Sunday 31 March 2019

NIGEL BIRD - MR SUIT (2012)


Synopsis/blurb....

Liza is at the end of her tether. The only way she can see out of her situation is to turn to her husband's ex-boss, the gangster Mr Suit, for help.

In doing so, she sets in motion a chain of events that will keep the reader on the edge of their seat from beginning to end.

The latest in the series of tremendous work from the author of DIRTY OLD TOWN (AND OTHER STORIES); IN LOCO PARENTIS; and SMOKE who is also the co-editor of volumes 1 and 2 of PULP INK.

'The prose is tight rope taut and the plotting first class. The central character of Liza is well drawn and the drip feed of her commentary about Archie’s feelings is brilliantly done. Mr Suit is suitably odious without straying in to cliché...‘Mr Suit’ is a tense and thrilling novella which deserves a place on your bookshelf.' Crimesquad.com

A read in one sitting novella, which without being the best book ever was entertaining enough and kept me amused Saturday afternoon while keeping one eye on the football scores.

Archie used to work for Mr Suit, before his involvement in a botched kidnapping saw him receive a bullet in the head, albeit accidentally from his boss - but not before he had managed to stash the quarter of a million ransom.

Archie wants out of his life, which in his locked-in state is understandable. Liza, his wife is thinking the same thing, but doesn't want to do the deed herself, so turns towards Mr Suit. Everyone's in agreement, until the angel of mercy arrives to do the deed, while Archie is in the middle of painstakingly communicating to Liza - by blinking out letters - the whereabouts of the ransom money. Events now take a very different course. 

Humour, violence, sex, ambition, plans, London setting, a canal trip, a family - not all of whom are reading from the same script and an outcome which maintains the status quo for one of our characters.

Engaging, entertaining, funny, never less than interesting. If I was being picky, I could maybe say the timing of one event was remarkably convenient in terms of the plot, but hey it didn't mar my enjoyment.

I do need to read more from Nigel Bird.

Previously enjoyed - BEAT ON THE BRAT (AND OTHER STORIES) and SMOKE

4 from 5

Read - March, 2019
Published - 2012
Page count - 82
Source - owned copy
Format - kindle

Thursday 28 March 2019

E.A. AYMAR - THE UNREPENTANT (2019)


Synopsis/blurb.....

They never expected her to fight back… 

Eighteen-year old Charlotte Reyes ran away from an abusive home only to end up tricked, kidnapped, and taken across the country by criminals. Charlotte manages to escape with the help of a reluctant former soldier named Mace Peterson, but she can’t seem to shake the gang or the crooked cop paid to bring her back—alive or otherwise. With nowhere to run and nowhere to hide, Charlotte realizes she only has one option. She has to fight. 

Set in the Virginia, Maryland, D.C. triangle, The Unrepentant combines page-gripping action and black comedy, and provides a no-holds-barred, necessary examination of the dark corners of the human mind. 

Praise for THE UNREPENTANT: 

“A gut-wrenching crime thriller. Readers who appreciate depth of character alongside gritty nonstop action will be rewarded.” —Publishers Weekly 

A tough read depicting the trafficking and sexual abuse of a young women at the hands of a gang of criminals, headed up by one of the most brutal characters, Barnes that I've encountered in my reading over the past couple of years.

When Charlotte Reyes refuses to have her spirit broken, even though her body has been traumatised the answer is obvious for the gang. A violent death in the woods followed by burial in an unmarked grave. This is when her luck changes in the form of a fortuitous encounter with Mace Peterson, disturbing the intended execution.

On the run and hunted, and with severe trust issues, Charlotte has to decide on fight or flight. We end up with a combination of both, as Mace and his ex-wife Eve work on securing her safe passage across the country and a new identity with help from a small network of anti-traffickers. While that is being set up, Charlotte instead of playing safe sneaks off to try and get payback on her abusers on a one to one basis.

There are some interesting characters and dynamics in the book. Mace and his ex-wife still care for and worry about each other. He has a troubled family history, marred by depression and suicide in previous generations, which he fears will account for him in the end. Instead of sharing his fears and concerns with Eve, he's pushed her away and there's a schism between them. Charlotte's sudden appearance in their lives, almost acts as a kind of relationship therapy as it takes attention away from themselves and gives them a common purpose - help the girl.

Charlotte herself is a wonder. As she opens up to Mace and Eve, we get her back story and the details of her abuse and confinement. For someone so young her resilience is astonishing. I was conflicted between wanting her to play safe and sneak away quietly into a safer life or seeing her go full-throttle payback on her captives.

Plan B makes for an exciting read.

The author, through his characters also opens up a wider debate regarding prostitution and whether it is all abuse and control and subjugation, or if it is a legitimate career choice for people to pursue, not one necessarily forced upon them by economic necessity, or as in the case here by falling prey to criminals.

A harsh, brutal, and concerning story but balanced with hope, friendship, healing and a healthy dose of payback.

4.5 from 5

This was my first taste of E.A. Aymar's work. More from him sit on the pile - I'll Sleep When You're Dead (2013) and You're As Good As Dead (2015).

Read - March, 2019
Published - 2019
Page count - 220
Source - Net Galley, courtesy of publisher Down and Out Books
Format - ePub file read on laptop.







MARCH 2019 - ADDITIONS TO THE LIBRARY - 6 OF THE BEST!

An addition after a bit of charity shop browsing, the odd Amazon Kindle purchase, a Smashwords purchase - even though I can't load more content on my device and will have to use the e-reader on the laptop and the odd review copy or two received. Oh and a competition win.

Elly Griffiths - A Room Full of Bones (2011) - charity shop

Not an author I've read before, though I keep hearing she is very good. I've spent a few days in King's Lynn over the years while visiting the region, so worth a punt at under a pound and I'm always saying I don't read enough female authors.

It is Halloween night, and the local museum in King's Lynn is preparing for an unusual event - the opening of a coffin containing the bones of a medieval bishop. But when Ruth Galloway arrives to supervise, she finds the museum's curator lying dead beside the coffin. It is only a matter of time before she and DI Nelson cross paths once more, as he is called in to investigate. Soon the museum's wealthy owner lies dead in his stables too. These two deaths could be from natural causes but Nelson isn't convinced. When threatening letters come to light, events take an even more sinister turn. But as Ruth's friends become involved, where will her loyalties lie? As her convictions are tested, she and Nelson must discover how Aboriginal skulls, drug smuggling and the mystery of The Dreaming may hold the answer to these deaths, and their own survival.



Ralph Dennis - Murder is not an Odd Job (1974) - Amazon purchase
A sixth book in Ralph Dennis's Hardman series, originally published in 1974 and long-lost until Lee Goldberg at Brash Books fulfilled his mission to bring back the series into print and introduce Hardman to a modern crime reading audience. I've just finished the first in the series - Atlanta Deathwatch and I really enjoyed it. Probably just as well because the next seven are waiting on me, with Brash still to publish the last four later in 2019.

For years, original copies of Ralph Dennis' Hardman novels, one of the best crime fiction series ever written, were the Holy Grail for collectors because they were nearly impossible to find and very pricey. But those days are over. Hardman is back!

“The Hardman books are by far the best of the men’s action-adventure series.” Mother Jones Magazine

It's Atlanta, 1974. Ex-cop Jim Hardman and his drinking buddy Hump Evans, an ex-NFL player, will do just about anything short of a felony to make a buck...but even that rule is flexible. 

“Among the best series books around.” Philadelphia Daily News

In their sixth adventure, Hardman steps into the middle of a bar fight and stumbles into a deadly but lucrative job -- protecting a guy who is next-in-line for a massive inheritance from being murdered by professional assassins. But as the body count rises, and killers just keep on coming, it becomes clear to Hardman that the motive is more than money... and that he may be fighting an adversary who will never stop, even after death. 


Mason Cross - The Killing Season (2014) - copy won after Twitter competition by author
An author and book I have previously heard of but never added to the TBR pile, until now anyway.

The first thing you should know about me is that my name is not Carter Blake. That name no more belongs to me than the hotel room I was occupying when the call came in.

When Caleb Wardell, the infamous 'Chicago Sniper', escapes from death row two weeks before his execution, the FBI calls on the services of Carter Blake, a man with certain specialised talents whose skills lie in finding those who don't want to be found. A man to whom Wardell is no stranger.

Along with Elaine Banner, an ambitious special agent juggling life as a single mother with her increasingly high-flying career, Blake must track Wardell down as he cuts a swathe across America, apparently killing at random.

But Blake and Banner soon find themselves sidelined from the case. And as they try desperately to second guess a man who kills purely for the thrill of it, they uncover a hornets' nest of lies and corruption. Now Blake must break the rules and go head to head with the FBI if he is to stop Wardell and expose a deadly conspiracy that will rock the country.

Slick, fast-paced and assured, THE KILLING SEASON is the first novel in the gripping new Carter Blake series.


Richie Narvaez - Hipster Death Rattle (2019) - Smashwords purchase
A punt in the dark on an unknown novelist, though backed up by my knowledge that the publisher, Down and Out Books have impeccable taste when considering their output. I've yet to read a book from them that I didn't like. I do like the quirkiness that this one seems to offer.

Murder is trending. Hipsters are getting slashed to pieces in the hippest neighborhood in New York: Williamsburg, Brooklyn. While Detectives Petrosino and Hadid hound local gangbangers, slacker reporter Tony Moran and his ex Magaly Fernandez get caught up in a missing person’s case—one that might just get them hacked to death.

Filled with a cast of colorful characters and told with sardonic wit, this fast-moving, intricately plotted novel plays out against a backdrop of rapid gentrification, skyrocketing rents, and class tension. New Yorkers and anyone fascinated with the city will love the story’s details, written like only a true native could. Entertaining to the last, this rollicking debut is sure to make Richie Narvaez a rising star on the mystery scene.

Praise for HIPSTER DEATH RATTLE:

“Richie Narvaez has created something that’s been missing from recent fiction: a vivid, loving look at city living from the street view.” —Sara Paretsky, award-winning author of Shell Game



Owen Laukkanen - Deception Cove (2019) - Net Galley ARC
Another author I have yet to try, though I have about four of his books sat on the device. I can't say that the comparison to either Box or Baldacci swayed me in regards to reading this one. I have yet to read anything from those two.

From the acclaimed author of the Gale Force comes a compelling new thriller for fans of CJ Box and David Baldacci.

Jess Winslow is a former US Marine struggling to adjust to civilian life after the horrors of Afghanistan. All she has in the world is her black and white pitbull mix, Lucy.

Mason Burke trained Lucy for the service animal program while serving fifteen years in prison. Lucy helped keep him sane; now he'll stop at nothing to keep her safe.

So when a corrupt deputy sheriff takes Lucy hostage over a package Jess's late husband allegedly stole, newly-released Mason promises to help.

But saving Lucy and finding the package is only the start. Soon Mason and Jess are caught up in someone else's private war. Will they be able to trust each other and face their demons in time to save themselves?

Deception Cove is a gripping story of survival and redemption set against the beautiful and dangerous coastline of the Pacific Northwest.


Michael J. Clark - Mahoney's Camaro (2019) - Net Galley ARC

Second book from Michael J. Clark, after his debut, Clean Sweep. Hopefully I can get both of his books read this year.

Racing to find a killer before he strikes again, an unlikely investigator is haunted by an even more unlikely source in this gripping crime novel

“Clark writes well and has created some amusingly zany characters.” — Publishers Weekly on Clean Sweep

It’s the summer of 1985 and mechanic Steve Mahoney is dreaming big about owning his own shop. He’s getting there as slowly as possible, working one night shift at a time for a local towing company. One night, called to retrieve a car from the murky Red River, Mahoney finds the replacement body to his prized but damaged ’67 Camaro. There’s also a body inside the car, handcuffed to the steering wheel. Mahoney’s able to snap the Camaro up cheap at a salvage auction, but once he’s restored the car to its former glory, he discovers that its last driver is standard spectral equipment on his new ride, and she’s not leaving until she finds out who sent her to a watery grave.


Mahoney’s Camaro is a gritty, fast-paced crime novel that will appeal to fans of Ron Corbett and Stuart MacBride. Combining expertise in the automotive world and a passion for storytelling, Michael J. Clark delivers an action-packed joyride that will grip you until the last page.

Tuesday 26 March 2019

2 BY SOPHIE HÉNAFF

Two from Sophie Hénaff a French author that I know nothing about, other than she's written a couple of books that I quite like the look of.























Google books offers a bit of info on her.......

Sophie Hénaff is a journalist, author, and former Lyonnaise bar owner. She began her journalism career as a critic at Lyon Poche, before moving to Paris to write for Cosmopolitan, where she established her own humorous column, "La Cosmolite." The Awkward Squad was first published as Poulets grillés in 2015, and is her first novel.



Both books have mostly positive reviews over on Amazon and I'm forever berating myself about not reading enough female authors. Can't recall the last French crime fiction I read either, so two birds dead with the one stone.




The Awkward Squad (2017)

Officer Anne Capestan's team of misfits will have to work together to investigate a decades-old unsolved murder . . . and in the process uncover a trail of corruption that leads to the top of the Paris police force.

"Marvelous . . . An absorbing, sometimes laugh-out-loud mystery." --New York Journal of Book

"A delightful creation." --The Times

"Quirky and interesting . . . Much to savor." --Library Journal

Was the old lady murdered seven years ago really just the victim of a botched robbery? Who was behind the dead sailor discovered in the Seine with three gunshot wounds? And why does there seem to be a curious link with a ferry that was shipwrecked off the Florida coast many years previously?

Suspended from her job as a promising police officer for firing "one bullet too many," Anne Capestan is expecting the worst when she is summoned to HQ to learn her fate. Instead, she is told that she will head up a new police squad, working on solving long-abandoned cold cases.

Though relieved to still have a job, Capestan is not overjoyed by the prospect of her new role--and even less so when she meets her new team: a crowd of misfits, troublemakers, and problem cases, none of whom are fit for purpose and yet none of whom can be fired.

Stick Together (2018)

Officer Anne Capestan and her squad of misfits must turn their attention to a more personal case--the murder of Capestan's ex-husband's father, a lifelong member of the Paris police force who had no shortage of enemies.

After their successful solving of three cold cases and exposing corruption at the very highest levels of the Paris police force, Officer Anne Capestan's team of oddballs and no-hopers should be in a celebratory mood. However, now despised by their colleagues at 36, quai des Orfevres and worried for their future, morale has never been lower among the members of the Awkward Squad.

Capestan is doing her best to motivate the team, but even she cannot maintain a cheerful facade when she has been assigned to investigate the murder of Officer Serge Rufus, the father of her ex-husband. Worse, it soon appears that his murder is linked to two other victims, both of whom were warned by the killer before they struck.

Can Capestan marshal the forces to solve another hopeless mystery, or will her team's previous success be proven just a fluke?

*Sam Gordon is the translator for both novels.

Monday 25 March 2019

BILL JAMES - HITMEN I HAVE KNOWN (2019)


Synopsis/blurb.....

Assistant Chief Constable Iles finds himself suspected of murder in the fast-paced 35th installment of the popular Harpur and Iles police procedural series.

Tensions in the community are mounting following the gruesome deaths of two men, both of whom were accused yet acquitted of the murder of an undercover police officer. It looks like vigilante justice, but who is responsible? Alarmingly, suspicion falls on Assistant Chief Constable Iles.

Matters escalate when a TV show investigating the murders is aired, further implicating Iles. Iles seems at ease with the accusations, as are his superiors in the police force. But others are not feeling so secure.

Local crime bosses Ralph Ember and Mansel Shale fear reprisals against Iles will result in their own businesses suffering. And so they begin to plan how to remove potential troublemakers from their path . . .

I'm pretty sure I have read the first in this series a fair few years ago and at one time I harboured delusions of reading the whole series, probably when he was on about number 20, maybe 15 years ago. Since then at a pace of about one a year, this 90 year old author (or thereabouts) has sped further away from me.

Here we have our long-running double act, Harpur and Iles pondering an upcoming TV documentary-cum-dramatisation where a thinly veiled accusation of murder will be aimed at Iles.

Our book concerns the fall-out from that and the effect it has on Harpur; his daughter's - one of whom, Hazel seems to have an infatuation with ACC Iles, which may have been inappropriately reciprocated at one time; Iles's pregnant wife, Sarah - who Harpur had an affair with previously and also a couple of local villains who's day to day activities are tolerated by Iles in a tacit policy of laissez-faire, Iles's overview being - better the devil you know in respect of criminality in the community.   

I took a while to warm to the book, mainly because of the author's narrative style which is fairly distinctive and instantly recognisable - it is if you've read him before of course. I wouldn't say he talks in riddles, but he demands that you pay careful attention to his words.

There's a fair bit of humour in the book and I get the impression the author had some fun writing it. At one point, Harpur meets a confidential informant at a secluded location and almost gets more than information. The back door of their car opens and a hopeful, randy stranger hops in full of anticipation for the three way tryst that is sure to follow. The fellow departs, nursing hurt feelings and wounded pride before getting reinvigorated by the stranger who drops into his own car.

There's some fun with the villains too. One of whom, Mansel Shale is rather rashly contemplating shooting the TV crew as a means of removing the threat to Iles. The other, Ralph Ember a nightclub owner and more, fancies himself as a Charlton Heston lookalike, back from the days when Charlton was a good looking chap (and not overly obsessed with polishing his gun collection). Self-obsessed and vain, Ralph lives in a cocoon, imagining that everyone he meets has the same regard and high opinion of him, that he holds for himself. He is slightly more rational than Shale, but it's a close run thing.

Family conferences, nightclub visits, Bastille Day, a TV programme, bad publicity, Home Office concern and involvement, a dead undercover officer, two dead acquitted suspects,a shooting, a garroting, an agitating brother, a nightclub riot, a concerned wife, some anxious villains, Charlton Heston, a concocted plan, a temporarily missing daughter, a trip to London, a decorating contract, a surveillance operation, an unexpected occurrence and a return to normality.   

Once I got into this, I really enjoyed it. There's an ambiguity about the conclusion that worked well for me, a sort of did he, didn't he that's unresolved. It's not something I usually enjoy but here it makes sense.

I liked the participants, the premise, the humour and the pace. I really need to cut down on the new books and concentrate on reading more from the existing stockpile, including Bill James. Maybe I'll get a couple of these read before number 36 drops.

4.5 from 5

Noose, a standalone from Bill James was enjoyed back in September, 2013. I hadn't realised it was quite so long since I read him.

Read - March, 2019
Published - 2019
Page count - 188
Source - Net Galley, courtesy of Severn House publisher
Format - ePub read on laptop

Saturday 23 March 2019

DAVID SWINSON - THE SECOND GIRL (2016)


Synopsis/blurb.....

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

One of the best crime novels of 2016! - The New York Times Book Review, Booklist

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.

The Second Girl is the first in a three book series from David Swinson with ex-cop Frank Marr.  I've already cracked the spine on the second in the series, Crime Song, not too long after finishing this one.

Harsh, brutal, gripping, compelling and harrowing would be appropriate descriptions for the contents of these pages, but that would be underselling what is a fantastic book.

Our main character, Frank Marr was drummed off the force after his drug habit was discovered by his bosses. However he was allowed to retire rather than leave in a wave of bad publicity. A public and shameful departure might open up a raft of appeal opportunities for the criminals Frank spend his career putting away. His old boss hates him and has a hard-on for him. A couple of ex-colleagues are still regarded as friends and sources of information and are oblivious to Frank's cocaine and pill addiction. There's no family in the picture and he makes his living working investigations for another ex-cop turned defence attorney, Leslie. Leslie is a friend - sometimes with benefits.

The story opens with Marr taking down a drug gang stash house in order to boost his own pharmaceutical supplies. After some surveillance, he's pretty sure all the boys are out dealing. What he isn't expecting is to find a young woman chained up in the bathroom, obviously a prisoner, extremely frightened and very reluctant to leave with him. Complications arise when one of the boys returns for a re-up. We soon discover that Frank isn't someone to be messed with.

One good deed, turns to a pain in the ass. Frank gets involved albeit reluctantly in looking for another girl who was a peripheral contact of the first girl he rescued - same school. The family are desperate, the police have no answers and against his better instincts Frank has a look.

Lots to like about this one. Marr is a pretty good investigator and where the police have their rules and regulations in respect of searches and interrogation methods, Frank has a helluva lot more leeway. He's very capable and I do like his style. When questioning the missing girl's friends he can be tactful in front of the parents, but not averse to applying some subtle pressure to get them to break ranks. When questioning some players involved in the operation of the drug dealing and turning nice girls into addicts and prostitutes, well there's a remote river not too far from the city where he can always dump the body if he doesn't get the information he wants.

Interesting seeing a functioning addict in action. He believes he has his addiction under control and for the most part you believe him. He is cautious when using, washes his hands, checks his face for tell-tale signs, but does sometimes need a bump at the most inopportune moments. He maintains his secrets here, but I'm keen to see how the facade plays out in future books.

Great investigation, lots going on with our main character on and off the case,  interesting interactions between Frank and the police and Frank and the low-lives, hard topics explored - teenage prostitution, trafficking, drug dealing, some police corruption and a tense race to find answers and save the second girl.

I think I'm going to enjoy the rest of this series.


4.5 from 5

David Swinson's second and third Frank Marr books are Crime Song and Trigger. He has an earlier novel - A Detailed Man - also published.

Read - March, 2019
Published - 2016
Page count - 368
Source - owned copy
Format - paperback

Thursday 21 March 2019

PAUL D. BRAZILL - LAST YEAR'S MAN (2018)




Synopsis/blurb......

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 

Another one from Paul D. Brazill that does exactly what it says on the tin, delivering humour, one-liners, cultural references, violence, characters and story.

Tommy is a hitman based in London, but he's starting to feel his age - a weakening bladder, eczema and the usual aches and pains familiar to anyone approaching sixty.

A job goes down, soon followed by another, but Tommy might be getting a bit sloppy in his old age. He's recorded, planting a device which killed a policeman among others. A couple of dodgy cops with the evidence, now want Tommy to come and work for them. A short, brutal negotiation later and our man, decides it might be time to depart the smoke and seek out a quieter life.

Home to Seatown, up North and before too long, any thoughts of retirement are soon banished as our man finds his not so secret talents are still in demand with the some old acquaintances from his past.

Brian Ferry, PIL, music journalists, executions, explosions,  Sapporo beer, Gloria bloody Gaynor, a train journey, a death in a pub toilet, family re-unions, kebabs and instant coffee, a missing Catholic priest, fry-ups, pervert teachers, bent cops, a bingo loving mother, a town in decline, a fat man in a blue bunny rabbit costume, a discussion about the merits or otherwise of Julian Cope and more..... lots to ponder and enjoy while savouring a not so nostalgic homecoming for our anti-hero.

"......getting old may have its faults but it beats the alternative." 

4.5 from 5


Paul D. Brazill's has been enjoyed many times before. The good news is there is still more on the TBR pile from him.

Read - March, 2019
Published - 2018
Page count - 136
Source - review copy from publisher - All Due Respect (cheers Chris)
Format - paperback

Wednesday 20 March 2019

FEBRUARY 2019 - READING LIST AND PICK OF THE MONTH

A decent month's reading in February - 14 books, mostly enjoyed -  two less so - with one okay, the other a bit like swimming through treacle - but hey they can't all be winners.

No stand-out 5 STAR READ as such, but 5 pushing the boundaries at 4.5 STARS - Alan Parks and February's Son, Matt Bird's short story collection - Histories of the Dead and other stories, Sydney Noir - an impressive entry, in the continuing Akashic Noir series edited by John Dale, Lawrence Block's Matt Scudder novella - A Time to Scatter Stones and Trevor Mark Thomas's impressive debut The Bothy 


Pick of the month!



BOOK OF THE MONTH  - THE BOTHY by TREVOR MARK THOMAS - on the basis that it's what I would select first for a re-read.

4 STAR READS - six in total - Deon Meyer - The Woman in the Blue Cloak, David Putnam - The Reckless, James Ross - They Don't Dance Much, Sam Wiebe - Hollywood North and two from David Beckler - Forgred in Flames and The Money Trap  

3.5 STAR READ - 1 of - Ersatz World by Richard Godwin

3 STAR READ - 1 of - Joel Mowdy - Floyd Harbour Stories

2 STAR READ - 1 of - John Mulligan and Shopping Cart soldiers

I spent time in the company of.......

a couple of Cape Town cops investigating a murder because of a newly discovered Dutch masterpiece

the inhabitants of a fictitious Long Island community

a homeless PTSD Vietnam vet in San Francisco with flashbacks to his combat past

a Glaswegian detective in the 70s investigating the killing of a Celtic player and more

an LA cop and the FBI chasing some juvie bank robbers

a paranoid publisher with an unwell wife and a busty assistant

the luckless and the criminal in a small Welsh town

a Manchester fireman and a woman in jeopardy

a down on his luck cashier and an accessory to murder

a variety of Sydney inhabitants involved in ..... criminality, drugs, sex - gay, vanilla and underage, pornography, pregnancy, childbirth, blackmail, murder, ambition, prison, family loyalty, family betrayal, plenty of revenge and payback

an ex-army man turned security specialist battling financial ruin

a Vancouver PI investigating a death

an older Matt Scudder helping a friend

and a grief-stricken boyfriend, on the run seeking sanctuary in the wrong place

Settings...... Cape Town - South Africa; Long Island - New York; Scotland, Vietnam and San Francisco; Glasgow - Scotland; LA - California; London; Wales; Manchester; North Carolina; Sydney - Australia, London again; Vancouver - Canada; New York and the wilds of the Yorkshire moors.

The full list of 14 are as follows.....

Deon Meyer - The Woman in the Blue Cloak (2018) (4)

Joel Mowdy - Floyd Harbor Stories (2019) (3)

John Sullivan - Shopping Cart Soldiers (1998) (2)

Alan Parks - February's Son (2019) (4.5)

David Putnam - The Reckless (2019) (4)

Richard Godwin - Ersatz World (2016) (3.5)

Math Bird - Histories of the Dead and other stories (2016) (4.5)

David Beckler - Forged in Flames (2018) (4)

James Ross - They Don't Dance Much (1940) (4)

John Dale (ed.) - Sydney Noir (Akashic Noir Series) (2019) (4.5)

David Beckler - The Money Trap (2019) (4)

Sam Wiebe - Hollywood North (2018) (4)

Lawrence Block - A Time to Scatter Stones (2019) (4.5)

Trevor Mark Thomas - The Bothy (2019) (4.5)



If you're not asleep yet - anal analysis for my own amusement - read on if you're an insomniac ......

New to me authors in the month -  6, maybe 7 in total - Joel Mowdy, John Mulligan, Richard Godwin, Math Bird, David Beckler, Trevor Mark Thomas and perhaps James Ross. I think I might have read They Don't Dance Much before, but blowed if I could remember anything about it on a second outing, so maybe false memory.

I have more on the pile to read from Beckler, Bird and Godwin

Authors enjoyed before - 5 - Deon Meyer, Sam Wiebe, Alan Parks, David Putnam, Lawrence Block, 

There's more on the TBR pile from Deon Meyer, Lawrence Block and David Putnam

13 reads from 12 different authors. David Beckler was read twice.

One book was an anthology of short stories from a selection of Australian writers, some new to me, some familiar

7 were sort of series books - David Beckler's two novellas featured Mason and Sterling - a double act that feature in his novel Brotherhood; Lawrence Block's Matt Scudder is one of the author's most popular creations featuring in about 17 or 18 novels and more, Sam Wiebe's Dave Wakeland PI character has appeared in a couple of novels, Benny Griessel from Deon Meyer is a recurring character in his books, Alan Parks has written two so far in his Detective Harry McCoy series and David Putnam's Bruno Johnson has featured in six books to date

Gender analysis - 0 female authors, 12 male plus 1 mixed gender anthology.
Another poor attempt at diversity in my reading.

Of the 12 authors read, 4 hailed from the US, 2 from England, 2 from Scotland, 1 from Canada, 1 from South Africa, 1 from Wales, 1 originally from Ethiopia brought up in England. The Sydney crime anthology featured mostly if not all Australian authors.

All 18 of the reads were fiction,

12 of the books were published this century and all this decade.
7 from 2019, 3 from 2018, 2 from 2016

1 book was from 1940, 1 book from 1998

Only 1 came from the man-cave blue tub stash in my garage.

Publishers - First Grove, Atlantic - Catapult - Scribner - Canongate - Oceanview - Number 13 Press (now F13) - All Due Respect Books - Long Stop Books (x2) - Salt Publishing - Harrar  - Akashic - Quercus and LB Productions. (I think a couple of the presses above disguise the fact they they are the authors own output, not that it makes a difference to me.)

3 of the 14 reads were pre-owned,

5 came from the author directly - cheers to David Putnam, David Beckler (twice) Sam Wiebe and Lawrence Block

3 were accessed at Edelweiss - Above the Treeline early reviewer site,

3 were received from the publisher - thanks to Canongate, Salt Publishing and Number 13 Press

Favourite cover? Alan Park - February's Son


 Second favourite cover - James Ross - They Don't Dance Much



My reads were this long 160 - 252 - 256 - 368 - 324 - 127 - 138 - 91 - 304 - 250 - 138 - 38 - 93 - 256

Total page count = 2795 (3949 in January) ....... an decrease of  1154 pages

1 was a  Kindle reads, 7 were ePub files read on the laptop,  6 were paperbacks,

1 < 50,
2 between 51 < 100,
4 between 101 < 200,
4 between 201 < 300,
3 between 301 < 400,
0 > 400 pages

Alan Parks with February's Son was the longest read at 368 pages

Sam Wiebe and Hollywood North was the shortest at 38 pages long.


Tuesday 19 March 2019

2 BY MARK PRYOR

A couple from English author Mark Pryor, both with a Paris setting.























Both books are from Pryor's Hugo Marston series, a series that I've read and enjoyed the first four from. Marston is part of the security detail at the American Embassy in Paris.
Thoughts on the first few I've read below.

1. The Bookseller (2012)
2. The Crypt Thief (2013)
3. The Blood Promise (2014)
4. The Button Man (2014)


The Reluctant Matador (2015) is the fifth in the series, with these two the sixth and seventh. There's another one out which was published earlier this year - The Book Artist (2019). 


He has also penned a couple of novels - The Hollow Man (2015) and Dominic (2018) - about a psychopathic prosecutor which are set in Texas where Pryor resides and works as an ADA. Hopefully the books aren't autobiographical!  


The Paris Librarian (2016)


Hugo Marston's friend Paul Rogers dies unexpectedly in a locked room at the American Library in Paris. The police conclude that Rogers died of natural causes, but Hugo is certain mischief is afoot. As he pokes around the library, Hugo discovers that rumors are swirling around some recently donated letters from American actress Isabelle Severin. The reason: they may indicate that the actress had aided the Resistance in frequent trips to France toward the end of World War II. Even more dramatic is the legend that the Severin collection also contains a dagger, one she used to kill an SS officer in 1944. Hugo delves deeper into the stacks at the American library and finally realizes that the history of this case isn't what anyone suspected. But to prove he's right, Hugo must return to the scene of a decades-old crime. 





The Sorbonne Affair (2017)


Someone is spying on American author Helen Hancock. While in Paris to conduct research and teach a small class of writers, she discovers a spy camera hidden in her room at the Sorbonne Hotel. She notifies the US Embassy, and former FBI profiler Hugo Marston is dispatched to investigate. Almost immediately, the stakes are raised from surveillance to murder when the hotel employee who appears to be responsible for bugging Hancock's suite is found dead. The next day, a salacious video clip explodes across the Internet, showing the author in the embrace of one of her writing students - both are naked, and nothing is left to the imagination. As more bodies pile up, the list of suspects narrows; but everyone at the Sorbonne Hotel has something to hide, and no one is being fully honest with Hugo. He teams up with Lieutenant Camille Lerens to solve the case, but a close call on the streets of Paris proves that he could be the killer's next target.

Sunday 17 March 2019

MARK BRANDI - INTO THE RIVER (2019)


Synopsis/blurb......

WINNER OF THE CRIME WRITERS' ASSOCIATION DEBUT DAGGER

WINNER OF THE 2018 INDIE DEBUT FICTION AWARD

SHORTLISTED FOR LITERARY FICTION BOOK OF THE YEAR, ABIA AWARDS 2018

SHORTLISTED FOR THE MATT RICHELL AWARD FOR NEW WRITER OF THE YEAR, ABIA AWARDS 2018

SHORTLISTED FOR THE NED KELLY AWARD FOR BEST FIRST FICTION 2018

Growing up in a small country town, Ben and Fab spend their days playing cricket, wanting a pair of Nike Air Maxes and not talking about how Fab's dad hits him, or how the sudden death of Ben's next-door neighbour unsettled him. Almost teenagers, they already know some things are better left unsaid.

Then a newcomer arrived. Fab reckoned he was a secret agent and he and Ben staked him out. He looked strong. Maybe even stronger than Fab's dad. Neither realised the shadow this man would cast over both their lives.

Twenty years later, Fab is going nowhere but hoping for somewhere better. Then a body is found in the river, and Fab can't ignore the past any more.

An extremely enjoyable read concerning two boys growing up together, their childhood friendship, their loyalty to each other and the consequences that has for both later in life.

Fab and Ben are best friends. They are on the threshold of puberty, interested in girls and breasts while fretting about the changes in their own bodies and the size of their parts. But there's an innocence about them, they play cricket together, they fish and they have the same enemies at school. Invariably Ben fights the bullies at school, the ones picking on Fab because of his look, his heritage, his unfashionable clothes and out of date trainers. He gets his lumps at school and more from his father at home.

A death of a teenage girl - a casual friend - a few doors down the road from Ben, troubles them both and brings a stranger to the neighbourhood, Ronnie. Ronnie rents the property after the girl's family moved out. Ronnie befriends Ben's family and soon has him doing odd jobs for pocket money - mowing the grass, tidying the shed.

Time spent in Ronnie's company, reveals to us what an odd-bird he is...... the porn mag he gave to Ben, the invitation to take his top off if he was hot, the hand on the cheek and the shoulder rub, the conversation about the magazine and Ben's reaction to it, the temper of display on a fishing trip .... troubling for this reader with alarm bells ringing loudly, concerning and unsettling for Ben, without him understanding why. 

Fast forward a bit....... Ben wearing two hundred dollar trainers, and a bit of distance between the two boys - both physically and emotionally.

The story unfolds in a non-linear way which I really liked. We open in present day, where a couple of youngsters have discovered something dumped in the river. We then have the tale of Ben and Fab's friendship and life in their small town. We catch up with the pair at a party long after their school days are done and they've gone their separate ways. And we spend time with Fab, in present day, drifting through life, unsettled making plans for a move to the city and hoping that the spark he shares with the local barmaid is strong enough for her to leave her loveless marriage and join him. Our river giving up its secrets may just put his plans on hold.

There's some difficult subject matter in the book, which is uncomfortable though thankfully never explored explicitly. There are some powerful themes throughout - friendship, love, loyalty, family, race, curiosity about the adult world, adolescence, innocence and the loss of it, drift, a lack of ambition and direction, the shadows that the past cast over the present and ultimately an inability to escape that history.

Powerful, sad and affecting.

4.5 from 5

Into the River is Mark Brandi's debut novel which was initially published as Wimmera in Australia a year or two ago. I look forward to hopefully reading his second book - The Rip - when it drops in the UK.

Read - March, 2019
Published - 2019 (previously as Wimmera in 2017)
Page count - 184
Source - Net Galley courtesy of UK published Legend Press
Format - ePub read on laptop





HAPPY ST PATRICK'S DAY - CELEBRATE WITH SOME IRISH CRIME FICTION

In celebration of St Patrick's day, you could do worse than pick up an Irish crime novel.

Here's a few intriguing ones still sitting on the TBR pile......

Pat Fitzpatrick, Kevin Power, Gene Kerrigan, Maggie Gibson, David Pearson and Paul Fitzsimons

Pat Fitzpatrick - Keep Away From Those Ferraris (2014)

Synopsis/blurb.....

Reporter Noel Byrne is about to die. Two snipers hold him in their crosshairs as he delivers his live report from the HQ of HiberBank in central Dublin. His first problem is they will kill him if he doesn't say exactly what they want him to say. His second problem? They both want him to say different things. Keep Away from Those Ferraris is the hilarious story of a country in collapse. A vicious gang of bankers and minor celebrities is desperately trying to salvage one last pay day from the wreckage of the Irish economy. Only Byrne can help them. Only Byrne can stop them. Follow him in and out of madcap scrapes across the boardrooms, bedrooms and bars of Celtic Tiger Dublin. And remember the golden rule when billions are at stake - you trust, you lose.



Paul Fitzsimons - Burning Matches (2018)

Synopsis/blurb.....

Detective Kieran Temple is woken by a 4am phone call. Not unusual, except that this call is from his ex-partner, Mia Burrows. And she’s just killed her boyfriend.

As Temple is compelled to investigate the death, he must do so behind the backs of his superiors and his wife. All evidence supports Mia’s claims, that she was defending herself against a maniac. But as he delves deeper, Temple learns of a complex and dysfunctional relationship, one that’s been manipulated from the start.


While carrying out this unsanctioned and disturbing investigation, Temple’s renewed contact with Mia also forces old feelings to resurface, feelings that once nearly cost him his marriage and his career. And with his gut telling him that Mia’s boyfriend was not the brute he’s being made out to be, Temple is determined to get answers while everyone – including Mia herself – just want it left alone.



David Pearson - Murder on the Old Bog Road (2018)

Synopsis/blurb.....

A woman is found dead in a ditch. As the list of suspects grows, a town’s dirty secrets are revealed. 

It’s a cold winter evening and rain is sweeping in from the Atlantic when a young woman, having braved the weather to visit her sick mother in a remote part of Ireland, comes across an obstacle in the road. She clears the highway of stones from a damaged bridge only to see the body of a woman in a ditch. With no phone reception, she travels to the nearest police station to report what she has found. 

The local Garda waste no time in attending the scene of the crime. The woman is clearly dead, but it needs proper forensics to establish if foul play was the cause. In the meantime, is it not possible that the woman driver was in fact the culprit? She is clearly not telling the whole truth.

A game of cat and mouse ensues when the inquiry is upgraded to a murder investigation. The trouble is, when the victim is recognised as a sex worker, there is no shortage of possible suspects. And few of them, if any, are willing to tell the truth to the police. It will take all of Galway detectives Hays and Lyons’ experience to cut through the web of lies and identify the killer in their midst.

MURDER ON THE OLD BOG ROAD is the first in a series of atmospheric crime fiction titles featuring Detective Inspector Mick Hays and Detective Sergeant Maureen Lyons. 

Gene Kerrigan - The Midnight Choir (2006) 

Synopsis/blurb.....

A sophisticated crime story of contemporary Ireland, The Midnight Choir teems with moral dilemmas as Dublin emerges as a city of ambiguity: a newly scrubbed face hiding a criminal culture of terrible variety. Small-time criminals have become millionaire businessmen, the poor are still struggling to survive, and the police face a world where the old rules no longer apply.



Maggie Gibson - Blah, Blah Black Sheep (2001)
Synopsis/blurb....

Journalist Drew Looney is in a rut, waiting for her job to get better - or at least for a decent story. Then, while covering a mundane deportation, she accidentally stumbles upon something far more sinister . . .

Georgina Fitz-Simons has just overcome a flourishing cocaine habit, but not soon enough to stop her falling foul of gangster Broylan Grillo.

As Drew and George are thrown together by circumstance they become increasingly mired in a dark world of drugs, slave labour, money and murder. Not to mention an inconvenient corpse, a Serbian hit man, and a retired Glam rocker. Somehow they must find a way out - but when the going gets tough . . 


Kevin Power - Bad Day in Blackrock (2008)

Synopsis/blurb....

On a late August night a young man is kicked to death outside a Dublin nightclub and celebration turns to devastation. The reverberations of that event, its genesis and aftermath, is the subject of this extraordinary story, stripping away the veneer of a generation of Celtic cubs, whose social and sexual mores are chronicled and dissected in this tract for our times. The victim, Conor Harris, his killers - three of them are charged with manslaughter - and the trial judge share common childhoods and schooling in the privileged echelons of south Dublin suburbia. The intertwining of these lives leaves their afflicted families in moral free fall as public exposure merges with private anguish and imploded futures.

Thursday 14 March 2019

LAWRENCE BLOCK - A TIME TO SCATTER STONES (2019)


Synopsis/blurb.....

MATT SCUDDER RETURNS. More than 40 years after his debut and nearly a decade since his last appearance, one of the most renowned characters in all of crime fiction is back on the case in this major new novella by Mystery Writers of America Grand Master Lawrence Block. 

Well past retirement age and feeling his years - but still staying sober one day at a time - Matthew Scudder learns that alcoholics aren't the only ones who count the days since their last slip. Matt's longtime partner, Elaine, tells him of a group of former sex workers who do something similar, helping each other stay out of the life. But when one young woman describes an abusive client who's refusing to let her quit, Elaine encourages her to get help of a different sort. The sort only Scudder can deliver. 

A Time to Scatter Stones offers not just a gripping crime story but also a richly drawn portrait of Block's most famous character as he grapples with his own mortality while proving to the younger generation that he's still got what it takes. 

For Scudder's millions of fans around the world (including the many who met the character through Liam Neeson's portrayal in the film version of A Walk Among the Tombstones), A Time to Scatter Stones is an unexpected gift - a valedictory appearance that will remind readers why Scudder is simply the best there is.

From Booklist (Starred Review)
"Block's unlicensed New York City investigator Matt Scudder debuted 40 years ago but has been absent for the last decade... Block has never been predictable, as this novella demonstrates... A superb book and a reminder to his longtime fans that this crime-fiction master hasn't lost his touch."

From Publishers Weekly  
"If brevity keeps all the usual supporting characters from returning, some nice nostalgic mentions will reassure fans that they haven't been forgotten. It's good to see Matt back in action."

This ebook edition of A Time to Scatter Stones also includes as a bonus Lawrence Block's introduction to his new Subterranean Press anthology, At Home in the Dark.

A new Scudder tale about 10 years after the last and a cause for celebration around these parts.

Humour, sex, companionship, the ageing process, on-point everyday observations, a Prostitutes Anonymous self help group - think AA for sex workers, sobriety, a threat to a friend and one more case for Matt.

Not too long, but long enough to savour and enjoy some more time spent in the company of an older, slower, slightly less sharp Scudder. It is interesting seeing Matt acknowledge his decline as he endeavours to track down the mystery client who has been threatening Elaine's friend, after she informed him of her decision to stop offering her services for sale.   

I liked the investigation, the characters introduced and encountered along the way - the sketch artist, the janitor. I enjoyed the pace of the story and the outcome for our villain and the icing on the cake -  the post-case outcome for Matt, Elaine and the friend (name escapes me).

Let's hope he makes another comeback in say another five years time.

4.5 from 5

Lawrence Block has written a zillion novels in his time, including 17 full length Scudder novels and at least half a dozen short stories featuring Matt. It's a series I intend to return to. My reading thus far has stalled at about the sixth entry.

Read - February, 2019
Published - 2019
Page count - 93
Source - review copy from author
Format - ePub file read on laptop