Sunday 30 June 2019



Jackson Sharp is a former guitar player fresh out of the Oklahoma State Penitentiary. He's on a mission to settle the score with his dead beat dad, but needs to collect some cash from his younger brother and former bandmate, Jamie. He finds Jamie at his struggling Tulsa record shop, but the cash is long gone. Jamie offers up a heist instead—steal a rare copy of a pre-Beatles 45 from a wealthy collector in Memphis. The road trip that follows is the violent family/band reunion that Jackson never wanted.

My second outing with S.W. Lauden's work after Crosswise was enjoyed a couple of years ago. This time around it's an offering that's shorter and faster  - a 78 versus an old LP - and one I found more enjoyable.

An ex-con, one with a plan for revenge burning bright in his belly, a fractured family, music, sour memories, shared history, a band, guitar playing, a break-up, a jail sentence, ill-gotten gains, a reluctant road trip, a plan for a power pop heist, a gig, a meeting with old friends, an obsessed collector, a bungled robbery, a reunion gig, a comeback in the offing and a reconciliation along with some peace.

A fast-pace to this one, 70-odd pages, so a one-sitting read. An ex-con and a heist - my cup of tea. Plenty of music as a back-drop - some bands and titles I was familiar with, others less so. The heist centres around a rare Beatles record.

There's also a delving into the world of obsessive collecting and the kind of madness it inspires. Reminded me of me and my books, to a slightly lesser degree.

There's also plenty about family and resentment and upset and fractures, with a resolution involving forgiveness, understanding and a willingness to let the bitterness go. Sage advice wrapped up in some solid reading.

4 from 5

I'll have to bump Lauden's Crossed Bones up the TBR pile.

Read - June, 2019
Published - 2019
Page count - 74
Source - Kindle Unlimited
Format - kindle

Saturday 29 June 2019



It’s just dinner. …

That’s what former lovers, Jackie and Hunter, tell themselves as they take a trip down memory lane. Unfortunately, no amount of time can erase their mistrust of each other. As the meal progresses, their suspicions about the other’s intentions grow to alarming heights. One believes the other is there to murder them. The other can’t wait for their former lover to try.

Have they made a deal with the devil or will their rocky history prove to be a thing of the past?

Separate Checks is the new short story by Mike McCrary. If you like pulp thrillers, dark humor, and wickedly entertaining antiheroes, then you’ll love Mike McCrary’s fast, fun story.

A bit more to my liking than the other short Mike McCrary tale Broken that was read on the same day.

Dinner, distrust, conflict resolution, collateral damage, unfinished business.

Interesting characters, an interesting situation, there's a kind of to be continued vibe about the outcome, but it's one that worked for me.

What more can you say about a 20 minute read?

4 from 5

Genuinely Dangerous and Getting Ugly have been enjoyed from him before.

Read - June, 2019
Published - 2019
Page count - 18
Source - Kindle Unlimited
Format - kindle

Friday 28 June 2019



Two old men have played cards together every week for thirty years. Each man assumes he knows everything about the other by now. Then one reveals a terrible secret from long ago. And they both know this night will end like no other.

SHOWDOWN is a suspenseful short story from Steve Brewer, author of more than 20 crime novels, including the well-known Bubba Mabry mystery series.

The fifth and last of the Steve Brewer short stories available on Amazon and another 10 - 15 minutes of fun and another bump to the reading stats.

Two men, old friends re-enacting the same weekly ritual that they've been performing for thirty years. Tonight ends differently......

Cards, beer drinking, maybe one or two too many, loose lips - sinking ships, confession good for the soul but not too good for camaraderie, exposed secrets, horror, grief, family history, wives, cheating, arrogance, disrespect, stored resentment, some pre-planning, a gun in a drawer, a few home truths, shifting dynamics - an outcome which ensures our host is going to have to find himself a new drinking and card buddy.

I do appreciate the skill involved in constructing a short story where there's little time to fully develop the characters or plot and get them from A to Z while having the reader interested in the outcome. Steve Brewer possesses that guile in abundance.

4 from 5

Read - June, 2019
Published - 2012
Page count - 11
Source - Kindle Unlimited
Format - kindle

Thursday 27 June 2019



Blinded by an accident. Blindsided by danger.
Riley thought she’d endured the worst, but the violent criminals who took so much from her are back for more.

Dead-set on inflicting as much pain as possible, they’ve set their sights on the only good thing left in her life and will stop at nothing to destroy it and destroy the person Riley thought she’d become. Now she must revisit the worst part of herself to remove the threat and protect the one person who has been there for her.

Broken is an intense short story from Mike McCrary that’ll have you begging for more.

Begging for more hey? Well not really - enjoyable enough but unlikely to remain in the memory banks for too long.

A near blind woman, Riley with her carer Albert in the claustrophobic setting of her home, Riley trying not to bond with the man, but failing. Bits of information teased from each other over the months of his visits. So far, so good until trouble comes a knocking.

Secrets, mental health issues, physical deterioration, memories, a criminal past, a bag of money, a bag of guns, some unwelcome visitors, a trusty blade and some nearly forgotten skills coming back into play, despite her disability.

Worse ways of spending 25 minutes and a decent enough reminder of the author's longer works sitting ignored on the kindle.

3 from 5

Genuinely Dangerous and Getting Ugly have been enjoyed from him before.

Read - June, 2019
Published - 2019
Page count - 20
Source - Kindle Unlimited
Format - kindle



Whether it's working at his cousin's funeral home or tossing around the local riff raff at his favorite bar, Nathan Waymaker is a man who knows how to handle the bodies. 

A former Marine and Sheriff's deputy, Nathan has built a reputation in his small Southern town as a man who can help when all other avenues have been exhausted. 

When a local minister with grandiose ambitions is found dead, Nathan is approached by his parishioners who feel the local police are dragging their feet with the investigation. What starts out as an easy payday soon descends into a maze of mayhem filled with wannabe gangsters, vicious crime lords, porn stars, crooked police officers and a particularly treacherous preacher and his mysterious wife. Nathan must use all his varied skills and some of his wit to navigate the murky waters of small town corruption even as dark secrets of his own threaten to come to the surface.

A cracking debut novel from S.A. Cosby featuring an intriguing main character, Nathan Waymaker investigating the death of a local preacher.

Funeral home setting, Queen County, Virginia, family business, a dead minister with a dodgy background, an estranged porn-star daughter, an ex-cop, ex-military, pall bearer investigator, with a sad family history - coping with the loss of parents and major issues with the corrupt small town PD - one he was once a part of - which allowed the rich harbinger of death to skate, anger management problems, violence, off-the-books burials, a trusted friend with a deadly skill-set, bar brawls, gangsters, skimming and money laundering, bible-study classes - nudge nudge wink wink, hot sex, threats, blackmail, intimidation, more death, kidnap, hotter sex and plenty more including answers to the initial mystery.

I enjoyed time in the company of Nathan. He has a lot of admirable traits..... loyalty, intelligence, determination and bravery with a refusal to be intimated or cowed by threats against him. There's a hot headed-ness about him, which sometimes clouds his judgement but makes for a voyeuristic entertainment and ensures that time spent in his company is never dull; regardless of  whether he's having banter with his cousin and boss, drinking in a bar, flirting with a waitress, having bedroom time with the not so choked up bereaved daughter of the dead minster or storming into the police station. There's an undercurrent of danger and barely suppressed violence that clings to him like a shadow. He's definitely a man you would want on your side.

There's a decent mystery at the heart of the book, which is resolved. In addition we get more detail on Waymaker's past and discover some of his secrets. In turn he gets confirmation regarding his suspicions into the aftermath of his parent's death.

I'm hoping that Cosby has plans afoot for further Nathan Waymaker books.

Character, pace, action, setting - all in abundance.

4.5 from 5   

Read - June, 2019
Published - 2019
Page count - 222
Source - purchased copy
Format - paperback

Tuesday 25 June 2019



A close knit group of suburban housewives lose one of their own in a freak accident. Their attempts to prolong her loss result in hilarious but troubling results. And as always, the cat wins.

Shoshana Edwards is a new-to-me author, one I have never heard of before. This one popped up on my radar when a Goodreads friend added it to his TBR pile. As far as I can tell it's her only published piece and I'm glad I checked it out.

Maybe a bit on the cosy side of the genre with our main characters a group of five ageing ladies, ones with their bonds and loyalties closer to each other than their families. One of the gang perishes in an accident and rather foolishly the girls conceal the death and preserve her for one last outing, before saying goodbye. Things go to plan until they don't.

I really enjoyed this one, there's a smart twist at the end. One of the gang is the leader and we are privy to events from her perspective and we get her take on her friends, their faults and failings and her verdict on their relationships, as well as her own disappointments and frustrations with her own husband and children.

An enjoyable twenty minute read and another new author for me to keep tabs on, though it has been six years since this one first appeared.

4 from 5

Read - June, 2019
Published - 2013
Page count - 14
Source - Kindle Unlimited
Format - kindle

Monday 24 June 2019


A couple from Tony Hillerman and his long-running detective series featuring Jim Chee and Joe Longhorn.

I first encountered Hillerman's work in the late 80s/early 90s and was intrigued by the back drop of Native American Navajo culture and the Arizona setting. Sad to say I haven't picked one of Hillerman's books up for a long time.

Hillerman commenced the series with The Blessing Way published in 1970. The eighteenth book was The Shape Shifter which dropped in 2006, two years before the author's death at the age of 83.

His daughter Anne has continued with the series, contributing five further books.

Talking God (1989)

A toothless corpse dumped in the Arizona desert and a museum curator's dangerous obsession with his roots make two seemingly separate cases for detectives Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn. But as they follow the different trails, they are reluctantly drawn together into a lethal web of international crime and cultural apartheid. For tribal magic, earthed in New Mexico, connects the two and begins to shed light on a rich stew of greed, murder, assassination plots and South American terrorism...

"An original crime story ... a classy and intelligent read" Time Out

Skeleton Man (2004)

Former Navajo Tribal Police Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn comes out of retirement to help investigate what seems to be a trading post robbery. The simpleminded boy nailed for the crime needs help, and Chee and his fiancee, Bernie Manuelito, decide to provide it.

The key to proving the boy's innocence lies in a horrific airline disaster that occurred fifty years ago. Amongst the cliffs of the Grand Canyon lie the remains of a passenger who had handcuffed to his wrist an attache case filled with a fortune in diamonds - one of which has turned up in the robbery.

But with Hillerman it's never that simple. More people are searching for the body, and some are willing to kill to lay their hands upon the precious cache. Culminating deep in the canyon during a thunderous monsoon, it's a race to the finish to see who will survive, who will be brought to justice and who will finally unearth the Skeleton Man.



Frank Marr was a good cop, until his burgeoning addictions to alcohol and cocaine forced him into retirement from the DC Metro police. Now, he's barely eking out a living as a private investigator for a defense attorney - also Frank's ex-girlfriend.

Ostracized by his family after a botched case that led to the death of his baby cousin, Jeffrey, Frank was on a collision course with rock bottom. Now clean and clinging hard to sobriety, Frank passes the time - and tests himself - by robbing the houses of local dealers, taking their cash and flushing their drugs down the toilet. When an old friend from his police days needs Frank's help to prove he didn't shoot an unarmed civilian, Frank is drawn back into the world of dirty cops and suspicious drug busts, running in the same circles that enabled his addiction those years ago.

Never one to play by the rules, Frank recruits a young man he nearly executed years before. Together - a good man trying not to go bad and a bad man trying to do good - detective and criminal charge headfirst into the DC drug wars. Neither may make it out.

Trigger is the third and possibly the last in the Frank Marr series, featuring the drug addicted ex-cop, turned PI. I'm kind of hoping it isn't because I've enjoyed all three in the series.

Marr here is trying to turn his life around. He's off the drugs, but still flirts with temptation by robbing drug dealers for cash, to supplement his income. The thing he had with Leslie - friend and sometime employer - is over, but at least she's talking to him now. His only friends, loose ones at that are those he made when working as a cop. He's pretty much on his own.

Our tale here concerns itself with Frank trying to help his ex-partner Al. Al has been suspended and is under investigation for the shooting of an unarmed black teenager, resulting in his death. Al swears the kid was armed, the evidence or lack of it seems to indicate otherwise.

Marr conducts his own investigation into the shooting, tracking down reluctant witnesses, interrogating Al and dealing with his confidential informant, who he was meeting with immediately before the teenager was killed. Along the way he forms an unlikely alliance with a character encountered in the first book.

I like the way Marr works, unbound by the constraints of normal police rules and regulations. He's not above breaking the law, using physical threats or intimidating tactics to bring him closer to the truth. I enjoyed the look at the seedy side of DC, the drug gangs, the low level dealers and the way they operate. I enjoyed Marr's company on surveillance and his meetings with the police, his sharing of information and the uncovering of his ex-partner's dirty secret along the way. I like the way he tries to protect his friend by limiting what he shares.

It was interesting to see how he bonded with Calvin, his reluctant apprentice with the evolution of their relationship throughout the book. Their relationship moving from hatred and distrust, to something more solid and hopeful. There's a lot to be said for second chances and forgiveness.

I quite enjoyed seeing the investigation - mainly unofficial - into the death of a black teenager at the hands of a cop. It's a subject that has been prominent recently with the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement and the recent highlighting of shootings and deaths by the police. Here our focus is mainly from the perspective of the shooter, as opposed to from the side of the victim, but Marr (and Swinson) is even-handed in pursuit of the truth, regardless of the consequences for his friend. It does highlight the complexity of a lot of incidents...... the situation, the perceived danger, the lighting, the speed at which events unfold, the confusion, the fear, the panic, the decision-making, the instincts, the training... not everything is as simple as black and white.

Topical, interesting, relevant, entertaining, decent characters, decent pace, enjoyable setting, plenty of action, not over-long, satisfying outcome - all plusses for me.

4.5 from 5

The two earlier Frank Marr books are The Second Girl and Crime Song. Trigger can be enjoyed as a standalone, but if you're a bit OCD like me you may want to start at the beginning. I'd don't think you'll be sorry if you do.

Read - June, 2019
Published - 2019
Page count - 352
Source - initially Net Galley, courtesy of Mulholland Books, but I bought a copy after my link expired
Format - ePub read on laptop (50%), trade paperback (50%)

Sunday 23 June 2019



Steve Brewer, author of the Bubba Mabry mystery series and a dozen other crime novels, delivers a short story about love, death, adultery, revenge, pickup trucks and guns.

Rusty Milner drives to an isolated trailer in the piney woods, looking for his wife Yvonne. Everybody in town knows Yvonne has run off with Rusty's old friend Dale Britton. 

Rusty's drunk. He's got a shotgun. He's got murder on his mind.

Dive into this tale of rural noir, written by a master of the genre.

Another enjoyable tale from Brewer - 15 minutes of reading, and another bump to the stats.

A love triangle, though when Rusty comes calling with his shotgun, Dale tries to convince him that there's another player in town, who has stolen Yvonne, more like a love rectangle than triangle. A friendly discussion over a couple of beers will solve their differences......... or maybe not.

The fourth short story from Steve Brewer I've enjoyed recently. No sign of any Brewer's droop just yet. I liked it.

4 from 5

Read - June, 2019
Published - 2012
Page count - 9
Source - Kindle Unlimited
Format - kindle

Friday 21 June 2019


Canine crime connections continue.......

Bird Dog by Philip Reed, The Dogs of Riga by Henning Mankell, Yellow Dog Contract by Ross Thomas, Sick Puppy by Carl Hiaasen, Bone Dogs by Roger Alan Skipper and Sleeping Dogs by Thomas Perry

Carl Hiaasen - Sick Puppy (1998)

Carl Hiaasen has written some of the funniest mystery books I've ever read. I can't recall too much about this one which is the fourth Skink book and I'm not sure if it tops Tourist Season in belly laughs - unlikely but I reckon it's well worth a re-read - which is why I've kept my copy - someday soon

Hiaasen at his riotous and muckraking best. When eco-enthusiast Twilly Spree spots someone in a Range Rover dumping litter onto the freeway, he decides to teach him a lesson - only to discover that his target is Palmer Stoat, one of Florida's cockiest and most powerful political fixers, whose current project just happens to be the 'malling' of a Gulf Coast Island... A quick spot of dognapping later and the pathologically short-tempered Twilly finds himself embroiled in a murky world of singing toads, bogus big-game hunters, large vet bills and in the company of an infamous ex-governer who's gone back to nature with a vengeance. With Sick Puppy, Carl Hiaasen unleashes another outrageously funny tale that gleefully lives up to its title and proves yet again that Hiaasen is master of the satirical thriller.

Roger Alan Skipper - Bone Dogs (2010)
My one and only Skipper book in the collection and it looks like a tasty one......

Tuesday Price is a wiseass, a boozer, and a loser. Only his wife Linda recalls a smarter, better man, and she's losing faith in that man's return. When Tuesday befriends a strange, silent Vietnam vet who eternally sits with a cooler of beer in a disabled pickup, Linda's had enough. At her departure, Tuesday is left with only his new friend as a companion - until the old vet is found dead, and Tuesday is blamed. Alone and haunted by regret, Tuesday's daily life deteriorates until he must unearth his sordid past to reach a worthwhile future. But his past is a tangle of murder, deceit, and abandonment for which his only punishment has been self-inflicted. In order to reclaim all that has been lost, he returns to his deserted childhood home and, with hammer and nails, rebuilds the sagging structure, reassembling a history quite different than the one he'd believed while finding the future not at all what he'd expected.

Philip Reed - Bird Dog (1997)

Philip Reed wrote a couple of books featuring Harold Dodge. This one was followed by Low Rider. I've read neither of them yet. I did enjoy Off and Running a few years back.

With more twists than an L.A. freeway, Philip Reed guides you on a lethal joyride you won't forget...
Harold Dodge, pushing fifty, is a good man. But in a less-than-perfect world -- that is, Los Angeles -- good men sometimes have to do bad things. Just about everyone in the City of Angels has a hard luck story, but when it comes to bad breaks, Harold is rewriting the book.

Now he's in a friend's car -- and in a spot. A pair of hired repo men in a stolen Buick are trying to run him off the freeway and into an early grave. But the cops pull him over first -- a blessing, except for one little thing. Harold's got a dead body in the trunk. That's when his luck takes a turn...for the worse.

It all started because Harold has a weakness for killer legs. And when Marianna Perado in her spike heels asks him to help her "unwind" a rip-off deal at Joe Covo's dealership, where Harold once bird-dogged suckers into buying used cars, he jumps... and lands in a cesspool of corruption.

Harold lives for women and cars -- he just never figured on dying for them. Now he has to add up a pack of lies and hope a scrap of truth comes out in the equation. But Harold lives in a city where everyone's working a hustle, where the only question is who's hustling you. The Santa Ana winds are blowing, and Harold Dodge is feeling the heat.

Henning Mankell - The Dogs of Riga (1992)

The second in Henning Mankell's well regarded Kurt Wallander series. I read the first but can recall jack about it. I've not read anything Scandi for a while so it might be a good place to re-acquaint myself

It is winter, 1991. Inspector Kurt Wallander's team at the Ystad police station face a new challenge: two corpses, frozen together in a gruesome embrace, have been washed ashore on the remote Swedish coastline. The dead men were Eastern European criminals, but what looks like a gangland hit takes on a much more sinister aspect when Wallander travels across the Baltic Sea to Latvia, a nation in the throws of the massive upheaval that will lead to its independence from the Soviet Union. Wallander is thrown into an icy, alien world of police surveillance, veiled threats and lies, coming to understand what it is to live in a nation in which democracy is still a dream. Only his dogged, almost subconscious desire to see justice done will lead him to the shadowy figures he pursues.

Ross Thomas - Yellow Dog Contract (1976)

I can't actually remember what Ross Thomas books I've read but whatever ones they were they were over 10 years ago, as I only started recording my reads back in 2010. I've always had a passing fascination for unsolved 70s mysteries, for example Lord Lucan or Sean Flynn. Jimmy Hoffa's vanishing act also fits the bill. I wonder if Thomas was cashing in? The Teamster's President went missing in 1975. I guess so.

Former political campaign manager Harvey Longmire is enjoying a pleasant semi-retirment with his wife on an 80 acre farm in Virginia when he is visited by two old friends. They are working for a millionaire who has set up a foundation to investigate conspiracies and want to hire Longmire to look into the disappearance of a famous union leader. When Longmire accepts the job, he and the reader are of on the danmdest adventure of conspiracy and murder ever.

Thomas Perry - Sleeping Dogs (1992)

I freaking loved Thomas Perry's The Butcher's Boy which has me questioning why I have still not yet read the second book in the series - Sleeping Dogs. I have enjoyed Perry's work on and off over the years, those his most recent offering The Burglar wasn't his best.

A tour-de-force novel of suspense by the Edgar-winning author of The Butcher's Boy. He came to England to rest. He used to be the Butcher's Boy, the highly skilled mob hit man. Now, after a decade, they've found him. The Butcher's Boy escapes back to the States with more reasons to kill. Until the odds turn terrifyingly against him.



Eddie may be seventy-seven years old, but he's still a tough guy, a former heist man who packs a pistol in his pocket. But Eddie's no killer. Then a young woman in a bar makes him an offer he can't refuse.

This hard-boiled short story, which originally appeared in the anthology "Damn Near Dead," is veteran author Steve Brewer at his best.

"Like Elmore Leonard, the writer whose work his most resembles, Brewer writes with a light and deft touch, bringing style and wit to the crime genre." --David Montgomery, Chicago Sun-Times

More fun and games from Steve Brewer with another enjoyable short story. It’s one which I’ve apparently read before – 10 years or so at least – as it appeared in the previously consumed Damn Near Dead anthology. Obviously, my memory isn’t what it used to be, as it read new and fresh second time around.

A grumpy old geezer, a bar, a confrontation with a lippy college kid, a gun, some calm, followed by a foxy lady, a proposition, a phone number and a chance to clear the bar tab and have some folding green for the foreseeable future, if he can be persuaded to kill a man.

Decisions, planning, action, outcome, and a sting in the tale.

Attitude, action, character, pace and a decent payoff.

Half an hour's fun reading - 3 Brewer shorts down this month, 2 to go!

4 from 5

Read - June, 2019
Published - 2012
Page count - 14
Source - Kindle Unlimited
Format - kindle

Wednesday 19 June 2019



Handcuffed, on your knees, watching another man dig your grave.

That's where Rick Steen finds himself in CEMETERY PLOT, a suspenseful short story by veteran author Steve Brewer, creator of the Bubba Mabry mysteries.

In this hard-boiled story, set in rural Arkansas, crosses and double-crosses pile up, and nobody walks away unbloodied.

A thrilling short story by a master of the genre!

Another quick bump to the reading stats with this Steve Brewer short story, available at Amazon on it's own and acquired through a current Kindle Unlimited monthly trial.

Three guys, a car ride, a trunk, handcuffs, a pistol, a missing bale of marijuana and one severely annoyed dealer, a black cemetery on the edge of town, a six foot shovel, some manual labour, and a confrontation........things don't end well for any of our characters

Eleven pages, and a good fun read..... dialogue, action, well-described events and setting, interesting characters - shady of course and another reminder, not that it was needed of how much I enjoy this author's work. Next...

4 from 5

Read in June, 2019
Published - 2013
Page count - 11
Source - Kindle Unlimited trial
Format - kindle

Tuesday 18 June 2019



Golden Palms tells the story of Ted Burek, a newly appointed political aide who is looking for redemption in the halls of power. His search won’t be easy. 

Ted stumbles on the trail of out-of-town hard boys who have come to LA to make trouble for his boss. To stop them, he must journey through a world of slick real estate developers, bloviating pols, over-confident tech bros and radical bicyclists. Along the way, Ted will discover just how high the price of justice can be. 

This isn’t your usual noir. It’s funny in places. It’s about politics. The hero, Ted Burek, isn’t some jaded private dick. He’s not a bitter police detective haunted by ghosts of the past. In fact, Ted’s not a detective at all. He’s a disgraced college teacher who drinks too much, gets angry too easily and tries too often to surf away his problems. But he’s been given a chance to turn his fortunes around. Owed a favor by a friend, Ted gets a job as an aide to LA’s charismatic and popular Mayor, and he’s determined to make the most of this chance to climb the political ladder. 

It turns out to be a treacherous ascent. He has to deal with cranky constituents who heat up his phone with their daily and, more often than not, crazy complaints. He has to figure out how to navigate the political currents swirling around Golden Palms, a run-down apartment complex with a wrecking ball in its future and a pack of riled-up residents who want Ted and the Mayor to save their homes and to do it double quick. And then, because this is a story composed in a noirish key, there are the murders. By a gang assassin. Who everyone, including the LAPD, thought was dead. But he’s back on the streets and killing again. “Get your ear to the ground, find out what’s going on and protect the Mayor,” Ted is commanded by City Hall. 

It is a mission that pits Ted against bureaucrats schooled in the dark arts of recalcitrance and obfuscation. It propels him into the arms of Lennie. She’s a strident, but beguiling activist with an agenda of her own who wants nothing more than to enlist Ted in the good fight to save Golden Palms. And it puts him square in the sights of some thugs who have come down to the Smog with malice in their hearts. 

As Ted gets closer to the truth and further in over his head, he wrestles with whether he should follow Lennie and do the right thing or choose to follow the political winds and take the easy way out. 

Wow - that's a blurb and a half and then some!

Golden Palms was a book I enjoyed reading this without it ever really having any major wow factor for me. I enjoyed following the main character, Ted from the loss of his teaching gig to working inside the political machine of the LA mayor, trying to deal with resident's complaints and problems. Most of the problems connected back to a proposed Golden Palms redevelopment, which if I understood the shenanigans correctly was kind of a smokescreen for some unscrupulous businessman with some shady business practices to make money - albeit at some cost to the long-time residents.

Ted takes the gig seriously and tries his best for the complainers, pushing back against stubborn bureaucracy and the constant need for forms, and requisitions and permits before anything ever gets done. He develops a romantic interest in a young community activist, Lennie and he gets close to the police when a string of city murders threaten to jeopardise the mayor's public standing. And in the meantime his interference and enquiries into water problems and earthquakes brings him unwelcome attention from the shady characters in the book.

Teaching, politics, public office, complainers, water, business, developers, regentrification, loss of community, surfing, activism, murder, police, a fake film set, romance, a beating, warnings, kidnap, rescue and resolution.

It offered an interesting insight into the workings of a city, it's top politician and his assistants, with the constant need for the mayor to be seen with his finger on the pulse and compliant to the needs of his constituents, without ever upsetting anyone or supporting anything controversial.

Elements of the plot - the killings and the culprit carrying them out and the role the romantic interest was playing - the motivations for what they were both up to, kind of eluded me. I guess a bit more careful reading or some re-reading of stretches may have offered up the rationales, but I wasn't that fussed to be truthful. They weren't striking enough to bump me out of the book, as I was happy enough to go with the flow and see what trouble Ted got himself into.

The ending of the book after an escalation and plenty of danger for Ted, subsequently seemed a little bit low-key and a fizzle out, rather than a massive crescendo of a climax, but it also seemed in keeping with the pace of the plot before hand. Overall, things take a while to get going here, which didn't bother me too much as the main character was interesting company.

A lot of the city's issues Ted was dealing with concerned water which reminded me of the film Chinatown and with the insider machinations of a political machine, I was also thinking about Robert W. Campbell's Jimmy Flannery books concerning a Chicago sewer inspector who operates as a Democrat fixer in the 27th ward. On that score alone the book was a plus, for the memories it revived.
Overall 3.5/5

Read in June, 2019
Published - 2019
Page count - 288
Source - Reedsy Discovery reviewer site
Format - PDF

Monday 17 June 2019


A couple of US PI mysteries from author John Straley, another guy I have a few books by, but have yet to read.

Straley has written a couple of series, mostly set in and around Alaska where he has lived since the late 70s.

A few authors I like sing his praises, so that's good enough for me......

Lesser writers look to their characters'’ poor choices and attempt to rectify them, John Straley loves his characters for just those choices.  . . . damned near every one of us, sooner or later, ends up in one of Straley’s wise, wayward, wonderfully unhinged novels.”   -- James Sallis, author of Drive

Like the Coen brothers on literary speed, John Straley is among the very best stylists of his generation. Cold Storage, Alaska is truly stunning, poetic, and smart.”  -- —Ken Bruen, Shamus Award winning author of The Guard

His website is here.

These two are part of his seven book, Cecil Younger series - the third and fourth. He also has three novels in his Cold Storage series.

The Music of What Happens (1996)

Private investigator Cecil Younger's new client, Priscilla DeAngelo, is certain there's a conspiracy afoot to take her son from her - anyone who says different must be in on the plot. She storms off for a showdown with a state senator she's convinced is in cahoots with her ex.... and suddenly Cecil's custody case has turned into a murder.

"That rarity, a unique voice..... These novels have established Straley as a purveyor of darkly poetic, off-beat crime fiction. Really excellent, the kind of book you're always looking for and rarely find."
- Crime Time

Death and the Language of Happiness (1997)

Cecil Younger is a private investigator who takes comfort in the absurdity of the universe. And the universe is obliging him with a joint phone call from his lawyer and his shrink to convey a message from another client: Someone will pay Cecil well to get rid of a killing a man.

Common sense tells him that this is not a good career move, but he needs the money. The potential client, 97-year-old William Flynn, is razor-sharp on what happened eighty years ago, but he's none too clear on what happened this week. What happened this week is the murder of Angela Rameriez, and the murder weapon has been found in Flynn's room at the nursing home. And Cecil's potential victim is Angela's ex-husband.

Finding him - which might, after all, help Flynn's defence - takes Cecil from a rough-and-tumble Aleutian island town to the perilous streets of Seattle, from the pathetic murder of a drunken woman in a cheap hotel to a decades-old slaughter that is still reaching into the present. And its dark and chilly grasp may extend to Cecil Younger himself...


Last month's reading was a bit of a disappointment numbers-wise as my reading mojo departed to unknown parts - seven books completed in the month when my minimum aim is double digits. That said the ones I did read were enjoyed.

The 5 STAR stand out and pick of the month was Peter Temple's An Iron Rose. I do need to read more from him.

4.5 STARS - Samuel W. Gailey and The Guilt We Carry

4 STARS - Lee Matthew Goldberg and The Desire Card, T.R. Kenneth's A Room Full of Night and Lawrence Block's The Ehrengraf Fandango

3.5 STARS - Michael J. Clark's Mahoney's Camaro

3 STARS - Eugene Marten and Waste

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

an unlikable alcoholic banker, seeking a black market liver transplant

an ex-cop suspicious about the apparent suicide of a close friend

a recovery truck driver with a new car complete with the ghost of the previous owner

a grieving journo investigating some Third Reich secrets

a janitor with a taste for necrophilia

a young women carrying a heavy load and seeking to escape her past with a series of bad choices

a lawyer who always wins for his client without ever visiting a courtroom

Settings..... New York and Mumbai; Victorian outback, Australia; Winnipeg, Canada; small town Wisconsin, Berlin then further afield; NY City; one of the Carolina states and a few other US locations (must make notes in future); Buffalo, USA

Lee Matthew Goldberg - The Desire Card (2019) (4)

Peter Temple - An Iron Rose (1998) (5)

Michael J. Clark - Mahoney's Camaro (2019) (3.5)

T.R. Kenneth - A Room Full of Night (2019) (4)

Eugene Marten - Waste (2008) (3)

Samuel W. Gailey - The Guilt We Carry (2019) (4.5)

Lawrence Block - The Ehrengraf Fandango (2014)  (4)

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 - 4 - Michael J. Clark, T.R. Kenneth, Eugene Marten and Samuel W. Gailey

I have more on the pile to read from Eugene Marten, Samuel W. Gailey and Michael J. Clark

Authors enjoyed before - 3 - Lee Matthew Goldberg, Lawrence Block and Peter Temple

There's more on the TBR pile from all 3 of them

7 reads from 7 different authors. 

1 was a series book.....

The Desire Card by Lee Matthew Goldberg. The second in the series appears later this year 

Gender analysis - 1 female author, 6 male.

Another poor attempt at diversity in my reading, and the same as March and April!
It looks like I'll have to sort out another all-female reading month later in the year to address the imbalance.

Of the 7 different authors read, 5 hailed from the USA1 from Canada1 from Australia

All 7 of the reads were fiction, 

6 of the 7 books read were published this century 

4 from 2019, 1 from 2014 and 1 from 2008

1 book was from 1998, 

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

Publishers -  Fahrenheit Press x 1, ECW Press x 1, Ellipsis Press x 1, Oceanview Publishing x 2, Harper Collins, Australia x 1, LB Productions x 1

3 of the 7 reads were pre-owned,

1 was accessed at Net Galley early reviewer site, cheers to publisher ECW Press 

2 were accessed at Edelweiss - Above the Treeline, early reviewer site, thanks to Oceanview Publishing

1 was received directly from the author - cheers to Lee Matthew Goldberg

Favourite cover? Mahoney's Camaro - Michael J. Clark

 Second favourite cover - Eugene Marten - Waste


My reads were this long 312 - 288 - 314 - 352 - 116 - 304 - 26

Total page count = 1712 (1714 in April) ....... pretty much the same as last month

1 was a Kindle reads, 3 were ePub files read on the laptop,  3 were paperbacks, 

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

T.R. Kenneth and A Room Full of Night was the longest read at 352 pages

Lawrence Block and The Ehrengraf Fandango was the shortest at 26 pages long.