Monday, 25 September 2017

PHIL STANFORD - ROSE CITY VICE (2017)


Synopsis/blurb......

The City of Roses, as natives of Portland, Oregon like to call it, has a long and honorable history of crime and corruption, starting as far back as the post-Civil War frontier days, leading into the mobster-infused decades of the twentieth century when prohibition, prostitution, gambling, and hard drugs besieged the town.

The so-called "Great Portland Vice Scandal of 1956-57" spilled into national politics, with hearings before the Senate Rackets Committee. When the '70s rolled around, members of the police's narcotics squad were caught red-handed perpetrating nefarious deeds. This Northwest city, known best today for its punk rock and hipster comedies like Portlandia, was once overrun with corruption and foul play.

Rose City Vice reveals a city where the cops are putting drugs back on the street, maybe even committing murder. The city council is high on coke, and the mayor is carrying on a clandestine sexual relationship with 13-year- old schoolgirl while under surveillance by the vice squad. It's 1970's Portland and blackmail is in the air.

My first bit of non-fiction for a while and at times I was scratching my head thinking this can't possibly be true! I don't suppose there is anything new about dirty cops in bed with politicians, but the tale Stanford tells is of a city where corruption seemed to be endemic and the norm as opposed to the odd bad apple.

This is Stanford's third book about Portland after Portland Confidential and The Peyton-Allen Files. One deals with vice and the other the unsolved early 60s murder of a couple of teenagers. He seems to know his city.

Short chapters with plenty of photographs of some of the city's larger than life characters and an expose of organised vice with hookers and blow jobs auditions, under-age sex, drug deals, dodgy cops, rip-offs, lost case files, ultra lenient courts, missing drugs, bent officials and a lot more. The writing reminded me a bit of James Ellroy's Hush-Hush exposures in his LA Quartet.

I really enjoyed this one. Portland in the 60s and 70s and probably earlier seemed reminiscent of a lawless Wild West town in the 19th century.

A minor criticism and only a mere quibble was the formatting of my ARC copy for Kindle which seemed to jump around a bit. Photo captions would sometimes appear in the text on the following page. I think the book is only available in print, so I would imagine it won't be an issue.

Entertaining and illuminating.

4 from 5

Phil Stanford is an American journalist and author. Some of his investigative reporting has helped overturn some unfair convictions in the past.

Read in September, 2017
Published - 2017
Page count - 104
Source - review copy from Edelweiss - Above the Treeline site
Format - Kindle

Sunday, 24 September 2017

J. R. LINDERMUTH - SHARES THE DARKNESS (2016)



Synopsis/blurb…..

Jan Kepler and Swatara Creek Police Office Flora Vastine were neighbors and schoolmates, but never close.

When Jan, a school teacher, avid birder and niece of a fellow officer, goes missing and is found dead in a nearby tract of woods, Flora finds herself thrust into the middle of an examination of the other woman's life, as she searches for clues.

As usual, the police have more than one crime to deal with. There's illegal timbering and a series of vehicle thefts taking up their time. And there are other issues to deal with. Flora is concerned there's some shakiness in her relationship with Cpl. Harry Minnich, who seems to be making a lot of secretive phone calls.

Still, Flora maintains focus on the murder, and despite evidence implicating other suspects, the odd behavior of another former classmate rouses Flora's suspicion. Flora's probing opens personal wounds, as she observes the cost of obsessive love and tracks down the killer.

A bit of a change of pace for me with a slightly less frenetic mystery from J. R. Lindermuth – my first time reading this author.

Shares the Darkness is the seventh entry in Lindermuth’s Sticks Hetrick series, though Sticks seems to take a back seat role in this one with our main focus on one of his officers Flora Vastine.

We start with the disappearance of a local woman which soon turns to a murder investigation when her body is discovered after a search. No sexual assault and no apparent enemies, why was she killed? Our small team of police start the investigation with limited progress initially. Our main eyes and ears are Officer Flora Vastine. Lindermuth expertly blends investigation and the personal into this mystery. Vastine is in a relationship with a fellow officer and there’s time enough to explore her insecurities over her relationship while conducting her duties as an officer of the law.

Other crimes are committed in the town, which are also investigated and these add to the convincing portrayal of a small town police department in action. The illegal tree logging strand offers a possible motive and suspect for our murder. In addition, the recent arrival in town of a former schoolmate, one with a bit of history with our victim, also offers possibilities and develops the plot. 

I enjoyed the book and the slow development of the investigation. I kind of guessed the murderer early on, but wasn’t totally sure as the author had several candidates which were at various stages of the book persons of interest. 

Decent setting, interesting characters, no explicit violence – our murder happens off page, enough of a glimpse of the personal lives of a few of the police officers to add as opposed to detract from matters at hand. All in all, a satisfying read.

4 from 5

J. R. Lindermuth has his website here. In addition to his Sticks Hetrick series, he has another series featuring Sheriff Sylvester Tilghman and a fair few standalones. 

Catch him on Twitter@jrlindermuth


Read in September, 2017
Published - 2016
Page count - 226
Source - review copy from author
Format - PDF 

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

MARK DAWSON - 1000 YARDS (2013)



Synopsis/blurb......

Meet John Milton. He considers himself an artisan. A craftsman. His trade is murder. Milton is the man the government sends after you when everything else has failed. You wouldn't pick him out of a crowd but you wouldn't want to be on his list. 

In this dip into his case files, Milton is sent into North Korea. With nothing but a sniper rifle, bad intentions and a very particular target, will Milton be able to take on the secret police of the most dangerous failed state on the planet?

Also included: the first chapter of the first full-length Milton novel, THE CLEANER.

You'll love Mark Dawson's #1 bestselling thrillers. 450,000 copies downloaded. Get to know John Milton before everyone else does.

A topical read seeing as North Korea has been in the news a lot lately.

Best book ever? No, but a lot here for me to like.

North Korea has been up to its old tricks, annoying its neighbour and the West with the dissemination of a computer virus targeting malware at banks and media outlets in a massive cyber attack. The British Government thinks its a good idea to retaliate and Milton is the weapon of choice. All hush-hush, top secret and totally deniable and if his cover gets blown, he's on his own.

Milton gets into Korea using forged documents (obviously) and with the help of some local dissenters evades his watchers. Barely controlled panic ensues as his hosts discover that the man entering the country is not who he claims to be. Can Milton be captured before he commits whatever atrocity he intends? And what exactly is he up to?

Plenty of pace and tension - Dawson teases the reader before revealing Milton's true intentions. I did like the story line and where it went. There's a decent amount of characterisation on display. Milton is portrayed as vulnerable, in addition to resilient and capable - a mere mortal as opposed to an unbelievable superman. We see a bit of his opponents as well - their motivations and fears of failure, working for an unforgiving, intolerant regime.

Not too long - 100-odd pages another plus-point and definitely enough here to warrant reading more from Mark Dawson and more with John Milton featuring.

4 from 5

Mark Dawson is a self-published author and has about a gazillion books to his name - 5 series and some standalones - prolific or what?

His website is here. Catch him on Twitter@pbackwriter

Read in September, 2017
Published - 2013
Page count - 118
Source - purchased copy
Format - Kindle

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

2 BY NEIL BROADFOOT

A couple from a Scottish author I haven't yet tried - Neil Broadfoot.

Broadfoot has written three books in his Doug McGregor series. McGregor is a journalist.


Falling Fast is the first, All the Devils the third. The Storm is the second in the series.















From his website here, his biography says he was a former journalist who now works in media communications.

I do like the investigative reporter-cum-journalist angle in a crime book. James W. Ziskin, Michael Connelly and Liam McIlvanney are three authors who have used the reporter to good effect in their books. I'm sure there's been plenty others I can't remember.



Falling Fast (2014)

Shortlisted for Bloody Scotland's DEANSTON SCOTTISH CRIME BOOK OF THE YEAR AWARD 2014 Finalist, Dundee International Book Prize, 2013. A grisly suicide in the heart of tourist Edinburgh piques the curiosity of local journalist Doug McGregor, who's always had a good nose for a story. When his police colleague and occasional drinking partner DS Susie Drummond reveals that the victim is connected to a prominent Scottish politician, Doug finds himself unravelling a story of secrets, drug abuse, violence, murder... and the ultimate taboo. Action-packed from the very start, and with enough twists and turns to shock and surprise even the most hard-bitten crime fan, 'Falling Fast' is the first of a trilogy. It marks the arrival of a new crime-writing talent who is bound to appeal to aficionados of Scottish crime greats such as Ian Rankin and Val McDermid.





All the Devils (2016)

A tale of police corruption, underworld power struggles and killers with an insatiable lust for violence... All the Devils are here. Crime journalist Doug McGregor is struggling to recover from a clash with a psychotic killer. A dead-of-night encounter with a seedy blackmailer is enough to send Doug feral. With his demons threatening to engulf him, he and DS Susie Drummond are tested to the limit as they uncover a conspiracy that reaches deeper than even they can imagine.

Monday, 18 September 2017

GRAHAM SMITH - THE KINDRED KILLERS (2017)


Synopsis/blurb…

An explosive new crime thriller

Jake Boulder’s help is requested by his best friend, Alfonse, when his cousin is crucified and burned alive along with his wife and children.

As Boulder tries to track the heinous killer, a young woman is abducted. Soon her body is discovered and Boulder realises both murders have something unusual in common.

With virtually no leads for Boulder to follow, he strives to find a way to get a clue as to the killer’s identity. But is he hunting for one killer or more?

After a young couple are snatched in the middle of the night the case takes a brutal turn. When the FBI is invited to help with the case, Boulder finds himself warned off the investigation.

When gruesome, and incendiary, footage from a mobile phone is sent to all the major US News outlets and the pressure to find those responsible for the crimes mounts. But with the authorities against him can Boulder catch the killer before it’s too late?

“Watching the Bodies is a storming addition to the action thriller genre, and Jake Boulder a new tough guy to root for. Be under no illusion, Boulder is no Jack Reacher or Joe Hunter clone- He is his own man and readers will delight in getting to know a hero who is as sharp with his wits, and his tongue, as he is with his fists.” Matt Hilton – Bestselling author of the Joe Hunter thrillers

The Kindred Killers is another fast-paced and satisfying read from Graham Smith. In the second Jake Boulder novel, our doorman and part-time investigator is involved in a case a lot closer to home.
Jake’s best friend Alfonse is distraught at the news that his cousin and his family have been brutally murdered in a crime that bears all the hallmarks of a racially motivated killing. With the local police department, the chief the exception, incompetent and unfit for purpose the pair are determined to nail the killers.

I don’t want to give too much away. The killings continue with a pattern emerging. Further down the line, the FBI get involved and Jake and Alfonse get shunted to the side lines.  But that’s not happening, this is Jake Boulder you’re dealing with, don’t you know?

Escalation, increased tension, fast-moving, short and snappy chapters, the odd mini respite with a bit of love interest for Jake with Taylor (has he met the woman who can tame him?), more killings - horrific in the execution and portrayal (possibly a bit too graphic for some reader’s tastes – but not mindlessly exploitative), and a logical investigation with the tools at hand.

There’s a decent support cast – our police chief Watson and the family leader of a troublesome tribe of rednecks, Butch Augiers and our local irritant the hard-nosed local reporter Miss Rosenberg. Smith invests a bit of time with his characters adding some depth and invoking the reader’s interest and sympathies.

Standout though is Jake himself. Tough, capable, intelligent, handy with his fists – all the things I’m not – I hate him!

Sometimes I want a book that informs and educates as well as entertains. Sometimes you want a book that distracts you from the everyday and allows you to lose yourself for a few hours. This one is the latter. Probably not going to win any prizes for literature, but who cares?

Overall a great read. Ticks in all the boxes. Graham Smith hooked me early and kept me invested in the outcome.

4.5 from 5

The first Jake Boulder book – Watching the Bodies was reviewed here.

Graham Smith has his website here
He's on Twitter - @GrahamSmith1972

He has another series to his name set in Cumbria – the DI Harry Evans books. 

Read in September, 2017
Published - 2017
Page count - 318
Source - review copy from publisher - Bloodhound Books (cheers Sarah)
Format - Kindle




Sunday, 17 September 2017

AUGUST 2017 - READING LIST AND PICK OF THE MONTH



10 "books" read in the month, not bad going. Look a bit closer and you'll see that the word book is a bit of a stretch........oh well, my blog, my rules and I'm the official score keeper.

They were......

Ariana D. Den Bleyker - Dark Water (2015) (2)

Friedrich Durrenmatt - The Judge and His Hangman (1954) (4)

Dana King - Worst Enemies (2012) (5)

Eric Beetner - The Year I Died Seven Times: Book 3 (2014) (4)

Eric Beetner - The Year I Died Seven Times: Book 4 (2014) (4)

Eryk Pruitt - Dirtbags (2014) (4.5)

Dietrich Kalteis - Triggerfish (2016)  (4.5)

Eric Beetner - The Year I Died Seven Times: Book 5 (2014) (4)

Graham Wynd - Smallbany (2015) (4)

Michael Pool - Midnight at the San Franciscan (2015) (4)

My one "5 STAR" read was Dana King's Worst Enemies - it had everything - pace, plot, setting, humour, dialogue, action - a real mix of murder, scheming, duplicity, cops, a PI, sex, a femme fatale and a patsy. I wish I had read it years ago when I bought it.

Two reads were close contenders for top marks - Dietrich Kalteis continues to impress me with his cool, sassy Canadian-set crime. Triggerfish was excellent and Eryk Pruitt served up an interesting tale with Dirtbags - both were 4.5 STARS!

Another one from the Number 13 Press stable was read - Dark Water. It wasn't my cup of tea, for some reason I couldn't get into it. The only disappointing read in the month - 2 STARS!

All the rest were 4 STARS reads and fairly short. 3 episodes of Eric Beetner's The Year I Died Seven Times were devoured. I'm only two from home now. There was a bit of Swiss crime from Friedrich Durrenmatt - a re-issue of one of his mid-50s books and a couple of short stories from Graham Wynd (aka K.A. Laity) and Michael Pool.


More useless trivia......

10 reads - 8 different authors,

3 of the 8 were new-to-me authors....... Dana King, Michael Pool and Ariana D. Den Bleyker - I have more from King on the Kindle to enjoy.

Of the authors I have read before, I have a ton of Eric Beetner books still to enjoy, a couple more from Durrenmatt and Kalteis and a few from Wynd/Laity.

Gender analysis - 6 male authors, 2 females.



I think 6 of the authors I read are American, 1 is Canadian and the deceased Durrenmatt was from Switzerland.

All 10 were fiction reads - 5 novels and 5 novellas/short stories.

9 were published this decade -  1 from 2016 and 3 from 2015, 4 from 2014, 1 from 2012 and only one older book from 1954.

8 of the 10 books were pre-owned/purchased - 2 came via the publisher - though I did have an  old copy of one of them somewhere in my book tubs.

Favourite cover? Eryk Pruitt - Dirtbags!




Second favourite - Triggerfish from Dietrich Kalteis!




My reads were this long - 110 - 128 - 371 - 44 - 45 - 201 - 266 - 50 - 11 - 23

Total page count =  1249 (1775 in July).......over 500 pages down on the previous month.

8 Kindle reads, 2 paperbacks,

5 < 50,
0 between 51 < 100,
2 between 101 < 200,

2 between 201 < 300,
1 between 301 < 400,
0 > 400 pages

Dana King's Worst Enemies was the longest read at 371 pages.

AUGUST 2017 - ADDITIONS TO THE LIBRARY - 6 OF THE BEST!

Another month and further swelling of the ranks of the already over-flowing library.....


October release from publisher Perpetual Motion Machine
John Oliver Hodges - Quizzleboon

QUIZZLEBOON is a redneck fairy tale about Leon Hicks, a one-eyed outlaw who joins an anarchist collective in the hills of North Carolina. Guided by an imaginary man from the moon named Mr. Quizzleboon, Leon searches within these dirt people for a sense of family that seems forever out of reach.

Amazon purchase - well I did have a voucher that needed using up!

Colin Garrow - Death on a Dirty Afternoon (The Terry Bell Mysteries Book 1)

Introducing a brand new murder mystery series set on England's northeast coast.

When taxi driver Frank is found dead on his dining room table, ex-cabbie Terry Bell assumes his old friend died of a heart attack. But when Terry's former boss also turns up with his face bashed in, it starts to look like there's a connection.

Faced with a Detective Inspector who doesn't like coincidences, and a series of threatening letters, Terry does a bit of investigating of his own, but when another body is discovered, the temperature starts to rise - in more ways than one.

Death on a Dirty Afternoon is book #1 in the Terry Bell Mystery series.

It's a seaside town like any other seaside town: from the non-existent sand dunes and candy-striped deck chairs to the concrete piers and tacky market stalls, they've got it all - including dead bodies, arson attacks and hockey-stick wielding murderers. If you love mysteries and amateur sleuthing, bald-headed villains and Swedish construction bosses, this'll be right up your everyday seaside-town street. Download your copy of Death on a Dirty Afternoon now. Just scroll to the top of the page and select BUY to start your adventure today!

Another Amazon purchase adding to the unread Todd Morr stack!
Todd Morr - Best Laid Plan of Idiots and Fuck-Ups: A Cooke Novel

DNA evidence may have saved him from a life in prison for a crime he did not commit, but trouble still finds him and Cooke cant' help but embrace it.

Cooke retrieves a stash of money for lawyer Valerie Murphy. The money belongs to her client, but plenty of people have designs on getting it for themselves. The clients sister thinks she can use the money to pay someone to break her brother out of county jail while plenty of others, including the clients crew of thieves, some Christian Bikers, and a dirty cop want to get the stash for themselves.

Another one from the publisher Perpetual Motion Machine, came out last year I think.

Bob Pastorella - Mojo Rising

A new drug called Mojo is tearing through Southeast Texas, directly competing with Juney's own product. What starts as a minor annoyance quickly spirals into something much more serious once Juney discovers his cook murdered and his brother mysteriously missing, the Mojo trademark left at the crime scene. Mojo Rising is a strange trip through a world of thugs and junkies, hallucinations and apocalypses. Some doors you walk through, you can't come back in. Includes the bonus short story, "Pork Chop."

Second hand acquisition while book browsing on a break with my wife. Published late 90s. I looked Raine up afterwards having previously been unaware of him and he's written about a dozen crime novels in all. His Amazon reviews seem to give a divided opinion on him. Half love and half dislike - a bit of a Marmite author. Ian Rankin praised his early books.


Jerry Raine - Frankie Bosser Comes Home (Jason Campbell Book 1)

Frankie Bosser has been lying low in Italy for three years after the accidental shooting of a policeman in England. When he hears about his father's sudden death, he decides to risk all to return home for his funeral. On arrival, he finds out that his father was actually the victim of a beating, so he decides to hang around to see if he can find the person responsible. While killing time with old friend Jason Campbell, Frankie realises that he won't have to look very far for the killer at all. And when their two worlds collide the only outcome can be a bloody mess.

Amazon purchase after seeing Fahrenheit Press promoting the release of the third one in the author's series.

Derek Farrell - Death Of A Diva (The Danny Bird Mysteries Book 1)

"Quite fun..." - Eric Idle

Danny Bird is having a very bad day. In the space of just a few hours he lost his job, his partner and his home.

Ever the optimist, Danny throws himself headlong into his dream to turn the grimmest pub in London into the coolest nightspot south of the river. Sadly, everything doesn’t go quite as planned when his star turn is found strangled hours before opening night.

Danny becomes the prime suspect in the crime, and then the gangster who really owns the pub starts asking where his share of the takings has gone… it seems things are going to get worse for Danny before they get better.

“A classic whodunit brought bang up to date”

“A modern day Cluedo”

“Impossible to compartmentalise into one genre, the plot twists and turns through a thoroughly modern tale that will have you totally hooked.”

“A book full of clever plotting.”

“Excellent pacy story, great characters and laugh out loud jokes in places”