Tuesday, 7 April 2020

KATHERINE HOWELL - FRANTIC (2007)


Synopsis/blurb....

In one terrible moment, paramedic Sophie Phillips’ life is ripped apart – her police officer husband, Chris, is shot on their doorstep and their ten-month-old son, Lachlan, is abducted from his bed. Suspicion surrounds Chris as he is tainted with police corruption, but Sophie believes the attack is much more personal – and the perpetrator far more dangerous...

While Chris is in hospital and the police, led by Detective Ella Marconi, mobilise to find their colleague's child, Sophie's desperation compels her to search for Lachlan herself. She enlists her husband's partner, Angus Arendson, in the hunt for her son, but will the history they share prove harmful to Sophie's ability to complete her mission?

And could one dangerous decision cause Sophie to ultimately lose everything important in her life?

One I quite enjoyed by the end, but which took too long to get going really. Probably near to 100 pages in before anything major happens. I appreciated the need for some set up and back story and context, but I was a bit bored truth be told.

When we were up and running I liked it. Our main character is paramedic Sophie Phillips. She juggles child minding duties with cop husband Chris and the mother in law when their shifts coincide. There's some difficulties in the marriage and each is becoming more distant from the other. Sophie is feeling guilty because she cheated on her husband with one of his colleagues. Chris is shutting her out because of an incident where he took a beating a few months back. All this is against a back drop of a series of violent robberies which a whistleblower has alleged are being carried out by the police.

A tragic work event with a double fatality and a grief-stricken husband issuing threats, kick-start the book. Chris gets shot soon after with Lachlan their son seized in the same incident.

I enjoyed the lengths to which Sophie went to try and save her child, irrespective of the consequences further down the road. Undoubtedly she over-stepped the mark, but desperation and familial love can destroy rational thought in a crisis. Her accomplice in her actions, has his own agenda.

I quite liked how it all tied up at the end. I enjoyed the strand concerning police corruption and the bit of inter departmental politics which always seem to come into play during complex overlapping investigations. I liked seeing Ella Marconi working with her boss and the introduction of an outsider into the case.

The book is billed as the first in Howell's Detective Ella Marconi series, but here she plays second fiddle to anxious mother, Sophie Phillips. I'd probably be tempted by a second book in the series, if only to see Marconi as the main driving force in the narrative.

Another plus was the Sydney setting, though throughout I saw little mention of the city itself, if it all, just the areas in and around the place. (I've passed the book on already to an Covid 19 isolator, so can't fact check them.)

Overall after a slow start, not bad.

3 from 5

Read - April, 2020
Published - 2007
Page count - 368
Source - owned copy
Format- paperback

Monday, 6 April 2020

CRIME FICTION ALPHABET: S IS FOR....... SWEDEN, SMITH, SILENT JOE

Installment 19 of 26 and the Ss and I'm spoiled for choice......

Sweden, Scotland, Switzerland? Smith, Smith or Smith? Silence, Silencer or Silent Joe?

S is for .....

Sweden......... Henning Mankell, Stieg Larsson, Hakan Nesser to mention a few options

Hakan Nesser and The Mind's Eye - The first book in the Inspector Van Veeteren series. There's 10 in total in this series and I have about 4 or 5 of them, but I've never begun it.



The Mind's Eye (2008)






















The highly anticipated first novel in the Inspector Van Veeteren series in now available in English. At last, American readers will be able to enjoy, from its very beginnings, this addictive series by one of Europe's most beloved and best-selling crime writers.

Chief Inspector Van Veeteren knew that murder cases were never as open-and-shut as this one: Janek Mitter woke one morning with a brutal hangover and discovered his wife of three months lying facedown in the bathtub, dead. With only the flimsiest excuse as his defense, he is found guilty of a drunken crime of passion and imprisoned in a mental institution.

But Van Veeteren's suspicions about the identity of the killer are borne out when Mitter also becomes a murder victim. Now the chief inspector launches a full-scale investigation of the two slayings. But it may only be the unspoken secrets of the dead'"revealed in a mysterious letter that Mitter wrote shortly before his death'"that will finally allow Van Veeteren to unmask the killer and expose the shocking root of this sordid violence.


S is for ........

Smith - Brad, Roger, Tom Rob, Martin Cruz, Mitchell?

Roger Smith and Dust Devils and some South African crime. I've enjoyed Roger Smith's work before - Mixed Blood (2009) and Ishamel Toffee (2012). I can't beleive I last read him in 2013.


Dust Devils (2011)





















This is an unflinching portrayal of the dark side of the new South Africa, where to avenge what he loves, Robert Dell becomes what he hates. On the run after being framed for murdering his family, South African journalist Robert Dell's only ally is his oldest enemy: his father. Bobby Goodbread, an ex-CIA hitman just sprung from prison for atrocities he committed whilst in the employ of the apartheid regime, joins his son on a bloody cross-country road trip, bringing his killing skills and his hunger for redemption. From picture-postcard Cape Town to a Zulu tribal valley where AIDS, savage feuds and poverty have left the population as gutted as the parched red earth, father and son hunt down assassin Dog Mazibuko, uncovering a conspiracy that reaches to the highest levels of the South African State. They cross paths with another man on a desperate mission: ex-investigator Disaster Zondi, returning to the place he fled as a youth to rescue a teenage girl - who may or may not be his daughter - sold into marriage to Mazibuko. These men are thrown together in a spiral of violence and retribution in a country where corruption and anarchy have replaced brutal tyranny and human life has never been cheaper.


S is for ....

Smith - Brad Smith and Red Means Run. Smith is a Canadian novelist that I have yet to try. 



Red Means Run (2012)
























Brad Smith, a 'funny, poignant, evocative' (Dennis Lehane) crime novelist, debuts a new series set in upstate New York featuring jack-of-all trades, Virgil Cain, who must clear his name of two murders while on the run from the law in this spirited country noir.

Mickey Dupree is one of the most successful criminal attorneys in upstate New York, having never lost a capital murder case. That is the upside of being Mickey. The downside: Mickey has a lot of enemies and one of them drives the shaft of a golf club through his heart, leaving him dead in a sand trap at his exclusive country club.

The cops, led by a dim-witted detective named Joe Brady, focus their attentions on Virgil Cain. Just two weeks earlier Virgil told a crowded bar that 'somebody ought to blow Mickey's head off,' after the slippery lawyer earned an acquittal for Alan Comstock, the man accused of murdering Virgil's wife. Comstock, a legendary record producer, gun nut, and certifiable lunatic, has returned to his estate, where he lives with his wife, the long suffering Jane.


It appears to Virgil that the fix is in when Brady immediately throws him into jail with no questions asked. In order to set things right, Virgil escapes from jail, determined to find Mickey's killer himself. Aside from a smart and sexy detective named Claire Marchand, everybody is convinced that Virgil is the culprit. When Alan Comstock is discovered with six slugs in his body the day after Virgil's escape, his guilt is almost assured. Now it is up to Virgil to convince everyone of his innocence - by finding the killer before he winds up as the next victim.


S is for ......

Silent Joe from T. Jefferson Parker. Parker is another author I probably haven't read for about 10 years and I don't know. Laguna Heat, Little Saigon and Pacific Beat were enjoyed back in the day.




Silent Joe (2001)






















Atmospheric, complex and intelligent psychological suspense from the bestselling author of The Blue Hour and Red Light With the horrible remnants of a childhood trauma forever visible on his face, Joe Trona is scarred in more ways than one. Rescued from an ophanage by Will Trona, a charismatic Orange County politician who sensed his potential, Joe is swept into the maelstrom of influence and intimidation that surrounds his adoptive father's illustrious career. Serving as Will's right-hand man, Joe is trained to protect and defend his father's interests -- but he can't save him from his enemies. Will Trona is murdered, and Joe will stop at nothing to find out who is responsible. Sifting through his father's life -- acquaintances, deals, enemies and lovers -- looking for clues, Joe comes to realize how many secrets Will Trona kept, and how many people he had the power to harm. But two leads keep rising to the surface: a little girl who was kidnapped by her mentally disturbed brother, and two rival gangs who seem to have joined forces. And as Joe digs deeper, he is forced to confront his own childhood abuse as the different threads of the investigation begin to intersect.


Previous Alphabet entries.....

CRIME FICTION ALPHABET - A IS FOR.... AX, ABBOTT, ABERDEEN

CRIME FICTION ALPHABET - B IS FOR ....... BOSTON, BIRD, BONES

CRIME FICTION ALPHABET - C IS FOR.........CAPE TOWN, CONFIDENCE MEN, CROSS

CRIME FICTION ALPHABET - D IS FOR ....... DETROIT, DISHER, DEAD

CRIME FICTION ALPHABET - E IS FOR ....... EDINBURGH, EXCESS, ELLIS

CRIME FICTION ALPHABET - F IS FOR ....... FLORIDA, FRANCIS, FLOATERS

CRIME FICTION ALPHABET - G IS FOR ....... GALWAY, GUNS, GRAFTON

CRIME FICTION ALPHABET - H IS FOR ....... HAMBURG, HAMMETT, HIDDEN RIVER

CRIME FICTION ALPHABET - I IS FOR ....... ICE, ICELAND, IZZO

CRIME FICTION ALPHABET - J IS FOR ....... JAPAN, JACK CARTER. JELLO SALAD

CRIME FICTION ALPHABET - K IS FOR ....... KING, KOREA, KEEPER

CRIME FICTION ALPHABET - L IS FOR ........ LE CRIME, LEONARD, LOS ANGELES 

CRIME FICTION ALPHABET - M IS FOR ........ MIAMI, MACKAY, MUCHO MOJO 

CRIME FICTION ALPHABET - N IS FOR ........ NORWAY, NISBET, NEMESIS

CRIME FICTION ALPHABET - O IS FOR ........ OWEN, ONE NIGHT STANDS AND LOST WEEKENDS, OXFORD

CRIME FICTION ALPHABET - P IS FOR ........ PARKER, PHILADELPHIA, PAYDIRT

CRIME FICTION ALPHABET - R IS FOR ........ RAYMOND, ROGUE COP, RUSSIA


Sunday, 5 April 2020

2 BY TOM LEINS

A couple from busy author Tom Leins this week.























In a relatively short space of time, Leins has had 10 books published. I've read exactly two!
Skull Meat   
Meat Bubbles and Other Stories                               

It might be prudent to advise that his books ought to come with some sort of government health warning attached as they ain't for the faint of heart. The two I read had me reaching for the wire brush and dettol to clean off the stench of his characters and prose.

Not everyone's cup of tea, but certainly mine.

If you like a reading trip to the gutter and below, Leins is your man...... child pornographers, alcoholics, dirty cops, a battered PI, burnt out strippers, call girls, drug dealers, killers, bouncers, and some all round reprobates





You can catch him at the following haunts.
Dirty Books and Things To Do In Devon When You're Dead



Series
Paignton Noir Mystery
   1. Skull Meat (2017)
   2. Snuff Racket (2018)
   3. Slug Bait (2018)
   4. Spine Farm (2018)
   5. Boneyard Dogs (2019)
   6. Sin Clinic (2019)

Charlie Bars and Joe Rey (with Benedict J Jones)
   Dirty Bullion (2019)

Collections
   Meat Bubbles and Other Stories (2018)
   Repetition Kills You (2018)
   The Good Book (2020)



Repetition Kills You (2018)

Repetition Kills You is an experimental noir. A novel-in-stories. A literary jigsaw puzzle.

The book comprises 26 short stories, presented in alphabetical order, from 'Actress on a Mattress' to 'Zero Sum'. Combined in different ways, they tell a larger, more complex story. The narrative timeline is warped, like a blood-soaked Mobius Strip. It goes round in circles - like a deranged animal chasing its own tail.

The content is brutal and provocative: small-town pornography, gun-running, mutilation and violent, blood-streaked stories of revenge. The cast list includes sex offenders, serial killers, bare-knuckle fighters, carnies and corrupt cops. And a private eye with a dark past - and very little future.

Welcome to Paignton Noir.




Boneyard Dogs (2019)

"If I can't find her within seven days, she's probably dead."

If you are desperate enough to hire Paignton private investigator Joe Rey, things have already gone from bad to worse - and a happy ending is highly unlikely.

Hired to track down the missing teenage daughter of a demented local lounge singer, Rey's investigation spirals bloodily out of control, and he finds himself surrounded by the ruined corpses of dead people traffickers. The police are determined to pin the murders on the hapless PI, but as his search unfolds it becomes apparent that the culprit may actually be a man he knows all too well...

BONEYARD DOGS is the blistering sequel to the cult classic MEAT BUBBLES & OTHER STORIES.





Tom Leins was kind enough to submit to some gentle questioning a year or two ago.

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS WITH TOM LEINS

MARCH 2020 - FILMS + TV (HOME VIEWING)

With the cinema outings understandably cut short, I didn't really get much of a bump in the way of TV viewing. Fortunately (or unfortunately) I'm still out to work so the usual routine persists for now at least.

We managed to get another couple of series of Prime Suspect under our belt - one to go, another episode of the Accused by Jimmy McGovern and a few films including one I've been meaning to watch for about 5 years.

Prime Suspect Series 5 (1996) - ITV Drama - DVD box set


All a bit of a blur, did I watch this Jan or Feb? Maybe half and half, who really cares? No one. It's very good though.

From Wikipedia....

Following an intemperate act at the end of The Scent of Darkness, Tennison is transferred to Manchester CID, where she investigates the murder of a drug dealer that she believes was committed by a local gang leader and folk hero known as "The Street".

The case becomes even more sinister when another murder is committed, but Jane finds it difficult to prove that "The Street" was responsible for the attack, as he manages to keep one step ahead of the investigation – leading her to suspect she may have a mole in her team.

Prime Suspect Series 6 (2003) - ITV Drama - DVD boxset

Cracking TV say no more. Ok a bit more...... I love Helen Mirren as an actor, I love her character - Jane Tennison,  her strength and her tenacity. I don't like her drinking so much. Roll on the last series, which will be watched as soon as normality returns to the world and my son goes back home to The Netherlands.

From Wikipedia....

DCI Tennison and her team gather more information about rent boys which leads to the existence of a possible paedophile ring. DI Ray Hebdon seems to know about gay bars, drag queens and transsexuals and he is teased; Ray calmly announces he is gay. DI Brian Dalton seems to take Ray's news personally; perhaps, his HIV scare (from the infected rent boy biting his hand) is too much for him to bear. Dalton and Jane travel to see young men previously victimized by an Edward Jones. Jane also speaks with DCI Lyall. Meanwhile, Ray manages to 'drag' a few of his colleagues into the posh Bowery Club. The vicious procurer, Jimmy Jackson, shows up at the club to attack one of the transvestites, and gets quite the surprise. The name of Asst. Deputy Commissioner John Kennington keeps coming up; every officer with rank, including Jane's former boss, warns Jane to quit the investigation. Even when she pretends she can "cut a deal" with her superiors, political games are not in her DNA. Jane visits her doctor and after a second appointment, she is told she is pregnant.

Accused Series 1 (2010) - BBC Drama - DVD box set

The second episode watched and one I could remember seeing before. Difficult viewing if I'm honest. Young British soldiers in a theatre of war and one freezes in action and is tormented physically and mentally thereafter by the rest of his squad. Mackenzie Crook is very good as the loathsome conductor of the band of bullies.

From Google.....

Following people accused of crimes as each person awaits the verdict of his or her trial. Each episode features a different character approaching the dock in court to hear whether they have been found guilty of their crime.


A Quiet Place (2018) - Netflix film

Watched in anticipation of going to the cinema to see the second film in the series, the cunningly titled A Quiet Place II. I'm not usually a massive fan of horror/sci-fi movies, but I really enjoyed this one. Great acting, decent story, very tense throughout. I love Emily Blunt. I'd happily watch this one again, more a thriller in my opinion than a horror film.

From IMDB....

Directed by John Krasinski. With Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe. In a post-apocalyptic world, a family is forced to live in silence ...



Straight Outta Compton (2015) - Netflix film


Long, energetic, vibrant, amazing, loved it. I do like music bio-pics and having missed this when it came out a few years back, I was happy to finally catch up with it. I wouldn't class myself as a massive NWA fan, but neither am I standing in a lynch mob with a pitchfork, around a fire burning their records. Controversial, yes, but their politics and potent lyrics were undoubtedly shaped by their upbringings, environment and interactions with authorities. They did have some powerful tunes. A great film.  

From Wikipedia...

Straight Outta Compton is a 2015 American biographical drama film directed by F. Gary Gray, depicting the rise and fall of the gangsta rap group N.W.A and its members Eazy-E, Ice Cube, and Dr. Dre. The members were involved in the production, including Ice Cube and Dr. Dre as producers, as was Eazy-E's widow, Tomica Woods-Wright, while MC Ren and DJ Yella served as creative consultants. Ice Cube is played by his real-life son, O'Shea Jackson Jr., with Corey Hawkins as Dr. Dre and Jason Mitchell as Eazy-E. Paul Giamatti also stars as N.W.A's manager Jerry Heller.

Talks of an N.W.A. biopic began in 2010 by New Line Cinema. Several directors were approached, including Craig Brewer, Peter Berg and John Singleton, before Gray was confirmed in April 2012. Much of the cast signed on in June 2014 and principal photography began that August, taking place around Los Angeles and Compton, California. The production faced several controversies, including casting call issues and several acts of violence on set.

Released on August 14, 2015, Straight Outta Compton made over $200 million on a production budget of $50 million, was chosen by National Board of Review as one of the top ten films of 2015 and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. It inspired Dr. Dre's third studio album, Compton, which debuted at no. 2 on the US Billboard 200 album chart a week prior to the film's release. The soundtrack album, featuring music by N.W.A, debuted at no. 1 on the Rap Albums chart and reached no. 1 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. Heller filed a lawsuit against the filmmakers, protesting his depiction and claiming that parts were taken from his autobiography without permission.


Hopscotch (1980) - Film viewed on You Tube 

I absolutely loved the book by Brian Garfield when I read it back in 2013 - Hopscotch. It's taken a while to catch up with the film. I liked it but not quite as much as the book. I couldn't claim to have seen too much of Walter Matthau over the years and don't ask me what it is I've seen him in, I can't remember, but I do like him. Glenda Jackson is the love interest here and she's another one I enjoy seeing on screen.

There's a full version of this up on You Tube. The sound cuts out for a couple of minutes near the end, but you don't miss anything as it's during a chase scene. Watching the film did inspire me to pick up another book by Brian Garfield which I enjoyed during the month as well. Winner, winner, chicken dinner as they say in these parts.

From Wikipedia....

Hopscotch is a 1980 American spy comedy thriller film, produced by Edie Landau and Ely A. Landau, directed by Ronald Neame, that stars Walter Matthau, Glenda Jackson, Sam Waterston, Ned Beatty, and Herbert Lom. The screenplay was written by Bryan Forbes and Brian Garfield, based on Garfield's novel of the same name.

Former CIA field officer Miles Kendig is intent on publishing an explosive memoir that will also expose the dirty tricks of Myerson, his obnoxious, incompetent, and profane former boss. Myerson and Kendig's protégé Joe Cutter are repeatedly foiled in their attempts to capture the former agent and stop the publication of his memoir. He cleverly stays one step ahead of his pursuers as the chase hopscotches around America and western Europe.



Lowlife (2017) - Film - aired on TV and recorded and watched

A bit of a mad one, but we really liked it. I liked the cutting back and forth with the same events featuring but from a different character's perspective, which definitely shakes up what you felt previously about them. 

Family, drugs, love, crime, kidnapping, loss, abandonment, people getting by and more.


From Google.....

Set amidst the seedy underbelly of Los Angeles, zigzagging back and forth in time as it charts how fate, and a ruthless crime boss, connects three down-and-out reprobates mixed up in an organ harvesting scheme that goes from bad to worse.

Saturday, 4 April 2020

NIGEL BIRD - LET IT SNOW (2019)


Synopsis/blurb.....

Police Constable Ernie Shavers is murdered while trying to save the life of a suicidal teenager and everyone wants a piece of the killer. Some are happy to play it by the book, others don’t give a damn whether the rules are smashed to pieces. Whether they’re playing straight or crooked, they may not have long before the killer strikes again. Unfortunately it’s a big city and the current crime wave has thrown them a couple of curve balls to pile on the pressure.

At the zoo, a rhino is killed for its horn. With no evidence trail and a broken heart, DS Sue Nolan turns to an old flame, a man who always has his ear to the ground. Gangland boss Johnny Yen is only too happy to help, but only if he can get a little something in return.

In the centre of town, the biggest store in the city is robbed by a mannequin. It’s the perfect inside job and the owners of the store know exactly which officer they want on the case, only the officer doesn’t feel quite the same way.

If that wasn’t bad enough, record snowfall has created chaos within the police department.

It’s going to be one hell of a Christmas.

Praise for LET IT SNOW:

“You’ll want to spend time with the characters in this book. They’re ordinary people in all their glory and folly. Bird even manages to make one of the most hated characters in fiction (or life—the cop killer—engaging and interesting. Highly recommended, even for those who don’t usually dig police procedurals.” —Chris Rhatigan, Publisher, All Due Respect Books

Another February read and another entertaining outing in the capable hands of author Nigel Bird.

It's a police procedural with multiple cases and a diverse bunch of cops set against a backdrop of Christmas in Manchester (I think!) Most urgently of all there's the accidental murder of a police officer trying to talk a severely troubled teenager out of suicide. Events tragically escalate. Intertwined there's the less serious non-violent robbery of a department store and a wildlife crime to be investigated.

I liked the different cases, I was kind of reminded of an episode of the old TV cop drama Hill Street Blues, which I enjoyed back in the day. There's a freshness about the book with the focus not driven by just one horrific event. We get to see the pressures on a modern police force, coping with a hectic holiday period, staff shortages - holidays and sickness, during a difficult time weather wise with the city almost brought to its knees.

We spend time with the different officers, varying ranks, different levels of experience, different attitudes and personalities, some more physical and less given to thought as opposed to action, one almost paralysed into inertia by over-analysing possible outcome and repurcussions, all with different home lives and personal situations, some of them single, divorced, juggling kids and girlfriends and access issues, along with the strain that the job brings to their extended families. All of them are shocked and outraged by the loss of a fellow officer.

We see grief, loss, shock, regret, anger as well as the distress and guilt borne by the family of the killer. There's sympathy and compassion for the troubled perpetrator and his parents and an awareness and understanding of the pain associated with managing mental health and the demons that sometimes escape when the methods and processes in place fail.

In addition there's welcome elements of humour and black comedy interspersed throughout, especially in the strands concerning the department store heist.

Lots to like here. I'm hoping it's the start of an ongoing series where we meet up again with the officers in the future. 

4.5 from 5

Nigel Bird's work has been enjoyed a few times in the past - Beat on the Brat (and Other Stories),   SmokeMr Suit.


Read - February, 2020
Published - 2019
Page count - 147
Source - review copy received from author
Format - PDF  

* Woke up this morning to a changed Blogger (the Google tool, not me having a life-changing experience overnight), one I'm not entirely happy with. 
Still there's bigger things going on in the world at the minute. 

Stay Safe!

Friday, 3 April 2020

C.S. DEWILDT - CANDY AND CIGARETTES (2011)



Synopsis/blurb.....

"Candy & Cigarettes is noir of the very highest order, a dark and moody cocktail of the bleak and the beautifully damaged."~Chris Leek, Out of the Gutter Online

In the face of revenge, innocence is meaningless.

Death is omnipresent to small-town loner Lloyd Bizbang. Today proves no exception. After being attacked yet again by a pair of sociopaths who have targeted him since childhood, Lloyd stumbles upon a sight he wishes he could unsee in the town junkyard. Now as he just tries to live through another day, the bodies are stacking up in the town of Horton, and Lloyd finds himself connected to each of them via the drug-and-drink-addled, unhinging police chief, yet another person who has an old score to settle with Lloyd. A game of revenge and survival is underway, but will there be a winner at the day’s end?

Read a little while again, so some of the details and plot points are ebbing away from me.

Small town noir, very dark and with the focus of the story on loner, Lloyd Bizbang (cracking name) and the unnamed chief of police. Lloyd has a connection with death and is tainted in the eyes of the townsfolk. Two accidents, his younger sister drowning and his grandmother falling down the stairs have tarnished him for life. The Chief resents him and with cancer eating through his guts, is going to give Lloyd some undeserved justice. There might be a few bloody casualties along the way.

I quite liked this one. I liked Lloyd, he's undeserving of his fate. He cares for his dying grandfather, he's tormented by two brothers, both bullies and his life is crap. The brothers are vile - aren't all bullies? Lloyd has a pair of friends, who focus on cars and racing and he cadges beer from them both. The owner of the local store does Lloyd no harm, but that still doesn't stop our man lifting a few tallboys whenever he can. I felt quite sad for Lloyd throughout with the crap life he has; enduring the  daily ritual of being the local punchbag, with no hope or expectation of anything ever changing for the better.

The short book (under 90 pages) is peppered with action not just involving Lloyd and the police child, but a slowly widening circle of characters....... assault with a paintball gun, a beating or two, cars and demolition derbies, a town fair, teenagers being teenagers, an abandoned fridge and an enraged missing child, bullying and terror, vindictiveness and an angry gut, history, family, loss, misfortune, terror, violence, death, more death and an inescapable fate and acceptance of that outcome.

4 from 5

I've read C.S. DeWildt before - The Louisville Problem and some pieces in a couple of anthologies - Trumpocalype: A Total Disaster! and Fast Women and Neon Lights.

There's a couple more from him on the pile - Suburban Dick and Love You to a Pulp maybe more.

Read - February, 2020
Published - 2011
Page count - 88
Source - owned copy
Format - Kindle

Wednesday, 1 April 2020

LAWRENCE BLOCK - TANNER'S TWELVE SWINGERS (1967)



Synopsis/blurb.....

Presenting Evan Tanner - the first series character created by Lawrence Block, best-selling author of A Walk Among the Tombstones...

Ever since a shred of shrapnel did a number on his brain's sleep center, Even Tanner has been awake 24/7. This gives him more time than your average underachiever. Time to learn the world's languages (he's fluent in Basque, but has trouble with Chinese). Time to embrace the world's lost causes and irredentist movements (The Flat Earth Society, the League for the Restoration of Cilician Armenia, the Society of the Left Hand). Time to write term papers theses for students with more money than knowledge. And, most importantly, time to do his dreaming while he's wide awake.

Karlis, Tanner's comrade in the Latvian Army in Exile, is pining for his true love, a gymnast who can't get out of the Soviet Union. So Tanner sneaks through a hole in the Iron Curtain, meets the child he unwittingly fathered on an earlier trip to Macedonia, smuggles a dissident intellectual out of Yugoslavia, adds to his retinue a six-year-old Lithuanian girl, who'd be the rightful heir to the Lithuanian throne if there ever were one, and winds up not with one Latvian gymnast but with a whole company of them. (Collect them all! Win valuable prizes!)

And he does all this without a passport. Oh, he had one, but he gave it away...

The third Evan Tanner book is similar in vein to the first couple - The Thief Who Couldn't Sleep and The Canceled Czech. We have the same landscape - late 60s Eastern Europe, the same cast of eccentric characters Tanner encounters on his road trip and what is an improbable and unlikely mission at the start, becoming more bizarre and impossible as the book progresses, before Block pulls it off spectacularly at the end.

Fun and, frantic, unlikely and unbelievable, enjoyable and entertaining.

Events, scenes and outcomes which in anyone's else's hands would have you saying... yeah, right and FFS, I was savouring and anticipating just to see how exactly Block gets Tanner out of his latest scrape.

Ostensibly, Tanner goes to Europe to visit his unseen offspring and to attempt the rescue of a Latvian gymnast - all in the name of love. What we get is ....... dissident smuggling, Chinese secrets, a Romanian child princess, a suppressed manuscript, a gymnastics team, state of the art Russian fighter planes, a defecting pilot and an unlikely unofficial child adoption. All in a few day's work for our special agent.

As per usual there are some prescient observations regarding nationalism and the state of nations in respect of the Soviet Union and its then satellite states.

Roll on book 4 and a new landscape - Asia.

4 from 5

Read - (listened to) February, 2020
Published - 1967
Page count - 216 (5 hrs 5 mins)
Source - Audible download code from one of the author's assistants
Format - Audible