Wednesday 31 October 2018


I've read a few books from James Sallis in the past, though in truth I've not picked up anything by him for a few years now. These two might make get me back on track......

James Sallis has penned well over a dozen novels in his career, six in his Lew Griffin PI series of which these two are a part of, a couple in the Drive series and three in his Turner series and a few stand alone novels as well as plenty of short story collections and poetry.

His work includes science fiction and plenty of non-fiction including a biography of Chester Himes.

Moth (1993)

One of the very few lights from Lew Griffin's dark and violent path has flickered out. His one-time lover, La Verne Adams is dead - and her daughter, Alouette, has vanished into a seamy, dead-end world of users and abusers ... leaving behind a crack-addicted infant and a mystery.

Abandoning his former career for the safe respectability of teaching, Lew Griffin now spends his time in an old house in the garden district - determined to keep his distance from the lowlife temptations of the New Orleans night. But an inescapable obligation is drawing the tormented black ex-p.i. to danger like a moth to a flame. And there will be no turning back when his history comes calling and the dying begins again.

Eye of the Cricket (1997)

Lew Griffin is a survivor, a black man in New Orleans, a detective, a teacher, a writer. Having spent years finding others, he has lost his son...and himself in the process. Now a derelict has appeared in a New Orleans hospital claiming to be Lewis Griffin and displaying a copy of one of Lew's novels. It is the beginning of a quest that will take Griffin into his own past while he tries to deal in the present with a search for three missing young men.

Tuesday 30 October 2018



A crime story. A love story. More than 2 million copies sold worldwide.

And now a major 10-part MGM TV series starring Patrick Dempsey and Ben Schnetzer. 

August 30, 1975. The day of the disappearance. The day Somerset, New Hampshire, lost its innocence. 

That summer, struggling author Harry Quebert fell in love with 15-year-old Nola Kellergan. Thirty-three years later, her body is dug up from his yard, along with a manuscript copy of the novel that made him a household name. Quebert is the only suspect. 

Marcus Goldman - Quebert's most gifted protege - throws off his writer's block to clear his mentor's name. Solving the case and penning a new best seller soon merge into one. As his book begins to take on a life of its own, the nation is gripped by the mystery of 'The Girl Who Touched the Heart of America'. 

But with Nola, in death as in life, nothing is ever as it seems.

I've had this one on the pile for a few years now - a Net Galley ARC from 2014 and a paperback copy I picked up cheap in the meantime. I think it would probably have stayed there a lot longer if I hadn't gotten wind of a ten part TV series currently airing.

It's a bit of a door stopper at over 600 pages, but I soon found myself sucked into the story and the events of Nola Kellergan's love affair with novelist Harry Quebert over thirty years ago, culminating in her disappearance and the recent discovery of her body on Quebert's property.

Plenty going on throughout as the story meanders back and forth through the timeline of 1975 and the build up to Nola going missing and 2008 when the body is uncovered, Quebert is arrested and friend Marcus Goldman tries to investigate to prove his innocence.

1975 innocent, unfulfilled love affair or a sordid inappropriate relationship between a 15 year old girl and a 30-something man?, small town jealousies, a writer's life, a book to write, a difficult home life, complicated relationships, a mysterious past, secrets, poisonous letters, spying, a rich benefactor, a troubled, damaged chauffeur, feelings of guilt and a desire to make amends, a weak cop, a love-struck cop, a manipulating mother, a hen-pecked husband, a small town pastor.

All have their stories to tell and their memories to relate with the exception of those no longer with us.

2008 ...... friendship, jail time, an investigation, another book to be written, and a search for the truth.

Very complex, very enjoyable. I had several guesses at the truth to the disappearance - now murder - of Nola, one of which was spot on though the rest obviously weren't. There's a couple of other eye-opening revelations which I didn't see coming. One particular strand to a central character's behaviour I didn't quite buy into. It seemed a little bit convenient and not totally convincing, though it did explain a lot.

An interesting dissection of small town life when something goes horribly wrong. An interesting look at a writers' life. And a moral question posed - regarding the relationship which was at the centre of the book - how did I feel about Nola and Harry and their love? Judgmentally - not too comfortable with it. Not something I would want for my two girls.

It's hard to do justice to this complicated book. Enjoyable, entertaining, interesting, long, a few plot twists and turns, some skillful manipulation of the reader which had you liking a character one minute, and loathing them the next and vice versa.

Definitely an author I would read again in the future, which for me is a benchmark of whether something has worked out well for me or not.

Recommended reading - or conversely just watch the TV adaptation which after 8 out of 10 episodes is proving fairly faithful.

4 from 5

Dicker's second book The Baltimore Boys sits on the pile, though my son has pinched it at the minute.

Read in October, 2018
Published - 2014
Page count - 640
Source - owned copy plus a Net Galley review copy
Format - paperback

Monday 29 October 2018



“She was in a fix alright and the only thing that would cure it was miles. Distance. Putting a lot of highway between her and her troubles.”

Meet Melinda… a badass, .22-carrying college student battling a destructive meth addiction whilst on the run from her junkie boyfriend, campus drug dealer Sam Tuley. Melinda is no shining heroine, but she has little time to dwell on the sins of her past when miles of future lie ahead of her.

In Further South by Eryk Pruitt, find out just why Melinda has hit the highway in a stolen ride with nothing but a gun and limited options. Twists and turns lace this bullet-sharp short that deals you characters and a world you’ll be clawing for more of.

Pruitt dispenses a fresh insight into student drug culture in Further South, both the selling and the snorting, unveiling how it’s a cruel paradox of blissful escape and cloying prison.

Further South is also available in paperback within The Severest Inks Shorts:

A couple of pages in and I was familiar with the set-up and scratching my head as to where I had encountered the piece before. Further South is the opener to Pruitt's Hashtag which was enjoyed in its entirety a few years ago.

A sticky situation, a volatile relationship, an argument, a storm out and some intended payback going awry - a pick-up, a drink and drugs party, some revenge sex and a Mickey Finn and hey presto - a sore head, your boyfriend's drugs have been stolen and there's gonna be some consequences.

Short at 33 pages long. Was I disappointed that I'd enjoyed the story before? Not really I'm a fan of Eryk Pruitt's work and it was a short, sharp reminder that I ought to read the unread What We Reckon.

Interesting characters - full of bad choices and ill-thought out plans, decent action, fun dialogue - worth a pound of anyone's money.

Pruitt's Dirtbags has also been enjoyed before.

Read in October, 2018
Published - 2014
Page count - 33
Source - purchased copy
Format - kindle

Sunday 28 October 2018



In Broken Down, the death of a swing bridge operator is clearly no accident and a troubled 15-year-old boy and the aging bridge are both under suspicion for murder.

Detective Arvo Thorson is having a breakdown of his own: a drinking binge makes him all too vulnerable to his ex-wife's treacherous charms, and may put the cork in his romance with social worker Christine Ivory. Meanwhile Christine is burnt out from too many years working with Mendota County's youngest crime victims and she's ready for a change, even if that means leaving Mendota County, and Arvo, for good.

The book includes a discussion guide for book groups.

Broken Down is the second in Susan Koefod's three book series featuring Detective Arvo Thorson. I enjoyed the first, Washed Up a few years ago and bought this one on the strength of that.

A similar reaction second time around - enjoyable without setting my reading world on fire.

A small town mystery with the non-accidental death of a swing bridge operator and the only witness a troubled adolescent with a difficult home life and a surly teenage attitude. Arvo Thorson, our investigator is competent during the day, but has issues in his personal life - when do we ever encounter a detective who doesn't? Arvo drinks too much, hates himself for still being under the spell of faithless ex-wife Helen and has an on/off, on/off disruptive relationship with a social worker, Christine who inevitably comes into contact with him during the course of his investigations.

Decent plot, reasonable pace, a lot of the personal blending with the professional here, which I didn't actually mind. Enjoyable setting and well written. The resolution worked for me and it wasn't too long, at a shade under 230 pages. Not my normal reading, but I was keen to find how it all played out and I wasn't constantly flicking to the back, trying to count down the number of pages I had left. Pretty engrossing and attention holding throughout - which is a neat trick to pull off when combining matters of the heart with a murder mystery.

4 from 5

I'd be interested in reading the last in the series, Burnt Out in a year or two's time if I ever cross paths with it.

Read in October, 2018
Published - 2012
Page count - 224
Source - purchased copy
Format - paperback

Thursday 25 October 2018



A career thief named Jack Apple is offered a low-risk, six-figure payout to heist a medical marijuana dispensary from the feisty and impetuous Diane Thomas after Diane steals the robbery plans from her shady ex-husband Alvin, hoping to beat him to the score. 

Diane promises to stay out of Jack’s way but can’t help interfering, forcing them to take hostages inside the dispensary when the robbery is interrupted by law enforcement, inciting a media circus that deteriorates into a full-on urban riot.

Everyone sees a chance to benefit from the crime. Street vendors and local businesses. The Sheriff running a tight re-election campaign and hoping to boost his chances with the voters. A political activist looking to raise his public profile and private agenda. The news media that speculates and manipulates the story. Hostages who see a chance to settle old scores and create new opportunities for themselves. 

To escape, Jack and Diane must negotiate the hostages, their agendas, law enforcement, the news media, shady deals, corrupt politicians, rioters, opportunists, Diane’s shady ex-husband Alvin, the business partners they didn’t know were involved, and their growing attraction to each other.

Burn One Down is an enjoyable heist novel where things don't particularly go to plan. Jack Apple's a thief though he has ambitions for settling down into an honest life, running his own business. Start up capital is required and one decent job, taking down a cash-rich medical marijuana shop could offer him his way out. Always assuming Diane, the sexy lady who introduced him to the job, stays out of his way and allows him the latitude to run things. That's something that isn't going to happen. Sharp shooter Diane has her own agenda and way of doing things.

A fledgling partnership, some sex, a plan, a robbery and a payback operation aimed at her ex-husband, the job and a descent into a hostage situation, a thespian security guard, a cranky old couple, an annoyed ex-girlfriend, an under pressure up for re-election Sheriff, a more capable officer with one eye on the job and one on his boss, the annoyed ex-husband and businessman, some shady Mexican partners, a community activist complete with megaphone and bodyguard, a rent-a-mob riot with some opportunist looting and a gaggle of assorted on-the-spot-this-is-live media reporters with flashy smiles and rolling cameras. Author Cooper manages to throw in a few more things besides.

Decent story - a robbery where the wheels come off with the ensuing the fall-out and aftermath. You never quite know how things are going to evolve. Not particularly tense, there's never a sense of real danger for our odd couple of Jack and Diane, as the author executes a lighter touch, playing things for a few laughs. There are several wry chuckles to be had and a couple of laugh out loud moments. Our security guard Reggie, hamming up his Shakespeare for the crowd and the cameras while still being held hostage and the priceless reaction of the press is worth the price of admission on its own. Similarly our Sheriff caught on camera in an unguarded moment is fairly eventful.

Interesting characters, a bit of action, some enjoyable banter and dialogue with our two thieves endeavouring to manage a feisty bunch of hostages, while still working out a few issues in their own developing relationship. Best book ever? No but a solid entertaining read.

Burn One Down is hopefully the first in a series with career criminal, Jack Apple. The ending of the book certainly leaves scope for further adventures without feeling like there's unresolved issues to tie up.

4 from 5

Burn One Down is Jeffrey A. Cooper's second novel. The interestingly title How to Steal a Truck Full of Nickels - his debut - sits on the pile.

Read in October, 2018
Published - 2018
Page count - 276
Source - Net Galley read, (the author kindly sent a back-up copy as well)
Format - kindle

Wednesday 24 October 2018



An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. 

When it comes to Neil Doyle’s daughter, Gandhi had no idea.

An accident leaves Jasmine Doyle permanently disfigured, and the patriarch of one of Newcastle’s crime families goes on the warpath to find the perpetrator. He doesn’t care who gets in his way, or what he has to do to them, to get his hands on the man responsible.

Graeme Taylor and ‘Tracksuit’ Tony Gordon find themselves dragged into this brutal quest for vengeance, pushed physically and mentally to the breaking point by all that they see, and all that they are forced to do. 

By the end, the streets will run with blood, and no one walks away unscarred.

Not the kind of thing that will appeal to every reader, but one which worked just fine for me.

A bit of pub banter, some leg-pulling and as sometimes happens when there's drink involved an escalation and an accident and for those involved some heavy consequences. Neil Doyle's daughter, Jasmine just lost an eye. The first thought of those involved is flight.

Our main focus is Graeme. He has a history with Neil Doyle, some of which we learn during the course of this fast-moving novella. Doyle is a strike first, lash out, shoot the messenger, kind of guy. He's also the big cheese, the main man, the top banana, the king of the hill. Graeme does his bidding, on occasions, as do most other people.

Doyle wants Graeme (or others) to bring him the guilty, where a bit of biblical restitution will be brought to bear. An eye for an eye!

Graeme has a more measured approach in getting results. Violence is an option, but not his first recourse.

Brutal, bloody and savage in places, but not out of context with the kind of people we are reading about. Neil Doyle is your worst nightmare when you're the rabbit in his headlights.

Graeme is capable, thoughtful and while there is no real way of avoiding the issue - what Neil wants Neil gets. He's enough of his own man to deliver a result but on his own terms.

An interesting character study of a man..... his strengths, his mistakes, his history, his loneliness, his talents, his regrets, his lost love and all that entailed, his compassion, his loyalty, his duty and to a lesser degree his independence.

Lots to like....

Setting - the Toon - Newcastle and a bit of gallivanting around the local area - Byker, Middleboro, a boat trip and a small caravan park in Amble, not so far away.

Action - tough, near to the knuckle (or even close to the bone!) and almost tender in places, in an unspoken, understated masculine type of way.

Character - in spades.

Tale/plot/resolution - straightforward - an event, a problem to be solved, an expert problem solver with his unofficial investigation, a solution and the best possible outcome given the situation.

Length - spot on at 130-odd pages

4.5 from 5

Not my first time with Paul Heatley's work - The Boy, FatBoy, The Motel Whore, The Vampire have all been enjoyed.

Not my last either - The Runner and Violent By Design - the next couple in a loose trilogy with An Eye For An Eye - plus others wait for me.

Read in October, 2018
Published - 2016
Page count - 129
Source - purchased copy
Format - kindle


Tuesday 23 October 2018


A couple this week from one of my favourite British crime writers, the inimitable Paul D. Brazill...

Brazill is fairly prolific with a range and versatility to his output - flash fiction, short stories and novellas in both the crime and supernatural/horror genres.

He's also a generous supporter of other writer's work.

His website is here.
Catch him on Twitter@PaulDBrazill
FacebookPaul D. Brazill

Small Time Crimes (2018)

Hit-men, con men, jewel thieves, career criminals, killers, crooks and cannibals. They all congregate between the pages of Paul D. Brazill’s Small Time Crimes - a brutal and blackly comic collection of short stories and flash fiction that views the world at its most askew.

Last Year's Man (2018)

A troubled, ageing hit man leaves London and returns to his hometown in the north east of England hoping for peace. But the ghosts of his past return to haunt him.

Last Year’s Man is a violent and blackly comic slice of Brit Grit noir.

Praise for LAST YEAR’S MAN:

“Brazill offers a series of amusing episodes filled with breezy banter in this offbeat slice of British noir.” —Publishers Weekly

“It’s all here, everything you’ve come to expect from a Paul D. Brazill caper—the fast pace, the witty banter, the grim humour and the classic tunes—except this time he’s REALLY outdone himself. Unlike the lament in the song the title takes its name from, Paul’s best years are surely still ahead of him.” —Paul Heatley, author of Fatboy

“Paul D. Brazill is the Crown Prince of Noir. That’s my opinion, granted, but I stand by it. For those who require proof, just pick up his latest novel, Last Year’s Man, and it will be clear why I make that statement. All hail the crown prince!” —Les Edgerton, author of The Rapist, The Bitch, Just Like That and others

Mr B has featured on the blog a few times before.....

AUGUST 2018 - 31 DAYS, 31 SHORTS



AUGUST 2017 - 31 DAYS, 31 SHORTS!




AUGUST 2016 - 31 DAYS, 31 SHORTS




Busy man that he is he has a new one drop next week as well - Supernatural Noir - just in time for Halloween

Werewolves, vampires and other creatures of the night prowl the neon and blood soaked streets in this sharp short story collection that places the supernatural in a hardboiled noir world.

"If you like noir then you’ll love this. If you like supernatural fiction you’ll love this. If you like great descriptive prose you’ll love this." - Darren Sant.

AMAZON links...... UK   US   CANADA

Monday 22 October 2018



The "delicious and addictive" (Salon) Claire DeWitt series returns with a thrilling, noirish knockout of a novel that follows three separate narratives starring the self-proclaimed "world's greatest detective." As Cara Hoffman, author of Running, says, this "is a hard-boiled, existential masterpiece." 

Claire DeWitt, the world's best private detective, wakes up one dark night in an ambulance in Oakland: someone has just tried to murder her. But she's not dead. Not yet.

More sure of herself than of the police, Claire follows the clues on a 52-hour odyssey through shimmering Las Vegas and the shabby surrounding desert to find out who wants her dead. But in order to save herself, Claire will have to revisit her own complicated past as she navigates the present: a past of childhood obsessions, rival detectives, lost friends, and mysteries mostly - but not always - solved.

Three intertwining stories illuminate three eras of Claire's life: her early years as an ambitious girl detective in Brooklyn (before it was gentrified), which ended when her best friend and partner in crime-solving disappeared; a case of an unexplained death in the art world of late-1990s Los Angeles, when, devastated by the demise of her mentor in New Orleans, Claire was forced to start again; and her current quest to save her own life from a determined assassin.

As the connections between the stories come into focus, the truth becomes clear. But Claire, battered and bruised, will never quit her search for the answer to the biggest mystery of all: how can anyone survive in a world so clearly designed to break our hearts?

Complicated, enthralling and a little bit head-scratching at the finale, which far from marring my enjoyment of this book, just has me thinking about it at odd moments ever since I've finished it. I'm tempted to re-read the last dozen or so pages to try and enlighten myself, or maybe not, maybe it will come to me at an odd moment of reflection.

The Infinite Blacktop is the third Claire DeWitt series book, but worked well enough for me on its own. I do have the first on the shelves somewhere (City of the Dead) which I'll get to one day, which will then give a better indication of whether to pony up for the second.

Claire is a PI and the self proclaimed best detective in the world and someone just tried to kill her with a car. We endeavour to discover who and why. We get the who in the end and Claire gets the why, me I'm still figuring it all out.

The journey to that point is bloody marvellous though, as several other cases and timelines are woven into the mystery. There's a Los Angeles cold case in the late 90s - the death of an artist which Claire works to gain the hours for her Californian PI license and there is the more personal mystery of the disappearance of one of Claire's teenage friends, back in New York when they were young adolescents sucked into the world of solving mysteries because of the teenage detective Cynthia Silverton magazine. Best friend, Tracy vanished without a trace and Claire's world has never been quite the same since.

Along the way, we discover the rivalries in the world of detection and the differing schools of approach to solving a mystery. Jacques Silette's great book Detection, discovered in the attic of her parent's house offering DeWitt her inspiration and direction. There's also the labelling of all the cases she has involvement in - The Case of the Curse of the White Pearl of the Tomb of the Lost Golden Lotus, The Case of Broken Lily etc etc. I'm still trying to recall what the labelling reminds me of.

DeWitt is an incredible character and a contradiction - on the surface, she's tough, capable, violent, irrational, destructive, intelligent; whilst at the same time lonely, vulnerable, afraid. We keenly feel her ongoing grief at the loss of her mentor,Constance Darling best friend and maybe lover. She's compelling reading. And I'm not going to disagree, she may be the best detective in the world.

Lots to enjoy here, the landscape of LA - in the late 90s and our present day Oakland (ok 2011); the flip-flopping timelines and tales. I was so totally immersed in the investigation into the death of the LA artist that I was kind of sad to be dragged back to Oakland and another spell trying to get closer to the present day mystery of who was trying to kill our heroine. Then in turn I was mesmerised by the Las Vegas scenes and the unravelling of the origins of the Cynthia Magazine, a key factor in two of our puzzles.

Quirky, off-beat, unusual and enthralling. I liked this a lot more than I kind of expected to.   

4.5 from 5

Sara Gran has published five previous novels - three standalones including Come Closer and Dope and three Claire DeWitt mysteries. She's an author I'll definitely read more from in the future.

Read in October, 2018
Published - 2018
Page count - 220
Source - Net Galley early reviewer's site
Format - ePub file read on laptop.

Sunday 21 October 2018



When Susan's ex-husband, Brad, appears after a decades-long absence, nearly broke and the object of a sexual-harassment suit, Spenser reluctantly agrees to help. As he investigates the circumstances surrounding the suit, he discovers that fund-raiser Brad is swimming in very deep water: mobsters, who were using his fund-raising campaigns to launder money, have discovered he was cooking the already cooked books and aren't at all pleased. The deeper Spenser digs, the more bodies he uncovers and the more culpable Brad appears to be.

My first Robert Parker - Spenser read in over twenty years, at a guess probably more like twenty five. I can recall pretty much devouring the first twenty-odd in this series, mostly during 1991 when I was just starting with my current employer and was slightly under-utilised. The early Spenser’s I could easily devour in a day and I did.  I enjoyed them. Spenser was tough, smart and didn’t take any crap from anyone. Never backed down, never felt intimidated and I liked his banter with black-sidekick Hawk. The case got solved, a few sherberts were shared and a few arses were kicked along the way.

And then I stopped enjoying them and the main reason why was Susan Silverman, Spenser’s partner, though they didn’t/don’t live together. She’s a psychologist or some such head doctor and she’s extremely irritating to me. When I picked up Sudden Mischief, very quickly I could recall why I stopped reading the series. Susan Bloody Silverman – Spenser’s blind spot. Though to be truthful, Spenser by the end of the book was starting to grate.

I get that all relationships are different and theirs has endured its share of troubles. She briefly left him for a fling with another man and they subsequently got back together. Here she’s got Spenser on a new case concerning her ex-husband who she doesn’t want to talk about and who might be in a spot of bother. On reflection I don’t know that my issue is with her, maybe more with Spenser placing her on a gold encrusted pedestal. I’m fairly sure if she axe-murdered someone he would find a way of justifying her behaviour - Susan was undoubtedly finding herself or some such twaddle. I love my wife, but that doesn’t mean I’m oblivious to her (minor) faults and that’s not to say she doesn’t annoy me at times and vice versa. Rant over.

Apart from the Susan factor, I liked it, though it probably won't appear on my year end best of list. Spenser asks around, gets few answers initially, commits a burglary, gets a few dirty pictures, asks some more questions, gets a warning or two, engages Hawk to watch his back, gets propositioned a couple of times, discovers a dead body, and uncovers what sort of man Susan's now disappeared ex-husband is really like. Brad returns, showdown time, job done.

A quick read, one thing about Robert Parker is he keeps you turning the pages. Nothing too cerebral or complex here - just a PI in love and on a case. I liked the Boston setting, I enjoyed reconnecting with Spenser and Hawk, though there's a bit too much Susan here for my liking.

4 from 5

I have a few other Parker books that I've randomly picked up in the past twenty years still on the pile. They include another Spenser book, a Sunny Randall book and a western featuring Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch.

Robert B. Parker published over 60 novels in his career. He died in 2010.

Read in October, 2018
Published - 1998
Page count - 304
Source - purchased copy
Format - paperback

Thursday 18 October 2018



When former NYPD detective Joe Serpe hit bottom, he just kept on going. Having lost his career to charges of corruption, his family to divorce, his partner to suicide, and his fireman brother to the tragedy of 9/11, Serpe's world is nearly empty but for his cat, Mulligan. Living in a basement apartment in a blue collar town on Long Island, Joe spends his days filling tanks with home heating oil and his nights filling his belly with vodka.

But when a young retarded man who worked for Joe's oil company is cruelly murdered, Joe Serpe rediscovers purpose and grasps for a last chance at redemption. Along with his former Internal Affairs Bureau nemesis, Bob Healy, and Marla Stein, a brave and beautiful, group home psychologist, Joe wades into the world of street gangs, anti-immigration organizations, and the Red Mafia.

Hose Monkey is a rough and tumble ride through a violent, often cruel world, a world where it's hard to tell the bad guys from the good guys without a scorecard. It is a world of murder and extortion, but one in which an innocent Down Syndrome girl may hold the key that unlocks the mystery. At the same time, Hose Monkey is a story of salvation and forgiveness, a tale of justice done.

A Long Island murder mystery with the back drop of the heating oil business and with a couple of former cops, once at loggerheads, now working together to find the killer of a retarded man. The book's a dozen years old and the former cop investigating thing has been done to death, but here it seemed quite fresh and original to me.

I enjoyed reading about Joe Serpe's work as an oil delivery driver, the bits and pieces about the heating oil industry and then the awkwardness of crossing paths with the former IA cop, Bob Healy who cost him his job, career, family and future. We share Joe's grief at the loss of his brother in 9/11 and his current life revolving around work, drink, work, drink. We get a peek behind Healy's curtains too - the guilt he feels about Joe, awakened since their accidental meeting and the emptiness inside since his wife Mary succumbed to cancer.

The murder of a retarded man at Joe's workplace, invokes further regret as Joe feels he let the young man down, having failed in a promise to protect him. Time to become a cop again and investigate the death, particularly as the real cops are doing such a crappy job at it. An unlikely partnership is formed, as Healy with nothing but time on his hands joins Joe in investigating the death.

Grief, guilt, murder, a new purpose, an unlikely friendship, forgiveness - of self and others, a new romance, another murder, street gang involvement, racism, intolerance, a dismembered cat, Russian/Ukranian mob types, white vigilantes, blackmail, sex tapes, more death, a car crash and lots more besides.

Ticks in all the right boxes, setting - I don't think I've read anything set in Long Island before; characters - lots to like and root for with the main three, Joe, Bob and Marla - the new woman in his life and a help in the investigation; plot - busy with lots going on but not too convoluted or complex; pace - not breakneck, not pedestrian - pitch perfect; resolution - satisfying and believable.

4.5 from 5

Amazon purchase history tells me I bought this one back in June, 2008, so only ten and a bit years on the TBR pile. Not too long then. Reed Farrel Coleman wrote a second book featuring Serpe and Healy - The Fourth Victim which I bought when I was halfway through this one. Something to look forward to in about 2029 by my reckoning.

I've read one book from the author before, many years ago before the blog began - Life Goes Sleeping, which was the first in his three book Dylan Klein series. The other two, as well as some of his early Moe Prager books sit on the pile.

Read in October, 2018
Published - 2006
Page count - 308
Source - purchased copy
Format - hardback



Johnnie Rae Piper is born in a tarpaper house off a dirt road in the Texas Panhandle just outside Amarillo. His mama, Jenny Piper, a midwife by trade, raises and home-schools him while his daddy, Tom Piper, is off fighting the Korean War. Tom comes home from Korea a changed man. He takes to drink and gambles away any money that comes his way. 

In 1969, a low draft lottery number sends Johnnie to Viet Nam. After 18 months in the jungle, Johnnie is discharged and comes back to the world, back to his home. But he soon discovers the world of war he left behind and the world at home, aren’t that much different. He still has to fight. Ed Wills, the local loan shark, who answers to a crime organization that stretches across several states, comes to collect on his daddy’s gambling debts, and the war starts all over again.

Darlene, Jamie Sue and Kelly Jo, three cowgirls from Dallas, in their red, 1960 T-bird convertible help Johnnie escape the Texas mob, driving him into New Mexico. They’re in for a wild ride, heading west on Route 66 and the setting sun. The Dallas cowgirls’ dream is to make it to the Pacific Ocean. To make it happen, all Johnnie has to do was keep his eyes on the road behind for anything that might be coming up fast. 

I'm slowly working my way through the catalogues of several small indie publishers and this is about the sixth or seventh I've tried from Near to the Knuckle aka Close to the Bone and it's another solid entry in their canon. Back to the World is James Shaffer's debut novella.

Texas in the 50s and 60s, family life disrupted by two wars - Korean and Vietnam and also by a father's weakness for drinking and gambling. Johnnie, the son back from Vietnam may not like his father, but he loves him and when the piper comes calling for payment in the guise of Ed Wills and a muscled side-kick, Johnnie isn't about to give up on the only family he's got left.

A violent confrontation, two bullies bested and a family double act splitting the cash found in the trunk of the Ed's car and heading for the hills - albeit two hills in two totally different directions. 
That's not the end of the matter by a long shot. Wills wants his money back and to recover some face. Johnnie has his wits about him and a sound plan, but true to form Daddy's weakness for a wager, quickly resurfaces and draws attention. Our three amigos meet again for a final confrontation in the company of some good time Texas gals. Matters don't end well for everyone.

Short, sharp, pacey, I enjoyed the back drop of the two wars and Johnnie's upbringing mostly at the hands of his mother and with an interesting family dynamic, I liked the setting and the time frame of the book. The time spent in Johnnie's company was pleasurable but a little bit too brief. Our finale seemed a little rushed (like my review!) and I would have preferred a slightly extended tale. But as Barnum said (disputed) - always leave them wanting more.

Hopefully James Shaffer has a sequel up his sleeve?

4.5 from 5

Read in October, 2018
Published - 2016
Page count - 113
Source - purchased copy
Format - kindle

Tuesday 16 October 2018


A couple of books from Northern Irish author Sam Millar.

Millar is an author and playwright and a man with a controversial past.

From The Belfast Telegraph......Sam Millar is a prizewinning author with a criminal past. A former member of the IRA, he was jailed in the 1970s after being arrested with explosives in Belfast. On release he moved to the US where he helped rob $7.2m from the hitherto impregnable Brinks security operation.

I've previously read and enjoyed Millar's On the Brinks, an account of his involvement in a heist in the US, back in the days before the blog began. Another event that saw him imprisoned.

Sam Millar has written about ten novels - nine if On the Brinks is true crime - in total, including four in his Sam Kane PI series and half a dozen standalones. I have a few more of his on the pile in addition to these two.

Sam Millar has his website here.

Dark Souls (2003)

Dominic Tranor, a crime reporter with a large city newspaper, has been sent by his editor, to interview Larkin Baxter, a man condemned to die, guilty of multiple murders. Dominic does not want to be there; he had escaped once before, from Larkin, from justice... and from himself.

In a journey back in time and experience, to a place where true innocence was always a flickering illusion, Dark Souls brings the reader on a devastatingly raw journey that exposes bare the gossamer threads of evil and destruction that lie within all of us.

In his first novel. Sam Millar, an author who has truly experienced rendering pain, announces himself as an original, brilliant and uncompromising writer.

Bloodstorm (2008)

Karl Kane is a private investigator with a dark past. As a child, he witnessed the brutal rape and murder of his mother. The same man sexually molested Karl, leaving him for dead with horrific knife wounds covering his body. Years later, Karl has a chance to avenge his mother`s murder by killing the man responsible. The opportunity arises on one unforgettable Good Friday night.

For reasons he later regards as cowardice, Karl allows the opportunity to slip through his hands, only to be shattered when, two days later, two young girls are sexually molested and then brutally murdered by the killer on Easter Sunday morning. Karl now holds himself responsible for their deaths.

Monday 15 October 2018



What if someone you loved was in harm’s way?

What if you were being stalked and no one believed you?

What if you were abducted in broad daylight?

What if you were held captive in a cellar?

What would you do?

Mackenzie Crawford screamed.

What if your wife admitted she had a lover?

What if she went out without saying where she was going?

What if you discovered she’d left?

What would you do?

Derek Crawford fell apart.

What if a troubled woman disappeared?

What if her brother begged you to help?

What if there was no evidence of a crime?

What would you do?

In Glasgow, DI Andrew Geddes puts the case to the top of his list.

What if this was only the beginning?

In Harm's Way is the author's fifth and latest novel, but only the first of his that I've read. After this outing I'll definitely be backtracking and trying some of his earlier books.

Owen Mullen pitches us into a domestic drama with a savage twist. Mackenzie is married to Derek Crawford. Mackenzie drinks too much and Crawford doesn't like it. Her brother and sister have their concerns but also have their own lives to worry about. Her brother, Gavin and sister-in-law, Monica have a new baby to care for, not that Mackenzie has been too interested or bothered in visiting Alice, her niece. Sister, Adele and husband Gavin seem fairly content with a couple of thirteen year twin boys - both aliens according to their harassed mother.

Adele's birthday party is the trigger point for all that follows. Mackenzie gets drunk again, insults her hosts, rows with Derek and the pair leave. A further fight follows at home and Mackenzie threatens to leave him. And so she does, but not voluntarily.

Abducted and held captive - well she had been saying she was being followed. But she had also been drinking and was notoriously unreliable so no one believed her.

The family viewpoints are differing .... ah, she's walked out and left him. She's got someone else a lover - what a bitch. Derek does everything for her, she doesn't know how lucky she is. You know what she's like......... hmm, Derek's a bit too old for her, he's a bit too controlling. I don't think he's good for her...... Mackenzie - she's left me, she admitted she had a lover.

It's interesting seeing the family dynamics with all the hurts and resentments of the past coming to the surface. Rows, jealousy, rivalries, hurt, pain, memories, mistakes, sympathies and pressure mounting on their own relationships and careers and at the bottom of it all an increasing level of concern for Mackenzie once they realise that if she has left, she's done so without taking any belongings with her.

As a reader we know where Mackenzie is and what happened, but we don't know the why. Her family try to discover both with Gavin eventually involving the police, much to Derek's annoyance.

There's a lot of drama packed into the pages of this not too long a novel. There's the mundane and the humdrum of everyday family lives, but enlivened by the backdrop of an unusual event and the effect is has on those closest to Mackenzie. It brings out both the best and the worst in the family.

Decent pace, very strong and realised characters, a bit of a puzzle throughout in that only towards the end do we discover the why and the who for Mackenzie's abduction, but an enjoyable puzzle. After that revelation, Mullen also serves up another twist or two before the end. Lots to like.

4 from 5

Owen Mullen's previous books are Games People Play, Old Friends And New Enemies, Before The Devil Knows You're Dead from his PI Charlie Cameron series and And So It Began (Delaney series).

Read in October, 2018
Published - 2018
Page count - 210
Source - review copy from publisher Bloodhound Books via Net Galley
Format - ePub file read on laptop

In Harm's Way is published today. Links to AMAZON    UK     US     CANADA



Why would a mathematics professor from Cambridge University, renting a holiday home outside Cape Town, require a false identity and three bodyguards? And where is he, now that they are dead? The only clue to the bodyguards' murder is the snake engraved on the shell casings of the bullets that killed them. 

Investigating the massacre, Benny Griessel and his team find themselves being drawn into an international conspiracy with shocking implications. It seems it is not just the terrorists and criminals of Britain and South Africa who may fear the Professor's work, but the politicians too. 

As the body count begins to spiral viciously, Benny must put his new-found love life aside and focus on finding the one person who could give him a break in the case: a teenage pickpocket on the run in the city. But Benny is not the only person hunting for Tyrone Kleinbooi... 

Relentlessly suspenseful, topical, hard-hitting and richly rewarding, Cobra is a superb novel from an author who is acclaimed around the world as a brilliant voice in crime fiction. 

Another audio book from my library and nearly thirteen hours invested in listening to this one. Time well spent in my opinion, as I enjoyed the narration in addition to being sucked into the mystery at the heart of this.

It starts quite slowly with the minute forensic examination of a murder scene where three bodyguards have been executed and their charge, an English professor has gone missing. The professor had been developing a financial algorithm which could enable the banks to track dirty money. However the banks and politicians were somewhat reluctant to put this technology to use, fearing embarrassment at the exposure of some malfeasance on their behalf. Our professor, not easily cowed pressed on with his work and thus made himself a target.

There's a few different strands to the book and I enjoyed all of them. There's the investigation, a slow unpicking of the facts, a reluctance of the British authorities to divulge too much information about our missing professor but a keen interest in wanting to know what the investigative team have uncovered. With the cops themselves there's a main focus on Benny Griessel, an alcoholic detective and a relic of the old SA police force. We have Griessel's struggle to maintain sobriety while juggling his work around a new found love. A relationship fraught with danger as his partner is also a recovering alcoholic. We also have the team around Griessel, his bosses and fellow officers each with their own skills and boundaries. There's also a seemingly separate story line running through the book concerning a young pickpocket who steals in order to support his sister through university.

Murder, kidnapping, financial corruption, British intelligence, South African security services, political interference in the investigation, alcoholism, love, a pick-pocket and his family, a team of assassins, more death, a memory card, an opportunity, a game of cat and mouse, an outcome.

I really enjoyed all of it. There's the topical nature of financial corruption, there's a look at South Africa post-Apartheid, there's a few personal stories running in tandem with an investigation into murder. There's also an element of danger throughout and the story of an underdog presented with a once in a lifetime opportunity.

I liked the setting, I enjoyed reading about the characters and the minutiae of their lives. There's a reasonable pace, after a slow-ish start, which I didn't mind, with a steady increase in urgency and a big build up of tension towards the inevitable climax, which didn't disappoint.

I think the only downside with audio is that I'm sketchy on details regarding names when trying to pen a few thoughts (as much for my own benefit when looking back as for anyone else). 

4.5 from 5 (probably a 5 from 5 if I'd read a physical copy as opposed to listening via audio)

Deon Meyer has written eleven novels in total including five in his Benny Griessel series, of which Cobra is the fourth. I've previously read Trackers, Blood Safari and Heart of the Hunter.

Read in October, 2018 (ok listened to)
Published - 2012
Page count - 344 pages (12 hours 45 minutes listening time)
Source - purchased copy probably when on a free trial with Audible
Format - audio - listened to on laptop

Thursday 11 October 2018


North, South, East or West - wherever you look - Brazil, South London, West London, Manchester, Michigan, Texas, Oakland -  there's a bit of crime fiction.

Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza, Steve Hamilton, Amer Anwar, Joseph D. Haske, Alex Wheatle, Paul Southern and Eric Miles Williamson

I've read a bit of Steve Hamilton previously but all the others are new authors to me......

Third in a Brazilian crime series

Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza  - South-Westerly Wind (2004)

Chief of the Copacabana precinct Espinosa is more than happy to interrupt his paperwork when a terrified young man arrives at the station with a bizarre story. A psychic has predicted that he would commit a murder, it seems, and the prediction has become fact in the young man's mind. It's a case more appropriate for a psychiatrist or philosopher, but, rising to the challenge, Espinosa slowly enters the web of a psychologically conflicted man. As the weather shifts and the southwesterly wind - always a sign of dramatic change - starts up, what at first seems like paranoia becomes brutal reality. Two violent murders occur, and their only link is the lonely, clever man who had sought Espinosa out a few days earlier for help.

The only novel I can find from this author.......

Joseph D. Haske - North Dixie Highway (2013)

Weaving multiple storylines with vivid description of characters ape, Haske’s debut novel brings new life and a unique voice to the fiction of rural America. North Dixie Highway is a story of family bonds, devolution, and elusive revenge. 

When Buck Metzger’s childhood is interrupted by the disappearance of his grandfather, several family members and close friends plot revenge on the suspected killer. From remote towns in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, to the Texas/Mexico border, to war-torn Bosnia, Metzger struggles for self-identity and resolution in a world of blue-collar ethics and liquor-fueled violence.

I read The Hunting Wind back in 2010, this is the fourth entry in Hamilton's Alex McKnight series......

Steve Hamilton - North of Nowhere (2002)

Alex McKnight rarely ventures out from his home these days, even to spend time at his friend Jackie's Glasgow Inn. Even as he lets Jackie force him out one night for a poker game at a stranger's house, Alex is certain it's a bad idea. And when the genial atmosphere rapidly deteriorates, he starts to think maybe he was right. Then three masked, armed robbers burst through the door, and things get a whole lot worse. Soon Alex's three closest friends are implicated in the robbery, and Alex finds himself the object of hostile attention from the victim. As events spin out of control, it becomes clear that somebody is not telling the truth, and has put them all in terrible danger...

Eric Williamson has written a few novels including a continuation of T-Bird's story - Welcome to Oakland and Two-Up 

Eric Williamson - East Bay Grease (1999)

T-Bird Murphy is a Huckleberry Finn dragged off the Mississippi and dropped in 1960s and 70s Oakland. As a kid T-Bird lives with his mother, a self-obsessed woman who rides with the Hell's Angels and leaves her son to fend for himself except when she punishes him cruelly. When Mom skips town, T-Bird is passed over to Pop, fresh out of jail and embittered, who brings up his boy with a kind of rough love in a town dominated by street-gangs and family feuds. Only the smart can survive in this novel, and T-Bird watches many fall by the wayside as he learns to outwit the bullies and steal from the thieves, fighting and cheating his way to adulthood, jazz trumpet in hand. Eric Miles Williamson did every kind of mucky hands-on work under the sun before becoming Professor of English at San Jose State University. Extracts from East Bay Grease have previously appeared as short stories in a number of American magazines. This debut novel is fresh, exciting and often heart-breaking. A gloves-off story for those who eat their chilli hot and drink their whisky straight, told in a style that is at once gritty and lyrical--never greasy.-- Anna Davis

South Londoner, Wheatle is the author of about a dozen books. East of Acre Lane is the only one I've crossed paths with....

Alex Wheatle - East of Acre Lane (2001)

Set in 1981, the year of the Brixton riots, this novel is a gripping thriller in a society on the edge of explosion. Biscuit lives with his mother, brother and sister, and helps support the family by hustling on the frontline for the south London badman, Nunchaks. He doesn't want to be doing this for the rest of his life, but it's difficult to get out of the trap. As the patience of the community breaks and the riots begin to erupt, Biscuit has to make a choice that could change his life forever.

Another debut novel and a prize winner....

Amer Anwar - Western Fringes (2017)


Southall, West London. 
Recently released from prison, Zaq Khan is lucky to land a dead-end job at a builders' yard. All he wants to do is keep his head down and put his past behind him. 
But when he has to search for his boss's runaway daughter it quickly becomes apparent he's not simply dealing with family arguments and arranged marriages as he finds himself caught up in a deadly web of deception, murder and revenge. 
With time running out and pressure mounting, can he find the missing girl before it's too late? And if he does, can he keep her - and himself - alive long enough to deal with the people who want them both dead? 

If you like gritty action, sharp dialogue and pacy plotting, then you'll love this award winning action thriller from Amer Anwar. 

Paul Southern - teacher and novelist as well as a musician....

Paul Southern - The Craze (2003)

C was for cars which he'd nicked and crashed, R was for robbery, armed and fast, A was for arson, fire and theft, Z was for the cuts his switchblade left, E was for drugs, the Whizz and Horse, which just left murder, the hardest, of course. 

She was found on the tracks: burned up, tongue cut out, a finger removed. 

Who was she? 

24 hours before Shazia Ahmed was leaving Manchester, but a chance meeting and a phone call and she found herself in the underworld where life is cheap and usually very short. 

Jamie Farrell already knows this truth: that the drugs and crime will tip over into murder. His father's in Strangeways and he'll be joining him. But he can't give up the deadly game that is the Craze. 

Dru Round thought his big day had come: no more cheap drag acts and furtive sex in the backs of cars. A new dawn of TV fame beckoned. But he just needed that extra score to make things work for him... 

Three lives - one crime - the Craze.