Thursday, 5 September 2013


It’s week 22 on the Crime Fiction Alphabet Journey hosted by Kerrie at her Mysteries in Paradise website. The turn of the V’s to step  into the spotlight. Here’s some selections from the heaving shelves of the Criminal Library.

Valin, Vachss........2 enjoyed

Jonathan Valin – The Lime Pit

Valin wrote 10 or 11 Harry Stoner mysteries then stopped. I think I read somewhere that he went into music journalism. I’ve only read the first in the series, I don’t know how many years ago. Hand on heart I can’t exactly recall what it was about in any great detail, though I dimly recall enjoying it to the extent that I bought most of the series, but never actually read any of them subsequently. I recall a quote from a book I read recently, though the book’s name escapes me.......when we buy books, we actually think we are buying the time to read them......or something like that. I should get back to this series when I’m about 300 years old! Despite the set-up, I don’t remember it as a clichéd PI  tale.

The first Harry Stoner mystery

Harry Stoner is a private eye in the classic tradition. A loner with a history of failed relationships with women and all-too-successful relationships with bottles of scotch, he's unable to look away from the world's corruption and unable to avoid trying--futiley--to do something about it. His latest hopeless cause is Cindy Ann, a teenage hooker. Neither pretty nor engaging, she doesn't have much to offer at all, and somehow that makes her disappearance all the more disturbing for Stoner, who knows what can happen to girls nobody wants. And he's got a sick hunch that it happened to Cindy Ann, right across the Cincinnati border.

As tough as Spenser in his heyday, Stoner is as hard-boiled as they come, but he's a lot more than a standard-issue pulp P.I. The story may be ugly, but in Valin's hands it has the brutal grace of a world-class boxing match.

Andrew Vachss – Flood

This is the first in Vachss long running Burke series which I enjoyed early-90’s. Keishon, a champion crime fiction blogger and dare I say it friend, read this recently and unfortunately didn't enjoy it at all. I will re-read it at some point and some of his subsequent Burke books in the future to see if my opinion has changed....hopefully not!

Burke's newest client is a woman named Flood, who has the face of an angel, the body of a high-priced stripper, and the skills of a professional executioner. She wants Burke to find a monster for her - so she can kill him with her bare hands. In this thriller, Andrew Vachss's renegade private eye teams up with a lethally gifted avenger to follow a child's murderer through the catacombs of New York, where every alley is blind and the penthouses are as dangerous as the basements.

Vasquez, Vine, Van de Weterin, Vargas..........4 unread

Ian Vasquez – In The Heat

This is a fairly recent addition to the library and the first in a series of 3 by the author. This will be my first Belize based mystery as and when I get to it, which knowing me won’t be any time soon.

Boxer Miles Young thinks he's got one more shot in him before it's time to hang up the gloves for good. He may be the only one who thinks so. The truth is, he enjoys the recognition his career has brought him at home, in the small Latin American country of Belize, and he's worried about how he'll support his daughter once it's over. So when his promoter comes to him with a proposition that includes one last big fight, he listens.

Isabelle Gilmore wants Miles to find her daughter, who's run off with some of her mother's money and her no-good boyfriend. Isabelle's afraid Rian's going to marry the kid, the only son of corrupt ex--police chief Marlon Tablada, and she wants Rian---and the money---found. In return, Miles gets put on a fight card with a $30,000 payday.

He's reluctant, but Isabelle thinks a hometown hero can get people to talk in ways a private investigator can't. Trouble is, before he can find Rian, he learns that there's much more to Isabelle, her daughter, and Marlon than Isabelle let on.

Clearly at home in the world of hardboiled crime writing, debut novelist Ian Vasquez is a bright new talent who infuses In the Heat with a steamy, exotic voice all his own.

JanWillem Van De Wetering – Outsider In Amsterdam

I’ve not read any Dutch based crime fiction, or at least I can’t recall any. This is the first in a 12 or 13 long series. I don’t think the short blurb does the book or series justice. Written in the mid-70’s, I’m interested in finding out how the Dutch police went about their work back then. Probably another 12 books to add to the wishlist if I enjoy this one! Apologies for the rubbish image.

Piet Verboom is found dangling from a beam in the Hindist Society he ran as a restaurant-commune in a quiet Amsterdam street. Detective-Adjutant Grijpstra and Sergeant de Gier of the Amsterdam police force are sent to investigate what looks like a simple suicide.

Barbara Vine – King Solomon’s Carpet

Is it cheating counting Vine as a V? Should it be R for Rendell? Either way I have not read anything by the lady who I think Ian Rankin labelled as Britain’s Greatest Living Crime Author. (I don’t think I made that up!) I think this won a Dagger Award of some description.

Jarvis lives in a crumbling house with a view of the Jubilee Line: he loves the tube with all its secrets - its hidden tunnels, its mysterious "ghost" stations, its incidents and accidents, which he records. He lives in a house which was once a school, but now he lets out rooms.

Fred Vargas – The Three Evangelists

Bought it, when my mind was set on reading some European (non-UK/Irish) crime fiction and promptly forgot about it. It must have gathered dust for a good 6 or 7 years now. One day, but probably not particularly soon, I will give Fred a try.

The Three Evangelists is an enormously entertaining departure from Vargas's Commissaire Adamsberg series. Sophia Simeonidis, a Greek opera singer, wakes up one morning to discover that a tree has appeared overnight in the garden of her Paris house. As her husband doesn't give a damn, she asks her new neighbours to dig around the tree to find out if something has been buried. Her neighbours are eccentric: Vandoosler, an ex-cop fired from the police for having helped a murderer to escape, and sharing the house are three impecunious historians: Mathias, Marc and Lucien - the three evangelists, as Vandoosler calls them. They accept the job because they are desperate for money and rather curious. When they find nothing and Sophia's dead body turns up weeks later, they decide to investigate.

Back next week on the 23rd leg with some W’s.


  1. I read the Jonathan Valin - that series with those black and yellow covers, was it Keyhole Crime? I bought huge numbers of them in their day, and discovered all kinds of great authors via them. But not JV:I hated it so much that I gave it to Oxfam. This was in the days when I never got rid of any books at all, kept everything, but I do remember disliking this one: violent, unpleasant, gruesome. No wonder you liked it!

    1. Moira, I guess you won't be revisiting Valin then? Oh dear...

  2. Thanks for the mention, Col! I read The Three Evangelists and enjoyed it but I did have an adjustment period - her writing style was something to get used to. Vargas is in a class of her own. You should def. read her and see what you think if you haven't already. I think I have a different book by Valin, Life's Work is somewhere in the pile. Also own a copy of the Dutch series, bought a long time ago. Thanks for reminder. I need to read it sometime this year.

    1. Keishon, I will try and get to Vargas soon, but hey life and all that...

  3. The only authors in this group that I have read are Vargas and Vine. I will probably look for a copy of the Three Evangelists, but I am not in a rush. Rendell writing as Vine scares me and I have not read many of those. But you would probably like them fine. I have mostly read the Inspector Wexford stories, and you might not like those. But I agree, you should read some Ruth Rendell under any name.

    I want to try Vachss someday. But you know the story, too many books, too many authors I want to read. I do have the first Harry Stoner mystery (and plan to read it).

    Now we come to the book set in Belize. I will have to find that one. One of my long term goals is to read a mystery set in every country in the world, and I imagine there are not too many set in Belize.

    1. Tracy, there's just too many books, too many authors, not enough time.
      I will try and catch-up next year on the unread-Alphabet entries, but best intentions don't always pan out.

  4. I read most of Valin's mysteries and liked them alot. :)

    1. At some point - probably the next millennium - I will try and read them all the way through!