Sunday 29 September 2013


The last week of the completed Crime Fiction Alphabet Journey for 2013 and the turn of the Z’s in the spotlight. Thanks to Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise for collating and hosting the journey. Check out other bloggers entries over here.

I have 3 books to spotlight which I have read and enjoyed. Zadoorian’s entry which is one of the best books I have read in the past 4 or 5 years wouldn’t pass as crime fiction but it would be criminal of me to ignore it. There are also 3 books I have on the shelf and laptop still to enjoy.

Zadoorian, Zelterserman, Zusak.......3 enjoyed

Michael Zadoorian – The Leisure Seeker

Not crime fiction just a beautiful, touching and moving novel. My wife read this and adored it, so did I. I read this back in May, 2012 before I started penning my thoughts on the books I encountered, but I’m still haunted by it. There’s a review here by bookreporter, which does it justice. If you have an opportunity to try this, don’t pass it up.

This is the unforgettable cross country journey of a runaway couple in their twilight years determined to meet the end of all roads on their own terms. "The Leisure Seeker" is the story of John and Ella Robina, a couple married 50+ years - she has stopped her cancer treatments, he has Alzheimer's - who kidnap themselves from the adult children and the doctors who seem to run their lives, and steal off on a forbidden vacation. Each battling their own infirmities, John pilots their '78 Leisure Seeker RV (it's the one with the left turn signal blinking) along the forgotten roads of Route 66 on a journey of rediscovery. They're not searching for America, but for a past that they're having a damned hard time remembering these days. Yet Ella is determined to prove that, when it comes to life, you can go back for seconds-sneak a little extra time, grab a small portion more, even when everyone says you can't. It's the story of Ella and John: the people they encounter, the problems they overcome, the lives they have lived, the love they share, and how their heartbreak at watching friends disappear into nursing homes inspired them to face the colossus at the end of all roads on their own terms.

Dave Zeltserman – Fast Lane

Fast Lane is Zeltserman’s debut novel from 2000. Praised by Ken Bruen among others, it’s dark, bleak noir. I think he’s been likened to James Cain and Jim Thompson on more than one occasion. Not a cosy world by any stretch of the imagination. I've read a lot more books from this guy in the last 10 years or so and he seems to be getting better and better.

When a young woman approaches Denver private eye Johnny Lane to find her birth parents, the last thing he expects is the path the case leads him down. FAST LANE is a harrowing novel where as the chasm between words and reality grow wider, past and present deeds unravel with deadly force.

Marcus Zusak – The Book Thief

Difficult for me to describe, suffice to say I absolutely loved it, loved it, loved it. Uncomfortable and thought provoking. Zusak seems to straddle the boundaries between teenage YA fiction and adult. Who cares about labelling? His book, I Am The Messenger was pretty enjoyable too.

It's just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. . . .

Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak's groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meagre existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can't resist - books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbours during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau.

This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul.

Zeh, Zafiro (and Wilsky), Zimmerman......3 unread

Julie Zeh – Eagles and Angels

This was a recent addition to the library a couple of months ago. Zeh is German and as I haven’t read much German fiction I’ll make minor inroads into redressing that imbalance when I read this, plus she’s a female writer and I just don’t read enough of them really.

Jessie is dead. She shot herself while on the phone with Max. And now grief-stricken Max, a UN lawyer, is forced to reevaluate everything about their relationship - including what Jessie, a drug dealer's daughter, was hiding. Embroiled with the drama of the Balkan drug trade and the shortcomings of international law, Eagles and Angels is a sophisticated riddle of a novel where mass murderers and civil war heroes exist in a bizarre symbiosis, and where nothing is as it appears. Wunderkind author Julie Zeh is the winner of the German Book Award and the Bremen Forder and the Rauriser Literature Prizes.

Frank Zafiro and Jim Wilsky – Blood on Blood

A recent cheapish kindle addition to the library.......biff, bash, bosh.....cops, crims, prison, the words of Del-boy.....”luvly jubbly!”  (Or.....very nice...... for readers unfamiliar with Only Fools And Horses character Derek Trotter.) The cover reminds me of a Simon Pegg film for some reason.

Half brothers Jerzy and Mick Sawyer are summoned to the prison where their father is dying. On his deathbed, he tells his sons about a diamond heist that he was part of and how some of those diamonds are still out there. He sets the two on a path of cooperation and competition to recover the jewels, each playing to his own strengths and against the others weaknesses.

Jerzy is the quintessential career criminal, fresh out of a short bit and looking to get back into the action right away. Mick is a failed cop and tainted hero struggling to get by with a clean life that doesn't seem to ever pay off. Both men see this score as their ticket out but they'll have to work together. Throw the sexy, mysterious Ania into the mix and you have all the ingredients of a classic story set in Chicago.

Jim Wilsky is a short story author with a considerable number of published stories. Many of his stories are in the crime genre. This will be his first published novel.

Frank Zafiro has written numerous novels and short stories, most in the crime genre.

Together, they've joined to be hardboiled partners in crime, writing gritty, hardboiled crime novels in two distinct voices.

Bruce Zimmerman – Blood Under the Bridge

Last entry for the journey and another recent addition purchased to maintain a wee bit of symmetry for this week’s post. Zimmerman is an author I have vaguely heard of, but never tried. This is the first in a 4 book series featuring Quinn Parker. Beyond that, I know very little about author, books and the character.......still I’ll find out more when I read it won’t I?

SAN FRANCISCO --A city of scenic perfection, where executives consult the Tarot, sunny days dawn shrouded in fog... and women are losing their heads for all the wrong reasons.

Quinn Parker knows about fear. He's fought it enough. But nothing could have prepared him for the heart-stopping fright of finding his gorgeous lover dead in her own bed... decapitated. Suddenly, he's the prime suspect in a rash of murders that has the city whispering of a new Zodiac killer. Threatened with a long life behind bars, Parker feels like a caged animal -- until his own instincts for the hunt bring him face-to-face with a madman....

Journey over – arrived safely at the final destination.  

Glad it’s all over to be honest!  It's been exhausting. Thanks for your company!


As a bit of a change from banging on about books all the time, I'll offer up the films I watched in the month also.

In September 7 in total as it happens.

I Robot - TV

Starter For 10 - TV

Footloose - TV

Ocean Eleven - TV

The Place Beyond The Pines - DVD

Vertigo - DVD

The Taking Of Pelham 123 - TV

I Robot.........probably the 3rd time I have seen this. Enjoyable, watchable but if I had to choose a favourite Will Smith film it would be The Pursuit of Happiness.

Starter For 10.......based on the David Nicholls book of the same name. (Him of the more recent One Day book/film fame). A 2006 rom-com starring a baby-faced James McAvoy (Atonement, Trance,Narniasomethingorother)........enjoyable and laugh out loud cringey and funny. I do like a bit of University Challenge which should be familiar to you if you're reading this and in the UK. For those unaware of this quiz, it's been on our screens over here for 30-odd years and is a brainy quiz between two teams from rival universities, each seeking to progress further in the knock-out competition by defeating the opposition.
A very young James Corden also features.

Footloose....everyone knows the song, but I have never seen the film starring a young Kevin Bacon, early 80's, until now. Great fun - though I did get all nostalgic seeing an equally baby-faced Chris Penn - brother of Sean.

Chris Penn sadly died back in the mid-2000's after a history of substance abuse. A much under-rated actor, I loved him in Reservoir Dogs and Mulholland Falls.

Ocean Eleven - a heist film with a bit of Clooney and a bit of Pitt, a bit of Roberts, a bit of Damon and a bit of Garcia. I also spotted the dude from the recent series of Hawaii 5-0.......Danny. Great film, I might have to look for the sequels.

The Place Beyond The Pines......well it was really good until I got soooo tired and fell asleep about half an hour from the end - it is a long film! Have I got back to it..........err, no not yet. So much to my son's disgust, I will probably need to restart it again next month.

Vertigo - another Hitchcock classic with James Stewart. Enjoyable even if I did have a 20 minute nap in the middle of it!

The Taking Of Pelham 123......great film and my second viewing. I think Travolta gets better and more watchable the older he gets. Denzel's pretty much superb in everything he stars in.

I would still like to see the original of this, from 1974 with Walter Matthau, just to see which version I enjoy the most.

I did also record Hitman with Timothy Olyphant - Justified's Ralyan Givens but haven't yet watched it.

Friday 27 September 2013



This was the end of the story that had started 'Once upon a time, in a rainy country, there was a king...' The end had not happened in a rainy country, but on a bone-dry Spanish hillside, three hundred metres from where Van der Valk had left a lot of blood, some splintered bone, a few fragments of gut, and a ten-seventy-five Mauser rifle bullet.

No one had broken any laws. But a handsome, middle-aged millionaire had disappeared with a naked girl. And Van der Valk was given the job of finding out why.

Foster in Frenzy
This was my first (and probably last) taste of this author. The King of the Rainy Season is Freeling’s 6th mystery in his Inspector Van der Valk series, which ran to 13 overall. I can dimly recall the TV series from the 70’s starring Barry Foster as the lead character. Foster (as a boring aside) seemed vaguely familiar to me when recently watching a Hitchcock film Frenzy. After googling him, the penny dropped in respect of his Van der Valk role. 
Freeling was the recipient of the Edgar Award in 1967 for this book. One of my mini-reading challenges for myself is a monthly read of an Award winning book, so on that basis I hooked up with King of the Rainy Country.

My overall verdict..........shortish at 157 pages long but not a quick read; interesting and intelligent if a bit too pedestrian for my liking. Van der Valk is conscientious, probing and curious, diligent in his approach to his challenge and not easily diverted from his task despite temptation. The puzzle or raison d’être for Jean-Claude Marschal’s disappearing act and the limitations placed on his enquiry, added to the sense of mystery and the suspense does build as our trusty inspector comes closer to solving the puzzle.

I enjoyed the support cast of police characters and the respect and cooperation Van der Valk received from his German and French counterparts added to my enjoyment. At times we seemed to be on a road trip through Europe in pursuit of Marschal, but it was more at a pace akin to Driving Miss Daisy than Fast and Furious. Van der Valk has plenty of time for his philosophical musings along the way.

A bit of a change from my usual read and satisfying if not quite setting off the buzzer labelled “super, fantastic, great!” 

3 from 5  
I obtained my copy by swapping with another member on the Readitswapit website.




Peter Leonard's jaw-dropping VOICES OF THE DEAD introduced us to two mortal enemies: Holocaust survivor Harry Levin and Nazi death angel Ernst Hess. Now, their struggle reaches its dramatic conclusion in BACK FROM THE DEAD.

Bahamas, 1971. Ernst Hess, missing and presumed dead, regains consciousness to find himself stuck in a hospital bed on a strange ward in a foreign country. He must do what he needs to do to get his life back and to finish the job he has been doing for decades.

Harry believes he has already stopped Hess. When he finds out that the war criminal has somehow survived, Harry must do the only thing he can do kill Hess again even if it means crossing continents and putting his life and the lives of those that matter to him on the line.

Action-packed and darkly humorous, BACK FROM THE DEAD is the unforgettable conclusion to a story that launches Peter Leonard into the pantheon of great suspense novelists.

My first taste of this author and an enjoyable experience it was too. I’m not usually a fan of reading series books out of sequence, as it offends the OCD lurking within, but at the time I was unaware there was an earlier book – Voices of the Dead. Hopefully I can catch up with the first at some point.

Short-ish at 230-odd pages, Back From The Dead starts intriguingly, soon bursts into action and pretty much stays pedal to metal until the end.  Hess a Nazi war criminal versus Levin a Holocaust survivor, good v. evil, light v. enjoyable, violent, bloody tale with Hess - a relentless amoral killer; cunning and manipulative, cold and callous but at the same time capable, intelligent, decisive and charming when he wants to be.  Levin is almost a mirror image of his foe, sharing many of the same traits and attributes but in possession of a moral compass, driven by a sense of loyalty for his friends and a thirst for justice, not necessarily administered by the legal authorities. Action spread across the US and Europe, fantastic twists as Leonard writes his characters into a box and believably back out again on more than one occasion. A fantastic read.

*Years ago, I made a throwaway remark on someone’s blog after they reviewed Quiver, the author’s first novel. I think my comment was along the lines of.......” not for me, probably only got published because of his dad!”    Pass me a big dose of humble pie as I couldn’t have been more wrong. With apologies to Mr Leonard and a note to self saying – “engage brain before commenting in future.”

5 from 5

I managed to blag access to a reading copy via the Net Galley website.

Thursday 26 September 2013



Jack Parker thought he’d already seen his fair share of tragedy. His grandmother was killed in a farm accident when he was barely five years old. His parents have just succumbed to the smallpox epidemic sweeping turn-of-the-century East Texas—orphaning him and his younger sister, Lula.

Then catastrophe strikes on the way to their uncle’s farm, when a travelling group of bank-robbing bandits murder Jack’s grandfather and kidnap his sister. With no elders left for miles, Jack must grow up fast and enlist a band of heroes the likes of which has never been seen if his sister stands any chance at survival. But the best he can come up with is a charismatic, bounty-hunting dwarf named Shorty, a grave-digging son of an ex-slave named Eustace, and a street-smart woman-for-hire named Jimmie Sue who’s come into some very intimate knowledge about the bandits (and a few members of Jack’s extended family to boot).

In the throes of being civilized, East Texas is still a wild, feral place. Oil wells spurt liquid money from the ground. But as Jack’s about to find out, blood and redemption rule supreme. In The Thicket, award-winning novelist Joe R. Lansdale lets loose like never before, in a rip-roaring adventure equal parts True Grit and Stand by Me—the perfect introduction to an acclaimed writer whose work has been called “as funny and frightening as anything that could have been dreamed up by the Brothers Grimm—or Mark Twain” (New York Times Book Review).

“This latest work reads like a dark version of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and feels like a Coen brothers movie. It’s the perfect mix of light and dark, with plenty of humour mixed in.” —Houston Chronicle

“The Bard of East Texas is back. . . . He has been writing brilliantly about East Texas for three decades, but never has the region appeared stranger or more violent than it does here. . . . Memorable characters, a vivid sense of place, and an impressive body count make The Thicket another Lansdale treasure.” —Booklist (starred)

“Storytelling laced with bravado, good humour, action, and heart . . . As captivating as the best of Larry McMurtry and written in a style reminiscent of Mark Twain. . . This title cannot help but captivate readers.” —Library Journal (starred)

“A gently legendary quality makes this tall tale just about perfect.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Satisfying . . . Lansdale’s humour and skill at characterization comes across well.” —Publishers Weekly

Another book I have read through the Net Galley site. I have enjoyed Lansdale before, most notably his Hap and Leonard series which is about 9 books long, though I’m lagging behind with it and will in all probability start at the beginning again whenever I do get around to it.

The Thicket at 240-odd pages long was a quick blast through rural Texas a century ago.  Violence, gun-play, casual racism which was the norm for the period, death both by natural and unnatural causes, an abduction, a pursuit, an ex-Circus performing dwarf, horses, a career-changing prostitute, bars, lawless towns and mob rule, faith and religion, jails, sheriffs, family and friendship all figure in a superb tale of a boy’s passage into manhood whilst seeking to save his sister from a ruthless, lawless gang of rapist, bank robbers.

Whilst I enjoyed reading about Texas of 100 years ago, I wouldn't care to have been around there then or have spent much time in the company of Lansdale’s outlaws. The Thicket had a great setting with a fantastic story, populated by marvellous characters – both good and bad. Highly recommended.

Time to dust off the earlier Lansdale books I think.

4 from 5

As mentioned earlier I accessed this book through the Net Galley website.    

Wednesday 25 September 2013


Week 25 and the penultimate entry for the Crime Fiction Alphabet Journey with the Y’s in the spotlight.

Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise is collating other bloggers Y entries here, so feel free to pop over and check them out.

With the possible exception of maybe a Frank Yerby western or two many moons ago and here I could well be mis-remembering I’m at a loss to recall any books I may have read by an author with a surname beginning with Y.

Lacking confidence to claim for sure, I will concentrate on some unread offerings on the library shelves, most of which have been recent acquisitions with this week’s post in mind. I do suffer for my art!

Yurick, Yance, Young, Yorke, Yates, Yuill........ 6 unread

 Sol Yurick – The Warriors

I’ve seen the film several times, though my last viewing was many years ago. Until recently I thought I had read the book also and scratched my head puzzling over how the two forms could be so different. The penny finally dropped that I was trying to compare Richard Price’s The Wanderers with Yurick’s The Warriors! Doh....I never claimed to be perfect! 
The basis for the cult-classic film

The night of July 4. Teenage violence runs wild through the streets, exploding with firecrackers and patriotic celebration. In the Bronx, the police move in to break up a citywide convention of gang leaders. Whistles, shots, pounding nightsticks, and suddenly, six members of "the Family" - the Coney Island Dominators - are alone on enemy terrain. Their desperate flight back to their native turf is a journey filled with murder, rape, and subway mayhem that will leave the awestruck reader at a new station of awareness.

An exhilarating novel that examines New York City teenagers, left behind by society, The Warriors is Sol Yurick's first novel, and it is a triumph of his imagination and skill. What emerges from this night of madness and orgy has a relevance to the large-scale human experience, a relevance far surpassing its immediate front-page topicality.

Eli Yance – Consequence

A recent cheap Kindle addition to the library........hitmen and conmen, violence and all sounds like my cup of tea......someone put the kettle on!

The lives of two hardened hitmen, two experienced conmen and one millionaire businessman are about to change forever. Embroiled in separate worlds of drugs, theft, fraud and murder, their vices combine in a heartless and brutal cataclysm of violence. Three worlds thrust into one; 5 lives that will never be the same again.

A foiled kidnapping, a moment of opportunity and a deadly case of mistaken identity change the lives of two friendly conmen and destroy the mind of a heartbroken millionaire.
Consequence is fast-paced crime thriller. An intricate, edge of the seat novel with its fair share of violence, obscenity and surprise.

William P. Young – The Shack

A couple of years ago, I couldn’t walk in a book shop or supermarket without being confronted by a copy of this offering. I picked it up a few times, put it down, not really sure what kind of book it was, but eventually succumbed when I saw a cheap copy in a charity shop. Is it a crime novel, a thriller, or something with a deep spiritual significance that will bring me closer to my God?  I will let you know when I have read it, whenever that is!

Mackenzie Allen Philips' youngest daughter, Missy, has been abducted during a family vacation and evidence that she may have been brutally murdered is found in an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness. Four years later in the midst of his Great Sadness, Mack receives a suspicious note, apparently from God, inviting him back to that shack for a weekend. Against his better judgment he arrives at the shack on a wintry afternoon and walks back into his darkest nightmare. What he finds there will change Mack's world forever. In a world where religion seems to grow increasingly irrelevant "The Shack" wrestles with the timeless question, "Where is God in a world so filled with unspeakable pain?" The answers Mack gets will astound you and perhaps transform you as much as it did him. You'll want everyone you know to read this book!

Margaret Yorke – Speak For The Dead

1988 saw the publication of this one. Sad to say I haven’t yet read anything by this fairly prolific author – 43 books, up until her death last year. They all used to have fairly distinct covers with her name travelling down the left hand side of the front. A recent addition to the shelves in the past month.

Carrie Foster was still young when she started breaking the law. And she took to it like a duck to water. Gordon Matthews had transgressed only once, but his crime was far more serious. A pity Carrie didn't suspect anything when he proposed to her. But then, why should she? Gordon looked presentable now- and prison had given him time to invent a new past. Nicholas was different- a shy young man, eager to please- and to Carrie their affair began as an amusing diversion. A bit of harmless fun, and Nicholas need never know about her other life with Gordon. But there was something Carrie didn't know either...

Dornford Yates – Blind Corner

I’m not too sure how I will get along with this 1927 Chandos novel. Is he a dandy or a crime-busting super-hero? Will I want to read more about him? Unlikely, but you never know, stranger things have happened.

This is Yates' first thriller: a tautly plotted page-turner featuring the crime-busting adventures of suave Richard Chandos. Chandos is thrown out of Oxford for 'beating up some Communists', and on return from vacation in Biarritz he witnesses a murder. Teaming up at his London club with friend Jonathan Mansel, a stratagem is devised to catch the killer.

P. B. Yuill – Hazell Plays Solomon.........coming soon*

Yuill is a pen-name collaboration between Gordon Williams – Straw Dogs or The Siege of Trencher’s Farm – remember the film/book early 70’s? and Terry Venables, ex-England, Barcelona and Tottenham manager.

Warm feelings of nostalgia wash over me as I recall Nicholas Ball as Hazell in the hit-crime fiction drama of the late 70’s. My 14 or 15 year old self used to enjoy this and The Sweeney back in the day!
Cool, good looking geezers with leather bomber jackets and an easy way with the chicks - a million miles away from the awkward, painfully shy and spotty teenager looking on in envy!

There were 3 Hazell books and a short story that were the inspiration behind the TV series. I will probably track down the other 2 books at some point. John Williams, who I mentioned a couple of weeks ago – Into The Badlands - claims “The Hazell books (are) probably the best crime novels written by a former professional sportsman." Originally published in 1974, I’m struggling to find a blurb for the book about the Cockney ex-copper turned PI. So I will have to settle for the first line from the book........

"My name is James Hazell and I'm the biggest bastard who ever pushed your bell-button."

* I ordered this online a week or two ago and it hasn't yet arrived. Hopefully the postman hasn't taken a fancy to it and re-homed it. When it comes it should be bearing either of the 2 cover choices, but I don't know which. I prefer the one on the right personally. 

Next week we complete this year’s journey with some Z’s – hopefully they won’t send you to sleep!

Tuesday 24 September 2013


Nuremberg is a dead city. In the aftermath of World War II, two-thirds of its population has fled or is deceased, with thirty thousand bodies turning the ruined industrial centre into a massive open grave. Here, the vilest war criminals in history will be tried. But in Nuremberg’s dark streets and back alleys, chaos rules.
Captain Nathan Morgan is one of those charged with bringing order to the home of the war crime trials. A New York homicide detective who spent the war in Army intelligence, he was born to be a spy—and now, in 1945, there is no finer place for his trade than Nuremberg. As the US grapples with the Soviets for post-war supremacy, a serial murderer targets the occupying forces. Nathan Morgan may be the perfect spy, but it’s time for him to turn cop once more.

This was another freebie book thanks to a Net Galley invite from Emma at Open Road Media/Mysterious Books and an offer I’m really happy I took advantage of.

A historical murder mystery set in Nuremberg, Nazis about to appear on trial, Third Reich sympathisers and gangs still active in the ruins of a city nearly obliterated by Allied bombing, a local population living in squalor and deprivation, women reduced to prostitution to survive, corruption within the police force, an uneasy alliance between the disparate strands of the victors (East v West) and the vanquished, as the Allies struggle to get the city moving again and restore law and order to the streets, owned by night by black marketers and opportunists, whilst the unburied dead rot in the rubble. All this and more - with the back-drop of the biggest trial of the century looming near - and a deranged killer on the loose. 

I could almost taste the fear and dust and decay as I read it.

Ruin Value is so far at least, the best book I have read this month, though ever the optimist with a week or so to go, it may be topped.  Definitely a case of right book at the right time!

The author has written several other mysteries though I know little about them.

5 from 5

Thanks again to Emma at Open Road Media.

Monday 23 September 2013



Britain, 1956. A young actress seemingly tries to commit suicide over a tangled love affair, but is taken to hospital and her life saved. The story is just the sort of thing that journalist Ian Charteris likes to cover: a poignant mix of near tragedy, possible thwarted romance, and glamour, needing sensitive but - of course - dramatic treatment. It should be a routine assignment, a welcome assignment. It would be, if it wasn't for the identity of the young woman. She may - just may - be Ian's sister. The unwelcome reminder of the past drags Ian back into memories of places and events he'd rather forget. As far as Ian is concerned, the past is a foreign country. And not just foreign. Fundamentally and cantankerously hostile. Vengeful, war-torn, dangerous. It is impossible to escape the past; the noose is already around Ian's neck, and every step he takes it tightens...And this is not the only noose.

Bill James is an author I have read previously. He has a 30 book long police series with detectives Harpur and Iles of which I have read the first couple (I think it was 2!), albeit some years ago. As well as his long-running series he is the author of many standalone novels, with quite a few published under the pseudonym of David Craig. It’s quite remarkable that with over 50 titles to his name, I very rarely encounter his stuff in bookshops, but tend to find him with his own substantial shelf in my local library. (This is something he seems to have in common with Nick Oldham, another British crime fiction author with 20 plus books to his name, all of which seem to be scarcer than rocking-horse pooh, apart from the library. Can anyone explain this phenomenon?)

Noose is his latest stand-alone offering and very enjoyable it was too. Only 170 pages long, which is my kind of book, but packed with enough disparate threads of story and detail as many books twice its length.
Ian Charteris is our main character in the book, but for a large sections plays second-fiddle to his father and his maritime exploits, including a well-publicised and oft-remembered rescue of a young woman - Emily when serving as a crew mate on a passenger boat. An unsympathetic, self-centred character is Charteris senior, a fact which Ian guiltily recognises the more he comes to understand him.  Ian comes into his own when witnessing an incident during a bombing raid in the Blitz. An incident which allows his father’s resentment to surface and which at its conclusion reopens old wounds causing his mother pain, a fact Ian comes to understand some years later. We fast forward to Ian’s National Service and his training in Lincolnshire in readiness for service in Korea.  Ian crosses paths with the much-older Emily, now a civil servant of some description and the spouse of the head of the training base. The settling of imagined debts from the past, conspire to keep Ian at home and safe, with severe consequences for his rival and friend, Ray Bain.

Having decided against re-enlisting when his service obligations expire, Ian refusing the overtures of recruiting agents for British intelligence pursues a career in journalism. Bain and Emily working together bring him back into the unwitting service of his country, before we finish back in the present (1956) and a journalistic story concerning his troubled and heart-broken half-sister.            

Entertained?  Yes
Satisfied? Yes
Very enjoyable? Yes
Want to read more from him? Yes, it might be time to dig out more of the Harpur and Iles books.

4 from 5

I obtained access to this through the Net Galley website.


Friday 20 September 2013



A woman is out to clear her cousin of murder charges after a blackmailer targeting the wealthy Carlisle family turns up dead.

K.C. Carlisle and her cousin Kenneth Carlisle both grew up rich. Kenneth is a corporate lawyer in an exclusive Northern California seaside community while K.C. has a storefront office on the seedy side of town. She takes whatever kind of case walks in her door.

But trouble appears one day when Francine Boutelle shows up pretending she wants to write an expose of the Carlisle family, including some dirt on K.C.'s late and highly respectable father. Francine has visited most of the family and is willing to keep the family secrets in exchange for cash.

When Kenneth is accused of murdering the blackmailer, K.C. is determined to prove his innocence, no matter where the trail of blood and deception leads.

Call me a caveman if you like, but prior to having an unexpected envelope drop on my desk containing an unsolicited advance copy of this re-issued novel, I had never heard of this author. It would be fair to say, I certainly know who she is now after quickly devouring this short-ish book.

Hart has authored over 50 books, in a writing career that launched in 1964 with the publication of her first novel, The Secret of the Cellars. She has several popular series to her name including the 23-book long, Death on Demand books which show no sign of abating.

Back to Death By Surpise......

Rich moneyed folk and lawyers to boot, some with political aspirations don’t tend to figure highly on my reading schedule. Coming from the mean streets of Dublin/Luton/Leighton Buzzard, where the dogs usually walk around in pairs............ok I’m joking......the point I’m trying to make is that generally my attitude is akin to; rich people – who cares?        

Putting aside my immature prejudices and cracking the spine, I was soon engrossed in this satisfying tale of blackmail and murder. K.C. Carlisle probably passes for the most normal in her family and when her siblings and cousins seek to dismantle a trust for access to instant money she’s curious as to the motivations behind such a move. When Francine Boutelle arrives on her doorstep, the rationale becomes instantly clear. Even the straight-laced, up-standing K.C. has secrets she wouldn’t like aired in public.

Fast forward to the pre-ordained family conference and the strategy the family seeks to adopt is set. An option of murder isn’t on the cards, but with the blackmailer subsequently strangled with her cousin’s scarf and all of the family possible suspects in regards to motivation, K.C. - already suffering the body-blow of another close bereavement – tries to clear her cousin; albeit at the risk of swapping one family member for another in a prison cell.    

Overall, I found Death By Surprise to be clever, interesting, enjoyable and satisfying.  It’s doubtful I would have been tempted by this book if I hadn't been the recipient of a review copy, but hey I’m happy to be surprised.

4 stars from 5

My thanks go to Meghan (doubly so) at Prometheus Books for my copy and another book by Carolyn Hart which I hope to be getting to shortly – Brave Hearts.     

Thursday 19 September 2013



Newly minted Special Agent Liv Bergen races against time to solve a child kidnapping--which could take a fatal turn--with the help of her gifted nephew Noah

From birth, Noah Hogarty has lived with severe cerebral palsy. He is nearly blind, unable to speak, and cannot run, walk, or crawl. Yet his mind works just as well as any other twelve-year-old's--maybe even better. And Noah holds a secret dream: to become a great spy, following in the footsteps of his aunt, Liv ''Boots'' Bergen.

Now, freshly returned from training at Quantico, FBI agent Liv Bergen is thrown into her first professional case. Working side by side with veteran agent Streeter Pierce, enigmatic agent and lover Jack Linwood, and her bloodhound Beulah, Liv must race to find five-year-old Max--last seen at the Denver International Airport--before this Christmastime abduction turns deadly. Meanwhile Noah, housebound, becomes wrapped up in identifying the young face he sees watching him from his neighbor's bedroom window, but he can neither describe nor inscribe what he knows.

And his investigation may lead to Noah paying the ultimate price in fulfilling his dream.
Noah's Rainy Day (the fourth novel in Brannan's mystery series) combines classic Liv Bergen irreverence and brainpower with an unflinching look at the darkest of human motivations, all while a whirlpool of increasingly terrifying events threatens to engulf Liv and Noah both in one final rainy day.

Having recently signed up to Net Galley after receiving an invite, I was asked if I would like to have a look at Sandra Brannan’s 4th Liz Bergen book.  As it has been frequently pointed out to me that there is an imbalance in the number of books I read by females, I quelled the misgivings my OCD-self felt about starting at the 4th book in the series and accepted.

My progress through the book was slightly fragmented due to a holiday in the middle of reading this via my laptop. Despite the stop/start nature, I enjoyed the tale and was interested in both the outcome and the relationships between the characters, especially Liz, Streeter and Jack.

My initial disbelief at the involvement of a “green” agent in a prominent, high profile case of child abduction was for the most part satisfied through subsequent dealings in the book with the child’s father, though a small part of me still seems a little bit incredulous that the FBI would be susceptible to pressure from a financier. Similarly the continued involvement of Liz in the hunt for missing Max and her nephew Noah, once it became apparent there was a more personal involvement seemed a wee bit of a stretch.

Minor gripes aside, the story was entertaining and held my interest. There was a curious dynamic between Liz and Streeter which was apparent, but not having reference to the previous books I’m unsure what if anything caused the slight tension. It added a little bit extra to the book in my opinion.

The other main character within the book was Liz’s nephew Noah. Noah, a 12 year old boy suffers from severe cerebral palsy and whilst the condition affects him physically, mentally he’s very switched on and aware. Personally, my knowledge of the condition is limited, but the author portrayed the boy and his family sympathetically and reminded me that physical appearances can be deceptive; you have to look beyond the “broken boy” part and acknowledge the person inside, who has feelings, abilities and intelligence. A timely and welcome reminder from the author for me, when encountering those with disabilities or medical conditions.

The plot unfolded swiftly, mirroring the point than in child abductions the first 24 hours are crucial. Interesting cast of characters, well-written, satisfactory conclusion........more than enough to off-set the couple of issues I had above.

4 from 5

As mentioned earlier, I gained access to this through the Net Galley website.             

Wednesday 18 September 2013



After twenty-four years in the marines, Mac McClellan is happy to be a civilian again and let others take charge, but that's not going to happen until he clears his name as the number one suspect in a murder.

When recently retired U.S. Marine Mac McClellan hooks a badly decomposed body while enjoying a leisurely fishing vacation in the Florida panhandle, and then a bag of rare marijuana is discovered stashed aboard his rental boat, he realizes someone is setting him up to take the fall for murder and drug smuggling. Mac and Kate Bell, a feisty saleslady at the local marina with whom he has struck up a promising relationship, launch an investigation to clear his name. Along the way Mac must butt heads and match wits with local law enforcement officials, shady politicians, and strong-armed thugs from the Eastern Seaboard to sniff out and bring the real smugglers and killer to justice.

Helms is another new author for me. Previously his Vietnam memoir, The Proud Bastards was originally published back in 1990 and has been reprinted at various times over the years. He has also authored a novel about the Civil War called Of Blood and Brothers.

Deadly Catch is a mystery novel set in Florida. Mac McClellan, our main man is a likeable, capable ex-marine on vacation. Divorced with a couple of grown up children, he’s doing a spot of fishing whilst deciding what to do with the rest of his life. Snagging a dead body isn’t part of his vacation planning and after a brusque encounter with the resident sheriff Bo Pickron, another veteran and war hero Mac’s life gets a little bit complicated.  When the corpse is subsequently found to be the sheriff’s niece and murdered to boot, Mac fits the bill as number one suspect.

Subsequent events do little to ease him back into civilian life and holiday mode..... a stash of dope is found on his chartered boat and then his trailer burns down. His developing friendship with Kate, who dismissed the spiky sheriff’s amorous attentions, previously, does little initially to calm the situation. Throw the feisty City police chief Merritt into the mix as well as some small town intrigue in the form of a long-time feud between two prominent families, one of which has just suffered the bereavement of the murder victim and top it off with some dope smuggling and the situation escalates for McClellan.

McClellan teaming up with an unlikely ally, digs deeper into the family feud and the town’s recent history to try and get himself out from under the frame that’s been clumsily assembled around him.

Overall verdict.......enjoyable, well written, decent pace, interesting and believable characters, satisfying conclusion.

Only one minor, itsybitsy, wee gripe from me.........Kate, Mac’s friend and confidant has an irritating habit of saying the annoying word........ DANG! And not just on one occasion either. The irrational part of my brain had me half hoping she was kidnapped and bound and gagged as a sudden plot twist - just so she couldn’t speak!  I would hazard that the word is part of the local dialect, but for some inexplicable reason it just grated on me.

4 stars from 5

I was fortunate enough to receive a review copy from Lisa at Prometheus Books. Many thanks!

Deadly Catch is released on 12th November, and next year sees a second McClellan mystery from the author - Deadly Ruse. Something to look forward to in 2014!   



Week 24 on the Crime Fiction Alphabet Journey hosted at Mysteries in Paradise. It would be fair to say, I’m not overly spoiled for choice this week in keeping to the format of my alphabet entries so far, highlighted enjoyed and unread gems that have inhabited or currently do the shelves of my dis-organised library.

Two offerings only this week, neither of which I have yet read, both with an eastern slant perhaps unsurprisingly.

Xinran, Xiaolong............2 unread

Xinran – Sky Burial

I will be completely frank and say I only discovered this author and book when researching possible additions to the library with the sole intent of padding out this week’s post. Apparently Sky Burial is based on a true story of a woman seeking news of her long missing husband. It has over 35 reviews on Amazon, with 24 of them 5 stars and only 1 paltry 2 star return with the rest scoring 3 or 4. Reviews are obviously subjective but at first glance it seems like it will be a decent read, without perhaps ticking the crime fiction genre box. I have recently read a crime fiction book – Tomorrow City - penned by an American based in Shanghai, but when I do eventually read this it will be interesting to acquire an eastern perspective on China and Tibet.    

As a young girl in China Xinran heard a rumour about a soldier in Tibet who had been brutally fed to the vultures in a ritual known as a sky burial: the tale frightened and fascinated her. Several decades later Xinran met Shu Wan, a Chinese woman who had spent years searching for her missing husband who had been serving as a doctor in Tibet; her extraordinary life story would unravel the legend of the sky burial. For thirty years she was lost in the wild and alien landscape of Tibet, in the vast and silent plateaus and the magisterial mountain ranges, living with communities of nomads moving with the seasons and struggling to survive.

In this haunting book, Xinran recreates Shu Wen's remarkable journey in an epic story of love, loss, loyalty and survival. Moving, shocking and, ultimately, uplifting Sky Burial paints a unique portrait of a woman and a land, both at the mercy of fate and politics.

Qiu Xiaolong – Death Of A Red Heroine

The second tome on the shelf marked X has been there for maybe 6 years or so. At a time when I decided to broaden my horizons reading-wise I acquired this book new. My plan to read a bit of Chinese detective fiction never materialized and it has gathered dust in the intervening period.  This was originally penned in 2000 and the author has subsequently written and published a total of 8 in the Inspector Chen series. Not sure when I will get to this, but I ought to at some point. Surprisingly for me, I haven’t yet been tempted to add more Chen books to the shelves in the meantime.

Shanghai in 1990. An ancient city in a country that despite the massacre of Tiananmen Square is still in the tight grip of communist control. Chief Inspector Chen, a poet with a sound instinct for self-preservation, knows the city like few others. 

When the body of a prominent Communist Party member is found, Chen is told to keep the party authorities informed about every lead. Also, he must keep the young woman's murder out of the papers at all costs. When his investigation leads him to the decadent offspring of high-ranking officials, he finds himself instantly removed from the case and reassigned to another area.

Chen has a choice: bend to the party's wishes and sacrifice his morals, or continue his investigation and risk dismissal from his job and from the party. Or worse . . .

Next week should be an easier week in regards to having something a bit meatier to highlight, even though my Y offerings have all been fairly recent additions to the library.

Check out other bloggers X-rated entries here

Tuesday 17 September 2013



After an armoured car robbery goes horribly wrong and leaves four people dead, young ex-con Brendan Lavin flees New York City and attempts to start over again in Shanghai. But twelve years later, after opening a bakery under an assumed name and starting a family with a local woman, his former colleagues show up and force Brendan to assist in another armed robbery, of a wealthy diamond merchant. If he doesn't cooperate, they'll expose him and kill his family. Will Brendan help them pull it off and keep his new life intact? Or will his past bring him down, destroying everything else along with it? Tomorrow City is a riveting, literary crime novel that explores the theme of reinvention in Shanghai, the city that's reinvented itself more than any other in the world over the past generation.

One of the most enjoyable facets of my reading is discovering new authors that are writing the type of fiction I enjoy reading. Admittedly sometimes you take a chance on a new book from a fresh voice and you are a bit disappointed. Not on this occasion, thankfully.

On a recent trawl of some crime fiction blogs I check in on regularly, I encountered the book on the entertaining blog – Not The Baseball Pitcher. Always a sucker for a stunning cover and a big fan of heist fiction, I shamelessly contacted the author to see if I could blag a copy.

Said copy duly arrived about maybe 6 weeks ago and my hopes were further raised when reading the back cover.

Praised by the late Leighton Gage – “I had a twofold pleasure in reading Kjeldsen’s debut. As a writer, I admired his skill at evoking sense of place and his uncommon ability to evoke sympathy for a criminal. But the real pay-off came as a reader; Tomorrow City is such a cracking good story.”

Also Lou Berney, a favourite of mine after this great book – Gutshot Straight, enthuses – “A tight, tense crime novel about a stranger in a strange land trying to outrun the ghosts of his past. Kirk Kjeldsen’s Shanghai is a terrifically fresh and evocative setting, and the action jumps off the page.”

What’s the verdict then? 

Short, sharp, fast, plenty of action, interesting settings - especially Shanghai, with a sympathetic, troubled but basically moral criminal struggling to break away from the past and provide a normal life for his partner and child. In Bernard Lavin, Kjelsden has created a likeable protagonist who I was rooting for throughout. His daily life as a Westerner, trying to run a business and a life successfully, whilst flying under the radar was illustrated superbly.  His adversaries in the book are similarly fleshed out, with the author providing them with both depth and detail, as opposed to being cardboard cut-out villains. They display a chilling lack of humanity or any empathy for others standing in the way of their goals. Shanghai, the bustling Oriental city of 23 million souls is also stunningly painted by a skilled author in his first published novel.

There is violence aplenty, which is to be expected when blaggers armed with guns and a lack of conscience go out on a job, but it was in keeping with the tale and not over-gratuitous. The novel’s conclusion is believable and had me wondering about Bernard Lavin in the days after I closed the book.

I’m looking forward to what Kirk Kjeldsen does next.

4 from 5

My thanks to the author who responded sympathetically to my request for a copy. 


Monday 16 September 2013



The No. 1 New York Times Bestseller

Jess Walter's Beautiful Ruins is a gorgeous, glamorous novel set in 1960s Italy and a modern Hollywood studio.

The story begins in 1962. Somewhere on a rocky patch of the sun-drenched Italian coastline a young innkeeper, chest-deep in daydreams, looks out over the incandescent waters of the Ligurian Sea and views an apparition: a beautiful woman, a vision in white, approaching him on a boat. She is an American starlet, he soon learns, and she is dying.

And the story begins again today, half a world away in Hollywood, when an elderly Italian man shows up on a movie studio's back lot searching for the woman he last saw at his hotel fifty years before.

Gloriously inventive, funny, tender and constantly surprising, Beautiful Ruins is a novel full of fabulous and yet very flawed people, all of them striving towards another sort of life, a future that is both delightful and yet, tantalizingly, seems just out of reach.

'Magic...A monument to crazy love with a deeply romantic heart' New York Times

'A novel shot in sparkly Technicolor' Booklist

'Hilarious and compelling' Esquire

'Beautiful Ruins is a novel unlike any other you're likely to read this year' Nick Hornby, The Believer

"Why mince words? Beautiful Ruins is an absolute masterpiece."
Richard Russo   

I read one of Walter’s previous novels about 3 or 4 years ago – Citizen Vince and absolutely loved it. His latest, Beautiful Ruins was bought for me by my wife back in July as a present; though in actual fact she read it before me. It would be fair to say she enjoyed it immensely.  

Having only previously read the one book by the author which was fairly well entrenched in the crime fiction genre, I’m unsure if Walter has departed from “crime” before this novel or not. To worry about labelling it I suppose is irrelevant. I’d rather read a well written novel with no criminal undertones than a poorly written, unsatisfying police procedural.    

Love, romance, celebrity, Hollywood, Cleopatra, Richard Burton, war, illness, family, death, control, substance abuse, screenwriting, hotelry, tourism, Italy, dreams, passion, responsibility, forgiveness and hope all figure throughout this charming tale.

Could a brief, unspoken, unacknowledged spark of romance in Italy in 1962, still flicker and prevail across fifty years and separate lives lived before finally igniting?

Read it yourself and find out.

Overall, Walter’s book was for me interesting, enjoyable and entertaining and at its conclusion fairly satisfying. Hand on heart, it didn’t quite reach the high spots that I had hoped for, but it could be me being picky. (Citizen Vince ticked a box or two more!) Reminded me in parts of the film Letters To Juliet, with a bit less treacle and slightly less sugar.

I have 3 or 4 more books by the author that I will hope to get to in the next year or two.

4 stars from 5  

My copy was purchased new for me from Waterstones as a present.