Wednesday 31 July 2019



Welcome to California. Weed is legal. Grow it. Sell it. Smoke it. Eat it. But the money you make off it—there's the rub. Bank it, and the Feds will ask questions. Keep it around, and you’ll get robbed. LaDon and Jessie—two hustlers who make selling primo weed a regular gig—hire a private security detail to move and hold their money. Ex-soldiers Glanson and Echo target the cash—they start a ripoff business. 

It’s the wild, wild west. Except this time, everybody’s high. 

With their guns and guts, Glanson and Echo don’t expect much trouble from a mean son-of-a-gun like LaDon Charles. But that’s exactly what they get. In this industry, no matter how much money there is for the taking—and no matter who gets it—there's always somebody counting zero. 

From acclaimed pulp writer Matt Phillips, Countdown is a head-spinning hit of Southern California’s lucrative and not-quite-regulated marijuana industry. 

Praise for COUNTDOWN: 

“A slab of rare pulp, served nice and bloody. Countdown reads like an homage to Elmore Leonard from one of the hottest new voices on the crime fiction scene.” —Anthony Neil Smith, author of Yellow Medicine and All the Young Warriors 

Matt Phillips is fast establishing himself as one of my favourite contemporary authors. Countdown is my third encounter with his work and is the best of the bunch so far.

San Diego, a weed shop, a business partnership and plenty of cash flow. Jessie has green fingers and is skilled at cultivating top notch bud. Her business partner, LaDon, a man who'd like to partner up with her in more intimate ways is trying to get creative with the proceeds of their enterprise. They need to wash their money. and it's a slow, slow process. Most of the proceeds are currently collected and stored by a private security firm that offers their services to other like-minded entrepreneurs.

Ex-military man Abbie Glanson is employed as a pick-up guy for the security detail. Glanson might be small in some aspects of his life, but he has big ideas. Recruit ex-vet buddy, Echo and go and steal themselves some money. 

Weed, cash money, flirting, physical attraction, ambitions, guns, a robbery, a death, a pimp and his stable, a jealous business partner, but one with a conscience and ambitions to save a girl, a troubled vet, scheming, surveillance, lack of trust, a sexual encounter that doesn't go as planned, surprise, hurt, humiliation and anger, a botched robbery, a failed plan, a fire, a dying request, an unexpected visitor, an unintended consequence, a car-jacking, a reduction in the number of game players, a circling of the predators and a mad dash for the moolah.

I do like tales where the characters are mostly living on the fringes of society, not too concerned about the legality of their actions, but still bound by a code of behaviour that offers and demands, friendship, concern and loyalty. We get a hint of the backgrounds of most of the players here..... war service, family history, a chequered past..... enough to put flesh on the bones of the characters and enough to allow us to choose sides regarding who we want ending up surviving the inevitable shit-storm that we are hurtling towards.

Once the lines are set and the plans are afoot, Phillips then propels the narrative towards a brutal, bloody climax with plenty of casualties along the way. There's a real energy and cadence to the second half of the tale. The outcome when delivered fits the tale superbly.

My kind of book, my kind of author.

4.5 from 5

Redbone and Bad Luck City are my previous encounters with Matt Phillips.

Know Me From Smoke, Accidental Outlaws, Three Kinds of Fool, The Bad Kind of Lucky and Tough Guys wait for me on the kindle. (I either need to read quicker, or he needs to slow down - probably both.)   

Read - July, 2019
Published - 2019
Page count - 149
Source - review copy received from author via Henry Roi (cheers chaps)
Format - PDF

Monday 29 July 2019


A couple of short French crime novels from Jean-Patrick Manchette.

Manchette had five novels published in English during his short life. He died in his early fifties in 1995.

A sixth, Ivory Pearl (1996) was published posthumously.

The others are Nada (1972), The Mad and the Bad (1972) and Fatale (1977)

According to his page at Fantastic Fiction he wrote ten in his lifetime, I'm guessing some of them never made it into English translation.

Three to Kill (1976)

Late one night in Paris, travelling salesman Georges Gerfaut stops to help an injured motorist to hospital. Three days later, while Gerfaut is on holiday with his wife and daughters, he is attacked by two men. Quickly realising the duo?s murderous intent, but perplexed as to their motives, Gerfaut goes on the run, communicating with his family by telegram. Terrified, yet exhilarated by this release from his humdrum life, Gerfaut resolves to turn the tables and track down his pursuers.

Jean-Patrick Manchette presents a clash between two opposing worlds: a conventional, middle-class existence cluttered by possessions and responsibilities, and a violent criminal underworld. In Georges Gerfaut we find an unlikely hero, an ordinary man thrust into extraordinary circumstances and forced to fight for his life. Three to Kill is another riveting slice of ?70s noir by a masterful stylist, ironist, and social critic.

The Prone Gunman (1981)

Deadly professional assassin Martin Terrier returns to Paris after his latest job determined to get out of the game. Ten years ago he made a promise to return to his childhood sweetheart in the south of France. But circumstances put Martin's attempted retirement on hold: a key target is flying in to Paris, and there is only one man fit for the task of eliminating him. As Martin flees southwards, desperate to return to the crushing mediocrity of life in a backwater town, he finds his former employers will stop at nothing to regain his services for one last job.

Bursting with Gallic irony and visceral brutality, The Gunman (originally published in English as The Prone Gunman) is a shocking and sardonic masterpiece from the late, great master of the French crime novel, J-P Manchette.

Sunday 28 July 2019



Saying farewell to the dark side doesn't mean the dark side wants rid of you. And I was about to be reminded of that fact.

1970, St Pauls, Bristol. A new decade, and JT Ellington is determined it will be a quiet one. He's stepped away from the private-eye game to scratch a living, respectable at last, as a school caretaker.

Still his nights are full of torment - guilt and ghosts that no prayers will banish but it's not until the past comes calling in the unwelcome form of Superintendent Fletcher that JT's resolve is truly tested.

Fletcher has a job for JT - and the hard-nosed cop can't be refused. A young man, Nikhil Suresh, has disappeared hours before his wedding; rumours abound and his family is distraught. JT is to investigate.

With what feels like blood money in his pocket, JT is plunged deep into a demi-monde of vice, violence and forbidden passion. An extraordinary, malevolent enemy is intent on destroying him. Now - seeking survival and redemption - JT must play as dirty and dangerous as those who want him dead.

A Sinner's Prayer, if the author's afterword is to be believed will be the last book in his J.T. Ellington series. Ellington is a Barbadian born sometime PI, living in Bristol in the late 60s, early 70s. Sounds like my kind of series with a new-to-me setting both in location and the time period when the events in the book occur. My only disappointment being that I didn't have the earlier books on my radar before reading this one. That said while events from Ellington's past and his troubled history are referenced throughout the course of this one, the author makes the book work well on it's own. I didn't feel like I was excluded from getting to know the main man.

A dispute at his school care-taking job leaves J.T. open to some less than subtle persuasion by the police. They want his assistance in asking around regarding the disappearance of a young Indian man' with Ellington hopefully having greater access to the immigrant communities than the police will ever have. Inevitably one things leads to another.

Bristol, St. Paul's, the West Indian community, family - past and present, loss, home life, bars, rum, culture, friendships, enemies, history, secrets, racism, a wedding, a disappearance, a hidden life, powerful acquaintances, homosexuality, a nightclub catering for a minority, a murder victim, another corpse, the council house, a bribe, an attempt to steer the investigation, blackmail, a fledgling romance....... and then the wheels come off and the initial enquiry morphs into a vicious war between a couple of rival criminal organisations that previously co-existed, with a reliance on extended family and one of Bristol's leading gangsters to ensure J.T.'s survival.

There's lots I liked about this one. The main character is sympathetically portrayed. He's troubled and still trying to come to terms with the loss of his wife and daughter. He has an adopted daughter that he cares for dearly. He reveres his lost family and takes comfort from their visits to him in his dreams, but he's a practical man and manages to live in the present. He is prepared to break the law to protect himself and the ones he cares about, but feels guilty for necessarily indulging his dark side. He has layers - intelligence, a conscience, regrets, passion, love and an all-round amiability.

I enjoyed the time frame of the novel and the peek inside an immigrant community in a foreign land. Insults, suspicion, outright hostility and casual racism are prevalent and a timely reminder of when society was less enlightened and welcoming towards newcomers. I'm a child of the 60s and I think a lot of the attitudes on display are a thing of the past, though undoubtedly the EU membership referendum and the fall-out from it does seem to have re-awakened some viler traits in today's society.

I believed in the story and the evolution of the plot which kind of takes us far away from the start point of the novel, though in the end we get answers to the disappearance of the young man. There's pace to the story, not at a break neck speed, but with enough legs to maintain interest and propel the story forward. Plenty of action, enough to satisfy me - a beating or two, with some less than gentle interrogations, some gun play and death, but all in the context of the story, never gratuitous. And some lighter reflective moments.... love, family, friendship, loyalty, affection, care, romance,

Lots to like

4.5 from 5

M.P. Wright's earlier series books are Heartman, All Through the Night and Restless Coffins.
I hope to catch up with some, if not all of them.

Read - July, 2019
Published - 2019
Page count - 336
Source - review copy from Black and White Publishing
Format - paperback

Saturday 27 July 2019



Making it as a lawyer has always been a cutthroat business.

A killer is targeting former students of The Bloomsbury Academy of Law. The victims – all female – are gruesomely butchered according to a pattern corresponding with the legal syllabus. Even more disconcerting are riddles sent by the killer to investigating officer, Chief Inspector Jake Carver, offering clues as to who is next and where they will die.

Up-and-coming lawyer Madeline Kramer, a former classmate of a number of the slain, soon finds her life turned upside down by the savagery. And when she decides to help Carver track down the killer, she places herself in mortal danger. Can Maddy and Carver unscramble the complex riddles and save the lives of those destined to die?

A. A. Chaudhuri’s Ripper-like mystery, The Scribe, throws down a challenge even hardened crime thriller fans will be unable to resist. 

A busy book and despite it's length of nearly 400 pages, quite a quick read.

A couple of murders get us started, one of which enables access to the real target, a young female solicitor in training. The killer leaves his victim with a particular signature cut into the victim's chest.
The death at her place of work introduces the lead detective, Jake Carver to one of the victim's co-workers Madeline Kramer.

More murders follow thereafter, each with similar markings and a message on the victim's chest. All the victims have a connection to the legal profession and appear to be former students of the same law academy. A serial killer is on the loose and is playing games with the police courtesy of taunting messages to the lead detective, and before too long Maddie Kramer, because of her on-going assistance to the police.

There was quite a bit about the story that kept me entertained and interested, but at the same time the author introduced elements that I found implausible and unrealistic.

I liked the investigation into the background of the victims. We delve backwards into scenes from the past and discover more about the victims, their friendships, their rivalries, inappropriate relationships and secrets. There appears to be a common denominator in respect of the victims and for a while at least that points us in the direction of a likely suspect. Fuel is added to this particular fire because of the actions of his wife. I enjoyed the dynamics of the relationship of the suspect with his wife, his mother and his students.

Along the way we discover more about the personal histories of Maddie, her flatmate and best friend, Paul, the lead detective Kramer, the chief suspect...... friendships, family history, secrets, connections, relationships, discord and tensions - some of which has future relevance to the resolution of the crimes and the unmasking of the killers. 

The initial involvement of Kramer with some pointers as to the rationale of the message cut into the victim's chest I kind of bought into. Her ongoing involvement in the case and the ever increasing reliance by the lead detective, Carver on her thoughts and insights as more murders happened, was a bit too much of a stretch for me. There were efforts to promote a sense of tension and underlying attraction and chemistry between the two, albeit on a down low, slowly, slowly simmering under the surface and not really acknowledged by the pair openly basis. I think the author is setting the seeds for future novels involving the two protagonists. As such I wasn't particularly engaged by the potential romantic side of the possible future coupling.

A pattern emerges in the killer's behaviour which suggests future victims and the riddles sent to the police, add a bit of tension to the narrative, as efforts to decipher the coded notes, offer the promise of averting further tragedies. Again here I was less convinced by the elaborate scheming of the murderer. I was reminded of an 80s TV game show with Ted Rogers hosting where the participants had to decipher clues to win prizes. Once I had 3-2-1 in my head, I was kind of switched off from this strand of the tale.

Overall I was entertained. I did have to leave my scepticism at the door in order to get to the end. Like a lot of books I read - there were characters I liked, whose company was engaging, even if they weren't always behaving well. (I'm not talking about the murderer here.) The story had pace. I kind of guessed the involvement of one of the players, but the author did well with the overall reveal.

I think the overall measure of a books enjoyment is asking myself whether I would want to continue reading more about the characters in the future. Sadly on this occasion probably not.

3 from 5
Read - July, 2019
Published - 2019
Page count - 391
Source - review copy received from publisher, Endeavour Media
Format - Kindle

Friday 26 July 2019



This is the action-packed novel that launched Jack Lynch's Edgar Award and two-time Shamus Award-nominated Bragg series... vaulting him into the pantheon of detective fiction masters alongside Raymond Chandler, Sue Grafton, Dashiell Hammett, Robert B. Parker and Ross MacDonald. 

"Tough, taut and terse... literate without being lofty, not unlike the work of Hammett himself." The Thrilling Detective

Korean War vet and ex-reporter Peter Bragg is hired by Armando Barker, a retired mobster, to find out who is targeting him and his eleven-year-old daughter with death threats. But after a gruesome killing of someone close to Barker, the threats become a bloody promise. Barker's violent past in Sand Valley, a bleak, California desert town, has come back to haunt him with a vengeance. So that's where Bragg goes, walking right into the vicious, bloody war that's raging between the town's factions... and becoming everyone's target. 

Originally Published as "Bragg's Hunch."

The first in a series of eight Peter Bragg novels by Jack Lynch and an enjoyable encounter. Probably an author and series I would never have known about if publisher Brash Books hadn't re-vamped and re-issued these a few years ago

A reporter turned investigator, a San Francisco setting, death threats, a vulnerable young adult, events from the past, a turf war, death, mob rule and an 80s style OK Corral shootout, buried secrets and tangled personal histories, a kidnapping and more.

A week or two after this one, I can't actually claim total recall of all the finer points of the plot and how it all eventually played out, but it was enjoyed while reading and there was enough juice with the main character and the plot that will have me returning to Lynch and Bragg for a second outing at least, probably more.

I quite like the trope of a newspaperman turned investigator in my reads. It's a believable leap with similar skill sets...... an ability to talk to people, ask questions, join the dots up and follow the leads. Here it also helps that Bragg is a former veteran and not easily cowed or intimidated.

Another tick in the box - there's plenty of action, with violence, death, confrontations, bar room smash-ups and a lengthy street shoot out. Nothing gratuitous and all in the context of the plot/sub-plot of an outsider as a noticeable nosy and unwelcome visitor to a small town competed for by rival gangs.

All in all a decent few hours reading - pace, plot, character, setting and outcome all present.

Read - July, 2019
Published - 1982
Page count - 304
Source - purchased copy
Format - Kindle

Wednesday 24 July 2019



"Magpie Murders is a double puzzle for puzzle fans, who don't often get the classicism they want from contemporary thrillers." --Janet Maslin, The New York Times

A New York Times Bestseller | #1 Indie Next Pick | NPR Best Book of 2017| Amazon Best Book of 2017| Washington Post Best Book of 2017| Esquire

Best Book of 2017

From the New York Times bestselling author of Moriarty and Trigger Mortis, this fiendishly brilliant, riveting thriller weaves a classic whodunit worthy of Agatha Christie into a chilling, ingeniously original modern-day mystery.

When editor Susan Ryeland is given the manuscript of Alan Conway's latest novel, she has no reason to think it will be much different from any of his others. After working with the bestselling crime writer for years, she's intimately familiar with his detective, Atticus Pund, who solves mysteries disturbing sleepy English villages. An homage to queens of classic British crime such as Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers, Alan's traditional formula has proved hugely successful. So successful that Susan must continue to put up with his troubling behavior if she wants to keep her job.

Conway's latest tale has Atticus Pund investigating a murder at Pye Hall, a local manor house. Yes, there are dead bodies and a host of intriguing suspects, but the more Susan reads, the more she's convinced that there is another story hidden in the pages of the manuscript: one of real-life jealousy, greed, ruthless ambition, and murder.

Masterful, clever, and relentlessly suspenseful, Magpie Murders is a deviously dark take on vintage English crime fiction in which the reader becomes the detective.

Not a book I would have considered reading if it hadn't been selected as the monthly pick for one of my Goodreads Reading Groups and if I hadn't crossed paths with a copy in a local charity shop a day or so after it's nomination.

Best book ever? No. Best book of 2017? For some maybe, but not me - it was an ok read. Initial thoughts - very long - two mystery books in one actually and one which didn't have me
totally gripped or enthralled, though neither was I tempted to launch the book at the wall in annoyance. I think it helped that I read it while on holiday so I had a chance to devour large chunks of it in a couple of sittings. I think it would have dragged had I been reading it around my normal work-life routine.

An author submits the manuscript of his ninth and final Atticus Pund mystery to his publisher. His editor and us the reader read it...... 50s, English village setting, the death - accidental or otherwise - of the poison-tongued village harpy, a plea for Atticus Pund to investigate and stop the wagging tongues of the village spreading poison about the dead woman's son, a refusal, soon followed by the murder of the dead women's employer, Pund rouses himself and investigates, multiple villagers interviewed, plenty of motives - a failing marriage, a flighty wife and her new boyfriend, a proposed development and some unhappy villagers, a dodgy antiques dealer, a robbery, an iffy groundsman, a shifty vicar, a wronged sister, and more .......

Its an okay tale within a tale, I was interested in seeing who was the guilty party without especially feeling any sympathy or great concern for many of our participants, or desire for justice for our one, possibly two victims....... Horowitz spins a twist as the final chapter or so of the manuscript is missing and we don't know the outcome.

This neatly brings us back to the present day and his editor's subsequent search for the missing chapters, somewhat complicated by the suicide of the author, Alan Conway who was suffering from inoperable cancer I think (I read it a couple of weeks ago and didn't bother bringing back my copy from my holiday and am searching the memory banks).

Our editor, Susan Ryeland turns sleuth hunting the manuscript. Her hunt soon evolves into a loose investigation into Conway's death....... a sudden suicide, a busy diary, a will, a broken marriage, a failed same-sex relationship, a row with a neighbour, a restaurant row, plagiarism, a rejected sibling, a publisher on the precipice, the book business, her own romance, career and future, historical connections among all the participants etc etc.

The present day mystery involves more time spent in the company of more unsympathetic characters.......eventually after approximately 564 pages we have the missing chapters and the outcome to Pund's final case and we get answers over Conway's death and a pointer towards Ryeland's future.

It was quite cleverly constructed - two mysteries for the price of one, neither of which I hated. Conway's book is supposedly a hat-tip towards the GA mysteries of Agatha Christie and the like. I'll take the expert's word for it as they aren't the kind of books I typically read. I think I was more concerned by the failings in Atticus Pund's health and the manner in which he broke the news to his loyal assistant than any over-riding interest in the resolution of the murder of the village big-wig.

The second mystery regarding the missing pages and the whys and wherefores and subsequent scheming and shenanigans was also ok without being earth shattering either.

Overall I enjoyed the read without it having me rushing to see what else Horowitz has published for adult readers. (My son was a massive teenage fan of his Alex Rider books.) Not one to live long in the memory, nor recommend to other readers - my wife wasn't having any of it anyway!

3 from 5, maybe 3.5 for the novel within a novel quirk. Definitely not a 4.

Read - July, 2019
Published - 2016
Page count - 564
Source - purchased copy (secondhand)
Format - paperback (chunky)

Monday 22 July 2019


A couple from another new-to-me, untried American author Alison Gaylin aka A.L. Gaylin - or to be more accurate one from each of them.

Gaylin has penned nearly a dozen novels, the first eight published as Alison, the last three as A.L. - across three different short series and also four standalone novels.

And She Was is the first in her Brenna Spector series. This was followed by Into the Dark and Stay With Me. What Remains of Me is a more recent standalone. The two I have both look good.

She's just had a new one out earlier this month - Never Look Back.

And She Was (2012)

On a summer afternoon in 1998, six-year-old Iris Neff walked away from a barbecue in her small suburban town . . . and vanished.

Missing persons investigator Brenna Spector has a rare neurological disorder that enables her to recall every detail of every day of her life. A blessing and a curse, it began in childhood, when her older sister stepped into a strange car never to be seen again, and it's proven invaluable in her work. But it hasn't helped her solve the mystery that haunts her above all others - and it didn't lead her to little Iris. When a local woman, Carol Wentz, disappears eleven years later, Brenna uncovers bizarre connections between the missing woman, the long-gone little girl . . . and herself.

What Remains of Me (2016)

People don't need to know you're a murderer. They just have to think you could be....

June 1980. Seventeen-year-old Kelly Lund is jailed for killing Hollywood film director John McFadden. Thirty years later Kelly is a free woman. Yet speculation still swirls over what really happened that night. And when her father-in-law and close friend of McFadden is found dead - shot through the head at point-blank range - there can be only one suspect.

This time Kelly has some high-profile friends who believe she's innocent of both crimes. But is she?

Tuesday 9 July 2019


The expansion of the library shows no signs of abating......

James Delargy 55 (2019) - purchased copy - Amazon

I think I saw this one first over on Goodreads and the premise sucked me in. I do like a bit of Aussie crime and when it came up for less than a £1 on kindle deals - BOOM!

Looking forward to a bit of gasping!


*** There were 54 victims before this. Who is number 55? ***
A thriller with a killer hook, and an ending that will make you gasp!

Wilbrook in Western Australia is a sleepy, remote town that sits on the edge of miles and miles of unexplored wilderness. It is home to Police Sergeant Chandler Jenkins, who is proud to run the town’s small police station, a place used to dealing with domestic disputes and noise complaints.

All that changes on a scorching day when an injured man stumbles into Chandler’s station. He’s covered in dried blood. His name is Gabriel. He tells Chandler what he remembers.
He was drugged and driven to a cabin in the mountains and tied up in iron chains. The man who took him was called Heath. Heath told Gabriel he was going to be number 55. His 55th victim.

Heath is a serial killer.

As a manhunt is launched, a man who says he is Heath walks into the same station. He tells Chandler he was taken by a man named Gabriel. Gabriel told Heath he was going to be victim 55.

Gabriel is the serial killer.

Two suspects. Two identical stories. Which one is the truth?

James Delargy has written one of the most exciting debuts of 2019. He masterfully paints the picture of a remote Western Australian town and its people, swallowed whole by the hunt for a serial killer. This novel has been sold in 19 countries so far and has just been optioned for film.

Stav Sherez - Eleven Days (2013) - purchased - WHSmith sale

A quid in a Smith's bargain bin alongside a Mankell and a Simenon. I've heard of the author but never read him before, so fingers crossed.


A fire rages through a sleepy West London square, engulfing a small convent hidden away among the residential houses. When DI Jack Carrigan and DS Geneva Miller arrive at the scene they discover eleven bodies, yet there were only supposed to be ten nuns in residence.

It's eleven days before Christmas, and despite their superiors wanting the case solved before the holidays, Carrigan and Miller start to suspect that the nuns were not who they were made out to be. Why did they make no move to escape the fire? Who is the eleventh victim, whose body was found separate to the others? And where is the convent's priest, the one man who can answer their questions?

Fighting both internal politics and the church hierarchy, Carrigan and Miller unravel the threads of a case which reaches back to the early 1970s, and the upsurge of radical Liberation Theology in South America - with echoes of the Shining Path, and contemporary battles over oil, land and welfare. Meanwhile, closer to home, there's a new threat in the air, one the police are entirely unprepared for...

Spanning four decades and two continents, Eleven Days finds Carrigan and Miller up against time as they face a new kind of criminal future.

John Le Carre - A Legacy of Spies (2017) - charity shop billy bargain buy

I've watched more films and TV dramatisations of John Le Carre's work than I have read.
I've only ever read one Le Carre novel which is a bit sad. (Call for the Dead back in 2011.) I have most of his canon on the shelves and ought to  my finger out.


Peter Guillam, former disciple of George Smiley in the British Secret Service, has long retired to Brittany when a letter arrives, summoning him to London. The reason? Cold War ghosts have come back to haunt him. Intelligence operations that were once the toast of the Service are to be dissected by a generation with no memory of the Berlin Wall. Somebody must pay for innocent blood spilt in the name of the greater good . . .

'Utterly engrossing and perfectly pitched. There is only one le Carre. Eloquent, subtle, sublimely paced' Daily Mail

'Splendid, fast-paced, riveting' Andrew Marr, Sunday Times

'Remarkable. Vintage John le Carre. It gives the reader, at long last, pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that have been missing for 54 years. Like wine, le Carre's writing has got richer with age. Don't wait for the paperback' The Times

Matt Phillips - Countdown (2019) review copy received

Cheers to Henry Roi and Matt Phillips for a copy of this one, which I'll be getting to soon.
Mr Phillips has been enjoyed before several times - Bad Luck City and Redbone. More from him sits on the pile.


Welcome to California. Weed is legal. Grow it. Sell it. Smoke it. Eat it. But the money you make off it—there's the rub. Bank it, and the Feds will ask questions. Keep it around, and you’ll get robbed. LaDon and Jessie—two hustlers who make selling primo weed a regular gig—hire a private security detail to move and hold their money. Ex-soldiers Glanson and Echo target the cash—they start a ripoff business.

It’s the wild, wild west. Except this time, everybody’s high.

With their guns and guts, Glanson and Echo don’t expect much trouble from a mean son-of-a-gun like LaDon Charles. But that’s exactly what they get. In this industry, no matter how much money there is for the taking—and no matter who gets it—there's always somebody counting zero.

From acclaimed pulp writer Matt Phillips, Countdown is a head-spinning hit of Southern California’s lucrative and not-quite-regulated marijuana industry.

Praise for COUNTDOWN:

“A slab of rare pulp, served nice and bloody. Countdown reads like an homage to Elmore Leonard from one of the hottest new voices on the crime fiction scene.” —Anthony Neil Smith, author of Yellow Medicine and All the Young Warriors

Aidan Truhan - The Price You Pay (2018) - purchased copy

A tip off from Anthony Neil Smith in his Twitter feed alerted me to this one. I'll know who to blame if it all goes wrong. I doubt it though.


Get mad, get even, get paid. What kind of loser stops at getting even?

Didi's dead. That's sad. Jack Price isn't sad, because Jack doesn't care about Didi. Jack is just angry, because if anyone was going to brutally murder his bad-tempered old neighbour, it was him.

But when Jack takes matters into his own hands, he gets a contract taken out on him by an internationally renowned terrorist organisation. Which frankly seems overkill. Jack's just your average high-class coke dealer, after all. On a level playing field against a team of professional killers, he wouldn't stand a chance.

But Jack Price doesn't play fair. And Jack Price is going to make these guys pay.

Jimmy Sangster - Touchfeather, Too (1970) - purchased copy
Recently re-released by Lee Goldberg and Brash Books, and the cunningly titled sequel to Touchfeather. Jimmy Sangster worked as a screenwriter and director on Hammer House of Horror films. I do like a bit of espionage and a bit of cheek and sass to boot is an added bonus.


The Stewardess with a License to Kill is Back!

Katy Touchfeather is a fun-loving, British spy with a cheeky attitude and lethal skills who travels the world as a stewardess. Her latest assignment is to bring down what appears to be a gold smuggling operation...but is something far worse. It's a globetrotting, espionage adventure that takes her from London to a lavish yacht on the high-seas, from the jungles of Africa to the beaches of the Bahamas, and that pits her against one of richest men on earth and a deadly torturess who loves to extract information in agonizingly creative ways...and can't wait to try them all on Katy.

Praise for the Touchfeather Thrillers

"Bubbly, irrepressible... drawn by her breezy, chatty first-person narrative, readers will cheer Katy on as she skates around with flamboyant grace." Publishers Weekly

"Freshness and humor are rare qualities in a thriller nowadays. They're here in plenty. Exhilarating verve and expertise. It's a winner!" Irish Times

Monday 8 July 2019


A couple from the queen of GA crime fiction, Agatha Christie. With the exception of a collection of Marple short stories a few years ago, I can safely say that I haven't read any of her novels in the 30-odd years I've been reading in the genre.

Shocking photo!

I think I've kind of written her work off as all about the rich, the privileged, vicars, tea parties, country mansions, villages - Murder at Downton Abbey types and none of the above subjects hold much appeal for me.

I think I have about half a dozen of her books in my collection. I've picked up the odd one when I've crossed paths with it out and about, with the intention of tackling her work....... The Clocks, 4.50 from Paddington, And Then There Were None 

I ought to cast aside my preconceptions and give her a proper go. She does seem to have her fans.

Thoughts on Miss Marple's Final Cases here.

Five Little Pigs (1942)

Beautiful Caroline Crale was convicted of poisoning her husband, yet there were five other suspects: Philip Blake (the stockbroker) who went to market; Meredith Blake (the amateur herbalist) who stayed at home; Elsa Greer (the three-time divorcee) who had roast beef; Cecilia Williams (the devoted governess) who had none; and Angela Warren (the disfigured sister) who cried ‘wee wee wee’ all the way home.

It is sixteen years later, but Hercule Poirot just can’t get that nursery rhyme out of his mind…

Crooked House (1949)

Described by the Queen of Mystery herself as one of her favorites of her published works, Crooked House is a classic Agatha Christie thriller revolving around a devastating family mystery

The Leonides are one big happy family living in a sprawling, ramshackle mansion. That is until the head of the household, Aristide, is murdered with a fatal barbiturate injection.

Suspicion naturally falls on the old man's young widow, fifty years his junior. But the murderer has reckoned without the tenacity of Charles Hayward, fiancé of the late millionaire's granddaughter.

"Writing Crooked House was pure pleasure and I feel justified in my belief that it is one of my best." --Agatha Christie

Sunday 7 July 2019



In an isolated country town ravaged by drought, a charismatic young priest opens fire on his congregation, killing five men before being shot dead himself.

A year later, journalist Martin Scarsden arrives in Riversend to write a feature on the anniversary of the tragedy. But the stories he hears from the locals don't fit with the accepted version of events.

Just as Martin believes he is making headway, a shocking discovery rocks the town. The bodies of two backpackers - missing since the time of the massacre - are found in the scrublands. The media descends on Riversend and Martin is the one in the spotlight.

Wrestling with his own demons, Martin finds himself risking everything to uncover a truth that becomes more complex with every twist. But there are powerful forces determined to stop him, and he has no idea how far they will go to make sure the town's secrets stay buried.

A book about which I heard decent things about earlier this year and which I had on order for when it was published in paperback in July in the UK. A Goodreads group I'm a member of selected it as their June monthly read, my library had a copy so boom off I went. (Just as well, I would probably have benched my purchased copy and never gotten around to reading it.)

Thoughts then......

I really enjoyed it without it ever threatening to be the best book ever. Complicated, complex and convoluted, the initial premise of a journalist reporting on a town a year after a mass shooting, morphs into something a lot deeper....

memories, trauma, mass shooting, suicide by cop, small town secrets, family histories, hidden identities, a dying town, a drought, the scrublands, a bush fire, more bodies, a media scrum, the police, an ASIO (Australian Security Intelligence Organisation) agent, more death, more secrets, more digging, more tangents and offshoots and diversions ........ and eventually answers.

There's a lot of twists along the way and a lot more going on than the bullet points above. I quite enjoyed the company of the main character, Martin....... his history, his passion for the story, the competitiveness with rival journalists and media to be the first to break the story, to know more than the others, his cultivation of contacts and his ability to get close to the towns folk, aware that on occasions he is being manipulative and intrusive.

Along the way we get to know a lot of the town's inhabitants and personalities..... the cop who took down the killer, the shunned eccentric in the town, the local bookstore/cafe owner, the shopkeeper, the youth who witnessed events, the policeman from the next town, the eccentric living out in the scrublands, as well as finding out about those who have passed - the killer priest and his victims, the deceased hotel owner, previous generations of family.

I liked the setting of the tale with a small town dying on its feet, the isolation, the heat, the weariness of it all. At time the story seems to meander and shoot off into different directions, with other events, both from the past and present, assuming an importance which almost but not quite overshadows the tragedy of the shooting.

My favourite character was Jack Goffing, the ASIO agent keeping an eye on events from the sidelines. His introduction to the book and Martin's revelation of his identity and presence was memorable. At times though it seems as if his presence is a convenience which allows for big information dumps which advance Martin's investigation/story and that of the book as well.

It was also an interesting look at the way the media operates and the intensity surrounding breaking stories - the wolf pack frenzy seeking to satisfy the public's thirst for knowledge. The isolation of the setting with the lack of mobile phone coverage and internet and the frustration that offered to the assembled throngs seemed to add a certain irony to the situation.

Overall I really enjoyed it. It's a debut novel from the author and there was enough about it that will have me keeping my eyes open for his next book. That's one of the benchmarks for me regarding whether I've enjoyed a book from an author or not - would I want to read more from them? Chris Hammer - yes.

4 from 5

Read - June, 2019
Published - 2018
Page count - 500
Source - Leighton Buzzard library
Format - paperback


Nothing too fantastic on the viewing radar this month - one film watched, one true crime mini-series completed, another true crime documentary eavesdropped on, one new TV drama followed, another one started and another one continued.....

More ignored than watched......The Handmaid's Tale, The Shield, The OA, London Kills....

The Virtues (2019) - TV drama

Sadly one one more episode watched in the month. I know it's harrowing and difficult viewing and can only be consumed in small doses, but one in the month? Really....blame the World Cup

Alcoholism, abandonment, abuse, family break-ups, suppressed memories re-surfacing.

From Google....

Written and directed by Stephen Meadows, `The Virtues' is an emotionally charged drama that teeters on the edge of total self-destruction. Joseph is already in a precarious situation battling an alcohol addiction and memories from a dark childhood, but his life is thrown into further disarray when his ex-partner moves to Australia and takes their son with her. With no one to turn to but a bottle of liquor, an all-night bender prompts Joseph to confront his haunting past and he heads to Ireland. There he finds compassion from a sister who thought he was dead but also a familiar face that strikes feelings of fear within him.

68 Kill (2017) - Film
I read the book of the same name a year or two ago. Bryan Smith is the author - thoughts here. Enjoyed it and had the film on the radar ever since. A bit of a mash-up - comedy, crime, horror.... violent, plenty of action, sex content as well - more implied than displayed. Some very funny moments and if my memory holds up quite faithful to the book. Matthew Gray Gubler stars.

From Google......

Trailer-dwelling, sewage-pumping Chip may not lead the most glamorous life, but he's got one thing going for him: he's head over heels infatuated with his girlfriend, Liza. So when she proposes a plot to steal $68,000, he goes along with the plan. But when what was supposed to be a simple heist turns into an off-the-rails, blood-spattered crime spree, Chip learns the hard way just how deranged the love of his life really is.

Evil Genius (2019) - Crime Documentary
Four episodes only start to finish about a bank robbery in the US in 2003 and the fall-out resulting from it. The bank robber, Brian Wells was killed when a bomb collar around his neck exploded while he was in a stand-off with the police. Interesting and entertaining. No real answer as to whether the pizza delivery robber was a manipulated victim or part of the gang.

From Wikipedia....

Evil Genius: The True Story of America's Most Diabolical Bank Heist is a 2018 true crime documentary series about the murder of Brian Wells, a high-profile 2003 incident often referred to as the "collar bomb" or "pizza bomber" case. It was released on Netflix as a four-part series on May 11, 2018.

Wild Bill (2019) - ITV Drama series

One my wife spotted - well done her! Three episodes from a total of six have been watched and enjoyed. I think we're only one behind. Rob Lowe stars as an abrasive US police chief, who has taken a role in Lincolnshire. It's the worst performing police force in the country and hatchet man Lowe has to improve performance while drastically cutting costs - ie making about 600 staff redundant eventually and out-sourcing loads of shit. The modern world eh? Don't you just love it. Lowe's character comes attached with the usual emotional baggage - he's a recent widower and is accompanied by his difficult teenage daughter.

Best series ever? No, but we like it. It's quirky and a bit off-beat. I can't remember the last thing I saw Rob Lowe in, but it's been a while. Where's he been and what's he been doing? Off to look it up.

From IMDB....

US police chief Bill Hixon lands in Lincolnshire with his 14 year-old daughter Kelsey, hoping to flee their recent painful past. New community forces Bill to question everything about himself.

Creators: Dudi Appleton, Jim Keeble, David Griffiths
Stars: Rob Lowe, Bronwyn James, Anthony Flanagan

Killing Eve - Season 2 (2019) - BBC Drama

Enjoyed the first series, but kind of thought it went a bit off the rails towards the end. I can't actually remember if we watched one episode or two in the month. There's eight in total. Let's see how many I can watch in July!

I do enjoy watching Sandra Oh and Jody Comer in this. I have the first book from Luke Jennings which I'll have to read one of these years.

From Google......

Eve's life as a spy is not adding up to what she had hoped it would be when she started. She is a bored, very smart, MI5 security officer who is very desk-bound. Villanelle is a very talented killer, mercurial in mood, who clings to the luxuries of her job. Eve and Villanelle go head to head in a fierce game of cat and mouse, each woman equally obsessed with the other as Eve is tasked with hunting down the psychopathic assassin. Sarah Barnett, BBCA president, says, " `Killing Eve' stands out in a sea of scripted stories as refreshingly entertaining and great fun."

The Staircase (2005, 2013, 2018) - Crime Documentary

My wife and daughter started this one and I initially feigned disinterest, but eventually started following from the reader's chair in the corner. I had heard about this case before and was semi-interested especially as I have one of the author's books on my shelf.

Informative and interesting. I don't think anyone wins here.

From Google.....

In 2001 novelist Michael Peterson's wife died, and he claimed she perished after falling down stairs at their home. The medical examiner, however, determined that she had been beaten with a weapon, which led to Peterson becoming a suspect in what would become a murder investigation. This series, which began with eight episodes in 2005 before being updated in 2013 and 2018, follows the investigation as it proceeds from Peterson's arrest to a verdict being reached in the ensuing trial. The real-life courtroom thriller offers a rare and revealing inside look at a high-profile murder trial and an examination of contemporary American justice.

Friday 5 July 2019


Not so many cinema trips in the month, only 4, but enough to feel like I got value from my membership.......

*Newsflash - bloody hell forgot one - Men in Black International - 5 in the month then!

Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019)
Okay, I didn't yawn my way all through it and it wasn't as ridiculously long as last month's Avengers film, but it wasn't really my cup of tea. Charles Dance was ok as an eco-terrorist with a radical agenda. Millie Bobby Brown (the girl from Stranger Things) features. Her mum in the film was Vera Farmiga, better known to me as Norma Bates from Bates Motel. I really didn't like her character, a scientist/doctor with an unshakeable belief that she's the smartest person in the room and right about everything. I almost cheered when she got hers, but sadly for me it happens about 10 minutes from the end, two hours too late.

Worst film ever? No, but don't buy me the DVD when it drops.

From Google....

Members of the crypto-zoological agency Monarch face off against a battery of god-sized monsters, including the mighty Godzilla, who collides with Mothra, Rodan, and his ultimate nemesis, the three-headed King Ghidorah. When these ancient super-species-thought to be mere myths-rise again, they all vie for supremacy, leaving humanity's very existence hanging in the balance.

Brightburn (2019)
Superhero horror....hmm. A film where the best bits were included in the trailer. Married couple who want a baby find one in the woods in a crashed alien spaceship. Hide the spaceship, as you do. Raise the kid as your own. That's not gonna bite you on the bum, a few years down the line now is it? It wasn't too bad, more enjoyable than Godzilla. The best bit which had me cringing was when the boy puts his hand in the still spinning blades of the lawnmower......don't try this at home folks. Had its moments, it was a night out with two of my three ladies and the coffee at the cinema was good.

Not one to live too long in the memory, though no doubt it will resurface in my mind when the inevitable sequel drops.

From Google....

What if a child from another world crash-landed on Earth, but instead of becoming a hero to mankind, he proved to be something far more sinister? With Brightburn, the visionary filmmaker of Guardians of the Galaxy and Slither presents a startling, subversive take on a radical new genre: superhero horror.

Late Night  (2019)
Probably my favourite film from the cinema outings in the month. I think I like Emma Thompson as an actress a lot more now than I did twenty years ago. She's kind of grown on me. Not quite National Treasure like Judy Dench, but she's getting there. I would still struggle to name half a dozen films I've seen her in. (It's a game we sometimes play to relieve a bit of travel boredom.) I enjoyed seeing John Lithgow in this one, as her husband. Mindy Kaling is great, first time I think I've seen her in anything.

It's funny, but also quite sad in places. Marital infidelity has painful consequences. Diversity, ageism, and the cut-throat world of television......a decent film one I would happily watch again.

From Wikipedia.....

Late Night is a 2019 American comedy-drama film directed by Nisha Ganatra from a screenplay by Mindy Kaling. It stars Emma Thompson, Kaling, Max Casella, Hugh Dancy, John Lithgow, Denis O'Hare, Reid Scott, and Amy Ryan. The plot follows the host of a late-night talk show who teams up with one of her new staff writers in an attempt to save the show.

Late Night was theatrically released in the United States on June 7, 2019. The film received positive reviews from critics, with praise for its social satire and commentary, as well as Thompson's performance.

Google offers a better plot summary......

A late-night talk show host's world is turned upside down when she hires her first and only female staff writer. Originally intended to smooth over diversity concerns, her decision brings about unexpectedly hilarious consequences as the two women who are separated by culture and generation become united by their love of a biting punchline.

Toy Story 4 (2019)

Two hours of my life, I'll never get back. Ha only joking. Is there anyone on the planet who hasn't seen at least one of these films? If you have you know what you are getting then. Not much more to be said than - great fun, lots to like, the usual message about friendship and loyalty and other meaningful aspects of life. Bloody hell weren't the dummies in the antique shop scary? I bet a few kids freaked out with them.

From Google......

Woody, Buzz Lightyear and the rest of the gang embark on a road trip with Bonnie and a new toy named Forky. The adventurous journey turns into an unexpected reunion as Woody's slight detour leads him to his long-lost friend Bo Peep. As Woody and Bo discuss the old days, they soon start to realize that they're worlds apart when it comes to what they want from life as a toy.

Men in Black International (2019)
An okay film. A meal out at lunchtime and an afternoon watch with my family on Father's Day. Not especially memorable (the film that is), but neither was it the worst couple of hours of my life. I can't recall too much about the plot, I never felt like dozing off either. I just felt a bit underwhelmed really. The first two with Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith were far more fun, innovative and interesting. This just seems like second best, a poor imitation or hat tip.

From Google....

The Men in Black have expanded to cover the globe but so have the villains of the universe. To keep everyone safe, decorated Agent H and determined rookie M join forces -- an unlikely pairing that just might work. When aliens that can take the form of any human arrive on Earth, H and M embark on a globe-trotting adventure to save the agency -- and ultimately the world -- from their mischievous plans.Roll on July......

Thursday 4 July 2019



At a dark place in Edinburgh's heart, secrets refues to lie dormant.

At Police Scotland HQ, Grace Macallan has pitched up in Counter Corruption. But the demons of her past are never far behind.

Meanwhile, Edinburgh's gangland is in turmoil. As a new breed of upstarts challenges the old criminal order, their battle for territory causes serious havoc.

Into the war steps DI Janet Hadden. Ambitious, hardbitten and addicted to risk-taking, she knows how to throw opponents off balance. But when she’s thwarted, Hadden seeks help from a notorious underworld fixer, a man who keeps secrets but always extracts a price.

Beset by violence and double-crossing, Grace is soon embroiled in a savage game of cat and mouse with colleagues and criminals alike. With all sides driven by dark desires, theirs is an endgame that will take Grace down unless she holds her nerve.

 'Peter Ritchie pulls no punches with this gritty police procedural. A thoroughly absorbing read which drew me in from the first page.' – CAROLINE MITCHELL, bestselling author of Truth and Lies

Our Little Secrets is the fifth entry in author Peter Ritchie's Grace Macallan series. It's my second encounter with his work after Where No Shadows Fall earlier this year. Rest assured it won't be my last.

Here Macallan has minimal involvement in our tale, until the latter stages at least. That said her telling contribution is one that leaves a lasting impression.

The main focus of the book is loner cop DI Janet Hadden and her efforts to recruit informers at both the top and bottom level of the criminal Grainger gang. Information on deals, operations, meetings, personnel etc will enable her to get results, small victories initially, increasing in importance hopefully. These will keep the bosses happy and ensure her continued ascent up the career ladder. Hadden is a cold fish. Fiercely ambitious, driven, focused and quite prepared to go the extra mile, over-reaching her authority to get that result.

The hierarchy of the Grainger gang comprises three brothers - Dominic, the almost but not quite respectable head and his two siblings, Paul and Sean. These two are more hands on. Paul has ambitions to run things himself. Sean, the quiet one wants out of the life. Our main man is Dominic though. We get his perspective on events.

Dominic has problems; a gambling addiction which is spiralling out of control and which has seen him plundering the assets of the gang to keep afloat. He has thus far concealed this from his brothers. Their relationship however is difficult and there's a recognition from Dom that at some point him and Paul will go head to head. Dom also has a domestic situation which is toxic. He plays away regularly. His wife matches him and there is a deep mutual contempt for each other. His father-in-law, a semi-retired old school criminal king-pin dotes on his daughter and has a loathing for Dominic. In turn, the daughter, Jude despises him for the unforgiveable abuse he inflicted on her long-dead mother. 

Hadden gets her claws into a lower-level member of the gang, Tonto which causes problems for Paul and Sean. Her further recruitment of Dominic on the surface seems win/win. Hadden believes she is in control of the situation. She may have under-estimated Dominic though. A battle for supremacy sees the two entwined together. All this happens under the watchful eye of Arthur Hamilton, Dom's father-in-law. Hamilton is suspicious of Grainger, wants to protect his daughter and harbours hopes of reconciliation and as a consequence has Dominic under surveillance.

I really liked this one. There's a keen insight into the workings and machinations of both the police and the outlaws. Ritchie's previous career in the police is evident in the expert portrayal of both.

Scheming, planning, subterfuge, surveillance, meetings, reports, manipulation, drugs, informants, boozing, sex, infidelity, career ambitions, gambling, a battle of wills, leaks, arrests, links to other gangs, murder, grief, crocodile tears, a patsy, another death, conflict, a journalist, a PI, Belfast crims,  a beating or two and a helluva lot more.

In the end there's an outcome with severe consequences for all the main players.

Gripping and compulsive reading. Fantastic characters, mostly loathsome, but never less than interesting. Well-written with short chapters that keep you engaged and turning the pages. I liked the insight into the scheming mind of the criminal - planning allied with paranoia - it kind of reminded me of Malcolm Mackay's Glasgow trilogy in that respect.

Loved the setting, the Edinburgh back-drop, the Hibbies and the Jambos. I loved the scope of the book - from the viewpoint of Tonto, a low-level bawbag, a chattel and disposable object; to the upper echelons of the organisation. Loved the loner cop and her motivations and manipulations. And of course the introduction of Macallan into the proceedings added another enjoyable dimension to the story.

A top top read. Makes me a bit mad that I didn't discover Peter Ritchie and his books a few years earlier.

5 from 5

Read in July, 2019
Published - 2019
Page count - 416
Source - review copy from Black and White Publishing
Format - paperback