Monday 30 December 2013



With some 66 hits under his belt, Tomislav Bokšić, or Toxic, has a flawless record as hitman for the Croatian mafia in New York. That is, until he kills the wrong guy and is forced to flee the States, leaving behind the life he knows and loves. Suddenly, he finds himself on a plane hurtling toward Reykjavik, Iceland, borrowing the identity of an American televangelist named Father Friendly. With no means of escape from this island devoid of gun shops and contract killing, tragicomic hilarity ensues as he is forced to come to terms with his bloody past and reevaluate his future.

About the Author

Hallgrimur Helgason was born in Reykjavik, Iceland in 1959. He started out as an artist, showing his work in several galleries of both New York and Paris, where he lived in the late eighties and early nineties. He made his debut as a novelist in 1990 and gained international attention with his third novel, 101 Reykjavik (“Imagine if Henry Miller had written Tropic of Cancer on crack instead of wine.”-Tim Sandlin), which was made into a film starring Victoria Abril. In 2001 Helgason received the Icelandic Literary Prize for The Author of Iceland. He has twice been nominated for the Nordic Council Literature Prize, with 101 Reykjavik in 1999, and Stormland in 2007. A film based on the latter was released in early 2011. The Hitman’s Guide to Housecleaning is his only novel written in English. It was published in Iceland in 2008, in the author’s own translation, and became a bestseller in Germany in 2010. A father of three, Hallgrimur divides his time between Reykjavik and Hrísey Island.

I was interested in completing my personal Scandinavian reading challenge, by trying something a bit different from the mainstream fare on offer. This was recommended to me by Amazon, so I thought why not?

I could say that the best thing about this book was the title or the cover, but that would be unnecessarily harsh. Whilst the book was okay, insofar as I didn’t want to stick pins in my eyes whilst reading it, it wasn’t the best thing I have ever read. I would be loathe to recommend it to others.

Decent premise.... a hit goes wrong, the hitman flees, kills a priest and assumes his identity. After landing on Iceland he encounters fellow holy rollers, who initially welcome him, then after his identity is uncovered, try to help him repent and embrace God and move on with his life.

His old comrades come calling eventually. A bit of love action, a bit of reminiscing about the old days of the Bosnian conflict, where our hitman discovered his prowess for killing, a bit of Icelandic life – boy does he find it dull.

Interesting up to a point, but it just never really took off for me at all. I had a few chuckles along the way, but truth be told, I won’t be rushing to read more by this author.

3 from 5

Bought on Amazon UK for kindle last month.

Sunday 29 December 2013



With his teaching career derailed by tragedy and his slacker days numbered, Webster Fillmore Goodhue makes an unlikely move and joins Clean Team, charged with tidying up L.A.'s grisly crime scenes. For Web, it's a steady gig, and he soon finds himself sponging a Malibu suicide's brains from a bathroom mirror and flirting with the man's bereaved and beautiful daughter.

Then things get weird: The dead man's daughter asks a favor. Every cell in Web's brain tells him to turn her down, but something makes him hit the Harbor Freeway at midnight to help her however he can. Soon enough it's Web who needs the help when gun-toting California cowboys start showing up on his doorstep. What's the deal? Is it something to do with what he cleaned up in that motel room in Carson? Or is it all about the brewing war between rival trauma cleaners? Web doesn't have a clue, but he'll need to get one if he's going to keep from getting his face kicked in. Again. And again. And again.

"There are many things to love about Charlie Huston's fiction-he's a brilliant storyteller, and writes the best dialogue since George V. Higgins-but what pushes my personal happy-button is his morbid sense of humor and seemingly effortless ability to create scary/funny bad guys who make Beavis and Butthead look like Rhodes Scholars. [Charlie Huston has] written several very good books, but this is the first authentically great one, a runaway freight that feels like a combination of William Burroughs and James Ellroy. Mystic Arts is, however, fiercely original-very much its own thing."--Stephen King 

"Smoking-hot... scorchingly good dialogue and banner-worthy chapter headings (like "Till His Neighbors Smelled Him" and "To Keep Him From Crushing My Spine."). And Mr. Huston, whose own brain matter is as much on display as the stuff that gets spattered here, finally delivers a book that anyone can admire. No strong stomach required."--"New York Times" 

December read of the month for the pulp fiction group I’m part of over on Goodreads. I have read Huston before; his Already Dead back in 2010, which I enjoyed.

Truth be told, I enjoyed this but probably not as much as Stephen King. Our protagonist, Web Goodhue is, for reasons which become obvious as the story develops a bit of a tool. Selfish, hurtful, feckless, shiftless.......not particularly likeable, as he does everything in his powers to alienate his friends and push the world away. Quite often, I can identify with the anti-hero or the outsider, as they have some redeeming qualities that evoke some level of empathy, but early on Huston made it hard for me.

As the book unfolds, Web provoked and cajoled, casts aside his lethargy and starts work as a Clean Team cleaner. His first job involves assisting with the clean-up of a Malibu gun suicide. His ennui shelved, he tries to help Soledad, the attractive daughter of the dead man when she calls him late at night.

The plot didn’t quite work for me. Soledad and her brother need a clean-up. Web obliges, though her half-brother is a bigger tool than him. Web and Soledad have sex, Soledad gets kidnapped and Web tries to broker a deal working in tandem with the brother, to get her back. All the while becoming a more likeable and sympathetic person, kinder and more thoughtful to friends, family and strangers.

His back story and complicated family history is revealed, which explains a lot about him. He is a far better person at the conclusion of the book than at the outset. He’s made a journey and exits feeling a lot more hopeful about life in general, in part due to his own efforts, but also those of his friends who refused to be pushed away.

Interesting, enjoyable, black, dark and funny as hell in places.......just didn’t have the indefinable X-factor for me though. Strange to say, but I have had books like this before that when read a second time around – Swierczynski’s The Wheelman – for example, ticked more boxes on the second ride. I kind of feel this would be one of those.....unfortunately, I doubt I will have the time for a re-read.

Overall a 4 from 5, teetered on a 3, but it did make me chuckle and it is Christmas, so a 4 then!

Plenty more Huston sitting on the pile of the vast unreads.

Acquired from Amazon UK, recently.   


Friday 27 December 2013


’How a Gunman Says Goodbye is even better than its remarkable predecessor . . . The author is already being hailed as a new star of tartan noir and if the third book in this trilogy can maintain the impetus of the first two the existing clan of Scottish writers may have to look to their laurels’ Daily Express

'You know how among all the kids acting tough at school there is one that stands out, the only one who convinces? Malcolm Mackay is that man. His characteristically urgent prose style drives his narrative at a remorseless pace as the Gunman – old and approaching the end of his career – works out what options he has left . . . Don't worry that it's set in Glasgow – there's no dialect. Nor that it's the second in a trilogy – it stands alone. By all means read the first book; you'll enjoy it. But it's time to get on board. Hail the new king of Scottish crime. This is a superb book. It should win prizes' Crime Time
Book Description
WINNER OF THE DEANSTON SCOTTISH CRIME BOOK OF THE YEAR AWARD How does a gunman retire? Frank MacLeod was the best at what he does. Thoughtful. Efficient. Ruthless. But is he still the best? A new job. A target. But something is about to go horribly wrong. Someone is going to end up dead. Most gunmen say goodbye to the world with a bang. Frank’s still here. He’s lasted longer than he should have . .. The breathtaking, devastating sequel to lauded debut The Necessary Death of Lewis Winter, How a Gunman Says Goodbye will plunge the reader back into the Glasgow underworld, where criminal organisations war for prominence and those caught up in events are tested at every turn. The final book in the Glasgow Trilogy The Sudden Arrival of Violence will follow soon . . .

Praise for The Necessary Death of Lewis Winter, longlisted for both the CWA John Creasey Dagger for Best Debut Crime Novel of the Year and the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger for Best Thriller of the Year:

 ‘A truly exceptional debut’ Paul Bailey, Independent ‘Brutal, witty and well-written . . . a brilliant debut’ Sunday Telegraph

‘Remarkable . . . ‘tartan noir’ will have a new star’ Daily Mail

‘Mackay ratchets up the tension like a master’ Daily Telegraph

‘Remarkably original . . . a wholly believable and unnerving portrait of organised crime’ Observer

After loving the first in this trilogy, I was half fearing that the second would somehow fall a bit flat, despite the good things I had heard about it. My concerns were unfounded, as this follow-up ticked all the same boxes as the first for me.

Frank, for years Jamieson’s top gunman, is eased back into action after a spell on the sidelines after his hip operation. A relatively straightforward job, aiming a strike at Shug Francis and his organisation, goes pear-shaped and Frank is contemplating failure and retirement. Only people in Frank’s line of work don’t ever get to draw a pension.

Can Frank settle for a demotion? Can Jamieson allow friendship to cloud his judgement? Can Calum, Jamieson’s number two gunman, reconcile himself to his solitary existence, albeit within the confines of this criminal family, or does domesticity beckon? Can Emma, Calum’s girlfriend stop asking him questions about his movements? Can John Young, Jamieson’s number two in his organisation, manipulate George, Calum’s only friend into upsetting Calum’s applecart? Can DI Michael Fisher cultivate Kenny, Peter Jamieson’s driver as a useful contact, or can he engineer a more prosperous informant; someone who knows where the bodies are buried and who usefulness has just expired, into helping him bring Jamieson down?      

Thoughtful and incisive, fast moving and exciting, extremely enjoyable and satisfying.

5 from 5

Mackay is one of my best discoveries of the year. So much, so I have already pre-ordered the Glasgow finale – The Sudden Arrival of Violence – for delivery early 2014.

My thoughts on the first book – The Necessary Death of Lewis Winter are here.

This one was borrowed from Leighton Buzzard library.

Tuesday 24 December 2013



Something very bad happened to Dani Lancing.

Twenty years later, her father is still trying to get her to talk.

Her best-friend has become a detective, the last hope of all the lost girls.

And her mother is about to become a killer.

A hauntingly original debut that will stay with you long after the last page.

A fantastic debut, markedly different from the standard murdered girl, bereaved family and ensuing police investigation type of formulaic crime fiction. I’ll be honest, I was a little bit confused at the beginning with seemingly supernatural elements to the book, but by the first quarter I was lapping it up.

I probably could have finished this in half the time it eventually took, but work and life got out of balance and tiredness took over; all resulting in Dani Lancing taking the better part of a week to complete. Possibly more enjoyable for savouring the tale for longer and in smaller bites.

Friendship,  school, family, death, loss, University, journalism, police, forensics, affairs, drugs, adultery, abuse, Durham, marriage, love and secrets.

Enjoyable, satisfying, interesting ........all fairly meaningless adjectives when praising this remarkable read.  Viner’s depiction of a family’s grief and the fractures that follow is heart-rending.  The twists in the narrative when 20 years after Dani Lancing’s death, things begin to move towards a resolution are astonishing.

Hard to believe this is a first book. Definitely an author to look out for in the future.

Bang!  Viner smacks it out of the park!

5 from 5 – well worth a look.

Accessed via Net Galley. 

Sunday 22 December 2013



Police officer Tom Bevans is nicknamed the Sad Man by his colleagues. As a Family Liaison Officer he is always the bearer of bad news - it is his job to tell the friends and family of victims the fate of their loved ones.

But Tom is weighted down by crimes both old and new - haunted by the death of his best friend Dani, whose murder has never been solved.

When a rare opportunity emerges for Tom to take the lead in a horrific murder investigation, he is determined to get justice for the victim. A young girl has been found in her own home, cut so badly - and so carefully - that she has bled to death, leaving a deliberate pool of blood in the shape of angel wings....

At time of writing this is currently free for Kindle on Amazon UK. At 111 pages long this novella is a great introduction to another new author on the block. 

Written after The Last Winter of Dani Lancing - the author’s debut novel; The Sad Man gives us the back story of policeman Tom Bevans and brings us to speed on his career and his emergence as a valued investigator trying to secure justice for young female victims of violent crime.

An interesting murder mystery which sees the likeable Bevan prosper at the expense of an inept and difficult superintendent. 

Loved this and it proved a great warm-up for Dani Lancing, which I read straight after. Lancing proving to be my book of the month so far.

4 from 5

Sourced at Amazon UK

Thursday 19 December 2013


Not too daunting?
Another challenge for next year, my 6th and probably my last, though it's possible I may sign up for a Canadian reading challenge around about the middle of next year, depending on what dents I make in this year's other challenges in the next 6 months.

Tracy at Bitter Tea and Mystery has signed up for this one organised over here by Roof Beam Reader. Where Tracy leads, I follow!

The challenge is fairly simple in its aim - to make a small dent in your TBR pile, but the books selected you must have had waiting there for over a year!

The Goal: To finally read 12 books from your “to be read” pile (within 12 months). 

There are specific rules and one of the differences in this challenge is that each of these 12 books must have been on your bookshelf or “To Be Read” list for AT LEAST one full year. This means the book cannot have a publication date of 1/1/2013 or later.

1 - 4 

My TBR Pile Challenge List is as follows:

1. Thomas, Paul - Sex Crimes, 2003
2. Bukowski, Charles - South Of No North, 1975
3. Ross, James - They Don't Dance Much, 1940
4. Mulligan, John - Shopping Cart Soldiers, 1999
5. O'Brien, Tim - The Nuclear Age, 1985
6. Udall, Brady - The Miracle Life Of Edgar Mint, 2001
7. Nisbet, Jim - Death Puppet, 1989
8. Temple, Peter - An Iron Rose, 1998
9. Avallone, Michael - Shock Corridor, 1963
10. Izzo, Jean-Claude - Total Chaos, 2005
11. Nunn, Kem - Tapping The Source, 1984
12. Schwartz, Stephen Jay - Boulevard, 2009

Alternatives are:

13. O'Connor, Robert - Buffalo Soldiers, 2003
14. Keene, Day - There Was A Crooked Man, 1954
5 - 8

The most recent acquisition of the 12 (or 14) is Boulevard from Stephen Jay Schwartz which I bought during 2012. From memory the one before that would have been Bukowski's collection of short stories and prior to that maybe Izzo's Total Chaos. The majority have been knocking about for the best part of 10 years, some even longer!

If I read all 12, I can tick a few boxes in my Australia/New Zealand challenge and 1 from my Golden Vintage and Silver Vintage challenge. Plus a few from the USA 51 State marathon.

If I get through all 14, 4 of them will be re-reads as I have travelled with O'Brien, Avallone, Nunn and O'Connor before.

I don't believe I have to read them in any particular order.
9 - 12

Reserves, plus my snazzy slippers and socks!

Perhaps I ought to go on a photography course!



A new, ruthless and implacable mastermind from Africa has surfaced in gangland, carrying out his darkest deeds in the murky grey shadows of London s back streets. But, following the multiple slaughter of a large number of policemen by this monster, and his intention to commit further atrocious crimes, the challenge has to be met. The result is that this reign of terror is likely to have catastrophic consequences so emergency action is imperative. Together, Lee and Burrows form a talented, resourceful, athletic team of experienced investigators who become dedicated to the eradication of this evil, yet powerful killer. But Cabilla s awesome control of his murderous gang who torture victims to death, and his totally ruthless plans still appear to be gaining ground throughout the City...

By their Rules is a debut novel from an author who is a former serving police officer with vast experience running covert operations and undercover units.  Price brings his previous life-work experiences to bear in this tale.

We have a retired police officer, John Burrows conscripted by his former boss to head up a secret operational unit designed to bring down organised criminal targets. All this is hush-hush and under the radar, though ultimately sanctioned by government. Burrows is teamed up with Jane Lee, another former civil servant recruited from the ranks of MI5/MI6. Burrows and Lee form an interesting duo, both bringing a diverse range of skills to the party.

The target is Cabilla, a Congolese crime-lord operating in both London and Manchester. Burrows has previously seen Cabilla acquitted of serious charges after one of his informants was got to. After a drug-smuggling sting designed to take Cabilla down fails and results in the massacre of about 8 policemen, the authorities decide to take the gloves off and remove him from the picture.

Undercover cops, corrupt cops, drug smuggling, people smuggling, prostitution, surveillance, CCTV, phone-tapping, firearms, torture, abduction, murder, gangsters, witness intimidation, informants, shadowy govt. figures, criminal gangs, hierarchy, fear, violence, the courts, justice system, the Congo, Turkey, London and Manchester all feature in an interesting and satisfying book.

Enjoyable and entertaining without quite hitting – “Damn that was awesome” heights.

A minor gripe would be a tendency to perhaps over-explain the thinking behind certain operational aspects of Burrows and Lee’s “mission,” as opposed to allowing the reader to connect up the dots. Nothing that put me off or irritated too much though.

Would I want to read more from the author in the future? Yes, either the same team or if he writes about a fresh set of characters.  
Overall 4 from 5 and a decent read.

I was supplied my copy by the author after a positive response to a request I made after seeing Raven's review here

Wednesday 18 December 2013


I can’t for the life of me recall how I discovered this as yet unread author. Most likely hopping around on the net , a bit like six degrees of separation, I look up one book or author that has grabbed my attention, which then diverts me someplace else and a few tangential clicks later, before you know it, you have one eye on the postman the following day hoping he’s got a book parcel for you.

Castle Freeman Jr. has written a couple of earlier books, but for once I will hold my fire until I see how I go with these. I do also have a collection of short stories from him called Round Mountain.     

Freeman was born in Texas and raised and schooled in Illinois, but his latter fiction at least is set in Vermont, so I will probably claim one of these books for my Vermont State fiction book, when I eventually kick-off my 2014 USA State Reading quest.

Freeman says on his website........."Practically all the writing I have done—fiction, essays, history, journalism, and more—has been in one way or another about rural northern New England, in particular the State of Vermont, and the lives of its inhabitants, a source of unique and undiminishing interest, at least to me."


A young woman recently relocated to a tiny Vermont logging town, Lillian is menaced by a mysterious stalker named Blackway. This one man - who kills her cat, forces her boyfriend to flee the state in terror, and silently threatens her very existence - is a force little understood by the local figures to whom she turns for help. Yet, in this spare and powerful tale, Lillian enlists the powerful brute Nate and the curmudgeonly Lester to take the fight to her tormenter as a raggedy quartet of town elders ponders her likely fate. With simple strength and extraordinary force, Go with Me is a riveting modern fable of good provoked to resist evil.

Go With Me is “a small masterpiece of black comedy and suspense about a trio of backwoods heroes who embark upon a modern-day quest. . . . If all novels were this good, Americans would read more.” KIRKUS REVIEW

In this gripping, wise, and darkly funny tale of suspense, Sheriff Lucian Wing confronts a series of trials that test his work, his marriage, and the settled order of his life.

Wing is an experienced, practical man who enforces the law in his corner of Vermont with a steady hand and a generous tolerance. Things are not as they should be, however, in the sheriff's small, protected domain. The outside world draws near, and threats multiply: the arrival in the district of a band of exotic, major league criminals; an ambitious and aggressive deputy; the self-destructive exploits of a local bad boy; Wing's discovery of a domestic crisis. The sheriff's response to these diverse challenges calls on all the personal resources he has cultivated during his working life: patience, tact, and (especially) humor.

 2 more next week if I haven’t decided to have a week off and gorge myself silly over the festive period!

Monday 16 December 2013


I set myself a target of 12 Scandinavian books to read in 2013, which I should hopefully have done by the end of the year. Next year I shall try and read as many again from "Down Under."

I think this year I have read a meagre 4 books from this part of the world - a couple of Luke Preston titles, one from Andrew Nette and one from Michael Robotham. One of these was set in London anyway, so hardly qualified as an Australian novel in that respect.

What actually qualifies as an Australian book anyway? Author place of birth, author residency or the location of the book where the action takes place? On the basis of at least one facet of the above ticking a box, I should be able to meet this target.

Roll on 2014 and some Disher, Corris, Barrett, Temple, Whish-Wilson, Paul Thomas and Shane Maloney to mention a few!

Friday 13 December 2013



Based on real events, unforgettable. debunking chapters of today told by a long-term, snarky gripman on San Francisco’s cable cars, tales you won’t hear in most places where Political Correctness trumps real-life observations, especially about people playing race and ethnicity “cards,” made salty, honest and very funny, as told by the “grumpy gripman” narrator, who finds himself in the so-called Land of Free Speech, but where it is always other people who tell you what can say and even think, despite your own experiences.

The tale of One-Tooth or the little ghost boy or the elderly twin sisters or the Chinese dishwasher or Bitty the pet rat or Machete Man or a Sister of Perpetual Indulgence will put a lump in your throat or possibly blow up your P.C. meter. Might appeal to those who are “progressive,” depending on the issue, conservative,” depending on the issue, or neither, and tired of being forced to choose one or the other.

Another day, another book and another new author for me to try. Daniel Curzon according to his Wikipedia entry is a novelist, playwright, educator, and writer of etiquette manuals for gay men.” His 1971 book – Something You Do in the Dark may be considered as one of the first gay protest novels – it’s the tale of a gay man’s attempt to avenge his entrapment by a Detroit vice squad police officer by murdering him. (I quite like the sound of this one TBH !)

Back to Halfway To The Stars then. We have pretty much the diary of a grumpy cable car gripman. We suffer with him during his daily dose of never-ending interfaces with San Francisco’s diverse population. Drunks, gang members, the elderly, blacks, Hispanics, Orientals, politicians and perverts all cross his path daily and all seem to irritate him in one way or another. There’s some sadness to accompany his bitterness as he rages against all things politically correct.

I think I could empathise with him, as I sometimes have the same dark thoughts myself. Maybe as I get older I’m becoming less tolerant and more irritated by society in general.

Curzon whilst venting his fury is extremely funny at the same time, on that basis 4 from 5.

Accessed via the Net Galley website.

Tuesday 10 December 2013


Books 1 and 3
John Gardner is an author I have never previously read. He died in 2007 after a writing career that spanned over 50 novels, mainly in the thriller/spy genre.  He is probably best known for his series of James Bond continuation novels from the early 80’s, eventually penning more of them than Ian Fleming.

John Gardner

His first published book was The Liquidator in 1964, which introduced the cowardly Boysie Oakes to the public. Liquidator was followed by Understrike and a further 6 novels in the series which eventually finished in the mid-70’s.

A site I like to visit from time to time,
 Spy Guys and Gals is informative, not just about Gardner and Oakes but all things concerned with this genre.  

Well worth a visit if you need any hints on what to read next in this field. 
Randall will look after you.

Oakes is a reluctant agent, as Randall from Spy Guys and Gals site explains...... 
Books 1 and 3 

"Boysie Oakes is an assassin for British Intelligence.
       Imagine that you are THE assassin for the British government. You are responsible for the deaths of dozens of enemies of the state. You are feared by both the enemies and your own people.
       Also imagine that you are deathly afraid of flying, the sight of blood makes you queasy, you have to hire a gangster to do the actual wet work, and you are scared to death that someone may catch on.
       That is state of affairs for John Gardner's amazing Boysie Oakes!
       Mostyn, deputy director of British Intelligence, had his first encounter with Oakes in the summer of 1944. He was working undercover in the back streets of Paris during the British repatriation when he was attacked by two Nazi operatives determined to eliminate him. Completely at a loss, he called out for help to a man who was running down the same alley.
       This man, a sergeant in the tank corps, unflinchingly pulls his Colt automatic and in two swift shots kills both assailants. It was then that Mostyn noticed something even more remarkable than the man's daring or his aim. It was the man's ice cold eyes that were so filled with satisfaction at a job well done.
       Years later, Mostyn was at hand when his boss came to the conclusion that what the British Secret Service desperately needed was a ruthless killing arm that could strike out at enemies, foreign and domestic, that were both a danger to the Empire and were outside its ability to handle via normal means.
       They needed one man, an expert marksman with a total lack of compunction about killing. Mostyn was tasked with finding that man.
       By chance, Mostyn glimpses a newspaper article about a murder of a proprietor of the Bird Sanctuary Café and Aviary. Along with the article was a picture of the deceased's partner what had just been grilled by the authorities and was being released for lack of evidence. The partner was Mostyn's savior from the war. And just the man Mostyn needed to save the Empire!
       The problem with this scenario, however, is that Mostyn totally misread Oakes' demeanor and his behavior. Oakes is no cold-hearted killer with nerves of steel. He is a fraud who allows himself to be talked into joining the Department of Special Security because the money sounded good and the chance for woman was appealing. But as for killing, or worse, being killed, Oakes has no interest. If, however, he tells the truth, he will be fired and all the nice percs will go away.
       So Oakes begins the deception and as he succeeds more and more, the truth becomes harder to reveal or remember."

With one of my personal reading challenges for next year an Espionage event. I intend to read at least the first Boysie book in 2014. With its publication from the early 60's, I should be able to knock of one of the slots on my bingo card for the Vintage Silver challenge I'm also undertaking.   

The Liquidator

Hand-picked for his talents by Mostyn, the suave, sadistic Second-in-Command of British Special Security, Boysie Oakes's job is to quietly murder potential Top Secret security risks. But is Boysie the right man for the job? On the surface, he has all the right qualifications. And yet, behind that smooth surface, there are some strange discrepancies. Things begin to go wrong for Boysie when he takes Mostyn's secretary to the Cote d'Azur for a naughty weekend. What starts as a few days of seduction in the Mediterranean sun turns into a nightmare for Boysie as he becomes more and more embroiled in Operation Coronet.

Amber Nine
It was no secret that secret agent Boysie Oakes' personal mission in life was women. But the young ladies at Klara Thirel's school were too much even for him. They were as deadly as they were beautiful. For the school specialized in the arts... the arts of killing, torturing, maiming. Naturally seduction was a required course. Male enemy agents were their favorite prey and these girls certainly knew how to get the most out of a man. Particularly a man like Boysie Oakes...

2 more from the library shelves next week.

Sunday 8 December 2013


A few years ago, I decided there was something missing from my reading. Crime after crime after crime can be a bit numbing, so in a bid to keep things fresh I decided to venture into the world of Chick-Lit. Actually not, I thought a bit of intrigue, a bit of politics, a bit of dark art scheming in the shadows, lone wolf agents, the Cold War.......a whole world of fiction that I had ignored for too long..........Espionage!

What followed was the typical scenario, I read a couple of Olen Steinhauer books set in 60's Eastern Europe, loved them. Went out and bought a load of books by Adam Hall, John Le Carre, Charles McCarry, Len Deighton, Stella Rimington, Alex Berenson, Anthony Price - to name a few and then carried on reading my usual fare. Of the above, I have read one Le Carre and one Deighton book of short stories to date.

In 2014, I will set myself a target of reading 12 books that are pigeon-holed in this genre.

If I can read a few that fill some spots on my other reading challenges, probably Vintage reads with maybe a USA state of two, all the better.

2014 then I will hopefully spend some time in the company of Bourne, Smiley and Palmer as well as some other agents, Liz Carlyle, John Wells, Paul Christopher!

Jason Bourne

George Smiley

Harry Palmer



Las Vegas in the 60s.

Mark Paris is pretty much an ex. Ex-boxer, ex-soldier, ex-mathematician, ex-husband. Now he passes the time winning small in casinos and offering assistance to people who can't find it anywhere else. He calls himself The Professor, much to the amusement of local criminals and barmen, and the contempt of the police.

An early phone-call from an acquaintance brings him his latest job, cleaning up after a sudden death, and at much the same time he's invited to help an elegant businesswoman with big trouble on her hands.

Can The Professor work out the right directions to head in, before his past catches up with him, or 
the people who wish him ill manage to cut his equation off permanently?

Prior to a recent post of Paul D Brazil regarding this book by the author, Andrew Peters I had been unaware of either. Intrigued by Brazil’s praise for both, I contacted Mr Peters and he obligingly sent me a copy of his latest offering Subtraction.

Well how did we get on? I enjoyed it and found it well-written with an easy style of narrative that kept me turning the pages. Our main character, Mark Paris AKA The Professor was likeable and believable and his back story portrayed him as a sympathetic character to this reader at least.

Paris is a part-time gambler and small-time fixer in sixties Las Vegas.  An associate calls him for help after 
waking up next to a dead hooker and Paris obliges, though it is obvious that all he’s done is bought his friend some time. Blackmail and an escalation are around the corner.

Next to come calling on the Professor is the sister-in-law of his girlfriend. She’s a Vegas madam whose string of girls are being targeted for attack by a couple of vicious thugs. Paris agrees to look into the matter and soon his involvement in both cases has him in jeopardy.  Our Prof has to manage the attentions of the LVPD as well as a psychopath before he fully understands his involvement. Regrettably for Paris, he has to turn back to his estranged family to help him fix the mess.

Overall Subtraction was an interesting book with a satisfying resolution. Peters sucked me into 60’s Vegas. 
His depiction of the bars and restaurants, cabaret acts and casinos was the second best thing about the book, after the Professor himself.   

I possibly didn't enjoy it quite as much as Paul, but it was off-beat and quirky enough for me to want to read more from Peters at a later date.

4 from 5

Thanks to Andrew Peters for my copy.   

Saturday 7 December 2013


Another reading challenge for the new year that I will try and undertake.

Number 3, so far in my commitments, along with the USA State Reading Challenge and Read Scotland.

The objective will be to complete a line either vertically, horizontally or diagonally,  or you can claim a Four Corner Bingo by completing each corner on the grid plus two other squares.

Short rules - books must be primarily mysteries - detective fiction, crime fiction, espionage etc,

Golden qualifiers will be books originally published pre-1960 and silver qualifiers will come from the period 1960 to 1989.

The same book can't be used twice to fill two squares.

The challenge is running from January 1st through to December 31st, 2014.

Number-wise a line from each card will be 12 books, so it's not overly-taxing. Trying to construct a line from what I have in my library, particularly with it's emphasis on more modern fiction - probably post-1990 may be a bit more tricky.

Thanks for Tracy from the excellent Bitter Tea and Mystery blog for alerting me to this challenge.

Thanks to Bev at My Reader's Block for hosting the challenge which you can get full details for and sign up to here.  

The more ambitious may try and complete a full card - good luck with that one. Me, I'm setting my sights a fair bit lower!
With my US Challenge giving me a target of 51 books and my Ben Nevis target of 13 for Read Scotland; 12 for the Vintage Silver and Gold puts me at 76 books.

Two more personal reading challenges will follow - Espionage/Spy Fiction - 12 books and a Down Under Challenge - 12 books from Australian and New Zealand authors in 2014.

There's a certain symmetry in rounding off my 5 challenges at 100 books, though I will undoubtedly be counting some of the books I read for more than 1 challenge. Is that called cheating or just common sense?

Friday 6 December 2013


Another author who I think I will like but haven’t actually yet tried.

Still at least I only got 2 books and not 10, though I do like the sound of his 3rd which is out next year.
 These were recommended to me by a friend over on Goodreads, and his judgement has been reasonable sound so far, with him giving me the heads-up on David Corbett's Do They Know I'm Running which I enjoyed earlier this year.  


The man who calls himself David Loogan is leading a quiet, anonymous life in the college town of Ann Arbor, Michigan. He's hoping to escape a violent past he would rather forget. But his solitude is broken when he finds himself drawn into a friendship with Tom Kristoll, the publisher of the mystery magazine Gray Streets - and into an affair with Laura, Tom's sleek blond wife. When Tom offers him a job as an editor, Loogan sees no harm in accepting. What he doesn't realize is that the stories in Gray Streets tend to follow a simple formula: Plans go wrong. Bad things happen. People die.

Elizabeth Waishkey is a single mother raising a fifteen-year-old daughter. She's also the most talented detective in the Ann Arbor Police Department. But when Tom Kristoll turns up dead, she doesn'nt know quite what to make of David Loogan. Is he a killer, or an ally who might help her find the truth? Loogan, for his part, would like to trust her, but he has his own agenda. He suspects his friend's death is part of a much larger puzzle, and he's not going to wait for someone else to put the pIeces together.

As Loogan and Elizabeth navigate their way through the Kristolls' world, they find no shortage of people with motives for murder, from a young graduate student obsessed with Laura Kristoll to a trio of bestselling writers, all of them with secrets they don't want uncovered. But as the deaths start mounting up - some of them echoing stories published in Gray Streets - Loogan begins to look more and more like the most promising suspect. Soon it becomes clear that only Elizabeth can find the path to solving both the murders and the mystery of Loogan himself. But by the time she unravels the twisted skein, Loogan may be indicted for murder - or, more likely, become the next victim.

“Bad Things Happen is a very smart, well-written roller coaster ride that is always threatening to hurl the reader out into roaring empty space. Go along for the thrill ride!"
James Patterson

Do you run for the hills when you see a book by James Patterson on the shelf, or next best (worst) thing, a book blurbed by James Patterson? Me not really, I don’t have a problem with him and in his own inimitable way he has probably encouraged more reading amongst folk who wouldn’t otherwise be inclined to pick up a book, and he’s probably helped a few writers get a leg-up at the same time in a difficult career choice.

Anyway back to Dolan I reckon I will enjoy this one.


A new book in the nationally bestselling series that has wowed critics and readers alike.

David Loogan returns! Loogan is living in Ann Arbor with Detective Elizabeth Waishkey and her daughter, Sarah. He's settled into a quiet routine as editor of the mystery magazine Gray Streets -- until one day he finds a manuscript outside his door. It begins: "I killed Henry Kormoran."

Anthony Lark has drawn up a list of names -- Terry Dawtrey, Sutton Bell, Henry Kormoran. To his eyes, the names glow red on the page. They move. They breathe. The three men on the list have little in common except that seventeen years ago they were involved in a notorious robbery. 

And now Anthony Lark is hunting them down, and he won't stop until every one of them is dead.  

Second book with David Loogan and it also looks interesting. I haven't read the obligatory-cliched serial killer book for a while, but I think it might be a bit different from the normal affair - I hope so!

Book 3 is The Last Dead Girl and is out in the UK in January, 2014. It's unlikely that I will have read any of these two by then. 

On a rainy night in April, a chance encounter on a lonely road draws David into a romance with Jana Fletcher, a beautiful young law student. Jana is an enigma: living in a run-down apartment and sporting a bruise on her cheek that she refuses to explain. David would like to know her secrets, but he lets them lie—until it's too late.

When Jana is brutally murdered, the police consider David a prime suspect. But as he sets out to uncover the truth about Jana, he begins to realize he's treading a very dangerous path—and that her killer is watching every move he makes.

Wednesday 4 December 2013



Peter Lime is trained to hunt down his prey and catch them on film. But now he is the one being hunted. Whose prey has he become? And what is it that he has that these people will kill to get? 

Lime is a Danish paparazzo, living in Madrid. For more than 20 years he has stalked and captured the rich and famous on film, making vast sums of money from exposing their secrets - the more salacious the image, the bigger the fee. But lately he's been thinking of giving it up. His wife and child have changed his life, and now he dreams of doing a job that his daughter can be proud of. 

Then he goes on a routine assignment, snapping a Spanish minister out sailing with his mistress, and suddenly his world is turned upside down. When a fire destroys his home, but not all of his photographs, Lime sets out to discover a motive and finds himself drawn into the complex and terrifying web of international terrorism.

In keeping on top of a couple of my own personal reading challenges, I selected a Scandinavian book which was the recipient of the 1999 Glass Key Award; thus killing two birds with the one stone.

Davidsen’s book Lime’s Photograph was in truth less of a Scandinavian book and more of one concerned with Spain, both during and post-Franco’s reign. We encountered....hippies, communes, Madrid, ETA, IRA, security services, Franco, Basques, photography, friendship, family, marriage, fatherhood, death, loss, grief, betrayal, celebrity, politics, Denmark, art, terrorism, bombs, treachery, Berlin Wall, Stasi, GDR,KGB, Moscow and Russia.  

An interesting book, well-written and engrossing and in parts educational, particularly as my previous knowledge of the Spanish Civil War and subsequent strife in the country was bordering on ZERO to MINIMAL. I feel compelled to find out more about the origins of this conflict and how it has resolved itself, and what Franco’s legacy has been to his country.

The author has one of his characters make a couple of claims which may or may not be true, but I’m intrigued enough to pursue them and expand my knowledge at a later date.
      Franco was a necessary evil insofar as he dragged Spain into the twentieth century and enabled her to start looking forward as opposed to always looking back. Despite the opposition to his regime, in many ways he united the country.

Franco’s regime (unlike the Fascist regimes in Italy and Germany) was guaranteed its survival by the US in return for its anti-communist stance and the allowing of US bases on its territory.

I think my enjoyment stemmed as much from the history lesson as from the resolution to the mystery for the deaths caused by Lime’s Photograph. This was my first book by the author and I do have a second book by him rattling around somewhere – The Serbian Dane, which I will get to at some point.

I don’t always pigeon-hole books but this could also be considered as a thriller/espionage type book as opposed to something which sits firmly on the crime fiction shelf.

4 from 5

I bought a second-hand copy earlier this year on ebay.