Wednesday 30 September 2020



Twenty-three of Shamus Award-winning author Bill Pronzini's stories, all of which display his versatility, his clean, crisp narrative style, and his keen awareness of detail. These tales, including three that feature his well-known series chararacter, the "Nameless Detective", run the gamut from psychological suspense ("Strangers in the Fog") to satire ("A Craving for Originality") to Western gothic ("The Hanging Man" and "His Name was Legion").

Of special note, "Proof of Guilt" is a dandy murder-in-a-locked-room puzzle; "Multiples" (written with Barry N. Malzberg) is an intriguing literary exercise about a man who can't decide whether to kill his wife or simply write about it; "Rebound" is a solid character piece about a washed-up reporter stalking a once-great basketball player; and "Peekaboo", about the lone tenant in a large, eerie house, has an ending that will make readers jump.

Another Audible book from Bill Pronzini and another collection of short stories, his best ones apparently - 23 in all.

The books comprises the following.....

Cain's Mark
A Lot on His Mind
The Pattern
I Don't Understand It
Proof of Guilt
Multiples (with Barry N. Malzberg)
Sweet Fever
Putting the Pieces Back
Smuggler's Island
Under the Skin
Caught in the Act
Strangers in the Fog
His Name Was Legion
Rebound (with Barry N. Malzberg)
Black Wind
A Craving for Originality
Two Weeks Every Summer
The Hanging Man
Cat's Paw (A "Nameless Detective" Story)
Skeleton Rattle Your Mouldy Leg (A "Nameless Detective" Story)
Sanctuary (A "Nameless Detective" Story)

The introduction advises that the stories in the collection date from the late 60s to the mid-80s when the set was originally published, several of them were award winners.

A few weeks on, I'd struggle to remember all of them from title alone, but most of them kept me amused while I listened to them. Pronzini's prose is usually quite straightforward and there's nothing ever really left open to reader interpretation as to the outcome. They are pretty definitive in their endings.

Some of the stories had been encountered before in other collections from him, but I was happy enough to hear them again. We have different genres covered with Western as well as mystery.

Two Weeks Every Summer was my favourite. Guys chatting about their forthcoming vactions with two in particular letting off steam for two weeks every year, after suppressing their true selves for the previous fifty. It does make you wonder about how well you truly know people.

I also enjoyed the Nameless tales and they reminded me that I should really get back to the series which I abandoned about six years ago. (Not because I wasn't vibing the books.)

Nearly nine hours of enjoyment to keep me amused during the workday and some everyday solitary tasks which didn't need 100% concentration.

3.5 from 5

Read - (listened to) September, 2020
Published - 1985
Page count - 217 (8 hrs 50 mins)
Source - Audible purchase
Format - Audible

Tuesday 29 September 2020



"Does my present world suck? Like a gaping chest wound. But it's all part of the ride. There's no sense in crying about it; nobody likes a whiny bank robber. If you like what you read, please buy my books. If I get any poorer I'll be down eating sparrows with The Chinaman." [Jeffrey Frye, "Bank Blogger"] In 2012, Murder Slim Press received an unsolicited submission called "Prison Prose" from a notorious bank robber named Jeffrey Frye. What has followed is a long standing correspondance with Frye. . . and then's Bloggie-nominated Bank Robber's Blog. Bank Blogger is the first of numerous books that will collect stories unavailable on the Bank Robber's Blog, and provide you with the ultimate introduction to everyone's favourite felon. "Bank Blogger" is a limited edition chapbook of only 200 copies. You snooze, you lose. It's also packed with photos from Jeff's life inside and outside prison, and the various people that have an impact on his world.

A small chapbook, 80 pages long from Jeffrey Frye and Murder Slim Press.

Anecdotal, confessional, observational. Frye is doing time for bank robbery and he shares a bit about his deeds - some of the jobs he pulled and his capture, as well as his current time in clink and some of the associates he meets in there, both inmates and staff.   

Humorous in places, though perhaps he's not as funny as he thinks he is. I suppose what's admirable is that he owns the crime and he is doing the time more or less without complaint. I enjoyed the recounting of his successful heist and couldn't help but admire his chutzpah. 

I have another of his books on the pile - One Crazy Day, which recounts one of the seven or eight bank robberies he committed in a period of about a month.  

There's a decent set of photos at the back of the book, featuring some of Jeffrey's friends, family and acquaintances. I enjoyed his economic analysis of the medicare he receives inside and what it costs him, compared to what would have been available and affordable to him outside. The Federal authorities certainly look after their charges. There's also a bit about his drug use and the impact it has on his mental health and decision making. No in depth naval gazing, more quick brush strokes really.

I liked it, but perhaps felt a bit cheated by the length of the book. Double the page count and double the tales and I might have felt it was a reasonable return for the investment in the book.

3 from 5

Read - September, 2020
Published - 2013
Page count - 80
Source - purchased copy
Format - paperback

Monday 28 September 2020



The remote marshland villagers did not want them, but if their mission failed, the Allies could lose the war!The summer of 1943 and Jack Ross, a talented young recruit to the British special forces, was flown into a marshland village near St-Omer, France, along with Roland Keene, an Irish-American volunteer to the British forces. Their mission was to find out how successful the Allied bombing raids had been on the massive V2 flying bomb installations, which had been built under a giant concrete dome near St-Omer. The Nazi V2 project could have had a devastating effect on England and changed the future of the war. Jack and Roland joined with the local Resistance cell and quickly established a good working relationship. But incidents occur that point to a mole in the ranks. Two feuding brothers, one in the Resistance, the other with the Partisans, make identifying the traitor almost impossible. Jack’s primary source of information was Sofia, a young girl who was one of the most active members of the group. She was brave, smart and tireless, and Jack found himself falling in love. Twenty years later, in 1965, and one of the suspects decides to go back to the village to clear his name. His arrival immediately triggers a murder. Two investigative journalists agreed to help Jack tackle the job of finding the real mole but find themselves in a battle with a group of fanatical Nazi sympathizers.

I would like to stress that this review is just one man's opinion. Of the 28 reviews on Amazon UK at the present time, 19 give this 5 STARS, 7 @ 4 STARS, 1 @ 3 and 1 @ 2. What floats one man's boat, might have another running screaming off into the hills. We all experience books differently and just because this one didn't work for me, doesn't mean you won't enjoy it.

It's a dual timeline mystery set in wartime France in the 40s and then the mid-60s as unresolved issues with the Resistance and possible betrayal come back to the fore with the return of an exiled villager to the scene of the crime.

I really wanted to like this one a lot more than I actually did. The story had potential and the war time scenes in the village under Nazi occupation were tense and quite thought provoking, particularly in respect of individual and small group opposition, leading to wider reprisals on the whole of the village in a bid to divide, conquer, deflate morale and ensure total subservience to the occupying regime. 

Several of the characters were well-drawn and interesting and their bravery and fortitude was admirable. The idea of betrayal and an insider working for the Nazis gave the story some focus. Sofia, the young Resistance fighter and Jack, the British special forces man dropped behind the lines were the main focus, both in the 40s and the 60s with their romance and subsequent marriage adding to the story without ever going into full-blown Mills and Boon mode.  

The war time drama concerns itself with feeding back information to the allies in advance of the as yet unconfirmed invasion and trying to ensure the German capabilities to thwart such an effort are known and countered. A mole in the Resistance results in death and loss of life. The narrative twenty years after features murder and efforts to unveil the guilty party amid rumour and suspicion.

An over reliance on conversation and dialogue unfortunately detracted from it in my opinion. There was just too much of it, as every little outing and meeting seemed to be detailed in the narrative and for me it just didn't work..... thoughts, ideas, to-ing and fro-ing, bike rides, canal trips, dodges round the back of houses, messages, etc etc. The story just seemed to stall and any excitement was bled out of it. Long before the end I was struggling and any enthusiasm I might have had at the beginning was quickly banished.   

Shame really, much shorter and tighter would in my opinion have improved the book no end. Half the length could have resulted in twice the book. 

2 from 5

Read - September, 2020
Published - 2020
Page count - 484
Source - review copy from author
Format - paperback

Sunday 27 September 2020



Nick Bullman was a wrestling superstar. His alter ego, The Widowmaker, was the monster heel all the marks loved to hate.

Now, after a brutal encounter with two psychotic fans that left his face horribly disfigured, he’s just a monster.

Yanked from the spotlight and thrust into the shadows, these days Nick tries to live the life of an average Joe. He avoids mirrors. He's angry. He’s alone. And he likes it just fine that way...

Until he receives a desperate phone call from a young lady he barely knows—his daughter.

For the first time in over thirty years, Nick returns to his hometown of Midnight, North Carolina. There he will come face to face with old demons, forge new friendships, and make enemies far more dangerous than those who ruined his face, all in a quest to save the granddaughter he’s never met...and maybe find a little bit of redemption along the way.

Ugly As Sin is an electrifying tale of “white-trash noir,” a taut page-turner that skates the razor edge of a familiar, horrifying reality. At times heartbreaking, funny, and terrifyingly suspenseful, Ugly As Sin is Newman’s best work to date.

An enjoyable tale of family, loss, mistakes and regrets with an unexpected opportunity to make amends and in some ways find some forgiveness of self. All wrapped round a wrestling backdrop and the search for a missing granddaughter.

It's fairly brutal and graphically violent at the start, as Nick Bullman aka The Widowmaker is attacked and had his face removed. The book soon settles down and charts Nick's quest and journey to becoming a better person and father.  

I enjoyed it. I liked the set up and how the story evolved. I liked how Nick reconnected with his estranged daughter. I enjoyed the friendship he carved out with his wino, loner, biggest fan and the respect he gained from the local cop. I enjoyed watching his development and improvement and his increasing appreciation of his own self-worth as he made peace with himself; and I liked his taking names and kicking ass approach as and when the story merited it.

4 from 5

James Newman's work has been enjoyed before - In the Scrape - co-authored with Mark Steensland.

Read - August, 2020
Published - 2017
Page count - 193
Source - purchased copy
Format - Kindle

Friday 25 September 2020




A surreal and horrifying thriller from Andersen Prunty.

Jack Orange is a twenty-something guy who works at a place called The Tent packing dirt in boxes and shipping them off to exotic, unheard of locales. He thinks about his girlfriend, Gina Black, and the ring he hopes to surprise her with. But when he returns home one day, Gina isn't there. He receives a strange call from a man who sounds like he is smiling- Mr. Grin. He says he has Gina. He gives Jack twenty-four hours to find her.

What follows is Jack's bizarre journey through an increasingly warped and surreal landscape where an otherworldly force burns brands into those he comes in contact with, trains appear out of thin air, rooms turn themselves inside out and computers are powered by birds. And if he does find Gina, how will he ever survive a grueling battle to the death with Mr. Grin?

Another visit to the strange world and fantastic imagination of author Andersen Prunty with his novel, Jack and Mr Grin.

For a while the book appears to be a kind of straightforward crimey-thriller with a woman abducted and a missing person investigation where the abductor, Mr Grin taunts the bereft boyfriend, Jack and sets him a deadline for saving Gina and an invitation to the showdown from hell where either Jack or Mr Grin will remain the last man standing. During the course of the novel, Mr Grin contacts Jack regularly and relays graphically to him what particular torment he is inflicting on Gina at that moment. Not pleasant, not nice and very difficult for both Jack and the reader to bear witness to.

Along the way, the fantastic, the absurd, the unexplainable all become part of the narrative and the norm for the story. People who assist Jack in his quest, become affected and hostile towards him as he (along with Gina's brother) continues his search.  

Mucho weirdness ensues, a fair portion of which I found funny, strange, disturbing, unfathomable but actually quite interesting and entertaining. I don't think I'm going to suddenly change the reading habits of my last 30 years, but I think I can find room for the occasional venture into Andersen Prunty's strange universe.

Mr Prunty narrated this one himself and I think his somewhat deadpan style of narration made the story seem more personal and believable. Andersen was Jack.

Decent story, decent pace, interesting characters and interactions, occasional moments of humour. In some respects it's a testament to the power of love and the pain and sacrifice and suffering you are willing to endure to preserve that.

4 from 5

Prunty's The Driver's Guide to Hitting Pedestrians has been enjoyed before.

Read - (listened to) August, 2020

Published - 2008

Page count - 137 (4 hrs 15 mins)

Source - Audible purchase

Format - Audible

Thursday 24 September 2020




"She'd be better off dead!" Laura cried. "She's too rich, she's too fat. She chews her bank account as a cow chews its cud!"

I stared at Laura for a long moment. "Yes," I said slowly, "you're right - she would be better off dead. And you and I will see to it that she is."

Laura moved toward me. "Then, all that money will be ours ..."

An unhappy marriage, a man with a wandering eye and a rich wife, one who won't give him a divorce and ergo a cunning plan. Some people when they want it, they aim big and want it all...... career, money and the gorgeous girl.

Web of Murder is a well regarded noir of the late 50s and one which I've had on the pile for upwards of 10 years. Short and sharp and not overly racey as befits novels of the time that were still subject to quite stringent censorship.

I quite liked it without ever feeling I was in the presence of literary greatness. It's a straightforward enough premise and without spoiling things for possible future readers, things do not exactly follow the plan intended by our main character, Charley Brower and his floozy Laura.

Decent story with interesting characters, I was ambivalent as to whether Charley and girlfriend Laura triumphed. I didn't quite love them, didn't quite hate them, but wasn't a fan of the obstacle in their way either, Cora the wife. I was happy to ride the twists and turns and bumps that Whittington served up before a satisfying ending for this reader.

Whittington was prolific in his writing career, knocking out around 200 novels between 1950 and 1985, before his death in 1989. Web of Murder is the only one I have and while I'd probably pick more up if I ever crossed paths with them somewhere down the line (unlikely), I doubt I'll be actively seeking out the other 199. 

4 from 5

Read - August, 2020

Published - 1958

Page count - 128

Source - purchased copy

Format - paperback (an ugly,well worn, early 70s,30p, printed in Israel edition) 

Wednesday 23 September 2020



In traditional fairy tales the handsome prince rescues the beautiful princess from her wicked stepmother, and the couple live happily ever after.

But in Ruth Rendell's dark and damaged contemporary universe, innocent dreams can turn into the most terrible living nightmares.

Teddy Brex emerges from a loveless, isolated childhood as a handsome but autistic young man. Francine Hill, emotionally and mentally scarred by the murder of her mother, grows into a beautiful young woman, who must endure the overprotectiveness of an increasingly obsessive stepmother.

Teddy Brex does ride to her rescue, but he is a man who has already committed two murders. In Rendell's dark criminal London, can anyone be trusted?

A Sight for Sore Eyes is one of those books I picked up years ago because of the author's reputation
and because the blurb sounded good, but which I shelved with probably little or no actual inclination to read it. A Goodreads challenge and the need for a Ruth book, had me dusting it off.

I'm quite glad I did as I really liked this, even though for long periods here, nothing very much seems to happen at all. It's more a book about damaged people, their relationships, the people they cross paths with and for two of the main characters in the book - Teddy the sort of boyfriend and Julia the stepmother - the need to exercise control over Francine. Francine, herself seeks normality and a life like everyone else's. Best of luck with that ambition.

Despite a couple of matter of fact murders, there's a lot of mundane and everyday life in the book. Routines .... college, art, shop working, waiting, obsessing, decorating, grandmother visits, travel, etc etc.

There's a lot of sadness and pain in the book and despite several of the characters being unsympathetic, I felt quite sorry for them. Teddy, the unintended consequence of a couple of feckless parents. Ignored and neglected from conception to birth, through childhood and into adulthood. Small wonder he turned out how he did. Julia is less worthy of our sympathy. Outwardly, more "normal" than Teddy, she has fewer excuses for her irrational behaviour. That said people don't choose mental illness with unconnected circuitry and faulty with with a resultant inability to see the world from another person's perspective.

Murder, unintended death, sad family histories, an abdication of parental duty x 2, other significant characters with an influence over our main players and the direction the story takes, and a certain closing of the circle at the end of the book.

A long book but well worth it and once I was invested in the story, it didn't seem very long at all.

4.5 from 5

I've a few more loitering on the shelves from Ruth Rendell and a couple of her alter ego Barbara Vine books. I must make the effort to give them a read. King Solomon's Carpet was enjoyed a few years ago.

Read - August, 2020 
Published - 1998
Page count - 432
Source - owned purchased copy
Format - paperback

Tuesday 22 September 2020




Hart is "one of today's master thriller writers. " - San Francisco Review of Books.

About the Series:

Shelby Alexander is an aging ex-boxer and retired fixer who moves back to the small town of his youth to settle down. He'd like to spend his golden years fishing the waters of Michigan. But you don't live life as Shelby has and not make more than a few enemies. Throughout this pulse-pounding series, Shelby faces enemies both old and new, relying on the skills he's learned over the years to stay alive and bring his own brand of vigilante justice to the bad guys. Full of blazing action, close calls, and memorable characters, the Shelby Alexander series is one you'll want to revisit again and again.

About the Book:

A bullet slams into a wall just past Shelby’s head. A drug dealer offers him $10,000 for information regarding his dead sister. The local sheriff has Shelby in his sights. It’s just another day in the small town of Serenity.

Another day, another Audible book and another one I enjoyed from another new-to-me author.

High art? High brow literature? No, but a story which entertained and provided a few thrills and had me interested in reading more this author.

Our main man, Shelby is a fixer and is hired to dig into the death of a woman who just happens to be the sister of a local king-pin drug dealer. The local law aren't interested. Our drug dealer soon winds up dead himself and Shelby is somehow getting targeted himself by an unknown assailant. His enquiries continue.  

Hard to put the finger exactly on what I liked about this one, but I'll have a go. 

Likable main character, interesting family dynamic, he's a divorcee with a grown up daughter who wants him to reconcile with her mum, only he has a girlfriend his daughter's age. There's criminality and drug dealing and bad eggs aplenty and semi-indifference from the law. There's action, violence, danger, death, dastardly doings and a decent enough outcome. There's plenty of humour and wit present and a nice flow to things as the author gets us to the finish line in a reasonable but not breakneck pace. 

If Dickens and Austen and Eliot and Hemingway = gourmet dining. I'm probably more a fast food merchant myself. Craig Hart's work probably won't be to everyone's taste, but he puts a lot of ticks in the boxes for me.

4 from 5

Serenity is the first in a six or seven book series. I'll be looking forward to devouring more of them in the future.

Read - (listened to) August, 2020

Published - 2016

Page count - 194 (4 hrs 9 mins)

Source - Audible purchase

Format - Audible

Monday 21 September 2020



Twelve tales of mystery from the pen of best-selling author John Lutz, Shadows Everywhere collects much of the author's early work. You'll meet everyone from a “hardscrabble farm woman” to a volatile trucker with an explosive cargo, a cliff driver with dreams of gold, and women who are digging for it. Not every PI is a good guy, and not every villain gets his due. These tales twist and turn, surprise and entertain. Flowing from the imagination of a master story-teller, the stories in Shadows Everywhere are a classic glimpse into the worlds of a rare talent.

When I think of author John Lutz. two things spring to mind - Single White Female and a series character of his called Fred Carver, neither of which I've actually gotten around to reading. I did love the film and could easily stand giving it a re-watch sometime. The Carver books I always liked the sound of, but for once common sense and restraint prevailed and I never actually filled my boots buying them. I crossed paths with one in a second hand shop a few years, bought it and then benched it.

This collection of short stories was enjoyed a month ago and while not totally forgotten, without reference to the blurb for the book I'd be scratching my head trying to recall any of them. 

The collection comprises.....

Shadows Everywhere ....... a crooked PI, a marital investigation, a false report, some unforeseen consequences and a comeuppance

The Lemon Drink Queen..... a kidnapping, a trophy bride aka a caged bird, and a variation on the suicide by cop theme

A Rare Bird...... a bird-watcher, a corpse disposal, and an ill-thought out blackmail scheme

A Verdict of Death..... a missing woman, a murder trial without a corpse and an eventual license to kill 

All of a Sudden..... an average cop, and an ill-advised alliance, a few good years and some chickens coming home to roost 

Living All Alone..... a spinster temptress and a well fertilised orchard

Garden of Dreams..... a power cut, some dead plants and a maniacal gardener to contend with 

Prospectus on Death..... karma, the power of suggestion, what goes around comes around

Fair Shake..... an upcoming trial, an endangered witness, and police protection

The Midnight Train..... pig farming on a budget

Hector Gomez Provides..... a Mexican cliff diving tale 

Explosive Cargo..... a dodgy hitchhiker and a shady trucker cross paths

I liked the collection without ever being blown away by it. All of the stories had decent twists and most had resolutions which in hindsight kind of seemed obvious but as I wasn't especially trying to second guess them at all, I liked the elenent of surprise with the outcomes.

Favourites.......the title piece Shadows Everywhere and The Lemon Drink Queen. 

Least enjoyed ....... Hector Gomez Provides.

Entertaining...... all the others.

A corrupt PI, dodgy cops, untrustworthy widows, wives and spinsters, cheating husbands, schemers, plotters, revenge, ambition, greed and just like real life, some outcomes where the villains prevail and a few where they get their just desserts. 

4 from 5

John Lutz has been enjoyed before - The Truth of the Matter  and The Eye which was co-authored with Bill Pronzini

Read - (listened to) August, 2020

Published - 1994

Page count - 123 (4 hrs 31 mins)

Source - Audible purchase

Format - Audible

Friday 18 September 2020




Jonathan Kendrick's grandmother lives in the upstate New York village of Felicity Grove. And whenever something of a criminal nature occurs, Grandma Anna is right in the thick of it. This time, the senior sleuth needs Jonathan's help to clear an innocent man's name. Zebediah Crummler, the cemetery caretaker, has been arrested for killing a member of the powerful Harnes family… Because of his childlike nature, Crummler is placed in an asylum, where his inconsistent tales and ramblings prove difficult for Jonathan and Anna to decipher. But they must be careful, for the Harnes clan has its own idea of rendering justice.

Sorrow’s Crown is the second book in Piccirilli’s Felicity Grove series after The Dead Past and it was enjoyed much the same as the first.

Small town setting, amateur snooping from Jonathan Kendrick and his disabled Grandmother – again due to a lack of confidence in the local sheriff/police chief – I forget which.

The simple-minded graveyard curator is the patsy for a murder; the victim being the son of the one of the richest and most powerful men in the state. Our intrepid duo, Jonathan and Anna, friends of the man. Crummler seek to uncover the real killer and in the mean-time cross swords with the head of the Harnes family; a man who is used to having his own way by fair means or foul.

Family history, secrets, a dysfunctional dynamic, power games, a long-ago suicide, psychopathic tendencies, money and influence buying silence, a local asylum as a playground for abuse, torture and more, an investigation, friendship, an elusive brother, and an outcome which goes some way to redressing the balance. The resolution worked well enough for me.

Enjoyable as far as it went. Nothing particularly memorable or conversely objectionable. Interesting story, interesting investigation, decent setting, decent characters – both familiar, due to the recent proximity of the earlier book in the series. We get where we are going soon enough, with no particular haste and with no sense of drag. The book itself is 20 years old, so there is no real reliance on tech to do the legwork in the investigation. It's more a case of asking questions and stirring the pot.

3 from 5

Piccirilli’s The Dead Past was enjoyed earlier in the month, to add to a few from the author in the pre-blogging days. I’ll read more from him in the future and look forward to them without actually causing a stampede.

Read - (listened to) August, 2020

Published – 1998

Page count – 231 (6 hrs 40 mins)

Source – Audible purchase

Format - Audible

Thursday 17 September 2020

AUGUST 2020 - 31 DAYS 31 SHORTS!

August again and another bout of a short story a day, with the usual proviso, some days none, some days two or more to catch up.

It's a great way of trying new authors or re-visiting old favourites and there are plenty of great sources of stories around the web........  Spelk FictionShotgun HoneyClose 2 the BoneAll Due RespectBristol Noir, Tough, Yellow Mama Webzine, Strand Magazine, Fairlight Shorts, Punk Noir MagazineMystery Tribune - to mention a few.

Author websites can be great sources as well.

1st - Tom Leins - Demonology (Shotgun Honey)

6th - Morgan Boyd - Hotdog Man (Shotgun Honey)

7th - Beau Johnson - Bruce Tartare (Spelk Fiction)

8th - Liam Sweeny - Beggar's Brunch (Spelk Fiction)

9th - Mark J. Newman - Long Time Coming (Bristol Noir)

10th - Maura Yzmore - Pixie Dust (Spelk Fiction)

11th - Mark J. Newman - The Homecoming (Bristol Noir)

12th - Tom Leins - Recalibration (Pulp Modern)

13th - Tom Pacheco - The Cheating Wife (Strand Magazine)

14th - Jason Beech - Loose Words (Spelk Fiction)

15th - Bill Baber - Going to Find Her (Spelk Fiction)

16th - Todd Morr - Love or Money (Shotgun Honey)

17th - Margot Kinberg - Silence is Golden (Crime and Mystery Writer Margot Kinberg)

18th - Tom Leins - Splatterproof is Not a Challenge (Shotgun Honey)

19th - Cindy Rosmus - Homicidal Hubby (Yellow Mama Webzine)

20th - William R. Soldan - King of the Blue Rose (Tough)

21st -  Melkon Charchoglyan - Madame Gayane (Fairlight Shorts)

Tuesday 15 September 2020



A young American woman is attacked at an historic Paris chateau and four paintings are stolen the same night, drawing Hugo Marston into a case where everyone seems like a suspect. To solve this mystery Hugo must crack the secrets of the icy and arrogant Lambourd family, who seem more interested in protecting their good name than future victims. Just as Hugo thinks he’s close, some of the paintings mysteriously reappear, at the very same time that one of his suspects goes missing.

While under pressure to catch a killer, Hugo also has to face the consequences of an act some see as heroic, but others believe might have been staged for self-serving reasons. This puts Hugo under a media and police spotlight he doesn’t want, and helps the killer he’s hunting mark him as the next target….

It's been a few years since I read one of Mark Pryor's Hugo Marston Paris set books and having enjoyed the ones I have read previously, I had quite high hopes for the latest in the series. It didn't disappoint. Marston is head of security at the American Embassy in Paris. He has some props as an investigator and solver of crimes.

Having previously asserted a preference for stories featuring criminal sorts and lawbreakers, when I do choose to read crime solving mysteries, I like books where there are multiple crimes to solve, in this case two. I think it spreads the focus of the book and helps maintain my interest rather than having a narrow concentration on one event, which can on occasions bore me.

An American woman is attacked at work and some paintings are stolen and in another incident Hugo shoots dead a killer after he encounters the deranged gunman on a murderous rampage in a Parisian park. The second incident attracts the furore of the press once some details of the gunman emerge and Hugo becomes the centre of some unwanted scrutiny. In the first mentioned event, Hugo manages to attract the ire of the wealthy Lambourd family, the apparent victims of the art theft. There's very often something about rich families in fiction where they are often portrayed as heartless, domineering, controlling, arrogant and insensitive. No exceptions here. They usually have more than a few skeletons in the closet - and again no exceptions here. 

I liked the dual investigations, the main character - Hugo (though he can be slightly annoying in a supercilious Sherlock Holmes sort of way. There's a smidgeon of smugness he portrays when he figures everything out but holds onto that information before he does a big reveal). I do like his interactions with the support cast here; his ex-CIA mate Tom, the American ambassador, his journalist-cum-non exclusive girlfriend, Claudia and his main liaison in the French police, the sex-changed and necessarily thick-skinned Camille Lerens. He works well with them all. There's plenty of respect for each other along with a healthy dose of teasing and humour in these relationships.

Decent setting, and an interesting investigation mainly focussing on an uber-dysfunctional family, not many of whom are worthy of any great understanding or sympathy. It's hard to like people who don't especially seem to like themselves or each other. Looking down their noses at the little people doesn't quite endear them to me either. The matriarch in particular is odious.

Overall an enjoyable return to Paris, Hugo Marston and author, Mark Pryor.

4 from 5

Mark Pryor has been read before - The Bookseller (2012), The Crypt Thief (2013), The Blood Promise (2014) and The Button Man (2014)

Read - September, 2020
Published - 2020
Page count - 299
Source - review copy from publisher Seventh Street Books
Format - PDF read on laptop 

Monday 14 September 2020



Peeps takes movie reviewing to new heights of viciousness. On this prime-time TV show, two caustic critics look at the hits and misses among the new movies, trading wits, insults - even punches.

But even a series with high ratings like Peeps can stare at cancellation - not by the networks, but by murder. Because Dunphy has just been found with a knife in his back in the dressing room of Tobin, his co-host and sparring partner. The cops' script says Tobin - who'd secretly shared the affections of Dunphy's wife and brawled on air with Dunphy the night before - has the motivation for the part of star suspect. But for Tobin, the accusation is hardly entertaining, and he sets out to find the real killer in the cast.

Another day another audible book and one mostly enjoyed while at work. Ed Gorman is an author I've been meaning to try for a while and this was my first outing with him. In truth it was okay and from a few comments on a tangential post on Twitter concerning Gorman, apparently it is not one of his better works. It didn't blow me away that's for sure.

A radio host turns detective when his co-star is murdered and he's the likeliest suspect; having previously been having an affair with the deceased's wife and having had a major bust up in public with the man.

Murder, an amateur investigation, a variety of suspects each with possible motivation for the crime, some sexual shenanigans, an outcome.

Nothing especially memorable or outstanding in the book. I'm a bit undecided as to whether I liked the main character or not. There's nothing in his character or actions that invoked strong feelings either way. Similarly, I was interested in the story and the investigation and the revelation of the guilty party, but I wasn't on the edge of my seat. It was a book which was enjoyed upto a point. It's the kind of book that fills in a gap before I either encounter my next amazing or really terrible read.

I did like the look into the world of television and broadcasting...... envy, ratings, networking, the career ladder.

The pace was okay and the book wasn't over-long but neither did it feel rushed.

3 from 5

Ed Gorman did pen a second book with Tobin the main character, but it's probably not one I'll seek out. There are plenty of other books from him with more appeal.

Read - (listened to) August, 2020
Published - 1987
Page count - 160 (5hrs)
Source - Audible purchase
Format - Audible

Friday 11 September 2020



"Funny, I heard about a gunfighter with pistols like that, had himself a reputation," the fat one said.

Holt didn't say anything.

"Of course, you couldn't be him? They called him Handsome Henry. Apparently he was as good with the ladies as he was with a smoke wagon. You are one of the ugliest saddle bums I have ever seen."

If being called ugly bothered Holt, he didn't show it. Kirby, his wife and child moved around the two cowboys and went to their table. The cowboys let them go and kept their attention on Holt.

"You should learn to mind your own business stranger," the fat one said, moving his hand closer to the six shooter in his belt.

A short entertaining Audible outing and my first time with author Todd Morr.

Close to an hour's entertainment and a trip to the old wild West. I do like the occasional western in my reading. As far as I'm concerned it's just crime fiction with horses and hats pretty much.

Handsome Henry is not so handsome anymore and there's a score to be settled in respect of his lost looks which are the result of a love rivalry which saw a woman killed. Some of our minor characters are also concerned with the divvying up of the spoils of a robbery.

Outlaws, gun play, romance, the obligatory saloon setting laced with humor, violence, conflict, mistrust and a dollop of revenge. All in all, a decent tale with more than a twist or two.

4.5 from 5

More from Todd Morr sits on the pile, including the intriguingly titled - Jesus Saves Satan Invests and If You're Not One Percent.
Read - (listened to) August, 2020   
Published - 2017
Page count - ? (40 mins)
Source - Audible purchase
Format - Audible

Thursday 10 September 2020



From the Edgar Award-winning author of the Hap and Leonard series, a hard-boiled novel set in 1960s Texas in which a no-nonsense car salesman faces a tempting decision, a dangerous deal, and an alluring affair.

Ed Edwards is in the used car business, a business built on adjusted odometers, extra-fine print, and the belief that "buyers better beware." Burdened by an aging, alcoholic mother constantly on his case to do something worthier of his lighter skin tone and dreaming of a brighter future for himself and his plucky little sister, Ed is ready to get out of the game.

When Dave, his lazy, grease-stained boss at the eponymous dealership Smiling Dave's sends him to repossess a Cadillac, Ed finally gets the chance to escape his miserable life.

The Cadillac in question was purchased by Frank Craig and his beautiful wife Nancy, owners of a local drive-in and pet cemetery. Fed up with her deadbeat husband and with unfulfilled desires of her own, Nancy suggests to Ed -- in the throes of their salacious affair -- that they kill Frank and claim his insurance policy. It is a tantalizing offer: the girl, the car, and not one, but two businesses. Ed could finally say goodbye to Smiling Dave's, and maybe even send his sister to college. But does he have what it takes to see the plan through?

Told with Joe Lansdale's trademark grit, wit, and dark humor, More Better Deals is a gripping tale of the strange characters and odd dealings that define 1960s East Texas.

Great fun was had reading this latest one from Joe R. Lansdale - More Better Deals. I've read Lansdale on and off for the best part of 30 years, starting back when I was still into horror fiction. I think the Drive In 1 and 2 were my earliest reads. Since then I've enjoyed a couple of his Hap and Leonard books and other bits and bobs of his crime and mystery fiction output. Lansdale's one of those authors (there's more than a few) whose books I seem to buy and then stockpile as opposed to getting stuck right into. Maybe 2020 I'll have a brain fart and try and work my way through some of the stash, rather than just talking about working my way through them. If they prove to be half as entertaining as this one, it will be time well rewarded.

More Better Deals - 60s East Texas setting, and a used car salesman crosses paths with a sort of femme fatale, soon followed by sex, crime, more sex and death all of which has serious repurcussions for our main characters - Ed the car salesman and Nancy the dissatisfied wife.

Breezy pace, great time frame, a back drop of a car showroom, a pet cemetery and a fair ground, booze, sex, marital grief, discontent, race, family conflict, dreams and some low level scheming and downright crookedness. All served up with a liberal dollop of spicy humour.

Fantastic writing, great characters, an interesting story with a few twists which keep you guessing as to the final outcome - an ending which satisfied and put the final tick in the box

5 from 5

Lansdale's The Thicket, Dead AimBriar Patch BoogieTight Little Stitches in a Dead Man's BackThe Steel ValentineBullets and FireIncident On and Off a Mountain Road - a varied output of novels, novellas and short stories have all been enjoyed to a greater or lesser extent since I started blogging about books.

Read - August, 2020
Published - 2020
Page count - 232
Source - Net Galley review copy
Format - ePUB read on laptop