Friday, 25 August 2017

TRACE CONGER - THE SHADOW BROKER (2014)


Synopsis/blurb…….

-- WINNER of the the 2015 Shamus Award for Best Indie P.I. Novel --

When finding criminals is your business, it’s easy to make a killing.

Finn Harding (Mr. Finn to his clients) specializes in finding people who don’t want to be found. Stripped of his PI license, Finn begins working for the type of clientele who operate in the shadows, pay in cash, and don’t care if he’s licensed or not. As Finn becomes ensnared in a plot to take over a black market information brokerage, he finds himself and his family straddling the thin line between life and death. With his own clients gunning for him, Finn must evade a psychopathic killer, special agents from the FBI’s cybercrime unit, and a Detroit mob boss. He’s about to find out that working with criminals has its advantages. Staying alive isn’t one of them.

In The Shadow Broker, Trace Conger delivers a sharp-edged and gritty tale of crime, murder, and family. It’s a fast-paced crime thriller that holds nothing back.

The Shadow Broker is the first in a three book series from Trace Conger and introduces us to Mr Finn.

We have a story line which hooked me from the start. Finn is hired to locate a man who has started blackmailing our client. Our client is a law-breaker - he hoovers up data on people, legally and illegally and sells it on the dark web for profit – no questions asked. His security has been breached and he’s not going to stomach paying a monthly $50k as a business expense. Not when he can pay Finn $20k to locate him and then have a guy put a bullet down his throat.

Finn finds his man, maybe a little too easily and then against his better judgement doubles his money by acting as back-up for Freddie. Freddie is engaged to do the client’s wet work. Soon our man is further embroiled in nefarious deeds.

I really liked this one – a fast-moving twisting plot, a likeable character in Finn even though he is involved in criminality and is not above getting his hands dirty. There’s plenty of family background on Finn – his daughter, his father, his ex-wife and her tool of a current husband or boyfriend, Dr. Dickhead – I can’t remember which. Rather than detracting from the plot this added to it, especially when the tables get turned on Finn and his family are placed in jeopardy.

Plenty here for me to like. Nothing too cerebral but it was my kind of book. One of my benchmarks for assessing the enjoyment factor of a book is asking myself whether I would be interested in reading more from the author – a big fat yes in this case.

4.5 from 5

The second and third books in the series are Scar Tissue and The Prison Guard’s Son. Bizarrely the third sits on the pile but the second doesn’t.

Trace Conger has his website here. Catch him on Twitter - @TraceConger

Read in December, 2016
Published - 2014
Page count - 299
Source - copy received from author
Format - Kindle


Wednesday, 23 August 2017

ERIC BEETNER - THE YEAR I DIED SEVEN TIMES: BOOK 3 (2014)


Synopsis/blurb.....

Dying twice hasn’t deterred Ridley from finding the love of his life. The mystery deepens and the action increases as Ridley enlists the help of old buddy CJ for a return trip to New York. There, he’ll encounter vicious gun dealers, some familiar faces (not in a good way) and an old friend who may be able to help find Miho. 

This time he’s walking straight into the Lion’s den in search of answers. Death awaits, but that’s just the kind of year Ridley’s having. 

Episode 3 and another 40-odd page blast. Having read the second installment late last year I did have to re-read number 2 to refresh my memory on where Ridley had got to. (Note to self, maybe don't leave it eight months between episodes.)

Ridley dies and miraculously (or maybe not) lives and is back in LA. A bit of soul-searching and some tapping of the trust fund and he's headed back to New York with best friend in tow. This man ain't giving up on his gal just yet.

More adventures and mishaps - an old old friend of his fathers revisited and an under the counter drugs and gun deal which is fraught with danger. Ridley is ready again to seek some answers from the Japanese gangsters who've disappeared Miho.

Does it end well? The answer's in the title - probably not.

Entertaining enough, a bit (ok a lot) of suspension of disbelief required especially around our climax and usual subsequent re-birth, but hey I liked it. There's some great scenes of conflict, laced with more than a pinch of humour and I am keen to see what the ultimate outcome is. If an author keeps you engaged and invested in the story, while making you laugh, what more do you need?

4 from 5

Book 1 thoughts here, Book 2 thoughts here. Roll on Book 4!

This was originally published as 7 Episodes or monthly installments but is now only available in a single volume.

Eric Beetner has his website here. Catch him on Twitter - @ericbeetner

Read in August, 2017
Published - 2014
Page count - 44
Source - purchased copy
Format - Kindle

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

2 BY FINGERS MURPHY


A couple from the Kindle collection by author Fingers Murphy. Fingers Murphy is unsurprisingly a pseudonym. The author is a globe-trotting criminal attorney and he values his anonymity.

No website and funny enough all 4 of his books were published the same year - 2011. I wonder if all that lawyering is keeping him too busy to write. On the basis of my first outing with him that's a shame.

Murphy's novella Everything I Tell You is a Lie appeared on the blog a few days ago. Thoughts here.

The two I'm highlighting are Follow the Money and $200 and a Cadillac. I could just as easily chosen The Flaming Motel, but then it would have been a 3 BY feature and that just wouldn't cut it.

Follow the Money (2011)

"MOVE OVER JOHN GRISHAM!" -- Debbi Mack, NY Times Bestselling Author of Identity Crisis and Least Wanted

FOR FANS OF JOHN GRISHAM, STEVE MARTINI, JOHN LESCROART, AND JAMES GRIPPANDO COMES A GRIPPING AND GRITTY NEW VOICE IN LEGAL THRILLERS. GET READY TO LOSE SOME SLEEP!

"ALWAYS ASSUME PEOPLE ARE LYING, BUT NEVER ASSUME YOU KNOW WHY."

Oliver Olson went to law school to help people.

But when one of the world’s most prominent law firms offers him a high paying summer job, he thinks he’d be crazy not to take it. He soon finds himself enthralled by a world of wealth, privilege, and power.

Blinded by his gilded new world, Ollie is slow to see that something is not right with the case he is assigned to work on - a case with no chance of winning, given to a "summer associate" merely to keep him busy.

Are people following him? Is he imagining things? Are they listening to his conversations? Why are people coming out of the woodwork with a sudden interest in a twelve year old murder case? And is it really possible that the wrong man went to prison?

Ollie wants to succeed, but when he sacrifices his own moral standards for a shot at the big time, he winds up staring down the barrel of a gun.

When you’ve sold out and can no longer follow your heart, you can only FOLLOW THE MONEY.

This novel is 75,000 fast-paced words.

About the Author: Fingers Murphy is the pen name of a well known international criminal defense attorney.

$200 and a Cadillac (2011)

Fingers Murphy named one of the "Top Three Indie Crime Fiction Authors" by Crime Fiction Utopia

"The suspense will keep you turning pages, and the dramatic twists in the story will keep your heart racing as the story unfolds." -- CC Jackson, reviewing Follow the Money

Fingers Murphy, author of Top 20 Legal Thrillers Follow the Money and The Flaming Motel, returns with with a fast-paced, crime thriller that will cost you some sleep.

WHEN YOU LIVE BY YOUR OWN RULES, YOU DIE BY THEM TOO.

A bored psychopath rotting away in the Mojave desert . . .

An obsessive contract killer sent to find him . . .

A small town Sheriff hiding from his personal demons . . .

A retired FBI agent itching to get back in the game . . .

And a couple of burn outs with nothing to lose, hell-bent on revenge . . . All they wanted to do was steal something from the company that laid them off and get the hell out of town. But when a coyote drags a human leg onto a lonely desert highway, worlds collide in ways no one can predict.

Find out what happens when your last worldly possessions are $200 AND A CADILLAC and everyone around you will kill to get what they want.



Monday, 21 August 2017

PARNELL HALL - DETECTIVE (1987)


Synopsis/blurb.....

This debut entry in the author's mystery series features actor-turned private investigator Stanley Hastings. Poor Stanley! In a word, his pursuits end in FAILURE. So when Martin Albrecht comes to him with a case for a real detective, Stanley turns him away. Unfortunately, Stanley's damned path leads to his finding Albrecht dead. Well now he's been challenged, so he has to take the case; maybe Stanley will finally prove that he's a real detective. To solve this case Stanley must descend into the modern-day inferno that consists of drugs and mob operations. Will he come out of it alive... A first novel from Parnell Hall, playwright and screenwriter, and actor, introduces erstwhile detective Stanley Hastings who, while engaged in phony detective work in aid of an insurance swindle, stumbles into his first real case. This is the author's first novel and the initial book in his now lengthy series featuring this Manhattan-based detective, a most unusual private eye. When an almost client turns up dead, this PI goes into an underworld of coke and kicks among the Big Boys of Miami and New York, taking the kind of risks that can get a guy real dead - real fast.

Read last December and really enjoyed. If I had more time and money and less existing books on the TBR pile I'd happily hoover up the entire 25-odd long series.

A few scrambled thoughts, which hardly do the book justice.....

Our man Stanley Hastings during the course of the novel, proves himself to be a real detective having had no notion of being one at the start. He's more of an ambulance chaser, signing up victims of accidents so that his company can sue for damages.

A man mistakes Hastings for a real detective and wants his help. He's a gambler and in over his head. Victim of some crooked games, he's now moving drugs for the mob, only he's been shaving the loads and is in bigger trouble than before. Hastings gives him the bum's rush, but when the man is murdered soon after, he feels compelled to look into things.

I really liked how the story unfolded, Hastings going from A to B to C, all the while counting the pennies and pretending to his wife and employer that he is just going about his daily business. Money is tight in the Hastings household and every dollar counts.

Great writing.....

"......I couldn’t fight my way out of a paper bag. The most dangerous thing I do is go into some pretty undesirable neighborhoods to interview prospective clients. I don’t like it. I always feel as if I have a sign saying “mug me” on my back. Actually, I’ve never had a problem. People who see me going into slums and housing projects figure I’m either a cop or I’m out of my mind, and they leave me alone. That’s what I do. And that’s all I do. You’re the first person who’s ever asked me to do anything else.” 

I stopped talking. He looked at me. He’d been looking at me the whole time I was talking, and his expression didn’t change when I stopped. He just kept looking at me. It was hard to read his expression. He looked a little like a steer must when it’s just been hit over the head with a sledgehammer at the slaughterhouse. Incredulous. Disbelieving. But something else, too. He blinked his eyes. His lips moved, but nothing came out. Then he said, almost in awe, “You’re useless.” He shook his head. “Jesus Christ, you’re absolutely useless, aren’t you.” 

He got to his feet as if in a daze and started for the door, still shaking his head. “Useless,” he muttered. He opened the door and went out. The door closed behind him. 


A book with a bit of everything - story, pace, character, setting, drugs, the mob, humour. A tick in every box.

Hall presents Hastings with an intriguing dilemna at the end of the book, a real sea-change moment which could alter the course of his life for ever - a car crash moment. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry at his choice.

A light read, but the ending haunted me for ages afterwards.

5 from 5

Parnell Hall also has another 20 book long series to his name - Puzzle Lady.

Read in December, 2016
Published - 1987
Page count - 231
Source - purchased copy
Format - kindle

Sunday, 20 August 2017

FINGERS MURPHY - EVERYTHING I TELL YOU IS A LIE (2011)


Synopsis/blurb....

FINALIST for Spinetingler Magazine's Best Novella of 2011 Award

Praise for Fingers Murphy:

Fingers Murphy was recently named one of the Top 3 Indie Crime Authors by Crime Fiction Utopia.

Readers and reviewers call his work "poetic" "literate" "fast-paced and suspenseful" and "as good as it gets."

New York Times Bestselling author Debbi Mack wrote of his debut legal thriller: "Move over John Grisham!"

Now Fingers Murphy pushes his work in a new direction with this deceptively simple novella that explores the basic question: what drives someone to kill?

The answer, like life itself, is never as simple as it seems. As a prison psychologist and his young patient peel back layers of violence, abuse, mistrust, and missed opportunities, we see a family imploding on itself and the sometimes disastrous effect parental decisions have on children. 

Killers aren't born, they're made.

This 30,000 word novella will keep you up late to finish it in one sitting, and it will stick with you long after you put it down.

Fingers Murphy is the pen name of a well-known international criminal defense attorney.

A bit of naval-gazing with this one. Our protagonist has been in prison for over five years for his part in the death of someone - a someone unknown to the reader as yet.

His release date is approaching and our story is relayed to us through his monthly session with the prison psychologist. The sessions are designed to prepare him for life outside; to help him confront the decisions he made in an effort to steer him on a better path in future.

A difficult upbringing, a drift away from school into a dead-end job which in time leads to unemployment, a fracture in the family and friction with a step-father, death and loss and coping with a sick relative and bereavement, a relationship founded on fun and lust and floundering in hardship.

Not necessarily poor choices made, just a drift caused by lethargy and a lack of purpose. A flash of temper and a fiery confrontation and a gesture of spite = unintended consequences and where we are today.

Thoughtful, powerful and impressive. Factor in short as well - 128 pages total, a fair few of which are a sample of his three other books. I'll be reading more from Fingers Murphy in the future.

4.5 from 5

Fingers Murphy is a pseudonym for a well known international criminal defense attorney. He's on Twitter@fingers_murphy

$200 and a Cadillac, Follow the Money and The Flaming Motel await.

Read in December, 2016
Published  - 2011
Page count - 128
Source - purchased
Format - kindle

FRIEDRICH DURRENMATT - THE JUDGE AND HIS HANGMAN (1954)


Synopsis/blurb.....

Inspector Barlach is dying. But not fast enough for his arch-enemy

When a member of the Bern police force is shot dead on a Swiss country road, the enigmatic Inspector Barlach and his colleague Tschanz are intent on tracking down the killer. But the ailing Inspector doesn't have time to lose. Soon the pair discover that the victim was murdered on his way to a clandestine party at the home of a wealthy power broker - so why was a local policeman socialising with some of Switzerland's most influential men? Who was his shadowy host? And why has Barlach's past returned to haunt him in his final hours?

The Judge and His Hangman is a thrilling tale of lifelong rivalry, and of two men chained together by a wager that would destroy them both.

Friedrich Dürrenmatt (1921-1990) was a Swiss author and dramatist, most famous for his plays The Visit and The Physicists, which earned him a reputation as one of the greatest playwrights in the German language. He also wrote four highly regarded crime novels: The Pledge (adapted for a 2001 film starring Jack Nicholson), Suspicion and The Execution of Justice, are also published by Pushkin Vertigo.

My second time with Swiss author Friedrich Durrenmatt after enjoying The Pledge earlier this year. Thoughts here.

This re-issue from Pushkin Vertigo is a slim offering at 128 pages long, but for my reading tastes the length is a plus. The murder of a policeman and the subsequent investigation is interesting though it takes us until over halfway to discover in fact that there is more going on than meets the eye.

Inspector Barlach is and has been battling a foe for over forty years, unsuccessfully thus far. He has a last opportunity to bring him down, before his own ill health does for him.

I liked Barlach as a character - his solitude, his methods, his irritation with his superior and his clever manipulations, orchestrating events and people like a puppet master to achieve the desired outcome. More than one way to skin a cat.

I'm not usually a massive fan of older books (pre-early 60s is where I draw the line), I'll happily make an exception for Durrenmatt.

A few more from him sit on the pile - The Visit, The Quarry, The Execution of Justice, Suspicion.

4 from 5

Read in August, 2017
Published 1954 originally (2017 re-issue from Pushkin Vertigo)
Page count - 128
Source - review copy from publisher
Format - paperback

Thursday, 17 August 2017

JULY 2017 - READING LIST AND PICK OF THE MONTH

July's 5 STAR PICK OF THE MONTH!

Another slight fall away with my reading in the month. That's two months in a row now, from 13 read in May to 9 in June to 8 books completed in July - and a couple of short ones included in that figure as well.

Partly explained by an impending house move and the need to empty the attic of an embarrassing quantity of books. Hopefully August sees a bit more of a settled home environment and a bit of an upsurge in my reading.

The eight were...

Paul Heatley - FatBoy (2017)  (5)

Chris Thomas - Enter the Dark (2017) (4.5)

Tom Leins - Skull Meat (2017) (4.5)

Anthony Maguire - Sorry Time (2017) (4)

Ace Atkins - The Fallen (2017) (3)

David Owen - 13-Point Plan For A Perfect Murder (2016) (4)

S. W. Lauden - Crosswise (2016) (3.5)

Turlough Delaney - The Pact (2015) (3)


1 - 5 STAR READ and obvious selection for my Pick of the Month - Paul Heatley's FatBoy!

2 of the 8 rated 4.5 STARS, 2 at 4 STARS, 1  a shade less at 3.5 and 2 at 3 STARS



More useless trivia......

8 different authors,

6 of the 8 were new-to-me authors....... Paul Heatley and David Owen I've read before.

I still have unread books from 4 of these authors on the shelf, in the tubs or on the Kindle...Paul Heatley and David Owen again, and S. W. Lauden and Ace Atkins

Gender analysis - 8 male reads, no females - deja-vous.


I think 3 authors are English, 1 from Ireland, 1 from Australia, 2 from the US and 1 originally from Zimbabwe but living in Australia for 30-odd years.

All 8 were fiction reads - 7 novels and 1 novella/long short story.

All were published this decade - 5 from this year, 2 from 2016 and 1 from 2015. No nostalgia or GA nonsense for me!

3 of the 8 books were pre-owned - 2 came via the publisher and 3 from the author, 1 was free from a reviewer site, but I ran out of time reading it, so had to buy it to finish.

Favourite cover? Ace Atkins - The Fallen



Second favourite - Anthony Maguire's Sorry Time



My reads were this long - 114 - 315 - 44 - 325 - 370 - 298 - 158 - 151

Total page count =  1775 (2107 in June)

6 Kindle reads, 2 paperbacks,

1 < 50,
0 between 51 < 100,
3 between 101 < 200,
1 between 201 < 300,
3 between 301 < 400,
0 > 400 pages

Ace Atkins - The Fallen was the longest read at 370 pages.


DAVID OWEN - 13-POINT PLAN FOR A PERFECT MURDER (2016)


Synopsis/blurb…..

Tasmania's rise and rise as a tourist destination makes the island an ideal location for the cashed-up international polo set, jetting in from Europe, Buenos Aires, Shanghai and LA for their late summer carnival and relaxathon in the world's latest clean-green hotspot. They play fiercely and party hard at the swish Polo Palace, built near beautiful beaches through the largesse of an island-loving, polo-mad billionaire Bahraini businessman.

So when this idyll is gruesomely interrupted by the murder of Sebastian Wicken, a dashing and wealthy Englishman famous for wielding his stick and ball, Pufferfish, aka seasoned Detective Inspector Franz Heineken of the Tasmanian Police Force, is called to investigate. And investigate he does.

For starters, what possible relationship could there be between this visiting bludgeoned aristocrat and Tassie's worst-of-the-worst career villain, psychopathic Morgan Murger? What ghastly behaviour unites them in blood?

Pufferfish and his offsiders Rafe and Faye work double time to try and fathom who did what to whom, and why - while keeping an antsy tourist industry at bay - but then the strange intrusion of a quavery voice from rural England, being Sebastian's aunt Eugenie, deepens the mystery.

Meanwhile Faye, against advice, has got herself personally involved in the theft of a stamp album from a workingclass primary school. Silly kids and all that. Except it's no ordinary stamp album, sucking in and mightily distracting Pufferfish from the politically-charged polo mess.

As if all of this is not enough, an old Pufferfish flame, diminutive beauty Milly de Havilland cruises back into town from his distant past, when she'd given great comfort to the then young Dutch throwaway cop Franz Heineken, an emotional wreck washed up on remote Tasmania's shore. And, as it happens, Pufferfish's close de facto Hedda is currently overseas ...

13-Point Plan is the seventh Pufferfish book in total and my third outing with our intriguing Tasmanian detective Franz Heineken. It’s been a long while since I read the first couple and memory of the previous two outings is dim. Within a few pages though, I felt like I was catching-up with an old acquaintance.

We have an exotic setting of Tasmania, our older slightly grumpy detective and a couple of younger underlings and a murder site with two bodies – one a low-level criminal and the other a globe-trotting high-living polo player – what’s the connection apart from the fact they’re both dead – if there is one.

Heineken and his team try to solve both murders; all the while Heineken buffering his colleagues from a bit of political interference – after all it wouldn’t pay to upset the rich and powerful and unduly affect the influx of mad money into the Tasmanian economy – while also keeping at arm’s length or further an old flame from way back when. The arrival of said former beau, somewhat inconveniently coinciding with the absence of his current amour.

Another act, a schoolboy theft of a stamp album, also draws some attention from our enigmatic detective, albeit reluctantly. An interesting diversion from our two murder victims.

More cerebral than action driven, this mystery was enjoyed and savoured and read at a pedestrian pace as opposed to raced through. All the better for enjoying Pufferfish’s pithy observations and philosophy. The narrative style is instantly recognisable as author David Owen – well it is if you’ve enjoyed him before.

Regarding murder, we, whose job it is to know, almost always know, soon after a murder and frequently prior to the act, who committed the crime, because most are domestics. Or the victim and villain knew one another. Or the motive is the clue, especially revenge.     

At our conclusion…..

IN THIS BUSINESS, we generally delude ourselves that we’ve seen all there is to see, know all there is to know, until a new set of criminal behaviours comes along and washes that experience away, and we have to start all over again, and work it out. Only then do you think you know everything, for a while.

Enjoyed and savoured, entertained and satisfied. I won't be leaving it as long again next time before revisiting Tasmania and Pufferfish.

4 from 5

X AND Y and THE DEVIL TAKER sit on the paperback pile, which means I read PIG’S HEAD and A SECOND HAND way back when. 

NO WEATHER FOR A BURIAL and HOW THE DEAD SEE (the 5th and 6th series books) are on the Kindle. An eighth Pufferfish ROMEO’S GUN hit the shelves recently.


Author David Owen was born in Zimbabwe and emigrated to Australia in the 80s. For a bit more on him and some reviews of his books, see his page on Aust Crime Fiction website. 

Read in July, 2017
Published - 2016
Page count - 298
Source - review copy from author! (How has he ever heard of me?)
Format - signed paperback




Tuesday, 15 August 2017

2 BY STANLEY ELLIN

A blog feature which I haven't run for about a year or more returns with the highlighting of a couple of Stanley Ellin books in my collection.





















Ellin was an American mystery writer from New York.
Born in 1916, he died at the age of 69 in 1986. He's probably better known for his short stories than his novels. A few of his short stories were filmed for an Alfred Hitchcock mystery series.



Stronghold (1974)

James Flood, just released from a Florida prison, has a desperate scheme. He and his recruits, all hardened criminals, will move in upon a prominent upstate New York family, holding the Hayworth women as hostages while awaiting delivery of a four-million-dollar ransom. Flood expects no resistance. Marcus Hayworth, small-town banker and leading member of the Quaker community, is convinced he can subvert Flood's plan. Instead of going to the police, he will bring his family's crisis before his meeting, asking the Quaker community to back him in nonviolent opposition. Subsequent events isolate both hostages and captors within the Hayworth house, waging a war of nerves that involves more than a clash between good and evil. For Flood cannot be taken for granted. Much deeper than the profit motive is his need for revenge, a most urgent and specific need. And Hayworth's principles have never been put to the ultimate test.


The Blessington Method (1964)

"What is The Blessington Method? There is, you see, a society called The Society for Gerontology, and its primary concern is with the tragic situation of aging. BUT... the problems that the society attempts to solve are not the ones that bother old people. Take Mr. Treadwell. Although he's only forty-seven and in the pink of health, he has an old-age problem. His seventy-two-year-old father-in-law lives with him... and looks as if he will live on forever. Now, for seemingly impossible problems, problems like Mr. Treadwell's, The Blessington Method offers a most perfect solution. If you think there's no crime worse than cold-blooded murder, prepare yourself for the shock of your life."

Includes 9 more short stories of the macabre.






Not sure when I will get around to reading these two, but I'd better not read them after dark. The old Penguin text doesn't agree with my aging eyesight!

Not sure which I prefer the sound of most - on balance probably the novel as opposed to the short story collection.

I did read Mirror Mirror on the Wall from him back in 2013 - thoughts here.

Monday, 14 August 2017

S. W. LAUDEN - CROSSWISE (2016)



Synopsis/blurb......

Tommy Ruzzo is a disgraced NYPD cop who follows his coke fiend girlfriend back to her hometown in Florida. She leaves Ruzzo high and dry just before he's named Head of Security at Precious Acres, a beachfront retirement community populated by wisecracking New Yorkers. Ruzzo is stranded among the local losers until the day he discovers a murdered senior citizen on the Precious Acres bocce ball court.

The bodies pile up as Ruzzo uncovers a dangerous trail of clues that brings everybody in his new world under suspicion.

"The suspense starts on the first page and doesn't let up. A unique setting with unforgettable characters." 
- Terrence McCauley, author of SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL

The first in a two book series (so far at least) from S. W. Lauden and featuring an ex-cop Tommy Ruzzo. Ruzzo left New York in disgrace and is working as security at a retirement community in Florida. Some of his retirees start getting killed and Ruzzo works with the local law to try and catch the killer.

In a nutshell, enjoyable but not especially memorable if I’m honest. It’s quite a busy book. Ruzzo’s ex-girlfriend, Shayna Billups and the cause of his disgrace flits in and out, still managing to lead Ruzzo around by his pecker. Her ex-husband is also on the scene, someone with contacts to the top cop involved in the case - Sgt. Badeaux. Ruzzo’s mystery employers also have an agenda of their own. There’s a crossword clue theme which runs through the book which keeps pointing to the next victim, I think. This facet didn’t particularly work for me.

I think I was thrown a bit when reading. The publisher Down and Out Books have a habit of back-loading their editions with extended samples of other books in their canon. I forgot this, so when the tale ended around the 80% mark it caught me unawares.  

Interesting main character and an enjoyable setting. A fair bit of humour on display and some great scenes involving Ruzzo and Shayna, Ruzzo and Badeaux and Ruzzo and his employers – maybe a case of some of the parts being more enjoyable than the whole.

3.5 from 5
I have the second in the series – Crossed Bones to get to at some point. 

The author also has another series to his name featuring Greg Salem - Bad Citizen Corporation and Grizzly Season are out so far, with Hang Time coming early next year.

S. W. Lauden has his website here. He's on Twitter - @swlauden

Read in July 2017
Published –
Page count – 158
Source – purchased copy

Format - Kindle  

JOHN PRESTON - A VERY ENGLISH SCANDAL (2016)


Synopsis/blurb.......

The shocking true story of the first British politician to stand trial for murder

Behind oak-panelled doors in the House of Commons, men with cut-glass accents and gold signet rings are conspiring to murder. It's the late 1960s and homosexuality has only just been legalised, and Jeremy Thorpe, the leader of the Liberal party, has a secret he's desperate to hide. As long as Norman Scott, his beautiful, unstable lover is around, Thorpe's brilliant career is at risk. With the help of his fellow politicians, Thorpe schemes, deceives, embezzles - until he can see only one way to silence Scott for good.

The trial of Jeremy Thorpe changed our society forever: it was the moment the British public discovered the truth about its political class. Illuminating the darkest secrets of the Establishment, the Thorpe affair revealed such breath-taking deceit and corruption in an entire section of British society that, at the time, hardly anyone dared believe it could be true.

A Very English Scandal is an eye-opening tale of how the powerful protect their own, and an extraordinary insight into the forces that shaped modern Britain.

The first bit of non-fiction I’ve read for a while and an eye-opening account of one of the most famous trials in Britain in the 70s. As a teenager of 15 or 16, I can vaguely recall the headlines of the time as Liberal politician Jeremy Thorpe was acquitted of murder at the Old Bailey. I was kind of hoping he got off because my mum and dad always voted Liberal. I was too young to really comprehend what it was all about.

John Preston is not a Jeremy Thorpe fan and his account portrays Thorpe as unlikable, conniving, and someone shorn of any scruples or decency. We see the background to Thorpe’s political career and his rise to prominence in the Liberal party. There are allegations of male rape made against Thorpe. Thorpe was homosexual at a time when it was illegal to indulge in sexual relations with other men and would also have been political suicide if the public became aware of his sexual leanings. Many homosexuals were at great risk of blackmail. Blackmail is at the heart of Thorpe’s downfall.

I read this late last year and what sticks with me if I’m honest is the sense that the author has it in for Thorpe. Perhaps rightly so. It’s a masterclass in character assassination. The book was probably unpublishable before Thorpe died in 2014. You can’t libel a dead man.

Other characters in the book merit great sympathy, especially Peter Bessell. Bessell was a fellow Liberal MP and slightly in awe of Thorpe. Thorpe repeatedly takes advantage of Bessell’s naivety and amenable nature throughout the book. The trial sees Bessell’s reputation trashed and his reputation eviscerated. Unfairly so.
John Preston

Was Thorpe guilty? Did the establishment put the fix in so one of their own got off? I wasn’t necessarily convinced, but I wouldn’t be unduly surprised if they had. They were some notable miscarriages of justice in the 70s – The Birmingham Six, the Guildford Four, the Maguire Seven.

An interesting read. Inevitably there’s a fair bit of he said, she said. On the whole a bit of a hatchet job, but an entertaining one.

4 from 5

Read in November, 2016
Published – 2016
Page count – 340
Source – review copy from publisher Penguin Viking
Format - paperback

Saturday, 12 August 2017

ERIC BEETNER - THE YEAR I DIED SEVEN TIMES BOOK 2 (2014)


Synopsis/blurb........

Ridley has already died once trying to find his missing girlfriend, Miho. When a mysterious phone call rouses him from his recovery he is off on the trail of clues again. Reenergized for the hunt, Ridley will follow clues all the way across the country and enter a world darker than he imagined and face off against men--and women--more vicious than he expected. 

This time Ridley has traveled a long way--and death is there to meet him. But it will take more than dying to keep him from finding the truth. 

Book #2 of this thrilling adventure is more non-stop action. Watch for book #3 in April. 
Also available in a collector’s edition print edition.   

The second installment of Eric Beetner's The Year I Died Seven Times was read in November 2016.
In the first we meet Ridley and join him on his quest to track down his missing Japanese girlfriend Miho. Obviously he's been unsuccessful thus far and episode one ends with his death.

Or does it? Well no. Clinically dead for six minutes and successfully revived and recovered, Ridley has sunk into a state of torpor and depression. His friend advises him to forget Miho and move on, but our love sick puppy isn't prepared to do that.

A pleading phone call out of the blue, from Miho demanding his help re-energizes our man. He's going to rescue his girl, but is bereft of clues as to where to start.

Back into the lion's den and the Ginza House where his girlfriend worked is a good a place as any.

A narrowly avoided ass-kicking, a clue on a napkin and a plane ride from LA to New York to another Ginza Lounge; a stake-out, a proper ass-kicking this time from a bunch of girls and Ridley's getting closer to the truth but closer to danger.

Our tale doesn't end well with our man getting beaten, hand-cuffed and some bladder loosening electric-shock treatment as the Ginza masters want answers. A cracked pipe, with a bang on the head and the introduction of some liquid to our electrically charged basement brings our second installment to a close.

Great character, interesting scenario, a bit of humour, 40 pages long, what more do you need to entertain you.

4.5 from 5

This one's no longer available as an individual episode or installment, but has been re-released as a single book in it's entirety.

Episode one was looked at here - The Year I Died Seven Times: Book 1 (2014)
About time I dusted off number 3

Eric Beetner has his website here.
A ton of his books too numerous to mention sit on the kindle awaiting a read.

Read in November, 2016
Published - 2014
Page count - 40
Source - purchased copy
Format - Kindle

Friday, 11 August 2017

TURLOUGH DELANEY - THE PACT (2015)



Synopsis/blurb…..

"Delaney ratchets up the suspense till the book seems poised to explode from the tension."
What's the difference between violent justice and brutal revenge?

A Dublin funeral, and three friends come together on a solemn mission to strike back against the city’s drug dealers. For Santy it’s a sacred duty to the community. For Leo, it’s an opportunity to indulge violent tendencies and pay off some debts at the same time. For Dean? Unemployed and still living at home, it isn’t as if he has anything better to do than go along with his friend’s plan.

But not everyone is playing straight, and there is more to uncover than just the name of the next target on the list. Between vengeance, idealism and greed, each begins to question the motives of the others. And when the Garda start nosing around it’s clear that somebody’s been talking, but who?

They’re about to find out that some secrets are buried for a reason.

"More than the sum of each brilliant part, The Pact is a brutal, funny and cleverly weaved together slice of hard-boiled crime. A time bomb of tension." -Paul Brazill (author of The Guns of Brixton and Cold London Blues)

Number Thirteen Press are building a list of 13 quality crime novellas by 13 different authors, published consecutively on the 13th of each month. For more information go to 

I’m a big fan of this particular publisher and intend over the next year (yes it will take me that long) to read all thirteen of their offerings. Turlough Delaney's The Pact was my sixth outing in this venture.

Having hailed from Dublin over 50 years ago myself, I’m always happy to read a crime tale set in my old home town. Married with a tale of drug dealers and low-life characters and a gang of vigilantes, I was sure I was onto a winner.

I liked elements of the tale…….the plot itself and the differing motivations of the characters involved. I enjoyed the increasing levels of tension in the relationship between them as Santy seemed intent on controlling the other two involved in the cause – Leo and Dean. I enjoyed the involvement of the Gardai into our vigilante tale and the intimation that the authorities were keen to curb our seekers of justice, less in the pursuit of law and order, more in the protection of a politician with some dubious sexual habits.

I liked the pubs and nightclubs, the funerals and the involvement however peripheral of family. I liked the bookies and the incidental violence, and the strange goings on at the knocking shop out of town.

Where it fell down for me was the unevenness of the time line. Usually I don’t mind dipping backwards and forwards in time during a narrative, and when it’s done well it adds to my enjoyment of the book. Here, I found it confusing. Perhaps some tiredness when I was reading didn’t help and maybe my mental faculties weren’t razor sharp, but there was no signposting indicating the chopping and jumping about of the story and for me it would have been helpful if there was. 

I was left with the impression that the pages in the manuscript got knocked on the floor by accident and were picked back up in a somewhat haphazard fashion.  Maybe the story would have read better chronologically, maybe it wouldn’t.

3 from 5

Turlough Delaney is an enigma wrapped up in a riddle. No author website or photo I can find.

Read in July, 2017
Published - 2015
Page count - 151
Source - review copy from Chris at the publisher - Number 13 Press
Format - Kindle 



Thursday, 10 August 2017

JACK CLARK - NOBODY'S ANGEL (2010)


Synopsis/blurb…..

While Chicago cabbie Eddie Miles drives the city streets at midnight, two killers--one targeting prostitutes, the other cab drivers--are out plying their trade.

"From the driver's seat of his cab, Eddie negotiates a city splintered by race and class and rapidly losing its economic underpinnings. Nobody's Angel has the wry humor and engaging characters typical of the best of the hard-boiled genre, but Clark's portrait of Chicago in the 1990s, with its vanishing factories and jobs, its lethal public housing projects, its teenage hookers climbing into vans on North Avenue, is what gives it legs. Sure there are a couple murderers on the loose, but the larger violence is coming from systemic forces wreaking havoc in a place that, maybe, used to be better." -- Chicago Reader

"'Nobody's Angel' is a gem...which doesn't contain a wasted word or a false note... Its real beauty lies in Eddie's bittersweet existence and the special romance and danger of the cabdriver's life--lives we often glimpse but rarely give a second thought." -- Washington Post

"[A] fine atmospheric thriller. The cynical, melancholy cabbie point of view is perfect for this kind of neon-lit, noir-tinged, saxophone-scored prose poem, and Clark hits all the right notes." --Booklist

"[A] slim, sparse, and heartbreaking novel." --Publishers Weekly

"Heartbreaking... Captivating... Clark's true subject [is] his city. Each page turn feels like real, authentic Chicago." --Chicago Sun-Times:

Shamus Award finalist, Nobody’s Angel was the last book I read in 2016 and a great book to sign off on the year with.

Penning a few thoughts on this over seven months after reading the thing is inevitably a bit tricky. My memory isn’t what it used to be. What still rings loud and clear is the setting of Chicago in the 90s and its portrayal through the eyes of our main protagonist, cab driver Eddie Miles.

The fact that we have a murderer targeting cab drivers and another one taking out prostitutes is kind of incidental. I’d have been entertained if it had been a normal few weeks in the life of Miles, giving me a sight-seeing tour around Chicago. We see the competition and camaraderie between the drivers and the way they view their customers. The rides they pick up, the lightning quick profiling of the clients they avoid, the areas they steer around rather than drive through. The myriad of rules and regulations the city imposes on them. Each of these used as chapter intros -   

All taxicabs shall have affixed to the exterior of the cowl or hood of the taxicab the metal plate issued by the Department of Consumer Services. No chauffeur shall operate any Public Passenger Vehicle without a medallion properly affixed. City of Chicago, Department of Consumer Services, Public Vehicle Operations Division.

Another….

The dome light when lit, must be visible at 300 feet in normal sunlight. The dome light shall be installed and maintained in such manner that the dome light will automatically be lit when the taximeter is not activated and that the dome light will automatically be unlit when the taximeter is activated.

In addition to Eddie’s company and our traversing of Chicago’s streets, we have a pretty good murder mystery. Stopping for a back alley comfort break, Eddie discovers the near dead body of a young prostitute. We have some interaction with the police as they open an investigation. Eddie’s contact with the detectives on the case continues through the book, as does a follow-up with the victim, whose life he helped save.

Additionally one of his cab drivers friends gets murdered and Eddie is puzzled as to the circumstances of his demise. His friend was too sharp and street-wise to have been in the particular area of the city he was found, at the time he met his end. I wouldn’t class Eddie’s involvement thereafter as a bit of amateur sleuthing, more musing out loud as to the whys and the wherefores and the keen eye subsequently applied to his interactions with customers, fellow drivers, the police and pretty much everyone who crosses his path.

Really enjoyable – setting, character, pace, plot, resolution, length. A book that I would have been happy restarting just as soon as I’d finished it.

4.5 from 5

I’ve enjoyed Jack Clark’s work before – Hack Writing &Other Stories

There’s a few more from him on the Kindle – Dancing on Graves, Highway Side and Westerfield’s Chain.  There was a second Eddie Miles book released last year – Back Door to LA.

Jack Clark's website Hack Writing is here.

Read in December, 2016
Published - 2010
Page count - 224
Source - purchased copy
Format - Kindle


Wednesday, 9 August 2017

NICK TRIPLOW - FRANK'S WILD YEARS (2012)


Synopsis/blurb......

Frank’s Wild Years is a story of betrayal and last chances at the frayed and fading edges of the south London underworld. 

IN THE TWILIGHT days between Christmas and New Year, ageing Frank Neaves is about to drink away his last tenner in a Deptford boozer. A former friend and associate of long-dead local villain Dave Price, Frank’s scotch-soaked meditation is interrupted when it’s discovered that Carl, Price’s son and the pub’s landlord, has disappeared leaving an oblique one line note for barmaid, Adeline. 

After a visit to Carl’s mother, Rose, they discover he has gone to Hull to bring his young daughter, Grace, back to south London to celebrate New Year’s Eve. Adeline knows this means coming up against the malevolent James O’Keefe, Carl’s ex-wife’s new bloke and small time crook. Certain of a violent confrontation that the Carl can’t win, Adeline persuades Frank to join her and together they take a slow train for Humberside.

Over the course of the next few days, Frank, Carl and Adeline each have a chance to redeem past mistakes, none more so than Frank, whose past comes back to haunt him in ways he could never have imagined. 

***********************************************************

'An urban masterpiece; riveting from first to last. Nick Triplow is the true successor to Ted Lewis.' Mike Hodges, Film Director - Get Carter

The best book I read last October and confirmation of the foolishness of my decision to disregard British crime fiction for about 20 of the past 25 years reading.

Snazzy re-issue!
We have an interesting story of Frank, a man with a chequered past, still mourning the loss of his true love through his deceit and weakness in refusing to disassociate himself from criminal sorts.

Frank is coerced away from his bar stool to try and help Carl. Carl has embarked on a suicide mission to Hull to try and get his daughter back from some pond life up North. Does Frank still have it in him to sort things out, with one last hurrah or is he an old soak better suited to frittering his days away in the corner of a grimy pub?

We're about to find out.

Fantastic characters, particularly Frank, with some able support in the guise of Adeline and a great South London setting, both in the present and the past of Frank's heydays.

I enjoyed reading and the discovery of Frank's past - his actions, the consequences and his regrets.

Tremendous writing, I was hooked from the opening paragraph........

You know Frank, he’s the bloke who used to line up dry roasted nuts on a bar towel and flick them at Adeline every time he needed a refill. And Adeline, she’d take the hit, usually on the bare roll of flesh between her too-short, too-tight sweater and too-low, too-tight jeans, then top up his pint glass without a word. It was like that for as long as anyone could remember, and that’s longer than most of the regulars who think of the John Evelyn as home.

Ticks in every box. If I had a complaint it would be that at a shade of over 200 pages this was too short.
 
My kind of book.

5 from 5

I've previously enjoyed Nick Triplow's The Debt.
He has a couple of non-fiction books to his name and a soon to be published biography of Ted Lewis - Getting Carter.

He has his website here.

Read in October 2016
Published - 2012
Page count - 216
Source - purchased copy
Format - Kindle

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

ARIANA D. DEN BLEYKER - DARK WATER (2015)


Synopsis/blurb........

"A great example of dark, twisted noir."

Love is complicated. Murder even more so...
When Henry’s wife is murdered he’s forced to disappear. Nobody would believe he didn’t kill her. His sister, the only witness, won’t testify. His brother-in-law, the detective, doesn’t trust him. His mistress, the investigating pathologist, won’t help him. They all have their own secrets to protect.

And after all, Henry killed so many others before.

Dark Water is a pitch black tale of suicide, torture, murder and revenge as an artist returns to produce his greatest work out of those closest to him.

“Ironically, Dark Water, though about grim and depraved crime, made me euphoric while reading it, sentence by strikingly beautiful sentence. This book shows Ariana D. Den Bleyker to be one of the major talents of our age, with a mastery that allows her to change our psyches forever with the profound dynamics between her characters.” -Tantra Bensko (Unside: A Book of Closed Time-like Curves)

"Beautiful in its prose and sadistic main characters... Will make a terrifying movie." -NotesontheShore

13 crime novellas and short novels over 13 months, on the 13th of each month. Find out more at www.numberthirteenpress.com

I'm endeavouring to read my way through the 13 books put out by Number 13 Press and this one my 7th was my first difficult and disappointing read if I'm truthful.

I just didn't care about any of the characters on display, I just felt a sense of total indifference and as a consequence the plot and any events that unfolded, events which I also found utterly confusing, were rendered toothless.

Sad to say, I struggled through this one.

We have a wife, a husband, a sister, a brother-in-law. They are also a murderer, a witness, a cop and a mistress. We have a murder, a fire - maybe a couple, a funeral - perhaps two, a man on the run and a bit more besides.  Should have been my sort of read in reality, but either it was poorly executed, or I'm totally off my reading game at the minute. The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle.  

There were a couple of quotes which I found memorable and which gave me pause for thought....

How can I forget what pain tastes like? He said to nobody. It tastes like sadness.


Most of the time, he thought, you can tell the living from the dead looking at their eyes, but not so much anymore.

I wish I had enjoyed it a bit more.

2 from 5

Ariana D. Den Bleyker has her website here. She is the author of about a dozen books.

Read in August, 2017
Published - 2015
Page count - 110
Source - purchased copy
Format - Kindle

Monday, 7 August 2017

JULY 2017 - FILMS + TV

Another decent month's viewing with a trip to the cinema, the completion of a 6 part TV drama and the odd TV film or two.

The Do-Over (2016)
I don't think Adam Sandler is everyone's cup of tea, but ever since The Wedding Singer and Fifty First Dates I've always been partial to watching his films, though that doesn't extend to buying them or rushing straight out to the cinema either. (Do his films even go on general release now?)

Typical Sandler fare here - some hit and miss jokes, a bit of juvenile schoolboy humour-cum-crudity and a bit of heart! He's done worse but he's done better - maybe a 6 or 7 from 10.

Two down-on-their-luck guys decide to fake their own deaths and start over with new identities, only to find the people they're pretending to be are in even deeper trouble.

Broken (2017)
The trials and tribulations of a parish priest with some awkward customers, sorry...... parishioners requiring spiritual succour and some practical support. Compulsive gambling, suicide, mental illness, death by police, institutional cover-ups, poverty - life on the breadline as a single mother with 3 kids and a family bereavement, homosexuality and intolerant attitudes. My first real time in the company of Sean Bean as an actor and he's pretty amazing in his portrayal. Unlike some of Jimmy McGovern's programmes, I left this series feeling quite uplighted.

Amen - You Wonderful Priest!

Broken is a six-part British television drama series, created by screenwriter Jimmy McGovern, that first broadcast on BBC One on 30 May 2017. The series focuses on Michael Kerrigan (Sean Bean), the priest of a Roman Catholic parish in a northern English city, who despite suffering from his own troubles stemming from a traumatic childhood, tries to guide several of his most vulnerable parishioners through the trials and tribulations of everyday life. The series, produced by LA Productions, was commissioned in 2015; with filming taking place throughout 2016

The Age of Adaline (2015)
My daughter insisted we watch this one and for once I was quite happy to accept her recommendation. Usually I have to sit through some trashy horror flick, watching through my fingers as my legs shoot out into the air, everytime something goes bump.

Apparently, I'm supposed to know who Blake Lively is. I didn't but I do now. A decent love story with an intriguing premise - a woman who has stopped aging. Harrison Ford has a decent contribution to make, as one of Adaline's former lovers and the father or her current one.

A young woman, born at the turn of the 20th century, is rendered ageless after an accident. After many solitary years, she meets a man who complicates the eternal life she has settled into.

War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)
A weekend trip to Lowestoft and a visit to their small but fantastic East Coast Cinema - no multiplex prices here.



I'm not a massive fan of the "Apes" genre/saga but I enjoyed this one well enough. I do like a bit of Woody Harrelson and there's plenty of action and a reasonable plot here. It does feel slightly disloyal to be rooting for the apes over the humans, so I tried to sit on the fence!

Caesar (Andy Serkis) and his apes are forced into a deadly conflict with an army of humans led by a ruthless colonel (Woody Harrelson). After the apes suffer unimaginable losses, Caesar wrestles with his darker instincts and begins his own mythic quest to avenge his kind. As the journey finally brings them face to face, Caesar and the colonel are pitted against each other in an epic battle that will determine the fate of both of their species and the future of the planet.
The Fundamentals of Caring (2016)
Another winner from my daughter - she's on a roll now 2 from 2! We have seen this one before but well worth a second look. Funny, sad, thought provoking and humorous. Paul Rudd, Selena Gomez and Craig Roberts are all excellent.

A writer (Paul Rudd) retires after a personal tragedy and becomes a disabled teen's caregiver. When the two embark on an impromptu road trip, their ability to cope is tested as they start to understand the importance of hope and friendship.

We Own the Night (2007)
Tense drama - late 80s New York, a nightclub owner Joaquin Phoenix taking a different path to his cop family - brother Mark Wahlberg and father Robert Duvall. Eva Mendes is pretty good as Phoenix's girlfriend. Powerful stuff. I usually like all four of these actor's films and this was no exception.

In 1988, New York's police wage an all-out war on drugs, and guilty and innocent alike become casualties. Bobby Green (Joaquin Phoenix), manager of a nightclub that is often frequented by gangsters, tries to remain neutral but hides a potentially fatal secret: His brother (Mark Wahlberg) and father (Robert Duvall) are both cops. After his brother is wounded in an assassination attempt, Bobby can no longer remain neutral. He joins forces with his brother for an all-out assault on the mob.


Bull (2016)
My other daughter spotted this one on one of our TV channels so we dipped in and had a look. Two episodes so far and we're enjoying it. Probably complete tosh and nonsense or maybe not - the science of predicting jury behaviour. I like Michael Weatherly though his character doesn't seem that far removed from the one he played in NCIS - Anthony DiNozzo - another series we used to enjoy.


Bull is an American drama television series starring Michael WeatherlyCBS ordered the program to series on May 13, 2016, and it premiered on September 20, 2016. The show is based on the early days of talk show host Dr. Phil McGraw's career, when he was a trial consultant. (from Wikepdia)


Hector (2015)

I do like Peter Mullan as an actor - Sunshine on Leith, Neds, Ordinary Decent Criminal and probably lots more beside. I really enjoyed this film also.

Mullan plays Hector, one of the many invisible homeless on our streets that we choose not to see every day. Sad and serious, with a bit of humour and camaraderie on display. Both facets which elevate this one above being a potentially grim and harrowing view, into something much more watchable without ever losing sight of the seriousness of the subject. 

Hector has been living on the motorways for years. His once comfortable family life has been replaced by a never-ending tour of service stations that offer him shelter, anonymity, washing facilities and food. The story follows his journey south from Scotland on his annual pilgrimage to a temporary Christmas shelter in London where he finds comfort, friendship and warmth. Over the course of his Homeric journey, Hector decides to reconnect with his long estranged past. As his previous life catches up with him, the story of how he came to be leading a marginal life begins to emerge.