Monday, 25 September 2017

PHIL STANFORD - ROSE CITY VICE (2017)


Synopsis/blurb......

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Entertaining and illuminating.

4 from 5

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

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

Sunday, 24 September 2017

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



Synopsis/blurb…..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4 from 5

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

Catch him on Twitter@jrlindermuth


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

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

MARK DAWSON - 1000 YARDS (2013)



Synopsis/blurb......

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4 from 5

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

His website is here. Catch him on Twitter@pbackwriter

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

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

2 BY NEIL BROADFOOT

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

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


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















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

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



Falling Fast (2014)

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





All the Devils (2016)

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

Monday, 18 September 2017

GRAHAM SMITH - THE KINDRED KILLERS (2017)


Synopsis/blurb…

An explosive new crime thriller

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4.5 from 5

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

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

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

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




Sunday, 17 September 2017

AUGUST 2017 - READING LIST AND PICK OF THE MONTH



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

They were......

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

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

Dana King - Worst Enemies (2012) (5)

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

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

Eryk Pruitt - Dirtbags (2014) (4.5)

Dietrich Kalteis - Triggerfish (2016)  (4.5)

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

Graham Wynd - Smallbany (2015) (4)

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

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

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

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

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


More useless trivia......

10 reads - 8 different authors,

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

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

Gender analysis - 6 male authors, 2 females.



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

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

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

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

Favourite cover? Eryk Pruitt - Dirtbags!




Second favourite - Triggerfish from Dietrich Kalteis!




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

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

8 Kindle reads, 2 paperbacks,

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bob Pastorella - Mojo Rising

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

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


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

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

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

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

"Quite fun..." - Eric Idle

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

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

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

“A classic whodunit brought bang up to date”

“A modern day Cluedo”

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

“A book full of clever plotting.”

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



Saturday, 16 September 2017

ERIC BEETNER - THE YEAR I DIED SEVEN TIMES: BOOK 5 (2014)


Synopsis/blurb……

Four deaths into the worst year of his life and Ridley is ready to give up his search for the elusive girl of his dreams, Miho.

Then he gets a most unexpected visitor.

Ruthless assassins won’t leave him alone and now that’s he’s disturbed the hive, will the newest swarm mean his final demise?

On the run with his precious cargo Ridley will find mystery on the highway, death and sex in a cheap motel, and even more ways to die. But could this be the final curtain?

Only two more installments remain in the exciting adventure of The Year I Died Seven Times. Next: August


Deja-vous, deja-Beetner, deja-Ridley - another quick pacey 50 pages from Beetner and another click on the scoreboard.

Unexpected visitor indeed, Miho puts in an appearance. The end of our tale? No there's retribution to be had and a small address book hidden at her old apartment will sink the bastards who have done this to the couple, if we can stomach the smell from the decaying corpse that is her old flatmate.

A few more twists and turns and the opportunity to play a starring role in a porn film for Ridley is declined. A wise move. A good samaritan act on the highway cranks up the paranoia over the Japanese thugs that are imagined to be lurking around every corner, hiding behind every tree.

When Ridley dies for a fifth time his demise is somewhat innocent, blame Mother Nature.

Plenty of wry smiles as opposed to out and out chuckles, a lot of action, short and sharp. A fun read for those who don't want to take their fiction too seriously.

4 from 5

The writing machine that is Eric Beetner has his website here. He's on Twitter@ericbeetner

The previous installments of The Year I Died Seven Times....

Book 4 here
Book 3 here
Book 2 here
Book 1 here

Read in August, 2017
Published - 2014
Page count - 50
Source - purchased copy
Format - Kindle

Thursday, 14 September 2017

DIETRICH KALTEIS - TRIGGERFISH (2016)


Synopsis/blurb……

Rennie Beckman is a dishonored ex-cop with only two things on his mind: his new boat, the Triggerfish, and his hot date, an environmentalist named Vicki. After the two unknowingly dock the boat in the same secluded cove as a Mexican cartel’s drug submarine, the date ends with a bang.

With the cartel’s coke-for-guns deal with local bikers torched by Beckman, he’s forced to go on the run with half the underworld chasing him through the streets of Vancouver and the waters surrounding it. While he tries to stay alive, a woman from Beckman’s past — currently on the run from CSIS and the anti-terror squad — comes back to settle an old score.

When the gangs start to go after his friends, the ex-cop stops running and turns the tables. With a ragtag crew of his own, Beckman fights the cartel and bikers, head on. Fast, vicious, and thrilling, Triggerfish delivers a story where all the criminals are in conflict and no one is certain who will come out on top.

Another slice of top class Canadian crime fiction from Dietrich Kalteis with Triggerfish. Triggerfish is the third novel from Kalteis after Ride the Lightning and The Deadbeat Club.

My kind of book…….. a cop becomes an ex-cop and a boatman, a drug-smuggling submarine owned by a Mexican cartel, a biker gang trading guns for cocaine, a raspberry thong-ed environmentalist, a sexual encounter interrupting the drugs transfer, and the aftermath. The cartel coming after our main man Beckman and his date in an effort to eliminate the witnesses.

Action, violence, sex, vegan food, environmentalists, the sea, a hapless assistant, a concerned friend, a love rival, drug-runners, bikers, a stabbing, a terrorist on the most wanted list, a low-level criminal duo of uncle and nephew in over their heads, cocaine and guns, opportunity, theft, torture, arson, death, fisticuffs and more.

Fast-paced, entertaining, engaging, funny in all the right places, educational (whoever knew the cartels smuggled drugs in purpose built-submarines? not me), satisfying.

Ticks in every box.

4.5 from 5

Ride the Lightning was enjoyed, thoughts here. As was The Deadbeat Clubhere.

House of Blazes - a historical novel set around the time of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and the forthcoming Zero Avenue await.

Dietrich Kalteis has his website/blog here. Catch him on Twitter - @dietrichkalteis   and Facebook here.

Read in August, 2017
Published – 2016
Page count – 266
Source – review copy from publisher ECW Press

Format - paperback


Wednesday, 13 September 2017

GRAHAM SMITH - WATCHING THE BODIES (2017)


Synopsis/blurb…..

Watching The Bodies: an explosive new crime thriller from a critically acclaimed author
When Jake Boulder is asked by his PI friend to help investigate the vicious murder of Kira Niemeyer, he soon finds himself tracking a serial killer who selects his next victim in a most unusual manner.

As the body count rises, Boulder has to work with the police to identify the heinous killer before more lives are taken. What ensues is a twisted game of cat and mouse, that only Boulder or the Watcher can survive. But who will it be?

Watching The Bodies is the first in Graham Smith's new Jake Boulder series, a fast-moving and action packed crime thriller, it will appeal to greatly to fans of Lee Child's Jack Reacher series.

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

I will hold my hand up and admit I’m not the world’s biggest fan of the serial killer book. In the main I tend to avoid them. I will make an exception for John Sandford’s books, though I’ve not picked up one of them for a few years now.

I did enjoy this one and it was my first outing with Graham Smith. Kind of fortunate really, because I had already committed to reading the second Jake Boulder book – The Kindred Killers for a post next week.

Over 300 pages long, but it was a quick easy read. Plenty happening to keep me engaged and speeding through the story.

Jake Boulder is single, a bouncer at a bar and sometime help for his friend, Alfonse who runs an investigative business. We learn about Boulder’s upbringing, the abandonment by his father at a young age, the Scottish heritage, the inherited fiery temper and willingness to engage in casual violence. He’s well-suited to his role as a bouncer. You start trouble, he’ll happily finish it. He’s intelligent and practical. He dreads phone calls from his mother….the constant ear-bashing about the lack of a meaningful relationship and the absence of a grandchild. Boulder and women - he loves them and leaves them, having serious commitment issues.

A women has been murdered and the dead girl’s father has hired Alfonse to look into the death. Our small town of Casperton has a police department, legendary in its incompetence. The lead detective and the mayor’s son has his role courtesy of nepotism instead of ability. There’s a new competent police chief recently appointed, but a new broom hasn’t yet swept through the department.

Stories in order to engage me have to be credible and on the face of it, I think a bouncer investigating a murderer is a bit of a stretch, but the author did a great job in convincing me to buy the premise.  The skilful portrayal of the PD and its less than glorious abilities and the plausible involvement of a PI and ergo Boulder in looking into things, was thus only a small leap of faith.

One murder to begin with, many more follow. What’s the connection between the victims and what is the killer’s motive?

Boulder and Alfonse with the tacit agreement of Chief Watson continue to investigate. Alfonse with his PC skills, tracking and hacking and uncovering details helpful to the investigation; Boulder on the ground doing the leg-work and interviews and a bit of less than gentle persuasion when called for. We have a quid pro quo arrangement with Boulder’s mother’s psychiatrist for a bit of insight into the killer. Boulder in return for the shrink’s input has to open up about his commitment issues and suppressed angst.

Our narrative also offers us chapters from the killer’s perspective which add to the excitement and help keep the book pacey and punchy.

Inevitably Boulder and our killer collide.

Enjoyable and entertaining. A wee suspension of disbelief was required to get on board with events initially, but I was soon swept along by the rapid escalation of killings. I like Smith’s style. Story, plot, setting, characters, action, wit and resolution were all present and satisfying.

4 from 5

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

He has another series to his name set in Cumbria – the DI Harry Evans books. The second in the Jake Boulder series - The Kindred Killers is now available.

Read in September, 2017
Published - 2017
Page count - 322
Source - purchased copy
Format - Kindle






Tuesday, 12 September 2017

2 BY FINN BELL

A new-to-me author and one that came to my attention because both his books received nominations for the 2017 Ngaio Marsh Awards.

Two books published in the same year and two nominations - that's got to be worth checking out!

Finn Bell lives in New Zealand and has his website here.

Apparently there are another two books in the pipeline, so I'd better pull my finger out and get to these one first.



Pancake Money (2016)

Bobby Ress is a cop with a simple life.
He believes in making a difference.
He loves his wife and his daughter. He has a place in the world.
Then people start dying, a lot of them, in horrible ways. It's a case like no other. And step by gruesome step the simple, true things Bobby knew to be right and good begin to make less and less sense. Because Bobby is learning about pain. He doesn't like to admit it. He doesn't like to know, but he's slowly realizing: If you hurt someone bad enough for long enough then there's nothing, absolutely nothing, they won't do.









Dead Lemons (2016)

In the far south a young girl goes missing, lost without trace in the wilderness beyond her remote family cottage. A year later her father disappears in the same place. Then nothing. At all. Eventually the years grow over the grief. The decades wear away the questions, life flows past the forgotten tragedy.

Until Finn moves into the abandoned home, looking for a fresh start.

A place to heal himself far from his old problems. But rebuilding life is complicated by chance encounters and odd occurrences leaving Finn with the growing suspicion that the people here are harboring a terrible secret. Suspicion turns to obsession the deeper Finn digs while also facing steadily escalating dangers in the here-and-now. Soon Finn's own journey of recovery becomes inextricably linked with his need to unravel the mystery. Past and present finally collide when Finn starts to learn the truth about this place and himself. Now he must choose between exoneration and condemnation, justice and vengeance.

Monday, 11 September 2017

MICHAEL POOL - MIDNIGHT AT THE SAN FRANCISCAN (2015)


Synopsis/blurb......

SOMETIMES REVENGE IS THE ONLY THING KEEPING A MAN ALIVE. COME MIDNIGHT, MIKE TREADWELL IS GOING TO GET HIS. NO MATTER WHAT.

Late one evening at a Las Cruces NM bar and grill called The San Franciscan, disgraced family man Mike Treadwell recalls the events that led to his downfall while the clock counts down toward a midnight showdown where blood will be shed, and the lives of everyone involved will be forever altered.

Another short story padding the reading stats and another new-to-me author that I haven't read before.

20-odd pages long and a sad tale of a family's demise.

Economics and family illness leave Mike Treadwell with little option but to offer his garage and mechanical skills in the service of a crime boss; Treadwell creating hidey-holes on some vehicles for the smuggling of drugs. So far, so good. The extra money helps with some of his daughter's medical bills but it isn't enough.

Expanding his operation leaves him exposed to greater risk. When the police come calling, he's on the way down and the final disintegration of his family has begun.

Prison time, his daughter's death, the disappointment and disapproval of his wife, her demise as the ruthless kingpin's punishment for his over-stepping the boundaries.

Mike Treadwell is out of prison and intent on exacting a measure of payback.

Dark, engaging, interesting and satisfying. Easy to see how one poor decision can escalate and speed up into a downward spiral into chaos and oblivion.

4 from 5

Michael Pool has his website here

He has a couple of other offerings to his name - Debt Crusher, a novella and a collection of stories, New Alley for Nothing Men. He is also the editor of Crime Syndicate Magazine

Read in August, 2017
Published - 2015
Page count - 23
Source - purchased copy
Format - Kindle


Sunday, 10 September 2017

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS WITH TRACE CONGER


Trace Conger, author of the Mr Finn series and the standalone novella, The White Boy was kind enough to submit to a few questions.....
















Is the writing full time? If not, what’s the day job?

The writing is full time, but it’s not always fiction. I’m also a freelance copywriter. Most of my clients are pretty well-known brands—I’ve written for Exxon, John Deere, Morton Salt, Prudential Insurance, and many others. I specialize in long-form copy, so basically anything except ads. James Patterson was a copywriter before making it big, so obviously, I’m destined for great things.

What’s your typical writing schedule?

That really depends on my client demands. If something is due to a client that day, then I have to prioritize it, but my goal is to spend at least two hours every day writing fiction. Sometimes it’s less and sometimes more. If the corporate work is slow, I might get an entire week to work on my current work in progress, but there are also times when I’ve had to shelve fiction for a month of longer because of client demands. At the moment my clients pay much better than fiction, and I like to eat. As do my wife and kids.

Do you insert family, friends, and colleagues into your characters?

Yes, but I always tell my family, friends and colleagues that I don’t! Most of my characters have some personal traits in them. It’s like I’ve got this well in my basement and it’s filled with everyone I’ve ever known or every experience I’ve ever had (that I can remember, anyway) and when I need an idea or a character, I go down in the deep, dark basement and crank up the bucket. I think this also lends itself to more believable characters and scenes. As a writer, if I can recall how something affected me personally, it makes for more vivid writing. I’ve also killed off two ex-girlfriends in my books, which was immensely satisfying. 

When you have an idea and you sit down to construct your story – do you know what the end result is roughly going to look like? Are you a plotter, or do you make it up as you go along?




I plot out all my novels, but I know that the story will likely change once I start writing it. Before writing novels (and freelancing) I was a copywriter at an ad agency, and everything had to be outlined because it had to be approved by a client. So, I’m comfortable plotting, outlining and structuring the story because I’m used to that process. That said, often the story goes a different direction once I’m in the middle of it. Some characters I thought would die in one book, end of having a reoccurring role in others. Some plot points I thought were great at the onset, end up on the cutting room floor. For me, it’s a very (ALERT, CHEESY WRITER PHRASE COMING) organic process, and that keeps it fun. If I had to stick to the outline for the entire novel, I’d feel very constrained, but having a roadmap of sorts is a nice crutch.  

Are there any subjects off limits?

Yes and no. If you want to make a living at fiction, you have to have a business sense, and that means knowing that some subjects are off limits from a publishing perspective. (If you don’t believe me, try to pitch a bestiality- or pedophilia-themed novel to a publisher and see what happens.)

Outside of those, I wouldn’t shy away from much as long as it fits in the story. My debut novel THE SHADOW BROKER has a few scenes that might be tough to stomach, but I felt they were important to the story. They weren’t gratuitous, in my opinion, anyway.
 
In my third novel, THE PRISON GUARD’S SON, I include backstory about a child who had been kidnaped and murdered. That’s really touchy stuff, especially since I have two young children myself. I don’t linger too much on that backstory, but the context is vital to the novel, so I have to address it.

Can you tell us a bit about your published books so far? I believe you have three in your Mr. Finn series, plus a horror novella; is there one you are more proud of than any of the others? Which and why? Which would you press into a reader’s hand ahead of the others?

As of this interview, yes, I’ve published four books (THE SHADOW BROKER, SCAR TISSUE, THE PRISON GUARD’S SON, and THE WHITE BOY). I love them all for different reasons.

I wouldn’t say I’m more proud of any one of them more than the others (you gotta love all your kids the same, right?), but SHADOW will always hold a special place for me because it was my first book. It also won a Shamus Award from the PI Writers of America, which was pretty cool. WHITE BOY also holds a special place because it was a very personal story to me.

I typically promote SHADOW the most simply because it’s the first in the Mr. Finn series and I want readers to start what that. PRISON could read as a stand alone, but readers will get more out of it if they start at the beginning.

I’ve only read the first Finn book, The Shadow Broker and have the following two to look forward to, without any spoilers is the series over or will we be seeing more of our man in the future?

So, the series is on a hold for the moment, while I complete my current novel, BEYOND THE SYCAMORE TREES. That’s a paranormal suspense novel, very similar to WHITE BOY. Those two stories are connected, but SYCAMORE is longer and explores deeper themes.

I do plan to return to the Finn series at some point, but it might take a turn from what is currently out there. I know there are a lot of fans of that series, but to be honest, I don’t think I could stick with one series, simply because I believe it would get very formulaic over time. I love Finn as a character, and I’m pretty certain he’ll be back, as will some of the other characters from the series.

What’s been the most satisfying moment of your writing career so far?

I think completing and publishing SHADOW was the most satisfying at the moment, simply because I’ve had that goal for a long time and by completing the novel I fulfilled a promise to myself that I was going to see it through.

Any unpublished gems in your bottom drawer?

Not in my bottom drawer; that’s where I keep all the cables to things I no longer own.

Seriously, though, no unpublished novels, but several short stories. They’re unpublished, not because they are garbage, but because I’ve been too lazy to pitch them to magazines or anthologies. I’ve been so focused on the novels that the shorts kind of get neglected. Maybe there’s a story idea there… All the characters from an author’s short stories conspire against him because he’s too focused on his novels to pay them any attention. I call dibs on that.

What’s the current project in progress? 

SYCAMORE is about half complete. Maybe a little more than that, but once I finish the draft, it’s got a long road to publication. I don’t currently have a literary agent, and I’d like to use SYCAMORE to try and land one, and all that takes oodles of time.

What’s the best thing about writing?

It’s being in control of my own life. If I don’t want to get out of bed in the morning, I don’t have to. That said, I’ve gotten out of bed every day since I started writing full time because I have this annoying voice in my head that makes sure I’m responsible and that I act like an adult. He’s an ass.

Writing is also a fantastic way to spend your time. Sure beats accounting or working in IT (no offense to any readers in those professions, they just aren’t for me). Life is much too short to spend it doing anything except what you love doing.

The worst?

I’d be lying if I didn’t say an inconsistent paycheck. Luckily, my wife has a “real job” not to mention health insurance, so that helps tremendously, but I never know how much I’m going to earn month to month. Some months are great and others maybe not so much, so you have to be fiscally aware and responsible if you’re going to make a go at this.

What are the last five books you’ve read?

Shine Out of Bedlam, Jeff Hilliard
Many Genres, One Craft, Michael Arzen and Heidi Miller
Joyland, Stephen King
The Horror Hall of Fame, Joe Lansdale
Fever, David Kettlehake

Who do you read and enjoy?

I love Joe Lansdale. Fantastic author.

Is there any one book you wish you had written?

Not really. It’s cliché, but while I’m totally jealous of certain authors, I can’t say there is a story that I wish I had written. They’re too personal, and I believe that every story comes from the right author.

Favourite activity when not working or writing?

I’m an avid woodworker. I also play golf, badly.

What’s the last film you watched that rocked you?

That’s easy because I just watched it last night. “Diana: 7 Days that Shook the World.” I live in the U.S. and was in college when Princess Diana died, and to be honest, while I knew a lot about her, I didn’t know the sheer impact she had on the English people or the immense impact her death created across the pond. It was a tremendous film, and I learned a lot about some of the things that were happening behind the scenes and the impact her death had on the monarchy. Very interesting.

TV addict or not? What’s the must watch show in the Conger household?  

Unfortunately, yes. Guilty as charged. My wife and I just finished Game of Thrones, and now I’ll be depressed for the next 1.5 years as I wait for the final season. I got rid of satellite TV last year because I found that I’d sit down at night and just surf the channels until I found something. I hated that and thought I was spending way too much time watching useless crap just because I couldn’t find nothing better that was on. Now, we’re pretty selective about what we watch. Game of Thrones is a must watch, but so is Last Week Tonight, with Jon Oliver. It’s the smartest show on television. You Brits be hysterical.

In a couple of years’ time…

…I’ll still be doing what I’m doing, but hope to be less reliant on client work and more focused on fiction. I’ve got a lot of stories yet to tell. 
---------------------------------------------------------------------

Many thanks to Trace for his time

You can keep up to speed with him at the following haunts.....


Thoughts on The Shadow Broker appeared here.

Saturday, 9 September 2017

DANA KING - WORST ENEMIES (2012)


Synopsis/blurb.....

Penns River rarely sees two homicides in a year. Two in little over a week is almost too much for the police force to handle. The assigned detectives — Ben Dougherty, a former MP and Penns River native, and retired Pittsburgh cop Willie Grabek — find links to bind the two cases, but their investigation is complicated by the involvement of private investigator Daniel Rollison, a retired spy on a suspect's payroll who is really working for himself. 

Pittsburgh mob boss Mike Mannarino also lives in Penns River and has more than a passing interest in the case. The two cops' savvy competes with the limitations of their small town's resources and the interference of Rollison and Mannarino in a story that shows identifying a killer and proving it are separate things.

Possibly the best book I've read this year. Over 300 pages long and as soon as I was done, I was tempted to flick to the front and start again.

There's a fictional small town setting, one that seems incredibly real in King's hands. The plot is a riff on Highsmith's Strangers on a Train and incredibly clever. King produces a devious twist which initially wrong-footed me, then had me speeding up my reading to see what else he had in store for us.

He didn't let me down, great pace and a real cadence to the writing that I loved. Interesting characters - the police detectives, the PI working for the killer, the sexy wife of the killer, the mob boss operating with the tacit consent of the authorities. Each of them with competing motives, all of them at odds with each other.

Great little backstories and sideshows throughout. For example - our main detective's family dinners and love-life, dissected and cajoled along by his lesbian friend. All adding another rich seam to depth of the book and my enjoyment, as opposed to looping you out of the main story.

Action, violence, death, a bit of torture, dialogue, humour, sex - nothing gratuitous - they all had their place. A fantastic tale and a superb ending.

I was a bit sad when I reached the end. It's not very often I don't want a book to finish. Fortunately King has penned a couple more in this series which I have on the pile - Grind Joint and Resurrection Mall

5 from 5

Dana King has a blog here.

Read in August, 2016
Published - 2012
Page count - 371
Source - purchased copy
Format - Kindle