Tuesday 31 March 2020

DONALD E. WESTLAKE - THE BUSY BODY (1966)


Synopsis/blurb.....

A mob boss's right-hand man must track down a missing cache of heroin .

The corpse isn't anybody special -- a low-level drug courier -- but it has been so long since the organization's last grand funeral that Nick Rovito decides to give the departed a big send-off. He pays for a huge church, a procession of Cadillacs, and an ocean of flowers, and enjoys the affair until he learns the dead man is going to his grave wearing the blue suit. Rovito summons Engel, his right-hand man, and tells him to get a shovel.

Inside the lining of the blue suit jacket is $250,000 worth of uncut heroin, smuggled back from Baltimore the day the courier died. When Engel's shovel strikes coffin, he braces himself for the encounter with the dead man. But the coffin is empty, the heroin gone, and Engel has no choice but to track down the missing body or face his boss's wrath.

A second outing for Westlake's The Busy Body. I've stalled on listening to more from Block's Evan Tanner series, until such time as I read the fifth, so I was minded to re-listen to this one during the commute and some hours at work in solitary confinement doing a bit of a solo project.

I enjoyed it last time. I enjoyed it as much second time around, probably a bit more. If I run out of things in my Audible library, I reckon I would enjoy listening to this a third time.

60s book, humour, crime, the mob and some missing drugs and some grave robbing, a likable main character, looking to get out from under the jam he's in.

I said it all last time, I think.

4 from 5

Read - (listened to) March, 2020
Published - 1966
Page count - 179 (5 hours 32 minutes listening time)
Source - Audible download when on a free trial
Format - Audible

* September, 2018 thoughts
----------------------------
I have enjoyed a few Westlake novels over the years, mostly more hard-boiled fare with Parker his professional criminal as protagonist from Westlake's alter-ego Richard Stark than the lighter, comic novels Westlake put out under his own name.

The Busy Body is a mid-60s offering from Westlake and a New York caper. It was a different experience for me on this occasion - having a book read to me, as opposed to reading a book. It's not my preferred format, but actually worked for me on this occasion as I could listen to the dulcet tones of Brian Holsopple (never heard of him before, but he's very good), while working on a Saturday morning in a slightly less frenetic work environment.

Our main plot involves a mob man, Al Engel initially attempting a spot of grave-robbing to recover $250k worth of Mafia drugs which have been inadvertently buried with the courier who died of a heart attack. We have an empty grave and Engel is tasked by his master, Nick Rovito with tracking down the missing suit ergo drugs and who the hell cares about the missing corpse?

Amateur investigation, a dead undertaker, a mysterious women dogging Engel, a dogged and honest detective also with Al in his sights, an unhappy mob boss, a grieving widow, an irritating mother, an annoyed girlfriend, a crappy car, a taxi ride or two, some crooked businessmen, another mob corpse, a gun with prints, a frame up,  and a whole other scam going down with Engel a convenient patsy. Unless of course he can straighten things out.

Pace - reasonable, setting - 60s New York which worked for me, plot - interesting, main character - capable and sympathetic, resolution - satisfactory.

Enjoyable, inoffensive, entertaining, I'll probably remember it longer because of the format it was digested in than if it was an old 60s or later tatty paperback that I turned the pages over.

Probably not his strongest ever book but it was okay for me.

3.5 from 5

Read (ok listened to) - September, 2018
Published - 1966 (2012 recording)
Page count - about 179 (5 hours 32 minutes listening time)
Source - Audible download when on a free trial
Format - audio book on laptop and iPhone
 

Monday 30 March 2020

CRIME FICTION ALPHABET: R IS FOR........ RAYMOND, ROGUE COP, RUSSIA

Week 18 of 26, time to put my Rs on display......

R is for....

Raymond - Derek Raymond and a book from his acclaimed Factory series, the first of five - He Died With His Eyes Open (1976) 

He Died With His Eyes Open (1976)





















The first of the "Factory" series of bleak, atmospheric and subversive crime novels. A boozed-out tramp found under a bush in West London has been systematically butchered. The awesome depths of violent passion that the victim must have inspired fascinates the detective sergeant put on the case.

R is for .......

Raymond - Ring and Arizona Kiss, probably a book I bought because of the cover and never got around to reading. Or I read it at the time when I didn't log my reading and was also in the habit of keeping everything. Nearly thirty years ago and I can't remember what I had for my lunch yesterday, so who knows.

TIME OUT thought it "A first class noir thriller" 


Arizona Kiss (1991)





















When Macky, an ambitious journalist eager to escape from his small southwestern town, attempts to expose a powerful and corrupt judge, a beguiling woman leads him into the town's dangerous underworld 

R is for......

Rogue Cop - a 50s novel from William McGivern


Rogue Cop (1954)





















From the station houses to the joy houses, they knew about Mike Carmody. He was the best cop money could buy, and when the Syndicate boys said jump, Carmody knew just how high. But they couldn't buy Carmody's kid brother Eddie--and when Eddie turned against them, the Mob snuffed him out like a nickel cigar. Now Carmody's coming after them--savage and bloodthirsty. He's stalking them down the city's darkened back alleys ... and straight into hell.

R is for......

Russia - I suppose I could have gone for Martin Cruz Smith's Arkady Renko series which I've enjoyed the first couple from - Gorky Park and Polar Star, but nah. I'll have a bit of Cold War Espionage from a Russian viewpoint

Julian Semyonov and Seventeen Moments of Spring - The Telegraph included it in a list of The 20 best spy novels of all time a few years ago.

Seventeen Moments of Spring (1969)





















During World War II, Soviet super-agent Isaev races to foil a plot by Hitler's advisors to negotiate a separate peace with the West and to create a capitalist-fascist front against the Soviet Union."


Back with something S from the library, I bet you can hardly wait!

Previous Alphabet 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

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

CRIME FICTION ALPHABET - J IS FOR ....... JAPAN, JACK CARTER. JELLO SALAD

CRIME FICTION ALPHABET - K IS FOR ....... KING, KOREA, KEEPER

CRIME FICTION ALPHABET - L IS FOR ........ LE CRIME, LEONARD, LOS ANGELES 

CRIME FICTION ALPHABET - M IS FOR ........ MIAMI, MACKAY, MUCHO MOJO 

CRIME FICTION ALPHABET - N IS FOR ........ NORWAY, NISBET, NEMESIS

CRIME FICTION ALPHABET - O IS FOR ........ OWEN, ONE NIGHT STANDS AND LOST WEEKENDS, OXFORD

CRIME FICTION ALPHABET - P IS FOR ........ PARKER, PHILADELPHIA, PAYDIRT

CRIME FICTION ALPHABET - Q IS FOR ...... QUARRY, QUINLAN, Q ROAD 

Sunday 29 March 2020

2 BY REGINALD HILL

A couple from British great, Reginald Hill this week. Hill is probably better known for his Dalziel and Pascoe series of books, but I've chosen two from his Joe Sixsmith series.























There were five in total and these are the first two. What's the appeal? Apart from the length - they aren't too long and the fact they feature a PI and I do like PI fiction, the setting of Luton grabs me. My old home town, where I grew up after transplanting in from Dublin as a two year old, where I was schooled and where my mum still lives.

I'm keen to see if Hill's depiction of the town is the same as the one I remember. (Not sure I recall there ever being a St Monkey's though.) These two were published in the early to mid-90s, nearly ten years after I left. That said I was and still am still a frequent visitor there given my affinity for the local football team and of course my dear old mum!




Blood Sympathy (1993)



PI can mean many things, but can it really mean a balding middle-aged redundant lathe operator from a high-rise in Luton, Beds? Joe Sixsmith thinks it can. His Aunt Mirabelle thinks you'd have to be crazy to hire him, and Joe's current clients certainly fit the bill. One seems to be confessing to the brutal murder of his whole family; another thinks she's a witch. Alongside them, the two heavies who believe Joe is hiding their illicit drugs seem almost normal.

"Splendid comic moments in this entertaining mystery" SUSANNA YAGER, SUNDAY TELEGRAPH

" A thoroughly engaging investigator" PATRICIA CRAIG, TLS

"Read him" LONDON REVIEW OF BOOKS

Born Guilty (1995)

Hurrying out of St Monkey's church on the last Amen of the Creation, Joe Sixsmith stumbles across a boy's corpse and into more trouble than he's ever known... Soon his casebook is full to bursting: retired colonial Mrs C. demands to know how the boy got there; exotic punk Gallie urges him to find the stranger nosing into her garanddad's past; while Butcher, that briefest of briefs, is hellbent on digging the dirt on a deputy head's out-of-school activities.

Ever valiant for truth, Joe threads his mild-mannered way through the mean streets of Luton, fighting off angry cops, demented druggies and the matchmaking machinations of his Auntie Mirabelle. But the truth he discovers does not set him free; for there's little joy in confirming that today's kids grow up so much faster than he did, and even the luckiest of them find out all too soon they have been born guilty.

"He (Hill) pays attention to the old-fashioned values: meticulous plotting, authentic characterization and realistic dialogue" MARCEL BERLINS, THE TIMES

"Hill's cheery sleuth, with his nice line of dry banter, is as thoroughly appreciated as his generous and crafty plotting" JOHN COLEMAN, SUNDAY TIMES

CHUCK MORGAN - CRIME EXPOSED (2019)



Synopsis/blurb....

Fresh off investigating the ambush murders of two police officers, Colorado Bureau of Investigation Agent, Buck Taylor and his team are called upon to find a missing journalist, in a case that leads to murder and child pornography, in the much anticipated fourth “Crime” novel.

She was about to thank the Good Samaritan when he reached a huge hand behind her head and in one swift move slammed her forehead into the steering wheel. The blow was so hard that it cracked the top of the steering wheel. It took two more blows to knock her out.

He put the car in gear and, checking once more up and down the highway, pushed the car past the end of the guardrail and stopped it at the edge of the drop-off. The reservoir was still frozen, but he hoped that enough of the thaw had occurred to make the ice thin enough so the car would crash right through it. He was confident that the snowfall that was underway would cover the hole in the ice.

With one last look up and down the empty highway, he closed the door, walked behind the car and gave it a shove. With a grinding of metal against rock, the car bounced over the edge and rolled down the side of the reservoir, crashing into the ice with a loud bang, and after a second’s hesitation, broke through the ice and disappeared beneath the surface. He stood on the shoulder of the road and watched until the taillights blinked off.

Best book ever? No, but once I got into it I quite enjoyed the tale.

A missing investigative reporter case, turns to murder after the chance discovery of Barb McBride's car and corpse at the bottom of a lake. Barb's latest story - wrapped in secrecy until her broadcast - is the key to it all. Investigator Buck Taylor and his team dig into the world of child pornography and paedophile rings involving her family - her drunkard husband, Jim and her brother-in-law, Bob and some of the state's rich and powerful men.

It's a decent enough police procedural mystery with an engaging, if not a little bit too perfect lead investigator, Buck Taylor. Taylor's a widower, liked and respected by all his team and colleagues and with contacts throughout the state of Colorado, including the ear of the higher ups. Capable and intelligent he drives the investigation and propels the book forward.

The first portion of the book after the scene describing what happens to Barb, concerns a rapid investigation onto the double homicide of a couple of uniformed police officers. It occupies nearly fifty pages and in truth doesn't really add that much to the book, other than emphasising Buck's credentials as a decent investigator and a man with a heart and compassion for those less well off and living on the fringes of normal society.

That done, we are then concerned with the disappearance and murder of our reporter. I liked the slow, steady discovery of information, the different strands of enquiry and the different skill sets of the team involved, as well as the tangential case which derived from the discovery of the car in the lake. There's a cyber aspect to the case, digging into laptops, recovering data, uncovering hacks and the planting of information, accessing phone records as well as the normal legwork of face to face interviews and team briefs. On the other side, there's those involved in the paedophile ring, trying to clean house and avoid detection. Inevitably one side ends up disappointed.

Overall more to like than dislike.

3.5 from 5

Crime Exposed is the fourth in the author's Buck Taylor series after Crime Interrupted, Crime Delayed and Crime Unsolved. Crime Denied, the fifth in the series was published recently.

Read - March, 2020
Published - 2019
Page count - 343
Source - review copy from Reedsy Discovery
Format - PDF read on laptop


*Reedsy Discovery can be found here.

Saturday 28 March 2020

MARCH 2020 - FILMS (CINEMA)

A few films viewed before the cinemas closed their doors ........ a feel good shaggy dog story, disgust and outrage at corporate America, a tense drama and a peculiar horror film, prompting the question - WTF was that all about?


Dark Waters (2019)

You have to scratch your head and wonder about companies that prize profit over people... knowingly poisoning a town's water and it's own employees - WTF! Has Mark Ruffalo ever been in better form? I doubt it.

A film to make you righteously angry.


From Wikipedia.......

Dark Waters is a 2019 American legal thriller film directed by Todd Haynes and written by Mario Correa and Matthew Michael Carnahan. The story dramatizes Robert Bilott's case against the chemical manufacturing corporation DuPont after they contaminated a town with unregulated chemicals. It stars Mark Ruffalo, Anne Hathaway, Tim Robbins, Bill Camp, Victor Garber, Mare Winningham, William Jackson Harper, and Bill Pullman.

The film is based on the 2016 New York Times Magazine article "The Lawyer Who Became DuPont's Worst Nightmare" by Nathaniel Rich. Parts of the story were also reported by Mariah Blake, whose 2015 article "Welcome to Beautiful Parkersburg, West Virginia" was a National Magazine Award finalist, and Sharon Lerner, whose series "Bad Chemistry" ran in The Intercept. Bilott also wrote a memoir, Exposure, detailing his 20-year legal battle against DuPont.

Dark Waters was theatrically released in a limited capacity on November 22, 2019, by Focus Features, and went wide on December 6, 2019. The film received positive reviews from critics and has grossed $21 million.



The Lighthouse (2019)

A strange one to be sure....... isolation, disconnection and a slow descent into madness while surrounded by ever increasing squallor. Willem Defoe and Robert Pattinson are extremely intense. I wouldn't say I necessarily enjoyed it, but I'm glad I watched it. At least I won't die wondering.

From Wikipedia......

The Lighthouse is a 2019 psychological horror film directed and produced by Robert Eggers, who co-wrote the screenplay with his brother Max Eggers. An international co-production of the United States and Canada, the film was shot in black-and-white with a 1.19:1 aspect ratio. It stars Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson as two lighthouse keepers who start to lose their sanity when a storm strands them on the remote island where they are stationed.

According to Eggers, although the final story bears little resemblance to Edgar Allan Poe's fragment "The Light-House", the film began as an attempt by his brother Max Eggers to do a contemporary take on the Poe story. When the project stalled, Eggers offered to work with his brother and the project evolved into a period thriller with the Poe elements largely removed. Dafoe and Pattinson were cast as the lead characters in February 2018. Principal photography began on April 9, 2018, and lasted a total of 34 days in Leif Erikson Park in Cape Forchu, Nova Scotia, Canada, and inside a hangar at Yarmouth International Airport in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.

The film had its world premiere at the 72nd Cannes Film Festival on May 19, and was theatrically released on October 18, 2019, by A24. The film was praised for its technical aspects (notably the cinematography and production design), Eggers' screenplay and direction, and the performances of the leads. It was nominated for Best Cinematography at the 92nd Academy Awards.



The Invisible Man (2020)


Another extremely tense edge of the seat drama. Elisabeth Moss is very good, as per usual. She always seems to be downtrodden and a victim in her roles. I loved her in The Handmaid's Tale.

From Google....

After staging his own suicide, a crazed scientist uses his power to become invisible to stalk and terrorize his ex-girlfriend. When the police refuse to believe her story, she decides to take matters into her own hands and fight back.



The Call of the Wild (2020)


I read the book by Jack London a few years back - thoughts here. Long enough ago that I couldn't say whether the film is faithful to the story, but I did really enjoy this. Harrison Ford is very good. What's not to like about a film about a dog with spirit and intelligence in abundance?

From Google.......

Buck is a big-hearted dog whose blissful domestic life gets turned upside down when he is suddenly uprooted from his California home and transplanted to the exotic wilds of the Alaskan Yukon in the 1890s. As the newest rookie on a mail-delivery dog sled team, Buck experiences the adventure of a lifetime as he ultimately finds his true place in the world.


Ranking top to bottom
1 Dark Waters
2 The Call of the Wild
3 The Invisible Man
4 The Lighthouse

Friday 27 March 2020

ANDREA CARTER - TREACHEROUS STRAND (2016)



Synopsis/blurb....

A woman's body washes up on a remote beach on the Inishowen peninsula. Partially clothed, with a strange tattoo on her thigh, she is identified as Marguerite Etienne, a French woman who has been living in the area.

Solicitor Benedicta 'Ben' O'Keeffe is consumed by guilt; Marguerite was her client, and for the second time in her life Ben has failed someone who needed her, with tragic consequences. So when local sergeant Tom Molloy dismisses Marguerite's death as the suicide of a disturbed and lonely woman, Ben cannot let it lie.

Ben uncovers Marguerite's strange past as a member of a French doomsday cult; she escaped 20 years previously, but not without leaving her baby daughter behind.

Disturbed by what appears to be chilling local indifference to Marguerite's death, Ben pieces together the last few weeks of the French woman's life in Inishowen. What she discovers causes her to question the fragile nature of her own position in the area, and she finds herself crossing boundaries both personal and professional to unearth local secrets long buried.

Busy times, both work and life so I'm lagging a bit behind on my blogging, I'm kind of struggling to recall too much about this one which was read in the early part of February. I suppose that in itself tells a tale - a book I enjoyed but one which wasn't particularly memorable.

A French woman who had been living locally - here a remote coastal part of Ireland, turns up dead in a suspected suicide or drowning. Our main character, a nosy solicitor - Ben O'Keefe - who had just been engaged by the dead woman to represent her, feels she has failed her and starts digging.

Small community with secrets, a rushed funeral, an indifferent daughter, a strange religious cult, a romance - on-off-stalled, jealousy, an unofficial investigation of sorts - more sort of blundering around asking people questions, a few suspicious characters, family histories, a trip to Scandinavia, the shadow of events from book one in the series, some danger to our main character throughout the book and eventually answers and a resolution.

Nothing that annoyed me or bumped me out of the book. I liked the setting of the Inishowen peninsula - it's remoteness and the small community. The main character was a bit annoying but not overly so. When she was in jeopardy I was an onlooking rubbernecker, I wasn't breaking out in a cold sweat fearing for her safety, but I was interested to see what happened next. There's a few twists and turns as the book unfolds, you find yourself suspicious of a few individuals in turn. The resolution was cohesive, set against all that had come before.

Overall, a decent read, but one that doesn't have me rushing to find the earlier book in the series, nor the next one by the author.

3 from 5

Read - February, 2020
Published - 2016
Page count - 320
Source - originally an Edelweiss book courtesy of Oceanview Publishing who have brought this one back into print. A computer death meant I had to buy a copy to finish
Format - 50% ePUB read on laptop, 50% paperback
   

Thursday 26 March 2020

LAWRENCE BLOCK - THE CANCELED CZECH (1966)


Synopsis/blurb......

Presenting EVAN TANNER—the first series character created by Lawrence Block, bestselling author of A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES...

Ever since a shred of shrapnel did a number on his brain’s sleep center, Even Tanner has been awake 24/7. This gives him more time than your average underachiever. Time to learn the world’s languages (he’s fluent in Basque, but has trouble with Chinese). Time to embrace the world’s lost causes and irredentist movements (The Flat Earth Society, the League for the Restoration of Cilician Armenia, the Society of the Left Hand). Time to write term papers theses for students with more money than knowledge. And, most important, time to do his dreaming while he’s wide awake.

THE CANCELED CZECH is Tanner's second adventure. A key figure in the Nazi puppet regime of Slovakia is in jail in Prague's Hradcany Castle, and the mysterious US spymaster who thinks Tanner works for him sends our lad to rescue the man. Not surprisingly, the Slovak has an obnoxious personality; he also suffers from catalepsy. Tanner, using his contacts and working his magic, does what he's asked to do—but with a poetic twist that only Evan Tanner could think up.

Another European adventure behind the old Iron Curtain for reluctant spy, Evan Tanner. A Slovak Nazi needs rescuing from his imprisonment in a Prague Castle so that the Americans can hopefully gain access to his files concerning like-minded dunderheads secretly working towards the establishment of a Fourth Reich.

Persona non-grata in this part of the world after his previous exploits, Tanner poses as an American tourist travelling around Europe. All to no avail, dodging secret police, jumping from moving trains, hiking through the night, sleeping in barns on a circuitous route to Prague, picking up a knockout sex-mad Aryan goddess along the way; Tanner discovers he's not the only man seeking Janos Kotacek, encountering some radical Israeli members of The Stern Gang.

Allied with his partners, all with different agendas for Kotacek, Tanner works with and against his cohorts taking advantage of a torch and his charge's catalepsy to outwit everyone and save the day, but not necessarilly the loathsome Slovak.

Fun, action, light hearted humour and a bit of sex (non-graphically depicted), as well as some pithy observations on the political map of Europe and the state of nations, I really enjoyed it. Tanner is great company and however tight the scrape he's in you do always know that Block is gonna get him out of it.

I enjoy the quirks of character - his inability to sleep and his grasp of multiple languages as well as his use of a myriad of contacts through his membership of a multiude of subversive and frankly strange organisations. I like his free spirit and his ability to improvise and decide the outcome of his mission, irrespective of his master's wishes.

Two down, six to go.

4 from 5

The Thief Who Couldn't Sleep was enjoyed previously. Tanner's Twelve Swingers is next.

Read - (listened to) February, 2020
Published - 1966
Page count - 186 (6 hr 56 min)
Source - Audible download code from one of the author's assistants
Format - Audible


Tuesday 24 March 2020

STEPHEN SCARCLIFFE - PURE ANGST (2018)



Synopsis/blurb......

As bad blood threatens the old order, a restless new generation rise from their fathers’ shadows, ready to stamp their own identity on the city streets… 

Billy “Curtains” Wright overcomes a dysfunctional home life by winning the respect of the local Muirhouse gang, before rising to a key position within Edinburgh's ecstasy scene. After falling for Lyndsay, a privileged girl from the other side of the tracks, his underworld ambitions are called into question. He accepts a contract to kill a dangerous rival before finding more than he bargained for, forcing him to confront his brutal childhood and the father he wants gone. 

George “The Bull” Donaldson was the hardest in the playground, then the streets of Muirhouse. Now he’s a debt collector for his heroin kingpin father. After being taught a cruel lesson, he partners up with best pal Billy, but when family tensions erupt tough choices have to be made. 

After being dragged into the middle of a feud between the uncle who mentored him and the father who just walked free from jail, Sean “Preemo” Donaldson is forced to choose a side. A letter from his estranged mother reopens old wounds and he contemplates the unthinkable.

As each man arrives at his own perilous crossroads, what path will he take? 

Pure Angst is a gritty crime fiction novel set within 80’s and 90’s gangland Edinburgh, and one of its roughest housing estates. It charts the changing face of the drug scene, from a heroin and AIDS epidemic to the explosion of MDMA and rave culture…

Another trip to the seedy side of Edinburgh, this time thirty years ago and immersion into the world of criminality ..... drug culture, raves, the new drug in town - ecstasy, heroin, coke, weed, protection rackets, local taxes, imprisonment, battles for influence and territory, debt collecting, fights, beatings, murder, death, bookies, pubs, clubs, parties, chippys, security, football hooligans, casuals, fashion, police, rivalries, inter family feuding, friendships and a battle between the generations, with the old order struggling to keep the young pups in line - and with a bit of love and romance among the chaos. It's a busy book for its length - a shade over 200 pages.

I quite enjoyed the Scottish vernacular employed by the author. It does help set the scene and adds a layer of authenticity as to the novel's origins. I liked the different characters, with the thread of friendships and family histories, the disputes and resentments, the evolution of the relationships and the evolving loyalties.

There's a grittiness to the novel, there's more than a bit of violence, but never really excessive for the world the author is depicting. Brutality is strength, compassion and understanding is weakness, particularly in the eyes of Dougie, sitting at the top of the tree. There's a journey for the younger main characters - Billy, George and Sean as they forge their own paths,trying to escape the shadows of their parents.

Pure Angst is the first of an intended trilogy. I wouldn't discount seeing where the story goes next. (Raging, the second book came out a few months ago.)

4 from 5

Read - March, 2020
Published - 2018
Page count - 214
Source - review copy courtesy of Story Origin
Format - ePUB read on laptop

CRIME FICTION ALPHABET: Q IS FOR...... QUARRY, QUINLAN, Q ROAD

The journey goes on......

Q is for......

Quarry by Bill Pronzini - the 19th book in his long-running Nameless PI series
I've read maybe the first dozen or so in the series, so this one whenever I get back to it isn't too far ahead of me.



Quarry (1991)





















Publisher's Weekly
Pronzini's ( Breakdown ) brisk, efficient, action-packed mystery is set on the earthquake-ravaged San Francisco waterfront and in the now-arid salad-bowl country to the south. Here the Nameless Detective hunts for a methodical, brutal stranger who is pursuing withdrawn Grady Haas, 31, daughter of rancher Arlo Haas, the detective's old friend. Secretive Grady won't tell why she has suddenly left her job as an insurance adjuster specializing in marine claims and returned to the Salinas Valley . Nameless finds that her San Francisco apartment has been thoroughly tossed. All he has to go on are the three claims Grady had been investigating and her ex-boyfriend's savage beating by a stranger seeking Grady's whereabouts. Nameless may lack a moniker but he's full of character, describing himself as a ''throwback--the kind of man who hates progress, mistrusts technology, and never quite feels comfortable in any place where he can't see or touch some small piece of the past.'' Still haunted by the horror described in Shackles (1988), in which he was chained for three months to the wall of an isolated mountain cabin, Nameless now must endure a new ordeal, being locked inside a burning building. The book's exciting final scene nicely plays on the title's double meanings.

Q is for......

Quarry again!

Quarry is also the lead man in a series by Max Allan Collins.

I've enjoyed the first few ..... QuarryQuarry's ListQuarry's Deal - Quarry's Cut will be the next one up


Quarry's Cut (1977)
6 from a series of about 15!






















When a hitman shows up at retired gunman Quarry's refuge, who is the target? Is it Quarry? Or is the assassin on a different mission--and if so, can Quarry foil it for revenge and profit?


Q is for.....

Quinlan - author Patrick Quinlan.

I read a few from Quinlan a long time ago (before I blogged) and enjoyed them -  Smoked (2006), The Takedown (2007), The Drop-Off (2008).

I've kind of lost track of his books after 2009's The Hit - one I still have to read.


The Hit (2009)





















A gripping and twisting treat of a novel for fans of Tarantino and Elmore Leonard. Handsome ladies' man Jonah Maxwell is working as a bounty hunter for El Gordo (the Fat One), who picked up his nickname from an admiring prostitute. Gordo has a plan: to catch a runaway felon who's worth $250,000 to the City of New York. The guys are in hot pursuit of Davis Foester, a social misfit with a bad habit of murdering little old ladies, and a gift for his pursuers, when they come across Tyler Gant -- Vietnam vet, weapons expert and secret serial killer. Foester is working on a murderous plot for Gant, and the attentions of Jonah and Gordo are seriously unwelcome. Trailing Foester to Key West, the two are set for a violent showdown on a houseboat on storm-tossed seas. Not just their own lives but those of Tyler Gant's countless targeted victims are at stake...

Q is for....

I was hoping for a location book something from either Quebec, Queensland or Queens in New York but I struggled to find anything in my collection that i could readily lay my hands on. Pretty sure I have something from Louise Penny somewhere that would have fitted the bill. Ditto John Farrow. I'll settle for......

Q Road by Bonnie Jo Campbell - maybe more general/literary fiction the crime or mystery, but nevermind


Q Road (2002)






















Welcome to Q Road, in Greenland Township, where the old way of life is colliding with the new. On the same acres where farmers once displaced Potawatomi Indians, suburban developers now supplant farmers and Q Road (or "Queer Road," as the locals call it) has become home to an unlikely mix of people. The neighbors include a sixth-generation farmer and his rifle-toting child bride, an evangelical bartender, a tabloid-reading agoraphobe, a philandering window salesman, and an asthmatic boy who longs for the love of a good father. These folks all smell the pig manure from the Whitby farm and share the same grand views of the Kalamazoo River and the oldest barn in the township--until one disastrous October afternoon.

Bonnie Jo Campbell's first novel combines offbeat humor, eccentric characters, and unique insights into modern rural America, where family traditions have flown the coop and only the cycle of the seasons remains. At the heart of this tale are three characters so integrally connected and devoted to the Harland farm that they might not survive anywhere else; their lives, their livelihoods, and their sometimes violent love for one another are all rooted in the soil of this square mile.


Previous Alphabet 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

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

CRIME FICTION ALPHABET - J IS FOR ....... JAPAN, JACK CARTER. JELLO SALAD

CRIME FICTION ALPHABET - K IS FOR ....... KING, KOREA, KEEPER

CRIME FICTION ALPHABET - L IS FOR ........ LE CRIME, LEONARD, LOS ANGELES 

CRIME FICTION ALPHABET - M IS FOR ........ MIAMI, MACKAY, MUCHO MOJO 

CRIME FICTION ALPHABET - N IS FOR ........ NORWAY, NISBET, NEMESIS

CRIME FICTION ALPHABET - O IS FOR ........ OWEN, ONE NIGHT STANDS AND LOST WEEKENDS, OXFORD

CRIME FICTION ALPHABET - P IS FOR ........ PARKER, PHILADELPHIA, PAYDIRT


Monday 23 March 2020

2 BY JOSEPH KNOX

A couple from highly regarded British author, Joseph Knox.
Confession time, I've not read him yet, but plan on starting reading him soon.

























These are the first two featuring Detective Aidan Waits. There's a third book now which has recently been published - The Sleepwalker. Time to pull my finger out!

The author's website is here 















The Siren (2017)



We still live in a world where you can disappear if you want to. Or even if you don't.

Detective Aidan Waits is in trouble

After a career-ending mistake, he’s forced into a nightmare undercover operation that his superiors don’t expect him to survive. The target? Zain Carver, an enigmatic, mesmerising criminal who lures young women into his orbit - young women who have a bad habit of disappearing.

So when the teenage daughter of a prominent MP joins Zain, everything changes.

Before long, Waits is cut loose by the police, stalked by an unseen killer and dangerously attracted to the wrong woman.

How can he save the girl, when he can’t even save himself?

The Smiling Man (2018)

From the acclaimed author of Sirens, damaged Detective Aidan Waits returns in a mind-bending new thriller that will have everyone asking, "Who is the Smiling Man?"

Aidan Waits is back on the night shift, the Manchester PD dumping ground for those too screwed up for more glamorous work. But the monotony of petty crimes and lonesome nights is shattered when he and his partner are called to investigate a break-in at The Palace, an immense, empty hotel in the center of the city.

There, they find the body of a man. He is dead. The tags have been cut from his clothes, his teeth have been filed down, and even his fingertips have been replaced...and he is smiling.

But as Waits begins to unravel the mystery of the smiling man, he becomes a target. Someone wants very badly to make this case disappear, and as their threats escalate, Aidan realizes the answers may lie not only with the wealthy families and organized criminals connected to the Palace, but with a far greater evil from his own past.

To discover the smiling man's identity, he must finally confront his own.

Sunday 22 March 2020

LAWRENCE BLOCK - THE THIEF WHO COULDN'T SLEEP (1966)



Synopsis/blurb......

Introducing EVAN TANNER—the first series character created by Lawrence Block, bestselling author of A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES...

Ever since a shred of shrapnel did a number on his brain’s sleep center, Evan Tanner has been awake 24/7. This gives him more time than your average underachiever. Time to learn the world’s languages (he’s fluent in Basque, but has trouble with Chinese). Time to embrace the world’s lost causes and irredentist movements (The Flat Earth Society, the League for the Restoration of Cilician Armenia, the Society of the Left Hand). Time to write term papers theses for students with more money than knowledge. And, most important, time to do his dreaming while he’s wide awake.

THE THIEF WHO COULDN'T SLEEP is Tanner's first adventure. It finds our insomniacal hero on a mission to recover a hoard of gold coins, stashed fifty years ago in a house in Balekesir by the city's Armenian community. Promptly jailed by the Turks, Tanner escapes and plays hopscotch across the map of Europe, pulling strings, slipping across borders, and, almost incidentally, formenting a revolution in Macedonia.

Well, these things happen...

Lawrence Block again and this time in the company of his adventurer and spy Evan Tanner. Tanner here is on the hunt for some lost Armenian gold.

Istanbul jails, Shannon airport, Irish attics, a shooting in Dublin and some secret papers, an eccentric Madrid hairdresser, drugs and make-up, Spanish hay carts, Andorra, France, Italy, a Bulgarian priest, Yugoslavia, Macedonian uprisings, bed hopping, illicit border crossings, treasure hunting, untrustworthy partners, 800 mile road trips, Syria, Beirut, a Washington cell, government agencies and finally freedom and a new freelance gig.

A light hearted fun read as Tanner falls in and out of scrapes and the odd bed, while criss-crossing Europe on the strength of a tale recounted by an old Armenian woman back in New York. I really liked the tale with the cast of odd-ball characters Tanner met along his journey. As a character I like the quirk of his never being able to sleep. It does give him the opportunity to get the jump on some his less trustworthy associates. I also like his ability to speak multiple languages, another asset when encountering strangers in strange lands.

I think what also struck me was the Block's observations regarding Yugoslavia and the different nationalist identities of portions of the population, along with the rivalries, tensions and mistrust of each other. It's almost as if he had a crystal ball which predicted the break-up of the artificial state of Yugoslavia. The horrors of the Balkan wars of the early 90s and the subsequent details which emerged of ethnic cleansing, genocidal massacres and war crimes aren't easily forgotten. Tanner's Europe is the one I grew up in and is very different from the world today. 

Overall I really enjoyed it. There's humour, action, scrapes - some believable, some far-fetched, and the great company of an easy going, likable main protagonist. I'm going to enjoy more of Evan Tanner's adventures in the next month or two.

4 from 5

Read - (listened to) February, 2020
Published - 1966
Page count - 224 (5 hr 33 min)
Source - Audible download code from one of the author's assistants
Format - Audible 

Saturday 21 March 2020

PETER RITCHIE - MAXINE'S STORY (2019)


Synopsis/blurb....

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.

A cracking tale from Peter Ritchie which exposes the seedy underbelly of life walking the streets and selling your body to feed a drug addiction - trapped in a relentless cycle of misery, isolation and a loss of self worth. When Maxine Welsh hits rock bottom - in debt and at the mercy of a vicious low level pimp there's two ways the story can go - death or the only other way - up!

In a nutshell......friendship, luck and kindness, as well as a sabbatical south away from the stresses and temptations of Edinburgh see Maxine begin to rebuild her life. Homesick and returning to Edinburgh, her life gets back on track, but not without a few twists and turns along the way. Hmm... more than a few actually.

It's hard to do the book justice. It's portrayal of life on the margins with limited choices and very little hope for the future is tough reading at times. The friendship with another street girl Connie and an older pub owner, Logan provide some relief and a sustenance and brighten the gloom. The evolving relationships between the three are an important aspect of the book. There's a generosity of spirit about them that, instead of diminishing through years of suffering hard knocks, flourishes and is keenly illustrated through the adoption of another waif and stray from Glasgow - the hapless Bobo.

I enjoyed the setting, the dark side of Edinburgh and Leith - the streets, the pubs, the cafes and the spots the tourists don't get to see. I liked reading about the rogues and chancers and low lives that rumble through the book with their plots and schemes for money, drugs, influence and more importantly respect in a like-minded community of villains.

Family histories, schisms and back stories, bereavement, loss, love, support, humanity, recovery, decency run parallel with contrasting elements - anger, violence, revenge, and more than the odd character with psychopathic tendencies.

Excellent pacing, aided by an emotional investment in the characters which has you turning the pages. Decent length - just over 300 pages and a satisfying outcome.

5 from 5

This was my third time with Peter Ritchie's books and definitely not my last.
Our Little Secrets and Where No Shadows Fall have been enjoyed before.

Read - February, 2020
Published - 2019 (a shorter version appeared in 2015)
Page count - 316
Source - review copy received from Claire - publicist at Pascha PR
Format - paperback

Friday 20 March 2020

FEBRUARY 2020 - ADDITIONS TO THE LIBRARY - 6 OF THE BEST!

Another dirty half dozen into the collection........

Three bought, three acquired from generous authors and publishers...


R.C. Hartson - Fatal Beauty (2015) - from publisher Black Rose
Another new-to-me author, well worth a look with some decent reviews and not too long which is a bonus.

"A first-rate crime novel told in the classic noir tradition of Raymond Chandler, Jonathan Cain and Dennis Lehane." –Best Thrillers

The Book Nook Top 5 Books to Read

Ex-con Bart Hodgkins is abducting women at random in the windy city. A man without conscience; bold, high on drugs and alcohol, he is self-assured when he manipulates girls like Chelsea Rohrman into his web of evil and certain death.

His "silent partner" in subsequent serial killings is a former Cook County judge and university professor Lewis Lisecki, who is bald, unflappable and soft-spoken. Plagued at birth, given a dumpy fat boy's body, one with flaccid arms, a short neck and bad eyesight, he's forced to wear thick, round glasses that make him look like a goldfish staring out from a fish tank.

Ex-Chicago homicide cop, and private eye, Cleve Hawkins is a hard-boiled former Marine hired by Betty Rohrman, to help in finding her missing sister. Through treacherous twists and turns, Hawkins works to solve the case of the missing woman but finds a clandestine world of evil.




Jimmy Sangster - Fireball (2020) - purchased copy

Fourth in Sangster's James Reed Mystery series. I have a few Sangster's on the pile but haven't read him yet. Probably someone that would have remained off my radar if Lee Goldberg and Brash Books hadn't recently been re-publishing most (maybe all) of his earlier works.

This is the long-lost, never-before-published fourth book in Jimmy Sangster's wickedly inventive, darkly funny, and critically acclaimed "James Reed" series of crime novels.

Ex-cop James Reed is a self-styled beach bum, living in the Malibu house he scored in the divorce settlement from his brief marriage to a famous actress. Life should be easy...but he has terrible luck. His first date with a woman he meets on a tennis court goes very, very bad, getting him beaten, accused of murder, and pursued by killers. And that's just in one night. Now he's trapped in nightmare of sex, blackmail and murder...and to get out, he must go to New York...and worm his way into the rotten core of the Big Apple.

Praise for the James Reed series:

"Crammed full of sex, drugs and Hollywood. This book is a bright evocation of La-La-Land. Welcome Mr. Reed. Come back soon." Hartford Courant

"Adept plotting and achingly human characters." Booklist


Ryan Sayles - I'm Not Happy 'Til You're Not Happy (2016) - purchased copy

I have enjoyed his earlier double release with Chris Rhatigan - Two Bullets Solve Everything (2014)

From a bank robbery gone horribly wrong to a shipwrecked man with a serious anger problem to a lonely teenage Peeping Tom, Ryan Sayles's second collection of stories steam rolls along. Need a transvestite beating up her drug dealer? Got it. What about a guy trying to stuff a dead hooker into his trunk? Got it also. Need a Richard Dean Buckner story? Got two of 'em. Come on in and join the mayhem.


Jimmy Nail and Ian La Frenais - Spender: The Novel (1992) - charity shop purchase 

Overcome by nostalgia I couldn't resist this one when I spotted it in a charity shop. I quite liked this series and Jimmy Nail back in the day. And then he ruined it by opening his mouth and having a singing career. Though to be fair, his Wikipedia page states singing was always his first love. If only there was a novel of  Auf Wiedersehen, Pet. I can't actually think of Crocodile Shoes without nearly being overcome by nausea.

A Newcastle abattoir gets torched, and it's on Spender's patch. So there's no good excuse for not having a sniff. Being busy won't do. Who cares that he's near to popping a team who are dealing in protected rare birds, or that's he's about to collar a low-life who's been peddling drugs so cut with chemical toxins that they're topping half the users in the city? Who cares?

Spender, the tough undercover cop with time served in the big smoke and Whitehall credentials, has personal pressures, too. Trying - belatedly - to be a do-right father to his children. Trying to be a friend - but no more - to his ex-wife. Trying - failing - to put some distance between his job and his private life. Trying - half-heartedly - to keep an eye and a rein on Stick, his criminal buddy, whose thieving tendencies have survived every attempt at cure. When the owners of the abattoir strike back, things take a heavy turn. There's a lot of blood about, but this time it's human.

In a turbulent story where villainy and misguided innocence have violent and sometimes horrific consequences, the enigmatic Spender and his unofficial oppo, Stick, head up a cast of characters as memorably maverick as millions of television fans have come to expect. 


Mike Donohue - Shaking the Tree (2011) - copy from author

Another author I hadn't heard of until recently. This was a freebie after signing up to a newsletter. Worth a punt IMO.

What would you do if you found a locked suitcase in the woods?
Would you keep it? Would you try to open it?
What would you do when someone came looking for it?

Max is starting over. Fresh out of prison, he just wants to keep his head down, go to work, and maybe grab a cold beer at the end of his shift. He doesn’t even care that the program stuck him in Essex – a nice, but nowhere small town. With his head already full of bloody memories, he’d like it just fine if his past and future stayed nice and quiet.

Too bad the present just got really messy.

A body in a tree. A missing briefcase. A Russian hit man. A DEA agent bent on revenge. Not to mention a sheriff with dangerous ambition and some pissed off bikers. Things are suddenly very interesting in sleepy Essex county. Bodies are turning up. Secrets are coming out. Questions are being asked.

It’s not good being the new guy in a small town.


Tom Pitts - Cold Water (2020) - review copy from author

I'm a big fan of Mr Pitts' work - 101 (2018)American Static (2017), Piggyback (2012) have all been enjoyed before. Hustle and Knuckleball - a couple of his earlier books still wait their turn.

After a miscarriage, a young couple move from San Francisco to the Sacramento suburbs to restart their lives. When the vacant house across the street is taken over by who they think are squatters, they’re pulled into a battle neither of them bargained for. The gang of unruly drug addicts who’ve infested their block have a dark and secret history that reaches beyond their neighborhood and all the way to the most powerful and wealthy men in California.

L.A. fixer Calper Dennings is sent by a private party to quell the trouble before it affects his employer. But before he can finish the job, he too is pulled into the violent dark world of a man with endless resources to destroy anyone around him.