Tag Archives: best-seller

Keep the pages turning with You are Dead

you are deadBest-selling novelist Peter James has a winning formula in his Roy Grace series:  classic British police procedural crossed with suspenseful thriller.  You are Dead is #11 in the series.

It starts out with the abduction of a young woman while her horrified fiancé listens by cell phone to her scream, then the silence.  The tension ratchets up on the next page; it’s first line is “Felix is fine with the fact that I kill people.”  (A murdering trio and they’ve taken the woman.)  Then a short side trip to a construction site, where a skeleton is being unearthed.  (What the???)  Then back to the fiancé, who is careening down the highway, frantically dialing her cell and finally 999 (Britain’s version of 911).  Then to the police station where his call come in.

You’re only 15 pages in to the book, Roy Grace hasn’t even made his entrance yet, and you’re already through six chapters.  And James doesn’t let up until the very last page… it’s soon apparent that there’s a very twisted mind at work.  The good news is that the victim is still alive.  And the bad news is – she’s still alive.  Every few chapters, we get one from her perspective.  As her circumstances get more dire, the reader’s tension climbs.

Meanwhile, Grace and his team are working frantically to solve the crime.   When he does, the key to the solution lies deep in the past, but from a source that is very close at hand.

Regular readers of the Grace series will attest that the clever and caring Grace has a complicated personal life.   He’s finally ready to leave the memory of Sandy, his missing wife, behind and make a new life with a new love.  That personal situation promises to be only more confusing in the books to come.

Recommendation:  Although You are Dead easily stands alone, if you are new to the series, I strongly recommend reading them in order – especially if you love character development as much as I do!  Definite thumbs up.   New this year, so a great last-minute Christmas gift.




Mesmerizing business book on the Psychology of Persuasion

Bucky_BadgerIn 1984, I was in Madison, Wisconsin, pursuing an MBA in marketing from UW-Wisconsin, having previously received a BA in psychology.  At the same time, Dr. Robert Cialdini was publishing the first edition of Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.  Since that time, I’ve held many marketing positions, always including the responsibility for motivating individuals to do something my company wants them to do.  Choose a doctor in my group, pick my hospital to get your mammogram in, attend the CE program my company is putting on, pay dues to the association I work for… just a few examples!  Why people do what they do, how they make decisions, what you should offer and how to communicate to sway them in one direction or another are all topics I’ve been obsessed with in theory and in practice.

That’s why it was so timely to get Bob Sutton’s blog post on the 11 books every leader should read.  I like Bob.  I like his blog.  And his The No Asshole Rule book is a really helpful book for anyone who has ever had to work with one of those, ahem, jerks.  Of the 11 books on the list, I threw out a couple (the one about Pixar and the one on building the Panama Canal) for now because I just could not summon the enthusiasm for the topics, and got the other nine from the library or via Amazon.  My motivation?  I’m convinced that in today’s world, if you do the same thing you’ve been doing, you’ll get less and less of what you want to get.  I want to think a thought that will let me jump the tracks.  Hence, my giant stack of books.

influenceI started with Influence.   It totally blew me away.  Great writing from an academic, great integration of data (research studies) and personal experience (going undercover as a car salesman to get the truth about the tricks that are used), and a tremendous spur to the practical imagination.  I seriously read this book with a note pad and a pen nearby so I could jot down ideas.  And stayed up late because I couldn’t turn my brain off.   Especially interesting was the fact that the book does NOT focus on value – what you get for your money – or on alignment – getting what you need.  It’s not about the what.  It’s about the why and the how.

Here’s the Cliff’s notes version of Cialdini’s six “weapons of influence.”

  1. Reciprocation
  2. Commitment and Consistency
  3. Social Proof
  4. Liking
  5. Authority
  6. Scarcity

Reviewing the list, one thing I noted – and you will, too, if you work in sales or marketing – is that none of these “weapons” are new.  You already knew that giving someone a small gift makes him feel obligated and so he is more likely to do what you want in return.  (Weapon #1: Thank you for those address stickers, Salvation Army!)  You know that if you lend somebody $10, you are more likely to lend them $100 (#2).  That if everybody is doing it, you are more likely to do it, too, no matter what your mother says (#3).  That you are more likely to buy the belt and scarf to go with the dress if you like the sales person who is helping you (#4).  That if Bob Sutton recommends a business book, you will buy it (#5)  And if it’s the last robe in your size and the color you like at Pottery Barn, you are more likely to buy it yourself than put it on your Christmas list.  (This happened just today.  It’s very cozy.  #6)

What makes Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion so useful is that it is all here, in one place, presented in an engaging way, with tons of examples that make you say “Hmmm….” and start to scribble on your notepad.  My recommendation:  Buy this book and share it!

Harlan Coben’s Bolitar’s Back with Live Wire

Harlan Coben won me over back in the ’90s with Myron Bolitar, the wisecracking pro basketball player-turned-agent-slash-solver-of-mysteries.  Like all good protagonists, Bolitar has the quirky best friend, but in his case, the best friend is a rich blueblood with a way with the women and somewhat sociopathic tendencies.  Coben’s debut novel won a Mystery Writers of America Edgar award.

His new book, Live Wire, is getting good reviews and for good reason… it’s vintage Bolitar made super-current with a plot that includes drugs, sex, and rock-and-roll.  Plus Facebook.  Add an unhealthy helping of family angst and the tension rockets.   

Bolitar’s still agenting, repping both rock star Lex Ryder and former tennis pro Suzze T.  Someone’s threatening Suzze via FB and Myron’s investigation opens a door into the past that many would just as soon leave closed.   Suzze and Kitty – Myron’s sister-in-law – were frenemies years ago, competing on the tennis pro circuit.   Myron hasn’t seen Kitty or his brother Brad in 16 years – nor met his nephew, 15-year-old Mickey.

Nothing adds urgency like family members in danger and a sense of regret for past transgressions, so Myron and Win are soon driven to untangle a mystery that spans 15 years, numerous celebrities, the world of the super-rich and of the mob-connected.

Coben does a good job of balancing wry humor, edgy violence, and family angst in Live Wire.  On the downside:  there’s little for his usual sidekicks to do and the plot requires a pretty big suspension of disbelief.  And as Woody Allen said, self-referentially in Stardust Memories,  “I prefer his early, funny movies.”   That goes for Coben’s Bolitar series, too.

Lots of changes coming… Live Wire, in many ways, is  a set-up for a new series. And maybe it’s time.

We’re expecting new and different things, as nephew Mickey becomes a part of the story and a wedding’s in the offing, the agency is sold and Win’s laying low.  I understand his next book is a YA thriller featuring nephew Mickey, called Shelter.  You can read a preview here.  I’m looking forward to seeing how Coben shakes it up!