Saturday, 6 February 2016

TERRY SHAMES - A DEADLY AFFAIR AT BOBTAIL RIDGE (2015)


Synopsis/blurb……

In the course of their developing friendship, Samuel Craddock has learned to accept that his neighbour Jenny Sandstone’s personal life is strictly secret. But when her dying mother tells Craddock that Jenny is in danger, he is confronted with a dilemma. He wants to respect 
Jenny's privacy, but he is haunted by the urgency in the dying woman's voice.

When Jenny is the victim of a suspicious car accident, Craddock has no choice but to get involved. He demands that she tell him what he needs to know to protect her and to solve the mysteries surrounding the strange events that began taking place as soon as Jenny’s mother passed away.

Forced to confront the past, Jenny plunges into a downward spiral of rage and despair. She is drinking heavily and seems bent on self-destruction. Craddock must tread lightly as he tries to find out who is behind the threats to her. But only by getting to the bottom of the secrets buried in Jenny’s past can he hope to save her both from herself and from whoever is out to harm her.

This is the fourth book in the Terry Shames – Samuel Craddock mystery series and another one that I really enjoyed.

There’s something about these books that suck me in; a combination of factors - the small town setting in Texas and the cast of characters many of them regular features in our widower Craddock’s life. Craddock was chief of police, then retired, but came back unpaid after the town went bankrupt and his replacement Rodell buried himself in a bottle.    

Here Craddock gets involved in trying to uncover who is harassing his neighbour – Jenny. Not an easy task when Jenny herself is a closed book. Work related? Her work with the DA’s office could have made her a target. Or personal? The reappearance of her previously unmentioned brother, Eddie has added to Jenny’s woes. Already struggling to accept her mother’s death, with Eddie back in town and inveigling himself into his mother’s will on her death bed, her emotional state is vulnerable.

Our investigation targets a couple of lowlifes – a father and son double act – Jett and Scott Borland. Borland senior, an ex-con and his son are also suspects in Jenny’s harassment. Jenny was involved in sending Scott to prison and our meth-cookers would be happy to see her get some payback.

After attacks on Jenny’s horses and later on her life when her car is run off the road, Craddock eventually stops pussy-footing around. Digging back into the secrets of Jenny’s family and her past including her father’s disappearance and her brother’s chequered high school history, Samuel discovers the cause of Jenny’s animosity toward Eddie and a lot more besides.

An interesting narrative with Craddock teaming up with the nearby chief of police in Bobtail Ridge as his enquiries take him out of his jurisdiction. In the meantime, regular life in Jarrett’s Creek continues and we have a few highs and lows with the regular cast, especially Rodell.    

I did guess the big reveal a fair while before it showed itself, but didn’t enjoy the book any the less because of that.

A great mystery and one at a slightly gentler pace than a lot of the books I read.  I’m looking forward to reading the recently released fifth in the series – The Necessary Murder of Nonie Blake.  

4.5 from 5

A Killing at Cotton Hill, The Last Death of Jack Harbin and Dead Broke in Jarrett Creek are the first three books in the series. Click on the titles to see my thoughts on each.

Terry Shames has her website here



Thanks to the publisher Seventh Street Books for my copy of this.

Friday, 5 February 2016

LAWRENCE BLOCK - RUDE AWAKENING (KIT TOLLIVER 2) (2013)


Synopsis/blurb…….

In 2006, the estimable S J Rozan invited me to contribute a story to Bronx Noir, an anthology she'd been commissioned to edit for Akashic Books. As she'd been obliging enough to write a story for my own Manhattan Noir, I felt honour-bound to return the favour.

To do so, I enlisted the homicidal services of a young woman who'd starred in "If You Can't Stand the Heat," my Hell's Kitchen story for Manhattan Noir. Although she seemed quite capable of standing the heat, I figured it was nevertheless time for her to get out of the Kitchen, so I sent her up to the Riverdale section of the Bronx.

My own familiarity with Riverdale was largely limited to those several months when I would ride the #1 train to the last stop at 242nd Street and Broadway, where I would meet a married lady from Westchester for an amorous dalliance in a motel with hourly rates. None of this is really anything y'all need to know, but the memory is dear to me, and I seem compelled to share it.

I took the subway again and had another look at Riverdale, and then sent my heroine there for her second adventure. I’d never expected to write about her again, but that’s been true of most of my series characters; I thought a single short story about Keller was all I’d ever write, and at latest count there have been five full-length books. Who knew?

"Rude Awakening" was a near-miss at Playboy, but that was as good as a mile, wasn't it? The story appeared in Bronx Noir in 2007, and unwittingly launched Kit Tolliver (she was yet to reveal her name) as a series character. Ultimately, of course, the stories about her coalesced into a book, and you can cut to the chase by buying the lot in Getting Off. Or you can move on to her third adventure, "You Can Call Me Lucky."

A Lawrence Block Amazon FREEBIE downloaded in January - it would have been impolite to have passed it up!


Following on from If You Can’t Stand The Heat, our heroine Kit wakes up in Riverdale with a fuzzy memory of the night before and her partner still breathing – obviously things not having gone entirely to plan.

Over a shower and coffee, memories of the night before resurface. Our player’s been played!

With a twinkle in her eye and a few dodgy crystals, Kit restores some balance to her skewed world.

4 from 5

A few thoughts on If You Can’t Stand The Heat are here.

You Can Call Me Lucky is the third in a series of 12 Kit Tolliver short offerings – all available individually or as one tome in Getting Off.




Note to self, I'll have to try and get back to the Matthew Scudder books at some point, Or Bernie the Burglar, or Chip Harrison, or Keller the hitman, or Evan Tanner or something else from him!

Thursday, 4 February 2016

ELLEN KIRSCHMAN - THE RIGHT WRONG THING (2015)


Synopsis/blurb……

Officer Randy Spelling had always wanted to be a police officer, to follow in the footsteps of her brothers and her father. Not long after joining the force, she mistakenly shoots and kills Lakeisha Gibbs, a pregnant teenager. The community is outraged; Lakeisha’s family is vocal and vicious in their attacks against Spelling.  Suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, and filled with remorse, Randy is desperate to apologize to the girl’s family.  Everyone, including the police chief, warns her against this, but the young police officer will not be dissuaded.  Her attempt is catastrophic. Dr. Dot Meyerhoff, police psychologist, plunges herself into the investigation despite orders from the police chief to back off. Not only does the psychologist’s refusal to obey orders jeopardize her career, but her life as well, as she enlists unlikely allies and unconventional undercover work to expose the tangled net of Officer Spelling’s disastrous course.  

My second time with author Ellen Kirschman and her police psychologist Dot Meyerhoff, after enjoying Burying Ben back in 2014. Review here.


Dot’s back in the firing line again. Having cleared Randy Spelling as psychologically sound to take up a position with the Kenilworth Police Department; Spelling is soon involved in an incident where a male officer gets attacked and in the subsequent melee she panics and flees. Her colleagues turn on her.

Already on the defensive and somewhat isolated, trouble looms larger when Spelling kills a black, pregnant and unarmed teenager, an incident that further estranges the police department from elements of the community they serve.

Dot tries to help Randy cope with the guilt she feels, by counselling both her and her husband Rich Spelling. With a new and unpopular female police chief, a black community backlash, a troubled officer in Spelling - struggling to cope with the aftermath of the incident and cracks appearing in her marriage to Rick; the last thing Dot needs is a new tree-hugging, eye-lid fluttering, ambulance chasing competitor of a psychologist in town – Marvel Johnson. That’s what she gets.

I really enjoyed The Right Wrong Thing. It’s a fresh look at the police and the problems they face, from the perspective of an informed outsider. Meyerhoff whilst attempting to connect with Randy, struggles to help her overcome her guilt about the incident and the need she feels to apologise to the victim's family. On a more general level, we see the difficulties a police counsellor faces in trying to establish a rappor with officers and their fears that the feelings and details revealed in their sessions don’t automatically get passed up the chain of command to the hierarchy in the department.

Kirschman adds flesh to the bones of our tale, by offering an insight into Dot’s own frailties and insecurities, both from a career perspective and in her personal life. Having been betrayed by her ex-husband in our previous book, Dot is still taking baby steps with the new man in her life, Frank. The ups and downs of this relationship, as the case unfolds and then explodes adds another layer to the story.

A dramatic event at the mid-point of the book, ups the ante.

Overall verdict - enjoyable and thought provoking without being preachy. With a lot of recent high publicity police shootings, particularly white on black, it’s interesting to get the often unheard police perspective to balance the debate. Kirschman’s no police apologist, but with over 30 years as a police psychologist, she articulates the pressures and fears and split-second decision making first responders have to make when approaching dangerous, life threatening situations.

4.5 from 5.



Ellen Kirschman has her website here. She was kind enough to send me a copy of this one for review. 

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

LAWRENCE BLOCK - IF YOU CAN'T STAND THE HEAT (KIT TOLLIVER 1) (2013)


Synopsis/blurb……

In 2005, Johnny Temple of Akashic Books chose me to edit an anthology of new dark stories set in Manhattan. Manhattan Noir was duly published the following year. Besides soliciting and selecting stories, my duties included writing both an overall introduction to the volume and an original story of my own.

The story I wrote, set in the same Hell's Kitchen neighbourhood that's home to my detective hero, Matthew Scudder, was "If You Can't Stand the Heat." (And in fact the bar where the story begins bears a definite resemblance to Grogan's Open House, where Matt's friend Mick Ballou holds court.)

I didn't know very much about the young woman who stars in "If You Can't Stand the Heat," not even her name. I learned more as I found myself moved to record further adventures for her. Her name kept changing, as did her base of operations; her life style rather compelled her to be peripatetic, and to change identities along the way

At one point it became evident that I was writing a novel on the instalment plan, and Hard Case Crime published Getting Off in the fall of 2011. I've since realized that several of its episodes, originally written as short stories, stand up fine on their own—and have decided to make them available in that form.

If You Can't Stand the Heat is the first of these. If you want to read more about Kit, #2 is Rude Awakening, set in the Riverdale section of the Bronx.

Hats off to Mr Block – short form or long he always entertains.


A bit of a surprise in places as his heroine turns this 15 page story on its head with Block showing there’s plenty of life in the old dog yet and a few shenanigans in the bedroom. I’m unused to a lot of the author’ action taking place in between the sheets, but then again I’m sure he cut his teeth back in the late 50s and early 60s writing soft porn.

A lot more going on here than an orgasm or two. We get our main lady’s back story and a feel for her current activities. Kit Tolliver – not someone I’d care to meet in a bar, but someone I’m going to enjoy reading about. A satisfying climax at the end of our tale!

4 from 5

I got this one a year or two ago on Amazon and decided to read it once I heard the next two episodes were going to be available for free last week on the same site.


There’s 12 Kit Tolliver vignettes in total, but at some point I’ll be ponying up to get the full treatment by investing in Hard Case Crime’s Getting Off, unless of course Mr Block decides to let the give the last 9 away for free!


Tuesday, 2 February 2016

2 BY GIL BREWER

2 from Florida pulp-noir author Gil Brewer this week. Brewer was born in New York in 1922 and died in Florida in 1983.





















A couple of weeks ago I located these two in Tub 62 and blog friend John Grant from Noirish commented on them, so I thought I would have a closer look.

There’s a website dedicated to him and his writing here.  

Apparently………Brewer wrote some 30 novels between 1951 and the late 60s – very often involving an ordinary man who becomes involved with, and is often corrupted and destroyed by, an evil or designing woman. His style is simple and direct, with sharp dialogue, often achieving considerable intensity.



He also ghost wrote under the Ellery Queen byline.









So far during my logging exercise I have found 5 Brewer books in my collection. As well as these two, there’s 13 French Street, The Red Scarf and The Three-Way Split. I may find more but however much I enjoy these I doubt I’ll be trying to catch all his books. I read Appointment in Hell back in July 2012, before I blogged and can't recall too much about it.

Neither of my editions are initial printings, in fact A Killer Is Loose is an edition printed in Israel sometime early 70s after decimalization – the price tag of 25p a clue.





 A Killer is Loose (1954)

SOME MEN LEAVE BROKEN HEARTS BEHIND, THIS ONE LEFT A TRAIL OF DEATH

He shot Jake Halloran in the head, then turned to me, smiling, the Luger held loosely in his right hand.

“Hello, pal,” he said. “My name’s Ralph Angers. What’s yours?”

That’s how I met him, this grave-looking, clean-cut totally mad young man, who walked through my town with a gun, leaving a wake of tears and agony and murder behind him.  






Wild to Possess (1959)

She Lit A Fuse Inside Me

When Lew Brookbank snatched the kidnaped Hagan woman from the Florida cabin and hid her in his attic, he figured her husband – who was also the kidnaper – would fork over the ransom money expected from Flo Hagan’s wealthy mother.

But after Lew had mad made Flo his prisoner, he found three aroused females on his hands:

Lush, amoral ISOBEL – Ralph Hagan’s mistress – who wanted her share of kidnap loot and love… His own love-hungry RITA who visited Lew nightly while the woman in the attic waited… And wild FLO herself who, even though bound hand and foot, proved she was all a man could handle…

Monday, 1 February 2016

LOGGING THE LIBRARY - PART SIXTY-SIX

Another week, another tub, another 50 books.
66 or (3300) and counting!

Alex Berenson, Tim Dorsey, Peter Leonard, Ben Fountain, Mohamed Sifaoui,

Son of Elmore, and just as enjoyable!

Ian Rankin, Ben Fountain, Juli Zeh, Jussi Adler-Olsen, Gerard Donovan,

Irish author, Balkans conflict - Gerard Donovan,

Stuart Neville, Ian Rankin, Chuck Palhniuk x 2, Richard Ford, 

Richard Ford - novel. I think he's known for his short stories.

Untried Northern. Irish author, 

Lee Child, Louise Ure, Greg Rucka. Mickey Spillane, Donna Leon,

Louise Ure - Forcing Amaryllis,

Mike Hammer series book,

Lawrence Block, Lionel Davidson x 2, Arthur Lyons, Dick Francis,

Welsh jockey turned author -  he rode Devon Loch the Queen's horse that face-planted 50 yards from the finish line in the 1956 Grand National.

Lawrence Block- Tanner series book!

Dick Francis x 2, Hakan Nesser, Arthur Lyons, Janwillem van de Wetering,

Mid 70s Dutch crime - first in the Amsterdam Cops series,

Jacon Asch series book - is it a typo or is discrete spelled discreet in the US?

Jack Kerley, Donna Leon, Barbara Vine, Randy Wayne White, John Pimlott, 

Guido Brunetti series opener 

Harry Dolan x 2, Charlie Newton, William Boyd, Shalom Auslander, 

Charlie Newton - an untried US author,

Hope: A Tragedy!
Frank Bill x 2, Charles Bukowski, Mike Nicol, Michael Konik,

Who wouldn't want to read about a man who had breast implants to win a $100k bet?

Fast paced, violent South African crime!


Frank Bill - short stories!

Sean Moncrieff, Ross MacDonald, Herman Koch, Michael Frayn, Matthew Stokoe,

Irish crime!

I think everyone's read this bar-me.

Cows - Matthew Stokoe - a disturbing read apparently!

3251 - 3300 put to bed!

HIGHLIGHTS.....Frank (double) Bill, Lawrence Block, Peter Leonard, Matthew Stokoe, Charles Bukowski - to mention a few.

LOWLIGHTS.......nothing too scary here - a decent tub I reckon!

FULL LIST OF 50 AS FOLLOWS:


AUTHOR TITLE YEAR SERIES
ADLER-OLSEN JUSSI MERCY 2011 DQ1
AUSLANDER SHALOM HOPE: A TRAGEDY 2012
BERENSON ALEX THE MIDNIGHT HOUSE 2010 JW4
BILL FRANK DONNYBROOK 2013
BILL FRANK CRIMES IN SOUTHERN INDIANA 2011
BLOCK LAWRENCE TANNER'S TWELVE SWINGERS 1967 ET3
BOYD WILLIAM WAITING FOR SUNRISE 2012
BUKOWSKI CHARLES PULP 1994
CHILD LEE A WANTED MAN 2012 JR17
DAVIDSON LIONEL THE ROSE OF TIBET 1962
DAVIDSON LIONEL THE NIGHT OF WENCESLAS 1961
DOLAN HARRY VERY BAD MEN 2011 DL2
DOLAN HARRY BAD THINGS HAPPEN 2009 DL1
DONOVAN GERARD SCHOPENHAUER'S TELESCOPE 2003
DORSEY TIM CADILLAC BEACH 2004 SS6
FORD RICHARD THE ULTIMATE GOOD LUCK 1981
FOUNTAIN BEN BRIEF ENCOUNTERS WITH CHE GUEVARA 2006
FOUNTAIN BEN BILLY LYNN'S LONG HALFTIME WALK 2012
FRANCIS DICK COME TO GRIEF 1995 SH3
FRANCIS DICK WHIP HAND  1979 SH2
FRANCIS DICK BOLT 1986 KF2
FRAYN MICHAEL SKIOS 2012
KERLEY JACK THE DEATH COLLECTORS 2005 CR2
KOCH HERMAN THE DINNER 2012
KONIK MICHAEL THE MAN WITH THE $100,000 BREASTS 1999
LEON DONNA A NOBLE RADIANCE 1997 GB7
LEON DONNA DEATH AT LA FENICE 1992 GB1
LEONARD PETER TRUST ME 2009
LYONS ARTHUR CASTLES BURNING 1980 JA4
LYONS ARTHUR THE DEAD ARE DISCREET 1974 JA1
MACDONALD ROSS THE GALTON CASE 1959 LA8
MONCRIEFF SEAN DUBLIN 2000
NESSER HAKAN THE RETURN 2007 IVV3
NEVILLE STUART RATLINES 2013
NEWTON CHARLIE CALUMET CITY 2008
NICOL MIKE KILLER COUNTRY 2010 M+P2
PALAHNIUK CHUCK RANT 2007
PALAHNIUK CHUCK INVISIBLE MONSTERS 1999
PIMLOTT JOHN VIETNAM: THE HISTORY AND THE TACTICS 1982
RANKIN IAN DARK ENTRIES 2009
RANKIN IAN A COOL HEAD 2009
RUCKA GREG SHOOTING AT MIDNIGHT 1998 AK4
SIFAOUI MOHAMED INSIDE AL QAEDA 2003
SPILLANE MICKEY THE GIRL HUNTERS 1962 MH7
STOKOE MATTHEW COWS 1998 LHOTB1
URE LOUISE FORCING AMARYLLIS 2005
VAN DE WETERING JANWILLEM OUTSIDER IN AMSTERDAM 1975 AC1
VINE BARBARA KING SOLOMON'S CARPET 1991
WHITE RANDY WAYNE EVERGLADES 2003 DF10
ZEH JULI EAGLES AND ANGELS 2003

Sunday, 31 January 2016

MAX ALLAN COLLINS - QUARRY (1976)


Synopsis/blurb…..

Cult favorite Quarry, the killer for hire, is back in print with this debut novel and four other early works by author Max Allan Collins. They don't come any harder-boiled than Quarry. After carrying out his assignment in a down-at-heels river town, the gunman finds someone has played him for a sucker. To figure out who, he must solve the murder he committed. This new edition includes a previously unpublished Afterword Qy the author.

The start of another Max Allan Collins series after wrapping up with Nolan last month.

Quarry works as a hitman, taking jobs through the Broker. We open at an airport where Quarry dispenses with his target and recovers a couple of packages, something not in his usual remit. We have a falling out between the two men over the involvement of Quarry in recovering drugs. Quarry questions the prudence of their continued arrangement, but is soon off on another job, one which Boyd, his partner on a number of assignments is scoping out.

The job goes pear-shaped, the target is killed, but so too is Boyd and Quarry barely escapes, after being attacked with a wrench. Their $4k wages are stolen. Instead of fleeing town, Quarry stays to turn detective and recover his fee.   

Hitman turned policeman with the unwitting assistance of an ex-Playboy bunny, Peg Baker in small town Port City, Iowa (fictional?) – What’s not to like?

At the conclusion, we have recovered our money and resolved our outstanding issues with the Broker. Roll on book two.

Interesting character, Quarry – a veteran of Vietnam and now a bit of a loner. His history – he killed the man he found in bed with his wife and got himself a divorce.

Great setting – a small town where everyone knows everyone and if they don’t know your secrets, they still know enough to gossip about you.

Plenty of action – gun play, fisticuffs and a bit of sex.

Pacey – once I started I was kind of reluctant to put it down, especially as it was competing for my attention with a rather dreary book from Patricia Highsmith.

All in all, my kind of book.

4.5 from 5.


Bought on Amazon kindle a couple of years ago. Originally published in 1976 as The Broker.

Max Allan Collins website is here.