Yes, I am a sloth. Yes, I should have reported on these books much earlier.
ESCAPE is a collection of eight short stories, available for ereaders, by Lisa Polisar. The stories are dark and well-drawn, with unpredictable but natural endings. Each tale is original and imaginative, with good pacing and structure. My favorite: Jewel's Tell, about a bank teller and the robber, Alvin Jewel, who kidnaps her.
A DEATH IN VIENNA by Daniel Silva. This was my first reading in this bestselling series about Israeli spy, Gabriel Allon. I generally find stories about Nazis-in-hiding and their sly re-emergence fascinating, and I do see the commercial appeal of this book but at the same time I can't say, with the exception of one scene, that the story ever got my pulse pounding. I finished the book, was not unsatisfied, but am not likely to return for a second helping.
OLD DOGS by Donna Moore. A funny tale about a pair of elderly con women and the mark who's out for revenge, this one felt good after the gloom of the previous book.
Joe McGinniss's FATAL VISION. The true-crime story that just won't die. The Jeffrey McDonald case is endlessly fascinating, but that's hard to tell sometimes as the repetition and the overall structure of the book do little to hold the reader's attention through nearly 700 pages of detail. If you can find the mini-series (Gary Cole as McDonald is terrific), that's a better choice, then check out the latest on the case: McDonald may get a new trial yet.
THE MONSTER IN THE BOX by the prolific Ruth Rendell. A solid psychological mystery about a policeman who has known a murderer for two decades but has no evidence to make an arrest. Not a cozy, not a thriller, simply an engrossing tale. Also a Washington Post Best Book of 2009.
HOW DO YOU LIKE YOUR BLUE-EYED BOY? by Barry Graham. A slim novel available only for e-readers. A book that has its limitations (for one, sex scenes that do nothing to further the story and read like letters to Penthouse forum) but that also demonstrates a depth in the main character one does not usually see in an action-oriented killer-protagonist. If I say that the protagonist in his youth could have been a friend of Ponyboy Curtis, that should tell you something about him. There is much to like here, and with a good editor to help accent the highlights and sand off the rough spots, I can see a future for Graham.