Tuesday 28 January 2020

CRIME FICTION ALPHABET: I IS FOR...... ICE, ICELAND, IZZO

Another trawl through the library ranks and we come up with......

I is for......

Ice

Ice is one of the later books in Ed McBain's 87th Precinct series. No. 36 published in 1983. The OCD in me tells me I ought to read the other 35 before tackling this one.






















Ingram Ice coats the streets where the rapist prowls. Ice spills from the pockets of a dead diamond dealer. Ice runs through the heart of a cold-blooded killer and that of the players in a multimillion dollar show-biz scam. And the deep chill of winter, it is the 87th Precinct who must brave the winds of death to save a city frozen with fear.


Ice Run is sixth book in the Alex McKnight series from author Steve Hamilton

























It is March in Paradise, Michigan, and for the first time since moving there, Alex is taking a hard look at his life, and realizing just how much he's been hiding from. This is what happens when a fifty year old solitary man finds love again, when he never thought he would. The woman is Natalie Reynaud, the officer from the Ontario Provincial Police whose partner was killed when he flew up to the remote outpost to find Alex and Vinnie (in the last book, BLOOD IS THE SKY). As far as the OPP are concerned, Natalie let her partner die, and she is on leave of absence while she decides what to do with the rest of her life. Alex and Natalie need a romantic break, and they spend the weekend in a hotel in Soo Michigan. But just as everything seems to be going wonderfully, they are disturbed by someone who knows all about Natalie, and about the previous generations of her family. An old blood feud is reignited, one that goes back more than forty years to a dark episode buried in her family's past events whose repercussions still drive men to kill each other. As much as Natalie doesn't want Alex to get involved, there's no way he can let her face this danger alone. This is a man who has been beaten up, shot at, and even dragged behind a snowmobile, all because he's a sucker for a friend in need. How much further would he go for love?

I is for Izzo

Deceased French author, Jean-Claude Izzo. Izzo had about half a dozen books to his name before his early death at the age of 54 in 2000.

Amongst these six was his Marseilles trilogy.... Total Chaos, Chourmo and Solea - all of which seem to have been published in English some time after his death.


























"Jean-Claude Izzo's . . . growing literary renown and huge sales are leading to a recognizable new trend in continental fiction: the rise of the sophisticated Mediterranean thriller. . . . Caught between pride and crime, racism and fraternity, tragedy and light, messy urbanization and generous beauty, the city for [detective Fabio Montale] is a Utopia, an ultimate port of call for exiles. There, he is torn between fatalism and revolt, despair and sensualism."-The Economist


This first installment in the legendary Marseilles Trilogy sees Fabio Montale turning his back on a police force marred by corruption and racism and taking the fight against the mafia into his own hands.

I is for Iceland

I have a couple of Icelandic authors on my shelves - Arnaldur Indridason and Ragnar Jonasson

Jonasson I haven't read yet, Indridason I've enjoyed a couple from his Inspector Erlendur series, though its been a few years since I read anything from him. Either would be a good fit for an intended European Reading Challenge I started last year, but never actually got around to doing.

Indridason's The Draining Lake was enjoyed back in 2013




Arctic Chill is the 5th in his 11 book long series. I've a few gaps in my collection but it might not be a bad place to pick up with him again

On an icy January day the Reykjavik police are called to a block of flats where a body has been found in the garden: a young, dark-skinned boy, frozen to the ground in a pool of his own blood. The discovery of a stab wound in his stomach extinguishes any hope that this was a tragic accident. Erlendur and his team embark on their investigation with little to go on but the news that the boy's Thai half-brother is missing. Is he implicated, or simply afraid for his own life? The investigation soon unearths tensions simmering beneath the surface of Iceland's outwardly liberal, multicultural society. A teacher at the boy's school makes no secret of his anti-immigration stance; incidents are reported between Icelandic pupils and the disaffected children of incomers; and, to confuse matters further, a suspected paedophile has been spotted in the area. Meanwhile, the boy's murder forces Erlendur to confront the tragedy in his own past. Soon, facts are emerging from the snow-filled darkness that are more chilling even than the Arctic night.


Back next week to bore you with some J's


Previous entries

CRIME FICTION ALPHABET - A IS FOR.... AX, ABBOTT, ABERDEEN

CRIME FICTION ALPHABET - B IS FOR ....... BOSTON, BIRD, BONES

CRIME FICTION ALPHABET - C IS FOR.........CAPE TOWN, CONFIDENCE MEN, CROSS

CRIME FICTION ALPHABET - D IS FOR ....... DETROIT, DISHER, DEAD

CRIME FICTION ALPHABET - E IS FOR ....... EDINBURGH, EXCESS, ELLIS

CRIME FICTION ALPHABET - F IS FOR ....... FLORIDA, FRANCIS, FLOATERS

CRIME FICTION ALPHABET - G IS FOR ....... GALWAY, GUNS, GRAFTON

CRIME FICTION ALPHABET - H IS FOR ....... HAMBURG, HAMMETT, HIDDEN RIVER

Sunday 26 January 2020

2 BY DAN KAVANAGH aka JULIAN BARNES

A couple, four actually in this omnibus edition from Dan Kavanagh aka Julian Barnes.




From Fantastic Fiction.....

Dan Kavanagh was born in County Sligo in 1946. Having devoted his adolescence to truancy, venery and petty theft, he left home at seventeen and signed on as a deckhand on a Liberian tanker. After jumping ship at Montevideo, he roamed across the Americas taking a variety of jobs: he was a steer-wrestler, a waiter-on-roller-skates at a drive-in eatery in Tucson, and a bouncer in a gay bar in San Francisco. He is currently working in London at jobs he declines to specify, and lives in North Islington.


Barnes is quite well known for his literary fiction. One of which I've even read - Flaubert's Parrot.

Early 80s he turned his hand to crime fiction with this series of four books featuring a bi-sexual PI.

I can't remember how many years I've had this one the TBR pile, ten at least. Another year or two won't make much of a difference, though I do hope to read them one day.

Duffy (1980)

Things aren't going so well for Brian McKechnie. His wife was attacked in their home, his cat was brutally killed and now a man with a suspiciously erratic accent is blackmailing him. When the police fail spectacularly at finding out who's after him, McKechnie engages the services of London's most unusual private eye.

Duffy is a detective like no other. A bisexual ex-policeman with a phobia of ticking watches and a penchant for Tupperware. But what he lacks in orthodoxy he makes up for in street-smart savvy and no-nonsense dealings. Intrigued by McKechnie's dilemma and the apparent incompetency of his ex-colleagues, Duffy heads to his old patch, the seedy underbelly of Soho, to begin inquiries of his own.

Helped by some shady characters from his past, Duffy discover that while things have changed in the years since he was working the area, the streets are still mean and the crooks walk arm in arm with the blues. Full to bursting with sex, violence and dodgy dealings, Duffy is a gripping and entertaining crime novel with a distinctly different and entirely lovable anti-hero.


Fiddle City (1981)

There's suspicion, smuggling and shady goings-on galore in the second novel in Dan Kavanagh's darkly humorous series, featuring bisexual private detective Duffy.

Everyone knows a bit of petty theft goes on in the freight business at Heathrow - it is fiddle city, after all. But things have gone beyond a joke for Roy Hendrick and he suspects someone who works for him is helping themselves to more than they should. That's when he sets Duffy on the case.

A bisexual ex-policeman, Duffy runs a struggling security firm, has an obsessive attitude to cleanliness and can often be found propping up the bar at the Alligator. Duffy agrees to work for Hendrick and goes undercover to try and root out the culprit.

But things aren't all they're cracked up to be. What's the story behind the imperious HR manager Mrs Boseley with her permanently frosty demeanour? And is Hendrick really as honest as he claims to be? Duffy's up to his neck in it.


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

A Christmas gift, a couple of review copies from authors (or assistants on their behalf) and some purchases.....


Martin Michael Driessen - The Pelican (2019) - Christmas present

A Christmas present from my son. Not a book or author I have previously heard of, somewhere at the front or the back of the book is a comparison to Pascal Garnier's work, and I do like him. Ergo, I should like this....

From award-winning Dutch author Martin Michael Driessen comes a fearlessly funny tragedy about an improbable friendship, unstable dreams, missed opportunities, and epic coincidence.

In a quiet coastal town in Yugoslavia, two men seeking more than the Communist regime can offer find their lives deceitfully entwined.

Andrej is a postman in complete denial of his existence. He yearns for respect and fame but commits petty crimes for reasons he doesn't fully comprehend. Josip is an increasingly irrelevant cable car operator and unfaithfully married. Life was so much simpler when neither one knew the other's secrets. Now that they do - discovered quite by accident - each man has resorted to blackmailing the other. As their anonymous misdeeds escalate, a farce of mutual dependency begins. So does the unlikeliest of friendships when Andrej and Josip finally meet face-to-face.

In a tale set against the impending wars, Martin Michael Driessen ingeniously explores the foibles of two painfully ordinary men boldly staking their claims on life.


Clayton Lindemuth - Shirley F'N Lyle Viva The Revolution (2019) - purchased copy

There's a few books from Lindemuth on the pile, but I've not read him yet. This one looks good.

Shirley Lyle hooks for a living. She's a big girl who keeps her profile low. But when a drug lord and his son toss her trailer, she adds a couple letters to her name.

Now, she's killed the drug lord's son and two meth zombies. Fed up, ready to set fire to her past, her job - and her trailer - she's dragged back into the role she's forsworn by a man who presses her buttons with a hammer.

Shirley realizes she'll never be more than a 400-pound hooker. But when her partner-in-revolution, Ulyana the Ukrainian stripper, disappears, her car empty and bullet holes in the glass, Shirley reaches deep, finds her sass, and puts flame to fuse.

Who took Ulyana?

The Russian mob?

The man who beat Shirley down?

The 83-year-old drug lord who refuses to die?

When all your life you've been one thing, but your survival - and your friend's - demand you be the hero...

You put on the F'N cape.

Prepare yourself for a battle of good and evil unlike any you've seen. With rave reviews from Publishers Weekly (starred review and best of the week), IndieNext List, Kirkus, BlueInk Review, Foreword Reviews, San Francisco Book Review, Seattle Book Review, Manhattan Book Review, Indie Reader, and more, if you haven't read Clayton Lindemuth's unique brand of literary noir, what are you waiting for?


Mitchell S. Jackson - Survival Math: Notes on an All-American Family (2019) - purchased copy
A bit of non-fiction that caught my eye.

'A mesmerising book, full of story, truth, pain, lyricism, humour and astonishment: the stuff of a difficult life, fully lived, and masterfully transformed into art' SALMAN RUSHDIE

'Intimate and wise, poignant and compassionate, redemptive and raw. You have to read this beautiful book' CHERYL STRAYED, author of Wild

An electrifying, dazzlingly written reckoning and an essential addition to the conversation about race and class, Survival Math takes its name from the calculations that award-winning author Mitchell S. Jackson made to survive the Portland, Oregon, of his youth.

This dynamic book explores gangs and guns, near-death experiences, sex work, masculinity, composite fathers, the concept of 'hustle' and the destructive power of addiction - all framed within the story of Jackson, his family and his community.

Mitchell S. Jackson presents a microcosm of struggle and survival in contemporary urban America - an exploration of the forces that shaped his life, his city, and the lives of so many black men like him. As Jackson charts his own path from drug dealer to published novelist, he gives us a heartbreaking, fascinating, lovingly rendered view of the injustices and victories, large and small, that defined his youth.

'Jackson's mesmerizing voice and style draws you into the survival calculations for millions of American kids and families, revealing a need-to-know reality for all of us' PIPER KERMAN, Author of Orange is the New Black



Joyce Carol Oates - The Triumph of the Spider Monkey (1976) - purchased copy

I quite like books from this publisher, Hard Case Crime, but I can't keep up with their output. Oates is an author I've heard of but never tried.

Unavailable for 40 years, this seminal novel of madness and murder is acclaimed author Joyce Carol Oates' powerful trip into the mind of a maniac.

Abandoned as a baby in a bus station locker, shuttled from one abusive foster home and detention center to another, Bobbie Gotteson grew up angry, hurting, damaged. His hunger to succeed as a musician brought him across the country to Hollywood, but along with it came his seething rage, his paranoid delusions, and his capacity for acts of shocking violence.

Unavailable for 40 years, The Triumph of the Spider Monkey is an eloquent, terrifying, heartbreaking exploration of madness by one of the most acclaimed authors of the past century. This definitive edition for the first time pairs the original novel with a never-before-collected companion novella by Joyce Carol Oates, unseen since its sole publication in a literary journal nearly half a century ago, which examines the impact of Gotteson's killing spree on a woman who survived it, as seen through the eyes of the troubled young man hired by a private detective to surveil her...


Peter Ritchie - Maxine's Story (2019) - review copy from publicist


I became familiar with Ritchie's work in the past year or so, enjoying
Where No Shadows Fall (2019) and Our Little Secrets (2019). This latest one looks good.


Maxine Welsh works the streets of Leith, her world collapsing beneath the weight of addiction and mounting debt. A meeting with her only friend leads to a series of incidents that open up new possibilities until her life is threatened and events spin out of control.

Police, gangsters and friends old and new all play their part in another story of crime and its consequences set in the world of the bestselling Detective Grace Macallan series.

First published as a novella in 2015, this revised and extended edition follows Maxine's journey beyond the streets of Edinburgh in a gritty, poignant tale of hope and redemption.

Lawrence Block - Hunting Buffalo with Bent Nails (2019) - review copy from author or one of his team

A new book from Lawrence Block is always a cause for celebration!

While he is probably best known as a novelist and short-story writer, Lawrence Block has produced a rich trove of nonfiction over the course of a sixty-year career. His instructional books for writers are leaders in the field, and his self-described pedestrian memoir, Step By Step, has found a loyal audience in the running and racewalking community.

Over the years, Block has written extensively for magazines and periodicals. Generally Speaking collects his philatelic columns from Linn’s Stamp News, while his extensive observations of crime fiction, along with personal glimpses of some of its foremost practitioners, have won wide acclaim in book form as The Crime of Our Lives.

Hunting Buffalo With Bent Nails is what he’s got left over.

The title piece, originally published in American Heritage, recounts the ongoing adventure Block and his wife undertook, criss-crossing the United States and parts of Canada in their quixotic and exotic quest to find every “village, hamlet, and wide place in the road named Buffalo.” Other travel tales share space with a remembrance of his mother, odes to New York, a disquisition on pen names and book tours, and, well, no end of bent nails not worth straightening. Where else will you find “Raymond Chandler and the Brasher Doubloon,” an assessment of that compelling writer from a numismatic standpoint? Where else can you read about Block’s collection of old subway cars?


Saturday 25 January 2020

ROB PARKER - TILL MORNING IS NIGH (2019)


Synopsis/blurb......

Dragged half dead from a river, Ben Bracken, fugitive ex-soldier, is in a bad way.

But, too valuable to discard and too dangerous to set free, an old friend offers him a choice: abandon his identity and become a desk-bound advisor to the National Crime Agency, or go back to the prison he broke out of – a place where he is extremely unpopular.

Bracken is forced to accept – and he’s becoming a different man.

But all this changes when, days before Christmas, an undercover narcotics officer is murdered in horrific circumstances, and only Bracken has the inside track on the key suspect. Throwing himself into the fray, Bracken finds himself in a very present-day ideological conflict, uncovering a plot which has huge implications for both Manchester’s political, socio-economic landscape, and the nation at large – coming to an explosive conclusion amidst the twinkling fairy lights and frost-tipped boughs of Christmas Eve...

Till Morning is Nigh is the fourth Ben Bracken book from Rob Parker and in my opinion the best of the bunch so far.

Concisely - not over long, pacey, a topical plot, a Christmas back drop (should have read it a month ago), with a decent blend of action formed around a hurried investigation.

I think I enjoyed seeing Bracken operating here as part of a team rather than the lone wolf which he seems to have been more of in the earlier books. He has a fledgling family as is somewhat softened here, and all the more appealing for it. The family element gives him a bit more vulnerability ...... a partner, a new born son, two potential step children to love as his own, though there's a dark secret casting a shadow over the family unit, concerning events from the past.

Murder, drugs, politics of the far right variety, patriotism - misguided and genuine, a movement, an exodus from the city, a legendary killer still at large and resurfacing, a popular politician, a gang of ex-military heavies in cahoots, ambitions, agendas, plans and manifestos, alt-right hate, an investigation, undercover and infiltration, a target, a Christmas conspiracy, a nativity play, a sniper, and a helluva lot more besides.

All very on point. There's a slight credibility stretch at Bracken's physical doggedness and determination in the light of some injuries sustained in the lengthy dramas at the end of the book, but it was one I was happy to go along with.

Overall 4.5 from 5.

Roll on the next Bracken book from Parker, hopefully in tandem with the team he worked with in this book. (Unacknowledged and ignored here - I'm rushing my thoughts as I only finished this one an hour or so ago!)

Rob Parker has been enjoyed before......

The Penny Black (2019), Morte Point (2018), Crook's Hollow (2018),  A Wanted Man (2017) 

Read - January, 2020
Published - 2019
Page count - 226
Source - review copy from author
Format - paperback ARC

Friday 24 January 2020

ROGER McKNIGHT - HOPEFUL MONSTERS (2019)


Synopsis/blurb.....

Roger McKnight’s debut collection depicts individuals hampered by hardship, self-doubt, and societal indifference, who thanks to circumstance or chance, find glimmers of hope in life’s more inauspicious moments. Hopeful Monsters is a fictional reflection on Minnesota’s people that explores the state’s transformation from a homogeneous northern European ethnic enclave to a multi-national American state. Love, loss, and longing cross the globe from Somalia and Sweden to Maine and Minnesota as everyday folk struggle for self-realization. Idyllic lake sides and scorching city streets provide authentic backdrops for a collection that shines a flickering light on vital global social issues. Read and expect howling winds, both literal and figurative, directed your way by a writer of immense talent.

“Roger McKnight is a very slick writer with an incredibly quirky sensibility. Miss him at your own peril.”  – Mark SaFranko –

"‘Hopeful Monsters’ is one of the best collections of linked stories I’ve ever read.”  – Donald Ray Pollock –

An enjoyable collection of short stories, if not an exactly memorable one.

Seventeen in all - listed below and no real favourite among them. Scrub that - probably the last couple - The First Best Bus and Speed Clean.

Speed Clean in particular satisfies with the kindness displayed by a couple cleaning out a mother's possessions after she has passed. Their acts allowing a measure of the women's spirit to stay alive as her washer moves on to a young family with an infant and very little else.

People, loneliness, friendships, strangers, poverty, immigration, family, loss, dreams, depression, unemployment, landlords, poultry farming, thoughts of suicide, military service, bus rides, waiting tables, art, connections, and probably a lot more.

Perhaps my reading experience would have been better served by consuming the stories over a shorter period of time. Only in a couple did I notice the connections to other characters in other tales. What can I say - work and life interfered with my reading and something that should have taken a week, ended up being several months. That's hardly the fault of the author.

GENUINE SOULS
OUT THE WINDOW
A PLACE IN SPACE
DOWN THE RIVER
SEPTEMBER MIST
RAIN SHADOW
BASIC SKILLS
FORGETTING SHE FORGOT
IAGO
LOVING SØREN
BURNT POTATOES
HOPEFUL MONSTERS
SIXTEEN
VICTORIA
YESTERDAY’S STORMS
THE FIRST, BEST BUS
SPEED CLEAN

Overall 3 from 5

Read - January, 2020
Published - 2019
Page count - 270
Source - review copy received from publisher, Storgy Books
Format - kindle

Thursday 23 January 2020

RICHARD ANDERSON - BOXED (2019)


Synopsis/blurb...

‘I jump back, curse in rapid fire, and then lean forward and shove the box hard, off the bench, and away from me. It thuds on the floor. Is this a nasty trick?’

Dave Martin is down on his luck: his wife has left him; his farm is a failure; his house is a mess; he has withdrawn from his community and friends; and tragedy has stolen his capacity to care. He passes the time drinking too much and buying cheap tools online, treating the delivered parcels as gifts from people who care about him.

And then boxes begin to arrive in the mail: boxes that he didn’t order, but ones that everyone around him seems to want desperately. As he tries to find out the secret of the boxes, Dave is drawn into a crazy world of red herrings and wrong turns, good guys and bad, false friends and true, violence, lust, fear, revenge, and a lot, lot more. It’s not a world he understands, but is it the only one Dave can live in?

An ongoing stop/start/start/stop read - OK a listen - which involved me repeating large elements of text I'd already listened to as my phone kept skipping and fast forwarding to sections I hadn't caught up to so I ended up resetting to the start. One of my obvious superpowers is the ability to pocket dial unwittingly.

Man on his own, starts receiving boxes in his mailbox which is an intriguing start point, particularly as the contents of one has the potential to affect his life, financially at least, though surely the said owner of the box will be anxious to recover it.

Neighbours and acquaintances start calling on Dave Martin. Out of the blue phone calls from a namesake across town happen. The mailman acts suspicious, or so it appears when Dave starts paying attention to his surroundings. All seem very interested in his boxes. Boxes which most of the time aren't even his. Boxes which keep arriving and which vary considerably in content.

For Dave's life has gone to pot in the past eighteen months or so and he has stopped caring, as his farm slides into decline and he contemplates whether to continue with life. At least uncovering the mystery of the aforementioned boxes might allow him to delay that important decision for a while longer. And if it gets him killed in the process, well that's one decision he won't have to worry about.

Loneliness, depression, grief, loss, a marital split, neighbourly concern, friendship, newspapers, journalism, boxes, suspicion, distrust, conspiracies, paranoia, crockery, a beating or two, a possible romance, an asshole acquaintance, farming, family history, strangers calling, cash, race fixing, a road trip, hospital, police involvement, a few shotgun standoffs, road rage, a dead potter, a  big city criminal outfit, a hitman, a kiln, a puzzle......... plenty more besides.

I enjoyed it but not quite as much as I had hoped to. The mystery was intriguing but the reveal seemed a bit of a stretch for me and a tad implausible. I think I might have enjoyed it better had it been read in the traditional sense....... turning pages, no real stop/start interruptions to the flow and perhaps my reactions would have been more caught up in the climax of events, with the author producing a bit of momentum towards the end of the book.

In its depiction of a man suffering from a tremendous loss and the aftermath of coping and trying to move forward in life, it was extremely powerful and you can't help but put yourself in the main character's shoes. I think that side of the story resonated with me most.

There's also a depiction of the farming life and community..... neighbourliness in small communities, the perils of the season, drought and more topically the potential for fire

Overall 3 from 5

Richard Anderson's novel Retribution sits on the pile.

Read - (listened to) January, 2020
Published - 2019
Page count - 203 (or 8hr 26min)
Source - Audible purchase
Format - Audiobook

Tuesday 21 January 2020

MARK NEWMAN - IN FOR THE KILL (2016)


Synopsis/blurb.....

Malkie Thompson's out of favour, and this time Glasgow Crime Lord McAlister wants him gone - permanently. There's no turning back, he's sent for the cleaner, an ex-cop known simply as Baxter. He's the go to guy for delicate jobs, when problems need to disappear, no questions asked.

If only it was that simple. Baxter's got his own set of problems. Haunted by the past, he vowed never to return, and now he's broke, with Callaghan's Newcastle firm closing in demanding he repay the debt. What choice does he have? He's backed into a corner. If he misses the deadline they're going after his family.

In For The Kill is the second in series of the Crime Syndicate thrillers, and leads on from the Amazon #1 Bestseller Violence in the Blood. The setting is Glasgow Scotland 1987. Although second in series, In For The Kill is a self contained story and can be read either in sequence or as a standalone novel.



First read of 2020 and a re-read and an enjoyable start to kick off. I previously read it in March, 2017, so memories of it were beginning to dim. No real stunning insight or additional thoughts to add to my previous encounter.

Fast, pacey, violent, connects to the first outing with some additional characters. I'm looking forward to the third instalment soon.

4.5 from 5

Read - January, 2020 (2nd time)
Published - 2016
Page count - 104
Source - author
Format - kindle
-----------------------------------------------
* Previous thoughts below.......

 http://col2910.blogspot.com/2017/05/mark-j-newman-in-for-kill-2016.html

Synopsis/blurb......

Malkie Thompson's out of favour, and this time Glasgow Crime Boss McAlister wants him gone. There's no turning back, he's sent for Baxter the freelance cleaner and go to guy for the underworld. Baxter's non affiliated, that's how he likes it and that's how it's staying. He doesn't sleep anymore because his past still haunts him. He vowed never to return, but he’s broke, and owes Callaghan's Newcastle firm 20K. He's out of choices, if he misses the deadline they're going after his family.

It's time to take out the trash.

In For The Kill is the second in series of the Crime Syndicate thrillers, and leads on from the Amazon #1 Bestseller Violence in the Blood. The setting is Glasgow Scotland 1987.

Second time around for me with Mark J. Newman following on from January's reading of Violence in the Blood. Reviewed here.

Probably not a read that will appeal to everyone, we have a tale of violence - fairly graphic and a cast of characters with few redeeming features among the lot of them. That said, I really, really liked it.

Gangsters, illegal gambling, bare-knuckle boxing, an unpayable debt, a dispute in Glasgow with a parting of the ways between employer and employee and a call for the clean-up guy.

Really cleverly constructed in the way it ties in with the first in the series. I'm looking forward to the next installment in this series. Newman packs a hell of a lot of action, story and character history into this one and gets the job done in less than 70 pages.

4.5 from 5

Mark J. Newman has written one further tale in his Crime Syndicate series, which I hope to read later this year - Walk Amongst the Dead.

He has his website here. He's also on Facebook here and catch him on Twitter - @marknewmanwrit1

Read in March, 2017
Published - 2016
Page count - 67
Source - from author after signing up to his website newsletter
Format - Kindle

Monday 20 January 2020

CRIME FICTION ALPHABET: H IS FOR....... HAMBURG, HAMMETT, HIDDEN RIVER,

This week's Crime Fiction Alphabet is the eighth entry in my riveting series and....

H is for........

Hamburg and the setting for Simone Buchholz's Chastity Riley series......two so far and one coming soon....... Blue Night (2017), Beton Rouge (2018) and Mexico Street (2020).




Synopsis/blurb.....

After convicting a superior for corruption and shooting off a gangster's crown jewels, the career of Hamburg's most hard-bitten state prosecutor, Chastity Riley, has taken a nosedive: she has been transferred to the tedium of witness protection to prevent her making any more trouble. However, when she is assigned to the case of an anonymous man lying under police guard in hospital - almost every bone in his body broken, a finger cut off, and refusing to speak in anything other than riddles - Chastity's instinct for the big, exciting case kicks in.

Using all her powers of persuasion, she soon gains her charge's confidence and finds herself on the trail to Leipzig, a new ally and a whole heap of lethal synthetic drugs. When she discovers that a friend and former colleague is trying to bring down Hamburg's Albanian mafia kingpin single-handedly, it looks like Chas Riley's dull life on witness protection really has been short-lived....

Fresh, fiendishly fast-paced and full of devious twists and all the hard- boiled poetry and ascerbic wit of the best noir, Blue Night marks the stunning start of a brilliant new crime series, from one of Germany's best-selling authors.

When I eventually get around to reading some European crime fiction this one will be near the top of the pile.

H is for ......

Hidden River - a 15 year old standalone novel from Adrian McKinty.























Synopsis/blurb.......

Alexander Lawson is an ex-detective for Northern Ireland's police force. After a disastrous six-month stint in the drug squad, he became addicted to heroin and resigned in disgrace. Now twenty-four, sickly, and on the dole, Alex learns that his high school love, Victoria Patawasti, has been murdered in America. Victoria's wealthy family sends Alex to Colorado to investigate the case, and he seizes the opportunity for a chance at redemption. But things don't go exactly as planned. Struggling to kick his heroin habit, forced to go on the run after the only credible witness to Victoria's murder is accidentally killed, wanted by both the Colorado cops and the Ulster police who believe he has information about a corruption scandal, and with the murderer closing all the time, Alex will have a fight on his hands just to stay alive, never mind solving the case. 


McKinty's The Chain was enjoyed last year.

H is for....... 

Hammett - Dashiell, the author from the 20s, 30s and 40s and Hammett - a 1975 novel from Joe Gores featuring the hard-boiled author as his detective
























From Chinatown's dark alleys to the fog shrouded Golden Gate, crooked politicians ran San Francisco. To Hammett, retired Pinkerton detective and struggling writer, it was all just grist to his fictional mill. Until the night his pal walked into a baseball bat. Then Hammett hung up his typewriter, put on his gumshoes and went out into the brawling, swaggering city to find the brutal murderer.



Dashiell Hammett ........ from Wikipedia

Samuel Dashiell Hammett was an American author of hard-boiled detective novels and short stories. He was also a screenwriter and political activist. Among the enduring characters he created are Sam Spade, Nick and Nora Charles, and the Continental Op.

The Dain Curse (1931) is from his Continental Op series






Everything about the Leggett diamond heist indicated to the Continental Op that it was an inside job. From the stray diamond found in the yard to the eyewitness accounts of a "strange man" casing the house, everything was just too pat. Gabrielle Dain-Leggett has enough secrets to fill a closet, and when she disappears shortly after the robbery, she becomes the Op's prime suspect. But her father, Edgar Leggett, keeps some strange company himself and has a dark side the moon would envy. Before he can solve the riddle of the diamond theft, the Continental Op must first solve the mystery of this strange family.


Previous entries

CRIME FICTION ALPHABET - A IS FOR.... AX, ABBOTT, ABERDEEN

CRIME FICTION ALPHABET - B IS FOR ....... BOSTON, BIRD, BONES

CRIME FICTION ALPHABET - C IS FOR.........CAPE TOWN, CONFIDENCE MEN, CROSS

CRIME FICTION ALPHABET - D IS FOR ....... DETROIT, DISHER, DEAD

CRIME FICTION ALPHABET - E IS FOR ....... EDINBURGH, EXCESS, ELLIS

CRIME FICTION ALPHABET - F IS FOR ....... FLORIDA, FRANCIS, FLOATERS

CRIME FICTION ALPHABET - G IS FOR ....... GALWAY, GUNS, GRAFTON

Sunday 19 January 2020

2 BY KEN BRUEN

A couple this week from Irish author, Ken Bruen.
























Bruen has two well regarded series to his name - the Inspector Brant series, set in London and his Jack Taylor series set in Galway. Additionally there's the short Max and Angela series co-authored with Jason Starr and nearly a dozen standalone novels.


The Guards and The Killing of the Tinkers are the first two in the Jack Taylor series. I've read them both, but years ago. When I get around to consuming the series front to back, I'll probably have to re-visit both first.


The Guards (2001)



Refreshing, incisive writing in a superb novel from an established author of crime fiction. Jack Taylor is a disgraced ex-cop in Galway. Mourning the death of his father, he is slowly drinking to oblivion. He has an ability to "find things" and is asked to investigate a teenage suicide. This leads him into a dangerous confrontation with a powerful businessman. A darker conspiracy slowly unfolds. Aided by a punk girl, he fumbles towards a lethal solution. The narrative is fueled by black humour, stark violence and moments of radiance.

The Guards remain as a chorus in the background, never altogether past, infringing on Jack Taylor at the least expected moment. The intimate, bustling city of Galway, crashing into prosperity, illuminates the story at every turn.






The Killing of the Tinkers (2002)

Jack Taylor, A disgraced ex-cop in Galway, has slid further down the slope of despair. After a year in London he returns to his home town of Galway with a leather coat and a coke habit.

Someone is systematically slaughtering young travellers and dumping their bodies in the city centre. Even in the state he's in, Jack Taylor has an uncanny ability to know where to look, what questions to ask, and with the aid of an English policeman, apparently solves the case. Now he stands poised on the precipice of the most devastating decision of his career, while at the same time a rare opportunity of real and enduring love also materialises.

As with The Guards, the city of Galway dances, jeers, consoles, threatens, entices, near kills and yet continues to be the ultimate ground of Jack Taylor's transcendence, all he understands of heaven and hell.

Saturday 18 January 2020

DECEMBER 2019 - FILMS + TV (HOME VIEWING)

A few films were enjoyed over the holidays, one a re-watch from the 90s, one an old film I hadn't seen before, a couple from more recently - one enjoyed, one endured and a Christmas special which the whole family (sans moi) had been anticipating and loved, but which was a bit cringey in my opinion.


The Limehouse Golem (2016) - Film


A bit of Victorian crime with Bill Nighy chasing a serial killer (pre-Jack the Ripper days) in London. Daniel Mays seems to pop up in a lot of things at the minute. I like him. I thought the main actress was Jenna Coleman, but apparently it was Olivia Cooke. Maybe it's just me, but they look very similar.














I quite enjoyed it though I don't think it will live too long in the memory. Quite dark in places, just how I like it. I'm not usually a massive fan of ye olde type dramas, but I watched a couple over the holiday periods - A Christmas Carol - and wasn't bumped out of the story by the setting.


From Google.....

Victorian London is gripped with fear as a serial killer is on the loose and leaving cryptic messages written in the blood of his victims. With few leads and increasing public pressure, Scotland Yard assigns the case to Inspector Kildare, a seasoned detective who has a sneaking suspicion that he's being set up to fail. Faced with a long list of suspects, Kildare must rely on help from a witness to stop the murders and bring the maniac to justice.





Gavin and Stacey Christmas Special (2019) - TV one-off


Much anticipated, the rest of the family loved it. Hmm...at the risk of being perceived as a bah humbug, it was okay. I laughed in a few places, cringed in others - the smoking weed scene in particular. My jury is out on James Corden I think. I watch him occasionally hosting a sports quiz, name escapes me and I think he's a massive tool. I see his car karaoke videos and I think he's an annoying massive tool. I see some of his posts online, most recently about some social issue about something or other (shocking memory, I can't remember what, Grenfell maybe) and I think he's alright.

From IMDB.....

10 years on and the Shipman's and Smithy head to Barry for Christmas. A lot has changed in 10 years but there is still one thing on Nessa's mind.


.
The Dressmaker (2015) - Film

Semi-watched with the head half in a book. Seemed very long (1hr 59min), first three quarters dragged, dragged a bit more, then it got very draggy, the last half hour was ok. I think my main problem was Kate Winslet. I can't help it, I've just never taken to her and as a consequence any film she is in, I automatically feel negative towards it. The Holiday might be the only exception, which is kind of funny, because I don't really like Jude Law either. If it helps, my wife and one of my daughters enjoyed it. The other one was on the same page as me and took herself off to bed after enduring an hour or so.

From Wikipedia.......

The Dressmaker is a 2015 Australian revenge comedy-drama film written and directed by Jocelyn Moorhouse, based on the 2000 novel of the same name by Rosalie Ham. It stars Kate Winslet as a femme fatale in the title role of the dressmaker, Myrtle "Tilly" Dunnage, who returns to a small Australian town to take care of her ailing, mentally unstable mother. The film explores the themes of revenge and creativity and was described by Moorhouse as "Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven with a sewing machine".


Absolute Power (1997) - Film

Spotted on terrestrial TV in December and recorded. I'm a bit of a Clint Eastwood fan, though fair to say I haven't probably seen even half of what he's done. I like Gene Hackman as well - absolutely loved him in Mississippi Burning, something I ought to watch again soon. And I don't mind a bit of Ed Harris either.

I hadn't seen this one before and I enjoyed it. Quite a topical plot in respect of powerful men abusing their positions, always aided and abetted by willing flunkies. Probably not too much of a spoiler to say, good triumphs over evil in the end.

From Google....

Luther Whitney is a professional thief who works occasionally. He is planning to finish off his last job, and everything is going smoothly until he gets framed for a murder.


The Fugitive (1993) - Film

I've seen this before back in the day, but it was long enough ago that I couldn't remember how it all unfolds until the end. Plenty of excitement, thrills and tension throughout. Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones are both pretty good. I'd happily watch it again in another 20 years time. I think I'll have to track down a copy of Presumed Innocent to watch soon.

From Wikipedia...

The Fugitive is a 1993 American action thriller film based on the 1960s television series of the same name created by Roy Huggins. It was directed by Andrew Davis and stars Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones, with supporting roles by Sela Ward, Joe Pantoliano, Andreas Katsulas, and Jeroen Krabbé. After being wrongfully convicted for the murder of his wife and unjustly sentenced to death, Dr. Richard Kimble (Ford) escapes from custody (after a bus-train wreck) and sets out to find his wife's killer, catch him, and clear his name, while being pursued by a team of U.S. Marshals led by Deputy Samuel Gerard (Jones). The screenplay was written by David Twohy and Jeb Stuart, from a story by Twohy.

Friday 17 January 2020

DECEMBER 2019 - FILMS (CINEMA)

Less cinema trips in the month than previously, but still enough to get value from the ongoing Odeon sign-up ..... four in total. It would have been five, only we had to bail on Motherless Brooklyn after booking it, due to a pet emergency - when two dogs become one. The film I'm guessing wasn't a massive hit in these parts as it only showed for a week.


What I did see....... an Agatha Christie homage apparently, a UK gang related romance, the latest (last? hopefully) Star Wars film and Little Women



Blue Story (2019)
A lot of negative publicity surrounded this film on its release...... pulled from cinemas, amid audience punch ups, scared punters, blah blah blah  - the sort of headlines that have Daily Mail editors salivating. Nothing of the sort occurred when we went to see it.

Friendships, separation, rivalry, family, love, gang membership, violence.... quite sad really. Enjoyable and thought provoking. Great soundtrack though don't ask me what any of the tracks used were.

From Wikipedia....  

Blue Story is a 2019 British drama film written, directed, and narrated by Rapman (Andrew Onwubolu) through the medium of rap. The film is Rapman's feature directorial debut and is based on his 2014 YouTube series of the same name.

The film was released in the UK on 22 November 2019.

Premise
Blue Story is the tragic tale of best friends Marco and Timmy who, from different areas of London (Peckham and Deptford), find themselves becoming enemies in a violent and insidious postcode war. Blue Story is based around events of Rapman's own personal experiences growing up in Deptford, in the London Borough of Lewisham, and being sent to school in Camberwell, in the London Borough of Southwark, thereby crossing gang-affiliated borders.


BBC Films say the film "powerfully depicts the futility of gang violence".



Star Wars - The Rise of Skywalker (2019)

Well I enjoyed it more than I expected to. I'm not a massive fan of the series, though I have probably seen most of them more than once. Is there anyone who hasn't?

Kept me entertained and I avoided looking at my watch constantly, which is a massive positive when compared to Avengers films watched recently. (2 hours 22 mins long, so it wasn't mega long) Don't buy me the DVD though.

From Google.....

When it's discovered that the evil Emperor Palpatine did not die at the hands of Darth Vader, the rebels must race against the clock to find out his whereabouts. Finn and Poe lead the Resistance to put a stop to the First Order's plans to form a new Empire, while Rey anticipates her inevitable confrontation with Kylo Ren.



Knives Out (2019)
Stellar cast and great fun. I love Michael Shannon, Toni Collette and Jamie Lee Curtis. Daniel Craig and Don Johnson don't irritate me. A who-dunnit in the tradition of Agatha Christie. Wouldn't necessarily have wanted to sit through it all over again as soon as it ended, but I did enjoy it. Did I guess the perpetrator? Not sure I was trying to to be honest.

From Google...

When renowned crime novelist Harlan Thrombey dies just after his 85th birthday, the inquisitive and debonair Detective Benoit Blanc arrives at his estate to investigate. From Harlan's dysfunctional family to his devoted staff, Blanc sifts through a web of red herrings and self-serving lies to uncover the truth behind Thrombey's untimely demise.



Little Women (2019)
I kind of expected to hate this or at best be indifferent, and when arriving in the cinema - reclining seats and foot rests - thought I'd endure a massive bollocking for dozing off about 20 minutes after it started. Fear ye not. I really liked it. Not sure I want to read to book by Louisa May Alcott, but I happily watch this one again in a year or two's time.

From Google.....

In the years after the Civil War, Jo March lives in New York and makes her living as a writer, while her sister Amy studies painting in Paris. Amy has a chance encounter with Theodore, a childhood crush who proposed to Jo but was ultimately rejected. Their oldest sibling, Meg, is married to a schoolteacher, while shy sister Beth develops a devastating illness that brings the family back together.



Ranking
1. Blue Story
2. Knives Out
3. Little Women
4. Star Wars - The Rise of Skywalker