Tuesday, 15 January 2019

PETER CHURCH - CRACKERJACK (2019)


Synopsis/blurb.....

Young, bright and sexy, Carla Vitale has been handpicked to run Supertech, Africa's leading independent Engineering firm. Then one Friday afternoon in Cape Town, her dream is shattered. Her boss and mentor, Nial Townley, disappears, his luxury vehicle is found in a crevice at the bottom of Chapman's Peak and $USD 20m is missing from the Supertech's overseas accounts. Three months later and the police are no closer to solving the riddle.

No job, no car, no phone, Carla turns to the one person she believes can help: software hacker turned day-trader, Daniel Le Fleur. But Le Fleur's maintaining a low profile in Bantry Bay and he's in no mood to ruin the serendipity.

Crackerjack was a recent spot late last year on the Edelweiss early reviewer site and with the clock ticking down on the expiration date of my copy, I thought I’d better pull my finger out and read the thing a bit sharp-ish. And I’m pretty pleased I did.

Here we have a Cape Town mystery concerning cyber-crime, a missing person and more importantly for some missing money - $20m US. Our main character, Daniel Le Fleur is bored with his solitary life. No partner, no family – both parents are dead, a mother mourned and missed, a father not so much. His only friend or even regular human contact is in the shape of a homeless tramp who spends most of his hours occupying a bench outside Le Fleur’s apartment. Le Fleur is a reformed hacker and spends his days surfing TV channels while day trading in bitcoins. He got caught hacking, served his light sentence by working for a body tasked with preventing cyber-crimes. His hacking was as a part of a group of like-minded individuals determined to bring down a group trading in under-age women on the net. Judging by his lifestyle, he probably managed to acquire a few ill-gotten gains that he’s held on to. But in a nut shell he’s bored.

Along comes the stunning Carla, who is concerned for her missing boss and her position. Her boss has allegedly skipped with a whole load of money and the fallout means his ailing company is prey to a stronger competitor that is circling. If his firm falls, her career ambitions go south.

No surprise to know that Le Fleur, initially reluctantly, decides to get involved and help Carla find out what the police haven’t been able to.

I really enjoyed this one, probably a bit more than I expected to. I was initially concerned that maybe the author would bog me down in technical details on how to hack this, how to access that, how the dark web operates and its money maundering methods etc etc, but he doesn’t. There’s a bit of interesting and knowing detail regarding these things obviously, but the main focus is on the missing man, Nial Townsley and Le Fleur’s efforts initially to discover what happened to him in the last few weeks of his life, before he went missing; and subsequently to protect himself and Carla when his efforts prove fruitful and the tables get turned with the hunters becoming the hunted.

White collar crime, hostile takeovers, missing money, bully boy thugs, a stripper girlfriend, offshore investments, a dodgy company, an investigative journalist, phone hacking, hidden cameras, best friends and lawyers, an unhappy ex-wife and a custody battle, a tramp, the police, a paroled hit woman with a career plan a death list and revenge in mind, bus rides and hotel hideouts, wild sex and violent death, surveillance both physical and remote, and a puppet-mastermind pulling everyone’s strings.

Action, danger, a fast-pace and a really entertaining book. Church serves up a few twists along the way with the introduction of the parolee greatly adding to the tension. The conclusion worked but had a sense of inevitability about it. One more twist without which, everything which had gone on before might have seemed too obvious and predictable.

Over 400 pages and a quick 400 at that – as I ploughed through this in a fraction over two days. Ticks in a lot of the boxes - pace, mystery, characters and setting.

4 from 5

Peter Church is a South African author with a few previous novels to his name – Blue Cow Sky, Bitter Pill and Dark Church, all of which look interesting.

Read in January, 2019
Published – 2019 (in February from Catalyst Press)
Page count – 414
Source – Edelweiss early reviewer site
Format – ePub file (read on laptop)

Monday, 14 January 2019

2 BY STONA FITCH

A couple this week from US novelist Stona Fitch. Deja-vous another author who sits in the burgeoning book collection but has never been read.






















Senseless, at a guess has sat ignored for at least ten years, Give + Take a lot less, seeing as I can't recall buying it new. Fitch has another couple of novels to his name, which if I'm honest don't hold any great appeal for me at all - Strategies for Success and Printer's Devil.

His two most recent book are Boston based crime novels published under the pseudonym of Rory Flynn - Third Rail and Dark Horse - much more my cup of tea.

From Fantastic Fiction website...... Stona lives with his family in Concord, Massachusetts, where he is also a committed community activist. He and his family work with Gaining Ground, a non-profit farm that grows 30,000 pounds of organic produce each growing season and distributes it for free to Boston-area homeless shelters, food pantries, and meal programs.





Senseless (2001)

American economist, Eliott Gast is a man who treasures the finest things that life can offer - fine food, a good bottle of wine, beautiful music. Until the day that he is abducted in Europe by a shadowy and extremist anti-globalisation group. Eliott is held hostage for forty days, and each moment of his incarceration is broadcast on the internet. His captors inform him that his eventual release depends on the votes - and donations made to their cause - of the millions of people who are watching this most disturbing of reality shows. As Eliott battles to understand why he has been chosen, he unearths sins both small and large. Over the course of his captivity, Eliott is deprived of each of his senses, one by one - deprived of everything except the choice of whether or not to survive.








Give + Take (2010)

An unholy marriage of the classic American road narrative combined with the slyest moments of Thomas Pynchon, Give + Take is one part caper, one part social satire. Disillusioned after years of conspicuous consumption, jazz pianist Ross Clifton has become a talented thief, robbing from the rich to give to the poor. But when his teenage nephew, Cray, turns up to join him, his life on the road is turned upside down. Between his nephew's criminal aspirations and Ross' romance with an enigmatic singer, his grifter lifestyle is about to be in serious jeopardy.

Fast, furious, and felonious, Give + Take races along to a thrilling climax.

Sunday, 13 January 2019

PAUL HEATLEY - THE PITBULL (2015)


Synopsis/blurb......

'In times of peace, the warlike man attacks himself.'

Tom Wayman was not born a fighter. He was moulded through hardship and hatred, thrown to the dogs and left to fend for himself. 

When he fights, men cheer for him. They place bets on him. They celebrate his victories, but they just as readily lust for his blood. 

Set in the dark and dirty underworld of illegal dog-fighting, 'The Pitbull' is a hallucinogenic nightmare, a trip through hell, the story of a man more beast than human. It is his fractured relationships, his bloody battles, and his underlying, seething misanthropy.

The newest standalone novella from the author of 'The Motel Whore' trilogy, and 'The Mess', 'The Pitbull' is Paul Heatley's strangest, darkest tale yet.

No animals were harmed in the writing of this story.

Not a tale populated by unicorns and dancing fairies in an English summer meadow. Abandon hope, all ye Paul Heatley main characters.

What we have is dark, brutal, harsh, sickening and compelling - one damaged man's life exposed.

Tom fights dogs for a living, having previously been a doorman/bouncer. It's something he's rather good at, though not something he especially enjoys. It's a wage and as the novella progresses it's apparent that he's ill-equipped to do anything else.

And that's the nub. Tom's alone, separated from his ex-partner, Ellie and son, Tom Jr. who he loves. He dreams of the family life he never had, when not haunted by the nightmares of his own sadistic upbringing. He yearns for normality and reconciliation with Ellie and his boy, but while he's fighting that isn't going to happen, Ellie has made that abundantly clear.

Catch-22 for this outsider.

Another enjoyable (hmm, maybe not the right word) piece from Heatley. Similar to The Motel Whore and The Vampire in tone...... damaged people on the fringes of society, doing the best they can, with the tools they've got, struggling to arrest a slow downward spiral towards rock bottom. Arguably, in this case, Tom's not got any further to fall.

Not recommended for those of a sensitive disposition.

4.5 from 5

Paul Heatley has been read before - The Motel Whore, The Vampire, The Boy, FatBoy and An Eye For An Eye. More from him sits on the pile waiting. 

Read in January, 2019
Published - 2015
Page count  - 83
Source - purchased copy
Format - kindle

Thursday, 10 January 2019

STEPHEN SOLOMITA - DANCER IN THE FLAMES (2012)


Synopsis/blurb....

Detective Boots Littlewood of Brooklyn’s 64th Precinct has been tasked with an investigation that’s hitting close to home: the murder of his police captain. It’s been called another tragic cop killing. Boots suspects something closer an organized hit and he knows in his gut that the perp in custody is an innocent man. Boots’s new partner, “Crazy” Jill Kelly, is taking it personally, too. The daughter of a murdered officer, she’s got a quick temper, a vengeful streak, and a crackerjack aim.

Once Boots and Jill hit the streets of the city they uncover more than dirty secrets. The investigation is reaching back a decade to the sordid serial crimes of the Lipstick Killer—and ahead to a cesspool of corruption and conspiracy that taints the badges of New York’s finest. But as Boots and Jill prepare for hunting season, they realize that they too have become the hunted.


Second book of 2019 and a decent read, but one not quite hitting the heights of Solomita's The Striver which I enjoyed back in 2014.

All of the book is spent in the company of Boots Littlewood, a New York detective. An investigation into the death of his bookie's sister, gets Boots a tip that a habitual car thief from his neighbourhood witnessed the death of a cop a month or two back. The thief has gone to ground, but Boots teamed up now with sexy, crazy, man-eater Jill Kelly run him to ground.

The police hierarchy are happy to pin the cop murder on the thief and close the case and Boots ain't having it. The rumour is that the dead cop was dirty and part of a clique, which is an added incentive for the murder to be swept under the carpet, especially with elections in the offing. The crux of the book then sees Boots endeavouring to spring the thief, while in conflict with the might of the NYPD and never quite sure if he is isolated or if he can trusty Crazy Jill.
 
New York, dirty cops, police politics, corruption, baseball betting on the fortunes of the Yankees, neighbourhood respect, family, a beating, a partnership in work and in bed, an investigation, an attempted hit, some payback and the revelation of a few closely guarded secrets and the real murderer. Selective justice follows.

Enjoyable, hard-hitting, hard-boiled and believable. Solomita writes convincingly about the police and their dirty laundry. Boots definitely isn't Frank Serpico, but he's likeable, determined, conflicted but mostly straight - as honest as he can be, anyway.

I have more to look forward to from Stephen Solomita on the TBR pile - as himself and under his pseudonym David Cray.

4 from 5

Read in January, 2019
Published - 2012
Page count - 244
Source - purchased copy
Format - hardback


Tuesday, 8 January 2019

TOM PITTS -101 (2018)


Synopsis/blurb....

On the cusp of pot legalization in California, Jerry runs afoul of some San Francisco bikers in the marijuana game. He flees straight up Highway 101 to Humboldt County to hide out deep in the hills at Vic’s, a reclusive pot farmer and old pal of his tough-as-nails mother. But trouble finds Jerry no matter where he goes and soon the bikers, a pair of stone killers, and a Russian weed tycoon named Vlad the Inhaler are all hot on Jerry’s trail. 

Fallout from the unfolding chaos piques the interest of SFPD detective, Roland Mackie, when he learns Jerry’s host, Vic, is somehow involved. It opens a twenty-year-old wound, an unsolved case called the Fulton Street Massacre, and Mackie is willing to do whatever it takes to get a pair of cuffs on the elusive Vic. 

When Jerry and his protectors are chased off the mountain and back down the 101 to an inevitable showdown back in the Bay, he learns Vic is much more than his host, he’s a mentor, his mother’s hero, and the toughest man he’s ever met. 

With an unforgettable cast of characters and an action-packed plot, 101 is a wild ride through Northern California’s “emerald triangle.” 

Another wild ride indeed...... bikers, Russian mobsters, a pot shop rip-off, a manipulative girlfriend, a feckless son, a concerned mother, a debt of honour, a chance of survival, a cannabis farm caretaker with a chequered past, a moral compass and someone who has just now painted a big red target on his back, a bothersome cop with a long memory and a couple of contract killers, trying to clean house.

Never less than interesting, 101 is a combustible mix of characters and motivations.

Jerry - son, boyfriend, reckless, naive, stealer of the cash, idiot

Vic - pot farmer, protector, living the low life since the Fulton Street Massacre, in debt to Barbara or so he feels

Ripper - Vic's friend and general gopher

Big Man - Vic's landlord/employer, connected to the bikers - the Dead BBs

Barbara - Jerry's mum, gutsy, determined, inextricably bonded with Vic after events of the past,

Piper - Jerry's girlfriend, step-daughter of the leader of the Dead BBs

Cardiff - imported Russian muscle/killer

Aaron - Cardiff's sidekick, allied to Dead BBs

Terry Naughton - top Humboldt biker

Dmitri - pot shop manager and theft victim

Vlad - Russian head honcho

Eric Tribban - Dead BB President, with a headstrong step-daughter

Roland Mackie - detective with a 20-year hard on for Vic

Tory Nagle - FBI, involved in a RICO case into the bikers

Ollie - biker, gopher and errand boy,

Meth Master Mike, Clean Man, Dandy Dan, Doughboy - window dressing characters each with a role to play

Robbery, a rip-off, a massaging of the figures, a heading for the hills and improbable sanctuary, a manhunt, a police investigation, a kidnapping for leverage, some hostile questioning, a shoot out or three, mistrust and conflict between the players - the Russians and their biker partners, which might play to Vic's advantage, a stakeout, a road trip, a return to the San Francisco and more bloodshed.

Violent, fast-paced, fresh, on-point, savvy, knowing, populated by an entertaining cast, a lot of whom become collateral damage as events play out. Pitts imbues even his peripheral characters with enough pep and zest for this reader to want to know more about them and spend longer in their company, even when they aren't especially attractive people.

Interesting locales - Humboldt county hillsides, the 101 and San Francisco, with a splash of Oakland thrown in.

Overall - a busy novel with never a dull moment, and a lot packed into a little (168 pages to my copy). Extremely satisfying and entertaining - my kind of book.

4.5 from 5

101 was my second dance with Tom Pitts after his fantastic American Static was enjoyed late 2017.

His earlier works - Piggyback, Hustle and Knuckleball still cry out to me from my TBR pile.

Tom Pitts has his website here.

Read in January 2019
Published - 2018
Page count - 168
Source - review copy from author
Format - PDF


Q+A with Tom Pitts - January 2018

Monday, 7 January 2019

2 BY BEAU JOHNSON

A couple of short story collections from Beau Johnson this week. 























If Paul D. Brazill and Paul Heatley like his work, I'm pretty sure I shall enjoy these two sets, featuring (mostly, I guess) Johnson's main man, Bishop Rider.

Beau Johnson has his website here and you can check out some of his stories here.

Catch him on Twitter - @beaujohnson44




A Better Kind of Hate (2017)




The world has never been perfect. The world has never been all bad. But there has always been evil and men who drink of it. This ends now.

Enter Bishop Rider and people like him who have had enough and are willing to embrace what most will not. The world will never be perfect. The world will never be all bad. It’s the middle we must embrace. This, a better kind of hate.

Praise for A BETTER KIND OF HATE:

“Hard hitting stories of lives on the razor’s edge.” —Paul D. Brazill, author of Too Many Crooks, A Case of Noir, Guns of Brixton, The Last Laugh and Kill Me Quick!




The Big Machine Eats (2018)

Life has never been easy. Life has never been kind. It is always hungry. It is never full. Enter the struggles within the pages of The Big Machine Eats. Where fathers clash with sons, cannibals turn on cannibals, and sometimes sandwich meat is far from the worst choice a person can make.

These stories, along with the continuing adventures of Bishop Rider, make up the bulk of this collection. They are not for the faint of heart. They are not for those who fail to believe one should get what one deserves. We must help ourselves. We must help those who find themselves unable. If not, it’s as the sign says: The Big Machine Will Eat.

Praise for THE BIG MACHINE EATS:

“Beau Johnson has put together a collection of stories so compelling that you will want to set aside a few hours each time you come to it. One just isn’t enough, and the next thing you know you’ll be grumpy at work because you stayed up way past your bedtime.” —Paul Heatley, author of Fatboy

Sunday, 6 January 2019

2018 - MY READING YEAR

More for my own amusement than any expectation that this holds any interest to anyone else....


I surpassed my annual target of 120 books for the year, totalling 137 for 2018.
Books is a somewhat loose term, insofar as I'll count anything available to source on its own as a book.

The vast majority of my reading was "crime fiction" though I have no idea on the number of books in the various sub-genres - PIs, police procedurals, Noir, Cosies, mysteries, thrillers, hard-boiled, who-dunits .......





QUALITY - subjective obviously - but overall no stinker books encountered, which if I approach my reading on the basis of selecting what I think I will enjoy isn't a surprise.

More of the same needed in 2019, I reckon.

11 - 5 STAR READS
55 - 4.5 STARS
51 - 4 STARS
6   - 3.5 STARS
13 - 3 STARS
1   - 2.5 STARS

AGEING - I think I've called myself out on my oft-repeated claim that I enjoy books from the 60s, 70s and 80s in a pre-tech age. Yeah man - you enjoy them, but you don't read them!

I'll see if I can get double digits for 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s this year.

1 from the 1930/40s - a collection of pieces previously released singly
1 from the 1940s
1 from the 1950s
2 from the 1960s
0 from the 1970s
1 from the 1980s
4 from the 1990s
10 from the 2000s
74 from the 2010s
43 from 2018




FACT v FICTION - I used to target myself with one non-fiction book a month.
That's gone for a Burton then!

Try and read more in 2019, which shouldn't be too challenging.

134 fiction
3 non-fiction




READING FORMAT
The kindle wins - hopefully in 2019 I'll read more physical books

81.5 Kindle
28 paperback
10 Epub file on laptop
8   PDF
5   hardback
3   audible
1   magazine
.5  iPhone

LENGTH
Does size matter?

14  <50 pages
16  51-100 pages
33  101-200 pages
44  201-300 pages
24  301-400 pages
6    400+ pages

My longest read was 640 pages - The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair by Joel Dicker
My shortest was 13 pages - Breaking Spirits by Glenn McGoldrick

DIFFERENT AUTHORS
103 in total, plus 4 anthologies which had multiple authors.
One author was read under two different published names - Jack Strange/Jack D. McLean

NEW-TO-ME AUTHORS
59 in the year

POPULAR AUTHORS
15 authors were read more than once

12 times Lawrence Block
each by Nick Kolakowski, Graham Smith, Robert Parker, Glenn McGoldrick
10 authors twice








GENDER ANALYSIS
77 male authors (with 105 books)
26 female authors (with 28 books)










AUTHOR NATIONALITY
14 different countries represented, not too much from Europe overall and nothing Scandinavian - Don't Cry For Me Nordic Crime.

46 USA
27 ENGLAND
8 SCOTLAND
3 CANADA, AUSTRALIA, NEW ZEALAND
2 IRELAND, NORTHERN IRELAND
1 SOUTH AFRICA, MALAYA, BELGIUM, SWITZERLAND, ZIMBABWE, GERMANY, GREAT BRITAIN (unable to ascertain whether from England, Scotland or Wales)
with a couple UNKNOWN




SOURCE
I'll try and read more pre-owned books in 2019

55 pre-owned
25 publishers
19 Kindle Unlimited trial
15 authors
10 Net Galley
8  publicists
5  Edelweiss

PAGES READ

Monthly - 2761 - 4170 - 2909 - 1022 - 533 - 1816 - 2966 - 1511 - 1890 - 4481 - 2667 - 1247

Total - 27973

Monthly average - 2331 pages
Average book length - 204 pages

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