Sunday, 20 October 2019



A compelling and timely debut novel from an assured new voice: Three-Fifths is about a biracial black man, passing for white, who is forced to confront the lies of his past while facing the truth of his present when his best friend, just released from prison, involves him in a hate crime.

Pittsburgh, 1995. The son of a black father he’s never known, and a white mother he sometimes wishes he didn’t, twenty-two year-old Bobby Saraceno has passed for white his entire life. Raised by his bigoted maternal grandfather, Bobby has hidden the truth about his identity from everyone, even his best friend and fellow comic-book geek, Aaron, who has just returned home from prison a newly radicalized white supremacist. Bobby’s disparate worlds crash when, during the night of their reunion, Bobby witnesses Aaron mercilessly assault a young black man with a brick. Fearing for his safety and his freedom, Bobby must keep the secret of his mixed race from Aaron and conceal his unwitting involvement in the crime from the police. But Bobby’s delicate house of cards crumbles when his father enters his life after more than twenty years, forcing his past to collide with his present.

Three-Fifths is a story of secrets, identity, violence and obsession with a tragic conclusion that leaves all involved questioning the measure of a man, and was inspired by the author’s own experiences with identity as a biracial man during his time as a student in Pittsburgh amidst the simmering racial tension produced by the L.A. Riots and the O.J. Simpson trial in the mid-nineties.

A hard-hitting novel regarding ....... identity, denial, acceptance, friendship, family, separation, loss, racism, alcoholism, upbringing, insecurity, marital break-up, working class struggles, low paying employment, money worries, addiction, prison, belonging, confrontation, a violent act, fear, a chance meeting, an unexpected re-union, a glimmer of hope, a light extinguished.

It would be difficult to say that this was a book I enjoyed. It would be hard to take pleasure from reading about Bobby's life, his relationship with his mother, Isabel and Aaron his only real friend; the inner conflict he has regarding how he presents and identifies racially, drawn sharper into focus with his complicity in a racial attack by Aaron and the re-appearance of his black father into his life.

In addition to Bobby's story, we get a glimpse of his mother's struggles, her battles with the bottle, her failings and broken promises, her past and her pregnancy, her relationship with Bobby's father, her insecurities, her life with Bobby and her racist father, blown apart by her revelation about Bobby's father. We also have some focus on Robert, Bobby's father. He's a doctor and he's still grieving the recent break-up of his marriage after the loss of an unborn child. He's in ignorance of the fact that he has a grown-up son, until a revelation by Isabel informs him of the fact.

Three-Fifths I found to be incredibly powerful and moving. You would need a heart of stone not to be affected by Bobby's life story and his struggles to accept his own self for who he is. No happy ending for anyone concerned here.

Characters, plot/story line, pacing, style of writing, setting - O.J. Simpson's trial as a back drop to events, length, outcome - all plusses.

4.5 from 5

Three-Fifths is John Vercher's debut novel. I'll be interested to see what he comes up with next.

Read - October, 2019
Published - 2019
Page count - 176
Source - Net Galley, courtesy of Agora an imprint of Polis Books
Format - ePub read on laptop

Saturday, 19 October 2019


Another dirty half dozen to drool over and hopefully read sometime soon ....

Frank Westworth - Czech M8 (2019) - from author

I've enjoyed a couple of Frank Westworth's JJ Stoner stories in the past, but ought to do myself a favour and catch up with them, before enjoying his longer works.

Fifth Columnist (2016)
Third Person (2014)
First Contract (2014)


The life of a contract killer can be complicated.
JJ Stoner’s boss wants him to kill someone. His best friend’s girlfriend also wants him to kill someone. His best friend could kill him for getting cosy with the wrong woman.
Stoner just wants to ride his Harley – but the forces of law and order have other ideas…

"Stoner’s right hand moved with great speed and considerable accuracy. The forefingers of the hand ran up into the nostrils of the would-be brawler, and Stoner reeled his arm back in, bringing the nose – and attached face – with it and into violent contact with the table top.
"Blood – very bright blood – poured from the nose around the fingers anchored in it.
"‘Yuk’, Stoner remarked."

A pithy mix of hardboiled humour and blunt force trauma. Recommended for readers who enjoy Elmore Leonard, Lawrence Block and Stephen Leather.
CzechM8 is a self-contained short story which features characters from the Killing Sisters crime-thriller novels and the Stoner stories. It fits in between Seven Hells and A Last Act Of Charity, but can be enjoyed as a stand-alone story without reading the other books. Go on… Live dangerously!

Please note that the Stoner stories are intended for an adult audience and contains explicit violence.

Thomas Perry - A Small Town (2020) - Net Galley

Early peek at Mr Perry's next one. To be honest the last couple from him haven't rocked my world, but I have it on good authority he's back on form with this one.

The Burglar (2019), The Boyfriend (2013)


In A Small Town, twelve conspirators meticulously plan to throw open all the gates to the prison that contains them, so that more than a thousand convicts may escape and pour into the nearby small town. The newly freed prisoners rape, murder, and destroy the town-burning down homes and businesses. An immense search ensues, but the twelve who plotted it all get away.

After two years, all efforts by the local and federal police agencies have been in vain. The mayor and city attorney meet, and Leah Hawkins, a six-foot, two-inch former star basketball player and resident good cop, is placed on sabbatical so that she can tour the country learning advanced police procedures. The sabbatical is merely a ruse, however, as her real job is to track the infamous twelve. And kill them.

Leah's mission takes her across the country, from Florida to New York, from California to an anti-government settlement deep in the Ozarks. Soon, the surviving fugitives realize what she is up to, and a race to kill or be killed ensues. Full of exhilarating twists and surprisingly resonant, A Small Town will sweep listeners along on Leah's quest for vengeance.

Nick Kolakowski - Maxine Unleashes Doomsday (2019) - from author

Mr Kolakowski has been enjoyed once or twice before........

Boise Longpig Hunting Club (2018)
Slaughterhouse Blues (2018)
A Brutal Bunch of Heartbroken Saps (2017)

I'm looking forward to this one.


The United States has collapsed. Bandits stalk the highways, preying on the weak and unaware.

In order to transport goods between heavily fortified cities, companies hire convoy escorts. Maxine is the best of these new road warriors: tough, smart, and unbelievably fast. But she also has a secret: She’s the niece of New York’s most notorious outlaw, a man hunted by what’s left of the nation’s law enforcement.

Maxine wants to live a normal, upstanding life. But a bad incident on the road leaves her mauled, penniless…and fired. If she wants to survive, she’s going to need to embrace her outlaw roots—and carry off the biggest heist that the post-apocalypse has ever seen. It’s a journey that will take her through obstacle after obstacle to the edge of death itself—and beyond.

Maxine Unleashes Doomsday smashes the gritty frenzy of Mad Max: Fury Road with the top-notch suspense of a crime saga like Heat. It’s a brutal thriller that offers a terrifying glimpse of our future.


“Take one of Richard Stark’s Parker novels and throw it in the blender with DVDs of Mad Max and The Warriors. Guess what? You just broke your blender. Find solace in this book, which is what you should have done in the first place.” —Rob Hart, author of The Warehouse and New Yorked

Andy Rausch and Chris Roy (ed.) - A Time For Violence (2019) - purchased copy

A couple of top names - Joe Lansdale, Max Allan Collins whose work I have enjoyed before - a no-brainer purchase.


"If you enjoy short, gritty crime fiction, you need to check out this anthology!" — Debbi Mack, The Crime Cafe.

Joe R. Lansdale

Richard Chizmar

Richard Christian Matheson

Max Allan Collins

John A. Russo

Stewart O'Nan, and more…

Throughout the years countless wordsmiths have produced their own story collections, but the book you are now holding is a love letter to the great anthologies of yesteryear, assembling stories by a variety of talents, packaged neatly and often connected by a singular theme.

Richie Narvaez - Roachkiller and Other Stories (2012) - purchased copy

Hipster Death Rattle from the author still sits on the pile. This collection won an award. I really need to read both of his.


Winner of the 2013 Spinetingler Award for Best Anthology/Short Story Collection!

From R. Narvaez, an exciting new voice in noir . . .

“If there is any justice in the world, [R. Narvaez] should become a giant on the literary noir scene within the next couple of years.”
—Anthony Neil Smith, author of Yellow Medicine, on the story “Roachkiller”

"'Roachkiller" is an accomplished debut from an author in full and firm control of his voice. Narvaez is definitely a name to watch."
—Eva Dolan, Crime Factory

A pregnant single mother who becomes a numbers runner in 1970s Brooklyn; an ex-con fighting against insurmountable odds not to kill again; a middle-aged tax lawyer who’s discovered the secret to happiness—at any cost: these are just a few of the hard-luck characters you’ll meet in Roachkiller and Other Stories, the debut collection of short stories from exciting noir writer R. Narvaez. Included are 10 hard-boiled tales, many with a dash of dark humor. Get-rich schemes gone violently awry. A slacker detective far out of his depth. A reformed criminal who can’t get past his killer instincts. The action moves from Brooklyn to Puerto Rico, from the ’70s to the near future, from deadly divorces to homicidal hipsters. Narvaez travels down the dimly lit side streets of noir you’ve never seen before.


In the Kitchen with Johnny Albino
Santa’s Little Helper
Ibarra Goes Down
Watching the Iguanas
Rough Night in Toronto

“Juracán” is also available as an ebook single under the title “Hurricane”!

Geoff Smith - Burning Crowe (2019) - purchased copy

Speculative punt, maybe not so speculative as I think it was an Amazon Freebie, but it has a few decent reviews against it's name. Slight Debbie Downer is it's over 400 pages long!


Two teenagers, both alike in indignity. Will they be civil? Or will there be blood?

Bartholomew Crowe is 18 years old. His dad dead, and deserted by his stepmother, he's running seriously low on justice. And when he is hired to find a rich kid gone AWOL, it isn't just a job; it's a chance to do good, a chance to fix things up, to make things right.

Handsome and loaded, Zack Richards has it all. A beautiful girlfriend. A burgeoning sideline in music management. Hell, he's even semi-famous! But for all his good fortune, Zack Richards is angry. He's addicted to trouble. And he's gone into hiding.

But Bart isn't the only one with Zack in his sights. And as tensions rise and bullets fly, Bartholomew Crowe learns that the only things he can count on are friendship, and love.

Friday, 18 October 2019



Law professor Thomas Jackson McMurtrie literally wrote the book on evidence in the state of Alabama. But when a power-hungry colleague uses a recent run-in between McMurtrie and headstrong student Rick Drake to end his career, he is left unsure what to do next.

Meanwhile, a devastating trucking accident in Henshaw, Alabama, leaves a young family dead. Drake, now a fledgling lawyer, takes the case against the freight carrier and soon begins to uncover the truth behind the tragedy that is buried in a tangled web of arson, bribery, and greed. On the eve of the trial and with his case unraveling in the midst of a dangerous cover-up that threatens to silence his star witnesses, Drake realizes that only his estranged mentor, Professor McMurtrie, can help him now.

With everything to lose and only justice to gain, will McMurtrie and Drake overcome bad blood to defeat a ruthless adversary? Can the Professor turn back the clock and recover all that he's lost?

It's been a while since I read a legal thriller, too long really, especially considering how much I enjoyed this one. (Note to self - don't leave it so long next time.)

A bit of a good vs evil here, with some added drama thrown in regarding conflict, secrets, career twists, health issues, suspicion and mistrust - that's just on the side of the guys with the white hats and ambition, arrogance, control, manipulation, greed, witness tampering, bribery and murder on the dark side of the fence, culminating in the two sides doing battle, metaphorically speaking in a court of law.

Busy, engaging, interesting, a decent main character and support cast, a great plot and story line, lots of dramas and tangents and connections and shared histories between some of the main characters. Lots of evolving dynamics between the main players. Plenty of nervousness as the case unfolds and the conflict moves from evidence gathering, interviewing - very often thwarted, to the courtroom and some vicious verbal sparring. Some violence, some sex - not especially graphic, some if it voluntarily conducted, some of it forced, plenty of excitement and tension.

I really, really liked it and I'm kind of annoyed I've had it five years on the pile unread, after acquiring access to it back in 2014 on Net Galley. 

The Professor is I think Robert Bailey's debut novel and the first in four books featuring Professor McMurtrie to date. I look forward to reading the next, sometime soon-ish - ie before another five years has passed. Roll on Between Black and White.

4.5 from 5

Read - October, 2019
Published - 2014
Page count - 416
Source - Net Galley
Format - Kindle read

Wednesday, 16 October 2019



THIRTY, as intensely erotic a book as I’d ever written, is what happened after I stopped writing erotica.

Beginning with CARLA in 1958, I spent half a dozen years laboring in the vineyards of Midcentury Erotica, writing no end of books for Midwood, Nightstand, Beacon, It was a wonderful training ground, a comfortingly forgiving medium, and I’ve never regretted the timer I spent there, although for a time I wanted to disown the work I produced. (That changed with the passage of time, and now I’ve been eagerly reissuing much of that early work in my Collection of Classic Erotica. I like to tell myself this represents great progress in self-acceptance, but I have a hunch Ego and Avarice play a role here.)

Never mind. I went on writing for Bill Hamling’s Nightstand Books until a break with my agent deprived me of the market, and I can’t regret that, either, because it’s safe to say I’d stayed too long at the fair, and would have stayed longer still if given the chance. Instead, I took a job editing a numismatic magazine in Wisconsin and went on writing fiction in my free time. I placed some stories with Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine and THE GIRL WITH THE LONG GREEN HEART with Gold Medal, and then I wrote THE THIEF WHO COULDN’T SLEEP, which turned out to be the first of a series about a fellow named Evan Tanner.

This was the first book in a voice that was uniquely mine, and the most satisfying work I’d ever done. I went on to write a total of seven books about Tanner (an eighth would follow after a 28-year interval) along with a couple of other crime novels, and then one day I got a call from my agent, Henry Morrison. Berkley Books wanted to launch a line of erotic novels, but on a different level from the old Midwood/Nightstand/Beacon ilk. It was 1968, censorship had essentially vanished, and American letters from top to bottom was embracing the sexual revolution and the new freedom. As Cole Porter might have put it, some authors who’d once been stuck with better words were now free to use four-letter words.

Meanwhile, I was going through a period of discontent with the whole notion of fiction. I had nothing against the idea of making things up, but the artificiality of the novel suddenly rubbed me the wrong way. Narration, whether first person or third person, was a weird voice in one’s ear. Who are you? Why are you telling me this? And why should I believe you?

What appealed more were books that presented themselves as documents. Fictional diaries, fictional collections of letters, whatever. Yes, of course they were novels, we knew they were novels, but they took the form of actual documents.

Thus THIRTY, which would take the form of a diary kept by a woman in her thirtieth year. I had just reached that age myself, and while I recognized it as a landmark, it seemed to me that turning thirty was rather a bigger deal for a woman than for a man, that it was very much a turning point. So I plunged in, and I strove throughout to write what Jan would have written in an actual diary, leaving things out, skipping days altogether, and letting characters come into and go out of her life, and events pile one on the other, the way they really do, with less pattern and logic than one typically demands of fiction.

I just read the book prefatory to writing this book description, and I was surprised how much I liked it. (And how little of it I recalled.) I decided from the jump to put Jill Emerson’s name on it, a name I’d shelved after WARM AND WILLING and ENOUGH OF SORROW. THIRTY is, to be sure, a creature of its time, as one knows when Jan whines about having to pay $375 a month for a Grove Street apartment. But I think the book holds up.

In any event, Jill was back in business, and she’d go on to write two more books for Berkley’s sexy new series, both of them pseudo-documents like THIRTY.

Another Audible book consumed over the course of a week or so's driving to work and back. My commute is about 20 minutes, sometimes longer each day which allows the opportunity to get about 3-4 hours more "reading" in a week. Happy days.

Here we have a diary of a woman, plotting her journey from slightly dissatisfied housewife to a single sexually liberated free woman. I'm not too sure if she is any happier at the end of her journal than she was at the beginning, but she's had a fair few adventures along the way.

No crime or mystery to this one, which is what you can usually expect from Lawrence Block, but as he explains above it's a different book written for a different audience at a different time in his writing career. This is quite graphic with it's prose and the level of explicitness in its descriptions of our main character's sexual liaisons. It's quite a contrast to a couple of his other early books that I listened to previously - 21 Gay Street and Of Shame and Joy. Between the early 60s and 1970 you can definitely see a relaxation in censorship laws.

In short then..... a 29 year old woman, married and bored, a chance remark from a friend and a different outlook on life, a fumble at a party, a treat for the kid shovelling snow, a packing of the bags and a move to the city - New York, a series of encounters - single men, two men, one woman, a woman and a man, new experiences, a control freak, enjoying it, enduring it, a whole tick list of variations and possibilities from A-Z - probably a few more as well, giving it away, selling it, making new friends and acquaintances, falling pregnant, an abortion, an encounter with an old neighbourhood friend, an encounter with the estranged husband, pick-ups and trysts in bars, hotels, taxis, apartments etc etc.

I was fairly entertained by the shenanigans, without every feeling any great warmth or affection for our main character, Jan. Scrub that probably no affection for her. I did fear for her at one time, in her encounters with the controller Eric. He comes across as sadistic and inhuman, as opposed to some sort of liberator and mentor, freeing Jan from her shackles emotionally, from a personal level and those imposed by respectable society. Maybe around the mid-point he kinds of fades from the scene.

A week or two on from listening to this, I can't exactly remember where we left off with Jan, which is no great source of regret. I enjoyed the time spent in her company, Fifty years on, it would be interesting to have a catch up with her now and see what she's been up to in the last half a century. I'm betting she'll have calmed down a bit. I hope she's happier than at this stage of her life.
Without ever coming close to being the author's most enjoyable book ever, I did have fun with this one.

An enjoyable listen, with a pleasant narration from Emily Beresford.

3.5 from 5

Read - (listened to) - October, 2019
Published - 1970
Page count - 190 (5 hours 11 mins)
Source - Audible access code received from author's assistant
Format - Audible

Tuesday, 15 October 2019


One of my favourite contemporary authors is back with a new book.

Call Down the Thunder from Canadian author, Dietrich Kalteis dropped earlier this week and Dietrich was kind enough to stop by for a few questions.....

Photo: Andrea Kalteis

It's been a year or so since our last chat, what have you been up to in the past 12 months or so? 

Relating to writing, I finished one novel, and I’m halfway through a new one. I also worked on edits, organized and took part at various readings and events, and I’m getting set for another trip down the coast to California to promote the new release.

Another book dropping imminently (out now actually) - Call Down the Thunder
Can you pitch it to readers in a few words?

Sonny and Clara Myers struggle on their Kansas farm in the late 1930s, a time the Lord gave up on. The land’s gone dry, barren and worthless. And the bankers, greedy and hungry, make life even more impossible, squeezing farmers out of their homes. The couple can wither along with the land, or surrender to the bankers and hightail it to California like most of the other farmers. But Sonny comes up with a way for them to stay on their land and prosper while giving the banks a taste of their own misery.
At time of writing, I've still to get my teeth into my copy, but I read somewhere ...... bankers, loan sharks, the Ku Klux Klan—not to mention ferocious dust storms - late-1930s Kansas. So another historical novel as opposed to a more contemporary setting, how did you do the research for this one?

To get a solid feel for the times, I read many archived newspapers, historical accounts, agricultural bulletins, studies, memoirs, and I viewed hundreds of photos and maps of the damage inflicted by the dusters and drought.

I've probably asked before, are there different challenges to approaching a book set in the past as opposed to present times? I'm guessing the same levels of blood, sweat and tears are needed?

There’s an old saying, “Write what you know.” And I think that’s true. I’ve set stories in present time, in Vancouver where I live, or in Toronto where I used to live. And as much as I have lots of memories to draw on, those stories still need a degree of research. 

To write a story set in a place and time I’ve never experienced, I have to do a lot more research. If possible, I go to where I’m writing about to get a feel for it. If it’s set in another time, then I dig up enough to become familiar with it. But there’s not so much blood, sweat and tears; I enjoy the digging, learning about the people and how they survived and adapted to whatever came.

Do you have a preference between past and present?

I don’t. When I come up with a story, I just want to set it in what I feel will serve it best. 

Did the end result mirror your expectations?

I never know how a story will turn out when I start writing. I loved writing about the hard, yet simple times of the thirties, and it felt solid right from the beginning, so I’d say yes, the results met my expectations.  

At the risk of getting ahead of myself, what's next? What can we look forward to in 2020?

I won’t mention titles yet, but the next one is set in present-day Vancouver and involves a cheating couple being pursued by a gangster husband who’ll stop at nothing to catch them. It introduces readers to some new characters and takes them on a wild ride up through northern British Columbia and into Alaska. 
The one after that is also complete and based on a real-life bank robbing couple – lesser-known than Bonnie and Clyde – who were at large in the central States in the latter 1930s and topped the FBIs most wanted list. 

Random question time.....

What’s your favourite vegetable?

It would be easy to just say eggplant, but you know, Col, it also depends on setting. For instance, in the early springtime here in the northwest we get great wild fiddleheads, followed by fantastic asparagus. Then summer squash, and there’s savoy cabbage in winter. Hard to pick a favorite.

When did you last have a fist fight?

Once it a while it’s tempting, but generally I leave the rough stuff to my characters.

Have you ever been thrown out of a bar or a club?

Again, I leave that to my characters.

Do you have any tattoos?


What was your first pet’s name?

Freddy, the talking parrot.

What’s the worst meal you have ever eaten?

Back when I first learned to cook, I tried a recipe for corned beef crepes. It didn’t turn out looking like the photo in the book and had to be one of the worst things I’ve ever tasted. After tossing it in the bin, I ordered a pizza and it wasn’t bad.

Do you have any irrational fears?

My fears are all logical and reasonable. Although, I’m not partial to heights, or being in deep, murky water. So heights and depths. Generally, I’m okay with everything in between – oh, and needles, I don’t like needles.

What’s your favourite vacation destination?

There are many places that I’ve enjoyed visiting, but for the past several years I keep ending up in California, so I guess you could say it’s a favorite destination.

When did you last tell a lie?

I can’t think of anything specific, and I’d really like to say I don’t, but then I’d be lying. 

What's the best book you've read in this year?

The Border by Don WInslow.


Many thanks to Dietrich for his time.

Call Down the Thunder is available now.....

Desperate times call for desperate measures in Kalteis's lightning-fast crime caper story Sonny and Clara Myers struggle on their Kansas farm in the late 1930s, a time the Lord gave up on: their land's gone dry, barren, and worthless; the bankers are greedy and hungry, trying to squeeze them and other farmers out of their homes; and, on top of that, their marriage is in trouble. The couple can struggle and wither along with the land or surrender to the bankers and hightail it to California like most of the others. Clara is all for leaving, but Sonny refuses to abandon the family farm. In a fit of temper, she takes off westward in their old battered truck. Alone on the farm and determined to get back Clara and the good old days, Sonny comes up with an idea, a way to keep his land and even prosper while giving the banks a taste of their own misery. He sets the scheme in motion under the cover of the commotion being caused by a rainmaker hired by the mayor to call down the thunder and wash away everyone's troubles.

Links below....


Dietrich and his books previously on the blog....

Ride the Lightning

Bio: Dietrich Kalteis is the award-winning author of Ride the Lightning (bronze medal winner, 2015 Independent Publisher Book Awards, for best regional fiction), The Deadbeat ClubTriggerfishHouse of Blazes (silver medal winner, 2017 Independent Publisher Book Awards, for best historical fiction), and Zero Avenue. His novel The Deadbeat Club has been translated to German, and 50 of his short stories have also been published internationally. He lives with his family on Canada’s West Coast. 

His website is, and he regularly contributes at the blogs Off the Cuff:

And at 7 Criminal Minds:

You can also find him on Facebook:

Monday, 14 October 2019


Another author with about six books on the TBR pile, maybe more and I've never read him. Ridiculous really. I have heard good things about Thomas H. Cook though.

Cook - no relation to the recently bankrupted travel agents - has written over 25 novels in his career, most of them stand-alones. There are three in his Frank Clemons series of which Flesh and Blood is number two.

From Wikipedia...

Thomas H Cook's pictureThomas H. Cook was born in Fort Payne, Alabama, and holds a bachelor's degree from Georgia State College, a master's degree in American History from Hunter College, and a Master of Philosophy degree from Columbia University.

From 1978 to 1981, Cook taught English and History at Dekalb Community College in Georgia, and served as book review editor for Atlanta magazine from 1978 to 1982, when he took up writing full-time.

Cook began his first novel, Blood Innocents, while he was still in graduate school.[2] It was published in 1980, and he has published steadily since then. A film version of one of his books, Evidence of Blood, was released in 1997.

Six of his novels have been nominated for awards, including Red Leaves in 2006, which was also shortlisted for the Crime Writers' Association Duncan Lawrie Dagger and the Anthony Award, and went on to win the Barry Award and the Martin Beck Award.

Flesh and Blood (1989)

Publisher's Weekly
Image result for cook flesh and bloodRich in character, complex in plot, Cook's second Frank Clemons novel, after the much-praised Sacrificial Ground , finds the former homicide detective relocated in New York. Now a private eye, Frank lives with Karen on the upper East Side, but he is falling out of love and becoming increasingly aware that his real sympathies lie with Manhattan's less-privileged citizens. That's one reason why he is drawn to the case of Hannah Karlsberg. Hannah, in her 70s, was brutally murdered (her right hand chopped off) in her apartment; her employer, a high fashion designer, hires Frank to locate Hannah's next-of-kin so the body can be released and buried. But Hannah's past is full of gaps and contradictions, and Frank is soon on a trail that begins in the Lower East Side sweatshops of the 1930s, where Hannah was a forceful strike leader for the American Garment Workers' Union. The scent then leads to a small village in Colombia, and ends in a settlement house in Brooklyn. Frank's investigation is steeped in a deep personal, lyrically evoked sorrow; talking with Hannah's old co-workers, he uncovers dark deeds and omissions that resonate with his own growing sense of isolation and betrayal. Cook constructs a many-layered and shimmering tale in which the history, locale and personality build to an unsuspected, satisfying end. BOMC alternate; Detective Book Club and Mysterious Book Club main selections.

Library Journal
Former policeman Frank Clemons, a private investigator, is hired by famous dress designer Imalia Covallo to find a relative of her slain employee so the police will release the body for burial. Frank reconstructs the dead woman's past: a garment worker and union activist, she mysteriously left for South America only to reappear in New York as the unknowing sidekick of a drug runner; she was a diligent assistant to Covallo. Frank experiences a deeply felt empathy for the woman and ends by discovering her murderer. Strong prose and steel-etched characters complete an enticing puzzle. Detective Book Club main selection. REK

The Chatham School Affair (1996)

Image result for chatham school affair cookAn Edgar Award-winning novel.

As he draws up his will, Attorney Henry Griswald is haunted by a long-buried secret: the truth behind the event the world knew as the Chatham School Affair, a controversial tragedy that destroyed five lives, shattered a quiet community, and forever scarred the young boy. Layer by layer, Cook paints a portrait of a woman, a school, and a town in which passionate violence seems impossible... and inevitable.

Sunday, 13 October 2019



Most kids dream about a new bike, a pair of top-dollar sneakers endorsed by their favorite athlete, or that totally awesome video game everyone’s raving about. But thirteen-year-old Jake and his little brother Matthew want nothing more than to escape from their abusive father. As soon as possible, they plan to run away to California, where they will reunite with their mother and live happily ever after. It won’t be easy, though. After a scuffle with a local bully puts Jake’s arch-nemesis in the hospital, Sheriff Theresa McLelland starts poking her nose into their feud. During a trip to the family cabin for the opening weekend of deer-hunting season, Jake and Matthew kick their plan into action, leaving Dad tied to a chair as they flee into the night. Meanwhile, the bully and his father have their own plans for revenge, and the events to follow will forever change the lives of everyone involved . . .

Another one-sitting read which provided my first taste of co-author's James Newman and Mark Steensland. In the Scrape offers up a coming-of-age tale for two brothers, Matthew and Jake.

A difficult childhood, abandoned by their mother, raised by a volatile, unpredictable father, plagued by bullies at school, the boys only have each other and dreams of a better life, not quite buying into the narrative that their father spins about their mother. The plan is to raise some money and run to California to live with their mother.

James Newman
Hungry stomachs, heavy drinking, beatings with a belt, school yard fights, brotherly love, attendance at church, theft, comic books, an altercation, a blow to hopes, a police visit, a hunting trip, doubts, uncertainty, a trial run, a commitment to the plan, chaos, death, answers,

I really liked this one. You would need a heart of stone not to empathise with the two brothers. You will them to succeed and you shudder at every setback along the road. Not a story with a totally happy ending, but maybe the best outcome in the circumstances.

Short, sharp, thought-provoking, sad, hopeful, a tale of love and determination with characters you root for.

Mark Steensland
4 from 5

Definitely a pair of authors I would be keen to read more from in the future, either collaboratively or on their own.

Read - September, 2019
Published - 2019
Page count - 105
Source - Net Galley
Format - ePub read on laptop