Monday, 8 July 2013


Week 14 on our 2013 Crime Fiction Alphabet journey, courtesy of Kerrie over at her Mysteries in Paradise blog. It's the turn of the N's and a chance to recap on a couple of recent favourites and some more recommended but as yet, untouched books.

Nunn, Nisbet, Nicol........3 enjoyed,

Kem Nunn - Tapping The Source

I must have read this book over 20 years ago, though in truth I'm guessing. Originally published in 1984 this was a debut novel from ultimately a far from prolific author - just 5 books in about 20 years, with the last, Tijuana Straits published back in 2004. Something about this book has remained with me over the years, though it's kind of difficult to recall just exactly what magic spell Nunn wove on me as I read this. I still have my copy somewhere, ready for one last read before passing it on.

People come to Huntington Beach in search of the endless party, the ultimate high, and the perfect wave. Ike Tucker has come to look for his sister and the three men who might have murdered her. His search takes him on a journey through a twisted world of crazed Vietnam vets, sadistic surfers, drug dealers, and mysterious seducers. And if he's not careful, it is a journey from which he will never return.

Jim Nisbet – Lethal Injection

I read this last year and absolutely loved this. It was a close second to Roger Smith when selecting my book of the month last November. I have more by Nisbet to read and I'm looking forward to each and everyone one on the pile. I'm just surprised that he isn't better known.

The gritty noir cult classic is now back in print - and the first of nine Nisbet books from Overlook!

Jim Nisbet's cult classic Lethal Injection, one of the first Black Lizard Books originals, has been out of print in the United States for an unforgivably long time. Overlook is remedying that with this paperback - the first of nine reissues that will make up a Nisbet revolution. 

It's about as noir as you can get. In a bleak Texas prison Royce, an alcoholic doctor administers Bobby Mencken's last 'high,' convinced that the convicted killer was innocent. When Royce's marriage crumbles he takes off for Dallas to search for the real killer. 

Of Nisbet, Germany's Die Welt wrote, 'Neither Norman Mailer nor Truman Capote has in their writing been able to produce such an intensity as Nisbet has achieved.' With sharp humor and a poet's ear for language, Nisbet's world may be bleak, but it is frighteningly real. Overlook is proud to bring him to a new generation of readers.

Mike Nicol – Payback

Another superb South African writer. This is Nicol's first in his 3 book Mace and Pylon series. I have the other two ready to go, but I'm kind of holding back, because once they are gone, they're gone and the feeling of anticipation will have disappeared. October's book of the month last year. If you like Deon Meyer or Roger Smith, you need to try Nicol also.

More than a decade after the end of Apartheid, ex-gun-runners Mace Bishop and Pylon Buso are trying to settle down to a comfortable Cape existence. But when an old contact calls in a favour, they become embroiled once again in the country's violent underworld of crime and corruption - and with the lethal Islamist organisation PAGAD. A gripping tale of narcotics, arms-dealing and international intrigue, PAYBACK heralds the arrival of a major new crime-writing talent.

Nesbo, Neville, Newton......3 unread,

Jo Nesbo – Headhunters

I read Nesbo's Bat/Harry Hole book earlier this year, having undertaken a challenge to read a bit more Scandinavian crime fiction this year. My OCD tendencies dictate, I can't read the next Hole installment because it hasn't yet been translated into English. This standalone will keep me ticking over until then.
Roger Brown is a corporate headhunter, and he's a master of his profession. But one career simply can't support his luxurious lifestyle and his wife's fledgling art gallery. At an art opening one night he meets Clas Greve, who is not only the perfect candidate for a major CEO job, but also, perhaps, the answer to his financial woes: Greve just so happens to mention that he owns a priceless Peter Paul Rubens painting that's been lost since World War II - and Roger Brown just so happens to dabble in art theft. But when he breaks into Greve's apartment, he finds more than just the painting. And Clas Greve may turn out to be the worst thing that's ever happened to Roger Brown.

Stuart Neville – The Twelve

I have only had this on the pile a year or so, so not much chance for it to get too dusty. Neville's debut novel has received a fair bit of praise and was nominated for an Anthony Award. He has written a couple more books in this series, Collusion and Stolen Souls. If time allows I'd like to get this read later this year.

Fegan has been a 'hard man,' an IRA killer in northern Ireland. Now that peace has come, he is being haunted day and night by twelve ghosts: a mother and infant, a schoolboy, a butcher, an RUC constable, and seven other of his innocent victims. In order to appease them, he's going to have to kill the men who gave him orders. 

As he's working his way down the list he encounters a woman who may offer him redemption; she has borne a child to an RUC officer and is an outsider too. Now he has given Fate - and his quarry - a hostage. Is this Fegan's ultimate mistake?

Charlie Newton  -  Calumet City

Another debut novel on the pile, published 5 years ago. I got my copy when browsing a few months ago in a secondhand book store in St. Albans. I think the author has written a couple more after this one, but I'm holding fire until I have dipped my toes into Calumet City first. Nominated for a couple of awards, including an Edgar, this should be good though!  

Among the most self-assured and sharply crafted debuts in recent years, Calumet City detonates a Molotov cocktail of character-driven suspense and ghetto-Chicago intrigue.

Meet Patti Black, the most decorated cop in Chicago. On her ghetto beat, Patti Black redefines the word badass. But her steel-plated exterior -- solitary, stoic, loveless -- belies the wrenching legacy of her orphan childhood. Haunted by the horrifying abuse she suffered at the hands of her foster parents, Patti Black sublimates past torments into a meticulously maintained tough-gal persona.

When a series of unrelated cases -- a drug bust gone bad, a mayoral assassination attempt, the murder of a state attorney, the exhumation of a long-concealed body from a tenement basement wall -- all point in Patti Black's direction, she finds herself facing the dark truth: You can't hide from your history, no matter how far into the fog you run. For Patti Black, that history didn't die in the tenement wall; it's alive -- and riding her down.

In researching this electrifying thriller, Charlie Newton rode in the squad car with real-life street cop Patti Black. The result is a powerful fiction debut that captures the precise emotional landscape of one cop's hard-bitten life in the trenches. This first-time author joins that rare breed whose fiction is suffused with profound authenticity.

I'll be back with week 15's O - entries next week.


  1. I've only read the Nesbo (which I hated) and the Neville (which I also hated) but I wouldn't let that put you off - the Neville is well written but just not to my taste (oodles of violence) - both are of the "I want you to buy into an audacious premise" variety of book that I don't really go in for.

    The rest all sound a bit too noir for me - though I have got a Mike Nicol book here somewhere to try

    1. Bernadette, thanks. You're probably right, a bit too much of the same here! I know what I like though. I have a couple of Nesser's unread and I tried an Irish author a few years ago, Andrew Nugent's The Four Courts Murder - which was ok, but nothing too fantastic. I'll try for some variety next week!

  2. Col - Thanks for this. The Nicol sort of got my interest as I am trying to read more African-set crime fiction. Like Bernadette, I'm not one for an awful, awful lot of violence, but that one has got my attention...

    1. Margot, I didn't find the violence gratuitous or over the top, just an essential ingredient of the story. I think at the minute there are a lot of great writers in SA - Meyer, Roger Smith and Mike Nicol.....and no doubt plenty of others that I haven't yet discovered.

  3. I did notice a lot of dark, violent stories here. Hard to tell if they are too bleak or violent or not without trying them. I have heard that the Kem Nunn book is good, and will definitely pick it up if I run into it. The Twelve has been sitting on my bookshelf for a couple of years and I hope to get to it soon. On the others you have not read yet, I will wait and see what you think of them.

    1. Tracy, dark, bleak, violent......not too sure what my shrink would make of this! (If I had one.) Maybe next year's Alphabet participation, I ought to read some of this year's unread?

    2. That's great, you already have next year's Crime Fiction Alphabet planned. I really love what you are doing this time, because it brings to my attention a lot of books and authors I would not see (or maybe remember).

    3. Thanks, I think I also remind myself what I have waiting, though I do feel a bit guilty when I covet more books when I have more than enough already.

  4. OK I've never heard of most of these, and I'm playing with the idea that you made one of them up, they sound like such archetypal noir classics! No of course you didn't,you wouldn't mess with us like that.... But Lethal Inhjection? Really? I'm almost tempted to read it.

    1. Moira, you should give it a go.
      I was tempted to mention his unread classic - The Octopus On My Head, but I'll save it for another I messing with you....

  5. It's the three covers with guns that jumped out at me, which I suppose is the marketing department's job! I've only read Neville, titled The Ghosts of Belfast in the US, and it's not really my kind of book. Happy reading!

    1. Rebecca, I hadn't even noticed the quantity of guns. I suppose I must be drawn to a certain type of book, though I have been taking steps to widen my horizons perhaps hasn't filtered through to my library yet. Check in next week and I'll see if I can bring a bit of variety to my entry!

  6. I LOVED Tapping the Source by Kem Nunn. Would love to read more but someone I know said TTS was his best book. I remember the story very well having read it last year. HATED Headhunters by Nesbo.I just didn't get it. Enjoyed The Twelve (or as it's known, The Ghosts of Belfast).

    1. Keishon, I think your friend is probably right. I read his Pomona Queen and didn't enjoy it half as much. I do have some of his others waiting but they can wait for now. I'm tempted to try Headhunters soon, to see what I think...a bit perverse but sometimes a strong negative reaction makes me anxious to try something.

    2. You should read it. I love Nesbo but that character was the deal breaker for me. You might like it or get what the author was trying to do with the story and the character. I'd be interested in your opinion on it.