Wednesday, 24 May 2017

JO NESBO - BLOOD ON SNOW (2015)


Synopsis/blurb...

From the internationally acclaimed author of the Harry Hole novels - a fast, tight, darkly lyrical stand-alone novel that has at its center the perfectly sympathetic antihero: an Oslo contract killer who draws us into an unexpected meditation on death and love. 

This is the story of Olav: an extremely talented "fixer" for one of Oslo's most powerful crime bosses. But Olav is also an unusually complicated fixer. He has a capacity for love that is as far-reaching as is his gift for murder. He is our straightforward, calm-in-the-face-of-crisis narrator with a storyteller's hypnotic knack for fantasy. He has an "innate talent for subordination" but running through his veins is a "virus" born of the power over life and death. And while his latest job puts him at the pinnacle of his trade, it may be mutating into his greatest mistake. . . .

A few thoughts on a book I read back in January.........

Our main character is a hit man and I do like my hit man novels - tick one

Nesbo keeps it short and sweet - 188 pages including the first chapter of the sequel Midnight Sun - tick two

Setting - Oslo in the Winter...
The snow was dancing like cotton wool in the light of the street lamps. - tick three

Fine descriptive writing - see above - tick four

Fine descriptive writing that doesn't interfere with the pace of the story - tick five

An intriguing plot - our hit man has some decision-making to do - defy the boss and there's no turning back - tick five

As Blackadder once said - "more twists and turns than a twisty-turny thing" - well maybe not that many, but enough to keep this reader on his toes - tick six

Finale - a bit of a dream-like sequence and perhaps a touch of ambiguity over the outcome, or maybe I'm over-thinking things - I prefer a bit of finality if I'm honest. Perhaps an outing with Midnight Sun would set me straight. - cross one

Overall enjoyable and the best Nesbo I've read yet.

4 from 5

Headhunters and The Bat have been read before. Most of the Harry Hole series waits on the pile for me.

Mr Nesbo probably doesn't need any more new readers, but if you're interested his website is here.

Read in January, 2017
Published  - 2015
Page count - 188
Source - owned purchased copy
Format - second hand paperback










Tuesday, 23 May 2017

FRANK WESTWORTH - THIRD PERSON (2014)


Synopsis/blurb.......

A target is being stalked through rain-soaked city streets. Someone is seeking JJ Stoner, independent operative, covert investigator and occasional contract killer. Caution is advised: with Stoner you often get more than you bargain for and this is Ireland, not so very long after the Good Friday agreement. The cease-fires are holding firm, so far, but someone wants to put a cat among the peace process pigeons…

THIRD PERSON, a short story, features characters from the JJ Stoner / Killing Sisters series. 
The first full-length book in that series, ‘A Last Act of Charity’, is available in paperback and ebook formats. 
As well as a complete, stand-alone story, THIRD PERSON includes an excerpt from ‘A Last Act of Charity’ and behind-the-scenes bonus material, ‘It Begins In The Middle.’

Please note that THIRD PERSON is intended for an adult audience and contains explicit scenes of a sexual and/or violent nature. 

Ha, my third time with one of Mr Westworth's Stoner short stories and another 40 pages of fun and philosophy along with copious helpings of kiss-ass violence.

A story concerning the North of Ireland and an effort to involve Stoner in a high profile assassination. He kills without breaking too much of a sweat, but does he want the job?

Pithy observations, a bit of banter between Stoner and his companion - Bernadette, a street fight, a bit of a drinking session and a meeting at an isolated locale in the north. A messy outcome.

Lots to like as usual.

4 from 5

Unlike me, but I've jumped around with these short offerings reading out of order. Oh well - it's not like the world stopped spinning on it's axis because of it.

First Contract and Fifth Columnist have been enjoyed. Two Wrongs and Four Cornered await, oh and the longer stuff.

Frank Westworth has his website here. Catch him on Facebook - here.

Read in February, 2017
Published - 2014
Page count - 40
Source - purchased copy
Format - Kindle








Monday, 22 May 2017

T. R. PEARSON - EAST JESUS SOUTH (2014)


Synopsis/blurb......

Meet Buck Aldred, a former big-city homicide detective who has opted for a quieter and simpler life in the Virginia Blue Ridge. That was the plan anyway. When Buck noses around in an old missing persons case by way of returning a favor to a neighbor, he unearths more corruption and criminal mischief than he ever suspected the rugged uplands could hide. A departure for T.R. Pearson, East Jesus South is not a comedy. It’s a creepy, unsettling look at the rot beneath the honeyed, 'Aw Shucks' veneer of the American South.

Hard to do this book justice in a few sentences, but I'll try.

Setting - backwoods Virginia and a tale told in three alternating viewpoints. Buck - a retired detective earning his corn now mainly chasing car repossessions or following up on matrimonial discord; P. J. - a young reporter trying to carve out a career for herself and Buddy - the creep and villain of our tale.

Buck after a seemingly chance encounter with Mickey Dunbar, gets persuaded to look into the disappearance of Mickey's daughter Kiki, many years previously.  The case is cold. After reviewing the original investigation, re-interviewing witnesses and the cop who conducted the initial investigation, it’s apparent it never rated any higher than tepid at best, even in the days immediately after Kiki vanished. Buck tells Mickey he’s wasting his time and money, but Mickey won’t let it drop.

P. J. our reporter, gets wind of Buck’s enquiries and has a few revelations for him – namely that other young women have gone missing and she feels there’s a possible link. True - false? We'll find out eventually.

Our third voice, places us inside Buddy’s head – and it’s not a pleasant place to be.     

Pearson skilfully weaves the three narratives together creating a fantastic story - a superb mystery, populated with credible, memorable characters, not just the leads – Del, the short-order cook at the diner and Calvin the tire guy, just two for example – have a depth to them even though they are only encountered fleetingly.      

Impressive, dark and believable, a great sense of place, with some lovely writing and not short of a touch of humour in places ….

“What do you do, Buck?” Mickey wanted to know.
I said like always, “This and that.”
“Which one did Del get -- this or that?”
“Repo job.”  Toot brought our coffee.  “I helped the tow guy find him.”
“You a cop or something?”
“Used to be.”
“Quit?”
“Retired. Got shot.” 
“Sounds exciting.”
It did sound exciting.  It hadn’t been though. Me and my partner had stopped in at Grey’s Papaya for a couple of hotdogs.  The one in the Village that attracts chiefly hipsters, cabbies, and nasty vagrants.  A homeless guy had come in to plague us while we were trying to eat.
We’d been newly assigned together and were only in our second week.  My partner’s name was Rinzo, and he was fat and lazy and stayed down in his back.  When the homeless guy asked him for a dollar, Rinzo tried to shove him but missed. He lost his balance and lurched and stumbled, bounced his Sig out of his holster. It discharged when it hit the floor and put a round straight in my ass.

Not least a little sad and thoughtful either, as the impossible happens and Buck and P. J. give us answers to Kiki’s fate.

My first time with T. R. Pearson but definitely not my last.

4.5 from 5

T. R. Pearson has published about 15 or 16 novels, as well as a few under the pseudonym Rick Gavin.

He has a Goodreads page with blog here.

Read in April, 2017
Published - 2014
Page count - 300
Source - owned copy
Format - Kindle

Sunday, 21 May 2017

A. P. BATEMAN - THE TOWN (2016)


Synopsis/blurb.......

Amazon #1 Bestseller

Rob Stone is taking time out to climb in the mountains of Oregon. Taking a break, drinking coffee in a diner in a small mountain town he watches a helpless man humiliated. Stepping in to help, he sparks a confrontation. Within an hour somebody tries to kill him. 

A message has been sent, but Stone will not be pushed. As he starts to investigate what some people in the town do not want uncovered, the truth becomes unthinkable. Cruelty on a scale unimaginable, Stone is determined to shut it down and reclaim the town for its people.

Outnumbered, hunted through the dense forest and mountain terrain, his enemy are unaware that they haven’t gained the advantage. They have merely released him into his element.

Murder, abduction, betrayal… 

Sometimes you can’t see the woods for the trees

Another author that prior to taking a punt on this book I knew nothing about. I liked the premise of the book and not being risk averse in my reading I thought I would give it a go.

Without being the best book ever and exercising a slight suspension of disbelief at the final conclusion and in truth with a bit of a credibility stretch regarding the seeming indestructibility of our main man, Rob Stone - I really enjoyed it.

A lot of the Amazon reviews for this compare Stone to Lee Child's Jack Reacher and the thought did occur to me as well during my reading so there must be some nugget of truth there. I was also reminded of David Morrell's John Rambo - Stone is a don't push me, I'll push you back twice as hard type of guy and at the moment of reading this was the perfect book for me.

Plenty of action, with Stone a lone wolf type, trying to uncover the dark secrets that this isolated town in Oregon is harbouring. I liked Stone - he kicks ass, he's resilient, he's capable, he's on the side of the little people and he kicks more ass.

Fairly decent plot, again a bit of a leap for me when the reveal came as to who was doing what and why. Fast-paced with a decent setting and some interesting secondary characters within our town's populace. In particular the waitress in the diner-cum-bar and the lady running the hotel - names escapes me.

There's plenty of confrontational scenes with dialogue - talk before we fight - that add a touch of dark humour to our tale. A few opportunities for a bit of romance occur, but Stone only has his eyes on one prize - reclaiming the town from the bullies.

I've read better, I've read a helluva lot worse - right book right time.

4 from 5

A. P Bateman has six published (self?) novels so far in two series. There are three in his Rob Stone series of which The Town is the second and he has three in his Alex King series about an M16 agent. I would definitely like to read more in the future from this author.

His website is here. He's on Facebook here. Twitter@BatemanAP123

Read in May, 2017
Published  - 2016
Page count - 297
Source - review copy from author
Format - PDF file

Saturday, 20 May 2017

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS WITH GERARD BRENNAN

Northern Irish author Gerard Brennan, a man who's work I've enjoyed reading more than once was kind enough to suffer a few questions regarding his reading and writing habits......


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

Unfortunately, I have a day-job. From 2013-2016, I took a career break and became a creative writing student, which was essentially like being a full-time writer, and I loved it. But I can’t complain too much now either. I work three days a week at a public sector office job. Not one thing about it is interesting, but it doesn’t take up too much of my week, or my thoughts. And it pays some of my bills. I’m ready to jack it in at the whiff of a decent publishing deal, though.




What’s your typical writing schedule?

I try to do a little bit in the evenings on Monday to Wednesday to keep the brain ticking over, then on Thursday and Friday (my days off from the day-job) I do the bulk of my writing for the week. I’ve tried the early morning routine a few times, but I write better in the PM. I can read and edit pretty effectively in the  mornings, though. So long as there’s coffee. I generally keep my weekends free, but I’ll use them to play catch-up if I’ve had a bad week. I prefer to spend that time with my family or at the gym when I'm ahead of myself.

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

I’m more likely to insert bits of myself into characters, but I have taken inspiration from family and friends. I don’t tell them, usually, but if they read my work and they figure it out, I’ll admit it when they ask me. Usually they’re quite touched. Oh, and I gave my little brother a short cameo in Undercover, but I don’t think he’s read it yet!

You’ve written plays, short stories, novels and novellas, 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’ve tried it both ways. Some books need to be figured out as they go along. But I have plotted out the last few novels. I think police procedurals and thrillers benefit from that kind of planned approach, but a few of my novels don’t fall into that category. One of them, Fireproof, is just plain weird, mostly because I kept making up madder and madder situations as I went along. The result was a horror/comedy-type thing.

I like to change up how I do things. It keeps it all fresh.




Are there any subjects off limits?

I haven’t tackled rape or child abuse in my work. It’s not that I’m dead set against writing about these topics, but I don’t think I’m the right writer for it yet. You spend a lot of time with your novel. I think I’d be an emotional wreck if I went in that direction.

Can you tell us a bit about your published books so far? 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?

I’ve mostly written gritty crime books set in Northern Ireland (except for that weird one I mentioned earlier), but I’ve explored the different subgenres within crime. Wee Rockets is a street crime book, Undercover is a thriller. The Point and its sequel are kind of an homage to the Guy Ritchie-style gangster flicks that were popular in the 90s and early 00s. And I’ve written one and a half police procedurals. I’m probably proudest of Wee Rockets if we’re talking about my published titles. I think it says exactly what I wanted it to say to the reader, and it was well-received by most of the people who’ve reported back to me. I just like how the whole thing fell together, so I usually recommend that to new readers. BUT, it might be knocked off its throne if I ever get a publishing deal for the book I wrote during my PhD. Disorder. I don’t love everything I write, but I’ve come pretty close to loving this one. Fingers crossed it sees the light of day.

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

Earning a studentship at Queen’s University Belfast and completing a PhD in English. I’d do it all again if I could. Fantastic experience and a ridiculous privilege.

A lot of your work was released through Blasted Heath and they’ve now shut their doors. Are there plans afoot to get the books back out there? Another publisher or the self-publishing route?

I published three novels and three novellas through Blasted Heath, and I’m grateful for the readers they put me in front of. When the rights for the books reverted back to me, I took some time to think about what to do next. In the end, I decided to ask my agent to attempt to place two of the novels, and I’m in the process of self-publishing one novel and the three novellas. It’s kind of an experiment to see which works best for me.

Any unpublished gems in your bottom drawer?

I mentioned Disorder earlier – a book that examines the recreational rioting culture in Belfast – and my agent is also shopping around Shot, a police procedural featuring DS Shannon McNulty of the PSNI. It’s set between Belfast and Warrenpoint, the town I grew up in and wrote about in The Point. I like the small town and city contrast that this created. And to refer back to an earlier question, she’s also a character I based on a personality mix of my wife and my two sisters, all fiercely strong Irish women with a terrific sense of humour. I hope I’ve done them justice.

What’s the current project in progress? How’s it going? I might be mistaken but you seem to have been a bit quiet of late.

It’s the sequel to Shot, titled​ Drag. It’s going well, but I’m at the stage where I wish the first draft was finished so I can start fixing it. I have at least 25,000 words left to write before I get there, but I know where the story is going and I’m pretty sure this will be the downhill part of the journey. And yeah, I’ve been very quiet lately. Between working on the PhD, returning to the day-job, and putting my faith in my new agent (Hi, Svetlana!) to find homes for all my rough-sleeping manuscripts, my writing career has hit a natural hiatus. A mate of mine described it as taking a small step back for a breather before leaping forward with the next killer combination. We train at a kickboxing gym together, so he’s all about fight analogies.

What’s the best thing about writing?

Checking the word count and finding that you’ve managed to write 2,000 words or more in one session.

The worst?

Checking the word count and finding that you’ve managed to write 200 words or less in one session.

What are the last five books you’ve read?

Frig. Memory quiz… Okay, in backward chronological order:
The 50/50 Killer by Steve Mosby 
The White Trilogy by Ken Bruen
Dead Harvest by Chris Holm
Ravenheart by David Gemmell
Distress Signal by Catherine Ryan Howard

I think that’s right… Close enough anyway. I’ve definitely read all of the above in the last month or so.

Who do you read and enjoy?

Oh, loads of people. My taste is varied because I’m greedy. The list would be too long and boring. But I’ll give my fellow Norn Irish writers a proper hat-tip, since I’m always entertained by their work. That’d be, Adrian McKinty, Stuart Neville, Steve Cavanagh, Brian McGilloway, Claire McGowan, Anthony Quinn, Kelly Creighton, Jason Johnson… Actually, even that’s a long list. Better leave it at that. Sorry if I’ve missed any of the gang.



Is there any one book you wish you had written?

Not really. I’m happy to write the books that I’ve thought of myself.

Favourite activity when not working or writing?

Spending time with my wife and kids and training in Muay Thai (kickboxing) and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (grappling) at a local mixed martial arts gym. I’m one of the oldest guys on the mats, and I’ll probably have to hang up the gloves sooner than I’d like to, but I frigging love it, so I’ll put that day off for as long as I can.

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

Split. Saw it at the cinema with Mrs B. We love a good horror/thriller.

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

Total addict. When I’m done training there’s nothing I like better than vegging out with a Netflix series. I’m re-watching Spartacus at the minute. Just finished a science fiction show called The Expanse, and I’m looking forward to watching the new episodes of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. My viewing tastes are as varied as my reading tastes. I recommend Vikings, Breaking Bad, True Detective series 1, Top Boy and Archer, off the top of my head.

In a couple of years’ time…


I’ll be writing full-time again.
------------------------------------------------------------------
Many thanks to Gerard for his time....you can catch up with him at his website-cum-blog - Crime Scene NI.

Links to my Brennan reading below...


Friday, 19 May 2017

DAVE EGGERS (ed.) - McSWEENEY'S QUARTERLY No. 30 - REJOICE (2009)


Synopsis/blurb….

Featuring new work by Wells Tower, Michael Cera, and Etgar Keret, along with as always a bevy of lesser-known but nonetheless excellent writers investigating everything from mental hospitals to sentient mists, and possibly some kind of poster, Issue 30 warrants every ounce of attention and industry you'll give it, even if you are very important and your time is valuable--even if the fate of nations rests on your weary shoulders. You should still read Issue 30.

I picked this book up recently when browsing in a charity shop – an impulse buy based on one contributing author who I’d heard of but not yet read – Wells Tower. I have his collection of short stories – Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned to read at some point.

This quarterly edition – issue 30 from 2009 features 11 stories from Bill Cotter, Nick Ekkizogloy, Kevin Moffett, Etgar Keret, Shelly Oria, Michael Cera, Carson Mell, Matei Visniec, J. Malcolm Garcia, Catherine Bussinger and Wells Tower.  

Like any collection it's a mixed bag and there were some stories I liked a lot more than others.

Michael Cera's Pinecone was the pick of the bunch..... a fading actor, some fast food, an unwelcome critique on a previous film from the guys n gals at the burger joint - savagely funny and not just a little sad at the same time.

Wells Tower - Retreat... a hunting trip and some sibling rivalry....enjoyable to the last bite!

Bill Cotter - Pfaff II - confinement/containment in a psychiatric hospital, a low-key burgeoning relationship and an escape attempt.

Nick Ekkizogloy - Stowaways - work colleagues and banter

Kevin Moffett - Further Interpretation of Real-Life Events - a pissing contest between a son who writes and his newly retired father who starts to write and has a greater degree of success than his off-spring. 

Etgar Keret - Bad Karma - an insurance salesman who can't stop selling policies after surviving a man landing on his head after jumping from an 11th floor window. An okay story.

Shelly Oria - The Beginning of a Plan - a woman can stop the world with some funky power she possesses and her man wants to use this to their advantage, weird for weird's sake, not sure I understood what the point was here.

Carson Mella - Diamond Aces - a son and his father go on a road-trip and the younger man discovers his father's an adviser to strip-club joints. I liked this one.

Matei Visniec - Madness - plague after plague, first butterflies, then snails, then animal rain - very short, very bizarre.

J. Malcolm Garcia - Cuts - about a manager of a shelter that is suffering from never-ending cutbacks and how to juggle staff and decide who to cut. Entertaining enough.

Catherine Bussinger - Foothill Boulevard - a house renovation, a white girl in the wrong neighbourhood. Frustrating and sad - everything she builds get destroyed, obvious and predictable from an outsider's perspective.

I quite liked the collection overall and reading them one a day during the month didn't divert me from some longer books I was trying to read. There are some small thumb-sized sketches which are simple and appear on every page, accompanying the text. I liked these.

Wells Tower's story collection will be enjoyed at some point and I might look up Michael Cera online to see if he has anything else available - short or long.

I'll keep an eye out for any more copies of McSweeney's Quarterly that I might cross paths with, but won't be seeking them out. I have a few books from the editor - Dave Eggers on the stacks that I'm going to read at some point. Zeitoun is one I've been meaning to read for a few years.

4 from 5

Read in April, 2017
Published - 2009
Page count - 204
Source - purchased copy, secondhand
Format - trade paperback    

Thursday, 18 May 2017

SAM BLAKE - LITTLE BONES (2016)


Synopsis/blurb….

For fans of Alex Barclay and Niamh O'Connor, Little Bones introduces Cathy Connolly, a bright young heroine set to take the world of crime fiction by storm.

Attending what seems to be a routine break-in, troubled Detective Garda Cathy Connolly makes a grisly discovery: an old wedding dress - and, concealed in its hem, a baby's bones.

And then the dress's original owner, Lavinia Grant, is found dead in a Dublin suburb.

Searching for answers, Cathy is drawn deep into a complex web of secrets and lies spun by three generations of women.

Meanwhile, a fugitive killer has already left two dead in execution style killings across the Atlantic - and now he's in Dublin with old scores to settle. Will the team track him down before he kills again?

Struggling with her own secrets, Cathy doesn't know how dangerous - and personal - this case is about to become...

Another new author for me this time around and an Irish police procedural from Sam Blake, one which has garnered praise from the likes of Ken Bruen and Alex Barclay. 

I wouldn't class myself as the world's biggest fan of this type of crime fiction, but I've read a few of late and this was another enjoyable read without threatening to be the best book I've ever read.

Blake serves up a burglary where the initial Gardai attendance soon escalates into an investigation of more serious proportions when an infant's bones were found stitched into the hem of a wedding dress. We have a female detective, Cathy Connolly who is our main character. Connolly is based in Dublin where most of the plot unravels. A fair bit of time is spent in London with a few other prominent characters, though it does take maybe half the book before everything intersects and what have previously have been viewed as separate story strands gradually intertwine. 

Added to the mix is the appearance in Dublin of a suspected killer, on the run from the States, plus the sudden death - from natural causes apparently of the wedding dresses original owner.

Connolly gets deeply involved in the case and is troubled from the off, particularly as she has some personal issues which are bothering her. There's an interesting relationship between Connolly and her boss DI Dawson O'Rourke. As the novel unfolds we get a bit of their backstory and a feel for the mutual respect and concern for they have for each other, in part from a shared traumatic experience previously. There's never a suggestion that their relationship is anything other than professional.   

Our story unfolds...... Zoe, the victim of the initial break-in is an artist, just about to be Dublin's next big thing...... an exhibition imminent and a possible developing romance with an entrepreneur who is also known to Connolly. A lot of her family history is unknown to her. Her mother left when she was very young. With the death of her grandmother, the scope for uncovering the past and discovering who the infant may have been is thwarted by an old family friend of Zoe's grandmother - a Cruella de Vil type - Trish O'Sullivan - the keeper of the keys to the family's secrets. She's not giving them up lightly!

Meanwhile in London, who is the confused old women who keeps mistaking Emily Cox (another character of some significance to the unfolding of our tale) for a messenger? 

For large parts I couldn't see how A was going to connect to B and what the significance of C was to the narrative, but in the end it all comes together cohesively in a fairly convincing manner. 

I'll own up to some irritation with the author during the read. There's something kind of hinted at, more than once which leads you to believe a certain event took place, which hadn't. I didn't feel annoyed because of the less than subtle subterfuge, just kind of - what's the big deal, why waste time on this? Lastly the very ending of the book, our case is already resolved (though I can't remember the raison d'etre for sowing some of the bones into the dress - if it was covered, I clearly wasn't paying attention) where the author sets a hook for reader's to come back in the second book and see the outcome to our dramatic incident. It kind of felt like an afterthought and a bit unnecessary.

I did like the book and it read fairly quickly for 400-odd pages, but I'm ambivalent about reading any more from the author at this stage.

4 from 5

Sam Blake is an English author, who has lived in Ireland for a fair few years. There's a second Cat Connolly book - In Deep Water which was published a month ago. (Sam Blake is a pseudonym for Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin.)

Her website is here. She's on Twitter@samblakebooks.

Read in May, 2017
Published - 2016
Page count - 394
Source - review copy received from publisher (cheers to Emily at Twenty7books, an imprint of Bonnier Zaffre)
Format - paperback

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

BRADLEY SPINELLI - THE PAINTED GUN (2017)

Synopsis/blurb......

It's 1997 at the dawn of the digital age in San Francisco. Ex-journalist and struggling alcoholic David "Itchy" Crane's fledgling "information consultancy" business is getting slowly buried by bad luck, bad decisions, and the growing presence of the Internet. Before Itchy can completely self-destruct, a crooked private investigator offers him fifty grand to find a missing girl named Ashley. Crane takes the job because the money's right and because the only clue to her disappearance is a dead-on oil portrait of Crane himself painted by the mysterious missing girl--whom he has never met.

As Crane's search for Ashley rapidly becomes an obsession, he stumbles upon a series of murders, gets slapped around by thugs and intimidated by cops, and begins to suspect he's being framed for the murders by a psychotic Guatemalan hit man. Left with no avenue but survival, Crane goes on the offensive, fighting to clear his name, solve the murders, and find the beguiling portrait artist Ashley, who may have a few surprises of her own.

"[In] this tricky and delightfully surprising crime novel...Spinelli deftly segues from one genre to another--from hard-boiled noir to paranoid thriller, puzzle mystery (with each and every riddle logically explained), spy caper, and ultimately to something evocative of Bogart and Bacall. Spinelli is definitely a talent to watch."
--Publishers Weekly

"An unofficial San Francisco shamus whose tale is set in 1997 but whose heart is stuck in 1947 hunts for the world's most elusive missing person...‘I keep meeting people who wind up dead,’ aptly observes the narrator/hero...If you'd like more where that came from, Spinelli is your man."
--Kirkus Reviews

A short, sharp blast of a novel – 224 pages long - just about perfect length for my reading tastes.

We have a PI with a past - Itchy Crane, a disgraced, alcoholic former journalist. Crane is hired to find a missing girl which on the face of it seems straightforward enough. It isn’t.

A fantastic read, plenty of twists and turns.... San Francisco, murder, art galleries, geeky friends, surveillance, a Guatemalan hit man, cops, a frame-up, the Death Master File, more portraits of our investigator, United Fruit, CIA dark dealings and black-ops, a fledgling romance.

Hard to do this justice in a review, I really liked the main character, the plot, the gradual reveal of what was going on. I was fascinated  to hear of the Death Master File - a computer database created by the SSA and after a bit of research - to learn it was real and the consequences of having your life effectively ended by a keystroke error. Once you get put on the file, it's nigh on impossible to correct an error.....how can you live a life when you're declared dead? Our missing girl in this book - Ashley is one such victim, albeit not because of a data input error.

Fantastic writing to boot.......

A week here is like a lifetime......A week here can change your mind about everything - about life, about the reason for it, about why yours turned out the way it did. I see it all around me - gringos who came for a weekend and stayed for two years, travelers who were on vacation and decided to quit their jobs, loners who met someone and changed the entire trajectory of their lives. Anything is possible in a place such as this. And like all extremes, the opposite is equally true - nothing is possible in a place such as this.........

I am dreaming of a woman I barely know, a woman so beautiful that I shiver at the thought of her, at the memory of her touch.

4.5 from 5 - highly recommended.

Bradley Spinelli has website here.
He's on Twitter@13_Spinelli.

He has an earlier novel published called Killing Williamsburg - something I might look into.

Read in April, 2017
Published - 2017
Page count - 224
Source - review copy from Edelweiss - Above the Treeline site, courtesy of Akashic Books
Format - Kindle.




Tuesday, 16 May 2017

FRIEDRICH DURRENMATT - THE PLEDGE (1958)


Synopsis/blurb.......

Set in a small town in Switzerland, The Pledge centers around the murder of a young girl and the detective who promises the victim's mother he will find the perpetrator. After deciding the wrong man has been arrested for the crime, the detective lays a trap for the real killer - with all the patience of a master fisherman. But cruel turns of plot conspire to make him pay dearly for his pledge. Here Friedrich Dürrenmatt conveys his brilliant ear for dialogue and a devastating sense of timing and suspense. Joel Agee's skilled translation effectively captures the various voices in the original, as well as its chilling conclusion. 

One of Dürrenmatt's most diabolically imagined and constructed novels, The Pledge was adapted for the screen in 2000 in a film directed by Sean Penn and starring Jack Nicholson.

Short, gripping and a compelling read. I read and enjoyed this one back in March, a few months after watching the film starring Jack Nicholson. Usually, I can pick a favourite between a book and its adaptation on screen, but on this occasion I would say I liked both equally.

Our tale is narrated by a former colleague of our obsessed detective - Inspector Matthai. On his last day in the job, Matthai gets called out to a crime scene - a young girl has been murdered and left in a field. The man reporting the crime has a previous offence on his record concerning a juvenile, but not one so young as our victim.

As far as the locals are concerned and the policeman given charge of the case (not Matthai), he's guilty. There's a great scene when Matthai disarms the assembling mob eager to lynch the suspect. There's an event which enables the police to consider the case closed and which pacifies the locals, but Matthai isn't convinced and having pledged to the dead girl's mother that he will find the guilty party, his planned future takes on a different outlook.

A promise turns into an obsession.

This was my first time reading Durrenmatt's work and it was an enjoyable experience. The narration style of the book, worked well for me and there are some fantastic scenes within the book; in particular - the disarming of the mob and the discussion regarding breaking the news of the murder to the girl's parents as well as that event itself. Matthai's steadfastness and character leave a lasting impact.

Highly recommended and I'm looking forward to reading more from Durrenmatt soon. Most if not all of his work is being republished by Pushkin Vertigo. I did have a copy of this one in one of my tubs, but the arrival of the reissue from the publisher probably spurred me to read it a bit sooner.

The Judge and His Hangman and Suspicion are coming next I believe. Friedrich Durrenmatt, a Swiss author died in 1990.


The film version differs to the book mainly in the setting. Sean Penn (director) and Jack Nicholson play out events in Nevada. I'd recommend both book and film to anyone.

4.5 from 5

Read in March, 2017
Published - 1958 (my edition - 2017)
Page count - 160
Source - review copy from publisher - Pushkin Vertigo
Format - new paperback




Monday, 15 May 2017

JONATHAN WOODS - KISS THE DEVIL GOODNIGHT (2016)


Synopsis/blurb.......

A road trip crime novel—as if Ellis and Palahniuk wrote a southern noir filmed by Lynch or Burton starring Johnny Depp—Kiss the Devil Good Night hits the pavement from Florida's badlands to a drug lord estancia in the wilds of the Yucatán jungle as Bill Derringer—Yale dropout, Iraq war vet and furloughed waste management truck driver—searches for sex, love, revenge, the meaning of life and William Burroughs' lost suitcase.  

Bill Derringer, his wife Edie and their kids head down to Florida to visit Edie's Aunt Ida. Turns out that Aunt Ida is both a sociopath and an old flame of Edie's. As Edie is drawn back into Aunt Ida’s bed, she and Bill join Aunt Ida’s scheme to rip off the local guns & ammo show. After the robbery, Bill realizes that Aunt Ida and Edie are scheming to do him in. He escapes with his life but is caught by the cops and goes to prison. Aunt Ida and Edie disappear into Mexico with the money. Bill and Edie’s two kids become wards of the state. Five and a half years later Bill is paroled. In his new life he is torn between a desire to reunite with his kids and his quest to track down Aunt Ida and Edie and meter out revenge.

My first time reading Jonathan Woods and after this one - "Pulpy, pervy fun" indeed - not my last and not just because I have two of his earlier books sat on my Kindle - A Death in Mexico and Bad Juju. Kiss the Devil Goodnight was my kind of book.

Dual settings - Florida and a subsequent road trip to Mexico. A fractured family, Bill Derringer 's wife ditching him and their kids after falling again for the femininely wiles of Aunt Ida, but not before the three have robbed a guns and ammo show. Bill, gets crossed by Ida and ends up serving time for the robbery - five and a half years in which he schemes and plots revenge.

Pitching up at a halfway house, Bill enjoys a bit of geriatric bed-hopping with Marge - a prison pen pal, near death cancer sufferer; before moving onto enjoy the charms of fellow house-guest Jane. A few lively nights follow, culminating in Bill discovering his now grown daughter dancing at a strip bar.

Unsuccessful in achieving any kind of family reconciliation with his kids - it's off to Mexico we go with Jane, for the dual purpose of a 10k reward for collecting William Burrough's unopened suitcase, which may just house an unpublished masterpiece and handing Aunt Ida her ass on a plate - always assuming he can track her down. (Wife Edie's ass is something we are still ambivalent about at this stage!)  

I wouldn't class this as a wholly humorous novel, but there were plenty of moments throughout that I was chuckling to myself and shaking my head at events. Jonathan Woods has a twisted sense of fun and can tell an entertaining story - wild, weird and warped.

4 from 5

Jonathan Woods has his website here. Facebook here.

Unfortunately - 280 Steps the book's publisher has closed its doors and this one is no longer available for Kindle, though I think printed copies can still be found.

Read in April, 2017
Published - 2016
Page count -  324
Source - Edelweiss - Above the Treeline review site, courtesy of defunct publisher 280 Steps
Format - Kindle
 







Wednesday, 10 May 2017

APRIL 2017 - FILMS + TV

A climax to Broadchurch, a new and stunning crime series, new-to-me at least - Line of Duty, a couple of Clint Eastwood films, a Netflix original film and the end of The OA.

Pale Rider (1985)
You can't beat Clint tearing it up as the preacher in this enjoyable Western. I particularly enjoyed seeing a young Chris Penn as well.

When property owner Coy LaHood (Richard Dysart) starts using a band of hooligans to terrorize a group of small-town gold miners into giving up their territory, an enigmatic man named "Preacher" (Clint Eastwood) arrives in town. Preacher fends off the attacks, and then goes directly to LaHood to negotiate. When the miners, led by Hull Barret (Michael Moriarty), refuse the terms, LaHood sends in Marshall Stockburn (John Russell) to take down Preacher and the others.


Broadchurch Series 3 (2017)
The last two episodes enjoyed and a resolution to our case. Very, very good.

The third and final series of the British crime drama Broadchurch began airing on the ITV broadcast network in the United Kingdom on 27 February 2017. Set three years after the previous series, the eight-episode series focuses on the sexual assault of a local middle-aged woman in the fictional, close-knit coastal town of Broadchurch in DorsetEngland.


Heartbreak Ridge (1986)
Another Eastwood film and an ok watch. I wouldn't rush to see it again and I preferred Pale Rider to this one. His character pretty much stays the same in every film he's in - he's right the rest of the world is wrong.

Marine Sgt. Thomas Highway (Clint Eastwood) is a decorated veteran of two wars. On his last posting before retirement, he is surrounded by officers with no combat experience who view him as an odd, even dangerous, holdover. Highway is assigned to train a group of undisciplined recruits including Cpl. Stitch Jones (Mario Van Peebles), a slick hustler who has previously encountered Highway. As the old soldier prepares his men for a war they don't believe will come, the U.S. invades Grenada.


I Don't Feel at Home in this World Anymore (2017)
A Netflix original film and very entertaining. I've not seen the female lead in anything before - Melanie Lynskey. She's been in loads of things, so I probably have I just can't remember her. Elijah Wood - Frodo also stars. A dark and black comedy with a hint of menace.

When a depressed woman is burglarized, she finds a new sense of purpose by tracking down the thieves alongside her obnoxious neighbor. But they soon find themselves dangerously out of their depth against a pack of degenerate criminals.


The OA (2017)
I binge-watched the last 4 or 5 episodes of this one and in truth I was a bit let down by the ending. I had to Google the series to get a coherent take on the climax. Very much - WTF and some serious scratching of the head. A second series has been commissioned apparently, not sure I'll be tuning in.

In addition to her role as creator and executive producer of this mind-bending series, Brit Marling also plays the role Prairie Johnson, a young woman who returns home after a 7-year disappearance. Her sudden return is not the only miraculous occurrence: everyone is shocked to learn that Prairie is no longer blind. While the FBI and her parents are anxious to discuss Prairie's disappearance, she won't talk about what happened during the time that she was missing. Zal Batmanglij, the co-creator and an executive producer of the series, is the director of every episode.



Line of Duty (2012-2017)

I'm late to the party as always. I watched the first episode of the opening series back when it aired and enjoyed it, but for some bizarre reason never watched further. I've had friends at work extolling the virtues of the series and decided to get involved.

We have an anti-corruption unit investigating the possible corruption of other officers. The AC-12 unit comprises Martin Compston, Adrian Dunbar and Vicky McClure - all of whom are excellent throughout. I loved Compston in The Legend of Barney Thomson and McClure was excellent as Lol in This is England.

Series four has just finished in the UK and so far I've completed series 1 - 5 Episodes, viewed 4 of the 6 in series 2 and watched all 6 of series 4. Each series comprises a different case or investigation, but there is an over-riding story ARC to the whole shebang. I was forced to start on the current series before the early episodes disappeared off the BBC-IPlayer - so I have kind of spoilered bits of it for myself. Series 3 is on order from my local library - good times ahead I feel.

Highly recommended - I particularly like the fact that each series stretches to 6 episodes only (ok series 1 was only 5). Longer series 10, 12, 13 episodes - I have a tendency to flag halfway through.

From Wikipedia....

Line of Duty is a British police procedural television series created by Jed Mercurio that premiered on 26 June 2012. It is the most popular drama series broadcast on BBC Two in the multichannel era[1] and is a winner of the Royal Television Society Award for Best Drama Series.[2] Line of Duty was included in a list of the Top 50 BBC Two shows of all-time,[3] in a list of the 80 best BBC shows of all time[4] and was the highest ranked current series in a list of the best cop shows of all time.[5]
The first series was BBC Two's best-performing drama series in ten years, with a consolidated audience of 4.1 million viewers.[6] The drama was recommissioned for a second series and the first episode was broadcast on 12 February 2014.[7] The second series achieved widespread public and critical acclaim,[8] and on 8 April 2014, the BBC commissioned two more series.[9]
In an interview on 28 April 2016, creator Jed Mercurio said that a fourth series would begin filming in the autumn of that year.[10] It commenced broadcast on BBC One on 26 March 2017. A fifth series has been confirmed and will air in Spring 2019.
In the United States, the first series was aired on Hulu in August 2012 as an exclusive series.[11]