Tuesday, 5 July 2022

GEORGES SIMENON - LOCK NO. 1 (1933)

 


Synopsis/blurb....

'There was amusement in Ducrau's eyes. In the inspector's too. They stood looking at each other with the same stifled mirth which was full of unspoken thoughts, perhaps of defiance and maybe too of an odd respect.'

A man hauled out of the Charebnton canal one night; a girl wandering, confused, in a white nightdress ... these events draw Maigret into the world of the charismatic self-made businessman Ducrau, and the misdeeds of his past.

Read, enjoyed, upto a point, not totally understood, move on, next.

Ok, plenty of atmosphere, plenty of mood, there's a death, a near death, and more death in Canal land. Maigret gets close to businessman Ducarau, who has just lost his son to suicide (one of the above). Ducrau seems to despicse his family and all those close to him. There's a game of mental chess with Maigret, before a resolution.

My second time with Simenon and Maigret. I enjoyed my previous encounter more - Maigret's Dead Man but I'll be back for more. 


3 from 5

Read - May, 2021
Published - 1933
Page count - 176
Source - Leighton Buzzard library
Format - Paperback

Monday, 4 July 2022

JUNE 2022 - FILMS (CINEMA)

A cracking month's cinema.....

5 outings, 1 a second viewing and enjoyed just as much the second time around - Tom Cruise and Top Gun. Dinosaurs, a music biopic which was sad and amazing - Elvis, a cracking honour film - The Black Phone and the legend that is Nick Cage!

Top Gun: Maverick (2022)

A second trip to see this, this time with my dear wife. I had to watch it on my own first time around. Just as thrilling, just as exciting, just as sad seeing Val Kilmer. Enjoyed more because of the company that I keep.

From Google....

After more than 30 years of service as one of the Navy's top aviators, Pete "Maverick" Mitchell is where he belongs, pushing the envelope as a courageous test pilot and dodging the advancement in rank that would ground him. Training a detachment of graduates for a special assignment, Maverick must confront the ghosts of his past and his deepest fears, culminating in a mission that demands the ultimate sacrifice from those who choose to fly it.


Elvis (2022) 

I think this was an amazing film, not least because of the music throughout which had me tapping my feet. Austin Butler is brilliant. Tom Hanks is pretty damn good also. I found it quite sad, seeing how the superstar was exploited by his ruthless manager - pretty much a work horse, driven into the ground.

Two and a half hours passed in a flash. I'd happily watch this one again. Similar vibes to the Elton John and Freddie Mercury bio-pics. Fame and celebrity isn't everything, sometimes they mask a lot of unhappiness, past and present.

From Google ....

From his rise to fame to his unprecedented superstardom, rock 'n' roll icon Elvis Presley maintains a complicated relationship with his enigmatic manager, Colonel Tom Parker, over the course of 20 years. Central to Presley's journey and happiness is one of the most influential people in his life -- Priscilla.


The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (2022)


Nick Cage starring as Nick Cage, bizarre eh? Very funny and very entertaining. Cage is a bit like Marmite. You either love him or hate him. I'd err towards loving, but that said I haven't rushed to see all his films and some of them haven't had me swooning in my seat. Favourite - Matchstick Men

A good time was had!

From Google ....

Unfulfilled and facing financial ruin, actor Nick Cage accepts a $1 million offer to attend a wealthy fan's birthday party. Things take a wildly unexpected turn when a CIA operative recruits Cage for an unusual mission. Taking on the role of a lifetime, he soon finds himself channeling his most iconic and beloved characters to save himself and his loved ones.


Jurassic World Dominion (2022)

I'm not sure how many films this makes in the franchise, but it was an enjoyable couple of hours. The old gang were re-united - Jeff Goldblum, Sam Neill and Laura Dern

I don't think I've seen all the films, but this one wasn't a turkey, as fas as I'm concerned. Not rushing to get the DVD when it drops. There's worse ways of spending a couple of hours and it's a trip out.

From Google....

Four years after the destruction of Isla Nublar, dinosaurs now live and hunt alongside humans all over the world. This fragile balance will reshape the future and determine, once and for all, whether human beings are to remain the apex predators on a planet they now share with history's most fearsome creatures.


The Black Phone (2021)


A bit of horror and plenty of thrills. I really liked this one and I'm not a massive fan of a horror film usually. I loved the action, the story, the characters, the tension, the outcome. I absolutely loved the connection between the brother and sister. It reminded me of the bond between my own children.

Another one I would happily watch again.

From Google....

Finney Shaw is a shy but clever 13-year-old boy who's being held in a soundproof basement by a sadistic, masked killer. When a disconnected phone on the wall starts to ring, he soon discovers that he can hear the voices of the murderer's previous victims -- and they are dead set on making sure that what happened to them doesn't happen to Finney. 

Rankings.

1. The Black Phone

2. Elvis

3. Top Gun: Maverick

4. The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent

5. Jurassic World Dominion 

Sunday, 3 July 2022

BILL PRONZINI and JEFFREY WALLMANN - DAY OF THE MOON (1983)

 


Synopsis/blurb...

The West Coast crime cartel known as "The Organization" has been beset by a series of problems: members are being murdered and merchandise hijacked. In walks troubleshooter Flagg, whose methods are those of a sharp-witted detective rather than a criminal. Soon he lays bare a plot behind the Organization's front - and now everyone is in danger.

Another day, another Audible listen and another book I enjoyed without being amazed by it.

The mob has a problem. Send in troubleshooter Flagg. Flagg, an unofficial PI type goes undercover to investigate why business has been disrupted. 

Bootlegging competition, murder, truck hijacks, an inside job, a touch of romance, attacks on the investigator, danger, conflict and after 4 and a half hours a resolution.

I like criminality and books from the perspective of those operating outside usual legal and societal boundaries. Flagg was sympathetic, capable and someone who could have been just as successful operating on the other side of the law.

I listened to this one a few months ago, so it's fast fading from the memory banks. Overall the story kept my interest and the narrator is one of my favourites - Jack de Golia.

I'm a fan of Bill Pronzini's Nameless detective series, though haven't picked one up for a few years. I've yet to find a standalone book of his that meets the standard of the dozen or so Nameless mysteries I've enjoyed. The search continues. Jeffrey Wallmann is not an author I had previously read before, or indeed heard of.    
Bill Pronzini. I can't locate a photo for Jeffrey Wallmann


3 stars from 5

Read - (listened to) March, 2022
Published - 1983
Page count - 228 (4 hrs 39 mins)
Source - Audible purchase
Format - Audible





Saturday, 2 July 2022

VERN SMITH (ed.) - JACKED: A CRIME FICTION ANTHOLOGY (2022)

Synopsis/blurb.....

Edited by award-winning crime-fiction author Vern Smith, JACKED runs the gamut in crime fiction. From hard-boiled to humorous to gritty noir to straight-up mystery, the anthology promises to please the most diverse and discriminating reading audience. With offerings from heavy-hitters like Matt Witten, Andrew Miller, Meagan Lucas, Eric Beetner, and Allison Whittenberg, and equally impressive contributions by relative newcomers to crime fiction, like Paul Alexander, Zephaniah Sole, and Meredith Craig, JACKED is a debut anthology not to be missed.

Jacked is a cracking anthology of short stories from a bunch of authors, some familiar and some previously unheard of. I'm a massive fan of Eric Beetner and have books to get to from Matt Witten, Meagan Lucas and Andrew Miller.

The full anthology line up is.....

Paul Alexander - Shorty Cocked His Gun .... probably best not to practice stand-up comedy with a live firearm

Eric Beetner - First Timers ..... car theft, consequences, a career opportunity

Michelle Anne King - Apples and Trees .... 'But that’s my father for you. Nothing and nobody ever quite measures up.' - a takeover in the family business

Matt Witten - The Tik Tok Murder .... multiple POV tale of murder, investigation, resolution

Andrew Miller - Samurai '81 .... a Japanese Brotherhood in the LAPD, a murder case

Philip Moscovitch - Carver's Mistake .... a stagecoach robbery with reluctant partners 

Jenna Junior - Mitsubishi Murder Ballad .... first love never dies

Allison Whittenberg - Killing in Periot ... an abusive parent, brotherly love

Shane Leavy - Fighting the Last War .... an Irish tale, the lads, the craic, a fight, consequences

Christine Boyer - Skeleton Filing .... ugly but smart, just not that smart

Gregory Jeffers - Frostbite .... a lawyer and a femme fatale

Meredith Craig - Living the "DolceVita" .... a taker taken 

Tom McCulloch - The Drop .... a man, a bag, a bridge

Anne Louise Bannon - Nick Flaherty and the Body in the Lab .... chemists vs North Koreans

W. C. Gordon - Live, Like a Suicide ... live streaming death

Joseph S. Pete - Junking the Evidence .... bikers, reputations, plans, consequences

Meagan Lucas - Picking the Carcass .... gold in the woods

Jacqueline Seewald - Worst Enemy ... a PI case, DNA don't lie or does it

Stephen James Cordin - The Double Cross and the Double Cross .... no honour among thieves

Ricky Sprague - The Gryfters ..... a friend taking advantage

I don't think there was a story I disliked or that left me scratching my head which is unusual for such a sizeable collection.

Favourites of the bunch....First Timers (Beetner), Carver's Mistake (Moscovitch), Junking the Evidence (Pete)

There's lots of variety in the content..... murder, suicide, gangs, conspiracies, espionage, sex, stick-ups, insurance fraud, investigations, cops, criminals, lawyers and unhappy families.

4.5 stars from 5

Hopefully Vern Smith and publisher RunAmok Books will be back with a second volume.




Read - June, 2022

Published - 2022

Page count - 205

Source - review copy from publisher RunAmok Books  

Format - ePUB read on laptop

Friday, 1 July 2022

JULIEANN CAMPBELL - ON BLOODY SUNDAY (2022)

 


Synopsis/blurb....

In January 1972, a peaceful civil rights march in Northern Ireland ended in bloodshed. Troops from Britain's 1st Battalion Parachute Regiment opened fire on marchers, leaving 13 dead and 15 wounded. Seven of those killed were teenage boys. The day became known as 'Bloody Sunday'.

The events occurred in broad daylight and in the full glare of the press. Within hours, the British military informed the world that they had won an 'IRA gun battle'. This became the official narrative for decades until a family-led campaign instigated one of the most complex inquiries in history. 

In 2010, the victims of Bloody Sunday were fully exonerated when Lord Saville found that the majority of the victims were either shot in the back as they ran away or were helping someone in need. The report made headlines all over the world. 

While many buried the trauma of that day, historian and campaigner Juliann Campbell - whose teenage uncle was the first to be killed that day - felt the need to keep recording these interviews and collecting rare and unpublished accounts, aware of just how precious they were. Fifty years on, in this book, survivors, relatives, eyewitnesses and politicians shine a light on the events of Bloody Sunday, together, for the first time.

As they tell their stories, the tension, confusion and anger build with an awful power. On Bloody Sunday unfolds before us an extraordinary human drama, as we experience one of the darkest moments in modern history - and witness the true human cost of conflict.

Hard to imagine that it's 50 years since the tragedy of Bloody Sunday. I can't actually say that I vividly recall the day, because I'd be attributing false memories to something, but I'm sure as an Irish Catholic family it resonated in our household. Prior to this event we had family that fled Belfast and relocated to the calmer city of Galway because of the violence and political situation.
 
Campbell's book provides eye-witness account after account of the build-up to the fateful Civil Rights March, the day itself and the prolonged aftermath.

It's quite a tough read. Regret, lament and anger won't bring back the victims - nor those of other violent acts in the North of Ireland. 

I suppose what angers me the most is the aftermath. I can imagine young, scared squaddies acting impulsively and reacting rashly in fear, though Campbell makes a case that the actions of the Paras were pre-meditated, but the immediate lies and subsequent whitewash of the military and political establishment is what sticks in the craw. They knew what had happened and they denied it and continued to deny it for nearly 40 years.

Hindsight is an exact science but one of the consequences of Bloody Sunday and the controversial policy of internment was that they both served as a powerful recruitment tool for the paramilitaries. It would have been far better to have listened and reacted to legitimate concerns of a deprived and downtrodden community for some social justice regarding housing, employment, equal voting rights, and wider discrimination against Catholics. 

Regarding abuse of power, miscarriage of justices and the establishment running roughshod over the people, alongside Bloody Sunday, you can add Orgreave, Hillsborough, the Birmingham 6, the Guildford 4, Windrush, and more recently the Horizon Post Office scandal. Probably others as well.

Overall - an instructive read.

4.5 stars from 5 
  






Read - March, 2022
Published - 2022
Page count - 373
Source Net Galley
Format - ePUB read on laptop

Thursday, 30 June 2022

COLIN CONWAY - CUTLER'S RETURN (2021)

 


Synopsis/blurb....

How far would you go for the person who broke your heart?

When a past love calls for help, John Cutler returns to Seattle. He didn’t want to go, but she offered the one thing he needed more than distance from her—money.

After the former cop arrives in the Emerald City, old feelings resurface, and new lies are told. Soon, Cutler doesn’t know which way is up, and that’s a dangerous place to be.

For influential people are in the orbit of this past love, and they want to silence a secret she keeps. Money and political connections lead to corruption and intimidation. Murder is only a heartbeat away.

As he gets closer to the truth, does death await Cutler?

Cutler’s Return is the first book in a new crime fiction series from Colin Conway, the author of the 509 Crime Stories and the Flip-Flop Detective. If you like fast-paced crime fiction and heroes seeking redemption, then you’ll love this page-turner.

Grab Cutler’s Return today and join the action!

Cutler's Return is the first in a new (well, a year old now) series from speedy wordsmith author, Colin Conway. I read and enjoyed a few months ago.

John Cutler answers a call for help from a former love, someone who was indirectly involved in events which culminated in the ending of Cutler's career as a cop. Cutler got involved with stripper Paige and coincidentally or not his life went down the toilet soon afterwards. A falling out with his partner, an altercation with an IA cop, an allegation of wrong doing, an investigation into his conduct as well as a hair-trigger barely controllable temper and a poor attitude sees Cutler leave the force and the city of Seattle.    

Paige calls him out of the blue. She offers him money to recover a file that has been stolen from her. Cutler against his better judgement returns. Bad move. His former love is spinning him a yarn. Shortly afterwards she is murdered and despite no experience as an investigator, Cutler sticks around to try and find out why.  

I enjoyed the story here, even if at times I didn't actually like the main character, John Cutler. He displays levels of immaturity that don't always make you sympathetic towards him. He's impulsive, lacks control and as a result makes some poor choices, maybe more in his past than the present. He's definitely got some growing up to do and probably by the end of the book he has done some, particularly in re-establishing a relationship with his formerly estranged young daughter. I guess it's more realistic having a main character with flaws as opposed to the Peter Perfect persona you sometimes get with fictional heroes.

We have a murder mystery, an investigation, some conflict and action and an almost dual timeline narrative, with events from Cutler's past revealed. This backstory helps establish some of the characters and connections for the present day story. 

I liked the relationship dynamics in the book. Cutler and Paige, and especially Cutler with Daryl Crites the IA officer who he crosses paths with quite frequently. It's probably fair to say they won't ever become drinking buddies. 

Overall an interesting and enjoyable series opener. 4 from 5

Colin Conway is one of my favourite new discoveries of the past couple of years. I've enjoyed his Cozy books, some of his Strait stories, the co-authored Charlie-316 books (with Frank Zafiro) and now Cutler. I still need to try his 509 series.    

Read - March, 2022
Published - 2021
Page count - 298
Source - review copy from author
Format - Kindle

Tuesday, 28 June 2022

JOHN NICHOLL - BULLY BOY BLUE (2017)

 


Synopsis/blurb....

The new dark psychological suspense novella by ex police officer and child protection social worker, John Nicholl.

Every aspect of Kathy's life is dominated by her abusive bully boy husband. Now she's pregnant and in fear for her life. Can she ever escape him?

A gripping psychological suspense novella. If you like Rachel Abbott, Angela Marsons, and Robert Bryndza, discover John Nicholl's chilling new thriller today.

One word review - chilling.

Not a pretty book. We get an up close and personal view of domestic abuse and it's horrifying.

Kathy is dominated physically and emotionally by husband Mike, who also happens to be a police officer. Nicholl doesn't really pull any punches regarding the portrayal of their relationship. One thing that hasn't been broken is her spirit and she makes a plan.

It's an uncomfortable listen, but also an important reminder of the plight of many spouses and offspring, usually occurring out of sight. Here we have some hope at the end of the story and thank goodness for that.

Excellent tale, superb narration (Jake Urry), plenty of food for thought. I might have to try something else by this author. 


4 stars from 5 

Read - (listened to) February, 2022
Pulbished - 2017
Page count - 60 (1 hr 50 mins)
Source - Audible purchase
Format - Audible