Wednesday, 16 November 2022

LOREN D. ESTLEMAN - EVIL GROWS & OTHER THRILLING TALES (2012)


Synopsis/blurb ...

Loren D. Estleman has been writing and publishing books and novels since 1976. His fiction includes westerns, mysteries, thrillers, and historical thrillers. Along the way, he's written a number of crime stories. Stories about the darker side of life, broken hearts, swindles, double-dealing and just plain evil men and women who define the title of this collection. No matter how many times you put it down...Evil Grows.

In this collection of twelve tales, you'll find killers, cheats, liars, detectives, and more twists and turns than a country road. Contents include:

Introduction

Evil Grows

Flash

How's My Driving?

Saturday Night at the Mikado Massage

The Pioneer Strain

The Used

The Tree on Executioner Hill

Lock, Stock, and Casket

Bad Blood

State of Grace

Diminished Capacity

Cabana

Another Audible enjoyed (with a decent narration by Paul Heitsch) collection of short stories from an author who I've been meaning to read for a long time, just never got around to. I've a few Estleman novels on the pile - the Peter Macklin hitman series, Gas City and the odd Amos Walker PI novel. I may actually have read an early Amos Walker novel, though if I did it kind of feels like it was in a previous life, as zero memory remains of the book title or contents; only the lingering suspicion that it wasn't amazing, as I never picked up another by him soon after.

Two months on, I can't remember much about the stories, only that I wasn't bored. Ergo - I enjoyed the collection and the narration didn't annoy me. If it had, I would have remembered that at least.

The Mikado Massage story stands out when flicking through the table of contents, so I guess that one was the most memorable. A close second would be The Tree of Executioner Hill, which had a twist at the end, which I saw coming. I didn't enjoy the story any the less for that. The others - good, bad, indifferent? Probably good, maybe indifferent and perhaps the odd one which I didn't vibe.

Time to try one of his novels.

3 from 5  

Read - (listened to) September, 2022

Published - 2012

Page count - 124 (4 hrs 39 mins)

Source - Audible purchase

Format - Audible

Tuesday, 15 November 2022

RALPH DENNIS - A TALENT FOR KILLING (2019)


 

Synopsis/blurb ...

Kane was a top CIA assassin until he suffered traumatic physical and psychological injuries in a mission that went horribly wrong. The Agency wiped his memory, gave him a new identity, and retired him to a life of mundane, anonymous domesticity. But his training, and his talent for killing, came back with a vengeance. He created a new life for himself as a killer-for-hire, righting wrongs for people who can't find peace or justice any other way. He doesn't know that his memories are fiction, or that he is always being watched, or that he's been targeted for death by a rogue faction within the Agency.

A TALENT FOR KILLING

In this brutal, fast-moving thriller from Ralph Dennis, the author of the legendary Hardman series of crime novels, Kane finds himself caught between the mob, Cuban revolutionaries, and his own government as he seeks retribution for a man murdered for uncovering small-town corruption...and justice for another man on death row, falsely convicted of raping and murdering a child.

Praise for Ralph Dennis

"There are times when Dennis' writing touches on the inspired. He knew how to ride the zeitgeist....if not get ahead of the game. A TALENT FOR KILLING is a really exhilarating action thriller that springs a couple of surprises." NB Magazine UK

"Like Chandler and Hammett before him, Dennis was trying to do something different with what was thought of as throwaway literature." Joe R. Lansdale

"Ralph Dennis has mastered the genre and supplied top entertainment." New York Times

"Exceptional characterization, strong and vigorous prose." Mystery Scene Magazine

A portion of this book was previously published in 1976 under the title Deadman's Game

A busy book much of which can be explained by Lee Goldberg's input in combining a lost unpublished  manuscript with an earlier release featuring main character Kane. There's plenty of story to get your teeth into here.

Spies, CIA types - rogue and straight, a hitman with a wiped memory and some conflict. Kane works his contracts with his handler, unaware that his previous employers are taking a keen interest in his new career. Some elements want him removed from the board permanently. This arc mainly picks up in the second half of the book. The first half sees Kane cleaning up a dirty town.

Interesting, exciting, entertaining. The storyline is a bit dated and a bit of a stretch, but I had a good time reading it, even though on balance there might be a wee bit too much going on for the one book. I would have probably enjoyed it a bit more as two separate stories. 

I enjoyed seeing the story from two angles - Kane's perspective and those in the agency.

4 stars from 5 

Ralph Dennis has been enjoyed before and will be again. 

Atlanta Deathwatch and The Charleston Knife is back in Town - the first two in his Hardman series were enjoyed back in 2019. Time to get back on that horse.

Read - (listened to) September, 2022
Published - 2019
Page count - 299 (9 hrs 29 mins)
Source - Audible purchase
Format - Audible

Tuesday, 8 November 2022

RODDY DOYLE - JIMMY JAZZ (2013)

 


Synopsis/blurb ...

Jimmy Rabbitte hates jazz, always has. But his wife Aiofe loves it, and Jimmy loves Aiofe. So when, in attempt to convert him, she buys him two tickets for a Keith Jarrett concert he decides to take Outspan, former member of Jimmy's band The Commitments, who has come back into his life after a chance meeting in the cancer clinic. Jarrett is famous for being intolerant of any noise at all - a cough, a sneeze, a wheeze - from the audience, stopping playing and shaming the perpetrator. And Outspan's diagnosis is lung cancer, it's pretty bad, and he needs an oxygen cylinder to breathe properly.

Will Outspan create havoc? Will Jimmy learn to love jazz at last?

Late 80s, early 90s Roddy Doyle was on a growing list of authors whose latest books I just had to have. I had more than a few laughs reading The Van, The Commitments, The Snapper. Like a lot of authors I fell away from his work, choosing to follow newer kids on the block and having my head turned this way and that. Enough affection for the author and his books remained that they survived several culls of the collection over the past thirty years, in the optimistic hope that I'd re-read them one day.

Moving on, the next best thing I suppose is that I read a short offering that I picked up about 9 years ago for my kindle.

Family, friendship, ill health, sacrifice, jazz, the things you endure for love and a few smirks and chuckles - always to be welcomed on a rainy autumn morning before heading off to work.

Really enjoyable, a real mood lifter and a timely reminder of how much his work resonates with me. I love the Dublin vibe, the people, the setting, the chat, the cussing, the banter and the attitude. 

4.5 from 5    


I'll be trawling the collection soon, looking for something else by Doyle.

Read - November, 2022

Published - 2013

Page count - 22

Source - purchased copy (probably for ZERO pence)

Format - Kindle

Thursday, 3 November 2022

KRONOS ANANTHSIMHA - A SHOT TO KILL (2021)



Synopsis/blurb ...

A Shot To Kill

A Vengeful Assassin
A Treacherous Asset
A Paranoid Target

Slade Heller, a young assassin, works for a private intelligence company called the Elysium Group. He’s sent to Florida to eliminate a drug cartel’s violent enforcer with just one shot. The operation is burnt from the beginning. A traitor at Elysium has sold Slade out to the target. The hunter is now the hunted.

Fueled by his rage and determination, Slade dives deeper into a fiasco where deadly criminals are after his head. Risking his own life to kill the traitor at Elysium Group, a criminal who didn’t take his redemptive second chance at life, Slade’s also hunting his target before innocent lives are lost. Captured, then on the run without any backup, Slade Heller has to use all his wits, cunning, and brutality to survive and get the job done by any means necessary.

Fans of action-packed dark comedies, antiheroic assassins, Dexter Morgan, Sterling Archer, Victor the Assassin, Deadpool, John Wick, and twisted spy thrillers will enjoy this first in a series of fast-paced, short, standalone thrillers. Scroll up and buy it now!

An okay read, enjoyable upto a point but not especially stand-out or memorable.

Some of the writing and sentence arrangements seemed a bit clunky to my eye and I found myself re-reading at a bit of a slower pace, as it wasn't particularly smooth and rolling. This kind of eradicated any momentum that may have been building up.

The story itself was alright. A man on a mission, where true to form things don't go to plan.
Action, conflict, imprisonment, escape, violence.

A Shot to Kill is the first in a series of five Slade Heller novellas. There are some short stories as well featuring the same character. I have one other on my Kindle, which I'll get to at some point. No busting rush. Hopefully the second encounter will be the charm, which encourages me to dig deeper into the author's canon of work.

I like the premise, I'm a sucker for discovering new authors and giving them a go. I am partial to a hitman/assassin story.

3 from 5 

Read - October, 2022
Published - 2021
Page count - 49
Source - purchased copy
Format - Kindle

Tuesday, 1 November 2022

DONALD E. WESTLAKE - THEY ALSO SERVE (1961/2011)


Synopsis/blurb ...

Why should people hate vultures? After all, a vulture never kills anyone...

He led the way into his quarters, motioned Ebor to a perch, and rang for his orderly. "It was just a little remote-controlled apparatus, of course," he said. "The fledgling attempt, you know. But it circled this Moon here, busily taking pictures, and went right back to the planet again, giving us all a terrible fright. There hadn't been the slightest indication they were planning anything that spectacular." "None?" asked Ebor. "Not a hint?"

A Westlake short story which was originally published in Analog Science Fact & Fiction September 1961. It's one of four pieces by him available via Project Gutenberg.

It's not a story that will live long in the memory to be honest. 

Outer space, a space colony, concern over a threat from an alien species who seem to be developing technologically faster than anticipated.

I much prefer Westlake's crime and mystery fiction, but with the age of the piece, I'm guessing he was trying different things at this early stage in his career. 


3 from 5

Read - October, 2022
Published - 1961/2011
Page count - 10
Source - Project Gutenberg
Format - PDF read on laptop

Tuesday, 25 October 2022

MARY KELIIKOA - HIDDEN PIECES (2022)


Synopsis/blurb ...

Sheriff Jax Turner is staring down the barrel of his broken past. On the brink of ending it all, he feels like a failure following his daughter’s tragic passing and his subsequent divorce. But when a schoolgirl vanishes and her backpack is found in a sex offender’s backseat, the weary lawman drags himself into action and vows to nail one last sociopath.

Shocked to discover the teen’s aunt had lost her life in an abduction years prior, the devastating outcome that he’s taken personally, Jax believes the killer has returned with a vengeance. But as the desperate cop frantically hunts down a mysterious relative in search of a suspect, the girl’s time keeps ticking away…

Can the jaded sheriff take down the culprit in time to bring the young girl home alive?

An enjoyable enough read which got better as it went along. I had a bit of trouble gettting into the book, which might have been me and the mood I was in, or it could have been that the book was slow to get going and didn't immediately grab my attention. Probably a bit of both.

The main character, Sheriff Jax Turner has his issues and in fact is just about to kill himself when he gets a call about a missing girl. I suppose it made a change from the usual narrative of the hard-drinking, troubled protagonist, but it was still a bit of a cliche. As the book goes along we get his backstory of grief and loss with child bereavement and divorce.

A teenage girl has disappeared on her way to school. The clock is ticking. An urgent investigation kicks off involving family, friends, and community. Everyone seems to have secrets, including the missing girl and everyone including the girl's mother is less than straight with Turner. Information is not readily forthcoming. Turner also has to contend with the small town big man, the guy with money, power and influence who isn't happy with Turner questioning his son, a boy who has a connection to the missing girl. Threats are issued over Turner's badge, all of which is a distraction from the man doing his job.

There's some history involved as well, with a connection to an unsolved murder years ago when Turner was a homicide detective with a different police force. Obviously it's the case that haunts Turner, the one that was never resolved where another girl was failed. Or so he feels. The previous case impacts on the present and Turner believes it's a solve one, solve both situation, only this time the imperative is that the girl is saved.

I liked the book better the more I read. There were several twists and turns to the narrative with different suspects coming to prominence, then fading as the book went on. One of the twists completely blindsided me - hats off to Keliikoa; the other I saw.   

The main character grew on me as the book progressed, I sympathised with him a bit more, maybe because his head came out of his ass and he was focussing on other things as opposed to wallowing in self pity. He actually manages to let go of the past a bit. 

Overall it was a decent read, one which I enjoyed and came away from thinking... yeah that was a bit different, a bit better than I initially thought. 


3.5 stars from 5

Read - October, 2022
Published - 2022
Page count - 300
Source - review copy from Net Galley
Format - Kindle


Monday, 24 October 2022

B. S. DUNN - HIGH VALLEY MANHUNT (2016)


Synopsis/blurb ...

All Laramie Davis wanted was a hot meal. What he got was a plate full of trouble. It started with the killing of a Deputy Sheriff in Rock Springs and went downhill from there. Laramie tangled with outlaws, blood hungry Indians, and a murderous posse led by a family of killers. Before it was over, many men would die and Laramie would be lucky if one of them wasn't him!

Another day and another Audible listen in the company of favourite narrator, Theo Holland. To be fair, he's only as good as the material he's reading and here it's a Western from author, B. S. Dunn. And it's pretty good.

One man, Laramie Davis, a gunfighter comes up against a corrupt but powerful family, after one of them, a deputy sheriff idiotically tries to steal his horse.

Davis after shooting him dead, has to flee town. The family - the sheriff, the town judge and another deputy - pursue him. Needless to say there are further complications in the book, as we cross paths with more villains, a kidnapped woman and a tribe of Native American braves. 

Lots of action, decent storyline - its busy, with an interesting main character - he's part of a series from Dunn, and I can see how you could get a good bit of mileage out of the character. 

Entertaining and satisfying. If I get the chance to read more in the series, I will.

4 stars from 5

Read - (listened to) September, 2022

Published - 2016

Page count - 323 (4 hrs 7 mins)

Source - Audible purchase

Format - Audible