Wednesday, 31 July 2013

JULY, 2013 - READING LIST


10 books read in the month which is probably the minimum I aim for. 6 of the books were new authors to me, 6 heralded from the US, with 2 from the UK, 1 from Norway and 1 from Ireland. I kept up to date on my Scandinavian and Award winner challenges I set myself, plus I also managed to read my Goodreads monthly book choice. I only got back to one of my series reads, so with a blank couple of months on that front, part of me thinks I have abandoned them for good, but I will see how I go this month.

Nothing stank for me this month, a few averagely enjoyable reads and the majority were above average.
Only 1 stand out book this month and it was the last thing I read - Gregory Widen's Blood Makes Noise, my choice for my book of the month.

Full list of the July reads below, with my rating from 5 after them.

Bill Pronzini - Blowback (4)

Joseph Hansen - Fadeout (4)

Stanley Ellin - Mirror, Mirror On The Wall (4)

Alan Bennett -  Smut (3)

Jo Nesbo - Headhunters (3)

Belinda Bauer - Blacklands (4)

Harlan Coben -  No Second Chance (3)

Jake Hinkson - Hell On Church Street (4)

Gerard Brennan - Possession, Obsession And A Diesel Compression Engine (4)

Gregory Widen - Blood Makes Noise (5)

Q's ENJOYED, Q's UNREAD

It’s time for this week’s installment on the 2013 Crime Fiction Alphabet Journey hosted by Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise. Visit her website and see what other blogging participants in the journey have selected for their choice this week.

The Q’s are up for scrutiny this week and it’s fair to say I’m not overly spoilt for choice here. Racking brain frantically for a couple of days, I’ve been unable to find 3 qualifying reads I have made in the genre.

Quirk, Quinlan.........2 enjoyed

Joe Quirk – The Ultimate Rush

No Exit Press published this in the UK back in 1999, I had never heard of the author and probably seduced by the cover bought the book. I sat it on the shelf until the mid-2000’s when I finally got around to reading it. Fast, exciting and a little bit unbelievable. Ok in as much as it wasn’t the worst book I ever read. I never really troubled myself to keep tabs on the author to see what else he might have done. Not especially a recommendation, just a “Q” I’ve read that pads the post out. I wouldn’t put anyone off reading it either.

As the sole rollerblade courier at a San Francisco delivery service, Chet Griffin is the fastest messenger in town. Every day, he delivers critically confidential packages, but when he hands over an already-opened envelope containing a floppy disk with billion-dollar information, a deadly serious customer demands satisfaction. On a routine run, Chet's co-worker gets killed, the finger's pointed at him, and Chet finds himself on a rush job to save his own life.

Patrick Quinlan – Smoked

Smoked came out in 2006 and the author seemed to be on a bit of a roll, with 3 more books out up until 2009, The Takedown, The Drop-Off and The Hit. Since then nothing, whether the creative juices have dried up or he’s been dropped by his publisher or he’s had a complete career change, I don’t know. I enjoyed Smoked and the second and third books and the last is waiting on the TBR pile. I like tales of a lone man up against an organisation and this is a great one.


Smoke Dugan is on the run. An aging bomb-maker, he was a prized asset to organized crime for most of his life. But when he finds out that one of his bombs was used to take down a plane with innocent women and children aboard, he is furious. He takes his revenge, killing the mafia boss and taking his 2.5 million. Now he’s the most wanted man on the east coast. Hiding out in Portland, Maine, only delays the inevitable as one by one, some of the most memorable killers, hit men and lowlifes in recent fiction take their shot at Smoke and his tough-as-nails girlfriend, martial arts expert Lola Bell. As the cat and mouse game plays out, the only thing left is a violent showdown on the streets of Portland in a conclusion that will leave readers gasping for breath.

Quigley, Quinn, Quirk, Quammen..............4 unread

Sheila Quigley – Run For Home

This one came out in 2004, the first in a 5 book series featuring Lorraine Hunt. My wife read and enjoyed the first 3. All her books, including her current second series featuring a male DI this time, carry song titles as the name of the novel. My wife enjoyed the ones she read, so at some point I should try a new female author, with a strong female lead. The series runs as follows:  
Lorraine Hunt
1. Run for Home (2004)
2. Bad Moon Rising (2005)
3. Living on a Prayer (2006)
4. Every Breath You Take (2007)
5. The Road to Hell (2009)

It's 1985. A man is hunted down and killed by a woman assassin known as The Head Hunter. Sixteen years later, his body turns up and Detective Inspector Lorraine Hunt is called in to investigate. The day the body is found, Claire Lumsdon is the victim of a violent kidnap - the fourth in a series of abductions of young girls. For Claire and her sixteen-year-old sister Kerry, it's the beginning of a nightmare. Convinced the police can't help, Kerry sets out on a frantic search for her sister. But her hunt leads her to much more than she'd bargained for: a violent underworld; a sixteen year old murder; and, finally, the secrets about her past - and her father - which her mother hoped she'd never have to face. And all the time, the clock is ticking for Claire –

Peter Quinn – Hour of the Cat

If it wasn’t for my participation in the Alphabet journey, I probably wouldn’t have this recently acquired book on my shelf. Browsing through the mystery section for Q surnamed authors on Fantastic Fiction I happened on this author and his 3 book historical mystery series featuring Fintan Dunne, the third of which is published in October. If I enjoy this one, I will probably go for the second. It’s not like I have too many unread books already!

On the eve of World War II, "just another little murder" in New York City draws two vastly different men - an American detective and a German admiral - into the Gathering Storm. Hour of the Cat is a stunning achievement: tautly suspenseful, hauntingly memorable, and brilliantly authentic.

Matthew Quirk – The 500

I noticed this last year when browsing the shelves of my local supermarket. I managed to resist the urge to buy, though I was tempted. Cheapskate that I am, when I saw a second hand copy earlier this year in a local charity shop, I willingly shelled out my pound to buy it. It could be possibly more of a thriller than a crime novel, who knows?  Its premise reminds me of the John Grisham novel/film The Firm, which I have seen but not read.

Mike Ford is a former con artist who's been plucked from his Harvard Law School classroom to be an associate at The Davies Group, Washington's most high-powered and well-respected strategic consulting firm. Their specialty: pulling strings and peddling influence for the five hundred most powerful people inside the Beltway, the men and women who really run Washington -- and by extension the country, and the world.

The namesake of the firm, Henry Davies, knows everyone who matters; more importantly, he knows their secrets. Davies' experience goes back 40 years -- he worked for Lyndon Johnson, jumped shipped to Nixon, then put out his own shingle as the Hill's most cut-throat and expensive fixer. Now he's looking for a protégé to tackle his most high-stakes deal yet, and Mike fits the bill.
Quickly pulled into a seductive, dangerous web of power and corruption, Mike struggles to find his way out. But how do you save your soul when you've made a deal with the devil?

David Quammen – The Soul of Viktor Tronko

Synchronicity? Coincidence? I was browsing an old National Geographic magazine on Sunday that a friend of my wife had passed onto me and I happened on an article written by David Quammen. Not the one and the same guy? The guy responsible for “Viktor Tronko,” a highly regarded (in some quarters at least) spy novel that has sat around for a couple of years unread on the Criminal Library shelves? Apparently yes. Quammen in recent years has concentrated on nature/science writing. This novel with the name – Viktor Tronko – just piques and intrigues me and makes me want to read about him. Time to pull my finger out and get to it soon!   

Peacefully engrossed in writing a biography of a termite collector, Kessler gets a surprise visit from an old friend. Mel is a one-time CIA agent now ready to reveal an espionage event that occurred two decades earlier. When Mel is murdered, Kessler is seduced by the whiff of a really big story. He pursues the leads that suggest one Victor Tronko was a fake defector let loose to mask the presence of a KGB mole in the CIA's highest levels. When Kessker dislodges the wasps' nest, retribution strikes. Sinuously intricate and compellingly realistic, this cloak-and-dagger caper will be as well received as The Zolta Configuration. While most thrillers let the reader bob like a cork on the surface, this author's knack is to draw down a reader's full attention with complicated dialogue, shifts in narrative, and intense activity. Barbara Conaty, Medical Coll. of Wisconsin, Milwaukee




Next week it’s the turn of the R’s.


Tuesday, 30 July 2013

GREGORY WIDEN - BLOOD MAKES NOISE


Synopsis/blurb....

On a summer’s night in 1955, CIA agent Michael Suslov is summoned to a secret vault in the heart of Buenos Aires. His mission: transport the corpse of Eva Peron to a new hiding place in the wake of her husband’s fall from power. But before Michael can comply, everything goes tragically, horribly wrong…

Sixteen years later, Michael Suslov is a ghost of a man, an ex-government agent living off the radar—and the only soul alive who knows where Evita is buried. When an old friend from Argentine Military Intelligence appeals to him for help bringing the body home, Michael agrees, hoping this final mission will quiet the demons from his past. But he’s not the only one on a recovery mission: two rogue CIA agents are tracking him, desperate to unearth Evita before Michael does—and to claim the secret millions they believe she took to her grave.
Based on a little-known yet fascinating true story, Blood Makes Noise is a brilliant examination of the power of the dead over the lives of the living.

This book is the author’s first novel. Gregory Widen, a former fire-fighter and now a screenwriter and director has many films and projects on his cv. Highlander (1986) and Backdraft (1991) are the two I am most familiar with.   

Argentinean history wasn’t something that I was taught much (any, actually) of in school and my first awareness of this nation would have been as a young football-mad teenager, thrilled by the exploits of Mario Kempes and amazed at the passion and unity displayed by the supporters during their triumphant hosting of the 1978 World Cup. The previous debuting of the famous musical in 1976, Evita - based on the life and death of Eva Peron would have passed my twelve year old self by, quite easily. Fast forward to 1982 in England and Thatcher’s Falklands War brought Argentina back into my consciousness.  

Suffice to say, I began reading this book fairly ignorant of Evita and the shadow she cast over Argentina both when she was alive and for many years after her death (and for all I know of the country, still does today). 
As a captivating tale, steeped in fact and historical detail, I probably enjoyed it much more because of my lack of previous knowledge.

Blending fact and fiction, Widen has created a captivating narrative involving a sympathetic and at times pitiful CIA agent, Michael Suslov. Suslov, married and a father-to-be is the eye and ear in Buenos Aires of the OSS/fledgling CIA. Isolated at work, Suslov shares an office with the FBI, which at this period under J. Edgar Hoover was deeply mistrustful of its younger, rival US intelligence agency. Shorn of support from his own “team”, Suslov is drawn closer to the enigmatic Hector, an Argentinean intelligence officer. Hector with dog-cane stick and his limp, whilst physically frail, is sharp enough mentally to stay on the right side of trouble in his home town. Seemingly impervious to the winds of change in Argentina, untroubled with Peron in power, similarly at ease with Peron in exile in Spain and a succession of fragile governments holding sway.

Evita; popular in life amongst the millions of Argentinean poor who loved Her like no other public figure was despised and feared by the rich. Her death in 1952 from cancer, in Her early 30’s, failed to rid the country of Her influence and Her memory was increasingly a de-stabilising influence on the establishment in the years following Her death. The subsequent attempts to stifle the Peronistas, led to the audacious plan to dis-interr Her remains and remove Her from the political landscape.  Suslov’s involvement with Hector in the plan, whilst ultimately successful, leads to the fracture of his family life in horrendous circumstances. Suslov buries Eva in secret, in Italy and departs the scene to the US and an existence in a shambolic pill-addled nightmare.

*Widen often refers to Eva as “Her” in his narrative, recognising the breadth of shadow she casts over all the characters in his compelling narrative. Whilst she is the central, iconic figure within the book, Widen doesn’t shy away from airing some of the less flattering postulations on Peron. Namely, she stole millions from her people and country during her life, which she secreted in Switzerland and that she was to put it mildly, a bit of a loose woman, prior to taking up with Juan Peron......fact? conjecture? Who knows, though it does add layers to the tapestry that Widen paints.  

With the passing of the years and the on-set of the 70’s, Hector resurfaces. Argentina is still a country in turmoil, but the time might be right to bring Eva home. Suslov having survived one nightmare has a shot at redemption. With his life empty of meaning, Michael re-ignites his relationship with Argentina’s dead ex-First Lady. Unfortunately for Suslov he isn’t the only one obsessed with Evita and the millions she banked.  

An explosive finale with a chase across Europe ensues.    

Fact, fiction, history, power, corruption, intrigue, family, loss, obsession.....all play out in a fascinating novel. If I have one criticism it would be that at 442 pages long, it was a bit too short! Not often you’ll hear me carping about something of this length being too brief. The reality was, I was enjoying it too much to want it to finish.

5 from 5

I was fortunate to receive a copy of the book from Rachel Kinnard at Media Connect, New York – many thanks!


Monday, 29 July 2013

GERARD BRENNAN - POSSESSION, OBSESSION AND A DIESEL COMPRESSION ENGINE

Synopsis/blurb......
Possessed by the Devil. Obsessed with Rock and Roll. Under the spell of a charismatic Ford Focus driven by a diesel compression engine and a thirst for motor oil. This little collection of horror stories spruced up by a healthy splash of Northern Irish smart-arsery revisits some classic themes and tips its hat to some new ones. You'll laugh, gasp and cringe, at times all at once.

Possession, Obsession and a Diesel Compression Engine is a short collection of six interlinked comic-horror stories. A fun, fast and Faustian read.

If you enjoyed FIREPROOF, this is a perfect companion read.

"The freshness of the voice in this collection of stories is very welcome, as is the cut-throat pace with which the action happens. These are not sprawling tales of morality and comeuppance, rather these are punch to the groin (in some cases literally) bits of story where everybody needs to be on their toes, the reader included." - Pete S. Allen SFReader.com

"If Robert Rankin was from Northern Ireland and had been reading a lot of R. Scott Taylor and Paulo Coelho, PODCE is the book he would write." - 'Critical' Mick Halpin

“Gerard Brennan is a master of gritty violence.” - Colin Bateman

About the author:

Gerard Brennan is the author of the novels, WEE ROCKETS and FIREPROOF, the novella, THE POINT, and co-editor of REQUIEMS FOR THE DEPARTED, a collection of crime fiction based on Irish myths. He lives in Dundrum, Northern Ireland.

6 short stories dealing with primarily the devil and music.  This was a short and fun blast of irreverent humour from the author. I probably won’t find myself pondering on these stories in the days ahead but I enjoyed them and it was a decent way to wake up over a couple of mornings with a strong coffee and a Brennan short or two.

Truth be told, my preference is for the author’s longer work where he can develop characters in greater depth but he definitely entertains. Not a stinker amongst the six, which is unusual for a short story collection, where there are usually a couple of weaker offerings. 

My favourite of the bunch was a tale concerning exorcism. From my previous experiences with Catholic priests, I can’t recall their language being quite as colourful, but hey the world’s moved on since I was a boy! Fierce and funny!    

4 from 5

The author was kind enough to send me a copy of this for a read.  


Friday, 26 July 2013

JAKE HINKSON - HELL ON CHURCH STREET

Synopsis/blurb.....

A small Baptist church in Arkansas should be easy pickings for a natural born con man like Geoffrey Webb. But after talking himself into a cushy job as a youth minister, he becomes obsessed with the preacher's teenage daughter. When their relationship is discovered by a corrupt local sheriff named Doolittle Norris, Webb's easy life begins to fall apart. Backed by a family of psychotic hillbillies, Sheriff Norris forces Webb into a deadly scheme to embezzle money from the church. What the Norris clan doesn't understand is that Geoffrey Webb is more dangerous than he looks, and he has brutal plans of his own.

I’ll be honest, I don’t know a busting lot about this author to be truthful, though I have now established that he can write! He has had two books published to date. His other title, The Posthumous Man I have on my kindle-pc-reader-thingy also.

At 200-odd pages long, I should have finished this a lot more quickly than I did. I managed about 60 pages on my first day of opening it, before circumstance conspired to keep me away from my laptop. Earlier this week, I got back to it, soon picking up where I left off and blitzed through the last 140 pages in a few hours early morning reading, whilst the rest of the house slept.

This was a strange little book with an engaging but manipulative protagonist; one with his eye on the prize of the preacher’s daughter. Geoffrey Webb, our main man, intent on showing Angela, more than just a path to the Lord, meets his match (or does he) when he crosses paths with the Sheriff in a small Arkansas town.

Violent, funny, irreverent and for me enjoyable and entertaining; Hell on Church Street doesn’t deal in happy endings, but was a blast while it lasted. Hinkson’s portrayal of a small town church community with its petty squabbles and manoeuvrings was fantastic.

Not the sort of book that is ever likely to trouble the best-seller lists, and it probably won’t appeal to a lot of readers. It worked well for me though.

4 stars from 5....and an immediate reshuffling of Mount TBR putting The Posthumous Man closer to the top.

I got this sometime last year on Amazon.

         

HARLAN COBEN - NO SECOND CHANCE

Synopsis/blurb....

No Second Chance is yet another of Harlan Coben's terrifying explorations of the worst of fears--Marc Seidman wakes in hospital after narrowly surviving a shooting in which his wife died and their baby daughter went missing. The handover of a ransom from his rich in-laws goes wrong and Seidman realises that he is not only without wife and daughter--and the sister who may have been an accomplice--but he is also the principal suspect. The reader knows even more than Seidman just how much jeopardy he is in--Coben does a brilliantly disturbing job of introducing us to a pair of psychotics who are in charge of the ransom plot and who plan to take Seidman and his in-laws for another ride into insecurity and hell. Marc turns to the one person he thinks can help him--the ex-girlfriend who still has a place in his heart and used to be a senior Federal agent. The problem is that Rachel comes with baggage, and enemies, all of her own...

Coben is one of the crime writers I enjoy who is probably more mainstream than some of the authors I read. Chances are that after 24 or 25 books, you’ve happened on at least of couple of his titles when browsing the crime section of your local bookshop. He’s written a series of 10 books featuring  Myron Bolitar that has now digressed into a series of 2 so far, starring Myron’s nephew, Mickey. All of his other books are standalones, including this 2003 effort, No Second Chance.

Over the past year, I have maybe read 4 or 5 Coben’s as he is an author that my wife enjoys. This time around I grabbed this from her as she was struggling a bit to muddle through it. It’s been on the go for a couple of months, picked-up, put down, read a chapter, leave it for a week. When the reading is that spasmodic and interrupted, it’s easy to lose the thread and any interest you may have in the tale barely registers on the barometer.

Well having gained possession, I read about 200 pages on the first day, 100-odd on the second and the last 90 on the third, avoiding the pitfall that my wife had fallen into.   

Verdict....... fast, interesting, enjoyable, likeable characters – including one of the rogues of the piece, a story that whilst stretching the bounds of believability didn’t transgress too far into the realms of fantasy to make me hit the switch to the off button.  Not the best of his I have read, but not the worst either. It was a decent enough filler, that won’t probably remain long in the memory but served a purpose until hopefully the next great read, happens along. Everything was kind of wrapped up nice and neatly at the end, which ironically irritates me just a little bit. If only life turned out like a Harlan Coben book, we’d all probably sleep a lot better in our beds at night, most of the time at least.

3 from 5

My/our copy was second hand and I’m unsure where or when I acquired it, not too recently that’s for sure.

  

Thursday, 25 July 2013

BELINDA BAUER - BLACKLANDS

Synopsis/blurb....

THE BOY WANTED THE TRUTH. THE KILLER WANTED TO PLAY… Twelve-year-old Steven Lamb digs holes on Exmoor, hoping to find a body. Every day after school and at weekends, while his classmates swap football stickers, Steven digs to lay to rest the ghost of the uncle he never knew, who disappeared aged 11 and is assumed to have fallen victim to the notorious serial killer Arnold Avery.
Only Steven’s Nan is not convinced her son is dead. She still waits for him to come home, standing bitter guard at the front window while her family fragments around her. Steven is determined to heal the widening cracks between them before it’s too late. And if that means presenting his grandmother with the bones of her murdered son, he’ll do it.
So the boy takes the next logical step, carefully crafting a letter to Arnold Avery in prison. And there begins a dangerous cat-and-mouse game between a desperate child and a bored serial killer…

I managed to kill two birds with one stone here. Blacklands will probably end up being my one sole female author read this month, but hey one is a bit more than zero isn’t it and Blacklands was also an award winning book, insofar as Bauer bagged the CWA Gold Dagger in 2010 for this impressive debut.

I think this ticked a lot of boxes for me without actually setting me ablaze. It had an interesting, if slightly unbelievable plot. It had a sympathetic main character who at times I wanted to shout at for his passivity in the face of peer conflict. And who at other times, I wanted to smother with support, love, friendship and comfort in the lack of all the aforementioned being forthcoming from his own family. At times Steven cut a heart-breaking, solitary figure in the face of such indifference from those who should have known better. Bauer made me pause and think about my own relationships and whether I always meet the standards of behaviour, I was so quick to judge others by.

Steven’s adversary in the book, Arnold Avery was well-drawn. Clever, interesting, organised and skilled but conversely cold, callous, manipulative and murderous, Avery was shown by Bauer to be human, with qualities as well as defects. More real and frightening for this, rather than being sketched and portrayed as a cartoonish bogeyman with just a dark side.

I was away over the weekend with my better half and still managed to devour the 350 pages in two days, spent sightseeing abroad. A two hour flight helped, as did an afternoon on the beach, albeit some of it spent dozing, but it was testimony to the quality of the prose and the way the plot unfolded quickly that the end seemed to approach in no time at all.

This was my first taste of the author, but on this showing not my last, although unusually for me there is nothing else of hers on the pile waiting.

4 stars from 5 and a strong contender for my book of the month. Why only 4? Just a slight suspension of belief over the premise of a 12 year old being able to communicate with a convicted paedophile. No stunning, amazing 5 star reads for me just yet in July, though there’s still a week to go!


I obtained my copy by swapping another book, on the money saving Readitswapit website a couple of months ago.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

P's ENJOYED, P's UNREAD

The Crime Fiction Alphabet for 2013  hosted by Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise has reached week 16 and we are up to the P’s. Please hit the link to see what other crime fiction fans have posted for this week.

Unlike last week, where I was scratching and scraping to assemble a line-up from the shelves of my collection, this week I probably have too much choice.

Ignoring Gary Phillips, Richard Price, Leonard Padura and Stuart Pawson among others, I have plumped for the following enjoyed and unread selections from over 20 years of crime fiction reading.  


Spoiled for choice this week, I have upped my ante of enjoyed reads to 4! (I was unable to choose which to omit.)  

Petievich, Pelecanos, Patrick, Phillips......4 enjoyed,

Gerald Petievich – Money Men

I discovered Petievich probably in the early 90’s on one of my bi-annual jaunts to the Murder One bookshop in London. Murder One used to be my only available source of non-UK published US crime fiction at that time. Petievich wrote about 9 books in all with his last published in the early 2000’s. He penned a short 3 book series featuring Charlie Carr, a treasury agent. Money Men is the first in the series and also his debut novel. I’ve still got all of his books at home and I have probably read 6 or 7. All of the ones I’ve read were entertaining, short, sharp, fast reads. I couldn’t give you any more detail than that without re-reading, which I’m hoping to do at some point. Petievich is 70 years old next year and I sort of hope he is still writing and may get back in the game with a new book at some point.

Book Description - Charlie Carr is Petievich's ruthless T-Man, a hard-nosed detective in the gutsy, no-nonsense tradition of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. In Money Men, Carr is hot on the trail of two thugs who have gunned down a young undercover agent - a torturous trail that will lead from the smoke-filled hangouts of sordid Chinatown, to a desperate scheme to steal counterfeit money from counterfeiters themselves, and finally, to a brutal blood-drenched confrontation in a magnificent penthouse overlooking the streets of LA's seamy underworld.

George Pelecanos – A Firing Offence


Pelecanos might be better known these days for his work on the acclaimed TV series The Wire. Author of nearly 20 books in the last 20-odd years, since I read my first of his, I have stuck with him. He has a few, complex inter-connecting series with over-lapping characters which are absolutely superb. This one is the first in his series of 3 featuring Nick Stefanos. I’m about 2 books behind with his published writing, so at some point I’ll be inevitably adding to my mountain of unread books. This one would be a good place to start if you are unfamiliar with his work.

When one of Nick Stefanos's stockboys disappears, he is reminded of himself 12 years before - an angry punk hooked on speed metal and the fast life. When the boy's grandfather begs Nick to try and find the kid, Nick says he'll try.


Vincent Patrick – The Pope Of Greenwich Village

Patrick has only authored 3 books, though he has done a lot of work on screenplays. This novel was adapted by him for film and released in 1984 and starred Mickey Rourke. I don’t recall ever seeing it, but maybe one day. “The Pope” is a humorous tale that may or may not have had a little bit of influence on TV series, The Sopranos. I maybe read this 6 or 7 years ago, back sometime when I wasn’t keeping a reading record. I like books that set little guys at odds with Mafia types. I may have another of his books lying around unread at home, but I’m stretching my memory banks. Worth checking this one out if you cross paths with it.

Charlie, nicknamed "The Pope," manager of a New York City restaurant and barely able to stay ahead of his gambling debts, and his pals Paulie and Barney pull a heist that makes them targets of both the Mafia and the police.


Scott Phillips – The Ice Harvest

Fuzzy head time again here. I can’t recall when I read this (at least 10 years ago though) or too much about it to be truthful, but a small fragment of my brain retains the certain knowledge that I absolutely loved it. Another re-read at some point in the future!


It is Christmas Eve in Wichita, Kansas and snowing steadily. The streets are deserted and most people have returned home for the festivities. But Charlie Arglist has to get out of town, and fast. This novel is a rollercoaster ride of black humour, and possibly, the last 24 hours in Charlie's life.






Parker, Price, Perry........3 unread,

T. Jefferson Parker – L.A. Outlaws

Parker is the recipient of a couple of Edgar Awards for best novel back in 2002 for Silent Joe and 2005 for California Girl neither of which I have read, though rest assured they are on the pile. I’ve read the first 3 or 4 of his published books including Little Saigon and Laguna Heat both enjoyable. In 2008 he started a series featuring Charlie Hood of which L.A. Outlaws is the first. To date the series has run to 6 books. When I eventually get around to finishing one of the 6 series I currently have on the go, I may slip this one into the schedule. I need to change up my series reads to introduce a couple involving cops rather than focusing on the solitary PI. Knowing me, I’ll have forgotten about it until next year’s Crime Fiction Alphabet hits the P’s!  

Los Angeles is gripped by the exploding celebrity of Allison Murietta, her real identity unknown, a modern-day Jesse James with the compulsion to steal beautiful things, the vanity to invite the media along, and the conscience to donate much of her bounty to charity. Nobody ever gets hurt--until a job ends with ten gangsters lying dead and a half- million dollars worth of glittering diamonds missing.

Rookie Deputy Charlie Hood discovers the bodies, and he prevents an eyewitness--a schoolteacher named Suzanne Jones--from leaving the scene in her Corvette. Drawn to a mysterious charisma that has him off-balance from the beginning, Hood begins an intense affair with Suzanne. As the media frenzy surrounding Allison's exploits swells to a fever pitch and the Southland's most notorious killer sets out after her, a glimmer of recognition blooms in Hood, forcing him to choose between a deeply held sense of honor and a passion that threatens to consume him completely. With a stone-cold killer locked in relentless pursuit, Suzanne and Hood continue their desperate dance around the secrets that brought them together, unsure whether each new dawn may signal the day their lies catch up with them.

Anthony Price – The Labyrinth Makers

The Labyrinth Makers is the first book in an 18 or 19 long series from Price featuring David Audley. Originally published in 1970, this series is firmly entrenched in the espionage genre; something I hope to read more of in the coming months, years and decades ahead. I have probably only been aware of this author for a couple of years, so the book hasn’t got too much dust on it yet!  

When an RAF Dakota, presumed lost at sea in 1945, is discovered in a drained lake in Lincolnshire, together with its pilot and a cargo of worthless rubble, it falls to David Audley of the MOD to puzzle out just why the Russians are so interested, and what the plane was carrying that is important enough to kill for.





Thomas Perry – Vanishing Act

I haven’t read as much of this author as I would have liked to and I have no-one to blame but myself. My favorite of his so far is The Butcher’s Boy. 

Vanishing Act is the first in his regarded Jane Whitefield series. I think there are about 7 so far. The first 5 have a lot of fans, but the latter 2 which were published after a bit of a hiatus for some reason have been slightly less well received. Maybe next year I’ll get a start on this series. I don't read enough by female authors, which Perry isn't, but it does have a strong female lead, which has also been lacking from my reading.

I do have his latest on reserve at my local library – The Boyfriend, which I will probably read next month. 

Jane Whitefield, a Native American woman whose job is to help people disappear, uses her expertise to assist those looking for a new identity, until she is confronted with a new client, John Felker, who is not what he seems.


Next week, the 17th installment on the Alphabet journey I will be featuring some Q’s from my library; both past and present.


Tuesday, 23 July 2013

JO NESBO - HEADHUNTERS


Synopsis/blurb......

Roger Brown is a corporate headhunter, and he's a master of his profession. But one career simply can't support his luxurious lifestyle and his wife's fledgling art gallery. At an art opening one night he meets Clas Greve, who is not only the perfect candidate for a major CEO job, but also, perhaps, the answer to his financial woes: Greve just so happens to mention that he owns a priceless Peter Paul Rubens painting that's been lost since World War II - and Roger Brown just so happens to dabble in art theft. But when he breaks into Greve's apartment, he finds more than just the painting. And Clas Greve may turn out to be the worst thing that's ever happened to Roger Brown.

With the month fast disappearing and not having got my Scandinavian crime fiction fix yet, I was, after an exchange of views with Keishon from Yet Another Crime Fiction Blog tempted into giving this standalone book by Nesbo a spin.  Nesbo’s adult books tend to deal with his main character Harry Hole in a series of police procedurals, with Headhunters being his sole venture away from Hole.  My first experience of the author was earlier this year when The Bat, his debut novel was finally released in English for the first time. As the second Hole adventure doesn’t appear until towards the end of this year, my OCD tendencies steered me away from later books in the series, that have long been available in the UK.

Well, how did we get on with Headhunters?   
At 380-odd pages long and only taking maybe 2 or 3 working days to read, it was fast and using the old cliché – a bit of a page-turner.

What was our overall assessment? Enjoyable, interesting, one to recommend?
Hmm.... I would have to say I enjoyed it, without actually being able to gush or enthuse about it dramatically. Would I recommend it.........I wouldn’t put anyone off reading it, but conversely it’s not a book that I will be forcing on to other people either. A bit of a fence-sitting here.

What was the problem then?
Whilst the plot and premise of the book interested me to a degree, my main problem was that Roger Brown wasn’t particularly likeable. There’s a thin line between characters that exude self-confidence and have an appeal that has you rooting for them and characters that emit arrogance and leave you indifferent to their fate. Brown/Nesbo crossed the line, whether Nesbo intentionally portrayed Brown in this unflattering way would be interesting to know. His combatant in Headhunters, Clas Greve instead of contrasting with Brown was of the same ilk, gaining his super-ego from having previously excelled whilst in the Dutch military.
The plot was a little bit far-fetched, but as all fiction is made up words, I was ok suspending belief for the duration of the story. Nesbo introduced a twist towards the end, that whilst not quite telegraphed had a certain predictability about it. I was a little bit confused at the switch around, but not enough to force myself to re-cap and reread maybe the previous 10 or so pages to see if it was totally plausible or to perhaps pick-up on a small hint I may have missed.
The characters I liked most in the book were several of the supporting cast. One whose name escapes me was Brown’s partner in crime. I found myself somewhat sympathetic to him, particularly as he was so hopelessly love-struck, though I’m not sure his paranoid tendencies would have earmarked him as ideal boyfriend material. The second character I enjoyed was Ferdy, Brown’s underling in the workplace. Had both Brown and Greve exploded from a dangerous overload of testosterone, I would happily have watched Ferdy sail in to take the spoils.

Overall?        
I’ll go a 3 from 5. There wasn’t enough about it to merit a 4 or drag it above the barrier of averagely-interestingly- enjoyable. It was better than a 2, insofar as I was never mired in treacle reading it or ever felt like stopping at any point.

I’m unsure where I picked up my copy from. It would have been late last year or early this year, second hand either via Amazon, E-bay or as a book swap.

I haven’t been put off reading more from Nesbo, but as stated before will be holding off until I get my hands on Cockroach.


As a further note, I believe there has been a film adaptation of the book. I haven't been compelled to find out more about it, or hunt it down. 

Thursday, 18 July 2013

ALAN BENNETT - SMUT

Synopsis/blurb.....

The Shielding of Mrs Forbes.

Graham Forbes is a disappointment to his mother, who thinks that if he must have a wife, he should have done better. Though her own husband isn't all that satisfactory either. Still, this is Alan Bennett, so what is happening in the bedroom (and in lots of other places too) is altogether more startling, perhaps shocking, and ultimately more true to people's predilections.

The Greening of Mrs Donaldson

 Mrs Donaldson is a conventional middle-class woman beached on the shores of widowhood after a marriage that had been much like many others: happy to begin with, then satisfactory and finally dull. But when she decides to take in two lodgers, her mundane life becomes much more stimulating ...

I might have a bit of a theme developing here with my last book in part concerned with sexual hang-ups and behaviour. Rest assured, this is temporary as my next/latest read is a wee bit more traditionally rooted in the crime genre. It is nice to freshen things up now and again though.

I have obviously heard of the playwright Bennett and was intrigued enough to give try some of his shorter work, though apparently his memoir/autobiography/diary – Writing Home is supposed to be really interesting. It was a toss-up between Smut and Four Stories and Smut shaded it on length.

As a further aside, I was moved enough when reading this to buy a copy of the film adaptation of his award winning play The History Boys. Released in 2006, the Keane family four, youngest daughter excused – “14 and bored” were entertained last Sunday evening by the Grammar school boys and their teacher’s efforts to achieve entry into Oxford/Cambridge Universities.  The late, Richard Griffiths  was fantastic.

Back to Smut....

Amusing and slightly titillating, these two long short stories or novellas proved an entertaining diversion from my usual fare of crime, murder, police and thieves. Note to self - I think I ought to try and read outside my preferred genre a bit more often.   

Comedy writing can be a bit hit or miss, but when done well is satisfying. Bennett does it well, but also has me meditating on how closely we really know other people and on the secrets, often small things, that we keep from each other, particularly family. For a light book, Smut gave me some food for thought.

3 from 5

I think I got my copy, second-hand at the beginning of this year or end of last from either Amazon or E-Bay.


STANLEY ELLIN - MIRROR, MIRROR ON THE WALL

Synopsis/blurb.....

"When divorced businessman Peter Hibben gets home to his Greenwich Village apartment, he's stunned to find a body in the bathroom with his gun lying next to it. Only his teenage son Nick and the cleaning lady Ofelia had keys to the place. How could this have happened? Soon, his lawyer Irwin Gold and shrink Dr. Ernst show up to question Peter as he tries to remember the past 24 hours. Indeed, he thinks back through his failed marriage, the call girls in London and Copenhagen, to Vivien Papazor, the young redheaded chippie his father ran off with. Vivien humiliated teenaged Peter when he confronted her, and may have influenced his later predilection for putting on women's clothing. But there are even greater shocks in store in this tricky 1972 novel."

Ellin was a highly regarded US mystery writer who died in the mid-80’s. Winner of several Edgar Awards, he won the Le Grand Prix du Meilleur Roman Policier Etranger award (presumably in France) for this effort originally published in 1972.

This was a bit of a strange one to be honest, though all became clear at the end with a twist I hadn’t seen coming. Mirror, Mirror at about 130 pages long was a short, quick read and I was through it in a day at the beach.

After discovering a dead body in his apartment, Hibben is ostensibly put on trial and interrogated by his lawyer and his psychiatrist – who happens to be his ex-wife’s current husband. Struggling to deal with the tragedy and fearful that his son may be responsible; we are treated to flashbacks from his life in an effort to discover how we ended up where we are today.

Parental fooling around, sexual encounters and hang-ups, marital disharmony, work-place pressures, efforts to maintain a loving relationship with his son in the aftermath of the break-up of his marriage all feature before Ellin spins the novel on its head at the conclusion.

Probably a 3 plus, so I’ll round up to a 4 from 5.

I have more from this author to read in the future, courtesy of a bargain find at a local car-boot sale about a month ago. This and Stronghold and The Blessington Method  all for a bargain £1.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

O's ENJOYED, O's UNREAD

This week it’s the turn of the O’s to feature in the 2013 Crime Fiction Alphabet.  Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise is kindly hosting the event and if you fancy picking up some decent recommendations for your reading enjoyment, please visit her blog.

When we visit the O’s, if I’m truthful I’m not overwhelmed by choice, numbers-wise. I have read at various times some offerings from Ardal O’Hanlon, Jack O’Connell, Joseph O’Connor and Stewart O’Nan, with the odd book unread by Flannery O’Connor and Nick Oldham on my shelves. All these are benched in favour of the following..........

O’Brien, Owen, Owen..........3 enjoyed

Tim O’Brien – Going After Cacciato

I’m not going to pretend this is crime fiction, just great fiction end of. As mentioned above my O options are somewhat limited, so hopefully Kerrie at MiP will forgive me this indulgence. I was undoubtedly influenced by vaguely remembered news broadcasts in the late 60’s and early 70’s as I was growing up; so in my adult reading and viewing, I developed a love and fascination for film and books about the Vietnam war and experience. I was introduced to a number of great writers such as Michael Herr, Philip Caputo, Larry Heinemann and Tim O’Brien. This won the National Book Award in the US back in 1979, though it was probably the late 80’s before I read it. Time has dimmed my memory, but I can vaguely recall the spell O’Brien cast on me as I read this....haunting and magical, I have kept my copy ready to re-read some day. Some of his other work isn’t too shabby either, If I Die In A Combat Zone, The Things They Carried......  

"In October, near the end of the month, Cacciato left the war."

In Tim O'Brien's novel Going After Cacciato the theater of war becomes the theater of the absurd as a private deserts his post in Vietnam, intent on walking 8,000 miles to Paris for the peace talks. The remaining members of his squad are sent after him, but what happens then is anybody's guess: "The facts were simple: They went after Cacciato, they chased him into the mountains, they tried hard. They cornered him on a small grassy hill. They surrounded the hill. They waited through the night. And at dawn they shot the sky full of flares and then they moved in.... That was the end of it. The last known fact. What remained were possibilities." 

It is these possibilities that make O'Brien's National Book Award-winning novel so extraordinary. Told from the perspective of squad member Paul Berlin, the search for Cacciato soon enters the realm of the surreal as the men find themselves following an elusive trail of chocolate M&M's through the jungles of Indochina, across India, Iran, Greece, and Yugoslavia to the streets of Paris. The details of this hallucinatory journey alternate with feverish memories of the war--men maimed by landmines, killed in tunnels, engaged in casual acts of brutality that would be unthinkable anywhere else. Reminiscent of Joseph Heller's Catch-22, Going After Cacciato dishes up a brilliant mix of ferocious comedy and bleak horror that serves to illuminate both the complex psychology of men in battle and the overarching insanity of war. --Alix Wilber

David Owen – Pig’s Head

Back on safer crime fiction territory here, Owen originally wrote a four book series about Tasmanian detective, Franz Heineken aka Pufferfish back in the mid-90’s. I can’t for the life of me recall how I even discovered these, as the author lacks a website and without being unkind an international profile. Maybe he had a nomination for the Ned Kelly Award and I glommed on to him that way. I can recall that, similar to Paul Thomas, another crime fiction writer based down under, it was tricky trying to acquire affordable copies of the books in the Northern Hemisphere. I managed to get this and the other three; though to date I have only read the first two in the series. Fun and quirky, great writing and entertainment, time to get to the other two in my library!

Recently Pufferfish has come out of hiatus or cold storage and Owen has written 2 more in the series. Sadly they are about as easy to find as rocking horse pooh, or in polite company, hen’s teeth, around my neck of the woods anyway!

Without being unduly unkind to the following UK- based, Mr Owen or indeed the politician of the same name, I would happily propose a cultural exchange, so we can enjoy the real deal in the UK.  
Pufferfish’s full case file listed below, thanks to Fair Dinkum Crime website,

Pig’s Head (1994)
A Second Hand (1995)
X and Y (1995)
The Devil Taker (1997)
No Weather for a Burial (2010)
How The Dead See (2011)

There are good cops, there are bad cops...and there is Pufferfish, aka Detective Inspector Franz Heineken.
Pufferfish (Contusus brevicaudus): Body moderately short, pectorals rounded. Slow swimmer. Scavenger in the mud, at home in the murky shallows, where it roots out and feeds on detritusbody able to bloat and even explode under extreme provocation.
A severed head rolls out of the runnish in a crowded Tasmanian caravan park, and the hunt is on for the killers ... and for their victim, a man no-one seems to miss, a man no-one wants to know.
As Pufferfish digs deeper, he runs straight up against mainland law and order ... and the smell of corruption grows.

Charlie Owen – Horse’s Arse

Former police officer turned author, wrote a series of four books, based in a fictional northern suburb. Bawdy, irreverent, coarse, vulgar, amusing and ultimately a bit tiring (come book number four), initially the books were quite fresh and interesting.  In my opinion, the author wisely called a halt after the fourth, once his set piece jokes and anecdotes had started to grate on me. A bit of a lad’s book, I suppose.
If you’re still interested and I would recommend you try at least one in the series, the full Hanstead case files are as follows;    
Hanstead New Town
1. Horse's Arse (2006)
2. Foxtrot Oscar (2007)
3. Bravo Jubilee (2008)
4. Two Tribes (2009)

It is the 70s and Horse's Arse is the affectionate name for Hanstead New Town, a North Manchester overspill and an unholy dump. The Police use it as a penal posting -- all the bad egg coppers end up there. Worst amongst the residents of Hanstead are the Park Royal Mafia, a gang of violent thugs who terrorise their neighbourhood. They and the officers doomed to serve at Hanstead wrestle constantly for dominance. This is the story of some of those police officers - the Grimm Brothers, Psycho, Pizza, Piggy Malone and others, a group of hooligans in uniform and their journey through excess, despair and finally some form of salvation...

Oswald, O’Neill, Oppenheim.........3 unread      

 James Oswald – Natural Causes

I just checked my Kindle and saw that I got this as a freebie back in October last year. About a month ago, I was somewhat surprised to see this populating the recent paperback chart in my local supermarket, as to be honest I kind of forgot about this one.  Fast forward to earlier this week and the author’s second offering is populating the shelves also. Apparently Oswald is one of the latest and brightest young new authors around. Good luck to him, even if it means I have to pull my finger out and read it earlier than anticipated, meaning sometime in the next couple of years!

The body of a young woman is found walled up in the basement of an old Edinburgh mansion. A prominent local figure is brutally murdered. An illegal immigrant cuts his throat in a city centre pub. As violence descends upon the city, Detective Inspector McLean must think the unthinkable. An ancient evil has been freed, and only if he accepts that it can exist will he be able to stop it.

----

When Edinburgh police find the killer of a prominent city elder less than twenty-four hours after the crime, they are justifiably pleased. So the murderer has killed himself; that just saves the time and cost of a trial. But a second murder days later bears haunting similarities to the first, even though once more the murderer swiftly confesses and kills himself.

Detective Inspector Anthony McLean is investigating the discovery of a dead girl, walled up in the basement of an old Edinburgh mansion. She has been brutally murdered, her internal organs removed and placed around her in six preserving jars. The evidence suggests this all happened over sixty years ago, an attempt to re-enact an ancient ceremony that by trapping a demon in the dead girl's body would supposedly confer immortality on the six men who took one of her organs each.

McLean's grandmother - the woman who raised him after his parents were killed when he was a young boy - dies after months in a coma following a stroke. On top of this he has to investigate a series of unusual, violent suicides and a cat-burglar who targets the homes of the recently dead. But as another prominent Edinburgh businessman is killed, he begins to suspect that there may be a connection between the murders, the suicides and the ritual killing of the girl found in the basement. The same names keep cropping up. He just can't find a rational explanation as to how that connection works.

As he digs deeper, and as the coincidences stack up, McLean is forced to consider an irrational explanation. Could there really be something evil stalking the city he has sworn to protect? And if so, how on earth can he hope to stop it?

Edward Phillips Oppenheim – The Great Impersonation

Expanding my reading into the espionage/thriller/spy fiction genre a year or two ago, I googled “10 favourite spy novels” or something similar. This one appeared, though not frequently on the lists I encountered. I was intrigued enough to track down a copy, which I did. Unread for a couple of years only, I doubt I will be wading my way through the author’s entire back catalogue irrespective of how good this eventually proves to be. Sadly, my copy lacks a dust jacket unlike this splendid cover displayed.

The year is 1913. The disgraced and formerly penniless aristocrat Sir Everard Dominey returns from German East Africa a reformed and wealthy man determined to take his place in English society. But is he Sir Everard or the German spy, Baron Leopold von Ragastein? Leopold, educated at Eton and Oxford with the Englishman, bears a striking resemblance to Dominey and was often taken as his double at school. After a chance encounter in Africa, one of them has returned. But who? 

The Great Impersonation is probably the most famous spy novel of all time. This is marvelous reading with its fast moving plot and its descriptions of the rich life of English aristocrats before the Great War, and its bold characters. Besides the Kaiser and a whole host of Dukes, Duchesses, Ambassadors, German agents and silly young Englishman, there's the Princess Eiderstrom, "one of the most passionate women in Europe," desperately in love with Leopold; Sir Everard's insane wife who has vowed to kill him if he should every return home; the frightening Mrs. Unthank, Lady Dominey's only companion, and her son, Roger Unthank, whom everyone believes Sir Everard murdered, and whose spirit haunts the ancestral home. 

Known as "the Prince of Storytellers," E. Phillips Oppenheim (1866-1946) was the English author of 116 novels and 39 short -story collections. The Great Impersonation, his most famous work, has been made and remade into successful movies many times. A vivid, convincing thriller, this book will appeal to scores of readers brought up on Ian Fleming, Len Deighton, and Frederick Forsyth.

Tony O’Neill – Sick City

A Lancashire lad, now based in New York, O'Neill a former musician now author-cum-poet writes fact/fiction in part based on his own experiences as an addict. Probably not one for everyone, but maybe I have a fascination for the darker, seamier side of living. Unread for maybe 3 years or so; there is a follow-up book, Black Neon which continues the tale of Jeffrey and Randal. I may need to brush up on my German, as I don’t believe it has yet been published in English.     

Jeffrey has nowhere to go when Bill, his sugar-daddy boyfriend, croaks. But before he sets off into the bright glare of LA, he's sure to grab a few parting mementos: cash, a gun, some drugs, and one ancient, metal film canister that contains a treasure greater than all the rest combined: a tape taken from the scene of the Sharon Tate murders that supposedly features a drug-fuelled orgy. Jeffrey stashes the goods and promises himself to get clean before selling the merchandise. Randal is the fallen scion of a great Hollywood family. His habit and his rehab bills have long been overlooked by his indulgent father, but with him now dead and gone, he's left to the zealous sanctimony of his younger brother, who has enrolled him in Clean and Serene, a celebrity treatment center run by Dr. Mike, America's TV doctor. It is there that Randal meets Jeffrey. A plan is hatched by the new friends to unload the sex tape, but things do not go even remotely as planned. In the end, lives are lost, habits resumed, and careers squashed. It even snows in Las Vegas in this fast-paced, tightly plotted junkie page-turner from Tony O'Neill.

I’ll be back next week with some P’s for your perusal.  







Monday, 15 July 2013

JOSEPH HANSEN - FADEOUT

 
Synopsis/blurb.....

Fadeout is the first of Joseph Hansen's twelve classic mysteries featuring rugged Dave Brandstetter, an insurance investigator who is contentedly gay. When entertainer Fox Olson's car plunges off a bridge in a storm, a death claim is filed, but where is Olson's body? As Brandstetter questions family, fans, and detractors, he grows certain Olson is still alive and that Dave must find him before the would-be killer does. Suspenseful and wry, shrewd and deeply felt, Fadeout remains as fresh today as when it startled readers more than thirty years ago.


Fadeout was July’s selected group read for the Pulp Fiction members on Goodreads. Originally published in 1970 and apparently one of the first PI series to feature a gay man as the protagonist. Truth be told, I would probably have remained ignorant of the book and dozen long series if it hadn’t cropped up on the monthly poll.

Having stumbled a bit with my reading during June and proclaimed that my mojo was back, Fadeout at less than 200 pages long was the perfect book to zip through quickly. I may have been somewhat premature with my proclamation. No fault of Hansen, but it was incredibly difficult to immerse myself in Brandstetter’s case whilst there was Wimbledon tennis on the box, plus some planning activities required for both a family weekend away (just gone) and some quality couple time together next weekend – it’s not every day you celebrate 25 years of marriage! A tired, old joke.......but my better half would have served less time for murder!

Back to Hansen and Brandstetter, once I concentrated on the story I found it enjoyable and interesting. Due to distractions previously mentioned I kind of stuttered through the first 50-60 pages before it began to flow for me. Dave Brandstetter was capable, likeable, believable and sympathetic, particularly as Hansen has him coping with the after-effects of losing his long-time partner of 20 years to cancer.

I think a lot of time with PI fiction I need a personal element to sustain my interest in addition to the mystery case solving tack. On this occasion, Hansen succeeded admirably with both strands of the story and I will be reading more of Brandstetter in the future.

As mentioned recently on a couple of notable crime fiction blog sites I visit, I do enjoy reading fiction from the pre-tech age, where people mail telegrams and write letters, probably something to do with my age, I guess.

Note to self; I ought to read more police procedurals where there is more of a focus on a team as opposed to the solitary individual.

4 from 5   

I think I acquired my copy a month or so ago second hand from Amazon.


Monday, 8 July 2013

N's ENJOYED, N's UNREAD

Week 14 on our 2013 Crime Fiction Alphabet journey, courtesy of Kerrie over at her Mysteries in Paradise blog. It's the turn of the N's and a chance to recap on a couple of recent favourites and some more recommended but as yet, untouched books.

Nunn, Nisbet, Nicol........3 enjoyed,

Kem Nunn - Tapping The Source

I must have read this book over 20 years ago, though in truth I'm guessing. Originally published in 1984 this was a debut novel from ultimately a far from prolific author - just 5 books in about 20 years, with the last, Tijuana Straits published back in 2004. Something about this book has remained with me over the years, though it's kind of difficult to recall just exactly what magic spell Nunn wove on me as I read this. I still have my copy somewhere, ready for one last read before passing it on.

People come to Huntington Beach in search of the endless party, the ultimate high, and the perfect wave. Ike Tucker has come to look for his sister and the three men who might have murdered her. His search takes him on a journey through a twisted world of crazed Vietnam vets, sadistic surfers, drug dealers, and mysterious seducers. And if he's not careful, it is a journey from which he will never return.

Jim Nisbet – Lethal Injection

I read this last year and absolutely loved this. It was a close second to Roger Smith when selecting my book of the month last November. I have more by Nisbet to read and I'm looking forward to each and everyone one on the pile. I'm just surprised that he isn't better known.



The gritty noir cult classic is now back in print - and the first of nine Nisbet books from Overlook!

Jim Nisbet's cult classic Lethal Injection, one of the first Black Lizard Books originals, has been out of print in the United States for an unforgivably long time. Overlook is remedying that with this paperback - the first of nine reissues that will make up a Nisbet revolution. 

It's about as noir as you can get. In a bleak Texas prison Royce, an alcoholic doctor administers Bobby Mencken's last 'high,' convinced that the convicted killer was innocent. When Royce's marriage crumbles he takes off for Dallas to search for the real killer. 


Of Nisbet, Germany's Die Welt wrote, 'Neither Norman Mailer nor Truman Capote has in their writing been able to produce such an intensity as Nisbet has achieved.' With sharp humor and a poet's ear for language, Nisbet's world may be bleak, but it is frighteningly real. Overlook is proud to bring him to a new generation of readers.


Mike Nicol – Payback

Another superb South African writer. This is Nicol's first in his 3 book Mace and Pylon series. I have the other two ready to go, but I'm kind of holding back, because once they are gone, they're gone and the feeling of anticipation will have disappeared. October's book of the month last year. If you like Deon Meyer or Roger Smith, you need to try Nicol also.



More than a decade after the end of Apartheid, ex-gun-runners Mace Bishop and Pylon Buso are trying to settle down to a comfortable Cape existence. But when an old contact calls in a favour, they become embroiled once again in the country's violent underworld of crime and corruption - and with the lethal Islamist organisation PAGAD. A gripping tale of narcotics, arms-dealing and international intrigue, PAYBACK heralds the arrival of a major new crime-writing talent.


Nesbo, Neville, Newton......3 unread,

Jo Nesbo – Headhunters

I read Nesbo's Bat/Harry Hole book earlier this year, having undertaken a challenge to read a bit more Scandinavian crime fiction this year. My OCD tendencies dictate, I can't read the next Hole installment because it hasn't yet been translated into English. This standalone will keep me ticking over until then.
   
Roger Brown is a corporate headhunter, and he's a master of his profession. But one career simply can't support his luxurious lifestyle and his wife's fledgling art gallery. At an art opening one night he meets Clas Greve, who is not only the perfect candidate for a major CEO job, but also, perhaps, the answer to his financial woes: Greve just so happens to mention that he owns a priceless Peter Paul Rubens painting that's been lost since World War II - and Roger Brown just so happens to dabble in art theft. But when he breaks into Greve's apartment, he finds more than just the painting. And Clas Greve may turn out to be the worst thing that's ever happened to Roger Brown.

Stuart Neville – The Twelve

I have only had this on the pile a year or so, so not much chance for it to get too dusty. Neville's debut novel has received a fair bit of praise and was nominated for an Anthony Award. He has written a couple more books in this series, Collusion and Stolen Souls. If time allows I'd like to get this read later this year.

Fegan has been a 'hard man,' an IRA killer in northern Ireland. Now that peace has come, he is being haunted day and night by twelve ghosts: a mother and infant, a schoolboy, a butcher, an RUC constable, and seven other of his innocent victims. In order to appease them, he's going to have to kill the men who gave him orders. 

As he's working his way down the list he encounters a woman who may offer him redemption; she has borne a child to an RUC officer and is an outsider too. Now he has given Fate - and his quarry - a hostage. Is this Fegan's ultimate mistake?

Charlie Newton  -  Calumet City

Another debut novel on the pile, published 5 years ago. I got my copy when browsing a few months ago in a secondhand book store in St. Albans. I think the author has written a couple more after this one, but I'm holding fire until I have dipped my toes into Calumet City first. Nominated for a couple of awards, including an Edgar, this should be good though!  



Among the most self-assured and sharply crafted debuts in recent years, Calumet City detonates a Molotov cocktail of character-driven suspense and ghetto-Chicago intrigue.

Meet Patti Black, the most decorated cop in Chicago. On her ghetto beat, Patti Black redefines the word badass. But her steel-plated exterior -- solitary, stoic, loveless -- belies the wrenching legacy of her orphan childhood. Haunted by the horrifying abuse she suffered at the hands of her foster parents, Patti Black sublimates past torments into a meticulously maintained tough-gal persona.

When a series of unrelated cases -- a drug bust gone bad, a mayoral assassination attempt, the murder of a state attorney, the exhumation of a long-concealed body from a tenement basement wall -- all point in Patti Black's direction, she finds herself facing the dark truth: You can't hide from your history, no matter how far into the fog you run. For Patti Black, that history didn't die in the tenement wall; it's alive -- and riding her down.

In researching this electrifying thriller, Charlie Newton rode in the squad car with real-life street cop Patti Black. The result is a powerful fiction debut that captures the precise emotional landscape of one cop's hard-bitten life in the trenches. This first-time author joins that rare breed whose fiction is suffused with profound authenticity.

I'll be back with week 15's O - entries next week.