Sunday, 17 June 2018

DALE BRENDAN HYDE - THE INK RUN (2017)


Synopsis/blurb....

Book Description

OTISS is an abused child, physically & mentally tortured for years in the home by his sadistic parents. His Father STAN plots an elaborate alibi enabling him to set up the boy for the murder of his own Mother.

A trial of sorts, hanging on the basis of a defense of automatism( murder when sleepwalking) sees a detainment to the FABERON institution for the criminal insane.

In this cloudy pond, where the staff are every bit as dangerous & disturbed as the patients.

Young OTISS is placed on a wing funded as a trial by the Government which uses olden day methods from centuries past to cure madness.

Eventually released a decade later as an even more tortured soul, he sets up THE VILLAGE EYE pub as a front to his real nocturnal activities of being a VIGILANTE.

Warning beatings on the scum of the village soon becomes tiresome as he reaches new limits of retribution.

Still traumatized from youth, will he find the courage to finally confront STAN?

You can't truly escape your blood lines DNA as fatal mistakes see a familiar face from the INSTITUTION reveal that our main protagonist has not been the only one keeping the VIGIL & upping the ANTE.

The Ink Run is the debut novel from author Dale Brendan Hyde. It's a book which catalogues the life of Otiss from childhood and the sadistic abuse of his father with the indifference to his suffering by his mum, who is also a victim. Onward through the false imprisonment and his detention in an asylum, after being framed for his mother's murder. To his life after freedom and a continuation of the violence which has accompanied him throughout his life, albeit with Otiss now as the harbinger.

Intense, dark, disturbing, cruel, uncomfortable and challenging. I don't think I could say I enjoyed it, who could with such a life described? It was a book I needed to read in short bursts over a prolonged period of time.

Difficult themes are explored ...... child abuse, institutional abuse and a corrupt justice system. These are contrasted with displays of resilience, spirit and defiance and the comfort gleaned from friendship and strength garnered from shared experiences.

Pre-imprisonment, there are temporary moments of light and respite in a solitary friendship with Johnny and the brief connection Otiss forms with his grandfather, but they are few and far between. Normality for Otiss is abuse.

We also get a feel for incarceration and the sadistic nature of the institution Otiss finds himself in. Staff abuse is commonplace with the hierarchy a cruel regime. One early hope for compassion and humane treatment in the guise of  Doctor Woo is quickly extinguished with Woo's departure and Otiss' suffering continues, indeed greatens.

Post freedom, I struggled to empathise with Otiss and his actions. Our victim turned vigilante and whilst the targets of his ire were bullies and deserving of punishment, in some ways it was sad that Otiss was the one to dispense it. A balancing of the scales for previous sins suffered in some ways diminished him in my eyes. The D-Day showdown with Stan - father and chief architect of Otiss' misery was gratuitously prolonged and cruel. Violence begets violence, which may be the author's point. I wish he had walked away and broken the cycle. Easier said than done, I guess.

On the downside - it could have been much shorter and we could have gotten where we were going in a few less pages. The numerous incidents related from the first stage of life, pre-murder after a while seemed a bit repetitious and numbing. I got the message early and was a little bit irked by the narration of another episode of cruelty, followed by another incident of abuse and and ....

On the upside - it's a thought provoking novel which doesn't shy away from presenting abuse and putting it to the forefront of your mind. Better to be confronted by such things, than exist in a bubble where you can pretend they don't happen. 

A difficult read - very challenging but worth the effort.

3 from 5

Read in May/June 2018
Published - 2017
Page count - 416
Source - review copy from author
Format - paperback



Thursday, 14 June 2018

SIX FROM SOUTH AMERICA

Scratching my head, I can't actually recall whether I've read anything from this continent or not - probably not then.

There's a  couple here from Brazil and four from Argentina, no other country on the continent has a presence in the collection.

Sergio Bizzio, Particia Melo, Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza, Guillermo Orsi, Ernesto Mallo and Ricardo Piglia....


Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza - The Silence of the Rain (2002)

The first in a seven book series. Somewhat foolishly, I think I have most of them despite never having read him. Go figure.

The first in a stunning new literary crime series featuring Detective Espinosa of the Rio de Janeiro Police Department. A handsome young businessman is found dead in downtown Rio, a suicide who left no note, who had everything to live for. But by the time the police are called, all traces of the man's identity and the weapon have been removed. Then as Detective Espinosa discovers that the man moved in the upper echelons of Rio society, and meets his beguiling and remarkable wife, clues to the way he lived and how he died lead Espinosa tantalisingly close to the truth. But is he on the right track?



Serge Bizzio - Rage (2009)
I think this is his only novel, or at least the only one translated into English

"A portrait etched in acid of a Buenos Aires society menaced by economic and political crisis. Without value judgement but with light irony, Bizzio reveals the ugly secrets of a family, seen through the eyes of his naive squatter. The imagery is often blinding and the dialogue pitch-perfect." - Le Temps

Jose Maria, a construction worker, is in love with Rosa, a maid in an exclusive Buenos Aires mansion. Subjected to constant humiliation by his foreman, Jose Maria kills him, then hides on an empty floor in the mansion. He silently observes the decadent behavior of the owners and watches Rosa in her most intimate moments. Jose Maria is also privy to more humiliating experiences - he watches as Rosa is raped by the young son of the family, and so he must kill again.

A metaphor for the decline of a social class, a country, and the resentment that spreads like a plague penetrating to the core of its people, Rage is also a tale of love and suspense that raises the tension with each successive page until it unavoidably shifts toward an intimate, shattering catastrophe. Humor, misfortune, shrewd social commentary, and thrilling erotic fantasy come together, offering the reader an inside vision of contemporary Argentina.



Guillermo Orsi - Holy City (2012)
I think this was a Poundland bargain a few years ago. Not sure when I'll get around to reading it. It seems to have lost its appeal at the minute.

Buenos Aires, Argentina. A passenger liner runs aground on the muddy banks of the nearby Rio de la Plata. The passengers are reduced to sleeping in the corridors of hotels and fall easy prey to the city's criminal class, who are always willing to take a wealthy tourist hostage. The first to go missing are a Colombian drug baron and his girlfriend, apprehended by Federal Police who may or may not be all they claim to be. But criminal celebrities of this calibre are a valuable commodity, and their abductor soon finds that the couple has been lifted from under his nose. Into the confusion steps Walter Carroza, a weary but honest cop. With his sidekick and confidante, Veronica Berutti, a policeman's widow and crusading lawyer, he embarks on an investigation that will lead him from the shanty markets of Buenos Aires' Bolivian quarter through layer upon layer of corruption towards the 'Holy Land', a theme park based on ancient Palestine, where a killer with a grisly taste for memorabilia lurks.



Ricardo Piglia - Money to Burn (2003)


Probably the one from the six that shouts out to me the most. I do like my tales of robberies and heists, more than murders.


Love and betrayal complicate a robbery gone wrong in this edgy true-crime novel based on a 1965 Argentine bank robbery. There's the drama of the botched raid itself, followed by a blowout afterparty, an attempted double-crossing of the corrupt local authorities, and a final shootout where, as a last act of rebellion, the robbers burn all the loot. This gritty tale has been adapted for a major motion picture by renowned Argentine director Marcelo Pinyero.


Ernesto Mallo - Sweet Money (2011)

Needle in a Haystack is the first in the series.

In the second book in the Superintendent Lascano series, Lascano is drawn into a war between the Buenos Aires chief of police and the Apostles, drug-dealing cops who want to control the city. When the chief of police is murdered, Lascano becomes the Apostles' next target. His only way out of the country is to retrieve the loot from a bungled bank robbery. 

Ernesto Mallo paints a scathing portrait of Argentina, where the Junta's generals are paraded in court in civilian clothes and treated like mere petty thieves. Corruption and violence continue to rule, but at the center of the novel lies a touching portrayal of two broken men, a cop and a robber, whose humanity is sorely tested by the troubles racking their beloved country.



Patricia Melo - The Killer (1997)

I've a few of her books on the pile, but not got around to her yet.

The Killer follows the incandescently gory trial of Maiqeul, a casual hood in a poor part of Sao Paulo as he escalates to the protected glory of full-blooded organised crime. It starts with an innocent hairdying scene, followed by sex and a murder, as chillingly incidental as the opening to Camus' L'Etranger. Melo enters the naive, brutal and oddly sympathetic mind of the killer with a poetic stream of consciousness that grips you till the relentless end. There is a quiet gentleness reminiscent of Banana Yoshimoto, mixed with the coolly horrific imagination of Quentin Tarantino: "I learned to walk once I started using weapons. To crush sidewalks." The long sentences build into a ferocious rhythm of panic, fear and lawlessness. The more Maiquel assassinates, the more he is praised by the community, until he kills the wrong kid. As hatred accumulates, the prose reaches a violent splendour that is a rush to read. Even his love life is tragically flawed as he gets the good girl pregnant and falls for the bad babe, Erica. "I hate you, out, love is a detonator, spitting in the face, out, explosive charges, signed Erica, pain, I was exhausted ..." With clever, deadpan satire, Melo pulls off a fabulous critique of class hatred, legal hypocrisy and anomie. Superb. --Cherry Smyth



Wednesday, 13 June 2018

ANN GIRDHARRY - CHILLING TALES OF THE UNEXPECTED (2018)


Synopsis/blurb....

Four twisty, short reads.
Addictive works of suspense,
That will leave you breathless and give you goose bumps…

Trading with Death
What sacrifice might we make for those we love? In the face of death, will we be selfish or selfless?

Tell Me a Secret
Deceit, lies and secrets – how well do we know those close to us?

Sweet Justice 
We follow Tess as she confronts the dark side…

Written on the Apple Tree 
A moment from a past life, a possession, or a simple meeting between strangers?

Another new-to-me author in Ann Girdharry and a collection of four quite different tales of suspense, a couple of which have supernatural elements.

Trading with Death ....an almost fairy tale like setting, two sisters talking a shortcut through the deep dark woods, one is sick and ailing, the other older, concerned and loving. Minor spoiler - one makes it home and one doesn't. A pact with death with the appearance and reassurance of a deceased grandmother to smooth the way. Not my usual thing, but it worked and I really enjoyed it. I was convinced.

Tell Me a Secret .... an unmarried couple, each separately considering their future and their commitment to each other. Some impatient third party involvement and a reminder that love wasn't part of the plan. Some issues that demand an urgent resolution. More straightforward storytelling and firmly set in the real world - very tense as the climax approaches.

Sweet Justice ....... two siblings - one older and approaching womanhood, the other a young boy, a missing mother and a stepfather with an unhealthy appetite. Again, it kind of read like a modern day fairy tale. Death, abandonment, an ever-increasing unease transforming into all out dread, a plan of action and a taking back of control, albeit at the risk of the ultimate sacrifice. My pick of the bunch.

Written on the Apple Tree ...... another tale which requires a suspension of disbelief to buy into the premise. A tale of thwarted love and romance across the generations, with a continuing attempt to reconnect and get the happy ever after. Probably the least favourite of the four, not that I was stabbing my eyeballs with a fork wanting it to end. I still enjoyed it, just a bit less than the others.

My first time with Ann Girdharry's work, but hopefully not my last, as I really enjoyed these.

4 from 5

Girdharry has a couple of series novels to her name, featuring Kal Medi. The second - London Noir sits on the pile.

Her website is here.
Author Facebook page is here.


Read in June, 2018
Published - 2018 (as a collection, each is available individually and all dropped first in 2015)
Page count - 98
Source - review copy from Rachel's Random Resources as part of a blog tour
Format - Kindle




Tuesday, 12 June 2018

2 BY MICHAEL WILEY

A couple from Michael Wiley this week, another author I've yet to try....






















Wiley has written seven books so far. Three in his Joe Kozmarski series and three in his Detective Daniel Turner series. These two are one and three in the Turner series.

His latest book, Monument Road (2017) features Franky Dast - so may have seen the commencement of another three-fer.

The Last Striptease won him the Private Eye Writers of America and St. Martin's Press prize for best first private eye novel in 2006.

His full list is....

Joe Kozmarski
1. Last Striptease (2007)
2. The Bad Kitty Lounge (2010)
3. A Bad Night's Sleep (2011)

Detective Daniel Turner Mystery
1. Blue Avenue (2014)
2. Second Skin (2015)
3. Black Hammock (2016)

Franky Dast
1. Monument Road (2017)

Michael Wiley's website is here.
He's on Twitter@mwileyauthor


Blue Avenue (2014)

Introducing homicide detective Daniel Turner and his troubled friend 'BB' in the first of this atmospheric crime noir series.

Summoned by his old friend, homicide detective Daniel Turner, to identify the trussed-up, naked body of a woman, found wrapped in cellophane amongst a pile of garbage on Blue Avenue, a down-at-heel area of Jacksonville, Florida, businessman William Byrd or 'BB' is in for a shock. He recognises the dead woman as Belinda Mabry, the girl with whom he spent an intense and passionate summer twenty-five years before. What's more, as Daniel informs him, she's the third victim to have met such a hideously gruesome end. Determined to find out what happened to Belinda Mabry and where she'd been for the past twenty-five years, BB must revisit his own troubled past - and discover more than he ever really wanted to know about the woman he once loved. But his investigations are causing serious ripples amongst prominent members of the local community. Has BB found himself on a road of no return?

Black Hammock (2016)

Homicide detective Daniel Turner revisits an 18-year-old unsolved case in the third of this intriguing and atmospheric crime noir series.

We had set out from Atlanta to kill my mother and her husband. A slow kill.

Oren has returned to the family home he last saw when he was eight years old. Eighteen years later, he is bent on an elaborate scheme of revenge.

Homicide detective Daniel Turner was never able to forget the unsolved case, the disappearance of Amon Jakobsen all those years ago. Convinced the man was murdered, he was never able to prove it.

Now he has returned to the isolated house on Black Hammock Island following reports of a disturbance. Is this his chance to find out what really happened to Amon eighteen years before? And will he be in time to prevent history repeating itself?


Monday, 11 June 2018

ANDREW BARRETT - THE LIFT (2015)


Synopsis/blurb....

The Lift is a stand alone Eddie Collins short story of about 30 pages. 

CSI Eddie Collins embarks on another ordinary day. But the people he meets in a lift prove that you should never make assumptions, never let preconceptions sway your judgement. And never let down your guard.

If you like fast-paced crime thrillers with raw emotions and characters that reach out of the book and grab you by the throat, you’ll love Andrew Barrett’s Eddie Collins series.

My reading having dropped off a cliff the past couple of months, a short sharp injection was needed to try and spark some life back into me. Andrew Barrett's The Lift assisted in that aim.

Eddie Collins is a series character from Barrett, with four novels and a couple of shorter pieces featuring Eddie. Collins is a CSI and on his way to a high rise flat to collect some evidence. Two other characters, an older gentleman and a reluctant youth are his companions in the lift.

Inevitably the lift breaks down and our tale unfolds. Conflict is in the air.... tension, fear, a desire for justice, family, negotiation, a shared history and ultimately violence and an unforeseen outcome.

I did enjoy this one. There's a twist in the tale, which with stories of this nature is probably compulsory. Not that I enjoyed it any the less. I'll be reading more from Barrett with Eddie Collins in the future.

4 from 5

Andrew Barrett has his website here.

Read in June, 2018
Published  - 2015
Page count - 51
Source - purchased copy (probably a freebie)
Format - Kindle

Sunday, 10 June 2018

JOHN MEAD - THE HANGING WOMEN (2018)


Synopsis/blurb.....

Jack Stevens discovers the bodies of two women, Philomena Blackstaff and Mary Walsh, tied together and hung by their ankles in a position resembling the symbol for treachery as depicted on tarot cards. Though retired and now wealthy, Stevens is an ex-sheriff and involves himself in the subsequent investigation.

As a result of Jack ‘stealing’ Philomena’s diary and his association with the Pinkerton detective agency, it is discovered that Mary Walsh worked undercover for the Pinkertons, investigating the Knights of Labour (the fastest growing workers’ rights movements in America of the late 1800’s). The women had been working together, tracing the man who was selling guns and dynamite to the more extremest factions of the workers movement. This led them to Ruby’s, a secret ‘nightclub for deviants’, where Stevens and Inspector O’Leary believe the pair fell foul of the man they were looking for, gang leader Joseph Mannheim.

With the May 4th Haymarket riots and bombings looming, Stevens must uncover the truth about The Hanging Women before it’s too late.

I'm not the world's biggest fan of historical mysteries but was pleasantly rewarded when taking a punt on this book from John Mead.

Set in mid-1880s Chicago, a couple of women are discovered strangled and hanging upside-down in the dock area. The man who discovers the bodies, Jack Stevens is an ex-lawman and our main character, as he effortlessly inserts himself into the investigation.

I quite enjoyed the investigation of the murders, with the back-drop of a period of social unrest in Chicago. We have the involvement of the Pinkertons, some competing criminal gangs, some rich and influential Chicagoan families and the growing influence of a worker's rights movement. I must admit, at times I was slightly confused by the number of characters introduced to the fray, with their rivalries and connections with each other. Most of them had history with Stevens or his wife, Martha.

Stevens himself is a larger than life character, at times more interested in his next glass of whisky, as he is in bringing the culprits to task. He's a borderline alcoholic, prone to blackouts and memory loss, unfaithful, fearless, intelligent, loyal and foolhardy. His past history as a lawman, earns him respect from the detective leading the investigation. Hostility with one of the Pinkerton agents involved in the case, also adds a bit of flavour to the mix. Not everyone is Jack's biggest fan. At times, just when you think Stevens is a lush and incapable of functioning properly, he surprises you with his insight and ability to acquire useful information. Not a man to be under estimated.

Plenty of drink, a dash of politics, family tensions, grief and loss, a bit of bible-thumping, a visit or two to a house of ill-repute, a jewel robbery, some inter-racial same gender exhibitionism, some cross-dressing and infidelity, a Russian lothario, inevitably some additional crimes and an increasing body count and a low-speed pursuit on horseback, before a climactic gunfight to rival that at the OK Corral. Lots to like.

Ticks in a lot of boxes and quite a quick read once I got into it.

The Hanging Women is John Mead's debut novel. I'd be interested in reading more from him in future, time allowing.

4 from 5

Read - June 2018
Published - 2018
Page count - 248
Source - review copy from author, via Rachel's Random Resources
Format - paperback

Thursday, 7 June 2018

SIX FROM THE FATHERLAND

Another six from the stacks of the unread and a half dozen from Germany.....

Julie Zeh, Dan Vyleta, Zoran Drvenkar, Nele Neuhaus, Ferdinand Von Shirach and Hans Keilson

Zoran Drvenkar - Sorry (2011)
My wife read and enjoyed this one a few years ago, but I haven't gotten around to it yet!

Four friends, all approaching their thirties, are plumb out of luck in Zoran Drvenkar's electric thriller. Kris, an aspiring journalist, has just been fired. Tamara has just given up custody of her daughter to her former lover. Wolf's girlfriend died of an overdose. And Frauke's mother has been committed to an asylum. They're a disaffected band of losers, until one drunken evening when they hatch an improbable idea: everyone behaves deplorably to someone without apologizing, so why not start an agency that does the apologizing for them?

The agency, called Sorry, becomes a runaway success. Working with corporations that have mistreated employees and businessmen who have wronged others, Sorry visits injured party after injured party offering the right apology and the right financial compensation. And it's not long before the friends are living the good life. But it all crashes to a halt the day Wolf visits a new client and finds her gruesomely murdered.

What follows is a sequence of horrific events, an intense, brutal game of cat and mouse in which the meaning of 'sorry' is taken to its most extreme.


Julie Zeh - Eagles and Angels (2003)

Bought on spec to assist with a crime fiction alphabet challenge - Markus Zusak and Dave Zeltserman weren't enough on their own!

Jessie is dead. She shot herself while on the phone with Max. And now grief-stricken Max, a UN lawyer, is forced to reevaluate everything about their relationship - including what Jessie, a drug dealer's daughter, was hiding. Embroiled with the drama of the Balkan drug trade and the shortcomings of international law, Eagles and Angels is a sophisticated riddle of a novel where mass murderers and civil war heroes exist in a bizarre symbiosis, and where nothing is as it appears. Wunderkind author Julie Zeh is the winner of the German Book Award and the Bremen Forder and the Rauriser Literature Prizes.



Nele Neuhaus - Snow White Must Die (2013)

Another impulse buy after seeing a few rave reviews about it.

On a rainy November day police detectives Pia Kirchhoff and Oliver von Bodenstein are summoned to a mysterious traffic accident: A woman has fallen from a pedestrian bridge onto a car driving underneath. According to a witness, the woman may have been pushed. The investigation leads Pia and Oliver to a small village, and the home of the victim, Rita Cramer.

On a September evening eleven years earlier, two seventeen-year-old girls vanished from the village without a trace. In a trial based only on circumstantial evidence, twenty-year-old Tobias Sartorius, Rita Cramer's son, was sentenced to ten years in prison. Bodenstein and Kirchhoff discover that Tobias, after serving his sentence, has now returned to his home town. Did the attack on his mother have something to do with his return?

In the village, Pia and Oliver encounter a wall of silence. When another young girl disappears, the events of the past seem to be repeating themselves in a disastrous manner. The investigation turns into a race against time, because for the villagers it is soon clear who the perpetrator is - and this time they are determined to take matters into their own hands.

An atmospheric, character-driven and suspenseful mystery set in a small town that could be anywhere, dealing with issues of gossip, power, and keeping up appearances.


Ferdinand Von Shirach - The Collini Case (2012)

Another one that has received high praise from most who have read it.


From one of Europe's bestselling writers comes a spellbinding and utterly compelling court room drama, which will stay with you for a long time. Ferdinand von Schirach's The Collini Case has been at the top of the German charts since publication and will be loved by all fans of Bernhard Schlink and John le Carre

A murder. A murderer. No motif.

For thirty-four years Fabrizio Collini has worked diligently for Mercedes Benz. He is a quiet and respectable person until the day he visits one of Berlin's most luxurious hotels and kills an innocent man.

Young attorney Caspar Leinen takes the case. Getting Collini a not-guilty verdict would make his name. But too late he discovers that Collini's victim - an industrialist of some renown - is known to him.

Now Leinen is caught in a professional and personal dilemma. Collini admits the murder but won't say why he did it, forcing Leinen to defend a man who won't put up a defence. And worse, a close friend and relation of the victim insists that he give up the case. His reputation, his career and this friendship are all at risk.

Dan Vyleta - Pavel & I (2008)

A dash of espionage in post-WW2 Berlin

Set during the winter of 1946, one of the coldest on record, "Pavel and I" mines post-war Berlin's messy terrain through the lives of two characters: Pavel, an American soldier who stays on after the war, and Anders, a German orphan. Their paths cross when an ailing Pavel seeks medicine on the black market for his failing kidneys. Anders follows Pavel home with thoughts of stealing from him, but ultimately stays on to help nurse him back to health. A friendship of mutual need and genuine tenderness develops. When a dead Russian spy is delivered to Pavel's frozen apartment, Pavel and Anders find themselves caught in the beginnings of a Cold War conspiracy of epic proportions. Complete with a secret love affair between Pavel and the German mistress of a menacing British military official, and peopled with pimps, prostitutes, Russian and English spies and a Lord-of-the-Flies-style gang of child thieves, "Pavel and I" is a unique, breathtaking noir novel.



Hans Keilson - The Death of the Adversary (1959)

Loved his book - Comedy in a Minor Key - on the blog here.

Written while Hans Keilson was in hiding during World War II and first published in 1959, The Death of the Adversary is the self-portrait of a young man helplessly fascinated - obsessed - by an unnamed 'adversary,' whom he watches rise to power in 1930s Germany. It is a tale of horror, not only in its evocation of Hitler's gathering menace but in its hero's desperate attempt to discover logic where none exists. A psychological fable as haunting as Badenheim 1939, The Death of the Adversary is a lost classic of modern fiction.