and her trusty AK-47 than from her boss) — and bam. The bad guy gets defrauded and sent away for a long time.

The major difference between this one and the previous two installments is that the rest of the team doesn’t have as major a role to play — don’t get me wrong, the usual players and some new faces are there and important. We just don’t spend as much time with them — it’s more heavily geared to being the Nick and Kate Show. They’re even restrained in their use of Jake O’Hare. I don’t have anything against the rest of the team, and really enjoy some of them — but I’m glad that they were put in a secondary position this time. As long as they get featured more prominently on a regular basis, I think focusing on the title pair makes sense.

The only suspense really is how far the “Will They/Won’t They” go (and so far, that hasn’t reached the point of being annoying). We all know that Fox and O’Hare will get their target, we may not be sure how — we won’t know how much fun there’ll be along the way, how much private property will be destroyed, and how many exotic (or domestic) locales will be visited along the way. And it’s fine that this isn’t a suspense-filled series. It’s a lot of fun. That’s what it promises, and that’s what it delivers — as long as we don’t look for more than banter, impossible cons and slick writing, we won’t be disappointed.

Not that the first two were slogs by any stretch of the imagination, but I raced through this — with a little more sleep, I’d have tackled this in one sitting, but I had to leave the last 50 pages for another day. The writing, the plot, the banter was just so smooth it was almost impossible to stop once I got started. I thoroughly enjoyed this one and already am looking forward to the next.

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4 Stars

The Chase by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg

The Chase (Fox and O'Hare, #2)The Chase

by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg
Series: Fox and O’Hare, #2

Hardcover, 320 pg.
Bantam, 2014
Read: March 20-21, 2014

Nicolas Fox and Agent Kate O’Hare are back in action — better yet, Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg are back and better than ever. This time their target is none other than the head of a multinational security force/private army owned by the former White House Chief of Staff. Easy pickings, right?

This is just the ticket for readers who miss The A-Team or Leverage — clever schemes improbably pulled off by team of pros to take down a real scoundrel. This team gets around a bit more than the others do (better budgets in books than TV shows) — they globe hop from D.C. to Shanghai, to Montreal and more — even the Scottish hinterlands. The shenanigans in Montreal, in particular, were hilarious and ever so smooth.

I enjoyed The Heist (my review) — a lot, actually — but this was better. Everything — the interplay between the characters, the plot, the crazy schemes that Fox & O’Hare cooked up (individually and together), the new guys, the villains — all of it worked better this time out. If these two are this polished on book two, I can’t wait to see what Evanovich and Goldberg are like by the time they get to five or so.

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4 Stars

Dusted Off: King City by Lee Goldberg

King CityKing City

by Lee Goldberg

Paperback, 246 pg.
Thomas and Mercer, 2012
Read: July 4-5, 2012

One part Jack Reacher, one part Jesse Stone, this first installment in Lee Goldberg’s new series reads like a Western set in the 21st century.

Tom Wade, a rigorously scrupulous cop is assigned to a part of King City so crime and poverty-ridden that city officials pretend it doesn’t exist. He’s sent there because the police force is overly-politicized where it isn’t overtly corrupted, and they can’t fire such an upstanding cop–but maybe his new post will lead to him being killed.

Wade is fully aware of this, but accepts his new post with gusto–he has a chance to make a difference and sets out to do so in as splashy a way as possible.

This isn’t a subtle book with complex characters–and doesn’t try to be. The characters are pretty much the dictionary definition of “stock,” the good guys are good, the bad guys are really bad–and that’s that. A fun, straightforward testosterone-y action book. Hopefully the first of many.

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3 Stars

The Heist by Janet Evanovich & Lee Goldberg

The Heist
The Heist by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg
Series: Fox and O’Hare, #1

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Despite being a big fan of Lee Goldberg and Janet Evanovich, the prequel to this (Pros and Cons) left me apprehensive about The Heist. But I’m, so, so glad that I went ahead and picked this up.

Kate O’Hare’s a top-notch, driven FBI agent, cream of the crop type, who’s obsessed with bringing down Nick Fox, an equally driven and top-notch con man. After years of trying, she finally gets the cuffs on him, only to find herself thrown into an unwilling alliance with her target in an off-book mission to bring down some of the FBI’s most-wanted and most-difficult to catch. And then the globe-trotting hijinks ensue.

There are a few moments that are pretty heavy-handed, and early-on the humor is a little broader than it needed to be. But on the whole, this is a fun read. I was initially tempted to go over some of the laugh and/or smile generating lines and try to guess which author came up with them, but soon gave that up and just enjoyed them (I’m still pretty sure I could get 70% or better on a test of them).

The temptation would be to focus on Fox, O’Hare and their target. But Evanovich & Goldberg are sure to give the reader a decent amount of supporting characters — providing other people for the protagonists to react to, other perspectives for us to see the protagonists through, as well as people whose possession of skills Fox/O’Hare don’t have keep them from being total super-hero types. They need a team of experts to get them through this mission, and thankfully, the experts here are pretty amusing. I’m not sure I need to see most of them again — I’m not opposed to it, but it would be interesting to have an ever-changing team working with them. Other than O’Hare’s father, anyway — it’s clear he’s sticking around, as he should.

I’ve seen a few reviews on Goodreads compare this to USA’s White Collar — and I get that (tho’ Neal and Peter have a very different chemistry). But this feels more like Remington Steele to me — a tough, no-nonsense female investigator and a suave and debonair con man with an historic pop-culture obsession thrown together in an uneasy partnership with more than enough sexual tension to spare.*

Fun story, fun characters, with good action (and yet no one has a car get blown up!!), and some laughs. Promising start to a new series, I’m coming back for more!

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* Only thought of the Remington Steele comparison when I was about halfway through this, and now I’m pretty sure I’m going to be seeing Stephanie Zimbalist and Pierce Brosnan in my mind next time I read one of these.

Saturday Miscellany – 6/22

Odds ‘n ends over the week about books and reading that caught my eye. You’ve probably seen some/most/all of them, but just in case:

    This Week’s New Releases I’m Excited About and/or You’ll Probably See Here Soon:

  • Wisp of a Thing by Alex Bledsoe — The Hum and the Shiver was almost unbelievably good, almost afraid to try this sequel. Not sure it can live up to it.
  • Killer Ambition by Marcia Clark — I’ve enjoyed the first two, should be a fun read
  • The Heist by Janet Evanovich & Lee Goldberg — despite what I said about the prequel, I’m sure I’ll enjoy it
  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane: A Novel by Neil Gaiman — be sure to read Patrick Rothfuss’ review
  • Man! I’ve got to get to reading…

Mr. Monk Gets Even by Lee Goldberg

Okay, so I could post this, earlier this morning I posted the (surprisingly) few other reviews I’d written on this series. Not sure why I don’t have all 15 up here. Who knows, maybe another time. But for now, at least, we have the last entries in the series covered. Concluding with one of the best and most enjoyable, Mr. Monk Gets Even.

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Mr. Monk Gets Even (Mr. Monk, #15)Mr. Monk Gets Even by Lee Goldberg

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I put off reading this book for a couple of days after receiving it, I just didn’t want the ride with Goldberg at the helm to end. Since Mr. Monk Goes to the Firehouse, Goldberg has taken the (great) characters from the TV show and given us sides/dimensions to them that the show didn’t have time or opportunity to develop. This is particularly true after the finale episode where Goldberg didn’t have to worry about contradicting the show’s canon, but was free to grow the characters…to add new ones, to make significant life changes and so on.

And when it comes to serialized detective fiction — no matter the medium, it’s the characters that count. Yes, the plots and mysteries need to be enough to hold your interest — and you need a laugh or two when the series is along the lines of Monk; and Goldberg can do that just fine. But what brings viewers and readers back again and again.

Mr. Monk Gets Even handles the character stuff flawlessly. To send himself off with a bang–Goldberg brings back Dale the Whale, larger and more preposterous than ever; Stottlemeyer’s career and life are in jeopardy; Monk may be wrong; Ambrose (I’d pay for Ambrose books written by Goldberg) reaches another major milestone; and, of course, Natalie is at a crossroads, too. And that’s just the major points. Shouldn’t forget some of the most prominent use of Julie Teeger in any medium.

Goldberg does it all with panache, respect for the characters, a lotta laughs, and just the right emotional moments to bring his time with the series to a close.

Great read.