Thursday 31 January 2019



From the New York Times best-selling author Thomas Perry, "who can be depended upon to deliver high-voltage shocks" (Stephen King), comes a new thriller about an unlikely burglar - a young woman in her 20s - who realizes she must solve a string of murders or else become the next victim. 

Elle Stowell is a young woman with an unconventional profession: burglary. But Elle is no petty thief - with just the right combination of smarts, looks, and skills, she can easily stroll through ritzy Bel Air neighborhoods and pick out the perfect home for plucking the most valuable items. This is how Elle has always gotten by - she is good at it, and she thrives on the thrill. But after stumbling upon a grisly triple homicide while stealing from the home of a wealthy art dealer, Elle discovers she is no longer the only one sneaking around. Somebody is searching for her. 

As Elle realizes her knowledge of the high-profile murder has made her a target, she races to solve the case before becoming the next casualty, using her breaking-and-entering skills to uncover the truth about exactly who the victims were and why someone might have wanted them dead. 

With high-stakes action and shocking revelations, The Burglar will keep readers on the edge of their seats as they barrel toward the heart-racing conclusion.

I read Thomas Perry's The Butcher Boy many years ago and loved it. Since then I've tried a few more of his books in the hope that they hit the same heights - Metzger's Dog (3/5) and in 2013 - The Boyfriend (4/5). His latest, The Burglar was my third attempt to recreate the euphoria of that first exciting reading experience. Oh well, maybe the next one then.

Elle is our burglar. She's young, single, attractive, capable, fit and she's also a bit one dimensional, shallow, too clever by half and not someone I felt a great deal of empathy for. As the novel is 99% her, that's a bit of a problem.

Elle burgles a house, stumbles on a triple homicide that was recorded on camera and then subsequently finds herself targeted. Initially she thinks it's the police on her trail, but after witnessing the killing of a couple of other opportunist burglars by her nemesis, eventually realises she's involved in something far more dangerous.

I was really enjoying this one up to about page 60 or so, before coming to the realisation that it was just a bit too improbable, the plot was more than a bit weak, the main character a bit too much of a cardboard cut-out, a bit too stupid in some of her actions, to be as clever as she's being sold to me, and while I was still turning the pages at pace, from then I just wasn't that invested in the outcome.

Towards the back end of the book it gets worse. I think I might have rolled my eyes that many times they were suffering from RSI by the conclusion. Elle breaks into her foe's facilities to turn the tables and spy on them and the list of kit she carried with her was more in keeping with a team of firefighters attending a major incident. On her second visit to the enemy HQ, she somewhat conveniently overhears the boss of the local outfit explaining to his boss all of what he's been up to, thus rather lazily joining up the dots for the reader. You might expect to encounter this from a rather less skilled author than someone of Mr Perry's stature and reputation. Maybe he's written one too many books.

Positives - it flowed. I did enjoy the tension built earlier in the novel, between Elle and her Canadian suitor, while she tried to determine if he was who he claimed to be or if it was all a cover for getting close before killing her. I did also enjoy the scam being worked by our three homicide victims and the other party to their scheme. That was about it though. Oh, the LA setting worked for me as well.

On balance, just about a 3 from 5, borderline 2.5. I didn't hate it. I didn't at any point long to be reading anything else. I was just a bit disappointed and underwhelmed.

I'll approach my next Thomas Perry novel with a bit more caution and slightly lower expectations.

Read - January, 2019
Published - 2019
Page count - 302
Source - Net Galley, courtesy of Mysterious Press
Format - ePub file read on laptop

Wednesday 30 January 2019



The stunning new novel from the bestselling author of The Life We Bury.

A young reporter must come to terms with his past - and present - while investigating the murder of a man he believes could be his father.

Joe Talbert, Jr. has never once met his namesake. Now out of college, a cub reporter for the Associated Press in Minneapolis, he stumbles across a story describing the murder of a man named Joseph Talbert in a small town in southern Minnesota. 

Full of curiosity about whether this man might be his father, Joe is shocked to find that none of the town's residents have much to say about the dead man - other than that his death was long overdue. Joe discovers that the dead man was a loathsome lowlife who cheated his neighbors, threatened his daughter, and squandered his wife's inheritance after she, too, passed away - an inheritance that may now be Joe's. 

Mired in uncertainty and plagued by his own devastated relationship with his mother, who is seeking get back into her son's life, Joe must put together the missing pieces of his family history - before his quest for discovery threatens to put him in a grave of his own.

The Shadows We Hide reintroduces three of the characters encountered in Eskens' The Life We Bury - journalist Joe Talbert, his autistic brother Jeremy and Joe's girlfriend Lila.

An issue at work allows Joe Jr. the opportunity to investigate the death of a man with the same name as him. Joe tries to determine whether or not he was his father and if the 14 year old teenager found unconscious at the scene and now in a coma is his half-sister. It also gives him a bit of breathing space from the tensions in his relationship with Lila, after discovering that she has been in touch with his estranged mother. Joe last spoke to his alcohol and drugs addicted mother when he got her locked up at a guardianship hearing for his brother, a few years back.

Small town setting and the murder of an unpopular man, DNA tests, a teenage suspect on the loose, a devious uncle on the sniff for an inheritance, $3 million but might be 6, involvement in the investigation, good cop - bad cop, a hospital visit, a local lawyer, family history, Talbert Snr's dead wife and the rich dead father-in-law, a bar confidante, extra-marital nookie, a brawl or two, a missing brother, arson, a letter from home, an unwise kiss, more girlfriend friction, addiction and recovery, forgiveness and reconciliation, patrol car footage, a bit of head scratching and lo and behold a killer caught.

I have enjoyed reading this author's books in the past and this one was no exception. We have an interesting story with a kind of two-fold investigation - present day events and the murder of Joe's biological father - as he disappeared before Joe was born and even attempted to prevent his birth, you can't really regard him as a father in the true sense of the word - and as an off-shoot he learns more about his past and his mother and the events that helped shape her life and by definition the impact they had on him and his brother.

There's a few twists along the way, but nothing outlandish that has you shaking your head. Suspect A can't have done it, it looks like Suspect B. Hang on a minute B couldn't have because of X. Whoa it's C! All coherent, logical and perhaps if you've read the author before.... expected.

Enjoyable and a quick read. Eskens does get you turning the pages and invested in the outcome.

4 from 5

The Life We Bury and The Heavens May Fall  have been enjoyed before. I think his other two novels - The Guise of Another and The Deep Dark Descending languish on the TBR pile somewhere.

Read in January, 2018
Published - 2018
Page count - 292
Source - Net Galley courtesy of publisher Mulholland Books
Format - ePub read on laptop

Monday 28 January 2019


A couple from Robert Crais this week and his Elvis Cole PI series. An LA setting and a wisecracking PI - what's not to like?

A few years ago - 2013 actually, BTW where the f*** has six years gone? - I embarked on reading my way through the series, before getting side-tracked after book number five - Voodoo River.
I did that with a few series actually - Lawrence Block and Matt Scudder, Bill Pronzini and Nameless, Max Allan Collins and Quarry and John D. MacDonald and Travis McGee.

Eventually I'd like to read all eleven novels badged as the Cole series and follow on with the seven Cole/Pike novels. In the books I've read so far Joe Pike is an enigmatic but minor character, sidekick.

1. The Monkey's Raincoat (1987)
2. Stalking the Angel (1988)
3. Lullaby Town (1992)
4. Free Fall (1993)
5. Voodoo River (1995)

I do like an LA based PI series - Paul D. Marks with White Heat and Broken Windows - a slightly harder series is a recent favourite.

Sunset Express (1996)

On his own turf in LA, Elvis Cole is embroiled in a controversial, high-profile murder case. Hired by the defence lawyer to investigate alleged evidence tampering by the detective on the case, Cole soon begins to be more suspicious of the media-loving lawyers than the cops.

Indigo Slam (1997)

An action packed, razor sharp thriller featuring LA private eye Elvis Cole. Meet Elvis Cole. Vietnam Veteran, private eye who carries a .38 and is determined never to grow up. 15 year old Teri Hewitt has been left holding the babies now that her dad, Clark has disappeared without trace. She wants Cole to find him. The search reveals a chronically unemployed drug addict caught up in counterfeiting scams and mixed up with the Russian mafia and Vietnamese Gunmen. As the action heads towards a gunfight in Disneyland and Cole dodges his almost girlfriend's husband , Indigo Slam shapes up into the most entertaining and exciting American crime novel for years.



A powerful new thriller from a critically-acclaimed and bestselling author.

Star investigative reporter Ralph Buchanan’s glory days are behind him. His newspaper has banished him to Pakistan, not knowing the greatest moment of his long career is waiting for him there.

When Simone Jasnin asks him to help expose a grave injustice, he finds himself embroiled in a harrowing tale that began in a dusty settlement in rural Punjab, setting in motion a chain of events that will change the lives of everyone involved.

Seven years later in the city of Lahore, members of a prominent family are being brutally murdered one by one. The only clue is a hand-carved wooden bangle left at the scene of each crime.

As the list of suspects grows and the tension mounts, Ralph realises the answers might be closer to home than he ever thought possible.

Solving the mystery will put him back on top but at what cost?

Only when the smoke clears will the killing stop and honour be satisfied…

An interesting novel from Owen Mullen and a big departure, content and setting-wise from his last one - In Harm's Way.

Here we have a tale of a doomed childhood friendship-cum-romance-cum-dreams of a future together, dashed when Afra's mother denies Jameel her daughter's hand in marriage. Crushed and dispirited, Jameel sells his small parcel of land and makes his way to Lahore seeking out his uncle, his only living relative. Afra has an alternate suitor, one with money and prospects, and unfortunately as she soon finds out a cruel and vicious heart. A trait shared by his two brothers. Their mother and sister are carved from the same mould.

New lives then. Both in Lahore, both markedly different from the ones they imagined growing up. Jameel prospers. With his uncle he finds love, family, respect, friendship, an education and some life schooling and has a bright future learning his uncle's business and in time taking over the reins. In his heart he remembers Afra.

Afra is far less fortunate. Cruelty, abuse, marital rape, beatings and when unable to produce a child an heir and after an untruth is believed much worse. Found dying, Afra manages to impart her story to a doctor who tries to help her.

And then the husband and his family, learn what's its like when the shoe is on the other foot.

In a separate story strand which eventually ties in we have a washed up alcoholic has-been journalist killing himself slowly with alcohol, before being offered the opportunity to write one last story that could make a difference and have someone significant in his life.

Quite a topical novel.... women's rights in Pakistan, or more realistically the lack of them, arranged marriage, alcoholism, doomed love, revenge, and second chances.

A bit different from what I usually read, in respect of setting mainly and quite enjoyable for that. Mullen makes some serious points about women in Pakistan while still entertaining with a tale of violent revenge where the killer's identity is unknown but hinted at. Obviously Mullen has a trick or two up his sleeve and there are several twists before our outcome is revealed. Fair play it wasn't someone I was expecting.

Interesting, enjoyable. Top marks for setting and story. Solid characters, especially our young lad Jameel and his journey to manhood and our old soak of a journalist, Ralph. Lots to like overall.

4 from 5

Out of the Silence is published today.

Read in January, 2019
Published - 2019
Page count - 306
Source - review copy from author
Format - kindle

Friday 25 January 2019


Tess Makovesky, author of the very enjoyable Brummie set crime caper - Gravy Train (on the blog yesterday - here) was kind enough to submit to a bit of gentle questioning about her reading and writing habits

Is the writing full time? If not, what’s the day job? Can you give us a quick biography of yourself?

I don't have a day job at the moment. I used to, but suffered a nasty work injury which still affects me and makes it difficult to do what I used to do. Which gives me the perfect excuse to write instead!

Do you have a typical writing schedule? Do you write every day?

I try to write most days, but it isn't always possible. My Other Half's job is pretty full-on and quite random in terms of hours and destinations, so it's hard to keep to a schedule or make plans. I've got used to that over the years, though, and even if I'm not actually sitting at my desk and typing I'm usually thinking about writing, or listening to my characters holding long conversations inside my head. Hmm, sounds like I should see someone about that...

When you have an idea and you sit down to construct a story – do you know what the end result is roughly going to look like? Are you a plotter, or do you make it up as you go along?

Totally make it up as I go along, but I do usually have a good idea of the end point I'm aiming for. Sometimes that changes as I go along - my characters have a rather alarming habit of hijacking their own stories and running off with them - and sometimes it leads to the notorious 'muddle in the middle'. But I tried plotting once and it took up all of my creative energy, so I had nothing left to actually write the book! So seat of the pants it is.

You seem fairly prolific as a short story writer. Your work has appeared in numerous anthologies and the usual list of well-regarded online haunts – Pulp Metal Magazine, Out of the Gutter, Punk Noir, Spelk Fiction and more. Is it a different process writing a short story as opposed to longer works?

Yes, actually, surprisingly so. I really struggle with longer works, having specialised in short stories most of my writing career. I find it much easier to work with the structure of a short story, and it's interesting that my two longer works so far, 'Raise the Blade' and 'Gravy Train', are both quite episodic in nature with lots of short sharp chapters that could almost be short stories in their own right. But now I've experimented with longer books, I do enjoy the wider scope they give me to explore the characters and their stories.

Your latest novella – Gravy Train drops 30th November (I’ll hopefully have my grubby mitts on my copy by the time this piece appears) is published by one of my favourites – All Due Respect. How did you hook up with them?

I have Paul Brazill to thank for that (and for a lot of other writing-related favours, too). He mentioned last year that they were open to submissions, and as I'd just finished translating 'Gravy Train' from a novella into a full-length novel, and it seemed to fit their profile, I decided to send it along. And they liked it, so the rest is history...

Can you pitch the book to potential readers in a short paragraph?

I can do it in one sentence: how far would you go for £80,000?!

But for a little more detail: when Sandra the barmaid overhears details of a betting scam, she thinks all her Christmases have come at once. But when she collects her winnings she reckons without mugger Lenny, lurking outside the betting shop door. And he's reckoned without car thief Justine, and she's reckoned without Lenny's boss Ball, and he's reckoned without Sandra's almost-uncle George. They're all great at nicking the money but terrible at hanging onto it. So when there's a showdown on the banks of the local canal, will any of them get their hands on it, or will their precious gravy train come shuddering to a halt?

It seems slightly less bloody than your previous one Raise the Blade, are you done with serial killers or do you reserve the right to re-visit at a later date?

My natural style is for a slightly more 'comedy noir' approach (think Hot Fuzz or Midnight Run) so 'Raise the Blade' was the exception rather than the rule. Although I enjoyed writing it, I possibly wouldn't do anything quite that dark or grisly again. However, I loved working out what made the various characters act in the way they did and would love to have another go with something more psychological like that.

Both works are set in Birmingham, what’s your connection with “Britain’s second city?” (quoting David Cameron…. whatever happened to him?) 

I deny all knowledge of washed-up politicians, but I can claim to know Birmingham reasonably well having lived there for over twenty years. It's a city that constantly surprises me and that I love very much. Now that I've moved away I find it easier to look at it objectively and use it as a setting for many of my darker tales.

How long from conception to completion did Gravy Train take?

Um, pass? I can't actually remember! I do know, though, that I wrote it as a novella first, and was then, er, persuaded by some of my writer friends to turn it into something longer. And I had so much fun with the characters that it seemed to write itself relatively quickly - maybe three or four months until I'd finished it. I did already have the structure and most of the characters in place, though, so that was a huge bonus.

Was it a smooth process or were there many bumps in the road along the way?

It was relatively smooth, more so than many of my other works. One of the most complex things was having to rewrite the second most important character, Todd, to fit the All Due Respect house rule of no law enforcement officers. I had a few days of despairing pen-sucking before I struck on the idea of turning him into a grass rather than an undercover cop. Once I'd made that decision I was able to rewrite his chapters relatively easily.

Did it end up being the book you anticipated at the start of the process?

Well, it's a lot longer than I ever thought it would be! It's kept the same overall feel that I wanted, and the humour, and the circular plot-line where each character hands over to the next one in a slightly dizzying chase. But there have been changes. As I mention above, Todd started life as an undercover cop, and most of the characters had very little backstory. In the end, thanks to rewriting, lengthening, and editing, I actually think it's a better book than the one I first anticipated, and I'd like to thank my friends Linda, Jackie and Irene, and the guys at All Due Respect, for that.

What’s the attraction to the darker side of the crime fiction genre? Were you never tempted to aim for more readers by penning work closer to the mainstream?

I don't think 'mainstream' and me have ever gone together all that well! So far my whole writing career, under a number of different pen names, has embraced the less commercial, the more unusual, the 'road less travelled'. In the end my own quirky, unconventional nature seems to transfer itself to my writing, which means I prefer to rebel, make my own rules, and then live by the rather dubious consequences...

What can we look forward to next? Any hints on the current work in progress?

Yes, it's another crime caper set in Birmingham called 'Embers of Bridges'. Where 'Gravy Train' was mostly about greed, this one is about loyalty, or the lack of it, and involves a gang of robbers, a series of heists that go horribly wrong, and a somewhat bizarre getaway on a canal boat. I'm heading towards the latter stages of the first draft, but it'll still need a lot of work after that so it probably won't be seeing the light of day until this time next year at the earliest. Assuming anyone likes it enough to publish it, that is...

What’s been the most satisfying moment of your writing career so far?

I don't think it's a single moment, but rather a series of small quiet triumphs each time I achieve something new. Getting 'Raise the Blade' and 'Gravy Train' published, organising my own book launch, reading aloud at an open mic night... they've all been significant milestones along the way and I've loved them all.

Any unpublished gems in your bottom drawer?

There's plenty of unpublished stuff in there, but whether any of it qualifies as a 'gem' I'm not sure. I have at least two, perhaps three further works in various states of progress, which I'm hoping to work on once 'Embers of Bridges' has left the building. But that's a fair way off yet... and as for my really early work, the less said about some of that the better!

Any advice for prospective authors out there?

Don't give up. Getting your work published can be a slow, and at times frustrating, process, but you never know what's going to happen when, or when your break or chance will come. And never stop learning, either. I'm still honing my craft after nearly 20 years, and I hope I'll still be honing it in another 20 years time.

What’s the best thing about writing?

For me it's the actual creative process, where I sit down at my desk with all my characters in my head and transfer them via the screen onto a sheet of paper. On a good day, with no distractions and if I'm in the right mood, I can dash off several thousand words that flow without much apparent effort. That's a wonderful feeling, but at the moment what with editing, marketing and (deep joy) shopping for Christmas, those days are too few and far between. Once things settle down in the new year I'm hoping they'll return.

The worst?

Honestly? Writing synopses. It's a challenge that most writers seem to find nearly impossible. Just how do you crystallise 70,000 words or more into a single page of narrative that still manages to be enjoyable and isn't just a dull list of 'then he did this' and 'then she said that'? I'm getting better at it than I used to be, but it's still massively hard work.

What are the last five books you’ve read?

Hmm, let's see *consults Goodreads*... Ah yes, here you go, most recent first:
1. 'The Saint vs Scotland Yard' by Leslie Charteris
2. 'Rival Sons' by Aidan Thorn

3. 'Cross Purpose' by Claire MacLeary
4. 'Too Many Crooks' by Paul D Brazill
5. 'How to Kill Friends and Implicate People' by Jay Stringer

Who do you read and enjoy? Is there anyone I should be reading who has snuck under my radar?

I doubt it! I suspect (no, make that know) you know far more about crime fiction than I ever could. But I enjoy all sorts of authors from the old classics (Christie, Heyer, Sayers, Marsh) to modern commercial (Peter May, Ann Cleeves) to humorous pulp (Charteris) to some much more unusual books - crime with a hint of the supernatural (John Connolly) or history (Mark Mills). And then there's all the stuff pouring out from authors in my own peer group like Jay Stringer, Nick Quantrill, Aidan Thorn, Paul D Brazill, Jason Beech and literally hundreds of others. I couldn't hope to list them all here, but there's some wonderful books out there now.

Favourite activity when not working or writing?

My biography refers to me as "roaming the fells with a brolly, dreaming up new stories and startling the occasional sheep". It's true that I'm lucky to live in a very scenic area with lots of open countryside and I enjoy taking off on foot with a camera, looking out for wildlife (and those sheep) and taking pictures of the constantly changing weather over the hills.

What’s the last film you watched that rocked you?

This is a toughie since so many recent movies seemed to suffer from disappointing endings (or middles, or even beginnings). I loathed the newest Mission Impossible, for instance, and even some indie crime movies like B&B or City of Tiny Lights didn't live up to their initial hype. For sheer watchability I keep going back to old favourites like Red (Bruce Willis in a daft but hugely entertaining spy movie) or the Bourne series, or Ocean's 11/12/13. And my all-time favourites are Grosse Pointe Blank, Midnight Run and the incomparable Hot Fuzz.

TV addict or not? What’s the must watch show in the Makovesky household?

Yes, definitely. Recent 'must watch' shows have included Brotherhood, Get Shorty, Bodyguard, Innocent, Unforgotten, and I'm now loving The Sinner, which is wonderfully layered and full of tension without resorting to stalk-and-slash. I also love most of the Scandi-noir series like The Bridge and The Killing. However, one of my absolute favourites is the two series (so far, hopefully there's more to come) of Follow the Money - a crime drama without heaps of dead bodies, which features 'backroom boy' style detectives investigating financial crimes. It's won all sorts of awards and is much more gripping than I'm making it sound.

In a couple of years’ time....

People will probably expect me to say I'd like to be rich and famous, but that's not really 'me'. Most of all I'd like to have 3 or 4 books out (hopefully with All Due Respect as they've been so supportive with 'Gravy Train'), all set in Birmingham and all with titles nicked from Pink Floyd.

And a bit less uncertainty, divisiveness and political in-fighting in the country might be nice...

Many thanks to Tess for her time. 

Thursday 24 January 2019



Crime pays. So barmaid Sandra thinks when she overhears details of a betting scam and wins herself and fat husband Mike eighty thousand pounds. But they’ve reckoned without mugger Lenny, lying in wait outside the betting shop door. And he’s reckoned without a top-notch car thief, his own devious boss, a fellow gang-member with a grudge, and Sandra’s unpleasant almost-Uncle George. 

Chaos ensues as a whole bunch of disparate—and desperate—characters chase the bag of money around Birmingham’s back streets. Plenty of them help themselves to the cash, but none of them are good at hanging onto it. As they hurtle towards a frantic showdown on the banks of the local canal, will any of them see their ill-gotten gains again? Or will their precious gravy train come shuddering to a halt? 

Praise for GRAVY TRAIN: 

“Tess Makovesky’s Gravy Train is a terrifically entertaining, raucous and rough ’n’ tumble Brit Grit crime caper that will leave you breathless.” —Paul D. Brazill, author of Last Year’s Man, A Case of Noir, and Guns of Brixton 

Some fast-paced fun and frolics, as a bunch of Brummie low-lives chase around the city, determined to get their hands on a holdall full of cash.

I do have a soft spot for criminal types in my reading. I'd far rather spend time in the company of some ne'er do wells on the look-out for a score than a bunch of ordinary Joes confirming to society's norms and expectations. Makovesky characters deliver mention just a few..

Sandra - the disaffected pub landlord, a dreamer and a schemer,

Mike - her corpulent, poker playing husband, more interested in his next bacon butty than £80k of wonga,

uncle-George major league criminal and major league creep and sex-pest,

Lenny, an ex-con mugger,

Vernon Ball - crimelord, ruthless and greedy, but not at the top of the tree

Todd - fearfully grassing on his boss, while still fondly remembering sexual encounters with his police handler and ex-girlfriend, Inspector Charlton.

Justine-cum-Danny - a car thief with a skill-set and regrets over Fred her-ex

Each of them with their own limitations and motivations, each of them fully realised.

Our plot (not necessarily in the correct order) - a dingy pub, an overheard conversation, a plan, a betting scam executed and a bag full of readies, a mugging and short-lived dreams of a better life shattered, a skilled car thief steps in, an unhappy crime boss, an undercover informant, an ambitious police officer, a perverted step-uncle with a fearsome reputation arrives to save the day, our hapless mugger again, a dodgy garage owner, a shaky marriage or two, discontent, dodgy photos and blackmail, the canal, a brothel fire, a dead prostitute, a showdown, and an aftermath, with loads more besides.   

Collisions, comedy and collusion, decisions, dreams and delusion.

Enjoyable and entertaining, interspersed with some darker undertones - eg the death of a loose lipped girl. It also casts a light on an ordinary couple, drifting along, scraping by, taking each other for granted, one oblivious, the other dreaming of a different life, a better life, convinced that happiness is something that only money can buy.

One slight niggle. I was a tad uncertain about the big bet and the big pay-out. I'm not totally convinced that it would fly. It wasn't enough to bump me out of an otherwise exciting caper. 

My first time reading Tess Makovesky, but not my last.

4 from 5

Tess Makovesky has her website here. Her novella Raise the Blade sits on the TBR pile.

Read in January, 2019
Published - 2018
Page count - 252
Source - purchased
Format - paperback

Wednesday 23 January 2019



While the storm rages over California's notorious anti-illegal alien Proposition 187, a young woman climbs to the top of the famous Hollywood Sign - and jumps to her death. An undocumented day laborer is murdered. And a disbarred and desperate lawyer in Venice Beach places an ad in a local paper that says: "Will Do Anything For Money." 

Private investigator Duke Rogers, infamous for solving the case of murdered starlet Teddie Matson, feels he must do "penance" for his inadvertent part in her death. To that end, he takes on the case of Carlos, the murdered day-laborer, as a favor to his sister Marisol, the housekeeper down the street from Duke's house. 

Duke must figure out what ties together Carlos' murder, the ex-lawyer's desperate ad and the woman jumping from the sign? And who is the mysterious "coyote"? Amid the controversial political storm surrounding California's Proposition 187, Duke and his very unPC sidekick Jack are on the case. They slingshot from the Hollywood Sign to Venice Beach. From East Hollywood to the "suicide bridge" in Pasadena, and from Smuggler's Gulch near the Mexican border back to L.A. again. Their mission catapults them through a labyrinth of murder, intrigue and corruption of church and state that hovers around the immigration debate in this searing sequel to the explosive Shamus Award-winning novel White Heat. 


"Fans of downbeat PI fiction will be satisfied... with Shamus Award winner Marks's solid sequel to 2012's White Heat." - Publishers Weekly

Having enjoyed White Heat from Paul D. Marks last year, I was very interested in reading his second Duke Rogers PI book, Broken Windows. I'm happy to report, my expectations were met.

Broken Windows is set in LA, in 1994 a year or two after the events of White Heat and against a backdrop of agitation and unrest as California prepares to vote on Proposition 187; a measure designed to limit the access of illegals to public services. Proposition 187 was also known as Save Our State.

Our main man, Duke Rogers is still trying to assuage the feelings of guilt he feels for the part he played (unintentionally) in the death of Teddie Matson. His notoriety brings him celebrity cases and he's not hurting for money. Hence the willingness to look into the death of Carlos, an illegal, on behalf of Marisol, the girl working down the street and our murder victims sister. Best friend, Jack with his own strong views on immigration wonders why he's wasting his time.

In an as yet unconnected story strand we also get to know Eric, a down on his luck and disbarred lawyer. Eric is desperate. Family gone, career gone, he's hurting and not just for money.

A dead illegal, a private investigation - the police aren't wasting too much time on this, and a broken man. Plus our book opener, a failed young actress jumping to her death from the Hollywood sign. As a reader, you know somehow or other that these disparate strands of story, of people and events will have a connection and a meaning and it was enjoyable watching Rogers in the skilled hands of the author discover the links and join up the dots. That there's some hard miles to be travelled to get to that point was part of the reading pleasure.

Coyotes, runners, sanctuary, the church, a fixer, a councilman, politicians of all shades, a closed and suspicious immigrant workforce, a dog, friendship. a pair of cops - good cop and bad cop, good cop being female, attractive and potentially something more but also dangerous, a scam and a conspiracy, the pornography business, thwarted ambitions, HIV, an unsuitable girlfriend for a politician, some back-up in the form of a somewhat politically unenlightened, not very liberal, best friend Jack, an errand boy, a pier and meeting place, a homeless waif and drug addict, a fledgling romance. an attempted hit, a bullet wound, a murderous coyote cleaning house, race rallies, more death closer to home, another trip to a famous LA landmark and an accommodation - with justice of sorts delivered, albeit imperfect, but realistic.

What I really enjoyed in addition to a joined-up, coherent and satisfying case, was the backdrop of the city, depicted both physically in Mark's referencing of cultural hot spots and emotionally in the depiction of the attitudes and mood of the time. You can sense Paul D. Marks is an Angeleno.

Plot, pace, setting, characters, resolution - all ticks.

Hopefully Paul D. Marks is busy scribbling away at the next Duke Rogers mystery.

4.5 from 5

Paul D. Marks has his website here.

He's the author of two other novels - White Heat, which won a Shamus Award and Vortex. He also has a short story collection L.A. Late @ Night and several novellas available.

Read in January, 2019
Published - 2018
Page count - 360
Source - review copy from publisher Down and Out Books
Format - kindle

Tuesday 22 January 2019


Another recent addition to the collection - author David Swinson and a couple of good looking PI novels.....

From his website ......


In 1994, Swinson returned to his home base of Washington DC, where he joined the Metropolitan Police Department. Swinson began his career as a police officer in uniform. He was then assigned to the Gun Recovery Unit as a tactical officer. Shortly after that, Swinson was assigned as a plainclothes/undercover officer, targeting narcotics and crimes in progress. In 1998, Swinson was assigned to the Third District Detectives Office as an investigator, where he covered offenses ranging from burglary and armed robbery to homicide. In 2000, he was promoted to detective and was eventually assigned to the department’s Special Investigations Bureau/Major Crimes, and was the lead investigator in the District of Columbia for investigating serial burglaries, high profile cases and organized criminal operations related to narco-fencing.

After retiring from the police department, Swinson began writing crime fiction. A Detailed Man came out in 2011 followed up with The Second Girl, the first book of his Frank Marr trilogy.

Trigger his third Frank Marr novel is released early February, so I'll soon be three books behind! Four if you count his debut - A Detailed Man

The Second Girl (2016)

He's a good detective...with a bad habit.

Frank Marr knows crime in Washington, DC. A decorated former police detective, he retired early and now ekes a living as a private eye for a defense attorney. Frank Marr may be the best investigator the city has ever known, but the city doesn't know his dirty secret.

A long-functioning drug addict, Frank has devoted his considerable skills to hiding his usage from others. But after accidentally discovering a kidnapped teenage girl in the home of an Adams Morgan drug gang, Frank becomes a hero and is thrust into the spotlight. He reluctantly agrees to investigate the disappearance of another girl - possibly connected to the first - and the heightened scrutiny may bring his own secrets to light, too.

Frank is as slippery and charming an antihero as you've ever met, but he's also achingly vulnerable. The result is a mystery of startling intensity, a tightly coiled thriller where every scene may turn disastrous.

The Second Girl is the crime novel of the season and the start of a refreshing new series from an author who knows the criminal underworld inside and out.

Crime Song (2017)

David Swinson returns with a thrillingly dark novel, featuring Frank Marr, 'a masterly piece of characterisation.' (Tana French, author of The Trespasser)

Frank Marr was a good cop with a bad habit, until his addiction to cocaine forced him into retirement from the D.C. police. Now barely making a living as a private investigator, he agrees to take on a family case as a favour for his aunt.

Frank's surveillance confirms that his cousin Jeffrey is involved with a drugs operation. It seems small, until Frank's own home is burgled, leaving a body on the kitchen floor: Jeffrey. Frank's .38 revolver - the murder weapon - is stolen, along with his cherished music collection.

Clearly, his cousin was deeper in the underworld than anyone realised. With his reputation and his own life on the line, Frank searches for the real culprit: following the stolen goods through a tangled network of petty thieves, desperate addicts, deceiving fences, good cops and bad cops.

Frank's as determined to uncover the truth as he is to feed his habit, and both pursuits could prove deadly. This time, it may just be a question of what gets him first.

Monday 21 January 2019



In best-selling and Emmy-nominated writer George Pelecanos' "Taut and suspenseful" new novel, an ex-offender must choose between the man who got him out and the woman who showed him another path. (Booklist, starred review)

Michael Hudson spends the long days in prison devouring books given to him by the prison's librarian, a young woman named Anna who develops a soft spot for her best student. Anna keeps passing Michael books until one day he disappears, suddenly released after a private detective manipulated a witness in Michael's trial. 

Outside, Michael encounters a Washington, DC, that has changed a lot during his time locked up. Once-shady storefronts are now trendy beer gardens and flower shops. But what hasn't changed is the hard choice between the temptation of crime and doing what's right. Trying to balance his new job, his love of reading, and the debt he owes to the man who got him released, Michael struggles to figure out his place in this new world before he loses control.

Smart and fast-paced, The Man Who Came Uptown brings Washington, DC, to life in a high-stakes story of tough choices.

The Man Who Came Uptown is the 21st book from George Pelecanos and according to my Goodreads stats the 18th that I have enjoyed, and my first since March, 2012.

From what I recall from a lot of his earlier books, the latest lacks the complexities of some of his earlier work. There's not as much criss-crossing of characters and varying timelines, which previously had me marvelling at his story telling prowess. That said this was a quick read and I enjoyed it.

Our main man is Michael Hudson and we are concerned with his efforts to go straight after a surprising release from prison. The release has been engineered by a PI, Phil Ornazian after some witness tampering. The release comes at a price. Michael will be the wheelman for Ornazian and his ex-cop partner when they carry out their next shakedown of a Washington pimp, though Hudson doesn't know this. Drive or maybe the witness suddenly remembers Michael's part in a robbery. Hobson's choice pretty much.

In his life outside prison, Michael is endeavouring to reform and go straight. He has a steady job as a dishwasher and the respect of his boss and his peers. He's reliable and already making plans for his next step. He has a determination not to let his mother and siblings down again and continues to enjoy his reading. Reading being his new found passion, a discovery made in prison and all thanks to the librarian, Anna. That they cross paths in DC is inevitable and with a flicker of attraction between the pair an added complication neither of them need given her married status. Ornazian knocking on his door is an obstacle to his plans.

Anna enjoys her job, connecting with the prisoners in a positive fashion through the book club she has instigated. She's relatively content with her lot in life, but not totally on the same page aspirationally as her husband. There's an emotional connection with Michael through their shared love of books, and an attraction acknowledged by both but not acted upon.

Pelecanos also uses this story thread to provide a hat-tip at various authors and books and also to emphasise the power and benefits of reading. Elmore Leonard, John D. MacDonald, Don Carpenter and Willy Vlautin are among the familiar names dropped. There's a certain irony in the pimping of Capernter's Hard Rain Falling, as my shelved copy includes an introduction by none other than Pelecanos himself. Willy Vlautin's Northline is the other book given the hard sell.

After impressing with his driving skills on the first job, unsurprisingly Michael is press-ganged into another by Ornazian. During the course of the book we spend some time with Ornazian and get to know him and see his love for his family, and like he does, we wonder where he took a wrong turn and crossed the line into his dangerous sideline. He feels guilt at forcing Michael to participate in criminality, but not enough to desist from using him.

Great setting, interesting characters, lots of action and a fair bit of violence as our strong arm robberies go down. I enjoyed the tension which Pelecanos created throughout and was keen to discover whether Hudson escaped with his freedom intact.

4 from 5

I'm looking forward to enjoying the other three remaining books in his canon that I haven't got to yet - The Martini Shot, The Double and What it Was. 

Read in January, 2019
Published - 2018
Page count - 202
Source - Net Galley courtesy of publisher Mulholland Books
Format - ePub file read on laptop

Saturday 19 January 2019



"An intense and engaging portrait of characters driven by—and bound by—the secrets of their pasts . . . an absorbing mystery as well as a gracefully layered story of death and loss in a small town.” —Allen Eskens, USA Today bestselling author of The Life We Bury

When Transom Shultz goes missing shortly after returning to his tightly knit hometown of Fallen Mountains, Pennsylvania, his secrets are not the only ones that threaten to emerge. 

Something terrible happened seventeen years ago. Red, the sheriff, is haunted by it. Possum, the victim of that crime, wants revenge. Chase, a former friend of Transom’s, is devastated by his treacherous land dealings. And Laney worries her one thoughtless mistake with Transom could shatter everything she’s built.

As the search for Transom heats up and the inhabitants’ dark and tangled histories unfold, each must decide whether to live under the brutal weight of the past or try to move beyond it. In Fallen Mountains, even loyalty, love, trust, and family can trap you on a path of tragedy.


I was pretty much sucked into this small town mystery from the get-go. Gripping, intriguing, compelling and at the climax supremely satisfying. I was half-tempted to start reading it again immediately after.

A small cast of characters, each carrying their own secrets, each effected by events of the past, all of them good-hearted people, with maybe one exception - though even he has some admirable traits. 

Regret, guilt, loyalty, family, history, conflict, secrets, disappointment, shame, embarrassment, anger, selfishness, love, grief, resentment and more in rural Pennsylvania.

I loved the characters, I loved the setting, I loved how the author made me care about the outcome and what would happen to all those involved. I enjoyed her writing and the past-present flip-flopping of the narrative added to my reading pleasure, more so than if the narrative had been more linear.

All in all a fantastic read and one I'd highly recommend to anyone. I've deliberately refrained from mentioning any events or detail of the characters. Read this book and discover them for yourself. My semi-coherent thoughts do not do this book justice!

5 from 5

Fallen Mountains is Kimi Cunningham Grant's fictional debut. She has an earlier book to her name, a family memoir - Silver Like Dust - which tells the tale of her Japanese-American grandparents interned in the aftermath of Pearl Harbour.

Read in January, 2019
Published - 2019 (out on the 5th March)
Page count - 196
Source - Net Galley
Format - ePub file read on laptop.

Friday 18 January 2019



Welcome to Clover, Kansas, a small town sitting in the middle of America’s Heartland. It's a peaceful community, until the night that high school student Jeremy Rogers accepts an invitation to party with the “cool” older kids. After things go irreparably wrong, and Clover is thrust into the national spotlight, Jeremy keeps his involvement a secret. As the town heals from the tragedy, Jeremy falls into a psychological abyss from which he cannot escape, until he encounters the monster from his past and has an opportunity to redeem himself. A novella.

A fairly quick read here with Travis Richardson's Lost in Clover which documents the lead-up to, the execution of and the aftermath of a small town American shooting through the eyes of Jeremy Rogers.

Rogers and some drinking buddies, have a few too many beers and with a bucket-load of dutch courage, decide to pay Crazy Eddie Cooper - a much younger bully and someone who has inflicted some injury on each of them at one time or another - a visit to teach him an unforgettable lesson. Jeremy bails at the last minute and escapes the tragedy that unfolds physically, but emerges from it far from unscathed emotionally.

One boy's story and almost a coming-of-age tale, an American tragedy, multiple deaths, small town, Kansas thrust into a media glare, town rage, survivor guilt, enhanced because of a certain amount of complicity in the act that unfolded, a court case, more media headlines, a flash lawyer and a more considered appreciation of events, fear, memories, a childhood birthday party and Crazy Eddie's family, PTSD, withdrawal, isolation, ennui, an inability to care, a separation from family and friends, falling grades, prom night, college, an inability to act, the girls who got away, the passage of time, mower boy becoming mower man, a life on hold..... then Crazy Eddie gets parole.

Enjoyable, thoughtful, considered, but not without a few laughs here and there, and a positive ending which delivers an ending to Jeremy's lethargy .

4 from 5

Travis Richardson's recent short story collection - Bloodshot and Bruised: Crime Stories from the South and West sits waiting on the kindle
Read in January, 2019
Published - 2012
Page count - 198
Source - purchased copy
Format - paperback

Tuesday 15 January 2019



Young, bright and sexy, Carla Vitale has been handpicked to run Supertech, Africa's leading independent Engineering firm. Then one Friday afternoon in Cape Town, her dream is shattered. Her boss and mentor, Nial Townley, disappears, his luxury vehicle is found in a crevice at the bottom of Chapman's Peak and $USD 20m is missing from the Supertech's overseas accounts. Three months later and the police are no closer to solving the riddle.

No job, no car, no phone, Carla turns to the one person she believes can help: software hacker turned day-trader, Daniel Le Fleur. But Le Fleur's maintaining a low profile in Bantry Bay and he's in no mood to ruin the serendipity.

Crackerjack was a recent spot late last year on the Edelweiss early reviewer site and with the clock ticking down on the expiration date of my copy, I thought I’d better pull my finger out and read the thing a bit sharp-ish. And I’m pretty pleased I did.

Here we have a Cape Town mystery concerning cyber-crime, a missing person and more importantly for some missing money - $20m US. Our main character, Daniel Le Fleur is bored with his solitary life. No partner, no family – both parents are dead, a mother mourned and missed, a father not so much. His only friend or even regular human contact is in the shape of a homeless tramp who spends most of his hours occupying a bench outside Le Fleur’s apartment. Le Fleur is a reformed hacker and spends his days surfing TV channels while day trading in bitcoins. He got caught hacking, served his light sentence by working for a body tasked with preventing cyber-crimes. His hacking was as a part of a group of like-minded individuals determined to bring down a group trading in under-age women on the net. Judging by his lifestyle, he probably managed to acquire a few ill-gotten gains that he’s held on to. But in a nut shell he’s bored.

Along comes the stunning Carla, who is concerned for her missing boss and her position. Her boss has allegedly skipped with a whole load of money and the fallout means his ailing company is prey to a stronger competitor that is circling. If his firm falls, her career ambitions go south.

No surprise to know that Le Fleur, initially reluctantly, decides to get involved and help Carla find out what the police haven’t been able to.

I really enjoyed this one, probably a bit more than I expected to. I was initially concerned that maybe the author would bog me down in technical details on how to hack this, how to access that, how the dark web operates and its money maundering methods etc etc, but he doesn’t. There’s a bit of interesting and knowing detail regarding these things obviously, but the main focus is on the missing man, Nial Townsley and Le Fleur’s efforts initially to discover what happened to him in the last few weeks of his life, before he went missing; and subsequently to protect himself and Carla when his efforts prove fruitful and the tables get turned with the hunters becoming the hunted.

White collar crime, hostile takeovers, missing money, bully boy thugs, a stripper girlfriend, offshore investments, a dodgy company, an investigative journalist, phone hacking, hidden cameras, best friends and lawyers, an unhappy ex-wife and a custody battle, a tramp, the police, a paroled hit woman with a career plan a death list and revenge in mind, bus rides and hotel hideouts, wild sex and violent death, surveillance both physical and remote, and a puppet-mastermind pulling everyone’s strings.

Action, danger, a fast-pace and a really entertaining book. Church serves up a few twists along the way with the introduction of the parolee greatly adding to the tension. The conclusion worked but had a sense of inevitability about it. One more twist without which, everything which had gone on before might have seemed too obvious and predictable.

Over 400 pages and a quick 400 at that – as I ploughed through this in a fraction over two days. Ticks in a lot of the boxes - pace, mystery, characters and setting.

4 from 5

Peter Church is a South African author with a few previous novels to his name – Blue Cow Sky, Bitter Pill and Dark Church, all of which look interesting.

Read in January, 2019
Published – 2019 (in February from Catalyst Press)
Page count – 414
Source – Edelweiss early reviewer site
Format – ePub file (read on laptop)

Monday 14 January 2019


A couple this week from US novelist Stona Fitch. Deja-vous another author who sits in the burgeoning book collection but has never been read.

Senseless, at a guess has sat ignored for at least ten years, Give + Take a lot less, seeing as I can't recall buying it new. Fitch has another couple of novels to his name, which if I'm honest don't hold any great appeal for me at all - Strategies for Success and Printer's Devil.

His two most recent book are Boston based crime novels published under the pseudonym of Rory Flynn - Third Rail and Dark Horse - much more my cup of tea.

From Fantastic Fiction website...... Stona lives with his family in Concord, Massachusetts, where he is also a committed community activist. He and his family work with Gaining Ground, a non-profit farm that grows 30,000 pounds of organic produce each growing season and distributes it for free to Boston-area homeless shelters, food pantries, and meal programs.

Senseless (2001)

American economist, Eliott Gast is a man who treasures the finest things that life can offer - fine food, a good bottle of wine, beautiful music. Until the day that he is abducted in Europe by a shadowy and extremist anti-globalisation group. Eliott is held hostage for forty days, and each moment of his incarceration is broadcast on the internet. His captors inform him that his eventual release depends on the votes - and donations made to their cause - of the millions of people who are watching this most disturbing of reality shows. As Eliott battles to understand why he has been chosen, he unearths sins both small and large. Over the course of his captivity, Eliott is deprived of each of his senses, one by one - deprived of everything except the choice of whether or not to survive.

Give + Take (2010)

An unholy marriage of the classic American road narrative combined with the slyest moments of Thomas Pynchon, Give + Take is one part caper, one part social satire. Disillusioned after years of conspicuous consumption, jazz pianist Ross Clifton has become a talented thief, robbing from the rich to give to the poor. But when his teenage nephew, Cray, turns up to join him, his life on the road is turned upside down. Between his nephew's criminal aspirations and Ross' romance with an enigmatic singer, his grifter lifestyle is about to be in serious jeopardy.

Fast, furious, and felonious, Give + Take races along to a thrilling climax.