Saturday, 29 June 2013

JAC WRIGHT - THE CLOSET

Synopsis/blurb......

Love is a battlefield.  Who will get out of it alive?

Harry Duncan Wood runs a hotel in the historic city of Bath with his beautiful young wife. When he falls in love with Mill House, an old greystone farmhouse on the banks of river Avon among the soaring hills of Somerset, and sets about moving his family there, the first appearances of the cracks in the marriage take him by surprise. Is his wife seeing another man? Duncan needs to get to the bottom of the affairs for his own sanity. Sometimes, however, ignorance is bliss and will also keep everybody alive.

Jac Wright is a published poet, a published author, and an electronics engineer who lives in England. The Closet is the first in Wright's collection of literary short fiction, Summerset Tales, in which Wright explores characters struggling against their passions and social circumstances in the contemporary semi-fictional region of England called Summerset, but with an added element of suspense. The collection is published as a series of individual tales (each tale complete and not serialised) in the tradition of Charles Dickens' The Pickwick Papers and Thomas Hardy's Wessex Tales. The first Summerset tale, The Closet, accompanies the first title in the author's full-length literary suspense series, THE RECKLESS ENGINEER, published by Soul Mate Publishing, New York.

I got this long short story and four chapter tease for the author’s full length novel which is out soon, in a giveaway/competition draw on Goodreads.

I enjoy broadening my reading horizons and like trying new authors in an effort to keep things fresh in my reading. On this occasion, I enjoyed the short story which was interesting without getting me fully engaged or too concerned about how things ended. Perhaps the trouble with the shorter form of telling tales is that you can provide a history and back story, but it’s still difficult for the reader, or this one at least to make a leap and feel an emotional connection to the characters. So while the end was fairly neat, the story as a whole was akin to rubber-necking at a car crash. You watch, you wince, you gasp.............and then you carry on with your life with barely a backwards glance.

The brief chapters provided as a lead-in to The Reckless Engineer, didn’t draw me in sufficiently to want to add the novel to my wishlist, or for me make a date with my bookseller on publication day.

The author can write for sure, and will win a lot of followers, but for my own personal preference the prose were a little bit too flowery in places – especially the first few pages of The Closet.

3 from 5



Friday, 28 June 2013

JACK RYLANCE - COPACABANA

Synopsis/blurb.....

Having retired from the crime world, Pete Murphy relocates from Liverpool to Rio de Janeiro. Here he throws himself into the wild and sordid nightlife of Copacabana in an effort to forget that brutal murder which forced him into exile.

This self-destructive routine is interrupted by the arrival of John Mullan, a young petty thief who has long idolized Pete, and is now on the run from associates back home. A situation further complicated by the £200,000 of stolen money which John has brought with him.

As the repercussions of this theft become ever more clear, the scene is set for an explosive showdown.

Pete Murphy is about to meet the ghosts of his past head-on.

In Copacabana…

I was interested in reading this, as to date my reading journeys into South America have been somewhat sparse. I can’t recall trying a book set in Brazil before, so it was a first for me.

Pete is our main character and we follow the tedium of his everyday life as a retired ex-pat living in Brazil...........go out, have a few drinks, snort a few drugs, show some attitude to the locals, grease the cops when you have to, do some more drugs, meet some fellow ex-pats, share the same old tired stories, drink coffee and a beer, go home, go out, do some drugs, go to a club, meet your sometime girlfriend – if she’s not seeing one of her other two fellas, have sex, go home, sleep off the hangover, wake up..........do it all again........repeat, repeat, repeat.   

John arrives in a frenzy from Scallyland, toting a suitcase full of cash, which he’s lifted from some hard-case criminals back home. Pete, unable to turn his back on John, despite quickly resenting the intrusion and disturbance to his relatively tranquil existence, finds himself remembering his Liverpool days and anticipating a visit from Vince and Totsy - a pair of violent criminal gangsters with whom he had history.

John’s arrival has no immediate impact on Pete’s existence and life continues, with back story from both covering the history that sees them to the points in their lives where they are at now.

The two low-lives, Vince and Totsy eventually show up for the day of reckoning.

I found this first novel interesting enough and enjoyable without being overly bothered by the fates of both John and Pete.  The ending did have an ambiguous feel to it, which offers some scope for further reappearances of either or both of our protagonists.

The action was fairly pedestrian until the end and felt like more of a character study or observational piece on bored ex-pats living it large abroad rather than a gritty crime novel. I would read another book by the author in the future.

Enjoyable enough 3 stars from 5

My copy was secured on an Amazon giveaway by the author.   

  

Thursday, 27 June 2013

LAWRENCE BLOCK - GRIFTER'S GAME

Synopsis/blurb....

Con man Joe Marlin was used to scoring easy cash off beautiful women. But that was before he met Mona Brassard and found himself facing the most dangerous con of his career, one that will leave him either a killer — or a corpse.

No one but multiple Edgar Award winner Lawrence Block could tell this story of dangerous men and wicked women, of greed and desire and nail-biting suspense. It will grab you by the throat on the first page and won’t let go till the breathless, unforgettable climax.

This was June’s book choice for my Pulp Fiction group over on Goodreads.  A short novel weighing in at just over 100-odd pages, originally published back in 1961 under the title of Mona, Grifter’s Game was short, sharp and shocking with a few twists.

I managed to read it in just over a day, having managed to get back on my reading track with the help of Terry Shames’ excellent debut.  It would be fair to say that in a straight match-up between this and some of Mr Block’s early Scudder books that I have been reading lately, I have enjoyed the Scudder’s more.

Grifter’s Game gives us Joe, conning and scoring his way from hotel to hotel, city to city with barely a backward glance when the jig is up. On his exit from one city via train (memory fails me, where) he lifts a couple of suitcases at the station and on arrival in Atlantic City discovers he’s the unwitting owner of a large stash of heroin. Quickly realising the danger to himself, he secures the load in his hotel safe rather than keeping it in his room.

After a swim on the beach Joe crosses paths with femme fatale, Mona. A couple of trysts later and after the discovery by Mona of her husband’s stolen suitcases in Marlin’s room; Marlin the conman, for so long the controlling player in the game of the con, starts getting played by Mona.

Sex, drink, drugs, trains and planes, New York, Miami and Vegas.......murder, mishap and mayhem.

Enjoyable and interesting, I read along without feeling any emotional investment in the outcome. Neither Joe, Mona or the husband and their fates and the ultimate outcome inspired in me any sense of anxiety or fear for any of them. I was more of an interested bystander, though that said the ending rocked.

More than a 3, probably a 4 from 5 for me.


I have depicted the Hard Case crime reprint cover, but my copy was actually acquired as a 5 book omnibus from Amazon last month. Try holding that baby up, when you’re laying down reading it in bed! Other titles in the edition are Coward’s Kiss, Deadly Honeymoon, The Girl With The Long Green Heart and You Could Call It Murder. 

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

TERRY SHAMES - A KILLING AT COTTON HILL

Synopsis/blurb.......


The chief of police of Jarrett Creek, Texas, doubles as the town drunk. So when Dora Lee Parjeter is murdered, her old friend and former police chief Samuel Craddock steps in. He discovers that a lot of people had it in for Dora Lee. The conniving rascals on the farm next door want her land for nefarious purposes; her estranged daughter could be seeking vengeance; her grandson wants money for art school; and then there's that stranger Dora Lee claimed was spying on her. Does Craddock still have what it takes to find the killer? In this debut novel, the strong, compelling voice of Samuel Craddock illuminates the grandeur and loneliness of the central Texas landscape and reveals the human foibles of the residents in a small Texas town-their pettiness and generosity, their secret vices and true virtues.

I was browsing the internet about 5 or 6 weeks ago, hitting links to my usual crime fiction haunts and from there jumping to other sites, when I chanced upon a review of this as yet unreleased offering from Terry Shames. It’s a debut mystery from the author who grew up in Texas, but currently resides in Northern California. On the assumption that if you don’t ask you don’t get, I shamelessly requested a review copy; lo and behold a couple of weeks later a copy turned up.

As my reading over the past week or so, has hit a bit of a slump, I was hopeful that this small town mystery would ease some of the current gloom and get me out of my funk.  Well, I’m happy to report it did this and more. 

Jarrett Creek is a small Texas town where everybody seems to know everybody else.  Samuel Craddock, widower and retired police chief is shocked by the murder of his friend, Dora Lee Parjeter. As well as shock, Samuel feels some responsibility as Dora Lee had been on the phone to him the night before worrying that there was a strange vehicle up the road from her farm and she felt vulnerable. Craddock had tried to placate his friend and brushed off her concerns.

When Craddock visits the scene of the crime, he exchanges a few words with the attending police officers before sneaking in to the scene of the crime. Dora’s artist grandson, Greg who had been staying with Dora in a shed-cum-artist studio located on her premises speaks with Samuel before being arrested by the police. Craddock’s successor Roddell believes he has the man responsible for the murder and Samuel convinced that Greg’s guilt is a little too convenient decides to get involved.

Craddock enlists the aid of Jenny Sandstone, lawyer and neighbour to spring Greg from jail. After speaking with the grandson at length and confirming his own beliefs that Greg isn’t responsible, but will be railroaded by Roddell. Craddock feels Dora Lee’s murder could be connected to the fears she expressed to him the previous evening and the stranger she felt was spying on her. Roddell’s incompetence and fondness of a drink to the detriment of his police duties is a further spur for Samuel to dig.

As Craddock’s inquiries continue, he crosses paths with her estranged daughter and extended family exploring the possibility that the murder could be related to the inheritance of Dora Lee’s estate and a potential land deal for a racetrack. With his investigation starting to ruffle a few feathers, Samuel falls victim to an arson attack on his property. Undeterred, our trusted ex-police chief doggedly pursues his enquiries to a satisfying conclusion.

Interesting and extremely enjoyable, in my opinion Terry Shames has crafted a wonderful piece of mystery fiction. In Samuel Craddock she has created an honest, likeable and intelligent character. Craddock is a widower and the depiction of his continued affection for his departed wife, Jenny and his on-going loyalty to her memory in how he conducts himself is heart-warming. Craddock decent, steady and blessed with humanity is someone I very much want to read more about in future.  

Second to Craddock’s starring role is Shames’ portrayal of a small town in Texas which is totally convincing and believable. The supporting cast of grandson, daughter, friends, foes and assorted others are equally well developed and rounded, if perhaps slightly less interesting than Craddock.

My favourite book of the month so far and there’s no hesitation in giving it a 5 from 5. Hopefully it's blown away my reading blues!

As mentioned above I cadged a copy from the author. My thanks are due to both her and her publicist, Meghan. I believe the book is due for release 16th July. Check it out!


       

Monday, 24 June 2013

L's ENJOYED, L's UNREAD


Week 12 on the 2013 Crime Fiction Alphabet and it’s the turn of the L’s both enjoyed and unread. Kerrie over at Mysteries in Paradise, very kindly collates all the offerings from other crime fiction bloggers and fans, so it’s worth heading over there to pick up some recommendations for your reading pile.

Lansdale, Lieberman, Levine........3 enjoyed,

 Joe R.  Lansdale – Savage Season

One of my favourite series, though to be honest I haven’t dipped into it for a while and am somewhat hazy about which ones I have read and which I haven’t. Is it a crime to contradict yourself in the same sentence? Well anyway, Hap and Leonard, black, white, gay, straight, loyal, crazy, violent, humorous and fun. I intend to re-read this someday soon (by which I mean in a year or so) and blast through the series. Lansdale is one of those multi-genre authors. He crosses over into horror, fantasy as well as producing quality crime fiction. These are my favourites though.

Here comes Trudy back into Hap's life, thirty-six but looking ten years younger, with long blonde hair and legs that begin under her chin, and the kind of walk that'll make a man run his car off the road. Here comes trouble, says Leonard, and he's right. She was always trouble, but she had this laugh when she was happy in bed that could win Hap over every time. Trudy has a proposition: an easy two hundred thousand dollars, tax-free. It's just a simple matter of digging it up... Hap Collins and Leonard Pine, white and black, straight and gay, are the unlikeliest duo in crime fiction. Savage Season is their debut.


Herbert Lieberman – City Of The Dead

Lieberman was quite a big noise back in the 70’s and early 80’s. Still alive today he was last published around 1996 and has a total output of 11 books, several of which I have read. Not much of what I read in the 80’s has stayed with me to be honest, but I can recall being stunned by this superb novel. Bleak, haunting, scary and sad, I have kept hold of my copy over the years, ready to re-read at some point in the future. Highly recommended.   

Paul Konig is Chief Medical Examiner, New York City. Each day's grisly workload of strangled whores, battered babies and dismemebered corpses is just routine to him. Contemptuous of the police, the public and his fellow-doctors, he presides over the morgue like a monarch. But things can go wrong, even for Konig. . . Not only has his daughter been kidnapped, he's up against a dead-end in the most gruesome multiple murder case of his career. And he's running out of time. . .
Paul Levine – To Speak For The Dead
I read and enjoyed this maybe 20 years ago. I was corresponding with a friend in Arizona maybe 7 or 8 years ago and he expressed a similar love of Levine's fiction. He was kind enough to send me some more of the Lassiter books and some from his other series Solomon vs. Lord. I have tried both but Lassiter remains a firm favourite though and one I plan on revisiting at some point in the future. 
Miami trail lawyer Jake Lassiter, "ex-football player, ex-public defender, ex-a-lot-of-things," is defending Dr. Roger Salisbury, a surgeon and womanizer charged with malpractice in the death of wealth Philip Corrigan. But the dead man's daughter insists that the doctor and her sexy stepmother conspired to kill her father-and wants Lassiter to prove it.

Can Lassiter really defend his client for malpractice and builds a case against him for murder? tuming to help to the wisdom of his old friend, retired county coroner Charlie Riggs, Lassiter hopes to get the evidence he needs from the dead man himself. But outside the courtroom, he soon finds more trouble that he ever imagined possible-murder, missing persons, grave robbery, kinky sex, and deadly drugs-as he searched Florida's steamy streets and tropical swamps for a cold-blooded killer.

"Paul Levine has created himself a hero crafted for the 1990s...Levine keeps the plot spinning and the pages tuming."-United Press International
The Lassiter series to date is:

Leonard, Little, Le Carre ..........3 unread, 
Peter Leonard – Quiver
Hands up time! When this was initially published, I was pretty scornful of a couple of reviews for the author, perhaps believing it was a case of nepotism at play. I was at an age where I should have known better. Peter, son of Elmore, has subsequently written 4 or 5 well received crime fiction books. It would be useful if I actually read the thing before passing judgement, something I will get around to one of these years. Apologies for now, Mr Leonard.   
One of the most riveting and powerful new voices in crime fiction, Peter Leonard delivers a razor-sharp debut thriller.

Kate McCall's husband has been killed by her son, Luke, in a tragic bow-hunting accident. While Kate struggles with her son's surly guilt, her first love, Jack, an ex-con, reappears, along with a crew of his former "colleagues." While Jack must convince his partners in crime that he really did lose the heist money, his appearance sets into motion a series of events culminating in a life-and-death confrontation with a gang of killers.

Leonard displays remarkable maturity for a first-time novelist in both the plotting of the story and the language of his protagonists. The twists and turns of a love affair, an unrequited crush, and a kidnapping/extortion plot complement a tightly drawn, intimate cast of memorably quick and dim-witted characters.

Quiver marks the breakthrough of a new force in thriller writing---an explosive and unforgettable debut.   
"With its clever plotting and blood-and-guts characters, Quiver will certainly put Peter Leonard on the map. This is the start of something special."
Michael Connelly
"Quiver's supercharged plot, rhythmic dialogue, and cool-under-pressure characters kept me reading into the night. An impressive, exciting debut from Peter Leonard."
George Pelecanos
"Peter Leonard has a good ear for voices, a good eye for detail, and a talent for bringing together elements that can't do anything but explode."
Thomas Perry
"Quiver is a surprise and a delight, a twisty deadpan troll through some very devious neighborhoods. I welcome Peter Leonard and look forward to whatever he wants to offer next."
Donald E Westlake
Eddie Little – Another Day In Paradise
I have this and his other book Steel Toes both sitting unread for longer than the author has been deceased. From the Los Angeles Times on 23rd May, 2003....
Eddie Little, whose first novel, "Another Day in Paradise" (1998), was a fictionalized account of his life as a drug addict, thief, con man and convicted criminal, died Tuesday of a heart attack in a Los Angeles motel room. He was 48.
Born in Los Angeles and one of three children, he said that his father, a schoolteacher, taught him to read by twisting his arms behind his back and squeezing tighter if he mispronounced a word. After that, Little said, he became a compulsive reader and writer.
When Bobbie meets Mel he' 14, a 'very fucked-up kid', shooting speed, eating pills, surviving by robbing vending machines, petty burglaries,stealing stereos out of cars...Mel knows things - like how to crack a safe, the best way to set up bogus checking accounts, the fine art of cutting through walls and ceilings - he teaches Bobbie not only how to survive, but how to actually thrive. As Bobbie says, it's 'kinda like Jesuit training for thieves'.
John Le Carre – Our Game
I had this as a present for either my birthday or at Christmas from one of my sisters back in 1995.(I’m assuming she bought it when it was published.) Having in the past year or two extended my genre reading into espionage and thriller territory, I am anticipating that it won’t be another 18 years before I eventually get to this! I have managed to read one of the George Smiley books and hope to read my way through the whole series at some point.
Tim Cranmer, retired secret servant and Larry Pettifer, bored radical don, philanderer and for 20 years Tim's mercurial double agent against the now vanished Communist threat, have an unresolved rivalry that dates back decades. They follow each other to Moscow and then Southern Russia. 




Next week, I'll be back with some M's and M's!


  

Thursday, 20 June 2013

ASA LARSSON - THE SAVAGE ALTAR


Synopsis/blurb.........

On the floor of a church in northern Sweden, the body of a man lies mutilated and defiled - and in the night sky, the aurora borealis dances as the snow begins to fall....So begins Ãsa Larsson's spellbinding thriller, winner of Sweden's Best First Crime Novel Award and an international literary sensation.

Rebecka Martinsson is heading home to Kiruna, the town she'd left in disgrace years before. A Stockholm attorney, Rebecka has a good reason to return: her friend Sanna, whose brother has been horrifically murdered in the revivalist church his charisma helped create. Beautiful and fragile, Sanna needs someone like Rebecka to remove the shadow of guilt that is engulfing her, to forestall an ambitious prosecutor and a dogged policewoman. But to help her friend, and to find the real killer of a man she once adored and is now not sure she ever knew, Rebecka must relive the darkness she left behind in Kiruna, delve into a sordid conspiracy of deceit, and confront a killer whose motives are dark, wrenching, and impossible to guess...

Well this was my first taste of another new female author and was my chosen Scandinavian read for the current month. I enjoyed it, though the first part of the book was a bit of a slog. If I’m truthful, I think this is more down to me rather than the author, particularly as the last 160-odd pages only took me a day to cover, as I became more absorbed in the story.   

On a personal level, my reading mojo appears to have deserted me this month. I‘m less driven to read at the minute and more easily distracted, tiredness seems to have over-taken me and whilst I will try and keep at it and read more this month, at the minute is seems to be less of a pleasure and more of a chore. I’m not beating myself up over it and I think I will give myself this month off from all my series reads and choose a bit more randomly for the last half of the month, with the hope of recapturing the elusive feel good factor. I sometimes think that by structuring my reading so rigidly eg next Block, next Crais, next Collins, next Scandinavian, I’ve limited my options and removed too much spontaneity from my selections.

Anyway, back to Larsson’s book........I was interested in and liked the main character Rebecka, whose admirable loyalty towards Sanna was abused and taken advantage of. Intelligent and tenacious, she was brave enough to confront her past and face her demons in an effort to uncover the motive for Viktor’s death; believing her friend innocent of the crime.

Larsson’s other characters were engaging and believable; especially Rebecka’s friend Sivving and the two police officers involved in the case. There was the token officious jobs-worth in the form of the prosecutor, but on the whole the characters were convincing.

Overall, I found it fast-paced and enjoyable with a satisfying conclusion. I’m in two minds whether I will be back for further Martinsson books, mainly because I need to read some of the many already waiting for me. The others are:

2. The Blood Spilt (2007)

3. The Black Path (2008)

4. Until Thy Wrath be Past (2011)

It might be worth noting that this has been published elsewhere under the title Sun Storm.

4 stars from 5

I’m unsure where or when I acquired my copy.

                         

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

K's ENJOYED, K's UNREAD

Week 11 and the K's are up for attention on this year's hike through the Crime Fiction Alphabet. Other bloggers picks can be found over at Mysteries in Paradise, where Kerrie collates and organises things for us all.

I'm spoilt for choice this week, ignoring the likes of Jonathan Kellerman, Stephen King, Jonathan King and Day Keene but still presenting a strong line-up.

I was briefly tempted to trash the two Marek Krajewski books I've read, but why bother? Let's accentuate the positives in the genre.


King, Kostoff, Koenig.....3 enjoyed!
 

Danny King – The Burglar Diaries

King has had a few laddish crime books out, including further diaries entries – Hitman, Pornographer and Bank-robber. Probably not everyone’s cup of tea, but it amused and entertained me when I read it maybe 10 years or so ago. I’ll get back to this and the further entries at some point in the future, assuming I stop buying more books.  

The first-person account of petty thief Bex: a bit of a geezer, who, with long-time partner-in-crime Ollie, just about gets by on the money he makes from house-breaking in small-time suburbia.

Lynn Kostoff = The Long Fall

A much under-rated author who deserves a higher profile and a wider audience. I absolutely loved this when I read it exactly a year ago. It must have been good because my wife enjoyed it also, when my books passed over to her can be hit and miss. I have tracked down his other two books – A Choice Of Nightmares and Late Rain but haven’t yet cracked the spines on them.

In sun-baked Phoenix, Arizona, this never-predictable tale tosses into its antic mix a dead father, his two sons–one a small-time ex-con with a consistent genius for sabotaging his own best interests, the other a straight, uptight solid citizen with a moneymaking chain of dry-cleaning stores and a restive ex-stewardess of a wife named Evelyn.

Recently released from prison for possession of a truckload of black-market saguaro cacti-and in deep debt to an unforgiving crank dealer, Jimmy Coates returns home only to discover that his brother has cut him out of his inheritance. A not-unjustifiable desire to settle old scores and new sends Jimmy on a robbery spree that wipes out four of his brother’s dry-cleaning establishments. But when he finds himself tumbling for a mutinously sexy Evelyn, the impulse to vengeance reverses itself.

Unwittingly, however, Jimmy has already set in motion a series of dangerous consequences-adultery, blackmail, love, betrayal-that culminate in a blueprint for murder. And it could be Jimmy himself who is taking the long fall.

 “[c]raftily written noir thriller…[d]eft, oddball entertainment.”
Publisher’s Weekly

“[t]here is some genuine suspense and dark humor here. Recommend Kostoff to fans of Carl Hiaasen and Corson Hirschfeld.”
Booklist

“This is a novel that is hard to put down—a quick read. Kostoff has all the moves, all the language down pat for a fast-paced noir thriller.”
RT Book Reviews

Joseph Koenig – Floater

This one of the early crime fiction books that made me fall in love with the genre and set down my reading roots here. I probably read this early 90’s and was blown away by it. Details are hazy now, but I look forward to re-reading it at some point. It was nominated for an Edgar Award in 1987. Koenig followed it up with a few other books, before “disappearing” from the scene for a good few years. He re-surfaced last year with a new book, False Negative.  

 

Review

     "A fast-paced book, well-plotted, with a devastating ending . . . A splendid procedural expressed in sharp, economical, yet sensitive prose."
                                                         The New York Times Book Review

     "A dandy first novel, heavy shades of Elmore Leonard  . . . Mordant humor, snappy dialogue, and frequent plot twists."
                                                             Kirkus Reviews

     "A stunning debut . . . The murderer is the slickest, most charming madman around."
                                                        Providence, Rhode Island, Journal

     "An eerie, gripping tale . . .Cleverly plotted and filled with wonderfully drawn characters."
                                                       Philadelphia Daily News

     "A tightly written and fast-paced book. Koenig, a former reporter, knows how to weave a taut and mesmerizing mystery with well-drawn characters."
                                                          South Bend, Indiana, Tribune

From the Inside Flap

     A wildlife officer hauled in the corpse from a stagnant pool near the Fakahatchee Strand in the Everglades. This "floater" was the ex-wife of Sheriff Buck White, now strangled and discarded in Florida's all-purpose dumping ground.
     White's remorse and vow of vengeance are diverted by a series of missing person cases. The Miami police feel that a murder-and-larceny team is using White's jurisdiction as a hiding place for themselves. They are also using it for the shallow graves of their victims.
     White's tenacious investigation uncovers a pattern behind the series of murders threatening the lonely--and wealthy--women of Florida's Gold Coast. The killer is a man of uncommon resource and wicked intelligence. But he may be wrong to underestimate a hard working country lawman motivated by revenge.
     In this stunning debut, crime reporter Joseph Koenig profiles society's most elusive and vicious criminal: the serial killer. The author explores the cunning and cruel reason of a murderer--and of the man who tracks him down--in the remote and savage beauty of the Everglades bayous. 
 

 Kerr, Kerrigan, Knowles........3 unread.
 
 
Philip Kerr – March Violets
I have it unread for a few years now I’m afraid, though I did come close a wee while ago. I had a borrowed copy of the Berlin Noir trilogy in my car, ready to start at some point, when my car caught fire and although the book didn’t burn by the time the fire brigade soaked it, my loaner was unreadable. Purchased my own copy maybe 7 years ago, but obviously haunted by the fire I never got back to it!  
Publisher's Weekly
The brutality and corruption of Nazi Germany serve as the backdrop for this impressive debut mystery novel. Scottish-born Kerr re-creates the period accurately and with verve; the novel reeks of the sordid decade that saw Hitler's rise to power. Bernhard Gunther is a hard-boiled Berlin detective who specializes in tracking down missing persons--mostly Jews. He is summoned by a wealthy industrialist to find the murderer of his daughter and son-in-law, killed during the robbery of a priceless diamond necklace. Gunther quickly is catapulted into a major political scandal involving Hitler's two main henchmen, Goering and Himmler. The search for clues takes Gunther to morgues overflowing with Nazi victims; raucous nightclubs; the Olympic games where Jesse Owens tramples the theory of Aryan racial superiority; the boudoir of a famous actress; and finally to the Dachau concentration camp. Fights with Gestapo agents, shoot-outs with adulterers, run-ins with a variety of criminals, and dead bodies in unexpected places keep readers guessing to the very end. Narrator Gunther is a spirited guide through the chaos of 1930s Berlin and, more important, a detective cast in the classic mold. Kerr is at work on a sequel to this sparkling and witty tale.
 
Gene Kerrigan – The Midnight Choir
Unread and ignored maybe 6 years or so, I had this copy on my shelf before subsequently acquiring and reading both; Dark Times In The City and more recently The Rage. My favourite Irish author, without a doubt, apologies to Bruen, Burke, Hughes, Brennan and Bateman.  
A sophisticated crime story of contemporary Ireland, The Midnight Choir teems with moral dilemmas as Dublin emerges as a city of ambiguity: a newly scrubbed face hiding a criminal culture of terrible variety. Small-time criminals have become millionaire businessmen, the poor are still struggling to survive, and the police face a world where the old rules no longer apply.
Mike Knowles – Darwin’s Nightmare
I acquired this trilogy maybe 2 years ago, sucked in by Thomas Perry’s blurb. I’m hoping to read it soon before falling too far behind with Knowles output. He had a fourth book out last year – Never Play Another Man’s Game, with another book out this year also.
"An angry charge into a bloody underworld free-for-all where a fighter's survival is earned by what he'll do after the bullet hits him. Mike Knowles is a strong new voice in crime fiction."
Thomas Perry
Wilson has spent his entire life under the radar. Few people know who he is and even less know how to find him. Only two people even know his real occupation, carrying out confidential--and illegal--jobs for a very bad man. But one day he crosses the line, saving his friends and earning the hatred of a vengeful mob boss. He survives only by delving even deeper into the underworld of Hamilton. His next job is deceptively simple--transporting a seemingly harmless bag whose contents are both secret and dangerously valuable. Soon Wilson discovers who the bag's real owners are and just how badly they want it back.
 
Week 12 next week and the L's are in town.


 

Monday, 17 June 2013

DAVID CORBETT - DO THEY KNOW I'M RUNNING


Synopsis/blurb........

From acclaimed author David Corbett, a stunning and suspenseful novel of a life without loyalties and the borders inside ourselves.

Roque Montalvo is wise beyond his eighteen years. Orphaned at birth, a gifted musician, he’s stuck in a California backwater, helping his Salvadoran aunt care for his damaged brother, an ex-marine badly wounded in Iraq. When immigration agents arrest his uncle, the family has nowhere else to turn. Roque, badgered by his street-hardened cousin, agrees to bring the old man back, relying on the criminal gangs that control the dangerous smuggling routes from El Salvador, through Guatemala and Mexico, to the U.S. border.

But his cousin has told Roque only so much. In reality, he will have to transport not just his uncle but two others: an Arab whose intentions are disturbingly vague and a young beauty promised to a Mexican crime lord. Roque discovers that his journey involves crossing more than one kind of border, and he will be asked time and again to choose between survival and betrayal—of his country, his family, his heart.

I wouldn’t say this was the best book I have ever read, but it was enjoyable, interesting and informative, which is all I pretty much ask from any piece of fiction I read.

Corbett shows us life in the US post-9/11 from the viewpoint of the outsiders and disenfranchised. Roque Montalvo and his half-brother Godo, a damaged Iraq war veteran are citizens living with their Salvadoran aunt in California. Godo is suffering PTSD from his tour which he survived with horrific facial burns and mental scarring. Roque is playing his music, drifting along, earning some money but without any real responsibility or direction in his life. Their aunt and uncle eke out an existence on the breadline working in a supermarket and trucking loads respectively.

When his uncle is deported back to El Salvador after being arrested in a raid by immigration, the brothers’ cousin, Happy, enlists Roque’s help to get him back in the country. Happy having been previously deported and having returned successfully to the States himself, after paying feared Salvadoran gang, Mara Salvatrucha for passage through Guatemala and Mexico, is confident the same people traffickers can bring Tio Faustino back.

Roque out of a sense of duty towards family goes south to start a perilous trek back with his uncle and a couple of other hostages to fortune. Happy having arranged this end of the deal, hedges his bets by involving the same immigration guy that was involved in the original deportation. One of his uncle’s travelling companions is a Palestinian that Happy knew in Iraq when he was working out there. Samir Sadiq’s motives for infiltration into the US are unknown and worthy of being used as a bartering chip with the Feds to secure his own and his uncle’s permanent citizenship. The other transportee is Lupe, a Salvadoran singer and beauty due for delivery to a Mexican drug-lord en route.

Pretty straightforward then, until Happy and his cousin get crossed by the MS-13’s, setting off a chain of violent events both north and south of the border. Roque’s developing feelings for Lupe brings him into conflict with Samir at a time when the four travellers only have each other to trust and depend upon.

Immigration, drugs, war, security, terrorism, borders, people trafficking, renegade gun dealers, violence, betrayal, family loyalties and death all figure as Roque, Tio, Lupe and Samir continue the perilous journey north.     

My verdict; I found it interesting, engaging, though provoking and intelligent. Decent people facing harsh realities with little control over their fate pitted against faceless bureaucrats and violent gangsters happy to cause carnage and inflict death without regret, both pursuing their set agendas.

4 stars from 5

This is the author’s fourth book, originally published in 2010 and was my first taste of David Corbett. I will be reading more form Corbett in the future. His earlier books are listed below:

The Devil's Redhead (2002)

Done for a Dime (2003)

Blood of Paradise (2007)

I was sent a copy of this book by an internet friend from New York, who loved it. Cheers Mantan!  Show more


 

 

Thursday, 13 June 2013

FIRST SENTENCE HOOK

I received a book I had ordered this morning through the mail. It's the third book in a series, though needless to say I haven't yet read either of the first two, a big surprise........ not!

Handling the book and admiring the cover and flicking to the first page.........." On Saturday she watched Robert have sex with four women. She had sex with two men."......I'm instantly hooked.

I have no real interest myself in indulging in any extra marital relationships, and I'll try (not always successfully) to withhold judgement on anyone who does, but I'm immediately drawn into this book after 10 written words. I want to read about this woman, her husband and her family and as it's a crime novel, falling under the police procedural umbrella - I want to discover what happens to her and whether the behaviour exhibited above is integral to the mystery or incidental. I have loads of unanswered questions in my head already.

Because I haven't read the first two and I'm a bit OCD, I will reluctantly set this aside.

The second book that came in the mail this morning, has a first sentence.

"My big mistake was allowing happiness to creep in." I'm intrigued but it hasn't quite got the same pizzazz (is that even a word?) as the first book.

No prizes on offer, but can anyone guess the first book, both author and title, with a few clues?

Police procedural series, running to at least three titles, but this one was first released in 2005 so there could be more, author is fairly prolific with one other series and a lot of standalone books as well, and he hails from a land down under.........I've probably made it too easy now for both regular readers of the blog!

What's the first sentence in your current read and did it grab you instantly?

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

SUE GRAFTON - A IS FOR ALIBI


Synopsis/blurb........

My name is Kinsey Millhone. I’m a private investigator, licensed by the state of California. I’m thirty-two years old, twice divorced, no kids. The day before yesterday I killed someone and the fact weighs heavily on my mind . . .’ When Laurence Fife was murdered, few cared. A slick divorce attorney with a reputation for ruthlessness, Fife was also rumoured to be a slippery ladies’ man. Plenty of people in the picturesque Southern California town of Santa Teresa had reason to want him dead. Including, thought the cops, his young and beautiful wife, Nikki. With motive, access and opportunity, Nikki was their number one suspect. The Jury thought so too. Eight years later and out on parole, Nikki Fife hires Kinsey Millhone to find out who really killed her husband. But the trail has gone cold and there is a chilling twist even Kinsey didn’t expect . . . ‘Skilful and ingenious’ Irish Times ‘I love Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone novels . . . you are never disappointed’ Guardian ‘Will keep you awake until the last page has been turned’ Daily Mail

 

Well having admonished myself for ignoring the female crime writing fraternity for not months, in truth years, I have decided to address that deficiency in my reading. As an aside, I was once browsing a second hand book store and picked up a book - Bleedout  - authored by I thought John Brady, on closer examination it was actually written by Joan Brady............so I put it back, why? I can’t really explain. Any way glossing over that example of blatant sexism, we return to Sue Grafton and the first in her Alphabet series starring Kinsey Millhone.

Kinsey is hired by Nikki Fife to uncover who killed her adulterous husband, Laurence. Nikki having just been released from prison after serving eight years for the murder professes her innocence and wants Millhone to dig into the past.

Having had a passing acquaintance with the dead Laurence and a vague recollection of his murder, Kinsey starts looking over the original investigation, discovering there was a second fatality exactly like Fife’s death a short period afterwards. Libby Glass, an accountant who crossed paths with Laurence Fife was poisoned in exactly the same way as the lawyer, though her client was never charged.

Kinsey backtracks into Fife’s personal and business relationships as well as looking at Libby Glass’ surviving family believing that there is an obvious link between the two crimes. Gwen, who was Fife’s first wife and Charlie Scorsoni, Fife’s friend and former business partner are obvious avenues for information as well as Fife’s children with Gwen and one of his rumoured sexual partners who may have held something over him judging by her attitude towards him in the workplace; Sharon Napier.

Fast forward to page 345, a longish book for a first novel and Grafton brings Millhone’s first highlighted investigation to a satisfying conclusion.

And the verdict was........ interesting and enjoyable, albeit a little bit different from the male PIs I have been reading a lot of lately. Whilst Matthew Scudder and Elvis Cole can on occasion be drawn into physical violence and their authors can engage the readers with a bout of fisticuffs, this approach is never really going to work for Kinsey, particularly as Grafton has not gifted her a skill-set involving the martial arts. Instead Millhone uses intelligence, tenacity and a logical approach to her sleuthing. When the inevitable confrontations arise, she doesn’t lack for bravery.  

I didn’t really feel a great warmth or affection for our heroine, as yet. I was probably more of an interested bystander watching Millhone’s enquiry progress. Kinsey has a past, with two failed marriages behind her. She lives economically in a small apartment, with apparently no close friends or family. She enjoys sex and alcohol when it’s available, but has no addiction or issues with either. She appears to be alone without being lonely. Definitely someone I would like to read more about, particularly in the hope of discovering more about her past. I’ll be back at some point with B, then probably C and maybe D, but not straight away.

4 stars from 5

I picked up my copy by swapping on the Readitswapit  website in exchange for something else.
 
I do anticipate reading further female written fiction this month. Go me!